As a Michigan fan it hasn't been this exciting heading into a season since 2007. You know, the year of the Appalachian State debacle. However, I fear that some fans think the program will instantly turn around. Those of you who think that are in for a little disappointment.
I've heard people say that Michigan should start the season ranked, they will beat Ohio State, they could win the Big Ten, etc... It is a new chapter for the Wolverines and the team will be better, but pull the reins back a little bit. I'm excited about Brady Hoke, but I'm not willing to say he will work that quickly.
Hoke has done a great job everywhere he's been and I expect the same in Ann Arbor. He is a Michigan man and he brings that hard-nosed, blue-collar attitude back with him.
This year Hoke will bring the offense back to power football while letting Denard Robinson do his thing when necessary. This will be good for both the younger players and Robinson. While the younger players begin to learn the offense they will be playing in the future, Denard will bring back some excitement, while hopefully remaining healthy.
I am not worried about Robinson working more out of the pocket because he showed last year that he can throw the ball effectively. Last season, defenses knew what priority number one was for the Michigan offense—let Denard loose. This season defenses will not have that luxury.
Although Big Blue started 5-0 last season, it was obvious that the defense was a weakness, and it showed when the schedule got tougher. Michigan did make an upgrade in the defensive coordinators seat by bringing in Greg Mattison, but the personnel has not drastically improved.
Any improvement to the defense is much welcomed, but with the offensive game plan not conducive to scoring as many points the defense really needs to step up. I just don't see the improvement being good enough this season.
The Wolverines start the season with five home games and should come out of it at 4-1. The lone loss I see coming is against Notre Dame. Last year Michigan beat Notre Dame, but lets be honest, if it wasn't for an injury to Notre Dame's QB the outcome probably would have been different. Notre Dame should also be a better team this year.
The next two away games are at Northwestern and Michigan State. Michigan should pull out of this at 5-2, but the Northwestern game scares me a little bit. Michigan then comes back to the Big House for what should be a win against Purdue.
Two more away games against Iowa and Illinois could bring them to 8-2. Iowa seems like a mystery most of the time, so Michigan could split these two heading into the final two home games.
The first of the final two home games comes against new Big Ten member Nebraska. Nebraska is my pick to win the conference, so I would be surprised to see Michigan come out with the win.
In the final game of the season Ohio State makes their trip to Ann Arbor. I know a lot of fans, including myself, were very excited to see what happened to Ohio State this winter. Their plane is going down fast and that bodes well for Michigan fans. The problem is that the Buckeyes still have the bulk of their team and a coach who knows the system. Expect Ohio State to get the win, possibly their last in the series for a while, bringing the Wolverines to 8-4.
An 8-4 regular season is better than last season's 7-5, but it seems like a lot of Michigan fans are expecting more than that this season. While I would like more than that, I will not be upset with this turn out. It takes some time to change the offensive philosophy and run it smoothly.
The defense is the biggest question mark heading into the season and it is not going to be significantly better than last season. The defense needs to be rebuilt with good recruiting and instilling a better game plan.
Michigan fans should indeed be excited about the changes made to the program, as I feel the changes made were good ones. But I ask that you be a little bit patient. The Wolverines will be better this season, just not significantly better as far as record is concerned. The last thing we need is people calling for Brady Hoke's head too early, causing potential recruits to second-guess enrolling at Michigan.