When you’re trying to go from good to great — and Michigan’s been trying to do that for a while now —  it’s critical that you have people step up and make big plays and the biggest times on both sides of the ball.

It’s always  the difference between winning and losing, especially in those games that determine a successful season. For the No. 7-ranked Wolverines, there are two guys who really need to make a difference, one on offense and one on defense. If they both play and lead, this could be a special year.

Here’s a look at the most important person on both sides of the ball for Michigan.

Offense: Shea Patterson, quarterback

Sure, maybe this is too obvious, but there’s no question that Michigan needs Shea Patterson to have a huge year for this season to be a success.

When Patterson arrived from Ole Miss as a transfer last year, he was good but not great. In Michigan;s three losses, he was average at best, not what you’d expect from a former 5-star recruit.

Here’s a look at the national perspective on Patterson, which has been a fairly common theme among preseason rankings and predictions:

Michigan needs him to be in the top-half of that group this year if it’s going to win the Big Ten and challenge for a playoff spot. I like Patterson, and I do think he can do more in the new faster-paced offense run by offensive coordinator Josh Gaddis.

The offense will be faster, and they’re going to take their shots when they can. I think we will see a lot more long balls out of Patterson this season as Michigan tries to force the issue a bit more and be less conservative.

Patterson likes what he sees of the new offense so far.

“I like how balanced we are in the run game and the passing game, and I also like that we have a veteran O-line coming back with so many weapons on the outside,” he said. “We can run the ball, or we can have four guys on the outside. As soon as Coach Gaddis came in, we all just adapted fast and it was pretty much natural for us.”

” Coach Gaddis is harping on the scheme, and the position coaches are putting us in the right mindset to put us in the right spots.”

Defense: Josh Matellus, safety

Michigan lost a ton of talent to the NFL off its highly regarded defense from a year ago. So there are lot of new faces at all three levels. There needs to be a calming influence from this year, and a voice of reason that holds everyone accountable.

That needs to come from a veteran, someone like safety Josh Matellus.

“This is my fourth year,” he said recently. “Lot of people look up to me. I’ve played. I’ve started two years. I’ve got a lot of insight on the game. I work hard. I just feel like I’m a leader to this team, people look up to me, so I step up to that challenge.”

It always helps to have a veteran defensive coordinator like Don Brown who’s seen it all, but it’s also very important that a player can be that kind of director, too. Mattelus is that kind of guy.