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09 Homer Preview: The Wolverine Edition

homer previewIn an effort to provide coverage of teams outside of the OTP Preseason Top 25, we’ve asked some of our friends and fellow college football aficionados to follow our preview format for their team or go outside the box. This edition of The Homer Preview is courtesy of Jackie Jones, a Michigan fan and ardent anti-Buckeye… even their marching band!

Homer Preview: Michigan Wolverines

michigan logo

All In for Michigan

It was funny when I first started writing this review at a local coffee shop, Hang on Sloopy was playing in the background on a radio station. If you have no idea what that does to a Michigan fan, let me tell you, hearing this song is like hearing nails on a chalkboard. An unpleasant feeling going through your entire body, kind of like the same feeling Michigan fans had at the end of the 2008 football season with their 3-9 record and a 42-7 loss to Ohio State.

But, it can’t get any worse, right? Well, that’s what most Michigan fans are hoping as we enter the 2009 football season. It has been a trying couple of years for the program, and with major coaching changes and attitude of the players and fans, it is still up in the air how this team is going to perform. It is time to go “all in” as the season mantra states, and Michigan needs to give it all it has to remain a credible team in the Big Ten. All of those who cheer on the maize and blue are optimistic, but with a healthy sense of skepticism. Wolverine fans haven’t had to face major changes often, let alone head coaching changes. I can still recall the days of Bo Schembechler coaching, the brief period of Gary Moeller, and Carr stepping into his shoes. Most Wolverine fans will never forget losing the last six out of seven games to Ohio State under Carr’s watch but recall it was through Carr that Michigan has had back to back Big Ten Championships (2003 and 2004) and a National Title (1997).

Rodriquez has some big shoes to fill (whether some Michigan fans will admit it with Carr or not), but the program has high expectations and the fans are not shy about letting the coaches know when they have fallen short of their duty. The coaches are the source of inspiration for the players, and last year it seemed to many Michigan fans that Rodriquez wasn’t connecting to the team. Granted, the players were recruited into a different system, a different team, and the change is difficult for them too. However, if the coach isn’t inspiring the players, he’ll be fighting an uphill battle until the program becomes his own, the players come on board, or he gets fired. Whichever comes first.

A Wolverine running back, Brandon Minor, stated that “Everybody on the team didn’t buy in like they’re supposed to. We’ve got a couple of guys not going hard, but we’ll correct that. Most definitely. It ain’t happening on my watch next year.” Well Brandon, let’s see them step up to the plate and make it happen.

Something every Michigan fan wants to know right now is who is going to be playing QB this fall. Well, no one knows. Not even Rodriquez. For most of us, that is a scary piece of information to not have before the season starts. None of the quarterbacks have even thrown a play in college football, and I know that has many Wolverine fans on edge. Will it be Forcier, Robinson, or Sheridan? Is this Michigan’s biggest problem to worry about right now? Probably not. And even if Rodriquez plays all three to some varying level of playing time, which is suspected right now, Michigan will be better for it in the long run to have each quarter back with some field experience under their belts. My guess is Forcier will start and ultimately keep the starting position, but we’ll see when the Wolverines suit up against the broncos of Western Michigan University Saturday September 5th at the Big House.

Other fun tidbits of info about the Big House for 2009:
Because of the 100,000+ people that step foot into the Big House for games, Verizon Wireless has activated a COLT (cell on light truck) that doubles capacity of its high-speed wireless network in and around Michigan Stadium. So if you’re going to the games, don’t be afraid to bring your Blackberry along and send some pictures to your friends of the victorious Wolverines! Also, the Big House is now serving Coke instead of Pepsi. For most that isn’t a big deal, but in the land of the mid-west we are a Coke nation (and I am a Diet Coke girl, so this news was exciting to hear).

And, most notably Michigan fans can see the new suites added to the upper level—which are 70% sold out for the 2010 season. Suites range from $55,000-$85,000 but with those prices you get to bring 15 of your friends, two flat screen televisions, smooth granite counter tops, fancy wood floors, and modern cabinetry. Not exactly in the mix of it all with the rest of the fans down below, but if luxury is your thing, the Big House has it for you if you have the money to pony up!

Who You Need to Know & Their 08 Stats:
RB Brandon Minor: 103 att, 533 yds, 9 TDs
DE Brandon Graham: 46 tkls, 10 sacks, 10 TFL
QB Tate Forcier: All-world recruit, looked at as potential savior.

Games to Watch:
I think the two most important games in the Michigan season this year are the first and last—reason being that there is much anticipation for this season and in the first game we will know how well to expect the rest of the season to go. Will this be an embarrassing start to this season like in 2007 against Appalachian State, or will the Wolverines continue where they left off with a 3-9 record and a huge loss to Ohio State 42-7? Or will Michigan perform like the team many of us have come to know and love? The first game will have glitches and hang ups, I imagine, as Rodriquez is still working out the kinks, but if he can’t get it together early on, I don’t imagine much hope for the rest of the season or the rest of his career as head coach at Michigan.

Ohio State is an obvious choice for any Michigan fan, it is the be all game for college rivalries. This game has determined bowl eligibility, national titles, and much more. It doesn’t matter if Michigan walks into this game with a 3-8 record, if they win against Ohio State, that’s all the Michigan fans will remember for the rest of the winter until spring training picks up again. It would be nice to have a Michigan victory in Ann Arbor, and Michigan fans will be praying for it for months to come.

They’ll do well if…
… the players adapt to the spread offense that Rodriquez has brought to Michigan. Michigan can be successful if the offense holds on to the ball—they have had too many fumbles and turn overs that have brought to their dismal performance in 2008. Michigan’s defense is not the biggest concern here, I think if Michigan establishes a solid offense from the quarterback and throughout, then the team will be much better off than it was last year.

Season Outlook
It’s all in for Michigan, and all in for Rodriquez. If he can’t perform this year, I don’t expect his coaching position to last longer than one more year. Michigan fans have high expectations, if you don’t step up, you’re out. No hard feelings, it is the way the Wolverines operate. Rodriquez may have some adjustments coming from the Big East, because the Big Ten is like no other conference, and Michigan is like no other team in the Big Ten. With a 3-9 finish last year, I imagine that with the time to prepare, Michigan will do much, much better this year. I imagine an 8-4 season, with potential loses to Michigan State, Iowa, Penn State, and Ohio State (a girl can only hope that this isn’t the case however). Michigan could be in position to go to a bowl this year, but it’s hard to say which one or if it will really happen. The players need to step up and perform, the coaching staff needs to inspire the players and make sound decisions about who is playing and when. I’m feeling good that Michigan will turn it around, and may even surprise us with a finish in the Top 25.

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2 Responses

  1. Excellent piece, Jackie. It’s going to be interesting to see just how well Rich Rod turns that program around this season.

  2. Jackie!

    I love it–and I think it’s fantastic to hear about the Coke (that’s the kind of info I think all these previews need to have!). If college football sold beer at all the games, people would want to know that as well…

    Nice job and I hope to see you soon 🙂

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