Michigan Wolverines 2011 Football Preview
We are 43 days and counting from the Brady Hoke era in Ann Arbor. How do you think Coach Hoke's first year in Ann Arbor will be? Hopefully better than Rich Rod's 3-9 abomination. But I sure am pumped to see my boys in Maize and Blue run from the tunnel and touch the banner on September 3 against Western Michigan, it has been a long off season since the ugly 52-14 defeat in last year's Gator Bowl against Mississippi State.
I don't know if it's just me, but ever since Brady Hoke has come on campus, I have this indescribable feeling of hope. The last three seasons have just been a treacherous nightmare, and I believe that Brady Hoke is the man that is going to rise the Maize and Blue back to prominence.
Not only am I excited for some Michigan football, but the new and improved Big Ten with 12 teams. Nebraska should definitely turn out to be a great add with a lot of tradition and a Big Ten style of football. I have always been jealous of all the other power conferences that got to have a championship game at the end of the year; now us Big Ten fans get to experience that as well.
Well, enough rambling on about how excited I am for the season, let's take a look at Big Blue's schedule and try to predict how Coach Hoke's first season will be in Ann Arbor.
September 3, 2011: Western Michigan
Well, hopefully, this match up turns out like it did in the season opener of 2009, when Tate Forcier made his freshman debut and went 13-20 for 179 yards and two TD's in the 31-7 trouncing of these Broncos of Western Michigan. I can tell you right now, Western Michigan is way over matched in this game; Michigan's offense will obliterate this defense, and since our defense can't be any worse than it was in 2009, I think we'll be fine there, too.
I am going to go ahead and give Michigan a 38-10 win here. I think Denard will have a field day both running and passing on this defense, and I think our defense is going to hold their own.
September 10, 2011: Notre Dame
I think the hype for this Michigan vs. Notre Dame match up is the biggest it has ever been in this storied rivalry. Michigan leads the series 22-15-1. As you all probably know, this is the first ever night game at Michigan Stadium, and our boys will be in a different kind of Maize and Blue, which will be the legacy jerseys. Notre Dame will also be sporting throwback jerseys.
Enough about jerseys, though. I think this will be a tough game for Michigan. Quarterback Dayne Crist returns for the Fighting Irish, who threw for just over 2,000 yards in eight games last season. The status of indefinitely suspended receiver Michael Floyd still remains up in the air, but if he's ready to go September 10, then the Michigan defense will have their hands full, along with receiver Theo Riddick. Linebacker Manti Te'o also returns for the Notre Dame defense, and he had one heck of a season last year with 129 total tackles and one sack.
Michigan will definitely not be sliding by easy on this game, especially with all the hype. In the end, though, I think Denard will once again turn on his late game heroics and lead us to a third straight victory over the Fighting Irish under the lights.
Michigan 31, Notre Dame 27
September 17, 2011: Eastern Michigan
This is always quite an enjoyable game to watch, just because Eastern Michigan is such a hapless team. Michigan Ex-Defensive Coordinator Ron English returns as head coach of lowly Eastern Michigan for his third season, just hoping his Eagles can muster up enough wins to finish in the top half of the MAC, but, like not too many other people, he isn't holding his breath on that one.
In the past three seasons, Eastern Michigan is a laughable 5-31 and have given up 50-plus points in 11 games in that span. The Eagles also gave up 70-plus points twice last season. This team is just awful.
Eastern Michigan better watch out if Michigan loses to Notre Dame, because all of Michigan's frustrations will be taken out on these hopeless Eagles. Either way, win or lose to ND, Michigan is going to absolutely trounce this hopeless squad from Ypsilanti, Michigan. Expect to see Devin Gardner and Freshman Russell Bellomy (if he doesn't redshirt) exchanging snaps by the third quarter.
Michigan 59, Eastern Michigan 7.
September 24, 2011: San Diego State
I remember last time we played these guys, Chad Henne and Mike Hart were freshmen, and we barely won 24-21, and this was when San Diego State wasn't very good at all. Of course, Brady Hoke faces his former team just one year after leaving them, and I think these Aztecs could pose a threat in Ann Arbor on September 24.
The Aztecs run a very similar style of offense in which Lloyd Carr ran at Michigan when he was head coach, a very pro-style offense ran out of the I-formation with a strong armed, smart quarterback. Yes, San Diego State Quarterback Ryan Lindley reminds me of Chad Henne.
The Aztecs are a pretty balanced team with a very good quarterback, and I think they'll give us a run for our money, but in the end, once again, I think there will be too much Denard.
Michigan 27, San Diego State 17
October 1, 2011: Minnesota
Ah, the Little Brown Jug is back and on stake yet again. In 2008, also known as the first year of Rich Rod's destruction, Michigan surprisingly traveled to Minnesota and won 29-6 behind the arm of below average quarterback Nick Sheridan. Yes, things have changed a bit since then, and Minnesota isn't nearly as talented.
The Gophers have lost quarterback Adam Weber and standout receiver Eric Decker and are coming off a 3-9 season, so I'm not thinking the Gophers are going to wreak any fury this season. Marquis Gray replaces Adam Weber at quarterback, and he is a good, dynamic quarterback, but not as good as Weber. The Gophers really have nothing around them offensively except receiver Da'Jon McKnight, and their defense is certainly nothing to write home about, and that's why Michigan will take care of business.
Michigan is going to take the Little Brown Jug home for the 67th time this season.
Michigan 31, Minnesota 3.
October 8, 2011: At Northwestern
Michigan lost its last meeting with Northwestern back in 2008. Of course, that was Rich Rod's first year, and he was trying to implement a system among players that had absolutely no skill set for that particular system.
Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa stepped in last year when quarterback Mike Kafka went down against the Hawkeyes, and he proved he's a versatile QB that can throw the football.
This game will be a prime time match up in which Northwestern will be pumped for, and it is Michigan's first road game of the season, so how will Big Blue step up to the pressure of being away from home for the first time and under the lights?
I just think this is another case of Michigan being better than its opposition. Northwestern has a decent offense and an average defense. Michigan has a stellar offense, and I think we'll be able to capitalize enough to hold the Wildcats off.
Michigan 28, Northwestern 14
October 15, 2011: At Michigan State
"Dear Coach Hoke, please do not allow our little brother to beat us for the fourth season in a row, it would be greatly appreciated. Sincerely, a Michigan fan who is tired of seeing those ugly green Spartans from East Lansing beat us every year."
That is a message from my nine-year-old cousin Cory to Coach Hoke, who is about as big a Michigan fan as I am. The little fella is just so frustrated that those ugly Spartans keep beating us, and frankly, I can't blame him.
This year, we make our biennial trip to East Lansing, where we hope to return to Ann Arbor with the Paul Bunyan Trophy. Michigan State is going to be tough, especially in East Lansing. The Spartans return quarterback Kirk Cousins, wideouts B.J. Cunningham and Keith Nichol and a three headed monster running back core in LeVeon Bell, Edwin Baker and Larry Caper.
Unfortunately, I think we stumble here yet again with Michigan State. Our defense is very young and unproven, and that's what pro potential quarterbacks like Kirk Cousins thrive on. Plus, I think three very talented running backs in Bell, Baker and Caper wear out the Michigan defense. I think it will be close, but Michigan State will pull away at the end. Sorry, little cousin Cory.
Michigan State 31, Michigan 17
October 29, 2011: Purdue (Homecoming)
Michigan returns home after a two game away stretch against the Boilermakers of Purdue from West Lafayette, Indiana. I think this is going to be a game Michigan really takes out some big frustrations from losing their fourth straight to little brother Michigan State.
The Boilermakers have about four quarterbacks competing for the starting job, among them are Robert Marve, transfer from Miami, and Rob Henry. After Marve was injured last year, Rob Henry came in and did a mediocre job.
Purdue really lost their best player to the NFL Draft in defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, who was not only the heart and soul of the defense, but of the entire team. I think this could get ugly because Purdue doesn't have the defense to stop Denard Robinson or any of the talented Michigan wide receivers or running backs. I think the Michigan defense will definitely hold its own against a mediocre Boilermaker offense as well.
Michigan 42, Purdue 13
November 5, 2011: At Iowa
Going to Kinnick Stadium is never easy for any team, and Michigan is absolutely no exception. From the pink locker rooms to the rowdy fanbase, it is just a very hard and uncomfortable place to play.
Michigan hasn't beaten Iowa since 2005 and would love to turn that around on Hawkeye turf on a nice fall day in November. Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi has graduated, both running backs Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher have left, DJK (Derrell Johnson-Koulianos) is gone and run stuffing defensive end Karl Klug has been drafted by the Tennessee Titans. Now is the PERFECT shot to beat the Hawkeyes while they are down, and down they are.
I think Michigan will have a tougher time with the Hawkeyes than most think, because of the fact that they will be playing in Kinnick Stadium, but I do think we prevail.
Michigan 21, Iowa 17
November 12, 2011: At Illinois
Oh, what a game it was last year in Ann Arbor. Three overtimes of shear torture for all Michigan fans, wanting one stop to become bowl eligible, and we finally did it. I absolutely went insane after winning this game, even though I wasn't too thrilled about giving up 65 points. I hope to God that this game isn't that crazy this year, because that just drives me insane.
Good thing is Illinois isn't looking like they are going to be any better in 2011. Of course, sophomore quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is going to be a year better, but the Illini offense took a pretty big blow by losing running back Mikel LeShoure. Leading receiver A.J. Jenkins does return, though, so that will definitely be an asset to Scheelhaase.
This game will not be a repeat of 2010, but I do think just like last year, Denard Robinson will expose the Illini secondary for what it is, and Roy Roundtree will have another huge game.
Michigan 35, Illinois 17.
November 19, 2011: Nebraska
Welcome to the Big Ten, Nebraska! I just want to personally thank the University of Nebraska for joining the Big Ten Conference and giving the conference some excitement and a championship game.
With all the lovey dovey stuff put aside, it's time to do some Cornhusker crushin'. Dynamic quarterback Taylor Martinez returns for the Huskers, and Rex Burkhead takes over the half back spot for Roy Helu Jr. I just think Michigan struggles in this game against a very good defense and a proven offense.
This will be one of the toughest, if not THE toughest, defense Denard Robinson has seen in his collegiate career, and I don't think he'll respond immediately to it. Michigan will struggle in this game, and the Huskers will take advantage.
Nebraska 28, Michigan 10
November 26, 2011: Ohio State
Haven't we just loved the turmoil Ohio State has been in? First, all this stuff comes out about Buckeye players selling memorabilia, next thing I know Jim Tressel resigns and Terrelle Pryor forgoes his senior season and enters the supplemental NFL Draft. A lot has happened to that school down south, and I can't say I'm sad to see it, because we are stealing all of their recruits.
So what are the Buckeyes left with? Well, I'm assuming freshman Braxton Miller from Huber Heights, Ohio will get the nod at quarterback over Joe Bauserman, just because Bauserman is a slow, inefficient passer, while Miller is extremely dynamic and is a good fit for the Buckeye offense. Let's see how Luke Fickell does his first season as Ohio State's head coach.
I am two years out of high school, and the last time we beat Ohio State, I was in the seventh grade. That just tells me we are overdue to lay the wood on our bitter rivals. This year, we will finally beat Ohio State. For the first time in a long time, Ohio State is rebuilding instead of reloading, and we will take what we can get.
It will be a tough one like it always is against those bitter Buckeyes, but we will prevail, and after seven years, take a win on our home turf.
Michigan 24, Ohio State 20
Conclusion: Brady Hoke's First Year in Ann Arbor Is a Success
I have Michigan finishing a surprising 10-2 (6-2). Like I said, coach Brady Hoke has made his presence felt ever since he arrived on campus in Ann Arbor, and I can just feel he is the right guy to turn our program around.
At 10-2, I can imagine we would make it to the Big Ten Championship Game facing God knows who, and with even a loss, I would still hope for a BCS berth with a 10-3 record.
The season is on its way, and I am very excited. I cannot wait to see how much our defense has improved since Greg Mattison has taken over, and I cannot wait to see what the Big Ten looks like with 12 teams.
For now, though, GO BLUE!!