PROVE IT – WEEK 1
Michigan vs Alabama, Saturday, 8pm
PROVE IT TEAM: Michigan
OK Wolverines, the pressure is on you. In recent years, the Big Ten (and other conferences for that matter) has not fared well against SEC opponents. In fact, Ohio State was dominated by Florida and LSU in consecutive years, 2007 and 2008, respectively. The last time the Big Ten had any success of note against the SEC was back in 2000 when these two teams met and Michigan beat Alabama 35-34 in the Orange Bowl.
Michigan is a top 10 team this preseason in every poll. Several people expect them to win the Big Ten. If Michigan wins this game, they become the odds on favorite to play in a BCS game. Brady Hoke has a plan and a system in place to bring a winning atmosphere back to Ann Arbor. The defense is as strong as it has been in years, and the offense is dynamic with Denard Robinson playing quarterback. Recent history is working against Michigan; they lost badly to Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl in 2010. Beating the defending national champion would put Michigan – and the Big Ten – back on a title track.
PROVE IT PLAYER: Denard Robinson
Michigan is expected to do big things in 2012. Denard Robinson is the player that will take them to new heights. He is a preseason candidate for the Heisman Trophy. The hype cannot outweigh his performance if he intends to make a run at the ultimate award. He has not seen a defense like Alabama’s since he won the starting job. Lucky for him, Alabama lost a handful of fantastic starters this offseason. This is his opportunity to seize. He is shifty and fast, all defenses have to account for his ability to run. Michigan ranked 93rd in passing last season and Robinson would surely like to improve on his passing numbers this season. Nick Saban has said that Robinson is the best quarterback his team will have faced since Cam Newton. The Heisman could make its way back to Ann Arbor but Robinson needs be on point right out of the box to make that dream come true.
Michigan State vs Boise State, Friday, 8pm
PROVE IT TEAM: Michigan State
Like their aforementioned in-state rivals, Michigan State is expected to have a strong season. They would like to carry over some momentum from 2011. They had some epic games against Wisconsin last season. Unfortunately, they lost the one that counted in the championship game. With these expectations comes a new quarterback as well. Andrew Maxwell replaces the accomplished Kirk Cousins under center. Cousins played all four years at Michigan State and set a bunch of records. Maxwell has a lot on his shoulders, but he has talent around him, including a defense that was top 10 in points allowed in 2011. It is not easy to replace such a decorated Spartan. Can he handle the expectations? Wisconsin and Michigan stand in his way. They will need some big wins to rise to the top. A win over Boise State would be a good start.
PROVE IT COACH: Chris Petersen
It is not an overstatement to say the Boise State head coach Chris Petersen is already a legend in Boise, Idaho. He has been offered a number of great jobs over the years only to choose to stay with Broncos. He has clearly been building something in Boise. He has turned a non-traditional power into a team that is moving to a Big Six conference next season (Big East). The Broncos have lost quite a bit of talent and are not ranked as high this year. Superstar quarterback Kellen Moore has graduated. They are still ranked in the top-25, but they have not been ranked lower than 11th since 2004. With a less established core group of guys, Petersen is going to have a big test against Michigan State. The Broncos have passed every season-opening test the last three seasons but they were stacked during those seasons. They will not be so deep this season. Petersen chose to stay in Boise with some super-talented teams. He now has to see if his coaching prowess can win him a game over a ranked opponent without as many outstanding players.