One of the biggest headlines in the offseason was that Jim Harbaugh took his team to Italy for spring practices. Then he decided to give a Michigan helmet and a pair of Jordan’s to the Pope.

EPA – OSSERVATORE ROMANO

Crazy yet pioneering stunts like this have kept Michigan in the spotlight and at the forefront of every recruits radar.

With their unusual spring vacation to Rome behind them, Michigan is primed to be a formidable powerhouse in college football for years to come.

So can Michigan win the Big Ten East this season?

To answer this question, we must look at the Michigan Wolverines as a whole this season. Only when we understand their strengths and their weaknesses can we make an informed prediction if Michigan can make it to the Big Ten championship game.

Michigans Strengths

The Wolverines defense is the second highest ranked defense in college football. The Michigan Wolverines are ranked 8th in the AP Top 25 college football rankings mainly due to their defense.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan’s defense has only allowed an average of 203 yards per game (which is the best in the NCAA). Michigan also leads the NCAA in sacks with 18 in just four games. The Wolverines defense is also top 10 in almost every other statistical category.

If the Wolverines are going to make the Big Ten championship game they will do it on the back of their defense.

Quinn Harris/Icon Sportswire

Another reason the Wolverines have a chance to win the Big Ten East is their head coach.

Jim Harbaugh is widely considered to be an elite head coach in college football. Michigan has a record of 24 – 6 since he has taken over. The former Michigan quarterback has brought hope back to a program that has not won a national title in close to 20 years.

His unorthodox ways of recruitment and unique coaching tactics have reinvigorated the Michigan fan base.

AP Photo/Tony Ding

Another asset that Michigan has that will propel them towards the Big Ten championship game is their special teams.

Michigan’s placekicker, Quinn Nordin has already made 11 field goals out of 13 attempts and has a Big Ten-leading 55 yarder. Michigan also has a punt return for a touchdown and is in the top 10 for punt return yards allowed. The special teams will be instrumental in the Wolverines making it to the Big Ten championship game.

Michigans Weaknesses

Michigan only has one returning star on its defense and only has three returning starters on its offense. They are a young team with a lack of starting experience. Michigan could find themselves in a tight situation if their lack of experience leads to inopportune turnovers or untimely mistakes.

The lack of experience on Michigan’s offense has led to poor offensive play. With only one returning starter on the offense of line, there is less time than normal for plays to develop. Freshman wide receivers also give Michigan problems with drops, and their callowness leads to miscommunications with receiving routes.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan’s biggest problem this season is their quarterback position. Wilton Speight has a completion percentage of 54.3 and already has two pick sixes this season. Speight received an injury during Saturday’s game against Purdue, which means they have more questions at the quarterback position. Jim Harbaugh called it “soft tissue issue” and that “there is no timetable for his recovery,” so who knows what that means.

If the worst should happen, and Wilton Speight is done for the year, then the pressure will rest on the senior John O’korn. O’korn is a serviceable replacement and gives Michigan a shot of a decent season.

Michigans key to winning The Big Ten East and their biggest roadblock is their competition. The Big Ten has four teams ranked in the AP top 15 and Michigan will have to play all of them.If Jim Harbaugh wants to lead Michigan to the Big Ten Championship then he will have to go through Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State.

The road is long, however, Michigan has the raw talent and the coaching it needs to do great things this season.

Date

Home/Away

Opponent

Time

Oct 7

vs Michigan St. 7:30 PM EDT

Oct 14

@ Indiana

12:00 PM EDT

Oct 21

@ #4 Penn St.

Time: TBD

Oct 28

vs Rutgers

12:00 PM EDT

Nov 4

vs Minnesota

Time: TBD

Nov 11

@ Maryland

Time: TBD

Nov 18

@ #10 Wisconsin

Time: TBD

Nov 25

vs #11 Ohio St.

12:00 PM EST

 

 

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