It’s that time of year many get out their phones and download a countdown app set to the first weekend of college football.
The Michigan fan base is becoming more frustrated as each year goes by and they get snubbed from the game in Indianapolis. Some stay patient and positive feeling like 2019 is “the year.”
I explore five big burning questions heading into the season and the current state of Michigan football.
Two provided Maize N Brew with their insights by answering these five burning questions.
- Bill Bender, National College Football writer for Sporting News
- Tom Luginbill, Scout/recruiting and ESPN sideline analysts
1. How will this offense perform under new Offensive Coordinator Josh Gattis in year one?
BB “If Jim Harbaugh is true to his word and opens it up, then it could be a monster year for Shea Patterson. Nico Collins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black are NFL-caliber receivers, but none of those guys had 50 catches last season. Black’s early-season injury threw off the rhythm of the offense. Of course, Michigan needs to find a game-breaking running back again, too. For all the talk about Michigan’s conservative offense, it averaged 40.3 points in ’16 and 35.2 last season. It has to be in that range again.”
TL “Personally I think this is all being overhyped a little bit. I’m not ready to believe that the head coach is just going to walk away and relinquish all involvement in the offense. I don’t think that’s in his DNA. Their skilled personnel is the best that it has been since Jim Harbaugh has been there but how they use the personnel is still some things that I believe people are waiting to actually see happen and not just hear talk about it.”
2. Does this defense come back with a vengeance and fill shoes lost to the NFL? Do they end as the best defense in the Big Ten and one of the top-5 in the country?
BB “This is actually the bigger question mark given the late-season failures against Ohio State and Florida and the loss of Rashan Gary, Devin Bush and Chase Winovich to the NFL. Despite those two blowouts, Michigan still allowed less than 20 points per game. The secondary should be strong, but they will need to find a consistent pass rush off the edge. They didn’t have one against Ohio State or Florida.”
TL “I think there’s enough talent in the stable but also enough fresh faces that you will likely see a quality defensive unit, but maybe not a dominant one at least early on in the season. As far as personality is concerned Ohio State returns the most experienced and talented group.”
3. Who is your selection for breakout player on offense and defense everyone will be talking about?
BB “On offense, freshman Zach Charbonnet could be that guy. Remember, Chris Evans was the star early in his freshman season. Charbonnet will have to navigate through that first year, but the buzz around him is real. On defense, it’s going to be impossible to hold down another freshman in Daxton Hill. The five-star commit will be on the field early, and the more creative Brown gets with using him within the scheme, the better.”
TL “3. Defense - DE Aiden Hutchinson or DE Luiji Vilain
Offense - WR Mike Sainristil”
4. What are potential trap games?
BB “Iowa and Indiana. Iowa beat Michigan in 2016 and returns an experienced quarterback in Nate Stanley and tough defensive line. At least that one is in the Big House and not Iowa City. The last two meetings in Bloomington were decided in overtime, and it’s before Ohio State again. That’s the classic don’t look too far ahead spot.”
TL “ARMY!!!!!! They are very fortunate that that game is not being played later in the season and also that they have a bye after it before they play Wisconsin. On the road at Maryland between Notre Dame and Michigan State is not ideal.”
5. Do they win the East division and play in the Big Ten Conference Championship for the first time?
BB “I’ll give the same answer as last year. If Michigan can avoid an early upset bid from Army and win three out of four against Michigan State, Notre Dame, Penn State and Wisconsin — and that’s doable — then they should be 10-1 when they welcome Ohio State to Ann Arbor. Michigan, however, cannot get distracted with the Buckeyes given how difficult the schedule is. It’s almost unfair to base the entire season on a one-game referendum against the Buckeyes, but Michigan has to have this one.”
TL “No. Ohio State.”
The season will be here and these questions will get answered. Fans are hoping for an improved offense for a balance on both sides of the ball with a chance to knock down their biggest rivals, especially Ohio State. Big thanks to Bill and Tom for their insights on the Wolverines for the 2019 college football season.
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