It’s safe to say that it has probably been years since the Indiana student section has been as energized as it was this past Saturday, when the Hoosiers improbably converted two fourth downs on an inspired drive to tie the Michigan Wolverines with 1:15 left.
After 58 seconds had ticked off the game clock and sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson had driven Michigan to what would prove to be a game-winning score, that same crowd was silenced.
Some were angry. Many were frustrated. None were surprised.
These gridiron miracles that Denard performs have become commonplace through the first five games of the season for the unbeaten Wolverines.
Maybe I’m the only one who didn’t really buy into the whole Heisman buzz until now (mainly because I still expect a dramatic fall from grace during Big Ten season like last year), but now I’m really wondering if this is really possible.
Like any meticulous fan, I’m starting to draft a list of pros and cons for Denard’s chances at winning Michigan’s first Heisman since good old No. 2 Charles Woodson. I’m sure I’ll think of some more, but here’s where I’m at currently.
Why Denard will win it
1. Nonsensical Statistics
Anybody who has played a sports-based video game has done something like this. One creates a player for his or her favorite team who has ratings like 99 speed, 99 agility, 99 toughness, etc. This is almost like Rich Rodriguez is playing a video game and customized Denard Robinson, making him impossible to defend.
I don’t need to reiterate the gaudy numbers that Denard has put up thus far, but the things he’s doing on the field are absolutely unfathomable.
2. He is the reason Michigan is ranked
Without him, Michigan loses that game at Indiana. Without him, they probably lose that game against Notre Dame. Without him, Michigan would be forced to have confidence in its porous defense. The Wolverines live and die by Denard. Heisman voters, just like MVP voters, like irreplaceable players.
3. The Big Ten
The Big Ten is stacked with competitive teams this year. Michigan won’t be able to catch its breath too much between tough games.
Some critics may say that Denard has put up these numbers against schools like Bowling Green and a perennially over-ranked Notre Dame squad, and now Denard has a chance to prove them wrong. He will be playing against some of the best teams in the country, so strength of schedule will help his chances.
Why Denard won’t win it
1. The defense
One of the downsides of having the inhumanly explosive Robinson at quarterback is that he gains yards in bunches and puts together incredibly short drives. That means that the Michigan defense has to be on the field for a huge part of the game. Michigan’s time of possession against Indiana fell just short of 19 minutes.
Every play during which the defense is on the field is cringe-worthy for Michigan fans. Allowing 25 points per game against non-conference opponents will not fly for a team vying for the Big Ten title.
2. The Big Ten
The strength of the Big Ten is a double-edged sword for Robinson. While it will help to legitimize his statistics, it could also hurt his team, which seems to work against Heisman hopefuls. Voters have an annoying knack of selecting players from teams that play in the national championship game, which Robinson will not.
Michigan fans understand that they won’t run the table, but a couple of key wins against ranked teams like Michigan State this Saturday will go an incredibly long way in Robinson’s quest for the Heisman.
Almost every game, Michigan fans have had to hold their collective breath as Denard goes down awkwardly and comes out of the game for a few plays. He is either the ball carrier or the passer on nearly every play, which means he gets hit on almost every play. This might fly against MAC opponents, but nobody wants Robinson to get hit 10 or 15 times a game by players like Adrian Clayborn of Iowa.
Running backs like Vincent Smith and Michael Shaw will need to help Robinson carry the load a bit more. There is already enough drama surrounding the team; there’s no need for Robinson to make things more stressful for Rich Rodriguez or the Wolverine faithful.
For a player who was only on the field for less than 19 minutes of a 60-minute game, Denard was undoubtedly the driving force of the incredible game on Saturday.
Anthony Hopkins only appeared in about 16 minutes of the 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs, but he took home the most prestigious award in his field. Denard is trying to do the same thing. Starting next week, we will all know whether or not Denard Robinson is legitimately the best player in the country.