65 Teams in 65 Days: Michigan Wolverines

Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh

Offensive Coordinator: Sherrone Moore & Matt Weiss (First Season)

Defensive Coordinator: Jesse Minter (First Season) Conference: BIG 10

2021 Record: 12-2 (8-1) (Lost to UGA in Orange Bowl)

2022 Non Conference Opponents: Colorado State, Hawaii, UConn

Key Additions: C Olusegun Oluwatimi (Virginia)

At long last, Jim Harbaugh did the unthinkable and beat Ohio State in 2021. The Wolverines went on to win the BIG 10 and make the college football playoff, where they eventually got throttled by Georgia. They lose their best defensive players in Aidan Hutchinson, Daxton Hill and David Ojabo, along with offensive coordinator Josh Gattis and defensive coordinator Mike MacDonald. Jim Harbaugh made some solid coaching hires by promoting Matt Weiss to Co-offensive coordinator and hiring former Vanderbilt defensive coordinator Jesse Minter. In 2022, the Wolverines have hopes to repeat as BIG 10 champs.

They return quarterback Cade McNamara, but there are doubts that he will be the Wolverines signal caller as JJ McCarthy has the hearts of many Michigan fans. If I’m Jim Harbaugh, I am sticking with McNamara. During 2020, Michigan was in the mud and looked absolutely terrible until McNamara became starter. He was vital in bringing Michigan “back” and his leadership is one of a kind. He’s not even a bad quarterback like many are making him out to be. In 2021, he only threw a turnover worthy pass on 2.2% of his attempts and his adjusted completion percentage was just under 75%. Not to mention he had his best game of the season in Michigan's biggest win of the decade, versus Ohio State. Against the Buckeyes, McNamara had three big time throws, completing one on 14.3% of his attempts, his best rate during conference play by a huge margin. The McNamara haters will bring up his poor performance against Georgia, as if Georgia didn’t have a loaded defense and Heisman winner Bryce Young didn’t have an awful performance against them in the National Championship Game. McNamara may not be the most talented quarterback, but he has a great feel for the game and possesses elite leadership qualities. I hope he remains the Wolverines starter. The rushing attack loses Hassan Haskins, who rushed for over 1,300 yards in 2021, but they get Blake Corum back, who was arguably better than Haskins from an efficiency standpoint. Corum possesses both elite speed and physicality, as he averaged more than 3.5 yards after contact per carry and led the team in yards per carry last season, with 6.6. Corum’s workload will increase a ton in 2022 and he will be the backbone of Michigan's offense. In my eyes, he is a top five running back in the nation and he will dominate the BIG 10. Backing him up will be Donovan Edwards, who was solid in 2021, averaging five yards per carry. Corum will also be a factor in Michigan's passing attack, as he had 22 receptions last season. However the main pass catchers will be Cornelius Johnson and Ronnie Bell, one of the most underrated wide receiver duos in the nation. With Bell out in 2021 due to injury, Johnson’s workload was much heavier than expected, and he rose to the occasion. He totaled 620 receiving yards and averaged more than 15 yards per reception. His only flaw was his hands, as he had a drop rate of 15.7%. That number will drop in 2022 and Johnson will solidify himself as an elite receiver in college football. Like I previously mentioned, Ronnie Bell missed nearly every game in 2021. However, he was a stud in 2019 and 2020. When he came to Michigan, he was mainly a slot receiver, but as time went on, he became a great all around threat and versatile player as he can line up anywhere. Over the course of his career, Bell has totaled over 1,300 receiving yards and has averaged 16.8 yards per reception. Along with Johnson and Bell, the Wolverines also have Roman Wilson and tight end Erick All. Both of them recorded over 400 receiving yards in 2021 and provide great depth to a loaded and versatile pass catching group. The offensive line was damn near flawless last season, as no starter allowed more than 3 sacks and the success of the run game was largely due to them. They return three of those five starters and brought in Virginia transfer center Olusegun Oluwatimi, one of the best transfers of the offseason. Last season at UVA, Oluwatimi only allowed three sacks, but mainly excelled as a run blocker, boasting a PFF run blocking grade of 90.2. Adding him to an already great offensive line is huge for the Wolverines, and look for their experienced offensive line to rank among the best in the nation.

Despite losing most of their best defensive players, Michigan's defense will be elite once again. The defensive line returns only one starter in defensive tackle Mazi Smith, a great all around defender, who plays fundamentally sound, as he committed no penalties and only missed 6.5% of his tackle attempts last season, which ranked best out of the Wolverines starters. The rest of the group lacks starting experience, but every member played meaningful snaps in 2021, and they all graded above average. The defensive end duo of Mike Morris and Taylor Upshaw may not be as productive as Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, but they are still one of the better groups in the BIG 10. Expect Upshaw to have a breakout season, as he showed great flashes as a pass rusher in 2021, recording 16 pressures on 119 pass rushing snaps. Both starting linebackers played plenty of snaps in 2021, as Junior Colson started most of the Wolverines games, playing a total of 521 snaps, and his counterpart, Nikhai Hill-Green played the 13th most snaps on the Wolverines defense with 370. Neither were great last season, but Colson was just a freshman and Hill-Green only played eight snaps in 2020. Both will improve in 2022, having a year under their belt and as a linebacking unit, they are one of the better ones in the BIG 10. The secondary returns DJ Turner, one of the best cornerbacks in the nation. In 2021, Turner recorded two interceptions and eight forced incompletions, while allowing a 54.4 passer rating when targeted. Undoubtedly, he is a top ten corner in the nation and will be a BIG 10 First Team selection this season. On the opposite side of Turner will be Mike Sainristil, a converted wide receiver who Jim Harbaugh says reminds him of Jimmie Ward. I trust Sainristil and think he will have a good season, but what worries me is the depth of the cornerback room. Sainristil was a productive wide receiver and played a solid amount of snaps. His move to corner speaks volumes about the Michigan secondary and how they lack depth, which could hurt them in the later parts of the season. At safety, R.J. Moten played 499 snaps last season and was solid in every aspect of the game. He recorded two forced incompletions and recorded an interception, while also being more than serviceable against the run. His counterpart Rod Moore, played a ton for a freshman last season and I expect him to breakout in 2022, as he was able to learn from first round pick Daxton Hill and get meaningful experience. The lack of depth at corner is worrisome, but given how elite DJ Turner is, I still feel Michigan’s secondary will be fine.

Michigan plays only four road games in 2022 and two of those games are against Indiana and Illinois, two teams that will not be playing football in December. Their non-conference schedule is a cakewalk and they should beat Colorado State, Hawaii and UConn by a total of 120 points at the very least. The versatility of the Wolverines offense will carry them throughout conference play, but I think the Wolverines fall to Iowa on the road, a matchup they haven’t won in nearly 20 years. The season finale at Ohio State will be the decider, and I think that is where Michigan’s lack of depth at cornerback finally catches up to them, as Ohio State has the deepest and most talented wide receiving corps in the nation, led by Jaxson Smith-Njigba. The Wolverines finish the season 10-2 and will likely reach a New Year's Six Bowl.

Record Prediction: 10-2 (7-2)

V Colorado State: Win

V Hawaii: Win

V UConn: Win

V Maryland: Win

AT Iowa: Loss

AT Indiana: Win

V Penn State: Win

V Michigan State: Win

AT Rutgers: Win

V Nebraska: Win

V Illinois: Win

AT Ohio State: Loss

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