The Wolverine

2020 Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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122 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2020 FOOTBALL PREVIEW BY AUSTIN FOX M ichigan was supposed to be the biggest beneficiary of what was expected to be an inevitable Ohio State drop-off following Urban Meyer's res- ignation and Ryan Day's hiring, but both program's 2019 campaigns played out differently than anticipated. U-M went 9-4 and didn't meet the expectations that were placed on it prior to the season, while OSU per- formed better than most predicted and concluded with a 13-1 record and an appearance in the College Football Playoff. Michigan once again finds itself picked to finish second to OSU in the East (or maybe even third behind Penn State, according to some prognostica- tors), despite having a roster that is filled with experience and possesses very few question marks. The two positions that are unknowns for the Wolverines heading into 2020 — offensive line and quarterback — will likely make or break U-M's sea- son, depending on how quickly they each progress. With that in mind, here is our over- all preview of the Big Ten conference heading into the 2020 campaign: PREVIEW LOADED LOADED AT THE TOP AT THE TOP An In-Depth Look Around The Big Ten The Fight For No. 2 Ohio State has taken control of the conference in recent seasons, having won the league each of the past three years and produced a 38-4 record during that span with just two conference losses. The main topic of discussion has since become who can serve as the biggest threat to OSU and become the league's second-best team, with Michigan, Minnesota, Penn State and Wisconsin all having legitimate cases in 2020. Each aforementioned program won at least nine games last season and is expected to boast a stellar roster once again, though it's difficult to envision any of them dethroning Ohio State. New Quarterbacks Set To Make A Big Impact Several of the Big Ten's top signal-callers from last season return in Ohio State junior Justin Fields, Minnesota redshirt junior Tanner Morgan and Penn State redshirt junior Sean Clifford, but how well two new starters perform at Michigan and Iowa will go a long way in determining the East and West division races, respectively. Redshirt junior Dylan McCaffrey and redshirt sophomore Joe Milton will battle it out to replace the departed Shea Patterson at U-M, while redshirt sophomore Spencer Petras will take over for three-year starter Nate Stanley in Iowa City. Both the Wolverines and Hawkeyes have rosters that are good enough to win their respective divisions if they catch a few breaks along the way, but how successful — or disappointing — their 2020 seasons are will largely depend on their new field generals. A Plethora Of Offensive Skill Talent The Big Ten has long been criticized for its lack of NFL talent at quarterback (Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins in 2019 became the league's first quarterback to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft since Penn State's Kerry Collins in 1995) and wide receiver, but that script has been flipped on its head in 2020. Buckeye junior signal-caller Justin Fields is viewed as arguably the best player in the country and a potential No. 1 overall draft pick if he chooses to come out early. Plus, a pair of redshirt juniors in Minnesota's Tanner Morgan and Penn State's Sean Clifford each led their respective clubs to 11-win seasons in 2019, their first year as starters. It's much of the same out wide, with three 1,000-yard receivers from 2019 returning — Minnesota junior Rashod Bateman (1,219), Purdue sophomore David Bell (1,035) and Indiana senior Whop Philyor (1,002). Another past 1,000-yard wideout also returns in Boilermaker redshirt sophomore Rondale Moore, who was limited to just four games last year due to injury but registered 1,258 yards as a freshman in 2018. Top Three Storylines Ohio State has won three straight Big Ten titles, while posting a 38-4 overall record and a 25-2 mark against league foes dur- ing that time period. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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