Mediocre at best
Coming in to the season with a very young offensive line, including three underclassmen starters in Kyle Kalis, Graham Glasgow, and Jack Miller, Michigan went on to struggle rushing the ball and protecting the quarterback. The Wolverines ranked 102nd in rushing yards per game, 109th in sacks allowed, and dead last (125th) among Division 1 FBS schools by allowing 113 total tackles for loss.
On the other the side of the ball, Hoke’s defense was down from his first two seasons, and looked mediocre at best. In his first year in 2011, Michigan ranked sixth in the nation in scoring defense, then 19th in 2012, and took a leap backwards to 67th this year. Despite the increased scoring, which was partially due to the extra amount of points conceded during the seven periods of overtime in the Northwestern and Penn State games, the maize and blue defense carried Michigan to the little success it had through turnovers. Michigan caused a combined 26 turnovers through interceptions and fumbles, which was good for 26th in the nation lead by sophomore cornerback, Blake Countess, who had six picks including one returned for a touchdown.
Michigan went 3-5 in Big Ten play, the first time Hoke has suffered a losing conference record since his 2009 season with San Diego State. Made memorable by the 4OT loss in Happy Valley to Penn State, the Wolverines achilles heel was their inability to close out games they should have won.
By only defeating minor conference opponents, Minnesota and Indiana at home, and grinding through a 3OT win at Northwestern saved by a game-tying rushed field goal as time expired, Michigan did just enough to earn a birth to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Arizona.
Since Gardner suffered a hand injury in the gut-wrenching 42-41 loss to the undefeated Buckeyes, freshman Shane Morris utilized the additional fifteen practices granted to teams who qualify to play a bowl game as the starting quarterback.
The Wolverines went on to lose to Kansas State 31-14 in a disappointing defensive display. The loss was the final game for the following senior starters: Courtney Avery, Jibreel Black, Drew Dileo, Jeremy Gallon, Brendan Gibbons, Cameron Gordon, Thomas Gordon, Will Hagerup, Taylor Lewan, Michael Schofield, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Quinton Washington.
Michigan will have six offensive starters returning and six defensive starters.
With the firing of offensive coordinator, Al Borges, the Michigan faithful are hoping for a big upgrade in the hiring of Doug Nussmeier. Having spent his last two seasons with Alabama, Nussmeier is accustomed to the scrutiny that comes with coaching at a big-time football program. Nussmeier’s offense ranked in the top 20 for points scored in both seasons in Tuscaloosa, as well as ranking sixth this past season in yards per play. In his years, Nussmeier has coached great quarterbacks such as Drew Stanton, Jake Locker, Keith Price, and AJ McCarron. With Devin Gardner returning for his final year of eligibility, and a young Shane Morris looking to develop, the Wolverines need an improvement in their quarterback play which “lead” Borges’s atrocious 87th ranked offense last season. With a pool of talent at running back including Derrick Green, and Pioneer’s own, Drake Johnson, as well as star tight end Devin Funchess, Nussmeier is equipped with weapons to make a major impact next year.
Next season, the Wolverines will open the season at home versus Appalachian State, marking seven years since the Mountaineers beat the Wolverines in a historic upset. Michigan will face all three of their top rivals, Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State in 2014 on the road which won't bode well for the Wolverines who went 2-4 away from the Big House this past season.