Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 8/16/13
Can the Michigan Wolverines make it to the national title game? It depends on how good their offense can be with Devin Gardner at quarterback. And the road to the national title game goes through defeating Ohio State, maybe in back?to?back weeks. This season sets up that if the Michigan Wolverines are to play for “all the Tostitos,” and win it all like they did in 1997, they’ll have to beat their arch-rival at least, possibly again the next week. Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit were on conference call the other day to discuss these topics; among other things. Musburger: Obviously Michigan and Ohio State, back?to?back weeks, which could happen this year, the way the Big Ten is still aligned; it’s a very good question, and I suppose it depends on how the games unfold. If they split, okay, maybe we should have a game flee. I haven’t given that one a lot of thought, but that certainly could happen this year. Herbstreit: I know for people who love the rivalry, this has been a big issue ever since they went to the Legends and Leaders; the potential of Ohio State and Michigan, not just playing late in November but then playing again in the Championship Game. That’s why moving it next year when Maryland comes in with Rutgers, I think a lot of people are excited. But it’s I think a relevant concern for this year because I think Michigan’s offense has a chance to be really, really good. And if they find a tailback ?? and I know that the health of Fitzgerald Toussaint and the growth of Derrick Green, the true freshmen, those will be two big things, but how can you not like Devin Gardner? He’s 6?4, whatever, 215 pounds, he fits perfectly into what Al Borges wants to do. “I think Al Borges, to his credit, did the best that he could in a very, very difficult set of circumstances with Denard Robinson, because Denard will always be haled and remembered by Michigan fans as being a hero. And yet, when you’re Al Borges trying to run more of a West Coast, pro?style offense, it’s hard to try to make that spread running?style quarterback work in your system, but they made good strides and they did the best that they could. I think the future of Michigan football with Brady Hoke as the head coach is more like Lloyd Carr, obviously Bo Schembechler and Gary Moeller win with defense, win by running the football and win with more of a Tom Brady, Elvis Grbac type of quarterback. That’s really what I think Gardner is going to provide for them. And I really believe that, as I said, if the running game can go along with it to take some pressure off the passing game, then I think Gardner can have a great year. I’m not a big fan of seeing Ohio State and Michigan, round two; if they both have great years, despite what happened in that last game in Ann Arbor. I think traditionalist people who follow game and have played in the game, you like to see it the one time and kind of move on to the next year. It would be interesting if those teams have the type of years that many people think to see them playing not only once in Ann Arbor, but potentially match up again seven days later in Indianapolis.” Q. A lot of the games were close ?? do you view that as a schedule thing, that if the games had been at home ?? like this year has a more favorable split, and that’s why you’re bullish on Michigan or do you think that that was just an aberration? Musburger: Well, you don’t want to get too carried away early, actually, by any of these teams. And that includes Alabama. They have still got something to prove. I suppose it’s the weakness of the preseason polls that they matter so much. I thought, first of all, that the coaching staff that has taken a charge at Michigan has done an excellent job. I think Herbie agrees with me on that. Michigan had slipped and really never took to the wide open offensive Rich Rodríguez and that’s not a knock on Rodríguez as much as it is the culture at Michigan. But since they have regained a little bit of the old Bo Schembechler days, they appear to be back. But I still think we have to play the season before we jump to any conclusions. Do you agree with that, Herbie? Herbstreit: I said this since they hired Brady Hoke, the fit there is perfect. Brady has Big Ten roots. He played high school at Ohio and he’s an assistant with Michigan where they were having some great years and went on to become a very successful head coach at Ball State and San Diego State. The timing was good. And even though by some people’s standard, they took a little bit of a risk bringing him in, I think anybody who knew him knew it was a good fit. He’s recruiting well and they are only going to get better and better based on obviously the way he’s recruiting. They have done a remarkable job the last two years to win 11, and even 8 last year with their schedule, considering that they have been trying to make this offense go with Denard Robinson. Now that they have more of a pro?style fit with Gardner, you expect him to continue to get better. I think the loss of Jake Ryan, depending on how soon he can comeback, that’s a significant loss for their defense. I still feel they need to upgrade the athletic ability on that side of the football, and I think they had like 22 sacks a year ago. Seems like the only time they were able to get pressure is when they blitz, which is great if you get to the quarterback, but if you don’t get to the quarterback and you leave guys open in man coverage, that’s high?risk, high?reward. They play Notre Dame early and they are at Penn State middle of October. You can make a really strong case that they have got a great shot, at least a pretty good shot at being 7?0 as they get ready for just a very, very challenging November where they are at Michigan State, Nebraska, they are at Northwestern and Ohio State. I think the team could be better, but we’ll see how they are able to navigate through that November. Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An analyst for 95.7 The Fan, he also writes on Chicago sports media for Chicago Now. President Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks) The post Can the Michigan Wolverines be a national title contender? appeared first on The Sports Bank.Net.
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