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!
OK, so we've already been over why UM is going to dispose of Utah in game one, now it's on to Miami (OH), when I'll probably sport the Worst State Ever shirt, just for fun. Here's why UM is 2-0 going into South Bend:
Miami (OH) -- Sept. 6, 12:00 PM
First off, it's a MAC school, and despite Johnny Sears' best efforts, Michigan has a strict policy of beating these teams. As for Miami, UM leads the series 4-0 (sweep!). Did you know their team name is the RedHawks? That's right, one word, with the 'H' capitalized in the middle. WtF? While emotionally, one could fear a letdown between the Utah and Notre Dame games, it won't happen. It's no stretch to imagine the offense looking a little shaky in game one, so I imagine Rodriguez berating them constantly leading up to the Miami game, causing Boren to transfer from Ohio State, just to get farther away.
Miami's defense seems to be the strength of the team. After playing Utah, with three new linebackers, Miami returns all three starters, and apparently they're good. “That threesome is as good as any in the conference, and I don’t think that there are many who are better in all of college football,” coach Shane Montgomery said. Two things:
- Miami's coach's name sounds like that of a country music star.
- I know the midwest isn't known for its hot women, but this is far from the best threesome in the MAC Conference.
So they have good linebackers, big deal. The offense won't need too many points to get us the win...
That's because Miami's offense is rotten. No running backs of note returning, a shaky quarterback, and well...they're Miami. Goal number three for Shafe's defense is looking pretty good for this game, whether it's by way of knocking the starter out, or a few turnovers. Miami's starter threw seven picks in the last three games of '07.
This game may start slowly, but Michigan is just too good for Miami. The RedHawks won't be able to move the ball, and Michigan's defense and/or special teams will score in Week Two. Write it down. Bring on the Irish!
What will be the biggest point total the offense manages this season? Against whom?
I'm going with about a 52-pointer on Purdue. Purdue's D was eaten up by the Chips in their bowl game and M's offense will be clicking by this time. I don't think the Tiller quotes will have much to do with it, but it will be a beating nonetheless.
Most of us are hoping for at least a winning record this season, getting Michigan into its 5,000th straight bowl game and giving us hope for great things to come as the Rodriguez Era progresses. Well, my first shot at a diary entry will be a Notre Dame fan-esque outlook for the Utah game, with a similar entry to follow for each game leading up to our trip to the rural Mississippi of the north, the Horseshoe. Do I think this will be how it plays out? No, but I'll be trying to convince myself for the next month that UM can start 11-0...and convince you too, one game at a time.
Utah -- August 30, 3:30
Even after that game from last year, the Big House remains an intimidating force for visitors to deal with. Especially since none of these Utes have played in Michigan Stadium (2002 was the only meeting between the teams). Utah's current players have played tough road games against BCS conference teams at UCLA (L) and at Louisville (W). Michigan Stadium on Saturday August 30th has potential to be mentioned with some of the loudest games that we've been reading about on MGoBoard, and if Michigan grabs the lead, or makes a few plays defensively, the crowd will be an even bigger advantage.
It is also hard to imagine this team coming out as flat emotionally as it did last year. Barwis may actually eat a live Mormon child in the locker room before the game. Notwithstanding that display, these kids are going to be fired up. There will be a level of passion out there that we have rarely seen the past few years, and I mean from everyone, not just one or two guys trying to fire the rest up. Don't be surprised if Brandon Graham "aggravates" Brian Johnson's shoulder injury.
Speaking of the injury to the quarterback's throwing arm, we all remember the last time a QB tried playing through a shoulder injury at the Big House. Even if Johnson's injury is a non-factor by late August, Trent and Warren form one of the best cover duos in the country and it will be tough to pass on them. Utah seems to have a load of running backs led by Darrell Mack, a bruiser who ran for over 1,200 yards last year. With four returning O-linemen, the Utes will rely on the run to set up the pass. If Taylor really has bought into the new staff, he should be ready to start game one, rounding out (but not in the same sense as last year) our D-line. I think the line gives Utah's O-line fits and lets our young LBs run around and make plays.
Defensively, from the early scouting reports I've seen it looks like Utah is weak at DT and lost three linebackers from last season. The LB inexperience is bad news for them against UM's offense. Bite on a play fake and a slot WR will have one man to beat for six. The Utah defense was pretty good statistically last year, but it did give up 32 to Navy in one of the more exciting bowl games of the season. I'm not sure how athletic these new LBs are for Utah, and I'm no expert on defending the spread (God knows I haven't seen it done well recently), but I would think you need speed and good instincts as a LB against the spread. I don't think they'll have enough of either.
Overall, the defense will win the day against Utah. UM will make enough plays to keep the crowd going and this thing will be about a 10 point win, maybe a lot more if we catch some breaks early.
I know it's way early to get a good idea of how the game will shake out, but those are my thoughts as of today. Mr. Steele obviously disagrees with any rosy predictions I may have as he has Utah ranked 14th preseason. Wow.
(This is a repost, the first topic vanished.)
Before Spring practice I was not enthused. Then (name redacted) left to join his BABY brother, and I was even less 'thused' I was thinking 6-6, maybe even 5-7 or 4-8 if we catch a couple of injuries. I was worried about bowl streaks, and non-losing season streaks, and spartans having another excuse to riot.
Then I started watching old WVU games. And I thought, OMG PAT WHITE and STEVE SLATON are the R0X0RS! We've got a comparable slaton coming in mcguffie, and some combination of brown, minor, horn, and shaw should make RB the team's strength. Unfortunately, we have nothing close to a pat white. At least not this year.
So I was getting more depressed. But then I started watching games from before the pat white era. Before miami and va tech had left the big least. And you know what I realized? Rich Rod is a pretty darn good coach.
I saw an offensive system that was creative, deceptive, and designed to mess with opposing player's heads. I also saw relative no-names busting 60 yard runs behind the blocking of absolute no-names and i thought, barwis is a god.
(Mike Barwis. All your recruits are belong to him. Mike Barwis)
So now I'm starting to feel pretty good about the upcoming season. I don't pretend to have any BCS dreams, but a winning record and a new year's day bowl are not out of the question.
So here's the breakdown. (% chance michigan wins)
1. Utah 75%
2. Miami Ohio 95%
3. at Notre Dame 90%
4. Wisconsin 45%
5. Illinois 45%
6. Toledo 100%
7. at Penn State 55%
8. Michigan State 60%
9. at Purdue 80%
10. at Minnesota 95%
11. Northwestern 75%
12. Ohio State 5%
Best case scenario is that, with a little luck, we go into the penn state game 6-0, the world is in love with rich rod, we unexpectedly cream the nittany pickers (because WE OWN, PENN STATE), and cruise to a nail biting loss to osu. 11-1 and in the rose bowl. (yeah right)
Worst case, all the QB's suck, the O-line sucks, and we can't stop the spread. We stumble to 5 losses in conference and even trip over our own feet against utah, making it 6-6 and barely eking out a bowl bid, which we lose for the first losing season in some 4 decades.
Most likely, we'll end up around 8-4 losing one we shouldn't and wining one we shouldn't. We end up in the citrus or alamo bowl and everyone is like, 'just wait till next year!!!' (funny, the more things change, the more they stay the same)
So that's my prediction a solid 8-4 and the sky's the limit for the future.
What do you think?