Opinion Roundtable: Predicting Michigan's 2020 Season
Michigan's schedule is final, and boy is it tough. Everyone is already going game by game to see how the Wolverines will fare. Here's how we see it playing out...
When I look at Michigan's schedule I only see three gimmes — Michigan State, at Rutgers and Maryland. That's it.
The road contest against Indiana is tricky, but I'll chalk that up as a win because Michigan is just a much more talented team. Tom Allen will have the Hoosiers ready, and they've been pesky, but I'll say W.
The regular season finale in Columbis is a loss as the Buckeyes are being picked by just about everyone to make the College Football Playoff. So there's 4-1.
That leaves three very tough, very tricky games to predict — at Minnesota, Wisconsin and Penn State. Based on how things have played out in the past under Harbaugh, and considering that Michigan has to break in a new quarterback and offensive line, I think they'll go 1-2 during that stretch with the losses coming against the Gophers and Penn State.
Overall, I see Michigan going 5-3 with losses against Minnesota, Penn State and Ohio State. Michigan has a chance to be quite good with a new, talented quarterback and a lot of weapons on offense, but there are a lot of question marks and unproven guys expected to play major roles.
My power ratings, assuming Ambry Thomas returns along with now Jalen Mayfield, and Nico Collins does not, currently have the Wolverines at least a 3-point favorite in six games. Penn State would be a toss up, and then Michigan would be a two touchdown underdog at Ohio State.
So if I were setting odds on a season win total for Michigan it would be 5 or 5.5.
I think the opening game is the swing game on the schedule. Michigan is the superior team, but there’s a matchup problem here. Minnesota’s receivers will be difficult to play man coverage with even if Thomas is back. And we have seen plenty of times in these settings that Don Brown’s defense can dominate 80% of the plays, but give up big plays the other 20% and lose the game right there.
That means our young but talented offense may need 28+ points to win right out of the gate. A big ask for a new quarterback making his first start, and a revamped offensive line that will take time to jell. I currently have Michigan a 5.5-point favorite. With a full stadium, which it won’t be, it would be down to three.
Win that game, and Michigan will go 6-2 at worst I believe. But lose that opener, and we’re probably already out of the title hunt given the opponents still to come.
This schedule is not going to be easy. All of these games being scheduled back-to-back makes things difficult, and the COVID-19 precautions leave me leery regarding all of these games being played. Many players are opting back in, which may make our predictions immediately outdated, but as of right now, I’m predicting a 6-2 season with losses to Wisconsin and Ohio State. All of this is subject to change once I see the new offensive line and Bazooka Joe slingin’ it around the field. Depending on the outcome of the first quarter on October 24, I may add a few to the win column.
The Wolverines will need to be in mid-season shape by Week 1 if they want to have a chance for a Big Ten Title in 2020. Starting off the year at Minnesota, a preseason Top-20 team, will be no easy task, especially with a new quarterback. Add in a rivalry game in Week 2 and at home versus Top-15 Wisconsin in Week 4, and the first half of the season looks extremely difficult. Josh Gattis & Co. will have to have Joe Milton and the offense firing on all cylinders from the get-go in order to be successful this year. In the second half of the season, Michigan will face Penn State at home and travel to Columbus, where they haven’t won since the turn of the century.
Four of eight teams on the Wolverines schedule won 10 or more games in 2019. Michigan will have many new faces on the depth chart in 2020, and I believe it will work in their favor. I expect multiple of Wolverines’ up and coming stars to have breakout seasons, including Joe Milton at quarterback and the young wide receiver corps. With Josh Gattis in year two of play-calling, I believe the offense will be near the top of the Big Ten. Don Brown’s defense will be the X-factor for Michigan’s success.
My prediction: 7-1 with a crushing loss to Ohio State in the Horseshoe.
Upon initial review, Michigan’s eight-game schedule looks to be as tough as any team’s in the conference. From the opposite division, U-M drew a season-opening matchup against a ranked Minnesota squad, and Michigan will have to face Wisconsin a couple weeks later, which is sure to be a difficult matchup as well. Since those are the two projected top teams from the other side of the conference, it’s hard to see Michigan’s schedule getting any more difficult.
I had Minnesota pegged as a tough game from the onset, and that continues to ring true since it’ll now be Week 1. When looking at the first half, I see two losses out of four games, both defeats coming against Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The second half of the schedule doesn’t let up much either. Penn State and Ohio State are both schools that return a lot of talent, and if the Nittany Lions get Micah Parsons back then their front seven looks downright nasty. As usual, the Buckeyes are loaded with quality players, so it’s hard to imagine those are victories for Jim Harbaugh’s squad.
With two losses in the first half of the season and tow losses later on, it looks like a pedestrian 2020 campaign for Michigan on paper. A 4-4 record with a loss to OSU will probably put Harbaugh on the hot seat, though it’s difficult to blame him too much for the wild leadup that predicated this season.
None of us knows the big question - how good is Joe Milton? If he’s the legit Top 10 quarterback (nationally) every Michigan fan has been waiting for under Jim Harbaugh, then there is no reason U-M can’t win the Big Ten, even with this murderous schedule. But around these parts, we all have to “see it to believe it.” The Wolverines have held serve at home for the most part under Harbaugh, so I’ll predict them to do so again, beating MSU, Wisconsin and Penn State (and Maryland). Give them the win at Rutgers and the season comes down to road trips to Minnesota, Indiana and Ohio State. A betting man says they win at least one, but probably not two, based on Harbaugh’s track record since 2015. 6-2, losses to bookend the season, and U-M finishes second in the East.