Michigan Football: 5 Things You Need to Know Heading into Opener

James Shim@shimmersiamCorrespondent IAugust 21, 2012

Michigan Football: 5 Things You Need to Know Heading into Opener

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    Coming off a bowl victory last season, the Michigan Wolverines are looking forward to another successful season in Ann Arbor. 

    Second-year head coach Brady Hoke returns 14 starters from an 11-win team, as it looks to prove last year was no fluke due to an "easy" schedule. 

    According to AnnArbor.com, a poll done by daily beat writers has Michigan winning the Big Ten, as it enters the season ranked No. 8 in the AP Preseason Top 25 Poll.

    With the college football season right around the corner, here are five things you'll need to know as the Wolverines head into their opener.  

1. Secondary Should Be Great

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    Under Brady Hoke's first season last year, the Wolverines were able to limit opponents to 17 points a game, which was good enough to rank them eighth in the nation. 

    As they return eight starters on that side of the ball, they look to continue their success from last year and to continue to be one of the top defensive teams in the nation. 

    One area where the defense looks strong is in the secondary. The Wolverines return both starters at cornerback in J.T. Floyd and sophomore Blake Countess. Both starting safeties in Thomas Gordon and Jordan Kovacs also return for another campaign in 2012. 

    With experienced players coming back, their leadership and experience will be vital for another good year on defense. 

2. Fitzgerald Toussaint's Status Uncertain

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    One of the top returning running backs in the Big Ten, Fitzgerald Toussaint's status for the opener against Alabama is still unclear. 

    Toussaint was suspended after a drunken-driving arrest in July, and was cleared to practice early last week. His court date is scheduled for August 28, just four days before the season opener against the defending champions. 

    According to Heritage.com, Hoke has not yet decided whether Toussaint would play. He is quoted as saying: "Believe me, they've paid a heavy price and will continue to pay a heavy price for actions unbecoming of a Michigan football player."

    A 1,000-yard rusher last season, Toussaints availability in the opener really helps the Wolverines' chances at an upset over No. 2 ranked Alabama. 

3. Denard Robinson Embraces Leadership Role

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    Heisman Trophy candidate Denard Robinson decided to return for his senior year at Michigan. 

    As he  looks to close out his final year with success, word around training camp is that Robinsons's maturity level is high, and he has really embraced a role as a leader. 

    According to Fox Sports Detroit, head coach Brady Hoke praised Robinson, saying that "Denard stepped up as a leader since the spring" and he is showing more "confidence this year." 

    With playmaking abilities through the air and on his feet, Robinson will be a key piece to the Wolverines' offensive success. 

4. Expanded Use of Deuce Formation

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    Last season, the Wolverines displayed an offensive formation known as the "deuce formation." This formation implemented two quarterbacks, Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner, at the same time. 

    This offense featured Gardner at quarterback and starting quarterback Denard Robinson either in the backfield or out at receiver. With this formation, the Wolverines were able to average more than eight yards a play. 

    On the team's media day, Gardner told reporters that they will expand on the successful formation from last year. According to AnnArbor.com, "They say we’re going to expand on that as well," Gardner said Sunday at the team's media day. "It’s just going to give the defense a lot of things to think about."

    In the same report, offensive coordinator Al Borges said he hasn't yet "decided how he'll employ the formation this year," but it is sure to cause headaches for opposing defensive coordinators. 

5. Michigan and Alabama Have Never Met in Regular Season

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    September 1 will mark the first time the Wolverines and Crimson Tide meet in the regular season, as they have only met in bowl games in the past. 

    However, Michigan does have a 2-1 edge over Alabama in their previous matchups. 

    Michigan defeated Alabama by a 28-24 score in their initial meeting, the 1988 Hall of Fame Bowl. The Crimson Tide got the better of the Wolverines in the second meeting in Tampa, winning a close 17-14 game in the 1997 Outback Bowl.

    In the most recent matchup between the two schools, the eighth-ranked Wolverines edged the fifth-ranked Crimson Tide, 35-34, to claim the 2000 Orange Bowl title. That is when a guy by the name of Tom Brady completed 34-of-46 passes for 369 yards and four touchdowns in the winning effort. 

    With two schools with rich traditions in winning, what better way to start the college football season with a Top-10 matchup that will be played at Cowboys Stadium?