This week, we asked our staff members here to go on the record with their predictions for Michigan football’s 2021 record. We also asked them to explain some of the selections, the trap games on the schedule and how Michigan might fare against its rivals.
Without further ado, here we go.
Von Lozon: 7-5
Andrew Bailey: 9-3
Dan Plocher: 8-4
Harley Johnson: 8-4
Scotty White: 9-3
Matt Eifert: 8-4
Jacob Shames: 8-4
Anthony Broome: 8-4 (full game-by-game breakdown here)
What will be Michigan’s best win? Why?
Von Lozon: Washington
Andrew Bailey: Penn State. Winning in Happy Valley is never easy and exacting revenge on a Penn State team the Wolverines haven’t beaten since 2018 will be very sweet. I mean, come on, you cannot let Sean Clifford have three straight wins against you.
Dan Plocher: I think Michigan beats Washington. It will give Wolverines fans a bunch of hype for the season and we will start hearing from national pundits that maybe the Harbaugh tenure has been turned around. Then, like they have several times over the Harbaugh era, Michigan will struggle on the road against Wisconsin and lose by three touchdowns and we will be sent right back into the cycle.
Harley Johnson: MSU. Last year felt like a fluke like the “trouble with the snap” game. This could be a rebound game, similar to the revenge tour year.
Scotty White: Michigan’s best win will be Washington. They don’t quite have what it takes to go into Madison or Happy Valley and get a win there this year, but the week 2 win is going to be satisfying.
Matt Eifert: Washington. I don’t believe in the Washington hype this year and think Michigan will start hot out of the gate. Harbaugh needs a big, early-season victory and he knows it.
Jacob Shames: I have the Wolverines losing to Washington, Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State, so my answer would have to be Indiana, since the Hoosiers appear to be the best of the other eight teams on the schedule. I think Michigan scores enough points at home to outlast Indiana, which doesn’t have the rushing attack necessary to really attack the Wolverines’ worst defensive unit.
What will be Michigan’s worst loss? Why?
Von Lozon: Nebraska, because they’ll be bad again but I could see the Cornhuskers squeaking out a close W at home, in a likely night game.
Andrew Bailey: Northwestern. The Wildcats will regress from last season, but will catch the Wolverines off a BYE week and a sluggish Michigan team will be caught at home. It will be ugly, but Northwestern takes it by a field goal.
Dan Plocher: Is it cliche to say Ohio State? At this point it’s an assumption. While I have hope for every other game on the schedule, I have zero for the most important game of the year. What has the past 8 consecutive losses taught us? That Michigan is no where near the level of Ohio State on the field.
Harley Johnson: Score differential and play execution? OSU. I feel a heartbreaker in there like two years ago at Penn State, which coincidentally we are going to be playing at Penn State. It’s a toss up of what we consider the worst: a heartbreaker or no hope at all.
Scott White: Ohio State. Not because it’s a bad team, but because it stings worse and worse every year.
Matt Eifert: Scotty I don’t know if losing at Wisconsin counts as a bad loss, but I don’t see Michigan prevailing. Despite a young, untested skill position core in Madison, I don’t trust a new Michigan defensive scheme against any Badger offensive line. This one could get ugly.
Jacob Shames: I don’t think any of Washington, Wisconsin, Penn State or Ohio State could be considered *bad* losses, even though you’d like to see Michigan pick at least one of those games off. But Washington has the potential to really overwhelm the Wolverines and make them look ugly. The Huskies have a stout Big Ten-style offense with an experienced offensive line and deep running back rotation — in short, they’re equipped to hurt Michigan where it hurts. That’s not a team you want to see so early in the season with so many defensive unknowns.
What’s your pick for Michigan’s biggest trap game? Why?
Von Lozon: Again, at Nebraska. It’s a pivotal year for Scott Frost. If he has another bad year, he very well could be out. Sound familiar? Both head coaches need victories this year, so I expect the Cornhuskers to give Michigan all they’ve got.
Andrew Bailey: Maryland. The game falls between Penn State and Ohio State. Jim Harbaugh teams have been historically good in this spot, but the danger remains. While Mike Locksley has only won eight career games as a head coach (yikes), nothing would please him more than to pull off this upset in College Park.
Dan Plocher: The penultimate game of the season against Maryland is the biggest trap game. Michigan routinely struggles the week prior to the Ohio State game and they face the Terps on the road. Taulia Tagovailoa showed flashes of being one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten and he has an experienced receiving corps around him. I think they are an underrated team to watch for maybe an upset or two this season.
Harley Johnson: Maryland. The initial guttural reaction to seeing that we are playing them the week before OSU is giving me a preliminary ulcer. Maryland has appeared to me to be on an upswing mobility as a program. Usually the game right before OSU has been Indiana, which is usually the most notorious trap game of Michigan’s season. Then I remember Maryland almost knocking OSU when they went for two about three years ago.
Scotty White: I think Northwestern is going to be a tough game. They were obviously a solid team last year, but they seem to be overlooked a little bit last year.
Matt Eifert: For me, it’s Michigan State. Many Michigan fans, myself included, like to write off the 2020 upset as an abnormality in an already abnormal year. Michigan may be the better team again on paper in 2021, but this will be an entirely new Spartan team.
Jacob Shames: Nebras.....lmao just kidding. It’s probably Northwestern. The Wildcats are losing a lot from last year’s team, but they always manage to cobble together a defense good enough to make things ugly and their offense took a step forward last season.
Discuss your expectations for Michigan’s rivalry games (MSU, OSU)
Von Lozon: Close game against Michigan State; another blowout against Ohio State. This is just how it’s been over the last decade or so, so I base this expectation entirely on recent history. Until something unexpected happens, I’ll keep coming up with, admittedly, boring predictions.
Andrew Bailey: Michigan State is the biggest game of Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan tenure. This is the must-win of all must-wins. It will be a fight in the phone booth. Harbaugh has never lost back to back games to Michigan State and I do not anticipate that happening now.
Who else is sick of seeing the ‘Just beat Ohio” replies and comments? We all get it. Everyone understands the importance of The Game. While I am not going to wax poetic like 2018 with the #OurYear posts running wild, 2021 is a more plausible season than most to summit the Buckeyes. Ryan Day is ushering in a green quarterback and there are serious questions about the Ohio State defense. Even if the Buckeyes remain a dominant force in college football, the 2021 iteration of The Game will be more similar to 2017, than it was in the last two meetings.
Dan Plocher: I’m typically an optimistic person. I usually go into every game against Ohio State with the mentality that maybe something will go right and the Wolverines will actually beat their archrival. But things are different now. At some point I need to face the reality that the Wolverines just aren’t going to keep up with them until major changes happen. I was born in 1997, so the only games I actually remember the Wolverines winning were in 2003 and 2011. We are talking about wins that happened a decade ago and a decade before then. The commonality in those two games was good quarterback play from Michigan (John Navarre in ‘03, Denard Robinson in ‘11) and the Wolverines at least being on a level playing field. Cade McNamara has shown flashes, but they need him to be great to beat Ohio State. All indication of the past two decades is that the talent and coaching in Columbus is far superior to that of Ann Arbor.
Harley Johnson: MSU will be stupid football played on both sides like it almost always is. For OSU, the beginning of the season always feels like it has the most “maybe this will be the year” but realistically I don’t see much going into this year. My standards nowadays are to at least keep it close. I can’t take another smackdown. I would want to see the dynamic of the team in game time to put 100% support into how the outcome could play out.
Scotty White: The Ohio State game is going to be bad. They’re just too good. I would be shocked if Michigan keeps it within three touchdowns if I’m being 100% honest. As for Michigan State, there is no excuse to lose them and I expect Michigan to be the much better team and win by double digits.
Matt Eifert: I expect Michigan to win a nail-biter against MSU. MSU will come out quickly and punch the Wolverines in the mouth, but Michigan will prove their resilience when it matters late in the game. As for OSU, I sadly expect another bloodbath. Michigan may keep it close in the first quarter, but the sheer talent gap will play itself out over the final three quarters and the Buckeyes will have the game in hand by halftime. I hope they prove me wrong.
Jacob Shames: Michigan should beat Michigan State because Michigan is a better football team than Michigan State and a loss to the Spartans just isn’t acceptable at this point.
After 2016, 2017 and 2018, I honestly feel like a good-but-not-great Wolverine squad has just as much a chance at catching Ohio State on a bad day as an elite Wolverine team has of outplaying the Buckeyes with all other variables being equal. But the thing about miracles is that you don’t expect them to happen.