By: Phillip Lutz, Sports Editor
Michigan needs to make some major changes after a very disappointing 8-5 2017 season and a 26-19 loss in the Outback Bowl.
This is more than necessary because of the level of difficulty with the 2018 season. The Wolverines have one of the toughest schedules in the NCAA next year.
September 1 at Notre Dame (night game)
September 8 Western Michigan
September 15 SMU
September 22 Nebraska
September 29 at Northwestern
October 6 Maryland (Homecoming)
October 13 Wisconsin
October 20 at Michigan State
October 27 Bye Week
November 3 Penn State
November 10 at Rutgers
November 17 Indiana
November 24 at Ohio State
December 1 Big Ten Championship Game (if they make it)
Michigan’s opponents in 2018 went 96-57 combined. No one will truly know how these teams will be next year but many of them will do the same if not get better. Michigan was the only Big Ten team to lose their bowl game in 2017 as the Big Ten went 7-1.
Teams like Nebraska will most certainly be better than their 4-8 record this year. New coach Scott Frost led his UCF team to an undefeated season and a win against Auburn in their bowl game in 2017.
Western Michigan and SMU are wildcards because you never know how they will be from year to year. Western Michigan was 13-1 in 2016 but fell flat in 2017 with a 6-6 record and no bowl game. SMU went 7-6 in 2017 and 5-7 in 2016.
Michigan State is another perfect example of this. Michigan State University went 3-9 in 2016 and rebounded to go 9-3 in 2017 and won the Holiday Bowl against Washington State.
Michigan has been good with Jim Harbaugh as their coach but not to the level that most believe they should be at. He has had winning seasons all three years but was lacking in 2017 with an 8-5 record. He also has a 1-5 record against Michigan State and Ohio State in his three years.
Michigan’s offense was abysmal to say it nicely and must improve greatly for them to even make a bowl game next season at 6-6. They have taken the first steps to improve with the hiring of Al Washington from Cincinnati to work on the defensive side of the ball. They have also hired Ben Herbert as the new Head Strength and Conditioning coach.
Michigan is also reportedly hiring Dan Enos as their new offensive coordinator from Arkansas. They are also losing Greg Frey who will be the offensive line coach at Florida State next year. Nothing has been said about Tim Drevno and Pep Hamilton who are currently Michigan’s offensive coordinators right now.
Harbaugh will have his hands full with incoming transfer Shea Patterson, Brandon Peters, Joe Milton, and Dylan McCaffrey all competing to be the starting quarterback in 2018. If Patterson gets permission to play by the league it really will be a heated battle heading into fall camp.
The defense should once again be really good with nine players returning from this year. The offense will need to prove itself and all the hype about the receivers for next year. Donovan Peoples-Jones, Tarik Black, and Nico Collins will all have a year under their belt and should be dominate as a group. The tight ends should also be well prepared after being well used in late 2017.
Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary will lead the team in quarterback hurries and forced fumbles. Devin Bush will be better than this year and will become a first team All-Big Ten player. Khaleke Hudson will have an even more dominant season than this year and will record double digit sacks.
Quinn Nordin will hit at least five 50 plus yard field goals next year. Punter Brad Robbins will be much better in 2018 and be able to pin opponents deep.
Michigan and coach Harbaugh will need to be contenders in 2018 for this regime to continue and silence all the doubters out there after the underwhelming 2017 season. If he does not, it may be his final season with the maize and blue.
As for 2018 personally this is my predictions for each game:
Penn State-Loss (Trace McSorley will go off and personally defeat the Wolverines through the air and running)
Indiana-Win (By a field goal)
Phillip’s pick next year is Michigan goes 9-3. They will also spoil Ohio State’s chance at the playoffs.
Email the Michigan Journal your thoughts on this and Michigan next year. These predictions are the Sports Editor’s alone and subject to change.