At this point in the 2010 season Michigan should be bowl eligible. These last three games however, could be the toughest games of the entire season collectively.
Week Ten: at Purdue Boilermakers
Why Michigan Could Lose This Game
Michigan has had serious opportunities the last two seasons to beat Purdue but alas they couldn't finish the job. In 2009, Danny Hope did an excellent job versus the big two in Ohio State and Michigan and that's no coincidence.
Purdue still returns over half their starters including Ralph Bolden who has a chance to become special at running back, and Miami Hurricanes transfer Robert Marve at quarterback competing with Caleb TerBush.
Purdue will most likely field a solid defense in 2010 and let's not forget the game is going to be played in West Lafeyette so the Boilermakers have the home field advantage. The worst part is that Michigan has had the lead in the second half twice and lost.
Why Michigan Could Win This Game
Michigan has played very close games with Purdue the last two seasons and finally has a decided advantage in terms of overall experience.
Tate Forcier played extremely well against Purdue last year who loses their entire starting secondary from 2009. Perhaps at this point in the season Michigan's defense will be playing well enough to not give up 48 or 38 at Purdue like they have the last two seasons.
Another factor in this game as in most this season for Michigan will be turnover ratio. If Michigan can protect the football and play a bit more heads up they can definitely put this one away.
Michigan wins this one in a fairly close contest. Give Michigan a 60 percent chance at victory on the road. It's fairly possible they actually do run away with this one a bit.
Week Eleven: Wisconsin Badgers
Why Michigan Could Lose This Game
Wisconsin may be the best team in the Big Ten this year, as they return 10 starters on offense and six starters on a defense that led Wisconsin 10-3 and a fairly dominating win over Miami.
Also, it's important to realize that Wisconsin (not Michigan) led the Big Ten in scoring last season with 32.8 points per game.
Wisconsin returns every starter from the biggest offensive line in the conference and has not one but two powerful blue-chip running backs. John Clay was the offensive POY in the Big Ten last season and is poised for a Heisman run.
He is backed up by Zach Brown, but the guy to watch for is Montee Ball who has great power and size combined with better speed than John Clay. This isn't just an old-school Big Ten offense either, as Scott Tolzien is arguably the best pure passer in the conference and has a myriad of receivers and tight ends to catch his passes.
The defense is going to be better than you might imagine. Culmer St. Jean, Chris Borland, Kevin Rouse and Blake Sorensen return at Linebacker. The line is anchored by the next big thing in J.J. Watt and they return three starters in the secondary. Wisconsin actually has the depth and talent to improve defensively in 2010.
Why Michigan Might Win This Game
As glowing of a report I just gave on Wisconsin, this isn't by any means an unbeatable opponent for the Wolverines. In spite of the fact that Michigan made some silly mistakes last season in Camp Randall and couldn't do jack to stop the run, they still lead early and were only down 21-17 at the half.
Tate Forcier recorded a 150 plus passer rating at Wisconsin last year and really just seemed to be starting to gel with his receivers in the last four games, especially Roy Roundtree.
I also expect Michigan to be better against a power rushing attack in 2010. If William Campbell lives up to his reputation, then he Mike Martin and Craig Roh will all be in a better position to defend a team like Wisconsin.
Additionally, the game is in Michigan and Wisconsin can be a bit of a "Jekyl and Hyde" on the road. In 2008, a hapless Michigan team that probably couldn't last one quarter with next year's squad mounted a comeback versus the Badgers.
Michigan will absolutely be a better team and play a better game with Wisconsin than they did a year ago. I'm almost tempted to call this a toss-up but I also believe firmly that Wisconsin is going to be a very good football team in 2010.
Give Wisconsin a 52 percent chance to win this game, but don't be surprised if Michigan's offense gives them some real matchup problems on the edge and improves on their 24 point effort in 2009.
Week Twelve: at Ohio State Buckeyes
Why Michigan Could Lose This Game
Ask the national media and they'll probably give you a hundred reasons. Jim Tressel has the best program in the Big Ten right now and they aren't looking to fall off the map in 2010.
Terrelle Pryor is looking to have a true breakout season and it shouldn't surprise anybody if he does. Ohio State is still going to have a really good defense as they always do and the game is in Columbus.
Ohio State returns 10 starters on offense. That's always a recipe for improvement, especially when the signal caller is as talented as Pryor.
Why Michigan Could Win
It's a rivalry game and they definitely closed the gap in 2009 coming off of 2008's blowout. Tate Forcier actually had an excellent three-and-a-half quarters and then had a meltdown in the fourth. He and the passing game could become dominant.
Sometimes it's hard to tell exactly how good each team is going to be this far ahead of the game when you recruit like these two football programs do.
Michigan has as much potential at wide receiver and as much speed and athleticism as anyone in the Big Ten. Terrelle Pryor seems to struggle against Michigan as much as any defense he has faced over the first two years.
Ohio State will probably still win this game, however it could remain a one score game for most of the contest this year.
The real battle will be in the trenches. If Michigan can continue to get better on the offensive and defensive lines they have a legitimate shot to pull the upset. Give the Buckeyes a 65 percent chance to win, though.
Way Too Early Overview of the Season
At this point, I feel confident that Michigan has a very good chance to finish 2010 bowl eligible. Right now, I'm going to say they finish 7-5, and possibly 8-4 if they can beat Michigan State at home. Michigan could finish with a better record than that, but also could finish with a worse record than 7-5.
To earn a winning record, Michigan will have to improve in almost every facet and may even need the ball to bounce their way a few times to get to 8-4. Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that Michigan wins nine games, especially looking at the regular season alone. However, if Michigan gets better on both sides of the ball, they have a much sunnier outlook beyond 2010.