Before the season I broke it down into 3 separate four game acts:
UMass, BG, IU and IU
Iowa, PSU, UW, OSU
UConn (W), ND (W), MSU and Purdue.
Our program came into the season with three realistic missions:
1. Play well enough for RR to keep his job so he can continue building his program.
Status: Mission virtually accomplished. Yes, there is a lot of season to go, but the expected number for RR to keep his job by evidencing "improvement" as Brandon put it (even though he didn't specify a wins total) was 6-6 and a bowl birth. UM now only needs 4 wins to accomplish this, and should be eminently achievable with the 4 expected win games and two other coin flips ahead, not to mention the chance to knock off a weaker PSU or surprise Iowa.
2. Stay relatively healthy and continue to gain experience for this incredibly young team.
Status: In progress. So far so good on the health front, and let's hope Gibbons, Cam Gordon and Denard and the rest of our young team continue to grow from their mistakes. Gibbons was, uh, nervous, Cam's angles on those two ND bombs were painful, and Denard made some obvious mistakes as well with his arm. For all the flash and yardage, we still only put up 28 points after winning the turn over battle 3-0... Also, it's painfully obvious our overall defense is not very good. Our lack of pass rush appears an obvious indication G Rob is shedding help up front to protect the secondary. But our young and gritty D has gotten the job done against two formidable foes, and can only continue to get better, especially with the two cupcake games ahead in preparation for Big10 play.
3. Shoot for the stars relative to the last two years and go 8-4 or 9-3.
Status: Half way there. 6-6 is virtually assured by simply beating the four opponents listed above we should easily beat. 7-5 requires simply winning 1 of 6 other games - 4 expected loss games and 2 coin flips (MSU/Purdue). That also seems expected and achievable. Yet after the first two seasons under RR, especially with the losses of Warren and Graham and Woolfolk this year, most conservative UM fans like myself projected 7-5 (as Brian also did), but of course, secretly hoped for the miracle that would be 8-4 or even 9-3 in this, still a rebuilding year.
8-4 will require us to probably run the table on MSU and Purdue. Purdue seems eminently winnable, but MSU is a good team, made better by having a mirthless coach who sacrifices weeks and wins in advance of the UM game to get his team ready for the only game he apparently cares about.
9-3? Run the table on our flips and squeak a win out of either PSU or Iowa. Wisconsin with it's experience and OSU just don't seem achievable this year, but one can only dream...
Amazing start to our season. We've won the first 2 of the 4 most important games. MSU is the next one. GO BLUE!!!