Part twelve of the all-singing all-dancing season preview. Previously: The Story, 2009, quarterbacks, tailbacks, receivers, offensive line, secondary, linebackers, defensive line, special teams, offensive overview and predictions, defensive overview and predictions.
Note: video from last year is lightboxed; previous years will take you off the page.
The theory of turnover margin: it is nearly random. Teams that find themselves at one end or the other at the end of the year are highly likely to rebound towards the average. So teams towards the top will tend to be overrated and vice versa. Nonrandom factors to evaluate: quarterback experience, quarterback pressure applied and received, and odd running backs like Mike Hart who just don't fumble.
I should have stopped here in last year's preview…
I expect this to be solidly negative this year what with the n00b quarterbacks and the line and the no Mike Hart,
…but I kept going:
but Scott Shafer’s GOT what plants CRAVE so it could be around even again. Don’t think it will have a major impact.
…oh well. Michigan got crushed in this metric last year and this is a major reason for optimism this year, as has been discussed ad nauseum. If people
HOLD ON TO THE GODDAMN BALL
Michigan should again approach neutral (but probably not reach it: freshmen at QB and all). This should be enough for a one or two game improvement by itself.
Position Switch Starters
Theory of position switches: if you are starting or considering starting a guy who was playing somewhere else a year ago, that position is in trouble. There are degrees of this. When Notre Dame moved Travis Thomas, a useful backup at tailback, to linebacker and then declared him a starter, there was no way that could end well. Wisconsin's flip of LB Travis Beckum to tight end was less ominous because Wisconsin had a solid linebacking corps and Beckum hadn't established himself on that side of the ball. Michigan flipping Prescott Burgess from SLB to WLB or PSU moving Dan Connor inside don't register here: we're talking major moves that indicate a serious lack somewhere.
- Steve Schilling moves from tackle to guard and will start.
- Ryan Van Bergen sort of moves from DE to DT and will start.
- Brandon Herron moves from LB to sort of DE and will start.
- Stevie Brown moves from S to sort of LB and will start.
- Troy Woolfolk moves from CB to S and will start.
Though the italicized section above notes that minor moves aren't too damning and all of these fit the category save for Stevie Brown's, IME, that is a lot of guys at positions that are at least somewhat unfamiliar. Schilling's move is probably not a big deal—probably a net positive, actually—but er… that's suboptimal on D there.
An Embarrassing Prediction, No Doubt
Even if Tate gets injured and Sheridan is thrust into the starting lineup on a semi-permanent basis it's tough to see Michigan losing to Indiana, Delaware State, or Eastern Michigan. Western… well, Tate's healthy and it's a stretch to say he'll be out for that game. Also there is Denard. And you can throw in Purdue, too, as a game that Michigan should win. Plus seven other games. These cases aren't meant to encompass the entire spectrum of possibility, so 5-7 should be the realistic bottom.
Let's set aside the super fairy tale where Tate Forcier is Drew Tate as a sophomore, no one gets injured on the defense, and the safeties are a vast improvement over last year. But since this is the best case area: Michigan has five games they should win handily, and a slate of seven opponents who will all be slight favorites. If Tate is functional, Denard is good for one ninja move a game, and the run offense maxes out, Michigan will be in all of those games; I can see them picking off four at maximum. 9-3 is the ceiling.
I believe(!) in the Rodriguez leap.
The only issue is that even if Rodriguez makes a leap similar to that turned in by his 2002 West Virginia team—probably the most comparable since they were coming from so far back—Michigan will only improve to 68th in total offense. They would, hypothetically, get to 42nd in scoring offense if they turned in a 42% jump in points. And unlike Rodriguez's previous stops, his new quarterback is totally inexperienced instead of just mostly inexperienced or Shaun King.
So even if I believe in The Leap, the projections I threw out earlier are a variety of Super Leap Rodriguez hasn't experienced before. The main way I can justify that is by citing Forcier/Robinsons presumed VORP because that RP is a horrible amalgam of Threet and Sheridan. Also, it's a lot easier to go from wretched to okay than okay to pretty good. That, and the turnovers, is where the projections of the Super Leap come from. I'm sticking with 'em. Michigan offense: erratic trending towards sort of good if you squint. Book it.
The defense, well… it's a lot like the offense last year, not to terrify you into a catatonic state. What I mean by that is it relies heavily on a few players to be upright, healthy, and very good lest the whole thing dissolve into chaos. Last year those players were Stephen Threet, various tailbacks, the offensive line, and maybe Junior Hemingway, all of whom were laid up for significant portions of the season (or, in the case of the offensive line, saw significant portions of them laid up for the season). If a similar plague befalls Michigan, the bottom will drop out of the defense again. Probably not to the extent that the offense bottomed out last year—horrible defenses always seem to be coupled with totally incompetent teams (or hyper-pace passing spreads)—but a repeat of last year is possible if Graham or Warren or a variety of others go down. The unit hangs by a thread and could be a pleasant surprise or a fiasco. Splitting the difference, let's shoot for "meh."
||@ Michigan State
Note that the "tossups" above lean to the opponent slightly except maybe for Michigan State and Wisconsin. Michigan should be large favorites in the five games in the jinx-preventing "must win"—no auto-wins here—and probable win categories. The lines in games Michigan will be the underdog in figure to be considerably smaller. If it's 3-4 points, Michigan's still got a 40% chance of winning by the numbers.
So… yeah. If Michigan is an 80% favorite in those five games and a 40% dog in the other seven on average their win expectation is 6.8. That's a simplification since they'll be a bigger favorite in some games and a bigger dog in others, but overall it seems accurate to me. I'd love to find some reason to defy the prevailing consensus for many reasons, amongst them the twin desires to be interesting and avoid the Motor City Bowl, but I can't. Michigan should win the five games against chumps and pick off two or maybe three of their other seven opponents. 7-5 is the chalky pick. FWIW, I think I've talked myself into the idea that 8-4 is a more likely outcome than 6-6.