5 Burning Questions for the 2016 Michigan Wolverines

With the 2016 Michigan football season almost here, it’s time to answer those burning questions that every Michigan fan and tailgate will be discussing up until kickoff against Hawaii on September 3rd. That includes who will start at quarterback, how they’ll fare in the rivalry games and Rashan Gary’s impact.

Check out what Garrett Fishaw and myself think about those 5 questions:

  1. Who will the starting quarterback be and how well will they play?

“Wilton Speight is the purest pocket passer of the competition and that is as much of an edge as John O’Korn’s one year of game experience. Speight has a spectacular physical makeup which should serve him well in the Big Ten. Although he has never started a game, Speight seems to be a decision-based quarterback that goes through all of his progressions. There is no doubt that he will struggle, but so did Jake Rudock. Once the struggling is complete and Speight is adjusted to Big Ten football as a starting quarterback, Michigan will have their starter for three years.” – Evan Paputa

“This one is much closer than anyone could have thought going into the offseason. Most, including myself, believed that O’Korn would clearly be the guy throughout the winter, spring and summer. However, from all reports, Speight has been the most consistent performer all through the winter and spring. At this point, I believe Speight will be the starter vs Hawaii (and remain the starter) thanks to that consistency and his knowledge of the playbook.” – Garrett Fishaw

  1. How will Michigan fare in road rivalry games against Michigan State and Ohio State?

“No matter what Michigan does in its other ten regular season games, they will be judged how they did in road games against Michigan State and Ohio State. It is likely that Michigan will enter the Michigan State game at 7-0 and a top-5 ranking. If that is the case (no matter what Michigan State’s record is), the pressure to beat the Spartans will be at an all-time high. I think that they will find a way to win that game. But in the regular season finale at Ohio State, I expect the Buckeyes to be firing on all cylinders by game 12 despite several new starters and beat Michigan in a closer game than last year.” – Evan Paputa

“The success of the season will depend on these two games. After going 2-14 over the last 8 years combined vs the Spartans and Buckeyes, Michigan has to turn things around against their biggest rivals before they can truly compete for National Championships. But it won’t be easy. Both programs are two of the most consistent in the country over the last 10 years and, though lost a ton of talent from their 2016 rosters, will be tough to beat on the road in 2017. Thanks to the experience throughout the roster and elite level defense, I believe Michigan knocks off Michigan State on October 29th but I’m not ready to say they will beat Ohio State in the Horseshoe just yet. JT Barrett is a special talent and Urban Meyer has proven time and again that he’s one of the best in-game coaches in all of college football.” – Garrett Fishaw

  1. How will Rashan Gary adjust to college football?

“I expect Rashan Gary to be a very consistent performer this season. But, I think it is nearly impossible to live up to the extreme expectations that he is facing (fans be patient). Greg Mattison said during spring football that Gary would start at defensive end, but I expect him to shift around to multiple positions on the d-line. When the season is over, I expect Gary to be the nightmare that offenses thought he would be before the season.” –Evan Paputa

“There are only a handful of talents to ever come into college football like Rashan Gary. He’s built like a defensive tackle but has the speed and athleticism of a defensive end. He also happens to be the first ever recruit to be ranked the unanimous #1 overall recruit by all CFB recruiting sites. That natural ability, mixed with his fit in Michigan’s aggressive defense and elite level defensive line talent should see Gary fit in quickly. I expect him to be a main contributor to both the run and pass defense throughout the season.” – Garrett Fishaw

  1. Will Jabrill Peppers make more impact on offense, defense, or special teams?

“I don’t think Jabrill Peppers will have to wait until mid-October to take an offensive snap this year. This could very well be the official breakout season that Michigan fans expected for his true freshman season. As much of a defensive force he is, I think his best value is his return game. One thing that hasn’t really been talked about from 2015 was Peppers’ ability to catch almost every punt and prevent the ball from rolling extra yards. In addition to catching every punt, his return ability is one of the best in the nation. I expect him to return at least three kicks/punts for touchdowns this season.” – Evan Paputa

“This is a tricky question. Jabrill is the most dynamic player in all three facets of the game for Michigan so any answer works. The defense will be one of the best in recent program history so JB’s play may not go as noticed as his 3-5 plays on offense and 3+ chances on special teams each and every game. But that doesn’t mean it’ll have more of an impact. I’ll stick with his defensive play because without Jabrill’s versatility, the defense goes from a possible all-time great to just a very good defense.” – Garrett Fishaw

  1. Is Michigan closer to winning the National Championship or winning ten total games?

“Make no mistake, ten wins marks a good season. But for a team with national championship aspirations, ten wins is just a disappointment. Despite all of the Vegas odds makers giving the Wolverines favorable odds to win the 2016 national championship, I do not see this being the year due to unfavorable road rivalry games, new quarterback, and positional question marks sprinkled around their otherwise solid depth chart. I believe the Wolverines will win ten regular season games and earn a trip to the Rose Bowl with a favorable matchup and chance for an eleventh win. As for winning the national championship, I do not believe they are in the same category as Alabama, who is flawless at every position. But in 2017, with a returning quarterback and home rivalry games, I fully expect Michigan to win the Big Ten and earn a berth to the College Football Playoff.” – Evan Paputa

“Pour me another cup of Kool-Aid because I believe Michigan is closer to a National Championship. But this isn’t only a homer pick. Look at the schedule, the makeup of the roster and then add in the coaching staff having another year of implementing their system and culture. This season is set up for success more than any other since 2006. As long as the quarterback play is better than decent, UM should head to East Lansing in late October with a 7-0. The season comes down to that game, at Iowa and at Ohio State. I fully believe Michigan wins at least two of those game (barring any crazy changes). That would put UM at (if not better than) 11-1. So, unless they absolutely fall apart through injuries or the quarterback play is incompetent, they should be fighting for the B1G championship and a CFB birth up until the last day of the season.” – Garrett Fishaw

What do you think? Put your answers and predictions to the questions above in the comment section below!

Photo Credit: Sporting News/Bill Bender

Evan Paputa

Born and raised in Plymouth, Michigan. Primarily a writer for The D Zone, but will be guest writing for MGoFish in addition.
Evan Paputa