The Michigan Wolverines might have gotten lost in the Detroit Tigers World Series debacle Saturday night, but they are in deep trouble of their own.
The Wolverines lost Denard Robinson to an elbow injury in the first half of their 23-9 defeat in Nebraska, and the offense immediately ground to a halt. Backup Russell Bellomy looked badly out of place against the Cornhuskers defense, going 3-of-16 for 38 yards and throwing three interceptions.
The only other realistic option was Devin Gardner, but he's been working at wide receiver all season and wasn't prepared to play quarterback on Saturday. Gardner has thrown only 33 passes in his three-year career, with two touchdowns and one interception.
Robinson aggravated a nerve problem in his elbow, causing problems for movement in his hand and wrist. Because of the nature of the injury, it isn't easy to put a timetable on his return.
Despite the ugly losses to Alabama, Notre Dame and Nebraska, the Wolverines still have a chance at the Big Ten championship game. However, they've lost control of their own destiny after the loss to the Cornhuskers.
Even if Michigan runs the table in its final four games, Nebraska could book a trip to Indianapolis by winning its final four. The Cornhuskers do have two tough tests in the next two weeks, though, going to Michigan State and then playing host Penn State.
Michigan's biggest games are home against Northwestern on Nov. 10 and, of course, unbeaten Ohio State on Thanksgiving weekend. With Robinson's game-breaking skills, the Wildcats are definitely a beatable opponent, and Michigan's defense could give it a chance against the Buckeyes.
Without Robinson, things could get ugly in a hurry.
All season, Brady Hoke and the offensive players have insisted that Michigan doesn't have a one-man offense, but the performances on the field have shown something completely different. Robinson has 946 yards rushing, as opposed to tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint's 321, and is averaging almost four yards per carry more than Toussaint. Bellomy is not a big runner, with just 16 yards on the season.
So playing without Robinson, as the Wolverines did in the second half against Nebraska, means playing with no running attack. It also means they will be lucky to move the ball through the air. Bellomy has played in tough situations in his limited action but has a negative efficiency rating, is completing 19 percent of his passes and has many interceptions (four) as touchdowns.
Hoke said Saturday that, if Robinson continues to have problems with his elbow, Gardner could return to the quarterback spot. Although he's been better than Bellomy in his limited appearances, Gardner has never shown that he could fill Robinson's shoes. That's why high school senior Shane Morris is considered the future of the program over both Bellomy and Gardner.
Hoke probably knows a lot more about Robinson's injury, but it's quite likely that he will do everything in his power to keep that information under wraps. Monday's press conference will almost certainly have a reference to Robinson's "boo boo" and very little else.
This boo boo isn't a scraped knee, though. It could completely change the race for the Rose Bowl, at least in the Legends Division.