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SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
10/10/2006 12:52:00 PM

Missing Mario

Oakland Arena
With the injury to Mario Manningham (86), Adrian Arrington (16) and Steve Breaston (15) will need to step up big.
Harry How/Getty Images
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr confirmed during Tuesday's Big Ten teleconference that star receiver Mario Manningham underwent arthroscopic knee surgery this morning and will miss Saturday's Penn State game. He emphasized, however, that, "we received great news in regards to the injury ... we're very excited with the news we received."

Earlier Tuesday, the Detroit News had reported that Manningham would miss "several weeks" after suffering a partial tear of the meniscus and a "possible" partial MCL tear during last Saturday's game against Michigan State. Carr did not elaborate on the good news, but one can assume that the injury isn't as serious as originally feared (rumors swirled Monday that Manningham might miss the rest of the season) and that perhaps the receiver will return sooner than later. Michigan plays another tough game the following weekend against 15th-ranked Iowa.

Obviously, part of the story comes as a relief to panic-stricken Wolverines fans, but the timing of the injury still couldn't be much worse. There's no overstating the importance of Manningham to Michigan's offense. The sophomore has established himself as one of college football's premier deep threats. He leads all receivers nationally in touchdowns with nine -- which represent more than a third of his overall catches (24) -- and his 21.96 yards-per-catch average is eclipsed by only four of the nation's top-30 receiving leaders. While workhorse running back Mike Hart clearly remains the centerpiece of the 6-0 Wolverines' attack, Manningham's game-breaking abilities have made Michigan far more dangerous and balanced than in years past.

With Manningham out, QB Chad Henne may be less likely to look for the home-run ball. Of Michigan's other receivers, only junior Adrian Arrington has demonstrated similar big-play ability. Senior Steve Breaston, for all his special-teams prowess, has failed to develop into anything more than a possession receiver (he's averaging 9.7 yards per catch) and there's a reason senior Carl Tabb has played sparingly throughout his career. Carr did say we can expect to see more of talented freshman Greg Matthews, a Florida import and cousin of Ohio State star Ted Ginn Jr. who has had two catches so far.

While the Nittany Lions have struggled this season, you know they're going to be playing with a lot of emotion, what with the electricity of a night game at Beaver Stadium against the only team to beat them last season. They were capable of pulling off the upset even before Michigan lost its premier playmaker (and, coincidentally, the Wolverine who caught the winning touchdown against them last year). The onus will fall on Hart to have a big game and for Michigan's top-ranked rushing defense to shut down Hart's Penn State counterpart, Tony Hunt.
posted by Stewart Mandel | View comments |


Posted: 2:34 PM   by Anonymous
So, like how soon WILL he be back? In time for Iowa?
Posted: 2:45 PM   by cfaller96
Going into the season, and especially in the wake of wins at Notre Dame and Minnesota, this game looked to be one of Michigan's toughest tests. Traditionally, an emotional team on the road tends to catch the Wolverines flat-footed.

The onus is on Mike Hart of course, but OC Mike DeBord really emphasizes balance and won't want to abandon the passing game. In that sense, the keys are Chad Henne and Adrian Arrington.

If they both are willing to execute deep strikes, then U-M will maintain balance and still win this game. If either Henne is hesitant, or Arrington is not aggressive, however, this turns into a very tight, very ugly defensive battle, and it's anybody's game.
Posted: 3:54 PM   by James
Why is nobody talking about Penn State maybe beating Penn State? And, why are they not ranked in anybody's Top 25? They have 2 loses, which were to #1 Ohio State and then #2 Notre Dame (now #9), but so does Oklahoma, Washington, and LSU. When (if) they beat Michigan this weekend will Joe Pa' and Penn State finally get some respect for playing such a hard schedule in the beginning of the year?
Posted: 4:07 PM   by Anonymous
As a PSU Fan, this comes as a nice surprise to folks down in Happy Valley. But cfaller is right, this was going to be a game regardless of Mario's status. Come 8:00 saturday night Beaver Stadium will be rocking.
Posted: 4:13 PM   by Anonymous
Now with their main deep threat out I look to the PSU defense to continue to dominate the run game of Michigan's, and force Chad Henne to make clutch throws in an extremely hostile environment. (i.e. Ohio State v. Penn State, 2005)
Posted: 4:44 PM   by Pac-Man
Not that I followed Michigan's every move this offseason, but I heard names like Steve Smith, Billy Pitman, Andre Caldwell, Rheema McKnight- all number 2 receivers- a lot more often then I heard Manningham. This tells me one of two things:

1) Manningham, despite a promising freshman season, was not counted on to be a dynamic playmaker. That responsibility was bestowed upon Steve Breaston.
2) Michigan is a good-in-college-poor-in-NFL wide receiver factory, and as long as Mike Hart is healthy and running the ball, somebody would be able to run under Chad Henne's passes. It really doesn't matter who.

So even though Michigan will be missing their most dynaming playmaker, they have a potent running game, and money quarterback, and a pass-catching tight end. And, by the way, Michigan's front seven will smother Tony Hunt and chase Morelli all day. Manningham or no Manningham, Michigan wins big.
Posted: 5:03 PM   by MLaw Wolverine
U of M will still have deep threat ability even lacking Manningham. Remember that Manningham's emergence as a star last year was made possible only by the untimely injury of Arrington, who was above him on the depth chart. Arrington is a great athlete and has a lot of big play ability. I expect some deep passes, especially if PSU underestimates the ability of Michigan's passing offense in the wake of the Manningham injury, and tries ot overload the box to stop Hart. PSU's defense is fantastic, but I believe it will still be a case of "pick your poison" for them while Michigan has the ball.
Posted: 5:19 PM   by Anonymous
Without Manningham, UM still wins by 17. UM's defense will rattle Morelli into turnovers and completely shut down PSU's run game. The offense won't really have to do anything but capitalize on good field position and turnovers.

Simply put....last year was an abberation for PSU.
Posted: 5:21 PM   by Anonymous
I'm sure they will try to stack the box but just ask that Minnesota team that PSU needed a phantom pass interference call to beat - Arrington can play... He's no Manningham but he's still a dang good reciever and Henne has his confidence up. I think the UM defense will be kinda PO'd that everyone is freakin' out about Manningham and not talking about how great the D is. The Defense takes out it's lack of love against a young and under-achieving PSU team (no need to talk about hostility - they dispatched that in South Bend earlier this year).

UM eases by - 24-7...
Posted: 5:27 PM   by Anonymous
Don't forget, Michigan has won its last 7 games against Penn State.
Posted: 9:26 PM   by Anonymous
Michigan is used to the hostile environment and will take out the crowd early in the game. Expect to see a new star receiver, and good luck stopping Michigan's running attack!! PSU will come back into the game in the third for a bit....Michigan wins by 14.
Posted: 9:39 PM   by Pat Mobley
The main reasons Tabb has played sparingly have been named Braylon, Jason, Steve, and Mario. He's a fast player with decent size and a big heart- you can see him going all out on kick coverage. He might not be a huge homerun threat (Arrington is), but he's no slouch. I don't think Michigan's passing game will suffer that much.
That said, the road game at night against an inspired opponent still worries me. But this year's team seems different and WE OWN! PENN STATE! based on the last 7 meetings.
Posted: 9:41 PM   by Anonymous
Yes, I also see PSU dominating the run like they did against OSU in 2005...IF IT WAS STILL 2005!!
Posted: 9:45 PM   by Anonymous
You're all underestinating Michigan's defense. MSU's offense is better than Penn State's. the Wolverines will still win but it will only be by two touchdowns or so instead of a few more. I believe PSU will be a great team by season's end, but they're sitll coming together right now.
Posted: 10:11 PM   by Anonymous
penn state was capable of pulling the upset off prior to this injury; however, now it is considerably much more likely to occur. but i don't think it is for the reasons being mentioned, i am thinking it is the revenge factor. don't forget, it was that last second td in ann arbor last year that was the lone blemish against penn state last year. don't you think they'd like to put that blemish on michigan this year?

to make it happen, penn state is going to have to stop the rush, which they haven't done against their tough opponents yet (antonio pittman had over 100 yards against them). also, penn state's victories haven't come against the top echelon of college football. let's see what happens.
This doesn't change a thing - Michigan still rolls to at least a 10 point win.

Michigan wins with defense and their running game. Arrington and Breaston are more than good enough to keep the PSU defense respectful of the passing game. With the soft zones that PSU plays on D, the longball wasn't likely to be as much of a factor as it has been.

Bottom line is that if Michigan is all its cracked up to be, the loss of one player, even MM, will not stop them from winning.
Posted: 11:15 PM   by Anonymous
Michigan is too talented. And NEWSFLASH, Michigan has been winning with great DEFENSE. And don't look now but Henne is on fire. He's simply making perfect throws. Expect Michigan to wear down Penn State with a balanced offense and overpowering defense. 27-17.
Posted: 11:24 PM   by chris
It's still Penn State, and they will fall to Michigan like they have in years past. Arrington will pick up the slack, as will Breaston....oh yeah, did everyone suddenly forget about Mike Hart?
Posted: 12:55 AM   by Anonymous
Of Michigan's other receivers, only junior Adrian Arrington has demonstrated similar big-play ability.

Only you could make that sound so negative. Other schools that could make such a claim are OSU or USC (otherwise, you would call it reloading).
Posted: 1:10 AM   by Anonymous
I personally think this will have little, if any, effect on outcome of this game... Michigan has shown that it has a multi-dimensional passing attack this season, with Arrington and Breaston being two solid recievers in their own right--- also, PSU won't stop Mike Hart, Kevin Grady, or Brandon Minor-- the wolverines will run all over PSU all night long, and then the #1 rushing defense in the country will shut down PSUs running game and stifle their offense- Wolverines fans shouldnt be as worried as they are-- this is a team of destiny
Posted: 1:25 AM   by DLewisGreen
As I recall Michigan had another young reciever last year that looked pretty talented; Antonio Bass. But I haven't seen him at all this year. Does anyone know what happened?
Posted: 1:27 AM   by Anonymous
Michigan will win this game with or without their big receiver. PSU has no heart and nos desire to win big games. In addition, the Wolverines have other big receivers. If PSU is happy just because Mario is out then they're just plain stupid
Posted: 1:52 AM   by Sandyunderpants
Penn St. isn't ranked because their best win was against the last place Golden Gophers and the refs had to bail them out in over-time. They got murdered by an awful ND team and blown out against OSU. Yeah, I know it was close until they lost 28-6. Why isn't PSU ranked?!?!? I've heard that Ignorance is bliss, that must be why they call it Happy Valley.
Posted: 9:11 AM   by Anonymous
While no one in “wolverine country” is excited about the loss of MM for the week, the reality is that it should not make much of a difference in how UM goes about planning their game. They have other capable receivers (see Arrington’s Wisconsin and Minnesota stats) who can go deep.

Michigan has been dominating their games on both sides of the ball and much of it has started with the lines. They have made a habit of getting ahead in games early and making their opponents play catch up. PSU has not been a come-from-behind squad this year. Penn State has played well in some games against tough opponents, but clearly lacked the playmaking ability of their opponents in those two losses.

It’s a night game, Big 10 showdown, Beaver Stadium and all that, but don’t expect UM to fold like a house of cards – playing at Notre Dame was no picnic either, and we know how that one turned out in week 3. Michigan has a real chip on their collective shoulder this year and it shows: They have methodically mowed down all of the teams they have faced. If the Lions’ defense plays like it did against OSU, this will indeed be a tight game. If it gives up some early scores, though, this one could very well be over by halftime.
Posted: 9:14 AM   by Anonymous
While not having Mario will certainly limit Michigan's offense, PSU's defensive schemes this year shouldn't change much. PSU hasn't played much, if any, man coverage this year, not even with CB Justin King. JoePa doesn't seem to trust his guys enough. I expect PSU to bring a safety into the box more, but Henne has been ridiculously good as of late and should be able to shred an over/under zone coverage scheme even without Mario. PSU will undoubtedly shade their LBs into the box until Michigan proves they can run the ball against a stacked front, so this game will be on Henne's shoulders even more.

On the other side of the ball, PSU's Tony Hunt is exactly the type of RB that UM's run defense has shut down well this year (PJ Hill, Jehuu Caulcrick) so I don't expect Hunt to have much more success. PSU will have to beat Michigan with Morelli's arm.
Posted: 9:19 AM   by Anonymous
If you're a PSU fan, you don't want to see Chad Henne in clutch situations because the Prodigal Son is going to make you feel even worse about missing out on him.
Posted: 9:54 AM   by Anonymous
While I respect PSU and their program, w/ or w/o Mario, PSU won't stop Michigan this year. The team is too hungry and too focused to fall to an inferior team, no matter where its played.
Posted: 10:09 AM   by Jonathan
I was looking forward to Justin King and Manningham go at it. He shut down OSU's Ginn a couple of weeks ago.

This weekend's game is going to be a classic. I can't wait to get there!
Posted: 10:15 AM   by Anonymous
Michigan is the most talented team in the country this year. They have a stedy Qb who can make any pass, 3 very different WRs who each have their own role and the usual great o line with hart....But the difference this year is the defense. Their offense is always top in country, but this year the defense is fast, hungy and swarm to the ball...i.e. the 97 nat champ team - michigan beats penn st by decent margin with or without manningham...this woudl be major upset for penn st to keep this game even close!
Posted: 10:48 AM   by Anonymous
Carr is playing off this loss like its nothing, noting that he has other top play making receivers like Breaston, Arrington, and Tabb. However if you look at the numbers, Mario accounted for about 47% of Michigans total passing offense and has nearly 70% of Michigans passing touchdowns. Thats something to be worried about, and I know he and Henne are sweating this one out. As long as Penn State can limit Hart, and keep Henne in check, I think an upset isn't as far away as most people think. Their opinions should change come 8 pm Saturday night when they see Beaver Stadium decked out in white rocking to zombie nation. We are...
Posted: 7:43 PM   by Anonymous
Antonio Bass has not and will not play this seasondue to a summer injury to answer a pprevious post
Posted: 8:22 PM   by Anonymous
People are missing the fact that Arrington was above Manningham last season and was quite darn good before he got hurt. Personally with the way Arrington has played the past few weeks I doubt we will see a huge difference in the way Michigan plays this game. We just seem to churn out great college recievers time in and time out.
Posted: 8:59 PM   by Anonymous
Mario's good, but....

Michigan will score first, and often. PSU is not a bad team, but it won't matter. They simply don't have the talent or the angry desire to bury the opposition.

Michigan 38 Penn State 17
Posted: 9:31 PM   by Anonymous
Very dangerous situation for Michigan, with or without Manningham, for these reasons:

PSU is a good disciplined football program with alot of pride. Revenge is a factor based on Michigan spoiling PSU's season last year.

And you just know that folks in Happy Valley, are decidedly unhappy about Penn State's general status in Big Ten Football:

2nd tier.

Yes, 2nd tier, and nowhere near the quality and consistency which Michigan (especially) and Ohio State have demonstrated year in and year out.

That's just gotta piss those folks off and make them wish they were still an independent !

Reality sucks in Happy Valley !

Now, back to the danger.....talent does not always emerge victorious and this road game smells like trouble to me.
Posted: 11:04 PM   by Anonymous
You have to be kidding me. Penn State has lost to 2 top 5 teams, and gave Ohio State the biggest scare they had all year regardless of the final score. Anthony Morelli is becoming a leader and has been impressive in his last 2 starts. The lions won a close won on the road last week and I see it having the same effect their win at Northwestern had last year. Don't discount PSU because of their difficult schedule. I am tired of people treating this team like a second tier football program. After we beat michigan this weekend the Big Ten race will be a whole lot more interesting.
Posted: 11:37 PM   by Anonymous
well. make that 3 top 5 teams !
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