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Jim Fuller’s Top 25 Teams To Watch: No. 3 Michigan Wolverines

Michigan Was 6-1-1 Against the Spread To Finish ‘22 Season

There is plenty of attention focused on Michigan’s self-imposed three-game suspension of head coach Jim Harbaugh due to his failure to cooperate with NCAA investigators as they look into alleged rules violations. If that is the extent of Harbaugh’s punishment, that won’t impact the NCAA football predictions heading into what could be a special 2023 season.

With quarterback J.J. McCarthy joined by two elite running backs, Michigan’s offense has tremendous potential and it is not a surprise that the NCAA football picks have the Wolverines as one of the top teams in the country.

Jim Fuller's Top 25 Teams To Watch: No. 3 Michigan Wolverines
J.J. McCarthy #9 of the Michigan Wolverines - Christian Petersen/Getty Images/AFP

Michigan brought in one of the top transfers in the country with former Nebraska linebacker Ernest Hausmann adding another playmaker to the Wolverines defense.

Coastal Carolina edge rusher Josaiah Stewart, Arizona State offensive lineman LaDarius Henderson, UMass cornerback Josh Wallace, Indiana tight end AJ Barner, and Stanford offensive linemen Myles Hinton, and Drake Nugent lead the list of incoming transfers.

Linebacker Nikhail Hill-Green, safety RJ Moten, receivers Andrei Anthony and A.J. Henning, defensive lineman Julius Welschof, edge rusher Taylor Upshaw, tight ends Erick All and Louis Hansen and quarterback Cade McNamara are among the outgoing transfers.

Michigan put together a top-10 recruiting class, which is led by quarterback Jadyn Davis, offensive lineman Andrew Sprague, tight ends Hogan Hansen and Brady Prieskorn, and defensive lineman Jerod Smith.

According to college football odds, Michigan (+900) is fourth in the odds to win the national title. The Wolverines are ranked second in the Associated Press preseason poll and fourth in the coaches’ polls, trailing only two-time defending national champion Georgia in both polls.

Michigan received 27 of the 37 first-place votes and finished first in the Big Ten East Division preseason media poll. However, when it came to the Las Vegas odds, Michigan finished behind Ohio State in the odds to win the Big Ten title and Big Ten East Division crown.

Michigan Wolverines

  • 2022 record: 13-1
  • 2022 Big Ten record: 9-0
  • Head coach: Jim Harbaugh
  • Odds to win conference title: +180

Unlike many of the other top teams in the country, Michigan brings back its top quarterback as J.J. McCarthy completed 65% of his passes for 2,719 yards to go with 22 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. The biggest question is whether the Wolverines will take the training wheels off and let McCarthy cut loose in the passing game.

Something that might stop that from happening is Michigan bringing back running backs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards. Corum opted to return after his brilliant 2022 season ended early due to injury. Even though he missed the last two games and went down early in the win over Ohio State, Corum still ran nearly 1500 yards with 18 scoring runs.

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According to the college football odds, McCarthy (+1800) and Corum are two of the top Heisman Trophy candidates in the Big Ten.

Edwards averaged 7.1 yards per carry as he flirted with a 1000-yard season. Edwards also averaged 11 yards per reception.

Cornelius Johnson is back to lead an untested group of pass catchers. Leading receiver Ronnie Bell and tight end Luke Schoonmaker are off to the NFL.

Tight end Colston Loveland could see a major leap in production after having 14 catches as a freshman. Barner (28 catches in 2022) comes in from Indiana to give the Wolverines another pass-catching threat at tight end.

Zak Zinter is the top returning offensive lineman with Trevor Keegan also back.

Zinter joined Corum on The Associated Press preseason All-American team.

Adding Hinton and Nugent from Stanford and Henderson from Arizona State should help an offensive line that saw Olusegun Oluwatimi and Ryan Hayes selected in April’s NFL Draft.

The defense will miss 2023 draftees Mazi Smith, DJ Turner, and Mike Morris.

Michigan had one of the best kicker-punter duos in the nation in 2022. However, Jake Moody and Brad Robbins are off to the NFL.

Junior Colson (101 tackles), Michael Barrett, defensive back Rod Moore, and defensive lineman Kris Jenkins give Michigan four of its top five tacklers for a team that finished sixth nationally in total defense a season ago. Mason Graham is another interior lineman to keep an eye on.

Hausman gives the Wolverines another talented option at linebacker. Stewart, who had 12.5 sacks at Coastal Carolina in 2021, could add some punch to the group of pass rushers.

Cornerback Will Johnson and Moore lead the secondary with Makari Paige also in the mix.

Those who bet online might want to keep in mind that Michigan covered in just three of the first six games before going 6-1-1 against the spread over the last eight games.

Four of Michigan’s last six games last season finished over the total.


With the way Georgia dispatched Texas Christian in the national title game, maybe losing a wild 51-45 to TCU in the College Football Playoff semifinals wasn’t the worst result. Michigan looks to take the next step in 2023.

There are proven contributors on both sides of the ball for Michigan to be in contention for the Big Ten and national titles once again. Will the NCAA investigation prove to be a distraction? That is one of the biggest questions.

While McCarthy has plenty of attention, don’t expect Michigan to turn away from its run-first offense. It has worked pretty well for the Wolverines.

Michigan’s non-conference slate is rather pathetic once again. UNLV and Bowling Green combined to win 11 games and had just three non-conference wins. East Carolina, coming off an eight-win season, makes the trip to Ann Arbor for the Sept. 2 season opener. The college football spreads list Michigan as the 35½-point favorite.

The Big Ten opener versus Rutgers shouldn’t be too much of an issue considering that the Wolverines’ average margin of victory in an eight-game winning streak versus the Scarlet Knights is 33.4 points.

An Oct. 21 trip to East Lansing to face Michigan State could be the first test for Michigan with the Nov. 11 matchup at Penn State a dangerous one for the Wolverines.

The regular season ends with rival Ohio State coming to the Big House in a game that could determine the Big Ten East Division championship.

Illinois, which gave Michigan its toughest conference test in 2022, is not on the 2023 schedule.

Michigan has won at least 10 games in six of Harbaugh’s eight full seasons. The Wolverines could be favored in every game during the regular season and have -130 odds to go over 10½ regular-season wins.

2023 Schedule

  • Sept. 2 vs East Carolina
  • Sept. 9 vs UNLV
  • Sept. 16 vs Bowling Green
  • Sept. 23 vs Rutgers
  • Sept. 30 at Nebraska
  • Oct. 7 at Minnesota
  • Oct. 14 vs Indiana
  • Oct. 21 at Michigan State
  • Nov. 4 vs Purdue
  • Nov. 11 at Penn State
  • Nov. 18 vs Maryland
  • Nov. 25 vs Ohio State


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