Phil Steele has high expectations for the Michigan football team in 2018, thanks in part to the addition of transfer quarterback Shea Patterson.
But concerns remain, particularly with the Wolverines’ difficult schedule.
The ESPN analyst’s annual college football magazine, “Phil Steele’s 2018 College Football Preview,” is on newsstands and ranks Michigan No. 6 in its postseason power poll.
“My college Top 40 is based solely on where I think each team will finish and not how I rate the teams talent-wise,” Steele writes.
Steele projects a second-place finish in the Big Ten East, which would be the best finish for a Jim Harbaugh coached team since he arrived in Ann Arbor prior to the 2015 season.
That finish, Steele predicts, will send Michigan to the Chick-fil-A Peach Beach in Atlanta on Dec. 29.
“The expectations for Jim Harbaugh have been huge at Michigan and despite getting as high as #12 AP in ’15, #2 in ’16 and #7 last year, they have finished no higher than 3rd place in the Big Ten East,” Steele writes.
“They also have not had great QB play, but add Shea Patterson from Ole Miss and he is joined by great surrounding talent. The Wolverines were #127 on my (experience chart) with just 1 starter back on D last year, but move up to #37 and have 9 starters back on defense. The schedule is tough and they will have to actually beat Ohio State, but they are a legitimate Big Ten contender.”
In his annual preseason breakdown of the nation’s best individual units, Steel ranks Michigan’s defensive backs No. 1, its defensive line No. 6, linebackers 12th, running backs 14th and special teams 19th.
The wide receivers (21) and quarterbacks (26) both fall outside of the top 20, while the Wolverines’ offensive line went unranked.
“It’ll be brutally tough throwing on the Wolverines … again,” Steele writes. “Every starter returns from a second that allowed an FBS-low 150.1 ypg. CB Lavert Hill was 2nd team all-Big Ten, while CB David Long, SS Josh Metellus and FS Tyree Kinnel were all honorable mention all-Big Ten. For good measure, UM added CB Casey Hughes, an 11 game starter at Utah.”
Steele says Michigan has the third-toughest schedule in the nation, but picks it as his “No. 4 surprise team,” citing dynamic quarterback play from Patterson and a head coach determined to get his team “over the hump.”
Other notes from the magazine:
- Michigan’s top draft-eligible players: Devin Bush (2nd – OLB); Rashan Gary (2nd – DE); Ben Bredeson (5th – OG); Tyree Kinnel (5th – FS); Shea Patterson (7th – QB)
- Devin Bush (1st), Rashan Gary (3rd) and Khaleke Hudson (4th) were all named to Steele’s preseason All-American team