Friday, September 1, 2017

Michigan Wolverines 2017 Football Predictions

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities It is the best of times with Jim Harbaugh as head coach. It may be the worse year yet under Jim Harbaugh after two 10-3 seasons. Much is expected of Team 138. Much is fretful of Team 138. I started at Michigan in 1970. This is the first year when I am clueless about the team. We don’t know yet if Michigan has reached the ability of Nick Saban at Alabama and Urban Meyer at Ohio State to reload every year. I quickly learned in in the early years of the great Bo Schembechler that the Wolverines would lose the last game of the season – either to Ohio State or in a bowl game. But hope always sprang eternal. Then Michigan might win the last game, but would have lost a midseason game to an unranked Big ten team. It all came together in the 1997 season when the Wolverines went undefeated during the season, beat Washington State in the Rose Bowl, and claimed a share of the national title. Then back to normal. Great winning seasons, but always a setback. Michigan was 10-2-1 against Ohio State. Ohio State’s great coaches, Jim Tressel and Urban Myer, have flipped that number. Michigan has only defeated the Buckeyes once in the past 14 games. Lloyd Carr’s last season, 1997, was the turning point. The slide began with the opening game exactly 10 years ago on September 1, 1997. Michigan lost at home 34-32 to Appalachian State, and was then blown out the next week at home by Oregon. The team went on a winning streak, but lost the last two season games to Wisconsin and Ohio State. The team redeemed itself by defeating Florida and Urban Meyer 41-35 in the Citrus Bowl. Goodbye Lloyd; Hello Rich Rod, a good coach, but the wrong coach at the wrong school at the wrong time. 3-9, 5-7, 7-6. Goodbye Rich Rod. Hello Brady Hoke. 11-2 with a win over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. Michigan was back. Or not 8-5 7-6 5-7 Goodbye Brady, a good coach, wonderful person, but not tough enough on the players. Hello Harbaugh, the true successor to Bo and Woody. Every player has to learn his position, especially as a starter, at all times. 10-3, blowing out Florida 41-7 in the Citrus Bowl, Last year, great promise, with a 9-0 start, but then three losses in the final four games by a total of five points. The problem this year is in the dozens. 19 players from last year have signed pro contracts. Only 5 starters return, just on defense. The best defensive backfield in college last season – gone. The receiver corps – gone. The offensive line – mostly gone. Youth and inexperience can jell by the end of the season. Michigan has four difficult games on its schedule: Florida, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. The big unknown is the first game against Florida on Saturday, September 2. If the Wolverines defeat the Gators, then they are on the road a great record. If not, it may be a long season. The problem with the Florida game is that it is the first game of the college season. This is the game players show their inexperience and lack of cohesion by making stupid plays and penalties. Michigan has inexperience. Florida has ten players on indefinite suspension, including the star receiver and starting running back. Mistakes may decide the game. Michigan’s consistent problem over the past decade is winning on the road. Penn State and Wisconsin are away games. Wisconsin is the week before Ohio State, which means, win or lose, the wolverines will be banged up when they play Ohio State. A great season will be 3-1 against Florida, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. A really good season will be a win against The Ohio State University. They could also lose all four, making for a dreadful season. Injuries can also make a difference. Too many Michigan quarterbacks played Ohio State with limited passing ability because of injuries. For example, Michigan’s Wilton Speight suffered a shoulder injury in the Iowa game last year and lost his effectiveness over the remaining three games, including losses to Ohio State and Florida State. Injuries to quarterbacks and running backs are also caused by Michigan’s inconsistent offensive lines over the past decade. Coach Harbaugh is Old School. He loves a power running game with tight ends and fullbacks. He did it at Stanford. He’s still not there at Michigan. My prediction: 10-2 in the regular season. My optimistic fantasy: 15-0.

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