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Northwestern vs. Michigan: Let's ask a Wolverines fan about how depressing his team is


Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

So, not all Michigan fans are so depressed about their team that they're getting drunk, driving a car, pissing themselves, and telling the cops it was because they were disappointed in Al Borges' playcalling. But we should mention that that is a thing that happened. So we should talk about it, because, damn, Mick McCall ain't great, but we ain't doing that either.

Regardless, although we've missed a few days of posting here, we're gonna have some stuff about the fact that Northwestern has a football game -- and a basketball game! -- coming up. Let's get into the fray by asking Zach from Maize N Brew about how derpressing his team is. (Derpressing is a word.)

1. hahahahahahahahahahah your offense omg what happened and what is wrong with you people

I'm going to blame in on karma for Michigan fans spending the first month of the season reveling in Michigan State's inept-ness on offenses.

In reality it is mainly centered around offensive line issues.  Michigan was forced to break in three new starters on the interior OL, and the pool of candidates are all young and inexperienced.  It doesn't help that the coaches have used a few different lineups and resorted to various gimmicks such as unbalanced formations that have taken away the cohesiveness that develops among a group of players after a long enough time playing together.  Michigan's line has been a mess of missed assignments and as teams have gotten more film to study it has become apparent that the best way to disrupt Michigan's offense is to throw a lot of pressure at the center of the line and force those young players to play sound assignment football amidst confusion and misdirection.  As you can tell by two straight weeks of negative rushing yardage that includes seven sacks in each game, this has gone poorly for Michigan.  Devin Gardner can't get time to do anything but eat sacks, the running backs (who already aren't strong pass blockers) are overrun with blitzers on both pass and run plays, and Michigan's max protect sets end up sending two receivers against five or six DBs.  It is all really sad.  Can we talk about something else?

2. Like Northwestern, Michigan started off with Big Ten title hopes, and things kinda went asunder. Have things gotten notably worse in your eyes, or is this the same team we were watching earlier this season?

This is the same team for the most part, but we all know a lot more about it.  The offensive line issues weren't as apparent early and teams were so worried about containing Gardner that they didn't want to flush him out of the pocket by bringing pressure up the middle.  As it became more and more obvious that Michigan's interior line would give ground easily and Gardner wouldn't handle the pressure well, teams played into that.  Michigan also made some adjustments that frankly didn't work, and the offensive line has been through a few different but equally incapable starting lineups.  The skill players are still there and still talented, there just isn't enough time and space to consistently do things that move the ball forward, which, the last time I checked was a big part of this whole football thing.  Even with the defense still playing as the effective bend-don't-break unit we expected and keeping games within reach, Michigan's offense has failed to capitalize three times and almost blew a couple more games.

3. Is Michigan a basketball school?

Even if these struggles go on for another 20 years and Michigan becomes Indiana's equal in football while the basketball team lays waste to the Big Ten and puts up a stretch of final fours like Michigan State in the past 15 years, there isn't anyone in the fan base that will say that Michigan is a basketball school.

4. You guys have been good against the run, but also gave up 47 points to Indiana, and more egregiously, 29 to Michigan State. Should Northwestern be worried about moving the ball, and who should worry us in particular?

Northwestern is the one team that I can see approximating the offensive success of Indiana — which was largely built on tempo-ing Michigan's defense to death and taking advantage of the mistakes that followed when players weren't set.

In most games this season Michigan's defense has been very effective despite facing a lot of short fields and difficult quick turnarounds because of the nature of the offense.  Michigan's defense broke down late against Penn State, Michigan State, and Nebraska, but in all three of the games the defense had done more than enough to set up a win and the offense failed to close out despite being put in a few really good positions.

Nebraska also showed that Michigan still struggles with assignment football at times when facing the option, and I worry about that (not as much now that Venric Mark is out), especially since Michigan seems unhappy with its safety play despite its two starters being strengths of the defense most of the year — both were replaced against Nebraska.

Northwestern, like everyone else this year, will be able to score against Michigan.  Some of those scores will come on short fields set up by Michigan's offense turning the ball over and moving backward.  Some of those scores will be field goals after long drives sputter around the 35 as the field shortens.  Not many of those drives will go 70 or 80 yards, and that is the key for Michigan.  Keep teams from breaking big plays and force punts and field goals when those teams can't sustain 10+ play drives.  Early in the season this was enough, but at this point even shutouts don't look like enough to get wins.

5. Do y'all have any Hail Mary's planned this year?

I'd be happy to see Michigan protect Gardner long enough for him to get off a post route before eating three blitzers.  The thought of this line generating enough protection for a hail mary causes my brain to shut down.  Seriously, I just tried to think about it and woke up 15 minutes later, my face in a puddle of drool on my desk.

6. Northwestern is wearing American flag uniforms this weekend that have generated a bit of controversy, but eventually send a lot of money to charity. Is it safe to say that Michigan hates America and/or charity?

How many presidents have you educated?  That's what I thought.  Besides, what is more American than wings on your helmet?  I hear that is what beat communism.

7. Prediction?

I start with beer but by halftime someone says something that I mishear and "bourbon" and that becomes the rest of my day until I wake up alone and pants-less in a bush somewhere muttering incoherent complaints about slide protection schemes, manball, and Kain Colter, but with no memory of the previous 24 hours.
Oh, but you mean the game.  I think, and this is a bold statement, but bear with me: I think Michigan rushes for positive yard(s).  It can't happen three games in a row, right?
Anyway, Michigan's offense does what it has been doing and they find a couple gimmicky things to give Gardner a little time to get the ball to guys like Funchess and Gallon and that leads to some of those things, you know, the thing they call it when you run into that bigger rectangle at the end of the slightly smaller rectangles.  Touchdown.  That's it.
Meanwhile, Northwestern moves the ball well between the 20s but only gets one long TD drive.  They get another gift-wrapped by Michigan's offense doing something stupid, and while Michigan keeps it close until the fourth quarter, things unravel late and it turns into a 24-14 Northwestern win.
Hopefully I don't end up like this guy.