Note to readers: Well, it's here. By now, you've either patiently waited for Part 3, or you've been waiting for the shenanigans to come to an end.
Either way, thanks for making it through--especially during the Madness.
Eight games down, four to go.
In all likelihood, by time Week 10 rolls around, Hoke's future at Michigan will be a hot topic.
Fans and media will either be discussing the coaching staff's phenomenal leaps or miserable failures--or something in between.
Late fall is always crucial, and the Wolverines must use that time to finish strong and feel good about themselves heading into the postseason.
Let's get at it.
Week 10 vs. Indiana
The Wolverines are 53-9 vs. the Hoosiers.
Unless something drastic happens, they'll move to 54-9 this fall.
Indiana hasn't been bowling since 2007 and has just one five-win season since. In just two years, coach Kevin Wilson has posted a limp 5-19 record. To say that he's rebuilding and faces, perhaps, the most challenging climb of anyone in the Big Ten would be like saying that water is wet.
Unless it's dry ice. Or regular ice--you get the picture.
It's obvious that Wilson has a ways to go before transforming Bloomington into a proud college football town.
How Michigan can win: In 2013, Hoke had a close call with the offensive-minded Candystripers, who were led by quarterback Tre Roberson and receiver Kofi Hughes.
With four total touchdowns, Roberson, who threw for 288 yards and threw for three scores, kept his team afloat during its 63-47 loss at The Big House. Now a junior, he as another year of seasoning on his resume. That'll provide padding--but it probably won't lead to a win.
Hughes, who had six catches for 138 yards and a score, was a senior last year--so Hoke's fine in that regard.
Michigan doesn't want to get into another shootout with an "inferior" team. All the Jeremy Gallon records in the world won't trump the fact that Greg Mattison's defense gave up 47 points the Hoosiers, who, surprisingly enough, had the Big Ten's No. 2 scoring offense in 2013.
If you're one for down-to-the-wire, throw the Indiana game into the conversation, along with the next team on the trail...
Week 10 at Northwestern
Year-in, year-out, the Wildcats spoil things. They beat teams that they're supposed to lose to, and they lose to teams that they're supposed to beat.
They're heart attacks in the making.
The fast-paced spread spearheads an offense that defies the Big Ten's standard mode of operation.
No pro-set. It's throw-set. Spread the field, chuck the ball and watch receivers do the work. That approach works well when Northwestern is on its Ps and Qs.
How Michigan can win: Putting a lid on Venric Mark is goal No. 1.
The shifty back returns for his fifth season--on the graces of a medical RS--and will most certainly look to end his career on a high note by going off against the best of the best. When healthy, the 5'8," 175-pounder is a first down waiting to happen.
In 2012, he strung together a four-game stretch of 100-yard plus games, including a 104-yard showing against a celebrated and historically strong Michigan State defense. For good measure, he threw in 182 yards against Minnesota and rang up 123 vs. Vanderbilt.
As a junior, Treyvon Green rushed for 736 yards. Now a senior, he'll be key to the Wildcats' rushing plans.
On his side of the ball, Hoke basically has to continue running a smooth course. Late-fall performances will determine Michigan's post-season fate and worth. Gardner has all of the tools necessary to be an offensive threat. He's mobile enough, has a good arm, and simply competes.
Needless to say, he could get thrust into the role of hero when it comes time to decide the outcome.
For the record, Michigan is 55-15 vs. Northwestern, which two series wins since 2000.
Week 12 (Bye Week, Nov. 15)
Week 13 vs. Maryland
As newcomers to the Big Ten, the Terrapins have limited experience with Michigan, which leads the series, 3-0. The two last met in 1990.
How Michigan can win: In 2013, the Wolverines had the Big Ten's No. 5-ranked rushing defense, allowing about 140 yards per outing. Conversely, Maryland averaged about 148. Things change, however, and the Terrapins will be without quarterback C.J. Brown, who threw for 2,242 yards and rushed for 576.
He also accounted for 25 touchdowns (13 passing, 12 rushing).
A year ago, Brandon Ross led the team with 776 yards. Now a junior, he'll likely be the No. 1 option for Maryland, which posted a 7-6 (3-5 ACC) record in 2013.
Stopping the rush is a repetitive factor, but it works. The grind-it-to-a-halt mentality energizes defenses.
The fewer yards gained by ground, the happier the team. For a team trying to get back its smash-mouth roots, annihilating Maryland's hopes of running the ball during the opening drives will be of the utmost importance.
Week 14 at Ohio State
With just three victories since the turn of the millennium, Michigan is behind the times when it comes to competing in one of sport's greatest rivalries.
Lately, the Buckeyes have ruled the roost, and they have super recruiter Urban Meyer calling shots for the league powers--that means trouble for everyone, including Hoke, who beat the Urban-less Bucks, 40-34, in 2011. It may not be Bo vs. Woody, but Brady vs. Urban is taking form.
Although 2-0, Meyer's combined margin of victory is just five points (42-41 in 2013, 26-21 in 2012). That bodes well for Hoke, who's been on the short end of the stick more than a few times. Power and pride used to fuel The Game--now it's lucky bounces and field goals.
Hopefully that changes in 2014, which has to be the year that Michigan once again becomes relevant in this historic series.
How Michigan can win: Despite being battered in 2013, Gardner actually played one of his better games during the one-point loss in Ann Arbor. He'll be a large part of the game plan.
But something jumps out, something that says that a ground battle will decide this year's installment.
Running back Carlos Hyde is no longer with Ohio State, so that's one NFL-bound athlete removed from the equation. Scratch a tally in the advantage column for Michigan, which should jump on the chance to run over the Hyde-less Bucks.
Ohio State has a strong defense, but it'll be without linebacker Ryan Shazier, who is on the way to pros.
Braxton Miller is a specimen. By ground and by air, he does things most guys can't. On any given Saturday, he's good for about 250 total yards and a few touchdowns.
Finding a way to limit him is always a must when devising an anti-Bucks strategy.
Follow Maize 'n Brew's Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81