Quick 2019 Recap:
2019 was, frankly, more of the same for the Wolverines. They started in the top 10, lost to Wisconsin, Penn State, and Ohio State, and finished in the top 15, third in the Big Ten East. Their reward for a hard-fought third place finish was to take on a pissed off Alabama team in the Citrus Bowl, where they lost 35-16. All in all, it was another day - or season - at the office for Jim Harbaugh and his Michigan men.
Offensive Player To Watch: QB Dylan McCaffrey
Jim Harbaugh has long been touted as a quarterback whisperer, but his time at Michigan has been marked by the absence of recruited-and-grown QBs. Between Jake Rudock, Wilton Speight, John O’Korn, and Shea Patterson, the Wolverines have been very hit or miss, and have looked to the transfer market when the quarterback room has looked dicey. As it stands right now, McCaffrey is set to take the reins at quarterback. Younger brother of Christian, Dylan was a former 4-star prospect, and is a redshirt sophomore. He’s got prototypical size at 6’5” and 220 lbs, but has only attempted 35 passes in his career. He has the tools, but can he put it all together? If he can’t, Joe Milton will push to take over the starting gig.
The Wolverines are experiencing some offensive roster turnover, having lost receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, as well as OT Jon Runyan, and OGs Jordan Glasgow and Michale Onwenu. Still, receivers Nico Collins and Ronnie Bell return, as do running backs Zach Charbonnet and Hassan Haskins.
Defensive Player To Watch: LB Cameron McGrone
Here’s the thing about Michigan: they play good defense. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but what jumps out to me is that the 2020 iteration seems to be a bit lacking in star power. Gone are Lavert Hill and Khaleke Hudson. No more Jordan Glasgow or Josh Uche at linebacker. But they’re across the board a solid unit, and Cameron McGrone proved himself to be a wrecking ball against the Lions in 2019. In their loss to Penn State, McGrone tallied six tackles, a sack, 2.5 tackles for loss, and a quarterback hurry. Given some of the defensive turnover, coalescing around a playmaker like McGrone will be important for the Wolverines.
Major Changes For 2020: There have been some minor coaching changes for the Wolverines. First, Anthony Campanile left as linebackers coach to join the Miami Dolphins, while safeties coach and special teams coordiantor Chris Partridge left to be co-defensive coordinator at Ole Miss. Brian Jean-Mary came over from USF to take over as safeties coach, and /squints/ Bob Shoop is now on staff as the linebackers coach. Additionally, Jim’s son Jay has been promoted to special teams coordinator. Jim loves him some former Penn State coaches it seems.
Penn State Wins If: The roster turnover for Michigan proves to be too much. Despite the high level of recruiting the Wolverines have enjoyed, the loss of talent from 2019 has many people viewing 2020 as a rebuilding year. Michigan will always be a tough out, especially on the road, but the Lions have a good bit of continuity on both sides of the ball. If there were a year to nab a win in Ann Arbor, this might be it.
Michigan Wins If: The recent trend between the two teams continues. Dating back to 2016, the home team has won in this series, usually convincingly. Getting the Lions at home is a big boost for the Wolverines, especially when their roster means that they probably won’t be quite as formidable as usual. If they can hold serve at home, and ride whatever high the crowd (however big that crowd might be) can give them, the Lions will head home with another loss.