Michigan Football’s 2016 Commits In Action: Week Two Roundup

August 29, 2015 by  
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Taking a look around the nation to see what U-M's freshman class of 2016 was able to do on the field in high school action.

Some high school football action kicked off last week, but last night and this weekend is the true opening of the 2015 season for everyone.

With no college or NFL games, this is the high school players' weekend to shine, and many of Michigan's 2016 recruiting class did just that in game action on Friday night.

Let's start in Indiana, where four-star quarterback commit Brandon Peters followed up a great week one outing with another strong showing in an Avon loss to Ben Davis by a score of 49-42.

Four-star athlete Chris Evans was on the opposing end of Peters this week and had a pretty solid game as well. It looks like he was held in check for the most part, but showed the gamebreaking ability that Michigan saw in him with a 50-yard touchdown scamper late in the game.

Out in California, three-star athlete Victor Viramontes did just about everything in a 66-13 blowout win for Norco HS over Etiwanda.

Viramontes accounted for five total touchdowns, three tackles and a sack in the game.

His role at Michigan still remains to be seen, as he can play quarterback and linebacker, among other positions.

Traveling down to SEC country has us taking a look at a pair of commitments from Prattville, Alabama with a pair of three-stars in running back Kingston Davis and linebacker Dytarious Johnson.

Prattville was able to win 35-12 over Stanhope Elmore HS with Davis chipping in with 53 yards on 11 carries. Johnson helped the defense build a first half lead that led to a strong start and eventual blowout victory.

We will continue to update this story as more becomes available.

Just In Time For Happy Hour! Detroit Drinking Hole Makes Thrillist’s 21 Best Cocktail Bars

August 28, 2015 by  
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Photo: Thrillist  SUGAR HOUSE One of the many reasons Sugar House in the Motor City continues to stay on our list year after year, might be the fact that the cocktail list is 21 pages long and includes a glossary. But you’re likely not going to make it past page two, as that has its amazing seasonal cocktail list. But if you want classics, may we suggest pages six through nine (!), which

This Is Sweet! Time Lapse Video Of The New Carhartt Mural

August 28, 2015 by  
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YFD Gets An Exclusive Look Inside The Submarine With Jim Harbaugh

August 28, 2015 by  
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We at YFD are excited to kick off the 2015 football season with an exclusive look inside the Michigan football submarine with Coach Harbaugh.

Here at Your Friday Drinking Instructions, we take great pride in bringing you the most accurate, hard-hitting journalism found anywhere on the web. Just go ahead and check out any of our amazing past successes.

But like Michigan Football, Maize n Brew is about redemption and umpteenth chances. That's why the powers that be at SB Nation and Michigan's wonderful athletic department granted Your Friday Drinking Instructions the privilege of descending the murky blue depths of fall camp and boarding the maize submarine that seems to have everyone all up in a tizzy - but only on the condition that we forego our annual exercise in futility that is the YFD season preview. Seems like a fair trade to us - stop being wrong in exchange for a one-on-one with the holiest of holies?

Yup, I got to interview Jim Harbaugh. Here's what Coach had to say:

YFD: Coach, thanks for the time today. How are you?

YFD: You've been known to juggle dozens of things at once, which a college football coach has to do to be successful in today's environment. What's going on under that block M hat of yours right now?

YFD: Gotta be honest, Coach, I don't know if I can think of any.

YFD: Shit. OK. Let's just move on. Talk about the transition to Michigan from the NFL. How's Ann Arbor treating you?

YFD: What's the reception from local and national media been like? You excited to have GameDay come back to Ann Arbor this year?

YFD: You're on Twitter, and I know you hear all the time about your move back home. Talk about the flood of advice you must've gotten.

YFD: John Bacon's new book has some revelations about the process of bringing you home. Talk about the day on the boat where you talked about living in a college town - that day made him think it was real.

YFD: Know you've got a busy schedule and with Utah around the corner, I'm sure you're kicking it into high gear. How'd you spend your last day before Game Week?

YFD: Great to see you were able to spend some time with your family. As a kid, spending your days in the shadow of Bo and obviously learning from your dad constantly, what were you most looking forward to growing up?

YFD: Oh. Ok. Um, switching gears, you made some serious waves this offseason with your Summer Swarm Tour. Did any one camp strike you as one you'd like to go back to next year? Talk about the talent you saw out there.

YFD: What's the biggest question you think the team answered this offseason?

YFD: On to the current team - what have you seen out of fall camp that's impressed you so far? How was yesterday's practice?

YFD: You've preached improvement from day one. Can you single out one player, coach, or position group that you've seen improve - and why?

YFD: I have to ask - Broome's got this thing where he makes us all get him gifts from the people we interview. Can you make that happen? We could even surprise him!

YFD: Yeah, but he has to approve this article. Help a brother out?

YFD: Thanks, Coach. You going to join us for Pac and Biggie Week this year, Coach? Any thoughts?

YFD: At least tell me you've got some suggestions for YFD this year.

YFD: I'm pumped for football, but one thing that sucks about August is seasonal creep. You know how they have pumpkin beer out in, like, July? It isn't right. My favorite summer beer is a nice, crisp Oberon, and I can drink it any time I want.

YFD: Well, this has been weird. I'm probably going to have to answer some tough questions about this interview.

YFD: That makes me feel about 50% better. Thanks for your time today, Coach. Go Blue!

*Unfortunately, some technical issues occurred during our call, but Coach suggested we hop over to Twitter to finish the chat.

And without further ado, here's your Beers of the Week:

For Your East Coast Bias: The Duck-Rabbit Schwarzbier

Duck-Rabbit, out of Farmville, NC, has some really good stuff. They're known for their darker stuff - their milk stout and their Baltic porter are both excellent and will likely feature on future YFDs. But they'll knock you on your ass. Earlier this summer I drank some random oaky porter on the beach and ended up sleeping through dinner because, turns out, the bastard was 12% or something insane. It is still summer and this is summer beer time. There's a time and a place for your pumpkin peach ales and your imperial somethingorothers, but it isn't now.

Schwartzbier is a roasted lager. You generally use a darker, roasted malt to get a darker color and a little bit of a bite at the end of a sip, but it's still got the characteristic lightness of a lager. Duck-Rabbit does exactly that. When they tell you a beer is X, it's X. They name their beers by style, and by golly, that's how they turn out. Schwarzbiers aren't for everyone - but they're a great end-of-summer brew. This one clocks in around 6 percent so it's jusssst quaffable enough for your Labor Day grills.

For your Local Yokeldom: Half Acre Lead Feather

I've waxed rhapsodically about Half Acre in this space before. They're the kickest-ass Chicago brewery, and they brew in cans, which is the correct vessel in which to sell beer. It's like a keg you put into your face. Half Acre's great, and you can't go wrong with it. But for those of you looking to try something beyond their standard pale (looking at you, 312), give Lead Feather a shot.

It's another "black" ale - which you should not confuse with a porter. Think of it as a malty IPA. It isn't dark in body, just in color. It's got that roasty, hoppy flavor to it that you'd expect from a west coast black IPA. And, bonus points, it's a year-round beer, so if this summer evening for you isn't doing it, save 'em for a month from now when the Midwest weather inevitably causes you to ponder hugging your family for warmth, only to turn away when you realize you don't have a family.

Until next time, Cheers, Michigan Faithful!

Takeaways From Michigan Basketball’s Just-Released 2015-16 Big Ten Schedule

August 28, 2015 by  
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Conference realignment means unbalanced basketball schedules. How did Michigan make out for the 2015-16 season?

In case you missed it, the Big Ten released its 2015-16 conference basketball schedule on Thursday.

Back when the Big Ten had, you know, ten teams, the release of the conference schedule was not a noteworthy event – each team played all others twice and the only question was when. This is no longer the case with the league in its current fourteen-team state; I suppose that’s the price of adding perennial juggernauts like Rutgers.

Obviously, an 18-game schedule with more than ten teams in the conference means that things will not shake out evenly. The collection of single plays some programs receive will be more advantageous than those given to others. Ideally, Michigan would avoid trips to raucous atmospheres and have single plays with the better teams in the conference. In a perfect world Michigan doesn’t get any brutal stretches with heavy travel, little rest, and difficult opponents either. But we can only play the hand we’re dealt and this time around Michigan got a seemingly fair draw.

John Beilein and co. will take on five different teams twice: Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Purdue, and Penn State. Minnesota, who recently extended Richard Pitino, struggled last season and Penn State is a moribund program, so we’ll happily take those two. The other three are a shakier proposition. Maryland should be excellent this coming season, with uber-prospect Diamond Stone joining Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon (Duke transfer) in College Park. Iowa under Fran McCaffery is a steadily-improving program (12-6 in conference play last season) and Matt Painter seems to have put the pieces back together since Purdue’s decline after the end of the Robbie Hummel era (12-6 last season, as well).

As for the single plays, Michigan travels to Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio State, and Wisconsin and gets Indiana, Michigan State, Northwestern, and Rutgers at Crisler Center. Bloomington has been a nightmare for Wolverine teams for as long as I can remember and East Lansing is no picnic either (though we cannot forget the "Stauskiss" from ‘14); avoiding those two venues is definitely a plus. Yet Michigan will have its work cut out for them in Columbus and Madison. I can’t really complain about the collection of single plays Michigan was given but the timing of them is a different story.

Michigan’s Big Ten title aspirations will likely be decided in February, as that’s when the team has been given quite a demanding stretch. They will play home games against Indiana, MSU and Purdue, take on the Buckeyes in Columbus followed by a trip to Maryland and finish out the month with a date with Wisconsin.

Those are six competitive teams without much of a break in between and a sizable amount of travel for good measure. Fortunately, the trade off is that Michigan gets a relatively soft start to conference play. Beilein’s teams are known for improving as the season goes on, so I’d prefer this to the alternative. Especially so considering that this may be his deepest team yet and there’s going to be a bit of an experimental period required to determine the proper minutes distribution for them.

You can follow Tony Kaminski at @motownblue on Twitter.

Belle Isle Summer Saturdays (BLISS) Returns This Saturday, Aug. 29!

August 28, 2015 by  
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Activities are scheduled at several locations around the island throughout the day. Descriptions and times are listed on belleisleconservancy.org. NOTE:  Guests can pick up a “BLISS list” near the floral clock at the park entrance or at the BLISS info station in front of the Belle Isle Aquarium and collect stickers at each activity site to enter a drawing for a $50 Meijer gift card. BLISS

Michigan Football 2015: Week One at Utah

August 28, 2015 by  
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All of our coverage leading up to the game against the Utes can be found here.

Jim Harbaugh took the podium for his first game week press conference on Thursday as Michigan Football gets ready to kick off the 2015 season against Utah.

The "submarine" was one of the more popular topics in camp with the team going nearly radio silent and next-to-no media availability. Harbaugh addressed why that was necessary during his presser.

"I think it’s something that’s really particular to college football. Maybe in all sports in college, [but] maybe more so particular to college football in that coaches, players, staff being together, there’s a 20-hour-a-week rule that you can all be together," he said. "And in college football, August is not that time. You can be together all day, every day. Hourly, daily, weekly. It’s a time to forge a football team, and we wanted to and I think we did maximize every hour and every minute.

"You’re getting to know your team, and you’re doing that daily. We asked our team to work very hard this training camp, this fall camp, and I can tell you that they did that and that their focus was tremendous throughout the camp. You can also say we really enjoyed each other’s company in a football fashion. And I’m pleased with where we’re at."

Did they decide to take this approach to use the element of surprise, or was it an exercise in getting to know each other better? Coach Harbaugh leaned to the ladder on that question, while still reiterating his earlier comment.

"As I explained earlier, that’s the time that you have- the most time that you have with your football team the entire year," Harbaugh said.

"So the important thing was be together. Be around each other. We enjoyed that. We enjoyed each other’s company and got a lot of work done. We asked our team to do a lot of work and focus in on a lot of meeting time and they did it. They did it well. They did it real well, so it was a very productive time for our football team."

Perhaps the biggest camp storyline, at least early on, had to do with who will start at quarterback for the Wolverines in week one. We have heard reports that Jake Rudock has pulled away, but Harbaugh was not ready to divulge that information in the spirit of gamesmanship.

"I was informed that our competition for Thursday night’s ball game, Utah, would be sending us their official depth chart Monday, and in the interest of fair and healthy competition we will also send our official depth chart on Monday as well," Harbaugh said.

"Like a lot of positions there are some that are very close, some are closer than others, some are still being competed for, and some positions there’s individuals that are ahead. To give you an example, the kicking position is very tight right now and still playing out. At some positions it might continue into the ball game itself. Yeah. I think we’re getting a good idea of things, whether it’s even, close, or someone’s ahead at this point."

So, does the team know who its quarterback is so they can rally around him?

"Yeah, I think that’s something that’s been ongoing and that takes place," he said.

"Both have been very, very impressive. Very competitive. Competitive demeanor. Every day is important to them, and I’d say that’s the thing that’s been most impressive about both of those youngsters is how important it is to them."

While not confirmed, all reports seem to indicate Rudock is the guy and we could know as soon as Monday. Or, we will find out Thursday.

I will put my money on right before kickoff.

Jim Harbaugh Speaks On The Quarterback Battle And Camp Submarine

August 28, 2015 by  
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Michigan's HC held his first game week press conference on Thursday as preparation for Utah is underway.

Jim Harbaugh took the podium for his first game week press conference on Thursday as Michigan Football gets ready to kick off the 2015 season against Utah.

The "submarine" was one of the more popular topics in camp with the team going nearly radio silent and next-to-no media availability. Harbaugh addressed why that was necessary during his presser.

"I think it’s something that’s really particular to college football. Maybe in all sports in college, [but] maybe more so particular to college football in that coaches, players, staff being together, there’s a 20-hour-a-week rule that you can all be together," he said. "And in college football, August is not that time. You can be together all day, every day. Hourly, daily, weekly. It’s a time to forge a football team, and we wanted to and I think we did maximize every hour and every minute.

"You’re getting to know your team, and you’re doing that daily. We asked our team to work very hard this training camp, this fall camp, and I can tell you that they did that and that their focus was tremendous throughout the camp. You can also say we really enjoyed each other’s company in a football fashion. And I’m pleased with where we’re at."

Did they decide to take this approach to use the element of surprise, or was it an exercise in getting to know each other better? Coach Harbaugh leaned to the latter on that question, while still reiterating his earlier comment.

"As I explained earlier, that’s the time that you have- the most time that you have with your football team the entire year," Harbaugh said.

"So the important thing was be together. Be around each other. We enjoyed that. We enjoyed each other’s company and got a lot of work done. We asked our team to do a lot of work and focus in on a lot of meeting time and they did it. They did it well. They did it real well, so it was a very productive time for our football team."

Perhaps the biggest camp storyline, at least early on, had to do with who will start at quarterback for the Wolverines in week one. We have heard reports that Jake Rudock has pulled away, but Harbaugh was not ready to divulge that information in the spirit of gamesmanship.

"I was informed that our competition for Thursday night’s ball game, Utah, would be sending us their official depth chart Monday, and in the interest of fair and healthy competition we will also send our official depth chart on Monday as well," Harbaugh said.

"Like a lot of positions there are some that are very close, some are closer than others, some are still being competed for, and some positions there’s individuals that are ahead. To give you an example, the kicking position is very tight right now and still playing out. At some positions it might continue into the ball game itself. Yeah. I think we’re getting a good idea of things, whether it’s even, close, or someone’s ahead at this point."

So, does the team know who its quarterback is so they can rally around him?

"Yeah, I think that’s something that’s been ongoing and that takes place," he said.

"Both have been very, very impressive. Very competitive. Competitive demeanor. Every day is important to them, and I’d say that’s the thing that’s been most impressive about both of those youngsters is how important it is to them."

While not confirmed, all reports seem to indicate Rudock is the guy and we could know as soon as Monday. Or, we will find out Thursday.

I will put my money on right before kickoff.

MnB Opponent Q&A Goes to That School Down South

August 28, 2015 by  
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Ohio State is very good. Yet Urban Meyer doesn't settle for "good" unless it includes "face-melting." We checked in with Land Grant Holy Land's Chad to see what the Buckeyes have to do for chance at another national championship, and if they're upset Jim Harbaugh called them by their actual name.

Ohio State has a mighty big target on their backs at the start of the season. Urban Meyer knows he has a loaded team returning, but how is he managing the expectations and the hype before they even take the field?

I think this is the biggest thing standing in the way of a repeat appearance in the Playoff. Yes, the run defense could be better and someone needs to take over the job as a vertical receiving threat, but the biggest issue to me is whether Urban can keep the team hungry and expectations managed all season.

All the team heard last year is that they were underdogs in the big games, especially after their loss to Virginia Tech. That's not going to be a thing this year. The Buckeyes are likely to be favored in every game this season, so it'll be up to Urban and his staff to convince the players that repeating is extremely difficult and that they can be upset in almost any game they play. Motivation shouldn't be an issue against Virginia Tech, Michigan, or Michigan State, but I'm worried about Penn State. It's also worth noting that Urban has never had an undefeated championship season.

It appears Braxton Miller has agreed to switch to wide receiver/H back...which is still frightening. How heavily will he be used considering the other talent returning to the depth chart at wideout this year?

Just a few days ago Urban said that he wants Braxton to be the starter at H-back by opening day. So even though it seems like he has an unlimited ceiling at H-back, he's still new to the position and not guaranteed a starting spot. And that's with Dontre Wilson, Curtis Samuel, and Noah Brown all at the same position.

Out of those guys, Braxton seems to have the best agility and short-distance burst, but we've also seen a lot more of him than his H-back peers. So considering Braxton's understanding of the position, his competition at H-back, and simply his competition for touches between receivers, running backs, and quarterbacks, it's asking a lot for him to be number one guy from the beginning. I'd think 700 yards receiving, 500 yard rushing would be a great year.

Have you had a chance to read ESPN's feature story on Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer? Agree/disagree that we are headed for the long-awaited 21st Century Ten-Year War, or are both of these guys just so focused on winning that they don't pay attention to such hype?

I don't think either of them are paying too much attention to the hype, but it has to be something they've at least considered -- especially since it's hard to imagine Harbaugh not doing well at Michigan. Ohio State obviously has the head start in terms of relative talent and recent success but I Michigan is ready for a resurgence.

On the one hand, it's amazing how much talent is currently on the Wolverines' roster -- two former five-star guys at running back, a high-performing defense, and an offensive line chock-full of highly-recruited guys. On the other hand, is the Big Ten East actually capable of handling three national title contenders (including Michigan State) every year? I don't know if it'll be another Ten-Year War just because I think it would have to be a three-team war for the 21st century -- assuming none of these coaches leave before the end of the next decade, which I think is unlikely.

Are you #TeamCardale or #TeamBarrett coming out of spring and summer camp? Is there a plan to use both in certain situations or does Meyer want a firm #1 starter from beginning to end?

Well, everything I've heard suggests that the players themselves want there to be a clear pecking order instead of a rotating starter. Not sure if Meyer agrees with Cardale and J.T. here, especially since he successfully managed both Chris Leak and Tebow in his first Florida championship season (though that was a different situation as Tebow was effectively a short-yardage run specialist).

I'm personally #TeamBarrett, but just by a hair. It's true that Cardale opened up a new dimension to the offense with the vertical passing game, but it seemed like Devin Smith bailed out Cardale with a couple of excellent jump ball receptions. You can't deny the competition that Cardale faced relative to Barrett, but J.T. was accurate as a passer, distributed the ball well, and made great post-snap reads.

Biggest change on Ohio State's coaching staff was the loss of Tom Herman (who I secretly hoped would end up at Michigan to sour the OSU national championship a bit). How is new-but-familiar-guy Ed Warinner planning to transition the offense with such a crazy amount of talent at quarterback?

I'm not sure much will change now that Warinner is in charge. Meyer has noted that he will be involved with play calling as well, and I don't believe Warinner's offensive philosophy will differ much from Herman's. Expect the same five or so base runs, play action and quick short passes, and run-pass options.

Ohio State's opening game is against Virginia Tech, the lone blemish on the Buckeyes' record last year. What've they learned since last year and give a few keys to that game against a Hokie team playing for Frank Beamer's swan song season?

The Virginia Tech game was eye-opening for Meyer and Herman. Afterwards they introduced a number of "bear-beaters" to respond when defenses take away Ohio State's base inside run game. The big adjustment was the addition of a pulling tackle to base runs and an increased focus on man-beater vertical receiving routes. Many teams attempted to copy Virginia Tech's defense last season, but only Penn State neared their level of success.

Second, Virginia Tech's defense was somewhat susceptible to explosive run plays, as evidenced by their 41st-ranking in rushing PPP+. The key will be in breaking a few explosive runs (with bear-beater offensive line checks) and having enough of a vertical passing game to prevent Virginia Tech from going cover-0 all night. Almost all of Virginia Tech's front seven returns, so this is a good test for how much Ohio State's vaunted offensive line really improved over the course of 2014.

For us outside observers of the Ohio State program, give a few interesting tidbits on what we should know about the 2015 team from BTN's "Days of Scarlet & Gray" program that has been airing on the network this month.

I think the biggest revelation about the actual team was that Braxton has a good bit of work to do to be a star at H-back. It's not just like he can line up in a different spot on the field, over a year since he played his last down, and immediately be a superstar again. Other than that, the first installment was more about the character of the players than too much about new strategy or position battles.

Beer question, and a two-parter: What Ohio brews are getting you through these final days until the 2015 season? Which brew would you want served in The Horseshoe under the newly-approved pilot beer program?

I'm a huge Great Lakes fan. Dortmunder Gold and Elliot Ness are my end-of-summer picks for easy-drinking malt-balanced beers, but soon their excellent Edmund Fitzgerald porter and Oktoberfest will be my football season picks.

Oktoberfest and Dortmunder Gold would be perfect in the Shoe. Dort was originally named "The Heisman" and still has a football on the label, is a Great American Beer Fest winner, and would be a local option for beer drinkers looking for an alternative to a macro light lager. Their Oktoberfest would also be a top pick with its slightly higher ABV (6.5%) for keeping warm during late fall night games.

Thanks, Chad!

Michigan Football’s Biggest Storylines in 2015: The Regular-Season Record

August 28, 2015 by  
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Anthony Broome and Drew Hallett predict Michigan's 2015 regular-season record in the 10th and final installment of the series during which they discussed the 10 biggest storylines surrounding the Wolverines.

For the past two weeks, we at Maize n Brew have run a series where Anthony Broome and Drew Hallett address what they believe are the 10 biggest questions and storylines surrounding Michigan football and whether the Wolverines will be successful in 2015. Today marks the 10th and final installment of this series, and Anthony and Drew conclude it with their season predictions for Michigan.

***

Drew: Anthony, we’ve spent the past two weeks discussing the most important Michigan-related topics and questions entering the 2015 season. Everything from HARBAUGH’S BACK to Jake Rudock vs. Shane Morris to our skepticism of Michigan’s skill players to the defense’s potential dominance to seeking redemption against those damn rivals from Columbus and East Lansing.

It’s now time to answer the most important question of them all: what will Michigan’s record be in 2015? Like Brady Hoke’s debut season in 2011, will the Wolverines shock folks right out of the gate with Jim Harbaugh en route to a double-digit-win season? Or should Michigan fans prepare to temper their expectations for a rocky Year 1 under Harbaugh? Looking back on what you have written in this series, Anthony, you seem to have an optimistic attitude and think that the puzzle pieces will fall into place for Michigan as the year develops. How many games will Michigan win this season?

Anthony: Now that camp is done and we have a better idea of what has gone down the last few weeks, I have Michigan at 9-3. They will have their fair share of growing pains and likely will lose to Michigan State and Ohio State, who realistically are the only two teams on their schedule that have more talent than they do, mixed with excellent coaches in Mark Dantonio and Urban Meyer.

I think what we will see is a team that comes out of the gate and punches teams in the mouth and sets the tone, something that we have not seen in year’s past. Also, they will clean up their turnover woes and force more of them on defense. All of these things in my opinion sets up the Wolverines to be a nine-win football team and beat the teams that they should beat. The days of losing to Rutgers and other lower tier teams are over. I’ve hovered around eight wins all off-season, but where we stand today, I’m buying the hype and believe that Michigan will be vastly improved, not just from last year, but with each passing week on the 2015 schedule.

Drew: Before I give my prediction, I must ask: other than Ohio State and Michigan State, to whom do you think Michigan will lose for that third defeat?

Anthony: Minnesota on the road is going to be a rough one. This is a team that beat up on Michigan last year at the Big House. This will be this group’s first stiff conference road test against a team that many see as a dark horse contender for the Big Ten West title. The Wolverines lose a close one here, but will beat Penn State on the road later in the year, which a lot of other people see as one of those coin-flip measuring stick games.

So I guess I’ll just say it: I believe Michigan will win its debut under Jim Harbaugh at Utah. I’m going to drink the kool-aid here.

Drew: Gotcha. Still can’t believe Michigan plays at Minnesota on Halloween night. Guh.

Anywho, it's my turn, and our readers will like you more than me when I'm done. A few weeks ago, I was asked by Jimmy Boyd of Boyds Bets to offer whether I thought Michigan would finish over or under the posted total of 7.5 wins. I flipped back and forth because, for a long time, I have believed that Michigan would record either seven or eight wins this season. But I could choose only one: over or under. And I took the under.

For all of the euphoria and hoopla associated with the return of Harbaugh -- a coach that's mastered the art of the turnaround everywhere he's been -- this still is a Michigan team that was a bad 5-7 last season. The hoopla doesn't disguise that. So, even though there's no doubt that the Wolverines will take a step forward under Harbaugh -- particularly because we both agree that there's raw talent on this roster -- I'm too concerned about an offense that is one year removed from being 111th in scoring offense and 115th in total offense. Just how much development can we expect and how fast should we expect it when there are questions at each offensive position except tight end?

Michigan will find answers to some of those questions. All of them? Eh. Improbable.

One answer should come in the form of Jake Rudock, who will be the starter even if Harbaugh hasn't confirmed it yet. Rudock is a safety net that will prevent Michigan's quarterback play from falling into a deep abyss. That's a huge improvement from last season, even if Rudock is no more than a middle-of-the-pack game manager. However, the biggest question mark is to whom Rudock will throw the ball. Yes, Jake Butt is primed to lead Michigan in receptions and puns, but Michigan doesn't seem to have an answer that can stretch defenses and force double teams. There is hope in Drake Harris, who's received heaps of praise in recent days, but that's putting an abundance of faith in a pair of hamstrings that don't comply with Harris' wishes. Hey, maybe Harris will be that answer, and Michigan will be able to take the restrictor plate off the offense. But, if not, defenses will crowd the box and clog space for a work-in-progress ground game that has questions at running back and offensive line.  These aren't promising circumstances.

I would feel better about the offense's development if Michigan had a "cupcake" opener. Using that time to find a rhythm and work out the kinks before the real competition sets in would have been the preferred strategy for this season. But we live in a world where college football non-conference schedules are set at least five years in advance, so, instead, Michigan has a lovely opener against Utah. In Salt Lake City. Then, three weeks later, Michigan hosts BYU. Who has Taysom Hill -- a dual-threat quarterback that runs circles around defenses when he's healthy. Guess what? He's healthy. The Cougars could spring an upset because, if Hill performs his now-you-see-me, now-you-don't magic tricks, Michigan may not have the offense just four weeks into the season to keep pace with BYU. For the record, I don't think Michigan will lose both of these games. A 3-1 non-conference record feels right. But a 2-2 record in September is more probable than 4-0.

Then, there’s this dirty, little secret: Michigan has been awful on the road for a long time. Since 2008, the Wolverines are 4-17 as road underdogs, and they should be road underdogs against Utah, Minnesota, and Penn State -- all of which will be night games or a "White Out." I know what you’re thinking: this is a Harbaugh-coached team, not a team coached by Rich Rodriguez or Brady Hoke. You’re right. However, these are still the same players that have struggled in hostile environments their entire career. Maybe Harbaugh’s presence will change how these players approach and perform in road contests. But, until I see it on the field, I think Michigan will lose all three of these games.

Finally, there is Michigan State and Ohio State, which I have penciled in as losses.

That’s 7-5. However, Michigan could finish anywhere from 6-6 to 10-2 depending on the breaks with this schedule. The only two games that are likely or automatic losses are the rivalries, unfortunately. However, every other one is either an automatic win or a toss-up. If the offense gels quickly and Michigan wins the opener against Utah, the Wolverines could ride a wave of confidence to a 6-0 start before the Spartans come to town and a very successful season. But, because it will some take before this Michigan offense begins to click, the Wolverines drop the opener and stumble a bit to a 7-5 season.

Or maybe that’s the pain of prior seasons guarding my expectations. We’ll see.

With our predictions in, let’s end it: how will fans reflect on this season when it’s over?

Anthony: Well, whether it’d be 9-3 or 7-5, games can often be decided by a single play or moment that changes everything, so we are not too far off there as it may appear.

I will say this about the season: Regardless of the record they end up with, this will be a "not quite there yet" season for the Wolverines. They will show flashes of being reborn as one of college football’s powerhouses and also will do some things that will make fans want to rip their hair out. At the end of the year, we will be able to see a vastly different football team than the start of things. I just think that’s the type of impact this staff will have this year. Things will get corrected and fixed as the year goes on because that’s what Jim Harbaugh does.

So, while this year will ultimately likely end up without a Big Ten title again, this will be season where the Wolverines put forth a good effort and on-field product and make fans proud of the football team they have and the direction that the program is heading.

Drew: If a 7-5 season comes to fruition, it will not be viewed upon too favorably in the immediate aftermath. Nonetheless, fans will see that improvement was made and groundwork was laid. They will see that Harbaugh has put his stamp on this program and that, as soon as 2016, the rest of the Big Ten should fear Michigan once again.

***

Previous Installments of Michigan Football's Biggest Storylines in 2015

August 17thThe Impact of Jim Harbaugh's Return
August 18thDid Brady Hoke Leave the Cupboard Bare?
August 19thJake Rudock vs. Shane Morris -- Who Wins?
August 20thWill a No. 1 Receiver Emerge?
August 21stThe Running Back Rut
August 24thDefense, Dominance, and Durability
August 25thPressure Problems
August 26thThe Delayed "Debut" of Jabrill Peppers
August 27thRivalry Redemption

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