Big Ten Title or Bust for Harbaugh, Michigan?

The stage is set for year three of the Jim Harbaugh era in Ann Arbor, and the pressure to win the big one is as heavy as it’s ever been. Most Michigan fans will express the contentment of what Harbaugh has done in two seasons as the head man for the maize & blue, considering the state of the program which he had inherited.

The former San Francisco 49ers coach is 20-6 overall, 13-4 in conference play, and 1-3 in major rivalry games for Michigan. Back-to-back 3rd place finishes in the Big Ten East Division.

Michigan has been suffering through an ongoing conference title drought for over a decade now (since ’04). Not to mention only being able to edge archrival, Ohio State, once since 2003; winless in Columbus since the turn of the century.

If you’re like me, and you try to keep it as real as it gets: you have to wonder when the seat could possibly get hot for Jim Harbaugh. With saying that, I’ll also point out that as I feel like 2016-17 was as disappointing as it can get, coming from a life-long supporter of a Michigan program that has been irrelevant for a vast majority of my young life.

Please do not get me wrong: I still like what I’ve seen from Harbaugh’s program, and it looks promising to only get better from here on out. Judging by the quality of talent he’s bringing to Ann Arbor, the experience of the coaching staff, his track record of success prior to Michigan, it all points to nothing but a good future for this program.

Let’s talk about what we’re working with this season, 2017-18. An experienced upperclassmen quarterback in Wilton Speight, who in my mind is very primed to win the starting job this fall. I truly believe that returning Speight may be the biggest X-factor for this young Wolverines roster, his development into a top Big Ten pocket passer, and a leader for Michigan is more than crucial.

A young receiving core with a mess of potential: Grant Perry (status varies depending on trial in late July), Kekoa Crawford, and Eddie McDoom who both showcased both speed, and stability in emerging into reliable targets for quarterbacks to rely on. Addition of two true freshman expected to see playing time like no one’s business, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and Tarik Black.

A considerably disappointing unit for Michigan in 2016-17 was the offensive line, a group that featured experience failed to live up to the hype. Heavily struggling to get a consistent push on Florida State’s defensive front. Look for this unit to rely on a to-be 4 year starter in now-center, Mason Cole, to emerge as the leader of a group. Jim Harbaugh may be forced to rely on one or two of our true freshmen. Protection for Speight is a top concern for this team.

On defense, which finished as the #1 total defense in the nation in 2016-17, will only be returning a singular starter, LB Mike McCray.

While this defense is set to reload talent, the biggest question mark lies in the secondary. Replacing All American CB, Jourdan Lewis, and All Big Ten CB, Channing Stribling is easier said than done. Returning defensive back, Tyree Kinnel, has a healthy amount of experience at safety, likely to be a starter within this unit. Michigan has recruited fairly well, but experience lacks. This unit will be tested this season, and will most definitely be looked at as a vulnerability within this defense.

The linebacker unit features the one & only returning defensive starter, Mike McCray. Devin Bush Jr will be looked at to make a leap for this season, and make his name known within the program. Bringing in a group of four-star recruit linebackers, it seems certain that we’ll get a chance to see playing time for each of them. Khaleke Hudson will be expected to take over the “viper” position on this defense, to replace Heisman finalist, Jabrill Peppers. Viper is a hybrid position for outside linebacker, defensive back, type players, who can lay the big hits, utilize versatility/speed and be utilized at more than one simple position. It’s known to be a very unique position that is used frequently in a defense like Don Brown’s, in other words it takes a skilled ball player to succeed at said position.

Michigan’s defensive line is a unit that will be closely looked at by NFL scouts, and draft experts all season long. Many are quick to say that former #1 overall recruit, Rashan Gary, will be the overall best player for the Wolverines. Look for him to emerge as a force to be reckoned with, quickly. DT, Maurice Hurst, will be a huge contributor to this line, as will DE Chase Winovich, and DT Bryan Mone, who have all seen a good amount of snaps in their careers at Michigan. This is one group that won’t disappoint come fall.

As far as special teams go, Jim Harbaugh will look to his former sleepover pal, Quinn Nordin, to be the team’s kicker. Losing Kenny Allen to running out of eligibility.

Urban Meyer & Ohio State faced a similar situation as far as losing talent to the draft, and to graduation in 2016; ended up overcoming the replacing starters concern & cracking the college football playoffs for the 2nd time. Harbaugh’s path to success in his third year with the program will be one that is earned not given.

Kicking off the season on the big stage in Arlington, Texas in the “Advocare Classic” against a familiar foe in the Florida Gators. Harbaugh & Florida head coach Jim McElwain had previously met in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day last year, let’s just say that Florida would like the outcome of this game to be almost any other way than how the bowl game ended.

Road struggles were what hurt Michigan in 2016-17, losing three of their last four. Traveling to Penn State for a “white out” primetime matchup will be a game circled in red on Michigan’s calender, despite taking down the Big Ten champs 49-10 in 2016, James Franklin’s Nittany Lions are the team to beat.

Traveling to Madison, Wisconsin isn’t something to be worried about, offensive progress for the Badgers seems to be unlikely in my opinion, but you can’t take any game lightly, especially a road game in the Big Ten.

I believe this youthful Michigan team will, at most, have 1-2 losses entering “The Game”, and they will face a similar situation they did a season ago: Beat the Buckeyes, earn the trip to Indy to play in their first Big Ten title game. It is extremely probable that a top ten ranked, well-oiled machine, from Columbus will be coming to Ann Arbor, and be a heavy favorite entering this anticipated final week of the regular season.

How many more seasons can Michigan & Jim Harbaugh fail to not only beat Ohio State, but fall short of a Big Ten title, before we begin to criticize Jim Harbaugh, and his staff? As Michigan fans, we tend to have the highest of expectations for the winningest-program in college football history.

2017 is a HUGE season for Harbaugh’s tenure, and the collapse in November of 2016 is simply something that this fanbase will be unable to stomach if repeated. We don’t need Jim Harbaugh to become the John Cooper for Michigan.

It’s Big Ten title or bust for Michigan, whether you agree or not, it’s time for Harbaugh to put this program on the map, and finally live up to all of this hype. He’s the highest paid coach in college football, time for him to show us why.

10-3, with a 3rd place division finish is fine for now, but 2017 needs to be different.

 

 

Michigan to the Sweet Sixteen; Ends Louisville’s Season


On Sunday afternoon, the 7 seeded Michigan Wolverines upset 2 seeded Kansas in Indy 73-69 to advance into the Sweet Sixteen. 

Moritz Wagner with 26 points on the day for the maize & blue. 11/14 FG’s and 3/6 FT’s. Derrick Walton Jr led the team in rebounds & assists, 7 rebounds, 6 assists. 

Michigan will be heading the Kansas City, and awaits the results of the Oregon-Rhode Island matchup. 

John Beilein’s Wolverines’ unlikely March Madness journey continues on into the Sweet Sixteen.

Michigan Downs Oklahoma State; Advances in NCAA Tournament 


Friday afternoon, John Beilein’s 7 seeded Michigan Wolverines took the win over 10 seeded Oklahoma State 92-91. 

Derrick Walton Jr. was the leading scorer for the Wolverines with 26 points on the day. 7/13 FG’s and 6/7 FT’s for Walton. 

81.8 in team free throw percentage for the Wolverines would end up being one of the more key factors in this game allowing them to advance into the second round of the NCAA tournament. 

Michigan now awaits results from the Jacksonville State-Louisville game to find out who will be next on their journey. 

How Michigan was Emotionally Propelled Into a Big Ten Tournament Championship 

The past five days for the Michigan Wolverines Basketball team has been nothing but a great story to tell to their kids someday. 

On Sunday the Wolverines were crowned the Big Ten Tournament Champions, as the highest seed to ever do so. Handling the 24th ranked Wisconsin Badgers in convincing fashion in front of a crowd of just over 20 thousand. 


It shall not go unforgotten that John Beilein’s Michigan team barely made it to D.C. to compete in the Big Ten Tournament, arriving at the Verizon Center around two hours prior to tip-off against the Fighting Illini of Illinois due to an early morning flight. Michigan had a very scary situation with their attempt to travel to D.C. on Wednesday due to a very severe wind storm going on in South-East Michigan.

“The Michigan men’s basketball team plane was involved in an accident Wednesday afternoon. After attempting to take off in high winds, takeoff was aborted and, after strong braking, the plane slid off the runway. The plane sustained extensive damage but everyone on board was safely evacuated and is safe. The team is making alternate travel plans.” -Matt Shepard of Fox Sports

Coach Beilein spoke to media regarding the incident shortly after releasing this short statement: “All okay! A few guys banged up and shook up. Blessed we did not get up in the air.” 

A situation like this one where things had potetional to inflict harm on multiple players, and staff members of the Michigan Basketball program, you have to imagine that they truly felt blessed to be alive. 

Some of the Michigan players were very skeptical about attempting to fly again the next day, however ultimately the team made the decision to take the trip to D.C early Thursday morning. 

Often enough, when people suffer through an experience similar to the Wolverines’ plane incident, they tend to have somewhat of a different perception of life. In my personal narrative, I believe that is exactly what happened to this basketball team on Wednesday. 

Not only did John Beilein’s hoop squad win the next four games to win the Big Ten Tournament, but they also looked damn well in doing so. Due to the circumstances of what this team had experienced, I believe they had a different outlook on not only life, but the game of basketball as well. These players are now absorbing every aspect of life, and savoring every second of it. 

The 8 seeded Wolverines were out these past four days returning to the simplest, purest form of basketball possible. Every player out to play as if it was their last game they’ll ever play again. Zero distractions, and feeling incredibly blessed to live another day, to play another game. 

Four days, four victories, one Big Ten Tournament title for Michigan. As I said before, I believe that this group of young men was emotionally propelled into the spot they are in now.  

Receiving a 7 seed in the NCAA tournament to take on Oklahoma State in the first round.

I wish nothing but the best of luck to John Beilein and the Michigan Wolverines as they hope to continue their magical journey in the ‘big dance’. 

Jim Harbaugh’s 7th Child has Arrived 

On Wednesday afternoon at 4:35pm Michigan head football coach, Jim Harbaugh tweeted the news of his newest son arriving, John Harbaugh. 

Says John had came earlier than expected weighing in at 4 lb 13 oz, with an 18 in wing span. 

Perhaps Michigan has just earned the first commitment of the 2035 class for the Wolverines! 

Michigan Loses Orange Bowl; Finishes 10-3

Dalvin Cook and Florida State bested Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines Friday night in the Capital One Orange Bowl 33-32 in a classic. 

Michigan will finish their 2016 season 10-3, and will go into the offseason with a possible top ten ranking. 

Jake Butt suffered a leg injury being taken out of the game in the first half. 

Jabrill Peppers suffered a hamstring injury in practice on Thursday, keeping him out of tonight’s matchup. 

Orange Bowl Preview: Michigan V. Florida State

This Friday, Jim Harbaugh’s no. 6 ranked Michigan Wolverines will face off against Jimbo Fisher’s no. 11 ranked Florida State Seminoles in Miami, FL.

The Wolverines currently sit as a touchdown favorite over the Seminoles, which some are considering higher than it should be considering the statistic margin amongst the two teams being narrow.

The key matchup creating all of the buzz for this game is FSU’s star tailback, Dalvin Cook, against Michigan’s stellar defensive front. Cook has ran for 1,620 yards and has reached the end zone 18 times for the Seminoles offense. Don Brown’s Wolverine defense is 13th against the run, and lead the nation against the pass.

Jimbo Fisher’s offense featuring the nation’s arguably top back, and emerging freshman QB, Deondre Francois, is quite possibly the best unit that the Michigan defense has lined up against in 2016.

Red zone play will be a huge factor in this game with Florida State as the nation’s top red zone offensive unit against Michigan as the nation’s 2nd best red zone defense. Look for the Wolverines to thrive on their defensive line, and linebacking core featuring heisman finalist, Jabrill Peppers, in order to stop the Seminole rushing attack.

The Michigan offense isn’t considered to be explosive, but very conservative, and quite efficient. DeVeon Smith is the leading ground gainer for the maize and blue; with 810 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2016.

The strength of the Michigan offense lies within the receiving core without a doubt featuring Amara Darboh, and Jehu Chesson; not to mention senior All American tight end, Jake Butt. The three seniors have caught 126 passes for 1,813 yards, and 13 touchdowns combined.

Wilton Speight will be asked to play his very best football this Friday in order to keep up with a very face paced Florida State defensive unit. Through just 11 games, Speight threw for 2,375 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 6 INT’s.

Tune into the Capital One Orange Bowl this Friday night, 8:00pm ET on ESPN. This is expected to be one of the better matchups of the 2016-17 bowl season, and definitely one you won’t want to miss.