The college football season can’t come soon enough. With every season comes new faces and possibilities. Who will be the teams to watch out for this season? This will be the 14th of many posts covering the top 25 teams in the country and will cover no. 12 Michigan Wolverines.
Michigan went 8-5 last season, which is not good enough for many of their fans. Essentially, the Wolverines beat the teams they should beat, other than maybe South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. With 14 returning starters, Michigan should be able to have a better record this year.
The offense ranked tied for 93rd in scoring, 49th in rushing and 110th in passing in 2017. There are six returning starters on this side of the ball. Jim Harbaugh doesn’t need to produce a great offense, just an average one will help him compete in the Big Ten East.
There is a lot of excitement about the arrival of Shea Patterson on campus. The quarterback transferred in from Ole Miss amidst their NCAA sanctions. Last season he threw for 2,259 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions on 63.2% completion in seven games. He will be the best quarterback that Jim Harbaugh has worked with since taking over at Michigan. Time will show if he can produce Harbaugh’s best offense in his tenure.
Michigan gets a lot of wide receivers back, but none where able to eclipse 400 yards receiving. The receiver to watch out for is Donovan Peoples-Jones, who was one of the highest-rated recruits in his class. He will be expected to be Patterson’s number one receiver. Sean McKeon is back at tight end after a 31 catch, 301 yard season.
Karan Higdon and Chris Evans will split carries for the second straight season. Higdon rushed for 994 yards and 11 touchdowns on 6.1 yards per carry. Evans chipped in with 685 yards and six touchdowns on 5.1 yards per carry. The rushing attack was better than the passing offense last year, but if they get better quarterback play, the Wolverines’ offense as a hole should improve.
The interior of the offensive line should be solid with three returning starters. The tackles, however, will need new starters and unproven players will be starting.
If Patterson is good as Michigan fans hope, the offense should be better by leaps and bounds.
The Wolverines have been strong on the defensive side of the ball for years now and this year will be no different. Eight starters return from last year’s team, which ranked 13th in points allowed per game, 18th against the run and first against the pass. Defensive coordinator Don Brown is one of the best in the business and will make the most of the talent on the roster.
The defensive line will be a good for the Michigan defense, but they will need to find new players to step up in the middle. On the outside, Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary create a great tandem. Winovich had 19 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks last year. Gary had 11.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks and is one of the candidates to be a top 10 NFL Draft pick if he plays well this season.
One of the best linebackers in the country, Devin Bush, will lead the defense this season. He led the team in tackles with 95. He added 10 tackles for loss, 5.5 tackles for loss, one interception and seven passes defended. Khaleke Hudson will also be back after a productive 2017, in which he tallied 77 tackles and 7.5 sacks. He thrives under Brown’s highly-aggressive scheme.
The secondary returns every starter, and given how they played last year, should be every bit as good this season. Lavert Hill and David Long are among the best corners in the country. They each had two interceptions last year. Josh Metellus and Tyree Kinnel reclaim their spots at the safety position. Kinnel played extraordinarily well last season.
This defense has the talent to be the best in the country, but might be on the field a lot if the offense can’t move the chains.
The non-conference schedule consists of Notre Dame (away), Western Michigan (home) and SMU (home). Notre Dame will be Michigan’s biggest test and will likely be a defensive struggle. Being that it is on the road, it is the definition of a coin-flip game.
In conference, the Wolverines play Wisconsin (home), Michigan State (away), Penn State (home) and Ohio State (away). It’s unlikely that any team can get by undefeated in the Big Ten East, but the Wolverines have the talent to win any of these games if they play well.
Winning them all is a little unrealistic, but the Wolverines can win eight to 10 games. That’s impressive given the division. The question for Michigan fans: Is it good enough for Harbaugh in year four?
Make sure to check out our college football page for more updates and rankings.