(Editor’s note: With the season fast approaching, we want to take some time to familiarize ourselves with each of Indiana’s opponents this fall. Over the next week, that’s exactly what we’ll do. Contributors from every SB Nation Big Ten team site have offered overviews of their respective programs, and we’ll run through each school in the order in which they appear on IU’s schedule.)
Up next: Michigan.
Michigan - Maize n Brew (Anthony Broome)
List your team’s key departures (name, position, role)
— QBs Shea Patterson (graduation) and Dylan McCaffrey (transfer)
— WRs Nico Collins (opt-out), Donovan Peoples-Jones (NFL Draft), Tarik Black (transfer)
— TE Sean McKeon (graduation)
— Four of five starting OL all drafted: Jon Runyan Jr., Ben Bredeson, Cesar Ruiz, Michael Onwenu
— DE Mike Danna (graduation)
— LB Jordan Glasgow (graduation)
— LB/S Khaleke Hudson (graduation)
— CBs Ambry Thomas (opt-out) and Lavert Hill (graduation)
List your team’s key returnees (name, position, role)
— RBs Zach Charbonnet, Hassan Haskins, Chris Evans
— WRs Ronnie Bell, Giles Jackson
— OT Jalen Mayfield
— DEs Kwity Paye and Aidan Hutchinson
— DT Carlo Kemp
— LBs Cam McGrone and Josh Ross
— CB Vincent Gray
— S Dax Hill, Brad Hawkins
List a few true freshmen or transfers that will make an instant impact (name, position, role)
— RB Blake Corum
— WRs AJ Henning, Roman Wilson
— CBs Andre Seldon, Darion Green-Warren
Brief overview of 2020 team (a couple paragraphs about expectations, how you think they’ll perform):
There is going to be a ton of new on this Michigan team, namely on the offensive side of the ball. This is headlined by a new quarterback in Joe Milton, four of five new starters on the offensive line, and lots of youth at wide receiver. The defense replaces a few faces, but should still be one of the better units in the Big Ten. This is a bit of a transitional year for the team with a lot of youth in major roles that will probably be there in 2021, as well. Michigan fans are tired of waiting for “next year” especially with losses to Ohio State piling up, but I see them being more competitive in that game this year and am not expecting as big of a downward trend as some. This likely is not their year to win the Big Ten, but I do see it being a step in the right direction compared to how 2019 went.
What’s your team’s biggest strength?
I think Michigan has a strength in its second-year offensive coordinator Josh Gattis. Despite the youth on offense, it feels like they have the personnel to run the system he installed last year and the familiarity there makes it an easier transition for the younger players. He also improved as a play-caller as the season went on. The defensive end duo of Aidan Hutchinson and Kwity Paye also stand out and should be one of the best in college football.
What’s your team’s biggest weakness?
Defensive performances in big games. Don Brown is a capable coach and coordinator, but his units have faltered in major moments against teams with comparable talent. The aggressive defense that he has put in works well against some of the overwhelmed opponents, but has led to some major gaffes and mistakes in big moments.
How does your fanbase feel about your coach and his staff?
Michigan fans are in a complicated spot with Jim Harbaugh. On one hand, he has more than stabilized a program that was in shambles for nearly a decade when he got there. However, the ceiling under him has remained at 10 wins at best and continuing to play second fiddle to Ohio State. Some fans want things blown up and started over, while the majority seems resigned to the fact that the program simply is what it is right now and hope a breakthrough comes along at some point. The pandemic and a weird season feels like it has taken some pressure off of him, but with a contract decision looming, it is an interesting time to follow the team. I would expect a deal would get done at some point.
Who is your team’s MVP this season and why?
Safety/defensive back Daxton Hill. Michigan is going to ask him to do a ton of things on the back end of the defense and I expect the former five-star to live up to his billing as a sophomore.
Predict your team’s record, its best win, and a potential surprise loss:
6-3/7-2 depending on the final crossover game. Best win: Penn State, Potential Surprise loss: Indiana