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Can Michigan Win the Big Ten's Legends Division?


Michigan fans have to be elated with new coach Brady Hoke after the Wolverines’ stunning finish against Notre Dame. The Big House was rather quiet at the end of three quarters, but then a first-ever, late night party ensued as Denard Robinson led UM back to an improbable, last-second win over the Irish. But how far can Michigan go? The Wolverines tied for seventh in the Big Ten a year ago, and that was after finishing tied for last in 2009. They had one of college football’s worst defenses last year, and Hoke’s crew still needs more from their running backs. In the Legends Division this season, no one saw Michigan competing with Nebraska or Michigan State to go to the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game. We’ll find out more about the Spartans on Saturday, while Nebraska’s defense looked shaky against Fresno State and Iowa’s was horrible in its loss to Iowa State.

Is Michigan a legitimate threat to win the Legends Division?

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Michigan is off to a great start, but it’s a bit premature to call the Wolverines a legitimate threat to win the Legends Division. Brady Hoke’s club features one of the most exciting players in the game in quarterback Denard Robinson, but the overall level of talent — especially on defense — isn’t up to Michigan standards. Greg Mattison was an outstanding hire as the new defensive coordinator, but he can only do so much. Last year, Michigan ranked 110th in the nation in total defense, and the ’11 unit is off to a shaky start after getting torched for 513 yards in the win over Notre Dame. I am convinced that Hoke will win big at Michigan — but it will take some time. This season, a realistic expectation is eight wins overall and a breakeven mark in the Big Ten.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I don’t think Michigan will win the Legends Division, but the Wolverines have to at least be in the conversation. When we made our preseason picks, Michigan was the most difficult team to figure out in this division. With a new coach and a change in offensive schemes, it was uncertain how quickly the Wolverines could emerge as Big Ten contenders. Through two games, the defense has shown some improvement, while the offense is still trying to find his rhythm under new coordinator Al Borges. The Legends Division favorite has to be Nebraska, but the Cornhuskers have not looked dominant through two weeks. The Wolverines have a difficult schedule ahead, with road trips to Michigan State, Illinois and Iowa, with Nebraska and Ohio State visiting Ann Arbor in late November. The Wolverines have a chance if the Cornhuskers slip, but I think it’s more likely Michigan will finish second or third in the Legends Division.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
Absolutely not. While Michigan has improved and Brady Hoke has won the locker room, the Maize and Blue will not be playing in Indianapolis in December. You win the Big Ten in the trenches and the Wolverines will eventually be strong at the point of attack. But Michigan State and Nebraska have superior talent along the line of scrimmage, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. And Iowa will be a lot better on November 5 than they were in Ames last weekend. A trip to Illinois precedes Nebraska and Ohio State on the schedule. While Michigan could start 6-0, I would be shocked to see it win more than three of its final six games.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I think Michigan could win the Legends Division in Brady Hoke’s first year. Nebraska should still be the favorite, but the Huskers’ defense needs to play up to its potential and Taylor Martinez must stay healthy. We do not know enough about Michigan State right now to see how an inexperienced offensive line will perform in league play, and the Wolverines can definitely beat Iowa and Northwestern. Michigan is still adjusting to a new offense and defense, but it helps to have one of the game’s most dynamic playmakers in Denard Robinson while that is taking place. Hoke’s team should improve greatly over the next three weeks against Eastern Michigan, San Diego State and Minnesota. Michigan can win in Lansing but then comes a tough November. While UM does avoid Wisconsin and Penn State in the Leaders Division, the trip to Illinois will not be easy after going to Iowa the week prior. Obviously the last two games of the season will be very tough – Nebraska and Ohio State in the Big House – but the team should be playing Hoke’s style effectively by that time. I’m not saying Michigan is the favorite, but the Wolverines do pose a legitimate threat to win the division.