After a lackluster 8-5 season in 2017, the Michigan Wolverines enter 2018 as one of the most hyped programs in the country...again.
Shea Patterson is the quarterback Jim Harbaugh has been waiting for. Pair that up with one of the best running back duos in the conference, young stud receivers and a beast of a defense, and you’ve got yourself a playoff appearance waiting on the horizon.
Here are five reasons from several Maize n Brew writers that Michigan WILL make the College Football Playoff in 2018.
1. Strength of schedule
Daniel Plocher: “Michigan has one of the toughest schedules in the nation this season in an ever-difficult Big Ten East. Along with that, the Wolverines face arguably the two best teams in the West in Wisconsin and Nebraska, and a renewed rivalry with Notre Dame. Even in the event of one slip up in these games, Michigan will be at the top of the list of one-loss teams who could find their way into the playoff.”
David Noe: “Jim Harbaugh makes that major leap after an 8-5 season and wins the Big Ten. Many think just getting through their rivals with wins this year is a step forward, but he does more and beats all three big teams in the East division to win the Big Ten against Wisconsin.”
2. Shea Patterson
Sam Dodge: “Jim Harbaugh now has an elite quarterback similar to Andrew Luck in Shea Patterson, and the similarities are stark.”
Daniel Plocher: “The hype around Shea Patterson right now is through the roof. Heisman and Maxwell predictions, leading an 8-5 team to the promised land, and much more will be on his shoulders, especially combining him with the QB mind that Harbaugh has. Anything less than a CFP appearance will be a major disappointment if Patterson can stay healthy.
His mobility, and the capability to run the RPO will revolutionize the Michigan offense which has been so poor over Harbaugh’s reign. He needs to set the precedent of what a Harbaugh quarterback at Michigan will look like over the coming years, teaching guys like Joe Milton and Dylan McCaffrey how to lead this program.
There is no doubt Patterson is a real game-changer for the Wolverines. If Harbaugh can teach him to be a more patient QB, and the O-line can protect him from some of the fiercest defenses in the nation, Patterson could be a lethal addition to winning the Big Ten.”
3. A strong offseason of bringing in new coaches
David Noe: “Michigan had a quiet offseason with Jim Harbaugh, not dominating the headlines, and added some great new personnel.
“What has been a major issue for years is the offensive line. The Wolverines went out and got Ed Warinner, who was with Ohio State as their offensive coordinator from 2012 to 2016 before going to Minnesota for one season. Ben Herbert was another solid hire as their new strength and conditioning coach after five seasons with Arkansas. The former Florida head coach, Jim McElwain, was the other piece to a staff that will look different in 2018. Seasons can be won in the offseason, and Michigan started 2018 with a win with these three hires.”
Sam Dodge: “There are a lot of parallels between Harbaugh’s fourth season at Stanford and the upcoming Michigan one.
The most obvious? Both teams finished 8-5 the year before. In addition, the team’s success depended mostly on one side of the ball. For Stanford in 2010, their No. 3 offense in S&P elevated the No. 83 defense. Michigan’s No. 10 defense carried the stagnant No. 85 offense in 2017.
While 8-5 looked superficially like vast improvement for the Cardinal, Harbaugh harbored deep frustration heading into his fourth year. He shifted his coaching staff around, seeing five assistants leave, and at least three involuntarily.
He added NFL veteran assistants in Vic Fangio and current Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason to boost the 2011 defense to No. 23 nationally. Going into 2018, he replaced Tim Drevno and Greg Frey with Ed Warinner, and shifted the responsibilities to add former Florida head coach Jim McElwain, Sherrone Moore and Al Washington.”
4. Don. Freakin’. Brown.
David Noe: “All I need to say is Don Brown.
“Michigan has most of their starters returning on defense and this unit will be one of the best in the country, maybe the best at Michigan since 2006. In the end, they will come up big in away games against ranked opponents, and that starts at Notre Dame. Most teams will struggle to get past 21 points all season.”
Daniel Plocher: “Returning most of their defensive players, Don Brown has the potential to take this Michigan defense to new heights. They only lost two starters from last year and still have some of the fiercest names in college football in Devin Bush Jr., Chase Winovich, Khaleke Hudson, David Long and Rashan Gary to carry this Michigan D to the top.
“There are also some up and comers in Aubrey Solomon and Josh Metellus who fans should keep an eye on. With the quality of talent this defense has and the defensive genius that Brown is, this could easily be strides ahead of any other defense in the country. Saying it will be difficult to score on the Wolverines this year is an understatement.”
5. An overall experienced team
David Noe: “The WR/TE group is more experienced this season, and it shows. Tarik Black and Donovan Peoples-Jones will become a duo that’s talked about a lot. These two alongside the TE unit of Sean McKeon and Zach Gentry will provide some tall targets for Shea to have a field day with in games.”
Daniel Plocher: “We already talked about how lethal the defense is going to be, but there is so much experience on both sides of the ball at this point. The aforementioned defense will be scary for sure, but the growth and depth of guys like Tarik Black and Donovan Peoples-Jones will be apparent in 2018.
“The offensive line is going to be much better under the direction of new coach Ed Warinner. Guys like Michael Onwenu, Cesar Ruiz and Juwann Bushell-Beatty will have the chance to really step up this upcoming season.
“On top of that, Michigan is returning one of the best one-two punches at running back in the Big Ten. The physicality of Karan Higdon pushing through the line of scrimmage and the speed of Chris Evans will make for a terrifying backfield with the speed of the RPO and Shea Patterson. If the O-line can make holes, these guys will find an easy way to run through them.”