Before I begin, I'll say right here that this isn't intended to be a prediction of what might be realistic, but instead what is in theory possible in the world of college football. This hinges on a lot of what-ifs, but isn't entirely out of reach either.
This is merely a thought about what isn't out-of-reach for this team.
Game 1: vs UConn.
UConn comes into this game cautiously favored, but promtly forgets all that in the face of the newly biggest stage in College Football. Michigan loses the coin toss and UConn elects to recieve first to try to open up with some points against Michigan's defense.
UConn wants to run the ball and get the ground game churning early, and do their best to do so. However, the front six obliterate any hope of that, showing clear growth particularly at linebacker under TEH GERG's tutelage, drawing some double-teams regularly up front and really attacking the offense. 3rd down is stopped by a design zone-blitz and UConn is pressured, eventually throwing the ball away.
Michigan gets decent field position, and the offense takes off. I personally have Tate Forcier starting, showing much quicker release even than that year and much more comfort in the pocket after more time in training camp, using his accuracy to put the UConn defense on their heels and exploit weaknesses in their underwhelming secondary. A couple runs are mixed in, Vincent smith breaks one on a good zone-read and Michigan gets its first TD.
The ensuing drives look fairly similar - UConn drops into the gun and tries out Michigan's secondary, but can't perform reliably under the pressure from Michigan's linemen and LBs and can't put many complete drives together. Tate gets the ball back and UConn falls down 14-0.
Urgency sets in, and UConn gets really agressive. This gives them a couple big plays, and gets them on the board but puts them in the danger zone as RR puts in Denard Robinson, who proceeds to truly light up the scoreboard, leading a run-heavy attack before hitting Stonum streaking down the sidelines for a long TD. Michigan continues to control the ball, playing aggressively on defense and giving up points, but eventually forcing mistakes, collecting a fumble and a trio of interceptions from forced balls, resulting in a lopsided-looking 18 point win where Michigan puts up over 250 yards on the ground.
TL:DR - Michigan forces mistakes on defense due to pressure on the QB while forcing UConn to make foolish moves due to an overpowering offensive display.
Meanwhile, Purdue puts on a light show in South Bend, playing Notre Dame to a close, high-scoring game, losing but shattering the confidence of the Notre Dame defense. Notre Dame's new QB does, however, have a pretty decent day, but the gamewinner here is Armando Allen, who puts up over 150 yards alone on Purdue's underwhelming run defense.
Week 2: @ Notre Dame
Michigan is riding high. They beat a big east favorite big, and despite giving up some points and some big plays, got some progress on D, collecting a number of sacks and showcasing the unstoppable offense. When Michigan comes into south bend, they aren't feeling any fear.
Michigan gets the ball first this time, Denard with the start, marching progressively down the field and opening up with 7 points. Notre Dame responds in similar kind, but gives up a big sack in the red zone on 3rd and 4, forcing the field goal.
Second Quarter, Michigan scores another TD on its next drive. Notre Dame then lofts one deep on 3rd and long, burning some unfortunate soul in our secondary for a 70 yd TD. The collective sigh from Ann Arbor is heard in South Bend. Punts are then exchanged, but Michigan gets the ball back in favorable field position after a moderate return, and Denard scores on a deep pass from play action. Notre dame gets the ball back in time for a field goal, but Michigan goes into halftime, leading 21-13.
Notre Dame comes back with a renewed sense of urgency and put in a beautiful drive after the half, featuring a number of aggressive passes thrown under heavy pressure, coming back to within 2 after Armando Allen is dropped for a loss on the 2 point conversion attempt.
Stonum gets a good return, taking Michigan to their 40 yd line. Out comes the rushing attack, back does Notre Dame's defense. Denard rolls out for a pass, but his guys downfield appear covered. He jukes the incoming LB and breaks a run for a TD, picking up some great blocks downfield.
Michigan's defense, now playing with a 9-point lead, whips out the pretty blitzes. A blind-side sack on first down and a small gain on second leads to a desperate pressured throw on third, getting hit by the box safety as the ball comes out, the ball floating right into Mouton's chest, sitting close to alone in Zone coverage. Nobody is close enough to make the tackle, and Mouton takes it to the house.
Notre dame tacks on a touchdown, Michigan a field goal, but a second interception thrown into disguised coverage seals the deal. Notre Dame puts up over 350 yards of passing offense, but falls at home 38-26.
Games 3 & 4 - cupcakes. Michigan's backups make us all feel good about the future of the program. Wins are had, Highlight reels are made.
Game 5: @ Indiana. Indiana comes into this game 3-0 after putting up absurd amounts of points on their cupcake opponents, winning each game by over 2 tds with their dangerous pistol offense, but giving up a number themselves. These teams went through 2009 as not only cupcakes, but the bottom feeders of cupcake land.
Long story short, Indiana doesn't even realize they are feeling overconfident and capable of winning after their close game in Ann Arbor last year and their undefeated start.
The crowd in Bloomington quickly falls silent as consecutive sacks on second and third down cut short their opening drive, and Michigan gets the ball back with solid field position. Points are scored, boots go down on throats, Michigan shows Indiana who is boss in a 24-point beatdown.
Meanwhile, Michigan State (3-1) hosts No. 6 Wisconsin (4-0) after losing in a heartbreaker (not mine, assholes!) at home to Notre Dame, but crushing Northern Colorado in a desperate attempt to salvage their spirits before Big Ten play. Wisconsin, however, is too much for the illiterate, and while Greg Jones has the game of his career (2 sacks, 13 tackles, 2 tfl), Wisconsin, in an attempt to impress voters, puts up over 600 yards of total offense and blows out Sparty at home.
Week 6: No. 23 Michigan (5-0) vs Michigan St.(3-2)
Mark Snyder begins the week with a column about how history is about to repeat itself, but this time in ann arbor, talking about Michigan State's recievers making fools of Michigan's secondary, a unit that has surrendered a lot of big plays so far this season. mixing in hints about alleged sexual deviancy of various members of the Michigan Athletic department. Spartan fans worldwide are convinced of guaranteed victory against Rich Rodriguez one more time, and how this is still going to be 'their season' and how officials alone were responsible for all of wisconsin's blowout victory.
After all, this game is always close. Michigan State always plays their best for this game, and that cannot be denied.
They forget a few things going in. Sports' 110,000 quietest fants aren't so quiet, and Rich Rodriguez isn't Lloyd Carr, and running up the score isn't something he's afraid of.
The game of course, seems competitive at the start. Michigan State goes score-for-score with Michigan through the first have, owing success to some deep balls being caught for big gains, depsite next to no success on the ground. Tate Forcier does his Tate forcier thing in the second quarter, getting the ball out quick and forcing Michigan State's non-secondary to not make plays.
In the second half, however, Michigan gets the ball back and takes a 7 point lead, but a different defense steps up to play. Michigan adjusts its coverage, and starts abusing a gassed spartan offensive line. Michigan State tries to adjust by quickening up passes to take the edge off, but begins throwing into underneath zone coverage, causing incompletions and earth-shattering hits on MSU recievers over the middle. Turnovers are made, Denard runs happen, deep passes are completed, Vincent Smith has over 150 of his own yards, and Michigan begins to build a substantial lead, finally capitalizing on a pass of desperation to end the game in a 21-point victory.
Spartan nation tears over alleged dirty hits and officiating bias are enjoyed by the literate for years to come.
Meanwhile, No. 18 Penn St (3-1 after a close loss to Alabama) is embarassed by No. 12 Iowa (4-0), losing by 17 points in a 27-10 road loss at Kinnick Stadium, their only points coming off a pick-6 and an interception returned to the Iowa 30 resulting in a Field Goal. Evan Royster fails to carry the team as the lack of quality QB play results in a one-dimensional offense that Iowa's run defense stomps all over.
Week 7: No. 9 Iowa (5-0) at No. 17 Michigan (6-0)
Pundits are only now beginning to believe in Michigan, and call this the "true" test of the Wolverines.
Kirk Herbstriet talks about how he actually likes this 2-QB system, and while isn't sold yet, thinks that Rich Rodriguez has made his point and is showing the world how maybe this really can work in the Big Ten. Furthermore, he points out that limiting turnovers really is going to be the key to this game.
Desmond Howard talks about how much he likes Vincent Smith, but how it really begins up front with the O-Line that is Finally Showing Its Experience.
Mark Snyder writes predictions of a 6-loss season collapse, calling the blowout victory over Michigan State the previous week a fluke. Palms meet faces, Lulz are had on these boards at his expense.
ESPN's College Gameday, in Ann Arbor for the game, features Lee Corso picking Iowa, much to the chagrin of the fans lined up behind the studio setup.
Iowa is favored to win in vegas by 7 points.
Both teams are confident, Both teams are dangerous. Both teams to this game have put up big numbers on offense. Fears are had over Iowa's dangerous recieving corps. People want to believe in Michigan's D thanks to sack and turnover numbers, but the YPG given up put us pretty low in overall defensive rankings.
Traitors in the daily predict an Iowa victory.
Such is the stage for the Iowa-Michigan game.
The game starts slow. The Iowa ground game doesn't really get going, but their defense limits Michigan's advancement through the first quarter. A deep pass puts Iowa up 10-3 at the quarter, michigan ball.
Tate forcier replaces Denard robinson at QB. Quick passes force the Iowa defense to back off the pressure, a third down run picks up 16 through the middle. One pass falls incomplete before a deep ball hits Odoms over the middle, continuing after the catch before going down at the Iowa 3. Tate carries it in himself two plays later for the TD.
A beautiful kick and a muffed block on the return forces Iowa to start their next posession deep on their own end. Next up, Stanziball pick-6 puts michigan up on top. Next Iowa posession ends in a field goal to bring the score up to 13-17 with michigan in the lead.
Michigan gets posession first in the second half, driving down the field against Iowa's laboring defense for another TD. Iowa responds in kind, but isn't gaining any ground on Michigan's lead. Punts and FGs are exchanged, before a Vincent Smith fumble gives the ball up to Iowa, giving them a short field and eventually 3-point lead.
Denard robinson gets the call, running the ball effectively against a gassed defense, breaking a 20 yard one himself, before finding Kevin Koger with a beautiful ball thrown into tight coverage for the TD.
Stanzi feels desperate. Under 4 minutes to go, long field. He begins driving under heavy pressure from Michigan's pass rush.
However, at midfield, Michigan damns the torpedos, and sends the house on a blitz and gets Stanzi for a big intentional grounding call. On 3rd and 15, his pass is tipped at the line and falls into the hands of Obi Ezeh, who falls with it to let Michigan kneel out the clock.
Despite 300+ yards in the air, Iowa falls to michigan, 34-30
Meanwhile, No.5 Wisconsin 'upsets' No. 2 Ohio State 23- 17 in Camp Randall. Highlight videos of blindside hits on Terelle Pryor are enjoyed by all.
Week 8: No. 7 Michigan (7-0) @ Penn St (5-2)
People in happy valley are thrilled that they didn't plan a white-house for this prime time game against Michigan.
Paterno, looking for #400 after beating conference bottomfeeder illinois and thumping Minnesota, prepares for a fresh michigan coming off of a bye week.
Penn St fans are gibbering, arguing as to how they could not realize that Michigan might be a threat and simultaneously not wanting to believe it. They tell themselves Michigan only won against Iowa because they were at home.
Sadly for them, they still haven't managed to get progress at the QB positon, and their inability to make Michigan's secondary work makes it a long day. Evan Royster gets 163 yards through the game, but has no real help. Penn St's defense, thanks to being rested as a result of the fairly effective time-spending rushing attack, holds Michigan to 23 points and their lowest yardage total of the season, but falls 27-17 as time runs out after Odoms is tackled in-bounds on an end-around as michigan is driving in the 4th quater. Denard Robinson plays his worst game of the season, but Tate Forcier has a solid outing.
The same week, Stanzi has the game of his life, throwing for 387 yards and 4 TDs against No 2. Wisconsin, beating them by 3 points in one of the most visually entertaining games of the season.
Week 9: No. 7 Michigan (8-0) vs Illinois (2-6)
Yeah, right. Revenge is had, backups are played. Ron Zook looks for a new job.
Week 10: No. 7 Michigan (9-0) @ Purdue (7-3)
Purdue to this point has had a decent season. Coming off an impressively close game against Wisconsin, these guys begin to smell like a trap game. Miami transfer Robert Marve has done well, earning himself the spot as statistically the No.3 individual QB in the Big Ten. Their run game has done poorly, and their defense hasn't held up, and a lot of their victories have come at small margins, but this squad certainly to this point has impressed.
Michigan shows that their defense hasn't held up, putting up over 700 yards of total offense.
The kicker? Robert Marve throws for 467 yards and 5 tds.
The problem? He also throws 4 ints.
The result? Michigan wins, 53-38
Game note: Denard Robinson has 175 yards rushing, largely from two long TDs (70 and 80 yds)
Week 11: No. 5 Michigan (10-0) vs No. 9 Wisconsin (9-1)
After the heartbreaking loss to Iowa, Wisconsin struggled in its wins against Purdue and Indiana. Uncharacteristic of a Wisconsin team, it's the passing game under Scott Tolzien that has kept this team together, and the rushing attack has held up decently as well. Meanwhile, ever since getting torched by Stanzi, the Wisconsin Defense has given up a lot of yards in the air to Purdue and a lot - for a wisconsin defense - to Indiana on the ground. More points were scored in the past three games against them in the rest of the season combined.
And now they have to come into Ann Arbor against an offense firing on all cylinders.
Inadvertently, Michigan takes advantage of this and crushes the confidence of the Wisconsin Defense. While the first half of the game is a shootout, it's clear that Michigan is getting at least some pressure where Wisconsin is being lead around by the nose.
In the second half, Michigan closes the book on Wisconsin's run game, the attack lacking the speed they feel they need to keep up in this kind of shootout. Wisconsin continues to score through the third quarter, but becomes one-dimensional.
Meanwhile, Denard and Tate Forcier both enjoy success against the struggling Wisconsin D.
At the end of the night, Tolzein simply cannot keep up, and on a hurried throw is picked off down the sidelines. Michigan converts, turning their 7-point lead into a 14-point lead. Tolzien tries to come back, and brings it back within 7, but is sacked on third down from midfield, letting the clock run down into a Michigan victory.
Ohio State, meanwhile, gives up its second loss, this time at Iowa. Adrian Clayborn refuses to ackgnowledge fatherhood of Terelle Pryor's baby despite nationally televized video evidence. Questions are raised about the strength of Ohio State's offense against top-calibre defenses. Despite throwing 3 interceptions in the victory, Stanzi is anointed as god-king of the Big Ten.
Week 12: No. 3 Michigan (11-0) @ No. 15 Ohio State (9-2)
People don't think Michigan has a top-calibre defense. Despite forcing turnovers and impressive performances up front, the secondary has been, in good games, pedestrian.
Every good QB has walked all over the Michigan secondary.
Fortunately, Terelle Pryor isn't a good QB.
Things start off bad for Ohio State. Terelle Pryor gets picked off when throwing a duck masquerading as a slant, converting into 3 michigan points. Not game-changers, but it kills the last vestiges of confidence Tressel has in Pryor's passing decision-making. From here, Ohio State tries to establish the run.
For the next two quarters, Ohio State does a decent job of establishing the run, putting up 13 points by doing work on the ground.
However, Michigan's balanced attack strikes quickly and puts up 17, giving Michigan a 20-13 lead at the half. Ohio State fans moo about how their team has been performing, but haven't lost hope.
A 96-yard run by Denard Robinson three plays into the first drive of the second half crushes their hope.
Ohio State drops Pryor back into the shotgun in an attempt to come back from the 14-point deficit, but their first drive ends in 3, not 7. Michigan scores another TD, clearly beginning to pull away. The quick passing game comes back, but the short passes are denied by the heavy zones close in, and the pass pressure isn't allowing the downfield routes to develop reliably. Michigan doesn't extend it's 18-point lead any farther, but with 5:00 to go, Mike Martin jumps the snap count and charges into Justin Boren, bashing him back into Terelle Pryor, snapping his spine in the process and knocking the lifeless heap into the football, forcing a fumble. Well, Ok, maybe that part wouldn't happen. Rather, after Ohio State would appear to be staging a comeback in the 4th quarter, Boren would get burned because he's a gutless fatass with no work ethic, forcing a hurried pass from Pryor that would get picked off in the end zone to end the game.
Voters would be impressed, bumping Michigan up to No.1 for playing in yet another tough game.
Now, to figure out who we'd play for the national title, let's look around the league.
The Pac-10, ACC, Big East, and Big 12 are, in my not humble opinion, pretty terrible. None of them are going to the title game (HAHA USC).
Realistically, the winner of the SEC title game will be playing for the national title.
On a whim, I'll say that's Alabama, Arkansas, or LSU. Let's say Alabama, because I hate Nick Saban because he's a bitch, as much as I like him for making Sparty cry.
I don't really care about this game, because the SEC is overrated, but here's how it will go.
The pundits will talk about those SEC defenses. How in general the SEC is the best. They will kindly ask you to ignore the fact that they are in the middle of choking on SEC penis.
People will talk about how maybe Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson look a lot like Matt Flynn and Ryan Perriloux (duh) of LSU's title season.
Mark Snyder will actively root for Alabama because of close personal ties to international terror and that every game Michigan ever won was a fluke, and will later wonder why M fans don't give sparty any support in the march NCAA Basketball tourney.
This game will in fact look like the bastard child of the Oklahoma vs West Virginia (Fiesta?) Bowl game and the OSU vs LSU National title game. Michigan will run all over, demoralize the defense, and score big on big plays. The game will appear competitive and Alabama will score every so often, but Michigan will gain a lead and keep in in one of the highest scoring title games in history, winning 47-33.
The point of this exercise isn't to say this will happen. The real point is that this outcome isn't 100% impossible, either, and that there is no reason for us to try and shoot for any less. In this example, we get help from Big Ten opponents beating each other and doing well or poorly at certain times to build our confidence and to get our defense time to mature and come together, and definately requires everyone on our team to play their best, but honestly, stranger things have happened in this sport than the winningest team pulling off a national title run.
Mostly, I figured some people might be amused to see a possible way we could have an impressively good season. Its interesting the range of outcomes that are possible this season, because with this team, bad things could happen, but the sky really is the limit.
[Mod edit: The original title was "How things could go impossibly well this season." Given this appears to be written as a fanfic, title changed]