Michigan football’s loss at Penn State essentially wiped out the Wolverines’ chances of winning the Big Ten title in 2019, barring an unforeseen act of the football gods and chaos the likes of which we haven’t seen since the 2007 college football season.
It probably isn’t happening, which would mark the fifth season in five years under Jim Harbaugh where Michigan does not have a shot at playing in Indianapolis. To some, that’s a fireable offense right now (probably very unlikely), but we have to see how the rest of this year plays out before having those conversations.
For now, we have to move forward with the assumption that Harbaugh remains the head coach in 2020. With that in mind, what could this operation potentially look like by then? There are too many variables in play as of Oct. 21 with five games and a likely bowl appearance, but let’s operate under this criteria just for fun:
- Harbaugh remains, as does offensive coordinator Josh Gattis and defensive coordinator Don Brown
- Michigan finally rolls with the QBs it recruited in Dylan McCaffrey and/or Joe Milton
- The offense truly starts to click like we saw glimpses of at Penn State and a young defense takes a step forward
Ok, let’s quickly go game-by-game through the first seven contests:
Week 1 at Washington: Michigan opens the 2020 season on the road at Washington in what could potentially be a 9 a.m. PT kickoff if Fox has its way. It’s hard to say who would have the advantage there, but obviously we know the Wolverines struggle on the road closer to home, let alone going out to the West coast. Prediction: Loss (0-1)
Week 2 vs. Ball State: It’s a MAC team. Ball State is sort of competitive, but it’s a MAC school. Unless we’re throwing back to the 2013-14 era of Michigan football, nothing to see here. Prediction: Win (1-1)
Week 3 vs. Arkansas State: See above passage, except Sun Belt and they aren’t as good a team. Prediction: Win (2-1)
Week 4 vs. Wisconsin: The Badgers will probably be without an NFL-bound Jonathan Taylor and a host of other talented players, but they always find ways to reload. Michigan has not had a problem in this matchup at home under Harbaugh and if Brown is still around, I’m sure this will be circled as the “game he lost sleep over for a year” game on the schedule. Prediction: Win (3-1, 1-0 B1G)
Week 5 vs. Penn State: This one’s tough to predict because the Penn State team you saw last weekend is essentially the one that will make its way to Ann Arbor in 2020. On the flip side, Michigan will be young in the trenches on both sides of the ball. The Wolverines have demolished the Nittany Lions both times they have come to Ann Arbor in the Harbaugh era, including the 2016 team that went on to win the Big Ten title (though they were decimated by injuries at the time). It’s way too early to tell and the gut says this is a coin flip game, but where we stand today, Penn State has a heck of a lot less of unknowns for next season. Prediction: Loss (3-2, 1-1 B1G)
Week 6 at Michigan State: This is a rivalry game, but Michigan State is going to lose just about everyone after this year and has already lost what seems like half its team to the transfer portal. Plus, they might be breaking in a new head coach. If they aren’t and Mark Dantonio returns, that might be even less promising for the Spartans. Prediction: Win (4-2, 2-1 B1G)
Week 7 at Minnesota: We’re going to find out over the next few weeks if Minnesota is legitimately emerging into a contender or not. If P.J. Fleck continues on the current trajectory, and if he does not get poached away after this season, the Gophers could wind up being one of the favorites to come out of the West. They’ve got games against Iowa and Wisconsin before this showdown, two teams they have yet to play this season. Keep an eye on the Gophers, but this should still probably be a Michigan win. Prediction: Win (5-2, 3-1 B1G)
The games that follow these are Purdue for homecoming, Maryland at home, Rutgers on the road, Indiana at home and then the finale in Columbus against Ohio State. If this is the scenario that Michigan finds itself in, there’s no reason they can’t be in the hunt still at 9-2 with one conference loss. This schedule is fairly front-loaded compared to what they will see in 2019, so you will know early on where this is headed.
There’s also the scenario in play where the offense has to find itself again with new offensive linemen, likely one or two wide receivers gone to the NFL Draft, a new quarterback, etc. and it takes time to develop. Given this team’s problems on the road at times, Michigan State and Minnesota might not be cakewalks, either.
This program should not be given the benefit of the doubt that they are going to get over the hump and get it done, but it isn’t all that hard to imagine them being in the thick of the race longer next year.
We’re tired of talking next year, I know. Share in the comments below what you’d need to see the rest of 2019 to suggest there’s any shot at redemption next season.
MnB’s All-Big Ten team selections
Our full results from the voting in our preseason basketball poll will go live later today, but first, I figured we’d give you an appetizer to hold you over until we post it.
Here’s who YOU voted to fill out the preseason All-Big Ten roster in our poll:
Guard: Cassius Winston, Michigan State
Guard: Anthony Cowan Jr., Maryland
Forward: Lamar Stevens, Penn State
Forward: Jalen Smith, Maryland
Center: Jon Teske, Michigan
Keep your eyes peeled on the rest of the results dropping on Monday. Those who voted in the poll also ranked the teams in the Big Ten in order of expected finish, as well as handed out some other hardware.
- In case you missed it on the basketball front, the Michigan Daily reported late Sunday night that forward Brandon Johns is currently in a walking boot after spraining his ankle.
- Urban Meyer doesn’t like the idea of having to run up the score on teams to pass the “eye test” to get into the playoff despite doing it to Wisconsin in 2014.
- Clemson Head coach Dabo Swinney made a player take a 450-mile bus ride back to campus instead of joining his team on the plane after he threw a punch in the game against Louisville on Saturday.