Michigan Football Preview 2015

2015 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 53 of 163

Top Five Goals In 2015 Before 2008, Big Ten titles and national championships had been Michigan football's goals for four decades. A transition from Lloyd Carr to Rich Rodriguez (and then Brady Hoke) set the program back a number of years, and first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh faces what amounts to a bit of a rebuild. With some breaks, the Wolverines could exceed expecta- tions the way Hoke did in going 11-2 and capturing a Sugar Bowl title in his first year. Beyond that, they should shoot for the following: 1. A NINE-WIN SEASON — And yes, that includes a bowl game. Great coaches usually find ways to win those games they should win, and it appears there are still some of those on the schedule (Rutgers, Oregon State, BYU and UNLV at home, at Maryland and Indiana, for example). They also capture a few they could win, and sometimes one nobody ever thought they'd win (see: Harbaugh at Stanford versus USC in 2007). This won't be Harbaugh's most talented team at Michigan, but there are enough veterans and good coaches to piece to- gether a solid year. 2. A WIN OVER A RIVAL — Michigan State has surged over the last few years, while Ohio State has become the dominant program in the Midwest. The Wolverines get both of them at home, and while it's too much to ask to beat both of them this year, knocking off one would be a step in the right direction. Under Harbaugh, U-M will eventually regain its place above MSU in the standings — slaying the dragon that is OSU will take longer. 3. PROTECT THE BIG HOUSE — Former head coach Brady Hoke talked the talk when it came to playing with physicality, but his teams didn't walk the walk in the last two years of his tenure, one of the most surprising aspects of his four seasons. The Wolverines have become soft over the last seven-plus years, and teams generally don't fear playing at Michigan anymore. U-M has lost 22 home games in the last 10 years, including three or more in a season six times in that span. 4. CHANGE THE CULTURE — Hoke seemed to do that in his first season, but fair or not, the Wolverines seemed like an entitled bunch the last two years. Harbaugh won't accept anything less that a player's best on and off the field, and he's not big on excuses or complainers. He might lose a few players along the way, but the program will be better off in the long run. Chemistry is huge, and the stan- dards will be the same for everyone. 5. ESTABLISH DEPTH ON THE OFFENSIVE LINE — Hoke and staff recruited the position well on paper, but it hasn't translated on the field. Several projected starters are in their second or third years on the first team, and they should be shining — but many are still question marks. A handful of highly rated younger linemen need to make moves now to avoid being passed up by younger players. 52 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2015 FOOTBALL PREVIEW Although he is still in the process of changing the culture of the program, head coach Jim Harbaugh has enough talent on hand to produce a nine- win season. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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