Would edit but then I get into irritating image size problems.
I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
Hey hey, I’m back with the first 2013 installment of “Reading the Tea Leaves,” the now annual pseudo-scientific prediction fest that comes in bushels of three (2012 editions here, here and here; 2011 editions here, here and here). And there’s a bonus for all you fantasy nerds out there—this is the A Song of Ice and Fire edition. To avoid nerd rage related controversy, or perhaps to court it, I’ve used this handy guide for my rankings of George R. R. Martin’s 5 aSoIaF novels.
In order to predict our regular-season record, I look at the two main “on paper” factors: who we are and who we play (which including circumstances, such as where we play them). Luck, of course, also plays a role—a bad fall here means Bellomy is your QB for most of the Nebraska game; a good bounce there and you recover a fumble instead of watching them kick the game-winning field goal. In lieu of a good way to quantify luck, I then utilize a probability algorithm to predict the number of wins, which is based on the aggregate of individual game assessments. It’s not complicated, but last year it correctly predicted 8 wins. This year I use 2—a conservative version and one that rests on more moderately bullish individual game assessments. Then I move on to the various scenarios and assign probabilities to each.
Our 2013 Roster/We Who Are
As far as our team goes, there are some question marks, but I’m oddly confident. After all, our DC got former super-bust BWC and ex-walk-on Kovacs into the NFL. We’ll miss Jake Ryan early on, but we only have one marquee game before he returns. And the secondary should be significantly better than it was last year (even considering the lack of Kovacs). Though we traded in experience for more, albeit green, talent, I trust Mattison. I don’t expect us to be dominant on defense, especially early on, but I think we’ll do fine and should improve as the season progresses.
On the offensive side, it’s largely going to come down to how quickly the new starters on the line acclimate. I expect growing pains early on, but unlike 2012, those pains won’t have to come in road games against either Alabama’s terra cotta army of 4 and 5 stars or a Manti Teo-led Notre Dame defense in South Bend. By the time we roll into East Lansing, I expect Kalis and, to a lesser degree, Braden and Miller, to be playing with enough confidence and poise to offset their lack of experience. There should be a lot of continuity from the late-2012 passing offense, while I expect the switch from off-Fitz-plus-Rawls to hopefully-back-on-Fitz-plus-freshman-Green to be a major upgrade.
Schedule/Who We Play
A lot of people expect our record to moderately improve from 2012’s rough 8-4. But in terms of schedule, at least, 2011 is a better comparison. Last year we had the misfortune of playing the AP #1, 3 and 4 teams in the regular season and played none of them at home. This year we play a depleted version of last year’s #4 (Notre Dame) at home and then get #3 (Ohio) at home as well. Oh, and did I mention that this year we trade Alabama for UCONN? Or that we nearly beat both Notre Dame and Ohio on the road last year?
The road games that bother me are Sparty, Penn State and Northwestern. Under Hoke we’ve been lights out at home but a little iffy on the road, so each of these represents a heightened challenge compared to last year (when they were at home). It’s always hard to win in East Lansing, especially in the Dantonio era, and their defense will be good. On the other hand, I still don’t see where the offensive yards will come from. At Penn State is at Penn State, even with all the question marks. And as far as Northwestern goes, well, we’ll see. But they played us close at home last year and their fast-paced spread offense might be the most likely of our opponents to take advantage of our defensive inexperience. That said, Northwestern is essentially Sparty’s inverse—as such, I don’t see how they’ll stop our offense.
Nebraska, oddly, doesn’t really bother me. Sure they’ve got some offensive firepower, but their defense looks to be even worse than Northwestern’s. Add to that the fact that we only lost last year’s game in Lincoln because Denard went out with an injury, as well as the fact that his year we get them at home. Where we are nearly unbeatable. So yeah, not scared.
As for the rest, well, there’s a modicum of trap potential in Iowa away, but all I see are Ws beyond that.
For the algorithm, which correctly predicted 8 wins last year, I’m assigning 1.00 for “guaranteed win,” 0.75 for “likely win,” 0.67 for “likely-but win” and 0.50 for tossup. Then it reverses down to 0.00. Because of our schedule, there aren’t any games below the tossup threshold this year. I’m doing two versions, one conservative and another bullish.
The conservative estimate outputs that as: 1) 5 guaranteed wins (CMU, Akron, @UCONN, Minnesota, Indiana); 2) 2 likely ones (Nebraska, @Iowa); 3) a likely-but win against Notre Dame at home plus; 4) 3 tossups courtesy of the road (@Sparty, @PSU, @Northwestern); and 4) another tossup against Ohio, courtesy of the fact that we get them at home.
5(1.00) + 2(0.75) + 0.67 + 4(0.50) = 9.17 wins
The more bullish version suggests: 1) 6 guaranteed wins (CMU, Akron, @UCONN, Minnesota, Indiana, @Iowa); 2) 2 likely ones (Notre Dame, Nebraska); 3) 2 likely-but, the “but” coming courtesy of the road (@PSU, @Northwestern; 4) a tossup for Sparty away; and 4) a genuinely scary Ohio, but at home.
6(1.00) + 2(0.75) + 2(0.67) + 2(0.50) = 9.84 wins
The math, then, predicts a range of 9-10 wins. However, variance being variance, there are a range of scenarios that are relatively more or less plausible. So without further ado…
1. A Clash of Kings.
Scenario: Non-stop action and death dealing! Our offensive line grows up quickly, and the move from experience to talent proves fundamental to a revitalized ground game, while Devin Gardner gets enough pass protection to tear up the Big 10’s mostly mediocre defenses. Meanwhile, we hold serve on run defense and even improve against the pass, which is enough to stymie the few good offenses we face. We stare down an invasion from
Stannis Baratheon Urban Meyer and repel him with our wildfire defense and an epic flanking movement passing offense.
Record: 12-0. We run the table and get to the Big 10 Championship Game, where we probably face Ohio for the second time in a week. A BCS bowl is a lock.
Probability: P = .05. Essentially, this would be our equivalent of what Notre Dame did last year, and would require a similar amount of luck and collapsing of the once-scary opponents (in our case Ohio and Sparty, in their case Oklahoma and USC). The Clash of Kings scenario is more likely than running the table was in 2012, but still not exactly likely. Ohio is going to be good, and though we can certainly beat them, Sparty is always fired up against us and especially when playing at home. Plus there’s uncertainty tied to the rest of the road games—are we talented, experienced and lucky enough to not blow any of them and still beat all the rivals? Maybe, but probably not.
2. A Storm of Swords
Scenario: We go red wedding on the Big 10 but get caught with our pants down in the toilet at one inopportune moment. Everything else from scenario #1 still applies.
Record: 11-1. We either run the table up to The Game or beat Ohio and lose to one of the other likely candidates. We probably get a Big 10 Championship Game out of it; either way we still get our best regular season since 1997.
Probability: P = .15. Okay, now we’re talking plausible-ish! Of course, all the disclaimers for scenario #1 apply here as well, with the caveat that we’re allowed our one bad day. That automatically makes it more likely, as even Alabama has had that over the past two years. Unfortunately, I see too many question marks on the roster to really get behind this scenario: an inexperienced interior O-line, no clear sense of whether we’ll get a pass rush, questions of whether Countess, Fitz and Ryan can return to form after rehabbing from serious injuries, etc. While I do expect these things to turn out well, when the entirety of the season is considered, they may not manifest positively in each and every game.
3. A Game of Thrones
Scenario: Taut. Gripping. Tantalizing yet never delivering that crucial victory. We are generally awesome, and kick some ass in the
Whispering Wood The Game/Conquest of the Juggalos, but run into a few roadblocks on the way.
Record: 10-2. Likely losses = 1 of Sparty/Ohio and 1 more from your “tossups,” “likely-buts” and ND. Whether we win the Legends Division in its final year depends on whom we lose to and how they do over the course of the season. Just like it did in 2011.
Probability: P = .30. Though the rational part of my brain is a bit more conservative, the enthusiastic, emotional fan part feels as if this is the way things will play out. It just keeps repeating “schedule, schedule, the schedule is faaaavorable” until I believe it’s more true than “roster, roster, the roster is inexpeeerienced.”
4. A Feast for Crows
Scenario: A mostly enjoyable ride that ultimately doesn’t live up to hopes and expectations.
Record: 9-3. I’d guess this means we lose ¾ out of the “likely-but” and “tossup” games. An early loss to ND (considering we don’t have Ryan and will be working out experience issues on the O-line) is not out of the realm of possibility either.
Probability: P = .35. Unfortunately, but not too unfortunately, the math suggests this is the most likely scenario, slightly beating out the more palatable 10-2 (since both of the estimates produce predicted win totals under 10). It would still constitute a bit of progress from 2012, though. That’s good. But it will probably produce a cavalcade of obnoxious “I told you so” columns from everyone’s “favorite” Freep columnist that evince a total disregard for logic and rationality. That’s bad.
5. A Dance with Dragons
Scenario: Where are we going? Why is this
Quentyn Martell section [insert player] injury rehab taking so long to resolve? Why is this Jon Snow/Danaerys storyline offense so boring and listless?
Record: 8-4 or lower. Things just don’t go as planned. Maybe that’s due to an injury, or maybe something just doesn’t work on offense and we don’t have Denard to bail us out with his legs.
Probability: .15. Last year we went 8-4 in the regular season, having played eventual national champion Alabama (away), eventual runner-up Notre Dame (away), eventual undefeated Ohio (away) and a decent-ish Nebraska team (away) after losing Denard and not, apparently, wanting to put Devin in. The idea that we’ll do the same or worse when there’s no Alabama, a crappier Notre Dame at home, Nebraska at home and Ohio at home strikes me as unlikely. But it isn’t impossible to imagine either, especially considering our lack of depth at key positions *cough* quarterback *cough*.
Prediction is tricky business, because there's only so much you can know before you're in the moment. I've tried to factor that uncertainty into this analysis, but there's no guarantee I've done it well enough. Plus there's the fact that preseason predictions almost inevitably overvalue the previous season's results--hence why I underestimated our record in 2011 and overestimated it in 2012. But the algorithm was on the money last year, so this year I've tried to hew more closely to it and rely less on intuition. That said, it still rests on a foundation of subjective assessment, so feel free to point out where I've made mistakes in my estimations. And, of course, feel free to disagree with the aSoIaF rankings as well!
Would edit but then I get into irritating image size problems.
I actually really enjoyed the fifth book. I thought the Jon storyline was pretty compelling, and while Danaerys was definitely frustrating, I still found some of the later stuff with Selmy to be really good. I would say
1. Storm of Swords: two great weddings, plenty of action, and a huge diversifying of characters
2. Game of Thrones: did a great job of setting up the world, and the Ned-slaying at the end made me realize that this was unlike almost any series I had read.
3. Dance of Dragons: Goes way more into the magical aspect of the world, great hostilities between the Manderlys and the Freys, and (hopefully) represents the low point for the good guys (whoever they may be)
4. Clash of Kings: Great stuff with the Brotherhood Without Banners and great Stark storylines, but lacked the impact moments of a lot of the other books. Blackwater didn't do it for me in terms of suspense, I never saw Kings Landing falling.
5. Feast for Crows: Had a few really great aspects: the Kingsmoot, Cersei's expose, and Arya's storyline, but dragged on, and really felt the absences of some of the best characters.
As far as Michigan Football goes, I think you're spot on. My (homer) hunch says we put together a special season and go 11-1, dropping either OSU, PSU, or Northwestern, but I'd say 9-3 is more likely. No matter the record, I would really like to see us send Gallon and Lewan out with a Big Ten Championship.
...there are better arguments for the ranking I used on that link I provided. But I generally feel as if the first 3 books are all amazing and the last 2 are boring/listless in comparison (though still fun to read).
As far as Michigan football goes, some days I can psyche myself into thinking we'll run the table. And 11-1 isn't so far-fetched, considering Sparty did it twice in a row. But on the other hand, we haven't finished the regular season with 1 loss since 2006, and there are enough question marks on our roster/schedule that I don't think it's too likely. 10-2, though, seems like a distinct possibility.
I disagree with placing ND in anything but "tossup" in either scenario. Yes, the game is in Ann Arbor and, yes, it is at night, but ND has the best front seven UM will play all season and seeing as how it is only the second game of the season, I think the interior OL will get eaten alive. I forsee UM having great difficulty running the ball and keeping Devin upright which will probably result in a lot of turnovers. Personally, I'm predicting a loss (one of three on the season) to the Domers.
I appreciate your work on this and feel this is one of the more reasonable predictions I have seen thus far. Unfortunately, all fanbases are subject the phenomenon of overvaluing their favorite team in the offseason and I see far too many UM fans predicting an 11-1 or 12-0 season simply because that is what they hope will happen.
8-4 to 10-2 seems like the most likely range for the season with 9-3 being my prediction. I forsee losses to ND and two conference losses which might not be good enough to get to the B1G championship game.
Side Note: I like the Game of Thrones television show but found the books to be rather ponderous reading. I only made it completely through Game of Thrones and stopped about 100 pages into Clash of Kings. Amazing what the difference in medium can accomplish.
Absolutely agree. If we played ND toward the end of the season, after our young OL had some time to gain more experience, I might see the jsutification for bumping it above a tossup, but there's just no way. I'm not expecting to come away with a win in that one.
I think it's a tossup also. The only reason we will be in it is I expect ND to have an awful offense this year. I bet we get an ugly game just like last year
From 10-2 down take a loss to ND as a distinct possibility. In terms of their front 7 on defense, I hear you. And if this was in South Bend, I'd definitely call it a tossup. But if we were to shift ND from "likely-but" to "tossuup" in the conservative model, we still end up in 9.00 wins predicted.
Speaking specifically about that game, let me justify my putting them in the "likely-but" category: as good as their defense will be, they'll still need to score at least a few points to win, and like Sparty, I'm not sure where that production is going to come from. Plus it's at home, and they haven't beaten us there since 2005 (and before that, 1993). That's no guarantee, but I think balance plus home field advantage gives us a moderate edge.
Can't argue with math ... I sense a 9-3 or 10-2 season.
The problem with that is I don't want those 2 or 3 losses to be to the usual players -- ND, MSU or OSU. I want to beat them. But then again, I would not want our 2 or 3 losses to be against somebody like Penn State, Northwestern or Iowa.
So I hope for 12-0 ... and brace myself for momentary disappointment.
First, *Daenerys*. Cannot believe everyone is spelling her name wrong.
For the season, I think we either get 9 or 10 wins. Luck is the major factor for that one extra win or not. Last year we had Denard's freak injury at Neb and interception fest at ND to give away two probable wins; then again, the Devin-to-Roundtree vs. NW prevented a 7-5 regular season. These things we cannot predict. But based on this year's schedule, I do lean toward the 10-2 scenario, with losses coming from one of ND/NW and another one of Staee/Ohio.
As for the aSoIaF books, I have to disagree that a Clash of Kings is the best. Sure it had some fireworks and all, but its plot and settings just cannot match that of a Storm of Swords. The Red Wedding chapter is probably the best one in all fantasy genre I have ever read. So here is my pecking order: Storm > Clash > Game > Dance > Feast. And yeah, for a Feast of Crows, I and everyone else were utterly confused on why those bloody Greyjoy pirates are even in the series at all.
If anything, I would swap Notre Dame and MSU, but that doesn't change the math at all.
Your methodology is probably similar to how Las Vegas sets the over/under on season wins, though I'd guess theirs actually calculates a probability based on the lines of games that have been set rather than the broader categories you set.
I like the work, but the categorizations exhibit homerism (@UConn isn't a lock, ND isn't a likely a win, @MSU isn't a toss up - they're favored, etc.)
By how many is MSU favored? If it is 3 pts or less, then I think that qualifies as a "tossup." I am definitely NOT a UM homer (I have actually been called a "closet Buckeye" or "closet Sparty" several times on the interwebz) but I would be pretty darned surprised if UM lost to UConn even though it is a road game. UConn has been pretty bad for a while and that is going up against weak Big East competition which is still worse than the B1G. I am not expecting UM to blow UConn off the field but I would be LESS surprised by UM winning big (21+) than I would be if UConn won. I guess I might agree with putting them in the "likely win but..." category.
That has nothing to do with the diary here, though it is interesting in its own right.
As for the individual predictions, you are of course free to disagree, but I fail to see any reason why UCONN would be anything but a lock, and don't understand what rational basis there would be to favoring MSU over us when they don't have any clear means of offensive production. "Great defense plus home field advantage minus any semblence of offense" seems to suggest tossup, does it not?
...and FYI, the second algorithm is explicitly and self-consciously "bullish," i.e. less rational/more emotional. In the first estimate, ND isn't a "likely" win but a "likely-but" win where there's greater uncertainty involved. If this was away, it would be a tossup in my estimation. Similarly, Ohio would be worse than a tossup if in Columbus.
our expectations to 10-2 given our easier schedule, more depth/talent, and development. People worry about our Oline due to its inexperience. Experience didn't help the Oline last year. I'd focus more on that unit's coaching, if we're talking about concerns. Still, they have talented options at every position (grow up fast Kulger).
The basic problem with Feast and Dance is the disastrous decision to split up the timeline. All of the other problems with those two books stem from that. It turned out to be a poor solution to what might well have been a non-problem for his audience. Perhaps this already exists, but I've toyed with the idea of sitting down and putting together a guide to how to rearrange the chapters in the two books so they can be re-read (or read for the first time) in a more satisfying way.
So what does this observation mean for Michigan Football, book CXXXIV?
Let start with the OPs assessment of his Dance season: "Things just don't go as planned." Well said. The decision to split up the SoIaF timeline in Feast and Dance was when things went awry. I think Hoke's decision last year to NOT burn Kalis and Braden's redshirts is parallel to what might have been if Martin had NOT made the decision to split up the timeline. The 4th book might still have been meh, beset with problems, much like Michgan's season last year, but the 5th book might well have been a masterpiece, with everything coming together in mind-blowing fashion.
Gardner going down results in a repeat of last year, or worse, but I don't see much else to cause that level of disarray. Even if it rapidly becomes apparent that it wasn't just inexperience that kept Miller and Glasgow from getting more playing time last season, I imagine the coaches are ready burn Kugler's redshirt, because at that point it will be about beating Ohio. It's not like last season -- there are strong incentives to put Kugler in if Miller and Glasgow can't cut it. Last year there were strong disincentives to trying to fit Kalis and/or Braden into a patchwork interior.
It does exist. I'm on my phone so forgive me if I don't hunt down a link, but there is a reading guide for reading both books together chronologically.
While I don't know anything about those books (other than the fact that everyone seems to love the Game of Thrones TV series, and I plan to start watching it soon) I do have my ever-changing views on Michigan football to offer. I'm going to make predictions based on the W/L of each position group, then average those together. The wins are based on 12 regular season games (bowl game not included).
Offensive Line. The problem with the interior of the O-line is that we are still short on experienced depth. The competition between Bryant, Glasgow, and Miller seems to be a bunch of okay players--not dissimilar from last year's front that featured Barnum and Mealer--two four-star guys (Rivals) that started because there just wasn't anyone else. We still don't have enough guys that are ready to push for playing time to come up with a magnificent starting five. I see improvement on the interior from last year, but this is still a line that is susceptible to breakdowns and won't offer consistent rushing lanes.
The upside to this group is that the other three spots are manned by exceedingly capable players. I expect both tackles and the RG to be improvements from last year's bunch. In the final analysis, I think this is a line that has moments of brilliance and moments of "WTF?" As a group, I think it's a 8 win unit.
Quarterback. From bad news to good news. Devin Gardner has all the tools you'd like in QB: work ethic, intelligence, arm strength, accuracy, athleticism. He's not on an elite level when it comes to accuracy or decision-making, and I think he'll throw his share of INTs. I think he's an 11 win player. HUGE caveat--if he gets hurt...yikes. As a unit, the QBs are a 10 win group, but without DG, they're closer to 6 wins.
Running Back/Fullback. Fitz looked really good in those highlights. Derrick Green has had an injury-plagued camp. Hayes looks like the 3rd-down back. Smith may very well be the fourth-best back on the roster, with Rawls and Johnson falling off the radar a bit. This is an improved unit, but it lacks a player with proven, consistent production. Fitz had half of a great season, but has never put together a season of good work. Despite all the clamoring on this board and in the media, freshmen RB's do often take a year to develop. Kerridge is a blocking machine, and I think Shallman may emerge as a viable option as soon as this fall. Houma is a wild card. I think this is a 9 win group.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends. Again, we lack consistent, proven production. That said, as my concerns about this team go, this is waaaaaay down the list. Gallon is a stud. Dileo won't have a ton of catches, but he'll make his chances count. Darboh and Chesson are young, but loaded with talent. Reynolds and Jackson are finally ready to contribute. Funchess WILL have a breakout year, and Williams will improve. Butt might even help. I think this is a 9 win group.
OFFENSE AVERAGE - 9.00 WINS
Defensive Line. I am less concerned about the D-Line than I was at the start of camp. Hoke and Mattison appear to be developing not just some, but all of the kids they are recruiting. Henry, Strobel, Wormley, Godin, Ojemuida, Charlton and Pipkins are all non-starters that appear ready to contribute. The question is, will Clark and QWash make the jump to elite? Will Black? Will Heitzman be good or very good? There is sold depth here, and that's a big help--more on D-Line than at any other position--but I'm not sure there are any elite players here. 9 wins.
Linebackers. If there is one group I don't worry about at all, it's these guys. Gordon, and to a lesser extent, Beyer, will be very good starters. Not elite like JMFR, but still very good. Desmond Morgan's experience will get him the start, but Joe Bolden is a better player with an extremely bright future. Ross, I believe, will play at a level similar to what we expect from JMFR. Even RJS looks like the real deal now. This is the strongest unit on the team, with solid depth and very good or great starters. 11 wins.
Secondary. Is Countess going to be better than he was two years ago? Has Taylor learned that he has to be tuned-in for every play? Will Gordon take another step forward as a leader? Is Wilson going to beat out a pint-sized Avery? These are are all very good, very capable players. But again, there is no player who has proven himself to be elite. I like our secondary and think we'll be better than we were a year ago, but there are far too many question marks and too much youth on the back end. I think this is a 9 win group.
DEFENSE AVERAGE - 9.67 WINS
Kicking. Brendan Gibbons is, shockingly, one of the most proven commodities on our roster. From goat to hero, Gibbons' career has been a wild ride, but he is nearly automatic from close range, and has been clutch in big moments. Long snapper Glanda is a senior, and Dileo might be the best holder in the country. Third-year K/P Matt Wile is a more than capable back-up/kickoff guy. The kick coverage has been pretty good under Hoke/Ferrigno. This is an 11 win group.
Punting. Matt Wile is an accurate kicker with a good leg. Glanda snaps. There are no problems here, and Wile is just a notch or two below elite. Supposedly, Kenny Allen is pushing Wile for the job--that's a good sign. That said, our non-spread punt coverage sometimes feels like a crapshoot. 10 wins.
Returners. Gallon has never been anything but average as a punt returner. There are rumors of younger guys pushing for time at PR, but I don't see it happening (since Norfleet doesn't appear to be in the mix). Speaking of Brian's borderline creepy obsession, Norfleet had a very good average as a KR without having any game-breaking returns. That's a good sign. I expect a few game-changing returns this season. 9 wins.
SPECIAL TEAMS AVERAGE - 10 WINS
Overall, I'm more optimistic than I thought I would be. I believe our defense is better than our offense, and will have to be elite for us to win the B1G. That said, the only thing holding our offense back is our O-line, and if that unit can get it together, I think playing in the B1G title game is a distinct possibility, if not likely.
The overall problem with our team is that we lack proven, elite players. Taylor Lewan is the only guy on the roster that you can point to and say, "Yeah, that's a national championship caliber player." Schofield is a notch below that. DG, Fitz, Green, Gallon, Funchess, Kalis are all likely to be very good or great, but none has proven themselves yet. On defense, the problem is the same. T. Gordon, Countess, Washington, Clark, Ross are all potential All-B1G players, but none are proven. Only JMFR is proven, and he's not a lock for this season.
If we're going to go 12-0, we need 2-3 elite players on both sides of the ball to emerge. And we can't have ANY holes. I believe DG will be elite. I think Gallon will be close, as will Funchess. On defense, I think Ross will be elite, with Clark and Washington as strong maybes. But a B1G title will require most or all of those guys to play at an elite level, and that means a lot has to go right. And I think we have potential holes at LG and C, and potentially average performance at SDE and S.
I think 9-10 wins is about right.
Good summary. Only thing I would question is Bryant -- I don't think you can lump him in with Miller and Glasgow, both of whom, based on their time on the field last year, fit the "okay" category.
All we really know about his physical condition is he had his knee drained. That doesn't tell us anything about the caliber of player he could be if healthy. Bryant is an unknown on the field -- still a redshirt freshman in that respect.
Doesn't change your overall rating, unless he is healthy and it turns out he is good or better.
I tend to agree with your unspoken assessment that Braden is a non-factor at guard until proven otherwise.
Thinking of the season as a whole, with age, experience, talent, schedule, randomness, and whatnot, I feel 8-10 wins is a good range. But looking at the games individually I'd pick Michigan as the favorite in 11, if not all 12 games (facing Notre Dame's front in game two makes me nervous but even that I expect to be basically a tossup due to their offense). Obviously they're not all guaranteed wins, but if forced to pick a winner on a game by game basis, I think I'd be at 11-1 right now. Which scares the crap out of the pessimist in me.