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Roundtable: M&B staff’s bold predictions for 2017

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Photo credit: Dustin Johnson, Maize n Brew

Ed: Hey guys, I want your bold predictions for 2017. Let’s keep this open-ended. Any freshmen you see making an immediate impact? Any surprise Heisman contenders? Anyone poised to set some records? Let’s hear it.

Josh: Well you wanted bold so here it goes… Drake Harris starts as a CB at some point this year.

As the story goes, Jim Harbaugh was able to convert Richard Sherman from a WR to a CB around the same point of his collegiate career that Harris is in now (we saw how that ended up for Sherman). Drake definitely has the height and athleticism to be a really good defensive back for this team, combine that with the need for pieces in the secondary and he could see some playing time sooner rather than later.

MLJ: I think Aubrey Solomon is the real deal, at a position of need (Interior DL) and the guy he is backing up (Mone) has a history of injury. I do hope for the best for Bryan, of course, but Solomon may be needed sooner, rather than later. Tarik Black looks great, it’s gonna be hard to keep him off the field, but there will be plenty trying to do that. So many other freshmen, so little PT.

Dan: I really like the Drake Harris idea. Ideally, it’d happen sooner rather than later (assuming it works) because Florida’s wide receivers might be the best the team faces all year; they’re definitely the most athletic. My bold prediction is that I think this team beats Ohio State this year.

The game will be at home, and the hope is that the young guys coming in are making the type of splash plays that can carry you over the top in a rivalry game like that. If Black, Solomon, and the People’s-Jones choice can have similar developments to Gary’s timeline last year, the boys could pull the upset.

Where last year’s squad seemed to run out of gas, I think the opposite will be true this time around. If they can get through the Nittany Lions, I think we’re in for another end-of-year showdown.

David: I am going with O’Maury Samuels as a breakout freshman this fall. The No. 1 RB out of New Mexico, No. 21 overall RB in the class according to 247 Sports, is physically ready at 5-11/190 lbs. and it's only a matter of how quickly he gets acclimated to this level of football. I see him getting in the mix and making some noise on offense.

I don't see anyone as a Heisman contender this year, but we’ll get a better idea how talented this group of WR’s will be over the next few years to potentially get in the conversation.

Colman: You want bold, eh? How’s this: Michigan will have the #1 offense in the B1G in 2017 while still having a top 10 defense nationally. With incrementally better QB play, explosive receivers and a stable of capable backs (including at least one that has shown game breaking ability, oh, and a Hammering Panda) this offense is poised to really show out. Our defense will likely take a step back but with the talent and coaching we have it will be a smaller step than you’d expect with just a few contributors returning.

Chris: Alright, here’s a bit of a bold prediction for you: Kareem Walker will be our three-down back by the end of the season. While I still think Evans will break 1,500 yards from scrimmage, I see him lining up in the slot and as an undersized H-Back much more often than what most people are predicting right now. He is way too dynamic and squirrelly to be in the backfield every down.

To fill that need, Walker will step up as our traditional running back with Higdon and Isaac bringing their own respective strengths in the rotation. By the end of the season, Walker has 700+ rushing yards.

Cooper: If there’s one position on the roster that has more than the requisite depth, it’s running back. With that said, I think we see a bit of O’Maury Samuels by the end of the season. He was one of my favorite recruits from this past cycle and looked like this in high school. He’s already a monster.

There are some legitimate concerns regarding the competition he faced in New Mexico but after an acclimation period, I can see Harbaugh dialing up some plays to take advantage of his ridiculous athleticism.

Alex: Not to beat a point to death but the running backs are going to be fun to watch. Between O’Maury Samuels and Kareem Walker, they’re going to rack up an absurd amount of yards in 2017. As long as the offensive line continues to mesh and mature, we could be looking at Alabama rushing numbers as the Wolverines take 3 yards and a cloud of dirt to 10 yards and into the next level!

Photo credit: Dustin Johnson, Maize n Brew

Ed: When the ol’ season is over, where will the Wolverines end up? Is this the year they finally punch their ticket to Indy? Or is it a building year for 2018?

Josh: This season will be decided week one. If they can get past Florida then we’re in for a good year, and I think they do squeeze by the Gators.

The schedule (especially the non-conference) is a lot tougher than last year. Games like Air Force and even Cincinnati won't be the cakewalk that Hawaii and UCF were last year.

As for the rivalry games, I think Michigan will beat MSU soundly at home. The Wolverines will have their eyes set on revenge, and this will finally be the year that OSU is brought back to earth. With The Game being played in Ann Arbor and a chip on their shoulders the size of Mount Everest after the way this game ended last year (JT was short), it will propel them to a narrow victory.

My final prediction is 11-1 with a loss to PSU. There's just something about a white out, night game at Happy Valley that scares me to death.

MLJ: Ever since last year when good ol’ Streit cred said we were one year away (meaning 2017) I have been down on this year (expect Herby to keep saying we’re one year away until Oscar Meyer has to get creative again in ending his coaching career). I mean, we could see the mass exodus of experience coming from a long way away, right?

So, we had our mass exodus and then we had a spring game that looked better than any in my memory. We have some talent here, for sure. And these are JH’s hand-picked peeps.

I’m afraid to say that I expect a group this young to win the B1G championship - what would we do for an encore? But I can’t see us falling below 8 regular season wins. Sorry, I’m gonna hedge big-time — somewhere between 8-4 and 11-1 regular season. That’s what I’m expecting.

Ilinois v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Nick: Once again, ML Johnson’s bold prediction is somewhere between 8-4 and 11-1, ladies and gentlemen.

David: I am going with staying undefeated at home this fall, dropping one on the road. It is still so early to predict with still so many question marks, but I'm excited to see this team develop and improve as the season goes.

I don't like to predict the season in June, but this team will beat Ohio State and end the streak in a close one at home. I am leaning towards Penn State on October 21 as the one loss with such a dangerous environment at night. The Nittany Lions play on the road that following Saturday at Columbus, so those two games will likely decide the fate of the reigning Big Ten Champions and potentially the East division.

Dan: Backing up my “surprise”, I think the squad is able to take the East and win the Big Ten. I think they finish with 1 or 2 losses; Penn State and Florida being the two I’m hedging on. The Gators’ quarterback situation is one of the biggest wild cards in all of college football this year with the arrival of Malik Zaire, and that could change the game’s whole dynamic.

Penn State will want revenge after last year’s gridiron root-canal effectively knocked them out of playoff consideration. Much in the same way, USC really picked it up the last ⅔ of 2016, I think Michigan could be poised for a big backend of this season. The difference is, the Wolverines don’t start the year having to play Alabama!

Colman: This is Harbaugh’s year to yet again prove that once he has his type of guys in place he can beat anyone in his path. Yes, we have some Hoke guys who will be important but this is truly a “Harbaugh Team”. They are young, but certainly hungry and very, very talented. Like last year, the sky’s the limit with this group and they will have a chance to win them all.

I think the young defense will be propped up by a strong offense in the beginning of the season and then we’ll start to really come together toward the end. That said, I also think we drop an away game...Penn State or Wisconsin get revenge and I’m leaning more toward Wisconsin since that was such a close one last year and we may be looking toward our own revenge in The Game.

However, I think we still win the East and the B1G championship and get our first shot in the playoff. Yeah, I’ll say it, Bring on Bama! If you want to be the best, you must beat the best.

University of Michigan v University of Central Florida Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images

Chris: It is going to remain extremely difficult to predict Michigan’s success this season until we play Florida. But, I don’t think we need to win that game to still have a very successful year. In fact, a close loss might be what this young team needs, similar to the Utah game in 2015. As long as we don’t get blown out by Florida, which I do not predict happening, we should start the season pretty well.

Our two biggest road matchups will obviously be at Penn State and at Wisco. I think our front seven shuts down Barkley and we take care of Penn State fairly easily. But a night game at Camp Randall will be a major test. It might be our most difficult game all season. I’m really not sure if we can get a W there.

As far as Ohio State, there are too many questions for each team to make a well-reasoned prediction right now, especially in regards to OSU’s offense. Will JT Barrett become the All-American he was poised to be during his first two seasons? Does Mike Weber fill the production void left by Curtis Samuel and become the next great Buckeye running back? On the other side of the ball, how well does Ohio State’s secondary reload with the loss of Conley, Lattimore, and Hooker?

Thankfully, we have The Game at home this season, but it is a coin toss right now (as it will be every year with Harbaugh and Meyer). In the end, I don’t see Michigan going undefeated, but I also do not think we drop more than 3 losses during the regular season.

NCAA Football: Florida Spring Game Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Cooper: While I see us beating Florida to open the season, there are two main reasons I don’t think we’ll be heading to Indy for the West’s annual sacrifice to the East. Namely, with youth at nearly every level of the offense and defense, I feel like we’re gonna drop a game we shouldn’t.

There isn’t an obvious candidate on the schedule — that’s the nature of my point as it is — but I can’t shake the feeling that things will get weird at some point.

Second, the last third of the schedule is more daunting than it looks at first blush. P.J. Fleck has work to do at Minnesota but he’s a master motivator and Durkin is building a solid foundation at Maryland. By November, both of those squads could be tougher outs than they appear right now.

Finally, heading to Camp Randall immediately before The Game is terrifying. We all know how things shook out last year at Iowa, our biggest road test, and, though Happy Valley will make its argument, I expect Wisconsin to be the most hostile game environment of the year.

Compounding that, all four of those teams have their reasons to get up for their game against the Wolverines: Minny wants the Jug (plus whatever boat-rowing shenanigans Fleck has instilled by then), Durkin wants to beat his old boss, Wisco wants revenge for a heartbreaker last year, and J.T. Barrett never got that yard. It’s a gauntlet and one I’m not sure we’ve got the experience to run through unblemished.

Alex: I said it after the spring game, 2017 has the chance to be the season for the Michigan Wolverines. Twenty years removed from their last national title, I think an 11- or 12-win season is very much a possibility as it’s not going to be a “rebuilding” year like most teams endure after losing all of the talent that the Wolverines did.

The recruiting has built a continuous winner and now it’s time for the young players to step up and execute. The pieces are there for this team to take that next step, get to Indy and take it to the national title game in Atlanta. Week 1 versus Florida will be a great indicator for how ready this team is to take the leap into the upper echelon of college football. Road games at Penn State and Wisconsin will also be great statement games for this young team to show they’re for real.

Wilton Speight is going to have to step up and lead by limiting his mistakes and making some clutch throws while breaking in new offensive weapons. Coach Brown is going to let the defense fly around the field and make plays.

It’s going to be a heck of a thing to watch if the Wolverines are ready for the big time and I think even with the youth this team has, they’re ready!

Poll

Which bold prediction do you think is more likely?

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    Drake Harris ends up being one of Michigan’s starting cornerbacks
    (274 votes)
  • 62%
    Either Kareem Walker or O’Maury Samuels ends up being a feature back at some point
    (449 votes)
723 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which road game has you more nervous?

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    The ‘White Out’ at Penn State on Oct. 21
    (374 votes)
  • 53%
    The Wisconsin game on Nov. 18, a week before The Game
    (434 votes)
808 votes total Vote Now