Michigan Football: 7 Things Holding the Wolverines Back from a BCS Bid
Will Michigan return to a BCS bowl in 2012?
If they do, they will have certainly earned it.
Next year's path to a BCS bowl game will be much harder than it was this past year, and they will have many more obstacles to overcome.
I'm not saying they won't go to one, but here are 7 things that could prevent them from reaching that goal.
A Lack of Safety Depth
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Yes, Thomas Gordon and Jordan Kovacs provide one of the best safety duos in the Big Ten, but there is simply no proven depth behind these two.
Both Marvin Robinson and Josh Furman have the potential to become very good players, but they need more experience.
Fans had high hopes for both players at one point, and the good news is that they are both still reasonably young, so there is still time.
If even one of them can establish themselves as a quality backup, it would help the Wolverines' defensive backfield tremendously.
A Lack of Experience Along the Defensive Line
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Losing Ryan Van Bergen, Mike Martin and Will Heininger will be devastating for this defensive line.
Only one starter returns, Craig Roh, and you could make the case that he was the weakest of the four last year.
Who will start alongside him on the line?
Will Campbell and Quinton Washington seem to be popular picks, but can they really be counted on?
Is Richard Ash ready to step up? Is Kenny Wilkins even a candidate to start? Is Chris Rock ready to emerge as a young player?
Endless questions surround this defensive line. A few things do seem certain though, and one is that Ondre Pipkins will have an impact, regardless of whether or not he starts.
Another is that both Jibreel Black and Frank Clark look like they could be in for a big year.
Michigan doesn't need all of those players to step up and make an impact—it would help tremendously even if only one or two did.
A Lack of Talented and Experienced Receivers
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Denard needs all the help he can get in the passing game, but unfortunately, he may not be getting a whole lot in 2012.
Junior Hemingway won't be around to bail him out on jump balls anymore, and his absence will be felt.
Can Roy Roundtree be a No. 1 in this offense? I think he proved last year that the answer is no.
Can Jeremy Gallon sustain the stints of success that he had last year?
It would help a lot if one of the freshmen receivers could have an impact in 2012.
However, what Michigan really needs is for one of the less experienced receivers to step up and be a true No. 1.
Whether its Jeremy Jackson or Jerald Robinson who makes that leap doesn't matter, as long as someone can step in as the No. 1.
Questions Among the Offensive Line
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Losing David Molk will hurt this team, both on and off the field. However, Michigan still has plenty of good players returning on the offensive line.
Depth is the real concern. If one or two starters go down, who could possibly step in and replace them adequately?
Even though Chris Bryant sounds like he's ready to be an all-Big Ten lineman, he still has to prove it on the field as he has never played a snap in college.
If Ricky Barnum is asked to, can he make a successful transition to center? Can Rocko Khoury be a quality starter if he wins the job?
Even the young Jack Miller could be an option to start at center without ever having played a snap in college.
These questions need to be answered to solidify quality depth along the line.
A Brutal Neutral Site Game vs. Alabama
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Alabama is the toughest game on an absolutely brutal schedule for Michigan.
Nobody will likely be picking Michigan to win this game, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Because it's the first game of the year, both teams will have early season questions that they hope this game can answer.
For Alabama, there aren't too many questions on offense, except at wide receiver. Both Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks, Alabama's top two receivers, are gone.
Kevin Norwood stepped up immensely in the National Title game, but we'll see if can be a reliable threat in this game. Kenny Bell is another guy to potentially look out for.
Even though Alabama has plenty of weapons to help reload on defense, the replacements will still be young and inexperienced for the most part.
Gone are guys like Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick and Dont'a Hightower. Even though their replacements will likely be great in the long run, we still have to remember Alabama's 2010 season, when the loss of 2009's defensive stars had a bigger impact than expected.
Brutal Road Games Against Notre Dame, Ohio and Nebraska
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Win two of those three road games, and Michigan has to be feeling absolutely great about themselves.
Preferably the two wins come against Notre Dame and Ohio, but the important thing is to come out on top in at least two of those three road games.
None of those will be easy, and all three are very losable.
Some people may think Notre Dame will take a step back in 2012, and that may be true, but regardless, they represent one of the toughest games on the schedule for Michigan.
South Bend is always a tough place to play, and Michigan will need to be 100% focused if they expect to go in there and win.
The good news about that game though is that it is the 4th game of the year, and Michigan will have been tested mightily by then.
A Possible Upset
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Looking at the 2012 schedule, there really aren't many games that have major "upset" potential.
A trip to Minnesota on Nov. 3 could pose problems, as Jerry Kill's Gophers will be much improved, but it is still a game Michigan should obviously win.
It is hard to call the game against Iowa on Senior Day as having "upset potential", but the following week is the Ohio game, so you never know.
However, to me, the game Michigan has to be most careful for is an Oct. 6 trip to Purdue.
It is the Big Ten opener, and Purdue returns literally almost every starter, especially on offense.
The good news is that it is Michigan's bye week the week before, so they'll have plenty of time to prepare.
Regardless, it is still a game Michigan has to be wary of.