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2020 Big Ten Opponent Preview: Michigan

Bitter rivals Michigan State and Michigan are scheduled to face off in Ann Arbor on Halloween.

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Michigan Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Rivalry week (some of you may refer to it as “hate week”) comes early for the Michigan State Spartans and Michigan Wolverines in the abbreviated 2020 season. The two programs meet on Halloween, just the second week into the shortened Big Ten schedule.

For the second straight season, the Spartans travel to Ann Arbor. This is good in the long run as it will allow for a more balanced home-and-away slate for Michigan State moving forward, as MSU will no longer have to travel in both games against Michigan and Ohio State every other season and will now have one home game and one away away game against those conference foes each season. Also, the Big House will likely be empty (or at least limited capacity) this fall, taking away some of the home-field advantage for the Wolverines.

To get a better feel and outlook for the 2020 Wolverines, we have the inside scoop from Anthony Broome — managing editor for Maize n Brew. Maize n Brew is a great destination for all things Michigan Wolverines, you know, if you’re into that kind of thing.

So, what should we know about that school in Ann Arbor? Check out Anthony’s responses to the prompts below.

List your team’s key departures:

- quarterbacks Shea Patterson (graduation) and Dylan McCaffrey (transfer)

- wide receivers Nico Collins (opt-out), Donovan Peoples-Jones (NFL Draft), Tarik Black (transfer)

- tight end Sean McKeon (graduation)

- Four of five starting offensive linemen all drafted: Jon Runyan Jr., Ben Bredeson, Cesar Ruiz, Michael Onwenu

- defensive end Mike Danna (graduation)

- linebacker Jordan Glasgow (graduation)

- linebacker/safety Khaleke Hudson (graduation)

- cornerbacks Ambry Thomas (opt-out) and Lavert Hill (graduation)

List your team’s key returnees:

- running backs Zach Charbonnet, Hassan Haskins, Chris Evans

- wide receivers Ronnie Bell, Giles Jackson

- offensive tackle Jalen Mayfield

- defensive end Kwity Paye and Aidan Hutchinson

- defensive tackle Carlo Kemp

- linebackers Cam McGrone and Josh Ross

- cornerback Vincent Gray

- safety Dax Hill, Brad Hawkins

List a few true freshmen or transfers that will make an instant impact:

-running back Blake Corum

-wide receivers AJ Henning, Roman Wilson

-cornerbacks Andre Seldon, Darion Green-Warren

Brief overview of 2020 team:

There is going to be a ton of new on this Michigan team, namely on the offensive side of the ball. This is headlined by a new quarterback in Joe Milton, four of five new starters on the offensive line, and lots of youth at wide receiver. The defense replaces a few faces, but should still be one of the better units in the Big Ten. This is a bit of a transitional year for the team with a lot of youth in major roles that will probably be there in 2021, as well. Michigan fans are tired of waiting for “next year” especially with losses to Ohio State piling up, but I see them being more competitive in that game this year and am not expecting as big of a downward trend as some. This likely is not their year to win the Big Ten, but I do see it being a step in the right direction compared to how 2019 went.

What’s your team’s biggest strength?

I think Michigan has a strength in its second-year offensive coordinator Josh Gattis. Despite the youth on offense, it feels like they have the personnel to run the system he installed last year and the familiarity there makes it an easier transition for the younger players. He also improved as a play-caller as the season went on. The defensive end duo of Aidan Hutchinson and Kwity Paye also stand out and should be one of the best in college football.

What’s your team’s biggest weakness?

Defensive performances in big games. Don Brown is a capable coach and coordinator, but his units have faltered in major moments against teams with comparable talent. The aggressive defense that he has put in works well against some of the overwhelmed opponents, but has led to some major gaffes and mistakes in big moments.

How does your fanbase feel about your coach and his staff?

Michigan fans are in a complicated spot with Jim Harbaugh. On one hand, he has more than stabilized a program that was in shambles for nearly a decade when he got there. However, the ceiling under him has remained at 10 wins at best and continuing to play second fiddle to Ohio State. Some fans want things blown up and started over, while the majority seems resigned to the fact that the program simply is what it is right now and hope a breakthrough comes along at some point. The pandemic and a weird season feels like it has taken some pressure off of him, but with a contract decision looming, it is an interesting time to follow the team. I would expect a deal would get done at some point.

Who is your team’s MVP this season and why?

Safety/defensive back Daxton Hill. Michigan is going to ask him to do a ton of things on the back end of the defense and I expect the former five-star to live up to his billing as a sophomore.

Predict your team’s record, its best win, and a potential surprise loss:

6-3/7-2 depending on the final crossover game. Best win: Penn State, potential surprise loss: Indiana

A huge thank you to Anthony for providing in-depth insights into the Michigan Wolverines (and for coordinating the SB Nation Big Ten previews series). If you want to keep up with Michigan State’s fiercest rival be sure to follow Anthony on Twitter. And, again, only if you’re into that kind of thing, follow Maize n Brew as well.