It’s officially less than three weeks until the Michigan Wolverines kick off their 2023 season. Jim Harbaugh will reportedly be on the sidelines for every game, and this team has the highest expectations of any group he has put on the field in his tenure.
Over the last several weeks, we have seen multiple Wolverines be named to preseason award watch lists, and the Coaches’ Poll had them at No. 2 in the nation. After consecutive College Football Playoff appearances, the 2023 team will be shooting for a National Championship.
To get there, Michigan will have to go through a schedule that will have some tests along the way. Here’s a preseason prediction of how I suspect each game to go.
Week 1 - Michigan 59, East Carolina Pirates 7
This total goes hand in hand with the non-conference games from last season. Harbaugh comes out with a chip on his shoulder and boat races Michigan’s Week 1 opponent, and unfortunately for them, it’s East Carolina. J.J. McCarthy throws for more than 225 yards in the first half against the second-worst pass defense in college football from a season ago, and the Wolverines’ starters are out of the game by mid-third quarter.
Week 2 - Michigan 66, UNLV Rebels 7
I have a feeling this will be the biggest blowout of the season. UNLV is implementing new schemes on both sides of the ball under first-year head coach Barry Odom. Last year he was the defensive coordinator at Arkansas, which allowed the most total yards per game in the SEC. Coming into the Big House against an offense full of explosive talent, I think the Rebels are in big trouble both on the ground and through the air.
Week 3 - Michigan 52, Bowling Green Falcons 0
The first shutout of the season comes in Week 3 against Bowling Green. Michigan posts seven sacks against one of the worst offensive lines in the country. The Falcons creep past 200 yards of offense in the second half when the Wolverines’ second unit is on the field, but Michigan dominates from start to finish.
Week 4 - Michigan 55, Rutgers Scarlet Knights 10
Last season, Rutgers was leading Michigan 17-14 heading into the half. Then, the Wolverines woke up and scored 38 unanswered points in a 52-14 blowout. If they come out with the jets turned on, this game is over quickly. As they head into Big Ten play, I have a feeling they’ll want to show they are top dogs in the conference once again.
Week 5 - Michigan 31, Nebraska Cornhuskers 10
Michigan has a history of struggling on the road in Big Ten play early in the season. Going to Lincoln against a Matt Rhule-led program hungry for an upset won’t be easy. I could see them coming out of the gates a little sluggish against the Huskers before realizing this won’t be the cakewalk those first four games were. Still, Michigan is the far superior team and should pull away midway through the game thanks to its rushing attack.
Week 6 - Michigan 30, Minnesota Golden Gophers 17
This is the first game of the season where I start to feel some heartburn. Minnesota has been a sneaky good team the past few years. The Golden Gophers finished 9-4 the last two seasons and had a defense that held opponents to 14.2 points per game in 2022, third-best in the country. Many of those defenders return in 2023 and I suspect this will be a closer game than many would imagine. Still, the Wolverines have more than enough to power through and pull a win out in Minneapolis while leaning on their running game.
Week 7 - Michigan 49, Indiana Hoosiers 3
Back to an easy win for the Wolverines. Indiana is set to have one of the worst teams in the Big Ten yet again this season. The Hoosiers have been a thorn in the flesh of the Wolverines for Harbaugh’s entire tenure. It’s also a little nerve-wracking this game comes a week before what will be an extremely emotional contest in East Lansing again Michigan State. Instead of looking ahead, I see the Wolverines using this game to send a message they're comin’ for it all against the Spartans.
Week 8 - Michigan 38, Michigan State Spartans 7
Make no mistake...this is the Spartans’ Super Bowl. There’s a chance this team has even less discipline than the one that assaulted Michigan players in the locker room last season. They won’t take it lightly that this year’s contest is on their home turf. The problem is they have no bite to back up the bark. They couldn’t run the football in 2022 and haven’t made considerable improvements there to think anything different will happen this season. With much more poise and a more well-rounded team, the Wolverines should take care of business on the road in East Lansing.
Week 9 - Michigan 45, Purdue Boilermakers 17
Head coach Jeff Brohm, starting quarterback Aidan O’Connell and leading receiver Charlie Jones have all left the building. This Boilermakers’ squad is nothing like the one the Wolverines saw in the Big Ten Championship last season. In their penultimate home game of the season, McCarthy and the Michigan offense cruises to a big win in Ann Arbor.
Week 10 - Michigan 42, Penn State Nittany Lions 34
If the cards play out, this could be a top-10 matchup with two teams still fighting for a spot in the Big Ten Championship. Although I think the hype regarding the Nittany Lions is getting a little out of hand, they have two extremely talented running backs capable of carrying them to a lot of wins. I wonder how their defense holds up, though, even at home. Against Ohio State and Michigan last year, the Nittany Lions gave up 85 total points and 1,045 yards of offense. From that unit, Penn State has lost a handful of its best players. I think Michigan wins a close game by outperforming the Nittany Lions on offense.
Week 11 - Michigan 28, Maryland Terrapins 21
TRAP GAME ALERT. Coming off the emotional high of beating a top-10 Penn State team and a week before playing Ohio State sits a road matchup with the Maryland Terrapins. Taulia Tagovailoa returns as starting quarterback with maybe his best group of receivers yet. The Terps don’t have a particularly difficult schedule either, so they could have seven or eight wins at this point. But just like it did against Illinois last season, Michigan finds a way to earn a win against a team that surprises a lot of people in the conference.
Week 12 - Michigan 52, Ohio State Buckeyes 20
The gap between Michigan and Ohio State has not been this far in the Wolverines' favor in quite some time. Everyone wants to point out the Buckeyes’ weapons like Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka and TreVeyon Henderson to explain why they should be a College Football Playoff contender.
However, I think they lack talent where it matters. Ohio State’s offensive line is going through a major overhaul, and I think it’s their biggest weakness. Paris Johnson Jr., Dawand Jones and Luke Wypler, three prolific starters from 2022, are now playing on Sundays. Having two new starting tackles protecting a fresh face at quarterback is certainly a scary look heading into the season.
Let’s not forget the Buckeyes’ defense has had no answers for the Wolverines in each of the last two seasons, either. It’s also the main reason they didn’t win the National Championship in 2022. I think there are major question marks on the interior defensive line and in the secondary for OSU.
It’s been the same story for the last two years. Ryan Day and the Buckeyes have a flashy squad that gets plenty of hype and publicity heading in. But the Wolverines win this game the same way they have for the last two years — dominating the trenches — and they do it in a big way in the final game of the regular season.