The Detroit News is reporting that Mario Manningham will undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus and, potentially, a partially torn MCL.
Needless to say, he will not be available to play against Penn State, and likely not Iowa, either.
In his absence, Adrian Arrington is likely to emerge as Chad Henne's preferred WR target down the field--and it's all relative, meaning past the five-yard area close to the line of scrimmage that Steve Breaston loves--while this may give Breaston a chance to demonstrate that he can actually, like, so stuff as WR and not just as a RB set out toward the sidelines. It will also afford freshman Greg Mathews a chance to demonstrate the rumored ability that has earned him praise from coaches and teammates.
Strategically, Manningham's absence will likely make it hard for Michigan to stretch the field, and this, in turn, may make an already stout PSU run defense that much more imposing. If Michigan can't run, Michigan can't win. All season, the offense has been predicated on establishing the run and working off of that rhythm, using play action and the deep ball judiciously. With Lloyd Carr and Mike DeBord likely to call run many, many, MANY times (like, on 15 of 16 first downs, as they did at one point during the MSU game), sometimes against eight- and nine-man fronts (seriously, they're stubborn), the UM offensive line must be phenomenal. So, too, must Chad Henne, as his ability to complete shorter and intermediate routes to a number of players, not just his Italian-named down-field security blanket, will likely determine whether Michigan's most valuable player will become P Zoltan Mesko.
Unlike some, I think Michigan (and its fans) needs to be very concerned about this weekend's game. While Penn State is far from a great team, it is certainly composed of players who, collectively, can beat Michigan. PSU QB Anthony Morelli has not responded well to pressure and, generally, is not a Leinart-like weapon, but he's improved as the season has worn on, has a strong arm, can make a number of throws, and has talented receivers. RB Tony Hunt has gone for 100 yards in four-straight games, and PSU was able to run on OSU. A number of people have, but the OSU defense is not devoid of talent, so Michigan is not traveling to Happy Valley to take on the 1-AA All-Stars of Altoona. And, of course, the PSU defense has been strong against the run and mediocre against the pass, but that only helps Michigan to the extent that it can demonstrate a robust and creative passing offense in the absence of Manningham. I have my doubts, as there are still so many elements missing from the game plan.
Also to not be underestimated is emotion. Emotion may not wholly compensate for talent, but let's be real: PSU hasn't beaten Michigan in nearly a decade; the fans are paranoid to a disturbing extent and hate Michigan; Beaver Stadium is very loud, especially at night; Michigan pissed in PSU's undefeated cereal last year; and most important, this single game is the season for PSU. The team is already out of the top-25 and the national title hunt; it is obviously mediocre but dangerous. I'm sorry, but all of that matters, even if dreams of Michigan perfection are obscuring reason and fear of a Michigan failure isn't much fun. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail, and the Wolverines will fail this weekend if they don't fully respect the threat posed by a wounded but proud team playing at home in the most important game of the year against a team missing one of its most important weapons.
Given recent history, and Lloyd Carr's tendencies to--say it with me now--pucker pucker pucker up on the road, why would any Michigan fan feel so at ease with this weekend's game? We've seen what happens to Chad Henne when he doesn't have a go-to receiver whom he fully trusts--it's not pretty. What is Henne going to look like this weekend if Michigan can't move the ball on the ground and Mario isn't there as the six-points-now pressure-release valve? We'll learn a lot about the "new" Henne on Saturday.
Meanwhile: Get well soon, Mario. You're already missed. More than people are willing to say.