Game Prediction: Maryland-Michigan

Michigan is coming off a nail biter last week at Northwestern. The Wolverines trailed 17-0 after allowing the Wildcats to score on each of their first three possessions. But the defense held firm after that and gave their offense a chance. Shea Patterson and the rest of the offensive unit found some life and mustered enough offense to squeak out a 20-17 win in Evanston.

Maryland, on the other hand, is coming off of a bye week. The last time the Terrapins took the field was two weeks ago in their first Big Ten game of the year. They dismantled P.J. Fleck and his unbeaten Minnesota Golden Gophers, 42-13.

Both teams are off to solid starts to their season. Michigan currently sits at 4-1 and 2-0 in Big Ten play. Maryland is 3-1 and 1-0 in conference play. But they have gotten to this point via different avenues.

These teams boast high scoring offenses as the Wolverines come into this game averaging over 37 points per game while the Terps are averaging just under 34 points a contest. The Wolverines are more balanced when they have the ball as they average over 200 yards per game in both the passing and running game. Maryland averages over 258 YPG on the ground while only 141 through the air.

But on the defensive side of the ball is where the biggest differences occur. Michigan comes into this week with the No. 1 ranked team in the country in total defense. They are giving up 14.8 PPG and after giving up 24 to Notre Dame in the season opener have given up an average of 12.5 PPG. Maryland has a solid defense but have had games where they have given up 29 (vs. Texas) and 35 (vs. Temple).

Michigan, with their toughest part of the schedule coming up after this game, will need to get their offense fully figured out after destroying weaker teams in Western Michigan, SMU and Nebraska. They struggled on the road against the Wildcats last week and will need to find a groove before they play Wisconsin next week, Michigan State the week after and Penn State two weeks after that game.

In their only loss of the year versus Temple, the Owls had a balance offensive attack as they racked up 264 yards through the air and 165 yards on the ground. Even though they struggled on the road last week, I think being in the friendly confines of the Big House will allow this offense to show its full capability.

Patterson, I believe, will show that last week may have just been an off week. He threw for 196 yards and no touchdowns. He will come out strong in this one and look at it as a tune up for the Badgers next week. Look for Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones to have solid games against the Terps.

Patterson’s backfield mate, Karan Higdon, will look to continue the success that he had the last week. He rushed the ball 30 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns. For the Wolverines to be successful, Higdon will have to keep putting up stat lines like that one.

Maryland, while they have a solid offense, rely almost exclusively rely on their dynamic duo of running backs to produce points. Senior Ty Johnson has rushed for 300 yards and two touchdowns while freshman Anthony McFarland rushed for 291 yards on 27 carries for two TDs.

Their quarterback, Kasim Hill, hasn’t been bad as the signal called for the Terps, but he hasn’t exactly been good either. He has completed 55% of his passes on the year for 516 yards and three touchdowns.

Now time for the prediction. While both offenses have the playmakers to score points, I think only one team will light up the scoreboard in Ann Arbor. Michigan will want to show the world that their anemic offense against Northwestern was a fluke and to prep for the Badgers next week. Patterson and Higdon will both have good games with Patterson going for over 225 passing yards and multiple scores while Higdon will rush for over 120 and a score.

Maryland will score because they have a nice tandem in Johnson and McFarland, but they can only do so much against a defense like Michigan’s. The spread is sitting at around Michigan minus-18, but I think they will ultimately cover that. The offense will show signs of life while the defense, led by the likes of Devin Bush and Chase Winovich.

The Terrapins haven’t beaten the Wolverines since 2014 and are on a three game losing streak versus Jim Harbaugh and Co. I believe Michigan will win and make it four in a row against the Terps.

Michigan 34, Maryland 14.

 

 

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Jim Harbaugh has named his starting quarterback

For the first time at Michigan, head coach Jim Harbaugh has made a decision for who will be his starting quarterback.

How obvious could this one have gotten? It’s Shea Patterson, and I’m quite sure that it’s been his job since he announced his transfer decision.

Patterson’s Michigan debut will take place in South Bend on September 1 against rival Notre Dame.

Reports came out this afternoon of the decision to start the Ole Miss transfer was revealed to a group of university alumni during a luncheon in Ann Arbor. Michigan football spokesman Dave Ablauf confirmed the news.

Patterson was able to beat out redshirt sophomore Brandon Peters, redshirt freshman Dylan McCaffery, and true freshman Joe Milton for the job.

This being the first time for Harbaugh’s quarterback decision to come prior to the season opener surely brings insight to his confidence in his quarterback.

Details on who will backup Patterson are not certain.

The former Ole Miss Rebel has thrown for over 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns in his career.

He will look to win a national title this season in Ann Arbor.

Will Jim Harbaugh Return to Michigan in 2019?

In his head coaching career, current Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has yet to exceed a four-season tenure.

Prior jobs at San Diego, Stanford, San Francisco, and now Michigan have all lasted just four or less seasons. Harbaugh is now going into his fourth season at his alma mater with a lot of weight on his and his team’s shoulders. The pressure to win is imminent.

One question that comes to mind for Michigan fans: is this job special to Jim? Is this any different from his previous stops? Does he see Ann Arbor as him and his family’s permanent home?

NFL teams have and will continue to offer head coaching positions to the former Michigan quarterback. The rumors spiral, the Twitter bloggers with “sources” claim it’s a done deal time and time again.

Harbaugh has addressed these rumors in the past. Following the 2016 regular season, the talk of his departure was atop many headlines. At Michigan’s annual football bust, he was blunt in his words.

“I can speak for myself,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not leaving Michigan, I’m not even considering it.”

Harbaugh continued to refer to the rumors as lies that were made up by their enemies.

At that point in time, Michigan had been coming off a 10-2 regular season getting ready to play Florida State in a NY6 bowl game. Since those comments, Michigan has gone 8-6, beating just one team with an above .500 record.

We can talk about how disastrous the 2017-18 football season was for Harbaugh and Michigan. However I believe that by now everyone, especially Michigan fans, have heard about it more than they want to. Time to win.

Which brings us to today, Harbaugh is 28-11, 1-2 in bowl games, 1-5 against chief rivals. Does a specific outcome for the 2018 season decide whether or not Harbaugh leaves?

Michigan has a tendency to run coaches out of town if they fail to win, Harbaugh should get no special treatment. If he loses to two or even all three of his rivals this season, does he survive the criticism and return with a potential 1-8 rivalry record? Or does he finally bite some onto of the NFL job offers?

What if the 2018-19 season is a major success for Michigan in every category? Beating their rivals, winning the Big Ten, and cracking the playoffs? Does Harbaugh dust his hands off, consider it a job well done and take off to his next head coaching stop?

Or has Harbaugh had his taste of the NFL and now prefers coaching at the college level? His situation with 49ers GM Jed York was likely a frustrating one for a head coach that resurrected a dead franchise.

At Michigan, Harbaugh has an opportunity to be worshiped if he is able to bring home a national championship. His salary is about as good as it gets, making nine million annually which makes him one of the highest paid coaches in all of football.

Harbaugh is something of a wildcard, no one really knows what he’ll do following the 2018-19 season. His relationship with the University of Michigan, his players, the community, and the fans for the most part is seemingly good.

Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel has recently said that he wants both Jim Harbaugh and basketball head coach John Beilein to coach in Ann Arbor until they both retire. Despite all of the criticism from the public eye, Manuel still believes that Harbaugh is a lifer.

The ex-49ers head coach turns 55 years old in December, still relatively young in the world of coaching. It’ll be interesting to see if his tenure at Michigan will become his longest one to date.

One last question is if results are still scarce by the end of the 2018-19 season, will NFL teams still be willing to pay an arm and a leg for Harbaugh? The bottom line is that no matter what his intentions beyond this season are, it is in the Michigan head coach’s best interest to win and win something meaningful this season.

Michigan fans would like to believe that this is a special place for Harbaugh, he is in control of his legacy at his alma mater.

 

 

Would more be better for the CFP format?

On Monday afternoon in Chicago at Big Ten Media Days, Jim Harbaugh was asked regarding his thoughts on the current CFP format.

“More would be better,” Harbaugh said. “Let’s go to eight, and eventually get to 16.”

Would more be better? The Michigan head coach was not the only one who gave opinions on the topic Monday.

Former UCF head coach, current Nebraska head coach Scott Frost is also in favor of expansion. Likely due to his experience with his 2017-18 UCF team who Frost felt was worthy of a shot at a national championship.

This isn’t the first time Frost felt he was robbed of an outright national title, or at least a shot at one. The Nebraska head coach was the team’s starting quarterback in 1997-98 who had to split a championship with Lloyd Carr’s Michigan team who was named the AP national champion.

“Four was an improvement,” Frost said. “But it’s hard to look at last year’s college football season and not feel like an eight-team playoff isn’t where we should go. I think that’s my opinion. I think it should be five conference champions and three at-large teams. That would give a surprise conference champion that plays well at the end of the season a shot. It might give a team like we had at UCF last year a shot.”

Harbaugh wants a 16-team playoff, but for this topic in particular I personally have to agree with the former Nebraska quarterback. The argument against 16 teams is allowing several teams with a potentially an unworthy resume to have a chance they simply don’t deserve. Eight teams are perfect, in my opinion.

Eight teams that consist of five conference champions, and then three bubble teams with well worthy resumes. This limits the committee debate to just three teams, and yes much like the current format, there would still be an angry fan-base or two.

This would, as Frost said, allow for a team like 2017 UCF to have a shot in which they deserve. Going undefeated is impressive, even if it’s not in a power five conference schedule. However, with just four teams it’s close to impossible to let every worthy team have a chance to win it all.

Last season, it was a coin-flip decision between the Big Ten champion Ohio State and one-loss divisional runner-up Alabama for the four seed in the playoff. The committee had to have a debate in this scenario, and they concluded with selecting Alabama. Ohio State’s loss to an unranked Iowa team was their “deciding factor”, which is fair depending on who you ask.

Is it fair though? Did Ohio State not win the arguably most competitive division in college football and also beat an undefeated Wisconsin team in the conference title game? Did they not deserve a chance? They did deserve a chance, but this system will always have issues like this until it is resolved with an expansion.

This is what the 2017-18 season would’ve looked like had it been an eight-team format.

  1. Clemson (ACC champions)
  2. Oklahoma (Big 12 champions)
  3. Georgia (SEC champions)
  4. Ohio State (Big Ten champions)
  5. USC (PAC-12 champions)
  6. UCF (12-0)
  7. Wisconsin (12-1)
  8. Alabama (11-1)

This is what round one would look like:

  • Clemson vs Alabama
  • Ohio State vs USC
  • Georgia vs UCF
  • Oklahoma vs Wisconsin

As I said earlier, this is just my opinion. I believe this gives everyone who is truly worthy a real shot. Winning a power five conference is impressive, and teams who do so should be rewarded with this opportunity. Besides, an extra week of college football is something I think we can all get behind. We need expansion, or the debate will continue.

Wilton Speight on the Struggle Bus

After two wins over #25 ranked Florida, and Cincinnati, Michigan has climbed to #7 in the latest polls.

If you looked at the twitter-feeds, online chat-rooms, and all other media speculation: you’d believe that Michigan is 0-2. All this negative feedback comes from one specific, singular, player — Wilton Speight. The quarterback who through nine games in 2016, looked like the best in the Big Ten conference.

After injuring his throwing shoulder in early November against Iowa, Speight would go onto lose the rest of his starts. Of course, he had that excuse at the time; no quarterback with an injury regarding his throwing shoulder, or arm, should be expected to deliver the same, tight, spiral as he could before said injury.

His performances caused for him to lose trust within the fan-base, a good amount of fans wanted anyone to start but him come 2017. If you’re like me, you saw him lead a team to 9-0 in an impressive regular season stretch, and knew that it only made sense for him to keep his job as the starting quarterback.

Now we’re here, after Wilton Speight made the first two starts, and people who were supporters of him weeks ago are now calling for his job.

Throwing back-to-back pick sixes, and under 50 percent completion percentage against Florida were just the beginning. Against Cincinnati, on paper, it doesn’t look like Speight had a horrible game. He tossed two scores, threw for 221 yards, close to 60 percent completion, and was interceptionless on the day.  However if you watched the game, you’d know that the tale of the tape certainly went in the opposite direction, and Speight did everything but impress.

On Saturday, Speight played like a true freshman quarterback. Disregarding downfield, open targets, horrid inaccuracy on very make-able throws, making bad reads, and his pocket presence that we normally notice, was non-existent. I started to watch his eyes every time he dropped back just to see what he was looking at, and I noticed that he doesn’t use his eyes — Speight has a target in mind every play, and more times than not, he sticks with his desired target despite other open options. He doesn’t look around, he doesn’t look down-field, he doesn’t use his eyes correctly. It baffles me to know that a Jim Harbaugh coached quarterback makes a classic rookie mistake of that caliber.

Jim Harbaugh took to the media on Monday to remind everyone that Speight is “the starter”, and he also went onto note that redshirt freshman, Brandon Peters, is “progressing”.

Are Michigan fans overreacting to these early season passing-game struggles? Do we need to give Wilton Speight more time to create chemistry with his young receivers? Do we criticize Jim Harbaugh? In this Michigan offense, you don’t have to be a Tom Brady to succeed. I think it’s important for Harbaugh to remind Speight that he is replaceable, and we need to expect more out of him because the way it’s being looked at right now: he’s the sole road block to a championship season.

John O’Korn came in for a series or two against Florida following the pick six fiasco, and it felt as if Harbaugh wasn’t comfortable with him in. Wilton Speight likely is the best quarterback we have on this Michigan roster, scary thought for fans everywhere.

As of today, my vote would be to trust the coaching staff, trust the process. If this trend continues, take affirmative action, and bench the kid. Fortunately for the Wolverines, they have a bit of time at this point in the schedule to work out the kinks before playing in a big game. The excuses are slim — the play-makers around Speight are young, but solid, the defense will do their job. It’s time for Wilton Speight to produce, and it needs to happen quickly, or Michigan will have to move on.