Michigan-Wisconsin: Don't Blame Ryan Mallett

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Michigan-Wisconsin: Don't Blame Ryan Mallett
If you thought the only argument in Ann Arbor was about Lloyd Carr's future, you were mistaken.

Don't believe me?

Check just about any Wolverines message board after a game in which true freshman QB Ryan Mallett has taken over for injured senior Chad Henne.

Some fans argue that, performance aside, no one should have anything negative to say about Mallett. After all, he's just a freshman—and with time he'll be one of the greatest quarterbacks in Michigan history.

Others aren't so kind.

Mallett's critics argue that Michigan would have lost several games this season, particularly the game at Illinois, had the youngster been under center for the duration. Yes, he can throw the ball, they say—but he lacks confidence, discipline, and precision.

And with the Wolverines dropping yet another game to an unranked opponent this weekend, the anti-Mallett movement is stronger than ever.

It's not that the Wisconsin loss matters that much in the big picture. With Ohio State falling to Illinois, Michigan can still win the Big Ten outright with a victory over the Buckeyes next week.

But some fans still had their hearts set on a Michigan win over the Badgers, if only to maintain the winning streak that had saved the Wolverines from national oblivion after a disappointing 0-2 start.

For those fans, Mallett's performance simply wasn't good enough. In fact, they've openly stated that Michigan wouldn't have lost if Henne had stayed in at quarterback.

And they aren't alone in their frustration.

Junior wide receiver Mario Manningham was so frustrated with Mallett throughout the game that even the commentators noticed it. At one point, Manningham and Mallett engaged in an on-camera sideline confrontation. Not long afterwards, Manningham gritted his teeth in anger after Mallett threw an interception.

For a short while following that interception, it appeared to the announcers as though no one on the team would speak to Mallett except for Henne and Mike Hart.

Of course, the Wisconsin loss wasn't all on Mallett. His offensive teammates didn't exactly pick him up, and it's not his fault the Wolverine defense didn't deliver at Camp Randall.

You have to wonder if Michigan was looking ahead to the Ohio State. You also have to wonder why Henne (suffering from a shoulder injury) and Hart (suffering from an ankle injury) couldn't tough it out against Wisconsin—a team the Wolverines had to know Mallett couldn't hang with.

Mallett needed a lot more help out there—and, unlike in the Penn State game, he simply didn't get it.

Unfortunately, the young QB has been made a scapegoat by some fans—and probably by some teammates too. As a whole, Michigan looks to be heading back to the college football doghouse, especially if the team doesn't beat the Buckeyes and win its bowl game.

Regardless of how they got to 8-3, the Wolverines are now in a position to see their regular season end just the way it started—with two straight losses.       

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