As disappointing as it was to fall in the College Football Playoff semifinals for the second year in a row, it is hard to feel anything but optimism for the Michigan Wolverines heading into the 2023 season. It is not just the fanbase that is excited, though; national pundits are recognizing the opportunity as well.
The latest is Fox Sports’ Joel Klatt, who is plenty familiar with this program given the number of Big Noon Saturdays Michigan has seen as of late. On the Rich Eisen Show, Klatt liked the Wolverines as favorites to win their third straight Big Ten and be contenders for an even greater prize. In just 90 seconds of conversation, Klatt laid out a plethora of reasons for why 2023 could be a special season.
“He’s got all the pieces”
Championship teams need championship-level players, and it finally feels like Michigan is loading up the roster appropriately. Klatt names Blake Corum and Will Johnson specifically, but there are studs in virtually every key area, most of whom have meaningful starting experience. For too long it felt like the Wolverines needed to compensate for their gaps with specific schemes, but the list of weaknesses heading into this season is slim.
Between Corum, Donovan Edwards, Cornelius Johnson, Roman Wilson and Colston Loveland, there has been no greater core of weapons during Jim Harbaugh’s time in Ann Arbor. Add in back-to-back Joe Moore Award-winning offensive lines, some monsters along the defensive front, and defensive backs like Mike Sainristil and Rod Moore to go with Johnson, and it is hard to see this team not going far.
New quarterbacks galore
Despite all those names, perhaps the biggest factor in Michigan’s favor is the return of J.J. McCarthy. He endured some ups and downs during his first season as a full-time starter, but it is undeniable that A) He has boatloads of talent, and B) He is not anywhere near his ceiling yet. With another offseason under his belt and job security heading into the season, McCarthy could be scary good this fall.
That becomes even more important when looking at the Wolverines’ top competition. Klatt points out C.J. Stroud and Sean Clifford are gone from Ohio State and Penn State, respectively. So too are Georgia’s Stetson Bennett and Alabama’s Bryce Young, which has Eisen noting that Klatt is looking at Michigan’s path well past conference play. Quarterbacks like Kyle McCord and Drew Allar have plenty of talent, but it is much better to be trotting out an elite option like McCarthy with a full season’s worth of experience already rather than relying on someone brand new.
One other key area Klatt digs into is the state of Harbaugh’s tenure. It may be speculation, but Klatt postulates the coach’s interest in the NFL had more to do with “his relationships in Ann Arbor than his desire to go to the NFL,” before stating he believes those relationships have now been fixed.
Vibes are hard to quantify, but there are certainly indications the culture is quite strong within the Michigan football program right now. A number of key pieces have chosen to return for another season, the 2024 recruiting class is off to an incredible start and it really feels like Harbaugh is finally capitalizing on some momentum. At the end of the day, it has to result in wins on the field — and banners — but all the evidence is pointing to something great happening in 2023.