At this time last year, it would have been looked at as a bold statement to say that Michigan would win ten games but lose to both rivals at home. Even bolder would be predicting Michigan would blow out the SEC East champ in a bowl game. But that’s what us writers like to do. Make bold, but partially calculated, predictions.
So, to have a little fun prior to the opening weekend, here are Fish and myself’s five bold predictions for the 2016 Michigan football season:
- Chris Wormley will steal the spotlight on the defensive line: With all the talk of Rashan Gary, I expect Wormley to be the best defensive lineman for the Wolverines this season. Wormley displayed bursts last year and is All-American worthy this year.
- Michigan will not go undefeated: Not very many teams go into East Lansing and Columbus and leave with two victories. Throw at Iowa into the mix and you get a very tough road conference schedule. Ohio State will be firing on all cylinders by the time Michigan arrives in late November despite entering the year with only 44 scholarship players who have played a snap in college.
- Big Ten East Triangle… again: Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State are the cream of the crop in the Big Ten and all play in the East division. Last year, all three entered the final week of the season with a chance to play in the Big Ten championship game. This year, I expect the same to happen: Michigan to enter the final week with no more than one loss (Iowa or Michigan State) or undefeated, Michigan State to enter with at least one loss (Michigan, potentially a second loss), and Ohio State to enter with undefeated or one loss (possibly on the road against Michigan State). If this is how it plays out, the winner of the Michigan-Ohio State game would win the East and head to the Big Ten championship game.
- Offense Taking Time: Despite how good Michigan’s offense ended last season and their returns of Jehu Chesson, Jake Butt, and an offensive line, I expect the offense to start slowly again. “Slow” is not something that can be defined on the stat sheet in yards per game or points scored because of how poor the first three opponents on the schedule are. No matter who the quarterback is, they will take some time (like Jake Rudock) to adjust to life as the starting quarterback.
- Fantastic Freshmen: Brady Hoke was notorious for burning freshmen’s redshirts for minimal playing time and special teams. Last year, Jim Harbaugh redshirted the players that did not play a major role. This year, look for Rashan Gary, Khaleke Hudson, and more to earn important roles on the team and play a lot.
- Don Brown Os: DJ Durkin made his name known even more in 2015 when he coordinated the Wolverines defense to three straight shutout victories. Last year’s success mixed with years of dominating defenses elsewhere helped land him the Maryland head coaching job. That opened the door for Jim Harbaugh to bring in the leader of the nation’s #1 defense in 2015, Don “Dr. Blitz” Brown. And when you look at what he did with the talent at Boston College and then look at the talent he has on this Michigan defense, it’s easy to see why UM’s defense should be better this fall. But will they be able to match or surpass Durkin’s shutout numbers? I’ll go ahead and say Don Brown’s defense pitches at least two shutouts this season.
- All the Tight Ends: Harbaugh’s love and development of tight ends is well known and it should in his first year in Ann Arbor. Each and every game, Michigan dressed up to six tight ends and would, from time to time, run a four tight end set. But those numbers could very well grow thanks to the talent on the depth chart this season. That’s why I’ll predict that, at least once, Michigan will put five tight ends in on an individual play. I’ll go one further and predict it’s in the redzone, wildcat formation with Peppers in the backfield, Butt and Gentry lined up outside, Bunting and Wheatley on the line with Asiasi in the backfield as an H-back.
- Harbaugh is Tossed: According to newly established rule 9-2-6, a coach can now be thrown out of a game for receiving two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. And I’m pretty sure who most of the sports world is looking at to be the first coach to be tossed under the new rule. Thanks to Jim Harbaugh’s sideline antics and short fuse with officiating, it’s not too hard to predict Harbaugh is tossed out of at least one game this season.
- Best Receiving Core Since the Early-Mid 2000’s: One of Michigan’s biggest factors for their dark ages between 2007-2014 was the lack of elite pass catchers/playmakers. They’ve had a guy here or there but have not had an elite level receiving core since 2003, when Braylon Edwards, Jason Avant and Steve Breaston were donning the winged helmet, or 2006 when Breaston had Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington by his side. The 2016 Michigan Wolverines may surpass both of those groups with well established Jehu Chesson, Amara Darboh and Jake Butt to go along with the emerging talents, which includes Grant Perry, Drake Harris, Moe Ways, Kekoa Crawford, Eddie McDoom, Ian Bunting, Devin Asiasi and others. Look for Wilton Speight or John O’Korn to have a big year thanks to the receiving talent around them.
- Michigan Blocks a Michigan State Punt: This is by far my boldest bold prediction as Michigan gets a little bit of revenge for Puntageddon by blocking a punt on October 29th in East Lansing. Not going as far as saying it will be for a touchdown but, a blocked punt vs the Spartans would help Wolverines fans heal even faster.
Bold predictions make college football even more fun than it already is. So, what’s your bold prediction(s) for the 2016 Michigan football season? Let us know in the comment section below!
Photo Credit: Patrick Semansky, Associated Press