I thought about taking a week off after yet another depressing and alcohol-inducing Michigan loss last Saturday at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes. I feel like it would be justified. Maybe I'm just a poor Michigan fan down on his luck trying to justify a mediocre season but Michigan really could have won against Michigan State and Iowa. ESPECIALLY against Iowa.
The problem is that you can't turn the ball over three and four times a game and expect to win. Granted a Tate Forcier 3rd-and-18 interception for a net of 30-plus yards is as good as a punt anyway but Iowa and Michigan State didn't need any help maintaining their leads.
What I'm getting at is that if you take away 50 percent of those turnovers and make them touchdowns (the two MSU interceptions at or beyond the goal line especially) Michigan has left a potential of between 21 and 28 points on the field while the total margin of defeat was 27 points for those two games.
That's what is so frustrating about those games. (Note: I'm not saying that Michigan deserved to win, I'm just saying they could have). I mean, let's face it, who didn't pencil in this game as a loss before kickoff? Nobody? Bueller? Bueller? BUT who thought Michigan would put up 500-plus yards of offense against the then-third-ranked defense in the nation after how Michigan State shut Michigan down? Again, nobody?
Chalk that up on the list of things that weren't supposed to happen this season right up there with the UMass scare.
Last week I said, "The important thing for Michigan is that they execute on all levels this weekend," and that, unfortunately, didn't happen. Granted, nobody expected anything close to mediocrity from the Michigan defense but I think it would be safe to say nobody expected four turnovers from the offense either. Those types of games were supposed to be filed away under "2008" and "Nick Sheridan."
I know I'll probably catch some crap for this and get "corrected" but I feel like deep down Michigan fans aren't as concerned with wins (don't get me wrong, they are very important) as they are with consistency. Hindsight is 20-20 but I think the Iowa game would have been a lot easier to swallow if Michigan was outplayed by Iowa the whole game.
Instead, the defense took a step forward and actually forced some three-and-outs and gave the Michigan offense a chance/chances to win the game. (Side note: Kenny Demens seems to be the answer to the suck that is Obi Ezeh at MLB). For the team to be successful the offense has to capitalize on the few occasions it gets help from the defense.
That's going to be even more important going forward. Most Michigan fans have penciled in a "W" next to Penn State, Illinois and Purdue but it's not going to be that simple. Despite having an offensive line that can't do so much as get under the pads of a defense...
...Penn State can still play a defense-like-substance in the front four (linebackers are another story). Illinois is better than most people thought at preseason (so UI > Awful). Purdue just beat a Northwestern team that is probably better than they are.
My point is that people can't just start penciling in wins until we get some consistent play from the entire team. Yes, Michigan should have lost to Iowa and should beat the aforementioned teams but Michigan has to start winning games that they CAN win before we can write off the games that they SHOULD win and in order to do that, the offense needs to be as good as the defense is bad.
This Saturday Michigan has a much-needed bye week to prepare for going into Happy Valley. Molk and Martin got banged up against Iowa but are expected to be 100 percent by next Saturday. Toussaint is expected to practice this week. Shaw has been limited but is expected to be ready for Penn State. The jury is still out on Odoms at the moment. Denard sprained something in his rotator cuff and it's still pretty sore.
Michigan has guys at key positions that need a week off to nurse their wounds and I think the fans need a week off to nurse theirs as well. Despite all of my "doom and gloom" there is still optimism for the season and the program going forth. Michigan's defense can only get better and their competition isn't going to be of the same caliber as the last two weeks until November 20th when they host Wisconsin. Denard will be facing defenses in which he can be Denard again.
It's in my nature to err on the side of caution and, before the Rich Rodriguez boo birds start singing their tune again, remember that most people said 7-5 was a realistic expectation for the season. IF Michigan wins the games they are "supposed to," they will have exceeded those expectations. I know for some that's still not good enough, but it may have to be for now.
Ok, I'll get off my soap-box now and start getting to work on the boring previews and recaps that I normally do. This Saturday, with no Michigan to watch, I'll be rooting for Auburn over LSU. If Denard can't have the Heisman then I'd rather see it go to a guy like Cam Newton. That guy has some wheels too!
Credit to MGoBlog.com for the photo.