Well, it's about that time, Michigan fans. Time to make some good, old-fashioned season predictions. Some of the Maize n' Brew staff took time out of their busy schedules to bust out some big, bold, brash opinions for 2013. Enjoy!
Zach Travis: I think Michigan is going to be very good this year, and on top of that I imagine the Wolverines will be the most balanced team in the Legends division. The offense is finally focused on what it wants to do, the defense is deep almost everywhere, and the young playmakers are showing up on offense. With all that being said, I still think the Wolverines are a year away. The schedule isn't too hard, and it actually sets up well if this team can develop quickly and iron out some of the more noticeable wrinkles in the first two months. But at the end of the day, there is still enough youth in certain places that this team will struggle at times. Unless the interior of the offensive line really pulls together quickly, the ND, MSU, and OSU games are going to be rough for the offense. Meanwhile, Northwestern and Nebraska will be stiff challenges for this defense. Best case is 10 wins. Worst case is 8. I think it falls in between and Michigan just barely misses out on the rematch with Ohio State.
Peter Putzel: Devin Gardner will be on fire most of the season, and the Wolverines will show glimpses of a strong running game. Michigan has had a good home run under Brady Hoke, going undefeated in his first two years, but the odds are against him going a third year without losing at home. The two most likely teams to trip up the Wolverines are obviously Notre Dame and Ohio State. Tommy Rees has the experience in the Big House to not cave in to the pressure (regardless of what happened UTL in Ann Arbor). Ohio State and Braxton Miller could make a legitimate run to the BCS Championship, but I believe Michigan will beat Ohio State on 11/30. Michigan will then lose the following week in the Big Ten Championship. The best that we can hope for in this scenario is yet another instance of Michigan ruining the national title aspirations of the Buckeyes. The winner on 11/30 just isn’t going to be able to do it two weeks in a row. If Michigan is the only loss OSU has on their schedule, I believe that a one-loss PAC-12 team will get a shot at the BCS title before a one-loss Buckeyes team. Michigan will also drop at least one on the road, where they’ve been "blah". My guess is that they’ll lose to either Michigan State or Penn State, but not both.
Shash: 12-1, Big Ten Champs. Yeah, I predicted a 12-1 season. I think they drop a disappointing road game somewhere, but it's not going to be Iowa - leaving PSU or MSU, and I say they lose in Happy Valley. This would then mean Michigan goes to the Big Ten Championship Game, where I say they probably rematch with Ohio State. I honestly don't know what's going to happen. I think M probably goes 1-1 vs OSU this year, but if they somehow catch some lightning in a bottle I will be the happiest amount of happy. Aww, screw it. They win the OSU game and win the Big Ten. Third year coaching magic.
Prediction: 12-1, Rose Bowl bound. They'll beat anyone but Oregon in that game, and I still think they've got a shot vs the Kelly-less ducks.
Kevin Bunkley: Michigan’s schedule this season is going to help them go beyond last year’s 8-4 mark. The big three (Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State) are in Ann Arbor this time, and the other divisional games are against teams that combined for 15 Big Ten victories. Six games on the schedule are definite wins including the non-conference tune-ups. I was afraid of Notre Dame until Everett Golson’s suspension, and only two of Michigan’s road games can be classified as tough, but they’re going to have to work for the division. Either Penn State or Indiana will ambush Michigan for a victory, but I think M beats up on Sparty this on the banks of the Red Cedar. Nebraska is a mystery, but I see Taylor Martinez making enough plays in a likely shootout. Northwestern left Ann Arbor very angry last year, and Pat Fitzgerald will be ready for Michigan this time, and finally be deserving of the "Chicago’s Big Ten Team" nickname. Everyone expects Ohio State to be lights-out good this year, but if Devin Gardner and his offensive line are clicking, we’re in for a repeat of the 2011 nail-biter. Michigan can get two out of three of those big home games, and compete for the Big Ten title, but there are trap games on this schedule. Their road record will determine their fortunes, and only Ohio State stands in the way of a trip to Indianapolis. I see losses to Penn State, Nebraska, and Northwestern preventing Michigan-Ohio State Part Deux.
Prediction: 9-3 regular season with a victory over an SEC team in January to make 10-3
Hollywood Hokester: I think the Wolverines bounce back after last year and lose only one game, which will be an absolute heartbreaker and the reason they don't play for a National Title. I have no idea who it will be against, but here's some possible reasons for the loss: Michigan's secondary falls apart against Indiana to give the Hoosiers there first win against the Wolverines since '87, Devin Gardner fails to replicate Denard's fireworks of the 2011 game at The Big House and Michigan falls just short against Notre Dame, Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison get sick after eating some bad corn the night before the Iowa game causing Borges to freak out in their absence and the Wolverines to lose 3-0. Or none of this happens and, by the power of Bo Schembechler, Jake Ryan's ready for the Central Michigan game and becomes a force on both defense and offense (rushing for over 1,000 yards as a fullback) to lead Michigan to the National Championship. I'll "Guaransheed" wins against Michigan State, Nebraska, and Ohio. Beyond that, somewhere in the other games, lies a heartbreaker. We'll replay Ohio in the Big Ten Championship game, and Devin Gardner will go down in the first quarter with a knee injury. On our final drive, within a touchdown of winning the game, Gardner returns as a wide receiver and Shane Morris hits him for the game-winning touchdown. With the Big Ten Championship and a 12-1 record, Michigan doesn't get selected for the National Title game. In its final year before the playoff format, the BCS decides to replay the SEC Championship game for the National Title. Big surprise. The Wolverines steamroll whatever team crawls out of the Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl.
Prediction: 13-1, Big Ten Champs, Rose Bowl Champs
DGDestroys: Half of this schedule should be a cake walk. If Michigan has any trouble with UConn, Akron, CMU, Iowa, Indiana, or Minnesota, I will be legitimately worried. I think a safe bet is that they go .500 on the rest of the schedule. Were I to put W/Ls to specific games, I'll say we beat Penn State, Michigan State, and Nebraska, then lose to Northwestern, Notre Dame, and Ohio State. That Northwestern loss could easily be a win, but so too could the 3 wins easily become losses. 9-3 is a fair estimate, in my opinion. The fun thing about this schedule is that Michigan could go undefeated, too. Ohio State and Notre Dame will be hard games, but neither are unbeatable by any stretch of the imagination. But I'm afraid I'm not enough of a homer to predict 12-0.
Space Coyote: This is a high ceiling group that may still be a year away from reaching toward that ceiling. Lots of young contributors on both sides of the ball still. On defense, I expect there to be some growing pains, especially at 5-tech and DT and at the FS position. Still, all those positions should be more athletic this year than they were a year ago. What it boils down to is consistency. While they will likely be more explosive and likely cause more turnovers and big plays, I expect the consistency to decline a little bit. At the end of the day, the stat line will likely be similar to last year, but the outcome may be a bit different. The opposite is the case on the offense, where I think some big play ability is lost with Denard moving on to the NFL. However, with a better passing threat, a more comfortable running back, and a stronger, albeit younger interior O-line, I expect the offense to be more consistent. Getting back to that young O-line, expect some growing pains there. While early on I expect the Wolverines to be very run heavy – especially against opponents UM shouldn’t have trouble handling – I anticipate this team lean on the pass game when the going gets tougher. The short to intermediate, 3-step pass and roll out package (previously described at length here) pass game will make up for a lot of the offensive line inconsistencies and allow Michigan to work the ball down the field. Again, this team may still be a year away, but expect some excitement with the potential you see in the future. And if this team is still a year away, then this year should give high hopes for the years to come.
Alex Bugajski (Goblue7720): The sky is the limit for this year’s Michigan team—I think fans should get used to hearing such—and through my nonexistent crystal ball I foresee a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game. Many experts are labeling Gardner as the X-Factor of Team 134, but I’m going to go off the board a little and tag Frank Clark as such. Coming off a season in which the team averaged just over a sack per game, fans are eager to see improvement on the defensive-line, and there’s a real good shot their wish will be granted. I think Clark is in tune for a big year and will show up in the big games—much like he did in Columbus last November—even getting hard looks from NFL draft scouts throughout his junior season; keep in mind this is just a bold, perhaps semi-crazy prediction of mine. With Clark anchoring the defensive line, I see Michigan finishing with a Top 10 defense and, more importantly, a Top 10 team. To briefly touch on the offense—I apologize for being so defensively focused, but, as the old saying goes, "Defense wins games," as if that is any insight into my rationale—I see Derrick Green starting the opener to satisfy the Big House buzz, Gardner putting up solid Second Team All-American type numbers, and Jehu Chesson emerging as a favorite target of Gardner’s. Brady Hoke has said that his first two seasons in Ann Arbor had been failures. Well, by Christmastime he won’t be able to say the same about his third—Michigan wins the Big Ten Championship Game over who else but the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Prediction: 10-2 (regular season losses to Northwestern and Ohio State)
Anthony Mammel: This year's Michigan football team has so much talent yet so many areas for improvement. One could easily make a case for the Wolverines as the favorites of the Legends division, and anyone else could make a strong case against it. The potential for an undefeated run is there with Gardner on offense and a plethora of talent on defense, but I don't see it happening. The interior of the offensive line is going to struggle against great defensive lines, and the struggle to replace Jordan Kovacs will certainly lead to more long plays given up on defense. Still, Devin Gardner will keep the Wolverines in every game. I'll take them to beat Notre Dame, Michigan State, Nebraska, and Northwestern, while losing to Penn State and Ohio State.
Big House Jack: If Fitzgerald Toussaint regains his 2011 form, and Michigan has a good amount of production from their running game, this is at minimum a 10-2 team. Without an effective attack on the ground, the offense will quickly become one-dimensional, and that could put the Wolverines in a bind as they try to score points and sustain drives. I believe that Gardner will make impressive strides as a passer and by year's end will be among the Big Ten's best quarterbacks and possibly even lead the Big Ten in passing. That's how confident I am in Gardner and his receiving targets, whether they be Gallon, Dileo, Funchess, or Jake Butt. Michigan is going to be much, much better through the air than they were a year ago. The question is how good will they be on the ground. On the other side, and while this might just be preseason happy talk, the players and coaches are saying that this will be the best defense people have seen in Hoke's time here. That's a mighty bold claim considering how good we were already and the fact that we lost Jake Ryan to an ACL tear. If it's true, this could potentially be the top defense in the Big Ten. And when Jake Ryan eventually returns, holy crap, y'all. What makes me most optimistic about this team, however, is that Michigan has arguably the most amount of balance between their offense and their defense. I don't think their offense is better than Ohio State's, or Nebraska's. I don't think their defense is better than MSU's. But they have the right amount of good in both offense and defense needed to dominate. Name one other team with that kind of balance. Maybe Wisconsin? Maybe? There could, of course, be contests that Michigan drops, but this could also be a season where they go all the way. Are you ready for it?