11 Wins. Now what?

Ahh, summer.

Nothing beats 8 full months of off-season! By the time you dip your toes into July, you really start to feel it. Freshman are on campus for summer conditioning. Those preview rags start to find themselves onto newsstands. Blogs start to breakdown schedules and opponents. Recruiting news slows down a bit. Football is right around the corner.

52 days from today to be exact.

And the one overriding question I keep asking myself about the 2012 edition of the Michigan Wolverines is: How good is this team?

Expectations for last year were lowered due to the crisis-mode that ensued after three years of the Rodriguez experiment. New hire Brady Hoke was a mid-level conference coach with a career losing record. He had a strong Michigan background though, which has become the priority among fans/alumni when hand-choosing a new coach. But honest-to-goodness expectations last year were mixed, yet somehow confident thanks to the hiring of former one-time Michigan defensive coordinator and Baltimore Raven's DC Greg Mattison.

But not so much in 2012. Expectations are high for Team 133...and for good reason.
By almost any account, last season was a remarkable one for the Wolverines. We saw one of the most dismal excuses for a defense transform into a highly formidable unit in just one off-season. Mattison took basically all the same players that Greg Robinson had and taught them how to play defense well enough to, ya know, keep other teams from scoring all the damn time.

Michigan finally ended the losing streak to Ohio State. Beat Notre Dame in, yet again, dramatic fashion in front of the largest crowd in history. Handled Nebraska with ease. Made it to a BCS game and beat Virginia Tech for the 11th win of the year. And all the while, Brady Hoke and company put together a stellar 2012 recruiting class.

It would seem as if anything that Team 132 didn't accomplish, has been added squarely to the shoulders of Team 133. And that is...

• Beat Michigan State
• Win the Big Ten

Michigan is back. Whenever a realistic expectation is to win your conference, it means you're doing well. And Michigan is surely a favorite to make it the Lucas Oil Stadium in December. Whatever happened from 2008-10 is so far in the rear-view mirror that it's barely a dot anymore. It's almost as if it never happened. And I think we're all okay with that.

By winning 11 games, including a BCS game, and having the bulk of their skill players returning...Michigan is primed for a run at a 2012 Big Ten Championship. And make no mistake, winning the B1G title is the expectation and highest goal at Michigan. We've heard Brady Hoke utter those words prolifically over the last 18 months. And other than Drew Sharp, no one has questioned that logic.

It won't be easy for Team 133. They start off the season with defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide in Dallas in the largest of national prime-time stages. They have road trips to South Bend, Lincoln and Columbus. It's one of the toughest schedules in the country, hands down. There's no doubt that it's going to be tough.

We'll break down Michigan's schedule in more detail in an upcoming post. 

Having higher expectations for this season is a good thing. I think the coaches and players embrace that. And especially the players, they got that first taste of real success last year. So I guess the real question I should be asking myself isn't if Michigan is a good team or not – because I think they are. But if they have what it takes to remain a successful program on an upward trend back to national relevancy.

I suppose we'll know in 52 days.

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