Denard Robinson is averaging 8.0 yards a carry, with 1,096 yards on 137 attempts. (John T. Greilick / The Detroit News)
It's two seasons away, but it's hard not to notice how challenging Michigan's 2012 football schedule is going to be.
Two home dates remain open, but the road matchups are set: against Alabama in Cowboys Stadium, at Notre Dame, at Purdue, at Nebraska, at Minnesota and at Ohio State.
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said last week he consulted with coach Rich Rodriguez on scheduling Alabama, the reigning national champion.
Rodriguez said they weighed the pros and cons.
"Let's see, Denard (Robinson) will be a senior, these young guys playing now will be juniors," Rodriguez said. "We looked at that a little bit."
Rodriguez said the only hesitation was Michigan giving up a home game to play the Crimson Tide, and he said they wondered if fans would be excited about making the trek to Texas. Brandon said last week he wants the Sept. 1 night game to have a bowl-trip feel.
"There will be a lot of excitement about that because a lot of people will talk about it during the summer," Rodriguez said. "It's a great venue from what I understand, and obviously two well-known programs. Getting our players excited to prepare for it should be easy."
Brandon also said he believes there is plenty of potential for this game to affect recruiting. He said it's something the coaches can "whisper in their ears" to recruits.
"Seems like almost every game is on TV for everybody nowadays, but that one there will be the focal point," Rodriguez said. "It will be the Saturday night prime-time, everybody-talk-about game. A lot of guys will be like, 'Boy, I get to play in that venue, in that kind of setting.' Should be fun."
Michigan has allowed potential walk-ons to audition for the kicking job, but that hasn't produced any candidates this season.
Through seven games this season, the Wolverines are 2-of-8 on field-goal attempts, including the most recent attempt, a 38-yarder that was blocked by Iowa last Saturday.
Brendan Gibbons is 1-of-4, as is Seth Broekhuizen.
"We are looking all over the country (for a kicker)," Rodriguez said, speaking in general terms about Michigan's recruiting.
Working on fundamentals
The Wolverines have played plenty of freshmen on defense, and Rodriguez said the extra time of preparation — U-M does not have a game Saturday — will be used to work on fundamentals.
Michigan took off Monday and Tuesday from practice, and was expected to practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
"A big part of the focus during practice is, particularly with the young guys now, just to try to get them a little better fundamentally in certain drills and things that we can do with them," Rodriguez said. "And then we'll do a preliminary thing on (next opponent) Penn State, as well — try to get a little bit of the game plan in. We will get into Penn State before the week is over for sure."
Rodriguez said the break obviously is a way to heal some of the nagging injuries.
"Seven weeks — not just seven weeks of the season, it's four weeks of camp before then, so you're talking about 11 weeks of going at it pretty good," Rodriguez said. "With the academics and all that, it probably comes at a great time.
"The 12 or 13 true freshmen that are playing, I'm sure you always worry about them hitting that so-called wall, so hopefully this week will be a little bit of a break, and the weekend away from the game will be a little bit of a break and they'll be refreshed for next week."
By the numbers
1 — Where Denard Robinson ranks among the Big Ten rushing leaders, despite two off games. He's averaging 156.6 yards. Wisconsin's John Clay is second (113.7) and Illinois' Mikel Leshoure is third (113.3).
5 — Where Robinson ranks in Big Ten pass efficiency rating. His rating is 159.1. Iowa's Ricky Stanzi leads at 180.5 and Michigan State's Kirk Cousins is third at 163.4.
4 — Big Ten teams in the top 15 in the first BCS poll — Michigan State No. 7, Ohio State No. 10, Wisconsin No. 13 and Iowa No. 15.
22.5 — Michigan's average scoring in two losses this year.
41.4 — Michigan's average scoring in five wins this year.
Michigan has four players among the Big Ten's top 10 leaders in tackles:
1. Chris Colasanti, Penn State, 9.8
2. Jonas Mouton, Michigan, 9.0
3. Jordan Kovacs, Michigan, 8.7
3. Martez Wilson, Illinois, 8.7
5. Greg Jones, Michigan State 8.6
6. J.T. Floyd, Michigan, 8.4
7. Tyler Replogle, Indiana, 8.2
8. Gary Tinsley, Minnesota, 8.0
9. Brian Peters, Northwestern, 7.3
10. Cam Gordon, Michigan, 7.3
He said it
Rodriguez on the state of the Michigan program: "It's a process that we're going through. It's not been certainly fun to go through that, but we're on the right track, and we know we're going to be there eventually."