Overall Rank: #13
#5 Big Ten
Michigan had a shot at a big season in 2017. The Wolverines were 8-2 with two regular season games and a bowl game left on the slate. However, Michigan lost to Wisconsin, Ohio State and South Carolina in the Outback Bowl to finish 8-5. Coach Jim Harbaugh will waste little time regaining momentum for his team.
2017 Record: 8-5, 5-4
2017 Bowl: Outback Bowl vs. South Carolina (L 19-26)
Coach: Jim Harbaugh (28-11 at Michigan, 86-38 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Pep Hamilton
Defensive Coordinator: Don Brown
Rushing: Karan Higdon, RB, 994 yards
Passing: Brandon Peters, QB, 672 yards
Receiving: Grant Perry, WR, 307 yards
Tackles: Devin Bush, LB, 100
Sacks: Khaleke Hudson, LB, 8.0; Chase Winovich, DE, 8.0
Interceptions: Four tied with 2
Other Key Returnees: RB Chris Evans, TE Zach Gentry, TE Sean McKeon, OL Ben Bredeson, S Tyree Kinnel, DE Rashan Gary, CB Lavert Hills, CB David Long
Key Losses: RB Ty Issac, QB John O’Korn, OL Cole Mason, DT Maurice Hurst, LB Mike McCray
The coaching staff implemented a complicated offense that the young Wolverines struggled to execute. With some staff changes and a new quarterback, the hopes are Michigan’s passing game will be much improved in 2018. Shea Patterson comes from Mississippi. Last year he threw for 2,259 yards and 17 touchdowns while starting just seven contests. He may not be able to keep that pace up, but there are some decent young wide receivers in Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black. Tight ends Zach Gentry and Sean McKeon are quality targets as well. However, the ground game is where this team should thrive. Karan Higdon rushed for 994 yards and 11 touchdowns and Chris Evans added 685 yards and six scores. Those two form a great one-two punch and as long as the offense is simplified and remembers that they have some good running backs to work through, they will be much improved.
Michigan’s defense was one of the best in nation last year. Most of the key pieces are back from a team that ranked first in the nation in pass defense and third in total defense. Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich are proven defensive ends who combined for 14.0 sacks in 2017. The interior of the line does need to replace Maurice Hurst, but the expectations are high for Aubrey Solomon. Khaleke Hudson provides another great pass rush at linebacker. On top of his 8.0 sacks, Hudson added 82 tackles and a couple interceptions. Devin Bush is the leader at linebacker though. He tallied 100 tackles as a sophomore and is only getting better with time. The secondary that was so strong last year returns all four starters. Lavert Hill and David Long are very good cover corners and safeties Tyree Kinnel and Josh Metellus earned valuable experience during their first year starting.
The Bottom Line:
If the offense can even come close to what the defense did last year, this could be a great Michigan team. And to be great they are going to have to prove it. The season starts with a tough trip to Notre Dame, but it is a three game stretch beginning on October 13th that will be the difference between a good season and a potentially great season. That is when the Wolverines host Wisconsin and Penn State with a trip to Michigan State in the middle. And, of course, there is the trip to Ohio State to finish the regular season. The winner of the Big Ten East will be one of the best teams in the country and Michigan has a good shot at besting Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State and reaching the conference championship game.
Projected Bowl: Outback Bowl
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 177.7 (49th in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 171.2 (110, 11)
Total Offense: 348.9 (105, 9)
Scoring Offense: 25.2 (91, 8)
Rushing Defense: 120.9 (18, 6)
Pass Defense: 150.1 (1, 1)
Total Defense: 271.0 (3, 2)
Scoring Defense: 18.8 (13, 3)
Turnover Margin: -0.31 (90, 10)
Sacks: 3.23 (7, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 2.77 (110, 12)