No coach in America has made more headlines this offseason than Michigan's Jim Harbaugh. Lost in all the talk about satellite camps in Australia and sleepovers with recruits is that Harbaugh returns a deep and talented team. So are the Wolverines legit? Here are five reasons Michigan should be the Big Ten favorite going into this season and a serious playoff contender.
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The Big Ten is ready for a new champ
In college football it isn't always how good you are but how good everyone else is around you, and there's no doubt the Wolverines benefit from a little bit of a soft underbelly in the Big Ten this season. Ohio State lost a staggering 12 players to the NFL Draft, while Michigan State will have to do without the services of three-year starting quarterback Connor Cook. Penn State will also be breaking in a new quarterback, while the Wolverines get Wisconsin at home. If there's ever a time for a new era to begin in the Big Ten, this is the year.
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Michigan's dominant running attack
Lost in the fact that Michigan will be breaking in a new quarterback with the departure of Jake Ruddock is that the Wolverines should be able to off-set it with one of the deepest stables of running backs in college football. Michigan returns its three top running backs in De'Veon Smith, Drake Johnson and Ty Issac, a group that combined for over 1,200 yards rushing last year and 11 touchdowns. That group doesn't even include Kareem Walker, one of the top running back recruits in the country last year, who should be able to make an immediate impact.
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An influx of some of the best new talent in America
In his first full recruiting class Harbaugh signed a class that most believe was one of the top five in the nation. It includes several players who could play right away in Ann Arbor. In addition to Walker, linebacker Devin Bush could see the field, and Michigan signed five wide receivers to add depth to a group that already boasts veterans Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson. It's expected that at least a few of them will see significant action. Then there is defensive lineman Rashan Gary, who was rated by several recruiting services as the No. 1 recruit in the nation and should be able to slide in right away and contribute up front for the Wolverines.
Jabrill Peppers could be the best overall player in the league
After an injury-plagued freshman season in 2015, Peppers responded in a big way in 2016, showing why he was both a five-star recruit and likely future first-round NFL Draft pick. Peppers starred on all three sides of the ball, making 45 total tackles (including 5.5 for loss) while also catching 12 passes and averaging a staggering 28 yards per kickoff return. Peppers is expected to play an even bigger role on offense in 2016, moving from corner to a hybrid linebacker position where he'll be flying all over the field. He not only will be the best player on the field for the Wolverines but could also emerge as a Heisman contender.
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The Wolverines have Jim Harbaugh
On The Audible this spring, Stewart Mandel summed it up best: "My reason for having Michigan that high (ranked in the Top 5 entering the season) is almost entirely in having pure faith in Jim Harbaugh." It really doesn't get any simpler than that, and lost in all of Harbaugh's off-field antics is how much he wins. It was just four years ago that he nearly won a Super Bowl and just a year ago that he turned Michigan from a 5-7 laughingstock into a 10-3 team, which was a couple plays against Utah and Michigan State from winning 12 games. In Harbaugh we trust, and he is the reason above all that Michigan can win the Big Ten and be a serious playoff contender in 2016.