Rutgers fans know all too well when your school's athletic department is under the national microscope. The tribulations of Mike Rice and Julie Hermann turned Rutgers Athletics into a black eye for the entire university, and it's debatable whether or not Hermann will fully recover.
This week, the tables have turned for the Scarlet faithful as Michigan head coach Brady Hoke has been under fire for his handling of freshman quarterback Shane Morris. In case you were living under a rock the past couple of days, Shane Morris suffered a mild concussion against Minnesota in the previous game, and Hoke left him in the game and re-inserted him when replacement Devin Gardner's helmet came off during a play (third-string QB Russell Bellomy had a Friday Night Lights-situation where he couldn't find his helmet). If you would like to learn more about the situation or read the latest updates, head on over to Maize 'n' Brew.
Hoke named Devin Gardner the starter for Saturday night's game against Rutgers yesterday, which is a little mind-boggling considering how long this announcement took since last week's game against the Gophers. Morris looked delirious against Minnesota, and you'd have to think he wouldn't recover in time just one week later. Gardner will take the reins once again as the leader of the offense, and his results this season have not been good. So far, he's thrown for 733 yards on 62 of 98 passing (63.3%), with five touchdowns and six interceptions. His rushing numbers are skewed a bit since the Wolverines are mediocre along the offensive line, giving up eight sacks through last week. They have a star in Devin Funchess who is NFL ready, but he can't carry the offense all on his own. Offensively, the Wolverines are just ugly, save for a mediocre-at-best running game.
Defensively, it's another story. Michigan is allowing a meager 283 yards per game, better than everyone except Wisconsin. The Wolverines don't give up a lot of passing yards, and they have only given up three rushing touchdowns on the season. Scoring is where it matters most though, and Hoke's team is near the bottom of the B1G, giving up over 22 points per game (eleventh in the conference).
All of these stats could be moot, however. It's extremely hard to predict how the Wolverines will react to the controversy surrounding their head coach. It's even a little surprising that Hoke has lasted this long. He can't be the long-term answer for Michigan, so why keep him around as a lame duck? AD Dave Brandon is dealing with his own issues regarding his tenure, so maybe he's lost any authority he should have to make a decision. It's already Thursday, so Hoke is most likely safe to coach the Rutgers game. That might be indirectly beneficial to RU, as he seems to have lost all control over his program. Firing him could produce a rally effect from the players, similar to how USC responded to Lane Kiffin's firing and Ed Orgeron's interim campaign.
No matter who comes to coach the Wolverines, Rutgers should win this game. Michigan's roster is littered with top talent, but the program hasn't been playing up to the hype for years now. Rutgers is trending up, and Michigan is trending down. It's another primetime kickoff for what should be another electric atmosphere at #TheBirthplace. Before week one, many believed Rutgers would be entering the Big Ten gauntlet at this point in the season. Now, it's the Wolverines who are on the chopping block in the midst of a blackout.