The Wolverine

2021 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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122 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2021 FOOTBALL PREVIEW BY AUSTIN FOX M ichigan took a step in the wrong direction last year under head coach Jim Harbaugh, finish- ing 2-4 to mark the program's first losing season since the final year of the Brady Hoke era in 2014 (5-7). The goal for the Wolverines in 2021 will now be to prove last season was simply a fluke and nothing more. U-M wasn't the only traditional power who fell on hard times in 2020, though, with Penn State and Wisconsin (to a degree) having done the same. The Nittany Lions stumbled through a 4-5 campaign, while the Badgers finished with a disappointing 4-3 record and third-place finish in the West Division, after having entered the campaign as the favorites to win it. As a result, the gap between reigning con- ference champion Ohio State and the rest of the league appears to be bigger than at any point in recent memory. Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin are all expected to be significantly better than last season, but even if that progress comes to fruition, none of them are expected to over- take the Buckeyes for the conference crown. PREVIEW Traditional Powerhouse Programs Will Look To Bounce Back From Disappointing 2020 Seasons Top 25 Players In The Big Ten Note: Eligibility for all players is repeated from last year due to the NCAA ruling it a "free" year. 1. WR Chris Olave, Jr., Ohio State The best of the best in a loaded crop of wide receivers from the Big Ten, Olave shocked the college football world when he decided to return to Columbus following his 729-yard, seven-touchdown effort in 2020 (those numbers were accumulated in seven games). 2. WR Garrett Wilson, So., Ohio State The 6-0, 193-pound speedster nearly matched Olave's produc- tion last season by reeling in 43 receptions for 723 yards and six scores in eight contests, and will give OSU arguably the best one- two punch in the nation at wide receiver. 3. WR David Bell, So., Purdue He did not suffer through a sophomore slump last fall following his 1,035-yard freshman campaign of 2019, with the 6-2, 205-pounder leading the conference in yards per game (104.2) and tying for the league lead in touchdown grabs (eight). 4. S Brandon Joseph, R-Fr., Northwestern He introduced himself to the country last year by picking off six passes to tie for the national lead, earning Associated Press first-team All- America honors as a result. 5. QB C.J. Stroud, Fr., Ohio State He has not attempted a single pass in his col- legiate career, but after coming to OSU as the No. 51 overall recruit nationally out of high school, he is fully expected to carry on the program's consistently elite quar- terback play under head coach Ryan Day and position coach Corey Dennis. PHOTO COURTESY OHIO STATE ATHLETICS

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