The month of October used to be a damn fine month for Rodriguez. At WVU between 2001 and 2007 Rodriguez was 15-5 in October. At Michigan he's 1-8 so far. Overall he's 16-16 (.500 winning pct).
And so here we are again - last week of September with October ready to barge in.
Michigan is 4-0, done with it's appetizers and ready to dig in to the main course of the Big Ten menu- starting on the road against perennial conference doormat, 3-0 Indiana in Bloomington
There is plenty of evidence that Michigan's 2010 squad is considerably better than the 2009 squad that also started their season off 4-0 but then spiraled out of control to lose 7 of their last 8. One big difference is a jaw-dropping offensive attack now ranked No. 2 in the land in total offense and ranked No.2 in rushing yardage. The other is Denard Robinson, who should be back to start for the Wolverines after a scary knee injury last weekend against Bowling Green.
The Michigan defense, however, led by DC Greg Robinson, remains to be a major liability for success after just 4 games played:
Scoring defense: 10th in the league, giving up 23 points per game
Rushing defense: 8th in the league, giving up 135 yards per game
Rushing 1st downs: 9th, permitting 29 first downs
Passing defense: 11th in the league (worst team), giving up 265 yards per game in the air
With a defense playing like that, sure, you might get to a bowl game, but the Big Ten Championship trophy might as well be need placed in a pretty little box, located on a shelf within a glorious display case on another planet 100 quadrillion light years away.
If you want to predict a Big Ten Champion for 2010, my advice would be to look at the top 3 or 4 teams in rushing and scoring defense right now. One of those teams is going to reveal itself in the coming 3 weeks. Even now, after 4 weeks of Big Ten teams dining on creampuffs, our findings will not surprise:
Best Total Defenses (Yds/Gm): Iowa, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Best Rushing Defenses: Iowa, Ohio State, Illinois (guh!?)
Best Scoring Defenses: Iowa, Penn State, Wisconsin
Best Passing Defense: Penn State, Indiana and Iowa
Setting the laws of both physics and non-repeatable and ridiculous turnover margins aside, Iowa appears to be well positioned to compete for the Big Ten hardware once again, as do both Ohio State and Wisconsin. Penn State is playing fairly solid defense also. Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa and Wisconsin: Over the last several years, these 4 teams are almost always leading the rest of the Big Ten pack in defensive performance.
But not Michigan.
While I'm thoroughly enjoying Michigan's unceremonious smashing of long-standing offensive record books under Rodriguez this fall, I'm learning that my preseason concerns were valid ones. Michigan is probably a year or two away from fielding a decent defense, mainly because they are so damn young and mainly because they have had no consistency at the DC position since 2005.
The Big Ten season starts for Michigan in Bloomington and we already know there will be trouble of some measure. What's more, Rodriguez can no longer hide the grimaced exchanges with his defensive coaching staff on the sidelines, like the ones this last weekend against Bowling Green. RichRod's frustration on defense is more than evident.
As for Saturday's game against the Hoosiers, Greg Robinson's defense (the most generous Michigan defensive unit in the modern era, ranked 93rd allowing 400 yard per game) will be tested once again. Hoosier quarterback Ben Chappell is playing very well albeit against questionable competition: 72% throwing accuracy, 890 yards, 9 TDs and zero interceptions.