Thursday, August 29, 2013

2013 Season Predictions

Here are my 2012 predictions, in case you're interested.

Leading Rusher
Michigan no longer has a quarterback who's much of a threat to lead the team in rushing, although he's a pretty good runner. Fitzgerald Toussaint is the best running back currently on the roster, but he struggles to stay healthy. I make this choice with very little confidence.
Prediction: Toussaint, 900 yards

Leading Receiver
The top receiver returns from last year, and that player has great chemistry with quarterback Devin Gardner. Jeremy Gallon had 829 receiving yards last season, despite having Denard Robinson as the primary passer for the first half of the season. Gallon should see an uptick in receptions and yardage this season, but without another proven threat, he might be bracketed a little more often.
Prediction: Gallon, 1100 yards

Leading Tackler
Strongside linebacker Jake Ryan led the team in tackles with 88 last year, but he's out with a torn ACL until at least October. The choice comes down to middle linebacker Desmond Morgan or weakside linebacker James Ross III, and I think I'll go with sophomore Ross, whose instincts are unmatched by anyone else on the team.
Prediction: Ross, 90 tackles

Leading Sacker
Ryan also led the team in sacks with 5.5 last season, but he probably won't have time to get to the quarterback that much since he'll miss half the season or so. There's been a lot of buzz about weakside end Frank Clark's improvement this offseason, and I think he'll gather a few sacks in some early season games against the likes of Central Michigan and Akron.
Prediction: Clark, 8 sacks

Leading Interceptor
The safeties aren't huge playmakers, and the best cornerback (Blake Countess) is coming off a torn ACL. Countess has good cover skills but has never been known as a true ball hawk. I think three players end up tied for this honor.
Prediction: Countess, Thomas Gordon, Raymon Taylor, 2 interceptions each

All-Big Ten First Team
Prediction: Jeremy Gallon, Taylor Lewan

Leading Scorer (non-QB, non-kicker)
I'm calling 10 touchdowns for Toussaint and Gallon rushing and receiving, respectively, but add a couple touchdowns through the air for Toussaint.
Prediction: Toussaint

Breakout Offensive Player
There are a few options for breakout players. I'm not going to count Devin Funchess, who already showed what he can do last season, even if he didn't get targeted much toward the end of the year. This leaves some backup running backs and whoever shows up across from Gallon. I think I'll go with Jehu Chesson, who should be targeted plenty.
Prediction: Chesson

Breakout Defensive Player
This is a really tough choice, because I foresee a few guys stepping up this year to make some plays: Frank Clark, James Ross, and Cam Gordon. I'm most confident in Ross, but I think the other two will take large steps forward as well.
Prediction: Ross

Most Disappointing Offensive Player
I think the interior of the offensive line is going to struggle, and that starts with redshirt sophomore Jack Miller. Miller will be a new starter and he's not the biggest or strongest of guys, so there will be both mental and physical issues there.
Prediction: Miller

Most Disappointing Defensive Player
I think the issues at free safety will carry over from last season, when Jarrod Wilson really struggled as a backup. This year senior Courtney Avery is competing with sophomore Wilson for the job, but Avery's out for a couple weeks after arthroscopic knee surgery. Wilson has good physical abilities, but gets himself out of position too much.
Prediction: Wilson

The Big Finish
August 31 vs. Central Michigan: WIN. The Chippewas are a mediocre MAC team.

September 7 vs. Notre Dame: WIN. Notre Dame got lucky a lot last season, and while their defensive front seven will still be good, the offense will sputter too much.

September 14 vs. Akron: WIN. Another mediocre MAC team.

September 21 at Connecticut: WIN. If for no other reason than the fact that I saw Paul Pasqualoni at a clinic this offseason and didn't care for his attitude, I'm picking the Wolverines.

October 5 vs. Minnesota: WIN. Jerry Kill has a good history of improving teams, so I don't think it will be a cake walk, but Michigan is more talented.

October 12 at Penn State: WIN. I have a feeling Penn State will drop off a little bit after the emotion of last season carrying them a little bit. It won't be easy, but I think Michigan wins.

October 19 vs. Indiana: WIN. Indiana isn't very good at the football, but the offense will be entertaining.

November 2 at Michigan State: WIN. The Spartans will have a good defense, but they'll struggle this year on offense. Michigan is more balanced.

November 9 vs. Nebraska: LOSS. After the emotion of beating MSU and facing a pretty good team in the Cornhuskers, Michigan loses a squeaker.

November 16 at Northwestern: WIN. Michigan is getting more athletic on defense, and Jake Ryan should be back by this point to help out defensively. It might be a shootout again, but I pick the Wolverines.

November 23 at Iowa: WIN. Iowa will probably be bad.

November 30 vs. Ohio State: LOSS. Michigan just won't have the running game to keep Ohio State honest because of the mediocre interior line.

Final record: 10-2

20 comments:

  1. I'll swap you MSU for Nebraska in the loss column I think for the second year in a row.

    Sparty will be desperate to continue thinking that they are relevant in the BIG and the State of Michigan, a win at home buys them two more years of the delusion they nurse so dearly.

    As always, the MSU game will be about the hitting, our young team gets a lesson regarding the nature of this rivalry.

    We then take it out on Nebraska at home.

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    1. I'll agree with this... 10-2 with losses to MSU and OSU. I just think Mattison has Nebraska's number and Nebraska's defense will be porous again. At home, UM loses that game only if they get sloppy. MSU will be tougher. This is Michigan State's final good team, and Dantonio probably knows it. Their defense will be very strong again and with the weak schedule, MSU can spend all season focusing on beating UM.

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  2. Interesting, your take on the interior line.

    As a coach, think you know more than me, but here's my take: Kalis should be good, and the Glasgow brothers seem to be really tough, hard working men. Realize that doesn't always equate with talent, but Ryan Glasgow seems like a stud. He was all-state in H. S., in IL, FWIW. Granted, he lacks experience, but to me, R.G. just seems to have a presence of competence about him, while Miller does not. Nothing against Miller as a person, obviously, seems like a smart, hardworking guy that just may lack superior football abilities. Like he says, he needs to use "perfect" technique to succeed. So, agree with you assessment that he may be a weak link.

    Curious as to what other people think about the interior O line.

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    1. Did you mean Graham Glasgow? Ryan, his brother, plays on the DL not the OL.

      I think the OL is going to be almost as bad as last season. The only area of improvement will be Kalis pulling to the left side which Omameh was terrible at doing. I am expecting a loss to ND because the interior OL will get eaten alive by ND's dominant front seven. I think UM will only average about 4.3 yards per carry this season on the ground and will be forced to throw the ball in order to have any success offensively. Unfortunately, Hoke (or Borges) seems to be a bit stubborn when it comes to running the ball no matter how unsuccessfully they do it.

      Regarding the season predictions, I am predicting 9-3 with losses to ND, MSU and either PSU or Northwestern. Nebraska doesn't actually worry me and while I think OSU is better than UM right now, I still think UM wins a close game against the Bucks in AA.

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    2. There are some reasons for optimism. YPC average may not jump up because Denard is gone, but the RB group is stronger and they will have more success rushing. As you mention, you have a major upgrade in Kalis and he is able to pull to the left side, which allows UM to run behind Lewan more than last year. I don't know much about Glasgow but he has to be a better drive-blocker than the grossly-undersized Barnum. TE's and FB should be improved blockers this year with added experience (poor TE blocking was a consistent drive killer in 2012). And on top of all that, you finally have a pass game that can keep the safeties honest.

      ND has a good front seven, but remember that Fitz, Barnum, and Mealer all had pretty good games last year against ND. And having a more balanced attack should help this year.

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    3. Yeah, meant Graham Glasgow, not Ryan, moron alert. Sorry. Anon, thanks for not trashing me.

      And Smurf, nice points about GG vs. R. Barnum, the improvement of TE and FB blocking, and better passing game.

      All that should help.

      Per the sad loss of Darboh, hope Chesson and Funchess, et al, can help take pressure / focus off Gallon.

      But the O balance this year should be better if the run game shows up at all.

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    4. @PS - Is Glasgow significantly bigger than Barnum? I never thought size was the problem with him.

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    5. Seems to me like the offense is pretty much the same as last year (when Denard was out). You have Chesson in for Roundtree, Glasgow/Miller/Kalis in for Barnum/Mealer/Omameh, Butt in for Kwiatkowski. Not too many changes of significant outside the OL. I don't expect dramatic changes for the positive.

      That said, things are hopefully more cohesive from a scheme perspective.

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    6. Glasgow's significantly taller (I think Barnum was 6'3" and Glasgow is 6'6") but not significantly heavier.

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    7. Glasgow has a way bigger frame than Barnum. You can't necessarily go by the roster weights - most guys are listed pretty closely on the lines but you see huge differences from one guy to the next. Some players have inflated weights and others need to grow guts to get their weights up. I saw Barnum up pretty close last fall and he looked 6'1", 270 max. Glasgow is a lean 300 lbs.

      Another prime example of this type of thing would be Wormley/Heitzman. Wormley is only listed as 10-15lbs heavier (which is not a ton of weight on a big guy), but he completely dwarfs Heitzman in every way when they stand next to each other.

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    8. I mean, I don't think size matters THAT much - we're splitting hairs to some extent - but, assuming the skills are equal, isn't it better to be more dense than taller/thinner for a guard?

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    9. Lanknows to the rescue. Size doesn't matter that much? In the trenches? I know you're not very knowledgeable about the game of football, but damn this takes the cake and doesn't eat it because size doesn't matter that much. Even if you don't understand the game of football, I would hope you have a basic understanding of physics. Size matters.

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  3. I think our o line is a push, our a slight improvement in the run game over last year. I'll add Gardner to the all big ten/ all American list and say the sky is the limit. Every game is Michigan's to lose. I think we'll flip the close loss at Nebraska and Ohio for wins at home

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  4. I think the O-Line Blues will be an issue against ND, but won't necessarily result in a loss. This year's ND game could be more of a normal football game than in recent years since Michigan will be in a pro-set as opposed to video game mode. Have a feeling that Cam Gordon will have a huge game against ND.

    MSU will be another tough nosed game, but this will be the standard going forward...MSU might struggle to score 13 pionts with their offense.

    OSU: I think Michigan wins this game with a field goal followed by a defensive stop. I think Braxton Miller will get punished in this game.

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  5. 8-4 is my prediction, with a good chance of 9. Vegas is right on the mark with 8.5, IMO.

    OSU and ND are losses, even at home. I figure we split MSU and Nebraska, and then I think there is an upset road loss lurking somewhere in the mix of Northwestern, Penn State, heck even UConn is not a bad team.

    Reasons why I'm more pessimistic than most M fans:

    1. The conversion to pro-style offense will make it harder on our defense against OSU and Northwestern.

    2. Health and depth. More often than not, a starting QB doesn't make it through the entire season unscathed. Michigan has a number of key guys that are not easily replaced on offense. If Gardner goes down (and there's a decent chance he does, for at least a bit) we're in serious doo.

    3. Playing to our weakness on the OL. This coaching staff is stubborn. They're going to try to run their offense, even if it doesn't work that well, and there are serious questions that a vanilla run-game can without a decisive talent advantage (which we don't have on the interior yet). Gardner will be able to save the day sometimes, but not every week.

    4. Not enough receiving weapons. I think the point about being able to bracket Gallon is a good one. I think Funchess is easily covered by safeties until he proves he can block and forces LBs to try to cover him. I think the rest of the guys...we're just crossing our fingers with anyone besides Dileo, who will likely remain underutilized.

    ---------------------

    Biggest disappointment on offense: Funchess. Clearly the potential is there to be a star, but he is not such a freak that safeties can't cover him. Right now he's just a WR that is an easy cover, which is why he was shut down after his Air Force coming-out party. I think he'll be better at blocking but he's still a tall skinny guy. Guessing we have to wait till next year on the all-conference dominance that many expect.
    Runnerup: Freshman RBs.

    Biggest disappointment on defense: None. I think our defense is going to be excellent. I think Wilson will step up, though the preseason signs are clearly not very good. Even if he falters, I expect Avery to step in and be adequate. I trust our coaches to figure it out.
    If there is one spot where we might have a drop off it is SAM where the uncertainty between Gordon, Beyer, and a semi-healthy Ryan will lead to some problems here and there. It would be better if there was one guy, like last year, and clarity in the roles.

    Breakout defense: Countess. People expect him to be good, but I think he'll make the leap to greatness - get 4 interceptions or so, a TD or two, maybe declare for the NFL.

    Breakout offense: Butt. I think Williams and Funchess are one dimensional and Butt will emerge as a key rotation player. Not saying he'll get 40 receptions, but I think he'll be a key piece in our frequent deployment of 2-TE sets. Funchess and Gallon will demand attention, and Butt will benefit, with numbers similar to what Funchess did last year. Chesson is a good pick too, but I worry about his blocking resulting in the coaches going with Reynolds and Jackson again. Tons of candidates here: name a skill position guy and they COULD have a bigger than expected year - if the line can really block even Drake Johnson could do some things.

    The key to this team is the ability to run the ball. That's what I'll be watching for most against CMU. It's in serious doubt until Glasgow and Miller (and Kalis) prove they can play. Here's hoping they can and we're Pasadena-bound.

    Go Blue!

    I think Miller is not going to be very good, but most seem to expect that now.

    Reasons why I'll be wrong and we're going to Pasadena:

    Gardner: Love the leadership, love the skills. Kid is a flat-out winner, IMO.

    The Defense: I have so few worries with all the depth we have.

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    1. That all said - I like this team's upside. Even though I predict 8 wins, I think 11 is more likely than 7 unless Gardner is hurt for an extended period.

      I think 10 wins is optimistic, but within reach.

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    2. Stanford 17 - Oregon 14

      But the offense should hurt the defense with regards to OSU and NW. I'm assuming you've never coached or played football.

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  6. I'd swap MSU for Nebraska as well. Dantonio must've been game planning since the night of last year's loss, and MSU's defense is going to be a top 5 unit without question. Their offense will only get better and they'll be out for blood. Nebraska is a very unbalanced team, and prone to making dumb mistakes. I know how good OSU can be, but let's hope that our staff and players will battle their asses off for the OSU game.

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  7. If Michigan loses 2 games at home I will eat an assortment of hats. They'd likely be buoyed by beating State, not drained, because they would know beating Nebraska all but assures a trip to Indy. The interior will be AT LEAST comparable to last season, and last season they played 'Bama, Ohio, Nebraska and ND away from home. With no 'Bama and all those sides at home, I think 10-2 is the least we can expect.

    If there's 1 loss that I can see and genuinely not be upset about, it's @NW. They have a lot of talent and they will do everything to get revenge for last season.

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    1. Uh-oh...get ready to munch on some hats!

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