Playing second fiddle to Ohio State is never going to be acceptable in Ann Arbor. But, the Michigan Wolverines haven’t had much of a choice for quite a while now. At this point, Wolverines fans would probably settle for simply going 1-11 with a win over Ohio State. After all, the Buckeyes have won 13 of the last 14 head-to-head meetings. Michigan is 28-11 under head coach Jim Harbaugh, but the Wolverines haven’t sniffed a Big Ten East title and haven’t come close to making the College Football Playoff.
Armed with one of the best defenses in the country, Michigan will try again in 2018. Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson just might be the quarterback that the Wolverines need, as Harbaugh has been unable to recruit one in his three years with the school. While these certainly aren’t the Brady Hoke years, the disgruntled fan base is losing its patience, especially after last year’s 8-5 campaign. It is past time for the Wolverines to get this thing figured out and return to being a National Championship contender.
Per the odds, they are one this season. DSI Sportsbook has Michigan as the fifth favorite at +1200. They are +1400 at BetOnline as the fifth choice on the board and +2000 at 5Dimes as the fifth choice. The Wolverines are the third choice at 5D to win the Big Ten at +475 and the fourth choice at +600 at BetOnline.
DSI lists a season win total of 9 with the over at -130, with BOL at 8.5 and -200 to the over, and 5Dimes at 9 with -110 on both sides. Keep in mind that these win total odds do not include conference championship games or bowl games.
|Date||Opponent||BangTheBook Line||Expected Wins|
|9/1||@ Notre Dame||-2||.53|
|10/20||@ Michigan State||-2||.53|
|11/24||@ Ohio State||+10||.23|
Expected Wins: 9.38
It is not hyperbole to say that Shea Patterson will set the ceiling for the Wolverines. We’re going to find out right away with a road trip to South Bend. We know the defense will be good. We know the running game is solid. We don’t know about the most important position on the field. Patterson had a 23/12 TD/INT ratio with a 62 percent completion rate at Ole Miss, but his time in Oxford included a torn ACL. He’s already signed a baseball contract with the Texas Rangers that kicks in after this season at Michigan. If Patterson is the guy, then Michigan can very well make a real run at the College Football Playoff. If not, Michigan will be a decent offense with an elite defense that needs to run the table in three virtual toss-up games. It really can’t be worse than last season, as Wolverines quarterbacks posted a 53.5 percent completion rate and a 9/10 TD/INT ratio, but Patterson has to elevate this position to the next level, not just be better than the guys that came before him.
Karan Higdon fell just shy of 1,000 yards with his 11 touchdowns and Chris Evans had 685 yards and six scores. The workmanlike running game for the Wolverines may not have as much explosiveness as others, but it has a lot of efficiency. Higdon and Evans are a solid tandem. The Wolverines will also have an experienced offensive line. Just about every back or receiver that caught a pass is back as well. It’s all up to Patterson. That is a lot to put on the junior quarterback coming off of a torn ACL, but his play will define how far this team can go.
The reason why it all falls on Patterson is because the defense returns nine starters from a unit that allows only 18.8 points per game last season. The Wolverines have allowed less than five yards per play every year since 2013. Mike McCray and Maurice Hurst combined for 10 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss, but the rest of the defense is in tact. Defensively coordinator Don Brown took over in 2016 and opponents have failed to gain an average of 300 yards per game on his watch. The Wolverines also have 88 sacks over the last two seasons.
A secondary full of upperclassmen is back for the Wolverines. Michigan has not allowed a completion percentage over 50 percent in any of Dom Brown’s years as the DC. Michigan returned only one starter on defense last season and went from 14.1 points per game to 18.8 points per game while going from 4.2 yards per play to 4.5 yards per play. With a lot more experience and another year with Dom Brown at the helm, plus his recruits in prominent roles, the defense is stacked.
Michigan does face one of the hardest schedules in the country. Based on our BangTheBook Power Ratings for the summer, Michigan draws five teams in the top 20 and three of those games are on the road – at Notre Dame, at Michigan State, and at Ohio State. It will be very interesting to see what happens either way in that opener against the Fighting Irish. The Wolverines are favored in the betting market and favored by our numbers, so it wouldn’t be an “upset”, at least not as of now, but a game of that magnitude can really get the hype train going or derail it completely.
Pick: Over 9 (-110, 5Dimes)
The Wolverines don’t need Shea Patterson to be a Heisman Trophy winner in order to post a good record. It certainly wouldn’t hurt, but the defense here is elite and the offense was good enough with incompetent quarterback play last season. Something resembling average will represent a huge upgrade. Realistically, Michigan looks like a 9-3 or 10-2 team. Wisconsin is still strong, but the Wolverines get that one at home. The swing games will be the trio of road games, but Michigan should be chalk at Michigan State and Notre Dame. This is a much improved Wolverines team from a year ago.
-END OF 2018 PREVIEW-
Big Ten – East
2016 record: 10-3 SU & 6-6 ATS
Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh– Head Coaching Experience: 7 years (3rd with Michigan)
Season Over/Under Win Total: 9 Over -180 Under +150
Odds to win 2017 College Football Championship game: 14/1 (6th Best odds)
Returning Starters: 15 (Offense: 4 Defense: 1)
Rivals 2017 Recruiting ranking: #4 (total recruits: 30, 5-star: 3)
Sep. 2 Florida (Arlington, TX)
Sep. 9 Cincinnati
Sep. 16 Air Force
Sep. 23 @ Purdue
Sep. 30 Bye
Oct. 7 Michigan State
Oct. 14 @ Indiana
Oct. 21 @ Penn State
Oct. 28 @ Rutgers
Nov. 4 Minnesota
Nov. 11 @ Maryland
Nov. 18 @ Wisconsin
Nov. 25 Ohio State
Following up their 2016 offensive performance in which Michigan achieved their highest PPG output (40.3) since 1904 seems fairly unlikely with only 4 offensive starters returning; but they will get their QB back in Junior Wilton Speight. Speight, who threw for 2538 YDS, 18 TD, 7 INT, isn’t guaranteed the job however, as Redshirt Freshman and top 10 High School prospect Brandon Peters is expected to challenge. Whoever starts, he will likely lead a revamped offense with Harbaugh’s offseason hire of Pep Hamilton (last 4 years NFL offensive Coordinator) as Passing Game Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach.
Under Harbaugh, Michigan has truly embraced a Running back-By-Committee approach, with 4 backs getting significant work in 2016. De’Veon Smith, now of the Miami Dolphins, did receive twice as many carries as any other back at 181, but Freshman Chris Evans (88), Senior Ty Isaac (74), and Junior Karan Higdon (72) all received their share of the workload. All three behind Smith are back this year, and with the addition of Redshit Freshman and top 3 High School Prospect Kareem Walker, this backfield is deep and talented.
Michigan will parts ways with their top 3 receivers of 2016; 1st Team All Big-Ten WR Amara Darboh (3rd Round NFL), Mackie Award winning TE Jake Butt (5th Round NFL), and 4th round draft pick WR Jehu Chesson. With the leading WRs returning from last year all Sophomores and the rest of the unit mostly made up of freshman, this unit will need to rebound without much experience. The physical Junior TE Ian Bunting may play a big role in that rebound, as well as Freshman WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, who many consider to be the number one High School WR prospect of 2016. Add in the blazing speed of Sophomore Eddie McDoom and the size of Freshman Tarik Black (6’4’’ 206lb), and what this unit lacks in experience is made up for in talent.
The Wide Receiver corps. isn’t the only unit on Michigan that will need revamped, as the talented and seasoned offensive line from 2016 (213 RYPG, 22 sacks) will lose 116 career starts. They will need to replace 2x All-Big Ten RT Erik Magnuson, 2nd Team Big-10 RG Kyle Kalis, and 2nd Team B10 LG/LT Ben Braden. The Wolverines will return Sr Patrick Kugler at center and Sr. Mason Cole at LT, but the rest of the line will be made up of sophomores, and could be a big question mark for Michigan in 2017.
Following up a season in which Michigan’s defense was the best it has been (14.1 PPG, 262 YPG) since 1997 won’t be easy, as the Wolverines will lose nearly their entire defense (10 starters). Defensive Coordinator Don Brown has been excellent though in his 2 years with Michigan, and this will be the year that Michigan ushers in a new defensive era with the last of the Hoke recruits graduating. Up front the losses are great, with all 4 starters moving on – three of which were NFL draft picks: Taco Charlton (1st Rnd), Chris Wormley (3rd), and Ryan Glascow (4th). Fortunately for Michigan, they have the talent to absorb such losses and will still likely remain one of the better defensive lines in the country. Look for Sophomore Rashan Gary, arguably the number one DE prospect of 2015, to join Sr. NT Maurice Hurst, who will return despite being a potential first round NFL draft pick, to anchor this top notch defensive front.
Linebacker is the one position on defense that Michigan will actually return a starter in Sr. WLB Mike McCray, but the losses are still plenty. They will still have to replace 2 NFL draft picks; one of which was a Heisman finalist and the first All-American since 2007 at Michigan, Jabrill Peppers, the other being 4th round NFL draft pick MLB Ben Gideon. McCray will be joined by 2 sophomores, Devin Bush and Khaleke Hudson, to round out a unit that is expected to be down with their two losses to the NFL.
There are shoes are mighty big to fill for the Wolverines in the secondary as well with the losses of CB Jourdan Lewis (3rd Round NFL), CB Jeremy Clark (6th round), SS Delano Hill (3rd Round), and FS Dymonte Thomas. Once again Michigan will have to rely on an infusion of youth, consisting of 3 sophomores and a junior, to fill these shoes. Look for Sophomore CB Lavert Hill to become the next shutdown Corner for this unit that will need to grow up in a hurry if Michigan is to be anything close to what they were last year as a top 3 pass defense in the country.
The Special Teams will not be spared in having to adjust to syphoning of experience out of Michigan for 2017. They will have to replace both their kicker and their punter, first and foremost, but their young replacements do boast NFL talent. Redshirt Freshman K Quinn Nordin was arguably the number 1 kicker recruit of his class, and Freshman P Brad Robbins was ranked #1 in High School’s Fab50 punter rankings last year. Losing Jabrill Peppers may be the biggest blow to their Special Teams, however, a 1st Team All-Big Ten returner.
2017 Season Outlook
2017 has the feel of being a bit of a rebuilding year for Michigan, with most of the Hoke recruits now gone and only 5 starters returning, we will now see a young team made up of Harbaugh recruits. There is no question that Harbaugh has recruited talent at a level to still make this team relevant in the title race, in spite of its youth, and this is evidenced in its 14/1 odds to win the playoff. However, with all of the youth comes uncertainty, and with a win total set at 9 one would have to exercise caution in backing this young team to win more than 9 games. Especially in looking at their schedule; they will face 4 potential top 10 teams in Florida (neutral), Ohio St. (H), Wisconsin (A), and Penn State (A), with only one of these games at home. Unfortunately for Michigan, it is most likely their toughest game, against their biggest rival and possibly top 3 team in the country, Ohio State that is the only one at home. Though it wouldn’t be absolutely shocking for Michigan to get through this gauntlet with one loss and sneak their way into the Playoff hunt with only 2 losses, I’m certainly not betting on it, especially with heavily juiced overs out there in the market.
Season Win Total Prediction: Under 9