Michigan Football: How Wolverines Coach Brady Hoke Can Win 9 Games in 2014 (Pt. 1 of 3)

Team 135 is locked and loaded. With 16 fresh faces, Brady Hoke has more pieces to fit to his title puzzle. - Leon Halip

An 8-4 season won't cut it, so getting at least nine in the win column is a must for Michigan coach Brady Hoke. The first entry of the three-part series covers Week 1-5.

Note to readers (that means you): In an earlier post, I touched on Brady Hoke's job security, or lack thereof. To my pleasure, there were several great comments--I did my best to reply to all of them.

And for those who didn't get a reply, I'll do you one better and write an entire series of posts on how Michigan can win nine games in 2014, which seems to be the general consensus for Hoke's "tipping point." The following is Part 1 of 3. Part 2 will come Thursday, and Part 3 will land this weekend.

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It's time to toss around some ideas and figure out just how many games Brady Hoke is capable of winning this year.

First thing's first, so pull up that 2014 schedule and take a few minutes to analyze the Wolverines' lineup of opponents.

Or, just scroll down the page for looks at the first five.

Week 1 vs. Appalachian State

No Armani Edwards, so that's good. Season-openers are always must-wins, especially when they're against teams that supposedly stand no chance of winning. We don't have to review 2007's debacle--but a brief mention was inevitable, wasn't it?!

How Michigan can win: For starters, taking the Mountaineers seriously seems like a great place to begin. Appalachian State wants nothing more than to do the impossible twice. We all know what a loss would mean for Hoke, so we're going to move onto the next...

Week 2 at Notre Dame

This is the last installment of one of the game's richest--figuratively and literally speaking--rivalries. But don't worry, the anti-Wolverines "snub" was really just a way to maximize the platform--imagine the ratings (and ticket prices) for Notre Dame vs. Michigan playoff games.

Cha-ching.

How Michigan can win: Play smart and avoid the knock-out punch. Sure, that's much easier said than done, but the deflating plays must be avoided if the Wolverines wish to leave South Bend with a win.

Stephon Tuitt bounced for the NFL. Devin Gardner can now breathe a little.

Irish quarterback Everett Golson is back, though. It'd be a good idea to keep an eye on him.

Say goodbye...for now.

Week 3 vs. Miami (Ohio)

The Redhawks are coming, the Redhawks are coming!

By this time, Hoke should be 2-0. He should have a pair of resounding wins, or at least one blowout (Appalachian State) and a classic with Notre Dame to his credit.

Losing to Miami would be barely above the level of acceptability for Michigan. Sure, teams slip every now and then--no one is completely invincible. But for all intents and purposes, teams such as Michigan are considered untouchable by the Miamis of the world.

Plus losing to a team from down there wouldn't sit well with the fan base, especially if that team wasn't Ohio State. Sadly, that's normal.

But lose to the Redhawks? Never!

How Michigan can win: Be Michigan. See Week 1.

Week 4 vs. Utah

Under Kyle Wittingham, the Utes took down the Mighty Machine in Ann Arbor. Of course, that was in 2008 and times have changed, right?

That 25-23 loss marked the debut of the Rich Rodriguez era and paled in comparison to later defeats. For Wittingham, that game was about as good as it'd get. After going 13-0 that year, he strung together a pair of 10-win seasons...

...and then it all fell apart. He's only won 10 games in the past two years. Beating Michigan would buy him more time, so, depending on circumstances, be prepared for a bout that could decide the fate of two coaches.

How Michigan can win: Treat this like a playoff game.

Week 5 vs. Minnesota

With a quartet of home games in its rear-view, Michigan better be at least 4-1--loss to Notre Dame?!--by time it opens league play against the Gophers in Ann Arbor.

Minnesota rarely wins at The Big House. In fact, you'd have to go back to the pre-color-TV-days before you'd find a Gophers team that held its own vs. the Wolverines, who have four series home losses since 1960.

How Michigan can win: Dismantling Minnesota has become somewhat of a hobby for Gardner, who's thrown for 469 yards, three touchdowns and one pick during the past two meetings.

Letting Gardner be himself is one obvious key, but so is stopping the run. The Gophers like to haul straight ahead and own the trenches.

Playing football is one thing. Playing Big Ten football is quite another.

Success the rest of the way could hinge on this pivotal conference opener.

Follow Maize 'n Brew's Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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