Following Michigan’s big win over (not?) rivals Notre Dame, there is legitimate excitement surrounding this team. The offense was explosive, with Devin Gardner looking fantastic and Jeremy Gallon actually deserving his #21 (sorry Roy Roundtree). And the defense was…well, at least they got some timely takeaways. Now Michigan is ranked 11th in the AP poll and should move up into the top ten with a win over Akron next week as long as Alabama beats Texas A&M. Things are looking good. So, can we even pencil Michigan in to be an undefeated top ten team when they travel to Not So Happy Valley on October 12th?
Michigan has three games between now and then, and really a single loss would be shocking. Mighty Akron awaits the Wolverines at the Big House this week in a win that should rival the Central Michigan opener in non-competetiveness. Next they’re off to Connecticut, in what is an incredibly easy first road game. Uconn’s usually impenetrable home turf was the host of a loss to Towson last week. Yes, Towson from the FCS.
Finally, after those two easy foes, Michigan opens Big Ten play against Minnesota. The Gophers will be either 4-1 or 5-0 when they meet in Ann Arbor for homecoming, but that is still as easy of a Big Ten game as one can get, if Illinois or Purdue aren’t involved. So that leaves Michigan undefeated at 5-0 and somewhere inside the top ten when they travel to Penn State.
Penn State, despite their NCAA penalties, is still a pretty good team and if they can win at Indiana the week before, will be 5-0 as well. True freshman QB Christian Hackenberg is really good, and should grow each week. Winning at Penn State is never easy and it is important to remember that Gardner has never won at a hostile environment as a starter. Michigan is still a more talented team, but this game will be a very legitimate challenge.
Coaches always tell players to only take it one game at a time, but Michigan fans should be able to take the liberty of looking ahead to October 12th.
You can follow Alex Dale on Twitter @alexdaleCFB.