It’s time for this week’s edition of Five Things… first, a look back at last week’s keys:
- No more Turnover Tate — Two more fumbles for Tate Forcier, with one going over to Purdue. His ball-security issues are clearly something that will have to be addressed in the offseason — for all his ability to create plays scrambling, his fumbling problems negate a lot of the positives he brings to the team.
- Feed Brandon Minor — Minor was a force, carrying the ball 19 times for 154 yards and three touchdowns. Of course, now he’s banged up again, so we’ll see if he can match that workload against Wisconsin. Cross your fingers, Wolverines.
- Don’t break — 38 points 494 yards of offense allowed on 7.3 yards per play. Um, that’s broken, defense.
- Force Joey Elliott to be Joey Elliott — In a way, we did — like much of this season, Elliott produced big numbers but mitigated some of his production with two interceptions. However, when you give up 367 yards and two touchdowns passing and can’t get a stop when holding on to a lead, you don’t get a pass. Sorry.
- Play with an edge — I will give the team this one. They played damn hard. The effort was there, but the execution fell short.
Well, we tried, and Brandon Minor had the kind of game that makes you wonder how we would’ve done if he was healthy all year. Before I pull out the remaining hair on my head, let’s move on to Wisconsin:
- Convert in the red zone — Michigan is pathetic 107th in the country in red zone offense, scoring just 71% of the time they’re inside the 20. Wisconsin, on the other hand, scores on 94% of their red zone opportunities. The Wolverine defense is going to allow Wisconsin some red zone chances, and in all likelihood, they will convert. Michigan has shown they can move the ball on anybody on offense, but they will have to match the Badgers’ red zone scores if they want to keep up. That means no back-breaking turnovers, Tate. Yes, I’m basically recycling the same game keys here, but the same issues keep coming up.
- Feed Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown — See? I told you the same issues keep coming up. In this case, I think Michigan will have to establish, and keep establishing, the run game if they want to win this one. Wisconsin will be doing their best to wear down the defense by pounding them with John Clay on the interior — I’m fully expecting to see some painfully long marches down the field by the Badgers. If healthy, Minor is Michigan’s best counter to this — he’s the one running back who has shown an ability to consistently produce between the tackles. If Minor is out or limited, Carlos Brown will have to do his best Minor impression, and hopefully will be fed enough to break a big run or two. Either way, the offense will be relying on their senior backs to match Wisconsin’s smashmouth style.
- Take advantage of Wisconsin’s special teams — The Badgers are 66th in the country in net punting (35.51 yards/punt) and 116th in kick return defense (25.59 yards/return). Junior Hemingway, when he’s not putting the ball on the ground, showed the ability to break a big punt return against Purdue. Darryl Stonum has established himself to the point where he seems liable to break a kick return on every touch. Field position will be at a premium against Wisconsin, and between the returns and Zoltan Mesko’s ability to pin the opponent deep, I think Michigan has a golden opportunity to take hold of the field position battle.
- Linebackers, stay disciplined — Michigan has been rotating linebackers in and out of the lineup, each change triggered by a back-breaking mistake (just look at MGoBlog’s defensive UFR if you doubt me on this). I can somewhat understand the limitations of Obi Ezeh (three-star running back coming out of high school) and Kevin Leach (walk-on), but the fact that Jonas Mouton continually makes horrendous mental errors is a lot less acceptable. I don’t want to attempt to count the number of times he’s allowed a quarterback or running back to get outside of him — when that’s his only responsibility — but that has to end. Keep John Clay inside, and feed him into the line and middle backer (whoever it is). Please.
- Play desperate — Let’s be honest: If Michigan wants to make a bowl game, this is the time to step up and get a victory. Wisconsin is a hell of a lot more beatable than Ohio State, regardless of what you think of Terrelle Pryor’s development (or lack of). The coaching staff, and players, can’t hold anything back on this one. Even though this shouldn’t be (and isn’t) the case, I want to see Rich Rodriguez coaching this game like his job depends on it. Bust out trick plays, throw in a new wrinkle on offense we haven’t seen, play Brandon Graham at fullback — whatever it takes, do it.
No prediction this week: Michigan keeps letting me down every time I expect a bounce-back performance, and I’m sick of predicting losses. Right now, it’s about watching for progress, especially on defense. I wonder if “Let’s Go Progress” will catch on as a chant… No? OK, I’ll shut up now. Go Blue.