An Irrational Prediction, By an Irrational Fan: 2009 Michigan Wolverines
While you can guess by the title, this is in all likely-hood an overly optimistic prognostication by an anxious fan.
Last year, I convinced myself 5-7 was a worst case scenario, and 9-3 was a best case scenario, and predicted 8 wins for the young Wolverines.
I used Scout.com as one of my major sources of information, and good gosh was I wrong.
Despite all that, this season is welcomed with more hope than the last, and I expect a vast improvement.
I will justify/rationalize my picks to myself, and perhaps to you the reader as well here.
SUMMARY OF THE TEAM
This Michigan offense should not be anywhere near as inept as it was last year.
With a new quarterback that fits the system, a strong group of wide receivers (both new recruits, and returning players - Matthews, Odoms), a stable of talented running backs (Minor, Shaw, and Brown), and the entire offensive line from last year, this could turn some heads and orchestrate a few upsets.
The defense appears to be shallow, and lost a lot from last year, but still returns a few stars, including arguably the best defensive end in the Big Ten in Brandon Graham.
Injuries could devastate them, so let's cross our fingers and hope this new strength training program works well enough to keep the D-line and linebacking crew healthy.
The Wolverines likely have the best punting in the country (and we all saw how Florida State used punting to destroy Wisconsin last year).
They should also field a decent return game.
The special teams really could be a pleasant surprise and push some of the toss-up games in the favor of the Wolverines.
Their schedule is EMBARRASSINGLY weak, and the Big Ten is down (at least that's how I see it), which bodes well for the team.
THE QUESTION MARKS
This season is a lot like last season in that it's really hard to gauge. Who knows how well the offense is going to run? The pieces seem to be in place, but they are entrusting their offense to a true freshman at QB. If he can do an adequate job, he should have a lot of help from the rest of the group.
The defense is going to have its problems, so the offense HAS TO help it out this year by controlling the clock, getting first downs, and sometimes putting up lots and lots of points.
Injuries on defense are unacceptable for this season to be a major success, and they HAVE to figure the safety position out. Michigan beats Ohio State in '07 if a) they had competent safeties who knew how to fill and b) Lloyd Carr plays Mallet over Henne when Henne played with a separated shoulder. They haven't had strong play at the safety position in several years. All I'm asking for now is ADEQUATE play.
Every game on the schedule is a losable game at this point because we don't know what Michigan will be able to field, and every game is a winnable game because again, we don't know what Michigan will be able to field, along with the rest of the Big Ten being extremely flawed.
Western Michigan @ Michigan
I'm not buying any hype behind Western. They do have a solid QB returning, but essentially lost their entire defense last year (which was nothing to speak of) and is even supposed to be bad by MAC standards this year. Their offense should be decent, but they still lost their top two receivers from a season ago, so even it has some holes in their pass-happy system. They could put up some points, especially against such a suspect defense as Michigan's, but I still expect a relative blow out.
Michigan 42, Western Michigan 17
Notre Dame @ Michigan
I've read a bunch of Michigan fans pick this as a win and see it as a real toss-up. I'm not one of those people. While I do believe that Michigan SHOULD have beaten Notre Dame last year in South Bend, the Fighting Irish do have a legitimately good offense, going against a young, relatively inexperienced defense. The Michigan offense will likely not have jelled at this point, and could also struggle. Teams with very good offenses are going to cause the most problems for the Wolves this year (luckily, the Big Ten doesn't have many great offenses) because of how thin and inexperienced the defense is. I expect it to be decently close, but chalk up a victory for the Irish.
Notre Dame 35, Michigan 24
Eastern Michigan @ Michigan
I expect Eastern to throw a freaking ton of different zone blitzes at Michigan, trying to confuse their young quarterback because that's Ron English's style. I think that after two games where Forcier has looked really good, he's going to come down to earth in the first half of this game and could very well have a couple turnovers. At the end of the day, though, Eastern is Eastern. They don't have the athletes or the swagger to beat a team like Michigan.
Michigan 40, Eastern Michigan 14
Indiana @ Michigan
Indiana is going to be painfully bad this year. Even against a young team like Michigan they are going to look bad.
Michigan 45, Indiana 10
Michigan @ Michigan State
This is more of a toss-up game than a lot of outside observers are crediting it. I look at Michigan State and see a very good defense with a very good defensive coach, but have no idea where their offense is going to come from. How are they planning on moving the ball? They have a new quarterback this year (and we don't know who that will be yet) who has played almost ZERO, and they no longer have a great running back to fall back on. The defense SHOULD be legit, and will probably be the best defense the Michigan offense will likely have seen up to this point. This could be a game where special teams pushes Michigan over the edge as the State defense brings the Michigan offense back to earth.
Michigan 17, Michigan State 13
Michigan @ Iowa
Let me preface this analysis by saying I would not be surprised if Iowa won the Big Ten outright this year. They are going to have a SICK defense. Both lines are going to dominate most opponents, and if it wasn't for playing such a tough schedule (Arizona, @OSU, @PSU, @Wiscy, @MSU), I think they could possibly be a dark-horse with national title implications. With all that said, now that Shonn Greene is gone, does anything about the Iowa offense scare anyone? The Line will open holes, but for whom? Does Ricky Stanzi scare anyone? In 13 games last season, he averaged just over 150 passing yards a game. His role was give the ball to Greene, and not make big enough mistakes to lose the game. While I believe Iowa is one of the more complete teams in the Big Ten, I also believe they will lose a conference game they shouldn't (kind of like they did against Michigan State last year) and one of Penn State and Ohio State. Because it's almost impossible to tell which team will do the upsetting, I'll pick the team I would like to see do the upsetting. (Under normal circumstances, I would probably pick Iowa to win this game, but I'm in an especially optimistic mood right now. Plus, there's this girl I know who is a die hard Iowa fan, and she's really ruined them for me. She always thinks they're better than they really are and is always talking smack to me about them. Michigan has LITERALLY won like 75% of the games between the schools, and SHE is the one talking smack.)
Michigan 10, Iowa 7
On a separate note, I expect Iowa to finish with 9 or 10 wins and possibly a BCS bowl appearance. I believe Iowa is probably the Big Ten's best chance at a BCS bowl win because a) their defense will keep them in every game and b) they are more complete and have fewer flaws than either Penn State or Ohio State.
Delaware State @ Michigan
I could see Michigan overlooking Delaware State and not playing very well, but I just can't see them losing at this point, assuming they are playing as well as I've predicted. Michigan runs away with this one.
Michigan 50, Delaware State 6
Penn State @ Michigan
I half expect Penn State to enter this game with a disappointing one or two losses. They just lost so much from last year's team, and I definitely expect their offense to struggle early. I think they will probably lose one, possibly two of Iowa, @Illinois and Minnesota. Michigan will be bounding with confidence coming into this game, exceeding almost everyone's (with the exception of myself of course) expectations. Does anyone else remember last year when Michigan's offensive line man-handled the NittanyLions' Defensive line for the entire first half? While the Lions from Pennsylvania are going to have one of the best, if not THE best linebacking crews in the country, their secondary will likely be weak (and sit in a weak zone the entire game like they did against USC), and the D-Line has a bunch of new replacements too. I expect their offense to be slightly better than average as they have to replace almost their entire offensive line and receiving corps. The Michigan defense might not be as ridiculously over-matched this game as some might have suspected. Expect the passing game to open up the running game as Michigan gets a BIG win. When was the last time Penn State won in Ann Arbor again? 1994 I believe.
Michigan 31, Penn State 28
Michigan @ Illinois
Michigan will enter this game with a ridiculous amount of confidence after the Penn State game. They will be solely in 1st place in the Big Ten, and likely have a top 15, if not top 10 ranking having looked extremely good. Their defense will not have been exposed yet, due to not playing any strong offenses, and they'll only have had two road games on their resume at this point in the season. Expect them to have a rude awakening with their visit to Illinois, who could very well be ranked in the top 20 at this point with quality wins over Missouri and Penn State, and blow-out wins the previous two weeks against Purdue and Indiana. Expect Juice Williams, Arrelious Benn and Daniel Dufrene to expose this weak Wolverine defense in a high scoring affair.
Illinois 44, Michigan 17
Purdue @ Michigan
Watch Michigan to respond from the loss big against arguably the Big Ten's WORST team. Purdue will attempt to put in the same offense Michigan did last year, just with a much lower level of recruiting. There'll be growing pains a'plenty with them, just like Michigan last year. The only difference is the Boilermakers will have to replace almost their entire defense, unlike Michigan last year.
Michigan 60, Purdue 21
Michigan @ Wisconsin
This is NOT Wisconsin's year. They lost a lot from the defense last year, and don't have any good quarterbacks to step in. They do have a good receiving corps (if the QB can get them the ball), and John Clay is a STUD. He will surely do his damage against a relatively weak Michigan front. The exact same thing will be true for Michigan on the opposite side of things. Wisconsin has to replace five of their front seven from last year's defense that was pretty bad to start with. On top of that, Michigan's receiving corps should outmatch Wisconsin's secondary. Camp Randall is an extremely tough place to play, especially if this ends up being a night game. Look for Michigan to steal one in Wiscy's back yard.
Michigan 30, Wisconsin 21
Ohio State @ Michigan
Before anyone responds to this, let me explain one thing to you. Ohio State's offense is going to be mediocre. It lacks the star power of last year, and is going to depend on Terrelle Pryor too much. They lost their two best receivers, and while their running backs are good, they aren't Beanie Wells. On top of all that, the defense also lost its star power from a year ago. For more rationalizations as to why Michigan should be able to compete with Ohio State, remember that the Buckeyes have struggled to contain a GOOD spread option offense (i.e. Florida, 2006 and Illinois, 2007). Watch for Michigan's offense to be able to move the ball on the Buckeyes, and watch the Buckeyes fail to overwhelm an average Michigan defense. Michigan will key on Terrelle Pryor and take away his running lanes, and he'll be forced to try and beat them with his arm and new receivers. Michigan will pull off the HUGE upset at home and will start smelling the roses.
Michigan 35, Ohio State 31
Michigan will do nothing to help the Big Ten's national reputation and will get spanked in the Rose Bowl by someone other than USC that has a good offense and a solid defense (I'm going to guess Cal). Predictory: This will be the first time in years USC does NOT make it to the BCS.
10-3 (7-1 Big Ten)
Stay tuned for a similar "column", but a much more rational take on Michigan's season. I hope this gave you Michigan fans some hope for the upcoming season.
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