Give some initial thoughts on Michigan's opening game against The-Team-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named:
You know, even for the veterans, this feels like a new chapter. Everything that happened last year gets a reboot. Guys like Graham Glasgow and Erik Magnuson get to expunge some of the bitterness from their mouths, the team can take the lessons from last year and do something with them, and even Will Hagerup returns. For us, this has to be about us and how driven we are.
Michigan never should have scheduled Appalachian State for tomorrow's opener. Plain and simple. Put aside that Michigan willingly has drawn attention to arguably its most humiliating loss ever and forced its fans to relive for weeks the blocked field goal that sealed the historic upset in 2007. This is a no-win situation for Michigan. If Michigan beats Appalachian State, whatever. This is what Michigan is supposed to do. No victory by any margin will erase the memories of or the scars from the stunning events that transpired that day. And, if Michigan does the unthinkable and somehow falls to Appalachian State again in the sequel, well, let's just not imagine that scenario.
Mehhhhhhh, Appalachian State.
Expect Michigan to run the ball with authority (or at least try). App State isn't anywhere near the team it was in 2007 and this game should be an automatic win. Yet we all said the same thing about Akron last year, so look for Brady Hoke to set a tone early and at least create the illusion that the rushing attack will be different this year.
It took until one week ago for me to begrudgingly decide to attend this "game." And the ticket offered to me was at the cost of zero dollars. The most compelling thing about this game may not even be on the field, but in the stands, to observe the mood of the Michigan faithful before, during, and after the game. One day, Michigan will learn to not play down to their competition, and let us hope this game is the beginning of that shift.
The Appalachian State team Michigan will see this time is not the same one who carried out The Horror. Michigan doesn't have a large group of overconfident seniors this time, either, so by conventional wisdom, this should be a run-of-the-mill opener.
Win, then on to the next one -- please?
How much time ya got? I could write a doctorate caliber dissertation on why scheduling App State in week one was a terrible idea, but it would just be a rehash of everything else everyone has been writing for six months, so whatever. I'm a little deader inside, are you happy Dave?
I wish this game wasn't happening. I want it to go away. I hope it's quick and painless and we can all just move on to the rest of the season.
What about some analysis. What will we see on Saturday?
I think this game will look just like the game against Central Michigan, where the run game looks healthy and everything seems great, even if there are still problems that will show up later.
Everybody already knows I'm high on this team. But we don't know the personality yet. Do we keep fighting, with a big lead in the third quarter? This team will be interesting to watch, and not just because of their talent.
The good news for Michigan is that the 2014 version of Appalachian State is not near the equivalent of the 2007 version. This time, Appalachian State will not be the two-time defending FCS national champions. This time, Appalachian State will not enjoy having dual-threat quarterback Armanti Edwards or explosive wideout Dexter Jackson on the sidelines, both of whom were selected in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft. Instead, this Appalachian State squad just endured a disappointing 4-8 record in its final season as an FCS member and lacks the talent it had seven years ago. There should be no surprises tomorrow. Michigan is the better team across the board.
But Michigan is better than many teams across the board. Why did Appalachian State need to be the team Michigan faces in the season opener? Sigh.
My outrageous Michigan prediction is that Jabrill Peppers doesn't do anything otherworldly but still manages to take his hype to another level.
I'll bet on simple play calls to get Devin Gardner comfortable, all the running backs will see the field, and Jabrill Peppers will do something on special teams. If I'm Brady Hoke, I keep my starters in until five minutes remain in the fourth quarter, to remove any doubt about which team played harder. And that's for the benefit of both players and fans alike, to start the season in stride.
I expect Shane Morris to remind Michigan fans that this is a QB competition. Look for Morris to play his heart out once the starters are pulled and make a few second string WR's look really good down the stretch.
And Will Hagerup is back! Not that I expect much punting in this game but still... improvement!
Will the offensive line struggle? Maybe. But I think the offense will be able to do enough to win be successful. Also, Jabrill Peppers.
Will Michigan win and by how much?
AF: A bold prediction? I think we'll score four rushing touchdowns and blow them away, 56-3.
DH: The Mountaineers' rush defense was quite poor last season, allowing 220.3 rushing yards per contest in FCS, so Michigan will use this wonderful opportunity for its ground game to gain some confidence before traveling to South Bend. Michigan's defense, which will square off against some talented skill players in quarterback Kameron Bryant and running back Marcus Cox, will flex its muscle and still pitch a near shutout. And, for my bold prediction, Jabrill Peppers will deliver immediately, returning Michigan's first non-blocked punt for a touchdown since 2008. Michigan 48, App State 6.
JH: If Michigan doesn't win this game soundly, I will eat my hat. I think this is great opponent to work out some of the kinks before heading off to South Bend to play the Irish, who are also going through struggles of their own. Michigan 45, App State 13.
JW: The line is Michigan by 34. Expect Brady to keep donor' happy and try to bury any and all memories of 2007. Michigan wins big 59-0.
KB: Michigan 50, App State 6
AM: Michigan 38, App State 7
FE: Like I said yesterday, barring a confluence of crucial injuries, costly turnovers and bad luck (i.e. the 2007 game in a nutshell), Michigan should cruise while getting its greener linemen some early experience before heading to South Bend. Michigan wins, 41-10.
ZT: Michigan will not score enough to wipe my memory clean.
NC: 48-10, Michigan. If the game's close, I might lose it.
Give me a game you'll be watching when Michigan isn't playing.
Clemson-Georgia will be an old-fashioned, testosterone-filled affair. Both schools are close to each other, and they have something to prove. UGA did not enjoy last year any more than we did, and Clemson is still on a warpath to gain respect next to the SEC. Big plays and probably big mistakes abound. Georgia wins, 34-17.
Ohio State at Navy. Navy may not be a college football powerhouse, but the Midshipmen are one of the toughest opponents for which to prepare. Not only does Navy run the unique triple-option offense, Navy excels at it. Last season, the Midshipmen averaged 325.4 rushing yards per game (2nd-best in FBS) and 5.46 yards per carry (tied for 11th-best in FBS). And, with quarterback Keenan Reynolds back, who ran for 1,346 yards and an astounding 31 touchdowns in 2013, Navy's offense should be just as potent in 2014. Can Ohio State keep pace? With Braxton Miller, no problem. But with a redshirt freshman at quarterback behind four new starters on the offensive line? Sound the alarms. Ohio State still walks out of Baltimore with a victory but not without receiving a scare. Ohio State 34, Navy 31
I'm curious to see what Wisconsin vs. LSU will bring us. The number 14th ranked school vs the 13th, old school Big Ten mind vs new-school Big Ten mind. It should be a fun game. Also, I'm curious to see if Leonard Fournette can live up to the hype that the coaching staff/fans have been talking about. LSU 24, Wisconsin 17.
My dark horse pick is Indiana State at Indiana. Indiana's offense is a poor man's Oregon and it sure is fun to watch, plus Indiana State was awful last year on defense. Any game where Indiana can hit the 80 point mark sounds fun to me. Indiana 84, Indiana State 28
Toss-up between Boise State-Ole Miss (Being played Thursday night) and UCLA-Virginia. Since the Bruins and Cavaliers play Saturday, I'll go with that game. UCLA has a ton of hype as the PAC-12's Oregon-killers this year, and they're ranked in the top ten. Virginia has had a rough couple of years, but has recruited better than most of the ACC, and play well in their home stadium. UCLA 47, Virginia 6.
LSU-Wisconsin is the marquee game, but I'll throw Penn State-UCF into the mix as a game to watch. I was in Ireland last week and it was pretty cool to see all the signs welcoming Penn State and UCF fans to Dublin, not to mention all the Penn State gear in the tourist shops.
The Nittany Lions will begin the James Franklin era, while UCF looks to keep the immense success of 2013 going. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that volcanic eruptions in Iceland threatened to affect the game, to be played in Dublin's Croke Park. This makes sense, because college football.
This time, the Nittany Lions say, "no nay never no more" and avoid losing to UCF for the second year in a row.
Friday night: MSU-Jacksonville State should be a bloodbath, but it will be most interesting to see how the Spartan defense looks. I know you can't tell much from watching a team play that far below its level of competition, but seeing some of the new pieces fit in will be interesting.
Saturday: I'd like Arkansas-Auburn to be a good game, but I don't have much faith in that happening. Both Clemson-UGA and Wisconsin-LSU are games that I can see going any number of ways, including blowouts in either direction or multiple OT affairs.
Mostly I'll be rooting hard for Navy and hoping that OSU crumples without Braxton Miller. A man can dream, can't he?
LSU-Wisconsin will be fun to watch, but I'll always love watchin' Spurrier throw some shade. South Carolina over Texas A&M, 35-17.
*Editor's Note: This game took place last night, and Nick submitted a prediction before kickoff, and thus jinxed Spurrier
The most intriguing game that no one seems to be talking about is Arkansas at Auburn. Yes, Auburn is one of the better teams the SEC has to offer this year, but Arkansas should improve and much of Auburn's hype is coming from a game that they lucked their way into - twice. I've still got Auburn winning, but not by a landslide.