ESPN: Michigan Could Be Surprise Playoff Team

ESPN: Michigan Could Be Surprise Playoff Team

Football

ESPN: Michigan Could Be Surprise Playoff Team


ESPN can see the 2018 Wolverines have a big year if some questions get answered.


ESPN: Michigan Could Be Surprise Playoff Team

Would it really be a surprise for Michigan to make the College Football Playoff?

Sure, Michigan is coming off a disappointing 8-5 season, and fan enthusiasm this offseason appears to be at an all-time low in the Jim Harbaugh era.

But, last year, Michigan was one of the youngest, most inexperienced teams in all of college football. That the maize and blue faltered down the stretch with a backup (or even third-string) quarterback should be no surprise.

2018 should be different.

The bulk of last year’s squad returns, including nine from the nation’s third-best defense. Michigan has upgraded the quarterback position, with either former five-star QB Shea Patterson or third-year signal caller Brandon Peters expected to be under center. The Wolverines hires Ed Warinner, the offensive line guru who masterminded the elite trenches of Ohio State’s championship run.

When you take everything into account, everything is right there for Michigan. Even with a brutal schedule, the Wolverines should be much improved, which has ESPN saying that the maize and blue could surprise those who merely say that Michigan can’t finish better than third in the division.

Thus, according to the “worldwide leader,” Michigan ranks fourth overall in their list of teams that could surprise and make a championship run in 2018.

The Wolverines went 8-5 a season ago, dropping their final three games, including another loss to rival Ohio State. Coach Jim Harbaugh, who is beginning to feel some pressure to get the Wolverines over the hump, finally has a dynamic quarterback capable of unlocking his offense’s full potential. The NCAA decided in late April that Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson would be immediately eligible, which means the program will have access to a true playmaker under center who will help elevate the deep skill talent. That skill talent features running backs Karan Higdonand Chris Evans, budding receivers Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black, and tight ends Sean McKeon and Zach Gentry.

Michigan is already talent-rich on defense with my No. 6 defensive line, No. 12 linebackers and top-ranked secondary. Overall, the Wolverines welcome back 17 total starters, not counting Patterson, a degree of veteran experience that could be enough to overcome a nasty road slate that includes trips to Notre Dame, Northwestern, Michigan State and Ohio State. Michigan also hosts Big Ten West kingpin Wisconsin, so a loss with this thorny schedule will not eliminate Harbaugh’s team from playoff contention.

Of course, Michigan does have a gauntlet, facing all three rivals — Notre Dame, MSU and Ohio State — on the road, with Penn State and Wisconsin at home.

But in 2016, the Wolverines handled business with the home slate and was an inch away from beating the Buckeyes.

Everything is right there for the Wolverines should the offseason improvement we keep hearing about comes to fruition on the field.

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