Athlon Sports No. 10: Michigan

So John Navarre turned out to be a pretty darned good quarterback after all. In 2002, Navarre set single-season school records for attempts, completions, yardage and 200-yard passing games. He threw 21 touchdown passes and just seven INTs. In 2003, he will join Rick Leach as the only Michigan quarterbacks to start four season-openers.

Thousand-yard receiver Braylon Edwards also returns, and watch out for redshirt freshman wideout Steve Breaston. Tailback Chris Perry, the hero of Michigan's 38–30 Outback Bowl win over Florida, will run behind four returning starters on the offensive line, including All-Big Ten performers in tackle Tony Pape and guard David Baas.

Linebacker Victor Hobson, the team's top tackler in 2002, is gone, but the Wolverine defense is a veteran unit. Tackle Grant Bowman and linebacker Carl Diggs return to their posts as fifth-year seniors. Marlin Jackson is an All-American at cornerback.

Michigan hosts Notre Dame and travels to Oregon in September. Purdue and Ohio State both must visit Ann Arbor, and Wisconsin is absent from the slate.

Sack city: Michigan led the Big Ten in sacks last season with 42.

Consistency: Michigan has had between 8 and 10 wins in 15 of the past 16 years.

Closing in: Tailback Chris Perry needs 602 more rushing yards to move into Michigan's career top ten.

2002 results: 10–3 (6–2 Big Ten)

2002 Bowl Game: Beat Florida 38-30 in Outback Bowl

Returning starters: 7 offense, 6 defense, dual-purpose kicker

2003 Schedule:

A. 30 Central Michigan
S. 6 Houston
S. 13 Notre Dame
S. 20 at Oregon
S. 27 Indiana
O. 4 at Iowa
O. 11 at Minnesota
O. 18 Illinois
O. 25 Purdue
N. 1 at Michigan State
N. 15 at Northwestern
N. 22 Ohio State

Schedule Analysis: Michigan gets a chance for revenge against Notre Dame for last year's wrenching 25-23 loss in South Bend. The Wolverines should survive a trip to Oregon in Sept. All four Big Ten road games are winnable. A visit from Purdue on Oct. 25 could be trouble, and of course, the season-ender with Ohio State. Fortunately for Michigan, it is in the Big House this year.

Final Word: The question for Michigan this year will be defense, and that defense will have two tune-up games before facing a relatively weak Notre Dame offense. Offensively, Michigan should be able to put up some pretty big numbers with Navarre, Perry, Edwards and an experienced offensive line. An undefeated season could be on the line when the Buckeyes visit in November.

To pre-order the 2003 Athlon Sports Big Ten edition, which features a Q&A with Michigan defensive back Marlin Jackson, click on the magazine icon below. The Big Ten and National editions are set to hit newsstands June 6.


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