Grading The Performance: Iowa

Quarterback

Devin Gardner continues to improve at an Devin Gardner - UMGoBlue.comamazing rate. The better Devin plays, the more Al Borges has opened up the playbook and there has been little drop off in play. Devin made several NFL caliber throws on Saturday that Michigan fans haven’t seen since 2007. Throwing the deep 15-20 yard out route between the corner and safety is one of the hardest throws in football and Devin passed the test with flying colors. Devin also threw 2 flag routes to Roy Roundtree that were as impressive and difficult a throw as you are going to see in this offense. Devin continues to showcase that he is at his best when throwing to the sideline and vertically down the field. Al Borges has wisely steered away from throws to the middle of the field which can be hit or miss for Devin. Devin still has moments when he throws into double coverage or doesn’t identify hanging defenders which gets him into trouble. Devin’s interception to Micah Hyde occurred on a play where he failed to identify the hanging defender and threw the ball into what appeared to be an open spot.

If they’re smart, Michigan will continue to recruit mobile and dual-threat QBs in the same mold as Devin Gardner. The ability of mobile and duel-threat QBs to make plays with their legs in addition to throwing the ball is too advantageous to pass up in this era of college football. Devin Gardner’s arm has opened up facets of the playbook that Michigan hasn’t been able to successfully access prior to now. Gardner’s legs will allow them to continue to use parts of the playbook that would otherwise disappear once Denard Robinson is gone. Devin “only” carried the ball 9 times but he was extremely efficient and successful on those runs, accounting for 3 TDs and 37 yds. Devin’s legs not only force defenses to play honest, but give Michigan the ability to continue to actively attack opposing defenses on designed runs.

Grade: A

Running Back

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Grading The Performance: Nebraska

Quarterback

While in the game Denard was dialed in with the passing game for the most part. A mix of short precise routes and downfield passes kept Nebraska off balance and passive. Denard threw a beautiful post route to Roy Roundtree that was later rDenard Robinson - USA Todayuled incomplete after replay and he continually found Jeremy Jackson in holes in the Nebraska zone. Denard missed an opportunity on the zone read in the first half that would have likely resulted in a big play.

Two years ago Michigan fans got used to Denard Robinson getting knocked out of games for extended periods of time. The presence of first Devin Gardner, then Tate Forcier soothed most fears and Michigan rarely missed a beat when #16 left the field. A lot has changed in two years. Russell Bellomy is the next man up and he struggled mightily on Saturday. Down on the scoreboard and on the road in a very hostile environment is never a great place to make your meaningful QB play debut. Bellomy did take over deep in Nebraska territory but accuracy issues and nerves kept him from leading the Wolverines to the endzone. Eventually Bellomy settled down; but the accuracy and decision making did not improve and he never really presented Nebraska with much of a threat. Bellomy didn’t receive a ton of help from his receivers either. Even on those plays where Bellomy did deliver the ball accurately, the ball was dropped more times than not.

Grade: F

Running Back

Fitzgerald Toussaint got off to a fast Saturday on Saturday and looked as good as he has all season early in the game. Fitz was decisive, his cuts were precise, and he fought for extra yards. As the night wore on and the holes closed the production for all the runners declined, Fitz included. Vincent Smith was the only other back that received a carry in the game and he finished with minus 6 yards on the ground.

Joe Kerridge was the first Wolverine to catch a pass from Russell Bellomy, getting him off the snide with a 12 yd reception that went for a first down.

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Alabama Prediction

Seems like years ago that we were watching Michigan gut out a win in an overtime thriller against Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. That’s what football off season is. An eternity. 

But the much anticipated showdown is finally upon us. Defending National Champs, versus a Michigan team whose rebuilding effort moved a year ahead of schedule last year, posting an improbable 11-2 mark after the 3 most futile years in the 132 years of Michigan Football. 

Many expect Michigan to take a step back this year, record wise, and its hard to argue. With this game in Dallas, and road games at ND, Nebraska and Ohio, along with a home game with MSU, its certainly not beyond the realm of possibility to see an 8-4, 9-3 record. With depth concerns on the offensive line, health is paramount if anything close to last years record is to be achieved. 

Alabama enters this game losing large parts of its National Championship team from a year ago. But at Alabama, they reload (or make room, as it were). 

When Bama has the ball:

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2012 Michigan Football Backfield Preview

Depth Chart:

 

3rd Down BackV. Smith4Justice Hayes AP Image
 Vincent SmithJustice Hayes

Freshmen likely to redshirt: Drake Johnson

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