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.

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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.

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.

Harbaugh Looks to Go 3-0 In Home Openers vs. Cincinnati -Game Prediction

by Mark Edwards

It’ll be really difficult this Saturday to not look at the Cincinnati sideline and think “Bobby Boucher isn’t coaching the Bearcats.”  Why?  Not because UC will have a linebacker that is all over the place but because Luke Fickell is a doppleganger.  Seriously.  Take a look.

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Movie reference aside, this week will answer a lot of questions.  Was the defense THAT fast?  Has Wilton Speight regressed?  Can Michigan clean up mistakes against a program that is in year one of a makeover?  Can Cincinnati “shock the world?”

Was the defense THAT fast?

The short answer is…YES.  Now, let’s distinguish speed from efficiency.  The Michigan defense can run.  What made last Saturday so eye popping is the inferred perception of the SEC.  How long have we heard the critics say “The teams in the north just aren’t as fast as SEC teams?”  The better part of a decade on ESPN has driven that narrative.  What Urban Meyer has known and what Michigan now knows is that the elite northern teams are every bit as fast as those in the south.  How does that happen?  Recruiting.  I know Sean Baligan has railed on the annual February focus on recruiting rankings and I believe he’s had good reason.  His thoughts only become irrelevant when you see speed go from HS to the top tier squads in non-SEC conferences.   Last week, that’s exactly what you saw.  The six sacks and numerous pressures made Florida’s passing ineffective until the last drive.  What I saw that I was most encouraged by is the fact that the run defense and it’s EFFICIENCY made the Gators one-dimensional.  I think that Don Brown & Co. will do the same thing this week.  The only pause for concern is that the Bearcats will be more adept in passing the ball than Jimmy Mac’s Gators.

Has Wilton Speight regressed?

I don’t believe that I can make that argument.  However, the troubling part of game one for Speight was the number of deep throws that he missed.  Actually, it wasn’t even the number.  As I watched it, it was apparent that those misses included balls that were thrown out of bounds.  If Speight is to regain his form, he’ll have to put those passes in a place where his receivers can go make a play.  I’ll go on the record and say that I believe he will be able to do that this Saturday.

Can Michigan clean up mistakes against a program that is in year one of a makeover?

This has been the staple of the Harbaugh regime.  I would list the mistake areas in order of importance:

1.  Right tackle pass protection

2.  Special teams getting back to being special (Obviously, I’m not talking about Nordin here)

3.  Passing game efficiency

4.  Defensive secondary technique improvement

Overall, I was okay with Nolan Ulizio’s first start at right tackle.  However, he had 6 misses in pass protection that can ultimately force a tight game to sway to the opponent.  However, I think Harbaugh and Drevno/Frey have earned the right for the fan base to trust their decision…and I do.  Getting a punt blocked certainly is “out of character” for Michigan since 2015 (one fumbled punt snap aside).  Actually, I think Jay Harbaugh and Chris Partridge have shown that Michigan’s special teams are among the nation’s most efficient.  I expect this to continue as the new faces become more comfortable in their roles.  The passing game cannot produce a 11 for 25 outing from Speight in big games.  Look for UM to want to get early completions against a Cincinnati defense that gave up 9.9 yards per completion to Austin Peay.  Look for Michigan’s number to be closer 12 yards per completion.  Lastly, the young defensive secondary had some lapses in their man-to-man technique that you rarely (Orange Bowl aside) saw from last year’s gang of Stribling, Lewis, Hill and Thomas.  Cincinnati is going to throw the ball around…a lot.  If you see separation on vertical routes between the receiver and the defender, it will be a sign of more work to do.  If you don’t see separation, you should get very excited.

Can Cincinnati “shock the world?

The answer is dependent upon Cincinnati.  It has everything to do with Michigan.  Was the emotional high of last week too much for a younger team to deal with?  Ay, there’s the question.  My answer is no.  Schembechler Hall has a way of keeping teams grounded.  It’s been the trademark consistency that Harbaugh brought to Ann Arbor.  Cincinnati’s best player is running back Mike Boone.  They’d be smart to feed him the ball but I don’t see the Michigan defense allowing that to happen.  If I’m right, then quarterback Hayden Moore will be under the gun of that pass rush, which I’m sure will include linebackers like Devin Bush.

Offensively, I think Speight will move the team up and down the field enough to calm the anxiety-ridden fanbase as we will see more tight end production as well as a breakout performance by one freshmen wide receiver.

FINAL SCORE:  Michigan 49, Cincinnati 10

PICKS TO CLICK:  Offense – Donovan Peoples-Jones, Defense – Mike McCray

CONFIDENCE LEVEL:  Confident (I would like to see this team stack performances of the highest level)

ONE THING THAT MAY SURPRISE:  Khaleke Hudson will be this week’s “Devin Bush Breakout Award” winner.  I anticipate a few sacks and a pick for #7.

ONE THING THAT MAY DISAPPOINT:  Running Backs not named Chris Evans.  Ty Isaac had a great game one and Karan Higdon scored a touchdown but I expect rushing numbers to be spread out (including McDoom).

Harbaugh’s Fake Quarterback Competition Part 3

Jim Harbaugh is somewhat of a great football mind, and he’s proven that time after time. The former Michigan QB’s football IQ is off the charts, and that’s normally the case for a vast majority of head football coaches. He’s known to primarily specialize in quarterback play, and is credited with the emergence, and the success of multiple quarterbacks in the NFL.

The third fall camp for the Harbaugh era at Michigan features a very familiar headline — a quarterback battle. It’s a good thing though, right? In my own opinion, competition brings out the absolute best in everyone. I also believe that there has never been a real competition at Michigan under Harbaugh yet to date.

I personally believe that the Wolverine head coach knows exactly whose job it is to lose going into every season, and he likes to make them feel like their job isn’t secure, so that they have motivations to up their level of play. I would go as far as to say that if you asked Jim Harbaugh who the 2017-18 starting quarterback was going to be on December 31st of 2016: he would’ve said Wilton Speight.

Speight is, and has been the clear-cut, obvious, most-experienced, candidate for the starting job this coming season, and the prior talks of RS-freshman Brandon Peters taking on the starting role were ridiculous. Peters is talented, great potential, likely one of Michigan’s future, down the road, starting field generals; he’s not ready for the spotlight just yet, Speight will be the starter this season, and depending on draft stock — the redshirt junior will be back for 2018-19 to start.

I went into 2016 hoping to see finally eligible, Houston, transfer QB, John O’Korn, take the field against Hawaii in the season opener, after-all he was more experienced, had entertaining highlights from his freshman season, seemed poised to win the job. After watching every game a season ago, including the Indiana game, I have not a doubt in my mind that Coach Harbaugh made the right call with his man, Wilton. A lengthy, strong armed, 240 pounded quarterback with elusive, smart, pocket escape ability is the exact type of guy that a pro-style offense, which Harbaugh runs, needs. Jim had his primary eye on Wilton from the get-go if you were to ask me.

The 2015-16 “quarterback competition”, between Jake Rudock, and Shane Morris, was about as fake as it gets. The talent, and experience deficit at the time between the two was massive, but if it weren’t for Rudock’s transfer decision: Morris would have started in 2015, and potentially could have saved his career at Michigan. Nothing against the former 5 star quarterback, very talented, and I’m very happy that he’s found a new-home in Central Michigan with the expectation of winning the starting role. Jake Rudock came to Michigan with a great deal of experience to work with, I compare his playing style to a certain former Michigan QB named Tom Brady. Shane Morris will only be remembered at Michigan simply for this mess. There’s a reason Jake Rudock chose to come play for Michigan, he knew he’d be the starter, and so did Jim Harbaugh.

This tactic isn’t exclusively to heighten the play of his quarterbacks, but it’s also done for the media, and to cause uncertainty in the week one match-up preparation.

It’s done for the media to simply keep Michigan in the headlines — to keep his program in the minds of recruits.

Lastly, it’s done to stir up the week one preparation, in other words: he’s playing mind games. Why let Florida know who to prepare for? Instead, let them prepare for a possible 2-3 quarterbacks, and keep them guessing. It’s not exactly a standout tactic, but it’s just genuinely smart, and I have a hard time understanding why teams are so quick to reveal their starter.

A majority of the seasons in Harbaugh’s tenure will very likely feature a supposed “QB competition”, and this is not a bad thing by any means. You’ll find out who Jim Harbaugh’s starter is after Michigan’s offense takes the field. Wilton Speight will be the starter in 2017 because the best quarterback will always take the field for a Jim Harbaugh coached football team.

Just keep in mind next time you’re in a Michigan Football blogger chatroom, a twitter thread, or a Facebook comment section arguing who you think the starting quarterback will be: Harbaugh’s likely known for months, and the competition that you’re so educated on, is all smoke and mirrors.

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.