Despite a phenomenal National Title run by the basketball team, this offseason has been brutally long.
2017-18 (we can use that because the team ‘played’ in a New Year’s Day bowl) was not very kind to the Michigan Wolverines. A youthful team made a lot of youthful mistakes and the quarterback situation resembled Michigan State’s offseason. It’s been so bad some have lounged around on hiatus for the last few months waiting for the season to come back...or to regather themselves, who knows?
But we’re just over a month away from the Wolverines taking on Notre Dame to open the year in a game that many believe will be featured as College Gameday’s opening weekend spot. Harbaugh and company have had a less than stellar record in these appearances, losing to Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State in his three years.
Howevah, Notre Dame is not those teams and this could be the most athletically talented squad Jimmy Khakis has had in his four seasons at the helm. Let’s break down the reasons Michigan is going to walk into South Bend and win what could turn out to be an extra home game (s/o Georgia).
Be warned, this post is going to be absolutely drenched in Maize n’ Blue Kool-Aid. Bluel-Aid, per say.
Brandon Wimbush — Notre Dame’s starting quarterback opened the year fine, and looked really good against Michigan State at the end of September. He went 14-for-20 for 173 yards and a touchdown with another 50 yards and a score on the ground. That’s certainly better than what John O’Korn put up only a couple weeks after.
After that game, Wimbush completed more than 50 percent of his passes only once the rest of the way, a 10-for-19 performance against North Carolina State. To give credit where credit is due, Wimbush is more of a running back that throws more than anything else, and had some fantastic performances on the ground. That can’t beat a Don Brown defense. Indiana saw it and Ohio State saw it. Michigan’s defense is too fast to rely on plays breaking down. You’ve got to be able to attack their talented, yet generally isolated secondary on difficult throws. Wimbush is probably less capable of that than Urban Meyer is vetting his coaches and players.
Michigan’s pass rush — The wonderful thing about Harbaugh’s recruiting until this year was that he nailed it on blue chips. For example, superstar Mo Hurst is being replaced by 5-star freak of nature Aubrey Solomon. Solomon joins the best pass rusher in the Big Ten, Chase Winovich, and likely first round pick Rashan Gary.
Brown’s blitzing attack will also bring pressure from the back seven, particularly in the form of twin missiles Devin Bush and Khaleke Hudson. The pass rush very much kept Michigan in games early last year, and the ability to replace Mike McCray with more speed should create just a half second more worth of chances on any given play. The Wolverines’ pass rush is a treasure chest of toys and they have the mad scientist to utilize them. They’ll keep ND off balance and should force more than a fair share of mistakes off of the shaky Wimbush.
For the first time, Harbaugh and the team seem 100 percent focused — This one may actually upset some people, and I need to preface it all by saying I enjoy the Euro-trips and the recruiting stunts and all of it.
That being said, there’s always been some type of aura around this team that there’s too much going on, that Jim’s antics are a distraction. The media didn’t get their usual scoop of slop in their troughs at Big Ten Media Days and threw some tantrums, but my spin on this is he’s just locked in on a different zone. Last year he was incredibly frustrated, and Harbaugh seemed off. He wasn’t as upset at mistakes or referees, and the enthusiasm that had been a staple of the program just wasn’t there. It was like he knew the team didn’t have the ceiling he wanted due to a number of factors. It appears 2018 is going to be different, and the entire staff’s focus appears different. It just feels like this team is different.
Tarik Black’s return and the growth of the kiddos — Michigan’s receivers were so young last year, and they lost their most polished weapon before the season really got going. Tarik Black returns from his leg injury 100 percent healthy while Donovan Peoples-Jones, Oliver Martin, Zach Gentry and Sean McKeon are another year more experienced. They’re still raw, but the baby fat should be trimmed. This group has the pedigree and raw talent to get things done, and I’m excited to see what they can do with improved coaching and a quarterback capable of making things happen...which brings us to...
.@TheMaxwellAward (given to the nation's top player) Watch List has been announced -- and @SheaPatterson_1 & Karan Higdon both made the initial list.— Michigan Football (@UMichFootball) July 22, 2018
WATCH LIST NEWS » https://t.co/6vdOBmd13b#GoBlue pic.twitter.com/dvEbvulB3E
Shea butter (and Karan Higdon) cures all — I am incredibly high on Shea Patterson. That’s not really a secret. In May, I wrote a harmless lil’ piece about what type of expectations should accompany a coach like Harbaugh paired with this defense and this quarterback. Feathers were ruffled and Barrett Sallee spent his entire afternoon fighting in his mentions with angry Michigan fans. It was glorious, and I’ve oft-said when Michigan beats Notre Dame, I will get back on Twitter just to tell Barrett how wrong he was. It fuels me. It drives me like click bait on ESPN fuels others. Just kidding, it doesn’t, but I am all in on this kid, and I’m all in on Harbaugh running a system similar to the one he unleashed Colin Kaepernick on the world with.
I’ll eat my words if he doesn’t, but this is the first time Michigan’s quarterback situation has had any level of hype going into the year. There are multiple mocks that have Patterson going in the first round, and that doesn’t happen without him having a good year. It starts against Notre Dame.
Listen, if you’ve gotten this far you’re either annoyed I blew smoke up your butt or you’re loving the optimism. I’m not going to tell you how to think. This has been a long offseason, and I can smell the season just around the corner. If that doesn’t get you jazzed, I don’t know what will.