Tough games: @Notre Dame, Wisconsin, @Michigan State, Penn State, @Ohio State
I’m aware Harbaugh’s Michigan teams have underperformed. I’m also aware he hasn’t even come close to sniffing a Big 10 championship game. But to be honest, I think the public perception of Harbaugh has swung too drastically into the negative. Say what you want about his time at Michigan but his track record at Stanford and in the NFL prove he’s a quality coach. He’s now entering his 4th year at Michigan and this will be the first season he has all players he’s recruited on the roster. Last year Michigan was hyped up but it was a year too soon. They were talented, but extremely young and inexperienced. I’ve told y’all that when everyone zigs I like to zag and with Michigan currently having the 5th best odds to win the natty, many sharps are presuming them to be a square’s team. Well this year I guess I’m a square, I’ve got the Wolverines to win the conference.
At first glance, the schedule looks hard as hell. However, the opener @ Notre Dame doesn’t count against their conference record and could be a beneficial early test. After that, the schedule is relatively easy up until a home matchup with Wisconsin in mid-October which should be a conference championship preview. @ Michigan St will be tough and then they get the dynamic Trace McSorley and the Nittany Lions in Ann Arbor. However I think Penn State will have a bit of a Barkley hangover and they have a lot of inexperience. The true test will be the last game of the season where they take on Ohio State in Columbus. Michigan has come close in the past two years to finally getting past them and perhaps with the turmoil surrounding Urban Meyer, this is the season they finally break through.
Defense wins Championships
If you tuned into watch Michigan play last season, it was apparent the defense was not the issue. Their offense was just downright brutal. If you liked what you saw on the defensive side of the ball, you’re in for a treat this season. The defense allowed a measly 18.8 ppg and they return the majority of the contributors (14 out of 16 top tacklers). The defensive line returns not one, but two first team all Big10 defensive ends, and the secondary is being touted as perhaps the best in the country. Its easy to see why with David Long and Lavert Hill at cornerback (both all Big10 CBs).
As I said, the defense is not the problem, the offense is what needs to be examined. There is talent at all the skill positions and offensive line play should be fine. The big x-factor is that this year Michigan has a legitimate quarterback in Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson. Michigan quarterback play under Harbaugh to this point has been abysmal. But in all fairness, it doesn’t seem like he’s had a competent quarterback yet. Patterson could be the element that turns this team from good to great. His addition along with a stout defense was ultimately enough for me to make this bet.
My projected conference record: (8-1) loss @Michigan State