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Outback Bowl Preview: Notes on Michigan's Offense


A few thoughts/observations on Michigan's offense:

--A few stats: Michigan ranks 80th in the country in total offense with 385 ypg. It's a run-heavy team, ranking 39th in rushing with 187.33 ypg, while it ranks 95th in passing for 198.08 ypg. Passing efficiency isn't terrible, though, at 68th with 131.91. That reflects the fact that this really is a run-first team--Michigan 457 rushing attempts on the year 281 pass attempts, although presumably some of those rushing attempts were designed passing plays where one of the two mobile QBs tucked and ran. Michigan is a team that likes to run but can pass with some effectiveness when it wants to. The Wolverines are 57th in points for with 30 ppg.

--Michigan's offensive coordinator is Al Borges. Some of you might remember Borges as the architect of Auburn's successful 2004 offense. He also accomplished big things at UCLA in the late 1990s. Since 2005, his career has had its ups and downs. He resigned from Auburn in 2007 after a few years of decline, after which he joined Brady Hoke at San Diego State, where the two enjoyed enough success for Hoke to bring Borges with him to Michigan. This year, troubles have returned, as evidenced by the pedestrian numbers mentioned above. Borges is definitely an old-school guy as an offensive coordinator. He's long been known as a West Coast Offense (which he dubbed the "Gulf Coast Offense" at Auburn) guru, although he's made some modifications to accommodate the talents of Denard Robinson at QB and the more general leftover personnel from Rich Rodriguez's spread offense. Still, this is not Chad Morris or Gus Malzahn we're talking about here. Borges doesn't want to get 80 plays in a game; he wants efficient, well-executed, methodical drives that put points on the board and keep the defense off the field. As Michigan gets the right personnel in place, look for this offense to become more like the Michigan offenses of old in the coming years.

--One of the most interesting matchups in the game will be Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan going up against Jadeveon Clowney. Lewan projects as a first-round draft choice if he makes the likely decision to leave as a junior. Michigan will probably try to have Lewan block Clowney one-on-one. If it can do that successfully, that will make a major difference for the Wolverines. Not many teams have been able to, though, with any consistency.

--The other player to watch, of course, is Robinson, Michigan's dangerous dual-threat QB. Robinson has over 1000 yards rushing on the year and has had his moments throwing the ball, although it's become clear over the course of his career that he's not a great passing QB. However, he's been hurt recently with a nerve injury in his right arm that limits his ability to throw the ball. This has prompted Hoke and Borges to look to Devin Gardner at QB and to line Robinson up at other positions. Gardner has done well statistically in his limited service, but he failed to get the job done late in the game against Ohio St. In any event, it's likely that Gardner will get the start at QB. Watch for Robinson, though, to get plenty of looks at wildcat QB, running back, and slot receiver. He's one of the fastest players in the country and a dynamic runner in general.