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Our best guest at who’ll get the nod in Week 1 for Jim Harbaugh’s crew. Video by Kirkland Crawford, DFP
Wochit

It’s the college football preseason – the time of year when we all pretend to know what’s about to take place and who’s going to win the national championship.

But when it comes to all the prognostications, Michigan football may be the most difficult to predict.

Yes, it’s Jim Harbaugh at the helm, and U-M is coming off consecutive 10-win seasons. You also could argue the Wolverines were a yard short of potentially reaching the College Football Playoff last year (sorry to bring up that Ohio State ending again). So naturally, the third year’s going to be the charm, right?

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Not so fast. Michigan returns just five starters from last season, including one on defense. A lot of young players with zero starting experience will have to step up in big roles this season for U-M to come out of the Big Ten alive, and that’s one reason they’re considered a mystery this coming college football season.

The biggest mystery, in fact, according to ESPN.com writer Adam Rittenberg.

“No team and no coach filled up the off-season quite like Michigan and Jim Harbaugh,” he wrote. “But will the Wolverines command the same attention in November? The NFL draft hit Michigan especially hard. The Wolverines return only one starter on defense and have questions at wide receiver and other spots.

“Harbaugh clearly has things trending up, but he also needs concrete results. Since 2003, Michigan hasn’t won the Big Ten outright and beaten Ohio State just once.”

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Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh speaks with reporters about his 2017 team during Big Ten football media days on July 25, 2017, in Chicago. By Chris Solari, DFP.

The Wolverines have quite the uphill battle this year if they’re going to reach at least 10 regular-season wins again. They begin the season in Texas against Florida and also have to play at Penn State at night Oct. 21 and at Wisconsin on Nov. 18. 

Yes, they get Ohio State at home but, unlike U-M, the Buckeyes return many of the players that propelled them to the College Football Playoff last season and look like the clear Big Ten favorite this fall.

And, of course, there’s Michigan State at home Oct. 7. That looks like a win for Michigan, but remember what pundits have said time and time again: Don’t count Mark Dantonio out just yet.

Contact Brian Manzullo: bmanzullo@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @BrianManzullo.

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