This is the Part 3 of a 3 Part Michigan Football preview. Part 1 centered on the offense, Part 2 zeroed in on the defense and Part 3 will be projecting the wins and loses. Last year, I received heavy criticism for projecting that Michigan would finish the regular season 10-2, which they did. When the exact right coach lands in the exact right spot, special things usually happen. Brady Hoke couldn’t be more perfect for Michigan and he will guide the Wolverines to some magical seasons during his tenure. This season is going to be one of them.
9/1/ vs Alabama (at Cowboys Stadium): This will be an epic tilt between two of the premier schools in college football. Michigan is 20-6-1 all-time against the SEC. Pretty much everybody outside the state of Michigan and many inside the state are predicting that Alabama will crush U-M. I don’t subscribe to this theory. Alabama may very well win this game, but it won’t be a blow out. I’ll give the nod to the Tide here, but won’t be surprised if Michigan pulls the upset.
9/8 vs Air Force: Michigan will welcome Air Force to the Big House for their home opener. Regardless of what happens in Dallas the previous week, Michigan will cruise past the Falcons.
9/15 vs UMass: The Minutemen played at Michigan Stadium in 2010 and nearly stole a victory from the Wolverines. Now UMass is in the MAC and Michigan has the train back on the tracks. The Wolverines will leave no doubt and steamroll the Minutemen.
9/22 at Notre Dame: Michigan will wrap up a tough non-conference schedule when they trek down to South Bend. The Irish have lost some heartbreakers to the Wolverines the past few years and are surely looking to finally outlast U-M. The ghosts of Notre Dame Stadium will be horrified to see Denard Robinson back on their hallowed field. The last time he was in South Bend he broke records, including the one for the longest run in Notre Dame Stadium history (see video below). Robinson is a playmaker, who finds a way to win games. Michigan extends their winning streak over Notre Dame to 4 games.
10/6 at Purdue: Michigan will begin their quest for their first Big Ten title since 2004 with a trip to Purdue. Coming off a bye week, Michigan should roll in this one.
10/13 vs Illinois: The Wolverines mauled the Illini last year in Champaign, expect a similar result in the Big House this year. Michigan cruises to 2-0 in the conference.
10/20 vs Michigan State: Michigan has to reestablish order in this rivalry and end the 4-game winning streak the Spartans are basking in. At home, in Denard’s senior year the streak will be snapped. Brady Hoke took responsibility for last year’s loss to the Spartans. “Obviously at Michigan State, I think I did a poor job of preparing a football team,” he said. “I told the kids, ‘that one’s on me.’ I’ve got to learn from that with how we approach each game, go into each game. Hopefully, I’ve done that. I just think when we went into that environment, I don’t think we were quite ready like we needed to be from a focus standpoint, to an intensity of how you need to play in that rivalry on every play.” You better believe they will be focused this year and the players have their coach’s back on this one. Michigan reclaims the Bunyan Trophy.
10/27 at Nebraska: This is a tricky game. Michigan dismantled the Cornhuskers in Ann Arbor last year, something Nebraska certainly wants to avenge. This game also comes on the heels of what will be an emotional victory. I thought Nebraska would beat Michigan last year and think this is going to be one of the toughest games on the schedule for the Wolverines this year. I’m not sold on Nebraska yet. Moving from the Big 12 to the Big Ten is no small endeavor. Michigan pulls out a close one in Lincoln.
11/3 at Minnesota: Michigan has dominated this series and that trend will continue in 2012. The Wolverines will simply overmatch the Gophers and roll to an easy victory. The Little Brown Jug will stay where it belongs, in a trophy case at Schembechler Hall.
11/10 vs Northwestern: The Wildcats are a pesky, well-coached team that cannot be taken lightly. Taking teams lightly is something that just won’t happen under the watchful eye of Brady Hoke. Michigan continues to roll at home with a hard fought win.
11/17 vs Iowa: Michigan got mugged on the goal line in Iowa City last year (see photo above). The Hawkeyes have won 3 straight and 5 of the last 8 games in this series. Much like the Michigan State game, the Wolverines will restore order here with a key win, that could very will clinch a berth in the Big Ten Championship game for U-M.
11/24 at Ohio State: Michigan will roll into Columbus in high gear. How they Buckeyes will fare in year one of The Urban Way is anybody’s guess. One thing I know for sure is that Meyer is well acquainted with this rivalry and will have Ohio State ready. Expect this to be a knock-down, drag-out brawl. Denard Robinson has won a lot of close games for the Wolverines and in the end, he finds a way to will Michigan to their first victory in Columbus since 2000.
I can already hear the critcism coming for picking Michigan to go 11-1. That’s ok, I heard it last year when I picked them to go 10-2. I will qualify my reasoning for the lofty prediction. I believe in Denard Robinson. He is a special, once in a decade type of player. I believe in Brady Hoke and his staff. The dramatic turnaround they executed last year was beyond impressive. I don’t expect a regression, but instead continued improvement.