The Big Ten kicks off its highly anticipated season on Saturday, Oct. 23, featuring marquee matchups like Michigan vs. Minnesota and Nebraska vs. Ohio State. It has been a long nine months since our last look at Big Ten football, and every team in the Big Ten has had a longer off-season to improve. Perhaps one of the biggest notes of improvement for Michigan is its offensive potential.
Rumors have been swirling for months about Joe Milton and his step into the limelight when it was announced that Milton had won the starting QB job and that Dylan McCaffrey was transferring. At 6’5 and 243 pounds, the Florida native is an absolute monster of an athlete. I raved about Milton in an article earlier this year that highlights his skills and talents that you can find here. At the end of that article, I said that I thought Milton was going to win the starting job and that he could be the guy to take Michigan to the next level, and it’s time to see if I was right.
With Milton at the helm, Michigan has some absolute weapons at its disposal. The running core is likely the deepest we’ve seen in many years, featuring Zach Charbonnet, Hassan Haskins, Chris Evans, and Christian Turner. All four of those guys can run the ball at a high level and play a pivotal role in the passing game as well. Milton will have talented wide receivers to throw to, but as we’ve seen with Christian McCaffrey in the NFL, a running back that can catch is a huge asset.
Speaking of talented wide receivers, let’s talk about the receiving core. It’s true that Michigan lost their best receiver in Nico Collins, but they still have a group of young elite guys that can perform at an astonishingly high level. Giles Jackson and Mike Sainristil are both incredibly fast and athletic, and Ronnie Bell has shown glimpses of greatness. I think Jackson takes a huge step forward this year and becomes Michigan’s feature wide receiver that they go to whenever they need a big play.
And of course, at the head of the entire offense you have Josh Gattis. Gattis might’ve seemed to struggle at first with coordinating Michigan’s offense, but he came into his own over the course of the 2019-2020 season. He’s had nine months to prepare his offense and train the guys I mentioned before. I have no doubt that Gattis will have this offense looking like a well oiled machine very early in this season.
Finally, you have Jim Harbough, who although has indeed struggled since 2016 finally has a group of guys that are entirely the product of his recruiting alone. Every quarterback he has had before Milton were transfers, and now he has an elite unit of talent that were all recruited by him. This is entirely his team now.
I can’t go out and predict that Michigan goes 8-0 and beats Ohio State because my faith in the defense has yet to be restored. If the defense can become competent again against good teams, then I think Michigan has a good chance at 7-1, with that one loss of course being to Ohio State.
I encourage you to turn on your TV whenever Michigan’s offense is on the field, because it will be a spectacle to see.