2014 Michigan Wolverines Odds to Win the Big Ten with Picks & Predictions
by Aaron Smith - 8/18/2014
The Michigan Wolverines went 11-2 in Brady Hoke's first season at the helm. Expectations starting rising as Hoke was seen as the guy who could get Michigan football back to the pinnacle of the sport. The past two seasons haven't gone as expected. The Wolverines slipped to 8-5 in 2012. In 2013, Michigan went 7-6 and only 3-5 inside the Big Ten Conference. Last year's team narrowly avoided upsets at the hands of both Akron and Connecticut. They lost five of their last six games overall.
Needless to say, Hoke has gone from extremely popular to squarely on the hot seat at Michigan. If the Wolverines don't improve this year, I have to think that Hoke will be out of a job at the end of the season. Michigan returns 15 starters from last year, and they certainly have the talent base to turn things around. Let's take a closer look at both sides of the ball for the 2014 Michigan Wolverines.
2014 Michigan Offense
Devin Gardner will be the main man under center this year. Gardner is a good quarterback, but he struggled with consistency last season. I blame part of that inconsistency on terrible offensive line play. Gardner threw 11 interceptions last year, and he does make some poor decisions. He is a very athletic player who keeps plays alive with his legs. If he can cut down on his mistakes, Gardner has the potential to have an excellent senior season.
The Michigan running game has really let them down the past few seasons. Fitzgerald Toussaint was the leading rusher last year with only 648 yards on the ground. He's gone, and now the torch passes to Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith. Both of these guys were very highly-touted players coming out of high school, and I think there is a good chance they can provide the team with their best running attack in several years as long as the offensive line holds its own. The front line for Michigan is the biggest concern. This is a group that allowed 36 sacks last year. The Wolverines running game averaged a pathetic 3.3 yards per carry behind this line as well. Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield are gone, so in theory they should be worse, but I'm not sure I can imagine this unit playing any worse than last year. Ben Braden is a guy the coaching staff is very high on.
Jeremy Gallon is gone, but Michigan should be OK at the wide receiver spot. Devin Funchess is the leader here, and freshman Freddy Canteen should produce right away. The Michigan offense should improve, but it ultimately depends on how the offensive line plays.
2014 Michigan Defense
One of the main reasons for Michigan's disappointing season last year was the drop in production from the defense. Michigan allowed 320 yards and 19.8 points per game in 2012. The Wolverines defense allowed 371 yards and 26.8 points per game in 2013. Can they stop the downward trend in 2014?
Jake Ryan is one of the best linebackers in the country, but he missed most of last year with an injury. Ryan is healthy again, and he should be the anchor of a Michigan defense that improves quite a bit in the year ahead. Ryan is a senior middle linebacker who is both the best player on the defense and their vocal leader. The linebackers are probably the best in the Big Ten on the whole. Desmond Morgan and James Ross will start aside Ryan, and they are both quality veteran players. On the defensive line, Frank Clark is an ultra-talented defensive end. Clark has been criticized for his inconsistency in the past, but if he puts it all together he could be great this year. The defensive line as a whole is a bit of a weakness because of the lack of depth.
Michigan's secondary has been good the last few seasons, and I don't see that changing this year. The Wolverines have a star in cornerback Blake Countess. Raymon Taylor is a very sure tackler from his secondary spot. Jabrill Peppers is a freshman who I expect to be terrific from Day 1 at Michigan. He was the top-rated safety in the nation in high school, and his athleticism is truly amazing.
I see this defense improving in a big way in 2014.
2014 Michigan Odds to Win Big Ten
Bovada lists the Michigan Wolverines at 10/1 to win the Big Ten Championship. In the Big Ten East Division, Michigan is priced at 6/1, behind both Ohio State and Michigan State. The Wolverines are 50/1 to win the national title this year. The season win total for Michigan has been set at 7.5 games .
2014 Michigan Wolverines Picks & Predictions
Michigan has one major question mark, and that is the offensive line. Outside of that, I see the pieces together for a much improved team. Ryan being back to lead the defense is huge for this team. The schedule is difficult with trips to both Michigan State and Ohio State. The Wolverines aren't going to be able to win the Big Ten East Division, but I'll be surprised if they don't top their season win total. I'll call for nine wins from Michigan in 2014.
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Read more articles by Aaron Smith
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