Okay let me start this by informing you I am an insulin dependent diabetic (20 + years ) and awoke this morning to a severely low blood sugar. This may have effected my dream.
While sleeping last night, I had a dream which involved an in depth conversation with the Michigan football team. The convo came at the end of this season, a season in which we ended up going 10-2.
I'm not a prophet, or a psychic. Unless I am. Maybe we can go 8-0 to close out the season. I know that the product on the field hasn't been good so far, but things can change. Let's not give up yet. Jump back on the wagon. It starts with Minnesota on Saturday. 23-3 Michigan. Hail.
EDIT: Spelling and stuff.
Just read an interesting article on Tony Washington on ESPN. I wasn't familiar with the story and thought it was an interesting one. Not the best-written article, but a powerful story of the struggles some athletes face in their personal lives and the mental strength it takes to rise above them. Anyway, just thought a few of you might enjoy this. If nothing else, it will be 15 minutes less of the agonizing wait for UConn.
Five games down and the Rockets are coming to Ann Arbor. The Toledo Rockets.
Toledo -- Oct. 11, TBA
There won't be too much excitement in this game against what is rightfully our's. Toledo will make the quick trip up to Ann Arbor with dreams of the Horror Part II. I'm sure Brady Hoke thinks Toledo has a great shot...and that Ron Paul is a lock for the White House, but there is very very little chance of an upset here.
Sure, it has been Michigan policy in recent years to allow some of these MAC teams to hang around (Miami, Ball State, Eastern), but something tells me this season's policy will be something more along the lines of merciless pillaging and demoralizing pummelization (may be made up).
Toledo brings a lot of starters back on defense this season. This is great news...for the Wolverines. The Rockets were worse than bad on defense last season, ranking 117th in scoring defense. They did shut out Notre Dame though, which may not be true...but they may have. Seriously though, if the offense doesn't have it together by now, it will get a major ego boost on October 11th.
Uh oh, Toledo has a quarterback that will be in his third straight year as the starting signal caller, and their wide receivers are pretty good. Ah, well that kind of plays to UM's strength on defense.
There just isn't a whole lot to say about this match-up. Barring an extremely humiliating lack of respect, much like this post, Toledo doesn't stand a chance. Hopefully UM can take care of business early and get the young guys some playing time. Also, it should be a good tune-up before the next two games - at Penn State and vs. MSU.
With four games down, the Wolverines come back to the Big House for a showdown with the Zooker, Juice, Arrelious, and plenty of other fun names. Let me also say again, that I'm not trying to prognosticate here, just putting together some reasons why Michigan can prevail in each game. So save your "you're delusional" comments for the ND board. Actually, I don't really care, so just go post some "you're delusional" comments on the ND board!
Illinois -- Oct. 4, 3:30 PM
Oh, what to think of the Illini? They have the firepower to be a top team in the Big Ten, but have shown they are prone to their middle of the pack ways as well. Mendenhall is gone, but Juice and Benn are back and will bring a dangerous offense into the Big House.
A big issue in terms of atmosphere in the Big House at this point in the season will be Michigan's record. Are the Wolverines riding high off a win at Madison to go 4-0? Are they 2-2? 3-1? Pretty much any scenario that puts their record at 3-1 makes this an intimidating crowd; anything worse and it's one of those crowds waiting for things to go horribly wrong. Illinois will be fresh off a game in Happy Valley, so their mindset could well turn on that result.
So just how good is the Illinois offense? And what chance does Michigan's defense have of stopping it? Well, I'm glad I asked.
- Talk of this offense typically begins with Juice Williams. He has a sweet name, has been hyped as the savior since the four-star showed up on campus, and has delivered with some huge wins since taking the field. He is obviously very fast and elusive, but also has a great arm, and now has two years of experience inside that helmet.
- Arrelious Benn is forrealious. The Zookster showed he knew how to get the ball to his most talented players last season, as Benn grabbed 54 passes and ran 32 more times. Look for more of that this year, as Benn will also make up for the loss of their star running back.
- Speaking of sweet names, the Illini also have a tight end by the name of Michael...wait for it...Hoomanawanui. Not sure how good he is, but that's awesome.
There is no doubt that this offense is the biggest concern against Illinois, but Michigan is more than capable of shutting it down, or at least containing it. There are a couple main reasons Michigan's defense will succeed.
- Juice is the new Morelli. It's true. Sure, Juice looks a lot less rodent-ish, but don't let all the running around fool you. He is a guy with a good arm that couldn't hit Charlie Weis from ten yards. His completion percentage is embarrassing for a spread quarterback and he has a tendency to throw the ball to guys wearing different color uniforms than himself. These things could obviously improve as he matures, but it's not a given. Michigan got into his head last season when the deck was stacked in his favor (at home, took the early lead), what's going to happen on the road?
- Benn is just one receiver. Yeah, he is going to make some plays. But if Michigan can keep him in front of them, and make Illinois march the ball down the field, the Illini won't score over 25 points. There is some talent at that running back spot, but it will be on Juice to win the game, and he just can't do it.
Great, so our defense can deal with Illinois' offense. But how are we going to score without the deadly Arrington to Manningham assault? Illinois has some serious talent returning on their defense as well. Blue chipper Martez Wilson moves into a much more prominent role at linebacker this year, and corner Vontae Davis could be one of the best in the Big Ten. The Illini return a handful of defensive lineman that will provide talent and depth to the position. The defense will be fast and capable of making big plays. No worries though, it's not like I'm going to say Michigan will fail...
- While many "studs" return, the man with his picture next to that word in the dictionary is gone: J Leman.
- The Illini also lose both starting safeties.
- Leman's partner (not like that obviously), Antonio Steele, is also gone, leaving it up to the youngsters to hold down the linebacker spot.
Michigan can take advantage of the mostly inexperienced back seven the same way the Wolverines did last season. Anytime Henne wanted (except for when his shoulder, you know, fell off) he could hit Manningham or Arrington up the seam. Sloppy linebacker and safety play will turn those 25 yard gains into much bigger plays this time around. I'm sure Wilson and whatever other Zook recruit steps into the linebacker spot will be good athletes, but it's going to take discipline and intelligence to stop Rodriguez's offense this season, and something tells me they will racka da disciprine.
And it's not like Michigan had much trouble on the ground either. Minor and Brown moved the ball well on Illinois last season and will do the same this year.
Again, the kicking advantage goes to Michigan as Illinois will be going with a freshman walk-on at kicker and the same punter that was booming 13-yarders against Michigan last season. Zoltan laughs at you. In his mind.
Michigan wins in a modest-scoring affair.
Three games down, eight to go to get to the Horseshoe unbeaten. Here's the first game that really is going to take some convincing.
Wisconsin -- Sept. 27, TBA
With a young offense and a new system, Michigan would benefit from three or four bye weeks during the season. Unfortunately, they only get one. The week before playing Wisconsin isn't a bad time to have it though. A week off will give the defense some time to rest and the offense a chance to fix up some early season problems and implement some new quirks. The bad news? Wisconsin also has a week off before traveling to Ann Arbor. So what gives Michigan a fighting chance against a team most will have in the top 15-20 coming into the season?
- History- UM is 48-12-1 against UW, and is 16-1 in the last 17 contests at Michigan Stadium.
- No passing game for Wisconsin- It's the same question every season for the Badgers: who will play quarterback? Tyler Donovan stepped up last season, but he is gone, leaving two inexperienced signal callers to battle it out. The Badgers also are without a big-name receiver.
- No pass defense either- Jack Ikegwuonu left for the NFL after last season. Two newcomers fill the corner positions, and both missed spring ball.
- Special teams- Lopata and Space Emperor Mesko give Michigan an edge against most teams in the kicking department.
- Rich Rodriguez- This is the game where we some major innovation in the offense.
This all sounds pretty good, but at the same time, it's a very rosy preview. The history of the series is essentially out the window with a new coach for Michigan and a new-ish coach for Wisconsin, both of whom have installed different offenses (Bielema has moved Wisconsin to a more balanced attack, integrating the passing game more).
Wisconsin's lack of a prominent quarterback is nothing new for them and the wide receivers may not need to be great with one of the best tight ends in the country, Travis Beckum, picking up the slack. Plus, the lack of a passing attack is compensated with a killer running game. PJ Hill is back for what seems like his 100th season (only a junior!) and the reserves are no slouches either. The offensive line should be very Gittleson-y, averaging around 315 lbs., with most starters returning.
The cornerback position is a concern, but the safeties are coming back, including Big Ten INT leader from last season Shane Carter. They also return six of the front seven.
In the special teams department, the Badgers return David Gilreath, a sophomore that led the conference in yards per punt return last season.
While Rodriguez should benefit from the week off, Bielema will have his defense more ready than any of the first three teams on Michigan's schedule, with extra time to break down some film.
So what wins out? Will the straight off the farm 'Sconnies overpower the trimmer, quicker Wolverines? Will Michigan be able to get to the edge and use their speed? Well, both answers are probably "yes," but this is about telling you why Michigan will win, not making predictions.
This one will be a battle, a close one, a burner of barns. The crowd can really make the difference here; if UM can ride some momentum coming out of South Bend, Michigan fans will be frenzied after the week off and ready to push Rich Rod to his first Big Ten win.
Wisconsin is a team to be feared on the schedule, but an inexperienced quarterback playing his first Big Ten game in the Big House bodes well for Michigan. It will be big plays that win the day as Michigan goes 4-0, all but ensuring the bowl streak stays alive!
Two games down. Now it's a trip to South Bend to take on the Irish, where Notre Dame does it's talking on the field, without excuses of course.
@ Notre Dame -- Sept. 13, 3:30 PM
Utah is a quality opponent, I don't think many people would say otherwise. Notre Dame, however, is UM's first "big" game. In my opinion, Utah is better, but this is Notre Dame - Michigan, at South Bend, when the Irish should be 1-0. You have the winning percentage battle, Notre Dame trying to bounce back from its horrible season, Michigan trying to avoid a similar fall from grace under a new coach, and Weis's "to hell with Michigan" comments to boot.
It's hard to tell what the progression of Michigan's new offense will be, but with a couple tough defenses to start the year, it could just be in South Bend that they start to click. Notre Dame's rush defense was awful last year, and won't be helped by the departure of Trevor Laws. The secondary is supposed to be good, but without Darrin Walls, and after losing Zbikowski (DYK he is a boxer?!) I'm not sold. Notre Dame was second in the nation in pass defense last year, but I'm not sure how tough it is to defend the pass when most teams only have to throw the ball for the first half to build a big lead, and the rest of the teams are service academies that don't throw the ball. Ever.
Even if Michigan hasn't fallen into rhythm offensively, they should be able to move the ball on the ground. Crum is a good linebacker, but he is the only returning starter at LB and one of only two returning starters in the front seven. The young guys, however, are part of some of these highly touted Weis recruiting classes, so we'll see how they develop.
The offense shouldn't need to put up a whole lot of points to win this game. Last season, the Irish offensive line was just plain horrible, giving up 58 sacks, to lead the nation, and win our hearts. At least they can keep Michigan honest with the run, right? Nah, not so much. 2.1 yards per carry and a cloud of dust was their policy last season, which actually may not be all that bad after 58 sacks.
Perennial Heisman hopeful Jimmah Clausen is back at the helm this year. Expect to see him on his back. A lot. And possibly crying. Again, there is plenty of young talent on the offense, but it will come down to giving Clausen some time, and with the blitzing linebackers, combined with the matadors on the O-line, it just isn't going to happen.
One of these young talents to keep an eye on is wideout Duval Kamara. At 6'5" about 210 lbs, he creates a matchup concern with Trent (6'1") and Warren (6') and could be the prime target for some quick passes from Clausen.
Special teams have not been good to Notre Dame recently, and if this thing comes down to the kicking game, Michigan gets a distinct advantage, as Irish kicker Brandon Walker was 1-7 from 30+ yards out last season. I don't see this one coming down to kicking though, as 21 points will probably be enough to win it.
I was lucky enough to be in South Bend two years ago for Michigan's huge win (I even got a picture with Jarrett Irons!!!) and hope to be back again to watch the Wolverines improve to 3-0!