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MnB Staff Roundtable doesn’t believe in the luck of the Irish

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FOOTBALL.

NCAA Football: Air Force at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

And now for something (mostly) different

What’s on your mind?

Dan A: I guess I’ll start this one off. I remember for a while a lot of us expected to come into this year as the sleeping giant. We figured the stink of last year’s ending paired with general Harbaugh fatigue would lead to lower expectations in 2018. That doesn’t seem to have happened, does it? The Wolverines appear to be the newest in vogue Playoff-sleeper. Am I the only one slightly uneasy about this?

Daniel P: I actually feel the exact opposite. To me the national media’s comments is affirmation of what we all have been looking at and observing all offseason. This team is different from any other team Harbaugh has had at Michigan and people outside of us are starting to notice.

Kevin: Attention on Michigan = good. Too much attention on Michigan = inevitable collapse under expectations. There’s no sweet spot. I don’t know which is easier on my nerves, to have so many variables that it’s a pleasant surprise when it all clicks, or to instead have CONTENDER stamped on the program before they’ve taken the field. Is it possible to be gleefully uneasy? PANIC when Finebaum or somebody else notoriously hard on Michigan suddenly wants aboard the hype train.

Sam D: Not to tiptoe around the question, but I honestly don’t care what Desmond Howard, Skip Bayless, Jason Whitlock or Joel Klatt says about Michigan. I especially take a rival fan’s take with barley a grain of salt. Not to get pseudo-philosophical, but I’ve started to shy away from expectations as I’m approaching 30. Michigan falling an inch short from the College Football Playoff, or a dropped punt from vanquishing the best Michigan State team in years, the disappointment sucked me dry.

Therefore, I’m going into this year knowing that this is the best quarterback of the Harbaugh era, and the defense might be the best since 1997 -- which I remember fondly as a young lad. I just know that I’m excited to see how the season unfolds with those pieces, regardless of any national media hot takes.

Andrew V: Michigan should have high expectations in 2018 and if national media types are catching on to how talented this group is, then more power to them. This team has one of the best defenses in the nation, coupled with an offense that simply can’t be worse than it was last season. If U-M’s quarterback and offensive line play is just average to above average, there’s no reason this team can’t — and shouldn’t — win at least 10 games this year.

Josh: To get back to Dan’s original point… Personally, I love it. This feels just like 97’. Coming off a disappointing and VERY mediocre season like the 1996 team did they were overlooked by the masses the following offseason and with the pressure and focus off of them, they locked in and went on to do great things.

Will that happen? I sure as heck hope. But being under the radar coming into week one is the best case scenario for the Wolverines.

Kevin: We’re all hopeful for the offense, but can anyone come up with a defined measure for success, other than “will be better than last year” ? I have trouble picturing what that looks like until they’ve played some games, not sure how you all feel. All I’m worried about as Michigan starts the year is offensive line progression,

Sam D: They need to get at least four yards a carry against a competent defense. The only time I can think of where a Harbaugh team was able to do this -- sacks removed -- was Wisconsin 2016. Also, Florida both in 2015 and 2017. My opinion of this team will elevate quickly if they start pounding the rock with impunity against Notre Dame rush defense that ranked No. 13 on S&P last year. Also, give me a deep pass or two from Patterson to alleviate doubts about the receivers. From there, expectation reset, so ask me again next week.

Dan A: This is my measuring stick too. It’s the end of the day and I don’t feel like tracking down the appropriate stats, but I know there’s a gigantic gulf between UM’s rushing numbers against the Rutgers of the world vs Penn State, Ohio State, and Sparty. If UM’s o-line is able to get push and keep the offense “ahead of the chains”, I’m not sure there’s a great recipe to beat this team. They’ll run the ball, lean on the defense, and count on Shea to make a big play or two. Basically the ‘16 recipe with Speight until the end of the year.

Andrew V: For me, it’s not so much stats based as it is emotionally based. I don’t want to dread when Michigan’s offense is on the field. I want to feel confident in its ability to score points and that it won’t turn the ball over every time out. When U-M’s defense gives up a rare touchdown, I want to think it’s no big deal, the offense will pick them up, rather than crap that’s the ballgame. Give me that confidence back.

Josh: Run the ball well like they did for the 2nd half of toast season, and don’t get get Shea Patterson murdered would make me pretty happy.

The coaching staff moves have been pluses all across the board so the game plan, and play calling is not something that concerns me. I just want to see the pass protection improved, which will in turn allow Shea Patterson and the passing game to shine. And then to top it all off, pound the rock the way this o-line is capable of, especially against top-tier Big Ten teams, closing out games the way they haven’t been able to since Lloyd Carr was around.

Sam D: Question: Which team on the schedule seems a lot less daunting now? Which seems way scarier? For me, Penn State isn’t as threatening when I see almost their entire defense graduating, retiring or getting injured.

Kevin: Based purely on the way the schedule shook out, I’m suddenly scared of Nebraska now just because it’s the first conference game, and Scott Frost is dangerous, even though he’s not playing in the game.

Dan P: I don’t understand the hype around Penn State. They lost many of their defensive players and a focal point of their offense in Saquon Barkley, who is nearly irreplaceable. Now Nebraska is going to be tough I definitely agree with Kev. They could be a dark horse to win the West.

Dan A: I’m dumb and don’t learn from mistakes so I’ll say that I think MSU comes a bit back down to earth this year. They didn’t feel as bad as 3-9 in 2016, and I don’t think they were as good as their record last year. Why? Because I’m dumb and don’t learn from mistakes. On the other end of the spectrum, I’m terrified of a pissed off Ohio State team. Urban Meyer plays “us against the world” very well, and that team is loaded with talent.

Jared: Penn State is being overhyped by the media as a contender, and I am totally fine with that. The loss of Joe Moorhead is being (potentially) drastically understated and they do not scare me on defense in the slightest. Both of the chief rivals should be feared this year however, as either one has the talent to beat Michigan and make a deep run. Sparty is going to play us tough under Dantonio, that much is as certain as his scowl. East Lansing is not as daunting of a road game as traveling to Notre Dame or Ohio State however, and I have to imagine we play that one with a serious chip on our shoulder. As for OSU, well, let’s hope we don’t have the same officiating crew as 2016 because I think it will come down to one or two plays once more.

Josh: Notre Dame has got to be the less scary option for me. I was projecting a loss heading into the offseason but he more I continue to read and hear about their QB’s struggling, I’m confident the Michigan D will get the job done against their ground game and keep their passing game under attack all night.

More daunting however, has got to be Wisconsin. The Badgers are built to come in to the Big House and walk out with a W. With the way their o-line and defense are constructed they can grind out 3 yards behind a cloud of dust with Heisman hopeful Jonathan Taylor. It feels like this could be a 6-3 kind of game and I don’t like that one bit.

Andrew V: Notre Dame and Penn State both fit as teams I’m not as scared of. I don’t think Notre Dame’s offense can score enough to bring the Fighting Irish a win and Penn State’s defense is going to have a whole new look, not to mention the loss of several significant weapons on offense and offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead. I have to believe there will be some regression there.

Wisconsin is the team I’m most afraid of. The defense is top notch and despite how strong Michigan’s defense is, the Badgers are going to be able to run the ball with Jonathan Taylor and the nation’s best offensive line. It’ll be a slugfest that could go either way. I also don’t think people are giving Michigan State enough credit for how difficult that game will be. It’s on the road, MSU had a very experienced roster, a top-tier quarterback and will always carry that chip on its shoulder. (I do think Michigan will win that game, though, for what it’s worth).

Kevin: I’ve been wondering, is anyone else as baffled as I am as to why we make it to about the last month of the offseason every year and then all these major programs get caught doing dumb stuff? I just want to watch football, but forgive me for fearing it won’t ever change. Program success is never supposed to be put ahead of right and wrong, but it would appear a new batch of coaches forgets that rule every year right as we’re getting to the finish line. To an extreme of self parody almost...in a bizarro world where one school sees a competitor breaking a rule and then they decide they’re going to break two rules just to stick it to ‘em. At some point the conferences or the NCAA (Ha!) gotta enforce the rules. I don’t get it.

Going forward for these, if there’s a topic you feel worthy of discussion for the following week, leave a comment.