The real story is that Greg Robinson's defensive schemes do not work. No longer is this a question of defensive talent or improper personnel. No, sadly, this is far more systematic: Greg Robinson's schemes Do Not Work....That was the intro to my Indiana game column. In the following weeks, I mitigated those statements somewhat, saying that Michigan's insistence on using zone coverage on every play was making their defense too predictable, and killing its defensive performance. Then, on third and long against Penn State, Greg Robinson dialed up man coverage that forced Cam Gordon to cover a slot receiver running a wheel route and had Cullen Christian sitting back as a deep safety. Penn State's all-world quarterback Matt McGloin threw a pitch-and-catch completion to said slot receiver for a big gain because Gordon was no where near fast or agile enough to cover him, and the player that may have been able to was 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Greg Robinson's schemes Do Not Work.
Play after play (and now game after game), teams are running quick slants and seven-yard hitch routes and absolutely shredding Michigan's defense. And it's not that the defense looks athletically overmatched. They look unprepared and poorly coached. With one of the most potent offenses in the country and the Heisman front runner manning the ship, Michigan's eventual 7-5 or 6-6 finish will fall squarely on Robinson's shoulders. I'm not usually quick to call for peoples' heads, but unless there is drastic improvement in the coming games, consider this my desire to see Robinson canned as soon as possible.
There's no more sugar coating it: Michigan has the worst defense in the FBS. This is Rich Rodriguez's fault for not recruiting good football players. And then not retaining the ones that may have become good. This is Robinson's fault for being an awful coach. This is the players' faults for saying things like, "We're improving every week and getting better in practice" and then actually believing it. To say this defense has regressed is to lie to yourself: they were never good. They were shredded by UMass and a bad Indiana team. They let an awful Notre Dame squad march up and down the field on them with backup quarterbacks. They can't force turnovers. They can't play zone. They can't play man. This is a collection of mediocre-at-best players, performing well below expectations thanks to their coaching staff.
Michigan's season is about to crumble and turn into the same flaming mess that we saw in 2009 and it will be explicitly Greg Robinson's fault, and consequently Rodriguez's for hiring him. Rich Rodriguez will now very likely be fired at the end of this season despite having one of the best offenses in the entire country. And it's because on 2nd and 21, Matt McGloin has wide open receivers. And on third and 10, Michigan allows a walk-on quarterback to scramble for 11 yards. There is no future for this program, which seems inconceivable if all you watch is the offense.
- Poor Denard Robinson. That kid has put this crappy Michigan team on his back week after week to no avail. What does it feel like to put up 380 yards of offense and 4 touchdowns and still never even be competitive? Speaking of which, look at these two stat lines:
- 108/166, 1,509, 10TD/5INT; 164 carries, 1,287, 12TD
- 108/162, 1,573, 15TD/5INT; 168 carries, 1,122, 14TD
- Did Michigan even prepare for Penn State in the two weeks they had to do so? Michigan's defense was so inept that this is actually a question that needs to be asked.
- Matt McGloin's stat line: 17/28, 250 yards (8.9 YPA), 1 TD. Not once did McGloin make a bad throw that was in danger of being intercepted because he had all day to sit in the pocket and make reads, and because Michigan's defense can't cover anyone. McGloin is not a good quarterback. This stat line is a referendum against every single player and coach on this defense. I'm sick of hearing, "We weren't getting off blocks" or "It was one thing here, and one thing there". No, this is an abhorrent defense that is incapable of stopping anyone. Stop making excuses: either show some form of competency or get off the field. This is an embarrassment.
- Michigan is now a clear underdog to Illinois, whose freshman quarterback (with worse throwing mechanics than Terrelle Pryor and with half the athleticism) is going to demolish Michigan's defense. And beating Purdue is probably iffy. If anyone thought that Wisconsin or Ohio State were even remotely within reach, they've changed their mind now. Michigan will be lucky to finish this season 6-6.
The first is Denard's. The second is Cam Newton, who everyone is considering the far-and-away leader in the Heisman race. If Michigan's defense was even remotely functional, this would be a two-horse race. Instead, Denard is an afterthought.