Gator Bowl 2010: 10 Things to Know about Michigan Football

Matt RudnitskyCorrespondent IDecember 7, 2010

Gator Bowl 2010: 10 Things to Know about Michigan Football

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    ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 20:  Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines is congratulated by Roy Roundtree #12 and Perry Dorrenstein #79 after a third quarter touchdown against the Wisconsin Badgers at Michigan Stadium on November 20, 2010 in Ann Arbo
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    As you all know by now, the Michigan Wolverines (7-5 overall, 3-5 Big Ten) will take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-4 overall, 4-4 SEC) in the Gator Bowl (1:30 p.m., ESPN2) on New Year's Day 2011.

    There's still almost a month left until the big football game in Jacksonville, Florida—plenty of time for you to learn all you'll need to know about each team.

    Here are 10 things you should know about Rich Rodriguez, Denard Robinson and the Michigan Wolverines.

10. This Is Denard Robinson's Team

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    ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 25:  Cameron Truss #30 of Bowling Green tackles Denard Robison #16 of the Michigan Wolverines on September 25, 2010 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Robison left the game after this play with a reported leg injury.  (P
    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    "Shoelace" accounted for 3,959 total yards and 30 TDs this season all by himself.

    That means he was responsible for over 65 percent of his team's offensive yards and half of its touchdowns.

    And if Denard himself were a school, "Shoelace U" would rank 94th of all FBS schools in total yardage. That would put him ahead of UConn, which is playing in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

9. All Is Not Lost If Denard Is Out

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    COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 27:  Quarterback Tate Forcier #5 of the Michigan Wolverines hands off to Vincent Smith #2 of the Michigan Wolverines against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Get
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Despite Denard's massive importance to the Wolverines, they haven't been completely hopeless when he has left games due to injury (which happens pretty frequently).

    Fellow sophomore Tate Forcier isn't as fast as Denard, but he is a creative dual-threat quarterback who led the Wolverines to their 67-65 three-OT thriller over Illinois.

    So even if Shoelace is hurt, Forcier is more than capable of picking up enough of the slack on offense to lead Michigan to a victory.

8. The Running Backs Are Not Much of a Factor

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    COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 27:  Vincent Smith #2 of the Michigan Wolverines runs with the ball against the Ohio State Buckeys at Ohio Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Michigan's three-headed monster at tailback is more of a Mike Wazowski than Sulley (think: Monsters, Inc.).

    Vincent Smith is the leading rusher of the trio at a modest 588 yards, and he is a 5'6" sophomore who gets stuffed far too easily.

    Michael Shaw has a nice size-speed combo, but he struggles to find holes and has battled injuries all season.

    And the third member of the group, Stephen Hopkins, is a power back who has had fumbling issues and hasn't been productive enough to win a prominent role in the offense.

    Each one of them is talented enough to have a big game, but they aren't guys that RichRod can count on.

7. The Receivers Have Talent, but Their Dropsies Are Contagious

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    COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 27:  Roy Roundtree #12 of the Michigan Wolverines makes a reception against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    The Wolverines have a talented wide receiver group, led by Roy Roundtree, Junior Hemingway and Daryl Stonum.

    Roundtree recorded a Michigan-record 246 yards in the historic Illinois win, but since then, he has struggled mightily with drops.

    He dropped at least five catchable balls against Ohio State, a main reason for the Wolverines 37-7 loss.

    And Roundtree isn't the only one, with all of Michigan's receivers dropping catchable balls left and right.

6. Wolverine Defense Is Atrocious

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    COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 27:  Dan Herron #1 of the Ohio State Buckeyes eludes the tackle attempt of Courtney Avery #5 of the Michigan Wolverines on his way to a 32-yard touchdown run in the third quarter at Ohio Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Columbus, Oh
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Michigan's defense is brutal.

    The Wolverines rank 109th in total defense (447.92 ypg) and 102nd in points against (33.8 ppg).

    As good as their offense is; the Wolverines defense is that bad.

5. The Defense's Woes Aren't RichRod's Fault

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    ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 20:  Nick Toon #1 of the Wisconsin Badgers tries to get around the tackle of Courtney Avery #5 of the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium on November 20, 2010 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Before the season, it was clear that the Wolverines secondary would be its biggest weakness.

    That was before the two starting cornerbacks, Troy Woolfolk and J.T. Floyd were lost for the season.

    In addition to the two projected starters, Michigan has lost one cornerback due to legal troubles (Boubacar Cissoko), one due to academics (Demar Dorsey), one to transfer (Justin Turner) and one to the NFL draft (Donovan Warren, who is currently unemployed).

    Not to mention safety Vladimir Emilien's transfer...

    It's not RichRod's fault that the Wolverines are stuck starting a freshman cornerback—Courtney Avery—who was a quarterback just a year ago.

4. As Bad As the Defense Is, the Kicking Game Is Even Worse

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    Michigan is 4-for-13 on field goals for the entire season, good for a 30.8 percent conversion rate.

    No team in the entire nation has made fewer field goals, nor does any team have nearly as bad of a percentage as the Wolverines.

    With Michigan's soccer team in the Final Four and the presence of one of the largest student bodies in the nation at their disposal, you'd think the Wolverines could find someone better than Seth Broekhuizen.

    I mean; I can miss 30-yard field goals and look bad doing it, what's so special about Broekhuizen?

3. Its Season Wasn't Pretty, but Michigan Met Expectations

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    ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 20:  Head coach Rich Rodriguez of the Michigan Wolverines reacts while playing the Wisconson Badgers at Michigan Stadium on November 20, 2010 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Wisconsin won the game 48-28. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Ima
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    All Michigan fans are upset with the poor defense, special teams, Big Ten record and poor finish, but the fact is that the team did what it was expected to do.

    Just about everyone expected Michigan to have a good chance at going undefeated in nonconference play—which it did—and losing only to the Big Ten's top teams.

    The loss to Michigan State wasn't really expected in the preseason, but the Spartans exceeded expectations and that's hardly an embarrassing loss.

    Throw in losses to perennial powers Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa and Penn State, and Michigan didn't lose to any team without serious talent.

    But still, seventh in the Big Ten hurts.

2. Michigan Has Beaten a BCS Bowl-Bound Team

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    EAST HARTFORD, CT - NOVEMBER 27: Jordan Todman #23 of the Connecticut Huskies celebrates his touchdown with teammates Ryan Griffin #94, Kevin Friend #77 and Mathieu Olivier #66 in the fourth quarter against the Cincinnati Bearcats on November 27, 2010 at
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Mississippi State—despite its No. 21 rank and lack of a bad loss—doesn't have a single good win (Florida? Ole Miss? Georgia? Kentucky?).

    But Michigan does...kind of.

    The Wolverines opened the season with a 30-10 thrashing of UConn, which will play in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (deserve it, or not).

    Michigan has beaten a team in a BCS Bowl, while Mississippi State hasn't beaten anyone at all.

    Advantage, Michigan?

1. This Is Still the University of Michigan

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    Despite its recent woes, Michigan is college football's winningest program with an astonishing 884-307-36 record, good for a .735 winning percentage.

    It has 11 national titles, 42 conference titles and three Heisman winners. Overall, 77 All-Americans have played for the Wolverines.

    As for implications for this game, the Wolverines are 23-5-1 lifetime against the SEC, including a 7-3 record in bowl games.

    Michigan may be the underdog this year (Mississippi State is currently favored by six, and rightfully so), but this is still the University of Michigan.

    And although 7-5 isn't up to Michigan's standards, it's a step in the right direction.


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    COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 27:  Running back Dan Herron #1 of the Ohio State Buckeyes is wrapped up by Mike Martin #68 of the Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio. Herron rushed for 175 yards and one touchdown as Ohio St
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    My Biased Prediction: Michigan 34, Mississippi State 31

    For the record: yes, I did predict a converted field goal for Michigan.  Stranger things have happened.

    I think.

    What do you think about Michigan?

    And who's going to win the Gator Bowl?

    Will RichRod be fired, win or lose?

    Voice your opinion in the comments.

    Matt Rudnitsky is a student at the University of Michigan and a Featured Columnist/writing intern at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter at