August 25, 2013 at 1:18 am

Angelique S. Chengelis

Michigan's true character won't be revealed until game day

With Notre Dame coming on the heels of Michigan's season-opener against Central Michigan, U-M coach Brady Hoke might not tip all his cards in the team's first game. (John T. Greilick / Detroit News)

Michigan coach Brady Hoke has said on more than one occasion since the end of spring camp that he likes this team entering the upcoming season.

Certainly, that’s a compliment coming from the head coach.

But Hoke also has said that liking a team guarantees nothing.

He is right about that.

Of course what he means is that he has appreciated the way the players have approached their work in the weight room and their discipline and enthusiasm in practice. He believes the seniors have taken seriously, especially since a trip west earlier this year to work with the Navy SEALs, their roles as leaders and have helped shaped the outlook of this team.

These are all terrific qualities to admire.

And they all will matter greatly throughout a long season.

But ultimately, the bottom line is wins and losses. Expectations vary, and the preseason ranking of 17 is probably fair — then again, preseason rankings are pretty silly, but that’s for another day.

At this point, after several weeks of preseason camp and stories, we all have a general feel for what needs to happen — quarterback Devin Gardner must stay healthy, the offensive line has to gel quickly even with three newcomers, and establishing a consistent run game is a must. The defense has to be more aggressive and must force more turnovers as it did in coordinator Greg Mattison’s first season in 2011. Oh, and the offense must cut down on turnovers.

That’s essentially the formula — quarterback healthy, check; offensive line solid, check; run game potent, check; defense forces turnovers, check — entering every season, so this is not breaking news.

The season opens next Saturday at Michigan Stadium against Central Michigan and a week later, Notre Dame arrives for a night game. Openers can tell us a lot, but my hunch is while Hoke plans to win this game, he probably won’t show all the cards, not with Notre Dame a week later.

After all these days of preparation and anticipation, we will finally see how all the position battles shake out, and in the first game, that’s probably the most important thing we will take away. Plan to learn a bigger portion of the story against the Irish.

But at least for now we know this — Hoke likes this team.

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