It's always nice to see a plan come together. In the seventh season of the Jim Harbaugh era, the Ann Arbor faithful finally had its time. Michigan's magical run in 2021 included a dominating win over Ohio State, a Big Ten Championship and a trip to the College Football Playoff. Harbaugh's recruiting power finally paid off on the field, and his breakthrough 12-2 season marked one of college football's best stories. Now it's up to bettors to decide whether Michigan can continue its momentum into 2022.
The ability to handle turnover is what gives the top programs staying power, and that's where recruiting goes much further than players. Harbaugh lost defensive coordinator Mike MacDonald to the NFL, along with Heisman runner-up Aidan Hutchinson, David Ojabo, and Daxton Hill. Jesse Minter comes over from Vanderbilt to call the shots for an overhauled defense that only returns four starters. Michigan won't be able to repeat as the eighth-best scoring defense in college football, but this year's offense should ensure they don't have to.
Losing offensive coordinator Josh Gattis stings, but all the key players on that side of the ball are returning. Quarterbacks Cade McNamara and J.J. McCarthy give the Wolverines two solid options under center, and they will have the luxury of playing behind the third-best offensive line in the nation. In addition, the running back tandem of Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards ensures Michigan will gash defenses on the ground, and WR Ronnie Bell returns to be the top target in the passing game. So whether it's McNamara with another year of experience or McCarthy's explosive arm, the Michigan passing game should be much more potent in 2022. That's a scary thought for opposing Big Ten defenses.
The schedule sets up nice for Michigan
After last year's 11-1 regular season, the Wolverines' 9.5-game win total at BetMGM makes sense, considering the inevitable step back on defense. I don't think they will be as strong as last year's playoff team, but they may look just as good in the standings.
The first four games are layups, with Colorado State being the only defense in the top 80 in yards per play allowed last season. That's especially critical if McCarthy, the higher-ceiling quarterback, wins the job. The first four games can be confidence builders as the quarterback and new coordinator get on the same page. They finish the year at Ohio State, but the other three road games (at Iowa, Indiana, and Rutgers) should not pose a problem. The Wolverines catching Michigan State, Penn State, and Nebraska at home is a huge benefit. Even if the Wolverines drop the Penn State game, they have a clear path to a 10-2 season.
Michigan over 9.5 wins (-125)
Michigan won't be back in the College Football Playoff or the Big Ten Championship, but the schedule sets up the Wolverines perfectly to win 10 games. That's the best way to bet the Wolverines in the futures market. Ohio State is in a tier by itself, but I believe Michigan has an even wider edge over the other teams in the Big Ten than last season. I expect Michigan State to take a step back without Kenneth Walker III, and Penn State isn't physical enough upfront to take advantage of Michigan's inexperienced defensive line.
The offense will be just as dominant in the running game as last year, but with more of an explosive element. The high-end potential was enough for me to bet the Wolverines over the win total of 9.5 games. The favorable out-of-conference and road schedules make it hard to find the three losses required to prevent them from double-digit wins. When you can get downhill behind one of the strongest offensive lines in college football, it's easier to put inferior teams away. Michigan should be favored in their first 11 games, and it's a solid bet Harbaugh handles business in at least 10 of them.
*Stats provided by cfbstats.com and Athlon sports.