When the Michigan Wolverines hired Jim Harbaugh, fans envisioned their team making its triumphant return to the ranks of college football’s elite. However, seven years into the Harbaugh Era, they have yet to even play for the Big Ten title. But could 2021 be the year?
The quick answer many fans will have is a firm no. Ohio State has dominated the conference for years. The Buckeyes have won the last four conference titles and are favored by Michigan sportsbooks to make it five in a row in the 2021 season.
2021 Big Ten Conference Championship Odds
|2021 Big Ten Championship Odds||DraftKings||BetRivers|
2021 Big Ten Odds: East Division
|2021 Big Ten Odds: East Division||DraftKings||BetRivers|
As could be expected, Ohio State is favored by sports betting apps to make it ten in a row in the East Division:
Why shouldn’t Ohio State win the conference again? Theoretically, with the need for a new quarterback, lead running back, and a rebuilt back seven on defense, the Big Ten just might be primed and ready for a new champion.
Then again, Ohio State is one of the best programs in the country when it comes to reloading. But if the Buckeyes lose a step or two, the door could be open for Michigan to walk through. However, beating the Buckeyes (something Harbaugh has yet to do) is only one of the challenges Michigan will face.
Will The Michigan Wolverines Have What It Takes In 2021?
The 2020 season was not kind to the Wolverines. While Harbaugh’s teams have had stout defenses and solid run games, last year, the defense was one of the worst in program history. Things were not much better on the offensive side of the ball.
Consequently, they struggled in many aspects of the game on their way to a 2-4 finish. So, is there any reason to hope 2021 will be any better?
Harbaugh shook up the coaching staff with six new hires, a move that could breathe new life into the program. But what matters most is whether they can fill some of the roster holes that were so apparent in 2020. With a last-minute surge on National Signing Day, they just might.
Adding a couple of four-star defensive tackles should help improve last season’s 79th ranked run defense. Another four-star recruit, running back Donovan Edwards, will probably get the opportunity to contribute early on. But the highlight of the recruiting class is five-star quarterback J.J. McCarthy.
McCarthy is the highest-ranked quarterback Harbaugh has signed at Michigan. If he can live up to the hype, the Wolverines may finally have the playmaker at quarterback that Harbaugh’s teams have been missing. But first, he will have to beat out Cade McNamara, Dan Villari, and Alan Bowman for the job.
Early indications from spring practice have McCarthy in contention for the starter’s job.
With a good group of players at the skill positions, the right quarterback could turn the Michigan offense into a force to be reckoned with in 2021. But it will not matter much if the defense does not play better. While the unit lost a few playmakers to the NFL, a lot of experience returning.
But when you consider how poor the defense played in 2020, is that a good thing? New defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald is going to have his work cut out for him.
Should You Bet On Michigan?
While having the No. 10 recruiting class in the nation gives reason to believe Michigan is getting a necessary infusion of talent, it is hard to say how competitive the Wolverines will be in 2021.
Yes, the potential is certainly there for the offense. But the defense is somewhat of a question mark at this point. Then, there is the competition to consider. Yes, Ohio State has some holes to fill. But when you consistently have one of the best recruiting classes in the nation, reloading the roster is not hard.
Penn State seemed to get its act together towards the end of the season in 2020. Indiana became surprisingly competitive last season, but it remains to be seen if that will be the case in 2021. It would be foolish to overlook Wisconsin or Northwestern.
But whether they win their division or the conference will come down to one thing. Will Jim Harbaugh finally lead Michigan to a win over Ohio State? The rest of the Big Ten will have a role as well, but nothing matters if the Wolverines lose to the Buckeyes (again).
Right now, there is no reason to think Michigan can beat Ohio State. The Buckeyes have proven they can reload on offense and defense whenever guys move onto the NFL and/or graduate. Michigan has yet to field a competitive team. Why should anyone think this year will be any different?
Yes, the Wolverines appear to have a lot of potential heading into 2021. But this is not the first time that has been the case. If they were to follow through on that potential, though—well, there is a first time for everything.
Should you bet on the Wolverines to win their division and the Big Ten? Absolutely not. There are too many things that must go right for them and wrong for others for Michigan to win either.