Michigan Football: Predicting the 2011 Season Game by Game
A series of intriguing events has guaranteed that the upcoming Michigan football season will be a memorable one.
First, the Big 10 Conference expanded to 12 teams by adding Big 12 power, Nebraska. Now the league can follow other major conferences by holding a championship game in early December.
Second, the Wolverines completed a three-year nightmare with a 52-14 loss to Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl, thus paving the way for the departure of embattled coach, Rich Rodriguez.
Third, Michigan's hiring of Brady Hoke may have been a surprise to some, but the former Wolverine assistant has already won over the Michigan faithful—and he hasn't even won his first game.
Fourth, the biggest bombshell has been the carnage in Columbus. Gone is head coach Jim Tressel, quarterback Terrelle Pryor and even the 2010 victory over Michigan.
What's worse, the NCAA has taken up residence at the school down south. Next month, the Ohio State brass will face the NCAA's wrath.
Also intriguing is Michigan's first-ever night game at the Big House. Add a national television audience and a resurgent Notre Dame team and it should be quite a night.
Also on the non-conference schedule is Hoke's former team, San Diego State.
Michigan, of course, must travel to East Lansing for a battle with the upstart Spartans. The regular season concludes at home with Nebraska and the already tarnished Ohio State Buckeyes..
Taking all of this into consideration, let's see how the Wolverines do in 2011.
Western Michigan, Sept. 3
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Opponent's 2010 Record: 6-6, 5-3 (MAC)
Last Meeting: 2009, Michigan 31-7
Overall Series: Michigan, 5-0-0
About the Broncos: Western features the outstanding passing duo of quarterback Alex Carder and wide receiver Jordan White. Carder threw for 3,334 yards in 2010 while White caught 94 passes.
Western finished the 2010 by winning its final three games, including a 41-7 win over Bowling Green to close out the season.
Prediction: Michigan 34, Western Michigan 14.
Notre Dame, Sept. 10
Time: 8 p.m.
Opponent's 2010 Record: 8-5 (Independent)
Last Meeting: 2010, Michigan 28-24
Overall Series: Michigan, 22-15-1
About the Irish: Under second-year coach Brian Kelly, expect Notre Dame to compete for a BCS Bowl berth. On offense, The Irish return quarterback Dayne Crist, running back Cierre Wood and wideout Michael Floyd.
Crist missed the second half of 2010 with a knee injury but should win the starting job. Tommy Rees, who filled the QB position admirably down the stretch, will most likely be the backup. Wood and Floyd are potential All-Americans.
Notre Dame finished the 2010 season on a four-game winning streak including impressive wins over Southern Cal and Miami (FL).
Linebacker Manti Te'o anchors the defense.
Prediction: Michigan 24, Notre Dame 23
Eastern Michigan, Sept. 17
Opponent's 2010 Record: 2-10, 2-6 (MAC)
Last Meeting: 2009, Michigan, 45-17
Overall Series: Michigan, 9-0-0
About the Eagles: Like Michigan, Eastern quarterback Alex Gillett was the team's leading ground gainer. As a sophomore, Gillett rushed for 1,633 yards, while passing for another 766. Also like Michigan, the Eagles struggled on defense. Twice last season the Eagles gave up more than 70 points.
They had their home opener spoiled by Northern Illinois, 71-3 and also lost at Ohio State 73-20.
Ron English, who was Lloyd Carr’s defensive coordinator at Michigan in 2006 and ’07, returns for a third season as head coach.
Prediction: Michigan 42, Eastern Michigan 10.
San Diego State, Sept. 24
Opponent's 2010 Record: 9-4, 5-3 (Mountain West)
Last Meeting: 2004, Michigan 24-21
Overall Series: Michigan 1-0-0
About the Aztecs: Despite Brady Hoke moving from the Aztecs to Michigan, San Diego State remains a solid football team.
The Wolverines will face a legitimate pro-style quarterback in Ryan Lindley. The 6’4”, 220-pound senior threw for 3,830 yards last season, including 28 touchdowns.
If that's not enough, running back Ronnie Hillman rushed for 1,532 yards as a freshman. With Michigan's defense still unproven, things could get tense in Ann Arbor.
Prediction: San Diego State 27, Michigan 21
Minnesota, Oct. 1
Opponent's 2010 Record: 3-9, 2-6 (Big 10)
Last Meeting: 2008, Michigan 29-6
Overall Series: Michigan, 70-24-3
About the Gophers: The good news is that Minnesota won its last two games last season. The bad news is that Minnesota lost starting quarterback Adam Weber to graduation, and running back DeLeon Eskridge for personal reasons.
New coach Jerry Kill will have to magically mold an offense if it hopes to win “The Little Brown Jug” for the first time since 2005.
Prediction: Michigan 35, Minnesota 7
At Northwestern, Oct. 8
Time: 7 p.m.
Opponents 2010 Record: 7-6, 3-5 (Big 10)
Last Meeting: 2008, Northwestern 21-14
Overall Series: Michigan, 52-15-2
About the Wildcats: Northwestern has two puzzling questions entering 2011: Can quarterback Dan Persa recover from the season ending Achilles injury suffered late in the season against Iowa? And can the defense recover from allowing 163 points in the three games he missed?
With Persa out, the Wildcats failed to win another game, suffering disappointing losses to Illinois (48-27), Wisconsin (70-23) and Texas Tech (45-38).
Seriously, Northwestern looked a lot like Michigan in those final weeks.
Prediction: Michigan 35, Northwestern 24
At Michigan State, Oct. 15
Opponent's 2010 Record: 11-2, 7-1 (Big 10)
Last Meeting: 2010, Michigan State, 34-17
Overall Series: Michigan, 67-31-5
About the Spartans: Little Brother is loaded. Names like Cousins, Baker, Nichol, Cunningham, Bell and Caper dot the Spartan depth chart. Sounds almost like an NFL squad. But it's the same group which came up empty against Iowa and Alabama.
Even so, this will be defensive coordinator Greg Mattison's first real test against a powerful Big 10 offense. Michigan State will pile up yardage, but can the youthful Wolverine defense make enough big plays to keep Denard Robinson and company in the game.
The Spartans, however, have one area of the team which might be vulnerable.
Defensively, Trenton Robinson is the only returnee among the top five tacklers.
Prediction: Michigan State 28, Michigan 27
Purdue, Oct. 29 (Homecoming)
Opponent's 2010 Record: 4-8, 2-6 (Big 10).
Last Meeting: 2010, Michigan, 27-16
Overall Series: Michigan 42-14-0
About the Boilermakers: Purdue could be headed for a quarterback controversy as Rob Henry, Robert Marve, Caleb TerBush and Sean Robinson all vie for playing time. Henry seems like the logical choice since he's an excellent runner in Purdue's multiple offense.
In last year's Michigan victory, the Wolverines held Purdue to 12 first downs and 256 total yards. The best defensive performance, however, was by Purdue senior defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, who sacked Denard Robinson three times and Tate Forcier once. Kerrigan will be sorely missed this season.
Prediction: Michigan 38, Purdue 20
At Iowa, Nov. 5
Opponent's 2010 Record: 8-5, 4-4 (Big 10)
Last Meeting: 2010, Iowa, 38-28
Overall Series: Michigan 40-12-4
About the Hawkeyes: Despite a disappointing three game losing streak to end the 2010 regular season, the Hawkeyes are confident they'll rebound in 2011. They'll have to do it without the services of their starting quarterback and feature running back from a season ago.
QB Ricky Stanzi exhausted his eligibility and RB Adam Robinson was dismissed from the team earlier this year.
Iowa is confident in the throwing arm of redshirt junior James Vandenberg and the rushing ability of Marcus Coker. Vandenberg has completed just 47 passes over two seasons, but Coker turned in an impressive 219-yard rushing performance against Missouri in last December's Insight Bowl victory.
Prediction: Michigan 20, Iowa 17
At Illinois, Nov. 12
Opponent's 2010 Record: 7-6, 4-4 (Big 10)
Last Meeting: 2010, Michigan, 67-65 (3OT)
Overall Series: Michigan 67-23-2
About the Illini: Illinois will certainly miss running back Mikel Leshoure, but still returns the bulk of the offense which scored often against Michigan. Illinois returns dual threat quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, running back Jason Ford and wide receiver A.J. Jenkins.
Scheelhaase passed for 1,825 yards while rushing for 868 in 2010. Ford, who rushed for 504 yards, will become the feature back. Jenkins, with 56 catches last season, with remain the No. 1 receiver.
Prediction: Illinois 37, Michigan 30
Nebraska, Nov. 19
Opponent's 2010 Record: 10-4, 6-2 (Big 12, final season)
Last Meeting: 2005, Nebraska, 32-28 (Alamo Bowl)
Overall Series: Michigan 3-2-1
About the Cornhuskers: Many Nebraska supporters believe the Cornhuskers will sail through the Big 10 conference with hardly a scratch. Of course, Penn State expected the same result when it joined in 1990 but didn't win its first conference title until 1994.
In fact, the Nittany Lions have a total of only three (2005, 2008).
Nebraska will bring one of the better defenses to the Big 10, but the offense is a work in progress. Dual threat quarterback Taylor Martinez will struggle like Denard Robinson did in 2010 against some conference defenses.
Prediction: Nebraska 21, Michigan 20
Ohio State, Nov. 26
Opponent's 2010 Record: 12-1 (7-1)
Last Meeting: 2010, Ohio State, 37-7
Overall Series: Michigan 57-43-6
About the Buckeyes: Luke Fickell becomes the new head coach for the troubled football program. He replaces Jim Tressel who recently resigned due to a variety of problems with the NCAA.
Fickell inherits a pretty good football team, despite the loss of quarterback Terrelle Pryor and the five-game suspension of four other players. The starting quarterback job should eventually land on freshman Braxton Miller's shoulders, and how he does should determine if the Buckeyes are title contenders or pretenders.
This season will be Michigan's best chance since 2006 to end the streak. Consider it done.
Prediction: Michigan 24, Ohio State 12
Final Record: 8-4, 5-3 (Big 10-Legends)
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