If you’re looking for a season with big matchups and a packed home schedule, we suggest you wait for 2020.
This year, the season is marked by a weak Big Ten slate and a non-conference schedule highlighted by a Sun Belt team. But it does provide a chance for the Wolverines to string together enough wins for a chance at the Big Ten Championship Game or a New Year’s bowl game.
The Daily breaks down each team (yes, even Miami of Ohio) before the first kick off against Appalachian State.
Appalachian State: A game seven years in the making, the Mountaineers return to Ann Arbor for their second-ever trip to the Big House. Last time they found historic success beating the Wolverines, 34-32, marking the first time an FCS team topped a team in the AP rankings. This time, Appalachian State will playing its first game as a part of the Sun Belt Conference.
Notre Dame: Once again, Michigan is facing the Fighting Irish under the lights, and this season the rivals will match up in South Bend. In the last scheduled meeting between the two teams, Notre Dame may be missing key players — wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, linebacker Kendall Moore, cornerback KeiVarae Russell and defensive end Ishaq Williams — due to academic dishonesty.
Miami (Ohio): Michigan has defeated the RedHawks in all five of their meetings. The teams most recently matched up in 2008 in what was Rich Rodriguez’s first win as the Wolverines’ coach. Michigan struggled to put Miami away until Brandon Minor ran for the Wolverines’ final score in Michigan’s 16-6 victory.
Utah: The Rich Rodriguez era began against the Utes on Aug. 30, 2008. That afternoon, the Wolverines’ new-look spread offense struck first with a touchdown, but Utah took a 15-point lead midway through the third quarter and hung on, 25-23. The close loss earned respect later in the season as the Utes beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and finished as the country’s only undefeated team.
Minnesota: It’s the oldest trophy game in FBS college football, even if it’s not very competitive. The Wolverines and Golden Gophers have fought for the Little Brown Jug since 1909, and Michigan holds a commanding 73-24-3 series lead. The jug was left behind in Minnesota in 1903 after the Gophers rallied for a late 6-6 tie. (Those were the only points allowed by the Wolverines all year.) The jug isn’t little (it’s a five-gallon container) and originally was white, not brown.
Rutgers: Despite boasting 280 years of college football between them, the Scarlet Knights and Wolverines have never met. Rutgers hosted the first-ever intercollegiate football game on Nov. 6, 1869, against Princeton in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The Scarlet Knights won, 6-4, but lost the rematch the following week. Meanwhile, Michigan played its first game 10 years later against Racine in Chicago.
Penn State: Last season’s version of the matchup was a four-overtime affair that tested the health of everyone’s heart. Now, both teams return for another matchup at night. This time, the Wolverines take on a squad with just 11 seniors and new coach James Franklin replacing Bill O’Brien. In the third year of their sanctions, the Nittany Lions are playing with fewer scholarship players where the offensive line has taken one of the biggest hits. Penn State has time to adjust, though, and the team that shows up now could be different than the one starting the season.
Michigan State: The rivalry for the Paul Bunyan Trophy has tilted in the Spartans’ favor in recent years. Michigan State has won five out of the last six matchups between the teams. It could be difficult for Michigan to reverse the trend this year playing at Spartan Stadium for the second consecutive season.
Indiana: Little defense was played in last year’s meeting between the teams when Michigan beat the Hoosiers, 63-47 at the Big House on Oct. 19. The Wolverines will be coming off of two difficult divisional games against Penn State and Michigan State, so avoiding a letdown could be key.
Northwestern: The Wildcats seem to have had Michigan’s number the past few years. Threes years ago, the Wildcats held a lead in Evanston before falling apart in the fourth quarter. Two years ago, the Wolverines needed a late effort in the waning minutes to force overtime and pull out the win. This year, they needed last-second field goal to hang on for the win. All that said, the Wildcats will be without several key pieces, including running back Venric Mark, and should be less of a threat.
Maryland: Welcome to the Big Ten, Maryland. Like Michigan, the Terrapins are looking to rebound from a 7-6 season and have a long road to do it. The two teams will face off on the tail end of Maryland’s brutal six-game stretch that includes Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State. The Terrapins have sixth-year quarterback CJ Brown and standout receiver Stefon Diggs leading the helm.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes will be without star quarterback Braxton Miller, but given that his replacement will have a full season to grow, Michigan should still see the dominant team it saw last season. Ohio State lacks Carlos Hyde and its powerful run game and also lacks skill at cornerback. But Urban Meyer is 24-2 in his two seasons. Last year’s thriller, middle fingers and broken foot behind them, this year’s game could have more meaning if the Wolverines can handle a manageable schedule.
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