Mailbag: Win totals, Rose Bowl, more

Happy 2014 everyone. Hope your New Year is off to a fantastic start.

But, we can’t get too far into 2014 without thinking about the changing tides of the sports seasons and taking a look at a football season that has ended, what will be the start of Team 135 and of course, a basketball question (and by basketball, I mean basketball fashion).

Ariel Johnson: Do you think with this team, Michigan can win at least 9 games in 2014?

A: Nine games in the regular season? No. The Wolverines have Michigan State and Ohio State on the road next season and considering how poorly Michigan has played on the road under Brady Hoke, I don’t really see the Wolverines picking up either of those wins. And then between games at Notre Dame (final scheduled matchup in the rivalry) and Northwestern (which will want to avenge this season’s loss) and home games against Utah and Penn State, I would imagine the Wolverines will go 2-2 in those, which leaves the regular season win total at 8. If Michigan does go 8-4, it would have a chance for a ninth win in a bowl game, which is a possibility though.

Carson, New York: How much of any affect does Michigan State’s Rose Bowl win have on Michigan?

A: Well, from a broader perspective, it brings respect to the Big Ten as a conference so if the Wolverines can play well in the Big Ten, then it’ll mean more on a national scale because Big Ten teams have actually proved themselves. For example, if the Wolverines were to beat Michigan State next season, the win will automatically mean more since the Spartans are the defending Rose Bowl Champions. However, it also means that it was MSU playing on New Year’s Day, having their Spartans symbol all over national TV and an extra week of football fans talking about them. I think we’ll see more players interested in the Spartans because of a win like that -- they’ve got a QB who could be the starter for two more years, so offensively they have something to build around. And Pat Narduzzi’s defense was incredible, as well. They got that attention and they did something with it.

Jake Lloyd, Washington DC: Who's more sharply dressed on the Michigan bench in your expert opinion: Bacari Alexander or Mitch McGary?

A: I’m going to go with McGary here for a few different reasons. Don’t get me wrong, I think Alexander is well dressed and comes up with some pretty great suit game. However, he also has the help of his wife, an advantage McGary doesn’t have. Alexander also has the advantage of time as he has been wearing suits far longer than McGary. So it’s really hard to look at this as an even playing field and because of that, you’d think Alexander should be light years ahead. And I just don’t see that. I think McGary’s suit game has been impressive this season and just like his play last year, I think it’ll only get better as the season goes on.

Martin: Which position group will show the most growth between now and the spring season?

A: I think we’ll see some major growth in the wide receiver unit. Obviously, players like Devin Funchess and Jake Butt will still be guys were talking about. But because Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo won’t be around, we’ll definitely start to see some new names and younger guys will be targeted more, so you’ll be forced to see the growth there. Players like Jehu Chesson, Da’Mario Jones, Amara Darboh (once he returns from injury) will be guys whose names haven’t been brought up but you could be surprised by.

Ryan Casady: What position group that needs to make biggest improvement next year for Michigan to be successful?

A: Easy, offensive line. This season, we saw what happens when the O-line doesn’t have chemistry and experience. The offense can’t get moving without it and even when it plays a bit better and gives the QB another second or two, plays can actually develop. The Wolverines need to not only improve on the performance of this season’s offensive line, but also replace two great players -- Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield. That’s not easy task. But it’ll be a necessary one to show improvement from this season to next.