ANN ARBOR, Mich. — When the entire Michigan football team is sitting in the forecourt of the Crisler Center, and you only have seconds before the next autograph-seeking fan arrives, you don’t have time for introspective questions.
So, at Saturday’s “Meet the Team” event hosted by Valiant Management Group and The M Den, we had a little fun: I asked every Michigan football player with a spare moment for their anonymous opinion on the upcoming season. The bottom line: The Wolverines are very confident in their chances this fall.
Now, an important warning: A “hot take” is by definition bold and sensational. Predicting continued success after a Big Ten title is not a long shot. Predicting a losing season is, but is it really expect that from the players themselves?
In total, I got “hot shots” from two dozen players. I spoke to everyone from stars to newcomers, veterans to freshmen. This is what they told me:
The most common “hot take” by far: Michigan will win the national championship. That was the answer I got from the first person I asked (a sophomore) and the last player I asked (a fifth year).
Specifically, I’ve heard “national champions” and “undefeated” multiple times each. One player told me “better than last year,” and when I asked him if he really thinks that’s true, he replied, “I know it’s true.”
Two players refused to give me a hot opinion for similar reasons: One veteran said “undefeated” but quickly added that it’s “probably not a hot opinion” given what the team showed last fall. Another said “nothing good,” because Michigan is getting better after a championship year.
About the offense: “The most powerful offense we’ve ever had,” one veteran player told me. Another gave his prediction: “Cade McNamara he wins the Heisman.” (I promised anonymity, but in the interest of transparency: The player who made that bold claim was not Cade McNamara.)
About defense: A defensive starter says Michigan “will lead the Big 10 in sacks.” One veteran told me the defense is “explosive” and “ready to hit some shit.” Curses and all. The player sitting next to him nodded wholeheartedly: “This is how we all feel. Especially on the defensive end.”
On special teams: A The player gave this opinion: “Our special teams will be the most explosive in the country.”
On the team in general: Many players have their sights set on Indianapolis: “Secondaries, to say the least,” one told me.
Some hot shots were decidedly tepid. One player said, “It’s going to be a good year.” Another predicted that the Wolverines will be the most watched show in college football this year. (Michigan set audience records last fall too).
One player, given the opportunity to offer his wildest prediction, said simply: “This is a team that will just play hard.” The impact freshman sitting next to him agreed: When they play on Saturday, everyone will see how Michigan is “a family,” he said. Which, to be clear, isn’t a hot take, but it warms your heart.