Darren Bennett/ August 23, 2017/ Football, Hot Takes, Thoughts on Current Team/Season/ 0 comments

By: Darren Bennett

Expectations. Whether we’re talking about sports or life in general, we can all use data and stats to come up with our own expectations on how we predict or think something should turn out. Even if you expect to receive a Red Rider BB gun for Christmas or expect Michigan to win their division or conference, expectations can be all over the map and fun to dissect. So let me try my hand at what I think expectations should be for Michigan Football in 2017.

Now, before we go any further, I just want to preface this by saying: No, I will not call Harbaugh and his staff utter failures if these expectations do not come to fruition. I’m merely taking a closer look at what other college coaches have done through their first 3 seasons and comparing it where we sit now in 2017 heading into Harbaugh’s third year at Michigan.

Here is a table of the top 15 highest paid coaches in College Football with the year they won their division title and year they won their conference in their respective tenures. Since we are focusing on the first 3 years, Harbaugh is not included since he has yet to finish his third year.

School Conference Head Coach Division Title Conference Title
Alabama SEC Nick Saban Year 2 Year 3
Ohio State Big Ten Urban Meyer Year 2 Year 3
Florida State ACC Jimbo Fisher Year 1 Year 3
Texas A&M SEC Kevin Sumlin TBA TBA
Auburn SEC Gus Malzahn Year 1 Year 1
Mississippi SEC Hugh Freeze TBA TBA
Iowa Big Ten Kirk Ferentz Year 4 Year 4
Penn State Big Ten James Franklin Year 3 Year 3
Clemson ACC Dabo Swinney Year 2 Year 4
Michigan State Big Ten Mark Dantonio Year 4 Year 4
Florida SEC Jim McElwain Year 1 TBA
Mississippi St. SEC Dan Mullen TBA TBA
Arkansas SEC Bret Bielema TBA TBA
Stanford Pac-12 David Shaw Year 1 Year 2
TCU Big 12 Gary Patterson Year 3 Year 3


As you can see, 9 of the top 15 paid college football coaches have won their division in year 3 or less. 7 out of 15 have won their conference in year 3 or less. In my opinion, this is a large enough sample size to place similar expectations on Harbaugh—who would rank second on this list of highest paid coaches in college football. Of course you could say Harbaugh lost a plethora of key starters and will be breaking in a very young and inexperienced team in 2017. I would counter that argument with Urban Meyer losing almost as many starters and getting to the College Football Playoff in 2016. You don’t think the coaches listed above faced some sort of similar rebuild within their first 3 years?

I think winning the division, conference or making the College Football Playoff is a fair expectation for a few additional reasons:

  1. We will have an experienced, returning starter at QB. Although many are writing him off as if we’ve already seen his ceiling, I believe with more molding and fine-tuning from Harbaugh and his staff, we will see a much improved Speight in 2017. You could argue the offense will be more dynamic in 2017 with more athletic WR’s, a more balanced run game and an improved OL. All things necessary for an experienced QB to take that next step. I think Speight will.
  2. The addition of Greg Frey will pay huge dividends. I hinted on it above but by sharing the O Line workload with Drev, I think we can expect both the run blocking and pass protection to be a huge improvement from last season. It will create more lanes for our backs to run through and better pass protection for Speight. Ultimately giving us a huge boost on offense.
  3. More speed and athleticism on defense. I see our D line as being as good as last years with a possibility of being better. More athleticism on the edges and there will for sure be more speed at LB with Bush getting more reps and I think Hudson is ready to break out at viper.
  4. Our early schedule will be favorable for our young players. Florida will be a tough first test for our young team but if we can figure out how to get the W, I can easily see us starting out 6-0 heading into PSU. With a half season in the books, this should give our young guys plenty of time to gel and fine tune things.

With many of you calling PSU “overrated,” MSU being down and The Game being home this year, this may be the year to take the division. Next year may be a better year to do it from a team experience perspective but we play both rivals on the road and add Notre Dame to our schedule. Not exactly a slam dunk scenario either.

So…expectations. Sometimes they turn out the way you think they should and sometimes they don’t. Just like it was fair for Ralphie to expect a Red Rider BB gun, I think it’s fair to expect a B1G East Title, a B1G Conference Title or a College Football Playoff berth in 2017. But, I won’t shoot my eye out if it doesn’t happen. GO BLUE.


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Darren Bennett

Darren Bennett

Hey guys! I've been a Michigan fan for as long as I can remember. Grew up watching them at the Big House and my dad raised me to be a die hard maize and blue fan. I've followed recruiting and the team seriously now for about 5 years. It's one of my biggest passions and I can't get enough of it! I have a beautiful family that I adore with all my heart. Beautiful wife and two little ones. They are my pride and joy. I enjoy writing about Michigan sports, putting together statistical analysis, best guess lists and more. I love going to the games with my family and friends. Goooo Blue!

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