Does Jim Harbaugh finally have the signal-caller he needs to contend for a Big Ten and national title? Shea Patterson, the top quarterback recruit in 2016, left Ole Miss following NCAA violations and a coaching change in hopes of leading Michigan back into national prominence.

Shea Patterson Michigan quarterback
Michigan is banking on Shea Patterson, a transfer student from Ole Miss, becoming a star quarterback who leads the Wolverines back to prominence. (Image:

After the NCAA ruled Patterson eligible to play in 2018, Vegas handicappers and preseason prognosticators started giving the Wolverines some love . Oddsmakers now consider Michigan a 15/1 shot to win the national title, tied with Big Ten rival Penn State as the fifth most likely contender behind defending champs Alabama (9/4), Clemson (6/1), Ohio State (15/2), and Georgia (8/1).

Most recruiting services ranked Patterson as the top quarterback recruit coming out of high school in 2016, and the former Ole Miss gunslinger was considered the fourth best overall prospect in the country.

During his freshman year, he spent most of the season on the sidelines but showed some promise when given an opportunity. In 2017, he took over the starting role and was off to a strong start, passing for over 2,200 yards in seven games, before suffering a season-ending knee injury against LSU.

The Break Harbaugh Needed

Patterson decided to leave Ole Miss in the wake of NCAA violations that emerged in a five-year investigation into serious recruiting misconduct. He accused former coach Hugh Freeze of lying to him about penalties the school was facing during his recruitment. When the NCAA slapped Ole Miss with major sanctions in 2017, including a bowl ban for 2018, he was granted permission to transfer.

Mississippi’s loss is Harbaugh’s gain. The former Michigan star quarterback, now in his fourth season as his alma mater’s head coach, has struggled to find a reliable signal caller, but Patterson appears to be his guy.

Michigan is 28-11 in three years since Harbaugh replaced the fired Brady Hoke. His record would be acceptable at most schools, but Michigan tends to have higher expectations. Perhaps most troubling is that the Maize and Blue are 0-3 against hated rival Ohio State under Harbaugh, and he has been unable to lead the Wolverines to a bowl game victory.

Harbaugh, the 1986 Big Ten Player of the Year, left the San Francisco 49ers to take over in 2015. Wolverine fans cheered the alum’s return to Ann Arbor and predicted Big Ten and national titles would be on the horizon. But things haven’t gone as smoothly as planned.

Brutal Schedule

If Michigan expects to make its fans and bettors happy, the team must overcome a difficult schedule that kicks off against perennial Top 25 team Notre Dame, on the road September 1. The schedule includes five games against teams that are ranked in the most recent USA Today Preseason Top 25 Poll (Notre Dame, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Penn State).

If the Wolverines manage to get through that tough regular season schedule unblemished, another tough opponent will be lurking in Indianapolis at the Big Ten Championship Game, possibly a rematch against Wisconsin. And then, to win a national title, Michigan must defeat two of the best teams in the country.

So, if you’re planning on betting on Michigan to win the College Football Playoff, you must have a ton of confidence in the impact Patterson will have on this team, which finished 108thin the country last year in passing yards per game (171.2).

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