ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Seventh-ranked Michigan begins its quest for a first appearance in the College Football Playoff when it kicked off the 2019 season at home against Middle Tennessee State on Saturday.
Michigan earned a 40-21 win thanks to three touchdown passes from senior quarterback Shea Patterson.
"Middle Tennessee (is) one of the nine bowl teams we play this year and I have great respect for them," Harbaugh told reporters. "They played in the (Conference USA) championship game last year and coach (Rick) Stockstill has done a great job with the program." Michigan will feature a new spread offense after luring Josh Gattis, who will assume play calling duties for the first time, away from Alabama, and hopes his new 'speed in space' philosophy provides big results with one of the most talented wide receiver corps in the nation at his disposal. While big things are expected out of the new-look offense, there are question marks about the defense, which must replace linebacker Devin Bush and defensive end Rashan Gary, who were both selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Middle Tennessee State returns 11 starters from last season's team which dropped a 27-25 decision to UAB in the championship game and hopes to enhance its reputation as a giant killer by knocking off a Power 5 opponent for the sixth time since 2008.
ABOUT MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (2018: 8-6)
Sophomores Asher O'Hara and Chase Cunningham are competing with JC transfer Randall Johnson for the starting quarterback job after Brent Stockstill exhausted his eligibility. Ty Lee will provide a security blanket for the winner of the quarterback battle as the senior wide receiver is the nation's active leader in catches (213) and brings a 40-game reception streak into the new season. "We have a huge challenge in front of us playing Michigan as they have great players and the history and tradition speaks for itself," Standstill told reporters. "We're going to go up there, roll up our sleeves and compete for 60 minutes."
ABOUT MICHIGAN (2018: 10-3)
The new style of offense should benefit returning starter Shea Patterson (2,600 passing yards and 22 touchdowns), who looked uncomfortable at times in Michigan's slow, prodding attack last year while wide receivers Nico Collins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black are likely to see an increase in targets in Gattis' passer friendly system. Five-star freshman Zach Charbonnet headlines a three-man running back platoon along with Tru Wilson and Christian Turner after the departure of leading rusher Karan Higdon. Starting cornerback Ambry Thomas is expected to be sidelined for the season opener after he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and will be replaced by Vincent Gray, while Jalen Mayfield will get the nod at right tackle after projected starter Andrew Stueber was ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.
1. Michigan is 10-1-1 against teams from the state of Tennessee.
2. The Wolverines have won eight of their last 12 season openers.
3. Michigan has outscored its opponents 412-109 in non-conference home games under Harbaugh.
PREDICTION: Michigan 48, Middle Tennessee State 17