TBA, Nov. 26 TV: TBA Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich. (109,901)

Coach: Brady Hoke, first season (47-51 in eight seasons)

Last year: 7-6 overall, 3-5 Big Ten (tie, seventh); lost to Mississippi State 52-14 in Gator Bowl

Returning stars

Denard Robinson was Big Ten offensive player of the year after becoming the first NCAA player to both rush and pass for 1,500 yards in the same season. He set a school record for total yards (4,272) and averaged 328.6 per game, second in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Roy Roundtree caught 72 passes for 935 yards and seven TDs.

Newcomers to watch

Former coach Rich Rodriguez recruited for his read-option offense, but that won't cut it in the new staff's pro sets, so bigger-bodied freshmen Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes could get a look. Longtime running backs coach Fred Jackson compared Rawls with Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram of Alabama at the same stage. Linebacker Jake Ryan and cornerback Gregg Brown also are potential starters.

Keys to the offense

Michigan might be trying to pound a square peg (Robinson) into a round hole (pro-style offense), but Hoke is confident the quarterback can make the transition to drop-back passer from the shotgun read-and-reactor he was. The plan is for Robinson to carry the ball about half as much as he did last season and give those carries to a feature back, whomever that might be. The line also will have to adjust to a more-physical style.

Keys to the defense

Anything has to be better than what fans have just seen: the worst three-year stretch of defense in Michigan history, topped by a school-record 450.8 yards per game allowed last season. Hoke hired coordinator Greg Mattison away from the Baltimore Ravens, and he, like the offense, will stress a more-physical style out of an NFL-like 4-3 defense that includes a variety of zone-blitz packages.

Special teams standouts

Michigan's kicking game was laughable last season (the Wolverines made 4 of 14 field-goal attempts), so Hoke brought a freshman recruit, Matt Wile, with him from San Diego. Will Hagerup had the fourth-best punt average (43.6 yards) in the Big Ten but will miss the first four games because of a suspension. The return game could be impacted by the season-long suspension of Darryl Stonum while he completes a court-ordered sobriety program.

Question marks

Can Robinson still be productive in a style seemingly not suited to his strengths? That's the biggest question facing the Wolverines, who might need all the points they can get while Hoke and Mattison bolster a defense, especially in the back seven, that became an embarrassing sieve under Rodriguez.


Hoke hopes to restore the program's tough, disciplined culture in short order, because Rodriguez had only three years to dilute it. It might be easier said than done in the short term, though, because Hoke will be playing with many of the smaller and lighter players Rodriguez recruited to play his style. Michigan should be better in November than it is in September, though.