A new coach, a ton of new faces on offense, a new offensive scheme, and to top it all off, a new stadium in the making.
Michigan came out of the gate firing on all cylinders against Utah.
The only problem was, it looked like there may have only been a couple of cylinders to fire to begin with.
As fast as they got started, scoring a touchdown after a botched punt return by the Utes, both the Michigan offense and defense spontaneously combusted.
You would think the sky was falling down all around Michigan Stadium following the recent loss to Utah.
It looked as if this season might end up being a far more excruciating one for fans than many had originally thought.
Welcome to Ann Arbor, Coach Rodriguez. Here, meeting expectations simply doesn't cut it, and exceeding them is only okay if you do it ALL the time. These words would surely replace "Those Who Stay Will Be Champions" and adorn the locker room if fans had anything to say about it.
But let's take a real look at what we learned about the Wolverines in their first game of 2008.
Utah is NOT a bad football team by any means (Ranked 22nd-AP and 23rd-Coaches). On top of having a fantastic offense, they had one of the best defenses in the country last year and returned many of their starters. A young, inexperienced, Michigan team was able to come within two points of beating a top 25-ranked team.
As bad as the defense looked in the first half, they looked VERY good in the second half. They forced turnovers, shut down Utah on third down, and in general brought the crowd back into the action. In addition, the special teams play was exceptional throughout (if you're a true Michigan fan, you know that this has been a longtime Christmas wish).
Blocked punts, blocked extra points, fumble recoveries on punts, and 50-yard field goals! You couldn't ask for much more.
The Wolverines showed resiliency. For a young team, it's a crucial element for future success. The fact that this team refused to roll over showed that in addition to early talent, more importantly it has heart.
The Wolverines took one step closer to finding their field general (quarterback). And when choosing between a true walk-on and a transfer from Georgia Tech, no one was truly sure what to expect.
Keep in mind, neither of these players were recruited for the offense they're currently being asked to run.
The only true goal for this season is to make it to a bowl game and to continue the consecutive bowl streak record that Michigan holds. Before the Utah game even started, Michigan was a seven- or eight-win team at best. This means that now they are, at best, a six- or seven-win team. That's still bowl-eligible last time I checked.
In most circles surrounding the team, words like "rebuilding," "learning," and "growing" were the words most commonly heard when the upcoming season was upon us.
Not once have I ever heard Michigan's name as a legitimate contender for the National Championship, or even a Big Ten Championship for that matter.
So as the season continues on, Michigan fans, it is important to temper your expectations for once.
This IS NOT going to be the normal Big Ten Champion contender you are used to seeing each year. This IS NOT a team that is going to receive national praise.
But this may be a team that surprises you by year end, if you have the patience to wait that long.
Oh wait, you're Michigan fans. Is Les Miles available yet?