Is 2017 a Make or Break Year for Harbaugh and Michigan?

By this time of the summer, every college football fan is itching to get the season underway. Part of the long wait is the process of skimming through preview magazines. But not everyone has time for that so, if you’re one of those people, we’ve decided to lend a helping hand. To help save you some time, I’ve read through the industry’s three most trusted season preview magazines, Athlon, Lindy’s, and Phil Steele, to give you a little breakdown Michigan’s 2017 season preview, as well as my take on the upcoming year. 

Here’s a quick spoiler alert: all three have Michigan finishing third in the East Division behind Ohio State and Penn State.

Athlon Offense:

“Up front, things will be a challenge. And, frankly, the offensive line will once again be the determining factor in how far Michigan goes in 2017. Last year’s group was experienced, but it faltered in three losses against Iowa, Ohio State, and Florida State. Michigan brings back versatile senior Mason Cole and talented sophomore Ben Bredeson, but Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno will need three new starters. And the pool they are choosing from has one combined start to offer.”

Lindy’s Defense:

“Senior linebacker Mike McCray said his position group could be Michigan’s deepest on defense– despite the loss of Heisman finalist do-it-all Jabrill Peppers. With the emergence of sophomore Josh Metellus, along with sophomores Devin Bush Jr., Khaleke Hudson, and Josh Uche, McCray could be right. During the Orange Bowl loss to Florida State, Metellus, who filled in for the injured Peppers, turned heads with a Jabrill-like score during a failed Seminoles field-goal attempt, scooping the blocked kick for a 97-yard score defensive score. Hudson could be “Peppers” this season too.”

Phil Steele Bottom Line:

“Michigan faces four potential top ten teams in Florida, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin, with only Ohio State in Ann Arbor. Despite being #127 on my experience chart, they are capable of winning the Big Ten and even making the playoffs (like Ohio State did) but I am not calling for that.”

Although the magazines do not list specifically which games Michigan will lose, it can be assumed that they would lose to either both Ohio State and Penn State or a loss to one of them which would make for a three-way tie (like the 2016 season).

If Michigan does indeed finish third in the Big Ten East (again), the season would be a major disappointment. With the perceived talent on this Michigan roster, there are no excuses for Jim Harbaugh and company not to make it to the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis.

All three magazines said the same thing in regards to finishing third place in the Big Ten East: too much talent lost to the NFL.

Losing big pieces to the NFL certainly didn’t hurt Ohio State last year when five players were selected in the first round alone (12 total draftees). They had to break in over a dozen new starters (not including the quarterback position) and went 11-1 to get into the CFP.

So, why can’t Michigan be expected to do similar things in 2017?

It is finally time for Michigan to put up or shut up in 2017. If Harbaugh is as good of a coach as his contract says he is and the players he has recruited the past two years are as good as they are thought to be, Michigan should pass the early test vs Florida, the mid-term exam at Penn State, and have no slip ups before entering the Wisconsin game 10-0.

By the Wisconsin game, the younger players that had little experience entering the year would have ten games under their belt with two major tests left. Those two tests are certainly Harbaugh’s chance to prove his worth and finally win a big game. It seems like Michigan hasn’t won a big game as a program since they beat Florida in the 2008 Citrus Bowl.

And, no, the 2016 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl vs a depleted Florida team, the Notre Dame games under the lights, and the 2011 Ohio State games don’t count.

For me, this is a make-or-break year for Michigan. But what do you think?

What will Jim Harbaugh have to do in his third season at Michigan for you to call this a successful season? Let us know in the comment sections below!

Also, if you’re interested, make sure to check out Athlon, Lindy’s, and Phil Steele’s 2017 college football season preview magazines. 

Photo Credit: Patrick Barron/MGoBlog

Evan Paputa