Michigan is back! Yet, again! We’ve been hearing this for quite some time now, ever since head coach Jim Harbaugh stepped on campus. But are they really back? Back in a way that they’ll be competing for Natty Titles? We take a look at the Pros/Cons for this year’s team, discuss their over/under total, check out a potential impact newcomer, and offer up a prediction on the year.
- New quarterback Shea Patterson
Sure, high-ranked quarterbacks transfer quite often, but Patterson arrives in Ann Arbor at the absolute highest moment of need. In Harbaugh’s tenure, you could argue that QB has been the position with the least consistency and lowest quality. Patterson is no schlub — he completed 63.8% of his throws for 2259 yards and a 17/9 TD-to-INT ratio in seven games last year. He also does stuff like this. Some say he plays like Johnny Manziel – a player we recall being classified as “Most Exciting Player in College Football”. And just to add a little more upside for Michigan fans, he comes as a junior which means they might just get two years of sugary goodness from him.
- Karan Higdon
Here is one of the best running backs in college football. Last year, running behind a suspect offensive line, Higdon put up 994 yards and 11 TDs (at a 6.1 yds/att pace). He’s a leader and a guy that wants to be given the ball at the most important times.
- The return of Tarik Black
Michigan is loaded at wide receiver. The 2016/17 brought two top flight receiver recruits: 5-star Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black. Black was a high 4-star recruit who played three games last year, before his season ended to a broken foot. But now he’s back, ready to cause mayhem and misdirection all over the place. The Wolverines’ new wide receivers coach is former Florida head coach Jim McElwain, and he’ll surely be itching to work with these two. DPJ and Black are young enough that our great nation is still unaware of their great potential. Get on this bandwagon now before it gets too crowded.
- Don Brown’s Defense
Despite all the optimism on offense, there lies more bankable dependability on the other side of the ball. Michigan’s defense is not one you would ever call lacking. D-Coordinator Don Brown – owner of a world-class, Butkis-esque mustache – has this team running like a machine. They ranked 3rd -in the nation last year in total defense, allowing only 271 yards per game. They have NFL-caliber talent just waiting for the games to start.
- The Show
Have you watched the All or Nothing documentary/show put out by Amazon’s streaming services? The entire 2017 season documented for our plebian enjoyment. It gets you behind the doors of Harbaugh’s program, to watch as their 8-5 season plays out from summer to a disappointing fizzle-of-a bowl game against South Carolina (spoilers, sorry). But what the show does best is that most of the players it chooses to follow are the ones that will be back in this coming 2018 season. If you’re a Michigan fan, it’s a must watch. You’ll pumped for Wolverines’ football even more so because you’ll now know the backstories and the personalities of their biggest returning players. If you have the time, we definitely recommend having a looksee.
- The O-line
Last year, Michigan’s offensive line was their greatest weakness. It was the root of many of their offensive struggles and caused their revolving door of injured and shellshocked quarterbacks to spin all the faster. It’ll be likely the biggest factor determining the success of 2018. But here’s a positive spin: This is Year Four of the Harbaugh rebuild. One would now expect that the grand majority of the roster are kids that he and his staff recruited for this system. What he hasn’t had yet is an upper-class lineman of his choosing. Linemen, more than any other position on the football field, get the biggest benefit from experience/age. While we won’t bet our lives on it (…or will we) we’d imagine we’ll see some good improvement from the hog mollies.
- The (Supposed) Harbaugh Circus
Yes, Harbaugh’s done some work to get the reputation of being slightly crazy. But if you watch All or Nothing (mentioned above), you don’t get that sense nearly as much. He’s just a loud, bespectacled guy trying to bring a great program back to national relevance. Nonetheless, the media paints him in this light. It doesn’t seem to affect his players much, but it’s always something that could be a latent issue. Especially if the losses start to pile up.
2018 Season O/U Win Total
The B1G East holds nothing but challenges for the Wolverines. Everyone is looking to make some upgrades this season, even Indiana and Rutgers. The season starts with a very juicy rivalry game against Notre Dame. In the cross-conference matchups, Michigan will travel to Northwestern and host Wisconsin and Nebraska, which are potentially the three best teams from the West. And then, to top it all off, the Wolverines play Michigan State and Ohio State on the road. We have an unusual amount of good feelings for this team…but good gracious is that schedule rough. The o/u win total is 9. That seems a little high for a team with so many question marks on the offensive line. If they get a push (i.e., 9 wins on the nose), Wolverine fans should be happy. Anything beyond that would be a very successful season. However, the main thing is that they have to beat at least one of their rivals (Harbaugh is a combined 4-7 vs Michigan St, Penn St, Wisconsin, & Ohio St). They can’t keep piling up the Ls and expect the natives to not get restless.
Potential Impact Newcomer
The obvious answer would be QB Shea Patterson. However, we’re going to go off script a bit. When an O-line is suspect, the tight end becomes a QB’s best friend. And the Wolverines love to utilize the TE (see: Butt, Jake). Thus, we’re going to say that incoming freshman 4-star TE Mustapha Muhammad has a chance to make an impact. He’s 6’4″ 235 lbs and has great hands. He will be raw, but with his athleticism, he could make an impact this year.
History Lesson – Michigan is the all-time winningest program in college football history. That’s a pretty impressive feat and one that’s not likely to change anytime soon. But does that matter? Does the title mean anything? With the way the school has performed during the last decade, younger fans don’t truly know what Michigan football is at its peak. For a while, the the prestige of Michigan seemed to be buried in the days of yore. However, with each passing season, they seem to be a step closer to the glory of the past, as the anticipation of the return to the Wolverines’ legacy grows. For Wolverine fans, here’s to hoping that Harbaugh gets it done this season.