Forward Thinking: Way Too Early 2020 Season Prediction

This should be a pretty eventful offseason in Ann Arbor.

The staff shakeup has already begun taking place with the departure of Safeties Coach & Special Teams Coordinator Chris Partridge to Ole Miss. Will LB Coach Anthony Campanile move on as well? Either way, Harbaugh will have to find at least one ace recruiter to join the staff this winter.

And then there’s all of the roster movement that has also already begun taking place. Not only does the staff lose 9-10 starters because of eligibility, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, C Cesar Ruiz and LB Josh Uche are opting for the NFL as well. Add in WR Tarik Black and OL Stephen Spanellis already jumping in the transfer portal and more likely to come before the summer, it’s going to be a different looking team in the fall.

The McCaffrey-Milton quarterback battle was going to be enough of a story to keep the rumor mills, Twittersphere and message boards buzzing. Add in what looks like 13-14 starting spots that should be up for grabs this offseason, including 4 out of the 5 offensive line spots available, to go along with 1-2 new position coaches, and it should be a wild winter, spring and summer of news.

Depth Chart Prediction

There’s still a ton of movement to take place but there’s no fun in waiting for it all to happen. Here’s my shot in the dark prediction at the two-deep for the season opener at Washington, including 12 freshmen in the two-deep and two Stanford transfers joining the squad:

  • Offense
    • QB: #10 Dylan McCaffrey, RS JR (#5 Joe Milton, RS SO)
    • RB: #24 Zach Charbonnet, SO (#23 Chris Evans, 5th)
    • RB: #25 Hassan Haskins, RS SO (#2 Blake Corum, FR)
    • HB: #42 Ben Mason, SR (#40 Ben VanSumeren, JR)
    • WR: #4 Nico Collins, SR (#6 Cornelius Johnson, SO)
    • WR: #8 Ronnie Bell, JR (AJ Henning, FR)
    • WR: #19 Mike Sainristil, SO (#15 Giles Jackson, SO)
    • TE: #82 Nick Eubanks, 5th (#86 Luke Schoonmaker, RS SO)
    • LT: Devery Hamilton, 5th (#76 Ryan Hayes, RS SO)
    • LG: #66 Chuck Filiaga, RS JR (#76 Ryan Hayes, RS SO)
    • C: #75 Zach Carpenter, RS FR (#55 Nolan Rumler, RS FR)
    • RG: #71 Andrew Stueber, RS JR (#55 Nolan Rumler, RS FR)
    • RT: #73 Jalen Mayfield, RS SO (#52 Karsen Barnhart, RS FR)
  • Defense
    • Anchor: #97 Aidan Hutchinson, JR (#91 Taylor Upshaw, RS SO)
    • DT: #15 Chris Hinton, SO (Michael Williams, 5th)
    • NT: #2 Carlo Kemp, 5th (#58 Mazi Smith, RS FR)
    • DE: #19 Kwity Paye, SR (#18 Luiji Vilain, RS JR)
    • SAM: #23 Michael Barrett, RS SO (Kalel Mullings, FR)
    • MIKE: #44 Cam McGrone, RS SO (#12 Josh Ross, RS JR)
    • WILL: #12 Josh Ross, RS JR (#10 Anthony Solomon, SO)
    • VIPER: #23 Michael Barrett, RS SO (RJ Moten, FR)
    • Rover/SS: #20 Brad Hawkins, RS JR (#17 Sammy Faustin, RS SO)
    • FS: #30 Dax Hill, SO (#23 Quinten Johnson, RS FR)
    • NCB: #5 DJ Turner, RS FR (#16 Jaylen Kelly-Powell, SR)
    • CB: #1 Ambry Thomas, SR (#22 Gemon Green, RS FR)
    • CB: #31 Vincent Gray, JR (#5 DJ Turner, RS FR)
  • Special Teams
    • K: #2 Jake Moody, JR
    • P: #3 Brad Robbins, SR
    • KR: #15 Giles Jackson, SO (AJ Henning, FR)
    • PR: #8 Ronnie Bell, JR (#15 Giles Jackson, SO)

Season Prediction

As for the actual season, the schedule shouldn’t be as hard as 2019’s (3rd toughest in the country; playing six of the top 14 teams in the country) but it’ll be a tough one. It kicks off with a cross-country trip to Seattle, ends with a trip to Columbus and includes cross-division games against both Wisconsin and Minnesota.

It’ll all come down to the quarterback position, like always. Whoever wins out will have a really nice set of skill position players and a pretty talented defense. Will that be enough to finally push Michigan “over the hump”? Not sure that’ll be in 2020.

Here’s my wayyyy too early 2020 Michigan football game-by-game season prediction:

  • Sep 5th at Washington: Loss
    • Both teams lose a lot of starters and their starting quarterbacks but the Huskies will go into the season with new head coach Jimmy Lake who took over for Chris Peterson at the end of this past season. I’d expect to see both McCaffrey and Milton get their chance in this one. Can one of them lead the Wolverines to a win out west? If it’s going by just returning talent, Michigan should win. But the road is a tricky place and Washington has always been a tough place to win, especially for a first time starting quarterback.
  • Sep 12th vs Ball State: Win
    • Unless one quarterback completely wins out and plays well in the opener, both McCaffrey and Milton should get reps again in this one. Luckily this one should be a comfortable win for any of the Wolverine quarterback options.
  • Sep 19th vs Arkansas State: Win
    • See above.
  • Sep 26th vs Wisconsin: Win
    • The cross-division foes have matched up four straight years and the home team has won each game. The Badgers damn near killed the Wolverines’ season early in 2019 and now Michigan will get its chance at (everyone’s favorite word) revenge. Wisconsin will return plenty of talent but its top offensive playmakers will be gone including RB Jonathan Taylor. This has the look of another home team win.
  • Oct 3rd vs Penn State: Loss
    • Like Wisconsin, this has been a game where the home team has clearly had the upper hand as of late. I think this one will be an absolute battle as Penn State should return a lot of talent on both sides of the ball including QB Sean Clifford and OLB Micah Parsons. This could be that letdown game that bites Michigan in the ass at the end of the season.
  • Oct 10th at Michigan State: Win
    • Mark Dantonio is riding out this one with his guys and with the roster looking even worse in 2020, MSU could already have 2+ losses at this point of the season. The big offseason move that could sway things a bit would be landing an immediate impact transfer quarterback. If not (and even if so), this could be another dominant in-state win for the Wolverines.
  • Oct 17th at Minnesota: Win
    • The boat is afloat and the Gophers are coming off their best season in recent memory as the team has fully taken to the PJ Fleck ways. Here’s the question, will Tanner Morgan be able to repeat his successful sophomore season without his top two wide receivers? If so, this could be a bad loss. But this also has a feel of the 2019 Army game, where everyone predicted Michigan to get upset and, though it was obviously closer than it should have been, it didn’t happen.
  • Oct 24th vs Purdue: Win
    • I have a weird feeling this game will be bigger and tougher than the previous week’s by the time it rolls around. Jeff Brohm should have a full roster of talent back from injuries this year. If this game were in West Lafayette, it would be much more of a toss up. By this time in the season, I see Michigan’s offense and defense clicking and taking care of business in front of a home crowd.
  • Oct 31st: Bye Week
    • There are always injuries at this point in the season so a late bye week always helps.
  • Nov 7th vs Maryland: Win
    • Can Mike Locksley get things figured out in year two? It can’t be much worse than his first year but I still don’t see things changing much for the Terrapins even with another transfer quarterback (likely) coming in.
  • Nov 14th at Rutgers: Win
    • Greg Schiano is back in town and should give the program a bit of a resurgence. Now, does that mean to potential division contender levels or just not the worst Power Five program anymore? It’ll take him a couple of years to get things cleaned up. This one should be another comfortable win heading towards The Game.
  • Nov 21st vs Indiana: Win
    • The game to never overlook, Tom Allen has the Hoosiers playing well. However, Michigan has won 24 straight and will get them at home. Hard to see a loss happening at this point, though it wouldn’t be surprising to see this one be much closer than whatever the spread says.
  • Nov 28th at Ohio State: Loss
    • After being burnt multiple times in the past five years of predicting Michigan to finally knock off Ohio State, I’ll just leave this as an L until something drastic happens. That’ll either be an actual win or something bad happening and actually affecting that program. Plenty of elite talent heads to the league, like DE Chase Young and RB JK Dobbins, but the Buckeyes still return a lot of talent including QB Justin Fields. This game could be huge with the winner possibly going to Indianapolis. Big game. Buckeyes. We’ve all seen that one before.
  • Jan 1st: Citrus Bowl vs Auburn: Win
    • Back to Orlando to play the SEC’s third-best team and, hey would ya look at that, Michigan ends its 4-game bowl losing streak.

Final: 10-3 (7-2), 3rd in Big Ten East

Honestly, it’s really tough to predict a team’s season when a new quarterback is going to start. It could go great and McCaffrey or Milton could lead Michigan to a place everyone has been dying for it to go, or they show why they were both playing behind Shea Patterson in 2019 and it’s another 9-10 win season with losses in some of the toughest games on the schedule.

The defense should be very good, as it returns playmakers at every level and the offense is set to return some key skill pieces. But that will only matter if the quarterback position can be figured out.

Can Jim Harbaugh finally do it? Can they finally take that next step? We’ll see but, for now, I see it looking similar to the last five years. Good but not great and the calls for a change continue to grow.

Cheers to an offseason full of hope and a future August prediction of 12-1 and a trip to the playoffs.

What do you think? What’s your 2020 Michigan football depth chart and season prediction? Let us know in the comment section below!

Photo Credit: Patrick Barron/MGoBlog