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2008 Michigan Preview

Offense
Defense
Special Teams
Recruiting Prospectus

Now that we've seen what I think of each individual unit, and each team as a whole, it's time to make some predictions about how I think it will all come together.

Early in the year, the offense will have to rely on the defense to help them out a lot. Especially with Terrance Robinson missing at least a couple weeks at a key position in the Michigan offense (both in terms of use and depth), Terrance Taylor will have to lead the defensive line to dominance, and Morgan Trent and Donovan Warren will have to play like the big Ten's top corner duo.

Michigan is one of the hardest teams in the country to make predictions for, because nobody truly knows what to expect, not even rich Rodriguez's coaching staff. I do think that a lot of the pessimism in press conferences is a bit of misdirection, but anyone expecting the Wolverines to run the table might need to go for a reality check.

Predictions!
Utah
The offense will start working out the kinks as they get up to game speed for the first time. A stout defense like Utah's will be a tough first test. On the other side of the ball, it's strength against strength as Michigan's potentially dominant defense squares of with an experienced Utah unit. I think that the strong defense will find a way to keep Utah from outscoring the Michigan offense, but Utah's D may score once or twice itself.
Prediction: Tossup

Miami
Miami's linebacking corps is being touted as the second-best that Michigan will face all year. However, the rest of their defense doesn't come with the hype, and should allow the Michigan offense to get a rhythm going for the first time in 2008. The Wolverines' D will stymie the offense of the RedHawks, and Michigan will walk away with another win.
Prediction: Victory

Notre Dame
2008 is Michigan's turn to have a rebuilding offense, though it will be tough for them to reach the historic lows of Notre Dame's effort from last year. Jon Tenuta's blitzing scheme is not going to be easy for inexperienced QB to pick apart. On offense, the Irish couldn't be any worse than they were last year, but I have little faith in their OL coach (even in their successful '05 and '06 seasons, they were 38th and 85th in sacks allowed, respectively, despite having more talent than most of their opponents... note the downward trend). Jimmy Clausen will improve, but will it be enough to score on the talented Michigan defense?
Prediction: Tossup

Wisconsin
The hits keep coming as the Badgers of Wisconsin head to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan. Even if UW's pass defense doesn't improve significantly, it might not need to against the inexperienced signal-callers of Michigan. On offense, Wisconsin will have the traditional pounding attack, but Michigan's D-line should be up to the task. However, with limited depth on defense, even Mike Barwis couldn't prevent the Wolverines from getting worn down.
Prediction: Loss

Illinois
I'm not as high on the Illini as many people are after their breakout 2007 season. They lost their two best players, and although Juice Williams improved dramatically, he still completed only 57.3% of his passes, and with the threat of Rashard Mendenhall gone, it will be tougher for him to both run and pass. Arrelius Benn, however, will be a big help catching passes and making things happen. On defense, the Illini are doing a bit of rebuilding yet again, with J Leman gone. However, the talent to replace him is there.
Prediction: Tossup

Toledo
The Rockets had a fairly prolific offense last year, and look to continue that trend with a trio of quarterbacks who have game experience. The rushing attack will drop off quite a bit, however. On defense, the Rockets might not have the talent to stop the Michigan offense, especially if they can get a bit of momentum going in the middle of the year.
Prediction: Victory

Penn State
Though Michigan has owned Penn State in recent years, don't expect that trend to continue. Penn State is equally transitional, but the Nitanny Lions retun much of a strong line, and their personnel ran the spread a few years ago with Michael Robinson at the helm. Whil Penn State lacks a true offensive leader like Robinson, they shouldn't drop off too much. On defense, the Lions are a little weaker than recent years, with a relatively green linebacking corps and a group of tackles decimated by offseason attrition. However, Michigan's inexperience on offense will likely outweigh Penn State's on defense.
Prediction: Loss

Michigan State
Like Illinois, I'm not buying into much of the national hype on the Spartans. Returning a starting QB isn't as positive if he's more liability than asset. Javon Ringer is the only truly great player on this offense (though his "thunder" counterpart, Jehuu Caulcrick, is gone), and Hoyer's top two targets now ply their trade in the NFL. On defense, MSU lost their SackMaster, several pieces from an already suspect secondary, and linebacker Kaleb Thornhill. However, there is reason to be excited about another linebacker, the youngster Greg Jones.
Prediction: Tossup

Purdue
The Purdue game might be one of the most important of the year for Michigan. I'm not joking. If they roll into this game at 4-4 (as I'm predicting), a win would put Michigan in good position to get to a bowl game for the 35th straight year. A loss, however, and they have to hope that they get in at 6-6. The Purdue offense has consistently sputtered against decent opponents, and Michigan's defense this year is expected to be one of the best in the nation, especially as the youth gets worked out over the course of the year. On defense, Purdue looks fairly dire, with several players moving around to try to replace impact guys from last year. Michigan's offense won't be prolific, but should be able to take advantage of a weak defensive unit.
Prediction: Victory

Minnesota
Unless Tim Brewster ignites a Zook-ian turnaround in his Gopher squad, they should be at or near the bottom of the Big Ten standings by the time this game rolls around. I would have liked to see a scrimmage between Minnesota's defense and Notre Dame's offense last year to see which was more incompetent. The Gophers can't be much worse this year, but they probably won't be heaps better, either. Minnesota's offense was decent last year, but it would still take a big leap to be successful against top-tier defenses, one of which Michigan looks to have.
Prediction: Victory

Northwestern
Northwestern blogger Lake the Posts is trying to generate buzz around this edition of the Wildcats, but I don't see them making a leap towards the top of the conference. They will be a middle-of-the-pack team (and Northwestern fans should remember that not too long ago, they would have been begging for that). I see Michigan as a middling conference team as well, but a team that looks similar to Northwestern with vastly more talent, except at the QB position.
Prediction: Victory

Ohio State
The most complete team in the country, on their own home field.
Prediction: Pain

All in all, it looks to be a 7-5 regular season for Michigan. Of course, they could come out against Utah looking either much stronger or much weaker than expected, which would throw all these predictions off. However, a rebuilding year in 2008 should be expected, with 2009 being a return to the top of the conference standings, before the Wolverines start making national noise around 2010.

Of course, now that everything is worked out for the 2008 season, what can we look forward to in recruiting for 2009 and 2010?

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“2008 Michigan Preview”

  1. Anonymous Jacques Auef Says:

    the whole season is going to be a toss up but it will keep us all on the edge of our seat.