In year one of the Brady Hoke era, Michigan went 11-2, beat Ohio State and won the Sugar Bowl. To say the least, it was an excellent first season for the Wolverines under Hoke, although he was actually disappointed that they weren't able to win the Big Ten championship. That is Michigan's top goal for 2012, as it would mean a trip to Indianapolis and later a trip to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl.
Long before Big Ten play begins, Michigan has to deal with defending national champion Alabama to start the season. Virtually everybody is picking Alabama to win this game, so a 0-1 start seems almost inevitable at this point. What will Michigan do beyond the opening game? Let's take a look at what SB Nation Detroit's writers have to say about the 2012 season.
Brian Packey: 9-3 (6-2)
Last year I had Michigan finishing a conservative 8-4 and they bested that by two games and added an overtime bowl win to boot, via the kicker's boot.
Another year of Brady Hoke's "Michigan man" system, a wilier Denard Robinson and a top 10 preseason ranking should generate plenty of excitement about the Wolverines this season, but I can't imagine it starting without a snag under the bright lights against the reigning champs in Week 1.
I think Michigan will finally get the best of its "little brother" at the Big House in October, but I see a hangover the next week at Nebraska and a frustrating loss to Urban Meyer's new family in Columbus to close out the season. These two losses might ruin their chances at celebrating with roses, but they should be in good position for the Capital One Bowl against an SEC team that won't be nearly as tough as Alabama.
Two years ago, suggesting Michigan would soon be ready to compete for a national title would've been a real knee slapper. But, with an incredible recruiting class on its way in, they're close ... just not quite there yet.
Dave Ryan: 10-2 (7-1)
Brady Hoke's Wolverines will definitely have their hands full with a juggernaut like Alabama to kick off the year, but the Big Ten schedule is ripe for the taking this season, and especially when armed with an offensive weapon like Denard Robinson. The off-the-field problems of tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint should subside rather soon to allow the third-year runner to revert to his All-Big Ten form, and there's no denying that this is shaping up to be the best unit defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has put on the field since coming back to Ann Arbor.
I'm a big fan of the experience peppered all over the field this year for the Wolverines, but nowhere will it be more vital than on the offensive line, a position where Michigan has struggled to find consistency in recent years. Left tackle Taylor Lewan is a kid who has future NFL star written all over him in my opinion, and he should pave the way for a dominant rushing attack in 2012, as Denard Robinson will once again be right in the thick of the Heisman race. A win over Nick Saban's kids may prove too lofty a goal, but it shouldn't be a surprise at all to see Brady Hoke and company playing in the Big Ten Championship Game come Dec. 1.
Sean Yuille: 9-3 (6-2)
By the end of the 2012 season, I think Michigan will have a better team than it did in 2011. I do not think the Wolverines' record will be better, though. Michigan's schedule in 2011 doesn't even compare to how difficult it is this year. Michigan faces what basically is a sure loss to open the season, and then it has to deal with Air Force, UMass and Notre Dame to close out the non-conference slate. I do think Michigan will make it through this stretch with a 3-1 record, but it won't be easy.
In conference play, I see Michigan opening with a pair of wins before falling again to Michigan State. It's depressing for me to make this prediction as a Michigan graduate, but I just think Michigan State has a better team, and more importantly, a defense that can shut down Denard Robinson. I do have Michigan rebounding with a big win at Nebraska a week later, and the only other game I have the Wolverines dropping is the season finale at Ohio State. The Buckeyes will be treating that as their bowl game with them being banned from the postseason, and I expect Urban Meyer to pick up a win in his first game in this rivalry.