This coming season for Michigan is an intriguing one. If they upset Alabama this Saturday in Dallas, you can guarantee that they will again overachieve. A football team with confidence and momentum is almost more dangerous than a well-rounded team with skill.
In my opinion though, I wouldn’t expect them to win many more than 9 games, 10 if you include the bowl game. They don’t have the depth on the defensive line to replace Mike Martin, or Ryan Van Bergen, and the loss of Junior Hemingway at receiver hurts the passing game badly. They also lost the best center in the country off their offensive line, and after the left tackle, the center is the most important position on the line.
Games are won in the trenches, if you have an experienced quarterback but no one on the offensive line, he won’t have time to get rid of the ball; its common sense. And if you don’t have a defensive line, then you’re going to get absolutely run over, and then when you bring in players to help out the run, such as putting a safety in the box, they’re going to throw over the top of you to the tight end all day. The trenches are utterly crucial to the success of a football team, and unfortunately for Michigan, their first game out of the gate is against Alabama and they have the best offensive line in the country right now.
Now, who do I think their three losses will be against you ask? Alabama, Nebraska and then a toss-up between Iowa or Ohio State. Iowa and Ohio State prove to be problematic because during the Iowa game it will be tough for the players not to look ahead to Ohio State. And during the OSU game, OSU will be playing especially tough because it is essentially their bowl game with this one-year bowl ban that they have. I think that a Capital One Bowl appearance against Georgia or South Carolina sounds pretty reasonable and would make me happy to be perfectly honest.
I’m trying not to be pessimistic, just more realistic. Michigan has a horrible lack of depth right now, and it can only get worse this year if there are more injuries. There will be true freshman playing this year, mostly because they have to. Rich Rod’s inefficient recruiting (to put it kindly), made years two and three that much tougher for Brady Hoke. I won’t be upset if Michigan doesn’t win a Big Ten Championship the next two years, because Hoke has to continue to restock the cupboards that are bare right now. And unfortunately, he is stocking them with all young players and 18-year-olds are not quite as ready to play college football as 20-year-olds.
Hoke drastically exceeded expectations last year, and the fan base needs to be patient, because I would be utterly shocked if the team won 11 games either this year or the following year. The fan base needs to wait for Hoke to get his recruits in and get them ready to play college football. This never happened with Rich Rod, and obviously I never liked him, nor wanted to give him a chance, and that had everything to do with him coming from the Big East (which I refuse to respect) and having a running spread as the base offense (which is worthless and I hate it). I am a firm believer that you need a balance of shotgun and pro style, or at the very least you need to run a passing spread like Oklahoma State. In the new age of football, passing the ball wins you football games. Either way, Hoke needs to be given time, and I hope that his Sugar Bowl win in year one will have given him just that.
Which brings me to my next reason as to why Michigan could lose three games this year. I love Denard Robinson, but until he improves upon his 15 interceptions and 55% completion percentage, as well as his decision-making as a quarterback, the offense will suffer. No question he is one of the three biggest offensive playmakers in college football, but until he utilizes his arm to its full potential then the offense will continue to sputter against big time defenses. This team will go as far as Denard will carry them.
This preview is not meant to say that Michigan cannot win a Big Ten Championship or that a loss to Alabama is already determined. They play the games each week for a reason, and on any given saturday, anything can happen. I’m merely saying that the fan base should be a little cautious and temper their expectations a bit. Then again, a victory against Alabama and I will probably forget all about these expectations I just wrote.
To conclude this post, let’s touch on recruiting. The class has 23 commits and will likely get only two or three more. The guys to know? Runningback Derrick Green, wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, defensive back Leon McQuay III and linebacker EJ Levenberry. I can almost guarantee that Levenberry won’t end up at Michigan. Michigan was previously a front-runner for him until he committed to Florida State and then decided to re-open his recruitment. The only way he ends up here is if the first three guys don’t. Derrick Green is a crucial runningback that will be here for the Michigan State game and will be making a decision in October. How good is Green? He is the 13th ranked player in the country by Rivals and a clearcut five-star. Treadwell, meanwhile, is the 23rd ranked player in the country and the #1 receiver. He’s played very well with Shane Morris in a lot of the 7-on-7 tournaments, and would be a massive addition to the Michigan recruiting class. McQuay (five-star, 18th player in the country) is another guy that Michigan has an outside shot at, and I wouldn’t necessarily expect him to come. Michigan was high on his list until four-star cornerback Ross Douglas decommitted from Penn State and Michigan went hard after him and got him to commit.
Michigan has a the second-ranked recruiting class right now, and if Hoke pulls something out of the hat and gets Treadwell and Green, you can bet they will have a really solid shot at nabbing that number one spot. Even if this year doesn’t get Michigan a Big Ten Championship, the future is bright enough that they will be competitive for a very long time.
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