The Michigan Wolverines will surprise a lot of people this season, including some of there biggest fans. Not many people have high hopes for them and some are already calling for Rich Rod to be fired. I for one will not be surprised though when they end the season at a solid 7-5 or even possibly 8-4. Then maybe, just then, the critics will re-think what they've said about Rich Rod and realize that in fact he is a very good coach.
I'm sure Coach RR is excited about some of the new players they've brought in for this year and that the OOC(out of conference) schedule is a rather easy one. But in the back of his mind he sees that Appalachian State game that had every one wanting Lloyd out of there finally, so expect this team to be prepared by week one and ready to go. He will make sure they don't ever slack off in any of those games, which is the way it should be and not the way Lloyd was doing it.
In years past there were loads of names that came up when talking about Michigan and some of the top talent in college football. Even though the team this year is not necessarily loaded with with all kinds of top athletes, they do have a very solid core and a few top players in the nation. So let's examine some of those players.
The incoming freshman class of 22 players, ranging from a 2 star kicker and db to a 5 star defensive tackle, looks to be one our better classes in a few years. The class is lead by 5-star defensive tackle William Campbell, who is 6'5" and 317 lbs, he is a huge talent and should make an immediate impact on defense.
The class is also led by Tate Forcier who is ranked by rivals as a top 5 dual-threat qb. He brings a knowledge of the offense that Coach RR likes to run and though he doesn't have college experience; he does have high school experience with the offense and that's more than most of our players can say. I look for him to the starter and for it to be HIS job, not a shared one like last year.
Some of the other players I would just like to give a mention because they should be a part of this years success are: Fitzgerald Toussaint, Justin Turner, Quinton Washington, Vladimir Emilien, Taylor Lewan(the next Jake Long), Anthony LaLota, Michael Schofield, Je'Ron Stokes, and Cameron Gordon. They all have a chance at some point this year to fill in and help this young team out.
The only "key roster losses" that anyone has pointed out are: Sam McGuffie, and Threet. Minor will be the starter this year so no worries there and I think Toussaint will be just as good as Sam. Threet will easily replaced by Tate so I mean we really lost nothing, but gained a lot.
Some players to be excited about: Greg Matthews, Brandon Minor, Donovan Warren, Carlos and Stevie Brown(both 3 year letterman), Brandon Graham(won the Bo award).
Greg should lead a talented wide receiver core that is stacked with young talent, Donovan and Stevie both 3 year-letterman should lead a hopefully improved secondary, Graham will anchor a good defensive line, and last but not least Brandon Minor is good enough to be a top 3 runningback in the nation and the team should be improved this year. I look for him to be THE leader of this team.
So even though there's not tons of Mike Harts, Chad Hennes, Desmond Howards, Mario Manninghams, Woodley's, Burgess's, or Jake Longs, there is some very good players. That's reason enough to get me excited about this year, especially knowing almost everyone will be back next year.
This young team will come in ready and excited to prove to the world that they are better than last year. Also that Coach RR is bringing Michigan back to glory(even if it's slowly but surely). There won't be any App St. stories for this team, they will fight for every game and they'll make sure to win the ones they are supposed to.
This will be the first time we get to see anything out of Tate and hopefully he will put excitement and hope back in us all. From the most hardcore Wolverines fan to the ones who just occassionally follow them. Hopefully he will strike some fear in the hearts of the likes of USC and Ohio States and make them realize they will have to put up with him and his team for 3 more years.
I look for this game to be a pretty decent one for the Wolverines and have them winning by a 10-14 point margin if not more. WMU will come in with a decent offense led by Hiller, but there defense won't be anything special. Should be a somewhat high scoring game. Might get some of the new recruits some time so we can see what they can do in this one.
Game two of the Wolverines season will be the first huge test. This could really make or break the way this team is looked at and could either majorly help or hurt their confidence. Notre Dame should be a solid team with there only key losses to me being Grimes-WR, Justin Brown-DE, Pat Kuntz-DE, Maurice Crum-LB, Terrail Lambert-CB, David Bruton-FS.
The notre dame defense will be young just like the Wolverines defense, so I look for this to be an offensive battle, with the slight advantage going to the Wolverines. Last year the wolverines should of had this game and they let it slip and then got killed in the end. Like I said though this year they will not be letting silly mistakes and stuff like that to happen.
This game should be a rough, hard, battle, fought between 2 big rivals. I think it comes down to the last few minutes. Brandon Minor will need to have a big game in this one for the Wolverines to pull it out.
On my paper I have this one as a win and a loss. I'm not sure which it will be, but I think if they lose this one then they will beat Iowa. If they win then the Iowa game is another that's a toss up for me(that's just how my brain works, to make my 7-5 or 8-4 prediction to work).
BLOWOUT! Is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of this game. The lack of talent on the Eastern Michigan team will cause a lot of heartache for the EMU fans hoping for another App St. or Toledo story. Not to mention there new coach Ron English, Michigan's old defensive coordinator, is terrible when it comes to defending the spread offense.
This is possibly the easiest game on the schedule, with only the Delaware State game coming close. They just lack the talent to compete with any big ten team to be honest, not much else to say about this one. Michigan might get another chance to get some of those young guys a lot of playing time to see some of what to expect once the likes of Minor and such are gone.
This game should be won by a 21-28 point margin with ease. If they can win the Notre Dame game in week two, this game will get a lot of people talking wondering where this team is coming from being 3-0.
This game will be the first conference game and the second against a big school that's decent. It should help that this game is at home and that Michigan has more talent. There confidence will also be high coming into this one with a 3-0 record and being headed in the right direction.
It helps that IU lost there key playmaker Kellen Lewis because the head coach kicked him off. He was the leader in Passing and Rushing, which wouldn't be that big a deal, but the also lost there second leading rusher there runningback Thigpen. There leading receiver is also gone and the returning leader only had a little over 300 receiving yards.
Indiana took a big step backwards last year and their only win against a division I opponent was a home game against Northwestern. The Hoosiers never even came close to beating anybody else in the Big Ten. That wouldn't be that big a problem for them, but they also didn't bring anyone worth a second look in and lost there leader, Lewis.
The Wolverines should win this one by a 10-21 margin and if you ask me it should be closer to 21 than 10. IU just lost too much and didn't bring in enough to replace.
A big rivalry that goes way back, between the 2 big ten colleges of the state of Michigan. This may be the first year that Michigan State is the clear favorite before the season starts, ever! I'm sure the Spartan fans are excited for this one, they finally get to be on the favored end.
Finally after going 4-0 and being maybe a bit overconfident the young Wolverines will be taken down a few notches by cross town rival Mich St. I do think it will be a pretty exciting game for a while but in the end the Spartans will pull this one out by 10-14 or so.
Tate and the boys will finally get a taste of a real big ten defense and the only way Michigan keeps this one decent is if Minor can make some big plays. The Wolverines will move to 4-1, which is still a very respectable record.
This game will be another tough one for the Wolverines. They will be coming off the loss from Mich St. and will be hungry to get another win to prove they can do good in the conference. The Iowa Hawkeyes lost some VERY key players in Greene(1,800 yards) and tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul who were the heart of that defense. They will rely heavily on the passing game next year in my opinion with the return of Derrell Johnson-Koulianos(640 yards) who is now a Junior.
Michigan's secondary will have to be on top of it's game for them to get a win. Brandon Minor should have another good game with the Hawkeyes losing those tackles. This should be a close game that comes down to the end and should be a thriller.
I think in the end the Wolverines will edge the Hawkeyes with a fantastic performance from Minor to lead the day. They will move on to 5-1 and heads will turn, but it could be all downhill from there.
This is the first half of my season preview/breakdown, be sure to keep checking in for the second half of the breakdown for more of my analysis and thoughts. Thanks for reading and GO BLUE!