The Wolverine

September 2014

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 146 of 148

T his is a critical year for the Maize and Blue. Fans are growing rest- less — athletics director David Brandon has admitted the season- ticket holder base has shrunk, and U-M is expecting its lowest student turnout in close to two decades. Michigan fans have endured a brutal six- year stretch in which the Wolverines have gone 41-34 (.547 win- ning percentage) with- out a single Big Ten title, have captured just one bowl victory in four appearances (2011 season) and have posted a combined 2-10 record against rivals Ohio State (1-5) and Michigan State (1-5). No one cheering for the winged helmet wants to hear, "Wait until next year," even though the 2015 season may represent Michigan's best chance to contend for a league championship thus far in Brady Hoke's tenure. To satisfy the mass of U-M fans hoping the Maize and Blue can sur- prise this fall, Michigan will need a few breaks to go its way. However, there is no guarantee they will. Make or Break Home Game: An Oct. 11 affair under the lights with Penn State is the lone "big game" on the home schedule, and it is a chance for redemption after Michigan blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead and three chances to win in overtime before los- ing to the Nittany Lions in a fourth extra session a year ago. U-M should be 4-0 at home and at least 5-1 overall when PSU arrives in Ann Arbor. If the Maize and Blue win, they will likely have started the Big Ten season 3-0, re-en- ergizing their fans, and bringing much-needed swagger to an Oct. 25 matchup at Michigan State (following a bye week). Make or Break Away Game: It would seem reasonable to point to the one in East Lansing, after all U-M has not won there since 2007 and the Wolverines have demons to exorcise with the Spartans, but Michigan beating Michigan State may hinge on whether the Maize and Blue first take care of Notre Dame Sept. 6. Under Hoke, Michigan is 7-11 in games not played in Ann Arbor, in- cluding a 1-2 mark in non-conference contests. U-M's most recent trip to South Bend — a 13-6 loss in 2012 — was a train wreck; Michigan turned MAIZE N' VIEW   MICHAEL SPATH Five Keys To The Football Season If senior defensive end Frank Clark can fulfill his potential as a pass rusher, it will create opportunities for his defensive teammates to make plays. PHOTO BY TIM NELSON

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