September means two things for me: my birthday (on the 7th) and the start of football season. As a diehard fan of the Michigan Wolverines and Oakland Raiders, my expectations are tempered for the 2008 season.
Michigan already started the Rich Rodriguez era with a disappointing, if not entirely unexpected, loss in the home opener against Utah.
The Raiders will host the Denver Broncos as the second part of the week one Monday Night Football double header. And after losing more games than any NFL team in the past five seasons, no one’s expecting big things from the Raiders. They should be better than last year, though.
The way I see it, seven wins would be a successful 2008 season for either team, but I’m predicting neither one gets there. My preview of each team follows:
8/30/08 vs. Utah
RESULT: Loss 25-23
9/6/08 vs. Miami (Ohio)
SUMMARY: An easy opponent allows the Wolverines to bounce back at home and earn Rodriguez’s first victory at Michigan.
9/13/08 at Notre Dame
SUMMARY: After being outscored 85-21 the past two seasons, you can bet the Irish will be fired up for a chance to kick Michigan while the program is down. An experienced Wolverines offense will turn it over early and often leading to a big win for Notre Dame.
9/27/08 vs. Wisconsin
RECORD: 1-3 (0-1)
SUMMARY: Michigan opens the Big Ten schedule at home against a Wisconsin team currently ranked number 11 in the AP poll. The Badgers punished the Wolverines with 232 yards on the ground last year despite a banged up P.J. Hill carrying just 5 times for 14 yards. Expect similar results with the bruising Hill back and healthy this time around in The Big House.
10/4/08 vs. Illinois
RECORD: 1-4 (0-2)
SUMMARY: Juice Williams and the Illini fell to the Wolverines at home amid their run to the Rose Bowl last year, and Michigan struggles with athletic quarterbacks like Williams.
10/11/08 vs. Toledo
RECORD: 2-4 (0-2)
SUMMARY: While Michigan fans know not to take any game for granted after last year’s Appalachian State debacle, this is a must-have and should-win game versus Toledo in the middle of their schedule. They need to be careful not to look ahead to Penn State.
10/18/08 at Penn State
RECORD: 2-5 (0-3)
SUMMARY: The Wolverines have owned the Nittany Lions for more than a decade, having won nine straight games dating back to 1996, but Penn State looks poised to end the streak this year. Expect a close game that finally goes against the Wolverines in this rivalry that has been the bizarre Ohio State feud in recent years.
10/25/08 vs. Michigan State
RECORD: 3-5 (1-3)
SUMMARY: The in-state rivals will have a wounded Wolverines team up against the ropes, but two thirds of the way through the season, Michigan’s offense shows visible improvement and wins in impressive fashion to avoid an 0-4 mark in the Big Ten.
11/1/08 at Purdue
RECORD: 4-5 (2-3)
SUMMARY: Michigan kicks off November by winning consecutive games for the first time all season.
11/8/08 at Minnesota
RECORD: 5-5 (3-3)
SUMMARY: Minnesota barely held on against Northern Illinois in their season opener, so this could be the only game all season when Michigan is favored to win on the road.
11/15/08 vs. Northwestern
RECORD: 6-5 (4-3)
SUMMARY: Northwestern keeps this one closer than it should be, but the Wolverines win their fourth straight to get above .500 for the first time all year heading into the finale.
11/22/08 at Ohio State
RECORD: 6-6 (4-4)
SUMMARY: Michigan would love to play the role of spoiler, but the Buckeyes, who may already have the Big Ten title clinched by this point, won’t allow it, continuing their recent dominance in this bitter rivalry.
Michigan finishes the season 6-6 (4-4 in the Big Ten) and plays an early December bowl game. Because let’s face it, if they’re bowl eligible, they’ll get an invite.
9/8/08 vs. Denver Broncos
SUMMARY: The Raiders usher in the Darren McFadden era in style with a win at home on Monday Night Football against the rival Broncos.
9/14/08 at Kansas City Chiefs
SUMMARY: The Chiefs are nothing special this year, but Arrowhead is always a tough place to play. The young Raiders offense struggles and falls on the road.
9/21/08 at Buffalo Bills
SUMMARY: The Raiders’ stout secondary frustrates Bills quarterback Trent Edwards and leads the silver and black to a 2-1 mark.
9/28/08 vs. San Diego Chargers
SUMMARY: In a battle for early-season division supremacy, the Chargers will make it clear that they are head and shoulders above the Raiders and the rest of the AFC West with a convincing win.
10/12/08 at New Orleans Saints
SUMMARY: The Raiders cannot keep up with the high-powered Saints on the scoreboard, falling below .500 for the first time all season.
10/19/08 vs. New York Jets
SUMMARY: With Brett Favre at the helm, the Jets are nothing like they were in 2007. New York hands Oakland its second straight defeat.
10/26/08 at Baltimore Ravens
SUMMARY: Baltimore is one of the few teams in the league with a less-proven quarterback than Oakland. Whether it’s Joe Flacco or Troy Smith, this game features multiple interceptions for the Raiders defense en route to victory.
11/2/08 vs. Atlanta Falcons
SUMMARY: Potentially, the Raiders could be facing their second straight rookie quarterback if the Ravens and Falcons stick with rookies Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan, respectively. That spells a two-game win streak for the Raiders and a first-half finish at the .500 mark.
11/9/08 vs. Carolina Panthers
SUMMARY: The Raiders squander a golden opportunity to get back above .500 with a poor effort against the Panthers.
11/16/08 at Miami Dolphins
SUMMARY: The Raiders continue to hang around in the AFC playoff picture with a win over an improved but not threatening Dolphins team.
11/23/08 at Denver Broncos
SUMMARY: The Broncos enact revenge from week one in a critical divisional matchup that, once again, prevents the Raiders from eclipsing the .500 mark in November.
11/30/08 vs. Kansas City Chiefs
SUMMARY: Oakland earns a season split with the Chiefs. Darren McFadden has his best game of the season, now in a starter’s role for the Raiders.
12/4/08 at San Diego Chargers
SUMMARY: The Chargers deal Oakland’s playoff hopes a near-fatal blow in this Thursday night showcase game.
12/14/08 vs. New England Patriots
SUMMARY: The Patriots, battling for a first round bye, dispose of the Raiders in embarrassing fashion.
12/21/08 vs. Houston Texans
SUMMARY: In a battle of former number one picks, the Texans’ Mario Williams gets the better of the Raiders’ Jamarcus Russell. Williams records three sacks and pressures Russell into two costly interceptions in a big win for the upstart Texans. The loss assures the Raiders of a sixth consecutive losing season.
12/28/08 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
SUMMARY: In a Super Bowl XXXVII rematch, the result stays the same, although score is closer.
The Raiders finish the year on a serious down note with a four-game losing streak after a promising 6-6 start. Nonetheless, their six wins is still a two-game improvement from last year and the most the Raiders have won since they won 11 in 2002 on their way to a Super Bowl appearance.
The way I see it, both the Wolverines and Raiders finish the season with six wins (Michigan loses its bowl game) and losing seasons. Not a fun season at all.
Well, that’s what my fantasy teams are for!