Despite the natural urge to do so, it's rarely wise to read too much into season openers, which, similar to the NFL pre-season, are not always indicative of the how the rest of the season will play out. Granted, Michigan State and Nebraska fans may be justified in their concern that the Spartan offense and Husker defense appear to closely resemble the 2012 versions of each, but what of Michigan? What can be taken from its 59-9 win over Central Michigan Saturday?
In many ways, despite the lopsided score, it was an inauspicious start for the Wolverines. Devin Gardner's passing was uneven, Fitzgerald Toussaint had a workmanlike, if unspectacular day (half-day, actually) and the offensive line, the subject of much consternation over the summer, didn't play poorly, but didn't exactly open gaping holes against its MAC opponent either. That's not to say that Michigan still can't have a successful season, rather that nothing occurred Saturday to provide more assurance of that happening.
If the Central Michigan game proved anything, it's that Michigan is young. Younger, perhaps, than most Michigan fans even realized. Pick your favorite anecdote - that Michigan played 11 true freshmen and 16 redshirt freshman, that 38 of the 68 players who dressed for the game were freshmen or sophomores, that only three of the 20-plus defensive players who saw action graduate this year or that an almost unbelievable 61 of Michigan's 82 scholarship players are freshmen or sophomores. Whichever way you look at it, Michigan is awash in young talent.
This isn't to say that first and second year players will put Michigan over the top in 2013. Michigan's season will largely be determined by upperclassmen like Gardner, Toussaint, Taylor Lewan and Jeremy Gallon. Yet the heart of the program is the young talent brought in by Hoke and company. Not all are ready to play at an elite level this season, in fact, few are, but as the season opener illustrated, many are ready to contribute. And as these first and second year players mature and develop, many will likely be playing at an elite level soon.
Most Michigan fans realized that while it's within Michigan's grasp to have a successful season in 2013, the Wolverines are a year or two away from really hitting their stride. What even the most ardent of Michigan fans may not have known, however, was how young Michigan really is. They do now. As does the rest of the conference.
So, if the Central Michigan game did anything, it put the rest of the Big Ten on notice. If you want to beat Michigan, you had better do so soon.