The Michigan Wolverines shocked the college football world in 2021 after going 12-2 (beating rival OSU), winning the Big 10 Championship, and making their first CFP appearance in the Orange Bowl. Many thought the Wolverines would struggle to finish above .500 at the start of last season, but the grit and star power of this young squad proved their doubters wrong time and time again. The question being; can they repeat in 2022?
The answer is yes. Here’s how.
1. QB Competition
Coach Jim Harbaugh has already made it known that Cade McNamara and J.J. McCarthy will be competing for the starting job this season. There is no denying that QB competition is good for a team as it drives each player to exceed expectations and keeps the team focused and driven to prove themselves.
From what we see below, both QBs are solid options to hand the reigns to–neither were too flashy last season, as they underperformed in EPA/play, but they took care of the ball, as you can see from their interception numbers. As we all know Michigan is a run-heavy offense, it is no concern that these QBs are conservative–they simply aren’t needed to carry the team.
These QBs are pretty comparable to the rest of the field, barring C.J. Stroud, who cheated his way to an incredibly high EPA/play last season behind a talented receiving core. With the likes of Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave gone, it will be interesting to see how Stroud performs without them in 2022.
2. Strong Returning Receiving Core
The Wolverines have more or less their entire young receiving core returning this season: Andrel Anthony (top ranked for EPA/play on the graphic below), Cornelius Johnson, A.J. Henning, and star Ronnie Bell, who was injured last season with a torn ACL. It’s clear looking at the graph below that last season the Michigan receivers were inexperienced and that the targets were distributed fairly evenly amongst all of them–with a season under their belts and more consistent playing time, there is no doubt that this explosive group can help take the Wolverine’s air game to the next level.
Going into the 2022 season, the Wolverines receiving core give OSU a run for their money for the best in the Big 10, especially after the Buckeyes lost their top two receivers. Ronnie Bell’s return is huge for this team, as he was the top-rated WR by PFF for the Maize and Blue last season at 83.2–with full season, Bell can lead this team to big things.
3. (Still) The Best Backfield in the Division
Yes, Hassan Haskins is gone, but this doesn’t hurt the Wolverines like you might think. Blake Corum is returning (healthy) as the team’s highest-rated back from 2021 by PFF (91 overall to Haskins 89). Alongside the ‘lightning’ comes Donovan Edwards, the new ‘thunder’ of the Michigan backfield. Edwards put up a 71.8 PFF grade on just 35 carries last season along with a 0.305 EPA/Rush while showing a similar running style as Haskins in these flashes of brilliance. Edwards’ talents really shine in the passing game, however–their third highest rated receiver on 20 receptions in 2021, Edwards’ 74 overall PFF grade is encouraging for all Michigan fans as it shows his versatility and skill level to make this team an explosive one.
With this power duo, there is no question that the Wolverines have the best backfield in the Big 10. TreVeyon Henderson may be close behind, but without the attention on 3 separate star receivers, defenses will be able to focus more on stopping the run this season against OSU. MSU is losing their prized possession, Kenneth Walker III, which will likely make their offense anemic and their team irrelevant in the Big 10.
Below, find my predictions for the Big 10 standings next season:
- Ohio State
- Penn State
- Michigan State