Welp, last week didn't go too great. What are we hoping for this week in Michigan's B1G opener?
Atticus: This is a good chance for me to say this: the goal is a dominating performance. Sometimes fans have to be patient and let a program build properly - I've been one of the people urging for patience - but that also doesn't mean we lower program expectations. Just saying. We are still Michigan.
Anthony M: A dominating performance? I'm looking for a win, and any minor consistencies on offense should be considered a massive cherry on top. I want to see a quarterback who doesn't look lost.
John W: For new QB Shane Morris and Interim head coach Greg Mattison to dominate the Gophers in such a way that my love of college football is renewed. What was that? Hoke is still the coach? Ok then just a win, I'd literally just take a win. Specifically? Better line play and more Derrick Green. He played well the last few weeks and could shine in Big Ten play.
Kevin: We thought we'd get the public announcement on the starting QB on Tuesday, but Hoke backtracked and is waiting until game time. For all we know Wilton Speight could be the quarterback and Mattison and Nussmeier have locked Hoke in a refrigerator to not be let out until Sunday.
Zach: I would like to see the same thing I've been looking for all season that really has yet to happen: Michigan's offense put together a consistent, cohesive effort in which it looks good on early downs and doesn't put itself in big holes or have major lapses. I still think Gardner is Michigan's best chance to win. But if he looks just as flustered against Minnesota I might change my mind.
Peter: I have no idea if I should expect anything anymore. Every time I have something to look forward to, this team just decides to crush it with a BFH. Let me backtrack--I do have expectations, but they are very low and more on the negative side of things. I just hope that the team doesn't actually turn into a real tire fire instead of the proverbial one.
I'm also hoping for the attendance to be better. It's been a sad sight in recent weeks. I guess the t-shirt cannons just aren't motivating the students to get there on time. Seriously, though--show up for the games, people!
Hollywood Hokester: I'd like to start seeing reasons to not change my username at the end of the season, but I don't see that happening. I'll hope for Michigan to win the turnover battle. Or, at least, break even. I don't care who's taking handoffs, catching passes, or lining up under center. No. Turnovers.
Zooby Q: I'm hoping for a Michigan victory, but that's just stating the obvious. I want an offensive showing with zero turnovers for once. Honestly, that's not just for too much. I want to see Shane Morris early and often in this game. Whether or not he is the starter from here on out can be determined later, but if you're not going to give Morris a shot now, I don't know how realistic any chance he has of potentially playing on the road at MSU or t'OSU.
Drew Hallett: I'm looking for three things from Michigan: (1) no turnovers; (2) an offensive trip to the red zone against a school from a Power 5 conference for once; and (3) a win of any sort. Given that Minnesota has recorded 13 takeaways through its first four games, which is tied for the second-most in the nation, it may be far-fetched to think that (1) will happen. But, if (2) and (3) do not happen, I recommend everyone evacuate Ann Arbor immediately because the mob will be out in full force.
The Gophers are a bit of an unknown early in the year because of a tame nonconference schedule. What are some things Michigan has to do scheme and/or coaching-wise to ensure a victory?
John W: Well Minnesota has really only played one tough game against TCU which they lost 30-7 so I'm gonna go ahead and say that Michigan should play exactly like TCU. TCU passed for 258 and rushed for 169 yards so a balanced attack with a fairly effective run game should overwhelm an underwhelming Gopher defense. On the other side of the ball, TCU picked off Mitch Leidner 3 times (Leidner left with an injury that game). The next game backup QB Chris Streveler was 1-7 against San Jose State as Minnesota ran its way to a 24-7 victory. So the plan is simple, handle the rushing attack and force Minnesota to throw into the secondary. Do this and you should easily beat the Gophers.
Zach: Stop the run. That is it. Minnesota is going to try to win the battle on the ground and Michigan's run defense has been nothing short of impressive so far this year. If Michigan closes down the Gopher ground game, it should be an easy win.
Peter: Zach's absolutely correct; stop the run. Plain and simple. Minnesota is unable to throw the ball at all when you're quarterback doesn't have arms. It's actually really sad being a fan of the Gophers, too. They've had so many issues with quarterbacks in recent years, and Jerry Kill is a phenomenal coach, but he just can't win for losing with the QBs.
Zooby Q: I'll second what Zach said. This game will be won/lost on the ground, and if the Michigan D plays it's sound defense, it'll allow the offense to win the game. Whether or not the offense does anything productive, or at least gets into the red zone for the first time since Clinton was in offense, is another story.
Kevin: I think in tandem with the rushing attack, there has to be some added variation in play calling. Michigan isn't quite as predictable lately, and I understand if Nussmeier doesn't want to overload the QBs' brains, but were there any downfield passes against Utah? Not until Morris came in if I recall. There still seems to be a bit of hesitance on both sides of the ball to try a blitz or big pass play if it doesn't work one time. Minnesota won't hold back so why should Michigan?
Drew: Devin Gardner had a few downfield passes vs. Utah. There was the four verts vs. Utah's Cover 3 when Gardner missed Devin Funchess in the seam early before missing A.J. Williams all by his lonesome in the boundary. And then there was Funchess' out-and-go that Gardner underthrew. But I do agree that Doug Nussmeier needs to take more shots down the field. The dinking and dunking is not working.
Minnesota is little, if any, threat through the air. The Gophers may be mildly more dangerous if both quarterback Mitch Leidner and tight end Maxx Williams play, but, even then, it would not be much of a concern. Thus, Michigan needs to run its 4-3 Over and put a safety in the box on every play to stuff the Gophers' ground game. Michigan's corners should be fine on an island against Minnesota's receivers. This should be enough to shut down Minnesota's offense tomorrow.
Come Sunday morning are we talking about a Michigan win? Final score guesses?
Anthony M: I think we'll still be talking about Brady Hoke's replacement, but at least we'll be discussing it after a victory. Michigan wins 20 - 10.
John W: One day I will choose a team other than Michigan to win... but not today! Michigan wins 24-14, 10 points of which are from the defense (#HOTPEPPERS... it will happen eventually).
Kevin: I'd take #HOTGARDNER at this point, John. I don't think Minnesota can match Michigan physically, but neither did Utah and they bonked Michigan good. It may not be another soggy game this week, but I think Michigan wins by not much. 24-21.
Zach: Shane Morris, but that doesn't change things much from the last few Sundays.
Peter: Of course Michigan will win. This is one of the surest thing that the universe can give us, and although my expectations are generally pretty low for Michigan football these days, this is a lock. David Cobb is going to get his yards, and may even break a couple to get the Gophers in scoring position. 21-10 in favor of Michigan; it will be ugly, but a win. Again, when you're up against a team without a QB (you realize I'm talking about Minnesota, right?), it should be easy to put all eleven guys in the box and put Minnesota in 3rd-and-43 situations all day long.
HH: Michigan wins but the offense does absolutely nothing. 19-10 Wolverines via one defensive TD, one special teams TD, a field goal, and a safety.
Zooby Q: A dominating performance would be great, even it's a bit of fool's gold. Realistically, a 23-10 win will do just fine. I honestly want a few red zone trips to be field goals so that Wile can get some kicks in. If Michigan has any shot at pulling off some road upsets later in the season, Wile is going to have to start kicking with confidence. Field goals on the road at inevitable.
Drew: We will be talking about a Michigan victory, but it will not be one that improves fans' outlook for the remainder of the season. The defense will do its job and hold Minnesota to no more than one touchdown, but the offense will be just as stagnant with Shane Morris as the signal caller rather than Devin Gardner. Nonetheless, the Wolverines' offense will do just enough to start the Big Ten season with a 1-0 record. Michigan 20, Minnesota 10.
Find some diamonds in the rough among the mediocre college football schedule this week. What're ya watching?
Kevin: I get ticked when the Thursday night game features two ranked teams, because we can't include it. UCLA-Arizona State was (Insert outcome here). Instead, I'll choose the other good Pac-12 matchup. Washington State is travelling to Utah, at night, and there'll probably be insane amounts of scoring. Wazzou came close to upsetting Oregon, and if they play exactly like that again, Utah is in trouble.
Anthony M: Looking for a little vicarious revenge there, Kevin? I'm going to be watching Missouri and South Carolina. The Tigers are coming off of a stunning loss at the hands of the Indiana Hoosiers; the Gamecocks need to win if they're going to revive another unwarranted hype train that dies in a glorious crash. I'm pulling for Missouri.
Kevin: Maaaaybe...in Mike Leach I trust.
John W: Good choice Anthony, I've got the flip side of that coin. I'll be watching some football in Bloomington this weekend as Indiana welcomes Maryland to the conference. We all know Indiana is coming off a monster win last saturday but will they be able to avoid the let down the following saturday? Maryland has looked solid all year and the Indiana offense is always fun to watch, not a bad game to watch early in the day. Give me Indiana 42, Maryland 28.
Atticus: The most intriguing game for me this weekend is Texas A&M/Arkansas, but I'm going to stick in the Big Ten with Indiana-Maryland. IU, 34-21.
Peter: You know what? I may actually make this weekend relatively football free. It's probably going to be a weekend with the family, but that Maryland/Indiana game is one that I could have on in the background and check on from time to time. That Iowa/Purdue game is quite attractive, too, if you're into watching really bad football. And we're Michigan fans, so...
HH: I'm with Pete in some sense. I'll likely be working until the Michigan game, but I'll only be watching live until around halftime. Brown's hosting Harvard for a night game Saturday (6pm kickoff, so mid-evening), and I'll be in attendance to watch some Ivy League football action. Outside of picking the Bears over the Crimson, I'm picking Syracuse over Notre Dame, and no, it's not just sour grapes (and yes, I know I already picked Purdue over ND two weeks ago). This stems from the fact that a couple of my closest friends are diehard Irish fans - one from a family of ND alums who will be at the game - and I need anything to throw in their respective faces at this point. I'm grasping at straws. Syracuse by a field goal as time expires.
Zooby Q: You could make a strong argument that this week is the worst week for college football in 2014. However, I'll take any week over those long Spring Saturdays, wishing for some Lee Corso and company. With that being said, the game I'll tune into sides with Anthony, and that's Mizzou vs. South Carolina. Gameday will be on campus and that offers a little bit of intrigue. Mizzou will be out for some redemption, and South Carolina cannot afford to lose another game at home in a wide-open SEC East race.
Drew: I'm with Kevin. I wish UCLA-Arizona State was on Saturday because it's definitely the game I am (was) looking forward to this weekend. But, if there's one game other than Michigan-Minnesota that I will be watching on Saturday, it is Maryland and Indiana. This is a must-win game for the Terps because, after this, their next six games are vs. Ohio State, vs. Iowa, at Wisconsin, at Penn State, vs. Michigan State, and at Michigan. A loss here to the Hoosiers could potentially spiral into a seven-game losing streak before hosting Rutgers in the season finale. So does Maryland get the road win? It will be close, but I think Maryland lets it slip through its fingers late. Indiana 31, Maryland 28.
Bonus Q this week: At the start of the Big Ten season, look into the crystal ball a bit. Given what we've seen out of Michigan after four games, how will they do up against a pretty awful conference?
Anthony M: I would be surprised if Michigan got out of conference play with less than three losses. Michigan State and Ohio State are all but guaranteed losses at this point; Penn State, Rutgers, Maryland and Indiana are all going to give them trouble.
John W: My initial estimate was losses at MSU and one random bad Hoke home loss at home. I'm gonna add a bad road loss in there as well giving Michigan three losses against MSU, probably Maryland and I'll say at Northwestern. Call me a homer (which I am) but Michigan has done well against Ohio under Hoke and I don't think that trend will stop. Michigan will win in Columbus to end the season but its the only highlight in a 7-5 season.
Kevin: I'm now terrified of the night game against Rutgers. As in, a combination of last year's UConn game and this year's ND game terrified. John is right about the likelihood of another bad road loss and maybe even a second embarrassing home loss. I suppose we should be grateful that this turned out to be the year with a weaker conference schedule, because I shudder to think of what would happen if we were playing Nebraska, Wisconsin, or even Iowa. An even .500 conference mark is about the ceiling right now based on how poorly Michigan has played.
Zach: Honestly you could talk me into just about anything at this point. Michigan could win seven games or win three. It could be a series of uncompetitive blowouts or nailbiters. This team has loads of talent and more bad luck that I've seen from a team in a while - although you make a certain amount of your luck, and Michigan has set itself up poorly.
Good things Michigan has: A really good defense, the two Devins (say what you want about DG, but he is certainly capable), young players still getting used to playing big roles on offense.
Bad things Michigan has: an erratic special teams unit, an offensive line that is still at least a year too young, a penchant for turnovers thanks to DG's erratic play, a coach that lacks game/time management acumen (to put it kindly).
What all that means to me is that this Big Ten season - against a group of similarly flawed teams and Michigan State - is going to be pretty unpredictable.
Peter: MSU and OSU are definite losses at this point, and I'm with Anthony--Penn State, Maryland, and Indiana are now going to be very difficult and key games in the grand scheme. My pessimistic gut is telling me that we're looking at a 6-6 season and the fall of Brady Hoke. Start getting your effigy ready to burn.
HH: I think Bill Connelly summed up Michigan's B1G schedule perfectly: "Seven of the next eight conference games are winnable, and eight are losable." No game is in the bag at this point, and really, all I want is a win against Rutgers since I've already paid for a trip to that game.
Zooby Q: There is no sure victories for Michigan in B1G play. I hope they'll win 6-7 conference games, but I wouldn't be shocked if they went 4-4 and finished the year at 6-6. I'm not sure if Dave Brandon will keep Hoke or not after the season, but I'm under the belief that unless you a stud coach in waiting, it makes no sense to give Hoke the exit. Next season, Michigan will host Oregon State and BYU at The Big House in non-conference play. The Wolverines will host Northwestern , Michigan State and Ohio State. The only tough road games in 2015 are at Utah and at Penn State. I think, Hoke or not, the talent on this roster can really come into full development in 2015 and whomever the coach is, the Wolverines could be looking at a special 2015 season. I'm going to hold out hope that the Wolverines get things right in 2014, go 6-2 in Big Ten play, finish the season at 8-4 and pull off a bowl victory, carrying some momentum into 2015. The key for Hoke is, he needs to win at Michigan State or Ohio State. That's asking a lot but Ohio State is more vulnerable than we thought they'd be. Go down to Ohio and make Urban Meyer cry.
Kevin: Don't forget to bring some Papa John's Pizza.
Peter: Continuing off of what Zooby's saying--how fitting would it be for Michigan to fire Hoke, get another guy, and then have immediate success in the new guy's first year? Do you think Hoke and Rodriguez will meet up, have a beer, and just give each other that knowing look?
Drew: Also, to follow Zooby's line of thinking, I said all preseason that 2015 would be the year that all the pieces would come together for Michigan (talent, depth, schedule), and it could be a pretty spectacular year. Because of this, I said that, unless 2014 was an utter disaster (6-6 or worse), Brady Hoke would be retained for at least one more season. Unfortunately, this season could finish that way.
I agree with Zach that this team has the pieces to still be good this season. I think the defense will be stellar as long as the offense does not repeatedly put it in awful situations. I also think that Michigan has been pretty unlucky with regards to injuries and turnovers. The odds of the Wolverines having a turnover margin of -10 over the next four games or -20 over the next eight games is nil. [knocks on wood] So I think Michigan will look better in the coming weeks.
But I cannot offer a prediction because, other than what appears to be a sure-fire loss in East Lansing, every other game is winnable (and losable) for Michigan. Buckle your seatbelts, I guess.
Atticus: Don't worry, gotcha covered on that one. What's been heartbreaking is the ongoing deterioration that seems to come every single week. If Hoke turns us around, that would make me very happy. But this feels like getting everything that was valuable stripped away. Our rivals don't even think of us as a big game anymore. Hopefully it gets turned around.