Gator Bowl 2010: 10 Things to Know about Michigan Football
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
1. This Is Still the University of Michigan
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.
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.
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 https://twitter.com/Mattrud.