Michigan's Offense Struggling in Hoke's Third Season

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Michigan's Offense Struggling in Hoke's Third Season
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
QB Devin Gardner has been giving the ball away a lot this season

Michigan’s loss to Penn State made for entertaining television, but the game itself was hardly an example of great football.

Both programs garner attention for their proud traditions and huge fan bases, but they are years away from competing with Alabama or Oregon. Penn State lost this season to the University of Central Florida, while the Wolverines barely survived Akron and UConn.

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The situation for Penn State is understandable; the NCAA sanctions resulting from the Jerry Sandusky scandal have dealt a devastating blow to coach Bill O’Brien’s rebuilding efforts.

But Penn State played with swagger, despite blowing an 11 point first half lead and trailing by as many as ten points in the fourth quarter. They fought back to defeat the Wolverines in four overtimes, sending the Wolverines home to Ann Arbor in defeat.

Watching Saturday’s game, you’d be hard pressed to pick which team was being hammered by NCAA sanctions.

This is Brady Hoke’s third season at Michigan. He’s brought in highly-ranked recruiting classes and the program experienced no migration of players when he took over.

The cupboard wasn’t bare; the Wolverines went 11-2 in his first season, winning a BCS bowl and rallying fans who were disheartened after three years of Rich Rodriguez.

But Michigan has struggled to find offensive consistency since.

Total Offense Ranking
2011 42
2012 78
2013 74

NCAA, Wikipedia

The offense is ranked No.74 nationally. That’s despite scoring 59 points against Central Michigan in the first game of the season.

Offensive coordinator Al Borges was hailed as a genius in his first year in Ann Arbor, successfully melding the skills of quarterback Denard Robinson into Hoke’s offense.

But that reputation is getting tarnished, and perhaps may have been overstated to begin with.

Total Defense Ranking
2011 17
2012 13
2013 14

NCAA, Wikipedia

When the Wolverines struggled last season, the excuse was that Denard Robinson didn’t have the arm strength and/or decision making skills to successfully manage the offense that Borges envisioned. When he was able to successfully run the ball, the offense worked. When the team stacked the box and dared him to throw, the offense sputtered.

Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
QB Denard Robinson

When Devin Gardner took over late last season, he seemed to be the perfect complement for what Borges wanted to do.

But halfway through this season, the Michigan offense has reverted back to being heavily dependent on quarterback runs to get things moving. When teams pressure Gardner, he makes poor decisions in the passing game which all too often lead to opponent points.  

There are no signs of the power running game that Hoke touted during fall practice.

Michigan recently shuffled its offensive line to jump start its running game.

If things don’t improve, it might be time for Brady Hoke to shuffle some offensive coaches.

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