Michigan's inconsistent ability to generate a productive presence running the football is a plague they've attempted to nurse throughout the entire 2012 season. Blame can go all the way around with an offensive line unable to generate a push at the line of scrimmage, running backs missing gaps, and a penchant for turning the ball over in big time games at crucial moments.
With the Wolverines set to square off with South Carolina Tuesday afternoon at 1pm, the task of rushing the ball will be even more difficult against a front seven allowing just 3.1 yards per carry for the season. Regardless of numbers on a piece of paper, Michigan coach Brady Hoke isn't in the business of changing the formula for success no matter how daunting the challenge appears.
"We got to block them, number one," said Hoke. "They're very talented --- their front seven --- they're very athletic. In the game of football you got to take care of the football and you got to be able to run the ball and stop the run. If you can do those things you've got a chance."
"We'll have our hands full," Hoke added. "We have not been a football team that's run the ball great from a tail back perspective for multiple reasons, so that's going to be a challenge where we'll start with. And then you've got to be able --- if you can run it --- your play action game."
One piece of good news or bad news for Michigan is that, in South Carolina's two losses, the Gamecocks have given up more yards on the ground than they were able to gain, with LSU and Florida combining for 347 yards rushing. It wasn't until the 11th and 12th games of the season that South Carolina won a game despite losing the rushing battle.
Wofford was able to rack up a staggering 259 yards --- 4.3 per carry --- and the following week on the road at Clemson, the Tigers compiled 145 yards, including 4.1 yards per carry.
Saturday morning, Hoke admitted he was pleased with Michigan's running back situation throughout bowl practice, but wouldn't tip his hand as to who the starter will be against South Carolina.
The X-factor in the Wolverine's attack will be the use and effectiveness of senior captain Denard Robinson, currently sitting third on Michigan's career rushing yards list with 4,395. As has been the case throughout Robinson's career, including Michigan's loss at Ohio State, his knack for finding a crease and breaking a big one is a distinct advantage that the Wolverines will need.
"Certain things, guys do really well," said Hoke. "We talked about Jake Ryan having pretty good football instincts. He didn't learn them. He just has them. Denard has a pretty good instinct of running with the football."
If Denard gets the touches on Tuesday, Michigan's running game could come back to life; and if that happens it'll bode well for the Wolverines.
The old ball coach talks pretty straight about South Carolina's plans next Tuesday…