When people tell me how they think Michigan football is going to struggle this season because of the personnel losses, my first response is usually, “Have you seen their schedule?”
Losing 10 starters on defense is a big hit to take, especially for the defense the Wolverines put on the field last year. But there is still talent on hand and this will be their second season in Don Brown’s system. Remember what Ohio State’s defense looked like in Year Two of Chris Ash’s system?
And the offense may not scare you, but many of the problems the Wolverines had last year have now moved on. Replacing the wide receivers is going to be difficult, but there is plenty of young talent to make something work.
So, if you’re a Buckeye fan and you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking to yourself that Michigan is in line for something like a 7-5 season. I would then ask if you have actually looked at the Wolverines’ schedule to find those five losses.
Yeah, 7-5 may very well be how the season goes, but I think it would take a couple of upsets for them to get there. Michigan has only been upset two times in the regular season under Jim Harbaugh, so expecting twice that number in 2017 might be a stretch.
So how do I see the schedule going for the Wolverines here on June 26? Probably better than most.
September 2 Florida (Arlington, TX)
Florida leaves the state for a regular season non-conference game for the first time since 1991. They basically became shut-ins over the last 26 years. The Gators return nine starters on offense, but this is an offense that scored 18.2 points per game in their last six regular season games last year. And now they’ll be breaking in a new quarterback. I really have no respect for Florida’s offense, and I have even less respect for it against Don Brown’s defense. Can the Wolverines score enough to get the win? That’s the real question for me. But how many points do they need? 17? 20? They can do that.
Over 1,000 Fake Computer Simulations: Michigan wins 537 times.
Pick: Michigan 20 – Florida 17
September 9 Cincinnati
This will Luke Fickell’s second game as Cincinnati’s new head coach. Given his history, there are a lot of Buckeye fans who think his team will be able to pull off the upset. I’m not expecting that to happen, however. This is a program that is building a new identity, but also more tangible things than that — like a new offense and a new defense. The good news for the Bearcats is that they open the season on a Thursday against Austin Peay, so they can spend most of their time working on Michigan. The Wolverines, meanwhile, won’t have that same luxury. I don’t expect that advantage to matter much.
Over 1,000 Fake Computer Simulations: Michigan wins 833 times.
Pick: Michigan 35 – Cincinnati 10
September 16 Air Force
Air Force and Michigan played a barnburner back in 2012. The Wolverines won it 31-25 as we saw the cracks begin in Brady Hoke’s Maize and Blue empire. Playing against a triple-option team is always a pain, but Air Force will also have to defend Michigan. This is one of those games that might be interesting for three quarters, but eventually talent wins out.
Over 1,000 Fake Computer Simulations: Michigan wins 724 times.
Pick: Michigan 34 – Air Force 21
September 23 at Purdue
There is enough of an unknown here for me to be pretty interested about this game. I put too much stock in road games, so when I combine this being a road game for Michigan along with Purdue finally having a desire to get back to electrifying offense, I see a glimmer of a chance. Eventually, Jeff Brohm is going to beat a team he shouldn’t beat, and that will jump-start his program a bit. I just don’t expect that to happen in his fourth game at Purdue. This one could get interesting though. Purdue returns eight starters on a defense that only allowed 42.6 points per game in conference play. Oh… never mind.
Over 1,000 Fake Computer Simulations: Michigan wins 775 times.
Pick: Michigan 41 – Purdue 20
October 7 Michigan State
For as bad as Michigan State was and as good as Michigan was last year, the game in 2016 was much closer than it should have been. The Wolverines won 32-23 while being favored by 25 points. This is one of the reasons I put so much stock in road games. This game, however, is in Ann Arbor, and even though the Spartans won there in 2015, I just cannot put anything resembling faith into MSU right now. Michigan has a bye before this game. The Spartans, meanwhile, come into this game following home games against Notre Dame and Iowa, which means they could either be reeling or feeling their oats. Here’s hoping for oats, because I love this rivalry.
Over 1,000 Fake Computer Simulations: Michigan wins 683 times.
Pick: Michigan 33 – Michigan State 19
October 14 at Indiana
The Hoosiers scored 10 points against Michigan last year, which was a season low for IU. This game may end up being a popular pick for a “trap game” for the Wolverines. The Indiana defense is experienced and not very terrible. Can they make enough plays against the Michigan offense to keep the game close? I’m interested to see what this Hoosier offense looks like without Kevin Wilson. Do they continue right where they left off, or is this going to be a year-long discovery of disappointment?
Over 1,000 Fake Computer Simulations: Michigan wins 658 times.
Pick: Michigan 27 – Indiana 16
October 21 at Penn State
And this is where the season really begins. Michigan beat Penn State so soundly last season (49-10) that I basically spent an entire Michigan Monday calling for James Franklin’s job. Don’t think Franklin and the Nittany Lions have forgotten that game, or the Michigan Monday. I know Wolverine fans haven’t forgotten about the game, which might give them a bit more confidence here than they should have. Franklin is 0-3 against Michigan, and if he’s ever going to beat them, this is the year to do it. The game is in Happy Valley and he has a more experienced team than UM does. If he doesn’t get it here, then I may just repost my Michigan Monday from last year.
Over 1,000 Fake Computer Simulations: Michigan wins 411 times.
Pick: Penn State 31 – Michigan 27
October 28 Rutgers
Rivalry games are so difficult to predict, especially when the two teams are so evenly matched. Michigan has pretty much gotten away with the last two games against Rutgers. Both contests could have gone either way, with the point differential between the two teams being just 111 points. You have to think that eventually the Wolverines’ luck will run out.
Over 1,000 Fake Computer Simulations: Michigan wins 949 times.
Pick: Michigan 52 – Rutgers 0
November 4 Minnesota
Minnesota’s last trip to Michigan came in 2014. The Gophers were 13.5-point underdogs and they won 30-14. That was pretty much the end for Brady Hoke, though the Wolverines made sure to collapse completely as to erase any doubt it was time to move on. This is another chance for an upstart coach to get a signature win, but I’d believe it was more likely to happen if the game was in Minneapolis. That being said, the Gophers return quite a bit of experience, and none of it is quarterback Mitch Leidner, which should help.
Over 1,000 Fake Computer Simulations: Michigan wins 809 times.
Pick: Michigan 41 – Minnesota 14
November 11 at Maryland
The teacher vs. the pupil. Jim Harbaugh takes his team into Maryland to face former Harbaugh (and Urban Meyer) assistant D.J. Durkin. The Wolverines showed no quarter last year, taking it to the Terps 59-3. This is a different Maryland team now, however. (Technically, at least.) I just don’t see this being a loss for Michigan. Brady Hoke isn’t walking through that door, folks. I do think this is one to watch, though. Maryland can do a lot of explosive things on offense, which could be a good way to attack an aggressive offense. The Terps had some yardage success last year against Michigan, but they couldn’t turn it into points. Can they this year?
Over 1,000 Fake Computer Simulations: Michigan wins 702 times.
Pick: Michigan 44 – Maryland 24
November 18 at Wisconsin
One of the rarer things in Big Ten football is seeing Michigan and Wisconsin on the same field. The Wolverines haven’t gone into Camp Randall since 2009, which was a 45-24 win for the Badgers. They also lost there in 2007 and 2005. Michigan hasn’t beaten Wisconsin on the road since 2001, and that was a Badger team with a losing record. Wisconsin returns 15 starters, and this game is played so late in the season that nobody will be new anymore. Can quarterback Alex Hornibrook continue to progress? If the Badgers can find a running back to pair with him, I like Wisconsin here.
Over 1,000 Fake Computer Simulations: Michigan wins 439 times.
Pick: Wisconsin 20 – Michigan 16
November 25 Ohio State
Urban Meyer is 2-0 in Ann Arbor, with the Buckeyes scoring 42 points in each victory. If they can hit that mark again in November, then Meyer will move to 6-0 against Michigan as Ohio State’s head coach. For me, this game is a complete toss up because of where the game is played. The Buckeyes have the deeper roster, but only 11 players can play at a time. This game could very well be for a trip to the Big Ten Championship, and even if the Wolverines have two losses coming in, they’ll still be in playoff contention. A win here and in Indianapolis the following week will see to that. But can Michigan pull it off? Absolutely. Will they? Good question.
Over 1,000 Fake Computer Simulations: Michigan wins 492 times.
What Does It All Mean?
It means that I expect Michigan to come into The Game with a 9-2 record. It also means that neither of those two losses are sure things. Do you think so much of Wisconsin and Penn State to believe they are above blowing a home game to a team that knows how to take advantage of mistakes?
In terms of potential losses, I would put Florida, Purdue, Michigan State, Indiana, Penn State, Maryland, Wisconsin, and Ohio State on there. Some of those teams are more serious than others, obviously. Purdue is there simply because of the unknown. Michigan State, because of the known. Indiana is a road game, and anything can happen. The same thing with Maryland. Florida, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State represent the four toughest games on the schedule. They won’t lose all four of those games. I don’t think they’ll win them all either.
Would Michigan fans takes a split right now?
Probably depends on where Ohio State falls in that split.
So now that you’ve had a look at the schedule, what do you see Michigan’s record being?
Jim Harbaugh has been 10-3 in each of his first two seasons, so that seems like a pretty good mark to me. Why mess with what works, right?