Despite an enormously underwhelming 2017 season, expectations are considerably high for the Michigan Wolverines entering this year. Coming in at No. 5 in Athlon Sports' Top 25, the Wolverines bring back 14 starters and a roster that is exponentially more experienced after being forced to play so many underclassmen a season ago.
The pressure is still squarely on Jim Harbaugh and his staff entering 2018 as he is now 1-5 against his closest rivals and has yet to make an appearance in the Big Ten title game. With possibly his best team since arriving in Ann Arbor, Harbaugh needs to have his team firmly in the mix to compete for a championship this season.
Will that be for a Big Ten conference championship? Or is this Wolverines’ squad capable of more? Athlon asked a few editors and college football contributors to share their realistic win/loss projection for Michigan in 2018.
Michigan Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2018
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
year and finished on a down note with a sloppy loss to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. However, Jim Harbaugh has won at a high level at every job and wasn’t far from winning the Big Ten East in 2016. Michigan’s defense will rank among the best in college football, and the offense is poised to take a significant step forward behind quarterback Shea Patterson. The biggest concern for this team is up front on the offensive line and how to navigate a brutal schedule. If the Wolverines get past Notre Dame in South Bend to open the year, Harbaugh’s team should be undefeated going into mid-October. Road trips to Michigan State and Ohio State are brutal, and I have Michigan falling in both games. However, if the offensive line comes together, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Wolverines finish 11-1.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Count me among those who still believe in Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines' 2018 schedule is not easy, beginning with a Week 1 date at Notre Dame, but this team is good enough to win 10 games in the regular season and contend for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Michigan will be challenged right out of the gate in that aforementioned game in South Bend, but the rest of the first half of the schedule is not too daunting. It gets tricky down the stretch, however, when the Wolverines play the other three contenders in the Big Ten East as well as Wisconsin, the overwhelming favorite to win the West Division. The best guess here is that Michigan wins its home games, beating Wisconsin and Penn State, but loses on the road, dropping rivalry games at Michigan State and Ohio State.
Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)
It's now or seemingly never for the Jim Harbaugh hype train in Ann Arbor and it's a good thing that he has his best Michigan team since arriving on campus. The offensive line is still a bit concerning but they've upgraded significantly at quarterback with Shea Patterson and there's plenty of upside with the skill position players to make me think that this will be a much more potent offense. The Don Brown defense will be stellar once again but that schedule should give everybody pause given how loaded it is. Something says they'll win the majority of those big games this time around and book a trip to Indy at the end of the season.
Mike Bainbridge (@MBainbridgeCFF)
There is no doubt the schedule is absolutely brutal. Road trip to Notre Dame in Week 1, two AP top-10 opponents in Wisconsin and Penn State, and road trips against your two biggest rivals in Michigan State and Ohio State. But every year, there is at least one surprise team in college football who completely shatters everyone’s predications of what we think will happen at the beginning of the season. And why not a team like the Wolverines that returns eight starters from a top-3 defense from a year ago? A team that has four former 4-star recruits at wide receiver who appear on the brink of breaking out, a plethora of talented tight ends and two outstanding running backs. And a team that now has a quarterback in place that (hopefully) doesn’t hold this offense back in any capacity. Catch a break here or there with a B1G foe slipping up during the season and it’s conceivable that the Wolverines will be fighting for a spot in the Big Ten title game, and possibly more, by year’s end.