Michigan Fan Expectations

The University of Michigan, the Wolverines, the Maize and Blue, the Winged Helmet, the Big House, the ‘MGoBlue” banner, the Victors, Desmond Howard’s “Hello Heisman”…it’s a national brand, a true college football treasure.

Michigan’s football program has a history to be quite proud of, one full of tradition, and such excellence that has allowed them to be well-known as one of the more successful programs from an all-time standpoint. These fans are very proud of their program which has 11 national titles, 42 Big Ten titles, 3 Heisman trophies, and not to mention the most wins of all time.

The most recent history of Michigan Football has been colorful, full of ups and downs, much like a roller-coaster. A lot has changed in Ann Arbor since 2008, but one thing that hasn’t changed would be the fan-base’s expectations for the program year in, year out.

Last Saturday, Michigan was upset by their in-state rival, MSU, in the Big House and fell to 4-1 on the season. Judging from the initial reaction to the loss on the Internet, on TV, on the radio, etc. you’d think that Michigan hasn’t won a game this season. Was it an ugly loss? Absolutely, this team, primarily the offense, evidently has work to do. I think the bizarre reactions would be ones that include fans calling for Harbaugh’s job.

As of late, Michigan hasn’t been the “leaders and best”. After seven seasons of mediocrity, three with Rich Rod, four with Brady Hoke, it’s no secret that Michigan fans are becoming inpatient with not beating their rivals, not winning Big Ten titles, not making the playoffs, and not winning a national title.

Michigan hasn’t won a conference title since ’04, and also hasn’t won a national title since ’97. The Wolverines have beaten their arch-rival, Ohio State, just three times this millennia (2000, 2003, 2011), current Buckeye head coach, Urban Meyer, is 5-0 in this rivalry game. MSU head coach, Mark Dantonio has beaten Michigan in eight out of eleven meetings, 2-1 against Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan program.

The thought of Harbaugh, the former Michigan quarterback, leaving the NFL to come back and coach his alma-mater was something for this fan base to dream about. Well, that dream is now a reality, and the reality is that whether you like what he’s done thus far or not, the man is a helluva football coach, and that’s not a question.

Through 31 games at Michigan, Jim Harbaugh is 24-7 with two ten win seasons, 1-1 in bowl games, 1-4 against rivals. Clearly the rivalry record isn’t ideal, and I’m sure that Harbaugh and his staff would agree.

Michigan has entered the 2017-18 season as the least experienced team in the nation based off losing over 40 seniors, and 11 NFL draft picks. Of course they’ve recruited well, Michigan is one of the easiest recruiting jobs in the country, but this is a young team, a talented young team, but still a young team. This is not an excuse by any means, it’s just a hard soil fact.

It’s fair to be critical over Harbaugh’s play-calling, the tenacity his teams bring to rivalry games, and the incompetence of the offense in year three. I’ll be the first one to tell you that if Jim Harbaugh doesn’t start winning these rivalry games, his seat is eventually going to get hot.

Right now, through 31 games, after he’s been the biggest reason for Michigan becoming nationally relevant once again, it’s not fair to say that his job is on the line. We’re allowed to have high expectations, but we need to have patience because building an NFL-machine, national title-winning, powerhouse of a program takes time.

The wins will come, and hopefully so will the conference/national titles. As a fan-base, let’s not run Jim Harbaugh out-of-town, criticize him when he may deserve it, but we can’t throw our coach under the bus. Any team in the country, college or pro, with an open slot at head coach would be thrilled to take Harbaugh off our hands, and that’s not what we want.

Michigan fans will always have high expectations, but keep in mind how bad their recent history has been, and also keep in mind that this program is trending upwards in terms of national relevance, recruiting, and winning. Patience is everything.

 

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Don Brown’s “Pressure of the Week” – Purdue

 

by Mark Edwards

I wasn’t around much last week but can anybody tell me if Purdue HC Jeff Brohm was discussed much?  Oh, he was.  Did they mention that he uses RPOs, misdirection movements and tempo to move the football?  No way…they did?  Okay, this column is dedicated weekly to Dr. Blitz, Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown.  Purdue got off to a quick start using skullduggery to move the ball on their first drive.  So, it’s only natural that our “pressure of the week” would come from the first drive (NOTE:  Although, I’m sure the carnage of the fourth quarter would have been a good choice.).

THIS WEEK’S PRESSURE

SITUATION:  3rd & 9, Purdue ball on Michigan’s 39 yard line

TIME:  13:29 left in the first quarter

WHY THIS SERIES:  Purdue had opened quickly and was on the verge of scoring range as they faced a 3rd and nine.  This was Michigan’s first third-down snap of the game and you knew that Dr. Blitz wasn’t going to play coverage.  Also, this was Purdue’s first chance to show their hand on a 3rd & long in the face of an almost certain pressure call by Michigan.

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FRAME #1

OFFENSIVE FORMATION: Packers Right (Green Bay does this a lot with a stand up, number #3 receiver flexed off of the right tackle).

PURDUE  PERSONNEL: 11 (1 running back, 1 tight end)

DEFENSIVE BASE:  3-3

MICHIGAN PERSONNEL NOTES: In what is becoming Michigan’s base alignment vs. Spread formations, you have Rashan Gary #3, Maurice Hurst #73 and Chase Winovich #15 with their hands on the ground.  Gary is in a 5 technique (to the bottom of the screen) while Winovich is in a 4I technique which is inside shade of the left tackle (top of the screen).  The linebackers are shifted to the field with Noah Furbush (#59) showing a bump alignment over the #3 receiver (which is a TE).  Viper Khaleke Hudson (#7) has split the difference between #2 and #3 with his eyes in the backfield.  Inside linebackers Mike McCray (#9) and Devin Bush (#10) are aligned over the guards.  In the secondary, Michigan is showing a cover 2 shell (2 high safeties) and their corner bump alignment.

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FRAME #2

What is Purdue doing here?  A couple classic offensive movements are taking place here.  The three wide receivers are releasing vertically down the field.  The #3 receiver for Purdue is setting the edge while making it look like a shallow cross (his job is to block the first inside linebacker that shows)  Purdue QB David Blough is taking a deep drop to entice the already aggressive pass rush.  The running back is fitting into the pass protection in the A gap.

What has changed:  Michigan is in man coverage underneath and what Blough thought he was going to get in his pre-snap read is no longer what his eyes tell him is happening.

Michigan’s pressure: Now that he ball has snapped, the Michigan defensive line has ripped to the boundary (their right) while Furbush (#59) is blitzing off of the edge.  Also, Bush is on a B gap blitz to the field.  It is a classic five-man pressure, which we are seeing  frequently with the 3-3 base alignment.  McCray is in the middle of the field looking for #3 to come back to him, which he will.

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FRAME #3

What is Purdue doing here?  SCREEN!  They are releasing their guards and center in front of the running back to run a screen pass to the right.  Actually, it’s not a bad call by Purdue if you are expecting pressure.  Purdue has McCray blocked (or he soon will be) while the receivers are running off the corners.

What has changed:  The only change from Frame #2 is that Devin Bush has diagnosed that it’s a screen.  He has aborted his pressure to defend the screen.

Michigan’s pressure:  Hurst (#73), Gary (#3) and Furbush (#59) are all unblocked on their path to the QB.  Bush, as stated previously, he is the screen stopper.

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FRAME #4

What is Purdue doing here?  It’s time to throw the screen.

What has changed:  Bush has been engaged by a blocker and the running back, led by the three Purdue offensive linemen, is not moving to the field.

Michigan’s pressure:  Michigan actually is not in great shape here.  If Bush doesn’t make a play, the only defender left is Hudson (#7), who is on the 31 yard line AND severly outnumbered.  It’s time for an athlete to make a play.

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FRAME #5

What is Purdue doing here?  They have thrown the screen and all looks good.

What has changed:  Michigan’s pressure on Blough forces a “less than ideal” throw.  Bush saw the football and has jumped to attempt to pick off a woefully short throw.

Michigan’s pressure:  The defensive front got to Blough.  If they hadn’t, Purdue most certainly would’ve completed this pass and picked up a first down.

 

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FRAME #6

What is Purdue doing here?  They have shown that pressure can bother their quarterback.

What has changed:  Michigan’s pressure took a good offensive call and made it a rushed throw.

Michigan’s pressure:  The difference.

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FINAL THOUGHT:  Some will see this play and say that Michigan got lucky.  Others will say that Michigan made the play by executing the defensive call.  For me, this is always the line that Michigan is going to live on because of the heavy pressure approach.  If quarterbacks are less than 100% accurate under pressure like this, that bodes well for Michigan and is a part of Don Brown’s core philosophy.

Bo’s Warning About Purdue – Game Prediction

by Mark Edwards

Finally…the Big Ten opener is upon us!  The beginning of conference play always seems to bring a heightened anxiety level to fans and considering that some are in the stratosphere already, I’m worried.  When I say worried, don’t confuse that with a lack of confidence.  I’m confident that Michigan gets the job done and looks good doing it.

In 1989, a VHS tape was released called “Vintage Bo.”

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The 30-minute video is the precursor to any “Hard Knocks” or “Training Days” production that football fans clamor for like it is a right of passage.  In the video, the camera crew follows a 42-year old head coach named Glenn E. “Bo” Schembechler in 1971 as he prepares his Michigan squad to take on Iowa on November 6, 1971 in Michigan Stadium.  They have footage of Bo at home with his family, on the practice field, in the locker room and on the field during the game.   Michigan won 63-7 that day and left Michigan with only two games left in the regular season.  Obviously, “The Game” was last on the 1971 schedule but there was a trip to West Lafayette, Indiana to take on Purdue sandwiched in there.

In the victorious locker room, Bo gave his team this warning:

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“DON’T THINK PURDUE WON’T BE TOUGH DOWN IN WEST LAFAYETTE.  YOU KNOW THEY WILL.”

If Bo was still with us today, that would be his message for Coach Harbaugh, the team and the fan base.  I expect his words to be correct again.

OFFENSIVE PREVIEW

Is this the week that it happens?  Can Michigan put it all together and emerge from the shadows of one of the top defenses in the country?  Can Wilton Speight march the offense up and down the field?  Will the WRs show up?  Basically, can the fan base have last year’s offense back?

Purdue’s defense comes into Saturday’s matchup (4 p.m. FOX TV) with the same type of look as Michigan’s offense.  They’ve been good enough to beat Ohio (not that Ohio) and Missouri (not old school Missouri) but gave up 524 yards to Louisville in the opener at Lucas Oil Stadium.  Purdue will play inspired and their effort will be really good.

How does Michigan move the ball on the Boilermakers?

The answer has to be “however Michigan wants to move the ball on them.”  I’m not being disrespectful but it’s time for Michigan to impose their will on a defense (and I’m sure Bo is smiling down on that mantra).  Whether it be Michigan’s toss sweep game or their shotgun inside zone running attack, I think Michigan will be very efficient is that part of it.  Ironically, Michigan needs the three-headed attack to be lethal.  The three heads are:

  1.  Base run game
  2.  Special schemed runs (jet sweeps with McDoom & Peoples-Jones)
  3.  Intermediate passing game

If Michigan can accomplish those three, I think the offense not only moves the chains (which they have been doing more than fans want to acknowledge) but we finally see a red zone offense that reminds us of the first 10 games last season.  Did you ever think we’d miss Peppers as our wildcat QB?  Well, we have missed him (See #2 above).  I think Jim Harbaugh, Tim Drevno and Pep Hamilton have focused on getting the ball to playmakers in the red zone this week.  Look for Peoples-Jones, Gentry and Grant Perry to be called upon in the red zone.

NOTE:  Losing Tariq Black will be compensated for by the infusion of Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins.

DEFENSIVE PREVIEW

When you hear Don Brown say “Oh, we’ve got a lot left”, you have to smile.  Dr. Blitz will return to his comfort zone as I expect a heavy amount of blitz on Purdue QB David Blough in first-year coach Jeff Brohm’s offense.  The mission…make Purdue one-dimensional.  Do you want Purdue to be the team who ran for 51 yards vs. Louisville or 223 vs. Ohio?  Survey says…Louisville in the #1 answer.  If this happens, the focus then gets shifted to the coverage of the secondary.  Michigan has far exceeded a “solid” label in the back half of the defense.  Can Hill, Long, Watson, Kinnel and Metellus lock down the Purdue passing attack?

How does pressuring the QB help this defense?

Count to 4…1, 2, 3, 4!  Boom!  That’s how long the UM secondary needs to cover if the Gary, Hurst, Winovich, Bush wrecking crew can get home vs. a Purdue offensive line that gave up four sacks to a mediocre Louisville defense.  Get home…get home…get home.  I don anticipate Michigan to roll safeties down in to the pressure, which is only made possible because of the Khaleke Hudson skill set.

If Michigan can get Purdue to be one-dimensional by execution and score of the game, I would expect the big Michigan contingent that travels to West Lafayette to be happy come 7:30.  If Michigan cannot get the job done, this game turns into a 50/50 “free for all” that puts more pressure on the offense than any game this schedule.

FINAL SCORE:  Michigan 34, Purdue 14

PICKS TO CLICK:  Offense – Wilton Speight, Defense – Maurice Hurst

CONFIDENCE LEVEL:  Confident but uneasy

ONE THING THAT MAY SURPRISE:  Michigan will win the turnover battle by at least 3 turnovers (+3).

ONE THING THAT MAY DISAPPOINT:  Purdue will hit one trick play that drives the fans nuts.  So if you find yourself thinking “How could they fall for that?”, I’m talking to you.

Can Michigan Unleash The Air Attack Vs. Air Force – Game Prediction

by Mark Edwards

Webster’s dictionary defines the word panic as “sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior” but as any Michigan fan knows, last Saturday took it to a whole new (and quite honestly embarrassing) level.  Michigan fans expect a 63-0 victory every week.  So I thought this week I’d give you a little interaction fan trivia as we prepare for the Air Force Academy Falcons.

TRIVIA TIME

Q.  Which team has the better statistical defense?

A.  Air Force.  The Falcons have not allowed a point all season.  Before all of you start to flood my email inbox (markedwardsum@yahoo.com), I know they’ve only played one game.  In week one, they defeated VMI by a score of 62-0.  They only gave up 40 passing yards and 55 passing yards to VMI.  AFA had a week two bye so their defense averages less than 100 yards allowed per game and gives up 0 points per game.  Most fans would say that Michigan’s defense is superior.  Not according to the stats, which is the rationale that fans and writers on this blog use to bash Speight.  Look for a theme going forward.

Q.  Which offensive line is best equipped to move the other defense?

A.  Michigan.  The Wolverines outweigh Air Force by 37 pounds per player.  Air Force outweighs the Wolverines defensive front by just 2 pounds per player.  As you can see, 37>2 so I’ll give the edge to the Wolverines.  However, Air Force will shift, stunt and blitz at an effective level that will leave the malcontents in the Big House upset.  Air Force uses discipline above all else.  Speight’s numbers haven’t sparkled yet this season but numbers alone don’t tell the whole story.

Q.  Shouldn’t Michigan wipe up the hallowed ground of Michigan Stadium with the Falcons?

A.  No.  Many fans hear “Air Force” and think that it should be an automatic yes.  However, Air Force plays people tough (beat Boise State last year).  So if this one isn’t “over” by the fourth quarter, don’t be surprised.  Michigan will get tested this week and I think that is really good for the team’s maturation.  (NOTE: To the fans who still need to mature, don’t BOO Air Force.  Root for the Maize and Blue but remember that Air Force’s players will fight for us all.)

How does the Michigan offense attack Air Force?

I think this week you see Michigan play a very efficient and sound offensive game.  Michigan’s run game will be used to compliment what I expect to be a tight end heavy passing attack.  Isaac, Evans, Higdon…they’ll all have their shots to show how deep Michigan’s stable of running backs is.  Speight will see McKeon, Wheatley Jr., Gentry and company work the middle of the field for 150+yards and 2 scores.  Then, the WR group will get theirs and I fully expect a big game from the McDoom/Peoples-Jones monopoly.

How does the Michigan defense attack Air Force?

 

You will see Don Brown’s defense prove to be much more than a blitzing machine.  They will play disciplined and only when Air Force gives you the spread-type of formation will Dr. Blitz show why he earned his nickname.  If you’re going to stop triple option football, your linebackers have to play well.  I expect Bush, McCray and Co. to play well although you have to expect Air Force to move the ball and score a little bit.  Air Force RB Timothy McVey (I bet his parents want his name changed) will be very good coming off of a 77-yard receiving and a 98-yard rushing effort in their opener.  Falcon QB Arion Worthman will struggle to find openings to run but don’t discount his ability to move the ball in the air as evidenced by his 172 yards passing vs. VMI.

FINAL SCORE:  Michigan 42, Air Force 24

PICKS TO CLICK:  Offense – Karan Higdon, Defense – Tyree Kinnel

CONFIDENCE LEVEL:  Some Nerves Exist

ONE THING THAT MAY SURPRISE:  I would say that Wilton Speight will play his best game of the season to date. 

ONE THING THAT MAY DISAPPOINT:
Air Force will run the ball for 175+ yards on the Michigan defense.  That number seems high but their attack is so different.

LAST NOTE:  Handle yourselves with class as you fans represent the best in Michigan and Air Force represents all of us.

Michigan Ranks No. 11 in Preseason AP Poll

Today around noon the Associated Press released their official college football 2017 preseason rankings:

  1. Alabama
  2. Ohio St.
  3. Florida St.
  4. USC
  5. Clemson
  6. Penn St.
  7. Oklahoma
  8. Washington
  9. Wisconsin
  10. Oklahoma St.
  11. Michigan
  12. Auburn
  13. LSU
  14. Stanford
  15. Georgia

Michigan landing the #11 spot will force them to earn a playoff contending rather than be given one prior to the season.

Three Big Ten teams cracked the top ten on Monday, Ohio State no. 2, Penn State no. 6, and Wisconsin no. 9. In the 2016 season, Michigan was 2-1 against the same three teams, only losing by three in an overtime thriller to Ohio State.

 

Grant Perry’s Reinstatement Crucial for Young Michigan Receiving Core

Last week we heard the news regarding junior receiver, Grant Perry. It was announced on Friday that Perry is “reinstated to full participation with the football team.” per athletic director Warde Manuel.

Perry was sentenced with a 12-month probation just after he plead guilty for two charges: one for resisting a police officer, and another for an assault and battery charge. It was earlier announced that Perry would be practicing with the team earlier this Summer, but his permanent status remained up in the air just until Friday afternoon.

While some fans are not happy with this decision to reinstate the veteran who recently made some troubling decisions, some can see the lighter side of realizing that having an experienced receiver is going to pay big dividends for the passing game. A receiving core featuring talented youth like Kekoa Crawford, Eddie McDoom, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and Tarik Black really can benefit from having someone like Grant Perry, who has seen plenty of field in his freshman, and sophomore seasons.

I’ve always been a fan of watching no. 9 over the past two seasons, he’s the type of guy who can quietly make big plays, reminds me of former Wolverine, Drew Dileo, but perhaps better. The junior has just 27 catches, and two touchdowns in his Michigan career. Look for quarterback, Wilton Speight, to keep a primary-eye on Perry for a healthy amount of targets, most-especially early on in the season when the freshmen receivers are still dipping their feet in the water.

 

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.