Fall camps are underway and the regular season is here soon, which means getting an early jump on the 2006 NCAA football season. Knowing the teams now will save you time, and Matt Fargo is here to help you understand. what to expect next year. We go from worst to first in this 2006 college football preview.
#13 – Michigan Wolverines 7-5 SU; 5-7 ATS
Fargo’s Take Michigan had a very disappointing 2005 season, at least by Michigan standards. The Wolverines were decimated by injuries on offense, but all of their losses were by a touchdown or less, but that included three losses at home. Showing how rare that is, Michigan had lost a combined three games in the previous six years in the Big House, so last year can definitely be considered an aberration. The offense finished 45th in scoring and 55th in goals overall with a healthy group returning most of their skillful players, the Wolverines should be ready to bounce back. The defense was decent but not overbearing and that could change in 2006. National Championship aspirations are plentiful in Ann Arbor every season and this year is no different, but a very tough schedule stands in the way. Expect Michigan to be in the Big Ten race with an outside shot at a BSC title if it can pull off a few upsets along the way.
Returning starters on offense – 6 Junior quarterback Chad Henne had a sensational sophomore season and is on pace to become the most prolific signal-caller in Michigan history. He threw for 2,536 yards and 23 touchdowns while throwing just eight interceptions and this was accomplished with almost no running games behind him. Mike Hart, who gained 1,455 yards as a freshman in 2004, was hampered by hamstring and ankle injuries during the second half of the year and missed four games. If he stays healthy, he’s one of the best in the Big Ten. The offensive line needs to replace three starters, but there’s a lot of experience and depth in the unit. The great playmaker Jason Avant left at receiver, but the return of Steve Breaston and Mario Manningham gives Henne two solid options at receiver. Depth at quarterback is the big concern if Henne goes down.
Returning Starters On Defense – 8 This is a very experienced unit and one that should vastly improve on their 36th overall defense rating from a season ago. First, the defense has to find a way to apply pressure on the quarterback, as the Wolverines generated only 24 sacks last season. New defensive coordinator Ron English brings a lot more enthusiasm and intensity to the defense, something that has been missing. The secondary is the best in the conference led by five safeties who could all be starters. The return of Ryan Mundy is a huge plus. The corners will be led by All-Big Ten senior Leon Hall. The linebackers have the potential for a big season, but poor performance has been a big problem for the unit. The defensive line has LaMarr Woodley at end and Alan Branch at tackle, two of the best in the conference. A repeat of a 10th-place finish in the conference in red-zone defense last season won’t sit well.
Schedule This is where the Wolverines must step things up and prove they belong to the nation’s elite. Two easy wins against Vanderbilt and Central Michigan will start the year and then it’s a big game at Notre Dame that will help both teams. The Big Ten schedule begins with a tough home game against Wisconsin followed by a game in Minnesota. Hosting an improved team from Michigan St. will be a challenge and then it’s off to Penn St. followed by another tough home game against Iowa. Northwestern, Ball St. and Indiana will be three easy wins and then the season finale at Ohio St. could be one of the biggest and best meetings in recent times. There are four potential losses on the board with three of them on the road.
You can bet on … Head coach Lloyd Carr is feeling the heat after last year’s disappointing season and another offseason could be costly. Both coordinators have been replaced and with several players returning from injuries things should change, but the tough schedule isn’t helping. However, getting to a bowl game for the 31st year in a row won’t be a problem. Carr has lost four of five to Ohio St. and another loss to the Buckeyes could show him the door, since that counts almost as much as competing in the Big Ten. Michigan usually sets the number, but is 6-2 ATS as a road dog since 1999 and will pick up points in at least two games this year. The first will be against Notre Dame and that benefits the Wolverines as the underdog is 9-1 ATS in the last 10 meetings.