Off to quick start, Wolverines look to pounce on favorable schedule and earn BSC bowl berth

Posted on Posted in Michigan Football
By guest writer Parker Jones
“The road” proved to be the undoing of the 2012 Michigan Wolverines football team. Four losses away from Michigan Stadium kept the Maize and Blue from a trip to the Big Ten title game. A fifth loss in the Outback Bowl prevented a nine-win season.
Yet things are looking different. After an impressive 41-30 win against Notre Dame, the Wolverines look like they’re actually going places.
Star quarterback Denard Robinson is gone, but junior Devin Gardner is ready to step in and has several options to hand off to and help carry the load. Plus, thank the schedule makers. All the tough matchups are in Michigan this year, where coach Brady Hoke has never lost.
1. Has Hoke made this his team in full?
It seems that way. Robinson was the last carryover from Rich Rodridguez’s spread offense. Hoke’s pro-style offense was in full effect in Michigan’s 59-9 thrashing of Central Michigan in the opener. In that game, the Wolverines had nine players run the ball for a combined 242 yards and six touchdowns. Gardner looked so-so (10-of-15, 162 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions) but he didn’t get enough throwing attempts to give a true indication of what he can do. Against Notre Dame? We saw the big potential.
2. Who will lead the ground game?
Fifth-year senior Fitzgerald Toussaint figures to lead the charge after missing most of last year with a broken leg. Freshman Derrick Green, the top tailback recruit in the nation, figures to push for playing time, though, once he builds up his weight. He actually led Michigan in the opening game with 58 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries (Toussaint had 57 yards on 14 carries but stopped playing early in the second half of the blowout win).

3. Is this defense for real?

Uh, we think.  While Notre Dame certainly moved the ball against Michigan, the defense has improved from 101st in the FBS in yards per play in 2010 to 25th last season. They don’t get many sacks, but they defend the run really well and are good at forcing third-and-long situations. And they figure to only get better once linebacker Jake Ryan returns from a torn ACL in October.

4. How much of a difference does the schedule make?

More than you know. While Michigan played Alabama in 2012, it plays Connecticut in 2013. That’s a slight difference, wouldn’t you agree? Meanwhile, the Ohio State Buckeyes and Nebraska Cornhuskers games are both home games this year (as was Notre Dame). Non-conference games against Central Michigan (the blowout win) and upcoming Akroncomplement what is otherwise a fairly good conference schedule.

5. Can they win the Big Ten?

Yes, if the offense fully fits the Hoke mode, Gardner assumes the All-America status many expect from him and the defense continues to mature. All of those things are possible, if not probable. Potentially having to beat Ohio State twice to get a BCS berth is probably the biggest challenge.
But, again, that’s doable. Whether they can hang with the best of the SEC in huge bowl game remains to be seen, but – at a minimum –they can put up a better fight than the Fighting Irish did against the Crimson Tide in January.

Derek Devine
Institutional voice of Alma College during the day, Michigan fanatic at night. Taking TBHR to the next level one post at a time.