Midseason report: Michigan


Michigan has put together one of the most interesting seasons in college football so far this season. The Wolverines started the year with two dominant wins over Central Michigan and Notre Dame but then almost lost to both Akron and Connecticut. After a bye week, Michigan came out refocused and put away Minnesota easily, but then showed both its good and bad sides against Penn State. All in all, the Wolverines have shown that their highs are very high and their lows are very low, but they haven’t shown much consistency yet.

Quarterback Devin Gardner has been at the root of most discussions, however he has been working behind a young and transitioning offensive line. Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint has been the Wolverines’ featured back, but against the Nittany Lions he picked up just 27 yards on 27 carries. Michigan has been hoping to run Gardner less in an attempt to keep him healthy, but when the featured back only gains one yard per rush, Gardner was forced to take situations into his own hands (and feet) to get first downs. Gardner rushed 24 times for 121 yards against Penn State.

Defensively, coordinator Greg Mattison has put together another impressive group that seems to be coming into its own more and more each game. Linebacker Jake Ryan returned from injury against Penn State and defensive end Frank Clark -- who had been touted as an All-American prospect -- has come on as of late. Time and time again the Michigan defense has bailed out the Michigan offense when it is playing poorly, and given the Wolverines a place to stand.

Offensive MVP: Gardner. The strange thing about this pick is that he has also been the MVP for opposing teams as well a few times this season. Midway through the season the Wolverines have proved that they will basically live and die by what Gardner does. He gets the offensive MVP nod not for his consistency, but for the fact that he has managed to pull out plays most of the time when the Wolverines have needed them most. He isn’t in an enviable position as his O-line hasn’t given him support 100 percent of the time and Toussaint hasn’t been able to take off the pressure for him. This is not to ignore Gardner's mental lapses, but while he has been a key reason why Michigan has found itself in very tough situations, he has also been the reason why they’ve won.

Defensive MVP: Cornerback Blake Countess. A year after Countess tore his ACL in the 2012 season opener against Alabama, he returned to the field for the Wolverines. Now, he leads the Big Ten in interceptions (four, returned for 179 yards) and has registered 24 tackles, two tackles for losses and two pass break ups. But most importantly, Countess has been the most consistent player in the Michigan secondary so far this season.