Joe Pasquali, our college football analyst, is back to breakdown the upcoming season for the Michigan Wolverines. Denard Robinson started the season off with fireworks (again), but can he last entire season?
The swagger and optimism is back in Ann Arbor. Brady Hoke’s arrival last year paired with an 11 win season and a BCS bowl bid have made for exciting times for Michigan football. This team will be one of the more exciting to watch in the 2012 season, not only because their talent and style of play, but because their schedule boasts some of the biggest games of the season. Opening the year in Dallas against Alabama will be a huge game not only for Michigan but the Big Ten conference as a whole. Can the boys from the Midwest hang with one of the juggernauts from the SEC on a national stage? We won’t have to wait long to find out. In addition, Michigan has to play on the road at Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Ohio State. Though this Michigan team has top 10 talent, their schedule is one of the toughest in the nation.
Anyone who has turned on a TV to watch college football in the last two years knows who Denard Robinson is. The explosive, sometimes chaotic, Michigan quarterback is one of the most dangerous players in all of college football. Though his numbers went down slightly from 2010, (2173 passing yards, 1176 rushing) this was due to offensive coordinator Al Borge’s scheme to try and keep his quarterback healthy and share the rushing duties. Fitzgerald Toussaint won the role midseason as number one running back and finished the year with 1,041 yards, including over 100 yards rushing in his last three games. This offseason he was suspended for off field issues and it remains to be seen if he will miss any games in 2012. Vincent Smith and Thomas Rawls are very capable backups if Toussaint is out. Taylor Lewan (6’8″ 308 lbs) will lead the offensive line and is a preseason All American at left tackle. Look for him to be a day one draft pick come next spring.
Michigan’s vast improvement on the defensive side of the ball was a huge reason for their success in 2011. Going from one of the worst defenses in the nation to a top team in many defensive categories was truly remarkable and coordinator Greg Mattison deserves most the credit. Michigan was 4th in red zone defense, 6th in scoring defense, and 17th in yards allowed. Though Michigan loses some key players up front in Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen, Michigan’s defense as a whole stays intact. The secondary returns all of its key players as well as a linebacker core that has become very solid. Senior Jordan Kovacs at safety and Kenny Demens at linebacker have consistently led the team in tackles and have a wealth of experience. Look for sophomore corner Blake Countess to have a break out year and become a shutdown corner in the likes of Leon Hall and Marlin Jackson.
Special Teams (B)
Michigan goes into 2012 for the first time in a long time with a solid kicker on their roster in Brendan Gibbons. He was 13-17 on the season including three big kicks in the Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech. As long as he keeps thinking about brunette girls (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkPiOJdYSkM), Michigan should keep getting production out of their special teams.
You really have to hand it to Brady Hoke and the Michigan coaching staff. First year under Hoke the team wins 11 games and a BCS bowl. First year under Mattison and the defense ranks as one of the top in the nation after being a joke for years under Rich Rodriguez. The offense under Al Borges numbers wise took some steps back with the transition to more of a pro-style offense, but look for Denard and company to put up more points in their second year in this scheme.
2012 Win/Loss Prediction: 10-2 (1st in Legends)