Here’s a look at Jim Harbaugh’s projected starters for Michigan Wolverines football in 2019. The season opens Aug. 31 vs. Middle Tennessee.
Marlowe Alter, Detroit Free Press
Michigan football is expected to contend for the Big Ten title this season. And while getting to Indianapolis for the first time under Jim Harbaugh matters, two other factors will help determine a successful season for the Wolverines in 2019:
Did they beat Ohio State for the first time since 2011?
And did they qualify for the College Football Playoff?
The former is not required to achieve the latter, but it would go a long way in helping U-M end the Big Ten’s two-year absence in college football’s version of the Final Four.
So, what will it take for to U-M reach the CFP?
Here’s how our Michigan experts answered the question:
[ Mitch Albom: Ohio State keeps giving Michigan fans reasons to hate it ]
Orion Sang, U-M writer
Michigan makes the CFP if … it beats Ohio State. The obvious answer, sure, but history is the guide here. Michigan would’ve made the playoff in 2016 and 2018 if it had beaten the Buckeyes. Ohio State has been the one consistent obstacle between Jim Harbaugh’s best teams and the playoff.
Beyond that, this season’s team will make the playoff if the new offense truly does take advantage of its personnel, namely quarterback Shea Patterson and his talented receiving corps, while the defense doesn’t take too big of a step back after losing several stars.
The pieces are there on offense. It’s about the system. If Josh Gattis can do what Jim Harbaugh thinks be can do, and open up room for playmakers, U-M should get to Indianapolis for the first time.
Jeff Seidel, sports columnist
If … Shea Patterson can get the ball to his playmakers (Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins and Tarik Black). Of course, that’s assuming Black stays healthy – another big key. The Wolverines have to take care of business at home, playing against an Ohio State team featuring a new head coach and new quarterback, as well as against a Michigan State team that will have another tremendous defense. I don’t imagine Michigan’s defense will be as strong as last year, but Michigan can get to Indy if Jim Harbaugh gets more production out of his offense.
Shawn Windsor, sports columnist
The youngsters on defense plug the holes left by Devin Bush, Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary. And if defensive coordinator, Don Brown, can tweak the spacing issues Ohio State exposed in the back seven. Brown thinks he can.