After winning back-to-back Big Ten championships, Michigan football is working to achieve more than that in 2023. But, it will have to earn it.
Now the Wolverines really have targets on their backs after surprising in 2021 and going undefeated in the regular season in 2022. Ohio State, Penn State and others are looking for revenge,
but the maize and blue have the talent and returning production to get a third straight title if the season goes according to plan.
ESPN’s resident analytics guru Bill Connelly broke down where each team in the Big Ten stands in terms of conference championship hopes.
($) Though Ohio State, which perennially won the conference for the better part of two decades, is a favorite,
Connelly said there’s still a lot to like about the Wolverines, even though there are still some question marks.
In terms of known quantities, Michigan starts out with the edge. The Wolverines bring back their starting quarterback (J.J. McCarthy),
maybe the best running back duo in college football (Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards), three starters (and five players with starting experience) from one of the nation’s best offensive lines,
two outstanding linebackers (Junior Colson and Michael Barrett) and a secondary loaded with veteran safeties and one of the best young cornerbacks around (Will Johnson).
They’re seventh overall in returning production, and since they’re coming off a 13-1 season, that seems like a pretty good thing.
In terms of closing the gap with Georgia, though, there are two primary concerns: Their explosiveness could stand to improve and their pass rush is getting rebuilt for a second straight year.
While the Wolverines were wonderfully efficient on both offense and defense last year (10th in success rate, 14th in success rate allowed), they were merely good in terms of explosiveness.
He goes on to share that where Michigan needs to get better is defensively, particularly with the pass rush, as well as finding more production from the wide receiver corps.
Ohio State, he notes, has lost a lot, but recruiting keeps the Buckeyes buoyant enough to potentially return to the mantle in the conference.