Ann Arbor, MI (Detroit News Watch)- This is the year.
At least that is what Michigan fans are telling themselves entering the 2019-20 college football season. In the first four seasons of the Jim Harbaugh era, things haven’t exactly gone the way that Wolverines fans were hoping when the coach first chose to return to Ann Arbor in 2015.
In those four seasons, the Wolverines have gone a more than respectable 38-13 with four bowl appearances. However, fans are more focused on the lack of a Big Ten championship, or title game appearance for that matter, and the four consecutive losses (seven straight overall) to the program’s biggest rival: Ohio State. Heading into this season, however, the stars seem to be aligned for Harbaugh’s crew. The Wolverines have an experienced starting quarterback in Shea Patterson, something that can’t be said for the Buckeyes or the Nittany Lions. And they draw both Ohio State and Michigan State at home in the Big House.
However the biggest reason for optimism may come from one of the additions to the coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, fresh off a national championship game appearance with the Crimson Tide in that same role, comes to Ann Arbor looking to gas up the Wolverines offense just a bit more.
“What Josh Gattis will bring is, if you look at Tua Tagovailoa and the way that they moved the football,” said CBS Sports college football analyst Houston Nutt. “They scored a lot of points at Alabama last year mixing up formations, running boots, waggles, and RPOs. I think that fits Shea Patterson, and I think this is going to be a really good fit.”
The Tide ranked third in the nation in scoring offense last year (45.6 PPG) and routinely connected on the kinds of explosive plays that the Wolverines have lacked in previous seasons. Patterson ran a more spread style of offense during his time at Ole Miss, which is why Nutt believes that the playbook that Gattis brings with him to Ann Arbor should fit the senior quarterback well. There are plenty of weapons surrounding Patterson that should make the offense fun to watch, as junior receivers Donovan Peoples-Jones, Tarik Black, and Nico Collins all return
That said, just because there may be a few different looks in terms of formations and wrinkles, don’t expect the pounding nature of Harbaugh’s preferred offense to go away.
“They are still going to be physical. You know Jim Harbaugh is never going to go away from that. That is his daddy’s DNA and they are always going to be physical and come right down hill with power and all that,” said Nutt. “But, the offensive coordinator, I think this is going to be a heck of a relationship because the things that he has done the last few years is going to fit Shea Patterson. I think Shea Patterson is only going to get better. This has to be the year for Michigan. All signs point to that championship.”
While a championship, and College Football Playoff berth, might be the expectations for some fans, others are hoping that, at the very least, this will be the season in which Harbaugh and company overcome the rival Buckeyes.
“That is a very important game and one that the fans, alumni and everyone keeps score on there. But, it goes back to the old cliche of taking care of business one game at a time,” said Nutt. “You can bet that in spring, the winter workouts, everything that is leading up to the season, you can’t help but circle that game and say [that] this is a game that we have to have. We haven’t gotten it done in years past, but this is going to be our year. It goes back to mindset and attitude. They are a great football team, but so is Michigan.”
The rivals meet on Saturday, November 30th, at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time. The full schedule of games is below.
8/31 vs. Middle Tennessee State, 7:30 p.m. ET
9/7 vs. Army, 12:00 p.m. ET
9/21 @ #19 Wisconsin, 12:00 p.m. ET
9/28 vs. Rutgers, TBD
10/5 vs. #20 Iowa, 12:00 p.m. ET
10/12 @ Illinois, TBD
10/19 @ #15 Penn State, TBD
10/26 vs. #9 Notre Dame, TBD
11/2 @ Maryland, 12:00 p.m. ET
11/16 vs. #16 Michigan State, TBD
11/23 @ Indiana, TBD
11/30 vs. #5 Ohio State, 12:00 p.m. ET