Schedule analysis: Michigan eyes fast start this fall

Michigan’s 2013 football slate sets up for a fast start. In fact, it’s not crazy to think Michigan could be 6-1 or maybe even 7-0 as it travels Michigan State to begin a run of five November games that shape up to be as tough as any team’s in the nation. It’s nice to have heavies like Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State all coming to Ann Arbor. The November menu features the Wolverines three toughest Legends competitors in a row: at MSU; Nebraska; at Northwestern.

If the Wolverines win the Legends, they will have earned it. Let’s take a look at the Michigan schedule in my latest breakdown of each school’s 2013 football schedules.

Toughest non-conference game: After opening at home vs. Central Michigan, Notre Dame visits in a primetime game. Enjoy this, as it will be the last time the Fighting Irish are in Ann Arbor for the foreseeable future. The teams will meet in 2014 in South Bend. After that, this storied series will be on hold, as the schools have cancelled meetings from 2015-17. There also is an agreed-upon hiatus from 2018-19. Will ND and Michigan ever meet again? The Fighting Irish won last year, 13-6, ending the Wolverines’ three-game winning skein in the series. The last four meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less.

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Toughest conference game: Without a doubt, it will be Ohio State’s visit to Ann Arbor on Nov. 30. This could be a preview of the Big Ten title game. The Wolverines have been on the short end of this series lately, dropping eight of the last nine. Michigan did win the last time the game was in Ann Arbor in 2011. Before playing the Buckeyes, the Wolverines must avoid a trap game on Nov. 23 at Iowa, where Michigan has lost the last two times it has visited.

Who they don’t play: This is a mostly bad news proposition. The Wolverines miss Wisconsin—on a three-year Rose Bowl run–which is good. But Michigan won’t play Purdue and Illinois, which is bad.

Easiest game: Akron comes to Michigan on Sept. 14 a week after the Notre Dame game. The Zips don’t figure to be more than a speed bump after going 1-11 overall and 0-8 in the MAC last season in Terry Bowden’s debut season. Hey, at least Akron will be paid well for its beating.

Rugged stretch: November has a lot of heavy lifting—good thing the Wolverines have a bye week before it starts. The month begins with a trip to Michigan State. That’s followed by a visit from Nebraska and then back-to-back road games at Northwestern and at Iowa. Then comes the visit from Ohio State. The Wolverines could lose four or five of these games—or they could win them all.

Interesting factoid: The Wolverines ended the Spartans’ four-game winning streak in this hate-filled series last year. Before MSU’s four-win run, Michigan had won 10 of 12 in the series. The teams meet Nov. 2 in East Lansing, where Michigan hasn’t won since 2007. Don’t you feel the tide turning in the Wolverines’ favor?

Best chance to be upset: If the thin Nittany Lions—who will have just 65 scholarship players–are healthy, they could dump Michigan when it visits State College on Oct. 12. Penn State could have a nice offense that poses problems for a Wolverine defense that is retooling its front seven. Since it can’t go to a bowl, Penn State relishes opportunities like this vs. marquee foes to prove something. These teams haven’t met since 2010; and the Nittany Lions have won the last three meetings after Michigan ripped off nine victories in succession. In fact, the Wolverines haven’t won in State College since 2006.

Best chance to pull an upset: Honestly, the Wolverines may not be an underdog all season. They may be vs. Notre Dame on Sept. 7 vs. a Fighting Irish squad that figures to have a strong offense but reworked defense. If the Wolverines beat ND, they may be 7-0 entering their bye week on Oct. 26.

Must win: If the Wolverines want to win the Legends Division as they pursue their first Big Ten championship since 2004, they likely will need to beat Nebraska when the Huskers visit on Nov. 9. These figure to be the two best teams in the Legends, as this could serve as a de facto division title game. The teams have split their two Big Ten meetings with each winning at home.

Bye weeks: The spacing here is good. The first bye comes on Sept. 28, after four non-conference games. The second bye comes four weeks later on Oct. 26, allowing Michigan to catch its breath before finishing with five rugged games that begins with a trip to Michigan State.

Here is the Wolverines 2013 schedule:

Day Date Opponent
Sat. Aug. 31 vs. Central Michigan
Sat. Sep. 7 vs. 4 Notre Dame
Sat. Sep. 14 vs. Akron
Sat. Sep. 21 at Connecticut
Sat. Oct. 5 vs. Minnesota
Sat. Oct. 12 at Penn State
Sat. Oct. 19 vs. Indiana
Sat. Nov. 2 at Michigan State
Sat. Nov. 9 vs. 25 Nebraska
Sat. Nov. 16 at 17 Northwestern
Sat. Nov. 23 at Iowa
Sat. Nov. 30 vs. 3 Ohio State

***

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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30 Comments

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Doug on 5/10/2013 @ 4:07pm EST Said:

Just like the Denard days: M will be undefeated, and MSU will give them their first loss…

Doug on 5/10/2013 @ 4:09pm EST Said:

So Tom, M eeeks out a 2 point win at home against an mediocre MSU team, have lost 4 of their last 5, yet the tide is turning in the wolverines favor? I think the road game at MSU will be tougher than the home gave vs the Buckeyes. You and Mark must be hanging out.

Reality Check on 5/10/2013 @ 5:56pm EST Said:

Doug

You are a jealous man, you are jealous of the Michigan tradition, the Michigan mystique and you
Want to be a Michigan Man but can not make the grade. Michigan Men are first class and use the finest equipment , the finest golf clubs. On November 2nd Dantonio will admit publicly on the Big Ten Network.
That Michigan is the better program at the post game press conference. Book it

Kevin on 5/10/2013 @ 7:14pm EST Said:

Dear Doug. The only thing you have right, is about MSU being mediocre, because they are always and forever going to be mediocre. Gone are the days of Dennard and Rich Rod which MSU and Wisconsin will sorely miss. Back are the days of UM and OSU blood fests which I sorely miss…..Go Blue!

Eric on 5/10/2013 @ 7:40pm EST Said:

Sparty who?

fantasticiquattro on 5/10/2013 @ 7:52pm EST Said:

Doug,three of MSU’s victories came against three of the worst UM teams in the last 50 years. MSU lost 6 games last year, lost three of their better players, and have recruited poorly the last couple of years. Yeah, I’d say the tide has turned.

fantasticiquattro on 5/10/2013 @ 7:56pm EST Said:

The tide has turned Sparty Doug. Three of MSU’s four victories came against subpar UM teams. MSU is recruiting poorly while UM is a recruiting at a high level. MSU is heading for the Toilet Bowl with Mork at the helm.

Reality check on 5/10/2013 @ 9:47pm EST Said:

So Doug now you see I have turned the world against you all these Michigan men knows the tide has turned and I control LSJ your hometown paper is now Blue Checkmate Doug

Will on 5/10/2013 @ 10:33pm EST Said:

Doug, are you saying Michigan wasn’t mediocre last year as well? We were a fringe top 25 team last year, so apparently an average Michigan team is too much for you now

Will Edwards on 5/10/2013 @ 11:24pm EST Said:

I’m going to post this again. Over the past decade, Michigan has produced less NFL draft picks than Iowa. Again, not an elite program. Wisconsin has more first rounders over the past 10 years than Michigan. You talk such a big game, but in reality you are a midwestern, regional power at best. You act like Michigan State is some pushover program and not on your level but Hoke is 1-1 vs. MSU so far. It’s laughable how you try to associate yourselves with Ohio State now just because of recruiting rankings. You aren’t on our level and honestly, the OSU-Michigan rivalry isn’t much of a rivalry anymore. We own you. We dominate you because we have higher level players in our program. We don’t have to pray that true freshman recruits contribute their first year on campus. We have a better strength and conditioning program. Our head coach, Urban Meyer, is now like 25-5 or something in rivalry games. We replaced Jim Tressel, a guy Michigan literally couldn’t beat, with an even better, younger, and more innovative coach. But keep referring to yourselves as part of the “Big Two” and referring to MSU as an inferior program while Michigan State lets the last 5 years on the field speak for itself. Michigan State is your biggest rival and like Ohio State, they own you. Michigan is a mentally weak team when they are on the road against quality opponents. Doug has every reason to feel confident that Michigan State will knock off UM at Spartan Stadium this year. 5 out of 6 is coming up at the beginning of November. Look forward to the excuses.

Reality Check on 5/11/2013 @ 12:20am EST Said:

Sorry Will Edwards but Doug is afraid , he is cowering before the Michigan Defense , Michigan historically has been a top 5 program along with Ohio State. Hoke has assembled an awesome array of talent and I really don’t see Michigan losing again to Sparty in this decade. Doug is reading these comments but he is afraid , because like Dantonio Doug hears footsteps. The tide is turning. The Big is returning to the days of Bo and Woody the big 2 and the little 12.

Will on 5/11/2013 @ 12:49am EST Said:

LOL @ Will Edwards for pretending to be an Ohio State fan. apparently you are now so ashamed of MSU’s mediocrity that you don’t want to be considered affiliated with them. you realize MSU has yet to beat a team on the road that was in the final AP top 25 under Dantonio, right? pot meet kettle! Athlon Sports even called MSU one of the biggest underachievers since 1966. by the way, Michigan doesn’t rely hardly at all on freshmen. we have improved depth big time since Hoke took charge of this state. Rich Rod was an aberration in the series between U-M and MSU. Order has been restored. Michigan has won 8 of the last 13. see i can use subjective cut off dates too. college football wasn’t created in 2008 like you think, Will Edwards

Josh on 5/11/2013 @ 9:41am EST Said:

I am not a fan of MSU, Ohio State or Michigan. However, The last post was spot on. Michigan fans are delusional. Michigan has always recruited well and outside of Hoke’s first year, they have been above average at best. Congrats on Recruiting the 2nd best class every year. Unfortunately, that hasn’t equated to the number of wins that the fanbase has created in their minds the last 10 years.

Doug on 5/11/2013 @ 10:29am EST Said:

Will Edwards, all the Michigan fans that responded to my post are mad, cause deep down they know that the tide has turned and MSU is the better program. They keep living in the past cause it’s all they have. They use the Rich Rod excuse, yet he recruited well, and all Michigan fans were happy with the hire. I could use the JLS excuse, cause Dantonio owns Michigan and it’s killing all these Walmarters.

Will on 5/11/2013 @ 4:43pm EST Said:

Doug,
Michigan fans, alumni and boosters in particular, rejected RR the moment he was hired to replace Lloyd Carr. the book Three and Out confirms this. and our DL and OL recruits were not that highly touted under RR. games are won in the trenches and Hoke knows this. RR had ONE top 10 recruiting class in 2009. Hoke’s elite recruiting is on another level. even Lawrence Marshall knows now that MSU is nothing more than smoke and mirrors

Reality check on 5/11/2013 @ 7:06pm EST Said:

That’s correct Will Doug knows this to be true but he is in denial.

Doug on 5/11/2013 @ 8:13pm EST Said:

whatever makes you guys feel better Will, class rankings are a joke, it’s just something to talk about, yet Michigan fans take it seroiusly. Michigan needed a last second field goal just to beat a mediocre MSU team, yet before the season Michigan fans were talking about beating Bama and winning the national tite. Get used to more failure, M isn’t getting the top recruits like they used to, but keep thinking they are.

Joseph on 5/12/2013 @ 2:00am EST Said:

That’s not completely true. There were plenty of M*chigan fans that embraced Rich Rod because they believed his spread attack would beat Ohio State like Urban had.

Like someone said, M*chigan has no business saying “Big 2, Little 10″. Unless of course they’re referring to Ohio State and Wisconsin.

Will on 5/12/2013 @ 11:38am EST Said:

yeah we are getting top recruits like we used to. the stars per recruit keeps on increasing each class for us

Doug on 5/12/2013 @ 4:20pm EST Said:

exactly joseph, michigan has been irrelevant since 2004 and they’re praying these recruits work out for them

Joseph on 5/12/2013 @ 5:00pm EST Said:

We? Is that you Hoke?

Reality Check on 5/12/2013 @ 9:51pm EST Said:

Doug you are outnumbered here, stars matter and why wont you acknowledge that Graham Couch it nailed down, Michigans recruiting is to be feared Doug.

Joseph on 5/13/2013 @ 4:36am EST Said:

Reality Check:
Stars don’t always matter. AJ Hawk, James Laurinaitis, Bradley Roby, Malcom Jenkins, and Johnanthan Hankins were all 3 stars. Le’Veon Bell was a 2 star recruit.

Scott on 5/13/2013 @ 10:57am EST Said:

Oh, and by the way. We own all of you. Winningest program in college football. BOOYAH!!!

Pete on 5/13/2013 @ 12:43pm EST Said:

Michigan fans bringing up all those wins from the 1800′s, congrats on being the winningest program of all time, nobody cares. All those victories from 2 centuries ago mean nothing. OSU is the class of the B1G while everybody else is playing for second. MSU, Wisconsin, Nebraska and even NW are all as good as UM.

Josh on 5/13/2013 @ 1:21pm EST Said:

All MSU and OSU fans,

What is wrong with hyping a team? Does it seem to strike your nerves when Michigan fans talk about how good the team will be? You could just ignore them and think about how they will actually do, you know. Instead, you constantly go on about how they aren’t relevant, which is just an opinion.

@Doug
What is irrelevance to you? Michigan has been as relevant as MSU has been since 2004 (except maybe a bit more since Michigan reached 2 BCS bowls).

@Josh
Michigan has not recruited the second best class every year. Hoke’s first class (before the 2011 season) was borderline top 25 and Rich Rod’s classes were fit for a different offensive scheme and a terrible defensive scheme (not to mention one of them was vastly overhyped). I will admit that lately Michigan has been above average at best, but Hoke’s first two years were meant to be rebuilding seasons, not enough people realized it. After all, Hoke’s first two years are comparable to Saban’s first two seasons at Alabama (One mediocre year, one BCS bowl).

I know that us Michigan fans may be stretching reality a little, but it is undeniable that Michigan’s future is getting brighter.

Joseph on 5/13/2013 @ 4:29pm EST Said:

@Josh.
A BCS game they had no business being in.

How is the future brighter when they took a step back?

Common Sense on 5/13/2013 @ 7:30pm EST Said:

Pete,
College football has only been around 143 years. most of our wins have come since Bo was our coach because we didn’t play as many games back in the late 1800′s early 1900′s (like 5 or 6)

BigFen on 5/13/2013 @ 11:58pm EST Said:

First, this Ohio dude has some issues. I have seen this rivalry swing back in forth in wins many times. And we as Michigan fans can’t blame coaches for our recent failures? Need I say the name Cooper to remind you how much Ohio fans blame all those losses to Michigan on their coach? You had your Cooper, and we had our #itchRod. And bc Michigan hasn’t had success immediately in Hokes first two seasons, somehow this means Ohio is set to be the dominant team? How is that logical? Take off your Ohio goggles long enough to think clearly. We had to phase out all the smaller recruits from the last regime and grow Hokes recruits to take over. It takes time… Recruiting matters as well as development, and Hoke has shown he can do both. Michigan couldn’t even run the O they wanted until they could recruit the right players, and we also have the QB to run it now. You and your brethern are just angry because we keep stealing your recruits from Ohio…

MSU, pathetic. You had your time when you could get the in-state recruits and now you get NONE (see Marshall as prime example). You get what Michigan doesn’t want now that we have NFL style coaches again. And as defensive as you are about the recruiting and how you’re hanging onto the win streak that ended this past season, I can see you know your little streak has seen its day. Hope you enjoyed it, cuz it’s O-V-E-R. And enjoy Maxwell, he looks like a real winner.

Doug on 5/17/2013 @ 6:52pm EST Said:

Hey BigFen, you saying WE? What position do you play? Michigan lost 4 in a row, should have been 5 to MSU, yet it’s over? Michigan fans are super delusional, but that’s what happens when you have no affiliation