Devin Gardner and the Michigan Wolverines aren't guaranteed a shot at a B1G title this fall.
Don't make Big Ten Championship Game party plans just yet.
Although the Michigan Wolverines raked in one of the shiniest and most talented recruiting classes of 2013—the No. 5 class, according to 247Sports' composite rankings—an appearance in the B1G title bout isn't guaranteed.
Not by a long shot.
There's a team in Columbus, Ohio that's the obvious favorite. Michigan is lumped in with the rest of league, chasing the Ohio State Buckeyes—which had the No. 2 class, according to 247Sports—for supremacy and glory in Indy.
Will the Michigan Wolverines make it to the B1G title game?
Coach Brady Hoke has the Wolverines in great position, but it'll take another year or two before they can truly plan for championships.
Wolverines fans will likely be satisfied with Michigan's performance this fall. Winning nine or 10 games—even more, if chips fall into place—seems like a realistic goal. A favorable schedule makes for high hopes, though.
The Wolverines could pull a Notre Dame in 2013, or they could fall short—in college football, fates are rarely written in stone.
Areas to Improve and Further Develop (So Hold Your Horses, Wolverines Fanatics)
Devin Gardner needs a full year as Michigan's starting quarterback to get a full head of steam. He showed immense potential and promise in 2012, posting a 3-1 regular-season record as the No. 1, but he needs more experience, maturity and development in big-time duels.
By 2014 rolls around, he could be a legitimate Heisman contender—a solid Heisman finalist, not just a local and regional favorite.
Influx of RB Talent
Now that offensive coordinator Al Borges has his hands firmly wrapped around a bundle of thoroughbred running backs, the Wolverines can get back to bulldozing down the throats of the opposition.
Do the Wolverines have the ultimate B1G backfield?
Freshman Derrick Green has the skill set to start immediately. The 6'0", 220-pound Hermitage High senior should make an impact early in the year. However, he's young, and youngsters often experience growing pains.
Give him time, and he'll undoubtedly be the keystone.
Along with Thomas Rawls, Deveon Smith, Wyatt Shallman and possibly Fitzgerald Toussaint, Michigan has constructed a backfield to be reckoned with.
Back to Bo Style. That sounds great, doesn't it?
But, again, that doesn't guarantee success—but it certainly won't hinder it.
Young but Talented WR Corps
Michigan has to get its ducks in a row as far as receivers are concerned. The additions of Jaron Dukes, Da'Mario Jones and Csont'e York bode well for the long-ball threat in Ann Arbor.
However, Gardner needs time—not only in practice— to cook up a little chemistry with the incoming talent.
Jeremy Gallon is there, obviously, so the youngsters could get a crash course in Receiving 101 from one of the Big Ten's best wideouts.
You can see Michigan's class of recruits here.
Hoke's Developing Magic but Still Needs Time
Coach Brady Hoke is as pure of a "Michigan Man" that a Wolverines fan could ask for. However, his 8-5 record in 2012 wasn't expected after an 11-2 season in 2011.
Sure, the Wolverines lost key position guys on defense (e.g., Mike Martin) and came out on the wrong end of the lucky stick a few times, but there is no reason why the Wolverines shouldn't have won 10 games this past fall.
This fall, though, presents a grand opportunity to gauge Hoke's progress. He has his players, so now it's time to prove what he can do.
Defense, Defense, Defense
Michigan's defense rose a few notches in the big picture, but the team is rebuilding on that side of the ball. Well, "rebuilding" may not the best word, but Michigan is definitely reloading with great recruits like defensive back Jourdan Lewis and defensive tackles Henry Poggi and Maurice Hurst.
With that being said, plenty of new faces could see the field—or at least be granted an audition during live action—as starters or solid No. 2 options.
Michigan's defensive hopes for the future are largely dependent on this class, which is loaded with potential future stars who could flourish in defensive coordinator Greg Mattison's schemes.
Mattison likes the four-man front. That's what he's known for. He told Rivals.com (story published Feb. 7) that pressure is the key. He should get what he asked for—Michigan has options and plenty of them.
We always want to be a pressure team, but we want to pressure more when we want to, not because we have to. These last two years, we pressured a lot of times because we had to. I want to get to the point where you can make it look like you're pressuring and then rush four guys.
To do that, you've got to be able to play zone, and you've got to play some straight man. You need secondary guys to do that. If you play a lot of zone coverage, you need bigger corners, because they're going to throw the ball up, and the receivers we're going against have great size.
We didn't inherit that. That's fine. We've addressed it, and we're really excited about the length of the kids we've got coming in now.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81