Michigan Football Preview 2013

2013 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 176 of 267

17. Jeremy Gallon, WR, Michigan: In a league low on playmaking wide receivers, Gallon finished fourth in 2012 in yards with 829 on just 49 receptions (16.9-yard average). Paired with Gardner for a full season, he could be U-M's first 1,000-yard wideout since Mario Manningham (1,174 yards) in 2007. 18. Jake Ryan, LB, Michigan: A healthy Ryan would challenge Shazier as the No. 1 defensive player in the Big Ten this season, but Ryan is not healthy. An ACL tear he suffered in spring practice will likely sideline him for at least the season's first two months. How effective he will be when he returns ultimately decides his postseason rank. 19. Ibraheim Campbell, S, Northwestern: Campbell plays for one of the Big Ten's worst defenses, but amid the thorns, he is the sharpest. The 5-11, 205-pound junior safety recorded 12 pass breakups in 2012 and added two interceptions, giving him four in his career. This season, his challenge is to lead a seasoned secondary, with three returning starters, to more consistent results, building on the improved pass efficiency defense the Wildcats achieved in their final two games. 20. Kenny Bell, WR, Nebraska: The Cornhuskers aren't known for their passing prowess, but, with the 6-1, 185-pounder streaking down the sideline, anything was possible in 2012. Bell made 50 receptions for 863 yards, proving to be one of the conference's top big-play threats with a leagueleading 17.3 yards per catch (among receivers with at least 40 grabs) while his eight touchdowns ranked second among Big Ten targets. 21. Jonathan Brown, LB, Illinois: The remaining piece from the Illini's formidable 2011 defense, Brown is aiming to spark Illinois once again. The 6-1, 235-pound senior battled injuries a year ago, playing in only nine games, but he still managed 9.5 tackles for loss. Healthy two years ago, he had 19.5 tackles for loss among 108 total stops. 22. Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin: Now a senior, Abbrederis is one of the league's most accomplished wide receivers, with 124 catches for 2,059 yards and 16 scores in his career. A first-team all-conference selection in 2012, Abbrederis was third in the Big Ten with 837 yards. 23. C.J. Barnett, S, Ohio State: Barnett is the prototypical free safety, standing in at 6-1, 203 pounds, and a playmaker with eight passes defended each of the past two seasons. He and MSU's Lewis are the clear-cut best last-line defenders in the Big Ten. 24. Zach Zwinak, RB, Penn State: Originally recruited at fullback, the 6-1, 234-pound Zwinak filled a gaping void left by Silas Redd's transfer to Southern Cal, starting and excelling at tailback for the Nittany Lions. The redshirt junior rushed for an even 1,000 yards on 203 carries, going for 100 yards or more in six Big Ten contests. 25. Corey Brown, WR, Ohio State: The passing game hasn't been the strength of the Miller attack the past two seasons, affecting Brown's statistics, but the 6-0, 187-pound senior is one of the Big Ten's most talented wide receivers. A year ago, he had 60 catches for 669 yards, and Brown will once again operate as Miller's No. 1 target. Predicted Order Of Finish Legends Division 1. Michigan (7-1): The Big Ten schedule sets up favorably for the Wolverines early, with three probable wins before a bye and a gamut of matchups the first three weeks of November that will determine Michigan's fate. If U-M can win two of three from Michigan State (on the road), Nebraska and Northwestern (in Evanston), it will play for its first conference title since the 2004 season. 2. Michigan State (6-2): A run game that couldn't move the football in the spring will likely handicap an entire offense already uncertain at the quarterback position, but the defense will remain one of the league's best, returning standouts along the line, at linebacker, and in the secondary. With, arguably, the easiest conference schedule in the Big Ten, MSU will be in the mix. If the Spartans beat Michigan at home Nov. 2, they have a great chance to win the Legends. 3. Nebraska (6-2): The reigning Legends Division champions should be 3-0 through October, but then play Northwestern, at Michigan, Michigan State and at Penn State the first four weeks of November. Led by one of the league's top offenses, the Cornhuskers could win all four, while a 3-1 mark probably wins them the division. More likely, Nebraska splits and winds up hoping for a tiebreaker. 4. Northwestern (5-3): The defense has always been the Wildcats' undoing, but Northwestern returns seven starters from a unit that finished 47th nationally, and the offense might just end up the Big Ten's best. If Northwestern faced MSU's schedule, it would be the division favorite, but NU sees Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan and Michigan State, and won't win enough to challenge. 5. Minnesota (3-5): The Golden Gophers came within three points of knocking off Texas Tech in a bowl game and posting their first winning season since the 2008 campaign (7-6). Minnesota is improving under third-year head coach Jerry Kill, but the Maroon and Gold will need a few more seasons before they're ready to challenge for a topfour spot. 6. Iowa (1-7): The Hawkeyes return six starters offensively and eight defensively, and have to hope their defense leads the way, while a green offense finds its rhythm. The biggest obstacle, though, is a murderous conference schedule featuring six teams that posted winning records in 2012, including Ohio State (12-0), Nebraska (10-4) and Northwestern (10-3). Leaders Division 1. Ohio State (7-1): Ohio State likely benefited from some good luck in a few victories en route to its 12-0 record in 2012, and OSU can't depend on the breaks to all go its way again this fall. But the Buckeyes will be a force offensively with nine starters back, including 2012 Big Ten Player of the Year Braxton Miller. The defense has to reload with eight new starters, but OSU could be undefeated when it travels to Ann Arbor. 2. Wisconsin (6-2): New head coach Gary Andersen is committed to the Badgers' power-run game, but wants to incorporate some spread offense principles. If Wisconsin can make that transition smoothly then an experienced defense and a talented offense should give UW the opportunity to compete with Ohio State. It doesn't hurt that Wisconsin avoids Nebraska, Michigan and Michigan State. 3. Penn State (3-5): The Nittany Lions have, perhaps, the biggest quarterback question mark in the Big Ten, with incoming freshman Christian Hackenberg a legitimate option. Sanctions levied in 2012 are also starting to take a toll on Penn State's depth, and it can little afford any injuries to significant players. PSU will likely fall below the top-tier programs this year, but could still finish above .500. 4. Indiana (3-5): In head coach Kevin Wilson's third season, the Hoosiers will either be one of the big surprises of the Big Ten or show that they're the same old irrelevant Indiana team that they've always been. IU returns 19 starters on offense and defense and has emerging playmakers at quarterback, running back and wide receiver, but the Hoosiers play their four toughest games — Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State — on the road. 5. Purdue (1-7): Darrell Hazell is a bright young star in the coaching profession and knows how to turn a program around, but he inherits a mess offensively. The good news is the Boilermakers bring back nine starters defensively and could rely on that side of the ball to keep them in games. Unfortunately, Purdue faces one of the league's more challenging non-conference slates, with Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Northern Illinois, and then sees Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin. 6. Illinois (0-8): The Illini were the only team in the Big Ten to go winless in league play in 2012, and they're quite capable of finishing with the goose egg again this fall. If that were to happen, they would be the first program since Northwestern (1980-81) to fail to win a league contest in back-toback seasons. Big Ten Championship Game Prediction Ohio State over Michigan: After Michigan beats Ohio State at home in the regular-season finale for both teams, the two rivals will meet again in the Big Ten Championship, and this time the Buckeyes prevail, creating dissent among conference fans that believe the doubleheader setup is unfair to both programs. The Wolverine 2013 Football Preview  ■ 175

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