Caught in the Maize: My 2015 Michigan Football Season Prediction

Here it is. My 2015 Michigan football season prediction and I had trouble putting this together. My heart and brain is damaged thanks to the previous 7 years of coaching incompetence. It was difficult seeing the team not consistently blow winnable games but at the same time, I couldn’t be the uber homer and have them win every game.

After studying Team 136’s opponents, I believe the Wolverines SHOULD be the favored team in all but two games (MSU and OSU). Add in the Harbaugh factor and upsetting a top team just seems like a foregone conclusion.

So, using my psychic powers,  I have put together a (what I feel like is) very realistic season prediction for Jim Harbaugh’s first season at Michigan.

Just remember, Brady Hoke won 11 games in his first season with a much easier schedule:

September 3rd at Utah (1-0)

– In the first game of the Harbaugh era, Michigan meets Utah under the lights in Salt Lake City to kick off the college football season. And I believe the mix of the new staff, new quarterback and returning talent will lead the Wolverines over the Utes in front of a national audience.

Though Utah is a very talented team, they lost several big pieces, including top DE Nate Orchard, from their 2014 team that Michigan should have beat last year. It may not be pretty on offenese but I believe both the Wolverine defense and special teams will put points on the board to help lead Michigan to a 1-0 start.

Michigan 23 – Utah 19

September 12th vs Oregon State (2-0)

– In the home opener, the Big House will be jam packed to see Harbaugh and Team 136 take the field for the first time. Add in a big win in week one and the offense should have the confidence it badly needs to be successful and help lead the Wolverines to a 2-0 start.

OSU added former Wisconsin head coach Gary Anderson but, unlike Michigan, they’ll need more than just an upgrade of the coaching staff. The Beavers have questions all over the field, especially on defense and at the quarterback position (replacing Sean Mannion). Because of that, I see Harbaugh taking advantage by cranking up the pressure on whichever young QB gets the nod and the Wolverine’s passing game having a nice showing against a secondary that is replacing 3 starters.

Michigan 31 – Oregon State 17

September 19th vs UNLV (3-0)

– While the first two games of the 2015 season will be very competitive, the match up against UNLV should be the first blowout of the Harbaugh era.

The Running Rebels made a beyond bold head coaching hire when they brought on Tony Sanchez from nearby powerhouse Bishop Gorman high school (yes, I said high school). Though Sanchez is a very good football coach, he’s bringing a struggling program into the Big House to go up against Jim Harbaugh and the 2-0 Wolverines who are starting to figure things out. It should be much too big of a stage and talent discrepancy to keep this one close. Expect all three facets of Team 136 to have a big game.

Michigan 42 – UNLV

September 26th vs BYU (3-1)

– Here it is. The first loss of the season and Harbaugh era (see, rival fans, I’m not a complete homer) as Bronco Mendenhall and veteran QB Taysom Hill knock off the Wolverines in front of a shocked Big House crowd, even without top returning RB Jamaal Williams no longer on the team.

BYU comes in after a very tough start to the season, where they head to Nebraska, host Boise State and visit UCLA before making the trek to Ann Arbor to face the Wolverines. Though they may only be 1-2 or 0-3, this is a very talented roster with a great head coach and a star QB coming off of injury, and just seems like the perfect storm that will give Team 136 their first loss on a last minute score.

BYU 24 – Michigan 20 

October 3rd at Maryland (4-1)

– Team 136 heads into the Big Ten season after a very disappointing and tough loss the week prior which will actually do more for the team moving forward than being undefeated (ask Hoke about that). Harbaugh and the Wolverines should be more than ready when they step off the bus in College Station.

Maryland is coming off of a very nice 2014 season but should have their fair share of problems in 2015. Randy Edsall will be replacing his quarterback, as well as 10 other starters but will have his home crowd pumped to get their first look at the Wolverines. It should be a very good game but the much more experienced squad should get the win behind a couple big special team plays from John Baxter’s boys.

Michigan 28 – Maryland 24 

October 10th vs Northwestern (5-1)

– Harbaugh’s first Big Ten game in the Big House sees Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern come into town trying avenge yet another heartbreaking loss at the hands of the Wolverines the year prior (in one of the grossest games ever). At least this year should be a much better game to watch.

The Wildcats are returning 15 starters but will have to find themselves a new quarterback so expect the offense to be focused around tailback Justin Jackson but the Michigan run defense should be one of the tops in the nation. Though these games have always been very close over the last couple years, even the previous coaching staff were able to consistently knock off NU so I see the new staff putting a bit of a whooping on the Wildcats in front of a 113,000+ and (I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing) match their win total from 2014.

Michigan 38 – Northwestern 17 

October 17th vs Michigan State (6-1)

– For the first time since 2001, Michigan’s first rivalry game of the year takes place in the middle of the season (thanks for nothing, Notre Dame) and it happens to be the biggest test of Harbaugh’s young UofM coaching career as the Spartans come into town for a huge match up.

At this point in the season, I’m predicting Michigan to be 5-1 and ranked in the top 25 and Michigan State to be undefeated and in the top 3. Biggest game in rivalry history? One of them, that’s for sure. Add in MSU’s new found cockiness and it sets up perfectly for Harbaugh and Team 136 to pull off the upset.

While Michigan State is a very good team with a top notch coach and legit quarterback, they are replacing a couple dynamic offensive weapons (WR Tony Lippett and RB Jeremy Langford) and multiple top players in the secondary (S Kurtis Drummond and CB Trae Waynes), and the best defensive coordinator in program history (Pat Narduzzi). That is why I believe Michigan will show their first signs of being “back” by knocking off their in-state rival on a last second field goal from freshmen kicker Andrew David (yeah, I’m putting it on a freshmen kicker to win it just like in 2012 when that bad person kicked the game winner).

Michigan 20 – Michigan State 17

Bye Week

– Most of the Michigan fans are still nursing a hangover after the post game party from last Saturday.

October 31st at Minnesota (6-2)

– Loss #2 of the season comes to Jerry Kill’s Gophers, who have quietly become one of the best teams in the conference and a team to be reckoned with moving forward for the B1G West.

While Minnesota lost two of their top players from last year in TE Maxx Williams and RB David Cobb, Kill has consistently reloaded the Gophers roster and continues to play tough, hard nosed football. While Michigan is the more talented team, playing on the road and right after a bye week is a recipe for disaster.

Now, could I still be a little burnt from the Hoke era where the staff seemed to be under prepared on a normal basis? Probably, and I doubt that will be the issue here with Harbaugh and his staff in place. But I do believe there will be a game where the offense just falls apart and, like I said in the BYU loss, this could really help the team moving forward as Harbaugh takes it personal that the Little Brown Jug stays in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Minnesota 26 – Michigan 17 

November 7th vs Rutgers (7-2)

– Oh, Rutgers. This one could get ugly. If Michigan is indeed coming off of a loss to Minnesota, Harbaugh will have Team 136 ready and raring to go, especially after giving Rutgers one of their biggest wins in program history in 2014.

There are plenty of questions surrounding the Scarlet Knights’ offense, including who will take ova for (Gary) Nova. And yes, I do hate myself for saying that. Expect Michigan to come out swinging in front of a packed Big House crowd and hang 35+ on Kyle Flood’s young defense, and pushing the Wolverines back into the top 20.

Michigan 37 – Rutgers 13

November 14th at Indiana (8-2)

– If there is one game on the schedule that could be a lot closer than most would think, I believe it’s this one. Indiana is coming off of an up and down season where they lost to Bowling Green one week and then knocked off SEC West champ Missouri the next week. But if Hoke’s squad can blow them out at home, Harbaugh’s team should be just fine.

The Hoosiers offense is always a threat, especially with QB Nate Sudfeld returning from injury. However, they are missing their top player from 2014 in RB Tevin Coleman and somehow have been struggling on defense since I care to remember. I see the Wolverines getting off to a slow start and scaring the hell out of Twitter before the defense adds multiple scores to lead Michigan to a comfortable win.

Michigan 29 – Indiana 17

November 21 at Penn State (9-2)

– There aren’t many games that I’m looking forward to more than Harbaugh’s first trip to Happy Valley. Team 136 will get a first hand look at the raucous “white out” crowd which hasn’t been too horrible to Michigan in the past. And though it will be the hardest away game of the year, I believe Michigan will pull out a close one.

Though the Nittany Lions have a possible #1 overall pick at quarterback (Christian Hackenberg) and one of the top, up and coming coaches in college football (James Franklin), the depth chart is still a little thin after all of the NCAA sanctions. That doesn’t mean their not talented as their defense will be stout just like in 2014, which should give Michigan’s offense issues. But thanks to a couple big plays and a score on the final drive, Michigan gets their first win in Happy Valley since 2006.

Michigan 23 – Penn State 21

November 28th vs Ohio State (9-3)

– And it all comes down to this. The top ranked, undefeated Buckeyes roll into town looking to punch their ticket to the College Football Playoff and Big Ten Championship. Oh wouldn’t it be amazing and solidify Harbaugh and Michigan’s return. However, a close, hard fought battle ends with a quiet Big House.

Everyone and their mother knows about OSU’s 2015 team and their lack of roster issues. However, they’ve had a stacked roster for years and Hoke’s Wolverines always played well in “The Game”. So, it’s easy to see how Michigan could end up knocking off the #1 team in the country. But a couple missed opportunities from Team 136 and a couple big plays from (insert OSU’s starting QB), and the Buckeyes leave town with another victory.

Ohio State 31 – Michigan 27

Citrus Bowl vs Georgia (10-3)

– How would a first year trip to the Capital One Citrus Bowl feel for Michigan fans? How about a bowl win? If not, well, I don’t know what to do for you.

As for who they could play, Georgia has constantly been the bridesmaid in the SEC and, though they have a stacked roster, always seem to lose a couple close games each year. That’s why this match up would be so perfect. Two power house programs that just missed out on a big time season matching up for the first time since 1965. And of course I see Harbaugh leading Team 136 to a big win that will catapult the Wolverines into an offseason full of lofty expectations.

Michigan 34 – Georgia 24 

10-3 (6-2) T-2nd in the B1G East