Can Michigan clear the brand new bar it has set for itself?

The bar has been raised, Michigan. You raised it. 

With back-to-back wins in opposition to Ohio State, back-to-back Big Ten Championships and back-to-back appearances within the College Football Playoff, you might be not the hunter. You are the hunted. 

What’s clear about Jim Harbaugh’s workforce heading into the 2023 season is that it is aware of precisely who it’s and what it’s able to. With J.J. McCarthy behind heart, working backs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards within the backfield and Sherrone Moore main the offense, there aren’t any questions left to reply there. 

[Michigan’s quest to stay atop the Big Ten]

It’s Jesse Minter’s protection that’s the focus. After the Wolverines misplaced to TCU within the Fiesta Bowl — a loss that grew to become extra embarrassing after the Horned Frogs went and endured the worst whooping within the historical past of bowl video games, 65-7 within the nationwide title recreation — the query posed to Michigan is that this: Can Michigan’s protection ship on the game’s greatest stage after failing to take action in back-to-back years, as soon as by the hands of the nationwide champion and as soon as by the hands of the nationwide runner-up?

It’s an unfair query, actually, as a result of the pattern of two is simply too small, and the probabilities of Michigan returning to the CFP are something however a given. But it’s largely unfair as a result of it shrouds the narrative beneath what Michigan hasn’t carried out versus what it has.

But that’s what occurs once you bump your head in opposition to what I name the Oklahoma CFP ceiling. You’re the form of workforce that fills out the CFP relatively than one that may win the nationwide title. Michigan’s job — its protection’s job — is to interrupt that ceiling in 2023.

The Wolverines misplaced the Nyck Harbor Sweepstakes after the five-star defensive finish selected to signal with South Carolina, failing to signal a five-star within the 2023 cycle. It highlights simply how overmatched Michigan is in uncooked expertise.

Add to this the truth that there is no such thing as a seasoned depth behind McCarthy at quarterback. The second- and third-string QBs on the 2022 workforce — Cade McNamara and Alan Bowman — are potential starters at different Power 5 faculties in 2023.

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With Mike Morris and Eyabi Okie gone, Coastal Carolina switch Josaiah Stewart and Nebraska switch Ernest Hausmann could be sufficient to assist shore up a protection that may rely on Junior Colson and rising star Will Johnson to do what no Michigan workforce has but carried out within the twenty first century: win a nationwide title. 

Can Devin Brown push Kyle McCord to be QB1 at Ohio State?

Will offensive coordinator Brian Hartline be within the field or on the sector? Will he have a play card in his fingers? These are questions we can have solutions for by the tip of the spring. It additionally will likely be telling whether or not OSU coach Ryan Day is severe about giving up the playcalling duties in 2023 to deal with being a greater head coach. 

Day additionally would love for a kind of guys, McCord or Brown, to separate early, and odds are McCord will. He’s not simply the one one of many two to try a go, however to get a begin.

McCord additionally has a half-decade of expertise throwing to ex-high college teammate Marvin Harrison, Jr., maybe one of the best wideout within the sport. It behooves Ohio State to reap the benefits of their chemistry. 

The Matt Rhule hiring feels so much just like the Brent Venables hiring in 2021. Will he have comparable outcomes?

“Rhule has yet to coach a single practice, but he and his staff have gained more ground and won more hearts in the Huskers’ home territory than any staff at Nebraska since Tom Osborne retired in 1997.”
— Mitch Sherman, Nebraska beat author, The Athletic 

That’s saying rather a lot, and it additionally underscores how lengthy Husker followers have been ready to be greeted and acknowledged for his or her timeless religion.

Rhule added 40 scholarship gamers since December, has been seen at ladies’ highschool basketball video games, and has taken his gamers to Nebraska athletic occasions like a ladies’s tennis match.

He additionally signed six of the highest 10 recruits from the state of Nebraska within the 2023 cycle. Clearly, he’s intent on not letting the subsequent Danny Woodhead get out of Nebraska with out a suggestion and a heavy recruitment. Woodhead famously didn’t get a suggestion from Nebraska, performed Division II ball at Chadron State, rushed for greater than 7,000 yards and have become a dynamic NFL working again for a decade. 

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The goodwill that Rhule is mustering may imply this system has a season like OU’s with Venables in 2022, however that may additionally imply Nebraska would go bowling for the primary time since 2016.

Is Penn State QB Drew Allar the participant we predict he’s? 

Allar is about to turn out to be PSU’s first new starter at quarterback since 2019, which underscores how lengthy Sean Clifford performed in Happy Valley.

FOX Sports analyst Devin Gardner advised me in 2021 that he preferred Allar greater than every other quarterback he noticed at Elite 11 within the 2022 class.

That class additionally contains Cade Klubnik, Devin Brown, Quinn Ewers, Connor Weigman, Walker Howard, Nick Evers and Ty Simpson. Those are gamers who’re slated to begin or compete to begin the 2023 season at Clemson, Ohio State, Texas, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Wisconsin and Alabama.

In 2022, Penn State received a Rose Bowl with a quarterback who accomplished 64% of his passes for two,822 yards and 24 TDs. I feel that is the ground for Allar.

He’s received two nice tailbacks in Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen. Kent State wideout switch Dante Cephas joins up in the summertime.

Cephas put Sean Lewis on the map with 82 catches for 1,240 yards in 2021. In a 2022 extra time win in opposition to Ohio, he caught 13 passes for 246 yards.

Allar inherits a workforce he can win with.

Does Cade McNamara make the Iowa offense appear to be it has a pulse?

Iowa added 5 potential starters on offense by means of the switch portal, however none was extra impactful than McNamara. 

McNamara’s résumé features a win in opposition to Ohio State, a Big Ten title and an look within the CFP — as a starter. Iowa can’t declare any of these issues in practically 20 years. The Hawkeyes haven’t received a convention title since 2004.

Iowa completed a hundred and thirtieth within the nation in complete yards per recreation final season at 251.6 and that’s the bottom end for a Big Ten offense in the twenty first century. That’s what McNamara and the 2023 offense are up in opposition to. 

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The upside is the 2023 Iowa protection could possibly be even higher than it was in 2021 or 2022, which is saying rather a lot. Iowa has loved one of the best protection north of the Mason-Dixon Line for 2 years, and it deserves an offense with a pulse.

With Luke Fickell, Phil Longo, Tanner Mordecai and Braelon Allen, is Wisconsin near working at its 2019 degree? 

If Longo can — with Mordecai and Allen — marry his air raid go assault with Wisconsin’s conventional dominance on the bottom, this offense can look so much like Lincoln Riley’s Oklahoma, the place the offense places up 300 on the bottom and 300 by means of the air.

Wisconsin is already forward of Riley’s Oklahoma as a result of the HBIC is a defensive coordinator at coronary heart — form of like Lincoln’s predecessor at OU, Bob Stoops.

Longo ran plenty of one-back, one-tight-end formations, tossing the rock about 33 occasions a recreation, at UNC.

Mordecai threw for 3,524 yards and 33 TDs on 443 go makes an attempt and 288 completions at SMU final season. If he duplicated these numbers all the way down to the final digit, he’d personal single-season data in Madison in go yards, go makes an attempt and completions, and be tied with Russell Wilson’s 2011 mark for many TD passes in a season.

It’s necessary to notice Mordecai threw 39 TDs in 2021, which continues to underscore how a lot the Wisconsin offense may change in 2023. 

Of course, Oklahoma switch quarterback Nick Evers may positively make the leap and is able to main Wisconsin. The expertise is there. He simply has to exhibit there’s much less draw back to him than Mordecai, a person who took the same path to turning into QB1.

RJ Young is a nationwide school soccer author and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast “The Number One College Football Show.” Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young and subscribe to “The RJ Young Show” on YouTube.

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