The Preseason Expectations
Robinson came into the season with the extremely high expectations, appearing on many major preseason Heisman lists, and popping up as an All-American on a few lists as well. With the Big Ten losing much of its talent at quarterback an appearance on the first team all-Big Ten team was fully expected by many. The coaches' praise for his improved decision making and mechanics only added to the hype.
Robinson might have had more steam heading into the season had it not been for the loss of players like JR Hemingway and David Molk. No one knew if there would be enough firepower and cohesiveness up front for him to put up truly Heisman-level numbers.
Grading Robinson Through Six Games
So, has he lived up to the hype? We'll answer that after we take a look at each individual game performance.
Alabama: The seasons started in about as rough of fashion as anyone could have expected for Robinson. Going only 11-of-26 in the air and rushing for only 27 yards, he made a few massive mistakes while racking up footwork errors left and right. The Alabama defense took away almost every possible option for the entire offense, so Denard's greatness had little chance of surfacing.
Game grade: C-
Not off to the best start.
Air Force: As expected, this was a different game for Robinson altogether. He went 14-of-25 through the air and rushed for over 200 yards on his way to more than 400 total yards. Although he put up gaudy statistics he still showed poor footwork on a handful of throws, one of which lead to a high throw and interception intended for Vincent Smith. Outside of those few poor passing plays he looked great.
Game grade: A-
UMASS: Going for just under 400 total yards this time, Denard worked a bad UMASS defense all day. He passed for nearly 300 yards, but still made a terrible decision to throw an out route that was jumped and returned for six points. He still wasn't where he needed to be as a passer and it showed.
Game grade: B+
Notre Dame: This is where it truly got ugly for Shoelace. The Michigan defense came to play and Robinson didn't, throwing four interceptions and fumbling the ball on a drive that could have tied the game. Every one of his interceptions were a direct result of a poor read or poor footwork, frustrating Wolverine fans across the country. His fumble negated anything good that he may have done on the ground throughout the game.
Game grade: D+
Not so pretty.
Purdue: After the Notre Dame game Robinson told the media that he was sorry, adding that he wasn't accountable. He was plenty accountable against a Boilermakers squad that seemed primed for a quiet run at the Big Ten Championship. He was only 8-of-16 in the air, but this time he didn't throw any interceptions on his way to 340 total yards. The Purdue defense is good enough to make this a legitimate turnaround game for Denard.
Game grade: A-
That's the stuff.
Illinois: Robinson followed a great performance against the Boilermakers with another awesome display of talent. He didn't reach the 300 yards of total offense, but he was very efficient through the air (7-of-11) and on the ground, averaging 11.6 yards per carry. At one point he was surrounded by orange helmets, only to cut left and go the distance.
Game grade: A-
You have me surrounded and will surely tackle me. NOT.
Grade through six games: B
Right now Robinson is on track for an outstanding line of statistics, but his performances against Alabama and Notre Dame stick out too much for me to think that he could end up on a Heisman finalist list. A spot on an All-American team isn't totally out of the question, and the first team all-Big Ten spot is between him and Braxton Miller. His only two performances against great defenses are forgettable and keep me from grading him higher than a B.
How Does He Finish?
The good news is that Denard is clearly on the way up at the right time. At this point Al Borges is set on letting him work his magic on zone-read plays and easy reads through the air, which means his efficiency should come up. Michigan State's defense isn't as dominating as expected, and although they're still very talented Denard can still play an efficient game against them. I expect to see a lot of Robinson on the ground, followed by play-action passes and screens. He and the defense should combine for a close win over the Spartans.
The rest of the season should be similar, with dominating performances over teams like Minnesota and Northwestern to be expected. His passing total might not reach the 2,000 mark, but his quarterback rating will climb from where it is and he'll continue to rush for solid amounts of yards. His footwork and decision making are what they are at this point in his career, meaning that anyone who can stop him from rushing the ball could put Michigan on the ropes. The way he sees running lanes right now I don't know if that will happen.