Ohio State has won 25 of its last 26 games, has a roster full of four- and five-star recruits, and returns one of the best quarterbacks in America in J.T. Barrett.
And yet, many Big Ten insiders do not believe Ohio State will win its division in 2016.
“Honestly, right now, I give the edge to Michigan,” former Ohio State standout and current Big Ten Network analyst Stanley Jackson said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “When you think about the number of returning starters they have, particularly on the defensive end, they’ve just got so many good players. Now they don’t have the depth that Ohio State has. Then on the offensive end, even though they have to find a quarterback to replace arguably the best quarterback in the league last year, you got a coach that knows how to get the best out of some young, talented guys. You got a solid offensive line, you got great guys to throw the ball (to). (Jehu) Chesson is back. Jake Butt might be the best tight end in the country. So Michigan has the pieces, I think this year, to really push for the Big Ten title and potentially into the playoff. So if I was picking early, right now in the season, just based on what the teams have coming back, I think Michigan has the edge.”
Michigan also returns Jim Harbaugh, who has quickly become one of the most magnetic, in-your-face coaches in college football, someone who isn’t afraid to take on Nick Saban or Urban Meyer on the recruiting trail or in the media.
“He doesn’t care what people think about him,” Jackson said. “He’s a team guy. The players love him. He’s done some out-of-the-box things. You think about the satellite camps. That really drove the SEC crazy, and that’s something that was good for Michigan football. Then in spring ball, he’s one of the only guys to (decide to) keep my team together and take them on vacation down to Florida and have spring football practice. So he’s doing some really innovative things in college football, and then he wins games. Last year, Michigan overachieved. They won 10 football games, nobody anticipated that. They looked great against Florida in the bowl game and he gets the most out of his quarterback. Everywhere the guy has been, he wins.
“Now, the one thing that has eluded him is a championship,” Jackson continued. “Didn’t get it with Stanford, didn’t do it in San Francisco. So he is going to have to take it to the next step, I think, to be in the elite group of coaches like Urban Meyer and Nick Saban. But he’s doing everything else right, and right now he’s recruiting at a high level. And let’s be honest. In this culture, in America, all press is good press. The more people are talking about you, the more Michigan becomes a big deal. Everything he’s doing, he’s been putting a lot of hoopla out there and people are getting excited about it. I think he’s brilliant. The only thing he has to do now is follow that up by winning football games.”