Michigan Football: Shoddy Offensive Performance Came as No Surprise

Joel GreerCorrespondent ISeptember 4, 2012

Sep 1, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson (16) is tackled by Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Nico Johnson (35) in the third quarter at Cowboys Stadium. Alabama beat Michigan 41-14. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE
Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

The Michigan offense is no match for the nation's toughest defenses.

Last Saturday, it was embarrassed by Alabama. In the Sugar Bowl, it was pushed around by Virginia Tech, and during last season it was humbled by Michigan State.

The statistics don't lie. The Wolverines gained just 269 total yards against the Crimson Tide, only 184 against Virginia Tech and just 250 against Michigan State.

Quarterback Denard Robinson, who is the catalyst of the Michigan attack, has sputtered miserably against these tough defensive units.

On the ground, Robinson totalled 27, 13 and 42 yards against these foes. In the air, the senior signal-caller passed for 200, 117 and 123 yards respectively. Of course, much of the 200 yards against Alabama came on a 71-yard pass to Jeremy Gallon and a 44-yard touchdown strike to Devin Gardner.

Robinson's backfield mates were not much help either. In fairness, Fitz Toussaint didn't play against Alabama, but the combined total of 44 yards between Vincent Smith and Thomas Rawls was disgusting. Smith "led" the running backs in the Michigan State loss with 37 and Toussaint could muster only 30 in the Sugar Bowl.

When Brady Hoke took over the head-coaching job before the 2011 season, he vowed to switch Michigan from a read-option attack to a power-I offense.

But the transition hasn't been easy. The offensive line would have to become tougher, and a pocket passer would have to emerge.

By last year's spring practice, it was decided that Robinson would be the quarterback, and the Big Ten-style power offense would wait.  After all, Robinson had become an icon in Ann Arbor, and could probably win 10 games by himself. Again he put some great numbers on the ground, and coupled with the improvement of Toussaint, Michigan produced a nice one-two punch as last season progressed.

The passing game might have been an adventure, but Michigan was still able to squeak by Ohio State in "The Game" and Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl.

The Wolverines were the toast of the town, finishing with an 11-2 mark, an Associated Press No. 8 preseason ranking and a prediction by AthlonSports.com to win the Big Ten crown.

Unfortunately, the Wolverines were brought back to earth by an Alabama team which will contend for another national title with the likes of Southern Cal and LSU.

Michigan, on the other hand, has plenty of work to do. The Wolverines were manhandled on both sides of the ball. Defensively, it's understandable since Craig Roh is the only returning starter on the defensive line. It also didn't help that starting cornerback Blake Countess was injured in the opening moments and will miss the entire season with a torn ACL.

But you could wonder about the offensive line, which features three fifth-year seniors and a pair of redshirt juniors. Only center Elliott Mealer is without extensive playing time.

Help is on the way, however. True freshmen Kyle Kalis, Ben Braden and Erik Magnuson have made the depth chart, while redshirt freshman Jack Miller backs up Mealer at center.

Five more offensive linemen should arrive next fall, including Scout.com's No. 1 rated offensive tackle Patrick Kugler and the No. 2 rated offensive guard Kyle Bosch.

With Toussaint back in action, Michigan should resume its winning ways this weekend against an overmatched Air Force team. From the Mountain West Conference, the Falcons return just six starters from a 7-6 team that lost 41-27 to San Diego State and 55-39 to Notre Dame.

Air Force, which won its season opener 49-21 over Idaho State, is an early 21-point underdog to Michigan, per VegasInsider.com. The Wolverines have close to a 60-pound weight advantage on both lines.