2012 Record: 8-5, 6-2 Big Ten. 2nd in Legends Division.
Head Coach: Brady Hoke, 3rd year at Michigan (19-7). 66-57 overall in 11 seasons.
Offensive Starters Returning: 5
Defensive Starters Returning: 6
Following the retirement of former head coach Lloyd Carr, the University of Michigan went outside the box when they hired Rich Rodriguez away from West Virginia.
Rodriguez was not the proverbial “Michigan Man,” though. He never attended the school and he had never been employed by the University of Michigan as an assistant coach. Notwithstanding, on December 17, 2007, Rodriguez was introduced by Michigan as its new coach at a news conference held on campus.
In Rodriguez’s first season, the Wolverines got off to a slow start losing to Utah 25-23 to begin the 2008 campaign. After going 2-2 in the first four games, Michigan lost six of their last seven to finish with a record of 3–9, the worst season in school history. The Wolverines’ losing record also meant that the team did not play in a postseason bowl game for the first time in 33 years, the longest such streak in college football up to that point.
But Rodriguez’s teams improved each year, as Michigan went 5-7 in 2010 and 7-6 in 2011, but it wasn’t enough to save his job. After getting drubbed 52-14 by Mississippi State in the 2012 Gator Bowl, Rodriguez was fired three days later. It didn’t help that Rodriguez has the lowest winning percentage (.405) of any coach in Michigan football’s history, or that UM never beat two of their chief rivals, Ohio State and Michigan State.
The next time Michigan went out to hire a new football coach, they landed their “Michigan Man” when Brady Hoke was named the 19th head coach in UM football history on Jan. 11, 2011. A former assistant coach at Michigan (1995-2002), Hoke led the Wolverines to an 11-2 record (6-2 Big Ten) and Allstate Sugar Bowl victory in his first season at the helm, but UM finished the 2012 campaign with a disappointing 8-5 mark (6-2 Big Ten) and a bid to the Outback Bowl.
So, what does 2013 have in store for Michigan? Can they improve from last year’s mark, or will it be more of the same. I thinking the latter.
Michigan’s offense returns five starters, all seniors, with QB Devin Gardner, RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, WR Jeremy Gallon, LT Taylor Lewan, and RT Michael Schofield.
Last season, Gardner appeared in all 13 games, but began the season as a wide receiver before playing the final five games at quarterback, starting four of those contests. Gardner completed 75-of-126 (59.5%) of his passes for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns with five interceptions. He’s not much of a threat as runner like Denard Robinson was, as Gardner gained just 101 yards on 47 carries.
Toussaint, a three-year letterman, became 31st Wolverine to reach 1,000-yards rushing in a single season after netting 1,041 in 2011. Last year, though, Toussaint suffered season-ending leg injury vs. Iowa on Nov. 17 and did not play in the final two games against Ohio State and South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. Before the injury, Toussaint started nine games at running back and was team’s second-leading rusher with 514 yards on 130 attempts with five TDs.
Gallon, an All-Big Ten honorable mention, made 12 starts at wide receiver and was the team’s leading receiver with 49 receptions for 829 yards and four touchdowns in 2012.
Lewan, a fifth-year senior, has appeared in 37 games at left tackle, making 35 starts. Lewan was a First-Team All-American selection by Walter Camp, Associated Press, ESPN.com and SI.com. He was also named the Big Ten Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year, and was voted by the coaches and media to the All-Big Ten first team.
Schofield, another fifth-year senior, starred in all 13 games in 2012 at right tackle. As a junior, Schofield made 10 starts at left guard.
Six starters return on defense with junior SLB Jake Ryan, junior WLB Desmond Morgan, senior FS Thomas Gordon, junior LB Brennen Beyer, junior CB Raymon Taylor, and senior DT Quinton Washington.
Ryan, a All-Big Ten second team selection by the media and honorable mention pick by the coaches last season, has appeared in 26 contests at linebacker and defensive end, making 24 starts. Ryan started all 13 games at linebacker and/or defensive end in 2012 and led team in total tackles (88), solo stops (56), tackles for loss (16), and sacks (4.5). Ryan, though, tore his ACL during spring drills and won’t see the field until October.
After Ryan, Morgan is Michigan’s second-best returning stopper after notching 81 tackles, 46 solos, and 5.5 tackles for loss in 2012. Gordon was right behind Morgan with 81 total tackles and five tackles for loss.
Conclusion and Prediction:
Last season, Michigan had a much tougher schedule playing Alabama in the season-opener, then had to take on the other participant in the BCS National Championship Game, Notre Dame in South Bend. This season, the Wolverines play Central Michigan, Akron and at Connecticut, but do get the Fighting Irish in Ann Arbor.
In 2012, Michigan was 94th in the NCAA in passing offense averaging 199.3 yards per game. Those numbers will improve with Gardner taking the bulk if the snaps this season, but questions remain in the running game and on the offensive line.
Toussaint was named the starter earlier this week at running back, though true freshman Derrick Green will push for playing time. The problem is, Green came into fall camp 20-plus pounds overweight and is listed at 240 lbs. Another problem is that Michigan has to replace three starters on the O-line and will likely go with a sophomore and two redshirt freshman on the interior between tackles Lewan and Schofield.
More question marks concerning the defense comes from the front four with just one starter back. The Wolverines ranked ninth in the Big Ten in sacks, so this unit needs to step it up a notch or three.
Michigan could very easily go 7-0 with a win over Notre Dame, but the final five games are a brutal stretch playing at Michigan State, vs. Nebraska, on the road for back-to-back weeks at Northwestern and Iowa before returning home to face the Buckeyes.
Looks like another eight-win season for the Wolverines.