BY DANIEL MOGOLLON
COLLEGE FOOTBALL INSIDERS
2006 RECORD: 11-2; BIG TEN: 7-1
Lost Rose Bowl vs. Southern California 32-18
LOCATION: Ann Arbor, Michigan
STADIUM: Michigan Stadium (107, 501)
HEAD COACH: Lloyd Carr
OVERALL: 113-36 (12 seasons)
AT MICHIGAN: 113-36 (12 seasons)
After their best start since the National Championship season of 1997 (11-0), the Wolverines nearly cancelled out all of their success with their third straight loss to Ohio St. (five of six) and fourth straight bowl loss as they allowed 74 points in their final two contests (42 versus OSU & 32 versus USC). In fact, the storied program has not beaten the rival Buckeyes and their bowl opponent in the same season since 2000. With the likes of seniors Chad Henne, Mike Hart and Jake Long returning on offense, Michigan could finish what they started in 2006.
WHEN THE WOLVERINES HAVE THE BALL
OFFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Mike Debord (2nd Season)
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 6
KEY LOSSES: Kevin Grady (Medical RS)
Henne, the strong-armed signal caller and his personal protector left tackle Long, were potential first round picks, but decided to return to take care of some unfinished business. In Hart, they have one of the most reliable players in college football. Undersized and more quick than fast, the senior tailback simply gets the job done. Backup Brandon Minor saw limited playing time as a true freshman, but is likely their most talented back. What could make this offense potentially the most explosive in school history is their wide outs. When healthy, junior Mario Manningham has proven to be as dynamic a big play weapon as exists in college football, averaging 18.5 yards per reception, while scoring almost once every four touches last season. With Adrian Arrington’s status restored, the 6’3” target will compliment Manningham well, also look for sophomores Greg Mathews and LaTerryal Savoy, a pair of highly touted recruits, to be ready to step up. Either way it should be a talent laden receiving corps. Long leads another stellar offensive line stocked with top prospects, a position where the Wolverines simply continue to reload year after year.
PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Jake Long (SR), 2) Chad Henne (SR), 3) Mario Manningham (JR), 4) Adrian Arrington (JR), 5) Jason Hart (SR), 6) Brandon Minor (SO), 7) Greg Matthews (SO), 8) Carson Butler (SO), 9) Alex Mitchell (JR), 10) Steve Schilling (FR)
WHEN THE OTHER TEAM HAS THE BALL:
DEFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Ron English (2nd Season)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 4
KEY LOSSES: Leon Hall, LaMarr Woodley, Alan Branch, David Harris, Prescott Burgess, Rondell Biggs
The Wolverines took a major hit on this side of the ball, losing a quartet of day one draft picks -- nonetheless the cupboard is far from bare. Junior tackle Terrance Taylor is an ideal run stuffer, with ends Tim Jamison and Brandon Graham ready to step in and rush the passer. Getting to the quarterback is also what senior linebacker Shawn Crable does best. With LaMarr Woodley, David Harris and Prescott Burgess all set to play on Sundays this season, Crable is clearly the man and while the other two spots are not set in stone, there is no lack of playmakers at the second level. Last season, the secondary was the biggest question mark on the team, which appears to be the case again as they must replace corner Leon Hall, head and shoulders their best defensive back in 2006. At safety, there is experience led by strong safety Jamar Adams, however they will need someone to emerge at the corner position, possibly true freshman Donovan Warren their top recruit, who hails from the City of Angels. At the very least the word out of Ann Arbor is he is pushing the veterans.
PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Shawn Crable (SR), 2) Brandon Graham (SO), 3) Terrance Taylor (JR), 4) Tim Jamison (JR), 5) Donovan Warren (FR), 6) Jamaar Adams (SR), 7) Brandent Englemon (SR), 8) Chris Graham (SR), 9) Morgan Trent (JR)
For the second straight season, the Wolverines should reach double digits in wins before anyone challenges them. They will then visit Madison to take on the Badgers, who could be undefeated themselves, almost a quarterfinal match with the Buckeyes waiting in the wings and that’s what the 2007 season is all about – beat Brutus! You get the feeling that many in Ann Arbor would prefer to lose to Wisconsin and beat Ohio St. even if that would mean losing out on the Big Ten Title and another trip to the Rose Bowl. Jim Tressel has so dominated Lloyd Carr, that it makes one wonder if his early success against the border rival was all about John Cooper, who lost his job because he could not win the “big one” with the Buckeyes, something many will be calling for, if Carr cannot win the “big one” against the Buckeyes.
Living up to high expectations: If you speak to anyone who lives in Ann Arbor, is currently attending Michigan or went to Michigan -- if they are honest with you, they will admit that part of them is uneasy with the high expectations. Typically, the Wolverines have not handled prosperity well or it could be the Maize and Blue faithful have yet to recover from late season losses to Ohio St. in their finale and then in the Rose Bowl against the Men of Troy. Their trepidations are warranted -- prior to 2006, in their previous five seasons the Wolverines were just 9-9 when ranked in the top ten, with all but one of the wins coming against a significantly lesser opponent (at least 13 points favorite in all but one of those nine wins).
CFI FINAL ANALYSIS
The Maize and Blue are stacked with four and five star recruits on both sides of the ball…but what else is new? Coach Carr is squarely on the hot seat despite an excellent career winning percentage and a National Championship during his tenure. His struggles against Coach Tressel are a craw in the side of Wolverines fans all around the country. Coupled with his bowl woes, questions regarding his big game performances are legitimate and this may be the last chance for Carr to prove his critics wrong -- the talent is there.
Check back tomorrow to see who is #1 in CFI’s Top 25 Countdown