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Picking Up The Pieces: What Michigan Needs To Do To Get Ready For Illinois

As much as I'd like to write "Tackle" and close this post out, that may be a tad overly simplistic, yes? Well. Maybe not, but it'd be a short piece and I'm sure you'd like to waste a little more time this morning than that. Believe it or not there were good things to take away from Saturday's game. Really. There were.... on offense. On defense... ehhh... notsomuch.

Regardless, Michigan now enters a four game stretch that will likely define whether Rich Rodriguezremains in Ann Arbor for year number four. This isn't stating anything unexpected or controversial. This is being realistic. Coming into this season Michigan not only needed to show improvement, but finish with at least a .500 record. When Danny Hope of Purdue has more wins in the Big Ten this season than Rodriguez has over the last TWO YEARS, something ain't quite right. 

Michigan has four games to win two games. Two wins gets Michigan to seven wins and a decent bowl game. Think Decemberish, somewhere in the south against a crappy Big XII or ACC team. One win out of Three... then it gets dicey and all bets are off as to whether Rodriguez remains around. If Michigan is competitive, then a .500 record likely saves his bacon. Irrespective of that, Robinson and the entire defensive staff are likely gone by the end of the season regardless of whether Rodriguez wants to keep any of them around.

So in order to make it more likely that Michigan gets to a real bowl game and we get to see Rodriguez' offense operate as a veteran unit (think West Virginia circa 2005), some changes need to be made. Here are five suggestions to at least try to improve our chances of a win against Illinois., lets hear yours.

Suggestion One:  I know this one will be unpopular, but I'm going to say it anyway, start Tate Forcier against Illinois. I know Denard Robinson almost went 200/200 against Penn State, but it's obvious that he cannot throw the ball accurately right now. Watching him throw right now reminds me of watching Tate throw last season. Robinson was 11-23 against Penn State's porous pass defense (porous because it was missing its best safety!). He trailed receivers on just about every throw. His velocity was wonky. His ball placement has been horrible. I don't care what he can do on the ground if he can't throw the damn ball.

"But Dave, what about that 60 yarder to Kevin Koger?" Sure, Robinson got it out there but busted coverage and a floating duck to Koger do not demonstrate that his arm is in one piece. Just so we're clear, that pass was more than 30% of Denard's passing yardage on the day. The threat of the run is only as good as the threat of the pass. Ever since the Michigan State game defenses have challenged Robinson to beat them with his arm. He hasn't. They're stacking the box and taking their chances in the air.

The counter argument to this is fairly obvious, if Rodriguez is going out, he's going out with his best player under center. To an extent that's an argument I respect. The issue is whether Robinson is truly healthy. I don't think he is. And Rodriguez' best chance to win is with a healthy Tate Forcier rather than a dinged up Denard Robinson.

More After the Jump.....

Suggestion Two:  For the love of God, STOP PUTTING VINCENT SMITH OUT THERE IN SHORT YARDAGE SITUATIONS! How many times do you have to get stopped on 3rd and 2 to learn your goddamn lesson, Rich!? This recurring rant is really, really starting to piss me off. Smith is a great back out of the backfield as a receiver. he's a pretty good 1st down back. He is not, under any scenario I can fathom, a short yardage back. Hopkins is 220+. Use him in those situations because he actually goes forward. How this continues to be an issue baffles me.

Suggestion Three:  Bench Jeremy Gallonon Punt or Kick-Off returns. Gallon has been a disaster returning kicks all season. For the love of all that's holy, bench him until he learns how to catch a kick. His mind-numbing screwup, fumbling a kick off out of bounds at the 2 in the middle of the second quarter, basically buried any hope Michigan had of coming back in the game. It was 10-21 and the defense had shown no ability to stop a sneeze, let alone a third string backup quarterback. That fumble killed the Michigan offense, and led directly to 7 more PSU points as Michigan played not to give up the pick six (which Robinson almost threw anyway). Look, Rich, you spent a scholarship on Drew Dileo  to return kicks. Let him do it. The two returns he's had make him look useful. At this point it's worth a try. Unless Dileo turns into Martavious Odoms circa 2008, he'll be an improvement.

Suggestion Four:  Play Craig Roh as a defensive end. We're boned on D anyway, so stop making it easier for teams to pass on us.

Suggestion Five:  Bench J.T. Floyd. It's become obvious that teams are passing right at him. This despite having James Rogersas the other corner. Think about that for a second. I think something happened in the Iowa game and things just aren't right. Floyd has been burnt crispy in back to back games and teams are passing DIRECTLY at him, despite the presumption that he is our "best" cornerback. If you feel his presence in the game is necessary, move him to safety, where he can play the deep ball and support the run. But in coverage he's been a disaster recently. Until he gets his confidence back, play some of the freshmen. The result will likely be the same, but at least there's some hope of improvement.

Right now that's all I've got. If you've got suggestions that don't entail the wholesale firing of the coachign staff and might actually be implemented before the Illinois game, let me know in the comments below.