Michigan Football: Way Too Early Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions for 2013
It really isn't fair to evaluate a college football coach until he's working with his own players.
Before fans hold Brady Hoke to his promise of a Big Ten title, patience should be in order, at least for another year.
A quick look at the projected starting lineup for 2013 shows nearly 11 of former coach Rich Rodriguez's players sprinkled throughout.
Recent Hoke recruits, albeit good ones, will man several key positions, leaving legitimate doubts about Michigan's expectations.
Freshmen may start in the offensive backfield, along the offensive line and throughout the defensive unit.
The play of these youngsters will determine if the Wolverines improve enough from an 8-5 campaign in 2012 to be Big Ten title contenders.
Let's explore how this fall's team will handle the upcoming schedule, game-by-game:
August 31: Central Michigan
Zurlon Tipton (34)
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Michigan's opener in 2013 should be less demanding than 2012.
Instead of opening the season against defending national champion Alabama, Michigan will be hosting the MAC's Central Michigan.
While the Chippewas (7-6, 4-4) upset Iowa early in the season and defeated Western Kentucky in the Little Caesars Bowl, in between, they could only manage a .500 record in the conference.
What's worse, they lose quarterback Ryan Ratcliff, who passed for 3,158 yards and 23 touchdowns. Returning, however, is running back Zurlon Tipton, who rushed for 1,492 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Michigan will unveil its new pro-style physical offense against a team that finished 96th in scoring defense (32.4). The two teams have met three times, with Michigan leading the series 3-0.
Michigan 42, Central Michigan 7
September 7: Notre Dame
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Playing at home under the lights will give Michigan a great opportunity to avenge last season's bitter 13-6 defeat in South Bend. The Wolverines nearly pulled out a win, despite committing six turnovers—five in the first half.
Michigan's defense played, perhaps, its best football of the season, allowing just 239 total yards and 14 first downs.
The victory helped catapult the Irish to an undefeated season and a date with Alabama in the BCS title game.
As it did in the season opener against Michigan, the Crimson Tide destroyed Notre Dame, 42-14, bringing the Irish back to earth.
Playing on the road and without Manti Te'o should swing the pendulum toward the Wolverines. Quarterback Devin Gardner's throwing arm will be able to stretch the Irish defense, something that wasn't done a year ago.
Michigan 23, Notre Dame 14
September 14: Akron
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This will be Michigan's first-ever meeting with the Akron Zips, who have suffered through three straight 1-11 seasons.
Former Auburn coach Terry Bowden was brought in to right the ship of the Mid-American Conference team.
Akron has been trying to elevate its schedule of late. In 2011, the Zips lost to Ohio State 42-0, and last year, they dropped a 47-26 decision to Tennessee. On the schedule in 2014 is Pittsburgh and Penn State before Akron faces Notre Dame in 2015.
Michigan's reserves should get plenty of playing in this one.
Michigan 45, Akron 3
September 21: at Connecticut
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The Wolverines travel to Connecticut's Rentschler Field (38,000) for the second half of a home-and-home series.
Michigan won the first game 30-10 as part of Michigan Stadium's re-dedication back in 2010.
With Connecticut's close proximity to Michigan's large alumni base in the New York City area, tickets may be a premium.
The Huskies (5-7, 2-5) suffered through a disappointing 2012, failing to become bowl-eligible for the second consecutive year.
Michigan 37, Connecticut 9
October 5: Minnesota (Homecoming)
Little Brown Jug
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Unfortunately for the Minnesota Gophers, the battle for the Little Brown Jug has been rather one-sided.
Michigan has won 21 of the last 22 games and has a commanding 72-24-3 lead in the overall series.
Nothing about the current Gophers suggest they're going to turn the tables any time soon. Minnesota lost seven of its last nine games to conclude the 2012 season 7-9 and 2-6 in the Legends Division.
Michigan 28, Minnesota 13
October 12: at Penn State
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The Wolverines travel to Happy Valley for the first time since the Jerry Sandusky scandal erupted. The Nittany Lions will soon feel the sting of the sanctions handed out by the NCAA.
Penn State loses 40 scholarships over four seasons, while also being banned from postseason play.
Despite the turmoil, Penn State finished the 2012 season 8-4, including wins over Northwestern and Wisconsin.
But quarterback Matt McGloin graduates, leaving the Lions with no experienced signal-callers.
Michigan 24, Penn State 14
October 19: Indiana
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Indiana (4-8, 2-6) turned a few heads last season by battling both Michigan State and Ohio State down to the wire before losing. The Hoosiers, however, defeated Illinois and Iowa back-to-back.
But defensively, Indiana was a nightmare, allowing 163 points in losses to Wisconsin, Penn State and Purdue to finish the season.
Quarterback Cameron Coffman is poised to have another good season this fall. He threw for 2,734 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2012.
Michigan, which holds a 52-9 lead in the overall series, has a current 17-game winning streak.
Michigan 31, Indiana 21
November 2: at Michigan State
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Brady Hoke and the Wolverines finally broke the "little brother" jinx with a last-gasp 12-10 win over the Spartans last October.
It certainly wasn't easy since Michigan State had built up a physical superiority over the last few years.
But Michigan State lost defensive end Will Gholston and Le'Veon Bell, in addition to its advantage on the recruiting trail.
Since Hoke arrived, he's out-recruited Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio in Michigan and around the country.
Look for Michigan's recruiting binge to begin showing up on the scoreboard.
Michigan 17, Michigan State 13
November 9: Nebraska
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Both Denard Robinson and Russell Bellomy would like to forget the Wolverines' first trip to Lincoln since 1911.
Robinson injured his throwing arm in the first half of Michigan's 23-9 loss to Nebraska last October. Bellomy replaced Robinson and was truly forgettable. He completed just three of 16 passes for 38 yards, three interceptions and two sacks.
Nebraska went on to win the Legends Division title before losing the Big Ten title game to Wisconsin, 70-31.
The Cornhuskers were obviously exposed, thus leaving several question marks for the upcoming season. Nebraska loses talented running back Rex Burkhead, and the famed Blackshirts defense requires a makeover.
Michigan goes into this one as one-touchdown favorites, but this is the end of the line for the undefeated Wolverines.
Nebraska 35, Michigan 34
November 16: at Northwestern
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As usual, Northwestern gave Michigan all it could handle before finally dropping a 38-31 decision in overtime.
Devin Gardner looked like Michigan's quarterback of the future by throwing for 286 yards and rushing for another 47.
Defensively, Michigan struggled. Running back Venric Mark rushed for 104 yards, quarterback Kain Colter added 82, and super-sub Trevor Siemian came off the bench to toss a pair of touchdown passes.
Mark, Colter and Sieman all return in 2013. This time, the luck is on the side of the Wildcats.
Northwestern 31, Michigan 28
November 23: at Iowa
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Michigan ended a three-game losing streak to Iowa last November, crushing the Hawkeyes 42-17 at the Big House.
The lopsided score was a microcosm of Iowa's surprisingly poor season.
For the first time since 2000, the 4-8 Hawkeyes finished below .500.
Iowa faces several challenges again this fall, especially at quarterback since James Vandenberg graduated.
Michigan 23, Iowa 7
November 30: Ohio State
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Despite the 40-34 Wolverine win in 2011, the Buckeyes look to continue their mastery over the Wolverines.
With Urban Meyer now on solid footing, everything seems to be pointing Ohio's way.
But Devin Gardner had an entire season to erase the memories of Michigan's subpar performance in Columbus. And Michigan has become much more proficient along both lines of scrimmage. Michigan's running game, led by freshmen Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith, regularly punch holes in the Buckeye's defensive front.
This time, it's Braxton Miller's turn to suffer the turnover bug.
Michigan 27, Ohio State 23
P.S. Despite Michigan's 6-2 conference record, the Wolverines are still Legends Division champions. They were scheduled to meet Ohio State, winners of the Leaders Division, in the Big Ten championship game.