Michigan Football: Problem Areas Wolverines Must Fix in Blowout Win vs. UMass

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistSeptember 15, 2012

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 08:  Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines runs for a third quarter touchdown while playing the Air Force Falcons at Michigan Stadium on September 8, 2012 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

As the Michigan Wolverines prepare for a home battle against the Massachusetts Minutemen on Saturday, it's necessary that the team uses this game as a stepping stone for future success.

The Wolverines come into their Week 3 contest as 45.5-point favorites (via Vegas Insider) and should easily have the game wrapped up by halftime. 

However, with a huge rivalry game in South Bend against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish coming up, playing a team like UMass could not have come at a better time. 

The Wolverines have been among college football's biggest disappointments through two weeks, getting destroyed by the Alabama Crimson Tide in Week 1 and barely escaping last week against the Air Force Falcons.

In those two contests, a myriad of problems showed up for Michigan. Luckily, a game against an overmatched opponent could provide the team's elixir going forward.

With that in mind, here's a look at the Wolverines' problem areas that they must fix against UMass on Saturday. 

Denard Robinson

The dual-threat QB recaptured his effectiveness on the ground last week against Air Force, running for 218 yards on 20 carries, including a scintillating 79-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.

However, Robinson's prowess on the ground has never been and never will be his overarching concern as a player. What is a concern going forward is the fact he has plateaued in his development as a quarterback. 

After completing 62.5 percent of his passes and seemingly trending upward in 2010, it's all been downhill for Robinson the past two seasons. As a junior, Robinson's completion percentage dropped to 55.0 and he tossed 15 interceptions, which tied for sixth most in the nation.

Seen largely as a down season, the Wolverines quarterback was expected to have a huge bounce-back campaign in 2012.

Through two games, the results have not been encouraging. Robinson has completed just 49.0 percent of his passes and has thrown three interceptions while showing the same problem signs as 2011.

The Michigan offense is more reliant on its quarterback than ever before, so this trend cannot keep up. For the Wolverines to have any shot at a top-tier bowl game, Robinson needs to fix his aerial deficiencies before they submarine his senior season. 

Run Blocking

Through two games, here's a look at the Wolverines' non-Robinson running stats: 30 carries, 38 yards and 1.27 yards per carry.

It's easy to point at Robinson's astounding ground work last week and blame the running backs for their ineffectiveness. But when actually watching Wolverines play this season, it's apparent that's not the case. 

Almost any traditional run play Michigan has run this season without the read-option being involved has gotten stuffed at the point of attack. Thousand-yard rusher Fitzgerald Toussaint, who averaged 5.6 yards per carry in 2011, had no run of longer than five yards last week as holes closed seemingly before the handoff.

That can work against a lesser team like Air Force or this week against UMass. Facing teams with elite defenses—as we saw in the Alabama game—the offensive line's ineffectiveness in traditional run sets makes the read-option a fangless attack. 

With a tough run defense in Notre Dame on tap for this week, it's necessary to figure out an effective way to get the ball in Toussaint's hands going forward.

Defensive Line Ineffectiveness

Replacing all four starters in the front four is a daunting task for any football team, and (understandably) the Wolverines have struggled mightily thus far to get penetration.

Alabama and Air Force combined to gain 522 yards on the ground in the team's opening two contests, which is the fifth-worst rate in the entire nation.

And unfortunately for Michigan, those yards cannot be chalked up to a few isolated plays. The Wolverines have given up 28 first downs from running plays in the first two weeks, just one behind Eastern Michigan for the most in college football. 

This deficiency is the least sustainable one if Michigan hopes to compete for a Big Ten championship. If left unattended, star running backs like Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell and Nebraska's Rex Burkhead will scamper all over the Wolverines and single-handedly cost the team those games. 

With a weak opponent like UMass on the schedule for Saturday, look for Michigan to rotate defensive alignments and find at least a passable front four. 


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