While the Big Ten football season should be a month old by now, we are still stuck in neutral waiting to kickoff. The Wisconsin Badgers and the rest of the conference don’t get going until October 24, but we can’t really wait that long to start talking about football. It is time to start previewing Wisconsin’s opponents now!
The Badgers will play eight games in the regular season, all six division opponents and two cross-division opponents, and then a ninth game on B1G Championship Sunday against their place-doppelgänger from the East.
Next up in the series is the Michigan Khakis... I mean Wolverines.
Team name: Michigan Wolverines
Location, stadium: Ann Arbor, Mich., Michigan Stadium
Head coach (years with team): Jim Harbaugh (fifth year at Michigan)
Coordinators (years with team): Josh Gattis (second year offensive coordinator), Don Brown (fifth year defensive coordinator)
2019 record, place in division: 9-4 (6-3 in Big Ten), No. 3 in East
2019 result vs. Wisconsin: L (14-35)
2020 game date vs. Wisconsin: Saturday, November 14th, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor.
Three key departing players: Offensive lineman Ben Bredeson (four year starter on the offensvie line, 4th round pick by the Baltimore Ravens in 2020 NFL Draft, first team all-Big Ten in 2019), defensive back Lavert Hill (36 career games played, 20 passes defended, 6 interceptions), quarterback Shea Patterson (3,061 yards, 23 touchdowns, 8 interceptions)
Three key returning players: Defensive end Kwity Paye (26 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks), running back Zach Charbonnet (149 attempts, 726 yards, 11 touchdowns), wideout Nico Collins (37 receptions, 729 yards, seven touchdowns)
Overview of team: Michigan comes into 2020 looking like a typical Michigan football team. They have a lot of question marks on the offensive side of the football, and a lot of strong returning pieces on the defensive side of the football.
Offensively the Wolverines took a hit in their quarterback competition as Dylan McCaffrey opted out of the 2020 season and will pursue a transfer. With that, it appears junior Joe Milton will be in line to be the starter for Michigan this fall. Milton only threw seven passes in 2019.
With the Wolverines settled on a quarterback somewhat by default, the attention now turns to the offensive line who will have to replace four of their five starters, with right tackle Jalen Mayfield returning. Michigan has done well recruiting the offensive line position, but it appears the competition for each spot will be open.
If they can settle on an offensive line combo and get solid play from the talented, if unproven, Milton, the pieces around them could allow the offense to settle some. Michigan returns their two leading rushers in Zach Charbonnet and Hassan Haskins who both ran for over 600 yards a season ago. On the outside Michigan returns senior Nico Collins, who was under utilized in 2019, and Ronnie Bell who also hauled in 48 receptions.
On defense Michigan returns six starters, with the strength of the unit being up front on the defensive line. Kwity Paye headlines the group, but Aidan Hutchinson and Carlo Kemp also returning should allow the defensive line to be one of the better groups in the conference.
Behind the line there are some big departures in leading tacklers Khaleke Hudson and Jordan Glasgow, but the pieces that do come back are solid. Cameron McGrone is a nice player and Don Brown will find a way to use senior backer Josh Ross in a pass rush role as well.
The secondary is probably the part of the defense that has the most question marks, but there are some strong pieces mixed in as senior corner Ambry Thomas comes back after hauling in three interceptions in 2019. Brad Hawkins also comes back as a senior safety, but the other safety and corner spots will be filled with new faces.
Prediction for 2020 game vs. Wisconsin: Since this series took off again in 2016 the home team has always come out victorious. The Big House won’t have the same teeth it usually does, but I still believe it will be a close game. Right now these teams are in very similar spots with strong defenses, and questions on the offense. This game will come down to who wins in the trenches, and who gets better quarterback play. I see it being a one possession game, with the Badgers squeaking out a win in a low scoring classic Big Ten battle.