You may feel free to refer to this as the "optimist edition", but like the others, I'm going with my gut. Dave got mighty specific including scores (!!), I'm not going to venture quite so far into the murky unknown here, we'll just stick with W's and L's for now.
Ridiculously compressed assessment of our '09 squad right now: I can't help but get the feeling that the offense is going to start to come to life and at some point is going whip the bejeezus out of somebody this year. After seeing Forcier in the spring, I can without a doubt say that he is a better option at the position than anyone we put on the field last year. With all of the focus on him, many seem to forget about everything else on the O. We trot out a backfield of Minor, Brown, Shaw, etc and have several guys at the receiver postion who could step up into much bigger roles with a... ahem... more accurate passer. The rest of the offense has experience and some much needed depth, particularly on the line. I think we make a definitive move in the right direction on that side of the ball.
The defense? Yeegads. 3rd season in a row learning a new system, a formation that makes me wonder if we're going to be neutralizing Brandon Graham's abilities (blah spinner down on the line too blah), no descernable team leaders at the LB spot yet, and a secondary that after last year still scares the ever loving hell out of me even if Stevie Brown is now a linebacker. With the defense goes the season ladies and gents*, it's that simple, and unfortunately I simply don't know what they're going to look like yet.
* Well that and punt/kick returns...
9/5/09 Western Michigan - I expect there to be moments of stuggle on both sides of the ball and freshman QB and all, but I also think we may get a glimmer or two mixed in that will carry us through the day. Michigan gets off on the right foot here to start the year, may not be pretty (blah Freshman QB blah) but I don't care about pretty at this point, and neither should you. More than anything I just hope to see us actually execute and tackle, that would be awfully reassuring.
9/12/09 Notre Dame - Bastard coated bastards with bastard filling. Did I mention that Greg Matthews grab WAS A CATCH AND A TD LAST YEAR?! No? Or the Grady forward-progress-was-halted-3-seconds-ago-fumble??? Sigh. Anyways, I don't care what people say about this ND team heading into the year. Show me the long line of solid teams with winning records that Charlie Weis has managed to defeat thus far in his career... go ahead I'll wait. History, yes I said history, points towards a Michigan victory here. ND's two wins in Ann Arbor have come in '93 and '05. Michigan's most recent victories in South Bend have been '94 and '06. I'll take the home team thanks. Call this one Rich Rodriguez's well delayed coming out party if only because it makes me smile when I fall asleep thinking about the "what if" of it all. Oh oh, actual analysis? Aside from the historical trend, I don't think much of their D and the aforementioned coaching ability of Weis. I watched us gag that game away last year, color me unimpressed. This year: we hold onto the ball, we win.
9/19/09 Eastern Michigan - Scary potential for a let-down game, though after last season I'd like to think that it'd be impossible for this team to overlook anyone. Possible blowout, possible horrifically ugly win. Just make it a W and move on.
9/27/09 Indiana - Indiana is going to be 8 shades of awful this season, if I recall correctly they've kicked Kellen Lewis off the team. He was their only occasional playmaker. I think Michigan wins this one handily as well (Jesus here we go with the lofty prediction of a 4-0 start...)
10/3/09 Michigan State - Recent prediction from Angelique puts MSU at 10-2 on the upcoming season... I respectfully disagree. No Hoyer and no Ringer makes this a no-trick pony team heading into this season. I'm not seeing a bone-crushing D to make up for it either. I think State will have a very "Sparty no!" return to reality year this season. They'll be good for a possible big win and probably good for one or two horrifying losses. The first road test of the season for our young QB and charges always gets this fan's heart pumping a little more with anxiety, but there will be four games under the team's belt by them. I'm saying tossup, which for purposes of predictions will go to the home team right now.
10/10/09 Iowa - Irrational fear of Iowa abounds... why? It's a NIGHT GAME GASP! Ricky Stanzi gasp! You mean the majority of the 90th ranked passing attack in the country returns this season?? Bar the doors!! The key component of that entire football team is gone. We're 41-10-4 against Iowa folks, make it 42.
10/17/09 Delaware State - Sigh... Oh sure I know the college football number crunchers out there all can argue for how this makes sense, but it should make the passionate fan in all of us shed a tear or two...
10/24/09 Penn State - Let me first say that I love Evan Royster as a running back, he was tremendous last year, I just love the way he runs the football, very patient. That said, I'm not nearly as enamored with Clark. Penn State strikes me as a team with more issues than many are discussing at this point, and I have a hard time seeing how they will address them all effectively. Of all the tossup games I'm going to throw out there, this one is the one I have the best feeling about. Call it a win, and WE OWN returns.
10/31/09 Illinois - I worry about our D in this one... how could I not after last season. Another tossup game to me right now, and as such I shall yield to the home team: loss.
11/7/09 Purdue - That goddamn hook and lateral was the best goddamn playcall of the whole goddamn year, and for Joe Tiller the best call of his whole goddamn career. Goddamnit. Of course the agony of making a true freshman in his first ever start look like Tommy Frazier hasn't really worn off either. No such theatrics this year, Michigan rolls.
11/14/09 Wisconsin - Our last few trips to Madison haven't gone well after absolutely owning the place beforehand. Sadly I think we continue to struggle as karma extracts revenge for our one shiny memory of last season. Right now I am going with loss.
11/21/09 Ohio State - Moreso than in recent years, I think the Big House will be frothing at the mouth by the time this one rolls around. That said, I'd be nuts to stand here and tell you that I think Michigan wins right now. I likely think this more of a tossup than my two compatriots, but right now, given the history and unknowns, I have to give the nod to the Buckeyes. Loss.
That gets us an 8-4 year, which would certainly be one hell of a turnaround. The Penn State win might be a bit optimistic, but I think the Wisconsin loss is a bit pessimistic. I have a hard time arguing for more and could certainly see how we may end up with less. That said, I think Rodriguez knows what he's doing, I think he's finally got a decent number of pieces (young though some may be) in place and with a year of play and practice in the system we're going to start to see glimpses of how this team CAN play. Frankly, I'll admit I'm usually optimistic with the predictions, but looking at this team's makeup this year, I think the potential upside is greater than many are willing to admit. There's no shame in protecting your expectations a bit, hell I went out on a limb and called for an idiotic and ludicrous record of 9-3 last season (yes, dead mirror, your welcome). I think all of us (even the optimists) are a bit leary of thinking too much about what good might come. All that said, I can't wait to watch it unfold.