Friday, June 16, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Michigan Wolverines

Michigan Wolverines
The Wolverines were very close to winning the Big 10 East last fall, but a late loss to Iowa also lost them the services of Wilton Speight at QB, and that loss to Iowa, and the later loss to Ohio State, let the division slipped away, and then the Wolverines imploded in their bowl loss to Florida State. 2016 felt like a lost opportunity, one they are sure to rectify in 2017.
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Speight only missed one game at QB last season after his injury against Iowa, but he was certainly never the same after being hurt, and the offense suffered for it. Speight is back this fall, and should be entirely healthy, which is great news for Michigan. Speight did manage to pass for  2538 yards and 18 TDs to seven picks, a number that one would expect to improve this fall.
De'Veon Smith's loss will be a big hit, but it is time for Chris Evans and Karan Higdon to shine. Evans managed to average 6.98 yards per carry, and Higdon averaged 5.9 yards per carry. They combined for 1039 yards rushing and 10 scores.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Unlike Ohio State and Penn State, the Wolverines do have some issues on this side of the football. The most important issue will be on the line, where four starters must be replaced this fall. Michigan has recruited heavily in this area, but experience will be severely limited.
The receiving corps also has been massively depleted as we head into fall camp. The top three receivers, Amara Darboh, Jake Butt, and Jehu Chesson, are all gone. Grant Perry, with all of 13 receptions last fall, is the most experienced receiver coming back.
PK Kenny Allen hit 19/23 FG attempts last fall, and is also gone.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The Wolverines have severe losses on defense, and will have to depend solely on new starters and recruits across the board. Michigan had their best defense in years last fall, allowing just over 14 points per game, but now, they lose 10 of the top 12 tacklers from last season, and those issues could cost Michigan a run at the Big 10 East title.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
DL Chase Winovich is the most experienced tackler returning this fall, and he finished last fall with just 34 tackles on the season. Rashan Gary, who came in with geat fanfare, finished with 24 tackles as a freshman, and it will be his time to break out this fall. Not one other returning tackler finished with as many as 20 tackles last fall.
Kenny Allen was also the team's punter last fall, and the Wolverines are now trying to replace his 43.33 yards per punt average.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 Florida, 9/9 Cincinnati, 9/16 Air Force, 9/23 at Purdue, 10/7 Michigan State, 10/14 at Indiana, 10/21 at Penn State, 10/28 Rutgers, 11/4 Minnesota, 11/11 at Maryland, 11/18 at Wisconsin, 11/25 Ohio State
Final Overview
The Wolverines ranks of talent have been decimated. They have plenty of young talent, but that talent now has to translate to production and winning. It remains to be seen how good this team can be, but there are far too many questions to be able to believe that the Wolverines are in the class of Ohio State or Penn State in 2017. Still, the division below them is fairly watered down and weak, so Michigan still has enough gas in the tank to at least finish third in the division and find themselves in a decent bowl, if everything comes together. It's hard to bet against Jim Harbaugh, but this may be his toughest assignment to date.

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