Michigan is one of the hottest teams in college football talk right now. They have skyrocketed up preseason rankings and are currently ranked between four and seven in almost every ranking out there. They also are now favorites to win the Big 10, ahead of Ohio State. Obviously, in college football, anything can happen once the season actually starts, but to me, this hype surrounding Michigan doesn’t add up on paper.
Michigan had one of the best defenses in the country last year, and they should be very good again this season, but it’s hard to expect them to be nearly as good this year after what they lost. They lost their three best defensive players in Devin Bush, Chase Winovich, and Rashan Gary, and lost another top defender in DB David Long. Michigan still has a lot of talent on D, and Don Brown is one of the best DC’s in the country, but you can’t lose that much firepower and expect to be as good. Last year Michigan relied on their defense to win games as their offense was decent at best, but this year that cannot be the case.
Michigan’s offense should be much improved with many of their players returning including QB Shea Patterson, but there are two big question marks on this side of the ball. The first is that Michigan, a team that is traditionally extremely run-heavy, lost their two best running backs in Karan Higdon and Chris Evans, and is now expected to start true freshman Zach Charbonnet at the position. Being the starting RB for Michigan is a lot of pressure to put on a true freshman, especially when expectations are that he produces enough to win the Big 10. Jim Harbaugh recently said he feels “pretty good” about the RB position this year, but we are in the peak of “coach speak” season so I don’t buy it. The second is the introduction of OC Josh Gattis. Talk to any Michigan fan and they’ll tell you that the number one reason this year will be different is their new savior Josh Gattis. But there’s something really wrong with labeling Gattis the solution to their problems: he has never called a single play in his career. Yes Gattis has been one of the best WR coaches in the country recently, and he served as co-coordinator for Alabama for one season, but to expect that Gattis will come in and turn Michigan’s offense into a powerhouse after years of stagnancy and a lack of creativity is crazy. And as I said before, Michigan can no longer rely on their defense to hold good teams to under 20 points every game. If Michigan wants to achieve any of their goals (beat Ohio State, win the Big 10, make the CFP), their offense will have to be top tier, and with a rookie RB and a rookie OC at the forefront I just don’t see that happening.
Michigan will certainly be a great team, but with a schedule that includes games against NCAA.com’s #3, #10, #13, #16, #18, and #22 ranked teams, I don’t see them going better than 10-2. Maybe that 10-2 is good enough to get them to Indianapolis for the Big 10 championship, but then that would be another challenging game for Michigan. And even if Michigan does all this and they win the Big 10, there has yet to be a two-loss team in the CFP. Maybe with that schedule and a Big 10 title Michigan will be the first, but this is still a ridiculous amount to ask from a team who lost so much on defense and expects their offense to be saved by a rookie OC and rookie RB.