Recently, ESPN’s Bill Connelly wrote about his “What If’s,” detailing how each College Football Playoff contender can win the National Championship this season. For the Michigan Wolverines, he highlighted three: the need for a star wide receiver, a reliable pass rush and assistant coach stability.
Connelly laid out the case, but surmised it in a tweet (I refuse to call it a ‘Xeet’): “Michigan is basically one stud WR and one stud pass rusher away from glory.”
Michigan is basically one stud WR and one stud pass rusher away from glory. The ifs are minimal but enormous. pic.twitter.com/O6y3V6Rv5l— Bill Connelly (@ESPN_BillC) August 3, 2023
While college football is never this simple, Connelly is on the right path. Team 144 is very close to winning it all this season and has alleviated most of the concerns facing them this offseason. However, there are two more lingering concerns that need to be addressed in order for this team to achieve glory.
Will the real CB2 please stand up?
The Michigan defense is solid at 10/11 positions. Even going beyond the starters, the linebackers have four players to feel comfortable with. The safety room is overflowing with talent and the defensive tackles might be the single deepest position on the team.
Connelly focused on the pass rush, which is based on logic, but the lack of a second cornerback is more worrisome. Who starts opposite Will Johnson? Cases were made for four contenders last week, but without a proven commodity entering the season, this issue will linger until tested by a quality opponent.
While a seemingly small deficiency, any team with title aspirations cannot risk the potential exploitation this may cause. Think of the way Michigan State and Ohio State both targeted Gemon Green last season, and Green had three years of intermittent starting experience.
Fortunately for the Wolverines, this team will have ample time to resolve the positional battle and the new starter will be able to accrue a high volume of quality reps before being tested by a powerful passing attack.
Protect the RBs at all costs
Running backs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards have missed 10 combined games — 11 if you don’t count Corum’s 2022 Ohio State – the last two seasons. Edwards played the majority of last season with only two good limbs, and Corum has never reached Week 12 healthy in his career.
The health of Corum and Edwards directly translates to Michigan’s success. Last season, in games where both backs received a carry, Michigan never lost and won every game by 13 or more points.
If Corum is healthy, does Michigan lose to TCU? If Edwards is healthy, is the Illinois game even close?
Preserving the health of Michigan’s dynamic duo is not lost on the coaching staff, but is not something anyone on the team has direct control over. Sure, injury prevention, strengthening, flexibility and usage rate can play a factor, but there is no such thing as 100 percent injury-preventive in the sport of football.
Undoubtedly, the players and coaches have prepared and are doing everything in their power to preserve these two for November-January, but this one may just come down to the football gods.