The 2019 season is so close you can taste it. Polls have started to come out and Michigan is, once again, highly ranked and expected to do big things. The best preseason predictor out there, Phil Steele, for the first time in 12 years is predicting Michigan to beat Ohio State, following it up with running the table on the way to the Big Ten title. Pretty bold for a lot of people, but bold is a big part of the preseason.
So, like every year, I’ve put together my bold predictions for Michigan’s season, one that I see Jim Harbaugh finally answering a lot of questions.
1. Harbaugh wins the “Big Games”
“Harbaugh can’t win the big games”. It’s something you hear all the time from talking heads throughout the local and national media. And it’s true if the only big one is The Game vs Ohio State. However, some like to move the goalposts a bit when it comes to this narrative. Beat Florida in a bowl game, “it was just the Citrus Bowl”. Lose to Florida in a bowl game, “Harbaugh’s the most overrated coach in college football”. It’s always fun to play that game but one thing is true, Harbaugh has struggled against top 10 teams and hasn’t been great vs rivals either. He’s 1-9 in top 10 games and 2-7 against rivals (Ohio State, Michigan State and Notre Dame). And it’s starting to weigh on the fanbase and program a bit.
Luckily, this year should be the perfect opportunity to silence some of the noise for a second. The three rivals all come to Ann Arbor this fall and are coming into the season with plenty of questions. Which has led Michigan is actually favored in all three games heading into the season.
As long as injuries don’t pile up and Josh Gattis is at least 75% of what some have projected him to be, I believe Harbaugh can lead the Wolverines to wins over Michigan’s three biggest rivals and take care of the tough road trips to Madison and Happy Valley as well.
2. One Bad Loss
At least one bad loss seems to be a reoccurring moment every season. Michigan just has not been able to put it all together from start to finish in decades, regardless of the coach. And though I think this team is set for big things, I still see a bad loss happening at some point this season.
Could it be to Army at the start of the year? It’s easily one of the scariest games of the season.
Could it be against Iowa, like in 2016? The Hawkeyes are always a problem and having an experienced quarterback like Nate Stanley will only make them an even tougher out.
Could it be at Maryland where Mike Locksley is going to try and upstage Josh Gattis? Doubtful but crazier things have happened.
Could it be on the road at Indiana? Michigan has beat the Hoosiers 23 times in a row but IU always seems to be up to the test.
Not sure when it will happen but I see a slip up at some point. However, I don’t think it’ll be one that derails a potential trip to the playoffs.
3. Multiple Freshmen All-Americans
Michigan hasn’t had multiple FWAA Freshmen All-American since 2004 when Chad Henne, Mike Hart and Jake Long were all named to the team. Though the program has had several individual additions to the list, 15 years for multiple members is a long time. But I think that changes this year.
RB Zach Charbonnet and DB Daxton Hill are expected to play and play a lot. If the production meets the hype and the team meets its expectations, both will be shoe-ins to the team. They’re not the only options, however. WR Mike Sainristil may end up being the starting slot receiver from day one and two redshirt freshmen in LB Cam McGrone and OT Jalen Mayfield look set to become key pieces to the 2019 team.
Other names that could produce as the season goes on include redshirt freshmen CB Vincent Gray, RB Christian Turner, and CB Gemon Green, while true freshmen OG Nolan Rumler, C/G Zach Carpenter, WR Cornelius Johnson, TE Erick All, DT Chris Hinton and DT Mazi Smith all could see the field.
4. Patterson Re-Writes the Record Books
For the winningest team in college football history, you’d really think Michigan’s passing records would be better than they are.
- Single Season Passing Yards – John Navarre, 2003 (3,331)
- Single Game Passing Yards – Devin Gardner, 2013 (503)
- Single Season Passing Touchdowns – Elvis Grbac, 1991/Chad Henne, 2004 (25)
- Single Game Passing Touchdowns – Jake Rudock, 2015 (6)
Those are just some of the big-time individual quarterback stats. And I believe all of them, and then some, will be either broken or met this season.
Josh Gattis helped Tua Tagovailoa throw for 3,966 yards in 2018, including 43 touchdown passes. If Shea Patterson can come anywhere close to those numbers, the senior signal-caller will smash the all-time records.
The toughest record to break may be the 6 touchdowns in a single game, as the staff is expected to get Dylan McCaffrey plenty of run this season as well. But as long as Patterson and his receivers stay healthy this season, and Gattis’ offense clicks like expected, look out.
5. Michigan makes the Playoffs
Made it a bold prediction last year and I’m doing it again. Jim Harbaugh has the talent and even though the schedule will be a difficult one, the toughest battles will be in Ann Arbor. It will come down to whether Michigan knocking off its rivals at home and taking care of business on its road trips.
I already mentioned my expectation of at least one loss but it not ruining the playoff chances. I see Michigan going 11-1 during the season, winning the East and knocking off whoever comes out of the West in Indianapolis. If that happens and both Alabama and Clemson are as good as expected, it’ll likely mean a 3 or 4 in the Playoffs. We’ll see what happens there.
Will all of these things actually happen this year? Maybe but that’s not really the point. Bold predictions are always a fun way to look at your confidence levels heading into a season.
So, what are you bold predictions for the 2019 Michigan football season? Let us know in the comment section below!
Photo Credit: Patrick Barron/MGoBlog