Michigan football opens its 2014 season on Saturday at the Big House against Appalachian State, where they will be looking to make a statement to start the year.
So what can we expect from Team 135? Follow me through the jump where I make five “bold” predictions for the upcoming season.
Devin Gardner will be the Big Ten’s most efficient quarterback
Senior quarterback Devin Gardner often gets criticism for being indecisive and turnover-prone, but the numbers show that he actually was one of the best passers in the conference during Big Ten play last year.
With Doug Nussmeier now calling the shots offensively, Gardner will pick up right where he left off last season before his foot injury. They have the weapons around him to be successful, and he should be in for a big year if he can stay healthy and upright.
Now that Ohio State’s Braxton Miller is out for the year, the race to be the conference’s best quarterback is wide open. In steps, Gardner, who will be looking to lead the Wolverines to Indianapolis.
The Wolverines will be undefeated heading into the MSU game
The schedule sets up favorably for Michigan to start the year, and they should be able to maneuver themselves into a 7-0 record heading into East Lansing for a match-up with the Michigan State Spartans on Oct. 25.
Their toughest games will be against Notre Dame on the road and Penn State at home, but Michigan has the upper hand in talent in both games to get the job done. A home date against Minnesota could be troublesome, as well.
Michigan’s defense has the ability to carry them through their opening seven games and will give their offense plenty of time to gel, namely the offensive line, which will be tested against the strong front seven of Michigan State.
The offensive line will be just fine
Speaking of the offensive line, this is the group that has the most to prove this year. They have not had good showings in their two public appearances in 2014 by any stretch and that needs to get ironed out quickly.
With that being said, they should be able to pull it together and solidify towards the middle part of the year. It’s important for them to find a group and stick to it. If this offensive line can find a way to just be average and open up holes for the backs when the opportunities are there, this offense could do great things. All of the talent is there. The offensive line is the missing piece that will either hold them back or propel them to greater things.
Jabrill Peppers will be first team All-Big Ten
This could be the boldest of them all, but freshman sensation Jabrill Peppers will make a huge splash for this team this year, whether on defense, special teams or both. He should be returning punts and kicks this year and looked more explosive doing so during the open scrimmage than Dennis Norfleet.
He is going to absolutely be a factor on defense, too. He should be getting most of the work at nickel and will rep at corner often. Peppers passes every aspect of the eyeball test and looks like he belongs out there.
Amara Darboh will lead the team in catches
Devin Funchess is the best offensive weapon that the Wolverines have in their arsenal and certainly will have the biggest impact on the passing game, but he will not lead the team in receptions. That, my friends, will be redshirt sophomore Amara Darboh.
Darboh missed last season due to a foot injury, but he has had a strong camp leading up to this Saturday. He is a good route runner with solid hands and will be a very solid possession receiver opposite Funchess. The staff has been high on him the last two off-seasons, and we should get the chance to see that on the field this season.
So what do you think? How about some of the predictions you may have? Sound off in the comments below!