Michigan looked awful against Alabama last Saturday, joining pretty much every team that has played Alabama since 2009. Poll voters downgraded the Wolverines. Spartan players, many of whom got blown out 49-7 by the Tide in 2010, were gleeful on twitter. Viewing it soberly, though, this loss says little about how Michigan will fare moving forward.
The Wolverines looked horrendous. Alabama does that to everyone, including really good SEC teams. Arkansas went 11-2 last year, finished in the AP Top Five, and finished 14th in yards per play offense. How did they fare against the Crimson Tide? About as well as Michigan did.
Arkansas entered the game as 13-point underdogs. The Razorbacks lost 38-14. They managed just 17 rushing yards on 19 attempts (averaged 4.5 yards per carry against other opponents). They were held to just 5.2 yards per pass attempt (averaged 8.6 against other opponents). Michigan averaged 2.4 yards per carry and 7.4 yards per pass attempt. Will Michigan be 2011 Arkansas good? It would be bullish to predict that, but an inept performance against Alabama says little. The Tide really are that good.
Here’s a breakdown of Michigan’s schedule, based roughly on estimated lines. These certainly will move, but in general Michigan Win = 7-point or more favorite or more, Michigan Edge = 7-point or less favorite and vice versa for opponents.
Michigan Win: Air Force, UMass, Illinois, at Purdue, at Minnesota, Northwestern, Iowa
Michigan Edge: Michigan State
Opponent Edge: at Notre Dame, at Nebraska, at Ohio State
Opponent Win: Alabama
If the Wolverines win every game where they are a touchdown or more favorite, that puts them at 7-1. The other four games give them a range between 7-5 and 11-1. None of the four games will be easy, but all of the four are winnable. Beating Michigan State and Nebraska would almost undoubtedly get them to the Big Ten title game, even if it is at 9-3. Their ceiling is winning the Big Ten outside national title contention, what it was realistically before taking the field against Alabama.
Michigan won’t be as lucky on turnovers this year. They should, however, show improvement in a second year after radical system changes on both sides of the ball. Denard Robinson must cut down the interceptions. In most games he won’t be forced to throw in a collapsing pocket against corners athletic enough to shove the receiver out of bounds as the ball is released and recover to grab the interception.
2012 may be a reality check for Michigan, but it is against Notre Dame, Michigan State, Nebraska and Ohio State where we’ll find that out, not Alabama. The Wolverines’ most significant fallout from that game may be trying to replace Blake Countess.
[Photo via Presswire]