Will Denard Robinson be able to play on Saturday? Will he be effective? The answer to these questions are going to have far reaching effects not just this week, but for the rest of the season.
There is really only one question, and it is going to be the question until Denard hangs up those untied cleats for the last time in Ann Arbor.
The rest of the team is a known quantity. The defense is an incredibly effective unit that can stop the run and will occasionally bust in pass coverage. It is close to a top ten defense in a conference that doesn't boast much offensive firepower. The offense is a collection of ill fitting parts and maddeningly incomprehensible schemes. The running game continues to flounder when the ball goes to anyone but Denard, and the passing game has been almost completely marginalized in light of the inconsistency. The defensive line is overachieving. The wide receivers are underachieving. The linebackers are strong. The Kickers? Well, brunette girls, y'all.
Robinson is the glue that holds it all together. Not without his faults, Robinson is nevertheless what keeps the offense moving when it moves at all. He currently sits third in the Big Ten in yards per game with 118. He averages over 16 carries a game on top of bearing the load of passer. When Michigan needs yards it turns to Robinson.
The two options behind him are hardly the most comforting.
The supposed number two option, Devin Gardner, was moved to receiver in the off season because of the lack of playmakers on the outside. While Gardner has flashed some talent and proven to be one of Michigan's better downfield threats, his move away from playing quarterback full time has almost certainly hampered his development.
The actual first option off the bench this season has been redshirt freshman Russell Bellomy, who in his few appearances has neither passed the eye test or the stats test.
And so we get back to the question. How much can Michigan depend on Denard Robinson this week? Brady Hoke assures us that Robinson will start, but others aren't so convinced that this isn't just another instance of Fort Schembechler obscuring the truth. Even if he does start, how quickly could something as innocuous looking as this...
Bravo, MGoVideo. Bravo.
...send him to the sidelines?
I don't have any answers, Brady doesn't have any answers. Even Denard doesn't have any answers. There is no Hitchcock-ian buildup, no suspense or foreboding feeling. Another nerve injury is just something that can happen at any time without any suspenseful music or a slow motion watching-a-car-wreck-develop moment. We can worry about it for three and a half hours over the next four Saturday afternoons and be justified in it or never see the injury again and be left with this damn ulcer.
The one thing we do know is that with Robinson out -- if in fact he spends any significant time on the sideline -- this team's chances at winning a Big Ten title (i.e. winning the next four games and hoping) might as well be on the sideline with him.
It is a scary thought, but if the last three years have taught us anything it is that this team depends on Denard Robinson. And so we all hold our breath.
The Game: Michigan at Minnesota
The Details: Noon (11am CT), BTN
The Weather: Low to mid 40's, partly cloudy
The Line: Michigan -12
It's been a long week. I finally got back to Michigan on Wednesday night and have been trying to catch up with school work since then. Hurricanes suck.
Michigan is going to beat Minnesota and no level of analysis I can do will make you think otherwise. There will be hemming and hawing about Michigan not beating Minnesota by enough, but tomorrow will be a Wolverine win. That will be all.