Taking an early look at Michigan Football’s 2014 schedule

Michigan opens the 2014 season on September 1st looking to go on a redemption tour to make up for the disappointing 2013 campaign. The changes to the coaching staff have created a bit of buzz around “Team 135″ as many saw the offensive play calling of Al Borges to be the principle reason for Michigan’s struggles offensively.

Bringing in coach Doug Nussmeier from Alabama was the aggressive move many Wolverines’ fans could only dream of and the shuffling of responsibilities on the defensive side of coaching have allowed position groups to attract new excitement both with recruits as well as current players and potentially improve the product on the field greatly.

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Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison will focus solely on linebackers this year

With all of the changes that took place already it is clear that Michigan football is sending the message that mediocrity is unacceptable, a good thing to see for fans of the Maize and Blue. In addition, the talent that Brady Hoke has brought in with previous recruiting classes is finally maturing and the freshman class for the upcoming season could have some incredible instant impacts. But do these changes lend themselves to wins on the field in just one season? Lets break down the schedule and get some predictions for each game.

8/30: Appalachian State (Ann Arbor, MI, TBD)

This game may quietly strike fear into the hearts of all Wolverines’ fans, but this is not the same team that shocked Michigan years ago. They are coming off a 4-8 season with a 4-4 record in southern conference play (meaning they went 0-4 in non-conference). No upset of the century here. Prediction: 56-6 Michigan.

9/6: Notre Dame (South Bend, IN, 7:30 PM)

The final chapter in the historic rivalry before the hiatus. Everett Golson is back for the Irish and could cause problems with his mobility for the Wolverines. I see Devin Gardner having another huge game like he did last year and beating Notre Dame for the final time in the foreseeable future. Prediction: 35-31 Wolverines.

9/13: Miami (OH) (Ann Arbor, MI, TBD)

The Redhawks are coming off an 0-12 season in 2013 so if the Wolverines win by anything less than 40 its a bit of a letdown. Prediction: 70-10 Michigan.

9/20: Utah (Ann Arbor, MI, TBD)

Miami is another team coming off a non-stellar year, going 5-7 in 2013. This game begins the two year series between the teams and Michigan should take game one with relative ease. Prediction: 35-17 Michigan.

9/27: Minnesota (Ann Arbor, MI, TBD)

The trend of home games continues for the Wolverines and despite Jerry Kill’s progressing Gophers, Michigan takes the game with a big running game performance thanks to the departure of Ra’shede Hageman from Minnesota’s defensive line. Prediction: 31-24 Wolverines.

10/4: Rutgers (Piscataway, NJ, TBD)

Rutgers is coming off a bowl season where they met Notre Dame in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. The path to bowling is much tougher this year though in the Big Ten as it was in the AAC. In the inaugural Big Ten meeting, Michigan roughs up the newcomers with a solid performance from the defensive secondary to the tune of three interceptions. Prediction: 38-14 Wolverines.

10/11: Penn State (Ann Arbor, MI, TBD)

Getting the Nittany Lions at home in the premier matchup at the Big House for the 2014 home schedule will propel the Wolverines to a victory, grabbing redemption from last year’s heartbreaking choke. The departure of stud WR Allen Robinson for the NFL draft will certainly help Michigan’s chances. Feeling the pressure of being undefeated through 6 games, the Wolverines squeak by James Franklin’s squad. Prediction: 27-24 Michigan.

Michigan State (East Lansing, MI, TBD)

The Wolverines got the short end of the stick when it comes to scheduling as they have two play for a second consecutive year in East Lansing due to conference realignment. The departure of Darqueze Dennard will hopefully allow for one side of the field to open up on the now trademark stout Spartan defense. The maturation of Mark Dantonio’s offensive unit along with the raucous home crowd will get the Spartans past Michigan who drops its first game of the year. Prediction: 28-21 Michigan State.

11/1: Indiana (Ann Arbor, MI, TBD)

Like Penn State, Indiana lost a receiver to the NFL draft who torched Michigan in 2013 in Cody Latimer. More preparation for the uptempo Hoosier offense as well as Nussmeier game planning for the defense that gave up 2 passing and 2.9 rushing touchdowns a year ago will lead to a Wolverines’ victory. Prediction: 42-28 Michigan.

11/8: Northwestern (Evanston, ILL, TBD)

Northwestern started to build some momentum early last season, cracking the top-25 and giving Ohio State all it could handle. That all fell apart though and they eventually finished 5-7 with one win in conference play. I expect the Wildcats to give Michigan a close game as they always seem to do but Michigan survives. Prediction: 21-17 Michigan.

11/22: Maryland (Ann Arbor, MI, TBD)

Michigan welcomes the second of the two new Big Ten members to the Big House in late November. Maryland will have been roughed up transitioning from the ACC to the Big Ten and I see Michigan adding to the Terps misery. Prediction: 35-14 Wolverines.

11/29: Ohio State (Columbus, OH, TBD)

The biggest day of the year in Michigan football will be held behind enemy lines in 2014. The Wolverines travel to Columbus to take on the Buckeyes. Thankfully, the defense won’t have to deal with Carlos Hyde bruising them for 8.4 yards per carry like he did last year. They will, however, have to still deal with Braxton Miller whose athleticism gave them fits in the later stages of last years contest. It’s always a close game, but I see the home field advantage propelling the Buckeyes to a 35-31 win.

The 10-2 record I projected for Team 135 may seem overly optimistic but if you truly look at the opponents for the upcoming season and combine that with the revamped coaching staff it is by no means unachievable. If this record is accurate, it means good things for the future of the program as we saw last year how much on field performance affects recruiting.