Wolverines Issue of the Week: Fitz Toussaint's status vs. Alabama and how it impacts Michigan's chances
When it comes to suspended Michigan running back Fitz Toussaint, that's been the question for weeks.
Toussaint was listed as the No. 1 back on Brady Hoke's depth chart Monday, but minutes later, Hoke said he still wasn't sure whether or not his lead runner -- who has been suspended throughout camp for an offseason drunken driving arrest -- will be available against defending national champion Alabama.
And if he doesn't play, how will Michigan's rushing attack hold up against Alabama's extremely stout defense?
Earlier on Tuesday, Toussaint pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of operating a vehicle while visibly impaired. He's scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 23.
Welcome to a brand new MLive.com feature. In advance of each game, we'll identify the Wolverines' "Issue of the Week" and give our insight as to how it might play out.
And we welcome some feedback from you, the reader, with some of the best comments slated to be used in an item later this week.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke has not yet handled a first drunken-driving offense, so it's difficult to say what he will do here. However, the longer this matter goes on, the more likely it is Toussaint will play. If Hoke were going to suspend him for the game, he could have done it at any point since July 21.
Likely, Toussaint is facing specific criteria for reinstatement. That signals he has a good chance of playing. Also, it's worth noting his guilty plea Tuesday for operating a vehicle while visibly impaired could actually help him. That's a lesser offense than the operating a vehicle charge he was facing.
If Toussaint is unavailable, it would significantly hurt Michigan's chances of beating Alabama. The Crimson Tide have been the nation's best team against the run over the past five years, and Toussaint helps take the pressure off quarterback Denard Robinson in the Wolverines' run-oriented offense. His backup, Thomas Rawls, has just 13 career carries.
With or without Toussaint, Michigan has its hands extremely full against Alabama on the ground. The Crimson Tide lost athletes from last season, sure, but let's not pretend Nick Saban's unit still isn't loaded -- especially against the run.
Alabama was No. 1 against the run last season, holding opponents to just 938 rushing yards total -- and a staggering 2.43 yards per carry. So, whether it's Toussaint or Thomas Rawls, it'll be tough.
As for whether or not he'll play? That's the toughest question of all. Brady Hoke's been extremely close to the vest on this one, and my gut told me that we'd have an answer one way or another Monday. My gut, obviously, was wrong.
I believe we won't find out if he takes the field until just before kickoff. Maybe Friday, maybe even Saturday. But if I had to make my decision right now, I'd be willing to bet he is active against Alabama.
Now, does he play? That's an entirely different issue.
Now, it's your turn to speak up in the comments section below. Will Toussaint play against Alabama? Should he? If he doesn't, how will Denard Robinson, Thomas Rawls and company perform without him against the Crimson Tide?