The Wolverine

2022 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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116 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2022 FOOTBALL PREVIEW PREVIEW Michigan And Ohio State Lead The Way In Battle For Conference Supremacy BY ANTHONY BROOME A fter several steps backward in 2020, Michigan broke through and won its first Big Ten championship in 17 years during the 2022 season. The Wolverines went 12-2 in Jim Harbaugh's seventh year on the job. The goal this year is to find a way to not only repeat as conference champs but keep pushing the program forward. However, U-M will have a large target on its back and plenty of competition gunning for the top spot. No threat is bigger than the one south of the state line. Before last fall, the Ohio State Buckeyes had not lost to Michigan since 2011. Revenge will be on the mind of the team down in Columbus, who most have tabbed the favor- ite again to win the conference and make the College Football Playoff. Elsewhere in the Big Ten East, Michigan State is laying in the weeds after an 11-2 season in Mel Tucker's second year, while Penn State and James Franklin project to be better after an 11-11 record during the last two seasons. Iowa — which Michigan thrashed 42-3 in the Big Ten title game — has perpet- ual competition in Wisconsin for the top spot in the West. Purdue, Nebraska and Minnesota could also be nipping at their heels for a shot to play in Indianapolis this December. Michigan and Ohio State's Nov. 26 matchup at The Horseshoe should wind up having division title implications once again. The winner most likely will have an inside track to a berth in the playoff. 1. WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jr., Ohio State Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson were first-round picks in 2022, but the guy left behind might be the best of the bunch. Smith-Njigba is a potential top-five draft talent and led the Buckeyes with 95 catches for 1,606 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2021. 2. QB C.J. Stroud, Jr., Ohio State A Heisman Trophy finalist in 2021, the Buckeye quarterback could play himself into No. 1 overall pick territory this season. Stroud threw for 4,435 yards and 44 touchdowns with 6 interceptions last season and led the nation in ESPN's quarterback rankings. 3. OT Peter Skoronski, Sr., Northwestern The Wildcat offensive lineman grabbed the baton from Rashawn Slater as the next potential first-rounder from Evanston, with The Athletic's Dane Brugler projecting him No. 18 overall in an early 2023 mock draft. Skoronski is one of the most technically sound offensive linemen in the conference and took home first-team All-Big Ten honors from the media last season. 4. C Olu Oluwatimi, Gr., Michigan Andrew Vastardis did yeoman's work last season in the center of the offensive line, but U-M may have upgraded there. Oluwatimi was a Rimington Trophy finalist, second-team All-American and first-team All-ACC pick last season at Virginia. Pro Football Focus graded him the No. 2 run blocker in the country in 2021, making him a perfect fit for Michigan's smash-mouth offense. 5. LB Nick Herbig, Jr., Wisconsin Wisconsin's defense always seems to find playmaking linebackers, and they have one in Herbig, who could be in for a big season in Jim Leonard's defense. He racked up 61 total tackles, 9 sacks and 4 passes defended as a sophomore. 6. OT Paris Johnson Jr., Jr., Ohio State Johnson, a former five-star recruit, projects to start at left tackle for the Buckeyes after spending last season at right guard. Sticking in a more natural position for him could open the door for a take-off. He will be counted on to protect Stroud's blindside and block for an offense that could be historically good. 7. RB TreVeyon Henderson, So., Ohio State Ohio State's offense has the potential to cook through the air, but what makes it most dangerous is what Henderson can bring on the ground. He Top 25 Players In The Big Ten

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