By: Brian Chapman
We are just two days away from the start of the Michigan football season and honestly, no one knows what this team will be. They went 7-6 last year, lost two their two biggest rivals, were completely uncompetitive in their bowl game against Kansas State, nearly lost to an awful Akron team and nearly lost to a horrendous UConn team. All of that has led to the Wolverines sitting outside of the top 25 to start the season.
The offensive line was so bad last year that it’s hard to see them doing anything but improving… until you remember that they lost their best OL, Taylor Lewan, to the NFL in the first round of the draft. Jeremy Gallon will probably not be a star at the next level, but he was a record-breaking wideout for the maize and blue and aside from Devin Funchess, Michigan is loaded with inexperience on the outside. Doug Nussmeier was brought from Alabama to fix Devin Gardner and the offense. If he can work magic, the Wolverines should be a lot more responsible with the football, more balanced and perhaps more explosive.
Defensively, Blake Countess should be a star at corner and Frank Clark should be one of the conference’s best defensive ends, but it’s all going to come down to the linebackers. A couple of years ago coach Brady Hoke brought in what some called the best linebacker class in school history. It’s time for them to put up or shut up. I don’t have a ton of confidence in the defense as a whole, but at least one person thinks otherwise.
With so much uncertainty, this team could be anywhere from a top 10 squad at season’s end or one that has fans demanding Hoke be fired before B1G play begins.
What’s their best case scenario? 11-1. If everything goes right, the only game they have no chance to win is the last one.
What’s the worst case scenario? 5-7. If you think that’s crazy, don’t forget that they almost lost to Akron and UConn last year and if they had lost those two, their record would have been 5-7.
What do I think will actually happen?
Game 1 vs. Appalachian State: 56-6 win… Forget the games against Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State. This is the premier rivalry game on Michigan’s schedule and the Wolverines will be ready. The chatter about their loss has not died down and it will not unless the treat Appalachian State the way they deserved to be treated in their first matchup. Because these players and coaches know what’s on the line and because the Appalachian State is not as talented as they were in 2007 (like that should ever matter), I’m forecasting a blowout victory for Michigan… Advance to 1-0.
Game 2 @ Notre Dame: 20-16 win…This is the last game for Michigan against the Fighting Irish until further notice and this will be a tough game, but I’m just not convinced that Michigan should be the underdog. Sure they’ve got quarterback Everett Golson back, but they’ve lost several members of their defense in the last couple of years to graduation and/or the NFL and now several more golden domers are expected to miss the game after another academic cheating scandal. Expect Derrick Green to rush for 120yds and touchdowns and a linebacker to be named later to make a name for himself… Advance to 2-0.
Game 3 vs. Miami of Ohio: 34-14 win… This is a lowly bottom feeder MAC opponent. I’m not going to say anything more about them. I will say that Michigan will show in this game that they are better and more focused than they were the last time they played a MAC school. Remember the Akron game? … Advance to 3-0.
Game 4 vs. Utah: 41-19 win… This game should not be close. Utah has gone 5-7 in consecutive years and they bring back a quarterback who threw as many interceptions (16) as touchdowns last year. Expect Jabrill Peppers to get his first career interception in this game and promptly be awarded a legends patch. The Utes had a good run defense last year so don’t expect Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith to do their real work until the second half when the lead is large and the Utah defense is tired… Advance to 4-0.
Game 5 vs. Minnesota: 23-20 loss… The Golden Gophers were a pretty decent team last year, but managed to get steamrolled by the Wolverines in Ann Arbor. What some may have forgotten was that Minnesota’s coach Jerry Kill did not make the trip as he dealt with yet another seizure. I have to imagine that was incredibly difficult for young men in their late teens and early twenties to play through. I’m not going to bank on Kill’s health, but I have to imagine the Gophers will be seeking revenge. I’m no predicting more than seven or eight wins for Minnesota this year, but I have a funny feeling that Kill’s defense will frustrate the Wolverines enough to pull off the upset… Fall to 4-1.
Game 6 @ Rutgers: 38-23 win… I can’t stand RATgers! They don’t belong in the B1G, no real B1G fan wants them around and they should be treated like the scarlet headed step child that they are. Hoke’s Wolverines have been surprisingly poor away from home in the last two years, but outside of some shaky defense, the maize and blue shouldn’t have any trouble setting down this Big East school and getting back on the right track… Advance to 5-1.
Game 7 vs. We Are Penn State: 34-31 win… As much as I want to pick my alma mater in this game, I just can’t… for now. I really don’t know what James Franklin is going to do in his first year with the Nittany Lions. If all goes well (for my school), Christian Hackenberg will be Going HAM, the defensive line will fluster Gardner and there will be a blue and white party in the stands! But for now, I’ll play it safe and go with the team that has rarely lost at home under Hoke and predict ends their four-game losing streak to Penn State… Advance to 6-1.
Game 8 @ Michigan State: 26-13 loss… I really don’t know if this is going to be a really close loss because it’s a rivalry game and Doug Nussmeier is going to completely transform Michigan’s offense or if it will be a blowout loss because the Spartans are just that much better than the Wolverines so I’m going to take the easy way out and split the difference. I also predict that Michigan will finish with at least zero yards rushing, but not much more than that against linebackers like Ed Davis and Taiwan Jones who will look to stuff Derrick Green at the line of scrimmage. Jabrill Peppers will probably give Michigan some life with a great return on special teams, but he’ll also get burned on a double move by DeAnthony Arnett or Macgarrett Kings… Fall to 6-2. (And yes I did essentially copy and paste this paragraph from my Michigan State prediction. #Plagiarism #Lazy.)
Game 9 vs. Indiana: 45-38 win… This has a great chance to turn into another one of those high scoring games that Indiana has always seemed to lose in recent years because they are allergic to defense. It’s a home game for the Wolverines, they are a football school and the should be more responsible with the football than the Hoosiers. I predict a two interception game by Countess, including one in the fourth quarter to avoid a scare. Plus, Michigan just can’t lose to Indiana… Advance to 7-2.
Game 10 @ Northwestern: 46-24 win… This game is on the road and Hoke doesn’t fare well on the road, but I don’t trust these nerds. They spend too much time studying, too much time trying to unionize and not enough time trying to win football games. Plus, the quarterback graduated and Vernic Mark transferred… Advance to 8-2.
Game 11 vs. Maryland: 26-20 win… A handful of the experts are predicting this fraudulent B1G team that should have stayed in ACC country to finish ahead of the Wolverines in the B1G East Division. As much as I’d like Michigan to send them kicking and screaming back to the Chesapeake begging to reenter the ACC, they will never do that. They’re just a bigger Coppin State, except instead of coming to the B1G for one game to accept a big check and bolt out of town, they’re going to keep collecting checks until further notice… Anyway. I don’t know a thing about Maryland football except that they have atrocious helmets and, like a typical B1G school, they lost their bowl game so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say they’ll keep it close while giving Michigan the benefit of the doubt and predict they’ll beat these ACC frauds in B1G clothing… Advance to 9-2.
Game 12 @ Ohio State: 35-20 loss… Whether it’s Braxton Miller, JT Barrett, Cardale “I didn’t come here to play school” Jones or 50 Cent (we all know he can’t throw a ball), there’s just no way Michigan will beat the Deep South Buckeyes this year. One team is an SEC school with eyes on Bama and South Carolina while the other is just trying to become a B1G power again. Nussmeier may be able to help Gardner exploit the squishy soft secondary of Ohio State, but this game is in Columbus, they are better coached and they have more talent. Michigan’s goal should be to keep the score close. I’ll leave it up to you to determine if a 15pt loss is close or not… Fall to 9-3.
A 9-3 regular season record should put leave most fans in the gray area about whether or not to fire Hoke. Double digit losses to the Buckeyes and Spartans won’t look good and losing at home to Minnesota won’t be fun, but overall this team will feel a lot better than the 2013 team and Nussmeier will have to either wait another year to take over or look for a head coaching job elsewhere.
If you missed my prediction for the 2014 Spartans, click the link to check it out: http://detroit.cbslocal.com/2014/08/25/646758/