Coming off an 11-2 season, the outlook is bright for Denard Robinson and the Michigan Wolverines this year. They come into the season as the No. 8 team in the AP Poll—the highest Big Ten team in the top 25—ahead of Wisconsin, Michigan State, Nebraska and Ohio State.
The Wolverines, favorites in the Big Ten, still have some obstacles standing between them and a possible conference title. Here are the biggest ones that Michigan will encounter in the 2012 season.
Offensive Line Depth
While the line itself is capable of protecting Robinson this year, the lack of depth at the position is definitely a reason for concern. Chris Bryant, a reserve guard, fractured his tibia last week and will be out for the season.
Though everyone is healthy at this point, and it isn't an issue just yet, an injury or two could derail the Wolverines year. It's something Michigan fans should keep an eye on as the season progresses and the unavoidable flurry of injuries pile up.
Pivotal October Matchups
The two main contenders for the Legends Division along with Michigan are Michigan State and Nebraska. The Wolverines will face them on back-to-back weekends in late October in what will likely decide who goes on to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game in December.
The Spartans have beaten Michigan four straight times, including a 28-14 win in East Lansing last season. They face off in Ann Arbor on October 20 before the Wolverines head to Lincoln to take on Nebraska on October 27.
These two difficult matchups can make or break Michigan's season, and it all goes down in an eight-day stretch in October.
Everyone knows that Denard Robinson is the most explosive dual-threat quarterback in the country. But if the Wolverines want to contend for a title, his passing skills have to improve. He took a step back last year, completing just 55 percent of his passes and throwing 15 interceptions.
The departure of the team's leading receiver and big-play threat Junior Hemingway will be a significant loss, and the combination of Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon will have to step up. The progression in Robinson's passing skills may be the biggest key to a successful season for Michigan.