Spreads and Odds: Big Ten Openers

September 1, 2015 by  
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We dive into the eccentric carousel of college football, dissecting each Big Ten opener by the spread. Where's the value at for Week 1?

For those unfamiliar with my segment at MnB, I periodically cover the betting subdivision of the Big Ten—and nation—respectively.

While I’m not condoning wagering outside the cordial confines of legal sportbooks, my secondary mission acknowledges what to perhaps expect once the weekend slate transpires.

Take it for what it’s worth, or sit back, kick the heels up, and absorb the previews. Lo and behold, let’s dive right into 2015’s openers.

Michigan Wolverines at Utah Utes

Date: Thursday, September 3rd (8:30 ET)

Line: Utah -5.5, 47

Let’s blanket the basics real quick: whichever team has the minus sign is the favorite, and the 47 entails the projected amount of combined points. It’s up to the bettor to either take Utah (they’d have to win by more than five points) or Michigan (Wolverines would need to lose by five or less, or win straight up). As for the total, it’s rather simple: over or under the respected number

The 5.5 has fluctuated all over the grid since opening up, falling all the way to 4.5, back up to 6, and now returning to its original position.

Harbaugh’s return in an attempt to breathe life into the Michigan program begins with a west coast trip to mingle with Kyle Whittingham’s Utes, a team that stormed into the Big House last season and robbed a road win, 26-10.

This game goes two paths in my opinion: we’re either going to see flexing of the muscles, or one club attempt to get super fancy and open things up. By flexing muscles, I’m talking your prototypical, "we’re going to run it right down your throat and try to win the possession game." The latter? One team jumps right off the get-go with a trick play touchdown, sending the meeting into a full-out track meet.

I firmly believe we’re going to endure a 14-13 type of game, or one that sees both teams surpass the 35-point mark, and no gray area in between. The first half opens up a grand opportunity for Harbaugh to settle in his quarterback, and for Kyle Whittingham to establish the ground game in Devontae Booker, in an attempt to perhaps stretch the defense as the game progresses.

I hate siding with the public and predicting a slow start, but it could be a feeling out process to start the game, only to see it potentially pick up as the sun sets in Utah.

Pick: First Half Under 23.5

Texas Christian at Minnesota

Date: Thursday, September 3rd (9 ET)

Line: TCU -14.5, 56

Those that have scanned numerous posts from yours truly are aware of my weariness of Texas Christian come Week 1.

But I’m also high on Minnesota in this position.

I’ll reiterate the large point that I noted in my content from weeks prior: Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill has relished in the underdog role, scoring a win as a 8.5-point or larger underdog four times since taking the helm in 2011.

I feel the months of preparation for TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin plays a huge role, and it should be dually noted that Minnesota’s secondary is the best that nobody talks about. The tandem of Eric Murray and Briean Boddy-Calhoun will match up with Josh Doctson and Kody Listenbee, and I’ll be damned if the Gophers let the Horned Frogs do whatever they want on offense.

Kill won’t opt for a shootout versus the lethal offense, so I expect them to run the ball against a defense that may be a bit short-handed this season on defense. It’s not a flashy bunch, but get someone else to assist wide receiver K.J. Maye and this Gophers club can mimic last year’s success.

I’ve actually placed Texas Christian on upset alert for Week 1, because the No. 2 team in the nation being upended would be ‘so college football.’ I’ll grab the full 14.5, however.

Points, please.

Pick: Minnesota +14.5

Michigan State at Western Michigan

Date: Friday, September 4th (7 ET)

Line: Michigan State -18.5, 57.5

Mark Dantonio-P.J. Fleck. Experience versus youth. The big guns versus the little guy.

I’m extremely high on Michigan State this season—it’s defense in particular—and I’m rather anxious to see it in the opener versus Western Michigan. The Broncos seemingly return an entire offense that helped nab a bid to the MAC Championship game a season ago and should see their success in the top-tier of the conference this season.

While it’s a bit different matching up with a stout Big Ten defense, I feel this is too many points right off the bat. I expect the Spartans to do whatever they want on offense, but even 18.5 points leaves a chance for a late cover.

Pick: Western Michigan +18.5

Kent State at Illinois

Date: Friday, September 4th (9 ET)

Line: Illinois -14.5, 56.5

A week prior to Illinois’ opener, head coach Tim Beckman gets the boot out of Champagne, which means decisions desired addressing. For the football team, Bill Cubit steps in as the interim. For Vegas, they’ve dropped the number from 16 to 14.5.

I’m not going to buy into the mental dilapidation just yet, however. Cubit, the former offensive coordinator, will surely press the issue on offense, and that’s no problem with quarterback Wes Lunt and running back Josh Ferguson.

Illinois has seen its fair share of high-scoring affairs with mid-majors over the years, and now that the offensive coordinator is distributing orders, I like the Illini to light it up, as they have the opportunity to rally around the setback(?) of losing their head coach.

Pick: Illinois -14.5, Kent State-Illinois Over 57.5

Stanford at Northwestern

Date: Saturday, September 5th (12 ET)

Line: Stanford -12, 45

Amidst the PAC-12 jumble, I’ve a soft spot for David Shaw’s Cardinal, a team that truly separates itself from the supplementary programs. The way Stanford has shut down offenses over the recent half-decade has served as the primary fragment for success, and now the offense appears fine-tuned with quarterback Kevin Hogan, along with skill players Devon Cajuste and the highly-touted Christian McCaffrey.

For Fitzgerald’s Wildcats, quarterback Clayton Thorson will act as the primary engineer for a rather stagnant offense; the efficiency from 2013 to 2014 dropped off extremely hard and it’ll take some unfamiliar faces to rev the engines in 2015. Stanford traveling to the Midwest for a 11 P.M. start, the Wildcats still hoisting red flags aplenty on offense, not to mention both head coaches are 21-7 to the under when the total is set in the 40s, I’ll join hands with the public and call for a low-scoring affair, which means Stanford wins 56-38.

Pick: Stanford-Northwestern Under 45

Penn State at Temple

Date: Saturday, September 5th (3:30 ET)

Line: Penn State -6.5, 38

You can frequently catch the books’ drift. Listen, I get it. Temple returns the entire defense, and Penn State’s defense could potentially stifle Owls quarterback P.J. Walker.

I’m not buying it, especially with the motive of Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg. Following a subpar 2014, eyes are fixated on the junior to blossom into one of the nation’s underrated signal callers, and what better way to defy the naysayers than to pick apart a mid-major defense?

He’s got some pure talent alongside him with wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton, and the mobility of P.J. Walker on the opposite sideline could turn into a rather exciting contest. 38 should depict a tight, monotonous game, but Penn State could very well notch 30 alone in my opinion.

Pick: Penn State-Temple Over 38

BYU at Nebraska

Date: Saturday, September 5th (3:30 ET)

Line: Nebraska -6, 64.5

I’ll get down to the nitty gritty right away with this one: BYU’s schedule appears one of the most rugged in all of college football. A trip to Lincoln to open up the ledger, the Big House, and games versus UCLA, Missouri, Cincinnati and Boise State, Bronco Mendenhall’s job is to get the Cougars on the right foot as soon as possible.

Do I think BYU saunters into Lincoln and robs a road win? Not necessarily, but I don’t think I want to fade the Cougars this early in the season. Once the schedule toughens up and the mentality perhaps grows weary, then absolutely. It should also assist Mendenhall’s defense that the Huskers are down one receiver, and a big-time one at that, in De’Mornay Pierson-El.

I like Nebraska in a nail-biter. Sue me, corn eaters.

Pick: Brigham Young +6

Wisconsin vs. Alabama

Date: Saturday, September 5th (8 ET)

Line: Alabama -10, 52.5

On loose-leaf, I see 2-3 yards a rush, punt, repeat. I’ve also made the mistake of judging future events without becoming fully intact on what’s going on with both clubs.

Alabama’s quarterback conundrum, no more Melvin Gordon; offense appears scarce, but I’m not budging that this game will be a snooze fest. I think we’ll see Wisconsin WR Kenzel Doe make some plays on offense and in the return game, a lot of Bama RB Derrick Henry, and perhaps some trickery from both sides.

Big game, neutral site? No problem for Nick Saban: he and the Tide are averaging 36.4 points per game the previous eight contests held on neutral confines. Don’t let the boring jersey colors fool you--we need points.

Pick: Alabama Team Total Over 31.5, Alabama-Wisconsin Over 52.5

Purdue at Marshall

Date: Sunday, September 6th (3 ET)

Line: Marshall -7.5, 64

Your eyes do not deceive: a Big Ten club is catching a touchdown versus a C-USA program. Marshall’s one of the better stories spanning the country in terms of inclining on a national platform, and those scurrying around, wondering how the Herd will tack on double-digit wins again in 2015 without all-everything quarterback Rakeem Cato need to grab a seat and enroll in AK 3001, a class that lectures how replacing star-studded talent is more than possible.

Enter Michael Birdsong, a James Madison transfer, and a 6"4’ gunslinger that has dazzled in the offseason. His supporting cast looks primed to notch gaudy numbers once more, with running back Devon Johnson and wide receivers Hyleck Foster and Davonte’ Allen acting as primary protagonists for Doc Holliday’s offense.

For Purdue, I’m never really sure what’s going on in West Lafayette. They lose Danny Etling to LSU, Robbie Hummel has another torn ACL for the basketball team, and okay, Akeem Hunt is a pretty solid tailback.

There’s scarce buzz for the Boilermakers, and while I will periodically vie for a lower-tier Power Five program over a high-society Group of Five, ask Illinois how that went in last season’s bowl game versus La Tech.

Pick: Marshall -7.5

Ohio State at Virginia Tech

Date: Sunday, September 6th (8 ET)

Line: Ohio State -10.5, 53.5

"Do I have to cover Ohio State?"

"Yes, Alex, we need to be fair and unbiased."

"But I don’t want to. I don’t like them. I like Michigan."

"Well it looks like someone’s not getting Xbox privileges for two weeks."

"Fine, I’ll do it then."

A genuine conversation with my mother before dialing up Ohio State’s Week 1 opener versus the Hokies, here we are.

Jokes aplenty, but this is a tremendous spot for the Buckeyes to be perfectly honest. A slew of guys sidelined, yet the talent is all but present for Urban Meyer’s core, a team seeking revenge for the lone blemish on their 2015 National Championship. The public is already purchasing Valentine’s Day Pokemon cards for the Hokies, but I’m not ready to hop on the bandwagon, even with Buckeye suspensions galore.

Upon opening up as 18-point favorites, those that purchased Brutus slips prior to the suspensions were robbed of the value, but as the line moves towards single digits, it returns.

Close, low-scoring game to start out, yet whomever’s taking snaps (Jones or Barrett) finds a groove to dismantle Frank Beamer, who aside from last year, is 0-7 against the spread in FBS openers. Buckeyes win 33-17.

Pick: Ohio State -10.5

Which games stick out to you? Tweet us your takes @MaizenBrew

Michigan Wolverines vs. Utah Utes: Matchups To Watch

September 1, 2015 by  
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Taking a look at a few key storylines that will be interesting to follow on Thursday.

Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines sent the Utah Utes their week one depth chart on Monday, but there still are a lot of questions (and ORs) to sift through before we know for sure what the team will look like on Thursday night.

With that being said, there are still quite a few matchups to keep an eye on that will play a part in determining the contest between the Wolverines and Utes.

Here are a few that I will be keeping a close eye on:

U-M's Offensive Line vs. Utah's Pass Rush

Last season, the Utes sacked the quarterback 55 times, which was good for the top spot in the NCAA. Gone is Nate Orchard to the NFL, but Utah still has a guy in Hunter Dimick who was an absolute force on the defensive line last season, notching 14.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in 2014.

It has been well-documented how pedestrian the Michigan offensive line was the last few seasons, but they are by all accounts much improved after spending an off-season with Tim Drevno. That is what the hype suggests, but they will be tested early by a stout Utah defense. Not an easy task for a week one opponent on the road.

The Wolverines, namely offensive tackle Mason Cole, did a nice job last year in limiting guys like Michigan State's Shilique Calhoun and Ohio State's Joey Bosa, so the ability to slow down Dimick and the pass rush is there, but it will not be easy.

U-M's Quarterbacks vs. Utah's Secondary

Utah let the Wolverines hang around a bit in the meeting at the Big House last year, but poor, inefficient quarterback play and turnovers prevented Michigan from taking advantage of the opportunities. We assume Jake Rudock will be the starter on Thursday, but whoever is under center needs to protect the football.

The Utes' pass defense is a concern after ranking 90th in the country last year. The loss of Dominique Hatfield is significant, but it sounds like the secondary overall has had a nice off-season and looks improved. Utah corner Reggie Porter missed all of last season and was expected to be a starter, so having him back will be a nice boost to a cornerback group that struggled without him.

Regardless, opportunities to make plays in the passing game look like they will be there and that is where guys like Drake Harris and Grant Perry, along with Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson, need to help the Wolverines craft a passing game that defenses have to respect.

Michigan is going to run the ball a lot, so do not expect them to light up Utah's secondary, but they do need to make plays that can provide the appropriate balance for the offense.

The Battle of the Kicking Games

I know this is the one that everyone is excited about!

Okay, maybe not to the average fan, but this is absolutely something to look out for. This projects to be a physical football game that may come down to kicks late in the game. Utah has a very good kicker in Andy Phillips, but the Wolverines do not know who their guy will be yet and the rumors from fall camp say that it is a position of concern.

Kenny Allen or Kyle Seychel are the two names on the depth chart at kicker. It will be a raucous environment on Thursday evening, so if it does come down to clutch, late-game heroics in the kicking game, it is advantage Utes there until we see otherwise.

Is there anything that you will be looking out for on Thursday? Sound off in the comments below!

Behind Enemy Lines: Q&A with Block U

September 1, 2015 by  
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We snuck into Utah and held Block U's Alex Stark hostage until he revealed his thoughts and prediction for Michigan's season opener.

It's game week (woo! finally!), and we at Maize n Brew have been and will continue to preview Michigan's season opener against Utah on Thursday. And what better way to add to that coverage than to provide Utah's perspective on the matchup? So we reached out to Alex Stark of SB Nation's Utah team site, Block U, and grilled him for his thoughts on the game. Will Devontae Booker break though Michigan's strong run defense? Is Utah's terrifying pass rush from last season ready for a sequel? How do Utes fans feel about Jim Harbaugh? And, most importantly, who will start the season with a 1-0 record? Those answers and more great insight will be found below. Enjoy the Q&A!

To see my thoughts on Michigan-Utah, you can find the Q&A I did over at Block U here.

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After back-to-back 5-7 seasons in 2012 and 2013, Utah put together a very good season in 2014, posting a 9-4 (5-4 Pac-12) record that included a resounding win over Colorado State in the Las Vegas Bowl. One would expect the coaching staff to remain intact unless coaches were poached by other schools that could provide better opportunities. However, offensive coordinator Dave Christensen took a demotion to become the offensive line coach at Texas A&M and promising defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake agreed to take the same position at Oregon State, which most would argue is no better than a lateral move. Why did Christensen and Sitake flee Utah?

I think Kalani Sitake and Dave Christensen left for very different reasons. Sitake was very well liked within the program, and there was a strong push to try to retain him (he was even reportedly offered more money by Utah than OSU). Ultimately, I think the main reason Sitake left was his strong relationship with new OSU coach Gary Andersen, who was formerly the defensive coordinator at Utah. It seems like Sitake saw an opportunity to work with a coach he was incredibly close with and jumped at it. Christensen on the other hand was supposedly not well liked by many in the program. I think Christensen was also unhappy about not having as much control over the offense as he wanted. Overall, Christensen and Utah were just not a good fit, so he moved on to a different program, which was likely best for both sides.

How do Utah fans feel about the in-house promotion of Aaron Roderick and Jim Harding to co-offensive coordinator and the luring of 71-year-old John Pease out of retirement to become the defensive coordinator? Will Utah's philosophical approach on either side of the ball change with these moves or will it remain the same as 2014?

I think most Utah fans like the promotions of Aaron Roderick and Jim Harding and the hiring of John Pease. Roderick was co-OC previously in 2010 and Harding worked wonders with Utah's offensive line. Both are very capable coaches and will keep the same scheme and terminology from last year. Pease has a ton of experience and still has plenty of passion for the game despite his advanced age. In his first stint at Utah as defensive line coach in 2009-10, he coached multiple Utah defensive linemen who now play in the NFL including All-American Star Lotulelei. The defense, regardless of who is the defensive coordinator, will schematically stay pretty much the same because it is Kyle Whittingham's defense. As long as he is Utah's head coach, Utah will continue to play good, hard-nosed defense. Overall, I do not expect Utah's scheme to change much at all on offense or defense in 2015.

Alright, let's talk about the players. Last season, Utah deployed two quarterbacks: Travis Wilson and Kendal Thompson. Wilson started 11 of Utah's 13 games and produced the better numbers (2170 passing yards, 18:5 TD:INT ratio, five rushing scores), but Thompson started against Oregon before suffering a season-ending ACL injury in the first quarter. Does Utah plan to use both quarterbacks against Michigan?

The Utah coaching staff has not said much about the quarterbacks. Only Whittingham has talked about it much at all and has said it is Travis Wilson's job to lose. He is still atop the depth chart, but beyond that, no one really knows what Utah plans to do. One other name to know is redshirt freshman Chase Hansen. He saw a lot of reps in spring and fall camp and moved up to third on the depth chart, but his athleticism may get him on the field some in special situations a la Wilson very early in his freshman season, but that is pure speculation.

Michigan had one of the best run-stuffing defenses last season (8th in the nation in S&P+) and is expected to rank well in that category again this season. Utah returns running back Devontae Booker, who was the Pac-12's second-leading rusher in 2014 with 1,512 yards on a Pac-12-most 292 carries. Booker threw in 10 rushing touchdowns and two receiving scores for good measure, too. However, because Booker had so many touches, his YPC (5.18) was fine but only 15th in the conference. As a result, Utah's run offense ranked 79th in S&P+. Plus, he had his worst rushing performance last season against Michigan (11 carries, 34 yards). Booker seems to be a bell cow that could be more efficient. How much will Utah's offense be reliant on Booker? Do you expect him to have a vastly improved performance against the Wolverines this time around?

The performance Devontae Booker had against Michigan last season is not indicative of what he is capable of as a running back. It was not until the Washington State game (the week after Michigan) that Booker established himself as the starter. Through the first three games in 2014, Booker saw only 31 carries, as he split reps at running back with 2013 starter Bubba Poole (who is now playing slot receiver for Utah). Utah started to rely more and more on Booker as the season went on last year. Michigan can expect to see a much heavier dose of Booker than the 11 carries they saw in the 2014 meeting. Booker is the focal point of the Utah offense in the 2015 season both running the ball and catching it out of the backfield. He is a big back with very good speed and great hands. Michigan figures to have a very good rushing defense, but they will have their hands full with Booker on Sept. 3.

The biggest question mark on Utah's offense is its receiving corps. The Utes lost three of their four top receivers: Kaelin Clay (43 rec., 523 yards), Westlee Tonga (30 rec., 391 yards), and Dres Anderson (22 rec., 355 yards in seven games). Booker will be one of the best receiving running backs in the nation (42 rec., 311 yards in 2014), but Kenneth Scott is the only returning Utah receiver that had more than 200 receiving yards last year (49 rec., 501 yards). And Scott was only a possession receiver. Can Scott be a more explosive threat? Do the Utes have anyone else to whom they can throw the football?

The receiving corps was a huge concern for Utah heading into fall camp, but a few newcomers have really excelled. Receiver is much less of a concern for me than it was in July or early August. Names to keep an eye on are true freshman Britain Covey, JuCo transfer Kyle Fulks, and Bubba Poole (the former running back) at the slot receiver. They each bring something different to the table. Covey has video game shiftiness in the open field, Fulks has blazing speed (10.2 100-meters in high school), and Poole has a nice combination of speed, size, and moves in the open field.

Kenneth Scott is more of a possession receiver, but he is a good one. With his basketball background, he is excellent at high pointing the football, and he has great hands. With his size and skill, he presents a match up problem with smaller defensive backs. Scott is in his final season at Utah and figures to have his best year. One last receiver to know is Tim Patrick. He was just starting to hit his stride last season when he suffered a season-ending leg injury against Oregon. Patrick is a big receiver (at 6'5") and has good speed for his size. He figures to play a big role in the passing game this year.

Lastly, as you mentioned, Booker is a great receiving running back. He showed great hands last year and was dangerous catching the ball out of the backfield. With the losses at receiver this year, I expect Booker will again be a factor in the passing game. Utah is not a team that wants to the throw the ball all over the field. They will likely only throw the ball enough to keep the defense honest and will pound the ball with Booker.

Let's move to the defense. No team in the nation had a better pass-rushing defensive line in 2014 than Utah. The Utes led the nation in sacks (a whopping 4.23 per game) and owned the best sack rate in the nation on obvious passing downs. Simply, if an offense put itself behind the chains, that offense was in big, big trouble against Utah. But Sitake and defensive line coach Ilaisa Tuiaki departed for Oregon State, and stud defensive end Nate Orchard (18.5 sacks in 2014 -- second in the nation) is in Cleveland with the Browns. Nonetheless, Utah still returns defensive end Hunter Dimick (14.5 TFL, 10 sacks), defensive end Jason Fanaika (9.5 TFL, five sacks), and nose tackle Lowell Lotulelei (4.5 TFL, four sacks), as well as many other contributors. Is it possible for this defensive line to be as much of a kamikaze swarm as it was in 2014?

"Kamikaze swarm" I love that term to describe Utah's defensive line! The short answer is yes, I believe this year's defensive line could be special as well. Hunter Dimick, Jason Fanaika, and Lowell Lotulelei are the big name guys for good reason. In addition to them, Utah has a ton of depth and talent. UCLA transfer defensive end Kylie Fitts looked like a stud in the offseason and could have a big year this year. Utah has a lot of talent at defensive tackle in addition to Lotulelei with guys like Filipo Mokofisi, Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, and Viliseni Fauonuku, who will all see a lot of playing time in Utah's defensive line rotation. Last, a player to keep an eye on is defensive end Pita Taumoepenu. He had 4 sacks last season, mostly in obvious passing situations. He was undersized last season but was very quick off the edge. He has added good weight this offseason and maintained his quickness. He could be a terrifying pass rush specialist for Utah this season.

Like Michigan, Utah has three returning senior starters at linebacker, including run-stuffer Jared Norris. However, the questions in the back seven lie in the secondary, specifically the corners. Despite having the best pass rush in the nation last season, Utah ranked only 41st in S&P+ on passing downs, which indicates that, if Utah's pass rush didn't get home, quarterbacks generally connected with open receivers. Not only is this a concern, Utah will not have its top three corners from last season in the opener against Michigan. Eric Rowe and Davion Orphey graduated, while Dominique Hatfield remains indefinitely suspended after he was arrested on charges of armed robbery. Who fills in for those three against the Wolverines? Will they have trouble against an unproven receiving corps. from Michigan that likely lacks a deep threat?

Cornerback, like receiver was a concern heading into fall camp with Dominique Hatfield getting dismissed from the team (though there is a chance for reinstatement at some point). However, Utah's corners have been very impressive this fall. Utah gets back cornerback Reggie Porter who missed all of last season and safety Tevin Carter who missed much of last season (Carter recorded two interceptions last season, including one against Michigan in only four games). Porter would have been a starter in 2014 had he not suffered an injury very early in fall camp 2014. He has shown this fall why he would have been a starter. Utah has a history of putting defensive backs into the NFL, and Porter looks like the next great Utah cornerback. Carter is big, physical, and fast. He has a knack for creating turnovers and is dynamic with the ball in his hands, returning one of his two interceptions for a touchdown against UCLA. Once Carter went down, teams were able to create more big plays over the top.

Utah also added talented JuCo transfer cornerback Cory Butler-Byrd. Butler-Byrd has received rave reviews so far this fall. Utah also gets Justin Thomas back at nickel corner. Thomas is good in coverage and tough against the run. Safety Marcus Williams saw a lot of playing time last season as a true freshman after Carter went down. That experience was invaluable for his development. He was susceptible to the big play last season but looks much better as a sophomore. Getting players like Carter and Porter back and adding Butler-Byrd has given the Utah secondary a huge boost.

I think they could give an unproven Michigan wide receiving corps trouble, especially if Michigan lacks a deep threat. Utah's defense has proven to be stout against power running/pro-style teams like Stanford, so the lack of a deep threat could prove problematic for Michigan.

There were many reasons Michigan lost to Utah last season, but a main one was special teams. Andy Phillips made 4-of-5 field goals, all of which were at least 35 yards long, including one from 48 and another from 50. Michigan decided to put only 10 men on the punt coverage team, and Clay made them pay with a 66-yard touchdown return. Oh, and Tom Hackett, who won the Ray Guy Award as the nation's best punter, flipped field position on Michigan all day. It was a shellacking in that department. And all but Clay are back. Let me guess: Utah will kick ass on special teams again this year, huh?

Yes, Utah figures to be one of the best teams in special teams again this season. Tom Hackett and Andy Phillips are such underrated weapons for the Utah football team. Phillips is a team captain for Utah, and Hackett is the best punter in the nation. Kaelin Clay was a big loss in the return game, but Utah has a history of producing great return men, including Clay, Reggie Dunn (who had five career 100-yard kickoff return touchdowns, including four in one season), and Shaky Smithson (who had multiple punt return touchdowns in his career). Utah adds players like Butler-Byrd, Covey, and Fulks, who all have the ability to be dynamic return men and continue Utah's tradition of excellent return men.

You may have heard, but Michigan hired this guy named "Jim Harbaugh" to be its new football coach. The media may have talked about him a bit here and there in the offseason, and FOX Sports may have dressed a bus used to promote the Michigan-Utah opener in his signature look. Do Utah fans resent Harbaugh at all due to the fact that it seems like he has overshadowed media coverage of this game for months?

I think Utah fans love the attention this game is getting. Playing in the West and not being named USC or Oregon has caused Utah to get overlooked by the national media. This game, with all the media fanfare surrounding Harbaugh's return to college football, offers Utah a great opportunity to impress voters around the nation. It will likely be the most watched game ever broadcasted from Rice-Eccles Stadium, which gives Utah a great opportunity to show the nation what the program is about, and I don't think any fan can resent that. Honestly, I think Utah fans are still more mad at Harbaugh for benching Alex Smith (maybe you heard, Utah is going to have some Alex Smith faces in the crowd for the game) than for all the media coverage he is getting.

From what I have seen on social media, Utah fans seem very confident about its chances to beat Michigan on Thursday. So much so, in fact, that Michigan writers and fans that have predicted the Wolverines to win have been dubbed "homers" by Utes fans. I wouldn't necessarily call them homers, but, yes, Utah is at home and is a 5.5-point favorite. Are you as confident about Utah's chances to win as the rest of the fan base seems to be? What is your prediction for Thursday? Who wins? What's the score?

At BlockU, we do a weekly podcast, and last week we did our season win-loss predictions. All of us at BlockU picked Utah to beat Michigan. Harbaugh is a great coach, and Michigan has a lot of talent, but I like Utah at home in the season opener. I think it will take more time than the first game for Harbaugh to really implement his schemes at Michigan. Utah has a huge advantage on special teams that is a great talent equalizer. I also think the atmosphere at Rice-Eccles Stadium will be the best it has ever been, and I think that will help propel Utah to the win. I see the game as a tough hard-fought game for the first three quarters with Utah pulling away a bit behind Booker in the fourth quarter, winning something like 31-17.

One last question before you go: for the Michigan fans that will be in attendance on Thursday, like myself, what must we do while in Salt Lake City? Are there any places that we must visit? Are there restaurants or bars at which we must eat or drink?

There are many great restaurants in Salt Lake City. You can get great diner food (Ruth's), Mexican food (Red Iguana), barbecue (Pat's), Middle Eastern (Mazza), and much more. Squatters is a great brewery/restaurant as well. If you like whiskey, I highly recommend trying High West, which is made in Park City, Utah. It may not be the greatest pizza, but the Pie is the quintessential Utah pizza and is very, very close to campus. The Park Cafe is a great place to get breakfast as is Eggs in the City. If you like the outdoors, there is plenty to see in Utah with the Great Salt Lake (and Antelope Island), Emigration Canyon, and all of the ski resorts (which sadly are not open in September) offer great hiking in early September, and there are several chair lifts open at the ski lifts which offer great views. Main Street in Park City is a really fun place to visit and is only about a half hour outside of Salt Lake City. Even if you are not Mormon, seeing Temple Square is something to consider seeing as well.

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Thanks to Alex for answering our questions! Follow him on Twitter at @starkaw23.

Naseir Upshur Decision Preview: Will It Be Michigan or Florida State?

September 1, 2015 by  
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Taking a look at the storylines heading into the four-star tight end's decision.

Class of 2016 tight end Naseir Upshur (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) will make his college decision on Tuesday between the Michigan Wolverines and Florida State Seminoles.

Upshur is a four-star prospect and the fifth-ranked tight end in the class, according to 247's Composite ranking system.

At one point during his recruitment, the Wolverines were far and away the favorite to land the highly-touted tight end prospect, but things changed recently when five-star Isaac Nauta (Buford, Georgia) decided to decommit from the Seminoles and re-open his recruitment.

Since then, Florida State has made a huge push for Upshur and his recruitment has begun to trend their way, leaving Michigan with no choice but to begin to look at other players like four-star Jacob Mathis (Tampa, Florida).

The Wolverines already have a pretty good tight end committed in three-star Sean McKeon (Dudley, Massachusetts), but the plan has always been to take multiple players at the position during this recruiting cycle.

The chance still exists that Upshur may decide to become a member of Michigan's 2016 recruiting class, but we have heard otherwise here at MnB.

Michigan will not stop recruiting Upshur if he commits to Florida State, but that does not necessarily mean he's bound for a change of heart, either. Though, we have seen crazier things happen on the recruiting trail.

So heading into his decision, I have him pegged as choosing Florida State, along with several other recruitniks on the 247 Crystal Ball predictions.

Tuesday Morning Brews: Crazy Predictions

September 1, 2015 by  
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Crushing Heisman hopes, naming QBs, and making fun of Tim Beckman.

25 Crazy Season Predictions (Part 1)

Let's jump to it.

1. The Leonard Fournette Heisman train never takes off.

Yes, he's a phenomenal player. But the line is thin in the SEC West, and the LSU Tigers are surely looking up at Alabama, and very probably some combination of Auburn, Ole Miss, MSU, or Texas A&M. This team has not proven consistent enough, or dominant enough, to run the table. And given how thin the line is for a running back to even contend for the award, no SEC Championship appearance means no Heisman for Mr. Fournette.

2. The Trevone Boykin Heisman train never takes off.

While Fournette is a running back, Boykin is exactly the kind of player Heisman voters have been throwing awards at since Troy Smith in 2006. And Boykin, like Fournette, is an unbelievable player.

But defenses will have now had a year to prepare for TCU's offense, and Boykin is still a work in progress for some of the finer aspects of the quarterback job. Turnovers, too, could be key: last year Boykin threw 10 interceptions, and had just one lost fumble out of five times he coughed up the ball. I'd expect defenses to try and find ways to gang tackle him, hit him hard, and wear him down over the course of the season, and that makes the timing of this year's Baylor game potentially bad timing. The Bears travel to Fort Worth for the final game of the regular season, and that is a very different kind of affair if Boykin, who relies so heavily on his legs, is not 100%.

3. The Ezekiel Elliott Heisman train never takes off.

Say what you will about Urban Meyer, but he's old-school where it counts. That includes the value he puts on a good inside run game.

But with all the weapons at Ohio State's disposal, I'd expect Meyer to use Zeke as an ace in the hole, keeping him healthy during a long season and only unleashing him in the fourth quarters and late in the year. Essentially, exactly what happened last year. And that will mean fewer carries for Zeke than he might need.

4. Notre Dame will be carried by Ronnie Stanley.

The AP Poll and the Coaches Poll both have Notre Dame at 11th. But unfortunately for Notre Dame's opponents, this team is dripping with talent.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who was a likely first-round pick last season, decided to return - and he might not be their best player (that distinction would go to Jaylon Smith). But Stanley will be critical in keeping Malik Zaire upright and making the right decisions.

"Seeing the emotion and happiness it brought to [Ohio State]," Stanley said about his decision to return, "and knowing that I could be in that spot — and knowing that we have the talent in place to be in that spot — is something that really struck me. I 100-percent feel we can win a national championship."

5. An 11-2 Alabama squad makes the Playoff.

Sometimes, you've gotta stick with what makes sense. In the SEC West, there are a lot of teams with equal parts talent and questions - Texas A&M with their re-tooling defense, Auburn with their re-tooling defense, LSU with their re-tooling defense, Arkansas with their re-tooling ... well, the point here is that other teams have questions. Alabama doesn't. The quarterback battle and the wide receiver battle don't exactly count, because they have several options to fill those voids. The closest Bama has to an unknown quantity is their secondary, and Nick Saban brought in an NFL defensive coordinator (Mel Tucker) just to coach that part of the defense. Plus, Cyrus Jones has the tools and the experience to play some top-notch football.

In short, Alabama is great enough to make the Playoff. The schedule they play is also undeniably difficult, and that might test the theory of a "two-loss SEC champ" making the college playoffs. If Alabama plays in the SEC Championship game, they could presumably have played ten top-25 teams in one season.

6. UCLA's Josh Rosen shows he belongs as a true freshman.

USC has now lost to UCLA three years in a row, and none by less than 10 points. Mora will look to make that 4-0 in his time at Pasadena with the help of Josh Rosen, a freshman five-star talent. Jim Mora's offense is easy enough for anybody to play well in, and Rosen will be throwing behind a great defense, a great running game, and in the face of some great receivers.

7. Clemson ends the year on a heartbreaking note.

As for Clemson, it's impossible for me to really bet against a coaching staff that has produced elite recruiting, amazing development, and top-notch schemes to handle the rest of the ACC. Florida State has a lot of holes, not the least of which is leadership, and Georgia Tech has some concerns as well. Meanwhile, Clemson's projected S&P+ ranking (15th) is higher than every team it faces. So, yay for Clemson!

Unfortunately, the defense does lose an awful lot, and the offensive line has some major question marks with four starters to replace. You'd figure the replacements will be ready, but what about injuries? Will they be physical and stout enough to handle the very best teams at the end of the year? And would a 12-1 season be enough to oust the Big 12 from a playoff berth, if some of those wins were more than shaky?

8. USC will dramatically underwhelm.

The Trojans start this season in the AP Top 10, but they might end up as the most overrated team in the conference. Tim Drevno has moved on, and been replaced by Oklahoma State's Bob Connelly. Leonard Williams is gone, too, and this team already lacked a pass rush. And, this hasn't been discussed much, but Steve Sarkisian will be leaning on a lot of youth in the secondary, out wide, and on the offensive line.

That's not to say USC will be a bad team, or that recent negative headlines regarding Coach Sarkisian will somehow torpedo their season. But Arizona has a terrific defense and a nearly terrific offense, and Arizona State looks pretty unimpeachable as well. USC is simply a step below the Bruins, Sun Devils, and Wildcats, and might lose a fist-fight against Utah, as well. Combined with high preseason expectations and some recent bad press for Sark, this could turn out pretty rough before it's all over.

9. Some Pac-12 cellar dwellers will make big strides.

This may surprise some people, but Colorado is fielding a pretty good team. Their quarterback, Sefo Liufau, threw for 3,200 yards last year and 28 touchdowns. The offensive line is coming into its own, and a secondary that got banged up last year returns healthy. They'll get run on, but at least they're not in the Big Ten.

Washington State is figuring out ways to add some dimension to their offense, and they seem to be stockpiling some beef on the offensive line. The defense, meanwhile, will be coached by Alex Grinch, who spent the last several years as a safeties coach at Missouri. Grinch will also build up WSU's secondary. Head coach Mike Leach also made a couple other good moves, promoting Joe Salave'a to assistant head coach and bringing in Roy Manning.

10. Tennessee-Oklahoma eclipses Michigan State-Oregon.

I'm on a bit of a hot streak, since I predicted NDSU-Montana would be worthwhile TV. And trying to think of a good Tennessee prediction, all I can think of is how great that Oklahoma game on September 12th is likely to be.

They're a couple proud programs, for one, led by two terrific running backs. There will be new faces at quarterback, new pages in the offense, and ridiculously athletic wide receivers. Big Show Bob will have his hands full with Tennessee's defense, and Butch Jones will be trying to get his offensive line (recently a weakness) to handle a blitzing Eric Striker off the edge.

Besides, some of the allure of Michigan State-Oregon was force vs. object, Runway vs. No Fly Zone. But Michigan State's secondary is not what it was two years ago, and Oregon might need to run a little extra with Vernon Adams, fresh on the scene and still absorbing the playbook.

Hitting the Links Names All The QBs

Urban Meyer & Push-ups

But the screen is blue too!

Remembering Tim Beckman's Lowlights | End For Mike Thomas?

This was a downright Dave Brandon-level statement by Mike Thomas, in July of this year: "I truly believe we wear integrity on our sleeves," he said. "That's the foundation of our program. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't want to hear it, because they think we're diverting from these other issues — we got a lot of great things going on."

Northwestern's QB: Clayton Thorson | Ole Miss: Chad Kelly

This was an interesting quote by Pat Fitzgerald regarding a two-QB system:

I'm not going to worry about that, and that's what I told him. I said, ‘You don't need to look over your shoulder, you don't need to worry about things, just go out and be you, and do what you do and be successful. I anticipate that he will.

We're going to have roles for the other guys, and they'll be prepared, if that ever were to happen. With what we want to do offensively, in the past, we've played multiple quarterbacks. One year, we specifically played two. I'm not saying we're doing that now, and I'm not saying we're not doing that now. But we've had to play multiple quarterbacks [in the past], and both Matt and Zack know that. And they know that the only thing they can control is their attitude, and then obviously the way that they prepare. Their attitudes have been unbelievable, and I fully expect that they'll be prepared if their opportunity presents itself.

Also, Chad Kelly has never been mentioned here before, so I did some digging on what he brings. First off, he is the nephew of Jim Kelly, a former NFL quarterback who was famous for making four straight Super Bowls with the Buffalo Bills, but winning none of them. The younger Kelly tore his ACL and red-shirted in 2012, then was kicked off of Clemson's team after 2013 for some very immature behavior. He spent a year in the JUCO ranks.

Kelly is also a very athletic pro-style QB, with a live arm but also an under-developed game. He'll throw his share of touchdowns - as well as picks.

Georgia's QB: Greyson LambertLSU: Brandon Harris

Harris has apparently greatly impressed. Georgia's Lambert is a Virginia transfer who will have two seasons to play. He beat out Brice Ramsey, a younger and more touted prospect who apparently struggled to absorb the playbook.

FSU's QB: Everett Golson

Saying this as a guy who really respects Brian Kelly's offensive touch, but Everett Golson is going to surpass anything he ever did at Notre Dame. A bit like Denard Robinson, Golson will benefit from a more wide-open attack with five-star receivers who can get wide open.

Assume the Position 2015: Wide Receiver | Depth Chart

Faint praise maybe, but the first-stringers look like they could play some ball. Miles Taylor could turn out to be a nice safety for the Hawkeyes, and Ben Niemann has some burst at linebacker.

Six Candidates For Illinois' Vacancy

The man I really hope takes over Illinois is none of the ones on this list - Ohio State's Tim Beck. And, if he's not available, Michigan's Chief Deputy Director in Health and Human Services, Tim Becker. But adversity often calls in these scenarios, and Becker might want to stay in the health care industry (insert a Tim Beckman joke here). In that case I'd go for the famous UFO sighter Tim Beckley.

Another Eight Candidates For Illinois' Vacancy

Alright, for real this time. Not totally, though, because they mention Jim Tressel.

Nathan Scheelhaase Touchdown

In honor of Scheelhaase being promoted to Illinois' running backs coach, at the ripe age of 24, here's a highlight from his playing days.

Badgers' Running Backs Are Ready | Depth Chart

Wisconsin's running backs have been in the spotlight because of their success, but once you go behind the scenes they've shown to be some of the hardest-working, most determined trainers in the game. This goes into some detail about what the group does to succeed.

Wisconsin Offensive Performers | Defensive Performers

Wisconsin has been banged up, and I'm still a little worried about their wideouts. We'll see.

Inside Montana's Thrilling Win

It's not every year that a season starts that terrifically.

***

For Thursday: Moar predictions. And cookies.

Michigan Football Sends Week One Depth Chart to Utah

August 31, 2015 by  
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In the spirit of gamesmanship, the Wolverines sent along their week one depth chart...with a lot of "ors."

Jim Harbaugh and Michigan has officially sent its week one depth chart to Kyle Whittingham and the Utah Utes.

It can be found below, courtesy of Matthew Piper of the The Salt Lake Tribune.

That sure is a lot of "ORs" on the depth chart. Harbaugh is not showing his cards at all leading up to Thursday night's game, so Utah may be as surprised as we are when things kick off at 8:30 p.m.

This story is developing.

The Michigan Man Podcast Previews the Utah Utes with Bill Riley

August 31, 2015 by  
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On episode 259, Mike Fitzpatrick is joined by Utah play-by-play voice Bill Riley and MLive's Nick Baumgartner to preview this week's game against the Utes.

This week, host Mike Fitzpatrick is joined by Utah Utes play-by-play voice and MLive Michigan beat writer Nick Baumgartner to preview the week one match-up between the two teams.

The 2015 Utah Utes: Getting To Know Week One’s Opponent

August 31, 2015 by  
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Taking a look at last year's match-up and more in preparation for Thursday's game.

Throughout the season during game week, we will be taking a look at what Michigan's opponent that Saturday (in this case, Thursday) has done so far and what the team looks like.  With the game against Utah being a week one opponent, we automatically go to last year's match-up when the two teams played at the Big House.

2014's matchup: Utah 26, Michigan 10

Michigan entered last season's game against Utah as a 3-point favorite. It lost by 16 points in a hideous game.

Utah was outgained by Michigan (308 yards to 286) and had fewer first downs (13 to 19) but managed to pull out the win with superb special teams play and defensive efforts.

The Utes took advantage of the turnover-prone Wolverines to the tune of three interceptions and one fumble recovery. Michigan's offense was filling the stat sheet but couldn't get anything going against Utah. On top of four turnovers, the Wolverines punted four times — one that came back to haunt them — and failed to convert on fourth down twice.

Kaelin Clay returned a punt 66 yards for a touchdown and turned back the clock 23 years for a trolling celebration. He struck the Heisman pose in the end zone, just as Desmond Howard had done in 1991. Clay is with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers now so there won't be any Heisman poses out of him in this year's game.

Another salt-in-the-wounds moment for Michigan: a former alpine racer on the United States ski team — Utah kicker Andy Phillips — single-handily beat one of the most iconic college football teams of all time...with his leg. He outscored Michigan by himself, converting on 4-of-5 field goal tries. You can't make this stuff up.

The 2014 matchup between the two teams also featured a 2-hour, 24-minute lightning delay midway through the fourth quarter. Michigan Stadium rapidly filled with rain and drenched parts of the field. Oh, and Dominos pizza was served in the press box. Again, you can't make this stuff up.

Utah returns its top-three offensive players from last year's win over Michigan in quarterback Travis Wilson, H-back Bubba Poole and running back Devontae Booker.

Wilson went 14-for-20 passing with a touchdown against Michigan. He had limited action in Utah's wins over UCLA and Oregon State but played well in victories against USC and Stanford.

Poole rushed for 40 yards on nine carries and caught three passes for 75 yards. He had 18 receiving yards outside his performance against Michigan.

Booker had the most carries (11) in a crowded Utah rushing attack, but it didn't show for much. He totaled 34 rushing yards against Michigan, but bounced back with three consecutive 150-plus rushing games.

Last year's matchup between Michigan and Utah was a turning point for both teams. Losing to Utah was the beginning of the end for Michigan as its season spiraled out of control. Meanwhile, the Utes capitalized on the significant achievement, upsetting then-ranked UCLA and USC in October, and beating Oregon State and Stanford on the road.

Three Players To Watch

Devontae Booker, Running Back

There is quite a bit of hype on Booker heading into this season. He is one of the best running backs in the Pac-12 and some see him as a dark horse for the Heisman Trophy. He will present a tough challenge for the Michigan defense as their first true test of the 2015 season.

Hunter Dimick, Defensive End

Pass rushing stud Nate Orchard is off to the NFL, but Utah still has studs on the defensive line that can get to the quarterback and cause an impact. Dimick is one of those gentleman.

Last season, he had 14.5 tackles for loss along with 10 sacks. Mason Cole, or whomever will be tasked with blocking him, will have their hands full.

Andy Phillips, Kicker

Now, I know what you're thinking, but yes, we are spotlighting a kicker here. Not because Utah doesn't have any other good players, but because this could very easily become a game that comes down to field goals. The reports out of Michigan's camp are that its kicking situation is far from settled. Phillips is one of the better kickers in the country, so if the game gets to the point where someone needs to make a big kick, advantage Utes here.

Overview

The Utes won nine games last season and bring back a vast majority of that nucleus. It could be tough for them to replicate that, though. They are in a tough division with USC, UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State, so they will have their work cut out for them. Regardless, they will provide an extremely tough opening week test for the Michigan Wolverines and have the advantage of the game being on their home turf this time around.

What We Learned: The Offseason

August 31, 2015 by  
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We take a stroll down memory lane and recap what happened to Michigan during the offseason. Along the way, we laugh at those who said there was no chance Jim Harbaugh would come to Michigan. Join us!

Normally, this article will feature three sections: Michigan, the Big Ten, and the national scene. This week, however, it will feature only Michigan.

It's been an adventurous college football offseason. And despite OSU winning a national title, several teams making coaching changes, and MSU eternally playing the DISRESPECT card, a 5-7 team grabbed the spotlight. And not just some of the spotlight, but ALL OF THE SPOTLIGHT. Harbaugh Mania ran rampant in Ann Arbor this offseason, as Jim deviated from the norm, and went back to college as a very successful pro coach. Many others like Spurrier and Saban went back from pro to college, but none of them can even sniff the kind of pro success that Jim Harbaugh has had.

WHAT WE LEARNED: ABOUT MICHIGAN

Jim Harbaugh's first choice was Michigan. The NFL talking heads were convinced that Harbaugh would NEVER leave the NFL for the college ranks. It was a little eerie how arrogant and unified the NFL writers became when it came to the subject. They didn't even consider the possibility, as they couldn't even fathom the possibility of Harbaugh taking a supposed "step back" in his career, or a university being able to compete in the Harbaugh sweepstakes from a financial standpoint.

However, Michigan was able to get Harbaugh without necessarily breaking the bank. In fact, he left money on the table, opting to keep more money in the budget to handsomely pay assistant coaches. While Harbaugh knows being able to pay elite assistants is paramount to winning in both the pros and college, the fact is that he came home at a discount, and he wants to be at Michigan.

Michigan's first choice was Jim Harbaugh. In the Twitter era, a lot of emphasis is put on speed.  And as a result, making decisions quickly is seen as a sign of strength. Florida was lauded for their swift hiring of Colorado State's Jim McElwain, for instance. Meanwhile, Michigan's methodical approach (a.k.a. waiting until the 49ers season was done) in their coaching search was seen as a sign of weakness.

And while Michigan was getting criticized by the talking heads, the rush to be first to report the new hire was on, accuracy be damned.

Meanwhile, one member of the Michigan blogging community, who would never toot his own horn, had it right before all of these big name guys.

But anyway, Michigan wasn't trying to hire Butch Davis, Greg Schiano, David Cutcliffe, or anyone else. Their eyes were on Jim Harbaugh all along. They wanted Harbaugh all along. And credit has to go to interim AD Jim Hackett for reeling in the big fish. He made the job look appealing to Harbaugh, he listened to what it would take to get him, and he patiently waited for the NFL season to end, as the B-list candidates took jobs elsewhere. It was a calculated risk that paid off big time.

Jim Harbaugh loves to recruit. One of the reasons people thought Michigan couldn't land Harbaugh is that he would not want the year long grind that college football brings. NFL coaches get some semblance of an offseason, but when college coaches aren't coaching, they are recruiting. So naturally the NFL guys thought Harbaugh would not want any part of such a thing.

Jim Harbaugh wants to win NOW. Some coaches come in preaching a 3-5 year plan, but Jim Harbaugh is NOT wired that way. By any account, Michigan's weakest spot in 2014 was the quarterback position. Going back and forth between Devin Gardner and Shane Morris was like switching rooms on the Titanic. While Jim Harbaugh has a reputation as a QB whisperer and could likely develop a QB on the roster eventually, he chose to take Michigan down a new path. Michigan does not have a reputation at all as a school who takes graduate transfers, but Harbaugh broke that wall down and brought in Jake Rudock from Iowa to be the likely starter at QB. He also brought in grad transfers Wayne Lyons (CB) and Blake O'Neill (P) to provide a quick infusion of talent. With home games against the two chief rivals MSU and OSU this season, Harbaugh took these steps to give his team the best chance to pull the upset at the Big House in these big games.

When Brady Hoke was at Michigan, he did things like taking the team bowling during fall camp. This can create camaraderie, but Jim Harbaugh hasn't done anything like this, and will not. He values every second of training camp and wants to squeeze every ounce of talent out of his players.

Michigan fans are starved for a winner. The offseason has been full of countdown clocks, beat writers desperate to get ANY information at all about Michigan, and fans wondering who will be the starters. After the RichRod and Hoke eras, Michigan fans can't wait for September 3. The date has become bigger than major holidays for Michigan fans. The prevailing opinion with Harbaugh is that it isn't *IF* he will build a winner at Michigan, but *WHEN*. However patience among fans is understandably running thin. Michigan fans are tired of disappointing seasons, watching their team lose to teams they are not used to losing to, and seeing their main rivals build empires and experience lots of success. And despite the failures in recent years, the much needed hiring of Jim Harbaugh has Michigan fans asking, "Who's got it better than us?!?"

Monday Michigan Recruiting Roundup: Michigan High School Opening Week Spotlights

August 31, 2015 by  
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In this edition, check out who outperformed the competition in the first week of Michigan high school football at the Preps Kickoff Classic

Detroit King 2017 ATH Ambry Thomas

The sea of reporters crowded around Ambry Thomas following Detroit King's 12-10 win over Warren De La Salle at Wayne State University. He may have earned the game's MVP honors, but the focus during the line of questioning was his future recruiting plans.

Thomas mentioned LSU, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Pitt as schools that have stood out before he enters his junior year. The 5-foot-11, 165 pounder also said that he may travel with teammate and highly touted recruit Donnie Corley to Baton Rouge when he arrives for his official visit.

Thomas also holds offers from Penn State, West Virginia, Cincinnati and Tennessee, among others.

Thomas is the No. 2 ranked player in the state of Michigan and No. 12 ranked cornerback in the nation.

Orchard Lake St. Mary's 2017 LB Josh Ross

St. Mary's needed their defensive anchor Josh Ross to have a solid performance in order to come away with a victory over the reigning Division 7 champions Detroit Loyola.

In the first quarter, Ross would sack Loyola's quarterback Nicholas Lee on fourth down to turn the ball over on downs on St. Mary's 30-yard-line. He would later force and recover a fumble in the fourth quarter to set up a 42-yard field goal for St. Mary's.

Ross said after the 24-12 win that the team did not play to their true potential and needs to correct the mistakes that don't normally occur in practice. Ross also discussed his relationship with the Michigan Wolverines, citing head coach Jim Harbaugh as a different character in a positive manner.

The 6-foot-1, 210 pounder is the No. 5 ranked inside linebacker in the nation by 247Sports.

Orchard Lake St. Mary's 2017 ATH KJ Hamler

It was KJ Hamler who received the game's MVP honors following St. Mary's win over Loyola, as he caught four receptions for 52 yards, while also coming close to picking off Lee in the third quarter.

Hamler told reporters that he won't be visiting schools anytime soon so he can focus on the team, but listed Michigan, Michigan State, Louisville, Indiana, West Virginia and Penn State as programs who stand out to him.

Louisville is the only school that's recruiting Hamler to play on both sides of the ball.

The 5-foot-9, 155 pounder is the No. 7 ranked player in the state of Michigan.

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