Stop Giving Gifts
Michigan's biggest gift and curse reside in the same football player: Devin Gardner. One game he's standing tall in the pocket to deliver touchdown strikes to Jeremy Gallon, all before turning the ball over four times against a completely over-matched defense.
What exactly is the problem with Gardner? Does he have pregame jitters that turn into one mistake and snowball into four? Is he playing the game out in his head too much? I think it's a bit of both. Gardner knows his potential, with every journalist from here to New York City acknowledging it. That's pressure to begin with. Then, he steps onto the field and makes one mistake, letting it get to his head instead of forgetting it and learning from it.
Whatever the issue is, the fix is this simple: Be careful with the damn football. Michigan is good enough to stay in every game it plays in if Gardner can just play a simple game, taking what the defense gives him without trying to force the issue. He's an extremely athletic quarterback, so there's almost always going to be something there for him to take.
Take the Yardage, Son
Fitzgerald Toussaint has made just as many terrible mistakes as his quarterback this season, bouncing anything and everything to the outside despite having massive running lanes to work with. This only adds to the mounting pressure on the shoulders of his quarterback, whose play-action passes rely on the effectiveness of the run game. Part of this falls on the inconsistency of his interior offensive lineman, and some of it can be blamed on Toussaint having his leg snapped in half on a gruesome play against Iowa. It's easy to understand why he would shy away from contact, but he still needs to find the courage to see the hole and trust that he can run through contact when it arrives. The more Toussaint bounces, the closer his inexperienced backups get to taking his carries away, and Michigan needs Toussaint to lock the spot down by playing like he did in 2011.
This team's weaknesses are out in plain sight for everyone to see. Gardner can be a turnover machine. The offensive line is still learning. Frank Clark and the rest of the starting front seven aren't the greatest pass-rushing unit. Brady Hoke and his staff don't expect these problems to disappear overnight, but they still need to see incremental improvements from week to week. The offensive line's mental miscues should slowly go away, and the defense can disguise its blitzes and coverages much better. No, this team won't have dominant fronts come season's end, but they can have units that look better than they did against Akron and Notre Dame.
Another game, another terrible opponent. The team and staff really need to knock this one out of the park if they want to spark belief that a Big Ten Championship run is really within their grasp. Connecticut is bad in almost every way imaginable, ranking 103rd in points scored and 95th in points against; Michigan should win and win handily. It's up to Gardner to play a smooth game while hoping that the two fronts come more prepared than they were a week ago.