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Michigan Wolverines Football Preview: Predicting the 2016 season

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A 10-win season in your debut? Time for the hype train to once again leave the station in Ann Arbor. Such is the nature of a team who hasn’t stayed out of the national or regional headlines all offseason.

But, hype and reality are two different things — even if the reality is that Michigan could be really freaking good in 2016. Some believe a 10-win season is in the offing, others see a different result…all of it represented in our staff picks.

Most importantly, how do we see the full journey taking place? You can go anywhere to see a record prediction, but we’re here to break down each and every game for you.

2016 Michigan Wolverines Football Schedule

Date Opponent Time/TV Tickets
Saturday
Sep. 3
Rainbow Warriors Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
Noon ET
ESPN
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Sep. 10
Knights UCF Knights
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
Noon ET
ABC/ESPN
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Sep. 17
Buffaloes Colorado Buffaloes
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
3:30pm ET
BTN
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Sep. 24
Nittany Lions Penn State Nittany Lions
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 1
Badgers Wisconsin Badgers
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 8
Scarlet Knights at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, NJ
7 or 8pm ET
ABC/ESPN/2
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 15
OFF
Saturday
Oct. 22
Fighting Illini Illinois Fighting Illini (HC)
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
3:30pm ET
TV TBA
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 29
Spartans at Michigan State Spartans
Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 5
Terrapins Maryland Terrapins
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 12
Hawkeyes at Iowa Hawkeyes
Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA
8:00pm ET
ABC/ESPN/2
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 19
Hoosiers Indiana Hoosiers
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 26
Buckeyes at Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH
TBA Buy
Tickets

*courtesy FBSchedules.com.

vs. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Kevin: Win
Zach: Win

There’s a new regime on the Islands of Hawaii, but this is a tough one to see going any other way but a butt-whooping at the hands of the host Wolverines. Don’t be surprised to see a shutout on defense and Michigan getting off to an impressive offensive start.

vs. UCF Knights
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Kevin: Win
Zach: Win

Former Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost is in charge of the UCF program, and some publications are high on them…despite an 0-12 record last season and a lot of disasters on and off the field. Sure, the majority of the UCF team is back but the gulf is wide between these two programs. Michigan wins another easy game.

vs. Colorado Buffaloes
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Kevin: Win
Zach: Win

Memories of amazing games between these two programs a few decades a go come flooding back to this writer. However, today’s reality is much different and the Buffs are in terrible shape despite the best efforts of its coaching staff. Unless a miracle is in store in Boulder, this is going to be a brutal trip back to the Big House for them.

vs. Penn State Nittany Lions
Andy: Loss
Dave: Win
Kevin:
Zach: Win

The fourth straight home game for Michigan, and welcome to the first real test of the season as well. While most of the staff believes Michigan takes it at home, I’m going with the better known quantity of Penn State’s offense and defensive combination. Let’s just say I see more points capable out of Penn State’s offense than Michigan’s when lining up against the respective defenses. I also believe Michigan may be a bit too full of themselves after three of the easiest non-conference games in the Big Ten.

vs. Wisconsin Badgers
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Kevin: Win
Zach: Win

These two teams haven’t met in over a half-decade and that is a shame, but this means an added significance to this game. Both have second-year head coaches and both come in with one loss (spoiler, Wisconsin is going to lose to LSU). It’s as simple as winner becomes a real Big Ten contender and loser is likely in serious trouble given their schedules. Look for this to be a classic Big Ten matchup, but for Michigan to hold serve at home with a late fourth-quarter victory thanks to a turnover by the Badgers.

at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Kevin: Win
Zach: Win

Chris Ash may have what it takes to turn Rutgers in to a better overall program, but he is stuck largely with a roster full of players who are looking for a fresh start or not up to snuff in the Big Ten. The difference in talent will be on full display and the memory of Michigan’s upset loss the last time these two met in Piscataway will be emphatically erased.

vs. Illinois Fighting Illini
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Kevin: Win
Zach: Win

If this was to be played in Memorial Stadium…well, I would have thought twice about this pick of a Michigan win. After Big Ten media days I came away feeling like things really have changed in Champaign..but I also came away with the feeling that Michigan is much closer to national relevance than Illinois is to pulling itself off the bottom of the Big Ten. So, give me Michigan and its defensive effort to get this one done against a wholly underrated Illini offense.

at Michigan State Spartans
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Kevin:
Zach: Win

Little Brother got the dramatic win last season to spoil what appeared to be a program-defining moment for the Wolverines. Expect revenge to take place in East Lansing, but don’t expect the last-second dramatics to take place. Sure, the game may be close, but the ultimate advantage comes in the form of an overall better defense for the Wolverines. As long as MSU’s run game is stifled, Michigan will be able to control the game enough to pull off the win.

vs. Maryland Terrapins
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Kevin: Win
Zach:Win

The obvious headline here is Harbaugh vs. Durkin, but this game is so much more about the players than the relationship and knowledge of each head coach. Will Likely vs. Jabrill Peppers is going to be a sight to behold, as the two could line up opposite of each other a few times and are going to be duking it out as returnees. But, Michigan takes it with a great defense going up against Maryland’s still adjusting offense and weak quarterback.

at Iowa Hawkeyes
Andy: Loss
Dave: Loss
Kevin: Win
Zach: Win

Hey, a road game that will actually test Michigan? Apparently the Big Ten schedule makers decided to actually make things difficult for the Wolverines for a change. Iowa appears to be the cream of the Big Ten West crop and trips to Kinnick Stadium are always tricky affairs for the visitors. Our staff is clearly split on this one, and my thinking is that the trickiness that is Kinnick rears its head and Iowa finds a way to win a game that few will believe they can win if you listen to the national pundits given Michigan’s expected 8-1 record.

vs. Indiana Hoosiers
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Kevin: Win
Zach: Win

If you want to see the effects of losing on a Jim Harbaugh-coached team, you’ll feel sorry for the Hoosiers after this one. While Indiana has a lot of offensive weapons, no one really bought what Kevin Wilson was selling about his defense at Big Ten Media Days and for that reason it will be all sorts of bad news for Indiana and a good warm up for what is to come next for Michigan.

at Ohio State Buckeyes
Andy: Loss
Dave: Loss
Kevin:
Zach: Loss

No question about it, beating Ohio State is goal No. 1 on Michigan’s list every year and a win here may be the Wolverines’ only hope of a Big Ten East division crown (and that may be a slim hope too). Given the lack of wins over the last decade in this rivalry, Michigan is desperate for a victory over “Ohio.” But, playing on the road against an Ohio State team looking forward to big things on the national stage with J.T. Barrett at quarterback may be a bit too big of a mountain to climb.

Season Records:

Andy: 9-3 (6-3 B1G))
Dave: 10-2 (7-2 B1G)
Kevin:
Zach: 11-1 (8-1 B1G)

Our Projected Big Ten Standings:

Andy Dave Zach Kevin
Big Ten East
1
2 Michigan State Michigan Michigan Michigan
3 Penn State Penn State Michigan State Michigan State
4 Michigan Michigan State Penn State Penn State
5 Indiana Indiana Indiana
6 Maryland Maryland Maryland
7 Maryland  Indiana
Big Ten West
1 Wisconsin Iowa Wisconsin Wisconsin
2 Iowa Wisconsin Iowa Nebraska
3 Nebraska Nebraska Nebraska Iowa
4 Minnesota Minnesota Northwestern
5 Minnestoa
6 Purdue Minnesota
7 Purdue Purdue  Purdue

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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Can Shea Patterson transfer finally be the answer at QB for Michigan?

Shea Patterson arrives at Michigan with pedigree and production, will it transform the QB position enough to matter for the Wolverines?

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There’s no way around it — 2017 was not the year everyone expected to see from the Michigan Wolverines. A one-time national title contender (no seriously) turned in to an 8-4 team that finished fourth in the Big Ten East division.

Many have pinpointed the issues at quarterback as a large reason for that struggle.

It would be an easy and correct assumption, as 2017 was an unmitigated disaster at QB for the Wolverines. Michigan’s quarterbacks combined to complete just 54.5 percent of their passes for just 2,023 yards and nine touchdowns to eight interceptions.

Yes, that was nine touchdowns in 12 games played by three different quarterbacks for Michigan in 2017.

Apparently the coaching staff believes that was a major issue as well, as they went hard after Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson once he announced his intention to transfer from the program.

On Monday, Patterson announced he would be enrolling at Michigan as a transfer.

We’ll have to wait and see if the NCAA allows him to immediately become eligible, but that shouldn’t be an issue given Ole Miss’ NCAA penalties. He doesn’t qualify as a soon-to-be senior, so he will have to apply for and be granted a waiver. That appears not to be a major hurdle, but one can never assume when it comes to the NCAA waiver decisions these days.

As for Michigan, Patterson is the second transfer quarterback Michigan has brought in during the Jim Harbaugh era. The first was John O’Korn from Houston.

O’Korn never took full control of the Wolverines offense, ending his career as the third option on the depth chart before being forced back on to the field thanks to multiple injuries at the QB position.

But, Patterson is not O’Korn — in so much as Patterson has actually proven to be a quality quarterback and isn’t transferring because he is being pushed out at his old school.

He threw for 2,259 yards and 17 touchdowns in seven games at Ole Miss in 2017, before suffering a season-ending tear to his right posterior cruciate ligament.

So, there is risk in bringing Patterson in to the fold. Will he be 100 percent back to normal in 2018 or will the injury keep him from progressing? That’s likely not an issue though, as the PCL tear isn’t the most significant of knee injuries. Additionally, Patterson comes with a great pedigree on the recruiting trail.

He was the No. 1 rated pro-style quarterback in the 2015 class, started and played in his freshman season in 2016 and did work in his sophomore year in 2017.

While this move may smack of desperation for Michigan, these are desperate times in Ann Arbor. The lack of championship football is starting to wear off the shine of Harbaugh’s hire four years ago.

It’s also a good move for depth alone, as Michigan will see both O’Korn and Wilton Speight out of the program. Speight has declared his intention to transfer already.

That would leave just Brandon Peters and Dylan McCaffrey on the depth chart.

Patterson has the experience and production advantage on both and the offense should be familiar to him as Ole Miss runs a pro-style offense.

Given the lack of production at QB since Harbaugh’s arrival, something has to change. Will Patterson’s addition be the change that is needed?

Clearly the quarterback position needs to get stronger. Adding Patterson does that, but it remains to be seen if it will be the transformational move that has been lacking since Harbaugh arrived.

If he can’t get the quarterback position right again in 2018, Harbaugh may not be long for the job everyone thought he’d have for a lifetime as long as he wanted it.

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Dantonio, Harbaugh jab at each other after bowl game selections

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Rivalries have no offseason, and that certainly is the case for Michigan State when it comes to in-state rival Michigan. That’s especially the case when bowl season rolled around in 2017.

That’s because Michigan is headed to Tampa Bay to play in the Outback Bowl, while Michigan State is off the…gasp…horrific site of San Diego for its bowl game.

No. 16 Michigan State is slated to play No. 18 Washington State in easily the best non-New Years Six bowl game the Big Ten has, while Michigan gets South Carolina. Despite the disparity in location and quality of opponent, some felt the Spartans were slighted.

Dantonio was asked if the program felt slighted by not playing on New Year’s Day, and this was his response:

It was a clear dig at the Wolverines, whom the Spartans have owned since Dantonio took over as head coach at Michigan State.

Harbaugh just couldn’t let that go, responding back on Twitter on Monday.

Backhanded compliment much?

It’s clear these two don’t get along much, because usually these things get settled behind closed doors. Instead, Harbaugh took a very public jab at Dantonio and all the off-field issues that took place over the last year and a half.

Who will get the ultimate last word? Well, this season that was certainly Michigan State. Not only did the Spartans beat Michigan, but they finished second in the East division, while Michigan faltered to an 8-4 finish in the regular season.

If anything, this should fuel an offseason of rivalry fun between these two programs.

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Michigan fans respond to John O’Korn with death threats following loss to OSU

John O’Korn leaves heartfelt message following loss to Michigan and some fans respond with death threats and more.

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Michigan was supposed to be an East division contender and a national power this season, but that didn’t happen the way some in the media thought it would. Instead, Michigan lost for the seventh straight season to hated rival Ohio State on Saturday to cap off a disappointing 8-4 regular season.

Naturally, the worst in Michigan fandom came out following the 31-20 loss. The biggest target of their ire? Backup quarterback John O’Korn, who had to fill in for an injured Brandon Peters.

A late interception by O’Korn didn’t help in a close game at home against the Buckeyes. It also led to some rather horrible abuse on Twitter — including advice to “kill yourself” and death threats due to this loss.

It couldn’t get much worse than this nugget:

Keeping it classy as always happens on Twitter, Michigan Twitter fans also went with the classic burn of “Yo Momma”

Then of course there were the more mild and idiotic Tweets. You know, things like the classic “you blow” burn and the like.

Sometimes Twitter really is the worst of humanity. Luckily, these tweets were a small sampling compared to the overwhelming group that showed support and thanks for the efforts of O’Korn and the Michigan team despite the loss.

Yes, losing to your arch-rival in a football game doesn’t feel very good. Yes, fans are going to get riled up continually losing those kind of games.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time this season something like this has happened to a Michigan quarterback. It all started with the vocal criticism and threats made to former starter, Wilton Speight.

Here’s a small piece of advice — if you feel the need to tell someone to kill themselves or to threaten them with death — put the Twitter machine down, walk away and don’t ever come back to it. Seriously? As much as we all love football, it is just a game at the end of the day and wishing death on someone because they didn’t play the way you wanted them is about as low as it gets.

O’Korn clearly left everything he had on the field for the Wolverines. Was it good enough to win this game? No.

But, what more can you ask for from any player other than to give it all for their team.

While O’Korn and the Wolverines lost the game, those who threatened him and the team following it are the ones losing at life.

Get over yourselves and move on with life. One loss by a team you support shouldn’t define your life. If so, it’s truly a sad one and we feel sorry for you.

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Michigan embracing spoiler role, hoping for miracle finish

Michigan’s once-hopeful season reduced to playing spoiler and hoping for a miracle East division title.

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This isn’t how the final two games of the season were supposed to be set up. Michigan had Wisconsin and Ohio State in a perfect back-to-back weekend scenario to end the season.

Win those games and it should be off to the College Football Playoff, right?

Instead, two losses have already piled up for the Wolverines and the hopes of an East division title are but gone. So too is any talk of a College Football Playoff berth, which most in the national media were openly talking about going in to the season.

Some wonder where the Wolverines will rank on Tuesday night in the latest College Football Playoff poll, especially given the chaos in front of them over the past two weeks. But, at 8-2 on the season and 5-2 in Big Ten, does the ranking really matter much at this point?

For players and coaches it appears the motivation is going to be about spoiling the season’s of the next two opponents and letting the chips fall where they may.

“I’m not really worried about that (the College Football Playoff ranking),” fifth-year center Patrick Kugler told reporters on Monday, via MLive.com. “Wisconsin is next. We can still be a 10-win team and kind of ruin people’s seasons. That’s kind of my goal right now.”

Kugler continued that theme noting a 10-2 season could theoretically get them in to the Big Ten championship game. He also noted that this team is going to embrace ruining someone else’s season.

“It’s kind of fun to ruin people’s seasons,” Kugler said. “We can be 10-2 and still make the Big Ten championship. It’s just kind of fun. To go in there, a hostile environment like Wisconsin, if we can come out of there with a victory, there’s nothing better than that.”

It is good news the team is staying positive, but also tells you how far adrift from expectations this season has gotten.

Embracing a villain’s role?

Hoping to play spoiler in the two biggest games on the schedule?

This is what Michigan’s season as been reduced to — a focus on what winning would do to the teams on the other side of the field.

That should tell you all you need to know really. Michigan’s season is reduced to playing the “we’ve got a chip on our shoulders” card and hoping someone else can help them make a miracle run to the Big Ten championship game.

Of course, it’s not an impossible task ahead of them, but as far as this season has told us it certainly feels that way.

Yet, Michigan’s players are still talking a big game.

“This whole week in practice, we’re going to be getting after each other, making sure everything’s perfect,” said Rashan Gary, via MLive.com. “We got an opportunity in front of us and we don’t want to let it go.”

Michigan’s coaches and players have sung this same tune before, especially leading up to its annual rivalry game against Ohio State. Yet, all that talk hasn’t amounted to a win in that series since 2011 and the Wolverines have generally struggled against ranked opponents over the course of the 2010’s.

The Wolverines are just 7-19 in games against ranked opponents since the start of the 2010 season. This is clearly a long-term problem, one that has admittedly gotten better since the start of the Harbaugh era.

Michigan is currently 5-5 against ranked opponents since 2015, but are just 2-4 against ranked Big Ten opponents and both of those wins came at home.

Then there’s the matter of the reality of the actual teams they have to face over the next two weeks.

How is Michigan’s offense going to be able to score on that Wisconsin defense? How will Michigan’s defense cope with the high-powered offense of Ohio State?

With so much money spent to try to bring Michigan back to national prominence, finding answers to those questions is the only way to salvage this season.

Then again, this is a program that had supreme confidence heading in to each and every season so far under Harbaugh. Each and every one of those seasons has ended in disappointment of one kind or another.

It’s that track record that makes all of this talk hard to buy in to once again.

Until the Wolverines show it on the field against a quality opponent on the road, perhaps all of this is best left unsaid to the public?

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