Michigan's opener will be significant not just because it's the start of the 2011 season but because it begins the Brady Hoke era. Will Hoke get off to a successful start? Here's a quick rundown of the Wolverines' first opponent.
Week 1 Opponent: Western Michigan
Coach: Bill Cubit (seventh season, 40-33)
2010 record: 6-6 (5-3 Mid-American Conference)
Returning starters: 14 (six offense, eight defense)
About the Broncos: Want to know if that Michigan defense has improved? This might provide a pretty good early measuring stick. Cubit, who is also his own offensive coordinator, likes to fling the ball around. His team finished 16th nationally in passing yards per game last season with 285.8 and averaged 32.3 points a game. The Broncos were really clicking on offense at the end of 2010, averaging 41.3 points in their last three games, all victory. Junior quarterback Alex Carder is back after throwing for 3,334 yards and 30 touchdowns with 12 interceptions last year. Western Michigan lost a 1,000-yard receiver in Juan Nunez but returns another in Jordan White, the school's all-time leading receiver who gained a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA. Running back Tevin Drake had only 40 carries last year but finished with 405 yards, including 100-yard efforts the final two games of the season. The Broncos must replace their entire interior offensive line, however, and they had trouble stopping the better teams on their schedule a year ago.
Random factoid: In its history, Western Michigan boasts wins over Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan State. The Broncos' last win over a Big Ten team came in 2008 against Illinois at Ford Field.
Series with Michigan: Michigan leads 5-0. The Wolverines won the last meeting 31-7 to open 2009.
Totally unscientific percentage chance Michigan wins: 91 percent. Of the three opponents we've profiled so far, Western Michigan looks like the best of an admittedly flawed lot. The Broncos qualified for a bowl last year but couldn't find a postseason slot, and they bring back plenty of offensive firepower. But Michigan should win the war in the trenches, especially against some new starters up the middle on that WMU offensive line. The Wolverines size and speed should prove too much.
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