The Michigan Wolverines did not have the year they expected. Quarterback play was a major problem all year long and the Wolverines struggled in Jim Harbaugh's third year with the team. Despite the offensive issues, Michigan has high expectations entering the year. The defense is loaded again and Michigan might just have Shea Patterson eligible to take over at QB. Here's how they rank in the way-too-early top 25 polls published by major publications:
Breakdown: "Michigan's defense was one of the best in the country in 2017 and should be even better in 2018 thanks to them returning a large majority of the unit. The question with the Wolverines is the offense, specifically the play of their quarterback. Either Brandon Peters needs to improve drastically or Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson (who needs to be ruled immediately eligible) needs to meet expectations for them to compete for a playoff spot."
Breakdown: "These are strange times for Michigan, which had enormous hopes upon Jim Harbaugh’s arrival but has yet to crack the upper echelon of the FBS. That may happen in 2018, especially given the Wolverines’ defense, but that’s only half the battle. Can Harbaugh find a quarterback?"
Breakdown: "When Michigan brought Jim Harbaugh back to his alma mater in 2014, he was supposed to be the coach who could catch Ohio State. Now, after the Wolverines have dropped eight of their past 17 games, U-M fans might be wondering whether he can stay ahead of Michigan State. The Wolverines were supposed to take a step back this season, but no one expected their offense to be so bad. Michigan threw nine touchdown passes, its fewest since 1975, when it attempted only 125 passes while running the triple option under Bo Schembechler. Michigan's newest savior is former Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson, who has already enrolled in classes but hasn't yet been ruled eligible by the NCAA. If Patterson can play in games this coming season, the Wolverines should be much better on offense. If he isn't eligible, Brandon Peters and Dylan McCaffrey will battle for the job. One of them will have to bring life to Michigan's offense, with road games looming at Notre Dame, Northwestern, Michigan State and Ohio State in 2018."
Breakdown: "Too high? The arrival of Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson could be the missing piece that allows Jim Harbaugh to silence the critics after a disappointing five-loss season. To be honest, we wanted to go higher, but the Wolverines' schedule — which features road games at Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State — leaves them with a lot to prove."
Breakdown: "This ranking is based on Shea Patterson's availability. If -- as expected -- Patterson gets a transfer waiver, Jim Harbaugh will have the best quarterback of his Michigan reign. If not, another eight-win season looms."
Breakdown: "After a rebuilding year in 2017, the Wolverines are poised for a rebound back into the top 10 in 2018. In order for Jim Harbaugh’s team to win the conference title, the offense needs to find stability under center. Brandon Peters struggled in the bowl loss to South Carolina, and he will be pushed by Dylan McCaffrey after a redshirt year and Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson (if granted immediate eligibility). The running back corps should be strong with the return of Karan Higdon, Chris Evans and Kareem Walker. And the receiving unit is in better shape than the 2017 version thanks to the return of Tarik Black from a season-ending injury. Black joins Grant Perry, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Kekoa Crawford and tight end Sean McKeon as key contributors in the passing game. Outside of the quarterback spot, the offensive line is Harbaugh’s top concern, as left tackle Mason Cole and center Patrick Kugler expire their eligibility. Will this group take a step forward? Don Brown’s defense should rank among the best in the nation once again. This unit is slated to return nearly intact, but tackle Maurice Hurst and linebacker Mike McCray depart to the NFL. Linebacker Devin Bush and end Rashan Gary should push for All-American honors, with Khaleke Hudson (LB) and cornerback Lavert Hill returning as key contributors. Michigan’s schedule is challenging. Road games await at Notre Dame, Northwestern, Michigan State and Ohio State. Additionally, the Wolverines catch Wisconsin in crossover play."
Breakdown: "The 2017 season was an expected rebuilding year for the Wolverines, but the heat has been turned up for Jim Harbaugh after the Wolverines ended the season with three straight losses. Those late-season lumps could translate into some wins for a more-experienced group in 2018, especially if quarterback Shea Patterson, a five-star transfer from Ole Miss, is granted eligibility by the NCAA. Patterson could be the stud quarterback Harbaugh has lacked throughout his return to Ann Arbor, but it won’t be easy to leapfrog Ohio State and Penn State in the Big Ten East."
Breakdown: "This was one of the tougher rankings to assign, and it depends a lot on the eligibility of Shea Patterson. Should the Ole Miss transfer play in 2018, Michigan might be a top-15 team, but that’s still uncertain."
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