The regular season is over and with a final result that’s not quite what people wanted, there seems no better time to look back at what should have, could have and would have been. So over the next two weeks leading in to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, we’ll look at situations that should have been alleviated earlier (or should have happened, at least), what that could have meant for Team 134 and then go out on a limb to say what would have happened.
Shoulda … given more snaps to Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith earlier in the season. Perhaps it was smart not to have Green as the featured back from day one, but they should have gone to him as such (with Smith as the No. 2) much earlier than they did. Brady Hoke is loyal to his upperclassmen, which benefited Fitzgerald Toussaint, but Green ended up being the more talented back and he probably could have shown that much earlier if he had just been given more snaps earlier in Big Ten play. It took Green and Smith time to learn the playbook and get their eyes adjusted to the college level, but if they had more time during the non-conference schedule to do that, they would have been (more than) fine by the conference schedule.
Coulda … been a much more balanced offensive attack. With Toussaint as the featured back, opponents didn’t feel like there was any huge running threat outside of Devin Gardner. Obviously, a lot of this was also dependent on the offensive line, which didn’t pull its act together until far too late and wasn’t able to really create holes for its backs. But, one big difference between Toussaint and Green was that at least when Green got hit, he fell forward and picked up another yard or two.
Woulda … beat Penn State. Against the Nittany Lions, Toussaint averaged 1 yard per carry. Now, it’s obviously not a done deal that Michigan would have come out with the win if Green had been the featured back, but it seems as though the Wolverines would have had a much better shot if they had a run game against PSU. They rushed for 149 yards but 121 of those came from Gardner. It was still early in the Big Ten schedule, but the coaches gave Green only three carries. Had he gotten more experience in the non-conference, he would have been a better option sooner in the Big Ten slate. And if the backs had gotten more than 28 yards on 30 carries, they would have stood a better chance to win at Beaver Stadium.