Most of what’s below is self explanatory, with the following exceptions:
*The points for/against and yards for/against numbers don’t include bowl games.
*Football Power Index (FPI) is an ESPN metric.
*Phil Steele is a college football analyst best known for his annual preview magazine.
*The coaching records are as an FBS head coach only. NFL records of Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Illinois’ Lovie Smith, for example, are not included.
2018: 10-3, 8-1 Big Ten. Best win: 42-7 blowout of Penn State. Worst loss: The worst performance was probably 41-15 to Florida as a four-point favorite in the Peach Bowl, but letting Ohio State put 62 on the board was the soul-crusher and season-killer.
Starters back: 13 (eight offense, five defense).
By the numbers: Points for/against, 457-252; yards for/against, 5457/3577. FPI: #5 in the country, #1 in Big Ten East. Phil Steele: #5 in the country, #1 in B10 East.
Schedule: (12th-toughest in FBS by opponents’ 2018 W-L) Aug. 31,
Middle Tennessee; Sept. 7, Army; Sept. 21, at Wisconsin; Sept. 28, Rutgers; Oct. 5, Iowa; Oct. 12, at Illinois; Oct. 19, at Penn St.; Oct. 26, Notre Dame; Nov. 2, at Maryland; Nov. 16, Michigan St.; Nov. 23, at Indiana; Nov. 30, Ohio St.
Coach: Jim Harbaugh, fifth year at UM (38-14), ninth year overall (67-35).
Quotable: Harbaugh on new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis: “We've been learning from him. He's got a great system. … We've got a young, enthusiastic team, which also has a lot of experience. You could describe Josh Gattis in that very same way. He's a young, enthusiastic, high-energy coach that really fits our team because we have a group of coaches that are exactly that way.’’
Outlook: In a 10-week stretch of last season, the Wolverines destroyed everything in their wake by a combined 386-125, and were playing as well as anybody in the country. The problem was what came before and after that.
One reason for big hopes this year, in theory, is a modernized offense, suited to second-year starting QB Shea Patterson, brought by new offensive coordinator Gattis, the former Penn State assistant. Another reason: Harbaugh is 2-7 against Notre Dame, Michigan State and the Rival That-Shall-Not-Be-Named. They all come in Ann Arbor this year.
Reasons to pump the brakes on those hopes: 1. Cynics doubt that Harbaugh will fully buy into a spread, dual-threat QB system.
2. The defense, which seemed beyond elite most of last season, got destroyed when it counted most. Michigan’s RTSNBN threw for 400 yards in just 31 attempts in dropping 62 points on the Wolverines in Columbus. And the D loses six starters, including All-Americans Devin Bush and Chase Winovich and NFL first-round draft pick Rashan Gary.
Prediction: 10-2, 8-1.