David Noe, Staff Writer
Now that we know Coach Jim Harbaugh is enjoying recruiting and his first true class is impressive, many start looking at the ranking projections being generated for next season. There will be a few SEC and ACC teams high in most of them all, but we also see Michigan getting some attention being ranked in the top 10.
Well, ESPN’s Mark Schlabach has released his Way Too Early 2016 Top 25 Rankings, which has Michigan at No. 3 behind Alabama and Florida State with other rankings having them in the top 10. Can Michigan get to the Big Ten Championship in December in 2016? They will be one of the favorites in the conference without a question; however, may have a few question marks in regards to winning against other teams with recent success. Many feel it is not whether Coach Jim Harbaugh will get to the Big Ten Championship and College Football Playoff, it’s a matter of when. It has been since 2006, that the program has had a dominant season being undefeated going into the yearly showdown with their biggest rival, Ohio State, but Jim Harbaugh and his talented staff have proven themselves at both the college level and NFL.
Let’s look at the overall picture based on what we know today about next year’s team in Ann Arbor. They will have a total of 15 returning starters: 8 offense, 6 defense and 1 on special teams. A few from this recruiting class may also play a huge role with early playing time including Rashan Gary, Houston transfer quarterback John O’Korn, and Devin Bush Jr. We also have new mastermind defensive coordinator in Don Brown.
Who else will make an impact on this upcoming season? I also see Kareem Walker and Dylan Crawford on offense being great additions with the returning players including TE Jake Butt. The breakout season could come for Jabrill Peppers on defense and special teams, though Peppers may find himself more on offense like we started to see towards the end of last season. The coaching staff will have plenty of returning and new talent to evaluate over spring ball and fall camp.
The season is very favorable with the non-conference match ups. Michigan does not have an away game until October 8th against Rutgers, and only three games outside the state of Michigan. The true road tests start on October 29th in East Lansing, followed by contests at Iowa and Ohio State in November. We have plenty of time to discuss how this team will match up in the Big Ten Conference before Labor Day weekend, but Michigan fans should be very excited for next season.