Assessing the Michigan Wolverine Football Team after Game 10, 8-2

Offensively: Overall grade of A-! Michigan ranks 12th in the nation in scoring offense and 16th in total offense (2nd in the Big Ten). We are ranked 8th in the major polls as a team. We have show offensively that we can come back as we did against Minnesota, although we fell short against Oregon and Iowa. We are the most balanced team in the Big Ten with complementary running and passing games; this makes us hard to defend. We average over 23.6 first downs per game with 48% 3rd down conversion efficiency (#2 in the Big Ten) and 59% on 4th down (#3 in the Big Ten). Our red zone offense is #1 in the Big Ten with 36 conversions (29 TDs) of 40 attempts. We look like an offensive powerhouse at home with huge wins over Notre Dame and Purdue; if we can play as well against Ohio State, we're in the Rose Bowl.

QB-After 10 games, Navarre ranks 45th in passing efficiency with a 131.5 rating; he ranks #23 in passing, #34 in total offense and is one of seven finalists for the Johnny Unitas Award. We rank #22 as a team with 11 passes intercepted, and 25th as a team in passing offense (#1 in the Big Ten). His touchdown to interception ratio is 19 to 8 for +11; his mobility and ability to improvise are still questionable, and he's prone to sacks and consistently throwing balls into lineman (3 against Purdue). He has been sacked 15 times in 10 games, and has been responsible for 12.2 points per game (#33 in the nation). He looks like his confidence has improved after engineering the greatest comeback in Michigan football history; however, his performance has contributed to losses in road games to UCLA, Washington, Oregon, Iowa, etc. Navarre has thrown 67 TDs in his career which is only 4 behind Michigan record holder, Elvis Grbac with 71 and 7 behind Chuck Long's 74 as #2 in Big Ten history; Drew Brees is #1 with 90. Navarre should finish his career at Michigan as #3 in passing attempts, #5 in completions and #4 in passing yards in the Big Ten. He still needs to prove he can lead us to wins against our biggest rival, Ohio State; he has lost twice to Krenzel. Of course, in this year's game, Krenzel may or may not play. He deserves an A-!

FB-Dudley has been a pleasant surprise; he has blocked quite well so far. He has had no carries and two catches in ten games. Thompson has 11 catches on the season and no carries. The position gets a solid B+ so far for blocking.

TB-Perry has proven to be one of the nation's best; he is currently ranked #3 in rushing with 131.3 yards per game average, and is #7 in all-purpose yards with 157.4 per game. He has 32 receptions. Bracken is now the backup with Underwood, Rembert and Jackson competing for playing time.. We are solid at this position, but we must limit or prohibit turnovers! Let's give Perry and company an A. Perry is still ranked 19th in scoring and our team is ranked 30th in the nation in rushing.

WR-We now have four solid receivers: Edwards (59), Avant (40), Perry (32) and Breaston (25)! They are gamebreakers and backbreakers! Bell (8), Tabb (8), Gonzalez (1) and Butler (3) have been uninvolved and have only 20 catches between them in seven games. We really need some recruits here. We will take a B+ for these positions due to some drops. Edwards has 59 receptions (#28 nationally) and 78.9 yards average (#43 nationally) per game with 11 TDs, and the one two point conversion.

TE-Unfortunately, we haven't show much here. Massaquoi only caught 12 passes in ten games; he, Mingery and Ecker logged most of the playing time and they blocked for the most part. Mingery has started the last 4 games, and Ecker came in the last game before Massaquoi. We cannot say this is a solid position; in fact, this is our weak link offensively. Perhaps, we should just put in another tackle like Kolodziej and use the position to block. Mingery has 4 catches, 2 for TDs; Ecker has 3 and Fisher 1. We'll send in a grade of C-.

Offensive Line: We have allowed 15 sacks in 10 games. Our line couldn't establish a running game against Oregon, Indiana, Iowa or Minnesota; however, we've done a great job against Michigan State, Illinois and Notre Dame. Give them a B! Pape doesn't look like any All-American; Lentz has looked good, but has been hurt. Baas is our best lineman overall, and Stenavich has done a decent job. We aren't a solid 200+ yard per game rushing team which has been our goal, but we are improving.

Kicking: Place-Kicking and Kickoffs-Nienberg has consistently driven the ball into the end zone for touchbacks, and we are ranked 7th in the Big Ten in return coverage. Rivas has become the placekicker we've hoped for; he is 19 of 20 on PATs and 7 of 8 in field goals. LeSueur is an above average returner, and we sure notice a drop-off when others are deep. We are no threat to teams in kickoff returns, and rank 79th nationally. We are improving here so we'll go to a B- overall.

Defensively: Don't look now, but Michigan is ranked #7 nationally in pass defense, and #3 in pass defense efficiency! When was the last time that happened? What a difference Ron English has made! We are also ranked #9 nationally in total defense and #12 in scoring defense. We are only allowing 153.2 yards per game in passing, and only 3 passing TD's all season (this is the least of any team in the nation). We are the #1 defense in the Big Ten in 3rd down conversion percentage with only 26.8%, and we have only allowed 22 red zone opportunities in 10 games (only Iowa and Purdue has lower red zones with 18 and 19). We held MSU to 2 field goals in two red zone trips. Give this group an A-!

Ends: Stevens, Massey, Woodley, Van Alstyne and Biggs have done a capable job, but only gained one sack against the Spartans. They have been inconsistent with quality efforts against Houston, Notre Dame and Purdue, but lackluster performances against Central Michigan, Iowa, MSU and Oregon. Stevens has seen his playing time limited due to a foot injury, and Van Alstyne has been out with a bad knee. This group has been responsible for 77 tackles including 20 tackles for loss including 8 sacks in 10 games. I think we could do better here so this group gets a B-.

Tackles: We definitely could use some recruiting help here, but we've all been saying that for years. We've always played smaller guys here that for the most part are former linebackers converted. They'll be blocked initially, but spin and squirm to the ball. Our linebackers will have to fill to help our line recover from the initial push. Heuer and Bowman are simply uninvolved and getting manhandled. I'm concerned at this position; I see Watson as receiving more and more playing time. Our "angle" scheme is one teams exploit and manipulate. Harrison has looked good when inserted. It is a mystery why Ofili hasn't played more. Heuer only has 11 tackles in 10 games with 1 sack. Bowman has 27 tackles, 8 for loss and 2 sacks. That adds us to 3 sacks in 10 games for these two positions. Our rushing defense is ranked 39th nationally. This group rates a C.

Linebackers: Diggs is a decent MIKE linebacker, but he is not outstanding! Reid has become an outstanding WILL linebacker. Woods is no Hobson, but he has developed into a solid SAM linebacker. He turned the tide in the MSU game stopping the fake punt. Woods leads our defense with 9 tackles for loss including 5 sacks. Manning and McClintock are solid backups. It is too bad Crable has had a shoulder injury because he may have to redshirt now. Sarantos, Burgess and Kaufman have seen very limited play at WILL and SAM. These 3 positions have accounted for 192 defensive tackles, 26 for loss, 8 sacks, 4 pass break ups and one interception. We'll give this group a B+ for a solid job.

Corners: Curry, Hall and LeSueur are solid corners. Hood hasn't show much yet, but he hasn't had a chance to play that much either. Michigan is ranked #7 nationally in pass defense, and #3 in pass defense efficiency with only 3 TDs thrown by our opponents in 10 games. Let's give this group an A.

Safeties: Marlin Jackson has not looked like an All-American nor a pro prospect at free safety, and his disciplinary problems and upper leg injury have hurt our team. Shazor is solid against the run, and is improving every game. Stewart is a solid backup, and should be a starter; however his knee injury has limited his playing time. Barringer has started 4 games, and is also improving. Shaw has done a nice job covering for the injuries to Stewart and Jackson. I'll go B+ here.

Punting/Punt Returns: We rank 15th in punt returns with a 13.6 yard average per return., Breaston is a game-breaker; he is ranked 8th nationally with a 15 yard per return average. We've had two punts blocked and another returned for three touchdowns and those errors have cost us two defeats. Finley is ranked 83rd nationally while averaging 39.5 yards on 42 punts with a net punting average of 30.1 yards. We rank 113th of 117 Division I teams in net punting. We might as well "go for it" on 4th down. Our punting area gets a C- because even though we have a good punt return team, the net punting has cost us two games in the loss column.

Schedule/Results after the Tenth Week: Northwestern is a sure win! They have a good defense, but a week off to heal up will help. Ohio State is leading the conference and nation in rushing defense. They have a solid red zone defense. Will Smith, A.J. Hawk, Chris Gamble, Dustin Fox, Robert Reynolds, Simon Fraser and the Buck defense will try to negate our balanced offense. Unfortunately for them and fortunately for us, they have one of the worst offenses in the Big Ten and nation. Their total offense is ranked 99th and their scoring offense is ranked 76th. We beat the Bucks and we're going to the BCS-Rose Bowl.