After a 2-4 season in the 2020 COVID year, the buzzards were circling around Jim Harbaugh who hadn’t delivered a victory over Ohio State, let alone a division title. Michigan was arguably the biggest name in the Big Ten who hadn’t played in the championship game in Indianapolis. Harbaugh ended up taking a major paycut to save his job, going from the Big Ten’s highest paid coach to eighth.
And it paid off for both parties in 2021 as Michigan won the Big Ten and made the College Football Playoff, losing to eventual national champion Georgia in the Orange Bowl. Then Harbaugh flirted with the Minnesota Vikings before realizing the Vikings weren’t all that interested in him. Both coordinators left for other jobs, and while the offense has nine returning starters, the defense only has only four returning.
And they still have to face an Ohio State team that was embarassed last Thanksgiving weekend.
Sophomore Cade McNamara (6’1” 212 lbs.) returns after earning third team All-Big Ten honors last season where he completed 64% of his passes with 15 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. But sophomore JJ McCarthy (6’3” 197 lbs.) is more athletic, so he comes in with specific packages to run. McCarthy completed 58% of his 59 pass attempts with five touchdowns and two interceptions; he also ran the ball 27 times, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Texas Tech transfer Alan Bowman (6’4” 205 lbs.) is also on the roster; he completed 65% of his passes in 2020 with ten touchdowns and seven interceptions for the Red Raiders. Harbaugh has already announced that McNamara would start the Colorado State game while McCarthy will start against Hawai’i in week two.
At running back, Michigan will miss Hassan Haskins, who earned first team All-Big Ten honors rushing for 1,327 yards. But sophomore Blake Corum (5’8” 200 lbs.) might have been more productive, rushing for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns on half the carries that Haskins had. Corum’s 6.7 yards per carry average earned him third team All-Big Ten honors. Sophomore Donovan Edwards (6’0” 202 lbs.) didn’t get many opportunities last season until Corum was injured late in the season. Edwards rushed for 174 yards and three touchdowns on just 35 carries last season, but did catch 20 passes for 265 yards and a touchdown. Against Maryland, Edwards caught 11 passes for 170 yards in relief of Corum. Neither Corum or Edwards match the physical size of the 228 lb. Haskins, which might create an opening for redshirt freshman Tavierre Dunlap (6’0” 222 lbs.) to see playing time.
Michigan returns eight of their top nine receivers from last season, and gets back senior Ronnie Bell (6’0” 192 lbs.), who was injured and out for the year in last year’s season opener after catching a 76 yard touchdown pass. Bell led the Wolverines in receiving in 2020. Junior Cornelius Johnson (6’3” 211 lbs.) caught 39 passes for 620 yards and three touchdowns last season, earning third team All-Big Ten honors. Junior tight end Erick All (6’4” 245 lbs.) caught 38 passes for 437 yards and two touchdowns, and can match up with junior tight end Luke Schoonmaker (6’5” 250 lbs.) in double tights; Schoonmaker caught 17 passes for 165 yards and three touchdowns.
Michigan’s offensive line loses two starters, but gains second team All-American center Olusegun Oluwatimi (6’3” 310 lbs.) as a transfer from Virginia. The Wolverines also have second team All-Big Ten left tackle Ryan Hayes (6’7” 307 lbs.) along with honorable mention honorees Trevor Keegan (6’6” 325 lbs.) at left guard and Zak Zinter (6’6” 320 lbs.) at right guard. Michigan might have one of the best offensive lines in the country when all is said and done in 2022.
Defensively, it looks like a rebuilding season as only four starters return from last year’s top-notch defense. Up front, they have to replace the second pick in the NFL draft in Aidan Hutchinson. Only sophomore defensive tackle Mazi Smith (6’3” 326 lbs.) returns; Smith was a honorable mention All-Big Ten honoree last season. Bruce Feldman of The Athletic ranked Smith at the top of his annual “Freaks” list of the most intriguing athletes in college football.
Last year, sophomores Junior Colson (6’2” 225 lbs.) an Nikhai Hill-Green (6’1” 220 lbs.) split time at weakside linebacker, totaling 61 and 50 tackles respectively. This year, both are expected to start fulltime. Junior Michael Barrett (6’0” 227 lbs.) did start six games in 2020 with 44 tackles.
The secondary loses three starters (including a first round draft pick), but does return sophomore cornerback DJ Turner (6’0” 181 lbs.), an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection who led the Wolverines with seven pass breakups last season. Sophomore safety RJ Moten (6’0” 221 lbs.) had 34 tackles and four pass breakups as a key reserve last season.
I suspect that Michigan’s offense is going to give everyone - including Ohio State - trouble in 2022. But the defense can’t help but take a step back with so many losses from last season. That being said, the Wolverines very likely will be heading to Columbus on Thanksgiving weekend undefeated, with a berth in the Big Ten title game and a CFP berth on the line.
What happens when Nebraska returns to Ann Arbor in 2022?
This poll is closed
It’s like 2018 all over again. It’s ugly and over fairly early.
It’s a tough matchup, but Michigan finds a way to win at home sending Nebraska home with yet another close loss.
60 years ago, Bob Devaney shocked Michigan in Ann Arbor. Nebraska does it again in 2022.