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2013 BWW Bowl - Scouting the Enemy: Michigan Offense

Some offenses run, some pass. Some do both, some do neither. Then there's that rare team which seems to just pull a lever and hope for the best.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Let me just get this out of the way up front. I've watched very little Michigan football this season. By very little, I mean I watched the Notre Dame game long enough to figure out why a skinny defensive end was playing quarterback and I caught the very end of "The Game." In other words, the following analysis is based entirely on numbers.

I consider myself a man of words, but in trying to find a suitable word to describe the Wolverine offense, I did something I almost never do. I resorted to a thesaurus. "Inconsistent" was just too basic. Whimsical was too Disney. Paradoxical? Too scientific.

Looking at the numbers, each Michigan game was like a spin in Wheel of Fortune. Most of the time you'll get a couple hundred bucks but every once in a while you might just hit the jackpot. You'll also go bankrupt a few times.

Without a suitable word to describe it, I decided to invent an adjective for the 2013 Michigan offense:

bor·ges·y /ˈbôrjisē/ adjective 1. of or pertaining to an offense with hit or miss qualities, much like the career of Al Borges.

To effectively illustrate the full meaning of this new word, let's look at two games side-by-side:

Nebraska Ohio State
Time of Possession 32:44 33:21
Passing Yards 196 451
Rushing Yards* 22 176
*Adjusted for sack yardage

Prior to Hate Week, the Nebraska and Ohio State defenses were both allowing right around 360 yards a game and about five yards per play. The Wolverines held the ball for almost the exact same amount of time, but the offense had two completely different results. That right there? That's Borgesy.

As explained in TB's questionnaire with the talented Mr. Boyd, Michigan's offensive system is based on West Coast passing schemes. S&P+ says the passing part is working. The Wolverines rank 20th in the country in Passing S&P. That's due in no small part to Jeremy Gallon, even though well over a quarter of Gallon's total receiving yards this season came against the Indiana Hoosiers, who apparently fill their defensive backfield with cardboard cutouts of Victor Oladipo.

Devin Gardner finished the season with high marks in both total passing yardage and yards per pass attempt, despite having one of the nation's worst offensive lines. Gardner was sacked a total of 34 times this season. Nineteen of those sacks came in a three week stretch against Michigan State, Nebraska and Northwestern.

Those sacks directly contribute to the poor rushing numbers Michigan finished with on the year, ranking near the bottom nationally in both yards per game and per carry. Even when sacks are taken out of the rushing equation by S&P, the Wolverines still rank in the bottom half at 66. Before we get all excited about those numbers though, let's consider that most of the struggles occurred in just three games. Michigan State and Iowa — two of the country's best rushing defenses — both shut down the Michigan run. But they also got handled by Nebraska, which finished 95th in rushing defense S&P.

If that ain't Borgesy, I just don't know what is.

The wackiness doesn't stop when you look at turnovers. The Wolverines gave up the ball four times each against Connecticut and Akron and still managed to win. The Spartans and Hawkeyes each only took it from them once, but Michigan lost.

This offense is so Borgesy that they might just be the Schrödinger's cat of college football. Despite what we see, no one's really sure if they're alive or dead.

Probably both.