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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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U-M Football

Michigan’s blow out loss by Florida proves ‘next man up’ doesn’t always work

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If there was any question the importance of NFL caliber players to the Michigan Wolverines, Saturday’s Peach Bowl provided your answer.

Some may also point to the ‘next man up’ philosophy and time to prepare for this game, but the Peach Bowl proved that sometimes the next man up really isn’t the answer you were looking for.

Michigan went in to the Peach Bowl without big-time names like defensive lineman Rashan Gary, linebacker Devin Bush and running back Karan Higdon and it showed in a 41-15 loss to Florida in the first of the New Year’s Six bowl games, the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

The Wolverines defense started out hot against Florida’s redshirt sophomore quarterback Feleipe Franks, but a sputtering offense cause the defense to eventually fold under the weight of being on the field for way too long.

Franks would only complete 13 passes for 173 yards and one touchdown in the Gators win. But, it was the run game that Michigan couldn’t stop and where the missing pieces came in to play the most.

After coming in to the game giving up just 116.6 yards per game on the season, Florida gashed Michigan’s defense for 257 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

It was the most yards given up in a single game this season, topping the 193 yards that were allowed to Rutgers in early November. Not having a player like Bush, who racked up 79 tackles, 9.0 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks on the season certainly hurt.

So did the fact that two key pieces to the puzzle that were on the field went down to injury. Both defensive end Kwity Paye and linebacker Devin Gil ended up injured and never returned to the game.

Florida eventually went on to win the battle of time of possession as well, even if that isn’t how their offense is built. The Gators held the ball for 31:19 compared to 28:41 of the game for the Wolverines.

However, all of this could have been pointed to an offense that missed opportunity after opportunity to keep themselves in the game or even take a lead and dictate the game.

Following a 46-yard touchdown run by Chris Turner that was called back after replay showed he stepped out of bounds before dashing to the end zone, Michigan was stuffed on a 4th and 1 on it’s opening possession of the game.

The Gators responded with a field goal as Michigan’s defense stiffened up inside the red zone.

Michigan actually held a pair of leads in the game, as Donovan People-Jones grabbed a 9-yard touchdown pass from Shea Patterson for a 7-3 lead in response to Florida’s field goal.

The Wolverines tacked on a field goal after blocking a punt and starting at the Florida 30-yard line in a to 48-yard field goal following zero yards gained on the drive. The made field goal extended Michigan’s lead to 10-6 with 5:56 remaining in the half.

But, that was the end of the party for the Wolverines as Florida ripped off 21 unanswered points to take a 27-10 lead with 2:34 left in the third quarter.

Michigan would be outscored 38-3 in the second half overall, as they struggled to get anything going in the run game and became too one-dimensional without Higdon in the game.

His replacement, Chris Evans, managed just 20 yards on a seven carries and even Chris Turner couldn’t help much. He managed just 32 yards and the team was held to just 77 yards on the day.

Quarterback Shea Patterson was forced to attempt 36 passes, completing just 22 of them for 237 yards with just the one touchdown to two interceptions in the game.

Patterson didn’t get much help from his offensive line either, giving up five sacks on the day and having Patterson scrambling for his life far too often to sustain anything on offense.

We’ll never know if having Bush, Gary or Higdon would’ve been the ultimate difference, but not having them available from the start meant a depleted depth chart and that proved pivotal in this matchup.

It also proved that sometimes the next man up really is a step down and that matters when playing against fellow top teams.

Something needs to happen in college football if these types of games also begin to mean nothing to the players. Not playing on even footing is killing some of the tradition of college football and this game proved that in a big way.

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Michigan’s Karan Higdon guarantees a win over OSU

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Well, that escalated quickly. 

It took all of one media session ahead of “The Game” between Michigan and Ohio State for things to get really interesting. 

That’s because Michigan running back Karan Higdon decided to call the Wolverines shot…guaranteeing a win over the hated Buckeyes from Ohio State this Saturday. 

To be fair, this all started with Higdon’s head coach, Jim Harbaugh, who guaranteed a victory way back in 1986. 

Harbaugh was right that day, leading the Wolverines to a 26-24 win and the Rose Bowl just like he said they would. 

Ever since then, it’s been an annual tradition, but there hasn’t been this much on the line for “The Game” since the 2006 edition which pitted No. 1 against No. 2 in the nation. 

Ohio State won that game and went on to play Florida in the BCS national championship game. 

This year’s game has a lot of the feel of the 2006 and 1986 versions. All that is on the line is a Big Ten East division title and a berth in the College Football Playoff. You know, nothing big. 

For Michigan, there is also the six-game losing streak to Ohio State and the fact that they are 1-13 since 2004 in the most-heated and hated of rivalries within the Big Ten. 

Higdon may have been goaded in to the statement, but he also didn’t back down from it. 

We’ll see if the Wolverines can back up the talk of their running back. 

You can bet Ohio State will find some serious motivation that big of a statement. 

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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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