When 2013 is all said and done, someone, somewhere along the pecking order, will have to shoulder responsibility for Michigan's subpar football season.
Ten wins remain a goal for Wolverines coach Brady Hoke, whose Team 134 (6-3, 2-3 Big Ten) has been the victim of consistent regression since winning the 2012 Sugar Bowl. Nearing the end of his third season, a 6-6 finish and bowl loss could result in the failure to see a fourth.
For the third week in a row, Hoke faces a must-win. Bowing to Northwestern this weekend would enrage the fans.
Hoke, not worried about the restless souls in the stands, said the following about his trials and tribulations to Angelique Chengelis of the Detroit News.
We've just got to do a good job with our kids. That's truthfully it. I can't worry about (unhappy fans). I worry about the 115 kids in Schembechler Hall. Did they go to class? Did they do the right thing? Are they putting the time in preparation-wise?
In this case, not all of the dirt needs to be kicked in his direction. There's only so much a head coach can do, right? Keeping Joe Fan comfortable is the least of Hoke's concerns at this point.
Al Borges, the offensive coordinator, hasn't been innocent by any stretch of the imagination.
Dating back to 2012's 26-21 loss to Ohio State, Borges' tactics have been dissected and questioned by fans and media members. The criticism only heightened this season after his offense fell flat on its face against Michigan State and Nebraska, which stuffed him during its back-to-back victories.
Borges' game wasn't exactly razor-sharp during close calls with Akron and UConn earlier this year, either. A limp scoring attack that, at one time, averaged 42 points per game, is an Achilles' heel.
Making matters worse, Michigan has a wire-thin offensive line that's incredibly vulnerable in the middle. Not even tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield, both seniors, have been able to gain control. The ineptitude of the unit cripples chances of finishing on a high note.
Quarterback Devin Gardner gets buried and running backs Fitz Toussaint and Derrick Green burn out while spinning their tires. Take any given game, and it's all but guaranteed that Borges will find a way to somehow squander at least three drives.
Snaps have been at a premium. Lately, it seems as if drives are lasting all of seven and eight plays. That's probably being generous.
What is the O-Line's Issue?
Darrell Funk, coach of the offensive line, is one of Hoke's most trusted cabinet members. A reliable recruiter, Funk has attracted some of the better prospects from each of the three past classes.
Robust quarterback barricades are right around the corner.
But right now, Lewan, a senior who's been through two coaching staffs, is his ace. Funk lost All-Big Ten center David Molk after the 2011 season, and the middle of the line has consistently grown weaker since. All that's left is an All-American left tackle and Schofield.
From right guard to center to left guard, Funk and Borges have used no less than seven three-way combinations in order to solidify the mid section.
Nothing has worked. Gardner has been sacked 14 times in the past two weeks. Now it's time to put that in perspective: Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, a similarly built and mobile passer, has been sacked 14 times all season.
If the line fails to improve, Hoke may be left with no choice but to replace the man who manages personnel. That'd be a difficult cut, given their approximately six-year relationship.
The Wolverines' faint rushing attack averages 135 yards per game, ranking No. 97 nationally. Power up front is absent. Michigan doesn't get enough push to be effective on the ground.
Hoke can't even begin to compete for a division title, let alone a conference or national championship, with the current version of Funk's strategies and management.
Is the RB Coach to Blame?
Fred Jackson's running backs have been picked apart by the media and torn apart by opposing defenses. Again, that's due to a paper mache front, but it's difficult to look past struggles in the backfield.
A No. 11 rushing offense in the Big Ten isn't good enough, not with these backs. And Jackson hasn't had a ball-carrier break 1,000 yards since 2011, when Toussaint finished with 1,041.
Toussaint's rushed for as many as 151 yards and as few as six. Green has 40 touches. In 2012, Thomas Rawls was one of the most efficient running backs, averaging a touchdown every 14.25 totes. He's had three carries thus far.
And one of them was a touchdown. But for some reason, Michigan isn't calling upon the junior.
Is that Jackson's fault? Or is the decision Borges' to make?
Had it with Borges?
The popular "get rid of" talks center around the dismissal of Borges. Fans have hit local sports radio with anti-Borges remarks for the past two years, but they've increased tenfold since Week 3.
Whether it's using Toussaint to block, something he's clearly not designed for, or mismatching a formation with a particular scenario, Borges can't seem to do anything right. His calls have resulted in just one touchdown in the past seven quarters.
His unit scored six points against the Spartans. Then it turned around and scored a whopping 13 when facing a middle-of-the-road Huskers defense.
Gardner's fall from grace is a concern. For five games in 2012, he looked like the answer to a post-Denard Robinson era of football in Ann Arbor. He was going to be the bridge to the pro-style offense as Borges shed the spread.
The only thing shed since then has been production. Much more productive with Robinson, Borges' offense appears to be missing important internal mechanisms essential to overall function. Basically, the offense looks like a broken version of its former self.
It was good in 2011 and tolerable in 2012. But in 2013, it's near rock-bottom.
Prior to the season, Team 134's set of defensive backs was thought to be a strength. And it has been, but not to the point as once forecast. The corners and safeties have been serviceable, but not star-worthy.
At one point, Michigan's defensive backs made up the Big Ten's No. 3 total pass defense. Today, they make up the No. 9-ranked defense in the league.
Blake Countess, a redshirt sophomore, leads the B1G with four picks. Raymon Taylor is disruptive. Dymonte Thomas and Channing Stribling should be productive citizens in the coming years.
Both physical, that pair possesses knockout power. Along with Jourdan Lewis and Delano Hill, Michigan's secondary has a bright future.
Would this year's slide be enough for Hoke and Dave Brandon, the athletic director, to put Curt Mallory's name on a list of expendables?
Michigan hasn't had a victory worthy of beating its chest since it "knocked off" a then-thought-to-be-good Notre Dame 41-30 in Week 2.
If Team 135 is to represent the dawn of a new day, Hoke and Michigan may need to reevaluate their coaching personnel.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
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