Reading the Tea Leaves 2012

Submitted by Eye of the Tiger on August 2nd, 2012 at 5:19 PM

Last year I read some tea leaves, seeking to accurately predict our performance for the 2011-2 season. Here’s how that turned out:

  • Pre-season prediction: 8-4
  • Mid-season prediction: 9-3
  • What really happened: 10-2

To put it mildly, we beat most rational expectations last year, including mine. Then we beat them again, winning the Sugar Bowl against a pretty darned good Virginia Tech team. It was glorious, and appeared to signal Michigan’s return to its rightful place among the college football elite.

Now we get to find out how sustainable all that was. On the plus side, we have D-Lithium and a whole mess ‘o returning starters from a team that finished the season with the #26 scoring offense and the #6 scoring defense, plus a bona fide elite coaching staff! On the other hand, our 2012-3 squad faces a more daunting schedule, the loss of Denard’s security blanket “Junior” and the prospect of life after Mike Martin, while possessing only razor thin depth at key positions and being burdened by something we didn’t have this time last year: expectations.

So how’s it going to turn out? Good question, and not one you can really answer. Okay, sure, we can say it’s bloody unlikely that we’ll go 5-7, but are we going to be 8-4 or 10-2? That 2-win range hinges as much on unpredictable things like injuries, fumbles and ball bounces as it does on returning starters of the strength of coaching.  Because of this, as I did last year, I’m going to provide you with a series of scenarios for the regular season, and then evaluate their likelihood in terms of probability. Oh, and I hope you like Star Wars…

 

The Scenarios

1. The Empire Strikes Back

Scenario: We are awesome, and by awesome, I mean flat out, Darth-Vader-kicking-everyone’s-ass awesome. Denard is the Heisman favorite, Will Campbell has morphed into an NFL first rounder, everyone shows significant improvement over last year and nobody really important gets injured ever. We show those pesky rebels who's boss.

Record: 12-0. We shock the country by beating defending champions Alabama, step on Notre Dame in South Bend and then run the table in conference play. Wisconsin melts in fear of the maize and blue juggernaut, and we go on to face the SEC team du jour in the national championship game. 

Probability: (p = .01). Over the course of the offseason, I’ve flirted with this scenario, and found myself increasingly able to make convincing arguments as to its feasibility. The main stumbling block is Alabama, but the more I looked at it, the more it seemed as if we had a "Buster Douglas sized chance" to win that one. The logic went something like this: PSU was able to hang with 2011-2 Alabama for 3 quarters + the fact that our 2012-3 team should be a lot better than 2011-2 PSU + the fact that 2012-3 Alabama has lost 8 starters on defense, including most of its star players + the game will be played at the beginning of the season, when teams are rusty and we might be able to get away with stuff a team that plays them in week 10 wouldn’t be = a real, if still remote, chance. Then the news broke out Fitz’s suspension and I did away with such nonsense. See, our offense really needs a credible counter threat out of the shotgun, so defenses—and particularly the fast aggressive ones—can’t just key in on Denard. Vincent Smith is worth 3-4 good plays a game, but isn’t an every-down threat out of the zone-read, and the undoubtedly talented Rawls and Hayes are still green and untested (which often translates into “fumble-prone”). Fitz is the key to moving to ball on Alabama with the consistency we’ll need, and if he’s absent, or rusty, we’re going to have problems. I hate to say it, but that "Buster Douglas sized chance" is looking more and more like it's of the "vs. Evander Holyfield" variety. I just don’t see us winning this one; and even if we do, we still have a whole mess of challenging games that follow. 

 

2. A New Hope

Scenario: We are only marginally less awesome than in scenario #1 in the sense that we can beat pretty much anyone other than really big dogs like Alabama and USC. Denard is still a leading Heisman candidate and Will Campbell is still a stud on the D-line. Life is generally awesome. We don't need a targeting computer to blow up the Death Star.

Record: 11-1. We face a setback in the beginning, but learn from it and emerge stronger for the experience. We win the Leaders division and put that smarmy little brat from East Lansing back in his place. And then beat Ohio for the second year in a row. We make it to the Big 10 championship game, and are favored to win. A BCS game looms.

Probability: (p = .19). Hey, this could really happen! Alabama may be a tough mountain to climb, but I challenge you to find a single other game on our schedule we can’t win. Sure, beating ND in South Bend is going to be tough, but there’s no more Michael Floyd, and imagine how the last two games would have played out had he been somewhere else. Sure, we haven’t beaten either Michigan State or Iowa since 2007, but we’re at home for both and Iowa, at least, looks very beatable. And Sparty comes to town minus Missouri-hating Jerel Worthy and Nth year senior Kork Coupons, both of whom have given us fits over the years. I’m bullish on that one, and on Nebraska too. That leaves the great unknown of playing sanctioned Ohio at Ohio. You can’t ever count on that one, but I do expect there to be some growing pains associated with the transition to the Urban Meyer way, and think a win there is certainly possible, and maybe probable. The trick, of course, is doing each and every one of these things. As with the first scenario, this one relies on a lot of things going our way, including the unpredictable turnover margin and injuries. So yeah, also unlikely, but plausible at least…something that would have been unthinkable a year ago.

 

3. Return of the Jedi

Scenario: Our team may rack the same record as we did in 2011-2, but we are better. Why? Because our schedule is harder, that’s why. It’s considered the 4th hardest in the country, in fact. If we get to 10-2 again, it will be an accomplishment.

Record: 10-2. We drop Alabama and one road game—probably ND, but possibly also Nebraska or Ohio. That least one would hurt, as would ending the streak against ND, but you can’t win ‘em all, especially on the road in a hostile environment, and we’re going to be on the road in hostile environments a lot. This should still be good enough to make the Big 10 championship game and a BCS bowl.

Probability: (p = .29). This is, in my opinion, the second-most likely scenario. It’s what we should get on paper, given the vast number of returning starters + the fact that our offense and defense will be in the second year with the coaching staff – the harder schedule. So why only the second most likely scenario? Because, and I feel like a broken record here, that schedule is really daunting. When was the last time we beat ND in South Bend twice in three years or fewer? I’ll tell you when: 1888. History can be temporarily remade, as evidenced by Sparty’s current 4-game win streak against us, but this factoid should illustrate how hard it is to win consistently in South Bend.

 

4. Revenge of the Sith

Scenario: In the last of the “I’m at least okay with this” scenarios, our team is still good, but we feel the loss of Martin and Hemingway, and Denard still throws a couple ducks up for grabs at inopportune moments.  Things are mostly like they were last year; only the tougher schedule and issues on the D-line shave one win off the record for us.  But hey...at least we get to nerd rage on the Padawans, right?  

Record: 9-3. Alabama is a loss, as is ND, and likely one of Nebraska/Ohio, though MSU comes into play here as well. One of our losses, at least, is close and painful. Still, our team is good and we can hold our heads up high. We are still in the mix for the Big 10 championship, depending on whether we have 1 or 2 losses in conference play, and depending on how Sparty does.

Probability: (p = .31). This scenario, I hate to say, seems like the most likely one to me. Only by a sliver, mind you, but the more I look at the schedule, the more I think we lean on the wrong side of the 2/3-loss fence. It’s just hard to make it through a schedule like ours without some unforeseen adversity, and sure are a lot of chances for adversity. I see five potentially “losable” games on our schedule (Alabama, ND, MSU, Nebraska and Ohio), and only one of those is at home. A 2-3 record among those strikes me what you’d expect from a team that’s got a lot of dazzle and a lot of skill, but some serious question marks in the trenches.

 

5. Attack of the Clones

Scenario: A disappointing year where we don’t see enough improvement from Denard in terms of interceptions and/or the D-line and/or those things are fine but someone really important gets injured. There are, however, some redeeming factors. Like Natalie Portman and kid Boba Fett. 

Record: 8-4. Losses to Alabama and ND, plus 2 out of 3 among MSU/Nebraska/Ohio.

Probability: (p = .19) Is this possible? Yes. With a likely downgrade of performance on the D-line, we might have some problems with the smashmouthy, max-protect MANBALL + occasional play-action offenses that proliferate in our conference. Without much depth on the O-line and at other key positions, we are an injury away from experiencing Molk-in-2009 2.0.  On the other hand, is this probable? No. It’s not. We are returning so many starters that I have a hard time seeing us lose this many games. Plus, second year of system, etc.

 

6. The Phantom Menace

Scenario: Epic FAIL of Jar-Jar-esque proportions.

Record: 7-5. We lose all the losable games, and go 0-3 versus our rivals.

Probability: (p = .01). I see this being as likely as us running the table. As in, not very. Our coaches are just too good for this, considering how in 2011-2 they molded a previously embarrassing defense featuring only one legitimate star into the #6 scoring defense.  We have good defensive backs now. We have good linebackers now. And we have two of the best defensive coaches in the NCAA as our HC and DC. On the flipside, we have an offense that can be explosive, and really shouldn’t make as many mistakes now that it’s in the second year of Al Borges system. While a 4-loss season isn’t implausible, I think—considering all that—a 5-loss season really isn’t plausible at all.

 

Parting Notes

Things really should be good this season, and by "good" I mean that we should perform well enough to not have more than 3 losses. And I'd argue that with this schedule, a 3-loss season is the equivalent to last year's 2-losser, and anything above that is an improvement. According to my prognosticatin', we have an 80% chance of reaching that level, and a 49% chance of improving on it. 

This, of course, is an assessment made solely on the paper merits of our squad, their performance in the Spring Game, rumors coming out of practice and some educated guessery. Take that with a grain of salt, as you should any and all predictions. But if I were a betting man, I'd put the chips down on a 2 or 3 loss season. I hope I'm wrong, we go all Darth-Vader-on-Hoth and end up looking like 2010-1 Auburn minus the alleged sketchiness. Hoke springs eternal, and all that...

Comments

MGoNukeE

August 2nd, 2012 at 6:02 PM ^

I thought Revenge of the Sith was better than Return of the Jedi. It's close, but the workings of a Shakespearean tragedy has to be taken more seriously than the best legion of stormtroopers getting defeated by a bunch of teddy bear-like Ewoks.

EZMIKEP

August 3rd, 2012 at 12:05 AM ^

zero comparison with Return of the Jedi vs ROTS. None whatsoever. Even if you didn't like the teddy bears in Jedi at least that film had substance and great scenes. Outside of a few special effects the newer star wars films are an outright crime in the world of film making. There is nothing at all better about them. Sith is just horrible. 

Baldbill

August 3rd, 2012 at 6:53 AM ^

What you said.

Lucas, had lots of other people giving input to him when he started his movies, but by the time he was making the last 3, he had surrounded himself with yes-men. I was terrible disappointed in Lucas's last 3 SW movies. He continues to just muck around with formats, scenes,...etc that he has become a joke.

 

TatuajeVI

August 5th, 2012 at 10:22 AM ^

All three of the new Star Wars are so unbelievably terrible. Unless you are a 7 year old who likes watching things explode and light sabers every ten seconds more than you enjoy plot, character developement and a real script, ROTS does not belong in the same universe as even Return of the Jedi. Lucas should die in a fire.

MichiganTeacher

August 5th, 2012 at 6:33 PM ^

As one NukeEng to another (well, actually physicist by training, but I worked in the nuclear engineering department for a couple of years), I agree.

But, as we can see from the responses you've received, haters are gonna hate. In twenty or thirty years, Revenge of the Sith will consistently be ranked, correctly, as the third best in the series. And there is a huge gap between third and fourth best. I mean, it's not even close.

Sometimes I think RotS vs. RotJ is becoming one of those sociological touchstones like astrology or planned obsolescence; you can tell a lot about a person by what he says about the subject.

Other times I just wish football season were here already.

M-Wolverine

August 10th, 2012 at 12:08 PM ^

  1. After waiting 28 years to see Darth Vader hunt down and kill the Jedi, we see him kill some younglings. (and it even hurts typing that last word)
  2. After seeing numerous people get hit by force lightning, with no long standing ill effect, Sidious gets hit by his own lightning and transforms from an old guy into some really old looking guy who only vaguely looks like the guy (make-up) in Jedi.  Not "been hiding his appearance", or "20 more years of dark force energy and extending his life span turns him into that"....he gets hit by 1/10 of the force lightning that hits Luke.
  3. A new mother abandons her kids by dying because she's sad. Which can apparently be terminal in a galaxy far, far away.
  4.  

Don't get me wrong, the 3rd is actually a pretty good movie hate aside.  (The second isn't a bad movie either...just not as great as the others...the 1st, well...)  But saying it's the hidden gem and has anything on VI is just....madness.

MGoNukeE

August 10th, 2012 at 11:23 PM ^

but nothing that you cited is actually a crucial plot element that the entire movie is hinged upon. Without the Ewoks and their ability to win the Battle of Endor, Return of the Jedi falls apart. Hence, the Ewoks are the more egregious error. Lucas initially wanted to use Wookies instead of Ewoks, which would have been easier to understand the Rebels' success. However, because he wanted to make more money by appealing to children, he sacrificed quality.

More relevant are arguments pertaining to the strong characters from Jedi versus the weak characters and dialogue of Revenge of the Sith. The reason why I dismiss this is because there was very little character development in Return of the Jedi; the main characters had already grown to their max in the other two movies (which were better), while Revenge of the Sith was actually made worse because of the mistakes made in Episodes I and II. Meanwhile, Revenge of the Sith puts Anakin in the role as a tragic hero from a Shakespearean tragedy, where we know where the story starts and stops before watching the movie yet hope 1) he doesn't become Darth Vader, and 2) most of the Jedi don't get killed off. In a vacuum, this is a much more compelling story arc than what Return of the Jedi has to offer.

M-Wolverine

August 11th, 2012 at 12:48 AM ^

But I don't think Lucas needed the money. He's stated he didn't use the Wookies because by the time Jedi rolled around they weren't primitive enough, but guys who could co-pilot and repair starships. And he wanted them to be more outclassed than smart super big and strong aliens, to get more of his Vietnam War vibe he wanted of the low tech taking on the high tech power. A tad too cute for kid's who had grown up watching them at that point? Maybe. But they never bothered me. They're not beating the whole Empire. Not even beating the Imperial forces on the moon. They're just helping a mission to destroy the shields that the rebels thought a small alliance team could even do on their own but goes FUBAR when it turns out the Emperor leaked it himself. They're just the return surprise that allows the good guys to turn the tide.

I think there was development in Jedi. Luke goes from whiny and impulsive to bad ass. Han with Leia in the tree city. And you can't have any of the stuff you tlk about without Vader's arc at the end. Plus, come on....Wicket matures so much in the film!

In Sith do ou REALLY want Ankin not to become Vader? I think you just want him to stop being a whiny bitch. Frankly, I think most people were looking forward to it. And wanted more of what made Vader so feared, and tryluy a bad guy, so when he makes his move for redemption it means more. And not still whiny just dressed way cooler. And one of the more effective portions of the movie is order 66. It is moving (thanks John Williams!). But Vader should have been killing Jedi going into the Temple, not walking in and killing kids and aliens who could be beat by Gungans. And most of what works there is how delicious Ian McDiarmid is in all the films, but he can freely and justly chew scenery here. He truly is insidious.

MGoNukeE

August 11th, 2012 at 11:49 AM ^

Interesting point about the Wookies; if it was developed in the books that the Wookies were too advanced a race then they can't be used in RotJ. OTOH if this is Lucas making up an excuse to the media to justify replacing them then I see it as a moneygrab. This is the narrative I believe until proven otherwise because I watched Ewok Adventures as a kid, so Lucas succeeded in that regard. Then the real question is how reasonable it is for the Ewoks to make THAT much a difference since the Rebellion strike team was tiny compared to the Empire's legion. The only other time the main characters did that was when the Empire let them go on the Death Star, which seems more plausible than in Jedi.

Luke started the movie as a badass; he didn't grow into it as the movie unfolded. He had the opportunity to, but his entire scene with the Emperor didn't allow for anything to happen. Luke was challenged with "Strike me down and your training will be complete, making you an agent of the Dark Side" and he said "I was going to but then you told me that was a bad thing to do, so I'm going to pass". Admittedly, I wouldn't have minded the Ewoks as much had the Emperor scene been something interesting to focus on, since Admiral Ackbar didn't have enough memorable dialogue during that part of the movie. I'll give you Han/Leia in the tree city though; that was at least something interesting.

I completely agree with you that Lucas screwed Anakin out of character, though it's tough to grow into something when the previous two movies gave him nothing to work with. Yet I still managed to feel grief for his impossible situation: either stay as a Jedi and let Padme die or become a Sith lord and try to save her (but then kill her because of the self-fulfilling prophecy; I agree that Oedipus did it better). Honestly, I didn't want to see him become Vader because that meant Jedi (other characters) were going to die. It didn't matter if it was by his hand or not because I didn't respect his character in any way.

Now if the books had Anakin/Vader as a bigger badass that slaughtered Jedi left and right following his turning I can see the very strong objection to this movie. I can also understand the objection behind not following the true chosen one's path (remember that one kid in the temple that actually resisted for about 10 seconds? the books developed him as being the true chosen one, and Qui-Gon/Obiwan were wrong), and others. I also understand many objections people had about the dialogue in Episode III, but as mentioned before Episode VI had plenty of bad dialogue in its own right. Too often I find people that judge Jedi and Sith based on the great and terrible things its predecessors did rather than look at each movie in a vacuum; when I do that I have to put Sith ahead of Jedi, and that's even while hoping Ole Miss adopts Admiral Ackbar as their mascot. I'll admit it's not by much, which only seeks to prove that the (majority of the) Star Wars franchise is way overrated.

M-Wolverine

August 11th, 2012 at 5:37 PM ^

I'll say while I've read some of the books, and some are quite good, I don't take them into consideration for the movies. Lucas doesn't read them, just his people, and he ignores them for his story. It's entirely possible Lucas said that as a cash grab. But actually, and what I find more frustrating, is that he actually believes what he says most of the time. If it was all about cash he could have released the original cut of the film in HD and soaked us again, if it was only money. But I think what he does he believes is right, even if he's full of crap.

And he was right in any case. Wookiees can pilot the Falcon, use laser crossbows, repair everything from hyperdrives to protocol droids. And they're 7 feet tall and super strong. An army of them isn't an underdog, it's terrifying. Yeah the Ewoks made cute teddy bears, but there was a stuffed Chewbacca first, and with "Ewoks Adventures" we also OT "Droids.".

I don't see them beating the Empire in Jedi with Ewoks. Rather than a sneak surprise attack, a seal team action that they had originally planned, in and out, they do a mass attack where the Ewoks spread the Imperial forces so our team of heroes can get in to take out the base, they run or the hills. And the Ewoks can hold their own because they have home field. And know how to use the terrain where technology won't save the Empire (again, see Vietnam War). Then they just hold up till the Death Star explodes, and at that point every storm trooper is "well, we're out of a job...you want to fight? I don't want to fight."

Yeah, is it implausible? Sure. But so is it in Star Wars when they send a handful of Tie Fighters to take in the rebels in the final battle rather than outnumbering them a dozen to one like in Jedi. Part of that is budget, but it's just the form that your heroes are better than the bad guys and overcome unrealistic odds.

See, I'm seeing where our mileage may differ. The scenes in the Emperor's thrown room is what makes the movie for me. I mean, as emotional as anything is Williams great music as Luke goes apeshit to protect his sister. But stops himself. And at that point, dead or alive, he's won. He won't let himself be corrupted like his father. The Emperor has failed. Now throwing away the light saber wasn't a great idea mind you. But the Emperor's overconfidence was his weakness, while Luke's faith in his friends was not. They come through. As does the good he till sees in his father. The father is redeemed through the children. That's character growth.

And for him to not end up a wishy washy villain, he needed to have been really bad, and not just dressed cool. Again, not going by the books, but the movies, where Ben says a young Darth Vader helps the Empire hunt down and kill the Jedi. He's painted as a bad ass to be feared. So you want the movie to come through with that.

I do know that this has been a thought provoking discussion, and I'm glad we're not in season yet so we're not really hijacking anything yet.

smwilliams

August 2nd, 2012 at 7:19 PM ^

I agree with this entire post from the ranking of the films although like above, a case can be made for Revenge of the Sith over Return of the Jedi and that a 9-3 record is the most likely outcome.

3 losses to Bama (neutral), at ND, MSU, at Neb, and at Ohio is more than understandable.

Honestly, I'd say...

Wins - Air Force / UMass / Northwestern / at Minnesota / Iowa / at Purdue / Illinois / at ND / MSU

Losses - Bama / at Neb / at Ohio

Logan88

August 2nd, 2012 at 8:30 PM ^

I see five potentially “losable” games on our schedule (Alabama, ND, MSU, Nebraska and Ohio), and only two of those are at home.

Actually, only one of those games is in Ann Arbor (MSU). Bama is in Dallas and the other three are on the road. That is why, along with the scary D-line situation, I am predicting 8-4 for UM in 2012.

stephenrjking

August 2nd, 2012 at 8:38 PM ^

Your assessment of the schedule difference seems accurate to me; last year we benefitted from a weak Big Ten and looked awfully shaky against quality opponents like MSU and Va Tech. There had to have been a half dozen times last year where I saw ND's hands wrapped around its throat or a B1G team embarrassing itself as I thought, "you know, we're just not that good."

And that's okay. Michigan is improving and the best years of Hoke are in front of us.

But this year I think something like 9-3 or 8-4 is the most likely scenario. It's rational now; it will be harder to take in the fall.

stephenrjking

August 2nd, 2012 at 11:42 PM ^

That will certainly make a difference, and I'm excited about it for the future, but I have a hard time looking at the front seven and seeing a defense that can throttle top opponents.

A year's experience is going to help, and for once I'm encouraged about the ability of the secondary to prevent big plays and even participate in some of Greg's crazy blitzes, but unless BWC experiences an Alan Branch-type turnaround Michigan is going to get punched in the mouth a lot this year.

MGoLogan

August 3rd, 2012 at 11:54 AM ^

I have seen several people make comments like this about UM "getting punched in the mouth", and while it is possible (if not probable) our DL will be worse than last year, we really don't face too many "great" rushing teams.  With the exception of Alabama, there is not another OL that worries me that much.  If you go down the schedule, what other game(s) do you seen UM being pushed around?  Possibly ND and MSU, although I don't see that happening in either.  This is a serious question, with the exception of Alabama, what other game(s) do you see UM "getting punched in the mouth"? 

Eye of the Tiger

August 3rd, 2012 at 1:15 PM ^

Not sure how you can conclude otherwise. Their O-line dominated ours last year, they return...what...4 of 5 starters? We lose Martin and van Bergen.

Sure the upgrade at LB will help things a bit, as will playing at home. But we're going to have to gamble a bit to stop the run, and then hope our DBs can handle their WRs, which I think they can...but it's still a very good running team. 

Nebraska also has a good power running game with Burkhead, and I expect by the time we play them Ohio's won't be too shabby either. 

All that said, I don't expect any of those opponents to "punch us in the mouth." I do, however, expect those opponents to test our defense and pose problems we'll have to work to solve. I don't think we'll get through MSU/Nebraska/Ohio undefeated without some serious fighting in the trenches. 

 

MGoLogan

August 3rd, 2012 at 2:13 PM ^

I wasn't trying to say MSU isn't a good running team, but they are not a great running team like an Alabama.  Last year Baker gave UM trouble, but Bell, who will now be the feature back, was a non-factor.  All I was trying to say is that, yes, UM does have to replace RVB and Mike Martin, but it is not like they are going to face these dominating OL's week in and week out.

 

Edit: By the way, Eye of the Tiger, very nice write-up. 

DualThreat

August 2nd, 2012 at 9:52 PM ^

The OP hits the nail on the head in the film rankings, season predictions, and qualifications of a successfull season.  Well done on all counts.

 

 

Meeeeshigan

August 3rd, 2012 at 10:12 AM ^

Overall, I tend to agree with your assessment here; however, I might be just a bit more optimistic and would have 10-2 slightly more probable than 9-3. Somehow, I just believe that despite the lack of obvious star power (c'mon BWC!), Mattison and Hoke will not allow our DL to suck--they are too good at coaching these positions and take too much pride in their success. Otherwise, the team is largely intact from last year and should improve accordingly.

Can't wait for Sept. 1!!

Caesar

August 3rd, 2012 at 7:17 PM ^

I think a focused BWC is hopefully like a motivated Gabe Watson--an unstoppable man-force. And I can't argue with the coaching.

But the D-Line is pretty light this year. Mr. Black's shift into the interior is particularly concerning. My only cause for hope lay with some freshman, but I can't forget images of BWC getting blown up his first year. 

There are so many question marks trending the wrong way right now, it has me more than a little worried. 

RadioMuse

August 3rd, 2012 at 11:52 AM ^

an Indiana Jones movie with goddamn aliens.

Regardless I'm sensing a 9-3 season as the likely outcome, but I suspect we'll still make the Big-10 title game, and (please) the Rose Bowl.  Alabama is an assumed loss, one of Notre Dame/Nebraska/Ohio St. and a frusterating out-of-the blue heartbreaker, probably on the road (maybe just two out of the afformentioned three).  I'm honestly kinda hoping that if we have to lose 2 or more that it's 'Bama and ND, so that the team galvanizes early (see Illinios and Nebraska games 2011) and there's still a good chance that we can make the Big-10 title game for a chance to go to the granddaddy bowl presented by Vizio.

Eye of the Tiger

August 3rd, 2012 at 1:18 PM ^

That Indiana Jones film was an abomination. 

Also, I agree about the losses, and think the most likely 3-loss scenario is that we lose to Alabama and ND, and then drop 1 road game in-conference. That should definitely be enough fot eh Big 10 championship...just hope that road loss isn't against Ohio, or better yet, that it doesn't happen!

FingerMustache

August 3rd, 2012 at 12:50 PM ^

I think the order of likely outcomes is pretty good but the probabilities are a bit off. based on your numbers, you give us 49% chance of going at least 10-2. To me that is a bit high.

Also, sadly, i think you are underestimating the likelihood of a 7-5 season. As has been said, we have five "loseable" games: Alabama, ND, MSU, Nebraska and Ohio. But even if we win a game or two in there, the 2011 Iowa game demonstrates that we can definitely lose games we are not supposed to.

My numbers would be:

12-0: 2%

11-1: 13%

10-2: 25%

9-3: 43%

8-4: 22%

7-5: 5%

Eye of the Tiger

August 3rd, 2012 at 1:21 PM ^

Just not on the relative probabilities. 

And you're right about the fact that us dropping a game we should win is completely possible. I just don't see that happening at home, and it looks like most of our "should win" games are at home:

  • AFU
  • UMASS
  • Illinois
  • Northwestern
  • Iowa

That leaves Purdue as the trap game. Okay, I can imagine a scenario where we do lose that one, but I really don't think it's likely. 

 

BlueHills

August 3rd, 2012 at 11:36 PM ^

Sure, anything can happen. But here's why I'm an optimist:

1. Michigan is truly capable of beating anyone in the Big Ten. That's a plain fact, it's not a stretch like many of us thought at this time last year. We'd have to play badly to lose to another B1G team. Doesn't mean it can't happen; but we have some very awesome weapons on offense, with experience in the system, and we probably have as good a defense as anyone in the B1G. And there's Mattison, who can really coach them up.

2. Denard seems to have his most amazing games at the beginning of the season, in big OOC matchups. This has been the case for his career. I think this is in part, because before an opponent's defense really settles in and gels with game experience, Denard's unique talents make him more dangerous as a dual-threat. There isn't a better time in the season to play Alabama than in Game One. 

And he is in his second year of Borges' offense now. He should make fewer mistakes. Alabama is replacing a lot of defensive talent, and while they will be great by the end of the year, they won't be perfect at the beginning of the season. So they are vulnerable to Denard's ability, given a good game plan.

As for ND, they had better talent when they lost to Tate and Denard in '09 and '10, when both players were highly inexperienced. Last year Michigan played a terrible first half, and pulled the game out. I think we will win in South Bend again.

Last year's last second pass instead of setting up the tying field goal also proves that Hoke and staff call a ballsy game. Michigan does not play Tresselball. We go for the win.

Admittedly, anything can happen. But I like our chances in every game this year, including in Dallas.

harmon40

August 3rd, 2012 at 10:50 PM ^

I'm going to go out on a limb and say 12-0.  It may not be the most likely scenario, but here goes:

1. We will surpise Bama because of their new starters, a holy-crap-look-at-that breakout game from Rawls if Fitz can't play, and Shoelace playing out of his mind.

2.  We will beat ND because of their QB uncertainty and Shoelace playing out of his mind.

3.  We will beat MSU because of their game inexperience at QB, our improved LB and DB groups, and Shoelace playing out of his mind.

4. We will beat Nebraska because of our defense stopping Taylor Martinez and Shoelace playing out of his mind.

5.  We will beat Ohio because the cosmic laws of justice and goodness demand that evil, while occasionally allowed to flourish for a time, must ultimately be punished - and Shoelace playing out of his mind.

Irrational?  I prefer nonrational, which is something COMPLETELY different.

 

Eye of the Tiger

August 4th, 2012 at 10:22 AM ^

20% means not impossible by any stretch of the imagination, but also not the most likely. Actually a 4 loss season might be marginally more likely than I originally thought...24% instead of 19%, but considering all the returning starters, the mediocrity of most Big 10 competition and lack of trap road games, I think a 3 loss season is still very much the most likely scenario.

JCV16

August 4th, 2012 at 10:41 AM ^

I have a hard time believing the chances of losing 4 of ALA, MSU, ND, NEB, OSU or losing 3 of those + 1 of our other 7 games is only 20-24%.  It's probably more like 40-50%.  8-4 and 9-3 are the most likely outcomes, but 7-5 is more likely than 10-2.  I hope I'm wrong and you're right, of course. 

Eye of the Tiger

August 4th, 2012 at 11:47 AM ^

Curious why you are so pessimistic.

MSU may have beaten us the last 4 years, but 3 of those were RR years and last year was away in a trash tornado. Plus they replace Cousins, the running back who did the most damage to us, their best defensive player and the entire receiving corps. I don't expect it to be easy, but I think we're taking this one.

And Nebraska...the best argument for losing that one is that it's away. The second best is losing Mike Martin. But we didn't just beat them last year; we manhandled them. And they are losing a lot of key defensive personnel. I don't see us losing this one either.

After that, I agree with you. Alabama is a very likely loss, ND is the next most likely and that Ohio game has all the trappings of a, well, trap (away, opponent has nothing to lose, we're going to have trouble containing the QB, etc.). On paper we still win this one, but I'm wary of it.

 

JCV16

August 4th, 2012 at 1:08 PM ^

The odds are we lose at least 2 of our true road games plus Alabama.  I don't think that's a pessimistic evaluation, it's just the most likely outcome if you look at our record in road games going back decades.  Winning on the road is hard. If that happens we have to be perfect at home to go 9-3.  We could certainly do it, but I don't think there's  75-80% we do. 

Eye of the Tiger

August 4th, 2012 at 6:44 PM ^

I think we arte going undefeated at home. I just don't see anyone on that schedule who will pose problems aside from MSU. But that's it. 

As for the rest, I do think we'll drop 2 road games, and the pseudo-road game against Alabama. I think we'll take 2, meaning we go 2-3 over that stretch. Result = 9-3. 

I also think it is significantly more likely that we go 3-2 over that road stretch than 1-4.