Part two of our look at Michigan's 2012 schedule.
Do you think Michigan continues its streak of wins against Notre Dame?
Shash - Yes. My heart can't take it at this rate though.
DGDestroys - If Notre Dame can get it's DB and QB positions sorted out, Notre Dame may be the better team on paper. But hey, Notre Dame's been better on paper than 75% of the teams they've lost to over the past 5 years, and Denard Robinson exists to haunt Brian Kelly's most terrifying, dreadlocked nightmares. So yes, Michigan continues the streak.
HoldtheRope - This is a tough one. My gut tells me yes. At the same time Michigan has been incredibly lucky to come away with wins the last three years (particularly last season, obviously). I will just go ahead and say that we do win, FINAL ANSWER. Notre Dame's secondary is kind of a disaster right now, which should help mitigate Michigan's relative weakness at receiver. Notre Dame should be able to run the ball pretty well on us. Turnovers will end up being the difference, and I think a senior Denard will prove that he is much improved in that respect.
Anthony - Yes. The quarterback situation in South Bend might not ever fully solve itself, and on top of that they're dangerously thin at the cornerback position. Denard Robinson is to Notre Dame what Troy Smith is to Michigan.
Sarah - I do think Michigan continues its win streak vs. Notre Dame. Every year, Notre Dame is supposed to be better, but there's always some random issue going on in the background. If we can beat Notre Dame at our absolute worst, I will be thoroughly disappointed if we can't beat them when we're on the up and up.
SCM - Yes. I have been raised with a healthy fear of and appreciation for the truly horrible things that have happened to our team in South Bend, I've even witnessed a few first-hand, but I also think this staff will have the team ready. No Michael Floyd, questions at QB, etc. On paper Michigan should be the better team, the game also no longer occupies that treacherous week one/two spot where the team is still shaking off rust and breaking in young guys. Michigan will have cut its teeth "on the road" against Alabama and will have already been exposed to a huge atmosphere. It will be a huge game without a doubt, but this far out I'll bite and say yes.
Alex - Probably. Notre Dame has been extremely close to beating Michigan in each of these last few years, so it's not like the programs are that far apart. I think the Irish offense should be fine; Everett Golson is probably pretty good, Brian Kelly is a very good offensive coach, and Notre Dame has enough talent on that side of the ball to give Michigan problems. Still, with the way that their secondary looks, I can't help but feel that Denard is going to have another monster game against ND.
Zach - Earlier in the off season I felt a lot worse about this game, but Notre Dame yet again can't settle on a quarterback, and the secondary is quickly becoming Michigan-2010-levels of depleted. I think Michigan wins, but if this being the fourth game of the season gives Brian Kelly a chance to work through some of his team's roster issues, things could go the other way.
What game does Michigan have a better chance to win, OSU on the road or MSU at home?
Shash - MSU, easily. Like I said, that OSU game scares me - it's their bowl game. MSU has no business with a four-game win streak. Two or three, maybe, but four is unbelievable. Look for Brady Hoke to will his team to victory in that one. That might actually be the game I'm most comfortable with, mostly because I can't stomach the idea of a five-year losing streak to Little Brother.
DGDestroys - MSU at home. The MSU defense will always be tough to budge with Narduzzi as the coordinator, that's a given. But with so many pieces to replace on offense while breaking in a new QB, I think Michigan can win this one. OSU may be in its first year under a new coach, but Braxton Miller is a perfect fit for Meyer's offense and they'll have almost a whole season together by the time Michigan rolls into town. I'd like to believe that Michigan can make it two in a row against the Buckeyes, but I have a hard time visualizing victory this year.
HoldtheRope - This is another tough one. The Buckeyes are the ultimate wild card right now. The defense has some holes, but the defensive line is the best in the B1G and the back seven is stocked with talent (even if some of those guys have underperformed relative to expectations and recruiting hype). The offense, on the other hand, just...who knows. Braxton Miller killed us last year, and that was with him being about as accurate as 2009 Denard (i.e. not very accurate at all). Under Coach Meyer's tutelage and a second season of experience, the offense should be able to put up some points once again. Still, OSU's offensive line is questionable, as are the receivers (although freshman Michael Thomas should end up being a good one). Ohio State is in a much better position than Michigan was in 2008 re: transitioning to the spread, but a lot of the same questions asked about Michigan then can be asked about the Buckeye offense in 2012 (although, to be fair, Urban's spread is more power-based than RR's was).
If you asked me which one would be easier to win if these games were played at this very moment, I'd say OSU, "no question Jim" (imagine that being said in Brady Hoke's voice). Of course, that's not how it works. I'll stop dancing around and just say Ohio State on the road, but it's close. Considering Michigan hasn't won in the Shoe since Drew Henson was running the show, saying that Michigan has a better chance of beating the Buckeyes at their place as opposed to beating literally anybody else, anywhere...is an incredibly weird feeling. I'm not quite as optimistic as many Michigan fans are about our chances against the Spartans. That defense will be oppressively formidable once again, and I think that Andrew Maxwell will be at minimum fairly serviceable. Plus, the Spartans had a field day running the ball on Michigan's front last year in EL, and that was a DL featuring Martin, RVB, and Heininger. Expectations will naturally be recalibrated a couple weeks into the season, but, for now, my answer is OSU on the road.
Anthony - MSU at home. The Spartans will certainly field a solid defense, but one that's much more beatable than a 2011 version that had Jerel Worthy. Borges will actually find a way to beat any wild Spartan ploys and Mattison will stack the box and dare Maxwell to throw the ball.
Sarah - I think Michigan has a better chance of beating Michigan State at home than OSU away. Michigan should be hungry for Michigan State. We haven't beat Michigan State in 4 years and the game is at home...it's time. As for OSU, they're going to treat the Michigan game as their bowl game because of their postseason bans. They have a new coach, and they're dying to beat Michigan. I just think with MSU's losses on offense this year, it's Michigan's year.
SCM - Michigan State at home, despite the fact that I think they'll have one of the best defenses our team will face... that and for God sake we can't be caught off guard by the a-gap blitz again, right? Right?? Sigh... The Game will be tough as always for reasons I mentioned in #1; we haven't won in Columbus for going on twelve years, and Urban will no doubt turn that into their post-season seeing as how they can't actually, you know, go to a bowl game and what-not.
Alex - State, if only because it's at home. Mark Dantonio and Pat Narduzzi outcoached Michigan big time last year and I'm not optimistic that Al Borges can turn the tables on them, especially with the type of talent they have across the board on defense. Ohio State is always obscenely tough at home, and I think Urban Meyer will have had enough time to get his offense working and his defense playing at a high level by November. Michigan can win each of these games, but MSU is very talented and well-coached and Ohio State is Ohio State. Michigan has a better chance against Michigan State because it's in Ann Arbor, although these are probably two of the three toughest games on the schedule.
Zach - Neither? I can't answer that? Okay, you got me.
I'm not all that confident in Michigan's chances when it comes to either of these games, and I think that the 9-3ish record I keep predicting is predicated on these two games being two much. Granted, there are serious offensive questions for both teams, but I think that these are the two best defenses in the conference (I have since changed my mind from my post last week where I ranked the B1G defenses and put Michigan second). Michigan State may have to come to Ann Arbor, but the Spartans return almost all the important pieces of the run game that gashed Michigan a year ago, and usually "defense + running game = wins" in the Big Ten. However, Michigan gets Ohio State at the end of the season (giving the Buckeyes a full season to gel under Meyer) in what is unequivocally the Buckeyes' biggest game. Sheesh.
Best chance to win? Gun to my head? Michigan State. It is home for Michigan, it is relatively early in the season (i.e. the Spartans could still be putting their offense together), and I think Michigan is finally mentally ready for this one.
Still, I'm going to keep predicting 9-3 and doing it because of these two games -- you know, plus that other one against that team from down south.