THE GAME: Ohio State @ Michigan Predictions

The Big House. The Horseshoe. The Maize and Blue. The Scarlet and Grey. Bo Schembechler. Woody Hayes. The Ten Year War. The Big Two and the Little Eight. Jim Harbaugh. Urban Meyer.

This will be the 100th consecutive meeting between the arch-rivals, 113 meetings in total. Records and rankings are thrown out the window because after kickoff, the only thing that matters is beating that team on the other sideline, it’s an absolute war. To keep it short, these schools don’t like each other and that’s just how it is.

(9-2) no. 9 ranked, Ohio State, will come to Ann Arbor and play (8-3) unranked, Michigan. This rivalry is widely considered to be one of the best in all of sports, despite the 21st century being a tad-lopsided in favor of the Buckeyes.

The Block M Insider has just four contributors for both our blog and to run our Twitter pages, and this article is featuring opinions and predictions on how “The Game” will potentially unfold come this Saturday:

Shane: 

Not many will be predicting a Michigan victory in Ann Arbor come Saturday when the Buckeyes will come to the Big House as a likely double digit favorite. Wolverine season-ticket holders everywhere have been looking to sell their tickets, feeling similar to the 2013 game that held little to no confidence throughout the fan-base.

I’d love to sit here and say that the intensity of this rivalry is going to lift this younger, inexperienced, lesser coached, less talented Michigan team to a victory come Saturday but that simply hasn’t been the case in my lifetime. I don’t think this team is good enough to hang with the Buckeyes, but I’m also a firm believer that in college football on any given day, anything is possible.

This Michigan defense is a stout unit with a front to be reckoned with, however they have a inexperienced secondary with plenty of vulnerabilities that have been exposed to man coverage specifically this season. Overall, this group is arguably atop in the nation in terms of quality, they’d be able to perform at a higher level had their offense give them time to rest in between possessions. Going up against this Buckeye offense who has more dimensions than one, they’ll be able to spread it out to attack these said vulnerabilities within the Michigan defense. This will be the best total offense that Michigan has gone up against this season, Penn State being the 2nd best as they put up 42 points. Jim Harbaugh and Don Brown must prepare their best game-plan along with unanimous execution to limit the Heisman hopeful, J.T. Barrett, freshman RB, J.K. Dobbins, and the rest of the Buckeye play-makers.

Offensively in Ann Arbor, this season has not been a favorable one and it’s difficult to say things will change this week. We’ve seen three different quarterbacks under center for Michigan this season and Brandon Peters, the fan favorite, is not a guarantee for play on Saturday, remains in concussion protocol. Wilton Speight’s status remains in non-contact for practice, not likely he dresses. If both are out for the game, that would likely leave it up to John O’Korn, or Alex Malzone if they wanted to risk playing someone with no experience. It’s no secret that the offense has clicked the most efficiently while having Peters in the huddle and it would be in Michigan’s favor to have him ready to go, but the real bread and butter to this unit are two men named Karan Higdon and Chris Evans. The passing game struggle has allowed the run game to open up several times this season; Higdon is 124 yards away from being Michigan’s first 1,000 yard rusher in a season since Fitz Toussiant in 2011. Evans has carried his weight as well with a 594 yard season thus far. Unfortunately for the offense, Ohio State’s run-defense is their strength and Iowa, who routed the Buckeyes, were able to expose their secondary. I can’t express how crucial it is for Michigan to have Brandon Peters’ arm, gives them the best chance to move the ball in my opinion because we’ve seen the John O’Korn offense and I really don’t think there’s a chance with him under center.

As a fan, I’m hoping for a close game that comes within a possession or two at the very least, but I’m taking Ohio State in this one and expect them to cover the spread. This isn’t Michigan’s season, but a win over your rival would essentially forgive the losses this season strictly due to transitional circumstances after losing over 40 seniors and returning less than 5 total starters. Michigan is the least experienced team in the FBS to my understanding, currently fighting for a 9 or 10 win season while the Buckeyes are trying to make their case to the committee for yet another college football playoff appearance.

Prediction: Ohio State 34, Michigan 14.

Mark:

Weird things happen in sports.  It’s the unpredictability that makes fans go crazy.  For Michigan fans, it’s “The Game.”  There have been so many upsets in this rivalry.  They are actually easy to remember.

1969 – Michigan 24, Ohio State 12

1987 – Ohio State 23, Michigan 20

1996 – Michigan 13, Ohio State 9

2016 – Ohio State 30, Michigan 27 (2OT)

Why do I list all of the more memorable ones?   That’s the point.  This game is SPECIAL.  This game is TRADITION.  And for both fan bases who reside on the internet like they know it all, those four games above prove that when you least expect it, we know nothing.

So now let’s move on to 2017…

QUICK FACTS

  • Michigan has allowed 14 points or less in the last 10 home games.  Last team to score more than 14…Ohio State in 1015.
  • Not a player on Michigan’s roster has beaten Ohio State.
  • Ohio State has only scored less than 30 points twice (Oklahoma & Iowa).
  • Michigan has only given up more than 24 points in a game once (Penn State).

Do you know what the problem with facts can lead to?  Short-sighted conclusions based on insufficient evidence.

So let’s get to it.  To the casual observer and to the most loyal fan, this seems to be a game that Ohio State should win. This is the game that Michigan has been preparing for since last year’s loss in the Horseshoe.

The Buckeye offense is potent and features playmakers all over the field…including a dual-threat quarterback.  J.T. Barrett is good enough to make Michigan fans sick to their stomachs.  Why?  Barrett is the only real quarterback that is going to force Michigan into a “Spy” situation.  Don Brown will have to assign somebody to mirror Barrett because the “Cover 10” defense that Michigan uses is the most vulnerable to a scrambling quarterback.  While OSU has made recent gains in the run game with Dobbins and Weber, there is nothing to suggest that they will be able to run against Michigan.   In the passing game, it’s about containable pressure on Barrett while winning the individual matchups outside.

Will he play?  Earlier in the week, my sources around Schembechler Hall thought it was more likely that Peters would play.  As the week has gone on, that outlook has dimmed just a bit. As I pen this prediction, my gut tells me that O’Korn is the starter.  Most Michigan fans just clicked to another website because they think that tells the whole story but let me add a twist to their perceived ending.  Here’s what UM has to do to be in position to win:

  • Be efficient in the intermediate passing game (5-15 yards down field)
  • Stay out of ’22’ personnel and run the ball while spreading out the Buckeye defense
  • Use designed runs/rollouts to enable O’Korn to be on the move
  • Take shots downfield as the Buckeye defense starts to roll to the line of scrimmage as the game is much tighter than they expect.

In both OSU losses, you see the OSU defense lose steam in the second half.  Why?  This Buckeye team is really not built to dominate for four quarters.  They are much more like Ivan Drago from Rocky IV.  They are going to try to knock you out early.  Harbaugh and Co. has to put the Rocky Balboa shorts on and just keep punching.

That’s how upsets happen.  Being told you can’t win can motivate but does this Michigan team have enough toughness to stand in and punch with the B1G Ten’s Drago (no matter how flawed they are).

The answer…yes and it’ll shock the hell out of most of us.

Prediction: Michigan 24, Ohio State 12. 

Now let me get back to my Rocky training montage.

 

 

Brandon: 

First played in 1897, the 2017 edition will be played in Ann Arbor at the Big House. The Ohio State-Michigan game is one of, if not the, biggest rivalries in sports.

This year’s Buckeyes team comes into this game ranked no. 9 by the College Football Playoff Committee while the Wolverines will be unranked. Ohio State is sporting a 9-2 record with a tough loss to a good Oklahoma Sooner squad along with a blowout loss to Iowa on the road. Michigan will come into this one with an 8-3 record with close losses to Michigan State and Wisconsin and a drubbing at the hands of the Penn State Nittany Lions.

So while these teams are only separated by a game in the standings, they’ll be playing for completely different reasons. OSU has already clinched the East for a spot in the conference title game, a win against Michigan on the road and a victory against the Wisconsin Badgers in Indy gives the Buckeyes and the Big Ten a resume worthy of potential consideration for the CFP final four. Michigan on the other hand is looking to beat their rival for the first time since 2011 and have a chance at their third consecutive 10-win season under Jim Harbaugh.

I believe this game will come down to the battle of the quarterbacks. J.T. Barrett leads this Buckeye team and they are currently the fourth ranked offense in the nation when it comes to yards per game as they are averaging over 546 total YPG. They are also averaging over 44 points per contest as well.

Michigan, on the other hand, comes into this game having played three different QBs this season (Wilton Speight, John O’Korn, Brandon Peters) with Speight being sidelined due to injury, O’Korn being benched due to poor play, and Peters playing decent but he is now hurt as well and is uncertain for Saturday’s matchup.

If OSU is going to be victorious, they will need two key elements. First, their defense will need to contain the run game that Michigan employs; Karan Higdon, Chris Evans and Ty Issac provide the offense with a lethal backfield when clicking on all cylinders. When Michigan’s ground game is going, it helps their defense by allowing them to control the time of possession battle. Second, they will also have to not get picked apart by the weak air attack that U of M employs, regardless of who is under center. Iowa put up 55 on the Buckeyes a couple of weeks back and they accomplished it primarily through the air.

If the Wolverines are going to come out of this game with a win, they will have to do two things as well. First, whoever is playing at quarterback will need to attack the weak part of Ohio State’s defense, which is their secondary. Secondly, they will have to put pressure on J.T. Barrett. He one fine player, but when you contain him and make him throw from the pocket, he isn’t himself. This will be a tall task for this Michigan defense, but it is a must if they want to leave the Big House on a high note.

As for my final score prediction, I believe this one could get ugly. Ohio State is a double-digit (I’ve seen anywhere from -11 to -14) favorite in Vegas and I think they will cover the spread. Not saying Michigan can’t shock the world and pull of the upset, but I just see that as a long shot. J.T. won’t be short this year, folks.

Prediction: Ohio State 31, Michigan 13.

Michael:

November 25th, 2017 3:50 pm. The ESPN ticker scrolls along, you catch a glimpse of something deceives your eye, you check again and it was true. Michigan defeats Ohio State.

Harbaugh finally gets his signature win, on the heels of a defensive masterpiece constructed by Don Brown. Tim Drevno and Pep Hamilton dig up their best game plan, and the offense clicks just enough to pull of the upset.

Prediction: Michigan 28, Ohio State 7.

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Playing for Bragging Rights; 10 Win Season on the Line for Michigan

8-3 Michigan’s prior narrow, division title hopes were officially crushed on Saturday as undefeated Wisconsin put away the Wolverines by two touchdowns in Madison. The game was 14-10 at the point of the Michigan offense losing their freshman quarterback, Brandon Peters, for the remainder of the game. After Peters was carted off the field, so was Michigan’s shot at offensive ball movement; the game took on a final score if 24-10 in favor of the home team.

Not many expected Michigan to win last Saturday, the game very well could have had a different outcome had Michigan been able to keep their quarterback, but to put it shortly: the better football team most definitely won.

Michigan’s expectations for this season were up in the air depending on your confidence in the coaching staff as some were predicting a playoff run, few were saying a 7-8 win season, and others were saying anything in between. When any college program loses over 40 seniors and returns 5 or less starters, it’s really a hit or miss season.

One thing Michigan has at least done so far in 2017, with the exception of the MSU game, they’ve beaten every team they were expected to beat. That doesn’t mean we can ignore the obvious shortcomings: something this program has struggled with in recent seasons primarily is winning the big games; Michigan is 0-16 in road games against ranked teams since 2006.

Michigan might not even crack top three in their own division to end the season, which isn’t a good look. In their slight defense, the Big Ten East is about as tough as a college football division can get. Nevertheless, the highest paid coach in the conference, Jim Harbaugh, should be able to finish better than third or fourth in a division in three seasons right? He’ll get just one more pass for a disappointing conference finish, but excuses are running thin come next season.

What’s next for Michigan? What is left for this nightmare of a season?

  • A chance to beat your rival, something this program and fan-base needs like none other.
  • Win a bowl game.
  • Opportunity to win 10 games for the third consecutive seasons.
  • Showcase what fans can expect come 2018-19.

Much like last Saturday, Michigan will be an Vegas underdog; Ohio State opened as a 13 point favorite in Ann Arbor.

Uncertain of who will be under center on Saturday, Harbaugh just announced today that Peters is in concussion protocol and could potentially be out of protocol by Wednesday or Thursday, or not at all, it’s up to the doctors. We will find out more information on Peters as the week progresses, chance to play is “hopeful”. Wilton Speight’s status is doubtful for Saturday, was cleared for non-contact last week. Harbaugh also said that Lavert Hill was cleared for practice this week.

The Buckeyes are coming off two blowout wins over a respected MSU team (48-3) and over Illinois (52-14). Michigan hasn’t scored more than 36 points in any game this season, they’ll look to their defense as an asset to keep them in the game on Saturday. A healthy Brandon Peters can potentially lower the line for the game, the freshman QB gives this Michigan offense a better chance to open up the passing game.

Despite having their primary goals out of reach yet again for the season, there’s still plenty motivation for this Michigan team to come out fired up this Saturday and for the bowl season. The confidence is scarce, but Jim Harbaugh has pulled off major, statistical upsets at prior coaching jobs.

A lot of this team still has fond memory and a bad taste in their mouths from what some players and many fans feel was an officiating wrong-doing in Columbus a season ago, rivalries can give teams a newfound motivation to up their play and execute.

 

 

Can Michigan Win Their Next Two?

Jim Harbaugh’s 8-2 Michigan Wolverines are currently on a three-game win streak (Rutgers, Minnesota, Maryland), all in which they beat by two or more possessions. Redshirt freshman QB, Brandon Peters, has seen the start in two of the last three games, but was given significant playing time against Rutgers after struggles from John O’Korn.

Peters through three games: (28 for 46, 329 yards, 4 touchdowns, 60.9 completion percentage, 7.15 yards per attempt, long: 35).

The run game has also been lifted since Peters stepped under center; the two biggest contributors to the latest emergence of the rushing attack are both sophomores, Karan Higdon and Chris Evans.

Higdon this season: (129 attempts, 854 yards, 6.6 yards per carry, 10 touchdowns, long: 77); Evans this season: (104 attempts, 569 yards, 5.5 yards per carry, 6 touchdowns, long: 67)

The quality of defenses in the past three games haven’t exactly been A-list, but it’s nice to finally see Michigan establish the identity they’ve been looking for. This is just what this team needs before playing in this two-game skid against top teams, undefeated Wisconsin and an Ohio State team coming off an absolute rout over Michigan State.

There were concerns in the 2nd half of the Maryland matchup on Saturday; despite winning in convincing fashion, 35-10, the Terps were able to outgain Michigan in total yards (340-305). It was evident that Michigan took their foot off the gas coming out of the locker room into the 3rd quarter. Maryland was also able to outscore the Wolverines in the 2nd half, 10-7, went on a 10-0 run deep into the fourth quarter.

Should Michigan fans worry about their incapability to put a stake in Maryland yesterday, or are they simply over thinking it?

Either way, the schedule faces its most difficult consecutive weeks to date. Michigan still has a sliver of a chance to win the East, but I’d imagine the realistic goal for this team is what’s in front of them, finishing the regular season 10-2.

Since 2006, Michigan is 0-15 against top 25 ranked teams in road match-ups. The last two top ten ranked teams that Michigan has beaten? Both were against Wisconsin at home (2008, 2016).

This Saturday, Michigan will play the only undefeated team left in the conference, top 5 ranked Wisconsin. As of today, the Wolverines are just an 8.5 point spread underdog, which is awfully generous in my opinion. The Big Ten West front-runners have convincingly handled every team put in front of them this season, top wins over Northwestern and Iowa, who both cracked the CFP top 25 in week 11.

The following Saturday, November 25th, Michigan will host Ohio State in the Big House. The last time Michigan beat their rival was November 26th, 2011 in Ann Arbor when current Cincinnati head coach, Luke Fickell, was the interim head coach for the Buckeyes. The 21st century has not been a kind one for Michigan in regards to this rivalry, and if we’re being honest, it hasn’t been kind to Michigan for multiple reasons. Despite already having two losses with two more games left to play in the regular season, Ohio State has looked good for the most part this season and Michigan simply hasn’t.

The S&P probability is giving Michigan just an 8.7 percent chance to win the next two, a 41.6 percent chance to win just one of the next two, and a 49.7 percent chance to lose both and finish 8-4 on the regular season.

Michigan’s offense has been primarily executing, most especially in the run game, which is an important key for success in their next two games. Very crucial for this unit to build off the recent success and to stick with a similar game-plan which is a run-first, pass conservatively scheme, nothing too fancy.

There’s nothing that could lift a young quarterback’s confidence like coming off the bench and assisting in running the table for a Michigan team that was facing offensive struggles prior to him seeing the field. Brandon Peters is the more favorable candidate for the starting job in 2018, will likely have a competition against a likely healthy Wilton Speight. Win or lose the next two, Peters will gain experience and get a better feel for what type of intensity college football has to offer.

Don Brown’s defense has done their job in just about every week except for the Penn State game that displayed multiple schematic issues. Khaleke Hudson has been a significant play-maker for this unit in replacing Jabrill Peppers at the viper position. A young secondary that initially had some communication issues seems to now be hitting their stride, defensive backs like sophomores David Long and Lavert Hill are making names for themselves as of late.

There isn’t a whole lot of reason for odds-makers in Vegas to put any confidence into Michigan in the next two weeks. They’re underdogs this Saturday, and will surely be underdogs next week for the Ohio State game, the odds will be stacked against them.

As for a fan-base who has had quite the emotional roller-coaster with their beloved head coach, they crave these potential signature wins over Wisconsin on the road, and beating Ohio State at home. These wins would not only make Michigan fans believe in Harbaugh again, but it should also silence his doubters. One of the biggest issues that fans and anaylysts have had over Jim Harbaugh is his poor record against rivals thus far at Michigan, which is 1-4.

Winning out would lift Jim Harbaugh to his third consecutive ten win season at his alma mater and would be entering 2018 with a talented team and a confident, sophomore quarterback who has 6 games of experience under his belt. Even though Michigan’s chance at the Big Ten is highly an unlikely one, there’s still a lot at stake for the remainder of the season.

 

Michigan’s Narrow Chance for the Big Ten East

Don’t look now, but it looks as if the Michigan offense might have found an identity to roll with from here on out. I know it’s only Rutgers and Minnesota, but it just feels like from the moment (RS) freshman quarterback, Brandon Peters, came off the bench, it’s given new life to this offense despite leaning heavily on the run game against Minnesota.

This type of offensive emergence gives this team their best chance to defy Vegas odds, and run the regular season table to win ten games for the third straight season.

Suffering losses from two in-division foes has already nearly sealed any chance of a Big Ten Championship game apperance for the Wolverines. There’s still a slight chance, so don’t completely count out the unranked 7-2 Michigan squad, but have I expressed how slight their chances truly are? Let me break it down:

  • Michigan needs to win out, beating Maryland (lost to Rutgers), undefeated no. 8 Wisconsin, and no. 13 Ohio State (whom is coming off a 55-24 loss to Iowa on the road which brought them down 7 spots in the CFP rankings).
  • No. 13 Ohio State will need to beat no. 12 Michigan State in Columbus.
  • No. 12 Michigan State will need to lose to either Maryland, or Rutgers (not very likely).
  • No. 14 Penn State will need to lose to Rutgers, Nebraska, or Maryland (again, doesn’t seem likely).

This is the one, sole, unlikely series of events that will need to unfold in order for Michigan to win their first Big Ten East division title. It’s asking for a complete miracle for this program and for this fan base; just know that in college football, anything really is possible.

What’s important for Jim Harbaugh and his team: focus on what they can control, which is to win out, one game at a time. Maryland is on this team’s mind as of this week, Wisconsin is on deck.

May the odds of this ill-probable shot at a 2017 Big Ten Championship forever be in favor of the youthful Michigan Wolverines.

For the fans who are currently complaining about a 7-2 Michigan team being snubbed of a ranking in the week 11 CFP poll: I have to ask what is there to be bitter about? Looking at it from a realistic fan/observer’s standpoint, Michigan lacks a win over an above .500 team, in other words they do not deserve to be ranked at this point in time. They have two games coming up where they’ll have the opportunity to earn wins which will almost certainly earn them a top 25 spot.

Michigan Football 2017-18 Game-by-Game Predictions

Year three of the Jim Harbaugh in Ann Arbor will officially be underway in less than a month. After back-to-back 10-3 seasons, a vast majority of analysts, reporters, and fans have developed an assumption that Michigan will regress due to a heavy loss of talent to the NFL draft, and to seniors’ eligibility expiring.

Michigan will be the least experienced team returning in any college football power-5 conference, only returning 5 starters total (4 offense, 1 defense). Most preseason polls keep the Wolverines either in, or near the top ten; after losing 3 out of the final 4 games of 2016, losing over 40 seniors (11 NFL draft picks), the sole reason people are speaking so highly of Michigan in these polls is solely due to Jim Harbaugh: people respect him, and understand that he’s a helluva football coach.

The Wolverines’ schedule is no cake walk in 2017, taking on four heavy hitters in Florida, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State (two on the road, one neutral, one @ home). Road struggles defined the collapse of Michigan’s 2016-17 campaign, and you have to imagine that they’re hoping for a very different outcome for this season.

 

WEEK ONE: Saturday, September 2nd (vs. Florida)

Jim Harbaugh & Jim McElwain’s 2nd meeting, and let’s just go ahead with saying that the first meeting was a tad lopsided. The funny thing about this particular matchup is that both of these teams are arguably two of the biggest question marks entering the season, mostly because nobody knows if either team can be a true contender or not. It’s either a blessing or a curse for Michigan’s youthful, inexperienced roster for them to be thrown into the national spotlight in week one.

Florida’s offense adds ex-Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire, and he is expected to be the starter. Zaire gets the golden opportunity to test out Michigan’s brand new secondary, and unless Michigan’s hyped up front seven is able to lay down the pressure, the Gator QB might be able to have a field day with this youthful defensive backfield.

Michigan’s offensive potential is huge, if you were to ask me: Wilton Speight is the starter, plain & simple, no question. An experienced, healthy, Speight is good news for this young receiving core featuring Donovan Peoples-Jones, Tarik Black, etc. Florida’s defense, like Michigan’s, lost some big names to the draft, and now look to serve their talented youth. Maurice Hurst, Michigan Senior d-tackle, took to the media in saying that Michigan’s offensive line is the “most improved unit”, which is very good news considering how subpar Speight’s protection was a season ago.

Like most games, the team that makes the fewer mistakes will win this game very easily. In other words: this is the type of game where coaching will serve a monumental role in the outcome, and if it’s ever a game of coaching between Harbaugh & McElwain, you’d better believe that I will take Harbaugh every time.

28-17 Michigan starts 1-0. 

WEEK TWO: Saturday, September 9th (vs. Cincinnati) 

The home opener is always a highly anticipated game, which never fails to fill up the Big House. Returning home after a big signature win on a national stage, this young team will have nothing but confidence. Luke Fickell will likely be leaving Ann Arbor with an 0-2 record as a head coach against the Wolverines.

This Bearcats team has a newfound energy, and is currently undergoing a culture change for the better under Fickell, but it will not be enough to take down Jim Harbaugh’s team in the Big House.

31-10 Michigan is 2-0.   

WEEK THREE: Saturday, September 16th (vs. Air Force)

Air Force came to Ann Arbor back in 2013, and gave Michigan fans a scare when they were able to take Brady Hoke’s Wolverines to the wire. The offensive attack that the Falcons feature can be very dangerous if you let your team lets their guard down. This is definitely a game that Michigan should be able to win easily, but not a game to look past, and to prepare for any differently.

45-14 Michigan is 3-0, comfortably in the top ten. 

WEEK FOUR: Saturday, September 24th (@ Purdue)

Conference opener, first true road game. Short and sweet: let’s just say that Purdue is better than Rutgers, fair?

56-7 Michigan is 4-0, 1-0 in conference play. 

WEEK FIVE: BYE WEEK

The longest week of football season for Michigan fans. Extra week of preparation before they take on their in-state rival.

WEEK SIX: Saturday, October 7th (vs. MSU)

Michigan is expected to be a heavy favorite going into this rivalry game. After a 3-9 season, rape investigations, and a not-so-impressive recruiting class, people aren’t giving Mark Dantonio’s once playoff bound program any love. It’s been going downhill for the Spartans, and there has been zero reason to believe things will get any better. However this game will be competitive to an extent, Mark Dantonio has yet to lose in this rivalry by more than two possessions, he understands the importance of this game, and not a lot of people want to win it more than he does.

35-21 Michigan is 5-0 overall, 2-0 conference.

WEEK SEVEN: Saturday, October 14th (@ Indiana)

The Hoosier’s new head coach Tom Allen looks to take this program in the right direction, but a program like Indiana usually doesn’t respond well to a transition season like this one. Home-field advantage can only help out so much in against a bigger school like Michigan. These schools have had a trend in recent history of keeping it tight, and putting on a show for the fans, ending in the same outcome annually though.

Very important for Michigan to stay focused, and not look ahead to the big game one week after.

34-13 Michigan is 6-0 overall, 3-0 conference. 

WEEK EIGHT: Saturday, October 21st (@ Penn State)

Prime time white-out in Happy Valley, scary situation, and it never sounds appealing to any team. After James Franklin’s banged up, early season, Penn State team was routed in the Big House in 2016, they ran the regular season table, won the Big Ten, and lost the Rose Bowl. By week eight of this season, Michigan’s underclassmen should be in mid-season form at full swing. Franklin is 0-3 against Michigan, and you have to imagine that he has the Wolverines right where he wants them this season.

Saquon Barkley is Penn State’s big man on campus this season, and many are projecting him to be a Heisman Trophy finalist. Despite a quiet day in Ann Arbor last season (15 carries, 59 yds), Barkley was a mere 4 yards shy of cracking 1,500 yards, 5.5 YPC, and 18 scores on the year. #26 is the X-factor in every big game for PSU this season, and if he’s not playing well, then that’s bad news for Penn State. This will be as true of a test as it can get for Michigan’s front seven, and if you ask me: they will impress you.

The maize n’ blue offense will be lining up against a very different defense rather than the one that Penn State brought to town last season, however the linebacker depth still runs thin on this roster. At this point in this season, Michigan should be averaging a little over 30 points a game, and I do not see that trend continuing for this one.

I see Penn State with a two possession lead headed into the 4th quarter. Wilton Speight nearly leads a late, comeback win, but falls a possession short of the big win on the road.

27-24 Michigan falls to 6-1 overall, 3-1 conference.

WEEK NINE: Saturday, October 28th (vs. Rutgers)

Rutgers has ways to go before they’ll be able to compete in the Big Ten conference. Perfect week to beat up on a bad team, and build some confidence moving forward to November.

63-7 Michigan is 7-1 overall, 4-1 conference. 

WEEK TEN: Saturday, November 4th (vs. Minnesota)

P.J. Fleck has a lot on his plate at Minnesota for year one, whether it’s his quarterback, his offensive line, his secondary, you name it. He’s just looking to establish his program, they won’t be ready to come to Ann Arbor. Michigan wins by a large margin, keeps the Little Brown Jug. Harbaugh & P.J. Fleck share some sort of light hearted, verbal exchange that’ll make a headline, just a fun prediction that is more likely than you’d think.

38-14 Michigan is 8-1 overall, 4-1 conference.

WEEK ELEVEN: Saturday, November 11th (@ Maryland)

Jim Harbaugh’s former defensive coordinator has been doing an exceptional job on the recruiting trail, and in establishing a winning mindset going into his 2nd season as the head coach of Maryland. DJ Durkin & company didn’t exactly impress in the Big House a season ago after they left Ann Arbor without scoring a touchdown.

The Terps’ 2016-17 campaign went better than some expected, and they don the talent to showcase a solid, talented, defensive unit this season. I believe this Maryland team has a potential to make some plays, and give Michigan a nail-biter in the first half on their home turf, but in the long run: I see the maize and blue pull away to win by at least 3 or more possessions.

42-24 Michigan is 9-1 overall, 5-1 conference. 

WEEK TWELVE: Saturday, November 18th (@ Wisconsin) 

This looks like a game for the playoff committee to keep a close eye on; I have Michigan with one loss going into this, and I see Wisconsin potentially going into this unbeaten, given that they’re able to take down Nebraska on the road.

The 14-7 final score of last season’s meeting between the teams truly doesn’t do it justice. Michigan dominated the game in the trenches, Wisconsin couldn’t get first downs, but the Wolverines simply had a what you could call a dysfunctional kicking game (missed 3 very kickable field goals).

This is a game for Wilton Speight to prove that he can be of use in the clutch, up to this point he’s had zero ‘down to the wire’ wins against any team of quality talent. I see another low-scoring defensive slug fest that will be taken to overtime. I feel as though the Badger offense lacks the competence to be able to keep up with a superb, talented, defensive roster like Michigan’s in an overtime situation like this one. Michigan will survive, and take down a top ten Wisconsin team for the 2nd season in a row; Harbaugh gets his first signature win on the road as Michigan’s head coach.

24-20 Michigan is 10-1 overall, 6-1 conference. 

WEEK THIRTEEN: Saturday, November 25th (vs. Ohio State)

Here’s the game that the fan base has been clamoring for ever since J.T. Barrett converted the double overtime, controversial, 4th down conversion. I have both teams going into this game in a spot worthy of cracking a trip to Indy for the Big Ten Championship game, and very possibly the CFB playoffs. Worth noting that I have Ohio State handling Penn State at home very easily, thus putting Michigan in a position of controlling their own destiny with a victory in “The Game”.

Jim Harbaugh, and the rest of this Michigan team have an unresolved, bad taste in their mouths from what happened in the horseshoe in last year’s game. Home-field advantage didn’t serve Harbaugh’s first Michigan team very well in 2015 after getting routed 42-13.

The Buckeyes are expected to be, and likely will be the popular favorite almost unanimously in my personal opinion, but why wouldn’t they be? Michigan has only beaten their archrival a singular time since 2003. Urban Meyer’s playoff bound team from a season ago is returning a gruesome amount of top-tier talent, just look at the recruiting classes.

This game will be two great teams, two great coaches, throwing heavy punches at one another, in other words they’ll both be playing their best brands of football. In the first half I believe that the Buckeye rushing attack featuring J.T. Barrett, and Mike Weber will make Michigan’s top front seven look silly, but the second half will be a different story after certain halftime adjustments. Speight will be playing sharp with his home crowd behind him, little to no mistakes, getting help from his young receivers, and veteran Grant Perry, all making plays.

Michigan kicks a late, game winning, field goal, and they snap the losing streak, the underclassmen show out, and the veterans fight hard for this long-awaited victory over a very, talented Ohio State football team.

My hot take is one that will make me appear biased, and delusional, so please allow me to explain: a Jim Harbaugh football team defying statistical odds is not a far-fetched thing by any means considering it’s happened before. By this final regular season game, inexperience isn’t huge, the young guys have gotten their fill, and are in full-go. I simply see this as a Michigan team that displays plenty of upside potential, and I compare them to that sophomore studded 2014-15 Ohio State football team that was supposed to be ‘a year away’ from winning the big one. There’s plenty more motivation for Michigan to win this, rather than Ohio State, who has dominated 21st century of the rivalry, and it hasn’t even been close.

34-31 Michigan is 11-1 overall, 7-1 conference, and is headed to Indianapolis.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK: Saturday, December 2nd (vs. Wisconsin)

Two weeks after the overtime thriller that delivered Wisconsin their one & only loss on the season, they will receive their shot for redemption, and both teams will be playing for their first CFB playoff berth. Michigan will be not only be playing in their first Big Ten title game, but for their first conference title since ’04.

There isn’t much to say about what I think will happen in this rematch game, I’ll put it this way: Jim Harbaugh & his coaching staff are a top five staff in America college or pro. They are smart, football minds, and they know exactly what they’re doing. When you’ve played a team already earlier in the same season, you know exactly what to expect, what to prepare for, what works, what doesn’t work, how to stop what, their strengths, and their weaknesses. That is not in any way a shot at Paul Chryst’s staff, and program, clearly they’ve been successful in what they’re doing. There just aren’t a lot of football programs in the nation that feature as many years of professional experience as Michigan does.

35-21 Michigan finishes the regular season 12-1 overall, 8-1 in conference play. Big Ten Champions, and taking their first trip to the CFB playoffs. 

SUGAR BOWL PLAYOFF SEMIFINALS: New Year’s Day (vs. #1. Alabama)

Jim Harbaugh and his Michigan team have exceeded everyone’s expectations, and made it to their first playoff ranked at #4. My final four is Bama, USC, FSU, and Michigan.

I believe this big game between the two big name schools won’t exactly go how it went in 2012, but a very similar result may occur. Michigan will be able to keep it close going into the half, they’ll keep it within a score or two, and may even be able to keep it close headed into the fourth quarter. Nick Saban’s experienced team is able to pull away from Michigan, and take care of them quite easily by two scores.

31-20 Michigan finishes their season at 12-2 overall, 8-1 conference. Jim Harbaugh is now 32-8 at Michigan in just three seasons, and will be a bigger favorite for the national title come 2018-19.

At a first thought, I honestly did not think that Michigan was capable of cracking the playoffs, then I took an in-depth look at their schedule, the possibilities, and potential scenarios that can very well go down. I really don’t believe that I’m going out on a limb in making a prediction like this one, but yes it is bolder than most predictions will state. This is just my opinion, and it doesn’t have to be yours — I look at how good of a developmental, experienced coaching staff Michigan has, and how much talent has been flooding into Ann Arbor. This also comes down to if Michigan can find a way to overcome his team’s road struggles.