During last years loss to Michigan State, Al Borges admits that the Wolverines were outmatched physically across the board.
The Spartan defense held the Wolverines to just 82 yards rushing and 250 yards of total offense on the day, something that Borges knows that they have to improve on coming into this weekend's match up with the Spartans in The Big House.
In their past 19 games, the Wolverines have failed to rush for 100 yards just three times, and are 1-2 in those games. Their game against Michigan State last year (a 28-14 loss) marked the first time in the Brady Hoke era that Michigan failed to reach the century mark on the ground. Their other two games were against Virginia Tech (a 23-20 win) in their January Bowl game, and their 2012 opener against Alabama (a 41-14 loss).
Over the past five games, the Michigan run game has been impressive., running for over 200 yards in four of the five contests. Four out of the past five games (against Illinois, Purdue, UMass and Air Force) Michigan has ran for over 200 yards, During that span, the only game that they came up short of the 200 yard mark was against Notre Dame, where they ran for 161 yards against a top 25 run defense.
This weekend, Hoke and the offensive staff have put together a game plan that hopes to take advantage of a Spartans defensive scheme that will likely look similar to the one that they put together last season that successfully stifled the Wolverine offense.
"You just study their schemes and work on how to attack their schemes," Borges explained. "You've got to practice what you think they're going to do, have hopefully some good, calculated play calls that put you in some advantageous situations, hope the lesser play calls aren't disastrous so you can line up and play again."
"I've been coaching that way forever and I'll always coach that way, whether it's Michigan State or whoever. You've got to study, study, study and hope your players understand what you're teaching them. Go get them. Don't over evaluate, don't under evaluate. Let the kids play fast. That's really the key."
In today's landscape of college football of up tempo offenses, focused on getting eighty plus snaps, and putting up 50 or 60 points per game, Borges admits it's not likely that they'll put up 500 yards a game. That's just not the way that they're built. Their approach of grinding it out while trying to get the most out of every possession, taking the occasional shot at the big play, is a little different than today's norm.
"We're not an up-tempo team. We're not likely we're to have 500 yards a game. We don't play that game. We want to make sure there's a balance in the game, keep our defense off the field. We want to run the football, convert third downs...play what Brady calls Michigan football...it's not very popular these days."
"Our plan is we want to possess the ball as much as we can, score as many points as we can but not to the point we're so obsessed with running 80 football plays that we could have three and outs that could keep our defense on the field."
Twenty points will be the magical number for the Wolverines on Saturday, and they shouldn't need eighty snaps to get to it (the Wolverines are averaging just under 64 plays per game and 34 points per game). Under Brady Hoke, the Wolverines are undefeated (15-0) when scoring 20 or more points, and winless (0-4) when scoring less than 20 points.
Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30pm ET and can be seen on the Big Ten Network.