Now it all matters. We're not playing around anymore. Up until now the Jim Harbaugh era has been all drama and potential. He has never met an opportunity to get attention that he hasn't fully embraced. His first season back with his former team was as good as could have been expected, but now it really matters. If he delivers on his talk, and the massive potential of his team, then he will be cast in gold and will be the king of Michigan forever. If he falls well short, though, then his ability to be the center of every national story will be handicapped significantly. He has almost everything he needs - a defensive line for the ages, an offensive line packed with seniors, a strong secondary, excellent skill on offense. He can go very deep. He needs to go very deep.
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Key Additions and Departures
The biggest addition may very well have been on the coaching staff. When D.J. Durkin left his role as defensive coordinator to take over as head coach at Maryland, Harbaugh looked beyond his own contacts and brought in Don Brown, who had been running college football's top defense at Boston College, of all places. It was a risk because the two coaches, both well into their careers, didn't know each other at all. Early indications are that things are going well, and Brown certainly has no shortage of personnel to work with, but this is still a question mark.
The other big question mark for a team that lost little personnel is at quarterback. Jake Rudock is gone after his one year with the team, and a new starter will be in place. It could be transfer John O'Korn, Wilton Speight, or perhaps Shane Morris. The starters all have at least some prior experience, and they have a lot to work with, but it's another big question here.
In terms of additions, one name soars above all others. Rashan Gary was the consensus top overall recruit in the country, and he carries mountains of hype with him. He joins a defensive line so deep that he may not even start early on, but he has the chance to make a huge impact if he's even close to as good as his reputation.
Michigan Wolverines Schedule Analysis
It is an ideal schedule for a team with grand ambitions. The nonconference schedule of Hawaii, UCF and Colorado, all at home, is essentially an extended training camp. Their first four conference games are not much tougher. Then comes the first of two big tests on the season when they head to Michigan State. The Spartans aren't likely to be quite as good as they have been of late, but it is a challenge nonetheless. Then in Maryland and Iowa - the latter on the road - they face games they can certainly win but which could be traps if they aren't on their game. Another tune-up against Indiana precedes the game that very possibly could be for all the marbles. Their traditional season-ending game against Ohio State has the potential, in perfect conditions, to be a showdown of unbeaten teams dueling for a playoff spot. It's in Columbus this year, so it won't be easy for the Wolverines, but motivation sure won't be hard to come by.
2016-17 Michigan Betting Odds and Trends
Bovada has Michigan at +1000 to win the National Championship, which is fourth behind Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State. There is not likely any value in that - especially considering that they have drawn more betting attention in Vegas than any other squad. They are tied with Ohio State at +175 atop the list of teams to win the Big Ten but slightly behind the Buckeyes - +125 compared to even money - to win the division. Given that you need to win the division to win the conference, those prices don't entirely make sense. BetOnline set the season win total very conservatively at 9.5, and as a result the "over" is heavily favored at -165.
Bettors will hope that the team will be more useful from a betting perspective than they were last year when they were a mostly useless 7-6 ATS. They were slightly more useful on the total, going over eight times in 13 tries.
2016-17 Michigan Predictions and College Football Picks
Their defense was elite last year and has the chance to be dramatically better this year. The offense will be strong if they can get a quarterback to step up. The coaching is strong, and the team is very hungry. I expect them to get to Columbus unbeaten. And then anything can happen, because a win will bring up a more important game from that point, while a loss essentially ends the season. This is unquestionably a team with playoff potential - and more - if they can navigate the path.
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