Michigan went to the Sugar Bowl following the 2011 season and that meant Michigan football was back baby.... errr, that was the narrative heading into 2012. It got the Wolverines a No. 8 preseason ranking and if it weren't for USC's collapse from No. 1 to unranked one could make an easy argument that the Maize 'N Blue were the most overrated team in the nation in 2012 and that's because it learned some harsh lessons thanks to youth, injuries, and all-around underachieving.
Before we take a look ahead let us remind you where this team has been. It gives us all a good base to start from in building what 2013 will look like in Ann Arbor. So here is the good, the bad, and the ugly that was 2012.
For all the flaws and injuries some good came out of the misery and that was the fact that Michigan found out they have a QB for 2013 in Devin Gardner. While he wasn't perfect, neither was the offense around him last season, but at least his 59.5% comp. rate, 11TD's to 5INT's and 1,219 yards passing told us he can play quarterback at the highest level - let's remember we didn't know the answer to that in a game setting heading into 2012.
The other good part of the season? Despite the injuries and youth all over the defense in 2012 the Wolverines gave up just 19.8 points per game to opponents. Not too shabby, after all it did rank them 4th in a conference that only had four teams hold opponents under 20 points per game averages.
Of course we can't discuss the good of 2012 without mentioning that big brother finally topped little brother for the first time in four years as Michigan beat Michigan State, 12-10, to improve to a good 5-2 record overall and 3-0 in Big Ten play. Now for the rest of the story....
Anytime you lose to your rivals in Ohio it's not a good day in Ann Arbor. However, losing like they did in 2012 is extra painful. Up 21-20 at the half to their bitter rivals the Wolverines defense did their job, holding down the Buckeyes offense and allowing just two field goals all half. Problem was that the Michigan offense decided to go COLD AS ICE and not score a single point in the 2nd half and only holding the ball for just over 10 minutes of the entire 2nd half.
Of course that loss wasn't their only in 2012 and I'm not just talking on the scoreboard either. Fitz Toussiant went down with a nasty leg break after playing in the first ten games of the season. It also hurt that when healthy he teamed up with an offensive line that couldn't find cohesion and that allowed him to just average 50 yards a game and backup Thomas Rawls just 30.2 yards per game.
Yes, Denard Robinson ran like the wind and for over 1,300 yards but it's not a good sign when your leading rusher is your QB and he almost doubles up what your RB is able to do all season long despite his own injury issues.
You have to start with the season opening ASS KICKING Michigan received from Alabama. Were they expected to win the football game? I don't know if even the most insanely Maize 'N Blue colored glasses type fan would've said that. However, they sure as hell were expected to at least give the Tide a game, instead they were rolled over on national TV and that set a bad tone for the rest of the season, losing EVERY game it played against a ranked opponent and adding in a loss to Nebraska on the road as well.
Denard Robinson as QB was further exposed as a complete joke upon the college football world in 2012 as Shoelace completed just 53.3% of his passes and had as many TD's and INT's, nine, on the season. Injuries didn't help him much, but they weren't the sole reason he was terrible as a QB in 2012 either. He simply got exposed a guy who couldn't throw the ball deep either.
As we head into our look ahead to 2013 one thing is clear about what 2012 can tell us about the Wolverines program - resting on your perceptions and expectations isn't going to cut it in the Big Ten anymore. Oh, and scheduling like they did in 2012 doesn't help matters much either. It also tells us that while mistakes were made in 2012 there is opportunity for redemption thanks to the youth that was still on display last season and will be again in 2013. The question for 2013 lingering for the past two seasons is which way this ship is heading. Was 2012 the norm or will 2011 be what fans can expect for the future of the Wolverines program going forward?