What a difference a year makes. The Michigan Wolverines, mired in a long stretch of mediocrity, entered the 2015 season with a slew of question marks and weren’t even remotely regarded as the national power they once were. Enter coach Jim Harbaugh. One of the best quarterbacks in school history and one of the best professionals the Wolverines have produced.
Harbaugh, unceremoniously let go by the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, returned to his alma mater and breathed new life – and fierceness – into the Maize & Blue. The Wolverines won 10 games while losing only to Utah (on the road in the season opener), Michigan State (on a blown punt on the game’s final play), and to Ohio State (in a Buckeyes’ blowout). Now the 2016 season looms and Michigan is regarded as a possible college playoff contender by Vegas. Let’s take a look at their 2016 schedule and how the Wolverines’ season will unfold.
Sept. 3, Noon – vs. Hawaii
This is a mismatch. Hawaii was winless on the road last season, while Michigan’s defense will be ready to swarm. Michigan wins.
Sept. 10, Noon – vs. Central Florida
UCF was winless last season. The Big House beckons. Enough said. Michigan wins.
Sept. 17, 3:30 p.m. – vs. Colorado
Colorado is still trying to find its footing in the Pac-12. Ann Arbor will be a slippery slope for the Buffaloes. Michigan wins.
Sept. 24, TBA – vs. Penn State
Things get a bit more interesting for Michigan in its Big Ten Conference opener. Penn State is never an easy test, but the Wolverines are on a roll. Michigan wins.
Oct. 1, TBA – vs. Wisconsin
What, another home game for the Wolverines? Indeed, and it’s a good thing because Wisconsin is tough to deal with on its home turf – and anywhere else for that matter. Michigan’s defense prevails in a Saturday slugfest. Michigan wins.
Oct. 8, 7 or 8 p.m. – at Rutgers
Michigan makes its first road trip of the season, and to a place where it lost in 2014. Rutgers paid a steep price for that win in Ann Arbor last year and will continue paying this year. Michigan wins.
Oct. 22, 3:30 p.m. – vs. Illinois
The Wolverines return home following an off week to face an Illinois team coached by longtime NFL coach Lovie Smith. While the Fighting Illini should be improved, Michigan will be well-rested and eager to remain unbeaten. Michigan wins.
Oct. 29, TBA – at Michigan State
Until Michigan beats MSU, the Spartans are top dogs when it comes to the Mitten State. MSU earned a trip to the College Playoff in 2015 – thanks to the botched Michigan punt and Mark Dantonio’s complete out-coaching of Ohio State’s Urban Meyer. Michigan is desperate to clear this slate. They just might be desperate enough. Michigan wins.
Nov. 5, TBA – vs. Maryland
Michigan’s defensive coordinator from last year (D.J. Durkin) is now Maryland’s head coach. What the Terrapins really need is offense. Michigan wins.
Nov. 12, 8 p.m. – at Iowa
Upset alert! You know the Hawkeyes will be pumped up for this one. I can see goalposts being torn down. Iowa wins.
Nov. 19, TBA – vs. Indiana
Indiana shredded Michigan’s stout defense last year in Bloomington. Not this time, Hoosier Daddy. Michigan wins.
Nov. 26, TBA – at Ohio State
The road, as always runs through Columbus. This has the potential to be one of the greatest games in school history. While the Buckeyes seemingly lost half of their 2015 roster to the NFL, they’re still loaded with talent. Michigan’s journey to the playoff is derailed here. Ohio State wins.