Michigan’s last share of the Big Ten title occurred in 2004, but the Wolverines appear to be inching closer to a return to the top of the conference.
Coach Brady Hoke is assembling some of the nation’s top talent on the recruiting trail, while the offense should thrive under the leadership of junior quarterback Devin Gardner. The offensive line has a few holes to fill, but the return of tackle Taylor Lewan should allow the Wolverines to maintain a solid foundation in the trenches.
Hoke and coordinator Greg Mattison have some work to do on defense, especially on the line. Linebacker Jake Ryan’s status for 2013 is uncertain with a torn ACL, but sophomore James Ross is a future star and is due for a bigger role in the linebacking corps this year.
What will Michigan's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates:
Michigan's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
8/31 Central Michigan
9/7 Notre Dame
9/21 at Connecticut
10/12 at Penn State
11/2 at Michigan State
11/16 at Northwestern
11/23 at Iowa
11/30 Ohio State
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
With Nebraska, Michigan State, Northwestern and Michigan all capable of winning the division crown, the Legends Division will be one of the toughest leagues in the nation this year. I’m picking the Wolverines to win the division and play in a BCS bowl with a 10-2 record. However, there’s no question this will be a difficult road for Brady Hoke’s team. Even though the offensive line is a concern, promising redshirt freshman Ben Braden and Kyle Kalis could turn the interior into a strength with some seasoning early in the year. And true freshman running back Derrick Green could end up as one of the team’s top playmakers by midseason. With Hoke and Greg Mattison calling the shots, Michigan should finish in the top four of total and scoring defense in the Big Ten – even with six new starters stepping into the lineup. If the Wolverines can get by Notre Dame on Sept. 7, the Wolverines should be 7-0 going into November. However, the real test for Michigan comes in the final month, as road tests at Michigan State and Northwestern won’t be easy, along with home affairs against Nebraska and Ohio State. Assuming the Wolverines win the Legends Division, it could set up an interesting Big Ten Championship with the rival Buckeyes.
Brent Yarina, Big Ten Network, (@BTNBrentYarina)
When it comes to Michigan this season, 9-3 sounds right. Brady Hoke has the Wolverines trending in the right direction (take a look at his recruiting success), but it looks like he’ll have to wait at least one more season to play for his first Big Ten title. While Michigan figures to be in the race for the Legends Division crown, along with Nebraska and Northwestern, its schedule is more daunting than the Huskers, arguably its top competition. That said, there’s plenty of talent in Ann Arbor, so if highly touted freshman RB Derrick Green makes an immediate impact, the revamped defensive line provides some kind of pass rush and stud linebacker Jake Ryan returns from a torn ACL sooner than later, Michigan could be much better than this prediction.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
It’s tough to find one of these game-by-game picks pieces that I’ve flip-flopped on more than Michigan. First, I changed my mind on Ohio State. I'd bet Carlos Hyde and Bradley Roby are playing in that game, but I'm not as bullish on Ohio State as I once was. I’m a bit worried about overrating a team walked the tightrope for most of 2012. But back to Michigan: The Wolverines are good enough to defeat each team on the schedule, but not every game on the schedule. I like Michigan to defeat Notre Dame early in the season even though that defense is going to be a major test for Devin Gardner. Notre Dame’s still putting the offense on Tommy Rees shoulders, at least at this stage of the year. I picked the two losses — Michigan State and Northwestern — simply because someone has to defeat Michigan this season. Michigan State lost 12-10 in Ann Arbor and will be a tough out on defense. We all know what Northwestern can do on offense with Venric Mark and Kain Colter. The Michigan game last year was one of many Northwestern had right in its grasp.
Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), No2MinuteWarning.com and NittanyLionsDen.com
Michigan returning to a more traditional offensive style this season should serve the Wolverines well, but don't be totally fooled by a good start to the season. Devin Gardner as the full time quarterback from the start of the season will keep things balanced but the Wolverines will have to find a rhythm on offense. The defense was ranked second in the Big Ten last season but there is still room to improve before the Wolverines become a lock-down defense that suffocates the opposing offense. In 2013 they should have enough to pull together a nice first half, highlighted by a home victory over Notre Dame and a road win at Penn State. The question will be what kind of state are they in for the second half, which I predict will be somewhat painful down the stretch. If they are not careful, the Northwestern game could easily slip away from them. The same goes for Nebraska.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The Legends Division crown will most likely be decided on November 9 in Ann Arbor when Nebraska comes to town. However, the rest of Nebraska's schedule is nothing like Michigan's. So even if Michigan defeats the Big Red, it still likely needs to be at 10 or even 11 wins heading into the season finale with Ohio State to win a trip to Indianapolis. The offense under Devin Gardner won't be an issue at all but the defense needs to prove it has the depth and toughness to beat teams like Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Nebraska. There are too many tricky road upset alerts on this schedule — at Michigan State, Penn State and Nothwestern — to pick this team to be in the top 10.
If Michigan takes care of business at home against Notre Dame, the Wolverines should then be sitting pretty entering November. A trip to Happy Valley won't be easy, but this is not the same Penn State team that opened many eyes last fall. Michigan's Big Ten season likely comes down to the Nov. 9 showdown with Nebraska in the Big House. I'll give the Maize and Blue the edge because of home field, although I do think they will be a little flat the following Saturday in Evanston. Regardless, the win over the Cornhuskers should be enough to help Brady Hoke's team claim the Legends Division title, which will take some of the sting out of a season-ending loss at home to Ohio State. Fret not Wolverine fans, if everything goes according to plan, your beloved team will get another shot at the hated Buckeyes the very next week. Only this time the game will be Indianapolis and the stakes could be even higher.
Related College Football Content
Big Ten 2013 Predictions
Big Ten's 2013 All-Conference Team
Nebraska 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
Christian Hackenberg Could be a Program-Changer at Penn State
Ohio State and Michigan: The New Ten-Year War
The Big Ten's Best Traditions
Does Nebraska Still Believe in Bo Pelini?
5 First-Year Starting QBs Who Could Win College Football's National Title
College Football's Top 10 Most-Improved Teams for 2013
College Football's 2013 All-America Team