Michigan Wolverines Football 2012: Game by Game Predictions and Season Surprises

Brad ThomasContributor IIIJune 30, 2012

Michigan Wolverines Football 2012: Game by Game Predictions and Season Surprises

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    The general consensus among both national sports writers and college football fans is that Michigan will not be able to repeat last year's 11-2 record. After all, the Wolverines were a major surprise in 2011 and the schedule was quite favorable.

    There is no doubt that the 2012 schedule is much more challenging for the Wolverines and there are many questions that surround the team for the upcoming season.

    Will the defensive line be good enough this year? Will Denard Robinson cut down on interceptions?

    These are a few questions that will be soon be answered for college football fans.

    At the same time, national sports writers and college football fans cannot deny that Michigan is a team that improved throughout the season last year under the leadership of first-year coach Brady Hoke.

    In fact, the Sugar Bowl win over Virginia Tech marked an unbelievable turnaround for a team whose players were embarrassed a year earlier by Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl.

    Even more so, by the end of the year, Michigan began to resemble in some ways the Wolverine teams that fans once remembered.

    They were physical. They played defense. They were coached well and the players responded with tremendous pride.

    There is no doubt that Brady Hoke and staff have brought back the swagger to the Michigan program both on the field and in the recruiting department.

    This takes us back to the question of whether or not the Wolverines can repeat last year's performance in the face of a tougher schedule.

    The following slideshow is a prediction for answering that very question.

September 1: Alabama Crimson Tide at Arlington, Texas

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    What a tremendous challenge for the Wolverines to open the season.

    In fact, playing Alabama is a challenge for anyone. Even though the Tide must replace nine starters on defense, they will still pose a problem for the Michigan offense. In the SEC, Alabama is used to defending the speed that Denard Robinson will bring to the field.

    On the other hand, look for Greg Mattison and the Michigan defense to also pose a problem for the Tide offense, which has a new offensive coordinator.

    This will not be the blowout that college football fans anticipate from a classic Big Ten/SEC grudge match.

    Both of these teams will play a very physical contest, however, the Tide has a roster full of players who are used to playing and winning in spotlight games.

    This alone will give the Tide a close victory in the traditional match.

    Prediction: Alabama 23, Michigan 17

September 8: Air Force Falcons at Ann Arbor

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    The Falcons are not an easy opponent to follow, behind the Crimson Tide. The Wolverines will need to be physically healed and well disciplined to defend the triple-option game.

    Look for this to be a close one by halftime, however, the Wolverines will pull away in the second half to even their record at 1-1.

    Prediction: Michigan 37, Air Force 21

September 15: UMass Minutemen at Ann Arbor

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    Don't worry Michigan fans. Greg Robinson is not in charge of the defense and the Minutemen will not be mounting a comeback to beat the Wolverines in Ann Arbor like they almost did the last time these two played each other.

    Michigan won that game 42-37, however, this is not the same program that UMass once played. Look for the Wolverines to dominate the entire contest.

    Prediction: Michigan 46, UMass 13

September 22: Notre Dame Fighting Irish at South Bend, Indiana

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    The Wolverines have won some close ones in the last three years of this matchup. This one, however, is in South Bend and it is at night.

    The Irish dominated the Wolverines throughout three quarters last year when they suddenly forgot how to play defense. The Michigan defense was still learning at this point last year and the Irish will face a much stiffer squad in this year's game.

    A game like Michigan won last year can have a psychological toll on a team. Do the Irish players believe they can beat Michigan? Look for this one to be much closer with the Irish finally beating the Wolverines.

    Prediction: Notre Dame 24, Michigan 23

October 6: Purdue Boilermakers at West Lafayette, Indiana

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    The Wolverines should enter the Big Ten schedule at 2-2. They will travel to play Purdue after a much needed break in the schedule. The Boilermakers will play tough at home, however, the Wolverines will be motivated to win their first Big Ten game.

    Prediction: Michigan 37, Purdue 17

October 13: Illinois Fighting Illini at Ann Arbor

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    This was the game last year where Michigan started to look like Michigan once again. The defense played an incredible game to defeat the Illini. Look for the Wolverines to do it again at home this time.

    Prediction: Michigan 34, Illinois 14

October 20: Michigan State Spartans at Ann Arbor

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    Michigan State had a very good football team last year and they physically dominated Michigan in East Lansing. The Spartans also managed to rack up six unsportsmanlike conduct penalties against the Wolverines, including two by linebacker William Gholston.

    At the same time, head coach Mark Dantonio turned his head to the play of his team. The game will be played in Ann Arbor this year and the Spartans have a few holes to fill including the loss of a fifth-year quarterback.

    Look for this game to once again be very physical, however, the Wolverines will finally break the Spartans' win streak over them.

    Prediction: Michigan 28, Michigan State 20

October 27: Nebraska Cornhuskers at Lincoln, Nebraska

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    There is not an easier way to put this: The Huskers were thumped by the Wolverines in 2011, which was a surprise to all of college football.

    Nebraska played Michigan at the time they were improving the most and they played them in Ann Arbor. This year, the Wolverines travel to Lincoln to play a night game, which will provide an electric atmosphere.

    Look for the game to be closer this year, however, the Wolverines have too much firepower for the Huskers once again.

    Prediction: Michigan 34, Nebraska 21

November 3: Minnesota Golden Gophers at Minneapolis, Minnesota

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    Not this year, Gophers. The Wolverines will continue to win in the Big Ten in a blowout.

    Prediction: Michigan 41, Minnesota 12

November 10: Northwestern Wildcats at Ann Arbor

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    Northwestern is a well coached team under Pat Fitzgerald, and last year's contest was a great game.

    The game this year in Ann Arbor will not be so close, with the Wolverines earning the victory.

    Prediction: Michigan 37, Northwestern 16

November 24: Iowa Hawkeyes at Ann Arbor

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    Iowa has been a tough opponent for the Wolverines over the last few years. In fact, they handed Michigan one of their two losses last year.

    Look for the Wolverines to defeat the Hawkeyes this year in another tough classic that will be played in Ann Arbor. 

    Prediction: Michigan 28, Iowa 23

November 24: Ohio State Buckeyes at Columbus, Ohio

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    The hype leading up to this game will be incredible, since Urban Meyer is now the Buckeyes coach. He had tremendous success at Florida, winning two national championships.

    Meyer already has a massive amount of pressure on his shoulders. He is still dealing with the Tressel mess, however, the Buckeyes will win more than they did last year under Meyer.

    Even though the game is in Columbus, look for Brady Hoke to win his second game over the Buckeyes and first over Urban Meyer. This series, once again, will return to prominence in college football. Meyer is an excellent coach, however, Ohio State is not Florida, where he won a national championship in his first year.

    Prediction: Michigan 27, Ohio State 23 

December 1: Big Ten Championship vs. Wisconsin at Indianapolis, Indiana

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    Look for the Badgers to return to Indianapolis where they will defend their Big Ten championship.

    Michigan will turn out to be a formidable opponent. The Wolverines will defeat the Badgers in a close game propelling them to the Rose Bowl where they will face...

    Prediction: Michigan 31, Wisconsin 24

January 1: Rose Bowl vs. Oregon Ducks at Pasadena, California

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    The Wolverines will travel to the Rose Bowl where they will meet the Oregon Ducks. Michigan will defeat the Ducks giving the Big Ten a much needed bowl win. 

    Prediction: Michigan 41, Oregon 31

    It is highly possible for the Michigan Wolverines to finish the 2012 season at 12-2.

    Playing the likes of Alabama, Air Force and Notre Dame will benefit the Wolverines and prepare them for their Big Ten opponents in 2012.

    The Michigan defense will be stout in 2012 even though there are questions on the defensive line. This unit has excellent coaching and will be prepared.

    On the other hand, the offense will be one of the best in college football this year if Denard Robinson stays healthy.