With football season a mere two weeks away, it’s about time to start making some predictions. Today, I will make five optimistic predictions for Michigan’s season. Next week (I’m taking a brief vacation this weekend) I’ll hit you with the other side of the coin, making five more pessimistic predictions. On with the show!
- Michigan upsets a top 15 team — By my count, there are four squads that Michigan could face that would be ranked in the top 15: Penn State, Ohio State, Illinois, and Iowa. Of those, Michigan gets the two toughest (PSU and OSU) at home. By the time they play any of those teams, Michigan should have an established starting quarterback and a decent comfort level with both the offense and defense. Personally, I think our best chance is against Iowa (as stated earlier on this blog, I think they’re overrated), but, last season aside, we own Penn State, and boy are we ever due for an upset against the Buckeyes. I like Michigan’s chances of taking at least one of those games.
- Tate Forcier completes 60% of his passes — Boy, could this one make me look stupid, but between his performance in the Spring Game and fall practices, I’m pushing for the driver’s seat on the Tate Forcier bandwagon. Accuracy is probably his best attribute, and Rich Rodriguez’s bubble screens and quick passes should help bolster Forcier’s completion percentage while he gets comfortable at the college level. No, Forcier doesn’t have an elite NFL talent like Braylon Edwards at receiver, like Chad Henne did as a freshman, but he is surrounded by a lot of serviceable weapons (Minor, Brown, Mathews, Hemingway, Odoms, Gallon, Grady, Smith, etc.), which should help ease his transition.
- Craig Roh records at least five sacks — Not a whole lot is known about Roh’s role at this point, as he wasn’t one of the early enrollees from this year’s freshman class. However, he is a pass-rushing demon who seems like the perfect fit at the ‘quick’ position, especially as a situational pass rusher. His size (listed at 6-4, 238 on the official roster) is far too small to play DE in Greg Robinson’s system, but he should have no problem rushing from a two-point stance off the edge.
- Kelvin Grady catches at least 20 passes — This sounds a bit bold, to say the least, since only Martavious Odoms and Greg Mathews had more than 20 receptions last year, and Grady spent the last two years on the hardwood, not the gridiron. However, Grady has impressed in fall camp, and from what I’ve seen of him he has a very impressive set of hands to go along with the speed and quickness we all witnessed while he played point guard for John Beilein. He could be very dangerous in the open field, and should be one of several players (including Odoms, obviously, as well as Jeremy Gallon, Roy Roundtree, and maybe Terrence Robinson) to see significant time in the slot. I’d love to see what he can do with a well-executed bubble screen; he could be a home-run threat for the Michigan offense.
- As a team, Michigan averages over 5 yards per carry — The Wolverines’ offensive line will be much-improved from last season (they have to be, right?), and with Brandon Minor, Carlos Brown, and Michael Shaw all returning (plus the arrival of freshman Vincent Smith, a spring standout), Michigan should improve markedly on their 3.9 yards per carry average from last season. Don’t forget that Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson will be running the quarterback keepers instead of Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan. Plus, with a full year under Rich Rodriguez’s offense, Michigan should be ready to bust out some trickery this season, and we should see more big runs from a team whose longest run in 2008 came from the plodding Threet (58 yards against Wisconsin). All this adds up to at least a one-yard improvement per run this season.