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A Look through Michigan's Big Ten Schedule; Will They Be Champions?

Jay Nicols@boonta420Correspondent ISeptember 25, 2009

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 19:  The Michigan Wolverines band performs on the field before the game against the Eastern Michigan Eagles at Michigan Stadium on September 19, 2009 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan won 45-17.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Michigan has had a hot start, going 3-0 against Western Michigan, Notre Dame, and Eastern Michigan. Some in the industry thought Michigan would be lucky to start the season 2-1 or even 1-2. However, Michigan was more prepared for the season than we thought.

Michigan has not torn the opponents apart, but they have done enough to win the games. They kept pressure on Hiller and Clausen, fell asleep against Eastern, and have been less than stellar in pass defense, yet they are 3-0.

They have given up 358.7 yards a game; 235 in the air, 123.7 on the ground. 

It's not stellar numbers, but they are only giving up 19.3 points a game, with them scoring a Big Ten leading 38 pts/game. It makes up for the poor defense that has been on the field.

Michigan can only hope that it can continue to score more points, because if they don't or the defense doesn't get better, they will be in trouble come Big Ten season.

Here is what lies ahead for Michigan in terms of the Big Ten: Indiana, @ Michigan State, @ Iowa, Penn State, @ Illinois, Purdue, @ Wisconsin, Ohio State. At the start of the season I thought Michigan would be a 7-5, 8-4 team, with loses against Notre Dame, Michigan State, Penn State, Ohio State, and possibly a loss at Iowa. 

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Now, with Michigan playing like a varsity team rather than a JV team. I see them losing three games, four at the most. They have only played one ranked team, and won on a last second TD. Very impressive for a freshman led offense, but still worries an avid Michigan fan. 

Note to fans: They will beat Delaware State, so I won't even talk about that game.

The Big Ten season is tougher than some think, when you play in this conference, it's tough each week. The first three games are not measuring sticks, they're more to get a feel for what you got. You may play a quality opponent, but overall, until you get into league play, it means nothing.

The Big Ten Championship is what matters most. 

I can't tell you what I don't know, but I can make some assertions. Michigan will score a ton of points, they've shown us that. They will also give up a ton of points too. 

Indiana, 3-0. This game should be a win. I see no reason for Michigan to lose that game. The 'pistol' offense is averaging 26.7 points a game, with 110 rushing attempts for 440 yards over three games, and 65 completions for 686 yards.

What worries me is Indiana's rush defense. They're second in the Big Ten allowing 76 yards a game. Granted, they have played Eastern Kentucky, Akron, and Western Michigan. 

Against Western, they allowed 22 rushing yards on 29 attempts, while Michigan held Western to 38 rushing yards on 24 attempts. Both secondaries allowed over 260 yards in the air. Indiana allowed 19 points to Michigan allowing seven points. 

Interesting to see how both teams played against a similar opponent. It doesn't tell us much of anything, but it gives you a feel for what lies ahead. 

Michigan must get the run game going against Indiana. If they don't, the passing game must step up. A passing game which is last in the Big Ten, with 168 yards a game. 

That is what worries me, and with Molk out and a new center snapping the ball, those exchanges are going to be very important. You have already seen a few snap snafus, so they'll need to get that straightened out to get moving on Saturday.

Michigan pulls away early, and never lets Indiana back in the game. Mouton plays a huge role in his first game back since the upper cut. 1-0 in the Big Ten.

Michigan 42 Indiana 21

Michigan State, 1-2. We don't really know much after the first three games. They beat a team they should, lost on a last second penalty to Central Michigan, and fell apart on the last series of the Notre Dame game. They were five points away from being 3-0. 

The offense is great, if they stick with Kirk Cousins. They are so much better with him behind center than Nichol. The team plays better when Cousins is in the game, the players voted him captain as sophomore, that's all you need to know. That being said, a trip to East Lansing on October 3rd still scares me.

One, because Michigan's secondary has been suspect. If Michigan allows Cousins to sit back in the pocket all day, and air it out, he could burn them badly. They rack up close to 300 yards in the air and only give up 87 yards on the ground. Which is Michigan's strongest team, the running backs. 

Michigan must limit State on passing yards, by putting pressure on Cousins. Brandon Graham and Craig Roh will need to put a ton of pressure on him. Like they did to Clausen towards the end of that game. If they don't, they won't win. Cousins is that good.

Michigan State also boosts a the ninth worst pass defense in the Big Ten right now. If Michigan wants to get that going, they could do that against this secondary. D'Antonio just shuffled some players in, and sat some veterans, showing their is a weakness.

Michigan State wins it in the fourth quarter. 1-1 in the Big Ten.

Michigan State 38 Michigan 35

Iowa, 3-0. Not sure about this team, other than they almost lost to Northern Iowa. What does that say about your team? Not much, Michigan lost to App St, and beat Florida with Tebow on Jan 1st, three months after that debacle. 

They allow 140 yards a game on the ground, so if Michigan's stable of running backs can get going, watch out. I really think that is the strength of Michigan right now. They have Brandon Minor, Carlos Brown, Michael Shaw, Mike Cox, Vincent Smith, Tate Forcier, and Denard Robinson all to run the rock. They are very skilled at that position.

That in itself could carry this team, but I think a bit more balance is also needed. They really need to get the passing game going, and at Iowa, at night, that could be difficult to do.

Iowa wins on a last second field goal, and Kinnick stadium goes crazy. 1-2 in the Big Ten.

Iowa 28 Michigan 27

Penn State, 3-0. With a senior RB and QB on offense, this team could be dangerous. But can they beat Michigan again? Yes. With Michigan coming off a loss on the road, they will be hungry to beat a highly ranked Penn State team. 

They rank first in rush defense as of now, and that could hinder what Michigan does best, run the ball. By this time in the season, Michigan should hope to be better in the passing game, and the defense should be a bit better. 

If the game was played this weekend, this would be a top two defense versus the top offense in the league. Who stands strongest? 

What can I say in late October though, it's too difficult to speculate. Last year, Penn State didn't pull away from an awful Michigan team until the second half. Michigan led 17-14 to end the first half, and than laid an egg in the second half, 32-0. 

Does that happen this year? No, not at the Big House. Michigan is too good against Penn State at home, having lost the first game to Penn State in 12 years. 

Michigan takes it at home, winning the game with points in the fourth quarter. 2-2 in the Big Ten.

Michigan 42 Penn State 35

Illinois, 1-1. Juice Williams went off on Michigan last year, I don't see that happening again. It will be a high scoring affair, as most games this year have been, but Michigan's spread should beat Illinois spread.

Michigan's defense gave up 35 points to an explosive offense, which was led by Juice Williams. He rushed for 121 yards, and threw for 310 yards on a defense that allowed close to 30 pts/game. The improvement on offense should help Michigan, as it will allow the defense to get some rest.

Last year, Michigan went three and out eight times. They're moving the ball much better this year, so defensive stands will be key. 

The linebackers and secondary will be needed heavily in this game, as they need to contain the QB. Arrelious Benn should be fully recovered from the ankle injury in early September and that will pay huge dividends for Illinois. He amassed 122 yards on six catches.

Warren will have his hands full, I just hope he doesn't play too aggressive. That is when he gets himself into trouble. Michigan will win this game in Champaign. 3-2 in the Big Ten.

Michigan 31 Illinois 21

Purdue, 1-2. Purdue, like Indiana, and Delaware State, will get beat in the Big House this year. They should have had them last year, but Purdue pulled it out 48-42. 

I feel Michigan is more poised this year, and with this game being played in Ann Arbor, it won't be a loss. A bad Michigan offense put 42 points on the board with 300 total offensive yards. Not bad for a 3-9 team. A fumble leading to a Purdue TD lead them to winning the game. 

By far one of the best Michigan games last year on offense, it will be the defense that needs to stop that Purdue offense. Danny Hope is having trouble getting this team going, except the Toledo game. They put 52 on the board in that game, but also lost to Northern Illinois, 28-21.

Michigan wins, and wins big. They should be rolling by this point. After a couple of losses, they win their third in a row. 4-2 in the Big Ten.

Michigan 42 Purdue 24

Wisconsin, 3-0. How good are the Badgers? I don't know, I don't follow them. They are one of three teams that Michigan beat last year though, and that's a good thing for Michigan.

Michigan has not won in Madison since 2001, when they won 20-17. Camp Randall is a tough place to play, so this game could be tough one to win. Again, I feel this is further along in the season, and I believe that Michigan should be more mature.

Tate will have played a few games in hostile territory, and should be more comfortable with the offense. If injuries stay limited, this will be a close one, but a Michigan win. 5-2 in the Big Ten.

Michigan 28 Wisconsin 27

Ohio State, 3-0. I won't touch this game, not yet. Ohio State lost to USC, which in turn lost to Washington. They beat up a Toledo team, and barely beat Navy. Not much to go off, and with this game so big each year, I won't dare to put a guess into what this outcome will be.

Michigan hasn't beat anyone, but it's in Ann Arbor. It should be loud, and it should be crude. I expect Michigan to play their hearts out for Rich Rodriguez. A win gets them to 10-2, and a New Years day bowl. 

Michigan will give you a 2006 effort, not a 2008 one. They'll be able to move the ball, but will they be able to stop Terrelle Pryor. We'll have to see how Michigan's defense matures as the season goes on. 

With a loss, Michigan improves off last year by going 9-3. It's a thought I think is possible. 

Michigan hasn't proved anything yet. They have shown improvement, but that's it. Our defense is shaky, our offense is high octane, and the coach is hungry to prove critics wrong. Does that translate into more wins?

This is my assertion on what could happen if the glass was half full. I'm an optimist. I see things in good light, not bad.

I feel if the pieces fall together, their is no reason Michigan should win less than eight games. Ten would be great, but realistically I see 9-3. 8-4 would be if they lost the game in Madison. Loses at MSU, Iowa, and Wisconsin, with a home loss to Ohio State, is my worst case scenario. 

Does 6-2 give them a chance to win the Big Ten? No, not this year. But they'll be in every game they play. They'll play harder than they have in the past, and they will come out of the year much improved. Michigan will be closer to the Big Ten Championship next year, not this year.

In the end, Michigan will be back towards the top of the Big Ten. They will be scoring a lot of points, and having a lot of fun. Health will be the biggest issue for them. As it is with any team. But the depth at Michigan is not what it has been, and that's nerve wracking. 

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