Michigan Football 2019: Best Case/Worst Case

Predicting the best, worst, and most realistic scenario for Michigan's 2019 season.

Photo: Patrick Barron
Michigan Football 2019. It's here.

Let's do this.

For months these virtual pages have laid silent. For months this writer's bruised and battered sports brain has been wandering aimlessly back through the highs and lows of the 2018 Michigan season. Contemplating what it all meant...where it all went wrong...and where does Michigan go from here.

But as is usually the case this time of year, right on cue, hope springs eternal. And as Michigan football gears up for what most experts consider to be championship run in 2019, it is the duty of bloggers such as myself to make bold, mildly-crazy, ill-informed and irrational predictions about the upcoming season.

Here we go.

Best Case Scenario
The vast majority of the national CFB media thinks this could be the year for Jim Harbaugh and his Wolverines to finally get over that hump and win the Big Ten East, get to Indy, and make the college football playoff. And I can't sit here and say they're wrong.

If you look at just this team specifically, they're not all that different from the squad that dropped the final two games of the season by a combined score of 103 to 54. For reasons passing understanding, Michigan's greatest strength – their defense, suddenly became their biggest weakness, and the downfall of what was otherwise a pretty successful season. One would have to imagine that Don Brown will be able to shore up much of those deficiencies, mainly the secondary, plus find replacements for the NFL departures of Rashan Gary, David Long, Chase Winovich and Devin Bush. It won't be easy, but the early-season schedule is more forgiving this year than it was a year ago, which will help in this best case scenario.

Michigan opens with convincing win vs MTSU. Army offers their own unique challenges, but the strength of this Michigan team, along the OL and DL, is too much for the cadets to handle, and Michigan cruises to 2-0 heading into the first of two bye weeks.

From there, Michigan hits the road to take on a better-than-advertised Wisconsin team. Thankfully Michigan gets them early in the season and comes away from Madison with a victory. Back home to take on Rutgers...which no one will argue is a gimmie...Michigan ends September a perfect 4-0.

The month of October will be a challenge for Michigan in any best/worst case scenario. Iowa at home is going to be a test for sure, but the homefield advantage will be huge in this game. From there, its on the road at Illinois and Penn State. While the Illini are hardly the challenge the Nittany Lions will be, both are certainly wins for the Wolverines in this scenario.

The October finale will be a memorable one as the Irish come to town for a rare mid-season matchup between these two blue-bloods. Personally, I think the 9th ranked Irish are a bit overrated and should have one, maybe two losses on their schedule before they head to Ann Arbor. I think Michigan rolls over Notre Dame.

A perfect start to the season is nice, but as we all know, Michigan must win in November in order to prove they belong in the playoff conversation. Two road games at Maryland and Indiana will be overshaddowed by the two home games in this month...Michigan State and Ohio State. The trouble will be keeping the train on the track should Sparty knock off the Wolverines on Nov. 16. Or maybe Maryland or Indiana can sneak a win away while Michigan looks ahead to bigger foes. Either way, I don't think Michigan gets through this month unscathed. Something will happen...an injury, bad weather...something.

I do think Michigan beats Ohio State. And for this best case scenario...that's certainly going to happen.

Best case prediction: 11-1.

From there, Michigan will go on to face an improved version of the Badgers they faced earlier in the year. But since this is a Michigan blog and not a Wisconsin blog, let's just say Michigan rolls to their first Big Ten title of the division era and 43rd overall. From there its onto the college football playoffs where glory most certainly awaits.

Worst Case Scenario
What's a worst case for the 2019 Wolverines? It's ugly.

For things to really go south, something has to be wrong internally. Gattis isn't working out, Harbaugh isn't liking his role as an overseer, players getting hurt, poor senior leadership leading to the locker room unraveling...the list goes on and on. While I do think there will be bumps along the way for this team, the real question will be can they regroup and keep focused when something goes wrong? Last year, everything went wrong against Ohio State...and the result was a horrible Peach Bowl that saw Michigan look about as bad as they've ever looked under Harbaugh.

Now, imagine that for a whole season.

The obvious first sign of trouble will be against Army in week 2. It's entirely possible the cadets come into the Big House and shock the world. And in this scenario, they do.

Troubles continue on the road in Wisconsin as Michigan struggles yet again against a ranked team on the road. From there it's back home to get a win against Rutgers to end September 2-2. I think Michigan will probably beat Iowa and @Illinois, but these no doubt Penn State and Notre Dame are losses. By the time November starts, Michigan is 4-4 looking down the barrel of division leaders Michigan State and Ohio State licking their chops to take down Michigan at home.

November is more of the same. Michigan struggles to sneak by Maryland, but does...only to fall the following week to a rebuilt and upstart Michigan State squad. The final two games, @Indiana and Ohio State are losses as Michigan's miserable 2019 season comes to a crashing halt at 5-7.

The offseason is just as bad as you'd expect it to be. Fans who once believed Harbaugh was the savior of Michigan Football are now calling for his firing. Penn State, MSU and Ohio State battle it out for the east division with Ryan Day's Buckeyes taking home the Big Ten trophy vs Wisconsin in the title game in Indy.

Most Likely Scenario
Okay, let's just take a breath...that worst case was rough.

Now, let's be real here. Michigan is a good football team and they're in a position to take the next step towards greatness...and I do believe the steps taken this offseason will reflect that. I think Josh Gattis can be the right man to lead this offense. I think Don Brown will figure out what went wrong at the end of last year and make it right. I think Harbaugh will be a better CEO of this team than he was a playcaller. I think the offensive line is real and legit and will make a discernible impact this year. I think the QB room is probably the most talented one Michigan has ever had. And I think there's enough young talent to fill the holes left on the defense.

But, shit happens and what separates good teams from great teams is how they handle that shit and move forward and improve. Make no mistake, for this season to truly be great, Michigan will have to get better each week. This is a tough schedule, but it's manageable if Michigan can prepare properly, and hopefully get a few lucky bounces along the way.

I really do think that there's not much middle ground between the best and worst case scenarios. Things are going to either click or not for this team, specifically the offense. I think if Gattis can do what he's here to do, then the sky is the limit. But like I said, there will be bumps along the way.

I think 11-1 or 10-2 is very likely for this team. I could see a loss to Penn State or Wisconsin...or maybe even Michigan State or Ohio State. But I do think Michigan is the team to beat in the Big Ten east and they will get to Indy for the title game. Perhaps more then ever, there's a ton of parity in the Big Ten...both east and west divisions. I think it's going to come down to coaching, who can move the ball and who's leaders can keep their team's together. Right now, before week 1, I think Michigan...maybe more than anyone else in the Big Ten, is a team with all of those capabilities.

Buckle up, folks. Here we go.

No comments

Post a Comment