Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE
You Stop Right There, Denard
Theme Song: "Say It Isn't So"
Just when you though the Big Ten might have a chance against the SEC, Alabama went out and put up one of the greatest first game performances seen in the last two decades against Michigan under the bright lights of Saturday Night Football. As a result of the 41-14 beatdown, the questions still linger about Michigan and the conference as a whole, at least as it compares to the truly elite programs like Alabama.
Michigan was shut down on offense in the first quarter, and the Wolverines defense failed to stop the Crimson Tide offense as Alabama rolled out to a 21-0 lead that would clearly be insurmountable. Michigan clearly missed the contributions of suspended RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, although he would not have found much running room through the Crimson Tide defensive front. QB Denard Robinson only completed 11-of-26 passes and was essentially the entire offense, with 227 of the team's 269 yards.
Meanwhile, the Wolverines defense could not stop either of the Alabama running backs T.J. Yeldon (111 yards on 11 carries) or Jalston Fowler (67 yards on 8 carries). Although the Crimson Tide struggled to pick up third down conversions, the offense was rolling so well in the first half that third downs were usually not necessary. This looked like the Michigan defense before Greg Mattison arrived, and the loss of CB Blake Countess for the season really opens up a weakness in the defensive backfield.
Despite all of these problems, it is hard to push Michigan way down the list because Alabama would have rolled any of the Big Ten teams last weekend. However, Mattison has another work in progress to figure out quickly against probably the toughest non-conference schedule any Big Ten team faces this year. This week brings Air Force into Michigan Stadium, which may be fortuitous considering Michigan needs time to fix the passing defense (Air Force rushed for 484 yards last week and will run most of the game).
For one week though, Michigan continued the sad tradition of SEC dominance, and so ends up on the bottom half of the power rankings to start the season.