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Big Ten opponent preview: Michigan

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IU will be looking to secure back-to-back wins in the series for the 1st time since 1959

NCAA Football: Michigan at Indiana
Michigan Wolverines running back Zach Charbonnet (24) is tackled by Indiana Hoosiers defensive back Tiawan Mullen (3) during the second half of the game at Memorial Stadium. 
Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s note: With the season fast approaching, we want to take some time to familiarize ourselves with each of Indiana’s Big Ten opponents this fall. Over the next couple of weeks, that’s exactly what we’ll do thanks to the insights from our SB Nation partners.)

Next up: Michigan

Michigan — Anthony Broome (Maize n Brew)

Key departures

  • Kwity Paye, starting defensive end
  • Jalen Mayfield, starting right tackle
  • Cam McGrone, starting linebacker
  • Giles Jackson, wide receiver (transfer)

Key returnees

  • Aidan Hutchinson, starting defensive end
  • Josh Ross, starting linebacker
  • Hassan Haskins, starting running back
  • Ronnie Bell, starting wide receiver

Potentially impactful freshmen and transfers

  • Donovan Edwards, running back
  • Daylen Baldwin, wide receiver (transfer from Jackson State)
  • Jordan Whittley, defensive tackle (transfer from Oregon State)

How does Michigan look entering the fall?

This team is a complete enigma to me. This is far from Jim Harbaugh’s most talented Michigan team, but it would be pretty surprising for them to be as terrible as they were last year again. They probably are not winning the Big Ten (duh), but they don’t track as a team that could go 4-8/5-7, etc. This is probably a team that can win eight or nine games depending on the bowl opponent, but that will do nothing to sell fans that Harbaugh remains the solution moving forward. They should be much further along in year seven of this regime.

What’s Michigan’s biggest strength?

Offensive skill positions. Michigan has a running back room with three players that could be potential stars and a plethora of options at wide receiver. The math suggests that someone might disappoint, but there are enough lotto tickets here to feel like this could be a pretty good offense if it clicks.

What’s Michigan’s biggest weakness?

The back two levels of the defense are a major concern, namely the defensive backs. There was not a lot to like there last season and they aren’t particularly deep. Now, they learn a new scheme entirely. That’s worrisome.

How does your fan base feel about Jim Harbaugh and his staff?

Heading into last year, it seemed like there was starting to be a vibe of ambivalence from the fanbase regarding Harbaugh. By season’s end, even the most level-headed of people seemed to be open to a change taking place. Those same people now seem to be open to the idea of Harbaugh returning on an incentive-laden contract, but there has to be visible improvement in all areas that push the program forward. Another year of getting shelled by the best teams you play will only increase the cries for change.

Who is Michigan’s MVP this season and why?

Aidan Hutchinson. The new defense is going to allow him to rush the passer from both a linebacker and defensive end position. That could be a big showcase for him for pro scouts and also make him a headache for opposing defenses.

Predict Michigan’s record, its best win, and a potential surprise loss

8-5. Its best win will be Michigan State on the road. A potential surprise loss could be at Nebraska or at home against Northwestern.