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Posted on Fri, Jul 13, 2012 : 3:51 p.m.

CBS' Bruce Feldman expects the Michigan football team to be good, but not national title good

By Nick Baumgardner

The Michigan football team has been one of the favorites to capture the 2012 Big Ten title for months now.

Some have taken that even further lately, saying the Wolverines may also have what it takes to compete for a national championship. college football expert Bruce Feldman offered his take Friday, agreeing that Michigan will be solid next season, but not good enough for a national title run.

"I expect Michigan to be good again this year, but just not good enough on defense to be a Top 5 team," Feldman wrote in his weekend mailbag. "At this point, they don't have enough difference-makers to be a BCS title contender, especially along their defensive front.

"Maybe they'll surprise a lot of us though."


CBS writer Bruce Feldman says Greg Mattison will have to take Michigan's defense another step further in 2012 if the team hopes to contend for a national title.

Melanie Maxwell |

Feldman's hesitation to rank Michigan among the best of the best in college football comes from its defense.

He admits Greg Mattison's transformation of the Wolverine defenders last season was remarkable, but still says the team was far from "those truly elite defenses we saw from Alabama or LSU."

He notes how Notre Dame racked up more than 500 yards against the Wolverines, how Michigan State ran for more than 200 and how Ohio State put up 34 points in the regular season-finale in Ann Arbor.

In Feldman's eyes, if Michigan is going to make the jump from Big Ten contender to national title contender, the defense will have to take another dramatic step forward.

A step he's not sure it can make.

"We'll find out right away if they're legit," Feldman writes. "Alabama has the most physical style in college football on both sides of the ball. The Tide has the country's best offensive line returning.

"I am very curious to see what kind of answers Mattison can come up with."

If it matters, Feldman's colleague Brett McMurphy slotted Michigan at No. 10 overall in his January "way-early" Top 25 poll.

Michigan jumped from No. 108 to No. 6 in scoring defense a year ago?

Can it climb even higher next season?

We'll start getting answers on Sept. 1 at Cowboys Stadium.

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan sports for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.



Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 3:01 p.m.

Mattison is a brilliant DC. Probably in the top 3 in college football. Problem with Mattison is his age. DC's put in 80 to 100 hour work weeks during the season. Mattison got outcoached against OSU and VT. By the end of the year he didn't have the juice to prepare the way he did earlier in the season. Both OSU and VT started true freshman QB's and both shredded his D. Mattison eather got complacent or was too tired too prepare. He thought he could just roll out the D and stop one of the worst offenses in the B10 last year, OSU's. I guess Luke Fickel had a little something, something for him. VT, same thing. Mattison probably only has a year or 2 left in the tank.


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 2:07 p.m.

Not exactly. Mattison himself indicated that he had to put in a defensive scheme that was dependent on the offense he expected to face for each game. Ohio had been a run first offense all season. Mattison prepared a defense based on those tendencies. Fickell changed it up and went pass first. Mattison was unwilling to attempt major changes in the defense during the game fearing that might cause confusion and make things worse, so he limited himself to minor adjustments counting on his defense to hold up against the pass. Turns out he was right. As for the Sugar Bowl. Hard to see how he got out coached in that game. The defense pretty much won that game.


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 2:20 p.m.

Fair points. Michigan needs 2 more years to recruit the elites on defense. Follow the recruiting trail. Michigan is bringing in AND gaining the interest of elite recruits. Unfortunately, so is ND. MSU? No worries on that one.


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 12:17 p.m.

This is why we play the games . . .

Terry Star21

Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 2:49 a.m.

I should be surprised to read Mr. Feldman's personal opinion, but I'm not - we've seen it all before for 134 years strong. Outsiders just don't get it, this is Michigan - a program capable of winning a National Championship at any moment. "Maybe they'll surprise a lot of us though (Feldman)". Exactly. America was pleasingly surprised, maybe shocked at the 2011 season and I fail to see why. This is Michigan. The 2011 season was just another year on the record books for college football's most storied program, and the Michigan Football Faithful. Exciting yes, entertaining yes, but shocking and surprising - HAIL NO ! This is Brady Hoke's Michigan. MgoBlueForTiM.....Terry, Theo and another day at work.


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 3:09 p.m.

It won't take very long to find out. Will it Terry? After the Bama game, we should know who is right, you or Bruce.


Fri, Jul 13, 2012 : 10:40 p.m.

There's a reason why they play the games. Every year teams exceed or fail expectations and there's no way of knowing until the final whistle is blown. I respect Alabama but I refuse to believe the outcome of our matchup with them is a foregone conclusion. Michigan fans should understand that concept better than anyone (see Appalachian State, Toledo, et. al). The last national title Michigan won began with Michigan playing against the #1 team in the country. Michigan won that game handily and went on to an undefeated season. Pundits talk. Oddsmakers set the betting lines. But it is the players on the field who decide the outcomes of the games. To hear some so-called Michigan fans tell it, there's really no need to play Alabama; we might as well just forfeit. Hopefully, the Michigan football players have more heart, belief and intestinal fortitude than many of their fair weather supporters. All I have to say is GO BLUE!


Sat, Jul 14, 2012 : 3 a.m.

One of the best comments I have read on here lately and probably one of the most insightful comments I've ever read on this site. THANK YOU SouthernBlu for that!!! GO BLUE!!! Indeed!


Fri, Jul 13, 2012 : 9:08 p.m.

Feldman's assessment is correct. By the way: Greg Mattison and Brady Hoke told the press practically all season long last year that the defense was "not where it needs to be." Mattison and Hoke seemed a little harsh of the defense even in the latter part of season but they did think the defense stepped up for the Nebraska game. We saw how many points ohio rolled up in the last regular season game so as stated above..."We'll start getting answers on Sept 1 at Cowboy's Stadium."


Fri, Jul 13, 2012 : 8:49 p.m.

I think Feldman's assessment is a fair one. Only time will tell if players will (Campbell) step up to allow U-M to go from good to great. An early ranking of #10 is pretty generous especially when you factor in where U-M has been for the past few years. I'd also like to mention that U-M was ranked either #17 or #20 at the beginning of the season the year they won the national championship in '97, so pre-seaon rankings really don't amount to much. The offense should be good again, especially with a healthy Denard. They key will be whether the defense will step up to the challenge.