On Aug. 31, Michigan opens its season against Appalachian State in Ann Arbor. Yes, that Appalachian State (insert joke here).
Sure, memories from 2007 may linger, but really, these two programs are vastly different than they were seven years ago, when the Mountaineers shocked college football with a 34-32 win at The Big House. Back then, Appalachian State was months away from its third straight FCS title and the great Lloyd Carr era was coming to an end at Michigan.
Today, the Mountaineers, who now belong to the FBS, are in the midst of a changing of the guard as Scott Satterfield enters his second season as head coach. Not anywhere near its former level, Appalachian State went 4-8 in 2013 and doesn't seem to pose an immediate threat to a Big Ten program.
As for the Wolverines, they're still trying to rekindle that spark that capped 2011 with an 11-2 record and Sugar Bowl victory. Since then, they've gone 15-11 (1-2 in bowls) under Brady Hoke, who enters his fourth season with less firepower as stars Taylor Lewan (LT) and Jeremy Gallon (WR) have moved onto the NFL.
Team 135's season opener is, without question, a pivotal game for Hoke and the program. It's no longer David vs. Goliath—it's rebuilding power vs. rebuilding power, plain and simple. Picking against the Wolverines probably wouldn't be a wise bet, though. In all likelihood, the staff would probably immediately resign after dropping another homestand to a perceived lower-tier opponent.
A loss would be unbearable and embarrassing. That's why it can't, and won't, happen. If the Wolverines fail to pummel the Mountaineers, they might as well pack it in for the year. Anything short of a shellacking would be unacceptable.
Prediction: UM 49, ASU 14.
By now, you've picked up on where this is going.
The rest of this slideshow will give a look at the remaining 11 regular-season opponents, as they appear in late May, and (loosely but as logically as possible) predict the outcomes of each meeting. There may even be a player-of-the-game pick or two thrown into the mix.
Note: Early predictions are obviously subject to change. If nothing else, consider them a starting point for conversation. Rosters and even coaching staffs could change before kickoff 2014.