Note – This is the 2012 information. Please check the 2013 Michigan page for a look at the 2013 season.
Michigan is Back: How “Back” Are They?
One constant in College Football – save for a few random seasons – is Michigan being competitive. The Wolverines have – throughout history – at the very least, competed for big bowl games almost every season. The Rich Rodriguez era is a time period Michigan fans would like to forget. Brady Hoke’s first season as head coach had Michigan fans asking, “Who’s this Rich Rodriguez fellow you’re speaking of?” Hoke’s Wolverines won 11 games, including a BCS Bowl in 2011.
Michigan returns 6 starters on offense and 7 on defense. They didn’t suffer many key losses. Only a few quality players such as wide receiver Junior Hemmingway. So that means they will be a contender in 2012, right? In the words of the immortal prophet Lee Corso, “NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND”. We’re not saying 2011 was a fluke, but Michigan benefited from a favorable schedule and a bunch of breaks in the Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech. The Hokies clearly were the better team for most of that game, but a questionable call and some turnovers changed that game around.
This years schedule is brutal. The season starts with a tussle against defending National Champion Alabama. Some of the remaining opponents figure to be improved (i.e. Notre Dame, Ohio State, Purdue). They do avoid Wisconsin (Leaders Division favorites) but face tough road/neutral tests against Alabama, Notre Dame, Purdue, Nebraska, and Ohio State. If Michigan can escape those 5 games with no more than 2 losses, another trip to a BCS Bowl could be in store for them. Of course, that’s a big “if”.
If Michigan is going to win at a high level, Denard Robinson must improve against good defenses. He tends to put up big numbers against lousy defenses and turnovers against good defensive teams. The secret is out on Robinson. He can’t throw into tight spots and rattles under pressure when forced to pass. If you force him to throw, he can’t succeed. Denard is an amazing athlete, but sometimes you have to wonder if he should be a quarterback or a wide receiver.
Denard is the consensus pick to win Big-10 Offensive Player of the Year. And he very well might win the award. But has major flaws in his game that many fail to acknowledge. Denard will put up big numbers this year – again – but for Michigan to be a serious threat, he’ll have to put up big numbers against real defenses. Not just the Indiana’s and Minnesota’s of the world.
Denard’s Supporting Cast: Providing Great Support
Robinson can’t do everything on his own. He won’t have to. He has a couple of capable receivers to throw the ball to and talented experience in the backfield. Fitzgerald Toussaint rushed for more than 1,000 yards and Vincent Smith average 6 yards per carry last season. With D-Rob at quarterback, Michigan has one of the most feared ground games in the country. Expect 225+ yard rushing games consistently from the Wolverines this year. Defenses are forced to put so much focus on Robinson, which opens up holes for Toussaint and Smith.
The receiving corps is quite talented as well. They’d put up bigger numbers with an offense focused more on throwing than running and a quarterback with better accuracy. With that said, Michigan has a couple of guys that should put up some decent numbers catching passes this year. Let’s start with the up-and-coming Roy Rountree. In his senior year, his numbers should drastically rise. He could go from being only a small part of the offense to catching 50 passes this year. Michigan’s other receiver – junior Jeremy Gallon – is small, but has big playmaking ability.
The offensive line has the potential to be great. Losing Rimington Award winner, David Molk, at center won’t be easy. But 3 quality returning starters are back, including LT Taylor Lewan, who is poised to form into one of the Big-10’s most dominating offensive linemen. RG Patrick Omaneh and RT Michael Schofield are no pushovers and helped contribute to Michigan’s dominating ground game last season.
Building on a Much Improved 2011 Defense
Perhaps the worst decision Rich Rodriguez made at Michigan was to hire Greg Robinson as his Defensive Coordinator. Robinson continually gets good jobs without accomplishing much. His defenses – whether it be in the NFL or College – consistently perform poorly. That doesn’t stop big name programs for hiring him. Fortunately, for Michigan, Brady Hoke didn’t make the same mistake. Instead, he hired former Baltimore Ravens and Florida Gators Defensive Coordinator Greg Matteson.
Michigan was coming off 3 straight seasons of pathetic defensive play. Matteson was hired to change that. No one could have possibly expected a dominating defense. The 2010 Wolverine defense ranked #108 nationally in scoring defense – giving up 35.2 points per game. In Matteson’s first year, they ranked #6 – giving up 17.4 points per game. Other than players becoming a year more experienced, the only difference was the coordinator.
Before the RichRod hire, Michigan was almost always known for playing quality defense. So during those 3 years, Michigan fans seemed confused when other teams were crossing their goal line so frequently. That pathetic defensive play only lasted 3 years. As soon as RichRod was ousted and Greg Robinson left with him, the defense went from one of the worst in the nation to one of the best. It’s not hard to figure out why that is.
2012 Michigan Football Schedule: Predicting Wins and Losses
We’ve already mentioned the fact that Michigan will play a tough schedule in 2012. They won’t open the season as the favorite against Alabama. They could be an underdog at Notre Dame. And they’ll potentially be underdogs in a few other games, depending on how the season progresses. Of course, being favored or not doesn’t determine whether or not a team will win. It’s just a barometer set by the bettors.
Sept 1 vs Alabama (in Arlington, TX) – LOSS
Sept 8 vs Air Force – WIN
Sept 15 vs UMASS – WIN
Sept 22 at Notre Dame – WIN
Oct 6 at Purdue – LOSS
Oct 13 vs Illinois – WIN
Oct 20 vs Michigan State – WIN
Oct 27 at Nebraska – LOSS
Nov 3 at Minnesota – WIN
Nov 10 vs Northwestern – WIN
Nov 17 vs Iowa – WIN
Nov 24 at Ohio State – WIN
Overall Record: (9-3)
Big-10 Record: (6-2)
Games Favored: 9
Games Underdog: 3
Michigan Wolverines: Final Analysis
Michigan has a lot of potential this year and in the future. But it appears that they won’t get REALLY good until 2013 and beyond when Hoke’s recruiting classes begin to make significant impacts. However, the 2012 Michigan Wolverines won’t be a pushover. They’re more than capable of beating any team on that schedule – even Alabama, if the breaks go their way.
We don’t expect the Wolverines to have a drop-off from last season. We expect them to perform at about the same level. The difference is the schedule. Instead of winning 11 games, they’ll most likely win 8-9 games. We could also see the Wolverines only winning 7 if injuries occur and some bad breaks go against them. Michigan’s season hinges on the improvement of Denard Robinson’s passing abilities. If he cuts down the turnovers, Michigan will be difficult to beat with their defense and running game.