AND A HEARTY *)$(@#$& MICHIGAN TO YOU SIRS. Know Your Enemy takes a look at our most hated rival, the notorious Wolverines from that school up north.
Q: Who are some famous Michigan Men?
A: Glad you asked! Michigan State may be soft on dictators, but Michigan certainly shows the most crazy person hustle in the Big Ten. Distinguished graduates include notorious mass murderer and Devil in the White City protagonist H. H Holmes, and all around crazy person Ted Kacynski, better known as the Unabomber. Other famous Michigan Men include The Weather Underground, and their frontman, Bill Ayers. You may remember Bill as the terrorist Sarah Palin was continuously insisting Obama was hanging around with.
Quick Cool Story Bro...I actually met Bill Ayers in 2010. Ayers is also a famous education professor and writer, and I went to a book signing where he was taking questions. We got to talking about my experiences as a teacher, and the conversation went fine until I mentioned I graduated from Ohio State. Ayers then stood up on a chair, sang Hail to the Victors, and then told me he'd rather his children not go to college than go to OSU. In conclusion, Bill Ayers is an asshole, and Michigan sucks.
Now, let's talk football.Q: How did Michigan do last year?
A: Call it luck, black magic, the banishment of GERG, whatever, but Michigan had a great season last year. The team finished 11-2, and beat Virgina Tech 23-20 in the Sugar Bowl. Michigan beat Notre Dame, murdered Nebraska, and beat (sigh) Ohio State to close out the regular season, while dropping games against Sparty and Iowa, keeping them out of the B1G title game.
While Michigan improved greatly from 2010, especially on defense, they also benefited from a manageable schedule (no Wisconsin, Ohio State, ND, and Nebraska at home, a BCS matchup with a questionably deserving Virginia Tech team), and superior luck with turnovers.
Q: Let's talk about Michigan on offense. What can we expect?
A: The centerpiece of Michigan's offense is the most dynamic offensive player in the Big Ten, QB Denard Robinson. Credit Michigan's coaching staff for finding ways to incorporate Robinson's running ability in lieu of their more coveted pro-style offense without exposing him to quite as many hits. Denard rolled up over 3000 total yards last season and remains a potent big play threat this year. He still struggled a little with decision making and efficiency, throwing 15 picks and completing only 55% of his passes although the latter could be somewhat attributed to a drop-heavy receiving corps.
Robinson is joined in the backfield by the highly productive and outstandingly named Fitzgerald Toussaint, who picked up 1,041 yards last year. Can I just say what an awesome name that is? Toussaint sounds like a character from The Great Gatsby, not a Big Ten running back. Toussaint will also enjoy the benefits of an experienced line, with three starters returning, lead by All Big Ten tackle Taylor Lewan. Michigan even has productive tailbacks behind Toussaint, should he get injured (or you know, suspended)...Vincent Smith is a capable change of pace back that can also make catches out of the backfield. UM certainly has the pieces back to form a very strong rushing attack.
If there is a weakness for the Michigan offense, it's with their pass catchers. Junior Hemmingway and Kevin Kroger are done, and the remaining wideouts are a little underwhelming. Roy Roundtree has potential but dropped a *lot* of passes, and after him and Jermey Gallon, Michigan doesn't have a lot of experience. Given Michigan's offensive philosophy, that may not be a big deal, but defenses will probably still prefer for Robinson to beat teams with his arm than his legs.
Q: What about Michigan's defense?
A: Michigan went from an absolute tire-fire of a defense in 2010 to a pretty decent unit last year. They return most of last year's crew, especially in their back seven. The Wolverines bring back their top three linebackers, led by Kenny Demens (94 tackles, 3 sacks) and Desmond Morgan (63 tackles). Depth may be an issue, as the pickings get a little slim after 4th LB Brandin Hawthorne, so Michigan should hope the injury bug doesn't bite.
The Wolverines return most of the secondary, which was decent last year, but could be ready for a breakout. J.T. Floyd and Blake Countess lead the CB unit (combined 92 tackles, 2 picks). Countess has the potential to be a real stud in the defensive backfield. Jordan Kovacs (75 tackles, 1 pick, 1 fumble recovery, 4 sacks) and Thomas Gordon (67 tackles, 1 pick, 4 recovered fumbles) pace the safeties. They may not be as lucky in generating turnovers this season, but both are more than competent defenders.
If there is a weakness for Michigan's D, it may be on the frontlines. Defensive end Craig Roh is the only returning starter, and Michigan will need strong production from their tackles to keep offenses honest. Former 5-star Will Campbell will be a key player to watch. He's had a fairly unproductive career at Ann Arbor so far, but has apparently had a strong spring and will be counted on stuff the middle for the Wolverines. If they're able to get a lot out of him, Michigan will go a long way towards taking pressure off of their offense. Pressure on the offense leads to Denard Robinson making dumb decisions with the football.
Q: What's their schedule look like?
A: It won't be nearly as easy as last year, that's for sure. Michigan opens with a de facto road game at the Jerrah-Dome against Alabama in week 1. I think most of the sports media has written Michigan off entirely for that game, which I think is unfair, although they will certainly be underdogs. The Wolverines host Air Force and FBS noobs UMass before heading to South Bend to battle Notre Dame. 2-2 out of conference is not out of the question there.
As far as their Big Ten slate goes, the Wolverines do dodge Wisconsin, but have to play Nebraska and Ohio State on the road. They do get Michigan State at home along with Northwestern and Iowa. Even if Michigan improves in all facets of their team next season, it's hard to see them escaping the regular season with only one loss.
Q: What do you think about THE GAME?
A: Michigan will be thinking about booking their first trip to the Big Ten title game this year, but they won't be able to get there without gutting out some tough wins on the road. With nothing else to play for, that November date in front of more than 100,000 post-tailgating, angry Buckeye fans certainly would be tricky for anybody. Michigan will bring an explosive QB, a talented running back, "Damn-Yankees" turnover luck, and a capable back seven...
But forget all that. Fuck Michigan. Bucks win.