10 most critical questions Michigan must answer in 2022
Michigan has some re-tooling to do after winning the Big Ten championship this past season. As usual, there are a lot of questions surrounding the Wolverines’ upcoming schedule, and we’re here to answer a good chunk of those in this piece.
It’s going to take a miracle to replicate an 11-2 season that was punctuated by a regular season-finale win over Ohio State and a first appearance in the College Football Playoff. But Michigan looks capable of making a somewhat serious run toward another conference banner.
Another solid season would all but quiet the doubters of coach Jim Harbaugh.
So with that being said, get ready to ponder 10 what-ifs tied to UM football in 2022.
How can Hutchinson and Ojabo be replaced?
In 2021, Aidan Hutchinson had a single-season record 14 sacks, and David Ojabo had 11 — no other combo was as dominant as Hutchinson and Ojabo this past season. They’re easily one of the best 1-2 punches from the edge in UM history, and probably in college football history. Players such as they aren’t ever “replaced,” but Michigan has done a great job developing the D-line — specifically pass-rushers — over the years, so there shouldn’t be a dramatic drop off. It’ll be different, but not necessarily worse.
Look for Mike Morris, Taylor Upshaw and Ty Harrell to be among the top contenders for star roles in the pass-rush game.
Will the offense take the next step?
This past season, Michigan’s offense had moments when it looked like the best one of the Harbaugh era. With dominant forces on the ground in RBs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards, along with receivers and a still-good line (albeit not the top OL in the country like in 2021), the Wolverines have enough on offense to really cause some problems for opposing teams.
It was pretty good in 2021, but will the offense become elite in 2022? That’s a big question.
Does Ronnie Bell become a superstar?
He’s said to be 100 percent recovered from a knee injury in 2021, so it’s fair to assume that Ronnie Bell will resume where he left off — and that was on the path to being Michigan’s top wide receiver. He’ll also likely return punts, making him a two-way threat, at the very least.
Evolution of QB JJ McCarthy, WR Andrel Anthony, RB Donovan Edwards?
Without a doubt the future faces of Michigan, the trio of sophomores are set to really make a major leap this fall. Throw in linebacker Junior Colson, a Freshman All-American, and the Wolverines have at least 4 sophomores who could become household names this fall.
Back-to-back wins over Ohio State?
Let’s not get carried away here … but hey, it could happen; it’d be the first time since 1999-2000, but it could happen.
Avoiding 3 straight Ls to MSU?
Until Mel Tucker, there hadn’t been a Michigan State coach to open 2-0 vs. Michigan. Needless to say, no MSU coach has started 3-0 vs. the Wolverines, something Tucker could do this fall. Harbaugh has never lost 3 consecutive games to Michigan State.
Does Michigan avoid infamy by taking down the Spartans? Or does it suffer a 3rd straight loss, further boosting Tucker’s street cred in East Lansing?
Will Ryan Hayes be the best LT in the nation?
Michigan had the best offensive line in the country last season, with Hayes — 6-7, 300 pounds — being a major factor. He’s been discussed as a potential top-10 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, per Bleacher Report’s Way-Too-Early mock from April 2022. Top-10 pick? At least 1st-rounder? Who knows right now. This fall will determine the 5th-year senior’s draft stock.
Will Cade McNamara again climb UM charts?
McNamara had 210 completions on 327 attempts last season, putting him at No. 10 in terms of single-season records at Michigan. Should he complete 224 or more, he could place himself among the top 5 Wolverines in that category, sharing territory with past greats such as Chad Henne and John Navarre.
With 2,576 passing yards in 2021, McNamara put himself at No. 10 in terms of single-season records at Michigan. Should he approach 3,000, he could end up placing in the top 5; it’s highly doubtful anyone will touch Navarre’s 3,331 yards from 2003 in the near future.
Harbaugh NFL talk in postseason?
This cycle won’t end until it ends? Should Michigan have another successful season, you can bet that Harbaugh-to-NFL will be an immediate hot topic of discussion. Sure, it’s getting tiresome, but it’s just the reality we deal with every year.
Repeat as Big Ten champs?
Outright in 2003 and shared with Iowa in 2004. That summed up UM’s B1G titles in this century prior to 2021. Before the Wolverines breakthrough, Ohio State had won the previous 4 — the longest streak of outright crowns in the history of the league. Between Michigan’s 2 most recent league titles, OSU has won or shared a piece of the Big Ten championship 10 times — so can Michigan do anything about it?