Michigan Football: What We Learned from Week 1 Game vs. Alabama
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Not even the mystique of the winged helmet could save the eighth-ranked Michigan Wolverines during their 41-14 loss Saturday to the second-ranked and defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
No, not even the rich history of the Wolverines program was enough to rattle Alabama, which poured on 21 points before Michigan got on the scoreboard.
The beating could be looked at one of two ways, though: 1. Michigan got a hefty dose of SEC football, and it can apply the hard-learned lessons from Saturday's loss to the rest of the season, and 2. Michigan isn't even close to what it thought it was heading into this season.
Somewhere in between those two thoughts lies the truth.
The Wolverines are still one of the best teams in the Big Ten, even if they didn't show it against the Tide. However, one can't deny the fact that Michigan looked less like a contender Saturday and more of a pretender when it comes to hanging with the big boys.
Read Adam Biggers' live game blog from Saturday night, which highlights the highs and lows for each team.
If True, Floyd Mayweather's $3 Million Bet on Michigan Was Insanely Ignorant
Floyd Mayweather is out of $3 million if reports about his bet are accurate.
Did Floyd Mayweather really bet $3 million on Michigan, or was it a farce of story planted on the Internet to draw hits and conjecture?
According to Bleacher Report's Adam Wells, the truth is unclear. Conflicting reports are flying around the Web, even some suggesting that Mayweather won $3 million after betting on Alabama.
Mayweather isn't known as the brightest guy around; he's constantly making poor decisions and fighting court cases. If he really bet $3 million on Michigan (nearly $2.9 million for the nitpickers), then he's obviously out of his gourd.
From USA Today:
According to various reports, the boxer wagered more than $2.9 million in nine different Las Vegas sportsbooks on Michigan beating the 14-point spread against favored Alabama on Saturday night.
Michigan Not Elite? It's Early to Say That, but Not Illogical
Michigan coach Brady Hoke (left) stares down the Tide during Saturday's duel at Cowboys Stadium.
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It's a little too early to immediately say that Michigan isn't capable of being one of college football's elite. However, it's not too early to take a hard look at the Wolverines and reevaluate their potential.
"I would think we're on the short end of the measuring stick right now," Wolverines coach Brady Hoke said. "I mean, we've got a lot of things that I know we can do better. I've seen us do it better, and we've got to go back to work."
Short end of the measuring stick?
But how about just moving the sticks?
Now that's where Michigan had a problem against a husky, NFL-sized Alabama defensive line.
"We couldn't establish the line of scrimmage," Hoke said. "When you can't do that, that doesn't do you very well."
The Wolverines managed just 11 first downs Saturday compared to Alabama's 20. Senior quarterback Denard Robinson couldn't establish a rhythm to save his life. He looked quite intimidated by the pressure applied by the Tide.
Robinson was considered an early favorite to win Heisman Trophy. Well, with a performance like Saturday's he may have dropped a few ranks.
An elite team and an elite player would have mustered more than the almost-laughable statistics Michigan put up Saturday.
Give Robinson credit, though; he battled back after taking a head-rattling hit from Alabama corner Dee Milliner, who got near more footballs thrown by Robinson than most Michigan receivers did.
Michigan needed Robinson to deliver any way possible; he certainly didn't do that through the air. More surprising, though, is the fact that he rushed for just eight yards in the first half, finishing with 27 on the game.
Opening the season against the defending national champions is tricky. If a team wins, then obviously, expectations grow larger. If a team loses, and loses in the fashion Michigan did, the naysayers come out of left field and declare said team as overrated.
Don't forget how good Alabama is. But don't kid yourself, either. Michigan is a good, but not yet elite-level great. But it is elite in its own league, which Alabama was obviously way out of Saturday night.
Jeremy Gallon Shows Poise and Promise in Horrid Loss to Tide
Jeremy Gallon proved to be Michigan's only hope offensively Saturday night.
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Michigan probably expected the world from receiver Jeremy Gallon entering the 2012 season, and it should have.
Gallon returned as the Wolverines' leading receiver after posting 453 yards as a sophomore in 2011. He may be small in stature at 5'8", 187 pounds, but he was an elephant offensively for Michigan on Saturday night.
Thanks to a 71-yard bomb from quarterback Denard Robinson, Gallon put Michigan in position to actually throw a few points on the board. Down 31-0 in the second quarter, Gallon's reception set up Robinson's six-yard touchdown run.
It would be easy to gloat and be overly-proud about an individual performance against the Tide. But that's not Gallon's style.
He thought of the game as a whole and what it meant moving forward, not his four receptions which produced 107 yards.
"It's really tough, because we had the mind-set of coming out and starting fast, finishing fast and we didn't do that," Gallon said. "They got the first punch on us, scored first and we didn't play the way we were coached to play.
"We're going to learn form it. We got 11 more games to go and we're going to start hard with film tomorrow. Study Air Force and learn from this game."
Gallon had four of Michigan's 11 total catches, and over half of the 200 yards the receivers accumulated as a unit.
Make no mistake, though. After a night like Saturday, Gallon proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he's the go-to receiver. While the Wolverines stumbled in their season opener, Gallon emerged as possibly the best overall weapon on Michigan's offense.
And that's saying a lot, especially when Gallon plays alongside Robinson.
No Sense in 'What Ifs?' Surrounding Toussaint's Absence
Michigan probably wouldn't have had much success on the ground with Fitz Toussaint playing against Alabama
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One of the biggest questions entering Michigan's game against Alabama was the status of Wolverines running back Fitz Toussaint.
The 1,000-yard rusher from a year ago was suspended for the duel at Cowboys Stadium, and he knew a week prior to the game, according to an ABC sideline reporter.
So, it was sophomore Thomas Rawls' job to establish momentum on the ground.
But he couldn't.
With just nine yards rushing from six carries, a couple things regarding Rawls were clear: 1. He wasn't ready for Alabama's defense. Not many backs would be, especially in a debut (first start), 2. Michigan's coaching staff didn't show much confidence in the youngster from Flint.
Listen, the results of Saturday's 41-14 loss to Alabama would probably had been the same with Toussaint in the backfield. Rawls is just as physical as Toussaint, so to suggest that Toussaint would have been better-equipped when facing the Tide isn't a valid argument.
Not even past Michigan greats like Mike Hart or Anthony Thomas would have had success against the dominant force that is the Tide defensive line.
Alabama's combination of Ed Stinson, Quinton Dial and Damion Square, along with a handful of others, made it difficult for Michigan to win battles.
"It was bad on both sides of the ball [in the trenches]," Wolverines coach Brady Hoke told the TheWolverine.com. "I don't think we tackled well enough on defense. We didn't control the line of scrimmage enough offensively."
Essentially, those battles were already won before the game started. The thought of Michigan out-muscling Alabama's big boys was nothing more than a mere fantasy—one that Toussaint would have done little to change.
"I can't guess if we missed Fitz or not," Hoke said. "That's hypothetical, to be honest with you.
"We've (still) got to block them."
Alabama's TJ Yeldon Made Michigan's Defense Look Foolish
Alabama's TJ Yeldon exposed (forward to 1:50) the Michigan defense one run at a time
As evidenced by the accompanying video, Michigan's defense couldn't contain Alabama's TJ Yeldon if it tried.
And it did try. It just wasn't successful. Alabama rushed, collectively, for 232 yards, just over 100 yards more than what the Wolverines gave up per game in 2011 (131).
When a brawny back like Yeldon advances past the linebackers, leaving safeties like Jordan Kovacs to haul him down, it's not going to end well.
At 6'2", 216 pounds, Yeldon is essentially a tank on rails. He moved effortlessly through Michigan's linebackers and defensive line, weaving, powering and smoothly rumbling his way to big gain after big gain.
If anything, Michigan can use the footage on Yeldon to prepare for Oct. 20 when it will face a similar back in Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell, a 6'2", 237-pound bruiser. Watch out for Yeldon, because once he packs on a few pounds, he'll be a better version of Bell.
Yeldon tallied 111 rushing yards on 11 carries Saturday, including a 40-yard scamper that appeared to be incredibly easy and routine for him. Oh, and don't forget that he added a touchdown for good measure.
Dee Hart was effective. Eddie Lacy was effective, too, but there came a time when Alabama didn't need its No. 1 back to do the work. And that time was about 10 minutes into the game.
Jalston Fowler was a monster, further proving that Alabama may have the best stable of running backs in the nation. Forget "may;" the Tide possess the most dangerous quartet of running backs in the game.
Denard Robinson Still Isn't Where He Should Be in Terms of Throwing the Ball
Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson was 11-of-26 (200 yards, 2 INT, 1 TD) in a 41-14 loss Saturday to Alabama.
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During the pregame broadcast on ABC (check my live blog), anchors and reporters echoed Wolverines coach Brady Hoke, who said that quarterback Denard Robinson had improved mechanics and delivery.
For the past two seasons, the biggest knock on Robinson has been the fact that he's not the "traditional" Michigan quarterback; he's not, either.
Robinson has a little Rick Leach in him, sure. Leach couldn't scramble like Robinson, but Robinson can't throw like Leach.
Robinson's game was full of ill-advised throws, many of which were too short, too long, or not to Michigan players.
Alabama corner Dee Milliner had Robinson's number all night long.
All. Night. Long.
Heisman contender or not, Robinson isn't a guy who will win many games by throwing the ball. He was simply forced into throwing because Alabama wouldn't give him an inch on the ground.
OK, Alabama let him have eight yards rushing in the first half—and he finished with 27.
Speed and elusiveness are Robinson's strengths.
However, he grossly overthrew Jeremy Gallon a couple times on passes that could have resulted in big plays. Simply put, Robinson showed—at least against an elite defense—that he absolutely cannot take over a game with his arm.
“I didn’t make the throws that I should have made today,” Robinson told the Detroit Free Press. “I feel like I didn’t play as a Michigan quarterback. I feel like I’ve got to step it up and be more accountable.”
"Shoelace" tied in a knot
Robinson was 11-of-26 passing, good for 200 yards, two interceptions and a touchdown.
Milliner deflected four of Robinson's passes. While he had just one interception Saturday night, the star corner should have had at least two. He touched more footballs than Michigan receivers.
Mark Ingram Is Definitely Not a 'Michigan Man,' but He's a Michigander
Mark Ingram probably laughed the entire game while watching his Tide roll the Wolverines.
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Mark Ingram is proud of where he's from.
The Flint Southwestern grad grew up in the Flint area, loves his hometown—which has signs on highways celebrating his 2009 Heisman Trophy—and is actually a fan of Michigan State.
Well, he was when he was a kid.
During a phone interview a couple years back, Ingram told me that he had Spartans bedsheets as a child. Didn't we all?
His father, Mark, Sr., was a star receiver at Michigan State, too. So, naturally, playing the Spartans in the 2011 Capital One Bowl was a treat for Ingram, who dismantled his father's alma mater in a 49-7 victory.
Well, needless to say, Ingram was against another Michigan team Saturday (he couldn't personally do damage to it, so why not do the next best thing?): the Michigan Wolverines, who lost 41-14 to Ingram's college team, the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Ingram caught a little flak from Twitter users who questioned his Michiganderism (is that even a word?!) Some users poked and prodded Ingram, saying that he's from Michigan and should cheer for the Wolverines.
Ingram, though, had to remind certain people that yes, he is from Michigan, but he played at Alabama.
Kind of a no-brainer. But some people just don't get it.
Ingram thoroughly enjoyed watching his Tide shell the Wolverines, Tweeting phrases like "Roll Tide," and proclaiming that Michigan "wasn't ready" for SEC greatness.
He was right.
Michigan residents, whether serious or not, should have laid off Ingram during the game. Why wouldn't he cheer for Alabama? That's where he won a national title and Heisman Trophy. Tide fans adore him; many think he's the greatest running back to ever play at Alabama.
He's from Michigan, but he belongs to the 'Bama faithful.
And don't worry, Mark. Flint-area Michigan fans aren't mad at you.
Ingram's ties to Michigan (he was recruited by Michigan State) mean nothing when Alabama plays a Michigan-based school. Ask Michigan State. What, did Spartans fans and Michiganders expect him to take it easy during the Capital One Bowl?
So, why would Michigan residents be upset with Ingram for "not supporting his home state" by rooting against the Wolverines?
A bit unnecessary, wasn't it?
Live game blog shows a photo of Ingram's suite which he posted on Twitter. Also, on his Twitter, Ingram talks about sharing a suite with Wolverines fans and giving them lively debate.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81