Earlier: Five Hopeful Predictions for 2010
After the last two seasons, the counterpart to my “Five Hopeful Predictions” post should come rather easily — I could probably pick five things that will go horribly wrong with the secondary alone and do pretty well for myself. That would be too easy, however, so I’ll do my best to keep the focus on the team as a whole while making my five pessimistic predictions for the 2010 season (if you’re curious, here is last year’s version — I went 2/5, for the record):
- The team finishes 90th or worse in pass efficiency defense — Last season, the Wolverines finished 70th in the country in pass efficiency defense, and that was with Donovan Warren and Troy Woolfolk manning the secondary. This year’s secondary features no player of Warren’s talent or Woolfolk’s experience, and the results likely won’t be pretty. The good news? It is possible to field a decent team with a horrific secondary: last year, Cal (8-5), Stanford (8-5), and Florida State (7-6 against a very tough schedule) all finished 90th or worse in pass efficiency defense. Those are outliers among some awful squads, but they’re also the schools with overall talent most comparable to Michigan’s at that point on the list. Teams will throw on Michigan, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll win. It does help, though, and the pass defense will likely cost the team some games in 2010.
- Michigan’s defense records 20 or fewer sacks — Despite the presence of Brandon Graham and his 10.5 sacks, Michigan finished just 68th in the country with 22.0 team sacks in 2009. Graham is off to the NFL, and while the defensive line should still be the strength of the Wolverine defense, I don’t see how the team will fully replace Graham’s tremendous production while also trying to mask the deficiencies in the back seven. I still expect Craig Roh to have a big season, and Ryan Van Bergen is a very solid defensive end, but this team could have a tough time getting to the quarterback if for no other reason than that the secondary may not be able to slow down the passing game enough to give the pass rush a chance.
- No player breaks the 1,000-yard rushing mark — With the coaching staff talking about rotating 3-4 players at running back, and the quarterback competition far from resolved, it’s tough to see anyone becoming the first Wolverine in the Rich Rodriguez era to eclipse the 1,000-yard plateau. The player with the best chance to prove me wrong may very well be Denard Robinson, who could threaten to put up Pat White-level numbers if he emerges as the clear number one quarterback, but that’s a very big “if” with Tate Forcier and Devin Gardner vying for playing time. While the Wolverines have several talented running backs, it doesn’t appear that anyone has emerged as a workhorse back — sophomore Vincent Smith, who is fresh off reconstructive knee surgery, sits atop the depth chart with oft-injured junior Michael Shaw, who may not even be academically qualified to play. Michigan should have a productive rushing offense, but it will likely be by committee, and not with a star feature back.
- Michigan converts less than 65% of their field goals — I predicted this last year, and senior walk-on Jason Olesnavage managed to come through and prove me wrong, hitting 11-of-15 field goals for a 73.3% conversion rate. Once again, questions surround Michigan’s kicking game, however, and with Olesnavage gone redshirt freshman Brendan Gibbons or redshirt freshman walk-on Seth Broekhuizen — currently listed as co-starters on the official depth chart — will have to step up. So far, the kickers have reportedly been inconsistent throughout the spring and fall, and I expect similar results as the season kicks off on Saturday. With no upperclassmen kicker — walk-on or otherwise — ready to take over the job, we might witness some major growing pains in the kicking game this year.
- The team loses at least two of the three rivalry games — Those games, of course, being Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State. This may seem like a lack of progress after Michigan took down Notre Dame last season and came close to pulling an epic comeback in East Lansing, but that may be deceiving — both of those teams should be improved this season, and the Buckeyes appear to be bona-fide national title contenders. Michigan’s best chance at a rivalry victory will be at home against the Spartans, but road contests in South Bend and Columbus will be very daunting for a team so green on defense.
Let’s all hope I go 0/5 on these predictions, as my love for the team far outweighs any pride I have in my prognosticating ability. Starting tomorrow, the season preview content begins to wrap up with Part I of my predictions for each game.