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There has been talk over the past few months that there’s a race for the #1 running back spot, but so far I have yet to see evidence of that. Chris Evans and Karan Higdon are thought to be the top two by most, and some have said that Ty Isaac looks to be in the mix for #2, as well. Until I see otherwise, I’m going with the front-runner.
Prediction: Chris Evans, 900 yards
This one is really a crapshoot with no returning yardage producers to speak of and a bunch of freshmen in the running to play. The top returning receiver is Grant Perry, who had some off-the-field troubles and lost jersey #9 to freshman Donovan Peoples-Jones. Peoples-Jones, Kekoa Crawford, and Tarik Black also seem likely to play a bunch. I’m going with the guy who looked best in the spring, and that was Black.
Prediction: Tarik Black, 830 yards
Hit the jump for the rest of the season predictions.
Middle linebacker is naturally going to be a spot that picks up a bunch of tackles, and I don’t expect that to change this season. Last year it was Ben Gedeon at the MIKE position who led the squad with 100 tackles, and this year I think it will be Devin Bush, Jr., with a slightly lower total. He’s smaller than Gedeon, but he’s quicker and a better blitzer.
Prediction: Devin Bush, Jr., 95 tackles
Taco Charlton led the team in sacks in 2016, and I think it’s the guy replacing him who will lead this year. Chase Winovich is a relentless pass rusher with good speed to the outside and leverage to get inside. He finished second on the team in sacks last year. Rashan Gary and Maurice Hurst should also put up some decent sack numbers, and I expect Bush to get up there, too, but Winovich is my guy.
Prediction: Chase Winovich, 9 sacks
This one is difficult, because we haven’t seen the defensive backs play much. Lavert Hill – regarded as the guy with the best skill set – missed the spring game due to injury, and it’s not always the guy with the best skills who makes the most picks, anyway. For the latter reason, I’m going to go with David Long, who should get a few more opportunities to make plays.
Prediction: David Long, 3 interceptions
ALL-BIG TEN FIRST TEAM
Prediction: Mason Cole, Maurice Hurst, Jr.
LEADING SCORER (NON-KICKER)
Khalid Hill. The guy scored 13 touchdowns last year, and I see no reason to pick against him.
Prediction: Khalid Hill
BREAKOUT OFFENSIVE PLAYER
Lots of people break out the idea of Chris Evans as a breakout player, but he ran for 600 yards last year as a backup. I don’t think he’s a real breakout candidate unless he’s, like, a superstar who puts up 1,500 yards and is on the Heisman radar. I don’t think that’s happening. My breakout guy is someone who hasn’t played yet, and that’s Tarik Black. I think he’ll be a starter and lead Michigan in receiving as a true freshman.
Prediction: Tarik Black
BREAKOUT DEFENSIVE PLAYER
There are a lot of players to pick from on defense, since Michigan lost 11 starters from last season. The entire defensive line, two linebackers, and all four defensive backs are new starters. I really can’t decide between two, because I think both of them will be standouts this season: middle linebacker Devin Bush, Jr. and Viper Khaleke Hudson.
Prediction: Devin Bush, Jr. and Khaleke Hudson
MOST DISAPPOINTING OFFENSIVE PLAYER
I hate to do this, but with the way 2016 finished, with the way the 2017 spring game went, and with the questions about the 2017 offensive line, I think the quarterback is going to be under fire this year. He doesn’t have a proven running game or receivers, and Wilton Speight isn’t a guy who can win games on his own. I think it’s going to be a tough year for him, and people are going to be calling for his backup at times.
Prediction: Wilton Speight
MOST DISAPPOINTING DEFENSIVE PLAYER
While I think he’s a very important player because of a lack of depth, I think we will continue to be disappointed in Bryan Mone. He has yet to live up to his potential, he’s been out of shape at times, and he simply doesn’t produce. He can eat up double-teams, so I think the defense will be fine, but we’ll miss Ryan Glasgow.
Prediction: Bryan Mone
THE BIG FINISH
September 2 vs. Florida: WIN. I thought this was going to be a close contest, but with the distractions involving Florida (McElwain talking trash, a bunch of guys suspended, etc.), I think this is going to be a comfortable victory.
September 9 vs. Cincinnati: WIN. They weren’t good last year, and they won’t be good enough this season.
September 16 vs. Air Force: WIN. Air Force and the service academies scare me, but I think Michigan will be good enough to win comfortably after taking some early body shots.
September 23 at Purdue: WIN. I like the hiring of Brian Brohm at Purdue, but they don’t have the talent to compete right now.
October 7 vs. Michigan State: WIN. The depth chart at Michigan State is decimated. They could be anywhere from 3-9 and 6-6, but Michigan should beat them handily after getting over the hump last season.
October 14 at Indiana: WIN. Indiana hired Mike Debord as their offensive coordinator.
October 21 at Penn State: LOSS. I sure hope I’m wrong, but a game in Beaver Stadium against an explosive offense without all the injuries they suffered last year will be tough.
October 28 vs. Rutgers: WIN. Rutgers sucks.
November 4 vs. Minnesota: WIN. Another Big Ten hire I like, P.J. Fleck’s squad should put up a better fight than Purdue, but they probably won’t be a major threat just yet.
November 11 at Maryland: WIN. I’m very curious to see what Maryland’s offense looks like under whatever quarterback will be their guy this season. They have explosive running backs, but not much in the way of a passing game; and they have a decent secondary, but not much at linebacker. It seems to be an incomplete team.
November 18 at Wisconsin: WIN. I had previously pegged this game as a loss, but Wisconsin has lost a couple linebackers and I’m not believing in their offense for this season. Add in a first-year defensive coordinator, and I think Michigan squeaks by.
November 25 vs. Ohio State: LOSS. Ohio State has too much depth and experience to be overcome by Michigan’s lack of experience and, to a lesser extent, talent. Without Ohio State homer refs, the Wolverines should have a chance, but I think J.T. Barrett pushes the Buckeyes over the top.
Final record: 10-2
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