Though tomorrow will be the first game Wisconsin will play against Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez in his current digs, recall that Wisconsin has played against West Virginia twice this decade. (And won both matchups.) Thus, we're dealing with RichRod, Part III-- Meeechigan style "Square Peg-Round Hole." Awww, yeah.
I don't know if folks have watched any of Michigan's three game so far this season. By many reports, Rich Rod has brought his rough-and-tumble, lots of curse words, in-your-face-fat-boy style of coaching to the Wolverines, along with his patented spread offense that Steve Slaton and Pat White used to dethrone Georgia in the Sugar Bowl two seasons ago. Unfortunately for fans of the Big Blue, Michigan wasn't a spread team last year, and lost a colossal amount of talent in Henne, Hart, Long, Manningham, lineback Shawn Crable, and wideout Adrian Arrington (remember his great diving catch in Madison last year?)-- all of whom went drafted. Plus, Rich Rod and the rest of his salty-talking staff have allegedly driven off several offensive linemen, many of whom were set to be starters.
Thus, their offense, to be blunt, has struggled. High profile recruit Sam McGuffie looks like an excellent running threat, with great speed, agility and burst, though he doesn't break a lot of tackles. Threet, the QB, and a transfer from Georgia Tech is kind of all over the place. He's not a spread option QB really, because he can't run all that well. He doesn't have a bad arm, it just doesn't seem like everyone is on the same page offensively. So, at times, they can get a bit repetive, and are prone to some screw ups. Thus, the realtively weak offensive performances against Notre Dame, Miami of Ohio and Utah.
Similarly, the defense has been up and down. A lot of the points against ND were due to Michigan's own miscues, and they played excellent D in the second half, but ND's highly touted wideouts were also making a lot of plays. Thus, the strength seems to be up front for UM, which is somewhat unfortunate, because that's where Wisconsin's strength is offensively. Will the strengths cancel each other out, and will Wisco have a hard time running the ball? I hope not. Because until I see more from Evridge, Gilreath, and Jefferson, I'm not going to feel great about the passing game, even with the awesomeness of Graham and Beckum.
Anyhow, so Michigan is in a bit of an odd place, a place they're not accustomed to-- struggling to adapt and to keep their heads above water. The worry as a Wisconsin fan though is that they're going to snap out of it and be much improved. RichRod is definitely a good coach. (You'd have to be to have consistent success at a hell hole like West Virginia.) You expect improvement over the course of the year, even if they don't have the perfect pieces for the system right now. We just have to hope that the two weeks off didn't advance them that much. We should expect them to be better though, and they seem to be realizing McGuffie's potential, and that much is concerning.