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2015 Big Ten preseason preview: Michigan


2015 Big Ten preseason preview: Michigan


As football season inches closer, we take a look at the early preseason previews of every team for the 2015 Big Ten Season, ranking numbers 14 through one until we finally hit September 3rd. 


2014 Record: 5-7 (3-5) 

Key games: at Utah, at Penn State, Michigan State, Ohio State   

Players to watch:  LT Mason Cole, LB Joe Bolden, S Jabrill Peppers    


Jim Harbaugh enters his opening year at Michigan knowing nothing but success. 

After all, the man hasn’t had a losing season since 2008, then his second season rebuilding a depleted Stanford program.   

Since that time, Harbaugh has gone 64-25-1, including four seasons on the game's highest level in San Francisco.   

His tenure there included three visits to the NFC Championship, and with 44 wins to 19 losses; Harbaugh has the best winning percentage of any NFL coach in the last 35 years. Well, he's now in Ann Arbor, and he won’t look to leave his winning ways behind. 

Michigan fans were hoping 2014 would be the year Brady Hoke and company finally figured it out, this after an 11-2 inaugural season preceded regression in 2012 and 2013. Unfortunately for Hoke, the trend continued, as then team went 5-7 and missed a bowl game for the first time in the Hoke era. The season included familiar losses to rivals Michigan State and Ohio State, while also losing to both Big Ten newcomers Maryland and Rutgers. 

Enough was enough for Michigan, and Brady Hoke was soon packing his bags. This would begin a tremulous and dramatic coaching search for the Wolverines, whose dream candidate was still fighting for playoff contention in San Francisco. Rumors came and swirled; and most assumed Harbaugh wouldn’t leave behind his NFL success to return to college, especially for a program all but a shade of its former glory. 

But – then he did. As quick as analysts said he’d never wind up at Michigan, he was on a plane to Ann Arbor with a signed contract in hand. The team he walks into returns many of the players from 2014’s lackluster campaign, leading most to predict only slight to moderate improvement in Harbaugh’s first year home. 

This isn’t helped by a difficult schedule for the Wolverines, traveling to Utah in Week 1 before more non-conference tests against Oregon State and BYU. The conference slate is no slouch as well, facing off in the daunting Big Ten East against the likes of Maryland, Penn State, Michigan State, and Ohio State. It won’t be an easy year for Michigan, especially with a new coaching staff in place.   

However, there may be more talent in Ann Arbor than many realize. For all the faults of Brady Hoke, he was a more then decent recruiter, pulling in top-10 recruiting classes in 2012 and 2013. So, there is at least some talent there – Harbaugh will just have to find it. 

On the offensive side of the ball, they’re abundant questions heading into the season. The first is at quarterback, where 5th year Iowa transfer Jake Rudock and junior Shane Morris will battle it out for the starting role. Morris has more athletic ability and the stronger arm, but Rudock has shown to be the cautious “game-manager” that Harbaugh has at times won with. 

Whoever’s running the huddle; they’ll be aided by an improved offensive line and capable stable of running backs. In the trenches, offensive line guru Tim Drevno hopes to turn a weakness for the Wolverines into a strength. In prior years struggles have been attributed to inexperience and youth. That’s no longer the case; as there’s more than enough experience and talent to succeed. Look for players such as sophomore left tackle Mason Cole and senior guard Kyle Kalis to make that success happen. 

At the running back position, it’ll likely be a two-way battle between five-star recruits Derrick Green and USC transfer Ty Isaac. Also don’t sleep on bruiser De’Veon Smith and speedster Drake Johnson, who showed promise last season before going down with a torn ACL. 

At wideout, Amarah Darboh and Jehu Chesson will probably be the guys on the outside. But, it might be from the tight end position where the team possesses its best passing threat, as tight end Jake Butt looks to build on a promising freshman season. Harbaugh has shown to push out NFL tight ends with ease, and Butt will hope to be next in line. 

Overall, if the offensive line makes significant progress and a lead running back emerges, this offense has potential. 

The defensive side of the ball represents less potential than reality, as the unit was already fairly strong a year ago. They will likely rely on the front seven, which features a deep group on the line and experienced unit at linebacker to both stop the run and get after the quarterback. Look for junior defensive tackle Maurice Hurst and stud senior linebacker Joe Bolden to lead their respective position groups. 

It’s the secondary where Michigan will hope for significant improvement from last season. Although senior Blake Countess transferred to Auburn, the team adds 5th year transfer Wayne Lyons from Stanford to likely start opposite junior and number one cornerback Jourdan Lewis.

At the safety position, the Wolverines add a true difference maker to the mix in redshirt freshman Jabrill Peppers, who was hampered by injuries in 2014. The second ranked recruit in the nation out of high school, Peppers is an athletic freak who has the potential to be one of the team’s best player’s from the safety position. He might even find himself on the other side of the ball a few plays a game, bringing back memories for Michigan fans a la Hesiman winner Charles Woodson.  

Overall – look for the development of the offensive line and improvement of the secondary to play pivotal roles towards Michigan’s success or failure in year one of the Jim Harbaugh era.    

In his first year in San Francisco, the 49ers went 13-3, this after not a single winning season the previous eight years. Can Harbaugh find similar success in first year returning to his alma mater? With a team returning most of its players from last year’s 5-7 squad, there’s certainly no guarantee he will. 

However, there’s also no guarantee he won’t. 

Prediction: 9-4 (5-3); third in Big Ten East  


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Big Ten season comes to a close for Maryland in final seconds of second round


Big Ten season comes to a close for Maryland in final seconds of second round

NEW YORK -- After struggling with injuries and poor play most of the season, Wisconsin is peaking at the right time.

Brevin Pritzl broke a tie with a foul-line jumper with 28 seconds left and Khalil Iverson secured the win with a steal in the waning seconds, leading Wisconsin past Maryland 59-54 on Thursday in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.


Brad Davison and Iverson each made two free throws in the final nine seconds, and the ninth-seeded Badgers (15-17) advanced to the quarterfinals against top-seeded Michigan on Friday at Madison Square Garden after winning for the fifth time in seven games.

"It's a credit to these guys to my right and also the guys back in the locker room, how they've grown over the last month," Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. "It has been fun to watch and hopefully we've got a lot more basketball yet to play."

The win wasn't pretty, but the Badgers made all the key plays down the stretch and eight-seeded Maryland (19-13) didn't.

The biggest plays were offensive rebounds by Iverson and Ethan Happ after Pritzl and Davison missed 3-point shots with the game tied at 53.

After the second miss with 40.3 seconds to go, Wisconsin called timeout and Pritzl got the game-winner 12 seconds later.

"I think, especially at the end of this game, the possessions are magnified," Davison said. "When you do things right those final possessions, you can really turn things around."

Maryland had a chance to tie the game when Kevin Huerter was fouled by Happ with 9.2 seconds to go, but he missed the first of two free throws and the Terps came up short for the seventh time in 11 games.

"I feel like we were fighting uphill all night," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. "We had the lead 24-23. It's the one time we had the lead. We tied it a bunch of times. It really came down to two things. We fouled too much and we couldn't get a rebound when we needed a rebound."


Happ had 14 points and seven rebounds for Wisconsin, which lost to Michigan State 68-63 less than a week ago. Davison finished with 13 points while Iverson had 11 and six rebounds and Pritzl 10 points. The Badgers, who lost starting point guard D'Mitrik Trice and reserve Kobe King to injuries in December, won despite shooting 36 percent.

"I personally figure we just have to string together an entire game for 40 minutes and just staying toe to toe with them like we did last game," Iverson said. "I know we'll be ready for them."

Huerter had 20 points to lead Maryland. Anthony Cowan Jr. added 16 points and Bruno Fernando had 12 points and nine rebounds.

Wisconsin never trailed in the second half, but it never led by more than three points in the final 11:40 until the closing seconds.

Pritzl's jumper broke a 53-all tie. Huerter then missed the first free throw and made the second. Maryland fouled Davison on the inbounds pass and he made both shots with 8.5 seconds to go for a 57-54 lead.

Wisconsin fouled Cowan rather than let him attempt a game-tying 3-pointer. Since it was a nonshooting foul, the Terps had to inbound with 5 seconds to go and Iverson stole Dion Wiley's pass and then closed the game with two free throws.

"He has evolved into our defensive end stopped," Gard said. "For him to come in and make a play like that at the end to seal it was great."


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Cowan, Fernando, Huerter receive All-Big Ten honors


Cowan, Fernando, Huerter receive All-Big Ten honors

In a roller-coaster season for the Maryland Terrapins, there have been three points of consistency on their roster: Anthony Cowan Jr., Kevin Huerter, and Bruno Fernando.

On Monday, the Big Ten awarded them each their first conference recognition.


Sophomore guard, Cowan was named the All-Big Ten Third Team and the All-Defensive Team. The 6-0 guard finished 10th in the Big Ten in scoring with 15.7 points per game. He also was third in assists (5.2) and steals (1.5). He was a nightmare to defend, filling right into the role that Melo Trimble left vacated this year. Both recognitions were from the Big Ten coaches and media.

Freshman forward, Fernando was selected for the Big Ten All-Freshman Team. Leading all freshmen with 6.4 rebounds and averaging 10.2 points a game, he instantly had an impact on the Terps. From Angola, the 6-10 forward capped his season with 21 points against Iowa on Jan. 7. In his first year, he went from a bench player to a starter, to Sportscenter. It was the first time ever a Terp has been named to the All-Freshman Team 

Huerter was named a Big Ten Honorable Mention by the coaches and media. Stepping into a new role in the 2017-18 season, Huerter struggled but still managed to be highly productive. With the ball in his hands more he shot 42.1 percent from deep and made 72 three-point baskets on the season. Already through two seasons, he is 12th on Maryland’s all-time three-point list.  He also scored 14.6 points a game.