May 10, 2016
Add another prognosticator who is high on Michigan’s chances in 2016. And another who isn’t so high on the Wolverines’ overall strength of schedule.
Noted college football analyst Phil Steele has slotted Michigan No. 7 in his preseason poll projection for the 2016 season, just behind arch rival Ohio State at No. 6.
Experience, talent and Jim Harbaugh are his reasons for the ranking.
“The cupboard was not left bare by former head coach Brady Hoke, and Jim Harbaugh came in and got the most out of the talent on hand. While Michigan was blown out by Ohio State, it rebounded to leave a strong impression in voters’ minds with a 41-7 thrashing of SEC East champ Florida in the Citrus Bowl,” Steele wrote. “The only other losses last season were due to a fumbled punt snap versus eventual Big Ten champ Michigan State, and a seven-point loss to Utah on the road in their season opener.
“The Wolverines return 13 starters and are expected to be strong on both sides of the ball. Also, Michigan will be improved at most positions and second-year head coaches generally make strides.”
Michigan actually returns 17 players with starting experience (counting kicker Kenny Allen) on its two-deep for this season, but the point still holds.
ESPN ranked Michigan No. 3 on its early preseason projection earlier this offseason while CBS had the Wolverines at No. 6.
Talent, experience and coaching are the core factors for most when it comes to Michigan’s chances in 2016.
But a manageable schedule isn’t far behind.
Steele ranked all 128 teams in the strength of schedule category this offseason, based on how those teams performed in 2015.
Michigan only plays four road games this season and it does not have a heavy hitter on its non-conference schedule as Hawaii, Central Florida and Colorado combined for just 7 total wins last season.
Only six teams on Michigan’s schedule made the postseason a year ago and only five of them finished with a winning record. The Wolverines schedule is heavily back-loaded, though, with its three toughest road games (at Michigan State, at Iowa and at Ohio State) all coming in the final five weeks of the year.
Overall, Michigan’s 2016 opponents went 78-76 last season.