Michigan Football 2020 Preview & Predictions


Photo: James Coller
Let there be football!

For all of the speculation, hand-wringing, protests, tweets, online petitions, more speculation...Big Ten football is actually going to happen in 2020, for better or worse. I don't know how this is all going to go...no one truly does, but one way or another football is going to commence for Michigan and their B1G brethren this weekend!

When it will end is a whole different topic that I'm sure we'll address somewhere 2-8 weeks down the road. But for now...let's football!

2020 Gameday Look and Feel
I won't be able to give you a first hand account as media access for games, at least for Michigan media, is heavily restricted. As in...I won't be there and neither will a photographer from my site which I usually have. This didn't come as a galloping shock as I figured media would be limited, but still a bummer nonetheless. As far as I know for now, only traditional media outlets that cover Michigan Football regularly will be in attendance in the pressbox and on or near the field. 

Only players families, home and away, will be permitted in the stadium for games. Same goes for families of staff members. The Big Ten did say officially, no public sale of tickets. I assume the same goes for student tickets as well. I have not seen anything yet about bands and cheerleaders, but I assume they'll be allowed in the stands to help create some sort of gameday atmosphere.

Speaking of atmosphere, going from 110,000+ fans, to say a thousand, is gonna be weird. There might be piped in crowd noise, there might not. Having the band will help, but there's no replacement for a hundred thousand people. It will neutralize any sort of homefield advantage, so I guess it's a good year to have Ohio State on the road slate :)

The Schedule
Photo: Tyler Carlton
...which was released a few weeks ago features 8+1 games per team, 4 home/4 away, plus an extra game on championship weekend for each team which will be decided by the standings of the east and west divisions...1 vs 1, 2 vs 2, 3 vs 3, etc. Michigan's schedule starts off with a cross-divisional game @ Minnesota in primetime on ABC on the 24th in a battle for the Little Brown Jug...maybe the greatest cfb rivalry trophy in all of sports.

There are no bye weeks baked into the schedule so there's not much flexibility in terms of rescheduling should teams have to shut down due to COVID positives. That means there most certainly will be some teams that play more games than others...which is just an unfortunate byproduct of 2020 and the way things are. By the time the end of the season rolls along, there absolutely will be much debate on who's truly better than who and what potential post-season destinations teams deserve more than others.

It is what it is. You want college football during a pandemic, here it is.

Depth Chart Predictions
Photo: Tyler Carlton
I don't typically do this, but...

QB: Joe Milton, Cade McNamara
RB: Zach Charbonnet, Hassan Haskins, Chris Evans
FB: Ben Mason
TE: Nick Eubanks
WR: Ronnie Bell, Giles Jackson, Mike Sainistril, Cornelius Johnson
RT: Jalen Mayfield
RG: Andrew Stueber
C: Andrew Vastardis
LG: Chuck Filaga, Zak Zinter
LT: Ryan Hayes

DE: Kwity Paye, Aidan Hutchinson
DT: Carlo Kemp, Donovan Jeter, Chris Hinton
VIPER: Michael Barrett, Anthony Solomon
LB: Cam McGrone, Josh Ross, Kalel Mullings
CB: Vincent Gray, DJ Turner, Gemon Green, Jalen Perry
S: Brad Hawkins, Dax Hill

Final Preseason Thoughts
Photo: James Coller
For Michigan, I think it's going to be an interesting season. It's already been an interesting season and football hasn't even been played yet. But here we are...opening game week...in the middle of October. Anyone who tells you they know exactly how this is all going to go is crazy. No one knows. The offseason lasted an extra month and a half. Other conferences started weeks ago. There's no accurate way to predict just how rusty or prepared these teams are going to be. There's no "warm up" games against MAC schools. It's full-go right off the bat and every game is essential.

How prepared will Michigan be? Who will emerge as the leaders of this team? How well can Michigan replace opt-outs Nico Collins and Ambry Thomas as well as the other 10 players selected in the NFL draft earlier this year?

It was a little concerning to me that Dylan McCaffrey opted to transfer. For all intents and purposes, he was a legit starting contender. For him to just bow out and hand the reins to Milton without even a fight tells me something isn't right in that QB room. We could go on for days analyzing Michigan's QB performance and output under Harbaugh...but this is a blow to not only the depth chart but the teams psyche, IMO. 

Or I could be completely wrong. I hope I'm wrong.

But I don't think I'm wrong when I say I love our running backs. I think Michigan may have the best RB room the Big Ten.

Zach Charbonnet who put up 726 yards last year on 149 carries (4.9 per) and 11 touchdowns, is primed for a BIG year. He's most complete back on the Michigan roster for sure and maybe the conference. Also back is Chris Evans from his year off from team activities. Evans bring a unique and much needed more athletic skillset to the Michigan backfield. He could be a great checkdown weapon for Milton...or better yet, some designed RPO plays.

How well the OL comes together will be absolutely crucial...as it always is. 4 new starters would usually have spelled doom for Michigan in the past, but I believe Warinner will have this group ready to go. Michigan's OL production under Warinner is far beyond what it used to be. I'm honestly not too concerned about this group.

Defensively, I think Michigan will be typically solid. Yes, some holes to fill at cornerback, but up front I like what Michigan has in Paye and Hutchinson. I think we'll be surprised just how good Michigan's pass rush will be this year. Don Brown has some things to prove after another major let down against Ohio State a year ago. His job won't get any easier this year.

2020 is going to be unlike any season we've ever seen. Despite the recent rise in cases, college football is soldiering on. But how long until there's a major disruption that pauses or even ends the season prematurely? Politics aside, no one can argue that the way COVID has been dealt with in this country has not been as good as it could've been. With the pandemic raging on a presidential election 2 weeks out, the very real threat of outside chaos is there. College sports, despite what some may want to think, is highly political and will be effected by these outside events in some way or another over the weeks to come.

But Big Ten games will happen. Some of them will be postponed or even cancelled. The key for Michigan and every program is going to be flexibility. Disruptions will happen. Players and coaches might not be available for every game. 

Its college football in the new world...in a new time. Here we go.

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