Michigan football begins its quest for its first Big Ten title since 2004 and first national title since 1997 next Saturday when Hawaii comes to the Big House for the 2016 season opener.
The Wolverines have been hyped up as one of the best teams in college football this year. Will they be able to live up to the hype? Time to go game-by-game and predict how 2016 plays out:
Sept. 3 vs. Hawaii (2015 record: 3-10, O-8 WAC)
Hawaii is one of the worst teams in college football and has a ton of traveling to do in the early part of its 2016 season. Their second game of the year is a trip to Ann Arbor, where a fired up Michigan squad should be able to handle them with extreme ease with Michael Jordan in attendance as an honorary captain.
Prediction: Michigan 45 (1-0), Hawaii 3
Sept. 10 vs. Central Florida (2015 record: 0-12, 0-8 AAC)
UCF is another pedestrian team that the Wolverines will face early on. There is nowhere to go but up for a program that went winless in 2015 and they should be improved under first-year head coach Scott Frost. Regardless, this will be another week where the Wolverines win in a romp.
Prediction: MIchigan 38 (2-0), UCF 7
Sept. 17 vs. Colorado (2015 record: 4-9, 1-8 Pac-12)
Three weeks in, Michigan still will not have seen an opponent that strikes much fear into anyone’s hearts. They are experienced, but Michigan is far more talented and moves to 3-0 on the season in a methodical win.
Prediction: Michigan 28 (3-0), Colorado 6
Sept. 24 vs. Penn State (2015 record: 7-6, 4-4 B1G)
Conference play starts with Michigan’s fourth straight home game. Penn State comes into town in a Big Ten East matchup that will be the Wolverines first test of the season. Saquon Barkley is a star and will be tough to deal with, but Penn State still has question marks on offense and is breaking in a new quarterback. The defense could keep them in the game, but Michigan takes this one.
Prediction: Michigan 27 (4-0, 1-0 B1G), Penn State 14
Oct. 1 vs. Wisconsin (2015 record: 10-3, 6-2 B1G)
The Wolverines and Badgers meet for the first time since 2010 in Michigan’s fifth-straight home game of 2016. Corey Clement returns from injury to lead Wisconsin’s rushing attack, but the Wolerines should be able to contain the run game and pull away late.
Prediction: Michigan 26 (5-0, 2-0 B1G), Wisconsin 16
Oct. 8 at Rutgers (2015 record: 4-8, 1-7 B1G)
Michigan heads on the road for the first time this season against the hated rival (not really) Scarlet Knights. First-year head coach Chris Ash has his work cut out for him, but don’t think for a second the Wolverines forgot about what happened in 2014. Michigan wins this one going away.
Prediction: Michigan 41 (6-0, 3-0 B1G), Rutgers 10
Oct. 22 vs. Illinois (2015 record: 5-7, 2-6 B1G)
Illinois could be a rising program with Lovie Smith leading the team, but it will take some time and they are not expected to be a huge factor in the West division this season. Michigan blows out the Illini on homecoming.
Prediction: Michigan 38 (7-0, 4-0), Illinois 9
Oct. 29 at Michigan State (2015 record: 12-2, 7-1 B1G)
This is arguably the most important game of Michigan’s entire season and definitely is up to this point. MSU may look like they are in for a down year on paper, but Mark Dantonio seems to have them in the mix every season and Michigan has not won in East Lansing since 2007.
Michigan has to deal with the threat in its own backyard before they can call themselves Big Ten title contenders and beyond. They have the team on paper to do it, but by no means will it be easy. The tables have turned in this rivalry and this is a must-win game for the Wolverines to turn it back in their direction. And they will.
Prediction: Michigan 23 (8-0, 5-0 B1G), MSU 21
Nov. 5 vs. Maryland (2015 record: 3-9, 1-7 B1G)
Former defensive coordinator and first-year head coach D.J. Durkin returns to Ann Arbor when he brings his Terrapins in for a visit. They could be a surprise team in the East this season, but Michigan should still have no problem with them and stay undefeated on the season.
Prediction: Michigan 34 (9-0, 6-0 B1G), Maryland 10
Nov. 12 at Iowa (2015 record: 12-2, 8-0 B1G)
Iowa was a surprise team last season en route to winning the West division. They will sneak up on nobody this year and Michigan will have a tough time with them on the road. Kinnick is an extremely tough place to play, but the Wolverines are more talented at nearly every position and should have the coaching advantage when the chips are down. They will squeak by the Hawkeyes.
Prediction: Michigan: 27 (10-0, 7-0 B1G), Iowa 21
Nov. 19 vs. Indiana (2015 record: 6-7, 2-6 B1G)
Indiana’s high-tempo offense gave Michigan fits last season and it did not help that the defensive line of the Wolverines was gassed and missing Ryan Glasgow due to injury. The Hoosier offense may not be as powerful, but the defense should be better. Regardless, the Wolverines close out their home slate with a win.
Prediction: Michigan 34 (11-0, 8-0 B1G), Indiana 17
Nov. 26 at Ohio State (2015 record: 12-1, 7-1 B1G)
This is the biggest of them all. Michigan has not won The Game since 2011 and that was against an Ohio State squad that finished 6-6 in a transitional year for the program. Since then, Urban Meyer is 50-4 at Ohio State and has a national title under his belt.
Michigan has more proven talent on paper, but OSU recruits at a high level and they will look much different in November than they do in September. They have the best quarterback in the Big Ten and will have a raucous crowd on their side in Columbus. Michigan has a lot riding on this game and will give OSU a fight, but the Buckeyes end the Wolverines’ perfect season here.
Prediction: Ohio State 27, Michigan 26 (11-1, 8-1 B1G)
Overview: 11-1, 8-1 B1G
Michigan ends its regular season on a sour note, but depending on how things play out, they could still find themselves in Indianapolis playing for a Big Ten title. With OSU and MSU in “down” years in terms of replacing proven talent, this is Michigan’s year to make a move. The schedule sets up easy but is backloaded with some tough road games that they could easily lose all three of, but could win them all, too.
There’s been a ton of hype generated for this team and it is time for them to cash in, or else the talk that has been going on will get thrown right back in their face. We will see if this team is for real or not soon.