Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines made quite the splash in the offseason especially in terms of recruiting. 247Sports ranked Michigan’s incoming class at No. 5 overall in the nation. It’s a good thing, too. Michigan graduated quite a bit of talent from the 2016 squad and had 11 players selected in the NFL Draft. Harbaugh is going to need some serious contributions from the incoming talent in 2017.
Will this young team mature in time to compete for the Big Ten title? Let’s take a look at the games one at a time for a thumbnail preview.
GAME 1 | SEPTEMBER 2 vs. FLORIDA (in Arlington, TX)
If Michigan was looking for an opening game test – this is it. A nationally televised contest against the current SEC East Champions will certainly get the blood flowing. They say sunlight is the best disinfectant. We’ll get a good look at whether Michigan’s young talent can get the job done against quality competition.
My guess is while this game is nearly a coin flip situation, Florida may come out on top simply due to experience.
Prediction: LOSS 24-14 / RECORD: 0-1
GAME 2 | SEPTEMBER 9 vs. CINCINNCATI
Former Ohio State University coordinator and interim head coach Luke Fickell will lead the Bearcats to the Big House in Week 2. Teams associated with Fickell have defeated Michigan fourteen times.
However, Cincinnati is not Columbus. Look for Michigan to win their home opener.
Prediction: WIN 35-7 / RECORD: 1-1
GAME 3 | SEPTEMBER 16 vs. AIR FORCE
There is something attractive about the service academy football teams. Maybe it’s the old-school offense. Air Force is no different with their option-flavored, Wing-T, running game. It will be fun to watch, especially if you like blowout wins for the Wolverines.
Prediction: WIN 45-3 / RECORD: 2-1
GAME 4 | SEPTEMBER 23 at PURDUE
The first road “test” of the year come in West Lafayette, Indiana and courtesy of the Purdue Boilermakers. Purdue went 3-9 overall last season and was one of the worst teams in the league. Not much will change this season.
Michigan gets a break in their first road game.
Prediction: WIN 48-0 / RECORD: 3-1 (1-0)
GAME 5 | OCTOBER 7 vs. MICHIGAN STATE
The Wolverines catch a break and enjoy a bye-week before hosting their rivals from down the road in East Lansing. This game will probably be close simply because of the rivalry. However, the Spartans are reeling with attrition and dealing with the sexual assault scandal in East Lansing. Not to mention the bye week gives Harbaugh an extra chance to prepare his team.
Michigan wins and retains the Paul Bunyan Trophy.
Prediction: WIN 24-10 / RECORD: 4-1 (2-0)
GAME 6 | OCTOBER 14 at INDIANA
Big Ten road games are traditionally tough. Nothing is a guarantee and teams can surprise you. The Indiana Hoosiers have been making noise on the football field over the past few years with a high octane, speedy offense. In fact, the Hoosiers were bowl eligible for the last two seasons.
Sadly, head coach Kevin Wilson resigned at the end of the season among allegations that he had been mistreating players. Naturally, in true Buckeye fashion, Wilson was immediately hired as offensive coordinator in Columbus. So, Michigan will deal with him later. For now, Michigan will likely win their first difficult Big Ten road game of 2017.
Prediction: WIN 31-24 / RECORD: 5-1 (3-0)
GAME 7 | OCTOBER 21 at PENN STATE
Speaking of difficult road games! This is a potential roadblock in the Big Ten title hopes of the Wolverines. The Nittany Lions are trending in a positive direction as a football program finally and Happy Valley is not an easy place to play.
If Michigan does not have it’s defense and quarterback sorted out by this weekend – look out.
Prediction: WIN 21-17 / RECORD: 6-1 (4-0)
GAME 8 | OCTOBER 28 vs. RUTGERS (HOMECOMING)
Michigan will get an opportunity to lick their wounds and set some records against the lowly Scarlet Knights, who will be looking to improve in some capacity in year two under head coach Chris Ash.
It will be hard imagining the Wolverines hanging nearly 80 against on Rutgers, but it’d be even harder to imagine them losing this game.
Prediction: WIN 49-14 / RECORD: 7-1 (5-0)
GAME 9 | NOVEMBER 4 vs. MINNESOTA
The Gophers are an old school program. They play hard and try to win by controlling the clock with the run game and utilizing a strong defense. The addition of former Western Michigan University Head Coach P.J. Fleck should provide a little sizzle to this match-up.
But, Michigan should win easily.
Prediction: WIN 35-10 / RECORD: 8-1 (6-0)
GAME 10 | NOVEMBER 11 at MARYLAND
Former Harbaugh staffer D.J. Durkin leads the Terps for another season. Durkin is a feisty coach and will bring a solid running game to the field for Maryland. However, talent-wise, the gap is still too wide.
This may be “closer than the experts think,” as Lee Corso might say, given it is a road game in College Park.
Prediction: WIN 49-10 / RECORD: 9-1 (7-0)
GAME 11 | NOVEMBER 18 at WISCONSIN
Assuming that Michigan has taken care of business up to this point, the final two games of 2017 will shape the entire season for the Wolverines.
There are many factors that are stacked against Michigan in this game against Bucky Badger: 1) a young team, 2) a road game in one of the toughest environments in college football, and 3) hungry, talented opponent. However, I think that Michigan has a chance in this game.
The Badgers no longer have T.J. Watt ruining the lives of college offenses anymore. The coaching advantage also leans Blue in this match up. Harbaugh is famous for developing his players during the season and I think that gives Michigan the best chance for the upset.
Prediction: WIN 17-14 / RECORD: 10-1 (8-0)
GAME 12 | NOVEMBER 25 vs. OHIO STATE
This rivalry will be white hot once again this season. The Buckeye offense will be humming under the tutelage of new coordinator Kevin Wilson. Harbaugh and his assistants should have their young team developed and as ready as they can be for the match up.
The scene will shift back to Ann Arbor in 2017. Despite having the home field advantage, Ohio State is probably the better team, albeit by not that much. A close, competitive game for 60 minutes ends in another Buckeye victory.
Prediction: LOSS 24-17 / RECORD: 10-2 (8-1)