The Michigan Wolverines were beginning to make people believe last season that they had turned the corner, that the program had changed its identity and had clearly improved its position in college football. Many people were beginning to be sold on the idea that Jim Harbaugh had finally learned how to maximize his resources and talent at Michigan, that he had evolved and had led the Wolverines out of their period of confusion from 2017.
Michigan entered the Ohio State game with only one loss, in the season opener of 2018 at Notre Dame. Michigan won its next 10 games and played the Buckeyes with a 10-1 record. Michigan was given a good chance to win that game, especially since Ohio State had just given up a large number of points to Maryland in the previous game, needing Maryland to miss a wide open game-winning 2-point pass to survive. However, Ohio State exploded, embarrassing Michigan’s defense and making it clear that the Wolverines were much, much slower than the more talented Buckeyes. The 62-39 loss showed that no, Michigan had not turned the corner. Back to square one.
Regular Season Win Total: 9.5 Wins
Odds: Over -150 Under +123
Changes From Last Season
The Wolverines did not have a good defense against Ohio State, but their defense was good against nearly every other team they faced. Devin Bush, Rashan Gary, and Chase Winovich were three stars from the 2018 Michigan defense. The bowl game loss to Florida was the result of some of these players being injured or unavailable, so that result against the Gators shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
Bush and Gary were first-round draft picks, and Winovich was taken by the New England Patriots, where he figures to be a high-impact player. The team also lost running back Karan Higdon, but this has been a team under Harbaugh which depends first on its defense for stability and leverage. If Michigan doesn’t have a great defense, the Wolverines have nowhere else to turn. Replacing the losses on defense will be the first priority for this team.
2019 X-Factor: Shea Patterson
The Wolverines have needed a special quarterback in order to develop their offense to the level which enables them to become a great team. Michigan was a very good team last year, but it wasn’t a great team. It was hoped that Patterson would show the level of talent he displayed at Ole Miss, creating a genuinely dynamic offense which would be able to pick up the defense if the defense ever faltered. Patterson was occasionally great, but not normally great. He showed brief flashes of elite performance, but he did not sustain it, and Michigan’s offense was still far too ordinary for much of the 2018 season. Patterson needs to develop in a big way for Michigan to realize all of its dreams.
The Wolverines get Notre Dame at home out of conference. They also play Middle Tennessee and Army, which should also be wins. However, they visit Wisconsin and Penn State in Big Ten play, and they have to face nemesis Ohio State, which will once again have more speed and more talent than the Wolverines. The big hope for Michigan is that with Urban Meyer retiring from coaching, Harbaugh can out-coach OSU boss Ryan Day, but OSU still has better players. The thought here is that Michigan will lose at Wisconsin and Penn State and then lose to Ohio State to finish 9-3. Go under.
Prediction: Under 9.5 wins
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