Sunday, September 16, 2007

10 reasons why Michigan can win 10


It's hard to tell how good the Michigan football team was against the Fighting (scratch that, Moldy) Irish Saturday afternoon.

The score — 38-0 — looked good.

So did the defense (which held Notre Dame to minus 6 rushing yards and compiled 12 tackles for loss).

A guy named Mike Hart wasn't bad either, backing up his "we gonna win" guarantee with 187 yards and the first two Michigan touchdowns, which basically sealed the 0-3 Irish's fate.

Not bad for the first win of the season.

But it's impossible to gauge just how good the Wolverines were because of how bad — and they were really bad — the Irish were. Notre Dame's first offensive play resulted in a large loss after the ball was snapped over Jimmy Clausen's head.

Things didn't get better.

The majority of Division 1-A teams — and, I'm sure, a few 1-AA teams, such as Appalachian State — could have whipped the gold helmets on Saturday. And with their upcoming schedule, 0-3 could become 0-8 before you can say, "Unbelievable."

But enough about them. Let's talk about Michigan. These Wolverines still have a lot to prove if they want to shrug off their worst start in 10 years and make this a semi-successful season — something I believe they're capable of.

Here are the 10 reasons why Michigan could win out through Nov. 17 (Ohio State), stealing the Big Ten title and returning to the Rose Bowl with 10 victories:

1. Mike Hart — Notre Dame knew what Michigan's offensive game plan was Saturday, but it couldn't do a thing about it. When Hart gets going, he's hard to stop. Lloyd Carr needs to give him 35 carries (like he did Saturday) or more a game. Especially with starting QB Chad Henne out. Hart could will this team to a couple wins.

2. The schedule — No Big Ten game is ever easy, but if Michigan can beat Penn State next Saturday at the Big House, the road becomes much smoother until the final three games (at Michigan State, at Wisconsin, vs. Ohio State). This is especially important, because Henne should be back for the November stretch (and probably sooner). If Ryan Mallett plays mistake-free, Michigan should win at Northwestern (which, somehow, lost to Duke at home Saturday), vs. Eastern Michigan, vs, Purdue, at Illinois and vs. Minnesota.

3. Big Ten is down — Michigan isn't the only Big Ten team that appears vulnerable this season. Wisconsin was tied with I-AA The Citadel Saturday at halftime before pulling away. Penn State has beaten nobody (including Notre Dame 31-10, not as convincingly as Michigan's win). Michigan State has had to hold on for home wins over Bowling Green and injury-depleted Pittsburgh. Ohio State's offense has had one good showing and two mediocre ones. Purdue could be dangerous, but it hasn't beaten anyone. Iowa lost to Iowa State. The bottom of the conference appears terrible, considering Northwestern's loss and Minnesota falling to Florida Atlantic.

4. An improving defense —
Sure, it was Notre Dame, but Michigan's defense showed life Saturday. Most importantly, the guys in that unit have confidence now. They believe in each other. And they tackled well against the Irish. I only expect this group to get better and more cohesive. A big win against Penn State would do wonders for it.

5. Henne's return — Can you imagine what Chad Henne is thinking right now? Here, he came back for his senior season expecting to contend for a national title. Instead, he was in the press box Saturday, watching his 0-2 team led by a freshman quarterback. I can guarantee that when he returns from his leg injury, Henne will be rearing to go. He'll cut down on mistakes. He — along with Hart — will lead this offense to several big games.

6. Big Ten offenses — I can't be positive, but I'm pretty sure that the majority of teams Michigan faces from here on out do not boast the spread offenses that demoralized the Wolverines in their first two games. And as Notre Dame proved, you can't simply implement the spread for a single game, especially if you don't start a mobile quarterback. Additionally, most of the top teams in the conference lack an experienced signal-caller, a Troy Smith or Dennis Dixon. Michigan's defense tends to fare better against premier running backs than top-notch QBs.

7. Playing for Lloyd —
I know this sounds a bit cheesy, but the players are going to dedicate this season to Lloyd Carr. I get the sense that they get the sense that Carr has the sense he'll step down after the season. And nobody wants to see Carr leave after a disappointing season. So as hokey as it sounds, the Wolverines are going to do everything they can to send Carr out on a positive note. A Big Ten championship — after everyone doubted him — wouldn't be bad.

8. Jake Long What a behemoth left tackle. The Wolverines don't have to mix up their running plays much. Just run behind this guy. He absolutely bulldozed the Notre Dame defenders Saturday, clearing gaping holes for the quick, shifty Hart. This combination will be crucial in the final minutes of close games, when Michigan is trying to run the clock out. Believe me, there will be a few Big Ten games like this.

9. History — It's hard to imagine sitting on the couch in late October, thinking Michigan has no shot to win the Big Ten. I don't see it happening. There are a few things you can expect each autumn in Michigan: leaves will fall; it will get cold; and Michigan will compete for the Big Ten title. Don't mess with tradition.

10. A new season, new life — I was just thinking Saturday night that if I were a highly touted recruit, I wouldn't even consider Notre Dame. Why, you ask? Because the Irish — after three losses — have close to nothing to play for except that "P" word, pride. Because Notre Dame remains an independent, there is no conference to win. The Irish are out of the national title picture and will not — with three or more losses — play in a BCS bowl. So all they can hope for is a Gator Bowel birth. Who gives a hoot? Michigan, on the other hand, still has plenty to play for. It is tied for first in the Big Ten at 0-0. A Big Ten championship means a BCS bowl birth. The Wolverines clearly have the talented athletes to get the job done. With so much still at stake, it's hard to believe they won't make a serious run at all that remains at stake.

No, Michigan's isn't a Top 5 team or even a Top 10 team (who, at this point, even knows if they're a Top 25 team, although I believe they are).

But there remain endless possibilities for the rest of the season. Just ask any player or coach. While the sting of those pair of home losses hasn't completely subsided, with one blowout win, things are looking up — at least for a week — in Ann Arbor.


Neil Joshi said...

I think Michigan will get to 7 or 8 wins tops. They still got Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State on their schedule. They need to win all three of those games to get to 10, and I think they will be lucky to get one.

zekejennings said...


I totally agree with you because of a combination of 2, 3 and 6. Basically, Michigan won't be facing teams who run things or have athletes it can't handle for the remainder of the regular season. I fully expect Michigan to beat Penn State on Saturday (does anyone really think PSU is more talented than Michigan and it's at the Big House.) At MSU, At Wisconsin and OSU at home are the only other games on the sked that I see as lose-able. I think they'll still get 2 of those 3.

I'm not saying Michigan will run the table, but people who are thinking 6 or 7 wins are sorely underestimating the team. Michigan is still good at what it does, but there are just more and more teams that it can't do it against these days. Fortunately for the Wolverines, there aren't many that pose a problem left on their schedule.

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