2011 Season Predictions

2011 Season Predictions


September 1, 2011
Hooray for middle linebackers who play like middle linebackers!



Well, it’s always fun to take a look back and see how my predictions panned out, so here’s a link to my 2010 Season Predictions.

And now for this year’s picks:


Leading Rusher
I’m going to rescind my earlier faith in Michael Cox and guess that Michael Shaw will be the Wolverines’ leading running back rusher in 2011.  Denard Robinson would be the obvious pick if Rich Rodriguez were still coaching, but Brady Hoke wants Robinson to run less.  It’s basically a crapshoot with Thomas Rawls, Michael Cox, Fitzgerald Toussaint, and Shaw all vying for the starting RB role.  Between injuries Shaw will run for 700 yards and a couple other guys will have a few hundred apiece . . . but Denard should take the lead by a fairly small margin.
Prediction: Denard Robinson, 900 yards

Leading Receiver
The change in offense throws a wrench into my guess here, too.  I think Roy Roundtree is a very good receiver, but I also think he’s going to struggle more now that he’s been moved from the slot to the outside.  The only other serious threat to lead the team is Junior Hemingway, who might be derailed by injury like usual.  I guess I’ll go with Hemingway and pray he stays healthy.
Prediction: Junior Hemingway, 1000 yards

Leading Tackler
I’m pretty confident that middle linebacker Kenny Demens will lead the team in tackles, provided his shoulder injury doesn’t flare up again.  He had 82 last season and finished third on the team, despite only starting for half the year.  Safety Jordan Kovacs was second last year with 116 total tackles, but I think – and hope – that those numbers will drop significantly.
Prediction: Kenny Demens, 100 tackles

Leading Sacker
Considering that Michigan’s sack totals have dropped to 41% of what they were in 2006, I have to think that the new defensive scheme will cause at least a small jump.  Of the defensive linemen and linebackers who graduated last year (Greg Banks, Renaldo Sagesse, Adam Patterson, Jonas Mouton, Obi Ezeh), none were great pass rushers.  The best rushers return (Ryan Van Bergen with 9 career sacks, Mike Martin with 6.5, and Craig Roh with 2.5) with some youthful potential in the forms of redshirt freshman Jake Ryan, sophomore Jibreel Black, and true freshman Frank Clark.  With all those blitzers and rushers potentially getting to the quarterback, weakside end Craig Roh should lead the team in sacks. 
Prediction: Craig Roh, 7 sacks

Leading Interceptor
Last year’s interception leaders were cornerback James Rogers (since graduated) and free safety-turned-linebacker Cameron Gordon.  So those two are out, since linebackers rarely lead teams in interceptions.  That leaves us with a crew of defensive backs who have a combined four interceptions (Jordan Kovacs has 3, J.T. Floyd has 1).  Cornerbacks Troy Woolfolk and Courtney Avery have shown an ability to cover but not make big plays, and Floyd . . . well . . . just doesn’t look like a very good cornerback.  It looks like Thomas Gordon will start at strong safety and he hasn’t had a chance to show his pass coverage abilities yet since he played linebacker last year.  So it looks like Jordan Kovacs is my man.
Prediction: Jordan Kovacs, 3 interceptions

All-Big Ten First Team
Prediction: Denard Robinson, Mike Martin

Leading Scorer (non-QB, non-kicker)
Prediction: Michael Shaw

Breakout Offensive Player
This is a tough choice because almost every offensive starter returns.  Kevin Koger should see a significant leap in production, but he’ll be a four-year starter.  I have a hard time picking a four-year starter as a breakout player.  So I’m going to go with Jeremy Gallon.  Gallon is #2 on the depth chart at wide receiver and should see some time in the slot in three- and four-wide sets.  He’s quick, fast, and thickly built, and he could be an X-factor if he can hold onto the ball (which he couldn’t do last year as a kick/punt returner).
Prediction: Jeremy Gallon

Breakout Defensive Player
I don’t foresee anyone on Michigan’s defense going from an unknown to an All-American, so “breakout” here has to be looked at from a small-scale perspective.  A few days ago, I picked freshman linebacker Desmond Morgan as a potential breakout player, since he’s a frosh and will play at some point this season.  Anybody who starts at weakside linebacker will be a breakout player, really, since all the options are young and inexperienced.  Mike Jones is #1 on the depth chart, although I don’t really think he’s a playmaker.  I think I’ll go with cornerback Courtney Avery.  Avery had a bad year last season, not because he’s a bad athlete but because he wasn’t ready to play.  He should have redshirted and taken a year to add some size.  Now he’s a sophomore with playing experience and he might be the best cover corner on the roster, although true freshman Blake Countess is going to be a good one, too.
Prediction: Courtney Avery

Most Disappointing Offensive Player
Keep in mind that this is my  most disappointing offensive player, as in the one that I think will fall short of my previous expectations.  There was a time when I thought Roy Roundtree was headed toward wearing the #1 jersey.  On top of being a very good slot receiver, he was a good blocker and a playmaker after the catch.  He started to fall off toward the end of last season when he began dropping too many passes, particularly against Wisconsin and Ohio State.  And while he did have over 900 yards receiving last year, many of those receptions came in the middle of the field, an area that he won’t roam as often from his new outside receiver position.  He should start this fall and put up decent numbers, but I don’t know if the #1 jersey is in his future anymore.
Prediction: Roy Roundtree

Most Disappointing Defensive Player
Just like last year, it’s tough to pick someone who’s going to be disappointing, because not much is expected from most of the guys on this unit.  The bar has been lowered so much that it’s almost impossible for anyone to limbo underneath it.  With that caveat aside, I think Troy Woolfolk is going to disappoint some people a little bit.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and many Michigan fans hope that Woolfolk will be Michigan’s Savior in the Secondary this season.  He was a solid free safety and cornerback in 2009 before dislocating his ankle prior to the 2010 season, which might have been fortuitous since he preserved his last year of eligibility to play under a coach who actually knows what he’s doing.  But Woolfolk has zero interceptions in his career, and while he’s a solid tackler with excellent speed, I doubt he’ll suddenly be causing turnover after turnover.  I expect continued solid play in the coming months, but nothing spectacular.
Prediction: Troy Woolfolk

The Big Finish

Sept. 3 vs. Western Michigan: WIN.  Michigan’s offense ought to be too good for Western Michigan to handle.  Denard Robinson torched them in 2009 for one of his best career highlights, and he’ll probably make some more highlights.  MAC teams just can’t handle his speed.

Sept. 10 vs. Notre Dame: LOSS.  Notre Dame should have beaten Michigan in 2010, if not for quarterback Dayne Crist getting injured.  This year the Fighting Irish should be better.

Sept. 17 vs. Eastern Michigan: WIN.  The Screaming Eagles are horrible at football.

Sept. 24 vs. San Diego State: WIN.  I think this will be a pretty easy win.  SDSU lost a couple of their top receivers for the year due to injury.  Otherwise, I thought it was going to be a close win.

Oct. 1 vs. Minnesota: WIN.  The Golden Gophers are just a steap ahead of Eastern Michigan.

Oct. 8 at Northwestern: WIN.  The Wildcats have a solid offense that will put up some points, but I have confidence that defensive coordinator Greg Mattison will have some better ideas on how to stop the spread than his predecessors.

Oct. 15 at Michigan State: WIN.  It’s about time that Michigan gets another victory against the Spartans, who got lucky repeatedly in the 2010 season.  I can’t see Hoke and Mattison losing to MSU in year one.

Oct. 29 vs. Purdue: WIN.  Purdue is bad, and their starting quarterback from last year is out due to an ACL tear.

Nov. 5 at Iowa: LOSS.  Iowa is going to be good this year, unfortunately.  They always seem to play Michigan tough, and their defense is solid.  If this game were in Ann Arbor, I’d pick the Wolverines . . . but it’s an away game.

Nov. 12 at Illinois: WIN. Illinois lost a couple good players in their defensive front seven, and the couple good players left shouldn’t be enough to beat the Wolverines.

Nov. 19 vs. Nebraska: LOSS.  Nebraska’s too good on both sides of the ball for Michigan to handle.  They might win the Big Ten in their first season.

Nov. 26 vs. Ohio State: LOSS.  I wish I could predict a Michigan victory here, but Ohio State has been so dominant in recent years that I can’t see the Wolverines pulling out a victory.  All of OSU’s suspended players will be back and warmed up for several weeks before coming to Ann Arbor.

Final Record: 8-4

24 comments

  1. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Sep 01, 2011 at 12:47 PM

    Hard to argue with most of those predictions. Any games you thought were 50:50? 8-4 with no humiliating losses would be amazing.

  2. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Sep 01, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    "It's basically a crapshoot with Thomas Rawls, Michael Cox, Fitzgerald Toussaint, and Shaw all vying for the starting RB role."

    Magnus, c'mon man. Cox is not in contention for starting RB. Accept it. It's getting to the point of lunacy.

  3. Comments: 21628
    Meeechigan Dan
    Sep 01, 2011 at 1:23 PM

    You're past predictions have been alarmingly accurate. Alarming because you have not predicted national, Heismans and Big 10 championships. You pessimist, you.

    So your predictions this year give me hope – because the season you forecast is entirely sufficient to hold onto this recruiting class, and that is the essential piece to return the program back to an elite level. Plus, while 2012 is a tough schedule, I think the elevation in linebacker and secondary play being in a Mattison system for an additional year will allow us to beat the following teams:

    A couple cupcakes +
    Oct. 6 at Purdue
    Oct. 13 Illinois
    Oct. 20 Michigan State
    Nov. 3 at Minnesota
    Nov. 10 Northwestern

    and then steal a one or two from OSU/Iowa/ND/NB/Alabama.

    Back to back seasons with 8 wins + this recruiting class + a Morris-led recruiting class next year avoids what I fear the most – an implosion this year, class attrition, a brutal 2012 and heat on Hoke.

  4. Comments: 21628
    Sep 01, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    @ Anonymous 9:16 a.m.

    Cox was being mentioned along with everyone else up until about the last week. Furthermore, with the Shaw/Toussaint injury histories, I wouldn't put it out of the question for him to get some significant carries.

  5. Comments: 21628
    Sep 01, 2011 at 1:34 PM

    I agree with Anonymous at 8:47 am. I can't really argue with your predictions. I guess the only thing is I somewhat hope that Denard is not the leading rusher because it would be nice to see a RB emerge. But I am with you, Magnus, I don't really see it happening (at least not only one emerging).

  6. Comments: 21628
    Sep 01, 2011 at 2:21 PM

    Magnus what do you think would have been the record if the previous staff was here? I agree with most of this. I think ND may be a win just because of the first night game and all. MSU will be a tough game in EL.

  7. Comments: 21628
    Sep 01, 2011 at 2:45 PM

    @ severs28 10:21 a.m.

    I really don't know. That depends on if they replaced Greg Robinson or not. I would probably guess that they would have lost to MSU again, which would bring their record to 7-5 like last year.

  8. Comments: 21628
    Sep 01, 2011 at 2:45 PM

    I'm going to roll with a 7-5 prediction on the season with 0 "humiliating losses." I see at least one loss coming from the MSU, Northwestern and Illinois contests.

  9. Comments: 21628
    SC Wolverine
    Sep 01, 2011 at 3:14 PM

    Good picks, Magnus, but with no heart. If there is any X-factor to Hoke's tremendousness, then one of those losses gets flipped to a win. While I agree that ND is better, that could be a win we flip. Personally, I hold out hope that we will beat tsio, aided by general chaos on their side. I hope for this so much that I have purchased ludicrously expensive tickets to fly my boys into A2 for their first UM game — Brady Hoke's inaugural beat-down of tsio.

  10. Comments: 21628
    Sep 01, 2011 at 3:18 PM

    @ SC Wolverine 11:14 a.m.

    I certainly hope Michigan does better, but Brian Kelly is probably going to be excellent in Year 2. Notre Dame's going to be a tough victory if we pull it out.

  11. Comments: 21628
    Sep 01, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    I just remembered what I love most about the football season. It's this right here, the point at which I can be optimistic to the verge of insanity and say we are going undefeated and actually believe it. I'm absolutely delusions, someone get me a doctor. National Championship here we come!

  12. Comments: 21628
    Lankownia
    Sep 01, 2011 at 3:43 PM

    Cox's biggest supporter leaves him out in the cold. Someone find the young man and console him. And Thunder didn't even wait till he dominated EMU's second-string D this year!

    I kinda thought you'd go with another darkhorse like Rawls, rather than Shaw.

    IMO, none of the backs stand out. Therefore, they'll rotate through guys and, adding in the injury factor, we'll continue to see the workload split over the season. By default, Smith may still lead the RBs in rushing if he's used as a 3rd down and shotgun formation back regularly. We'll see, theres not much more clarity now than there was 4 months ago despite the top 2 "primary" back candidates being identified. I'm sticking with my hypothesis that the last staff new what they were doing on offense and that Smith/Shaw were the two best backs available.

    If Shaw even approaches 900 yards rushing that'll be a breakout.

    I predict 9 wins. It's hard to know what OSU's season will look like but they still have a ton of talent. However, by November I expect that injuries will take some toll and their lack of depth on the OL will become a problem. With homefield on our side I think Michigan will end the embarrasing streak against "Ohio".

    My predictions:

    Leading (RB) Rusher: Smith
    Leading Receiver: Roundtree (he gets open and Denard trusts him)
    Leading Tackler: Demens
    Leading Sacker: Roh
    Interceptor: Johnson (he'll play a lot IMO)
    Breakout O: Rawls?
    Breakout D: Jones (he's got talent and athleticism and now two staffs think he's the best WLB besides Mouton)
    Disappointing O: Shaw (doesn't break tackles, poor vision). I think playcalling will be the biggest gripe M fans have though…
    Disappointing D: People still have hope for Campbell but he stinks and will lead to overuse of Martin which may lead to injuries. So…the NT position, I guess.

  13. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Sep 01, 2011 at 4:41 PM

    @ Lankownia 11:43 a.m.

    "Shaw (doesn't break tackles, poor vision)"

    Hard to disagree on the second count re: vision, but I don't think you can say he doesn't break tackles. Sorry to be picky here, but the weight of the evidence is against your claim. Take a look at Shaw's body of video evidence here, and the conclusions of Mr. Cook: http://mgoblog.com/content/preview-2011-running-backs

    What I will grant you is that he gets injured after some of that contact. But to say he just goes down at first touch is pretty much just wrong.

    That having been said, most of what you post is right on, so again, sorry to be picky here.

    Magnus, thanks for the dose of realism here. You're one of the most trust-worthy sources of predictions and analysis in the Michigan Blogosphere — keep it up!

  14. Comments: 21628
    Sep 01, 2011 at 5:00 PM

    @Anon

    Shaw's tackle breaking and balance have not impressed me at all. He's fast, and I agree with Thunder (and Brian) that he could fit better in this offense. If the OL breaks huge holes for him, he can run through them and take it to the house. He's like Anthony Thomas in that way, but he lacks the size and physicality that Thomas had.

    I question Shaw's ability to grind it out against tougher B1G defenses. He's just not a guy who turns a 3 yard gain into 5. Whether it's due to durability, blocking, or defenses that limit big plays, I expect Shaw to get pulled during the season in favor of someone else (though I can't confidently say who that will be.)

    Furthermore, the link you gave says "he's not much for breaking tackles" – so Brian agrees with me there.

    I don't mind the picky disagreement at all. I enjoy the discussion.

  15. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Sep 01, 2011 at 5:17 PM

    @ Lankownia 1:00 p.m.

    Fair point on highlighting the "he's not much for breaking tackles" quote, but you'll notice right after that comes this statement: "he's more of a spin-through-it-for-two-more-yards guy," which I think is explicitly contrary to your statement that "He's just not a guy who turns a 3 yard gain into 5." I think that's exactly what he does.

    Look at the 5 video clips under the heading "…but doesn't fall over if you breathe on him" at the side column in that link. In each one, he exhibits the ability to create a few more yards after contact. What he doesn't do is plow through linebackers or safeties and keep on trucking a-la B. Minor.

    I share your concern that he will be able to stay healthy. I'm personally hoping that Fitz will make turn a few heads this year, and spell Shaw as much as possible.

    I think Magnus is right on with his approx. 700 yard prediction for Shaw's yards this year.

  16. Comments: 21628
    Nick.
    Sep 01, 2011 at 6:29 PM

    @ Thunder….

    Curious about your thoughts on the ND game being a loss. Do you think we took a step back from last year or do you think they took that large of a step forward? We did win a close one, but none the less just trying to figure your reasoning.

  17. Comments: 21628
    Sep 01, 2011 at 6:34 PM

    @ Nick. 2:29 p.m.

    I think Notre Dame's going to be better, and I don't think Michigan's offense is going to be quite so explosive. I think Brian Kelly is legitimately a good coach and will have the offense humming this season.

  18. Comments: 21628
    Nick.
    Sep 01, 2011 at 6:47 PM

    That is interesting. My thought it is that "if" we can get a little more offensive output from the WR and RB position that we may not have as explosive of an offense, but we can have a much more consistent offense. No more relying on Denard for everything (which is basically what happened the entire season).

    Defensively I am not sure who improves more…..

    I agree Kelly is a good coach, will be interesting to see who makes the step forward defensively. 2nd year in their system vs actually being taught a defensive scheme…….will be interesting.

  19. Comments: 21628
    Sep 01, 2011 at 7:10 PM

    Lank,

    For all of your criticism of Magnus' Cox obsession (he he), you seem to be fixated on Vincent Smith yourself.

  20. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Sep 01, 2011 at 8:02 PM

    I just can't see us losing to OSU. None of our players have won against them, the game is in AA and Hoke has been talking about them since his first press conference. Unless we play in the Big 10 tittle game the following week, losing to OSU against an interim coach would be a huge blow for Hoke.

  21. Comments: 21628
    Painter Smurf
    Sep 02, 2011 at 12:27 PM

    I agree with Magnus that ND beats UM. UM was very fortunate to play them early last year. It is not an un-winnable game, but good passing-spread teams will be able to exploit some of UM's weaknesses and Kelly is one of the best in the business. And ND's defense should be much better than last year. UM will need to score a lot to keep up, I think. Not sure if the offense will be humming by game 2.

    Hard to predict the outcome of the OSU game this early, but OSU is certainly ripe for the picking. They have good RB's, but Pryor is not back and I think they have perhaps the worst OC in the conference (Bollman). He will have more autonomy to stink now that Tressel is gone and a super-green defensive coach is taking over.

    Hoke really needs to focus on OSU and MSU because wins in those games will be big boosts for the program. ND is less important in my opinion, which is good because I think they will be the toughest of the three.

  22. Comments: 21628
    Lankownia
    Sep 02, 2011 at 3:10 PM

    @David,

    I actually thought Cox deserved a shot too. The core disagreement I had with Thunder was regarding the effectiveness of Smith in comparison to Shaw. I viewed (and continue to view) them as very different, but equal overall. A situational rotation makes sense to me. Thunder (and most people) think Shaw is clearly better.

    I don't think Smith's great, but I think he's a bit of a scapegoat for M fans.

  23. Comments: 21628
    Lankownia
    Sep 02, 2011 at 3:12 PM

    @Smurf

    Notre Dame is better this year and we were lucky last year (well, except for those missed kicks). BUT, Michigan will be a much better team too. ND deserves to be favored, but we have a shot especially with what should be a pretty special game atmosphere.

  24. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Aug 31, 2012 at 2:19 PM

    Notre Dame will always suck! MSU is too strong defensively and will contain Michigan's offense. Michigan will lose to MSU this year at EL and one other road game, but not OSU. Nebraska and Iowa could be threats. 10-2!!! Then off to a bowl game.

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