Wolverines Issue of the Week: Can Denard Robinson solve his Michigan State frustration?
ANN ARBOR -- Denard Robinson will leave the University of Michigan with far more good memories than bad.
He's gone over the 10,000-yard mark, he's within reach of becoming the most prolific running quarterback in the history of the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, he's won a BCS game and he's beaten Ohio State.
Robinson has wowed fans with long runs, surprised many from time-to-time with accurate throws and has been the unquestioned on-field face of the Michigan program since 2010.
But, to date, there's one consistent blemish on his record.
And that blemish resides in East Lansing.
Robinson is 0-2 against Michigan State as a starter, 0-3 lifetime as a player. In his past two outings against the Spartans, he's looked less like a superhero and more like a harassed quarterback.
He's been intercepted, pounded and injured. He's been hit late, hit early and hit often -- and nothing's seemed to work.
Enter his final test against Michigan State, our Issue of the Week is obvious: Can Denard Robinson finally solve the Spartan puzzle?
Robinson was just 9-of-23 passing for 123 yards last year, and threw a pick-six with less than 5 minutes left to clinch Michigan's 28-14 loss.
He threw three picks in 2010, his first game against MSU as a starter. That's four picks in two games. He rushed for 128 yards in those games, averaging 3.3 yards per carry. He averages 6.2 yards per carry for his career.
Michigan State has written the blueprint for stopping Robinson ... and its defense appears to be just as good this year, ranking first in the Big Ten in rush defense, total defense and scoring defense.
Michigan probably wins this game, although it likely will be a low-scoring affair. Robinson won't have much room to run, and history shows he's at his worst when he's forced to pass.
Robinson won't bounce back fully. His numbers won't be great. The key for him, after tossing four picks in two starts against Michigan State, is to hang on to the football. U-M's revamped offensive game plan should help him do at least that.
And that should be enough for a win, even if Robinson doesn't post gaudy numbers.
For the past two years, three truths have held constant: Death, taxes and the fact that the Michigan State Spartans simply won't let Denard Robinson beat them alone.
The key word there, of course, is "alone." If Michigan goes into the game and finds itself relying solely on Robinson for offensive production, it'll be a nightmare once again -- because, well, MSU won't be having it.
Their entire defensive game plan against Robinson-led Michigan teams has been to take him away, and make someone else do something. Limit his big plays, make him stand in the pocket, blitz the heck out of him. It's all been documented.
If Robinson is finally going to solve the Michigan State puzzle, he's going to need help. Fitz Toussaint, Thomas Rawls and any other running back Michigan puts in the lineup are going to have to show a pulse Saturday. Last year, Toussaint barely played -- and Michigan's rushing numbers, without Robinson, read something like: 18 carries, 40 yards.
Robinson won't beat Michigan State by himself Saturday, the Spartans just won't have it. But he can be more effective. He can hang onto the football. He can pick and choose his spots if his running backs are giving him support. He, absolutely, can do more than enough to win this football game.
What are your thoughts? Can Denard Robinson overcome his Michigan State demons and finally lead Michigan out of this four-game losing streak? Or will Saturday just be more of the same? Chime in with your comments below.