Michigan Football: 5 Startling Statistics from Wolverines' 2013 Campaign
Michigan is 5-0, but the path it travels is a bit uneasy.
In essence, the Wolverines are a 3-2 team that's benefited from a few lucky rolls. There's no harm in that, though. Undefeated is undefeated. But in this case, Team 134's unblemished record lacks the zeal of say, Ohio State, Oregon or Alabama's.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke has a 42-13 trouncing of Minnesota in his rear view. His team has shown that it can get the job done at home—it's 18-0 under Hoke—but this Saturday, it has to prove itself against Penn State (3-2) in Happy Valley.
If the No. 18-ranked Wolverines are to truly contend for a conference championship, they'll have to dispose of coach Bill O'Brien's Nittany Lions. Anything short of a steady, controlled approach would be a gross disappointment.
Thus far, Michigan hasn't put together four straight quality quarters on a single game day. However, this past Saturday's 28-point second half against the Gophers could have been a prelude of what's to come—and that's a team capable of fighting for the top spot in the Big Ten.
In this slideshow, issues, concerns and statistics surrounding Team 134's 5-0 start will be examined.
Fitz Toussaint's YPC
Fitz Toussaint didn't blow anyone away with his stat line Saturday, but his offering of 17 carries, 78 yards and two touchdowns was well received.
However, he hasn't made the next step since suffering a horrific leg injury this past fall against Iowa.
Effective enough to get the lion's share of carries thus far—but averaging a mundane 4.1 yards per attempt—Toussaint's shown glimmers of of top-level running with a handful of 15-yard-plus rushes and seven touchdowns.
An OK start, but he's capable of more.
As a sophomore in 2011, he rushed for 1,084 yards and nine touchdowns with an average of 5.6 yards per touch. He would have had many more touchdowns if Denard Robinson wasn't the quarterback. Shoelace was so busy doing the most damage that Toussaint was sometimes overlooked.
But before his Week 11 injury in 2012, he averaged four yards per carry and had just five touchdowns
Will Michigan get the Fitz of yesteryear? Or will it be 2012 all over again? Well, that depends on if he runs up the field like he did two seasons ago; it also depends on how much help he gets from his line.
Ten sacks through five games are well short of expectations.
With or without Jake Ryan, the Wolverines defense is capable of bettering two sacks per game day.
Against Minnesota, defensive end Frank Clark and tackle Jibreel Black were close to toppling Mitch Leidner several times. They should have tallied at least two sacks each; they have just that through five games this fall, and that's certainly startling (Clark 1.5, Black 0.5).
Sacks aren't the only sign of putting pressure on the quarterback, but it's a stat that defenses often hold in high regard.
And if anything is clear, Michigan's defense needs something on which it hang its hat. With Greg Mattison's strong defense, there's no reason why the Wolverines shouldn't put quarterbacks on their rears much more often.
Cam Gordon leads the team with three sacks. Brennen Beyer has two.
Blake Countess' Picks
Blake Countess' four interceptions should startle Michigan's opponents.
Blake Countess has to be close to breaking the record for most INTs the year after an ACL injury.— Brent Yarina (@BTNBrentYarina) October 5, 2013
Among national leaders in picks, Countess has proved that he's an elite cover corner in the Big Ten. The 5'10", 182-pound redshirt sophomore is making a strong case for postseason conference honors and is the main reason why the Wolverines secondary has been a dominant factor in wins.
Turnovers help create victories, and they're especially effective when they turn into 72-yard pick-sixes, which was the case for Countess, who did so in the fourth quarter of his team's 42-13 win over the Gophers.
Combined, Countess, Jarrod Wilson and Raymon Taylor have six interceptions, which are equal to Iowa and two more than Illinois's team output. Add in linebacker Desmond Morgan, and that group equals Wisconsin and Minnesota's output.
RT "@DrewCHallett: Blake Countess leads the nation in INT return yards with 149."— UofM Sports Updates (@UofM_Updates) October 6, 2013
Team 134 is the Big Ten's second worst when it comes to moving the chains.
And that's not conducive for success.
The Wolverines aren't moving the ball as well as their 38.8 points-per-game average suggests. Their 102 first downs rank No. 11 of 12 in the conference. Ohio State leads the league with 152 first downs.
Bleacher Report's Phil Callihan recently summed up some of the offensive woes with the following:
Good teams start with a base offense and add wrinkles throughout the season. The Wolverines have tons of wrinkles but no consistency. They neither have the talent up front to run the ball or protect Gardner long enough for the passing game to be effective.
Callihan wrote that passage prior to Michigan's victory over Minnesota. However, he raised valid points that remain relevant. The Wolverines won't crank out first downs if they can't protect their quarterback and control the line of scrimmage.
Michigan's offense has enough athleticism and talent to be one of the Big Ten's best.
But through five games, Team 134 is ranked No. 9 of 12 in total production.
Although they average nearly 400 yards per outing, the Wolverines remain several steps behind the productive and mass-yard-gaining offenses of Northwestern, Nebraska and Ohio State.
Offensive coordinator Al Borges has a former 1,000-yard rusher and a 4-star freshman tailback at his disposal. He has a 1,000-yard combination in the making with Devin Gardner and Jeremy Gallon.
Devin Funchess emerged with an absolutely triumphant arrival this past Saturday, posting a career-high 151 yards from seven grabs. He's 6'5" and 235 pounds of touchdown ability.
Drew Dileo makes things happen with his trickery, yet he has just seven catches.
The offensive line is anchored by an All-American left tackle, sure NFL first-rounder Taylor Lewan. Opening lanes for the run and protecting the quarterback shouldn't be an issue, but is has been. Gardner's been sacked seven times.
Components are in place to push Michigan toward a league-best offense. But they haven't clicked all at once. Part of that is due to the lack of creativity on the part of Borges, who showed that he's willing to tinker around with formations by placing Lewan on the right as a tight end against Minnesota.
After that, Toussaint followed the lead and scored a 12-yard touchdown.
"Our offense is ready to roll again." - Devin Gardner (@qu9rter8ack)— Michigan Football (@umichfootball) October 5, 2013
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.