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Weekend wrap-up: Michigan heads into the season with huge expectations nationwide

Preseason predictions continue to be very high on the Wolverines.

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Vrbo Fiesta Bowl - Michigan v TCU Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Thankfully the 2023 season is just about here, as a week from today the Michigan Wolverines will finally take the field. This offseason has felt especially long given the hype leading up to the new year, as expectations for Michigan have seemingly never been higher, especially this century.

That excitement goes well beyond just Ann Arbor. As the preseason comes to an end, we check in on a few national outlets that certainly see big things coming for Jim Harbaugh, J.J. McCarthy, and friends beginning next week.

AP Poll? Never heard of it.

To start off, The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman provided his top 25 to begin the season and slightly deviated from the general consensus. The venerable college football analyst opted to slot the Wolverines at No. 1 in the country, citing the experience of the team’s top weapons:

Ultimately, the reason why I think Michigan has the best chance to win the national title is because J.J. McCarthy, who is a really gifted quarterback, will take the next big step in his development. He was really impressive at Ohio State despite being without his best weapon, Blake Corum. McCarthy and Michigan were shaky in the College Football Playoff against TCU, but my hunch is they will grow from that and break through.

Corum is healthy again. The O-line will be the deepest and best it’s been there, and that’s saying something. And in Donovan Edwards and Colston Loveland, Michigan has two unique X-factors who can be matchup nightmares that McCarthy can take advantage of. It also helps that the three teams with the most stacked rosters — Georgia, Alabama and Ohio State — are all breaking in new QBs, having to replace studs who will each go down in history at their storied programs.

Interestingly, Feldman had Georgia down at No. 4, with both LSU and USC coming in after Michigan; Ohio State and Penn State ranked fifth and sixth, respectively. While bumping the maize and blue atop the country is a little bold, this is certainly not a unique belief...

Third time’s a charm

Feldman was also one of three analysts to select Michigan to finally lift the College Football Playoff trophy in The Athletic’s National Championship predictions. Nicole Auerbach has confidence in the team’s “two great running backs and a QB who finally will get a chance to stretch the field vertically” and Sam Khan Jr. thinks the Wolverines will benefit from a favorable schedule.

Perhaps just as interesting is the fact that all eight analysts expect Michigan to make it back to the playoffs for a third-straight season. While Georgia also earns this distinction, no other schools gains anywhere close to this level of agreement. While the Bulldogs are still the favorite and LSU also earned a title nod, USC was the only other team to be selected by even half of the panel.

First-round talent

Should Michigan indeed make it back to the CFP, it likely comes with another strong season for J.J. McCarthy. ESPN’s talented draft analyst Matt Miller sees the junior quarterback as a first-round pick, placing him 21st-overall in his preseason mock. Miller (ironically?) sends McCarthy to the Vikings to replace a mediocre former Spartan:

McCarthy showcased excellent dual-threat ability in 2022, throwing for 22 touchdowns to five interceptions and adding five more scores on the ground. The 6-3, 202-pound passer is a play-action master and excels on rollouts and moving pockets. That’d fit with Minnesota coach Kevin O’Connell just fine, and McCarthy would benefit from Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison at wide receiver.

While this season is all about this Michigan team winning the National Championship, there are plenty of individual players who have plenty to gain from successful seasons as well, with McCarthy certainly on track to have a great NFL future.