With the Michigan Wolverines now 5-0 after escaping the Indiana Hoosiers 42-35 this past Saturday on yet another monster day from quarterback Denard Robinson, questions have once again started swirling around the squad wondering if, after two dismal rebuilding years under coach Rich Rodriguez, the Wolverines are truly back among college football elite. While they are ranked 17th in this week’s AP poll and sport an undefeated record heading into this weekend’s showdown with unbeaten and in-state rival Michigan State, whether this team is ready to jump back into the upper echelon of college football seems a bit premature.
After Lloyd Carr retired after the conclusion of the 2007 season, Rich Rodriguez was brought in from West Virginia and the program promptly took a nose-dive, falling to 3-9 in his rookie campaign and then 5-7 the next season. Five games into the 2010 year, this team has already matched last year’s win total, with a cast of players that can mostly be described as Rodriguez’s, instead of cast-offs of Carr’s ship. However, let’s not forget that last season’s team started off 4-0 before absolutely imploding in the Big Ten portion of the schedule.
This team’s first big test comes Saturday, when the visiting Spartans take on the Wolverines looking to take three games in a row against Michigan for the first time since 1965-1967. Michigan State, ranked 16th in this week’s AP Poll, and coming off a huge victory over previously unbeaten Wisconsin, will test the mettle of the defense, which still has yet to prove that it can slow down any offense that takes the field. Last week’s performance against Indiana was more of the same problems from the first four games of the season; 35 points allowed, 11 of 19 on third down conversions, and 568 total yards of offense given up. While Robinson was once again able to bail out the Wolverines, his superman performances will be able to save the team only so often.
Should Michigan take down State on Saturday, it will be a solid first statement to the rest of the Big Ten. A sixth win would guarantee a bowl berth, which would be the first of Rodriguez’s with Michigan. Whether Michigan can ride this to a ranking somewhere in the top 10 or 15 of the polls, or a major bowl berth still remains to be seen. As of now, there are too many questions with the team, particularly the defense, to claim that Michigan can hang with the likes of Ohio State right now.
However, with the team continuing to grind out wins and play as a cohesive unit, things are certainly heading in the right direction. This weekend’s test will be the first major stepping stone to the rest of the season for the Maize and Blue. At the same time, as Rodriguez gets more comfortable in the system, combined with a steady influx of incoming players specifically recruited to excel in his system, in a few years this team just may be headed back to the top of the college football landscape.
About the Author
Written by Curt Bell