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Roundtable: Michigan vs. East Carolina

The MnB staff is back this season to gather round the table and discuss the upcoming game!

Michigan v Ohio State Photo by Ben Jackson/Getty Images

We are BACK with another season of the Maize n Brew Staff Roundtable!

Each week, staff members will participate by answering a series of questions mainly focusing on the upcoming game. This week, however, we answer some questions from this offseason, speculate on position battles, and then answer a couple questions pertaining to the Week 1 matchup between the Michigan Wolverines and East Carolina Pirates.

The offseason is finally over! Michigan plays at home tomorrow against East Carolina to kickoff the 2023 season. Before we get into the game, let’s briefly discuss college football as a whole. What has been the most intriguing headline this offseason?

Von: Jim Harbaugh vs. the NCAA has to be the front page headliner. After other schools have been given a slap on the wrist recently by the NCAA for far worse things, the organization that dictates college athletics decided to go after Harbaugh for buying recruits burgers. And despite the NCAA claiming it has nothing to do with burgers, it does, let’s be real. The NCAA is a joke of an organization that is run by a bunch of Bozo the Clowns.

Dan: Realignment. This is the last season of college football as we know it. Next year the PAC-12 and Big 12 are as good as dead, the CFP is expanded to 12 teams, and plenty of rivalries will be dead. Only more will be coming as FSU and Clemson will likely ditch the ACC next. Going to be a weird couple of years of readjusting to the new era of the sport.

Andrew: The complete dissolution of college football as we know it. 2023 represents the last season of the four-team College Football Playoff (CFP), relative conference regionality, and the PAC-12 as a conference. This much change is unprecedented in one offseason, which makes this season one of the most important and meaningful in recent history.

Erik: I personally think it is the high praise and expectations for Georgia and Ohio State going into 2023. Both programs have had some turnover and breaking in new quarterbacks. Although Georgia can probably coast until their game at Tennessee, OSU gets Notre Dame on the road under the lights in late September. I understand Georgia’s rankings considering the back to back titles but probably would have put OSU a little lower on the AP until the starting QB can prove himself.

Adam: It may be the common answer, but conference realignment took center stage. We already knew thet USC and UCLA were going the Big Ten next year, but the Pac-12 suddenly falling apart was a bit shocking. Arizona, Arizona State and Utah fled to the Big 12 and then the Big Ten poached Oregon and Washington. The biggest question now is if the Pac-12 can finally break through again to the CFP in what looks like their last season?

Kellen: It’s hard to ignore all the news regarding conference re-alignment, with four new schools joining the Big Ten in 2024, more schools joining the SEC and Big 12, and the Pac-12 essentially disintegrating because of their incompetence regarding TV deals (RIP #Pac12AfterDark). All those changes come next season, which makes this college football season feel like the last one as we know it; celebrating the territorial nature of conferences, and embracing local rivalries. The sport has real corporate over the last half-decade, but at least we get one more year of fun before it becomes even more corporate.

Jack: Conference realignment, Harbaugh drama, and NIL’s impact on the entire landscape.

Expectations are very high for this Michigan team. A third straight Big Ten title and CFP appearance are reasonable to expect, with all the returning players and coaches. Give us some quick hit predictions about Michigan’s 2023 season — record, results, do they win the Big Ten, do they make it back to the CFP?

Von: Michigan will go 11-1, lose at Penn State, beat Ohio State. win a third straight Big Ten Championship, and advance to the Rose Bowl in the College Football Playoff, taking down USC in the process. From there, anything in the National Championship is fair game. A very good season should be expected.

Dan: Michigan wins the Big Ten with a perfect 13-0 record. Their closest game is on the road against Penn State, but cruise through most of the rest of the schedule. J.J. McCarthy makes an huge jump and is in the Heisman conversation, becoming a consensus top-10 NFL Draft pick. Michigan is the No. 2 seed in the CFP and make the National Championship.

Andrew: Michigan is a freight train from hell poised to bulldoze 15 straight opponents in a quest for an elusive national championship. In reality, Michigan’s season will be decided in two games: Penn State and Ohio State. Even dropping one, the Wolverines could probably still back in to the CFP, but why risk it? Beyond the regular season, only a few teams will potentially impede Michigan’s path, but none of them have the combination of CFP experience, roster depth, and a returning proven quarterback to the level of the Wolverines.

Erik: I fully believe Michigan finishes the regular season undefeated. Only games that make me nervous are Penn State, MSU (not because they will be good, but because weird stuff happens in that game), and OSU. Luckily Penn State is not a night game, MSU will likely be down again, and OSU has to play in Ann Arbor with a new QB. Everything seems to be in place for another undefeated regular season as long as they take it one game at a time. I think they make it to the CFP and win the semi-final game. I think regardless they will be competitive in the CFP Finals as long as their star players are healthy. If they win the Big Ten Title with a healthy squad I would expect them to go all the way.

Adam: Michigan should be a favorite in every game outside of possibly Ohio State. Even with that it is still tough for a team to run the table. 10 wins in the absolute floor for this team but they should win 11 or 12 games this year. Expect them to once again be competing for the Big Ten East in The Game. Blake Corum and Donavan Edwards should lead the way once again as they are both in the top 10 in the country in rushing yards.

Kellen: Michigan runs the table in the regular season, defeats Ohio State for the third straight year, and wins the Big Ten yet again. I predict they make it back to the College Football Playoff, but I think they fall to Caleb Williams and USC in the CFB semi-final, failing to make it to the National Championship game for the third straight year.

Jack: Most year’s I’m skeptical to get my hopes up as the margin of error to making it to the CFP is so small. However, this Michigan team is one of the most talented I’ve ever seen in my 28 years on earth, the schedule is the most favorable I’ve ever seen, and this team is destined to make another run to the college football playoff after running the table in the regular season. That’s how it’s going to go down. My hottest take is them meeting Notre Dame in the CFP Championship.

If there are any question marks on this team, they are on the defensive side. The starting edge spots, as well as CB2, are up for grabs. Who do you think wins those jobs, and why?

Von: This battle will continue throughout the first few games, but when it’s all said and done, I expect UMass transfer Josh Wallace to win the CB2 job, and then Jaylen Harrell and Braiden McGregor to earn the starting edge positions. Wallace has the experience edge over the other competitors at his position, making him a shoo-in in my opinion. As far as the edge spot goes, there will be a big rotation this year, with Josaiah Stewart and Derrick Moore also having significant roles.

Dan: Jaylen Harrell and Braiden McGregor start at the edge position. Harrell finishes the season with close to double-digit sacks. Josh Wallace starts at CB2, but by the end of the year, true freshman Jyaire Hill sees increased playing time and starts next to Will Johnson.

Andrew: Starting edge spots will go to Jaylen Harrell and Derrick Moore. Harrell is the best all-around edge defender and a high IQ player. Moore is a dominant force and could be one of the breakout stars on this team. Behind them will be a lethal pass-rushing duo of Braiden McGregor and Josaiah Stewart, who will be able to spell the starters with elite pass-rushing capabilities and minimal drop-off. The second corner will likely go to Josh Wallace. Wallace has more live game experience than all of the other contenders combined, and once he masters the playbook, he will runaway with the competition.

Erik: Jaylen Harrell and Derrick Moore. I think they both have the size and speed to compete with Big Ten tackles week in and week out. Although I believe they will start, I do think that Braiden McGregor will push them and pull some downs away from them throughout the season. I do not think Josiah Stewart will get nearly as much playing time as he did at Coastal, but I expect Minter to play him frequently on special assignments when going up against smaller tackles or ones who are less mobile. His smaller frame could be problematic against athletic tackles but he’ll be a beast on blitzes or dropping back into coverage. Expect to see him on the field when Michigan decides to bring the house.

Adam: I think Jaylen Harrell is ready to step up at the edge position. He had 19 tackles and 3.5 sacks last year. In the secondary Josh Wallace could be that guy. He was very good for the Minutemen and is ready to make the jump to the Wolverines.

Kellen: Michigan has a bounty of talent at the edge spots. I think McGregor and Harrell start off the year due to seniority, but Stewart takes one of their starting spots by season’s end thanks to his ability to pressure the quarterback. As for CB2, I love the upside of Amorion Walker, but because of his experience at the position, I predict that job goes to Josh Wallace.

Jack: McGregor and Harrell will start, but I see this more as a four man rotation. Stewart and Moore will definitely see a lot of action. Josh Wallace is going to see the most time at CB2, but I expect this competition to extend into the regular season even if we see Wallace start a few games.

Okay, I SUPPOSE we can get to a question about the game this weekend, a glorified preseason game. What are you hoping to see the most in this game? The passing attack open up? The secondary locking down the opposing receivers? Something else?

Von: I want to see two things: A) No major injuries whatsoever — meaning, taking the starters out by halftime — and B) McCarthy connecting on a couple deep shots. It was one thing that was inconsistent last year up until the Ohio State game. Continuing the success they had against OSU, Purdue and TCU and hitting Cornelius Johnson, Roman Wilson and others on big plays would be really nice to see.

Dan: I want to see Michigan up by four touchdowns before the half. Even without Harbaugh, ECU has no business keeping this close. They’ll have to throw the football a lot if they do, so I want to see the pass rush get home five or more times and see the secondary force some turnovers.

Andrew: Chemistry in the passing game, a healthy Blake Corum, and the beginning of the end of all positional battles. Oddly enough, I want to see a few mistakes. Games like these are an opportunity to test, experiment, and improve; a joint-practice that counts. It’s best to find holes in a team early and fix them, then risk being exposed in a high-pressure moment.

Erik: I am intrigued to see the passing attack. I feel this will be a game Michigan is able to air it out as ECU struggled at pass defense last season and has a lot of question marks in the secondary. This should give younger receivers the opportunities to get some reps as well as witness the hype surrounding Roman Wilson’s development. It will be interesting to see if/how many touches Edwards gets in the slot for this game.

Adam: I am most excited to see Corum back on the field. He was amazing last year, but there are questions marks on if he is 100 percent. Seeing him back and Edwards will be a lot of fun this year and it starts on Saturday.

Kellen: I want to see Michigan’s best players take care of business. I want to see Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards rush for over 200 yards behind the best offensive line in the country. I want to see J.J. McCarthy complete passes, but I hope he’s got a clip board in his hand by the half. I want to see Will Johnson (if he plays) get an interception, and Kris Jenkins force a fumble. I’m also intrigued to see which second and third string players catch our attention and earn more time throughout the year.

Jack: I’m excited to see the O-line go out and smash again. As talented as Corum and Edwards are, this line allows them to get to the second level where their shiftiness and tackle-breaking abilities create highlights. I also want to see J.J. air it out, but who doesn’t. I never knocked his deep downfield passing last year because there was usually tight coverage on the throws he missed early in the season last year. He overthrew a lot of them which tells me he’d rather throw an incompletion than a underthrown pick. I’m looking to see these receivers create better separation like they did later in the season last year to make these throws a little easier to drop in the bucket.

The Wolverines are a heavy 36-point favorite. Do they cover, and why? And what is your score prediction?

Von: I do believe the Wolverines cover. I wouldn’t be stunned if the spread is covered by halftime. Final score: Michigan 52, ECU 10

Dan: Michigan covers mostly because of the defense. I think ECU struggles to move the ball as long as the Wolverines’ first team defense is on the field. The Pirates have a new quarterback, new running back, and only one returning starter on their offensive line. That’s a nightmare scenario playing one of the projected top defenses in the country. Give me Michigan by 40+ playing with a vengeance with two coaches suspended.

Andrew: ECU has to replace a 3,700-yard passer, 1,400-yard rusher, and two 1,000-yard receivers, in addition to improving its 130th pass defense from a year ago. The Pirates are the Tennessee Volunteers of the AAC with more questions than answers. Michigan rolls and the defense smothers for interim head coach Jesse Minter. 49-3.

Erik: I do think that Michigan covers in this game. I think there is a firm case they will due to ECU’s pass defensive woes. I expect Michigan to establish somewhat of a ground game but then air it out to take advantage of the weak secondary. I would expect to see a lot more passing yards that rushing yards in this game which generally leads to a higher scoring contest. I expect Michigan to win and cover, 48-10.

Adam: The Wolverines need to be ready to play as East Carolina is not going to a push over. They still should win the game easily, but it could be close early. Michigan wins, 42-10, but does not cover.

Kellen: Michigan wins 52-10, covering the spread thanks to their dominant run game and solid defensive play led by interim head coach Jesse Minter

Jack: No, we’re missing coaches and players against a notoriously scrappy team. I feel like we’ll be exposed a bit in the secondary, but our run defense will be a brick wall. I don’t expect we’ll do much scoring in the second half if we’re up by at least three scores.