Michigan finishes their regular season 8-4, fourth place in the Big Ten East. For many, it was a disappointing season. For others, it was just part of a rebuild. Regardless of how the season is viewed, it was a definite step back from 2016 when they were an overtime away from winning the division.
All that’s left for Michigan is to see what bowl game they land in and who they will face. Through the ups and downs of the 2017 season, here are the three biggest takeaways.
FUTURE QUARTERBACK IS UNCLEAR
The quarterback scenario was a bit of a debacle all season. With Wilton Speight getting injured, John O’Korn got the starting job. Early on it looked like it might work, but things seemed to unravel quickly, starting in the Michigan State game. After the offense stumbled in the 14-10 loss to Spartans, it only managed 20 points in regulation against Indiana and 13 points against Penn State.
After an early slow start against Rutgers Jim Harbaugh replaced O’Korn with Brandon Peters. The move was a shot in the arm to the offense as Peters led the Wolverines to blowout wins against the Scarlet Knights in relief, followed up with similar outcomes against Minnesota and Maryland. Unfortunately, Peters was injured in the game against Wisconsin and Harbaugh was left to start O’Korn once more.
O’Korn has no more playing eligibility and Wilton Speight has announced he is transferring out for next season. This means for next season there will probably be a fight between Peters, freshman Dylan McCaffrey, and likely a transfer or new recruit for the starting quarterback spot. If Michigan is going to compete against the top dogs moving forward they are going to need a starting quarterback that they can rely on for the whole season.
With the exception of the Penn State and Ohio State game, Michigan’s defense has won or at least kept them in every game. The defense held opponents to 20 or fewer points in nine out of 12 games, and that was playing behind an offense that at times struggled to stay on the field.
The defense was not only one of the best in the conference, but nationally as well. Six Wolverines were tabbed to the Big Ten All-Defense team on Tuesday, four of which earned first-team honors in some capacity.
This is probably the brightest spot for this team. If they can get a big-time offense to pair up with this defense they might be able to take that big next step to contend for the Big Ten and maybe a playoff spot.
COULDN’T BEAT BIG TEAMS
Michigan’s only win against a ranked team was in week one when they beat a Florida team who was ranked based on 2016. The Gators turned out to be a train wreck, finishing 4-7 and firing head coach Jim McElwain midway through the season.
After that, Michigan went 0-3 against ranked teams, and that’s not counting Michigan State who wasn’t ranked until after the game. The Wolverines looked atrocious in their losses, they couldn’t get anything going on offense against Michigan State, got their doors blown off against Penn State, and came crashing down late after promising starts against Wisconsin and Ohio State.
You can use the quarterback excuse or point out the high roster turnover from last season to this season, but it doesn’t make those losses any less of an eyesore. Michigan is now 1-5 against their two biggest rivals under Jim Harbaugh, which cannot continue if they plan on contending for a title.
After their bowl game, Michigan will have a lot of work to do this offseason. They will be expected to step it up a notch next season and what they did this season simply won’t cut it. The hope will be that they can find the right quarterback and build an offense that can compete in big games.