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Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Midseason report: Michigan Wolverines

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

MICHIGAN (2-4, 1-1 Big Ten)

Rich Rodriguez knew Year 1 wouldn't be easy, but the coach likely didn't anticipate the gravity of Michigan's struggles, particularly on offense. The loss of top personnel and the difficulty of learning Rodriguez's dramatically new system has resulted in an offense that ranks 100th nationally or worse in scoring (18.8 points per game), passing (160.8 yards per game), total yards (291.5 ypg) and giveaways (19). After teasing its fans with a come-from-behind win against Wisconsin, Michigan has backslid, bottoming out with its first-ever loss to a MAC team (Toledo). Barring a stunning turnaround, the Wolverines will endure their first losing season since 1967.

Offensive MVP: Not many choices here, but true freshman running back Sam McGuffie deserves credit for transitioning well to the college game. The YouTube legend has eclipsed 100 rushing yards twice in the first six games, including a 131-yard performance at Notre Dame. When Rodriguez's offense finally gets on track, the speedy McGuffie and classmate Martavious Odoms will be integral components.

Defensive MVP: The defensive front seven has performed well for most of the season, and end Brandon Graham leads the way. Graham leads the nation in tackles for loss (2.1 per game) and ties for ninth in sacks (1 sack per game). He has at least one stop for loss in all five games he has played, and Michigan ranks 21st nationally in rush defense. Other notables include Graham's line mate, defensive tackle Terrance Taylor, and linebacker Obi Ezeh.

What's next: Things likely will get worse before they get better, as Michigan visits No. 3 Penn State, which has lost nine straight to the Wolverines and could get some revenge in dominating fashion. The Wolverines then face surging Michigan State, which bookmarked a trip to Ann Arbor before the season after dropping six straight in the in-state rivalry. A bowl game is likely a pipe dream, so it's important for Michigan to make strides on offense and identify the personnel that can help the most in 2009.