Michigan Preview 2006

Posted Aug 6, 2006

When you go 7-5 at Michigan, you're going to be on a hot seat. When you go 7-5 at Michigan and lose to Ohio State in four of the last five seasons, lose three of your last four to Notre Dame, and four of the last five bowl games, there's a red-hot flame under your chair.

Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

Lloyd Carr has won a national title and several Big Ten championships in his 11 years in Ann Arbor, but that's not enough for a program that wants to be the leader and the best.

Michigan has been knocked out of the national title race by early October in every season since the 1997 campaign, and most of the time it's out by the second game of the season. Making matters worse, the Maize and Blue have lost six straight road openers creating the perception that Carr can't coach on the road. (This year's first road game is at Notre Dame.)  

Since that big 1997 season, Michigan has gone 10-14 on the road against teams that finished with a winning record. Obviously, everyone gets up to play the Wolverines, but to be that average away from the Big House hasn't gone unnoticed. (To be fair, Ohio State is 8-10 on the road against teams that finished with a winning record over the same span.) To be the national superpower that Michigan wants to be, it needs to start winning more and more of the really big games or else Carr will be one of the nation's most successful unemployed head coaches.

Head coach: Lloyd Carr
12th year: 102-34
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 21, Def. 24, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 17
Ten Best UM Players
CB Leon Hall, Sr.
RB Mike Hart, Jr.
3. DE LaMarr Woodley, Sr.
4. OT Jake Long, Jr.
5. QB Chad Henne, Jr. 
KR/WR Steve Breaston, Sr.
WR Mario Manningham, Soph.
 DT Alan Branch, Jr.
9. RB Kevin Grady, Soph.
LB Prescott Burgess, Sr.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

9/2 Vanderbilt
9/9 Central Michigan
9/16 at Notre Dame
9/23 Wisconsin
9/30 at Minnesota
10/7 Michigan State
10/14 at Penn State
10/21 Iowa
10/28 Northwestern
11/4 Ball State
11/11 at Indiana
11/18 at Ohio State

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 9-2
2005 Record: 7
Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/3 Northern Illinois W 33-17
9/10 Notre Dame L 17-10
9/17 Eastern Mich W 55-0
9/24 at Wisconsin L 23-20
10/1 at Mich St W 34-31 OT
10/8 Minnesota L 23-20
10/15 Penn State W 27-25
10/22 at Iowa W 23-20 OT
10/29 at Nwestern W 33-17
11/12 Indiana W 41-14
11/19 Ohio State L 25-21
12/28 Alamo Bowl
Nebraska L 32-28

While Carr will bear the brunt of the criticism if the team isn't out of this world, the spotlight will be on the coordinators. Following the beleaguered head coaching handbook, the first step was to shake up the assistants. Mike DeBord was the offensive coordinator in the late 1990s returning after a head coaching stint at Central Michigan. Ron English was the somewhat controversial hire to take over the defense after manning the secondary over the last few seasons; he'll be the most heavily scrutinized of the coaches. These two aren't going to change things up too much, if at all, but they will be a big part of getting the program in better shape.

No longer just the big, beefy, slow, pounding team you've grown to know, the call went out this off-season to be much better conditioned all the way around. The line is leaner and meaner, the defense should be faster with the pounds shed off, and the backs are expected to be quicker and stronger. Michigan has always gotten the talented athletes, and now most of them are in the best condition they've ever been in.

Will all the changes translate into more wins? They might.

There appears to be more of a mean attitude this year in the IBM-like corporate program. The goal is to be more aggressive, make more big plays, and break out of the maddening vanilla mold. The defensive line should be among the best Carr has ever had. There's enough speed in the back seven to run with anyone, and the offense has the firepower to hang punch-for-punch with anyone on its slate. In other words, there's no acceptable reason for another down year.

The Schedule: Michigan has three nasty road tests that'll make or break the season. It's asking too much to go 3-0 at Notre Dame, at Penn State, and at Ohio State, but it had better go 2-1 with one of those wins coming in Columbus. There isn't much of a break after the home date with Central Michigan playing the Irish, Wisconsin, at Minnesota, Michigan State, at Penn State, and Iowa. If the Wolverines get to Novembers with only one loss, it'll finish no worse than 10-2.

Best Offensive Player: Junior RB Mike Hart. When 100%, there are few better. Michigan is 11-2 when Hart gets 20 or more carries. One of those two losses was to Texas in the 2005 Rose Bowl, the other was in the heartbreaker to Minnesota last year. He has never gotten 20 carries against Ohio State, has only carries it eight times against Notre Dame, and only ran 19 times against Nebraska in the bowl loss. You don't think the coaching staff is going to do everything possible to keep its workhorse healthy?

Best Defensive Player: Senior DE LaMarr Woodley. A good all-around end/outside linebacker over the last two years, but he's in tremendous shape and should be unstoppable getting into the backfield. With his size, experience and skills, a double-digit sack season is likely.

Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Chad Henne. He has been better than he has gotten credit for over the last few seasons. He certainly hasn't been scrutinized and vilified like John Navarre, but he will be if Michigan struggles this year. His durability is the key to the season with no one remotely ready to step in if disaster strikes.

The season will be a success if ... Michigan wins 11 games and beats Ohio State. The schedule has too many problems to go unbeaten but this team is good enough to be in the hunt for the Big Ten title, beat Ohio State, and win a bowl game. Anything less will be seen as a major disappointment for a program with some of the highest expectations of anyone.

Key game: Nov. 18 at Ohio State. Coaches who can't win in this series have a short shelf life. Carr likely has to reverse the current trend to avoid another rough off-season. Michigan hasn't lost three straight to the Buckeyes since 1961-1963.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Michigan second quarter scoring: 123 - Michigan third quarter scoring: 38
- Penalties: Opponents 75 for 628 yards - Michigan 48 for 382 yards
- Fourth quarter scoring: Opponents 97 - Michigan 81

The Last Time Michigan…
…played in a bowl game…2005 (Alamo Bowl vs. Nebraska)
…missed a bowl game…1974
…pitched a shutout…2005 (Eastern Michigan)
…was shutout…1984 (Iowa)
…scored 50 points…2005 (Eastern Michigan)
…went undefeated…1997
…won a conference title…2004 (share, Big Ten)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…2003 (John Navarre)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2004 (Michael Hart)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…2005 (Jason Avant)

Related Stories
Michigan Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 6, 2006
Michigan Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 6, 2006
Michigan Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 6, 2006

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