It’s almost magazine season, that stretch in mid-to-late May between spring graduation and summer school when college football is low on news and high on rampant speculation.
The first national previews on Michigan are due to hit newsstands soon, although the ones coming this spring might have to be taken with one particular grain of salt. Keep in mind that most reputable mags — Athlon and Lindy’s, primarily, the industry standards — have copy deadlines that passed well before the announcement in late April that Shea Patterson would be eligible to play quarterback for the Wolverines this fall.
Patterson’s not an unknown, or a what-if, anymore. And so former Michigan and NFL running back Chris Howard and Land of 10 writer-columnist Sean Keeler decided to cash in their Barnes & Noble gift cards and offer up where they think the preseason periodicals ought to slot the Wolverines this fall …
Q: WHERE SHOULD THE PRESEASON MAGAZINES RANK MICHIGAN IN THE BIG TEN EAST?
SEAN KEELER: SECOND
If the 8.5 wins posted by BetOnline.ag on Thursday is offered to you as Michigan’s over/under, don’t wait for your local statehouse to get its backside in gear on the sports wagering front.
Take the over, baby.
Take it and run.
Take it all the way to the stinking bank.
Opening NCAAF Win Totals (@betonline_ag):
Mississippi State 7.5
NC State 7.5
Notre Dame 8.5
Ohio State 9.5
— OddsShark (@OddsShark) May 17, 2018
Michigan returns nine starters on defense with absolute stars — Rashan Gary, Chase Winovich, Devin Bush, to cite but a few — dotted all over the place. Quarterback Shea Patterson gives the offense its most exciting threat behind center since Denard Robinson hung up his shoelaces.
The dance card packs a hell of a bite, granted, even where the middleweights are concerned. Nebraska will get there under Scott Frost — “there” being nationally relevant — but probably won’t be there by the time the Cornhuskers come to the Big House on Sept. 22. Northwestern on the road can be tricky, but the talent gap on Sept. 29 should see that one through.
The baseline starts with seven wins. That’s the floor.
The ceiling is open to conjecture, as pegging the Wolverines more or less comes down to five swing contests. And perhaps the biggest, no shock, is the opener in South Bend.
Sept. 1, at Notre Dame — W
Since 1990, Michigan coaches facing the Irish for the first time with the Wolverines are 1-3 — and 0-3 in South Bend. Lloyd Carr’s 1997 co-national champions took out Notre Dame in Ann Arbor, 21-14, the first time he’d led the Wolverines against them.
Harbaugh went 2-2 against the Irish while with Stanford, 1-1 in South Bend. He was 2-0 as the Wolverines starting quarterback, including a 24-23 victory at Notre Dame Stadium in 1986.
Oct. 13, vs. Wisconsin — W
Offensively, the Badgers figure to be even better than last season’s 13-1 model. At the Big House, though, that probably won’t be enough. The visitor in this series is 1-8 over its last nine road meetings.
Oct. 20, at Michigan State — L
In the last 10 battles for Paul Bunyan’s Axe, the Wolverines and Spartans have both come in ranked in the Associated Press poll four times. Michigan State won all four (2010, 2011, 2013 and 2015). Michigan hasn’t beaten Sparty in a contest in which both came in ranked since 2003, a 27-20 victory at East Lansing.
Nov. 3, vs. Penn State — W
Conversely, Nittany Lions quarterback Trace McSorley is 0-3 as a starting quarterback against ranked Big Ten East teams on the road, having dropped three decisions by an average score of 38-24. And you know what they say about payback.
Nov. 24, at Ohio State — L
First, the good news, at least where crossover games are concerned: Sparty has to deal with Northwestern at home while also visiting the Cornhuskers in November. Penn State draws both Wisconsin and Iowa, albeit at Beaver Stadium.
Less good: Ohio State draws Nebraska and Minnesota at home, and Purdue in West Lafayette. Which means if Team Urban can survive Happy Valley on Sept. 29 and East Lansing on Nov. 10, the winner of The Game could well be getting its golden ticket punched for a berth in Indianapolis. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.