Saturday will begin a new era for the Blue Raiders who will move forward without four-year starting quarterback Brent Stockstill who finished his career as the program's all-time leader in passing yards, touchdown passes, completions, and any other statistical category you can think of. On the defensive side, six of last year's top 10 tacklers have also departed, though MTSU should remain strong the middle with linebackers DQ Thomas, Khalil Brooks and safety Reed Blankenship anchoring that side of the ball.
For the Wolverines, this also will be the start of a new era as they finally look join the modern age of college football with a no-huddle, spread offense. It was never more obvious that a change was needed after consecutive blowouts to end the season against Ohio State and Florida where the Michigan offense continued to deliver inconsistent performances against high-level opponents. Improvement in 2019 will be crucial as the Wolverines are having to replace six starters on defense.
Middle Tennessee at Michigan
Kickoff: Saturday, Aug. 31 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network
Spread: Michigan -33.5
When Middle Tennessee Has the Ball
The focus will be centered on who comes out at quarterback with the first unit as a decision has yet to be made publicly. The perceived favorite as of this moment appears to be sophomore Asher O'Hara who served as Stockstill's backup a year ago, though there is a chance we could also see Chase Cunningham as the coaching staff looks to settle on the best option moving forward. Whoever gets the nod will have a talented array of skill players at his disposal in star receiver Ty Lee, sophomore running back Chaton Mobley, and all-purpose weapon Brad Anderson.
When Michigan Has the Ball
What does #SpeedInSpace look in a real-time game setting? For much of the offseason, Michigan fans have heard about, and only briefly seen, what this new revolutionized offense looks like for the Wolverines under offensive coordinator and first-time play-caller Josh Gattis. The talent on the field is in place to be successful with a senior quarterback in Shea Patterson, a trio of NFL-caliber receivers, and arguably the best offensive line in the Big Ten. The lone question mark resides in the backfield where Michigan loses 1,000-yard rusher Karan Higdon and will look to either a former walk-on in Tru Wilson, or a pair of freshmen in Zach Charbonnet and Christian Turner.
If Brent Stockstill were still around, the Blue Raiders may have a puncher's chance in this contest. But this is not the type of defense you want to face in the Wolverines with questions at quarterback. Even with the plethora of new faces on that side of the ball, as long as defensive coordinator Don Brown is calling the plays, the Wolverines should remain a top unit. If Middle Tennessee can't consistently move the football on offense, the Blue Raiders don't present much of a threat in what should be a raucous atmosphere at night in the Big House.
Prediction: Michigan 41, Middle Tennessee 16
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Follow him on Twitter @MBainbridgeCFF.