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Exploring the best and worst cases for each game on Michigan’s 2020 schedule

This could be a great year! It could also be terrible!

Minnesota v Michigan Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images

Michigan fans are some of the most passionate in the country, and that passion grows in a giant crescendo toward the start of each season. Many are faithful to the core, never failing to believe that “this could be the year” and overflowing in optimism despite what the critics may say. There are plenty of fans in the other camp as well, ready to accept another season of disappointment and looking forward to whoever the next quarterback (or the next head coach) will be.

With the season just two weeks away, both sides are free to imagine all of the possibilities that lie ahead. Below is something for everyone, as we take a look at the range of outcomes for each game on the schedule, trying to stay within the realm of realistic results.

Week 1 at Minnesota

Best case: The Wolverines get a huge momentum burst early, winning one of their toughest road contests and showing that this could be a special year. Joe Milton makes it clear why he won the quarterback battle, and the new offensive line holds up well. Even if the score is close, any win here would be a great start to the year.

Worst case: The Big Ten did no favors making this one the opener, and Michigan is unprepared against a good opponent on the road. Just like Utah in 2015 and Notre Dame in 2018, the Wolverines do too little too late and dig themselves into a hole just a week into the season.

Week 2 vs. Michigan State

Best case: There may be a new coach, but the results are the same as 2019. Mel Tucker inherits a bad Spartan team and the talent gap is obvious between the rivals. Michigan scores at-will all game and shows no mercy in the second half. Jim Harbaugh makes it three straight against State and sends Tucker on his way to a brutal first year in charge.

Worst case: Halloween brings out the spookiness in a late afternoon/evening affair. The Wolverines are the better team but make tons of mistakes, allowing their overmatched rivals to stay in a game. A late controversial call seals the upset, and the upside for the 2020 is instantly erased.

Week 3 at Indiana

Best case: After proving last season that every game in Bloomington does not need to go down to the wire, Michigan looks impressive against a solid Hoosiers team. The defense is particularly encouraging, with both the secondary and interior defensive line causing people to forget any questions about either position group from before the season.

Worst case: The cliche trap game finally comes to fruition, as Indiana beats the Wolverines for the first time in 30 years. Growing pains are real for a roster full of new starters, and even with no crowds, the road environment seems to be a problem.

Week 4 vs. Wisconsin

Best case: Michigan rolls to 4-0 after thumping the Badgers at home yet again. The series continues to trade winners based on location, and Speed In Space is fully operational now with Milton at the helm. The Badgers get their yards on the ground but cannot put up nearly enough scores to keep pace with a Wolverine team that is now top 10 in the country.

Worst case: Like last year, the Wolverines have no answer for the Wisconsin run game. The defensive line gets gashed and the secondary gives up yardage when tested. Michigan drops one that it needed to have and lacks the completeness that real contenders have.

Week 5 at Rutgers

Best case: Cade McNamara plays the entire second half and looks like a competent backup if Milton were to go down.

Worst case: The game is even remotely close after halftime.

Week 6 vs. Penn State

Best case: The Wolverines secure a marquee win on a big stage. Both teams enter ranked well, but it is extremely lopsided from the start, reminiscent of 2018. Everything is clicking for Michigan, with points coming easily and the young defenders stepping up to the challenge. At 6-0, the maize and blue is set up for a New Year’s Six bowl — at the very least.

Worst case: Ultimately the Nittany Lions are just the better team, and Michigan never is able to bridge the gap. The visitors are more explosive and make the bigger plays in Ann Arbor, and the end result makes it clear who the second best team in the division is.

Week 7 vs. Maryland

Best case: Harbaugh continues his tradition of pummeling the Terrapins and this game is not very close. The weather is brutal in early December, but that only fires up the Michigan run game, which is now a well-oiled machine despite four new starters on the offensive line. Everyone is excited for next week but no one looks past Maryland.

Worst case: Instead of Indiana, this time the Terps get to be the trap game in the season’s penultimate week. The Wolverines are clearly looking ahead to The Game and let an inferior opponent get the best of them for most of the game.

Week 8 at Ohio State

Best case: 2020 has been a miserable year, but finally something good happens. Michigan gets a little luck but plays its best game in years, putting forth a complete effort that sees every single unit contribute in a big way. The result is a much-needed win that kills off the horrid losing streak in the rivalry and sends the Wolverines to the Big Ten Championship Game.

Worst case 1: Michigan gets absolutely embarrassed for the third straight year as the Buckeyes literally hang 100 on them. The end is finally here for Don Brown, who yet again fails to show any ability to stop the Ohio State offense.

Worst case 2: We get another close call like 2006 and 2016, as the Wolverines fall just short thanks to some rough officiating and missed opportunities. The misery continues and the calls for Harbaugh’s job only increase.