How the Michigan football team will do this year is anyone’s guess.
After an abysmal 3-9 season in 2008, the Wolverines started hot in 2009 going 5-2 before hitting the bulk of the Big Ten season and sputtering to a 5-7 finish.
Two years under Rich Rodriguez and the results have been less than stellar.
An 8-16 record, no bowl berths, one rivalry win and an awful lot of questions. To say the pressure’s on Rodriguez and the Wolverines in 2010 is an understatement.
But the Wolverines’ may be able to turn things around this year. Obviously it’s a bit early to tell how things will go. After all, Michigan hasn’t figured out its depth chart or had a practice yet.
However, looking ahead at this year’s schedule, Michigan will be able to pull off at least an eight-win season.
The Wolverines open the season at home against Connecticut. The Huskies might present a little bit of a challenge as they have improved dramatically since joining the Big East in 2004. Since then, they’ve earned three bowl wins and shared a Big East title. Michigan might have its hands full, but will open the season with a win.
Week two sends the Wolverines to South Bend to face Notre Dame, a program now in the hands of Brian Kelly.
Last year’s matchup featured a great finish when Tate Forcier found Greg Mathews for a touchdown with 11 seconds left to give Michigan a 38-34 win.
The departures of Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate are definitely going to hurt the Fighting Irish, but Kelly has been a winner everywhere he’s gone and he’ll soon turn Notre Dame into a force to be reckoned with. Michigan gets the win in South Bend because of experience and Kelly only having had one game to see what his team’s made of; don’t expect that to last for long.
Michigan gets wins three and four in the next two weeks with home games against Bowling Green and Massachusetts. The Wolverines have seemed to overcome their woes against MAC and FCS schools (see Toledo and Appalachian State) and should cruise to comfortable victories to improve to 4-0 headed into the Big Ten season.
The Maize and Blue improve to 5-0 with a win over Indiana to open the Big Ten season.
Everyone in the conference beats Indiana, including Michigan, who have has 16 straight wins over the Hoosiers.
The Oct. 9 matchup with in-state rival Michigan State is going to give Michigan some problems. The Spartans return Kirk Cousins under center as well as two veteran wide receivers. On defense, Greg Jones is sure to wreak havoc against whoever the Wolverines line up at quarterback. MSU is always an interesting case because of its ability to play well and then play down to competition at other times. But MSU head coach Mark Dantonio has fully embraced the rivalry and his players will be amped up for it.
Expect a close matchup, but the Green and White earn their third straight win over the Wolverines due to more experience on both sides of the ball.
Iowa hands Michigan its second straight loss the next week, even though the game is in Ann Arbor. Quarterback Ricky Stanzi led the Hawkeyes to an Orange Bowl win last season and Kirk Frentz’s teams always present a tough challenge for any team they play. Like last year’s game, it’ll be close, but the Hawkeyes get the win, putting Michigan at 5-2.
The Wolverines head to Penn State the next week, looking to break a two-game losing streak. They earn their sixth win and become bowl eligible as they catch the Nittany Lions in a slight down year without Daryll Clark, who shredded the Wolverines in 2008 and 2009.
Rich Rodriguez’s first Michigan bowl berth is followed up with wins against Illinois at home and Purdue in West Lafayette to the move the Wolverines to 8-2.
Ron Zook hasn’t really been able to turn things around at Illinois and the Fighting Illini are traditionally a fairly easy opponent for the Maize and Blue. The Boilermakers pulled off some impressive wins last season, including wins over Ohio State and Michigan in their first without Joe Tiller. They’ll improve this season, but Michigan gets the upper hand in this one.
Michigan finishes the season with a bowl berth and an 8-4 record after losses to Wisconsin and Ohio State in the season’s last two weeks.
The Badgers seem to be one of the most underachieving teams in the Big Ten each season, but they’ll provide a tough challenge for the Wolverines. As for the Buckeyes, two words: Terrelle Pryor. The junior quarterback finally showed the country something special in the Buckeyes Rose Bowl win and will continue to have his way with the Wolverines, although I think they’ll be improved enough to make this one a close game.
So there you have it, an eight-win season and a bowl berth for the Maize and Blue.
Who knows how the season will unfold, but Michigan should definitely improve in 2010.