How Bad Is It? Judging Michigan After the Loss to Utah

Jason BarczyCorrespondent ISeptember 2, 2008

I'm finally back from a hectic Labor Day and am ready to give you my opinion and analysis of Michigan's home opener, a 25-23 loss to Utah.

First off, let me just say that it's not that bad.  Don't go jumping off rooftops or be calling the suicide hotline just yet.  And don't go calling for Rich Rodriguez's head either.

Here's my breakdown of the game.  I'll go by units: offense, defense, special teams (yes, I'll put an emphasis on special teams for you), and coaching.



Oh my God, where do I start?  It's way worse than I thought it would be.  Michigan fans alike should be really worried about the bowl streak if the offense continues to play like it did Saturday.

The Wolverines have next to no playmakers on offense with the exception of Greg Mathews, who made some really great catches.

Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan are abysmal.  They wouldn't be starters at my alma mater of Central Michigan, let alone making any attempt to throw the ball for Michigan.

One play in particular in the first half demonstrated how awful Sheridan is.  I don't remember the specifics, but at one point he scrambled to the right and heaved the ball across his body to the right sideline like he was on recess playing a game of 500.  Well, that was the money ball right there, and I thought for sure it was going to be intercepted.

Sheridan threw a couple of balls like that, and it's a miracle that he had just one picked off.  In fact one got called back right before Michigan's first touchdown.

Threet was better, but not by much.  He should be the starter against Miami (OH) this Saturday.  RichRod should just flip a coin to see who starts because they're both terrible.

Both combined to go 19-38 and 167 yards and two touchdowns—hardly inspiring.  Neither has the decision-making ability needed to run Rich Rodriguez's spread offense.

It seemed like both Threet and Sheridan were always going with their initial read and not looking for a second option.  When they did look for a second option, it was too late, and the receiver was already well covered or off his route.

Which brings us to the wide receivers.  I love the talent some of these guys were boasted to have before the season, but it was beyond apparent that this group is way too young and inexperienced.

Martavious Odoms and Darryl Stonum showed a lack of ability to get open or beat their man.  Odoms led the team with five catches for a whopping seven yards.  Are you kidding me?!  Odds are that after five catches you should be in double digits for yards.

Junior Hemingway, I thought, showed that he should be starting along with Mathews, and RichRod needs to use Carson Butler more.  The running backs of Michael Shaw and Sam McGuffie made some plays catching the ball.

Speaking of the running backs, they are a complete disaster.  Either that or RichRod needs to adjust his play calling when it comes to running plays.  The Wolverines rushed for an average of 1.4 yards per rush.  I don't remember seeing Brandon Minor running the ball until the second half—and where was Carlos Brown?

McGuffie and Shaw did not show any cutting ability, and Minor had more yards than McGuffie on half the carries.  Once again I think inexperience plays into this.  Michigan is going to have a lot of growing pains on the offensive side of the ball.



Until the game was over, I thought that Jim Hermann was back as defensive coordinator.  I don't know what Scott Schafer was thinking lining up a 4-3 zone defense against a spread offense like Utah features.

The second half adjustments were stellar, but it was already too late due to the fact that the offense couldn't move the ball past the 50 without a Utah penalty or turnover.

Obi Ezeh was named Big Ten defensive player of the week after making 15 tackles and nabbing one interception.

Jonas Mouton should see more time at weakside linebacker over Marell Evans.

It seemed like Steve Brown was being picked on a lot while Utah avoided Morgan Trent and Donovan Warren.

The D-line was great in the second half, as was every defensive unit in the second half, as shown by Utah's 28 yards gained.


Special Teams

Boy, was I nervous when Michigan first lined up in the punt formation that cost the Wolverines against Oregon a few years ago.  But Zoltan Mesko went unblocked and proceeded to aim at planes carrying banners above the stadium.

K.C. Lopata made a great field goal from 50 yards out that Garrett Rivas probably would've missed.

I was encouraged by our kick/punt returners, as someone almost broke one early on.  I'll have to write down who's returning this week.



Here's my beef with Rodriguez.  I liked his play calling—it shows how aggressive he is—but I think he needs to tailor it to his athletes.  Sheridan and Threet are not spread offense quarterbacks, and Minor is not very good outside the tackles.

A good coach can go out there and coach a pro-style offense or a spread offense.  He shouldn't just expect guys who don't fit his system to fit in.  It's the square peg in a round hole theory.  Adjust the playbook for game day until these guys are ready for the real deal.

RichRod's play calling is great, but he just doesn't have the athletes to fit.  And please somebody tell Schafer to never line up like that against the spread.  Utah picked the 4-3 zone apart in the first half.


Bottom Line

Things are way worse than I thought, but it's one game, and Utah is supposed to be a mid-major darling.  The bowl streak is in trouble, and I think the Wolverines are in for a three- to five-win season unless things drastically improve before Notre Dame.


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