The bad news for the Michigan Wolverines is that the team loses a ton of talent from last season. The good news is that they’re the Michigan Wolverines. Oh, and the better news is that the team is coached by Jim Harbaugh and he knows a thing or two about recruiting.
Even with all the turnover, Michigan should be in the mix for a Big Ten title this season, something the team has yet to accomplish under Harbaugh. A lot relies on the promising but unproven talent on both sides of the ball as there is little time for rookie mistakes when you share a conference with the likes of Ohio State and Michigan State.
Fans don’t have to wait too long to find out just how good this year’s team will be, however, since a lot should be revealed in the home opener against Florida on September 2. If Michigan is going to repeat the success it saw early last season, it will need to hit the ground running.
2016 Record: 10-3 SU, 6-7 ATS, 8-4 O/U
2017 Regular Season Win Total: 9
National Championship Odds: +2500
Odds To Win Big Ten: +620
Michigan had a tremendous start to the 2016 season, going 9-0 including wins against Wisconsin and Michigan State. Then came a slight stumble against Iowa on November 12 where the Wolverines fell 14-13 on the road and two games later, Michigan lost by a field goal in double overtime to conference rival Ohio State to be officially removed from College Football Playoff contention.
The Wolverines ended the season on an even more sour note, losing 33-32 to Florida State in the Orange Bowl on December 30. It was a tough way to wrap up a season that started out so well, especially considering the Wolverines lost those three games by just four points combined.
Michigan’s defense, led by safety Jabrill Peppers, defensive back Jourdan Lewis and a slew of other talented players that have since departed, was the key to the team’s success last season. The Wolverines finished the year ranked No. 1 in total defense.
The offense was nearly perfectly balanced in 2016, accumulating 2,756 yards in the air and 2,768 yards on the ground. Its versatility was its strength.
This year, things look much different, however, and with only six starters returning nobody actually knows what they look like at all. Luckily, included in the handful of starters returning is veteran quarterback Wilton Speight. Speight completed 204-of-331 passes last season for 2,538 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Expectations will be incredibly high for the junior this season, not only in terms of his individual play but also with his ability to command and lead a young offense that must replace so many skilled players. All three of last year’s top receivers are gone, meaning the top recruits from the 2016 and 2017 recruiting classes need to step up immediately.
Michigan also loses its leading rusher from a season ago in De’Veon Smith, but does retain its No. 2 in Chris Evans. Evans rushed for 614 yards last season, averaging seven yards a carry.
On defense, it’s not hyperbole to say that Michigan loses almost everyone this year. The line, anchored by sophomore Rashan Gary, a top recruit from the 2016 class, and senior Maurice Hurst, should be a strength again in 2017.
The secondary is much more of an unknown. The Wolverines don’t face many pass-heavy offenses, especially in the beginning of the season while the young players are still getting their footing, but it will still need a few players to emerge as playmakers and limit the damage. The Wolverines have recruited well under Harbaugh and have players waiting in the wings, but they must grow up quickly.
Saturday, September 2: Michigan vs. Florida
Saturday, September 9: Michigan vs. Cincinnati
Saturday, September 16: Michigan vs. Air Force
Saturday, September 23: Michigan at Purdue
Saturday, October 7: Michigan vs. Michigan State
Saturday, October 14: Michigan at Indiana
Saturday, October 21: Michigan at Penn State
Saturday, October 28: Michigan vs. Rutgers
Saturday, November 4: Michigan vs. Minnesota
Saturday, November 11: Michigan at Maryland
Saturday, November 18: Michigan at Wisconsin
Saturday, November 25: Michigan vs. Ohio State
|SEC Conference||Big 10 Conference|
|ACC Conference||Big 12 Conference|
|Pac 12 Conference||Big East Conference|
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