Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Know thy enemy Part I

Apparently in the world of Deadspin/The MZone, one obsessive fan = an entire fanbase. Oh well. I so totally called the cereal thing.

In my next part of this marathon of a week I am bringing you the preview of Michigan's schedule/offense. Here you guys go:

Schedule (Predicted result in parenthesis):

Vanderbilt (W)
Central Michigan (W)
@ Notre Dame (L)
Wisconsin (W)
@ Minnesota (W)
Michigan State
Penn State (W)

Iowa (W)
Northwestern (W)
Ball State (W)
@ Indiana (W)

@ Ohio State (L)

Predicted finish: 10-2 (8-1) 1st Big Ten (Lose tiebreaker to OSU)



After being named the starter amongst much controversy in 2004, Chad Henne essentially told all the doubters who thought he was too young, "Suck on that one, MF." Henne finished that season as one of the most effective quarterbacks in the country, while leading the team to a near Rose Bowl victory. However, after being ranked in the preseason top 5 in most polls, Henne suffered a little bit of a "Sophomore Slump." Although Henne was still one of the better quarterbacks in the Big 10, his progress from freshman to sophomore year was not what most fans expected. However, a lot of that can be contributed to injuries to star HB Michael Hart. Henne has a gun for an arm, but his one relative weakness is his accuracy (only 58% last season, compared to Troy Smith's and Drew Tate's 62%, and Stanton's 66%). However, this can also be partially attributed to Hart's injury troubles as well, considering Michigan was much more reliant on the passing game. With the expected superstar season out of Steve Breaston and the continual blossoming of Mario Manningham, there's no reason why Henne can't be one of the better quarterbacks in the conference.

Running Back:
The second part of that fantastic duo of 2004 freshmen was Michael Hart. Not to sound too cliche-ey here, but Hart was the heart of the Michigan offense. When Hart went down
with a bum hammy early in game two against Notre Dame, the effects showed instantly. Late in the game, Michigan was knocking on the Notre Dame doorstep, but then a key turnover led to the Irish's victory. The game probably would have been in a whole different situation had Hart been in the game, seeing as how he probably would have chewed up that Notre Dame defense and run wild. There's no doubt in my mind that Michigan would have won that game with Hart. In games which Hart played, but got under 20 carries, UM went 1-3. In games with more than 20 carries? 3-1. I'm no mathematician here, but the way I see it: Get Hart the ball, and good things are bound to happen.

Here's something for Michigan fans to put in their pipe and smoke. Last season, regardless of all the hype around Ted Ginn, fans of the bad guys up north still insisted that Breaston would have a better season, and that Ginn would struggle. And when Ginn didn't do as expected last season, boy did we ever hear it from the Michigan fans. Funny though, because he still finished the season with 512 more receiving yards and twice as many touchdowns. As I mentioned earlier, I'm not a math expert, but I'd still take Ginn any day. Regardless, Breaston is due for a breakout year after an excellent freshman year, an injury filled sophomore season, and a disappointing Junior year. He's still too much of a big play threat for Michigan to ignore, and there's no doubt in my mind that regardless of what Manningham did last season, Breaston is still the #1 guy. Speaking of Manningham, he better not have a sophomore slump in case something happens to Breaston because depth at the receiver spot is somewhat lacking. Remember, Jason Avant is off to the NFL now, and although the TEs are talented, they aren't reliable enough if the other guys can't manage.

There have been three constants in the Lllloyd Carr era at Michigan: Losing the first road
game of the season, that danged blue banner, and dominant offensive lines. However, last year was a bit of a different story up front for the ugly helmets. Injuries plagued the line last season, which sure as hell didn't help matters on the Michigan offense. However, assuming that they can stay healthy this season, this line should be back to their old selves. There's tons of experience to go around with three seniors and two juniors, all of whom got playing time last season. Junior Tackle Jake Long is an All-American in waiting. Long is one of the best pass protectors in the nation, who uses his quick feet and long wingspan to his advantage. Reuben Riley can play just about anywhere on the line, but will probably see most time at guard. An interesting prospect here is guard Adam Kraus, who last year converted from tight end to guard before getting into injury troubles. He's a mobile lineman, so it will be interesting to see what he's capable of when he's healthy.

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