Basketball is beginning to come to the fore in the Mailbag, but football remains out front. From the ornery to the optimistic, the questions keep on coming.
Certainly the coaches put together a game plan they think will be successful and they don't really pay much attention to what the fans nor media think. That said, there was almost overwhelming criticism of the second-half game plan against Ohio State.
So when we see Michigan take the field next, against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl, do you expect to see more of Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner together in the same backfield like we did vs. Iowa or will the OSU approach be utilized again?
That depends. Will Robinson be healthy, or will his arm be as bad off in the bowl as it was in the latter part of the Ohio State game? Will he know the pass-protection schemes intimately enough and possess the physical wherewithal to take on a blitzing linebacker so that - in the Gardner at quarterback, Robinson at running back look - the opponent won't know if it's run or pass? (Obviously, not likely, so other accommodations must be made).
There's a lot more to getting things done than simply throwing the two on the field together. In a perfect world, Robinson will be healthy enough to play some quarterback and present a true dual threat, so that South Carolina won't tee off on the run when he's behind center. That would allow Gardner to slide back out to wide receiver at times.
In that same perfect world, Gardner could move behind center as well, offering a stronger-armed passing threat while executing enough quick-hitters with Robinson in the backfield that neither gets destroyed in the process.
By the end of the Ohio State game, neither U-M quarterback was in very good shape, physically. To have a chance against South Carolina, the best use of them together in measured amounts - including a plan that keeps them both upright - has to be employed.
How surprising was the news this week that Bret Bielema was leaving Wisconsin for Arkansas? Do you see this as another indication that the Big Ten has lost some of its cache nationally?
It's a stunner, because Bielema had it going at Wisconsin, and could have contended for a national title there. Three straight Rose Bowls, although he fell into one this year, isn't a bad deal in Madison.
Those who say he's scared of Urban Meyer are laughable. Bielema would be going from one significant divisional threat for the time being (Ohio State) to a host of them in the SEC. If he thought he had competition before, he's about to get a dose of down-and-dirty.
Sure, there's a lure to that league. It's the most spotlighted and talented in the nation right now, regardless of how it got there. Bielema is going to make a boatload of cash, live in a warmer climate, and see his bloated wallet go even farther because of the prices down in Arkansas.
Maybe he didn't feel appreciated enough in Madison. Maybe he truly believes he'll have a better chance at the big time in Fayetteville (he'd be wrong, but he can still believe). It says here that a few years down the road, he might find himself pining for Camp Randall.
Is it another stain on the Big Ten? Sure, to some degree. But as Bielema himself said to Sporting News last national signing day: "We at the Big Ten don't want to be like the SEC - in any way, shape, or form."
With the addition of Rutgers and Maryland, what would you do with divisional alignment? Is it time to go geographically? Should Michigan and Ohio State be in the same division?
First off, it's not going to stop with those two. And once it grows more, it would be good to see the old guard in one division (Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa, etc.) and the new/relatively new guard (Nebraska, Penn State, Rutgers, Maryland) in the other.
The Indianas and Purdues of the world get split however necessary to even everything out. They haven't earned a say for, oh, the past 100 years.
Let the divisions battle it out and have only divisional games count toward making the league championship contest. Crossover games would work as a tiebreaker, but care would have to be given toward scheduling equity, regarding the proverbial haves and have-nots.
The thought of Michigan and Ohio State not playing again with the Big Ten championship on the line was a driving force behind splitting them into separate divisions the last time around. Under this system, that U-M-OSU game would retain much of the same feel, with one more step added (the Big Ten title game) between the Wolverines and Buckeyes and a Rose Bowl/BCS/national championship contest.
Jordan Kovacs was named the team MVP Monday at the Football Banquet - surprised?
I was, just because you think Michigan football the last three seasons, you think Denard Robinson. But if you look at it honestly and carefully (which the players obviously did in voting), there are plenty of reasons to put Kovacs at the top.
He played the whole season. Robinson did not. Robinson obviously struggled mightily against Notre Dame, and while running effectively early against the Buckeyes, could not perform much down the stretch in that game. Meanwhile, a Kovacs-led Michigan defense kept the Wolverines in both contests, as well as in a Nebraska loss when the Wolverines generated no second-half offense.
Everybody knows and understands the contributions Robinson has made to Michigan. Had he stayed healthy, he'd have been the MVP, and Michigan would be headed to Pasadena. But he didn't, and Kovacs is not only a worthy MVP, he is - like Robinson, but in a much different way - as good of a story as Michigan football has produced in a long time.
Will this basketball team hold the No. 1 ranking at some point this year? And when was the last time our Wolverines were the nation's top-ranked team?
If they don't lose a game until the Big Ten season begins, and if those above them fall, it could happen. First things first, though - they need to take care of Arkansas on Saturday. And if they don't rise to No. 1 before league play begins, they might not get there, because they're not getting through the conference unscathed.
Michigan basketball was last ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll in 1992-93, and carried that ranking briefly into the season.
I expected Michigan to try to redshirt Caris LeVert. What went into the decision to burn that redshirt and do you think it was the right call?
It's always the right call when it's what the player wants and when the coaches think he can factor in enough to make a difference. Both of those elements are in play here.
John Beilein already stated he's not pulling the redshirt off LeVert just to play him two minutes a game. Beilein knows he's got a team that can do a lot, but one that has some deficiencies LeVert can address.
The freshman provides instant backcourt depth, nice length in different defenses, athletic movement with and without the ball, and some decent outside shooting.
It's a little like picking up a strong relief pitcher right before the trading deadline in baseball. When you know you're in the race, don't hold back.
Can you finish this sentence for me: Trey Burke is U-M's best basketball player since _______?
Tough one, because there have been a lot of good players come through Crisler. Let's go Jalen Rose, and let the second-guessing begin.
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