Best Case/Worst Case: Looking at Michigan Football's 2018 Schedule

Best Case/Worst Case: Looking at Michigan Football's 2018 Schedule

Football

Best Case/Worst Case: Looking at Michigan Football's 2018 Schedule


Looking at the best case and worst case scenarios for Michigan football in 2018, based off the schedule.


Best Case/Worst Case: Looking at Michigan Football’s 2018 Schedule

Michigan should be notably improved on the field in 2018.

But, with a gauntlet of a schedule, the record may not show it.

However, Michigan’s schedule was almost as hard on paper in 2016, and the Wolverines nearly escaped unscathed. MSU was projected to be a very good team, and floundered on its way to a 3-9 record. The maize and blue chose not to show up at Kinnick Stadium and succumbed to the Hawkeyes. Michigan went on the road to Columbus, with a severely injured Wilton Speight, and still nearly pulled off a win over the Buckeyes (and probably should have), despite a bevy of miscues that kept OSU in the game.

2017 was a different story, with nearly anything that could go wrong choosing to go the way of Murphy’s Law. Despite the inexperience that Michigan had — fielding one of college football’s youngest teams — it lost starting quarterback Wilton Speight early in Week Four, and the offense never clicked as the season wore on. Still — in the five losses, Michigan had no chance in only one of those contests, with the other four being winnable going into the fourth quarter.

There’s a lot to like about this 2018 squad: what should be an elite defense, incoming former five-star quarterback Shea Patterson, the new coaches that were brought aboard in the offseason. But, we still don’t know if that will yield the on-field results that Michigan fans have been craving since Jim Harbaugh came aboard in 2015.

Anything you got in 2015 was gravy. 2016 was the national championship shot (and it was a College Football Playoff-caliber team). 2017 was a rebuild. But 2018 should be the first year that we get a Harbaugh-recruited and coached team that could actually flex its muscle.

But will it? Let’s take a look at things game by game and see how the season could unfold.

WEEK ONE: Notre Dame (away) – September 1 @ 7:30PM

Series record: 24-17-1

Last meeting: Notre Dame 31-0 (2014)

2017 ND record: 10-3

Setup: Notre Dame is a perennial unknown, being great some years, and weirdly not-so-good in others. Last year saw a 10-3 season, but the Fighting Irish struggled mightily against some of the quality teams it faced (*cough* Miami *cough*). QB Brandon Wimbush returns, but will he even be the guy? Ian Book played in the bowl game, and Phil Jurkovec is the supposed quarterback of the future. There’s yet another new defensive coordinator, and the top two receivers and running backs are gone — but the bulk of the talent from a year ago, those just mentioned notwithstanding, return. Notre Dame is about as big of a shrug-dot-emoji when it comes to season expectations as there is in all of college football.

Best case: Notre Dame’s offense struggles against as elite of a defense as any of these current players have faced, as Michigan manages to take another big step forward on that side of the ball, with the only key losses being Mo Hurst and Mike McCray. Mike Dwumfour and either Devin Gil or Josh Ross make strong cases for themselves, as the Wolverines D looks better than ever.

Notre Dame had the nation’s 46th-best defense in 2017, and with a new defensive coordinator, it still is trying to find its identity on the field. On the other side of the ball, Shea Patterson or Brandon Peters come out and sling the ball like polished veterans. The offensive line is noticeably improved under new coach Ed Warinner, and last year’s freshmen receivers look like seasoned vets under Jim McElwain.

Michigan controls the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and second-year punter Brad Robbins and third-year kicker Quinn Nordin add to the Irish’s travails. The Wolverines roll in what will still be a hard-fought game, but one that looks more like the teams’ penultimate meeting, not the last matchup.

Worst case: It’s 2014 all over again. Michigan’s defense is still very good, but the losses of Hurst and former team captain Mike McCray are noticeable. The lack of Hurst’s speed up the middle doesn’t cause the disruption that we saw a year ago from the D-line, and it gives Wimbush & Co. time to find holes in the secondary — namely at safety — where the Wolverines were shredded against Penn State and Ohio State.

The offense having changed gears from last year still can’t get things clicking, and the running game fails to crack 3 yards-per-carry. The offensive line continues to be a problem area, and a mediocre Notre Dame pass rush looks elite right out of the gates as a result.

Special teams continues to be meh and field position isn’t a decided Michigan advantage.

Michigan puts together some drives, but Notre Dame proves that it’s currently a cut above the Wolverines at this juncture.

Outlook: Closer to best case than worst case, but with it being the first game, and on the road, at night, we could see some elements of worst case slipping in. Still, the defense should be incredibly aggressive and elite, and with the new offensive components and coaches, our guess is that Jim Harbaugh & Co. will have a lot figured out by Game One.

However, if Michigan does still lose the game, it’s no time to panic! A tough, non-conference foe on the road in Week One, even with a loss, shouldn’t hurt Michigan’s chances too much at the College Football Playoff, and has zero bearing on the Big Ten.

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