A blowout loss to current No. 1 Alabama and edging out the Air Force Academy in the home opener wasn't exactly the start the Michigan Wolverines had in mind to the college football season. In spite of the rocky start, though, the Big Ten title is still well within their grasp.
The silver lining to the relatively uninspiring beginning of the year is that senior quarterback Denard Robinson is his usual self, as he showed last week in racking up over 400 yards of total offense against the Falcons. Those types of performances can continue thanks to various members of his supporting cast stepping up.
It wasn't going to be easy to replace the nation's best center in David Molk, but Elliott Mealer has begun to settle in up front, and that should help the chemistry improve amongst the bigs as the season progresses.
With the departure of Junior Hemingway, there were big concerns at the receiver position. The big-play receiver was Robinson's favorite target in the midst of a disappointing season from Roy Roundtree.
Through two games in 2012, Roundtree has continued to be quiet, with just three catches for 17 yards, but a pair of unlikely Devins have emerged for the Wolverines.
Converted quarterback Devin Gardner hauled in a 44-yard touchdown against the Crimson Tide, then backed it up with five catches for 63 yards and another score last Saturday.
The Big House was also the site of a big breakout by Michigan freshman Devin Funchess. His four-catch, 106-yard showing was highlighted by a 30-yard touchdown snag and a Big Ten Freshman of the Week award, according to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press.
Having a tight end that can stretch the field vertically will open up all kinds of opportunities for both dimensions of the offense.
Any contribution from Roundtree would be appreciated, but if Robinson can continue building on his recent success with Gardner and Funchess, the Michigan spread system could create even more matchup issues.
Perhaps a bigger concern is the defense, which got consistently gashed against Alabama and was on the field for a large portion of the game versus Air Force.
Jordan Kovacs leads an experienced defensive backfield at strong safety, which will be facing more pass-oriented offenses than the pounding, run-dominant opponents they faced through the first two games.
The only other non-spread, power-rushing team that Michigan will face this year is the archrival Spartans, who will travel to Ann Arbor for the annual showdown this year.
A slew of inexperienced quarterbacks remain on the schedule, including Michigan State junior Andrew Maxwell, which should give the Wolverines the edge at that position on almost every occasion. Unsure signal-callers will also help neutralize a lack of depth on the Wolverine defensive line.
A much-needed home matchup with Massachusetts is on tap for the Wolverines this weekend. Robinson should put plenty of points on the board, and all phases of the team should gain confidence in a blowout victory.
Once the Big Ten slate starts, expect Michigan to bounce back in a big way and redeem its rocky start en route to a conference championship.
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