- Hiring Greg Robinson. So maybe this is premature, and given the majority of our sample size (2009), this should probably go under the Bad Idea header, but the improvement that the defense has seen this year feels like it's due in large part to Robinson. Aside from the schematic changes that appear to be for the better, the work that Robinson has done with Stevie Brown, and more relevantly, what he appears to have done with Michigan's current linebackers has helped quickly turn around a talent-barren defense. By the season's end, this may very well flip to the negative side of things, but right now Michigan is coming up all spades.
- Playcalling. I've mentioned this most often on the blog, but Calvin Magee and Rich Rodriguez have been calling brilliant offensive games. Look no further than the Roy Roundtree touchdown and its setup as proof. Other plays that stick out are the Vincent Smith screen pass touchdown against a fierce UConn blitz and Denard's various QB draws (like the intentional--make no mistake, this was intentional--QB draw on 3rd and 15 deep in Michigan's territory, that earned a first down).
- Burning Devin Gardner's redshirt. Despite the obvious gains that the program would see from having Gardner around for a fifth year, it's difficult to look at the way the offense functions under Denard and not understand the need for a similar athlete as a backup. Getting him time on the field is going to be essential if Michigan wants to have a real insurance policy should Denard go down.
- The Tate hug. Before the Notre Dame game, the cameras panned along the Michigan sidelines and focused on Tate and Rodriguez for a moment as the two shared a pre-game hug. Despite this feeling staged--you couldn't have done that in the locker room or before the game or, ya know, not on national television?--with all of the rumors about the relationship between Tate and Rodriguez, this put the chatter to rest.
- Burning Devin Gardner's redshirt (SeewhatIdidthere?). The most groan-worthy moment of the season thus far has been watching Devin Gardner come onto the field after Denard took a hip stinger, only to be a nonfactor and mindlessly waste his redshirt. It's understandable that Rodriguez feels the need to win this season, but Gardner is not the kind of athlete that comes along every year. Having him for two seasons after Denard and Tate are gone would've been highly preferable to the one we're going to get.
- The predictable snap count. MGoBlog has been lamenting this for two years now, but Michigan's snap count continues to be problematic. UConn didn't really exploit it, but Notre Dame did. After Denard drops into the shotgun, he lifts his leg and systematically snaps the ball after it. Notre Dame was actually changing their defensive front before the snap, which I presume changes the reads for Denard. Fortunately, Michigan didn't really get beaten on this, but better defensive teams will be able to key in on this in the future.
- Whatever Rodriguez is doing that's making players transfer. There has to be something going on here that's making these players transfer at such a high rate. Maybe not. Maybe this doesn't fall on Rodriguez. But it feels like it does.