Early look at the Michigan Wolverines

Every weekday over the next two weeks, NittanyNation will take a closer look at a different game this season and how the matchup stacks up for PSU. Up today: Michigan.

In some ways, Michigan and Penn State are pretty similar. For every question mark, there's a twinge of optimism the answer will wind up involving good news.

Subpar 2012 season for the tailbacks? No problem; true freshman Derrick Green will have an instant impact. Jake Ryan out until November? Plenty of quality depth at linebacker. Jordan Kovacs gone? Well, the secondary boasts more athleticism now. Different defensive line? No worries; it'll be just as good as last season.

There's no certainty the Wolverines will finish within the top two of the Big Ten, but that's what's often being projected -- and there's one big reason for that. OK, two. Brady Hoke and Devin Gardner.

Hoke has historically beefed up the passing game, which is why San Diego State finished with more than 7,000 passing yards in the two seasons Hoke was at the helm. It was more of the same at Ball State and, many believe, Michigan will follow suit with its new pro-style offense.

The Wolverines' success will likely reflect Gardner's performance, and Gardner seems poised to meet high expectations.