To say it’s been a while would be a rather significant understatement.
Late in the third quarter of Michigan’s Sept. 9 win over Cincinnati last season, wide receiver Grant Perry caught a 33-yard touchdown pass from now-UCLA quarterback Wilton Speight. Over the next 11 games of the 2017 season, the Wolverines tossed an anemic six touchdown passes — none of them to a wide receiver.
It was lather, rinse and repeat in the season opener as U-M, once again, failed to throw a touchdown pass to a wide receiver — or anyone else, for that matter — in the 24-17 loss to Notre Dame. Saturday afternoon against Western Michigan, that inexplicable drought ended as Nico Collins (pictured) caught a 44-yard touchdown pass from Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson in the second quarter of the non-conference tilt.
The touchdown reception from a wide receiver was just one day shy from coming exactly one year after the last one.
At the time of this posting, Michigan is blasting its Michigan directional foe 35-0 late in the second quarter.
There’s a lot of optimism around Michigan going into the season in part because of the addition of transfer quarterback Shea Patterson but Jim Harbaugh has not been shy on heaping praise on the progress made at the wide receiver position in recent months as being a key to a much more productive offense in 2018. Sadly though, it might be missing a key piece thanks to some tough injury news out of Ann Arbor this weekend.
In an email, the school confirmed reports that wide receiver Tarik Black had suffered a foot injury in practice and is being listed as out indefinitely as he undergoes further evaluation.
It’s a super tough blow for Black considering he missed most of last season while dealing with a foot injury and, when healthy, is viewed as top pass-catcher for the team after flashing early in 2017. While he broke his left foot last season, it appears this current injury is to his right foot but the school did not give any further specifics on the severity of the issue this time around.
The absence of Black in the lineup for the huge showdown against Notre Dame on Saturday night on NBC (and likely well past that game) puts even more pressure on the rest of the young receiving corps to step up in his place. Chief among the top options on the outside for Patterson this week will likely be former top recruit Donovan Peoples-Jones. Grant Perry, Nico Collins and Oliver Martin all will likely see the field in various combinations as well.
Still, it’s a bummer to hear of Black’s injury so close to the season getting underway for the Wolverines and because of what he went through all of last year to get ready to play for the maize and blue again.
Another day, another hour, and another top spot in a preseason poll for the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Alabama was the most popular pick for the top spot in the preseason Super 16 Poll from the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation. Alabama received 36 first-place votes to stay comfortably ahead of No. 2 Clemson. The Tigers received 14 first-place votes and Georgia and Michigan State each picked up one first-place vote.
The voters certainly are leaning toward Wisconsin as the top Big Ten team. The Badgers ranked fourth overall, two spots ahead of Ohio State. If the playoff were determined by this preseason poll, Alabama would play Wisconsin and Clemson would face Georgia. Washington would be the first team out. The Huskies coming in at No. 5 likely means a good number of voters believe Washington will open the season with a win against Auburn in Atlanta in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game as well, and that would certainly create a playoff-or-bust season for Washington out of the gates.
One team that has received some good offseason buzz that failed to crack the Super 16 was West Virginia. A trendy pick in the Big 12 for some, the Mountaineers were the first team out of this particular preseason poll.
No Group of Five programs made the Super 16 cut, although UCF, Boise State, and San Diego State all received at least one point in the voting.
Here is how the preseason Super 16 poll breaks down:
- Alabama (36 first-place votes)
- Clemson (14)
- Ohio State
- Penn State
- Michigan State (1)
- Notre Dame
In the interest of full disclosure, three College Football Talk contributors are voting members in the Super 16 Poll; myself, Bryan Fischer and Zach Barnett). The poll is made up of members of the FWAA and College Football Hall of Famers with an emphasis on geographic balance. New polls will be updated every Monday this season, with the exception of the post-Week 1 poll, which will be released on Tuesday, September 4.
It remains to be seen if Michigan will be able to climb the Big Ten East Division standings this season, but it is unquestionable the Wolverines have a better shot at playing for a national title than Ole Miss does this fall. That is why quarterback Shea Patterson says he decided to transfer to Ann Arbor.
Speaking to the media following the Michigan football program in Paris, France, Patterson opened up about his decision to transfer to Michigan for the first time. A big part of the reason Patterson chose the Wolverines is the opportunity to be able to compete for a championship, which is something that would be impossible with an Ole Miss program currently restricted by NCAA sanctions, including a postseason ban.
“I can live with throwing an interception in the national championship game. Or to get there, in the playoff. It might be hard to live with that — but I don’t know if I could have lived with not being able to to get the chance to compete for one,” Patterson said, according to Mlive.com. “I think watching Michigan all last year, and with the guys we got coming back on defense, I feel like we’ve got a real good shot at doing that.”
Patterson likely solves the biggest question for Michigan coming off the 2017 season now that he has officially been ruled eligible for the upcoming season. Michigan’s defense should be loaded with talent and the Wolverines return the team’s leading rusher in Karan Higdon (not to mention a nice alternative in Chris Evans). Among the biggest issues Michigan had last week was at quarterback, which hindered the rest of the offense. With Patterson likely to win the quarterback job (and yes, Jim Harbaugh is saying there will be an open competition for the job), the offense could receive a nice boost in production and efficiency. The schedule will be tricky with road games at Ohio State and Michigan State and home games against Penn State and Wisconsin (and Nebraska?), but the offense almost has nowhere to go but up.
Michigan has yet to play for the Big Ten championship in the championship game era for the conference, and Ohio State figures to be the favorite out of the East division this season. Then again, the last two years of the College Football Playoff have included a non-division winner in the four-team field (Ohio State in 2016, Alabama last year). So the precedent has been set. If Michigan can get even a marginally improved offense with Patterson, who knows?
As it turns out, one Pac-12 football program has proven to be the beneficiary of a Big Ten transfer.
In a release late Tuesday night, Cal announced that Ian Bunting has joined Justin Wilcox‘s squad after signing a financial aid agreement with the university’s athletic department. Bunting comes to Berkeley as a graduate transfer from Michigan, which means he’ll be eligible to play for the Golden Bears in 2018.
The upcoming season will be the tight end’s final season of collegiate eligibility.
“Ian has played college football at the highest level and on its biggest stages for the last three seasons, and he has the ability to make an impact on our football program immediately,” Wilcox said in a statement. “He is a versatile athlete that we expect to contribute to both our running and passing games with his blocking and pass-catching skills.”
In late January of this year, Bunting took to Twitter to announce his transfer from U-M.
During his time with the Wolverines, Bunting, a four-star 2014 signee, caught 11 passes for 124 yards. Just one of those receptions and six of the yards came this past season. In 2016, Bunting started the only seven games of his U-M career.