Forget everything Denard Robinson has done up to this point. Saturday's game against No. 2 Alabama will be the senior quarterback's greatest test of his career.
Robinson, a Heisman candidate this season, is one of the most electric playmakers in college football. Last season, he passed for over 2,100 yards and 20 touchdowns while rushing for 1,176 yards and 16 touchdowns. Heck, he even punted the ball twice.
When you look up "dual-threat quarterback" in the dictionary, there's Robinson, smiling and giving a Heisman pose.
But this game will be unlike anything Robinson has ever experienced. He's facing a ferocious Alabama defense that ceded just 8.8 points per game last season, best in college football. This was despite playing in the SEC. The Crimson Tide held an LSU team that averaged 38.5 points to nine points in two games, including a shutout in the BCS Championship Game.
How did Alabama do this? By shutting down an LSU squad that primarily relied on its running game to score points, averaging 5.0 yards per carry and boasting a dual-threat quarterback of its own, Jordan Jefferson. Jefferson ran 14 times for 15 yards in the BCS Championship Game.
You may remember that when Robinson faced Michigan State's vaunted rush defense last season, it didn't go over very well. He was limited to 42 rushing yards on 18 carries and in turn completed just nine of 24 passes while averaging 5.1 yards per attempt.
Against Illinois, a team that allowed 3.3 yards per carry, Robinson rushed for 30 yards on 12 carries. Virginia Tech, a team that also allowed 3.3 yards per carry, held Robinson to 13 rushing yards on 13 carries in the Sugar Bowl.
Robinson is not going to torch Alabama on the ground the way he did to so many opponents last season. In fact, it may be even more difficult than it was against Michigan State, Illinois and Virginia Tech.
In that regard, Robinson's development as far as pocket passing is concerned will be on full display on Saturday, and will likely determine if Michigan can score the upset. Alabama isn't going to allow him to run all over the place and will likely challenge him to throw the ball deep.
As Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com notes, Robinson completed just 38.1 percent of his passes when throwing 15 yards or more last season, and threw six of his 15 interceptions throwing the ball deep.
Robinson must beat Alabama deep on Saturday if the Wolverines have any chance of pulling off the upset. Now's his chance to show how much he truly improved his pocket passing during the offseason.
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