Jim Harbaugh has been an incredible success at Michigan when you look at his track record compared to the previous two Michigan coaches, but ask a Michigan fan and they won’t be that hot on Harbaugh’s tenure, and I’d say there’s a pretty easy stat to point to for that: 0-4. Harbaugh has come up winless against Michigan’s rival Ohio State, with an average margin of defeat of 17. The Buckeyes undergo a coaching change while Michigan gets a ton back on offense, and the game will be in Ann Arbor this year. Will Harbaugh finally be able to conquer his demon?
The Wolverines return almost everybody on offense from last year’s 6.1 yards per play team, and they add a new OC in Josh Gattis, who was co-OC with Alabama last year.
The offense will revolve around Shea Patterson, someone who I’ve run hot and cold on in the past, but really showed out last year, averaging eight yards a throw and nearly as many yards per non-sack rush. His top two targets from last year return in Donovan Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins (16.6 YPC), who combined for 14 touchdowns and nearly 1,400 yards last year. Freshman Mike Sainristil will also challenge for snaps at the receiver spot after showing out in spring ball.
The Wolverines ran a lot last year, and while Karan Higdon is gone, backup and former walk-on Tru Wilson will take the reigns after averaging 5.9 yards per touch in limited snaps last year. A pair of freshmen, Christian Turner and Zach Charbonnet, will challenge Wilson for touches, but whoever the back is, the line will be one of the best in the country as four starters are back from what was a tremendous group last year. This is likely to be one of the best Michigan offenses in recent memory.
On defense, Michigan does lose a lot between Devin Bush, Tyree Kinnel, Chase Winovich, and Rashan Gary among others. The top returning tackler is Josh Ross (61) who also picked up four TFL.
Michigan has liked to pressure offenses in recent years, but they’ll need some people to step up outside of pass-rush specialist Josh Uche, seven of whose 15 tackles were sacks, an absurd ratio. End Kwity Paye (two sacks, 3.5 TFL) is another name to watch, and in the secondary, they bring back playmaker Josh Metellus (3.5 TFL, six PBUs, three interceptions) and Lavert Hill (five PBUs, one INT). There are a lot of new faces outside of those named, but Michigan is a talented enough team that this should be a good defense, they just need a few guys to step up.
I like the offense, but I’m unsure about the defense, Michigan is the opposite of Ohio State this year. The good news is that UM gets Ohio State at home, so as long as they only drop at most one game elsewhere, a win there and then another in the Big Ten Championship Game would likely put them in the playoff.
It was a tough call, but I feel more confident in Ohio State’s offense than Michigan’s defense, and I think the Buckeyes end up winning the Big Ten, although Michigan winning ‘The Game’ but missing the Big Ten title game due to the tough schedule elsewhere (@ Wisconsin, @ Penn State) isn’t out of the question.
|at penn sttate
|at ohio state
Average Projected Record: 9.2 wins, 2.8 losses (6.7 wins, 2.3 losses)