The Michigan offense continues to take blows this season, with an injury knocking Fitz Toussaint out of the Iowa game, and possibly out for the season-ending rivalry against Ohio State.
There has already been a major quarterback change, but the Wolverines found a playmaker in the process. The Wolverines will have to find another hidden threat in the ground game to make up for the loss of Toussaint in the backfield.
Michigan has been missing the usual explosion that Toussaint brought because of his injury issues this fall, but the Wolverines don’t have another credible threat from the backfield.
If a backfield replacement isn't found this week, Ohio State will pick apart this Michigan offense. These are the five playmakers that the Wolverines need to make strides this week and help cover up for the loss of Toussaint in the Michigan backfield.
Denard Robinson may have been unseated as the Wolverines starting quarterback, but Michigan displayed ways on Saturday to get Robinson the ball without having to snap it to him.
There were multiple formations that the Wolverines ran with Robinson lined up in a slot position or at running back. Robinson is a weapon that can make plays for Michigan, but he also provides a distraction that opposing teams must keep an eye on every play.
He has nine passing touchdowns on the year, but his 946 rushing yards are what makes him a danger in the ground game.
There is a third dimension to the Wolverines offense with Robinson in the game. It has become obvious that his calling isn’t quarterback, but he can fill a major role for the Michigan offense as the season draws to a close.
Roundtree was having a mediocre season with Michigan until three weeks ago. Devin Gardner took over at quarterback, giving these receivers a better shot at making plays in the passing game. Roundtree has benefited and has made big plays in the past few weeks.
Against Northwestern, Roundtree made the game-changing play when he caught a tipped pass to put the Wolverines inside the 10-yard line. He finished the game with 139 receiving yards.
Against Iowa, he finished with a touchdown and 83 yards through the air. It marked his second game in a row with five catches. Prior to the five-catch streak, he had only five games with two or more catches.
Roundtree has become a major part of the Michigan offense at the perfect time. As the Wolverines look to make up lost yards from the ground game, they will continue to look Roundtree’s way for big plays.
Gardner was a quarterback, and then he landed at receiver in the Michigan offense, trying to find ways to make an impact.
This season he has found his role, and oddly enough it has been at quarterback. The past three weeks have been the best for the Michigan air attack in at least half a decade. Gardner is picking apart defenses and looking like the three-year starter, not three-week backup.
The Wolverines will need to keep getting strong performances from Gardner at quarterback. He is a dynamic runner and accurate passer who makes the Michigan offense a balanced and dangerous unit.
Gardner will have to continue to progress his ground attack as the season ends, as the Wolverines will be looking to find extra yards from somewhere.
The Wolverines will look for Denard Robinson to pick up some ground yards for the offense in the closing weeks, but they will also need Thomas Rawls to step up in the ground game.
Rawls is the second-string tailback for the Wolverines, and he has been a modest contributor to this point in the season.
This Michigan offense has shown that without a balanced ground attack, it will struggle. The Wolverines need this young tailback to pick up his performance and lead the rushing attack as the Wolverines head into the Ohio State game this coming weekend.
A big performance from Rawls will etch him in rivalry history—a bad performance will hand Michigan a crushing defeat in conference for the second time this season.
Michigan will be scrambling to find yards on the ground, but having a guy like Jeremy Gallon on the outside should help the air attack continue to be very potent.
Devin Gardner has been very successful this fall in three games, finishing this Saturday with a season-high 314 yards passing. Having Gallon has helped bring along the passing attack from Gardner.
The Wolverines are not good enough to lose major offensive playmakers like Toussaint, but the best way to overcome the loss is to redirect the attention of the defense.
If Michigan can keep opposing defenses focused on Gallon and others, it will allow for a balanced ground game with Rawls and Robinson, opening up the offense and helping the chances of an upset win over the Buckeyes in Columbus.