The Wolverine

June-July 2012

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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WOLVERINE WATCH JOHN BORTON T An Early Look At Football In 2012 March, following the Winter That Wasn't. Guaranteed, they'll be turning brilliant colors before you can say Fly- By Summer. That's why it's never too early to he leaves on the trees popped out early in Ann Arbor, given 70-degree temperatures in take a good, hard look at how the Wolverines might follow up their first feel-good season under Brady Hoke. He termed that one a "failure," at least according to the narrowly defined criterion of his top priority — winning a Big Ten championship. There weren't many heads hang- ing among Michigan fans, though, following an 11-2 finish that included wins over Nebraska, Ohio State and Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. As for the encore, here are a handful of thoughts … 1. Alabama represents a national title test. Who would have even dreamed, a year ago, that the Wolverines might have a shot in this showdown to gain a leg up in the national champion- ship talk? That's what this one means, despite the persistent, nagging notion that the battle at Cowboys Stadium figures as overscheduling for a sec- ond-year program under Hoke. The defending national champs go into this one as favorites, perhaps by double digits. Michigan, meanwhile, comes out with a senior quarterback, a pair of 1,000-yard rushers, and a confidence-restored defense, none of which care about the odds-makers. The Wolverines can be competitive in this one, if they limit turnovers and establish the ability to throw the football. If they keep it close and lose, it's season. And just maybe, a whole lot more. 2. Michigan makes it four straight over Notre Dame. Yes, we've got a great view of the aforementioned leaves from our po- sition out on this limb. After all, the Wolverines have gone down to the wire in three straight victories over the Fighting Irish. The law of aver- ages — Michigan hasn't won four in a row in the series since taking the first eight, from 1887-1908 — says the Irish light up the Wolverines under the lights at Notre Dame Stadium. The Law of Shoelace says other- wise. Denard Robinson has served as Irish Kryptonite in two straight seasons, piling up an almost obscene tally of 948 combined total yards in a pair of comeback wins. He's ac- counted for eight touchdowns in those games, five through the air and three on the ground. Robinson knelt in thanksgiving af- After four straight losses to the Spartans, the Wolverines will be looking to notch a big win over Michigan State in The Big House on Oct. 20. ter each of those touchdown runs. It's enough to render Touchdown Jesus both nervous and appreciative. 3. Michigan State gets circled twice this year. Michigan remains ever aware of its sassy sibling to the northwest, and yes, it's always personal. Let's just say there's an added dimension of com- petitive fire under the winged helmets entering that Oct. 20 conflagration at The Big House this year. From the Spartans' four straight like the old days under Bo Schem- bechler. They're getting ready for a Big Ten run. If they somehow turn the Tide, all bets are off. A confidence-sapping, lopsided loss — or a significant injury — ren- ders this a scheduling swing and a miss. Same holds true if it became the third loss in an otherwise BCS Bowl season. But there's plenty to gain, including a world of experience and toughness for a crew that faces a gauntlet this 8 THE WOLVERINE JUNE/JULY 2012 wins in the series (for the first time since 1959-62), to MSU's personal foul panorama last year, to head coach Mark Dantonio's "Where's the threat" bravado toward the program he hates more than any other, this one has the Wolverines' full attention. Mark it down as a mission, and fail- ure is not an option. 4. Still plenty to prove against Ohio (State). Yes, every Michigan player, coach Hoke's breakthrough win. The Wol- verines have all sorts of proving to do, with a new sheriff (probation officer, perhaps?) at the helm in Columbus. Michigan has to get it done on the road, in what the Buckeyes have al- ready identified as their bowl game in 2012. Defensive coordinator Greg Matti- The streak is history, but so is son used to work for Urban Meyer at Florida. Mattison, for all his satisfac- tion in beating the Buckeyes last year, isn't one bit happy over surrendering 34 points in that game. If they bring out the duffle bag- the season. Michigan upsetting Alabama PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN sniffing dogs this year, one might just get punched in the nose. 5. A Big Ten championship is the key to and fan basked in pride and relief over taking down the Free-Tat Tres- selites last November. All of the Wolverines enjoyed ending a misery- inducing losing streak against the Buckeyes, however tainted the skein, due to perfidious player procurement and maintenance. would send shockwaves through the college football world. But the Wolverines' schedule (and quite pos- sibly its team, at this point) simply isn't built for a national title run this season. That makes it easier, in a way. Job One and Goal One are the same — get to Indianapolis in December, and win. ❏ Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @JB_Wolverine.

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