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Posts Tagged ‘Eastern Michigan’

Michigan 93 – Eastern Michigan 54: Same old, same old

Friday, December 21st, 2012


Final 1st 2nd Total
#2 Michigan (12-0) 40 53 93
Eastern Michigan (6-4) 24 30 54

In the battle over Washtenaw County, the University of Michigan once again reigned supreme in a blowout victory over the Eastern Michigan Eagles of Ypsilanti. The Wolverines made more than half their shots to continue their hottest start in more than two decades, now sitting at 12-0 overall with just one game left before Big Ten play begins in early January.

As has been the case many times before, the Michigan starters paved the way early on, leading to a 22-6 start after falling behind 6-2 in the opening minutes. The Wolverines were paced by Tim Hardaway, Jr.’s 17 points on 5-of-13 shooting (1-of-4 3pt., 6-of-6 FTs), seven assists, five rebounds, and two steals and double digit scoring from four teammates.

Mitch McGary had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds (MGoBlue.com)

Obviously this win was expected, and while a 39-point margin of victory is always impressive, Michigan is at the point where few non-major conference opponents can even pose a challenge. Eastern Michigan beat Purdue earlier this year and came into Thursday night’s game with a 6-3 record, but they were clearly out of their league at the Crisler Center, shooting only 35.5 percent from the field and missing most of their shots badly.

Perhaps most impressive about this Michigan team to date is their balanced scoring attack. There is no doubt as to who this team’s offensive leaders are – Hardaway, Jr. and Trey Burke – but John Beilein has four to five guys that can put double digit points on the board on any given night.

Nik Stauskas was impressive again, poured in 16 points on 5-8 shooting, all from downtown, fellow freshman Glenn Robinson III added 13, leading scorer Burke dropped 11 on a 5-of-14 off-night, and Mitch McGary rounded out the double-digiters with 10 points and 11 rebounds, his first career double-double.

It was an all-around dominant, and admittedly boring, display for the Maize and Blue, who seem to look better and better with every game. At this point in the season, it is hard to imagine this team getting anything worse than a two or three seed in the Big Dance, which would almost guarantee a first-round ticket to the Palace of Auburn Hills.

In addition to the dominant scoring, Michigan destroyed their neighbors on the glass, rebounding nearly 50 percent of their own misses and 71 percent of Eastern’s clankers. McGary led the way in the rebounding department but was joined by an overall effort on the glass, with nine other Wolverines recording at least two rebounds and three with at least five. Michigan also managed to triple up Eastern in assists, stole four more possessions, and turned the ball over seven fewer times than their counterparts.

Michigan is now all but guaranteed to finish their non-conference season undefeated, with only one more game coming up next Saturday against Central Michigan. They will take a much-needed break before tipping off against Northwestern in Evanston on January 3. Beilein did well to rest his stars last night, with Hardaway, Jr. and Burke barely playing 30 minutes apiece. By the time the real games roll around, these young Wolverines should be ready to go. Will the dominance continue? Only time will tell.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
01 Glenn Robinson III* 5-7 1-1 2-2 1 1 2 0 13 0 0 0 1 29
52 Jordan Morgan* 3-5 0-0 2-2 3 3 6 2 8 0 2 0 2 15
03 Trey Burke* 5-14 1-6 0-0 0 2 2 0 11 8 1 1 1 30
10 Tim Hardaway Jr* 5-13 1-4 6-6 1 4 5 0 17 7 4 1 2 31
11 Nik Stauskas* 5-8 5-8 1-2 1 4 5 0 16 1 2 0 1 28
02 Spike Albrecht 1-3 1-2 0-0 0 1 1 1 3 2 1 0 0 10
04 Mitch McGary 5-8 0-0 0-0 5 6 11 2 10 2 1 0 3 18
05 Eso Akunne 1-1 1-1 0-0 0 1 1 1 3 1 0 0 0 2
13 Matt Vogrich 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 6
22 Blake McLimans 1-2 0-0 0-0 1 2 3 0 2 0 0 0 0 3
23 Caris LeVert 3-5 2-2 0-0 1 1 2 0 8 2 0 1 0 16
32 Corey Person 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 2
44 Max Bielfeldt 1-2 0-0 0-0 3 0 3 0 2 2 0 0 0 10
Totals 35-69 12-24 11-12 16 28 44 7 93 26 11 3 10 200
Eastern Michigan 22-62 7-26 3-6 12 18 30 13 54 8 18 6 6 200

Michigan vs Eastern Michigan preview/quick thoughts

Thursday, December 20th, 2012


#2 Michigan v. Eastern Michigan
The final
game in
Michigan
basketball
history
(damn Mayans)
Thursday, Dec. 20 | 8:30pm ET | BTN
11-0 Record 6-3
Slippery Rock 100-62
IUPUI 91-54
Cleveland State 77-47
Pittsburgh 67-62
Kansas State 71-57
NC State 79-72
Bradley 74-66
W. Michigan 73-41
Arkansas 80-67
Binghamton 67-39
West Virginia 81-66
Wins Rochester 66-52
E. Illinois 60-52
IPFW 60-47
UTPA 57-47
Madonna 75-57
Purdue 47-44
Losses Jacksonville St. 54-61
#4 Syracuse 48-84
UIC 48-74
78.2 Points Per Game 57.2
57.5 Scoring Defense 57.6
319-for-624 (51.1%) Field Goal % 190-for-491 (38.7%)
243-for-608 (40.0%) Def. Field Goal % 182-for-480 (37.9%)
89-for-222 (40.1%) 3-point % 37-for-132 (28.0%)
65-for-210 (31.0%) Def. 3-point % 60-for-207 (29.0%)
133-for-184 (72.3%) Free Throw % 98-for-145 (67.6%)
12.1 FT Made/Game 10.9
37.5 Rebounds Per Game 36.2
27.9 Opp. Reb. Per Game 36.8
15.1 Assists Per Game 10.3
10.2 Turnovers Per Game 13.9
4.9 Steals Per Game 7.9
2.6 Blocks Per Game 5.6
G – Trey Burke (18.0)
G – Tim Hardaway Jr. (15.7)
Leading Scorer G – Derek Thompson (12.3)
F – Glenn Bryant (10.4)
F – Glenn Robinson (6.5)
G – Tim Hardaway Jr. (5.4)
Leading Rebounder F – Daylen Harrison (6.7)
C – Da’Shonte Riley (6.3)

As the end-of-year holidays approach and days come to a close earlier and earlier, the smell of Big Ten basketball is in the air. For Michigan, the conference season means a chance to defend their share of last year’s Big Ten title and a shot to prove that their sensational non-conference play has been no fluke. Christmas and New Year’s Day must pass before that happens, however, and the Wolverines still have two more games against non-Big Ten (but in-state) opponents before they can claim a flawless non-conference slate. The first of these two matchups comes tonight (8:30pm on Big Ten Network) as the 6-3 Eagles of Ypsilanti make the short drive to the Crisler Center with upsets on their minds. Let’s take a quick look at what Michigan fans should watch for:

  1. Stay Focused: After taking down West Virginia at the new Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, Michigan will not face another high-major opponent until the Big Ten season begins in January. So far, the Wolverines have downed Pittsburgh, Kansas State, North Carolina State, Arkansas, and West Virginia with relative ease on their way to an 11-0 record to date, their best since winning the national championship in 1989. Eastern Michigan is clearly not even close to the level of any of these teams despite the fact that the Razorbacks and the Mountaineers have struggled through much of the season to date, and this game is not one that will draw many national viewers. Furthermore, the Wolverines are in the middle of exams and the majority of the Maize Rage will be out on break. In essence, there will not be a ton of energy in the building, and if Michigan becomes lackadaisical, Eastern will jump at the chance to make it an interesting matchup. In reality, the Eagles are probably not good enough to deem this a potential trap game, but any Division I team has enough talent to at least keep it close. Michigan needs to stay focused on the task at hand and simply take care of business in this one.
  1. Play Solid Defense: If there has been one area that Michigan could noticeably improve upon this year, it is on the defensive end of the court. Opposing teams have gotten a few too many easy looks at times throughout the non-conference season, and while Michigan has played solid defense at other times and perhaps some teams have played up to Michigan’s level, the gimme baskets will be the difference in one or two Big Ten games if they persist. Jon Horford’s injury certainly won’t help in this category at all, which is all the more reason the rest of the team needs to pick up the slack and make every possession for the other team a difficult trip. With the way Eastern Michigan has struggled to shoot the ball this year, making just 38.7 percent of their field goals and 28 percent of their threes, there is no better game than this to work on defense and get some confidence heading into conference play.

    If there's a weakness for Michigan it has been its defense (John Minchillo, AP)

  1. Get Rested: John Beilein would love to blow out every team Michigan ever plays, but that is not realistic, and everyone knows it. A blowout in a game like this, however, is something that is both very possible for Michigan and very desirable before Big Ten play. Eastern Michigan ranks worse than 300th in the country in field goal percentage, assists per game, and points per game. They are not good. Michigan, on the other hand, is very good, ranking in the top five in the country in shooting percentage and top 50 in points per game and defensive rebounding percentage. Every year it seems that Michigan enters the year claiming added depth and every year it seems that Beilein shortens his bench significantly within a few games, doling out a high percentage of minutes to few players. This season has been no different. Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Glenn Robinson III all play more than 30 minutes per game, and Nik Stauskas averages 29.5 minutes in his own right. Beyond those four, only two other guys play double digit minutes, big men Jordan Morgan (21.8 minutes per game) and Mitch McGary (14.3 mpg). Perhaps most disturbing about these numbers is that two of those guys averaging big-time minutes are freshmen that have yet to experience the grind of a Big Ten season and all four of the leading minute users are expected to be the Wolverines’ best shooters. These guys need to rest their legs to stay fresh heading into the rough and tough conference season. Michigan will continue to be targeted by every team in the conference season, and going on the road in the Big Ten will not be easy. The young Wolverines can use all the rest they can get right now before those legs are needed to rain more threes starting in a couple weeks. Look for the starters to play no more than 25 minutes tonight and pay close attention to the big man rotation. An injured Horford will likely lead to an opening for Max Bielfeldt to get increased run.

Prediction: Michigan should have no trouble rolling their neighbors as they warm up for the Big Ten. Wolverines win 81-52 in a coast-to-coast victory.

Monday Morning Quarterback Needs Denard to Stay Healthy

Monday, September 19th, 2011


[Ed: Congratulations to deucebig for winning this week's Michigan Man 5-Spot Challenge. Click here for the results and here for the updated overall standings. This week's questions should be posted by tomorrow morning, so be sure to check back then].

Well, it wasn’t pretty, but it was exactly what I predicted in my Friday Pick’em prediction.  Actually, I shouldn’t say it wasn’t pretty, because the Michigan offense was a lot crisper than it was in the first two games.  But shouldn’t that be expected?  This was the third game of the year and it was against Eastern Michigan.

The Michigan offense did a lot of good things on Saturday, including establishing a running game using the zone-read as a base play, using play-action pass off of the run, and at some times getting Denard Robinson out of the pocket and allowing him to create plays with his feet.

Michigan's running game has been more effective with the zone read (photo by the Ann Arbor News)

Defensively, once the team settled in and some adjustments were made to how EMU was attacking it with the power run, the team seemed to be flying to the ball a lot better and gang-tackling, and also playing better coverage during the few plays in which EMU actually threw the ball.  But again, this secondary, which last year was the biggest weakness on the team and this year has proven to be better but is still a question mark in a lot of people’s minds, was not tested during this game.

Michigan’s struggles in the beginning of the game were a combination of a few things: sluggishness stemming from last week’s thrilling victory over Notre Dame, playing a “weaker” opponent in EMU, and the noon kickoff time.  From where I was sitting, it looked like Michigan came out trying to establish the run from the I-formation.  EMU stacked the box with eight defenders and took that away quickly, forcing Michigan to spread out the offense and run the ball from the shotgun.

In the passing game, Michigan tried to run some straight dropback passes, however Robinson continued to look uncomfortable on those plays, not setting his feet and often overthrowing his receiver and throwing an interception.  I think that Hoke and Co. started getting a little uncomfortable too, when at the beginning of the second quarter Michigan hadn’t scored a point yet after three drives resulting in an interception and two punts.

At this point, they went back to running the offense with Robinson as the focal point, using the zone read play and running Robinson a lot on the ground with some designed run plays.  I can’t help but be bothered by the fact that Michigan was forced to go back to running Robinson so much after a Mid-American Conference defense stopped it from running the ball using a two-back set.  But this is the type of offensive talent that Michigan has, isn’t it?  As we saw in this game, Michigan ran the ball at will from the second quarter on, using Robinson and the two-headed running back tandem of Vincent Smith and Fitzgerald Toussaint.  Off of that, Borges called high percentage play-action passes to keep the defense honest.

It should have been evident to everyone watching this game that the Michigan offense was much better with this type of play-calling scheme.  Yes, playing the talent level of EMU has something to do with it, but the offensive scheme used by Borges made a lot more sense than what he did against Notre Dame, where he kept forcing Robinson to throw from the pocket and running the ball from the I-formation against an eight-man front.

Don’t get me wrong.  Robinson did make some good plays from the pocket and Michigan did get some good production out of the two-back set, but it is obvious that this offense is going to be successful with Robinson out of the spread.  Hopefully, Borges will continue to mix in some two-back sets, both for variety and because there are going to be times when Michigan is absolutely going to need to be able to pick up a 3rd-and-2 or a 3rd-and-goal at the three, and it would be nice to have the option of going after it with a downhill power running game instead of starting Robinson in the shotgun four or five yards from the line of scrimmage.

With Denard getting so many carries, Devin Gardner needs to be ready in case Robinson goes down (photo by MGoBlue.com)

Now that we know this is what Michigan needs to do to run an effective offense and put points on the board, the question remains is how will Hoke protect Robinson from injury?  I think the answer is in establishing the running backs early in the game out of the zone read and mixing in some power run.  Also, when running the zone read, the more Borges can spread out the defense, the larger the running lanes will be, which will allow Robinson to get out into space and keep him from taking big hits inside. Some additional coaching (Robinson did run out of bounds more often this game than he did last year) on avoiding the big hit should also happen.

In the passing game, as I called for last week, getting Robinson out on the edge and out of the pocket not only opened up the passing game, but limited the reads for Robinson and gave him the ability to create when a receiver wasn’t open (almost scored a touchdown on a play like this).

Since the likelihood of Robinson getting hurt in an offense like this is high, the coaching staff needs to keep backup quarterback Devin Gardner as spun up on the offense as Robinson is.  They should be mentally preparing him to be the starter at any time so the offense doesn’t miss a beat when he comes into the game.  No, I’m not calling for a two-QB system, especially with a quarterback like Robinson who thrives when he gets into a rhythm.  I would have liked to see Gardner get a couple series in the EMU game, but I understand what the coaching staff did in keeping Robinson in the game.  He needs as many game snaps as he can get for the sake of getting this offense to establish an identity.

We will see how things look next week against a better San Diego State team.  Hoke and Borges left behind a potent offense at SDSU, so the Michigan offense is going to have to control the ball and the clock by having quality offensive possessions.  Michigan’s best defense will be keeping its offense on the field.  Look for next week’s game to be a shootout.  Come back at the end of the week to see my Friday Pick’em prediction!

Michigan Runs Over Eastern for Hoke’s 50th Career Win

Sunday, September 18th, 2011


Brady Hoke picked up his 50th win in his 100th career game as a head coach on Saturday over Eastern Michigan (2-1), but it wasn’t as easy as it should have been. Perhaps there was some hangover from last week’s Under the Lights Game win over Notre Dame, but Hoke will never say so. He credited Eastern’s coaching staff for keeping the game close while Michigan didn’t play well early on.

For the third straight week, Michigan failed to score a point in the opening quarter, but wore down the EMU defense and pulled away in the second half for the 31-3 victory.

Michigan 31 – Eastern Michigan 3
Final Stats
31 Final Score 3
3-0 Record
2-1
471 Total Yards
236
376 Net Rushing Yards
207
95 Net Passing Yards
29
24 First Downs
12
1-0 Fumbles – Lost
1-1
2-17 Penalties – Yards
5-45
3-105 Punts – Yards
5-218
32:15 Time of Possession
27:45
9-for-14 Third Down Conversions
4-for-12
0-for-1 Fourth Down Conversions
1-for-2
1-6 Sacks By – Yards
0-0
1-for-1 Field Goals
1-for-2
4-for-4 PATs 0-for-0
5-5 Red Zone Scores – Chances 1-2

Despite its rushing game prowess in the first two weeks, EMU opened the game with a play-action pass that just barely went incomplete. The Eagles then proceed to run all over the Michigan defense on their first drive. A broken flea flicker play yielded an 18-yard gain for EMU quarterback Alex Gillett. Michigan’s defense bailed itself out, however, when Jibreel Black stripped Javonti Greene after a big run and Thomas Gordon recovered the fumble.

Michigan started out in the I-formation and ran Fitz Toussiant for eight yards, old school Michigan power football. A couple of short Denard runs and an incomplete pass later, and Michigan was looking at 4th-and-5. Hoke elect to go for it, but Denard Robinson forced a bad throw and it was picked off.

EMU took over in good field position and ran another play-action pass, this time for a big gainer. An end around and a QB keeper put EMU in Michigan territory. On 4th-and-short, EMU decided to go for it and busted a big gainer on a toss play to just inside the Michigan 25. A late hit penalty on Michigan advanced the ball to the 12-yard line.

EMU showed a variety of looks to confuse Michigan and it seemed to be working. EMU ran the ball very well at the onset, and the line was creating some good holes. Both Greene and Gillett showed great vision and cutback ability. Michigan tried to counter with its own formation shifts and disguises but couldn’t seem to get back into position before the snap and it was costing the Wolverines.

Eastern went for it on 4th-and-goal at the 1-yard line, but this time Michigan stuffed them to re-take possession.

Michigan took over and ran a play-action inside the end zone. Denard’s pass got batted down and was almost picked off in the end zone. It was clear that EMU was trying to force Denard to beat it with his arm. On 3rd-and-9, Denard barely escaped pressure and just got out of the end zone, leading to a Michigan punt.

EMU took  over with the ball inside the Michigan 25 after a nice return. Greene continued to slip through huge holes in the line for consistent five- to six-yard gains. Michigan held the Eagles out of the end zone again but EMU hits a field goal as the 1st quarter ends. After the first quarter, EMU had 141 total yards to Michigan’s 32. It was beginning to look a lot like the Western game, giving up a lot of yards but not a lot of points.

Michigan went  three-and-out on its next series and EMU once again took over in great field position. In what could be the momentum swinging play of the game EMU ran another trick play, this time a double pass. Gillett tossed it to his receiver behind the line, who then threw deep toward the end zone but was picked off by Thomas Gordon who didn’t bite on the play and stayed with his receiver. The takeaways continue to keep Michigan in games so far this season.

Denard then countered with  a zone read for 55 yards, putting Michigan in EMU territory. A couple more Denard runs, including one on which he fumbled (recovered by Vincent Smith) lead to a play-action pass to Kevin Koger to get Michigan inside the 10. Another pass to Koger gets Michigan in the end zone for the first time to take a 7-3 lead.

Drew Dileo celebrates with Jeremy Gallon after his first career touchdown (photo by MGoBlue.com)

The first three Michigan drives yielded 31 yards, two punts and an interception. This drive went 97 yards (90 by Denard alone) and a touchdown. If Michigan wants to be competitive against Big Ten opponents, it cannot continue to have slow starts.

Despite great field position on its next possession, EMU couldn’t do anything with the ball and was forced to punt again. Jeremy Gallon stepped back to grab the kick at the 15 and took off. He broke a couple of tackles and made a few more miss and returned it all the way to the EMU 12, but a illegal block on Michigan brought it all the way back to the Michigan 13. Still, it was good to see what Gallon is capable of on punt returns.

Vincent Smith took a carry to the right and broke through for a 38-yarder. It was starting to look like Michigan was finally getting into a rhythm on offense. Denard was still taking big hits on his short gains, which is concerning, not so much against EMU, but memories of him coming out of most games last season comes to mind.

Touissant, on his limited touches, showed a lot of toughness and good vision. He rarely goes down on the first contact. He played well in the opener but missed last week, and seemed to pick up where he left off. So far this season, he has been the best-looking back this year, although Smith has played well as well.

Denard scored on a run after a bobbled snap and Michigan took a 14-3 lead with just under 40 seconds to go in the half.

After a squib kick gave EMU good field position, the Eagles moved the ball well and attempted a 50-yarder before half, but missed it just a bit outside.

EMU had an average first half starting position of its own 43 compared to Michigan’s average start on its own 18. Considering that starting field position, Michigan played pretty well despite giving up chunks of yards on the ground.

EMU had 156 yards rushing to Michigan’s 197 and 29 yards passing to Michigan’s 21. EMU had an almost four minute edge in time of possession, but had no really big plays, zero gains of 20-plus, while Michigan had three gains of 20 or more.

Michigan came out after half and marched down field, a couple of runs and a couple of near misses to Koger. A misdirection to Smith for 13 got the Wolverines inside the red zone. A couple plays later, Touissant ripped off a 12-yarder and then punched it in on 3rd-and-goal. It was a nice 13-play, 83-yard drive that ate up 5:34 off the clock.  The offense was clearly in a rhythm at this point and it seemed to be the end of the scare that EMU gave in the first quarter.

On EMU’s next possession, Mike Martin and Craig Roh teamed up for a sack. It was nice to see Roh make a big play after being rather invisible in the first two games.

On Michigan’s next possession, after few Denard runs and a Thomas Rawls sighting, Denard hits Drew Dileo for a 19-yard touchdown to put Michigan up 28-3. It was Dileo’s first catch of his career.

EMU ate up some clock on its remaining plays but couldn’t do anything with it. Michigan put together another drive and trotted Brendan Gibbons out for its  FIRST field goal attempt of the season, which he hit to give Michigan the final score of 31-3.

Devin Gardner finally got in the game at the very end to close things out.

Hoke picked up his 50th career win and became just the third Michigan coach ever to start 3-0. Denard ended up just two yards shy of his 11th 200-yard rushing game and Vincent Smith added 118 on nine carries.

Touissaint had a decent game with 11 carries for 46 and a TD but only four receivers caught a pass, Gallon with three, Koger with two and Dileo and Jeremy Jackson each with one. Denard only attempted 18 passes so those numbers aren’t so bad, but Roundtree and Hemmingway need to get involved in the offense if Michigan is to have any real success this season.

The defense kept a good rushing attack at bay, despite giving up over 200 on the ground. Mattison didn’t dial up too much pressure with blitzes, as EMU is a run dominant team, but the front seven looked good on some plays and awful on others. San Diego State will be a good test for this defense next week.

Friday Pick’em – EMU Staff Predictions

Friday, September 16th, 2011


Last week, I was just a point away in my prediction. In fact, I was secretly hoping Brandon Gibbons would miss the extra point after the final touchdown so my prediction would be right (also because in espn.com’s Streak for the Cash, I picked that there would be a missed field goal or extra point in the second half). Sorry Brandon. I was wrong on both accounts, but am still excited that I win the DVD box set of Are You Afraid of the Dark? and a box of Lucky Charms in honor of our little green weeping leprechaun friends down in South Bend.

Hart won't be trash talking EMU on Saturday like he did back in 2007, but he won't be as happy with the result either

This week, Michigan hosts Eastern Michigan and we all get to take a deep breath and recover from the near heartbreak last Saturday. We at Maize and Go Blue will be battling for a Mike Hart football card and The Eagles Hell Freezes Over DVD because, you know, that’s about the only time Eastern will have a chance to beat Michigan.

The picks:

Justin: Michigan has to guard against an emotional let down after last week’s thrilling come-from-behind win over hated Notre Dame. It’s the first early kickoff of the season so expect the Wolverines to get off to a slow start. After that, I don’t foresee it being much of a game. EMU is certainly improved with a solid rushing attack, but Michigan will stack the box to force a less than stellar passing game to beat it through the air. Eastern will get some yards and points, but won’t be able to keep up with Michigan.

Michigan 45 – Eastern Michigan 20

Matt: Many Michigan fans are taking the Eastern Michigan game lightly. And although I do believe Michigan will gain the victory Saturday afternoon, I don’t want to look at it as a gimme.

I think that in this game, Michigan’s defense still may struggle a bit, something that us Michigan fans need to be ready for this season, but I think they will get the job done. Denard will have over 100 yards rushing and many more passing. I also am hoping to see Fitzgerald Toussaint back at running back.

Eastern Michigan may take the lead in the game, but the only way I see that happening is if they get the ball first and score. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a little bit of a back and forth game, at least for a couple of quarters.

Michigan 41 – Eastern Michigan 27

Josh: EMU features a “potent” rushing attack led by Javonti Greene (36 for 266) and Dominique Sherrer (30 for 231). Both boast over 7 ypc. It’s safe to say that with a whopping 176 yards passing in two games that EMU is all about the ground game.

While they bowled over Howard in their season opener 41-9, they struggled last week against Alabama St., winning a close 14-7 game. Now, having only looked at the stats and not seen the actual game, I can only speak speculatively about their team. Neither opponent put up many yards against them. Howard managed 201 in a balanced attack (105 passing, 96 rushing) and Alabama St. put up 223, mostly in the air as they were held to -13 yards rushing. In both games EMU rushed for well over 300 yards.

Much like Michigan a year ago in the early going, it’s hard to accurately tell how good EMU’s rushing attack really is, having only played lower level teams. That said, it is clear that they have some outstanding running backs and will look to get them a lot of touches (66 between Sherrer and Greene and 90 overall in two games).

Michigan’s weakness has been on the defensive line, against the other directional team (Western Mich.) when they couldn’t generate a decent pass rush, sans the blitzes, and they struggled against the run as well. EMU probably won’t be as good as WMU but they should still look to exploit the Michigan front seven. But with a one-dimensional offense it won’t be too hard for Mattison to cook up something to shut down the run and force them to pass. Normally that would worry me but this is Michigan (I can’t get enough of that Hoke quote!). We have far superior athletes than EMU and it shouldn’t take too much effort to stop their passing game.

Denard shouldn’t have any problems running or passing all over EMU and the game should be well in hand by the third quarter, opening up some playing time for Devin Gardner and perhaps some of the much ballyhooed frosh backs, Hayes and Rawls. This should be a good confidence booster for the Wolverines before Hoke’s old team, San Diego St., comes to town in what should be a very tough fought battle next week.

Michigan wins a “nail biter.”

Michigan 56 – Eastern Michigan 7

Chris: After last week’s last second win against Notre Dame, the guys in Ann Arbor probably had a good week of practice, all the while thinking back on how good it felt to beat one of their hated rivals with a fourth quarter comeback in the first night game ever played at Michigan Stadium.

This leads me to believe that Michigan will start the game on Saturday vs. EMU a little sluggish.  EMU has 13 returning starters and is in the third year of Head Coach Ron English’s (former UM assistant coach) system (generally, team’s are much better in a head coach’s third year).  Plus, the game is a noon kickoff, which may feel early compared to last week’s 8pm kickoff.  The game will be close early on, but the struggles for Michigan will end halfway through the second quarter and the Wolverines will take control of the game.

Michigan 38 – Eastern Michigan 14

Game 3 Preview: Eastern Michigan

Friday, September 16th, 2011


In case you forgot, or have been living in a cave, Michigan won in thrilling fashion last week, scoring two touchdowns in the final 1:13 to beat Notre Dame for the third straight year. It already feels like Brady Hoke has been at Michigan forever, but in reality, it’s been two games, and what a crazy two games they have been.

It’s basically unquantifiable, but I wonder what the most interesting first couple of games to start a career at a school is. Hoke’s start has to rank up there pretty high, starting off with the first non-full game full game in Michigan history and then the fourth quarter magic in the first ever night game in Michigan Stadium.

Michigan v. Eastern Michigan
Saturday Sept. 17
12 p.m. ET
Big Ten Network
2-0 Record 2-0
Western Michigan 34-10
Notre Dame 35-31
Wins Howard 41-9
Alabama State 14-7
Losses
34.5 Scoring Offense 27.5
152 Rushing YPG 331
218 Passing YPG 88
370 Total Offense 419
20.5 Scoring Defense 8
147 Rush Defense YPG 41.5
249 Pass Defense YPG 170.5
396 Total Defense YPG 212
8 Takeaways 3
3 Giveaways 3
2/1 Sacks By/Allowed 10/3
6-of-15 (40%) Third-down Conv. 10-of-26 (38%)
0-for-0 Field Goals 2-for-3 (67%)
35.6 Net Punt Avg. 34.3

This week, Hoke hits a milestone with his 100th game as a head coach, but he’s probably ready to settle down into a typical Michigan football groove with a classic Mid-American Conference spanking. Eastern Michigan makes the 11-mile drive from Ypsilanti, and for the first time since 1989, is off to a 2-0 start.

Hoke isn’t taking Eastern lightly, however: “You can tell Ron [English]‘s done a great job in his footprint on that program…If you look at 331 yards per game, I don’t care who you’re rushing the ball, if you’re averaging that, that’s pretty significant,” Hoke said Wednesday. “There’s a number of guys that have spent time here in Ann Arbor on that staff who are very good coaches, and guys who understand and have a philosophy on how you play the game of football. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”

Coach speak? Yes. But Hoke’s the type of coach to instill the “don’t overlook an opponent” mentality into his team. Let’s take a look at how the two teams compare.

Quarterbacks:

There’s really no comparison at this position. EMU’s junior quarterback, Alex Gillett, is a second-year starter who completed just 55 percent of his passes a year ago for 1,633 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also led the Eagles in rushing with 766 yards and five touchdowns on 4.3 yard per carry. Interestingly enough, Gillett began his career against Michigan two years ago when he took over for injured Andy Schmitt midway through the game and completed 2-of-4 passes for nine yards and rushed for 40 yards.

So far this season, he has been below average, completing 47.5 percent for 176 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. He has, however, rushed for 150 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.

Comparatively, Denard Robinson had a better fourth quarter last week than Gillett has had in two games. At this point, Robinson is behind last year’s pace, having just a 54 percent completion rate for 436 yards, 4 touchdowns and three interceptions, while rushing for 154 yards and a touchdown. Despite his struggles in the passing game, he’s still the most explosive player on the field.

Edge: Michigan

Former Michigan star Mike Hart makes his return to the Big House, but on the other sideline

Running Backs:

Eastern brings the nation’s fifth-best rush offense into Ann Arbor, coached by former Michigan running back Mike Hart. It will be a bitter-sweet day for Hart, returning to his old stomping grounds but coaching against his Alma mater. He has a pair of talented backs at his disposal with Javonti Greenes and Dominique Sherrer. Greene is averaging 7.4 yard per carry and 133 yards per game, while Sherrer is averaging 7.7 and 116.

Green is the more explosive of the two, but both are equally dangerous, and with Hart coaching them up, they cannot be underestimated.

Michigan missed Fitzgerald Toussaint last week against Notre Dame. The sophomore was out with an injury and it showed as Michigan failed to get anything going on the ground. Hoke said Wednesday that Fitz should be back and Michigan needs him to prove he can be a feature back that opposing defenses have to respect. None of the other backs stepped up last week, combining for just 10 yards on eight carries.

Edge: Eastern Michigan

Receivers and Tight Ends:

The leading receiver for the Eagles so far this season is Nick Olds, who has caught five passes for 69 yards and a touchdown. He and junior tight end Garrett Hoskins are both good sized targets, but the EMU pass offense ranks 117th out of 120 in FBS.

Michigan has plenty of targets who, whether last week was a mirage or not, showed they can go up and get the ball. Junior Hemingway is the obvious go-to guy this year, but Michigan isn’t lacking for play-makers at the position.

Edge: Michigan

Offensive Line:

Eastern’s line has been good enough to pave the way for 331 rushing yards per game so far this season. Standard cupcake disclaimer applies, as those two games were against Howard and FCS school Alabama State, but it’s still impressive. The unit has allowed three sacks so far, which isn’t bad either.

Michigan’s line got manhandled by Notre Dame’s defensive front last week. It wasn’t able to get any push up front to allow the backs any running room. However, Notre Dame’s front seven is a talented bunch and made it clear from the onset that it was going to stack the box and force Robinson to beat it with his arm. The UM offensive line is still more talented than EMU and that will show on Saturday.

Edge: Michigan

Defensive Line:

The Eagles have been able to get to the quarterback through the first two games, recording 10 sacks, which is good for fifth nationally. Senior lineman Brad Ohrman has recorded two-and-a-half of those.

Michigan’s line has been average so far. It gave up just 96 rushing yards to Western Michigan in Week 1 (in three quarters), but allowed Notre Dame to gain 198 on six yards per carry. It hasn’t been able to consistently pressure the quarterback, with the exception of freshman Jake Ryan, although he has been rushing from both the linebacker and end spot. Like the offensive lines, Michigan still has the more talented of the two teams’ units

Edge: Michigan

Linebackers:

Eastern has a couple of solid linebackers in Marcus English and junior college transfer Justin Cudworth. Cudworth leads the team in tackles with 19, while English is second with 13. They each also have 3.5 tackles for loss, and English has a sack.

Linebacker Marcus English is a high school teammate of Roy Roundtree, Michael Shaw, and Brandon Moore

Michigan’s linebackers have been hit-or-miss. With Kenny Demens and Brandon Herron (who didn’t play against ND), you have to take the good with the bad at this point. Cam Gordon may be back this week, but may not have the stamina to play much yet. It will help the unit when he returns. Jake Ryan, as mentioned above, has been a surprise. He’s been able to get some pressure and make plays, but has also had his share of struggles.

Edge: Michigan

Secondary:

The EMU secondary features a couple of BCS conference transfers in former UCLA transfer Marlon Pollard and Louisville transfer Latarrious Thomas. As a unit, the Eagles secondary is allowing just 170 passing yards per game (again, Howard and Alabama State).

Michigan’s secondary got torched by Michael Floyd et al. last week, but that’s likely the best passing offense it will face all season. Senior Troy Woolfolk continues to get banged up and J.T. Floyd and Courtney Avery are struggling. The safety play has been the most consistent so far with Jordan Kovacs as the big playmaker and Thomas Gordon not giving up the big play.

Edge: Michigan

Special Teams:

Sophomore kicker Kody Fulkerson has connected on 2-of-3 field goals so far, with a long of 45, and 7-of-7 extra points. Punter Jay Karutz is averaging just 34.3 yards per punt (92nd nationally). The returnmen are pretty good. Sherrer handles kick return duties and is averaging 29.3 yards per, which would rank in the top 15 nationally.

Michigan is still yet to try a field goal, and freshman punter Matt Wile is averaging 35.6 yards per punt. The return game hasn’t done much so far with a long return of 21 on a punt and 25 on a kickoff.

What I am worried about is the kick coverage. While it may not come back to haunt the Wolverines this game, it will eventually. Opponents are averaging 23.1 yards per return and have nearly broken a couple.

Edge: Even

Coaching:

EMU is coached by former Michigan defensive coordinator Ron English. He’s in his third year there and is slowly turning the program around. The Eagles are 2-0 for the first time since 1989.

Hoke knows all about turning programs around and has a similar career path as English, although a much quicker rise. Both served as assistants under Lloyd Carr, but Hoke has been a head coach since 2003.

Edge: Michigan

Intangibles:

Michigan has to guard against an emotional let down after the thrilling last-second win over Notre Dame under the lights last week. Hoke is even-keeled enough to keep that from happening. Eastern will be pumped up, off to its best start in more than two decades, and coached by former Michigan players and coaches. Still, it’s in the Big House, and EMU hasn’t played a substantial opponent yet.

Edge: Michigan

Michigan may get off to a slow start, but expect to see a lot of runs. After last week’s running game debacle, Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges will want to work on the running game, keep the playbook as simple as possible, and cruise to victory.

Defensively, Michigan will have its hands full with the EMU rush offense. Look for Mattison to stack up to stop the run and force Gillett to throw the ball. Expect a couple of interceptions as a result. The Eagles will probably still get some yards, but won’t be able to keep pace with Michigan.

Prediction: Michigan 45 – Eastern Michigan 20

Good to Know:



Michigan is 9-0 all-time against Eastern Michigan, having outscored the Eagles 296-59



Michigan has won 11 straight September games



Michigan is plus-five in turnover margin so far this season. It was minus-32 combined over the past three seasons



Three former Wolverine players (Kurt Anderson, Mike Hart, and Steve Morrison) are on the Eagles coaching staff, as well as two former coaches (Ron English and Tom Burpee). In 2007, Hart rushed for 218 yards and three touchdowns for the Wolverines against Eastern Michigan



Brady Hoke is 4-2 against Eastern Michigan.



Denard Robinson needs just four more completions to move into the top 10 all-time at Michigan. He also needs four more touchdown passes to tie Drew Henson for 11th. With 41 rushing yards, he will pass Tony Boles (1987-89) for 17th on the career rushing list, and with four more rushing touchdowns he will tie Tim Biakabatuka (1993-95) and Lawrence Ricks (1979-82) for 15th.

Another Season of Meechigan Football is Upon Us

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011


Football is a religion and Saturday is the holy day of obligation. Legendary Michigan football broadcaster Bob Ufer uttered those words many years ago and they still ring true today. Each year, as summer draws to a close and hurricane season gears up, we can hardly hold back our anticipation of Saturdays spent in front of the TV, stuffing our mouths with burgers and beer, and watching the Maize and Blue take the field to The Victors.

Bob Ufer's quotes still live on in Ann Arbor every Saturday

This season, we begin anew with “Michigan Man” Brady Hoke at the helm looking to return Michigan football back to what Bo Schembechler established 42 years ago and Moeller and Lloyd carried on before Rich Rodriguez was brought in to transform the program into an SEC team.

If you’ve read this blog for the past couple of seasons, it’s no secret that I supported Rodriguez and truly believed it could have eventually worked out. But I’m not going to dwell on that any longer, since that era is over and each thing Hoke has done since taking over has effectively brought Michigan a few giant steps in the right direction.

So as we begin the 132nd season of Michigan football this Saturday, let’s take a look at what we can expect from our beloved Wolverines.

September 3 – Western Michigan

Junior quarterback Alex Carder brings a talented passing attack into Ann Arbor to challenge Michigan’s rehabbed secondary. Carder threw for 3,334 yards, 30 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions a year ago. Can Troy Woolfolk and J.T. Floyd, both of whom return from injuries, hold Bronco receiver Jordan White in check?

Defensively, WMU is inexperienced in the secondary, but has a solid line that will have to control Denard Robinson. Nobody really knows what to expect from Michigan’s offense in its first year under Al Borges, but look for a somewhat vanilla playbook so as not to show too much for Notre Dame a week later.

Michigan 31 – Western Michigan 17

September 10 – Notre Dame

A lot of people are high on the Irish this season with 17 returning starters including linebacker Manti Te’o and receiver Michael Floyd. Both are impact players on their respective side of the ball. Michigan held on to beat ND in South Bend last season, but did so by knocking quarterback Dayne Crist out of the game. Crist is back this season and the Irish finished last season strong, winning four straight including at USC and a 33-17 Sun Bowl victory over Miami.

This year’s matchup has ESPN Game Day in attendance for the first ever night game in Michigan Stadium history and Michigan will be looking to win for the fifth time in six years. Expect a high-scoring shootout in this one, going right down to the wire.

Michigan 34 – Notre Dame 31

September 17 – Eastern Michigan

Former Michigan defensive coordinator Ron English is trying to build the Eagles into Mid-American Conference contenders, but it’s been slow going thus far. After a winless season two years ago, EMU won two games last season and only returns 12 starters. Quarterback Alex Gillett is more of a runner than a true passer, having ran for 766 yards last season and thrown for just 1,633 yards, 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Defensively, the Eagles return three starters on the line and two in the secondary, but ranked at the bottom nationally in scoring, rushing, and total defense a year ago.

Even with Mike Hart on the sidelines coaching EMU’s running backs, don’t expect this one to be a contest.

Michigan 52 – Eastern Michigan 21

September 24 – San Diego State

Ryan Lindley may be the best QB Michigan will face this season

Brady Hoke’s old team will be coming to Ann Arbor hoping to throw a wrench into the coach’s plans to turn Michigan around. Unfortunately for Michigan, Hoke left the Aztecs in great condition, fresh off a 9-4 record and a 35-14 Poinsettia Bowl victory over Navy.

Fourteen starters return including quarterback Ryan Lindley, who enters as a fourth-year starter, having thrown for 9,537 yards and 67 touchdowns in his career against just 39 interceptions. If Michigan doesn’t have its secondary shored up by Week 4, Lindley has the talent to pick it apart, although last season’s top two receivers are gone.

Sophomore running back Ronnie Hillman, last year’s Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year, returns as a pass catching threat out of the backfield. He ran for 1,304 yards and 14 touchdowns in his first season with the Aztecs.

On the defensive side, only five starters return, but it was a group that ranked in the top third in college football a year ago. New head coach Rocky Long, despite being a quarterback in his playing days, has been a defensive coordinator most of his coaching career and guided New Mexico to one of the nation’s top defenses throughout the 2000s.

Many will circle this game on the schedule as a toss-up, but expect Hoke to have the Maize and Blue playing with renewed vigor and toughness and pull out a close defensive battle.

Michigan 24 – San Diego State 20

October 1 – Minnesota

Another school with a new head coach, Minnesota returns 15 starters from a squad that went 3-9 a year ago. Jerry Kill succeeded at Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois, but it will take a lot more to turn Minnesota into a Big Ten contender.

The first thing Kill did was move the Gophers’ second-leading receiver, Marqueis Gray, to quarterback, the position he played at Ben Davis High School in Indiana as the nations third-ranked dual-thread quarterback. Despite losing Gray at the receiver position, the Gophers still have a threat in Da’jon McKnight, a 6’3″ wideout who caught 10 touchdown passes last season.

On defense, Minnesota ranked last in the Big Ten in rush defense last season and recorded a nation-low nine sacks. Expect Michigan to pound the ball on the ground early and often with a few long pass plays here and there when the defense keys on the run.

Michigan 41 – Minnesota 17

October 8 – Northwestern

Michigan’s first road trip of the season is across Lake Michigan to take on a dangerous Northwestern team that returns 17 starters including quarterback Dan Persa, who set the Big Ten record for completion percentage (73.5). What remains to be seen is whether he can fully recover from a ruptured Achilles’ tendon at the end of last season. Receivers Jeremy Ebert and Drake Dunsmore also return to give Persa some weapons. The main question is who will step up in the backfield.

Can Dan Persa fully recover from a ruptured Achilles' tendon?

Defensively, seven starters return, including three-fourths of the secondary, but must fill some holes in the middle. The Wildcats gave up 29 points per game last season and finished with the 97th-ranked total defense. Those numbers are a bit skewed, considering the entire team fell apart when Persa went down.

A night game on the road could give Michigan fits and this is definitely a trap game before the battle with Michigan State. But Hoke won’t let the veteran group get ahead of itself and Michigan will pull away late in the game in front of a pro-Michigan crowd.

Michigan 32 – Northwestern 24

October 15 – Michigan State

When Hoke took over, he immediately put an emphasis on Michigan’s rivalry games. This is one that he has been looking forward to as Michigan gets a chance to retake the upperhand in the sibling battle for the state of Michigan.

The Spartans are one of the front-runners to win the Big Ten, fresh off an 11-win season and a share of the Big Ten crown. They have all the makings of a BCS caliber team with a returning senior quarterback in Kirk Cousins, three talented backs in Edwin Baker (the Big Ten’s leading returning rusher), Le’Veon Bell, and Larry Caper, and two experienced receivers in B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin. The line is the only question mark on the offensive side, having to replace three starters.

Defensively, six starters return, led by tackle Jerel Worthy and head coach Mark Dantonio expects big things from end William Gholston. The secondary will need to find a couple to step up from last season’s 60th-ranked pass defense.

Coming off a few close games, Michigan will have a hard time beating the Spartans in East Lansing. However, MSU will be coming off a road matchup with Ohio State. Still, I think Michigan is a year away from beating Dantonio’s crew and we’ll have to suffer through another year without state bragging rights.

Michigan State 33 – Michigan 27

October 29 – Purdue

Purdue suffered a huge loss when quarterback Rob Henry tore his ACL last week, but will need former Miami transfer Robert Marve to step up. Marve, ironically, tore his ACL last season, opening the door for Henry to take over. Marve is more of a pocket passer suited for a Purdue offense, but he will need the line to protect him better than last season.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Boilers have to replace All-American end Ryan Kerrigan, but there are some talented players remaining. Tackle Kawann Short and corner Ricardo Allen will need to step up.

Michigan may be coming off a loss to rival Michigan State and will be hungry for a win, so look for the Wolverines to bounce back with a solid effort before heading into the tough stretch of the schedule.

Michigan 35 – Purdue 17

November 5 – Iowa

Iowa could be a dark horse contender for the Big Ten title, although it probably isn’t likely since the Hawkeyes return just 11 starters. At quarterback, replacing Ricky Stanzi should be fairly smooth with junior James Vandenberg having gained some experience a couple of seasons ago when Stanzi went down with an injury. He’ll have a great line to stand behind and a big, talented receiver in Marvin McNutt to throw to, as well as an emerging star running back in Marcus Coker.

Defensively, Iowa is always stout, but lost three key starters in Adrian Clayborn, Christian Ballard, and Karl Klug. Defensive end Broderick Binns recorded 9.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2009 and will be one to watch this season. Linebacker James Morris was a Freshman All-American last season and cornerback Shaun Prater was All-Big Ten.

In Iowa City, Michigan will have a hard time getting the win. This may be the first time we get to see how Hoke’s pro-style offense fares against the a true Big Ten defense. We all know how Rich Rodriguez’s vaunted offenses struggled in late Big Ten play, but Hoke is bringing the toughness back to Ann Arbor. Still, Michigan will probably see a drop-off offensively in this one.

Iowa 24 – Michigan 20

November 12 – Illinois

Every season, Ron Zook seems to be on the hot seat. Known as a great recruiter but mediocre coach, Zook brought in two new coordinators last season and finished with a 7-6 record and a dominating 38-14 bowl win over Baylor. He’ll have a hard time improving on that this season after losing his top three players, running back Mikel Leshoure, defensive tackle Corey Liuget, and linebacker Martez Wilson.

Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase leads the Illini after earning Freshman All-America honors a year ago. If not for Denard Robinson, Scheelhaase may have been the talk of the Big Ten at the quarterback position, having thrown for 1,825 yards, 17 touchdowns and just eight interceptions, and run for 868 yards and five touchdowns.

On defense, only four starters return. The ability to replace Liuget and Wilson will determine whether the Illini can reach a second-straight bowl game or not.

Michigan will need to win this one with Nebraska and Ohio State remaining. Don’t expect another record-setting offensive day for both teams, but Michigan should be able to put up plenty of points once again.

Michigan 41 – Illinois 27

November 19 – Nebraska

The last time Michigan and Nebraska played, in the 2005 Alamo Bowl, it was a disappointing end to a disappointing season for the Maize and Blue. Michigan lost 32-28. In 1997, Nebraska stole some of Michigan’s thunder when it claimed the national title in the Coaches Poll. Needless to say, Michigan is due.

Luke Fickell has a tough task taking over from Jim Tressel

Unfortunately, Nebraska is probably the favorite to win the Big Ten in its first season in the conference. Led by quarterback Taylor Martinez and defensive tackle Jared Crick, Nebraska will be a force this season. The nation’s ninth-best scoring defense and 11th-best total defense last season, the Huskers will give Michigan fits .

Nebraska 27 – Michigan 20

November 26 – Ohio State

The single-most important game on the schedule got a lot more interesting over the offseason when Jim Tressel was forced to resign, Terrelle Pryor bolted for the NFL, and five other players were suspended for the first five games due to an improper benefits scandal in Columbus. Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell takes over a still-loaded team and will have to find a way to make it through the first five games unscathed, but by the time the Buckeyes travel to Ann Arbor, all should be fixed.

Senior Joe Bauserman and freshman Braxton Miller are battling it out for the starting spot, all the while trying to do so with unproven youngsters at running back, receiver, and offensive line for the first five games.

Defensively, the Bucks are always strong and weren’t hit as hard with suspensions. However, only four starters return. Two new corners will need to step up, but Ohio State always has athletic, talented players to retool that position.

The first few weeks will be interesting, and may keep Ohio State from winning the Big Ten, but they’ll be ready for Michigan come November. I just think the combination of Hoke’s emphasis on beating Ohio, and Fickell’s first season at the helm with a new quarterback will lead to Michigan breaking the decade-long spell that Tressel had on the Wolverines.

Michigan 31 – Ohio State 21

The forecast: 9-3

The so-called “experts” aren’t as high on Michigan, but the Wolverines have enough talent and experience on offense to continue to put up points like they did last season. The difference will be the mentality that Hoke has instilled to keep the offense going late in the season. Defensively, there are still holes and question marks, but a stout line and a rebuilt secondary is bound to improve under the guidance of new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. Notre Dame and Ohio State are coin flip games that could be the difference between 9-3 and 7-5.