Denard Robinson has played in plenty of big games in his illustrious career at Michigan. None of them compare to the season opener this Saturday against Alabama in Cowboys Stadium.
With a win against the reigning national champions, Robinson has the perfect opportunity to cement his legacy as one of greatest players in this era, catapult to the top of the Heisman race and put Michigan in position to make its first title run since 2006—the trifecta for all college football quarterbacks.
A year removed from an 11-2 season, expectations are once again high in Ann Arbor. Robinson shoulders a tremendous burden. Fans are desperate to return to the glory days, and he is their savior. As he goes, Michigan goes.
If pleasing the Wolverine faithful were not enough, Robinson also carries the image of the Big Ten on his back. Over the last decade, the conference has routinely gotten its teeth kicked in by the mighty SEC.
A subpar performance by Robinson against the Crimson Tide will intensify the critics’ position that the Big Ten’s antiquated brand of football is too slow to compete against college football’s elite programs. The Big Ten needs this win almost as much as Michigan to rebuild its reputation.
It is unfair to place these expectations on Robinson, but the best players crave the opportunity to showcase their skills on the national stage. To date, Robinson has delivered, and the fans are hoping to witness another exceptional performance. They might get the miracle.
The blueprint for the SEC’s six-year run on BCS titles is grounded in dominating defenses. Any team that dares to dismantle the king from the throne must enter the battle loaded with defensive playmakers. The Wolverines may have that firepower.
For the first time in his career, Robinson enters a season confident that the warriors on the other side of the ball will deliver when needed. Under first-year defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, the defense made extraordinary strides last year. After giving up 35 points per game in 2010, they improved to 17 points per game in 2011.
The amazing turnaround comes as no surprise. Mattison is a defensive guru and knows a few things about building championship defenses. He was the co-coordinator for Florida during the 2006 season that culminated in a 41-14 beatdown on Ohio State in the BCS title game.
Michigan fans are dreaming of similar glory in 2012.
If Robinson wants to hold the crystal ball in January, he must first stake a dagger into the heart of college football’s best program. It's a monumental task, but the stage is set for him to make history.