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Michigan football: Reasons for and against a Big Ten three-peat

The Michigan Wolverines are chasing the coveted three-peat.



Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh
Oct 1, 2022; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh directs his team before the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan football heads into the 2023 season, entering territories not seen for decades, as pre-season favorites to win the Big Ten title. With Ohio State’s domination of the conference for the better part of two decades, it has been a long time since Michigan, or any other team has been an off-season favorite. Even before this past season, when Michigan was defending Big Ten champs for the first time since 2005, almost every national media outlet picked the Buckeyes to regain their footing atop the conference hill. Even the Big Ten media had picked Michigan to finish second at Big Ten media days.

Now after proving everyone wrong a season ago and walking out of Ohio Stadium as the victors, Michigan football has tightened its grasp on the Big Ten crown. So how do their chances look for the coveted three-peat in 2023? Here are three reasons why Michigan will win the Big Ten in 2023 and three things that could stop them from winning a third straight conference title for the first time since 1990-’92.

Three reasons why Michigan will win

1. Experience

It’s no secret that Michigan will be one of the most experienced teams in the country in 2023. At this point, the Wolverines will return a whopping 81% of their total production from a season ago, which is the 5th most in the nation, according to ESPN. This includes 84% of offensive production (4th in the country) and 78% of defensive production (16th in the country). In 2023, Michigan will only face two teams ranked inside the top 40 for returning production, Rutgers (23rd) and Nebraska (39th), two teams that combined 4-14 in conference play last season. The Wolverines’ biggest threats for the east division crown, Ohio State (49th), Penn State (56th), and Maryland (65th), all return significantly less production.

Michigan not only returns the most production in the Big Ten, but a large portion of it comes at key positions, most notably quarterback. With the departures of many long-tenured quarterbacks from most of the Big Ten, experience at the position could be a crucial determining factor in crowning a champion. Of teams with a winning record in 2022, only Michigan and Maryland return their starting quarterback.

Not to mention, that will be coupled with Michigan football returning four guys with starting experience along the offensive line, Blake Corum’s return and a whopping 99% of rushing production from last season. The defense, too, is loaded with guys who played massive roles on last season’s top-ranked unit, including Michigan’s top five tacklers from 2022 (Junior Colson, Micheal Barrett Jr., Rod Moore, Mike Sainristril, Kris Jenkins). Adding insult to injury, the Wolverines bring back what could likely be their best defender and a top cornerback in the entire country, sophomore Will Johnson.

2. Winning Culture

Team culture is one of the most underrated aspects of college sports, not just football. Is everyone on the roster buying into the team? A football team is like a chain, only as strong as its weakest link, and all it takes is one link to fail to cost a team a game. A winning culture is also vital; guys who have “been there and done that” in the biggest games on the biggest stages.

The Wolverines’ roster is currently loaded with guys who’ve played in one or two Big Ten title games and college football playoffs. Current upperclassmen can say they’ve won games at Ohio Stadium, Happy Valley, Kinnick Stadium, Camp Randall and Memorial Stadium, a murderer’s row of Big Ten football venues.

That winning mentality becomes contagious when a program gets rolling and goes on the type of streak the Wolverines are currently enjoying (25-3 overall the past two seasons). Guys go into the biggest games of the year expecting to win. Sometimes this can lead to overconfidence or cockiness and a team’s downfall.

Still, with the proper leadership, coaching, and preparation, that conviction in success can help carry teams through adversity. Players and coaches who don’t believe in themselves pucker at the biggest moments. While we used to see this yearly with the Wolverines against Ohio State, they’ve now turned the tables and the Buckeyes were the team that flinched with the game, and conference title, on the line a season ago.

3. ‘The Game’ is in Ann Arbor

Speaking of Ohio State, the Wolverines get the Buckeyes at ‘The Big House’ for the first time as defending conference champions since 2005. This will also be the first time they’ve faced off in Ann Arbor since Hassan Haskins rushed for five touchdowns in Michigan’s fifteen-point victory in 2021.

While Michigan did have to go down to Columbus last season and still won the conference, it should be substantially easier to catch Ohio State at home. Besides the fact that the Wolverines won at ‘The Shoe’ for the first time since 2000 and that Ohio State has only lost four total home games in the past 10 seasons, Michigan football has always played much better at home. With fans present, Jim Harbaugh has led the Wolverines to a 45-5 record at Michigan Stadium. Comparatively, he has twice as many road losses (10) in nearly half as many games (33).

Now, this is not to say that Ryan Day can’t lead Ohio State into Ann Arbor with a first-year starting quarterback and win. That’s precisely what happened in 2019. Still, is Kyle McCord the same as Justin Fields? Is JT Tuimoloau equal to Chase Young? Is Denzel Burke (or Ole Miss transfer Davison Igbinosun) as good as Jeff Okudah? We shall see.

One thing is certain, if Michigan wants to win the Big Ten, they need to beat the Buckeyes. The last time Michigan won an outright Big Ten title while losing to Ohio State was 1982 (they were co-champions with losses to Ohio State in 1998 and 2004). So don’t expect to see the Wolverines go to Lucas Oil Stadium following a loss the week before.

Three reasons why Michigan won’t

1. Complacency

Let me start by saying I don’t think Michigan football will become complacent in 2023 after back-to-back twelve-plus-win seasons. Not only with the amount of experienced leadership the Wolverines return but after Michigan’s very disappointing showing in the college football playoff, I expect this group to be focused and hungry to achieve their ultimate goal. It is something that the leaders of this team will need to be mindful of all season to avoid any slippage in the earlier parts of the season.

Michigan opens the season with three non-conference cupcakes before facing just one Big Ten team that finished above .500 before November. This means the Wolverines must prepare weekly for a challenging game, as they will have a target on their backs for each game during the season. Coaches like PJ Fleck or Matt Rhule would love nothing more than to earn a signature home victory over a likely top-three Wolverine squad. Subsequently, Michigan will most likely play its four toughest games (at Michigan State, at Penn State, at Maryland vs. Ohio State) in the final six weeks of the season. It won’t be an easy finish to the season. Can the Wolverines stay hungry enough to get through it unscathed?

2. A considerably more difficult road schedule

I can admit that Michigan didn’t have the most difficult schedule last year on their way to a perfect 12-0 regular season. They still played some outstanding teams, including those that finished 4th (Ohio State) and 7th (Penn State) in the final AP poll, but overall they saw their fair share of mediocre teams and only had to play four road games. This year they have five such games, and it’s a noticeably more difficult stretch. While yes, the Wolverines did have to travel to Kinnick Stadium and Ohio Stadium, places they hadn’t won at since 2005 and 2000, respectively, their remaining road opponents (Indiana and Rutgers) won a combined three Big Ten games.

This season, Michigan has five road games (Nebraska, Minnesota, Michigan State, Penn State, Maryland), including playing back-to-back road games twice. Michigan football will have to defend two rivalry trophies in hostile environments. Even more difficult is the fact that every single road contest will be a strong candidate to be a night game, and at least two or three very likely will be. How does a probable top-10 matchup, in a night game, amongst a ‘white-out’ in Happy Valley sound?

3. Injuries

Everyone hates to talk about it, but unfortunately, injuries are just a part of the game, and there’s not much you can do to avoid or minimize them. This is why depth is critical, and luckily Michigan has recruited and developed very well and has adequate guys backing up every spot. That said, the only overly realistic way I see Michigan not winning the Big Ten again is due to critical injuries.

A fully (or even mostly) healthy Wolverine squad should be favored to win every game on their schedule. Even in Michigan’s two biggest toss-ups this season, Ohio State and Penn State, the Wolverines will match up against new starting quarterbacks from both teams. Notably, the Wolverines are also a combined 4-0 against them the past two seasons.

Michigan football was bit by the injury bug in 2022, with multiple key guys missing multiple games and three preseason-expected starters that missed all or most of the entire season. Ultimately, injuries very likely cost Michigan a playoff win, as I think that game against TCU goes much differently with a fully healthy team.

Ultimately, Michigan’s ability to stay healthy and keep their play-makers on the field for the biggest games will be the primary deciding factor in their chances at winning the Big Ten title.

Thank you for reading Blue by Ninety. For more Michigan Athletics content from Blue by Ninety, follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram. You can also subscribe to our YouTube Channel. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email our Managing Editor at Also, be sure to check out our shop and our podcast, which is available on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and all other steaming platforms. It is because of your support that we have become one of the fastest and most influential Michigan media outlets there is!


Top analyst has an interesting message for Michigan football fans

Top analyst Joel Klatt has some interesting thoughts about Michigan football heading into the Wolverines’ Big Ten opener this weekend.



Michigan football fans, Joel Klatt, Big Ten conference, Penn State, Ohio State
Sep 9, 2023; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Michigan Wolverines wide receiver Roman Wilson (1) celebrates his touchdown against the UNLV Rebels with teammates during the first half at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

Last weekend, the Maize and Blue won their third-straight game of the 2023 season, downing the Bowling Green State Falcons by 25 points at home. While JJ McCarthy and the offense struggled, the Wolverines are still undefeated heading into Big Ten conference play this weekend. Still, with Penn State and Ohio State playing great football right now, top college football analyst Joel Klatt has an interesting message for Michigan football fans — he thinks that folks in Ann Arbor should be “antsy” right now.

Joel Klatt has an interesting take for Michigan football fans

Sure, last weekend’s victory over Bowling Green wasn’t pretty; however, Ohio State and Penn State have both seen their fair share of struggles so far this year. In fact, even outside of the Big Ten conference, schools like Texas, Alabama, and even Georgia have not been looking like their usual selves lately. Still, Joel Klatt says that there should be some tension among the Michigan football fanbase due to recent lackluster play during the non-conference slate.

“With what’s going on in the Big Ten East, namely Penn State and Ohio State? I would feel antsy if I were you, Michigan fans,” Joel Klatt explained on his show, ‘The Joel Klatt Show.’ “The one thing that will derail your season faster than anything else is if JJ McCarthy starts to turn the ball over. That’s why I would be antsy.”

“I know you’re going to run the football fine, I really do. I’m pretty confident that the defense is going to play really well. The one unknown is how efficient can JJ (McCarthy) play? Now, he was really good a year ago until late. Obviously, the TCU game (last year’s College Football Playoff semi-final), it got a little bit loose, and guess what? They (Michigan football) lost.”

Thoughts on what Klatt said about the Wolverines heading into Big Ten conference play

Now, I am going to disagree with Joel Klatt a bit here in a few aspects. First off, Michigan football has not proven that it can run the football consistently yet, and the offensive line is yet to mesh. This idea that the rushing attack will be elite this year because it was last year is simply not true — it’s a hard thing to admit, but fans are yet to see the same bruising Wolverines that they did over the past two seasons. Not that it won’t develop, but so far, Michigan is not nearly as dominant on the ground as it was in 2021 and 2022.

Additionally, Klatt said that JJ McCarthy was good in 2022 until late in the season, which is really not that accurate. JJ McCarthy was not seen as a great quarterback until the Ohio State game hit — not to say that fans didn’t see the talent, but he struggled to really get things going consistently until the final three games of the year, including the Wolverines’ CFP loss.

Right now, Michigan football fans should not be too concerned, if you ask me. That said, as the weeks go by and the Penn State and Ohio State matchups get closer, we need to see more from the Wolverines. The fact of the matter is that, with Michigan’s schedule this year, the Maize and Blue can have many shortcomings and still begin the year 9-0 — it’s the final three games that will truly define the 2023 team, so long as they can avoid upset beforehand.

Thank you for reading Blue by Ninety. For more Michigan Athletics and Big Ten content from Blue by Ninety, follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram. You can also subscribe to our YouTube Channel. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email our Publisher at Also, be sure to check out our shop and our podcast, which is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all other streaming platforms. It is because of your support that we have become one of the fastest-growing and most influential Michigan media outlets there is!

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Michigan football coach explains what makes Rutgers’ offense dangerous

Michigan football coach Jesse Minter explains what makes Rutgers’ offense so dangerous.



Michigan football, Jesse Minter, Rutgers, Greg Schiano
Nov 5, 2022; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Michigan Wolverines linebacker Michael Barrett (23) returns an interception during the second half against the Michigan Wolverines at SHI Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights are coming to town this weekend to face off against the 2nd-ranked Wolverines for both teams’ Big Ten opener. Both Rutgers and Michigan are 3-0 right now with two of the top defenses in the nation, and on Saturday, Greg Schiano and Jim Harbaugh will clash in a Big Ten matchup for the fourth time. It’s worth noting that, while the Wolverines are undefeated against Rutgers during Harbaugh’s tenure, Schiano has always given the Maize and Blue a close game. Yesterday, second-year Michigan football coach Jesse Minter (DC) explained why the Scarlet Knights’ offense is dangerous.

Michigan football cannot afford to overlook the Rutgers Scarlet Knights

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights are heading into Big Ten play with their heads held high, boasting a 3-0 record on the season thus far. Perhaps Rutgers’ most impressive victory in quite some time was last weekend’s blowout win over Virginia Tech, which is yet another momentum builder for Greg Schiano heading into Week 4, which will be Jim Harbaugh’s first game in the Big House in over 300 days.

Michigan football coach Jesse Minter explains why Greg Schiano & Co. are so dangerous

According to Jesse Minter, Rutgers has an offense that is physical and methodical, making them a solid Big Ten test for the Wolverines’ top-ranked defense, which recently climbed to No. 1 in the nation after a 31-6 win over Bowling Green.

“Their physicality,” Jesse Minter said yesterday, talking about Rutgers’ offense. “They play a style of football to try to control the clock, gain yards running the football, pretty safe throws in the passing game. A quarterback that adds an element in the rushing attack as well. They’re built how coach Schiano teaches and just as how I would portray probably a longtime super successful defensive coordinator, how his team would be built is how they play right now. And they play a complementary football similar to us.

“I would say where their defense is playing well, their special teams is always really good,” Minter continued. “And then they play complementary football. So even though maybe they don’t score 50, but they’re controlling the clock, they’re getting touchdowns, they’re getting the lead, they’re keeping the lead, they’re able to play pretty conservative and not put themselves in harm’s way. And that formula over the first three games, they’ve been really successful with.”

Michigan football enters this weekend’s game as a 24-point favorite over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Last year, despite being down by a field goal at halftime, the Wolverines put Rutgers to bed on the road, 52-17.

Thank you for reading Blue by Ninety. For more Michigan Athletics and Big Ten content from Blue by Ninety, follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram. You can also subscribe to our YouTube Channel. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email our Publisher at Also, be sure to check out our shop and our podcast, which is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all other streaming platforms. It is because of your support that we have become one of the fastest-growing and most influential Michigan media outlets there is!

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Michigan football DC Jesse Minter shares thoughts on Harbaugh’s return

This weekend, Jim Harbaugh will be coaching Michigan football against Rutgers, and Jesse Minter seems thrilled!



Michigan football, Jim Harbaugh, Jesse Minter, Rutgers
© Junfu Han via Imagn Content Services, LLC

It has been over 300 days since Jim Harbaugh coached a game at the Big House in Ann Arbor — the last time it happened was in mid-November of last year against Illinois. On Saturday, the Wolverines’ 9th-year head coach will make his return debut for the 2023 season; yesterday, Michigan football DC Jesse Minter (2nd season) shared his thoughts on what having Harbaugh back will mean for the Maize and Blue.

Jim Harbaugh set to return to the Big House for Michigan football Big Ten opener

Three games into the 2023 season, Michigan football is undefeated and has the No. 1-ranked defense in the nation, just as many anticipated. Jesse Minter, the Wolverines’ incredible second-year defensive play-caller, was interim coach for Week 1, though has since returned to his regular DC duties. In two days, when Jim Harbaugh finally re-takes the field as head coach in Ann Arbor, he will be met with thunderous applause as the Maize and Blue look to start Big Ten play with a win over Rutgers.

Michigan football DC Jesse Minter excited for Harbaugh’s return this weekend

Here is what Michigan football DC Jesse Minter had to say on Wednesday in regards to Jim Harbaugh and his fast-approaching return to the sidelines:

“I think anytime you take your leader, the guy that all these guys signed up to play for there, that one of the best head coaches in the world at any sport, any level, it’s different,” Jesse Minter said of Michigan football head coach Jim Harbaugh. “You’re asking other people to juggle different jobs. And so, now that he’s back, I think it allows everybody to have a really, really tight focus on their particular responsibility. I think it was a good experience, not something wanted based on the circumstances but appreciated the way coach did it. I think it was good for everybody; gave everybody a different perspective. And just like he kind of said, gained perspective from not being there, I think we all gain perspective for how much we appreciate him, and how he goes about his business being the head coach now, having done that for a little bit.

“I couldn’t be more happy and excited to have him back,” Minter said. “I think our team feeds off of his leadership. I said it before, he just breeds this confidence into our players. And I would expect the guys to be pretty excited to run out the tunnel with him this week.”

Wolverines ready to host Rutgers on Saturday

Michigan football is taking on a team that, historically, Jim Harbaugh has struggled with, at least during the Greg Schiano era. In 2020, Rutgers took the Wolverines to 3OT; in 2021, it was a one-score game, and last year, Rutgers held a lead heading into halftime.

Still, Michigan is currently favored by 24 points and has an 85% chance of victory, per the ESPN FPI.

Thank you for reading Blue by Ninety. For more Michigan Athletics and Big Ten content from Blue by Ninety, follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram. You can also subscribe to our YouTube Channel. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email our Publisher at Also, be sure to check out our shop and our podcast, which is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all other streaming platforms. It is because of your support that we have become one of the fastest-growing and most influential Michigan media outlets there is!

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