The Wolverine

September 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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8 THE WOLVERINE SEPTEMBER 2016 C ollege football predictions fly furiously about, like August sweat in a full-line drill. Most of them point to Jim Harbaugh's team as one of the nation's elite. Never mind that the Wolver- ines haven't tasted conference su- premacy since 2004. Never mind the nagging questions regarding quarterback, linebacker and road- worthiness. Pundits witnessed Harbaugh, Sea- son I. They were sold. That's not a bad horse to back. Harbaugh enjoys losing less than he does game-week schematic ques- tions with a skim milk chaser. He's thrown everything he has these past 20 months into making Michigan a monster again. He'll get there … and it might just be this season. Here are five reasons the Wolver- ines will enter Mordor (aka Ohio Stadium) on Nov. 26 with an oppor- tunity to play themselves into the Big Ten championship game. 1. The Defense Does Not Rest — This group figures to be special, one of the top five in the nation. Harbaugh brought defensive coor- dinator Don Brown in from Boston College for a reason — complete the move from good to great. Dr. Blitz will have the Wolverines coming at quarterbacks like wolves on a wounded buffalo. He's got depth enough up front to roll out two defensive lines, keeping them fresh. He's got a pair of senior cor- nerbacks in All-American Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribling, ready to cover up when the blitz doesn't get home. He has a linebacking crew bol- stered by a multi-skilled star in redshirt sophomore Jabrill Peppers, along with veterans tired of the "po- tential weak link" references. Michigan finished No. 4 nation- ally a year ago in total defense. Brown's crew wound up No. 1. That's a power marriage. 2. Options Abound For QBs — Harbaugh will soon choose a quar- terback. He and QBs coach Jedd Fisch will then ramp up the Jake Rudock formula, shaping the new starter's thinking, reactions and study. Whoever wins the job inherits plenty. See Item 1, first off. A great defense has aided many a quarter- back's ring collection — just ask Brian Griese, signal-caller for the 1997 national championship team. Second, the new quarterback gets fifth-year seniors Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson at wideout, with senior tight end Jake Butt and a host of others. He can hand off to senior De'Veon Smith and other veterans in the tailbacks corps, behind a line featuring four of five with two or more years of starting experience. Yes, QB remains a question mark — until it isn't. But this one will en- joy a Secret Service escort towards winning while he settles in. 3. Michigan Beats Michigan State — A bold prediction, about a program that has dropped seven of the last eight to the Spartans and hasn't won in East Lansing since Lloyd Carr wore the headset? Not so much. The Wolverines beat the Spartans last year, for 59:59. Harbaugh al- ways talks about getting one percent better. Versus MSU, Michigan only has to get one play better. Will it be easy? Not likely. De- spite major personnel losses, Mark Dantonio's crew will field a strong defense, backed by a ravenous crowd, and he'll have the Spartans convinced by kickoff that they're taking on ISIS. But it says here Michigan fields the better defense this season and finds a way — bussing out of East Lansing 8-0 and eyeing a November crucible. 4. This Team Believes — The last several Michigan squads hoped. This upperclassmen-laden crew knows. They've seen Harbaugh and his coaches, and his system, at work. They saw themselves transformed from a five- to a 10-win squad, one ready to pummel the SEC runners- up in a bowl game. From Lewis to Butt to Chesson to the rest of the last-chance crew, they see what they've been wait- ing for an entire career within their grasp. They've been given the tools, and they're ready to hammer some people. 5. The Will Of Harbaugh — No- body wins on will alone, and this could have been labeled the Skill of Harbaugh — his eye for talent, his knowledge of the game, his abil- ity to surround himself with good coaches and his pressing every pos- sible University of Michigan advan- tage. But will goes a long way, once you've prepared yourself for great- ness. This team is absorbing Har- baugh's will, molten steel pouring into spines. Temper expectations? Sure, you can do that. But Harbaugh doesn't. "If people aren't laughing about what you aspire to, and what you dream about and what your goals are, then you probably haven't set your goals and dreams high enough," Harbaugh said recently. The Wolverines aren't talking much these days. But they're dream- ing, and they intend to do. ❏ Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @JB _ Wolverine. WOLVERINE WATCH   JOHN BORTON Reasons Why The Wolverines Are Legit First-year defensive coordinator Don Brown was brought in to bring the Wolverines from good to championship-caliber. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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