Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bowling Green: What to watch/hope for

With Michigan coming up against what should be a blow out against Bowling Green on Saturday, the team should have an agenda that goes beyond just winning. This is the last game to get experience for some of the younger members of the team before entering Big Ten season when the need for depth will be even more essential. Without further ado:
  • Devin Gardner needs to take a significant amount of snaps. It would've been nice if he had the chance to do so against UMass but we all know that wasn't possible. If Gardner really is #2 on the depth chart, he needs to have some relevant game experience if he's going to be effective. If Denard goes down for any significant period of time, Michigan doesn't have to defense to sit and wait for him to get healthy. They need Gardner to be able to pick up where Denard left off--I know this is unrealistic, but there can't be as significant a falloff as it seems there would be now--without committing countless turnovers and negative yardage plays. Ideally, Gardner starts the second half of the game, but chances are Denard plays at least a few series in the third quarter.
  • Speaking of playing time, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Cullen Christian, Taylor Lewan, Terrence Talbott, and Courtney Avery all need to see the field in this game if we expect them to contribute this year. If Michigan has a decent lead early, I'd like to see the young corner backs get on the field when they're not just doing mop up duty. Lewan will very likely start the game given his performance against UMass, and Toussaint (and the other tailbacks for that matter) needs to get some reps before the Big Ten season starts.
  • Some sort of resurgence on defense. Everyone in the program said that they weren't mentally prepared for the game against UMass, and let's hope that's the case rather than the defense being as poor as it appeared. Bowling Green will be playing without their starting quarterback, and Michigan should be able to stop them fairly easily. If Bowling Green starts putting up points in this game that don't come off of fluke plays (e.g., Hagerup's dropped punt), we need to go into serious panic mode: 2009 looms large.
  • Continue taking deep shots down the field. Bowling Green is the kind of team that Michigan should be able to pick up yards with relatively easily. As such, I'd like to see them take a few more shots down the field like they did against UMass. Denard needs to develop as a deep ball passer and this is going to be one of the last chances he has to do so without too many repercussions (knock on wood).
  • Maybe most importantly, seeing a bounceback performance from Obi Ezeh and James Rogers and the rest of the defense that played poorly against UMass. More than trying to draw conclusions about how good they are in the long run--probably not very good--having confidence and a solid performance under your belt before heading into Big Ten play is for the best.
I know everyone is saying that this year feels different than last because of Denard and so on and so forth, but I can't shake the feeling of last year's 4-0 start quite yet, especially not after that UMass game. Michigan has a lot of questions and holes still and Saturday's game is the last time that they'll have a chance to test out new answers. Until Michigan has a "6" in the wins column, I won't feel comfortable with this team. Maybe a solid performance on Saturday will temper that feeling, but for now, I'm still in panic mode.


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