clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Maize n Brew Staff’s 2016 Michigan Football Preseason Roundtable

The MnB team tackles the key issues surrounding the team heading into the season and chimes in with their season predictions.

Ohio State v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Football is back and the Michigan Wolverines will begin their quest for a Big Ten championship starting Saturday against Hawaii.

With the season set to get underway, the Maize n Brew staff submitted answers to a variety of topics with their predictions and thoughts on some of the key storylines this season.

So without further ado, here we go:

Who will be Michigan’s starting quarterback and why?

Nick Bodanyi: Wilton Speight, for his leadership and grittiness. 'Gritty' isn't a word that's been used with Speight, who's fairly soft-spoken and light on experience. But I've been impressed with how he's approached this quarterback competition when, a few years ago, nobody expected him to start over Sugar Shane Morris. The qualities that have gotten Speight this far will help him in tight spots in big games. He knows how to pull out a win.

Kevin Bunkley: Wilton Speight - having started a game last year I peg him as being more game-ready. Harbaugh has had more time to work with him, and he knows the system better than the other QBs. However, I'm positive John O'Korn will get into either the first or second game for a good amount of snaps.

Lance Gordon: Wilton Speight because that's what the leaks seem to say. I was kinda pulling for O'Korn, but I will defer this decision to Michigan's esteemed head coach and quarterback guru, Jim Harbaugh

Alejandro Zúñiga: Wilton Speight. Michigan's stellar defense means the Wolverines will pick the QB who can limit turnovers and simply get the ball in the hands of his offensive weapons.

Drew Hallett: Wilton Speight. Until two weeks ago, my gut feeling had been that John O'Korn would be Jake Rudock's successor. O'Korn has the experience, the bigger arm, and the mobility to keep defenses guessing. Plus, there were rumors last September that O'Korn was outperforming Rudock in practice and would have been the starting quarterback if he was eligible. So, even with the reports that Speight was neck and neck with O'Korn and the No. 1 overall pick in Michigan's Spring Game draft, I still expected that O'Korn would pull ahead in the end.  However, when Michigan's submarine dove this August and the bubbles leaking from it continued to indicate that Speight was right there, if not in the lead, that gut feeling flip-flopped. Though Michigan's offense has a higher upside with O'Korn at the helm, Speight is the more stable option. He is more likely to take what the defense gives him and keep turnovers to a minimum. With the defense that the Wolverines will deploy this season, that is all they need from their quarterback to contend for a Big Ten or even national championship. They don't need a gunslinger. They need a quarterback that can move the chains and get the ball in the hands of their playmaking receivers. Jim Harbaugh will realize that is case and put his trust in Speight to do just that, naming him Michigan's starter.

Zach Travis: Speight, because Harbaugh wants a steady hand.

Tanner Wooten: Wilton Speight. Speight's ability to stand tall in the pocket and make good decisions will win him the job. While we haven't seen John O'Korn at Michigan outside of the 2016 spring game, he seemed sporadic and seemed to take off a tick too early and did not let the play develop. Speight made all the right reads and I believe he has more than adequate arm strength to move the ball down field. For that reason, I'm going with Speight.

Anthony Broome: All signs seem to point toward Wilton Speight. The redshirt sophomore is cool, calm and collected, which are all traits he shares with last year's starter, Jake Rudock. People seem to write off his late game heroics against Minnesota last year, but what you saw was a guy who, even through some struggles, kept his head on straight and made plays when it counted. I would expect him to build off of that.

Evan Petzold: Wilton Speight. After a great fourth quarter performance against Minnesota in the 2015 season and a solid showing in the Spring Game, Speight has proven that he can play at a high level across the course of a season. The former three-star prospect from Virginia seemed to have the upper hand throughout all of camp. In five games played for Michigan, he has completed 9-of-25 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown.

What is this team’s biggest question mark?

NB: Offensive line. The reports from fall camp have been exemplary, but I'll believe it when I see it.

KB: Linebackers - the coaching staff has shifted around a few guys to extend the depth here, but losing the number of combined starts that Desmond Morgan and Joe Bolden had is a large deficiency. I think Don Brown will blitz from so many different positions around the field that opposing offenses may not have time to notice coverage gaps in the middle of the field.

AS: Zagging time. Not QB. LB. I trust the entire offensive staff and offensive talent to mitigate the yips that QB has, and the OOC schedule lets the winner of the QB battle settle into the role. So I'll say linebacker because it's the only position at which M's defense isn't absolutely loaded. Some concerns about safety, I guess, because Jarrod Wilson was super steady. But not really. They'll be fine there.

LG: Ability to beat rival opponents - I see no glaring weaknesses with the 22 starting positions or special teams. Just have to put it all together at the most crucial times.

AZ: The linebackers

DH: The most popular answers are quarterback and linebacker because Michigan has to replace Jake Rudock, who took the offense to another level when he played himself into an NFL Draft pick, and the starting linebacker trio of Desmond Morgan, Joe Bolden, and James Ross III. However, I do not have as many concerns about these two position groups as others might. Though Wilton Speight is a former three-star recruit who's played sparingly and John O'Korn lost his starting job at Houston before transferring to Michigan, both of them have been under the tutelage of Jim Harbaugh, a quarterback guru, for the past 18 months, and whoever emerges as the starter will be more than capable. And, last season, Michigan had one of the nation's best defenses despite a so-so set of linebackers. With the Wolverines expected to be just as strong or even stronger at defensive line and in the secondary, the linebackers do not need to make a big jump for the defense to be excellent. Plus, with Jabrill Peppers shifting to a SAM/nickel role, he will provide a playmaking boost to the corps when in a 4-3. My biggest question mark is Michigan's rushing attack, particularly the run blocking of the offensive line. The Wolverines were 79th in yards per carry (4.19), and that includes sacks because the NCAA tallies them as carries for some odd reason. Michigan did not surrender many sacks, so remove those and chances are Michigan's YPC rank is even lower. That's not good. What's also not good is that Michigan couldn't crack 3.0 YPC against any of Utah, Michigan State, Penn State, or Ohio State, each of whom had fierce front sevens. The exception, of course, was Michigan's 225-rushing-yard, 4.89-YPC effort against Florida in the BWW Bowl. Is that the Michigan ground game that we will see in 2016? I'm not sure. Even if DeVeon Smith remains healthy and a punisher, I still have questions about the men up front. The offensive line was 107th in opportunity rate, a metric which measures how often the offensive line does "its job" and produces five yards of rushing for the runner. So I don't put as much faith in that Michigan returns 102 starts on the line. The right side (Kyle Kalis and Erik Magnuson) was average at best, while Michigan is rearranging the left side to accommodate for the loss of Graham Glasgow, arguably the Wolverines' best offensive lineman in 2015. And I think this is more of a question mark because Michigan plans to rely on its rushing attack to put the offense in more manageable downs and distances to take the pressure off of the new starter at quarterback, whether it be Speight or O'Korn. Maybe it will all click like it did against the Gators, and Michigan will be fine. But, if the rushing attack has the same inconsistencies it did for much of last season, the offense could sputter in Michigan's big games.

ZT: Inside linebacker. Michigan has, outside of Gedeon, basically no one with any game experience and very little workable depth before you start talking about true freshmen that just got to campus.

TW: Quarterback. Even though linebackers are probably a bit more of an unknown, just because of Jim Harbaugh's track record with developing signal-callers, the defensive line and secondary should do a good job of masking any deficiencies that group may have. Quarterback, on the other hand, will not have that luxury. While whoever wins the battle will have plenty of weapons and most likely do just fine, it is the biggest question mark heading into the opener vs. Hawaii.

AB: It is the offensive line. They ended the season on a high note against Florida, but struggled overall against the best teams they played in 2015. Just because you are experienced does not necessarily mean you are good. That is not to say this is a bad unit, but I would definitely be concerned at the ceiling of this current group.

EP: The biggest question mark for the Wolverines will be the consistency of the quarterback. If Wilton Speight gets the start, will he be as consistent as Jake Rudock was last season? Or if John O'Korn starts, will he be as consistent? The good news for Michigan is that the team will have a great backup quarterback just in case something goes wrong in the early stages of the season.

Who is the most valuable Wolverine in 2016?

NB: Wilton Speight. This answer is probably not shared by many, but I think this team needs his leadership and steady hand in the same way it needed Jake Rudock a year ago. This team isn't perfect - no teams are - and there has to be someone on the field to guide it. What Speight brings is what Michigan needs the most, and it's very helpful that they're getting that from a redshirt sophomore.  Yes, I know. The quarterback battle hasn't even been decided yet, and I am REALLY jumping on the Speight train. Choo choo is all I have to say.

KB: Jake Butt - Harbaugh's entire offensive scheme could revolve around #88 if he commands it. No other player on that side of the ball is going to be moved around, thrown to, or asked to block more than Butt. He has to be the safety valve for these quarterbacks to find open in a pinch, and use his size to block on those strong side power run formations. Peppers may be the explosive, flashy player meant to confuse defensive coordinators, but Jake Butt has to be the guy everyone knows is getting the ball and still make a play.

AS: Tie between Peppers and Lewis. Lewis will be steadier and Jabrill will be flashier.

LG: Jabrill Peppers - he provides an exclamation point to the question mark in the linebacker corps. He can also be effective in all 3 phases of the game.

AZ: Jabrill Peppers

DH: Jourdan Lewis is the best player on the roster, but Jabrill Peppers is the most valuable. The easy reason why is that Peppers plays at umpteen positions, such as corner, safety, nickel, linebacker, receiver, H-back, running back, Wildcat, and returner. He can do it all (very well). However, my reason why is that the main position he will play is SAM/nickel or, in other words, hybrid-space player. This is a defensive position that has become pivotal as new spread concepts have revolutionized the college game. It is rare to find a player that has the athleticism, speed, agility, strength, instincts, and aggression to be a force in the backfield, stick with slot receivers in coverage, shed blockers, and make tackles in space. Peppers is that rare find. As the defensive line wreaks havoc up front and the secondary dominates in back, Peppers will be the glue that keeps them together. And Michigan doesn't have anyone else that can do what he does.

ZT: Mason Cole. The progress in year two of the offensive line is the second biggest question heading into the season. Cole is the centerpiece (now literally that) of a unit that doesn't feature much established depth behind its starters. Cole being on the field unquestionably makes the rest of the offensive line better, and his positive effect in that area is much greater than any of the other linemen on the roster. If Michigan loses Cole this team could struggle mightily to run the ball.

TW: Jabrill Peppers. Easy answer, I know, but when a dude can play "12 of 22" positions on the field, he's pretty damn valuable. Peppers is great at returning punts because of his speed and open field ability, but his ability to make running catches and save Michigan field position is even more valuable to Michigan. Factor him in playing multiple positions in any given drive, and being able to come in on offense, and you've got one of the most versatile and valuable players in the country.

AB: It's Jabrill Peppers. Forget about what he can do on offense and special teams for now. Defensively, a lot of their success rides on him. Michigan has a big void to fill at linebacker and he will have a large role to play in slowing down the spread offenses and passing attacks of other teams. He is dangerous with the ball in his hands, but he is more valuable to the team when he is trying to keep it out of someone else's.

EP: Jabrill Peppers. The former five-star athlete can play a number of positions, including safety, cornerback, running back, wide receiver, linebacker and anywhere on special teams, just to name a few. On the offensive end, Peppers had 151 total yards and two touchdowns. He added 45 tackles and 10 passes deflected on defense, while returning eight kicks for 223 yards and 17 punts for 194 yards. The three-way athlete will be on a hunt for the Heisman Trophy during the 2016 season.

Which under the radar Wolverine will burst onto the scene?

NB: I'm going to keep going with Kingston Davis. This question has gotten a lot of mileage and some good answers - like Khaleke Hudson and Elysee Mbem-Bosse - have gotten a fair amount of ink for someone "under the radar." But I'm as optimistic on Davis as ever, and he remains a forgotten man on Michigan's roster.

KB: Kareem Walker was a pretty highly-ranked recruit at his position, but almost no one talked about him once it was a reality Rashan Gary committed to Michigan. There's a lot of playing time available at that position, since De'Veon Smith was hot and cold throughout 2015. Walker could have the same benefit to this power offense as Vincent Smith had to the spread in the time before Harbaugh's staff arrived.

AS: I kind of like Ben Bredenson at LT. He's been really good, I think? Backup answer here is Dymonte Thomas at safety. He's going to get his chances because of how good M is at corner and how hurried some passes from opposing QBs will be. Go make some plays, Dymonte.

LG: Bryan Mone. Coaches had him ranked as the 3rd best player on the real last year before his season-ending injury. He's a huge force at DT in the middle, and everyone but him on the DL is getting massive hype.

AZ: Ty Isaac

DH: He may not be under anyone's radar, but I will cheat and pick Taco Charlton. In limited snaps as a reserve last season, Charlton still ranked third on the team in tackles for loss (8.5) and sacks (5.5). He was such a presence going after the quarterback when he was on the field that Pro Football Focus named him the best pass rusher among returning 4-3 defensive ends. (Again, he's not really under the radar other than that he didn't start in 2015.) And Charlton will be on the field a lot more this season because he is the clear-cut leader at weakside defensive end. He's demonstrated the technique to bull rush and swim past offensive linemen, and he has the athleticism to add a menacing speed rush. He will also benefit from the fact that offensive lines likely won't be able to double team him much because he will have very talented linemates adjacent to him. Thus, I would not be too surprised if Charlton had a 10-sack senior season.  Oh, and if Charlton doesn't qualify as an answer, Dymonte Thomas.

ZT: Dymonte Thomas, as much as you can consider him an underrated player. He is stepping in for a consistent starter and safety blanket, but Thomas has that extra bit of explosiveness to QUOTE Make Plays ENDQUOTE. With the amount of havoc this front seven is capable of creating, having a guy that can make the correct read AND cover that kind of ground is a huge asset. Pressured quarterbacks make rash decisions. Thomas needs to make them pay when it happens. I think he does that this year.

TW: Noah Furbush. There are a ton of guys who could fit this billing, but with the lack of depth at linebacker, this will allow Furbush to get a lot of run and I think he's got the ability to be a solid player in the Big Ten. I think he will turn some heads this year and allow Michigan's defense to be even better than expected.

AB: Grant Perry had his fair share of ups and downs last season, but finished on a high note and I believe he is going to be very good as a slot receiver for the Wolverines moving forward. Darboh and Chesson get all the love, but he could be in for a big year, as well.

EP: Taco Charlton. During the 2015 season, Willie Henry and Chris Wormly stood out on the defensive line while Jourdan Lewis locked down the secondary. Charlton, however, was just as important. He started three games, but played in all 13. Believe it or not, the 6-foot-6, 285-pound defensive end finished with the third-most sacks on the team. Expect a breakout season and a huge jump in draft stock for Charlton.

Which player needs to have a breakout season?

NB: Well, the quarterbacks. If Speight wins this job, and it looks like he might, there will be a pair of older players waiting in the wings behind him. John O'Korn and Shane Morris will have an awkward maze to navigate going forward, trying to usurp a position (and leadership) with their careers running out.  If O'Korn does take the job, however, then I'd have to Poggi or Hill, the two redshirt junior fullbacks.

KB: Mike McCray is a senior. He didn't play much last year because of an injury. The linebacking unit is in dire need of a sure-tackler in the middle of the field. He has the size to play on this defense, and he has two All-Americans behind him in the secondary. The deck is stacked in his favor, just has to stay healthy.

AS: Think it's gotta be whoever wins the LT job. Bredenson. He could do a lot to ease the QB uncertainty and is the only other open job on an otherwise rock solid line. Second answer here is Kyle Kalis, who I'd like to see become the mauling 5 star potential guy he was coming out of high school.

LG: Kyle Kalis. He was very inconsistent last year. Sometimes he looked like the 5-star mauler we all thought we were getting when Brady Hoke stole him from OSU. Other times, he looked completely lost. He needs to put it all together this year, as he is a valuable component of the running game and pass protection.

DH: The winner of the battle at left tackle: Grant Newsome or Ben Bredeson. Again, I think Michigan will be fine at quarterback with Wilton Speight or John O'Korn. I do not share that confidence at the left tackle position. Though Michigan's run offense wasn't efficient in 2015, Mason Cole and Ben Braden developed good chemistry on the left side with their run blocking, and Cole was a shade below elite in protecting Jake Rudock's blind side (13th in adj. sack rate). However, Cole now slides inside to center, leaving a big question mark at left tackle. Newsome was the expected starter at left tackle, having the perfect frame for the position at 6-foot-7, 318 pounds, but he was shaky on the edge in the Spring Game. And now Bredeson, a true freshman, is making a push to start. Though Bredeson may just be that physically and mentally ready to play, it is usually not a great sign when a true freshman is contending to start on the offensive line from Day 1. But, if one can win the job and break out, Michigan will be in fantastic shape.

ZT: (Insert Left Tackle). I'd say Newsome because I like him better long term as a left-tackle-of-the-future variety due to his measurable and reported intellegence-level (the kid is very bright), but getting pushed by a freshman, even if that freshman, Ben Bredeson, is basically Mason Cole 2.0 with more tackle upside, has to worry you a bit when it comes to Newsome's eventual ceiling. Best case scenario is that Bredeson is the real deal as the kind of rare four year starter offensive lineman, and Newsome still needs a year to turn into an NFL-level left tackle prospect. Whatever way things go next year and beyond, one of these two is going to play this year and Michigan needs that player to holds his own.

TW: Drake Harris. I don't know if he truly NEEDS to have a breakout year, as the receiver position is loaded with upperclassmen talent, but it would be nice to see him get back to the level of football he is capable of before the injury bug got to him. Him having a solid year would really bode well for 2017, as having Harris and Perry as upperclassmen returning contributors would be a nice thing for Michigan to have.

AB: Staying with wide receivers, I think this is a very important season for Drake Harris. Michigan loses Chesson and Darboh after this year and the wide receiver position will have a lot of new faces in 2017. Harris needs to show he belongs or be passed on the depth chart by younger players.

EP: Channing Stribling. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound defensive back will try and match the 2015 campaign of Jourdan Lewis, which saw him make 52 tackles, a school-record 20 pass break-ups and two interceptions. While Lewis had a breakout season, Stribling had just one pass break-up and two interceptions, along with 16 tackles. Stribling seems like he has learned enough from Lewis and is ready to follow in his footsteps this season.

Is Michigan ready to beat Michigan State and Ohio State?

NB: Yes. In fact, the time has never been more perfect. This means nothing, of course; they still need to go seize the opportunity.

KB: MSU, absolutely. OSU, probably not this year. Ohio State has out-recruited Harbaugh and it will take him another year or two to catch them. Talent-wise, Michigan can outplay both schools, but we'll know what kind of chance they have before either of those games because a firm starter at quarterback will be established, and Harbaugh will know what he has.

AS: Yes. Healthy Michigan can. You saw what happened to the interior line without Glasgow on defense last year. They were gashed in their games against OSU and IU. The biggest gap with OSU now isn't top end talent, it's depth. If they stay healthy, it's a fair fight, even on the road. And that depth is coming along real quick.

LG: Yes. Harbaugh has created a culture of winning in Ann Arbor, and if the goal is a national title, these games cannot be considered road blocks for that path.

AZ: Yes.

DH: Yes. Michigan is arguably the most talented team in the Big Ten. Only Ohio State has out-recruited the Wolverines in recent years, and both Ohio State and Michigan State lost lots of key players from 2015 -- SBNation's Bill Connelly ranks the Spartans 122nd and the Buckeyes 127th out of 128 FBS teams in returning production. On the other hand, Michigan is flooded with talented, upperclassmen as CBSSports ranks Michigan at #4 overall and #1 in the Big Ten in its top-25 NFL Draft rankings. But does that mean Michigan *will* beat Michigan State and Ohio State? Not necessarily. The Spartans will have nine weeks and the Buckeyes the entire season to develop their youth, so, by the time the Michigan game rolls around, they will not be so inexperienced. And, to take down their rivals, the Wolverines will have to do it on the road, where they have not beaten Michigan State since 2007 and Ohio State since 2000. It certainly will not be an easy challenge for Michigan, but they should be up to the task.

ZT: Yes. That answer says very little about where those programs are (both very good) as much as it does where I think Michigan is right now. This team is loaded with players that have a chance to play themselves into the first three rounds of the NFL draft, the DL could be historically great, and the offense brings back nearly everyone—including every bit of skill position talent plus a couple intriguing prospects (oh hai Chris Evans), Jourdan Lewis is the best damn cover corner in the nation, Peppers is Peppers, Jake Butt is...see, I could go on like this for hours. If that isn't ready, I don't know what is.  Now they just need to do it when it matters.

TW: Yes. Even though Michigan has struggled to beat their rivals (obviously) over the past decade, that has no bearing on the 2016 team or season. One of the most annoying things about this offseason has been the constant mention of the records against these two schools by talking heads. Obviously, Michigan hasn't been able to beat MSU and OSU very often recently, but Jim Harbaugh was not the coach when these losses happened. I understand playing up the narrative, but they need to give it a rest.

AB: They are ready to beat Michigan State. They were a botched snap away from doing it last season. Despite that game being in East Lansing, Michigan is ready and must beat the Spartans. They can beat Ohio State, but I'm not sure it happens this season.

EP: Yes. Michigan has the weapons on offense, defense and specials teams to beat Michigan State and Ohio State. Let's not forget this guy named Jim Harbaugh, who is another reason why the Wolverines will take a step in the right direction and down their two rivals. I believe the Wolverines will beat the Spartans, but fall at the hands of the Buckeyes.

When will you personally know if Michigan is a title contender or not, Big Ten or otherwise?

NB: A marquee match-up mid-way through the season is probably the best answer, but I'm going to be ethereal and say we'll know it when we see it. It could come in the middle of a third-quarter run against Hawaii or a punt return in the second quarter against UCF, but you'll be able to tell what this team is made of pretty soon.

KB: When Jabrill Peppers lines up to take a direct snap and runs 80 yards for a touchdown against a Big Ten defense.

AS: Is it fair to say @MSU? There are only two really concerning games on this schedule (@Iowa is a concern but if they win in EL they can win in Iowa City). It's really hard to go into the Shoe and win unless you're a MAC team or Indiana, and they usually don't win either. So that's the decider. But for contention? @MSU. Time to exorcise some demons.

LG: October 29. Michigan has been embarrassed their last several trips to East Lansing. If this team wins there, the playoff committee should be on notice.

AZ: On December 30, 2014, when Jim Harbaugh was first introduced as Michigan's coach. In all seriousness, the schedule means Michigan can easily be a contender until at least the end of October.

DH: I already do. On Friday, SBNation's Bill Connelly released his updated S&P+ projections, ranking Michigan at 6th overall (tops in Big Ten) and giving them the second-best odds to win 11-plus games and make the College Football Playoff (37.5%). The Wolverines return nine starters on offense and arguably the best trio of receivers in the conference in Jehu Chesson, Amara Darboh, and Jake Butt. They return the strengths of one of the nation's best defenses, including two All-Americans in Jourdan Lewis and Jabrill Peppers, and add 2016's #1 overall recruit in Rashan Gary. They are flushed with talent, and, barring injuries, Michigan already is a title contender. How Michigan responds to the question marks and potential weaknesses I discussed above will determine whether or not Michigan actually wins those titles. But, make no mistake, they will contend.

ZT: With this team it is something you know until you don't. The talent is all there, the coaching staff is established, and the expectation are where they should be. Michigan IS a title contender until the point this year when it isn't because of a loss.

TW: Big Ten play. I think Penn State will be a solid football team in 2016. I also think Michigan is 21 points better than them. Seeing how Michigan fares against the Nittany Lions and Wisconsin in back to back weeks will give me a better gauge of what I think of this team. If Michigan takes care of business and wins by 14+ against Penn State and Wisconsin, I believe the sky is the limit for Michigan.

AB: If Michigan obliterates everyone in their path leading up to the MSU game, I think you'll have a solid idea. However, that trip to East Lansing is the first huge test of the year. Michigan fans will have to get used to hearing their team is overrated, but they will have ample opportunities to prove otherwise starting with the game at MSU.

EP: If Michigan can defeat Michigan State and Iowa on the road, I will know the team is ready to contend for a Big Ten title and a spot in the College Football Playoffs. After Michigan State and Iowa, the only thing in Michigan's way will be Ohio State.

What will Michigan's record be in 2016?

NB: 11-1 in the regular season, 13-2 overall. If you're counting that up, that means a Big Ten Championship, playoff appearance, and loss in the title game.

KB: 11-2 seems doable with this schedule. The home schedule is weak, and only Iowa and Ohio State scare me out of the road games. We all know Harbaugh hates to lose, so as long as this team shows up ready to compete every week, it's going to be a strong season.

AS: 14-1. They either lose a game they shouldn't, go on a rampage, or lose in the title game. But they've got the talent, the coaching, and that defense is the best Michigan's had in nineteen years. The best part of an elite Michigan team is the hope of extra football. Bad teams get twelve games. For the fans of P5 contenders, it's possible to dream big and want extra football. This is the best part of my favorite season, so I'm going to take the over and say Michigan gives me the maximum amount of games possible this year. I am all aboard the hype train and "Everything is Easy" is the best Third Eye Blind train. Fight me.

LG: 11-1, but only because I don't want to sound like too much of a homer.

AZ: 10-2

DH: 12-1. Michigan benefits by having one of the easiest seven-game opening stretches in recent memory. The trifecta of Hawaii, UCF, and Colorado may be the easiest non-conference slate Michigan has had in the past century, and then Michigan opens the Big Ten season with three of four games at home -- the lone road game being at lowly Rutgers. It would be more of a surprise if Michigan was not 7-0 through Week 8. However, Week 9 is when the Wolverines have their first real test of the season: at Michigan State. But Michigan will exercise its demons of the past eight seasons, particularly 2015's excruciating loss, and slay the Spartans in East Lansing. The Wolverines will ride the momentum of that win through Maryland, Iowa (overrated), and Indiana (trap game alert) before heading to Columbus with an 11-0 record. The Buckeyes may be inexperienced now, but, by Week 13, that will no longer be the case and they will be led by the Big Ten's best quarterback, J.T. Barrett. It will be a colossal matchup and an amazing game, but one that sees Ohio State ruin Michigan's perfect season. However, because the Buckeyes will have dropped two Big Ten road games earlier in the season, Michigan will still win the Big Ten East and head to Indianapolis, where they will beat Iowa again to claim the Big Ten championship for the first time since 2004 and be selected to be in the College Football Playoff.  From there, I have no prediction. Let your imaginations run wild.

ZT: 13-0 heading into the playoff.  I believe.

TW: 12-0. I'm just going with the regular season record, and I think they will be perfect heading into postseason play. There is too much talent on the roster, and coaching staff, to not be able to win every game. I think Michigan takes care of business week in and week out, and the hype we've heard since January 2nd is justified.

AB: 11-1 with the lone loss coming to Ohio State. *ducks as readers chuck tomatoes at me*

EP: 11-1, 8-1 Big Ten

Do you agree with the staff? Sound off with your takes in the comments section below!