Fall camp is in full gear in Ann Arbor as the Michigan Wolverines look to rebound from a disappointing 2020 season where they finished 2-4, and had one of the worst statistical defenses in program history. Wholesale changes occurred as head coach Jim Harbaugh turned over his staff, hiring six new coaches, none of whom are above the age of 40.
One reason the Wolverines could be in store for a bounce-back year is the manageable schedule on tap for 2021. The first four contests to begin the year will all be at home, including a non-conference bout with the Washington Huskies. Michigan will have a pair of back-to-back road games later in the year, but three of the four opponents had losing records in 2020. The bye week occurs right in the middle of the season in Week 7. And the yearly matchup with Ohio State will be in Ann Arbor after last season's meeting in Columbus was canceled.
How will the Wolverines fare in 2021? The Athlon Sports crew makes their predictions below.
Michigan Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2021
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Michigan is a tough team to figure out going into the 2021 season. I don’t think the Wolverines will have a repeat of last year’s performance (2-4), as a revamped coaching staff should help, and the roster still has talent to utilize. New coordinator Mike Macdonald has to fix a defense that surrendered 34.5 points a game last fall, but concerns remain up front outside of edge Aidan Hutchinson, and the secondary has to rebound after a shaky ’20 campaign. Offensively, it’s no secret Cade McNamara leads the quarterback battle and should provide steady play until touted freshman J.J. McCarthy is ready. McNamara has quality weapons at receiver and a solid stable of running backs at his disposal, but the line has to play a lot better than it did last year. Games versus Washington and Indiana seem like toss-ups, so anywhere from 9-3 to 7-5 seems like a good range for an improved Michigan team.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
Jim Harbaugh is well aware of what's at stake after his Wolverines stumbled to a 2-4 showing last season. Only three starters return on offense and while the defense has plenty of experience coming back (nine returning starters), there's a new defensive coordinator (Mike Macdonald) calling the shots. So in reality, we don't know what Michigan is going to look like until the opener at home against Western Michigan. Washington comes to Ann Arbor a week later and the Wolverines' Big Ten slate is full of landmines, especially in November. There are so many questions about Michigan that this season offers the opportunity for the Wolverines to sneak up and surprise a team or two. However, there's still enough uncertainty that it's not hard to envision them coming up short of my 7-5 prediction either.
Mike Bainbridge (@MBainbridgeCFF)
I’d be lying to you if I said I feel all that comfortable with my predictions above with so much uncertainty surrounding the Wolverines entering the 2021 season. On the field, Michigan ranks 88th in the country in returning production, having to replace multiple starters at critical positions like quarterback, middle linebacker and defensive end. Off the field, the Wolverines churned over much of the coaching staff, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Michigan should be improved after the debacle that was last season, but how much of this will show up on the field immediately after so much turnover with the roster and staff? We will find out pretty quickly with two benchmark games right off the bat with a talented G5 team in Western Michigan in the opener before hosting the Washington Huskies in prime time in Week 2.