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Monday, January 18, 2010
Best case-worst case rewind: Michigan

By staff

The best case-worst case rewind series finally wraps up with ... Michigan.

In case you missed it: Michigan's best case-worst case.

Best-case synopsis: Rich Rodriguez continues his tradition of Year 2 turnarounds, as his freshmen quarterbacks blossom and the defense improves under new coordinator Greg Robinson. Senior Brandon Minor leads a talented group of running backs, and the receiving corps helps the young signal-callers with their transition. Michigan starts the season 5-0 and rides the defense to a strong finish. The Wolverines snap their losing streak against Ohio State to finish 10-2 before beating Mississippi in the Capital One Bowl.

Worst-case synopsis: The quarterback position falls apart again and a beleaguered defense regresses as Michigan once again misses a bowl game. None of the quarterbacks truly establishes himself as the starter, and opposing defenses load up to stop the run. Michigan's pass rush suffers as Brandon Graham constantly faces double- and triple-teams, while punter Zoltan Mesko is the team's only true star. The Wolverines lose the opener to Western Michigan and finish 4-8. Rodriguez is retained for a third year but enters 2010 on the hot seat.

You can't handle the truth: (quotes from the original post) "Rodriguez's spread offense starts to take shape around the freshmen quarterbacks, who are suited to the system." ... "Michigan begins by doing something it last accomplished in 2006 -- win the season opener. The defense holds off Tim Hiller and Western Michigan." ... "Loaded with confidence, the Wolverines complete a 4-0 start." ... After a loss at Iowa, Michigan handles Delaware State easily." ... "More mistakes crop up on defense." ... "Michigan misses a bowl for the second straight year." ... "Golden Tate and Michael Floyd make Michigan's secondary look silly." ... "The Wolverines see their home win streak against Penn State end at five games." ... "Rodriguez's future seems very much in doubt."

Lies, lies, lies: "The defense rebounds under Greg Robinson." ... "Senior Brandon Minor headlines a strong stable of running backs and earns first-team All-Big Ten honors by rushing for 1,400 yards." ... "The team hits the road for the first time and regains in-state bragging rights by rallying to beat Michigan State in the fourth quarter. Michigan vaults into the top 20." ... "Fans finally embrace Rodriguez and his style, forgetting 2008 and all the player departures during the transition." ... "Despite more experience elsewhere on offense, the quarterback position dooms the Wolverines again." ... "The Wolverines get booed as they head to halftime down 28-7 and never get within 14 points of the Irish." ... "Michigan fails to get on the scoreboard against the talented Hawkeyes defense."

Reality check: Michigan finished one game ahead (5-7) of the worst-case scenario, but after a 4-0 start, the Wolverines looked like a lock to make a bowl game. Rodriguez's offense certainly made strides in Year 2, and quarterback Tate Forcier showed a lot of promise before struggling with injuries and inconsistent play down the stretch. The big problem was Robinson's defense, which regressed despite boasting the league's most dominant lineman in Graham. Michigan didn't beat an FBS team after Sept. 26 and wasted opportunities against both Illinois and Purdue. Rodriguez will enter the 2010 season with a new boss (David Brandon) and a mandate to make a bowl game, at the very least.