Phil Steele predictions on Michigan, Ohio, & Big 10

Submitted by StephenRKass on July 11th, 2012 at 1:15 PM

Over at Eleven Warriors, Phil Steele gives a long interview on his process of ranking teams, along with his take on Ohio, Michigan, and the rest of the Big 10. It is a fascinating read, and gives a sense of why Steele does such a good job of predicting. (LINK:

Of greatest interest here are his comments on Michigan. Here are a few quotes:

 Last season, Brady Hoke and the Wolverines were one of the bigger success stories in the country. Do you think that can be sustained?  

Phil Steele:  Last year, Michigan had the best case scenario. Going 11-2, that’s about as good as it can get. When you look at things a little bit closer, the bowl game (against Virginia Tech)for example, they got out first-downed 22-12, outgained 377-184, but at the end of the game, they ended up winning.

You look at the Notre Dame game, heading into the fourth quarter you’re thinking Notre Dame is going to win by 24 points. They completely dominated the game and then ended up coming up short when Denard Robinson had a touchdown pass in the final seconds.

This year the schedule gets a little bit tougher. I do think this season’s team is a little bit stronger if they can get the defensive line going.

I just don’t think they’ll overachieve like they did last year.

I have them as an underdog against Alabama, a slight underdog at Notre Dame, an underdog at Nebraska and an underdog at Ohio State. That doesn’t mean they’ll lose all of them, but I think their odds of getting 11 wins are a little more difficult.

There is more in the interview on Michigan, but you can only quote so much. The whole piece is very good. Interestingly, Eleven Warriors predicts that Michigan will beat Alabama (although, Steele begs to differ, and thinks it would be quite an upset.)



July 11th, 2012 at 1:28 PM ^

Underdogs at Nebraska and OSU? We may have gotten lucky in the first two games he cited (ND & VT), but most of the year we played very well, and we demolished Nebraska and beat OSU. Does he really think those two teams are going to improve leaps and bounds more than Michigan over the offseason? I don't expect 11 wins again, but I don't think we're outright underdogs against 4 teams.


July 11th, 2012 at 2:27 PM ^

But that's the point of it.  Those are road games, and college kids tend to play worse on the road.  Last year wasn't the first time we were markedly worse performing on the road.  It's a common pattern, and why I agree with Steele on this one.  We may be neutral site favored vs OSU or Neb, but on the road, I'd give them the slight edge.  This same reason is why I think we can beat MSU this year despite their fixation on us and strong returning D.


July 11th, 2012 at 11:51 PM ^

I don't think that the Notre Dame game was even remotely relevant.  It was Brady Hoke's second game as HC.  I'll readily admit that Notre Dame looked like the better team that night but does anybody really think that ND was close to Michigan by the end of the year?  I think that the November Michigan team is much more representative of what we'll see this year.

On a neutral field, Michigan has a better team than ND, Nebraska and OSU this year.  I'm sure that they'll lose some of those games but the others teams are not better at this point.


July 11th, 2012 at 1:38 PM ^

Let your money vote.  If so, I would say three under-dogs (OSU, ND and Bama)...Nebraska a push and we are favored on the remaining games.  I think the OSU, Nebraska and MSU games are ravor thin concerning favorites.  Just my two pennies.

French West Indian

July 11th, 2012 at 1:44 PM ^

Last year was great but I think it will be difficult to replicate the same success in terms of wins and losses this time around (even though we might well be a better team).  The pessimist in me can't help but see some unlucky breaks ahead.

Space Coyote

July 11th, 2012 at 1:53 PM ^

OSU will have a season under their belt, playing at home.  Neb. should be tough on the road (they have a tough crowd).  ND game is almost always close, and it's at ND, and ND isn't completely awful.  And Alabama is a clear favotire.  So at best you have a push in three of those games.  Combine that with a couple tough home games, and this Michigan team could very easily be better than last year and not get to 11 wins. 

I don't really have a problem with much of this.


July 11th, 2012 at 2:06 PM ^

What do you mean by "OSU will have a season under their belt"?  This is Meyer's first season, no?  I agree that Nebraska will be a tougher game because it is in Lincoln, but I still think UM is the better team.  ND will be worse this year than last, and again, I think UM is the better team.  UM will clearly be the underdog in the Alabama game.  I agree with everything else you said, and I also agree that it will be difficult to get to 11 wins this year, although not impossible. 


July 11th, 2012 at 2:21 PM ^

I suspect he means that it's OSU's last game of the year... they will have essentially an entire season (of a favorable schedule) under their belt and will have worked out many of the kinks and growing pains that come with a new coaching staff.

If we were playing OSU in the first few games of the season, I would be much more confident we could beat them than the last game.


July 11th, 2012 at 2:54 PM ^

 You think Ohio state doesn't put as much importance into the Michigan game as they do a bowl game every year? Playing the last game of the season is a double edge sword. Sure they might have the "kinks" worked out but, there is also the possibility of injury and their offensive talent is paper thin at the start of the season. If miller gets hurt, then what? If they lose an offensive linemen, then what? Michigan won't lose to OSU or MSU this year.

 The alabama game is irritating for me. They lose Their entire secondary , most of their lineback corp, their starting tailback and their receivers but, we're the underdog. If we where playing the 2011 Alabama team I'd be more worried. I'm just hoping our team plays a lot cleaner on the road


July 11th, 2012 at 3:17 PM ^

Truthfully i'm concerned at the line.   Our O-line vs their beastly d-line... i just see us struggling to get anything going, similar to the virginia tech, ND, and MSU games.

On the other side, I'm excited about our LB corps, but worried about the D-Line against arguably the best O-line in the country.


July 11th, 2012 at 4:00 PM ^

 It's the Wolverines and Buckeyes fergodsakes!!! THE GAME! I can't believe there can be much more put on this game. Intangibles????  Hoke will be fired and have his players just as fired up. If intangibles meant much it should have swayed toward UM when BO passed away.

 I will admit Meyer has caught a break having a mobile Miller there to run his offense, but truth is he is still trying to put in the spread when most of his experienced upperclassmen are left over from another regime. Nobody knows what will happen and how they’ll take to it. (We all remember 2008, and what that was like.)

 That being said, unless we find a cure for our road doldrums, and the buckeyes just can't gel, scale tilts in their favor due where it's played, not because they treat it as their bowl.


July 11th, 2012 at 3:28 PM ^

I also don't have too much of a problem with what Steele is saying in the interview.

Nebraska has one season in the Big Ten now, they've probably made some adjustments to the tendencies of the conference, and they are talented to begin with, so that game in Lincoln should loom large - that's a tough place to go and I suspect it will be a closer contest than the game here in Ann Arbor. As for Ohio, even with the down year under Fickell, most of the same talent in Columbus and under Meyer, new to the team as he is, doesn't exactly set up to be easy either.

I would also agree that Notre Dame is not a complete slouch (but transfers and decommits have hit them a bit), and the game is in South Bend this year, and though we discussed ways to get at Alabama yesterday, they were deficiencies in select areas of their game that can be exploited - it just may not be exactly easy.

Having said that, if we play better on the road than we did last year, we're definitely in all these games though and stand to take some. There are many battles potentially here, but nothing totally insurmountable. As a quick indicator on offense, if you remove the rushing and receiving statistics from the MSU and Iowa games alone, we get five more yards per reception on average and three more yards per rush. A steady performance of that nature throughout the year would make all these games definitely not out of reach and I think we best at least ND and Nebraska with such a performance.


July 11th, 2012 at 3:49 PM ^

 If you take Lavante David off last years Nebraska team and that game is even more of a blow out. How many shoestring tackles did David make last year on Denard where he had nothing but open field in front of him. I'm a homer for sure but only cause I been a fan for so long, I exspect Michigan to play like that every game... well every game except 1-2 lol like I said I been a fan for awhile


July 11th, 2012 at 2:22 PM ^

I really don't think Phil pays close attention. He looked at 4 away games and wrote them off. He probably didn't watch those games last year, and certainly didn't look at the rosters. I'm not expecting miracles, but I am expecting improvement across the board on both sides of the ball in year 2. The only reason Ohio was close was because their deep threat Posey kept getting past our young secondary. Posey's gone, and our secondary is older. Not to mention their feature back might or might not play. There's a world of difference between Team 133 and the team that played under the lights last year, too. ND might break the streak, but I doubt it. Nebraska will show up at home, but last year they got dominated, and they lost their top 3 defensive players to the draft since then. Denard and Toussaint will have a big game in Lincoln.


July 11th, 2012 at 2:39 PM ^

I have no problem with his prediction.  I disagree with Phil, but he spends more time than most people researching this kind of stuff.  ND and Nebraska are over rated.  I'm not sure what to expect from OSU.  I don't think that OSU is a top 10 team either.  The toughest games will be Alabama and MSU.  I wouldn't be surprised if Michigan wins 10 or eleven games.  I would be more surprised if Michigan didn't win eleven.  12-1 and a B10 championship aren't out of the reach.  It mostly depends on the team staying healthy and Denards progress in year two of the offense.   It's kind of funny that people get so mad on this blog when someone doesn't pick Michigan to win every game.  Phil Steele makes a living by publishing his opinions.  Apparently his opinion is well respected. 


July 11th, 2012 at 2:44 PM ^

My big concern, in addition to a very tough schedule, is injuries, something that we largely avoided last year.  As was pointed on the Main Page, is that we are not very deep in terms of talent should certain positions sustain long term injuries. In a couple of years, with recruiting being what it is, that will not be an issue, but this year, injuries could really hurt.

I also think that Denard may have finally started figuring out the offense near the end of the season, as evidenced by our success offensively agains Nebraska and Ohio.  If that is the case, and he continues where he left off, and our O-line comes together, it could be a wild ride.

Wolverine 73

July 11th, 2012 at 4:29 PM ^

Steele's observations are generally reasonable, we did overachieve last year.  But I don't get Nebraska being a big threat.  They looked awful last year.  More significantly, Martinez looks just terrible passing the ball, and after two years of playing in that offense, is not likely to get better all of a sudden.  Aside from David, who played a great game, the defense looked mediocre.  I get that the game is in Lincoln and it is a tough place to play, this is year two in the Big Ten for Nebraska and all that; but I am not convinced Nebraska is ready to beat the big boys of the Big Ten, or that it will be for a while, given its recruiting this year.


July 11th, 2012 at 4:29 PM ^

Last year's ND game should not be used to predict anything.  The Michigan defense was still in serious learning mode and Borges still handn't figured out how to use Denard.  If the ND game was near the end of last year, we would not have needed a last minute drive to win the game.


July 11th, 2012 at 7:15 PM ^

there really is very little separation. You could make a good case for any of Michigan, MSU, Nebraska, OSU (sanction aside) or Wisconsin winning the conference.

Regarding Nebraska specifically, I know we didn't look very good against you guys, but I've seen a tendency on this board to read way too much into last year's buttwhipping, some people seem to think "oh yeah, we've got Nebraska covered, we'll beat 'em  by 4 TD's every year." I guess first impressions are the most important.  

It was our first year in the conference (every game was like an OC game), we'd spent the last 4 years tooling our roster for the passhappy XII, Martinez was only a sophmore (still has some really impressive career numbers after only 2 years), it was our 3rd offensive scheme in 3 years, we had a really young team, and we played a brutal schedule.

Although many posters have correctly pointed out that we lost 3 stars on defense, last years D was also very young as well. Pelini redshirted a lot his first year and we'll have a much deeper, more experience D though without any preseason stars.

Just giving you some Red perspective. 

Wisconsin seems like a lock to repeat in Indy if only due to schedule and OSU sanctions, but the Leaders should be a dogfight. I say Leaders winner handles Wiscy in the conference title game, no problem.


July 11th, 2012 at 6:10 PM ^

Steele is insane when he thinks Ohio will go 10-2 this year.   That team is no better than 7 wins or 8 if everything goes right.  Lots of holes in Ohio this year, at key positions.  They have talent, but it is young.  That comment by Steele pretty much says where his heart lies.

Wolverine Devotee

July 11th, 2012 at 6:37 PM ^

Like I said in my post a few days ago, phil has his head so far up his ass he can taste his breakfast.

He picked Michigan to 6-6 and go to the pizza bowl last year....

He picked Oklahoma vs Florida State for the NC game this year....

Great picks....


July 12th, 2012 at 1:11 AM ^

be what makes or breaks us and it's true. It will be. We have 4 huge road games this year.

Sept 1st @ Dallas vs Alabama

Sept 22nd @ ND

Oct 27th @ Nebraska

finally Nov 24th @ Ohio.

Practically I can see out of those road games 2 or 3 wins. The two being the most likely are ND and Nebraska. Ohio and Alabama will be our toughest road games and it's going to take our young defense to bring out their best games. Ohio has an amazing DL and Bama with Saban probably has several hidden surprises behind the curtain. Purdue and Minnesota don't worry me a ton. Purdue has struggled and continues to struggle and Minnesota these days is lucky to get 3 wins. The two biggest conference games that stand out at me are Iowa and MSU. Both are MUST wins for the Wolverines. I'm sick of hearing Hawkeye fans brag about their new streak against us. Iowa has never had the edge over us in our record until 2008-2010. It's time to put that little problem to bed. MSU has to be a win. I can't stomach another year of Spartard bashing from State's fan base. The only thing that worries me about State is their defense which should be good once again and most likely the reason why they'll stay in games despite the loss of Cousins and State's other key offensive players. Realistically I see Michigan going 10-2 or 9-3 at worst. The schedule is not much different than last year except the road schedule. Here's how I see it though. If we can beat Bama and give them an impressive preformance than my attitude would be "who is gonna stop us?" You knock off the defending champions you deserve the rights to be confident.