Seven months after taking a 51-45 loss to TCU in the College Football Playoff semifinals, Michigan football returns this Saturday for a Week 1 matchup at the Big House with East Carolina.

Entering the season at No. 2 in the AP Poll, their highest opening-week standing in 32 years, the Wolverines have high expectations, and anything less than a third consecutive trip to the CFP will be viewed by most as a disappointment.

Sure, Michigan will be without the services of Jim Harbaugh for the first three games as the reigning Big Ten Coach of the Year is serving a self-imposed suspension stemming from alleged violations in 2020 during the COVID-19 dead period.

Ultimately, however, Harbaugh's suspension won't matter in the slightest as the Wolverines' first three opponents shouldn't pose much of a threat. And it certainly doesn't hurt that their first three games will be held in Ann Arbor at the friendly confines adequately known as “The Big House.”

If anything, the maize and blue will have a little extra motivation without Jim Harbaugh on the sideline, which doesn't bode well for East Carolina.

Here are a few Michigan football predictions for Week 1.

Michigan will cover the 35.5-point spread against East Carolina

Per FanDuel, Michigan football enters its season opener with East Carolina as 35.5-point favorites, with the over/under set at 51.5.

Honestly, the over/under seems a bit low, as the Wolverines could easily score 52 points themselves. As for winning by 36 or more, that seems like a safe bet as well. Over the past two seasons, Michigan has won its six non-conference games by an average of 42.7 points. And that should be the approximate point differential on Saturday, as I've got the maize and blue winning by a score of 56-14.

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While the Pirates are coming off a solid 8-5 season in 2022, the program's best since joining the American Athletic Conference in 2014, head coach Mike Houston enters his fifth season with a new-look lineup that could easily take a step back.

For starters, Houston has to break in a new quarterback for the first time in his tenure as Holton Ahlers, who ended his five-year run with the team (he took his extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19) as the 11th-leading passer in FBS history, is finally gone.

Taking his place is sophomore Mason Garcia, who's appeared in 12 total games and has made just one start. East Carolina also lost Keaton Mitchell, who was one of the fastest running backs in all of college football a season ago, and also had to replace its top three receivers. That won't bode well against a Michigan defense that ranked sixth in the nation in yardage allowed in 2022.

Expect a big win for Michigan football on Saturday.

Both Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards will score multiple touchdowns

As it's been in recent years, the Michigan offensive attack will be dominated by the run. In those aforementioned six non-conference games over the past two seasons, Jim Harbaugh has run the football 68% of the time. And things should be no different under defensive coordinator Jesse Minter in Week 1. Minter is one of four interim coaches that Michigan football will use over the first three games.

The Wolverines' running attack will be led by arguably the most dynamic duo in the country this season in Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards.

After suffering a season-ending meniscus tear against Ohio State last November, Corum is healthy and will likely be extremely amped up as he makes his return to the field. Prior to the injury, the Virginia native rushed for 1,463 yards and 18 touchdowns in 12 games, averaging 5.9 yards per carry.

And Edwards is certainly no slouch himself. In 11 appearances a season ago, he posted 991 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the ground, adding another pair of scores as a receiver. With Corum on the shelf, Edwards recorded 216 yards against the rival Buckeyes, 185 against Purdue in the Big Ten Championship Game, and another 116 against TCU in the Fiesta Bowl.

The East Carolina defense won't have an answer for either. Expect both Corum and Edwards to find the end zone multiple times in Week 1.

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy will throw at least three touchdowns with zero interceptions

While Michigan football relies heavily on the run, it's not as if the Wolverines don't have a solid passing attack with J.J. McCarthy under center.

The Illinois native had a solid sophomore season, completing 64.6% of his passes for 2,719 yards with 22 touchdowns against just five interceptions. And McCarthy seems primed for another good year.

For one, he gets to set up behind a fantastic offensive line, which may just be Michigan's best overall unit. Trevor Keegan and Zak Zinter are easily two of the best guards in college football. Combine those two with tackles Myles Hinton and Karsen Barnhart and center Drake Nugent, and McCarthy should have plenty of time to throw when he chooses to do so.

Sure, he lost some of his favorite targets in Ronnie Bell and Luke Schoonmaker to the NFL. But he's got plenty of talented guys ready to step up in Cornelius Johnson, Roman Wilson, and Colston Loveland.

Expect McCarthy to spread the ball around to those three, as well as Corum and Edwards, against East Carolina. He'll likely end the day with at least three touchdown passes and zero interceptions against a Pirates defense that finished third-to-last in the country last year in passing yards allowed.

Michigan football is back, and Wolverines fans should expect a big win to kick off what they hope will be yet another successful season. After all, it's not as if Appalachian State is coming to town.

What, still too soon?