The Wolverine

2018 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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122 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2018 FOOTBALL PREVIEW BY AUSTIN FOX A fter Michigan stumbled to a disastrous 8‑5 finish in 2017, some people have tabbed this upcoming campaign as one of the most important in recent memory for not only head coach Jim Harbaugh, but for the program in general. Whether or not that's an exaggeration is up for debate, but there's no denying how imperative it is for the Wolverines to accomplish some of their major goals (division and/or conference title, College Football Playoff appearance, etc.) in order to regain the momentum the program had built in Harbaugh's first two years on the job. Michigan certainly has the personnel to be among college foot‑ ball's elite in 2018, thanks in large part to junior quarterback — a position that plagued U‑M last year — Shea Patterson's immediate eligibility. A Maize and Blue defense that finished No. 3 nationally last year also returns nine starters, and could actually be better this time around under third‑year coordinator Don Brown. In fact, the Big Ten saw four of its teams finish among the top nine total defenses nationally in 2017 — No. 2 Wisconsin, No. 3 Michi‑ gan, No. 7 Michigan State and No. 9 Ohio State — and none of them figure to experience a significant drop‑off in 2018. With that in mind, here is our Big Ten Preview heading into the 2018 season: Once again, the Big Ten is incredibly top heavy, and five teams — Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Michi‑ gan State and Penn State — will almost assuredly be ranked in the top 20 of the Associated Press preseason poll. All but Wisconsin reside in the East, further enhancing the narrative that it is the toughest divi‑ sion in college football. Whoever emerges victorious from the vaunted division will undoubtedly be among the sport's elite, and primed for a spot in the College Football Playoff. While many media outlets have tabbed Penn State fifth‑ year senior Trace McSorley and Michigan State redshirt junior Brian Lewerke as the two best signal‑callers in the conference, most of the intrigue actually surrounds two new quarterbacks at the Big Ten's two most tradition‑rich schools — Michigan junior Shea Patterson and Ohio State redshirt sophomore Dwayne Haskins. The two will be expected to lead their teams to conference titles (and more) in 2018, despite neither ever having started a game at their respective programs. Head coach Jeff Brohm took over a Purdue squad that went 3‑9 in 2016 and led them to a miraculous 7‑6 turn‑ around last year, and first‑year Nebraska head man Scott Frost will hope to achieve a similar feat in Lincoln. The once‑mighty Cornhuskers stumbled to a 4‑8 finish last season, but the general consensus is that Frost is the man to return them to their winning ways. Both Nebraska and Purdue are programs that are trending up, and if third‑ year head coach DJ Durkin can get his defense straightened out in College Park, Maryland will fit into that same category as well. PROGRAMS ON THE RISE TOP HEAVY IN THE EAST NEW FACES AT QUARTERBACK STORYLINES 3 TOP

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