Season Report Card: Michigan Wolverines
Despite one of the top recruiting classes and a preseason guarantee from quarterback Devin Gardner to beat rival Ohio State, the Michigan Wolverines mustered just seven wins in a year where they were supposed to compete for the Big Ten Championship.
Instead, the offensive line was in fact a line of stuffed animals, the defense had bigger holes than a Dunkin Donut, and teams like Akron and Connecticut were handing out heart-attacks on the daily.
Now coach Brady Hoke—who consequently ate those donut holes—has navigated his way to an unwanted chair with an uncomfortably high temperature.
Most thought Michigan football would be back just in time for the College Football Playoffs, but now have to wonder how long it’ll be before it can finish among the top three in its conference division.
Here are the grades for the Wolverines’ 2013 season, and I’m not “guaranteeing” any A’s:
Depending on which games you watched this season, Michigan’s offense could receive anywhere from an A+ to an F-, which is why Hoke let offensive coordinator Al Borges go at season’s end—the highlight of the year for U-of-M fans. It had an infinite amount of negative offensive plays, handing Gardner and the passing a heavy burden to throw downfield when nothing was there. And even when Gardner had time in the pocket, it seemed like he was surprised by it and almost always looked uncomfortable. But then there was the 41-point, 603-yard outpour against Ohio State just one week after the Wolverines could barely congregate 158 offensive yards against Iowa. But all-too-often did this offense show up—especially down the stretch—which is why it receives a shaky grade.
There were times where the defense really came through and became the reason why Michigan won games, and then there were times where it was the reason for a loss (see: Ohio State). The linebackers and secondary were more often than not solid, but were hindered by poor play from the defensive line. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison was regularly forced to send one or two blitzers due to a lack of pass rush from a four-man front, leaving holes in the middle of the field and the outside edge. This is why explosive teams with good passing games—Penn State, Indiana and Ohio State—were able to put a combined 132 points on the Wolverines.
It took Michigan 11 games before finally putting it all together, and the outcome of that final game was still a loss. Hoke is now 15-11 (9-7) since winning 11 games in his first season back in 2011, and ending with just three wins in a struggling Big Ten Conference isn’t exactly how maize and blue fans pictured things going in 2013. There was a lot of talent on this roster, but the coaching staff couldn't translate it into enough W's.
It’s understandable how Michigan was unable to beat “Little Brother” this season (I’m starting to believe Michigan State should now be considered the “Little Big Brother”), but losses to a heavily-sanctioned Penn State, Taylor Martinez-less Nebraska, and well, Iowa, really hurt this program and puts a big question mark on whether Hoke is the right man to get it back to being a national powerhouse.
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