Michigan’s football team is maintaining a game-by-game approach, but the fans don’t seem to be adhering to the same policy. That’s no surprise. With Rutgers and Indiana up next, it’s easy to get caught up looking all the way ahead to the final regular-season game against Ohio State. Why not? After all, Rutgers and Indiana are a combined 1-11 in Big Ten games – the lone victory was Indiana's 24-17 win at Rutgers. Go figure. With the Wolverines freshly elevated to No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings this week, let’s go ahead and look in this week’s mailbag:
Question: I can’t wait until November 24th. I need to know now: Can you go get the Sports Almanac from “Back to the Future” and tell me what happens? Thanks -- @briandlr
Question: AC, you have always mentioned in the past how the D has been great but susceptible to big plays late in the game, but you fail to realize it was from being on the field for 70 plays because of QB issues the past 3 years. With that said are you confident that Michigan can finally win in Columbus with finally having a QB? -- @Georgegroupusa
Answer: Two questions that take different paths but are focused on whether the Wolverines will win at Ohio State. So Brian, I wish I had the ability to access that Sports Almanac, but as a friend of mine once said, “I’d rather it be a surprise. It’s more interesting that way.” I totally get you’re on edge, because Michigan fans have been wanting this kind of championship-run potential for many years and it feels so within reach.
As for the other question, you must have confused me with someone else, because I have stated ad nauseam on multiple radio and television shows that the big plays the defense gave up were in direct correlation to the offense not being able to get much-needed first downs late in games. So yes, I more than realized that.
This year, Michigan is fourth in time of possession, and that’s helping the defense stay fresh late in games and during this late regular-season stretch. It’s the perfect blend of the defense getting the offense the ball quickly and the offense, which is eighth nationally and first in the Big Ten in third-down conversion, draining the clock.
With that said, at the start of the season I projected a loss in Columbus. Now, I’m thinking it’s more of a coin flip with an edge to Michigan, in large part because of the defense and Ohio State’s struggles in the run game. It’s a tough, tough place to play, but a cohesive, confident group can win there. I'm being non-committal but you get my drift.
Question: With Kurt Taylor leaving, what does the RB depth chart look like for next year? -- @Jon_t_Vallejo
Answer: Jon, with Taylor’s departure, heading into next year, we know Chris Evans likely takes the lead among the returning backs, and then it will be based on performances in the spring. Freshman Christian Turner has impressed position coach Jay Harbaugh with his speed and feet. Harbaugh has said Turner plays bigger than his size and is hard-nosed. O’Maury Samuels has seen the field a bit and Jim Harbaugh said earlier this season that he was getting more comfortable and learning to play the game at full speed. And everyone knows what Tru Wilson brings to the table.
Question: Do you think Rashan Gary will have regrets going to Michigan if they don’t win or play for a championship? Could have won the national championship if he would have gone to Clemson. -- @ButtrumDouglas
Answer: Douglas, I’ve never asked him whether he regrets not going to Clemson for any reason because it has never seemed like a question that needs to be asked. Gary has always seemed happy at Michigan, always talks about his “brothers.” It’s a disappointment for any player or team with specific goals to not fulfill them. But if Michigan doesn’t accomplish the ultimate goals on their checklist, is Gary going to sit back and think, “If I had only gone to Clemson?” Doubtful.
Question: How would you rank the order of likely transfers? Brandon Peters, Donovan Jeter, Brad Robbins, O’Maury Samuels, J’Marick Woods. -- @skwogler
Answer: Well, I’ve only really thought about Peters, not the others. I would think Peters would look elsewhere after graduating in May, which I believe he’s on track to do, and would have a couple years of eligibility.
Question: You quoted Rob Mullen as saying, “And at this point, as you look at the protocol through Week 10, head-to-head still matters and is still significant. That’s why Notre Dame is still ahead of Michigan.” Does this mean head-to-head becomes less significant at some point? -- @GailVanBrimer
Answer: Gail, that’s a great question. I think if Michigan steamrolls through the next three games the question for the playoff committee will revolve around whether the head-to-head matchup at the very start of the season should come into play when you’ve got a team playing at a high level at the end. If things play out with Michigan winning the Big Ten title and Notre Dame winning out, both should be in the playoff. Georgia is the wildcard when it comes to Michigan. They’re comparable in many respects, but Michigan got the edge and the No. 4 spot this week in large part because of its defense and non-conference strength of schedule that includes Notre Dame, of course.
Question: With the return of Tarik Black, will the offense stay the course or will the playbook open up to more downfield passing? -- @Devildwg91
Answer: Robert, his teammates were thrilled to see him back on the field and he looked like his healthy self on the long touchdown reception that was called back. I do think they will open the playbook up to show more downfield passing, and why not exercise those muscles these next two games? Not doing that would be silly in the sense of holding things back for Ohio State. The Buckeyes know what Black is capable of and what his strengths are, so there are no secrets. But what Black needs is more game reps and getting comfortable again with timing.
Question: Who’s returning next year that we thought would be leaving? Patterson? Gary? Bush? -- @OkinawaGoBlue
Answer: I have maintained Rashan Gary and Devin Bush will move on after this season, and I still think Shea Patterson goes, too. That’s just my hunch. I know there was something swirling that he’s coming back, but I can assure you there has been no decision one way or the other. Those discussions haven’t been had with his family and his focus has been on this season.