2011 Record: 11-2 (6-2 in B1G)
Head Coach: Brady Hoke (58-52 All-Time; second year at Michigan)
Last Bowl Game: 2011 season Sugar Bowl: beat Virginia Tech 23-20
Stats to Cheer: recovered 20 fumbles in 2011 (1st in B1G); opponents scored on just 68.29% of red zone trips (1st in B1G)
Stat to Fear: gave up 170 plays of 10 or more yards in 2011 (8th in B1G)
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: (Offense: 6; Defense: 7; Specialists: 2)
Key Defensive Returnees: LB Kenny Demens (94 tackles), S Jordan Kovacs (75 tackles, 4 sacks), DE Craig Roh (32 tackles, 4 sacks), S Thomas Gordon (67 tackles)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB Denard Robinson (20 passing TD, 16 rushing TD, 15 INT), RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (1041 yds rushing, 9 TD), WR Jeremy Gallon (31 rec), WR Roy Roundtree (19 rec), OT Taylor Lewan
You won't find many that thought Michigan would go 11-2 in Brady Hoke's first year. In fact, if you search this website you will find that we picked them fifth, yes fifth, in the Legends division last year. That was probably more of us being high on Iowa and Northwestern than it was on being low on Michigan but we definitely thought there would be more of an adjustment period for Hoke and the Wolverines. Hoke proved a lot of people wrong with his first year, can he maintain that status now that he has set the bar so high?
On offense, Michigan returns Heisman hopeful Denard Robinson. Heisman praise is not usually heaped upon a player who completed just 55% of his passes and threw just five more TDs than INTs but Robinson isn't your typical QB. Robinson also led the team in rushing yards and added 16 TDs on the ground. As a senior, Robinson can't have the three interception games (last year vs Notre Dame and Northwestern) or the 9 for 24 for 123 yds games (last year vs Michigan St). RB Fitzgerald Toussaint returns for Michigan but right now he's suspended due to an off the field issue. Having him is important but Michigan does have some depth at RB. Michigan has some good WRs but they were underused last year with their leading receiver hauling in just 34 receptions. Denard needs to find a better happy medium between the rush and the pass this year to keep the good defenses that they play honest.
On defense, DC Bryan Mattison was a breath of fresh air and he may have been the single most important reason for the Wolverines success last year. The defense went from allowing 35.2 points per game to 17.4 points per game. They went from giving up 450.8 yards per game to just 322.2. They also created a league best 29 turnovers. Michigan will return nine of their top eleven tacklers so expectations will be for a repeat performance of last year. The area that will be the hardest to replicate is in the "fumbles gained" category where they tied for the most in the Nation with twenty. Look for Michigan to be good on defense but not as opportunistic.
Michigan starts off in Cowboy Stadium against the defending National Champions. It doesn't get much tougher than that. In addition to that game they have some tough road games (Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State) and a key match-up at home against Michigan State. On the positive side, they don't play Wisconsin. Our voters are split down the middle on the Wolverines, two of us have them at #15 and the other two have them in the top ten. The difference in the season will be the Michigan State and Ohio State games. Circle those on the calendar.
2012 Prediction: 10-2
Top 25 Countdown
#12 Michigan State
#14 Kansas State
#16 Virginia Tech
#17 Boise State
#19 Ohio State
#23 Oklahoma State
Previous 2012 Previews: