Michigan Football Preview: Can 2021 Wolverines Find Way To 8 Wins?

Written By Drew Ellis on August 12, 2021

Unlike most college football years, there isn’t much hype behind the Michigan Wolverines as this NCAA season approaches.

With enthusiasm down and expectations seemingly lowered, will Jim Harbaugh and U-M be able to surprise the fan base in a positive way?

Oddsmakers aren’t looking for the Wolverines to do much. So let’s take a look.

Michigan football on the outside looking in

The first preseason college football rankings have been released for the 2021 season. Michigan finds itself without a landing spot, not cracking the top 25.

Five Big Ten Conference teams (No. 4 Ohio State, No. 15 Wisconsin, No. 17 Indiana, No. 18 Iowa and No. 20 Penn State) are in the initial USA Today Coaches’ Poll, while Northwestern got more votes than the Wolverines as well.

Oddsmakers see Michigan as a long shot in the Big Ten race. WynnBet Sportsbook lists the Wolverines at +1700 to win the conference. That’s fifth in the race, with Ohio State the clear favorite at -210.

BetMGM Sportbook lists Michigan at +2000 to reach the College Football Playoff this season. Golden Nugget Sportsbook puts U-M at +8000 to win the national championship.

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When it comes to the over/under for regular season wins, DraftKings Sportsbook lists the Wolverines at 7.5.

Wolverines still reeling from 2020

Michigan is coming off a pretty awful 2020 season shortened by COVID-19.

The Wolverines were just 2-4, with their final three games being canceled because of coronavirus restrictions.

Three of the four losses came by double figures, while the other was a 27-24 setback at home to Michigan State.

Despite those woes, Michigan gave Harbaugh a new contract in the offseason. They agreed to a four-year extension, though it came at a reduced price.

Over his six years with the Wolverines, Harbaugh is 49-22 overall and 34-16 in the Big Ten. Michigan has yet to defeat Ohio State under Harbaugh and it is just 3-3 against MSU.

In the offseason, Harbaugh made a number of coaching changes. Sherrone Moore joins Josh Gattis as co-offensive coordinators, while Mike Macdonald was hired in as defensive coordinator.

Michigan also added former players Mike Hart and Ron Bellamy as assistants.

Michigan Wolverines Week 1 Odds

Can Michigan’s offense step up?

The big question entering this season for Michigan is who will be at quarterback.

Cade McNamara had the lead coming into training camp after throwing for 425 yards and five touchdowns in limited action last season as a freshman. Also in the mix is Texas Tech transfer Alan Bowman, as well as true freshman J.J. McCarthy.

Up front, Michigan brings more experience on the offensive line. Michigan also appears to be loaded at running back behind Hassan Haskins, Blake Corum and true freshman Donovan Edwards.

Defensively, Macdonald is bringing in a new defense with a lot of looks to try and lift up the Wolverines, who gave up 34.5 points per game last season.

Last season’s tackles leader, Josh Ross steps in as a captain this year at linebacker to pace the unit. Michigan will look to improve on a pass rush that had just nine sacks over six games a year ago.

Key 2021 games for Michigan football

Will Michigan get to eight wins this season and eclipse those futures totals? That’s the question that oddsmakers have left on the plate of wagerers in the first full year of Michigan sports betting.

The Wolverines open with four straight home games, including nonconference clashes with Western Michigan, Washington and Northern Illinois. Big Ten play then starts at home with Rutgers.

DraftKings Sportsbook has Michigan as a 17-point favorite in the opener and a 27.5-point favorite against NIU.

Overall, DraftKings has odds for all of U-M’s games except for the Rutgers contest. They have the Wolverines favored in eight of them.

Here’s the games that look like they could make or break the season for Michigan this fall.

  • Sept. 11 vs. Washington: You won’t have to wait long for a marquee game. The Wolverines host the Huskies in Week 2 and are a slim 1-point favorite, according to DraftKings. Jimmy Lake gets his first full season with Washington after a 3-1 2020 effort. U-M has to win these toss-up games at home.
  • Oct. 2 at Wisconsin: The first road game of the season will be a big one. If Michigan is going to contend in the Big Ten, it has to be able to show it can win away from Michigan Stadium. Oddsmakers have the Badgers as a 9.5-point favorite at home. Wisconsin has won five of the past seven meetings.
  • Oct. 30 at Michigan State: Harbaugh can’t afford another loss to MSU, plain and simple. The Spartans have endured a massive roster overhaul and should be ripe for the picking. However, last year’s Spartans were a mess and still beat U-M in Ann Arbor. Oddsmakers have Michigan as a 6.5-point favorite.
  • Nov. 6 vs. Indiana: The Hoosiers have been a program on the rise and have a high-powered offense that can cause problems. A 38-21 win for IU in 2020 snapped a 24-game losing streak to the Wolverines. Oddsmakers have Michigan as a slight 2.5-point home favorite.
  • Nov. 27 vs. Ohio State: The Buckeyes have won eight straight in the series and all six against Harbaugh. The past three have been by double digits. U-M fans want to see something change against Ohio State, and a win here could totally change the outlook of the program. Oddsmakers still see the Buckeyes rolling, though — they’re a 10.5-point favorite on the road.
Photo by Tony Ding/AP
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Drew Ellis

Drew Ellis has lived in Michigan his whole life, and has been writing professionally for the last 21 years. Ellis has covered anything from youth baseball in mid-Michigan, a top-25 college football program, and pro sports in the Detroit area. Always keeping busy, Ellis also has over 10 years of experience in covering sports betting, handling all major sports.

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