Coach Hoke's 4 Biggest Challenges for Michigan in 2013
The strengths of this 2013 Michigan team have been well-documented, from having a veteran at quarterback to possessing what should be a stifling defense.
On the flip side, what are some of the biggest challenges this team will face?
Here's a look at four potential road blocks that could stand in front of Michigan's goals this season, both on and off the field.
Nebraska's Incredibly Easy Conference Schedule
I realize that Michigan has absolutely no control over this, but I think this is far too important not to mention.
Nebraska appears to be, without a doubt, Michigan's biggest challenger for the Legends Division crown; unfortunately, the Huskers' conference slate is incredibly easy.
Their toughest game is at Michigan, but other than that they will likely be favored in every game. Their next toughest game appears to be either Northwestern or Michigan State at home, or going on the road to face Penn State.
The Huskers dodge OSU and Wisconsin this year, helping to lighten the load immensely.
With the schedule as easy it is, I'd be very surprised if Nebraska loses more than two conference games. That just means the game at Michigan will be all the more important.
I'm not blaming Nebraska for its schedule, but instead the schedule makers for creating such lopsided conference slates.
A Young and Inexperienced Offensive Line
This right here is probably the biggest weakness on this entire Michigan team. Way too many question marks and concerns surround this unit right now; with that being said, there's still no doubt that it could wind up being a solid unit if the players gel.
Having two seniors at the bookends is absolutely huge for this line, as both Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield provide veteran experience and leadership.
The interior of this line is where the questions lie.
Kyle Kalis has all the potential in the world, but is still only a redshirt freshman that has never played a snap in a college game.
Ben Braden seems to be bursting with potential as well, but he too has never played a down.
At center, Jack Miller seems to be the front-runner, but many question whether or not he'll be up to the task.
If the interior line come together quickly, this could be a very solid group. Honestly, how fast this unit progresses could make or break Michigan's season.
A Brutal November Slate
Michigan's schedule throughout the months of September and October is actually very easy, but then November comes calling with a brutal slate.
This is how it looks in order: at Michigan State, Nebraska, at Northwestern, at Iowa and Ohio. There is not an easy game among that group, as all five will be incredibly tough to win.
Yes, that includes the trip to Iowa, as it is always extremely difficult to go into Kinnick Stadium and win.
Even though that stretch will be very tough to navigate, it should also be embraced as an exciting challenge.
November is the month of champions in college football, and there would be no better way for Michigan to prove itself than by running this gauntlet.
Potentially Having to Beat OSU Twice
First of all, I think it's safe to say OSU will be in the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 7. The competition it will face from the challengers in its division is so absurdly minimal, that it would take a complete team implosion for them not to make it.
When it comes to the Legends Division, there's no doubt that Nebraska and Michigan are the front-runners. Should Nebraska be considered the favorite with their soft schedule? Possibly.
Even if Michigan beats Nebraska on Nov. 9, I wouldn't be surprised if it still took a win over OSU in the season finale just for Michigan to make the Big Ten championship.
Having to beat the Buckeyes for a second straight week to win the Big Ten title game would definitely be a daunting task. Honestly, it's a shame if it plays out that way.
Nothing like that should happen to this sacred matchup, so thank goodness it can never happen again after this year.
Other than its offensive line, this Michigan team doesn't really have any glaring weaknesses on the field.
Still, there are plenty of things out of Michigan's control that won't be working in its favor.
If this team winds up losing the division by a game to Nebraska, you sure as heck won't hear these coaches or players making excuses, though; they'll take all the blame themselves.
As long as this team stays focused and takes care of business each and every week in conference play, then things will work out just fine for them.