Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Three Big Questions facing Michigan in 2012 season

Yesterday I looked at three questions I think Michigan State has facing it entering the 2012 college football season.
Today, I do the same for the Michigan Wolverines.
Expectations are high in Ann Arbor following an 11-2 record in Brady Hoke’s first season. With good reason, Michigan is hoping to end the losing streak to Michigan State and claim a Big Ten title in 2012. Here is what I think the Wolverines should have on their minds.
BIG QUESTION NO. 1 – How much as Denard Robinson improved as a passer?
It’s the same old question with Denard. He is clearly one of the biggest weapons in college football, but when he is relegated to being just a passer, he has struggled. His completion percentage, passing yards, and passing efficiency all declined from 2010 to 2011, and his interception total increased. In order for Michigan to really be a contender in the Big Ten and on the national scale, Robinson has to show he can lead the offense down the field with his arm. And I am not talking about a 60-yard bomb. He needs to be able to make the tough third-down passes that sustain drives and keep the Michigan defense off the field. In the two losses a year ago, that was an issue. He was just 9-of-24 passing in the loss at Michigan State and 17-of-37 passing in the loss at Iowa.
BIG QUESTION NO. 2 – Can the Michigan defense play like the 2011 unit?
A lot of talk is made about the Michigan State defense, with good reason, but the Michigan defense was arguably the most improved in the country in 2011. Under defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, the Wolverines improved from 35.2 points allowed per game in 2010 to just 17.4 in 2011. The Michigan pass defense also cut off over 70 yards per game from their average. This season, the Michigan defense looks very strong in the back seven, but the concern comes on the defensive line, where the Wolverines lack depth, especially at defensive end. Poor defensive line play can expose the linebackers and the secondary as well. In a physical league like the Big Ten, being weak up front can lead to a lot of problems. If the Michigan defense takes a step back, it will put more pressure on Robinson and the offense to get into shootouts like they had to in 2010.
BIG QUESTION NO. 3 – Is Brady Hoke as good as advertised?
You would have a hard time finding any Michigan fan that would have something bad to say about Brady Hoke. He says all the right things, he does all the right things and he wins. What’s not to like? But, though it may be a stretch, there is a school called Notre Dame that had the same feeling about their previous two coaches after their first years (Ty Willingham and Charlie Weis). That’s not to say it will all fall apart for Hoke, but it is still too early to say he is the savior of Michigan football. Recruiting has been very strong and the results of 2011 speak for themselves, but Hoke has to show that he can sustain that level of success in 2012. The Wolverines have a very tough schedule this year, right from the season opener with Alabama. Certainly Hoke needs to beat Michigan State in Ann Arbor this year as well. If Michigan gets to 9 wins or more, and contends in the Big Ten race, I would say the future is very bright for the Wolverines under Hoke.

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