Bob Wojnowski, Angelique S. Chengelis and Matt Charboneau preview the Michigan vs. Wisconsin and Michigan State vs. Penn State games. The Detroit News


Understandably, I was shredded for my forgetfulness. Yes, there was a request for mailbag questions last week, and yes, someone just forgot to follow through. It happens. But could Michigan fans, who seem to be in a good mood considering their team’s five-game winning streak, cut me some slack?

Of course not.

Here’s a sample of some of the down-right nastiness:

► "Angelique, do you take the same medication that Urban Meyer does for his memory loss?" -- @Xmen86

► “Don’t worry, son. I’m sure she’ll answer THIS week.” “That’s OK, Dad. Santa never answers my letters, either.” -- @bensmithforreal

► “Man, if I had a dollar for every time a girl told me she forgot to reply … well I’d have a lot of dollars.” -- @2DudesPodcast

And then, the final kick to the curb, the ultimate humiliation -- two questions about my mom answering the mailbag questions (insert a few eyeroll emojis):

► "What does your mom predict for the next 3 games?" -- @Burtcomma

► "Why not have your mom handle the mailbag each week?

The great news is – I can forget to answer any of those questions or comments! So there.

Now for some real questions: 

Question: What chance do you give Michigan this weekend? I love that JH is our HC. However, he only beats the Big Ten teams, all 4 years, who barely have a pulse. We start off fast, lull everyone into false hope they’re better, play the meat of the schedule and look pedestrian, no? -- @michmike69

Answer: Serves you right, Mike, for ever getting lulled into anything! I’m joking, but I’m not. You realize the last 11 years have not revealed a program capable of consistently winning, and it goes back even further, to 2003, the last outright Big Ten title, and 2004 the last share. Going back a few years to 2016, this team was close. Wilton Speight was injured at Iowa, and although that’s not the only reason why the team lost there, it was a big reason and hampered the Wolverines two weeks later at Ohio State.

I have picked Michigan to win this game against Wisconsin. Before the season, I had this as a loss, but Wisconsin has some issues in the secondary and up front there really hasn't been much of a pass-rush threat. I could be way wrong, but the Michigan players are carrying themselves with a confidence I haven’t seen in a while, and they’ve been able to back it up.

Sure, some of the wins during the five-game winning streak have come against marginal teams, but they’ve handled them as they should. Of course, there is the possibility that they slip these next few games. You always know Michigan State will play Michigan hard, and Penn State will be a challenge, but Shea Patterson seems to have made a difference across the board with this team and I think he will continue to lift them.

Question: How important is it for UM to get a good start on both offense and defense? -- @KrollRon

Question: Do you see the defense getting off to a slow start again? Or will they be “lights out”? -- @RyanTHendrix

Answer: Felt like these were dealing with similar themes, so they’ve been packaged together. I don’t see the defense getting out to a slow start. They are really relishing the challenge of stopping Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor. Doubt they will outright shut him down, but if they hold him back and stifle the rest of the run game, the defense will be doing its job.

As for the offense, it’s absolutely critical for Michigan to be sharp. Karan Higdon said that just because Michigan didn’t come away with a touchdown, for instance, the first drive against Maryland, doesn’t mean the offense is sluggish and underperforming. Well, field goals in the red zone – there were two against Northwestern – aren’t going to cut it against really good teams.

Question: How has your outlook on the Wolverines changed from preseason to now? As much as I’m trying not to ... I’m finding my level of optimism grow. Tell me it's real, and that I’m not just being sucked in. -- @FredSDTW

Answer: I came in thinking this could be a 10-win team. It felt coming out of spring and even in camp that this was a more confident team, a more mature team, and I really did think Shea Patterson would be a difference maker. Look, they could lose to Wisconsin on Saturday. And of course they could lose at Michigan State and two weeks later against Penn State, but I don’t see that as the course for this team. The players were buoyed more than we know by that comeback against Northwestern. It was important for the defense to see its offense finally come through and win a game. Now, I still think Ohio State wins in Columbus, but let’s revisit that after this three-game stretch.

Question: Saw status on Chris Evans. What about Carlo Kemp, Michael Dwumfour, Rashan Gary? -- @KTG716

Question: I know it’s hard getting anything out of coach re injuries, but where do you see us standing with Gary, Kemp and Solomon? (You’ve already said Evans will play and you do not believe Dwumfour will.) -- @jeff122380

Answer: Tried and tried and tried to get something more definitive on the injuries, and yes, Jay Harbaugh said they anticipate Evans will play. Jim Harbaugh made it sound like it was his decision to sit Gary, which if that’s the case suggests Gary will be ready and that they wanted him as rested as possible for a big game like this. Not sure Kemp or Dwumfour were as serious as first thought, but don’t know their status, and Aubrey Solomon posted a photo on social media of him at practice. Greg Mattison a few weeks ago said Solomon was progressing well and Harbaugh has said the same. This would be an ideal time for him to get back.

Question: Do you foresee a big game for Evans coming back from injury? He is the ideal back on the roster for use with more spread packages. -- @StandardPainWP

Answer: Not sure how much work they want to give him for his first time at game speed since missing the last three. Higdon certainly has run hard and run well, and Tru Wilson has been a solid contributor, perhaps most importantly in pass protection, but Evans adds a nice change of pace. Don’t forget about fullback Ben Mason. He has been incorporated more and more, and you might see him doing a bit more bulldozing against Wisconsin.