Last week, I gave you five hopeful predictions for the 2009 season. Unfortunately, as we all know, Michigan is a rather flawed team with a whole lot of question marks surrounding them. Therefore, it’s time for some critical self-reflection as I give my five “less hopeful” predictions for 2009.
- We see Nick Sheridan in at least three of the first four games — One outstanding characteristic of football coaches is that, almost to a man, they’re loyal to a fault towards veteran players. With Rich Rodriguez reiterating that he will play all three quarterbacks in the Western Michigan game, it is clear that this is the case with him and Nick Sheridan. I would love to see Rodriguez start Tate Forcier and stick with him as he battles through some freshman mistakes (which are inevitable) instead of throwing in Sheridan when his ceiling is hovering somewhere around “at least he only throws one pick a game”. However, all the preseason buzz and my gut instinct tells me that Sheridan will be on the field in the early going instead of holding a clipboard.
- Michigan loses to a team that wins five or fewer games — Last week I predicted Michigan would beat one of the four toughest Big Ten teams on their schedule (Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa, Illinois). However, I also think they’ll drop a game to a team they shouldn’t. Whether it’s the quarterbacks making untimely errors, or returners putting the ball on the ground, or the secondary giving up a few huge plays, this seems like a team with too many flaws to be able to consistently perform every week. I’m certainly not predicting a Delaware State victory, but a team like Indiana, Purdue, or even Wisconsin (if they collapse, which isn’t entirely unfeasible) could pose a dangerous threat to Michigan’s bowl hopes.
- Michigan converts less than 65% of their field goals this season — The battle nobody seems to be focused on (or worried about) is the one for starting placekicker. Word out of camp is Brendan Gibbons, the scholarship freshman everyone expected to step up and take the job, has not shown the consistency necessary to earn a place on the field. That leaves Jason Olesnavage, a 5th year senior walk-on who has never attempted a field goal, with the inside track to earning kicking duties this fall. Does that scare the crap out of anybody else, or is it just me?
- Greg Mathews ends his career as a backup — The senior has not impressed in fall camp, and his uninspired play leaves a lot to be desired out of a guy who came into this year as the clear number one outside receiver. With Junior Hemingway coming back from a medical redshirt, LaTerryal Savoy pushing for a starting role, the talented Darryl Stonum entering his sophomore season, and freshmen Je’Ron Stokes and Cameron Gordon on campus, Mathews could see his role severely diminish if he doesn’t step it up in September.
- Michigan finishes (again) with a negative turnover margin — I realize that turnover margin, as a general rule, fluctuates from year to year and at some level seems completely random (I’d provide a link, but I just spent 20 minutes trying to find the article I was thinking of and finally gave up). However, with punt returners dropping punts in practice, Michigan playing two freshmen and Nick Sheridan at quarterback, and the defense fielding an inexperienced secondary, I have a hard time seeing Michigan come out positive when it comes to turnovers. I really hope I’m wrong here, as this could be the difference between an 8-4 bowl team and a 5-7 disaster.