2019 College Football Preview: Michigan Wolverines

Michigan Wolverines

Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh

2018 Record: 10-3, 8-1 Conference

Bowl: 15-41 Loss to Florida at Peach Bowl

Season Win Prop: 9.5 wins (O -215, U +175)

Make 4 Team Playoff:  Yes +250; No -325

If the Michigan Wolverines have ever had a shot of upending Ohio State, it is this year. The team is coming off a 10-win season with a new offensive coordinator in Josh Gattis. Gattis will introduce some spread formations in it and go with a no-huddle look.

Innovative? Somewhat. New-look? Definitely.

The Wolverines are catering to the strengths of its starting quarterback, which is usually a smart thing to do when the QB in question is top-flight. But how well will it all translate? Hopefully, much better than what was seen in the Wolverines’ embarrassing Bowl loss to Florida. Hopefully much better, for Big Blue faithful.

Offense

The spread, the no-huddle offense should benefit the Michigan quarterback the most, and Shea Patterson is coming off a 2,600-yard, 26 touchdown season. Improving on that would put Michigan in a quite coveted territory. Patterson is also familiar with this offense somewhat from his time at Ole Miss prior to transferring to Michigan, so he probably will not be caught off guard by its frenzied approach. That bodes quite well for the Wolverines, as many QBs struggle to adjust to drastic changes mid-NCAA career like this.

The Wolverines are counting on Patterson to adapt rapidly, mostly because behind him the depth is not great— Dylan McCaffrey, Joe Milton, Brandon Peters, and Cade McNamara are all less proven and not ready.

It’s Patterson or die.

One source of concern for this offense will be the turnover at running back, though. The Wolverines lost senior Karan Higdon as well as Chris Evans, who has eligibility issues due to poor academics and is ruled out. That leaves Christian Turner and Tru Wilson as the No. 1 and No. 2 running backs. Hassan Haskins and Ben VanSumeren were moved to running back to add some depth. True freshman Zach Charbonnet is an intriguing prospect, as well, and was a top-ranking RB in the 2019 class. He missed spring due to medical procedures, but the coaching staff is very high on his overall upside.

The offensive line returns all but its right tackle (Juwann Bushnell-Beatty). Andrew Stueber is the replacement, and he is the only one with the experience to fill the role, really. WR returns Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins, Ronnie Bell, Oliver Martin, and Tarik Black. There is both enough talent and depth here, but the unit will have to be more consistent than it was in 2018.

Defense

The Michigan defense was hit a lot harder than the offense, in terms of turnover. It lost defensive linemen Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich. Out is linebacker Devin Bush Jr. Additionally, the team lost its defensive line coach in Greg Mattison (to Ohio State to make it worse!). Shaun Nua steps in as the new DL coach.

Even with those turnovers though, there is plenty of talent left in this unit. Carlo Kemp, Michael Dwumfour, and Aidan Hutchinson are all back. Kwity Paye and LB/DL hybrid Josh Ache both will have bigger and more important roles this year. Donovan Jeter and Luiji Vilain both could be useful if they can remain healthy this season, as well.

The Bowl loss highlighted what a loss Bush really is to this team, as Michigan was crushed with him sitting. Josh Ross will fill his role but has a fraction of the talent. OLB Devin Gil also will fill in during some sets. Jordan Anthony is one more option to slide into Bush’s position, but there is no sense minimizing the importance that Bush Jr. served to the Michigan “D” because it was seen in a one-game snapshot with that (really) bad Bowl loss.

Special Teams

Placekicker has to be decided between Quinn Nordin and Jake Moody. Nordin won the position last season but then connected on just 11 of 16 field goals. Moody was more of a kickoff specialist until he drilled 6 of 6 field goals in a win over Indiana. Kick returns will be handled by Peoples-Jones and punt returns go to Ambry Thomas. The placekicking job probably ends up going to Moody, but that is hardly in stone.

Final Word

The Wolverines are a top team in the BIG 10 despite rebuilding several aspects of its defense and switching to a new offensive coordinator. This team is poised to improve on last season despite both those things, and if Patterson thrives as Michigan coaching staff expects he will, this could be a huge year for Wolverine football.

Prediction: 11 wins (over)

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