Last week's win over Illinois seems to have revived the fanbase a bit. There is talk of a bowl game, and those plans rely on winning one of the next four games and beating Indiana. That's a good plan, but I also remember watching us crap ourselves at home against the Hoosiers last year. They have just enough offensive firepower (plus Tre Roberson looks pretty good) that we can't just assume we win that game.
So the quest for a bowl game begins in these next two weeks against a pair of difficult opponents on the road. I think everyone agrees that beating Wisconsin would be a major surprise, but even before the season people felt we could beat Michigan. We haven't beaten ranked opponents in consecutive weeks in 11 years, since Drew Brees beat No. 6 Michigan and No. 17 Northwestern in consecutive weeks during the last Rose Bowl season. The hardest part of that equation, winning the first game, has already been achieved though.
Michigan presents an interesting challenge, but one that we can definitely handle. Denard Robinson is like a much better Nathan Scheelhaase. In online trading he would be a hot stock, one that an online broker could to mobile trading for. Both guys are elusive runners. Scheelhaase is probably the better passer while Robinson is the better runner. We held Scheelhaase to 16 yards and a touchdown while sacking him four times. This was a season low rushing for him. If we can defend Robinson as well we have a chance.
2010 Record: 7-6, 3-5 Big Ten
Bowl Result: Lost 52-14 to Mississippi State in Gator Bowl
Series with Purdue: Michigan leads 42-14-0
Last Purdue win: 11/7/2009 at Michigan 38-36
Last Michigan win: 11/13/2010 at Purdue 27-16
As the Wolverine Blog noted yesterday, Devin Gardner played some against Michigan State, but Robinson is too important to not have the ball in his hand on every play. Michigan State gave us the recipe though, and Ryan Kerrigan did last year as well. You have to go at Robinson on every single play. His passing style is, "throw the ball up and hope a big receiver catches it" as evidenced by his 11:10 touchdown to interception ratio. If you pressure him he will throw picks, but you have to stop the big run from him. On our end it looks like we have settled on Caleb TerBush, and I am fine with that. We're a blocked field goal away from Caleb having two two-minute comeback drives under his belt. He's not going to go mad bomber like Brees, but he is getting the job done with 160 yards per game and a 2:1 TD/INT ratio. He's a better passer than Robinson, but Robinson is the better runner and means a lot more to his offense. Edge: Michigan
Robinson practically is a wildcat running back that occasionally throws. He has 762 yards rushing and nine touchdowns, which is more than most Big Ten backs have. I believe that if you go after him and can slow him down you will stop the Michigan offense. It will be difficult, especially without Kerrigan lurking for him this year, but Michigan State showed he can be slowed. The rest of the Michigan running game is rather meager. Toussaint Fitzgerald (33-4) only averages about 55 yards per game. Vincent Smith (251-2) does even less. We keep working with Akeem Shavers and Ralph Bolden, but Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert are dangerous change of pace guys. Don't forget Jared Crank and Reggie Pegram as short yardage guys. We have both quality and quantity here. Edge: Purdue
With Michigan you always have to deal with big wide receivers that push around our cornerbacks. The real question is can Robinson get them the ball. I like our chances if we make him throw. First, you have Roy Roundtree, who seems to have made it a personal mission to antagonize us since he decommitted. Hew only has 12 catches for 193 yards and two scores, but he's had big games against us each of the past two years. Jeremy Gallon (20-305-2) and Junior Hemmingway (18-434-1) are good options, with Kevin Koger (12-135 2) as a solid tight end. Our own receivers seem to be coming into their own. We've thrown deep twice in the last two games, completing one to Justin Siller and the other a drop by Gary Bush. Antavian Edison and O.J. Ross are shifty, but need better hands both before and after the catch. I think the Michigan receivers are more talented, but we get the ball to our guys with more regularity. Edge: Even
Opponents have only sacked Robinson nine times and I feel most of that is due to his elusiveness. Michigan State got him seven times, however, so he can be caught. We just have to go after him. We were successful last year when Kerrigan got him four times, but Kerrigan is gone. Our own line handled Illinois' pass rush very well. We held one of the best pass rushes in the conference to only one sack. Michigan's pass rush isn't as good as Illinois', so I'll give us a very slight edge. Slight Edge: Purdue
This is where the game will be won or lost for us. Kawann Short was nothing short of beastly last week, and he needs to keep it up. Gerald Gooden had a huge sack that I feel changed the tone of the game, and Ryan Russell was very active. We will not win unless we repeat the same effort this week. Michigan does not get a lot of push from its own D-line. Jordan Kovacs leads them in sacks with three, and he is a safety. He had three of their 11 sacks. Craig Roh is probably their best end rusher, but this team can be run on (145 yards per game). If we commit to the run and have another good day from our D-line our chances of winning go up greatly. Edge: Purdue
The Wolverine Blog pointed out that their linebackers have been awful. Meanwhile, Dwayne Beckford is coming off of possibly his best game as a Boilermaker as we finally had a presence shutting down the middle of the field. Will Lucas and Joe Holland were also solid tackling. Kenny Demens and Thomas Gordon have combined for 95 tackles on the end while Mike Jones is in the middle. These guys don't get into the backfield very much, however, and they only have one interception. Edge: Purdue
Rico Island is back and better than ever after Hurricane Floyd. I am willing to write off that game as Micheal Floyd being really, really good. Ricardo Allen did an excellent job against A.J. Jenkins, keeping him in check until late in the game. Now he can play matchup against receivers that aren't as good as he has face recently. He already pick sixed Robinson once too, so I can see him getting another pick this week. I also have to cite Albert Evans as a player that has really come on the past two weeks. Michigan gives up almost 200 yards through the air. They haven't surrendered a lot of points because their stats are greatly skewed from playing three tomato cans in non-conference play plus Minnesota and Northwestern. They have five interceptions from five players and possibly their best corner, Troy Woolfork, is still somewhat limited from a terrible ankle injury last year. Edge: Purdue
I am going to say it. Raheem Mostert is going to return a kickoff for a touchdown this year. It's just a question of when. This would be a good week for it because a kickoff return for a score either negates an opposing score or radically swings momentum. Often times it does both. Michigan averages only 18 yards per kick return and 8.6 on punts with Gallon and Vincent Smith as the primary returners. The kicking game gets an incomplete with Brendan Gibbons only 4 of 6 on field goals. Matt Wile and Will Hagerup split punting duties, but they are no Cody Webster and Carson Wiggs. Edge: Purdue
This one is interesting. Danny Hope had probably his best coached game of the season last week. It's almost like he has been trying to overcoach instead of sitting back, concentrating on our strengths, and let the talent excel in those areas. If he does that again It will help. Brady Hoke has improved a defense from awful to merely mediocre. Again, it is really hard to make a call there when five of their seven opponents have been pretty bad and Robinson went crazy on them anyway. If we get good Danny Hope, I think it makes this even. that's a big if though. Edge: Michigan
The game prediction will come in the Big Ten preview tomorrow, but I am feeling pretty confident about this game. Historically Michigan Stadium has been a house of horrors, but it's a factual statement when I say a Danny Hope coached team has never lost there. Maybe we put that demon to bed two years ago when we broke a streak of 43 years without a win.
To me at least, it is very simple what we must do:
1. We have to get after Robinson on every single play and never make him comfortable while containing his scrambling.
2. We have to commit to the run against a team that can be run on.
3. We have to continue getting a solid effort from our defensive line
4. We have to force Robinson to beat us through the air.
If we do those four thing it will be very beneficial.