Things got ugly during Saturday's contest, but not all is lost (Photo credit: Tim Heitman - US PRESSWIRE)
So, Michigan lost. By a lot. What does it mean?
Al Borges still has things to learn
What in the world was Michigan running the ball on first and second down for? Vincent Smith and Thomas Rawls combined for 19 carries and 42 yards! To any other coordinator this means the running game should only be used just enough to keep a defense honest, especially when Alabama is bringing back side edge blitzes like it's the last game they'll ever play. The opportunity for Robinson to take advantage was clear, yet Borges just had to keep on truckin'. Don't do this against Michigan State again.
Lewan isn't unstoppable
He cost Michigan 25 yards on offense, turning 3rd and 11 into 3rd and 26, then making 1st and 10 magically turn into 1st and 25. He played well for much of the game but those two penalties were costly. On top of that he needed help getting to the locker room after the game, which could be bad news bears if he isn't 100% come Notre Dame.
Countess injured [updated]
The new official word is that Countess is done for the year, making things even harder as the Wolverines' man defense just took a major step back. Michigan has some depth to work with at corner but that doesn't mean that he's replaceable. He's the best cover man the Wolverines have and the sledding will only get tougher without him.
The defensive line might be a part of a bigger problem
The entire front seven looked bad, and at times the defensive line looked more impressive than the linebackers. The linebackers were supposed to be a strength on the defense but the loss of Martin and RVB has lead to an easy path to blocks on the second level for opposing lineman. The defensive line was controlled by the Alabama front and the linebackers just didn't make plays, taking poor pursuit angles and failing to shed any blocks whatsoever. Teams with big, experienced fronts will have success, and although it won't be to the same extent it will still force Michigan to move Kovacs into the box.
Take the jump to see the good. Yes, there were positives.
Norfleet is a legitimate returner
The kid has burst, decent balance and a bit of vision to go with it. Last year Michigan was terrible at kick returns but that will change this year with the true freshman back there fielding kicks. If he can find green against an Alabama team that has elite backup athletes on their kickoff team he's going to do it against everyone else.
The receivers could end up being a strength
Jeremy Gallon's long catch was impressive. Gardner looks like a gifted athlete playing receiver for the first time and still managed to catch a long touchdown. Dileo made a play and could end up being Michigan's Wes Welker. Assuming Gardner improves that gives Michigan a big-bodied target, a quick play maker and a slot ninja. If Robinson can limit the throws directly to linebackers the passing game will be respectable.
The starting offensive line is solid
The running game wasn't there because they simply couldn't push people off of the line but it's Alabama and no one else will come close to matching their talent up front. Denard had all sorts of time on a few throws and plenty enough to make a read on many others. If he can limit the turnovers against future opponents Michigan will move the ball.
The pass rush has potential
Jake Ryan's spin move was sweet, and big Will Campbell made a move on a stunt as well. The front created pressure on a handful of plays against the most talented line in college football, meaning teams that don't have five draft picks up front could give up a few sacks to these guys.
The overall takeaway: Michigan lost to one of the nation's best teams, if not the nation's best team, and although they might not have shown it they're still going to be a conference contender. Alabama's defense is more talented and more physical than any defense Michigan will face yet Michigan's offense produced 269 yards, and that's in spite of the horrific play calling done by Al Borges. The defense struggled against the greatest offensive line it has played against in years, but who was actually expecting the Wolverine front to hold? After all is said and done this team will be right there in the thick of the conference race and be ready to redeem itself in a high-end bowl game. Expect the offense to be one of the best that the Big Ten has to offer and pray that the defensive front seven can turn things around against offensive lines that aren't totally comprised of NFL talent.
Also: ESPN is a joke. Michigan scored a touchdown and Which Number On Herb Street Mister Kirk decided to use it as a gateway to an Alabama compliment. WHAT?! We were LOOKING LIVE at a duo of commentators that don't have a clue what they're talking about. Not a freaking clue.