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Are the Expectations in Ann Arbor Changing Too Quickly?

Charles WelchCorrespondent ISeptember 23, 2009

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 19:  Head coach Rich Rodriguez of the Michigan Wolverines talks with quarterback Tate Forcier #5 during the game with the Eastern Michigan Eagles at Michigan Stadium on September 19, 2009 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

It's three weeks into the season, and already we are talking about Michigan being a Big Ten title competitor. Is it too soon to start talking about winning a conference championship for a team that went 3-9 the year before?

Michigan so far has a resume that has some question marks, as well as impressive plays in each game that signify major improvement.

Looking at each game individually we see that Michigan beat a Broncos team from Western Michigan that has a very good quarterback, and some experienced anchors on both sides of the football.

Unfortunately, WMU also lost to Indiana and only had five guys coming back on defense that were starters in 2008.

Then there is the Notre Dame victory, this was a game against an Irish team that boasted a dynamic receiving trio in Tate, Floyd, and Kyle Rudolph and a quarterback in Jimmy Clausen who now has four consecutive 300-yard passing games.

Notre Dame supposedly has an improved defense under Jon Tenuta, but has given up 68 points in their last two outings. If the Fighting Irish finish strong and live up to their BCS billing then perhaps this victory is more high quality than we realize.

The Eastern Michigan game had its ups and downs. Sure, UM only got 68 yards through the air, but on the other hand recorded 380 yards rushing on nearly 10 yards per carry as a team!

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All in all, we as a fan base must grow to understand that we have to weigh this issue out, and also determine whether or not we even need to be talking about anything close to a BCS game. Remember, we were just hoping for a bowl in August.

Reasons Why Michigan Won't Contend For The Big Ten title

1) The evidence for Michigan being very good is questionable, if not scant. It's only three games into the season and we aren't even certain that we have anything close to a quality win. Not only that, it may be another month before we have a truly quality opponent.

Indiana, Michigan State (may be 1-3 when we play them) and Delaware State are three out of the next four opponents. Iowa is a good team, but even a win over Iowa may mean nothing if they get blown out by Penn State (assuming Michigan even wins).

2) Lack of depth on defense. This is something that may or may not be a big problem, it alos may or may not be correctable. It seems that the Wolverines have very poor depth in the secondary, linebacker and defensive line.

This may just be perception, and again might be correctable. If they can get guys like Justin Turner, Vlad Emilien, J.B. Fitgerald, Brandon Smith and William Campbell more involved and prepared then that will help a lot.

However, teams that spread it out can hurt Michigan as well as teams that are bigger up front on offense.

3) The Wolverines are relying upon true freshmen at quarterback. Tate Forcier has been fantastic thus far, but he is a freshman, and freshman will make mistakes as they develop. Particularly in the Big Ten this unit has to stay healthy or we could be seeing Sheridan taking snaps.

Reasons Michigan Will Contend for the Title

1) Hunger. How do you define quality win? It's not just who they play; it's the emotional response to pressure, and the execution of one's own scheme.

If a person contends that Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Iowa (albeit speculative) aren't good solid wins, I'd have to respectfully disagree.

They may not be fantastic teams, or they might. It's too early to say, but they are definitely teams with talented depth charts.

If Michigan somehow runs the gamut of these three teams, and still gets no respect...then who must they beat to earn respect? Michigan is young and hungry.

2) Michigan has looked as good as anybody. Who has earned more style points or been more offensively productive?

Certainly, Ohio State came close to beating USC, but close doesn't equal a win. They also gave up 27 points to Navy. Penn State has struggled to run the ball against softer opponents, only averaging 30 points per contest.

Iowa needed two blocked field goals at home versus Northern Iowa to win 17-16. They also had to come from behind to beat Arizona. Illinois still has major issues on defense, and Sparty is 1-2 with a home loss to a MAC school.

Last but not least, there is Wisconsin, so your guess is as good as mine.

3) Offensively, Michigan has been sharper than could have been expected. Offense is usually the toughest part of the first month of college football, and Michigan has executed well when it counted. True freshman quarterbacks only tend to get better with experience.

Not only is Tate Forcier going to get better, but so is Shoelace Robinson, Michael Shaw, Darryl Stonum, Junior Hemingway, Kevin Koger, Carlos Brown and the entire offensive line. Getting everybody to stay healthy and unified is the key.

Is It Too Soon To Say We Are Back?

Ultimately, it is probably to soon to start up the band and say we are back, as pride goes before the fall. The coaching staff is doing the right thing keeping these young guys hungry.

However, I will also say that in addition to hunger, confidence is a positive ingredient. You want to prepare your team with hunger and discipline each week for their upcoming opponent, so that you can come out with the fierce notion that you are prepared and capable of defeating any team in front of you.

In the words of Mack Brown, "It's not always about being the best team, it's about being the best team this week," and so in that sense if not Michigan, then who? The focus needs to be one week at a time, and if Michigan keeps that focus, they can be as successful as anybody in the conference.

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