Michigan Football: Winners and Losers from 1st Month of Wolverines' Season

Adam BiggersSenior Analyst IISeptember 30, 2012

Michigan Football: Winners and Losers from 1st Month of Wolverines' Season

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    The word "disappointing" best describes the Michigan Wolverines' first month of the 2012 college football season.

    Calling it "disappointing" may be putting it mildly.

    A 2-2 start wasn't what most expected out of Michigan, which was ranked No. 8 in preseason polls but has now dropped out of the AP Top 25.

    After winning the BCS Sugar Bowl and posting 11 wins under first-year coach Brady Hoke, Michigan's fanbase expected far more this fall than what's been delivered.

    The lack of consistency after Week 1's 41-14 loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide has been frustrating. The defensive mistakes that allowed the Air Force Falcons to hang around in Week 2 were enough to cause fits.

    Michigan's 63-13 win over UMass was a great showing offensively and gave a glimpse at what could have been done against Notre Dame.

    But it wasn't done.

    Michigan's offense struggled mightily during the 13-6 loss to the Irish. If not for its defensive effort, Michigan would have most likely lost by two or more touchdowns.

    The highs.

    The lows.

    It's time to break down the 2012 Michigan Wolverines, commonly referred to as "Team 133."

Caught in Between: Denard Robinson

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    Denard Robinson can't be called a winner or a loser at this point of the season.

    "Shoelace" has essentially done everything for the Wolverines thus far, good or bad. The senior quarterback has to put his team on his back each week, but Michigan flirts with danger each time it has to rely on Robinson, who threw four interceptions and committed a fumble in a 13-6 loss to Notre Dame.

    But don't judge Robinson on that game—judge his body of work, which is incredible. He had to at least attempt to take the game into his own hands because the rest of the Wolverines couldn't get the ball rolling against a Manti Te'o-led Irish defense.

    Sept. 8: Vintage "Shoelace" Leads Wolverines to 31-25 Win Over Air Force

    The Wolverines needed a spark Sept. 8 when they hosted the Air Force Falcons, a team known for a high-flying offense that thrives on the option-look. Michigan's defense wasn't as sturdy as it should have been, but Robinson compensated for that with 426 yards of total offense.

    That display, regardless of which team it was against, reinforced Robinson's reputation of being a sly, skillful playmaker; he did it all—and he did with clinic-like preciseness.

    The win over Air Force was easily Robinson's top showing of the year. It was a game in which he needed to bounce back from an embarrassing loss to Alabama and show the nation why he's one of the most exciting athletes to ever play college football.

    Need a Bright Side?

    Robinson has thrown for 837 yards with six touchdowns and eight interceptions (four versus Notre Dame).

    OK. That's not overly impressive, but it's not down-and-out horrible—minus the picks, of course. "Shoelace" is among the top offensively gifted quarterbacks in terms of production, holding tight to a top-20 ranking at No. 19.

    He's also the Big Ten's third-leading rusher with 441 yards. No shock there, obviously.

Michigan Fans Haven't Won 1st Month of the Season

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    Michigan could find itself back in the AP Top 25 rankings if it takes care of business Saturday versus the Purdue Boilermakers (3-1).

    Starting the Big Ten docket off with a win is a must for the Wolverines, who were ranked eighth at the start of the season but have steadily slid down the ladder each week due to inconsistent play.

    The Maize and Blue faithful haven't exactly been pleased through the first four games (first month). It's evident that Michigan won't contend for a national title as some hoped it would. Denard Robinson won't hoist the Heisman, and a Big Ten title seems iffy.

    A 2-2 record wasn't what Wolverines fans expected. In fact, a 2-2 record probably wasn't what college football fans in general anticipated for Michigan, which won the BCS Sugar Bowl and won 11 games in the 2011 season.

    The loss to the Irish was a punch in the gut, sure. But don't lose faith in coach Brady Hoke; he wasn't the first Wolverines coach to have it handed to him the first time around in South Bend. It's kind of a Michigan coaching tradition to lose the initial contest at Notre Dame—it happened to Rich Rodriguez, Lloyd Carr and Gary Moeller. 

    But not Bo. Never happened to Bo.

Could-Win Guy: Devin Funchess Has Shown Ability, so Give Him the Ball

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    Devin Funchess, a 6'6", 230-pound freshman tight end, was incredibly effective in Michigan's Week 2 31-25 victory over the Air Force Falcons.

    How effective?

    Well, let's say that he had one of the top performances of any Michigan tight end in recent memory with four catches and 106 yards—not to mention a 30-yard touchdown grab.

    The big-bodied frosh has caught just four passes in the past two games, though. Michigan would serve itself well if it got the former Harrison High (Michigan) sensation more involved. The Wolverines could have used him against Notre Dame, but heavily pressured quarterback Denard Robinson couldn't find many open windows.

    However, Funchess has had a great start to his collegiate career, despite having just two catches and 11 receiving yards in a 13-6 loss to Notre Dame. The kid needs a chance—that's all; he can be productive and give Michigan another option offensively.

    But he needs the ball.

    Don't think of the Air Force game as a flash in the pan for Funchess—it wasn't. Funchess' development each week—even away from the ball via blocking—has been steady and promising. Wait for the Wolverines to run smoothly on offense and Funchess will shine.

Michigan Loses After Notre Dame Series Cancellation

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    Yeah, it probably wasn't the right call.

    But it was one that evidently had to be made.

    The Notre Dame-Michigan game is one of college football's best. Records, streaks -- none of that really matters in the grand scheme of things. The tradition of two of the game's storied programs gives Notre Dame-Michigan all the alluring qualities that college football fans can't live without.

    But the series is being cancelled. If you're a purist, the move came as shocking and ill-timed. And if you're not a purist, the nullification of the Irish-Wolverines series means nothing to you.

    Shame on you if you fit that mold. College football isn't college football without winged helmets battling golden domes.

    Michigan released a statement on M Go Blue, and it goes a little something like this...Well, it goes a lot like what you're about to read because it's a copy-paste job from the actual article.

    But play along with me, OK?

    The University of Michigan Athletic Department announced today (Tuesday, Sept. 25) that the football series with Notre Dame has been cancelled for the 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons. The Irish informed Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon prior to kickoff of the match-up Saturday (Sept. 22) in South Bend, Ind.

    "The decision to cancel games in 2015-17 was Notre Dame's and not ours," said Brandon, the Donald R. Shepherd Director of Athletics. "We value our annual rivalry with Notre Dame but will have to see what the future holds for any continuation of the series. This cancellation presents new scheduling opportunities for our program and provides a chance to create some new rivalries."

    The Wolverines and Irish have met on the gridiron 40 times, the most for Michigan against any non-conference opponent. Michigan holds a 23-16-1 all-time record against Notre Dame, one of the U-M's three main rivals along with Michigan State and Ohio State.

    The final two games in the rivalry will take place on Sept. 7, 2013, at Michigan Stadium, and the following year on Sept. 6, 2014, at Notre Dame Stadium. Both schools agreed to a break in the series during the 2018 and 2019 seasons. The future of games scheduled to be played in 2020 and beyond has yet to be determined.

Wolverines Defense Loses

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    The Michigan Wolverines defense hasn't been horrible, but it hasn't been exemplary, either.

    The secondary's loss of Blake Countess has been nearly crippling. The sophomore is out for the season after suffering an ACL tear during a 41-14 loss to Alabama in Week 1, and the rest of the secondary seems to have lost its attitude and luster without Countess.

    Captain Jordan Kovacs hasn't been his former hard-hitting self this season. After leading Big Ten safeties with 75 tackles in 2011, Kovacs, a senior, has been mired by the can't-tackle bug that has bitten teammates.

    The Wolverines defense needs work, a point driven home each week. A somewhat stout appearance against Notre Dame should give Wolverines fans a boost of confidence. Michigan allowed just 13 points to a team that trounced Michigan State 20-3 the week prior.

    That's a small yet significant "W" for the guys opposite of the offense.

    The following information is from an earlier post about the Wolverines defense. Call it "recycling" useful statistics. Or, call it being lazy. It's your decision to make.

    Michigan's turnover margin is horrid, last in the Big Ten (-7, -1.75 points per game).

    Michigan is 10th in time of possession (29:22 per game).

    The Wolverines are 11th on opponents' third-down conversions (43.9 percent) and allow the 10th-most first downs per game (18.8).

    Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81