2016 football schedule analysis: Michigan Wolverines

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

2016 football schedule analysis: Michigan Wolverines

Jim Harbaugh enjoyed a smashing debut in 2015, posting 10 wins. And, his second Michigan squad has a good chance for success thanks to plenty of returning talent and another year of familiarity with the system.

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Check this out: Michigan opens with five—yes, FIVE—home games. In fact, the Wolverines play six of their first seven in the Big House. The back half of the schedule is a challenge. But, by then, Michigan could be filled with confidence behind its new quarterback.

Here is a breakdown of the 2016 schedule.

Toughest non-conference game: vs. Colorado, Sept. 17. There is no deadly or truly challenging non-conference game. So, let’s go with the visit from the Buffaloes, the lone Power Five school on the non-league slate. But, this isn’t Bill McCartney’s CU, as the Buffs have been a floundering program for years, not going to a bowl since 2007 when Dan Hawkins was coach. Current boss Mike MacIntyre is 10-27 in three seasons. The Buffs’ Hail Mary 27-26 win in Ann Arbor in 1994 will forever be remembered by Michigan fans. CU last visited in 1997, falling 27-3.

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Toughest conference game: at Ohio State, Nov. 26. With games at Michigan State and at Ohio State, Michigan has its work cut out for it. Let’s go with the annual season-ending junket to Columbus. The Buckeyes have dominated this series of late, going 12-2 since 2001 and winning the last four meetings with a 42-13 triumph last season. The last time Michigan won in Columbus? In 2000, when the Wolverines took a 38-26 decision.

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Who they don’t play: The Wolverines miss Purdue, Minnesota, Northwestern and Nebraska.

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Easiest game: vs. Hawaii, Sept. 3. This program hasn’t had a winning record since 2010. Hawaii visited rival Ohio State last year and got thumped, 38-0. Expect a similar outcome in the season opener. A fat paycheck should ease Hawaii’s pain.

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Toughest stretch: The last five games of the season will be challenging, beginning with an Oct. 29 game at Michigan State. The run also includes games at Iowa and at Ohio State. In between those three tilts are home games vs. Maryland and Indiana, which lost 48-41 in double OT to Michigan last season. The Spartans are 7-1 in the last eight games vs. Michigan, which hasn’t won in East Lansing since 2007. Iowa has won four of the last five vs. the Wolverines, including three in a row in Kinnick.

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Best chance to be upset: vs. Wisconsin, Oct. 1. Michigan must be careful when the Badgers come to the Big House. Yes, the Badgers are breaking in a new quarterback, but they have a strong o-line and a stud RB in Corey Clement. Plus, the defense will have a veteran front seven. These schools haven’t met since 2010, with Wisconsin taking the last two meetings.

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Best chance to pull an upset: at Ohio State, Nov. 26. As mentioned above, the Wolverines haven’t won in Columbus since 2000, losing their last seven visits. You know what they say about rivalries—anything can happen. So, Michigan could wade into the Horseshoe and upset Ohio State. This has been a series that has featured some stunning outcomes. I’m just sayin’.

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Must win: at Michigan State, Oct. 29. If the Wolverines want a shot to win the East, they must find a way to win at instate rival Michigan State. Michigan owes the Spartans after losing one of the wildest games in college football annals last season when Michigan punter Blake O’Neil fumbled a snap with 10 seconds left and the Spartans’ Jalen Watts-Jackson scooped it up and returned it for a touchdown and a 27-23 win on the game’s final play.

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Bye week: This is timed well, coming on Oct. 15 after Michigan has played half of its 12 games. The rest will help the Wolverines get charged up for a rugged second-half of the season that features road tests at reigning Big Ten champ Michigan State, Iowa and Ohio State.

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Day Date Opponent Time TV Result
Sat. 9/3TBA vs. Hawaii TBA
Sat. 9/10TBA vs. UCF TBA
Sat. 9/17TBA vs. Colorado TBA
Sat. 9/24TBA vs. Penn State TBA
Sat. 10/1TBA vs. 21 Wisconsin TBA
Sat. 10/8TBA at Rutgers TBA
Sat. 10/22TBA vs. Illinois TBA
Sat. 10/29TBA at 6 Michigan State TBA
Sat. 11/5TBA vs. Maryland TBA
Sat. 11/128:00 PM ET at 9 Iowa 8:00 PM ET
Sat. 11/19TBA vs. Indiana TBA
Sat. 11/26TBA at 4 Ohio State TBA

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Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

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, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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7:00 PMMinnesota at Michigan St.Watch
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