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Two stretches of Michigan’s season present the biggest challenges

Nobody said it was going to be easy.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 23 Michigan at Indiana

Michigan’s schedule looks a lot different in 2020 than it initially did due to a conference-only schedule. No starting the season on the road in Washington, no likely wins against non-conference opponents in Ball State and Arkansas State in Week 2 and 3.

Here’s Michigan’s new 2020 schedule.

First three games are harder overall (vs. Purdue, at Minnesota, vs. Penn State)

Michigan’s going to need whoever the starting QB is and the four new starting offensive linemen to perform at a high clip right out of the gate. There aren’t any definitive blowout games these weeks, no matchups where you know heading into the game that you’ll be able to put backups in by the third quarter. Michigan begins training camp on Friday, and there’s not a lot of time left to get ready for the start of the season. That fact is going to make each practice and rep therein all the more important.

(Week 1) Purdue’s offense will present a challenge with one of the best receiving corps in the country in Rondale Moore and David Bell, then have to take on an ever-improving Minnesota team before facing a talent Penn State squad. At least Michigan doesn’t have to start the season on the road, but the next two games are glaringly harder than the original tilts vs. Ball State and Arkansas State.

(Week 2) Minnesota will be without star receiver Rashod Bateman, and Penn State won’t have stud linebacker Micah Parsons; both players are sitting out due to coronavirus concerns. Those are dings to each roster, but there’s plenty of talent to fill the void they leave behind. If past is prologue, though, Michigan will play (Week 3) Penn State well in Ann Arbor. Michigan’s won their past two games at Michigan Stadium against PSU by a combined score of 91-17.

If Michigan is to get through the first three games with victories, the schedule eases up with an away game at Rutgers before playing Michigan State at The Big House.

There’s another tough three game stretch after facing Rutgers and MSU

After the matchups mentioned above, Michigan faces Indiana and Ohio State on the road, followed by a home game versus Wisconsin. Fans or likely no fans at all in the stands this year, a road game is still a road trip. Road trips can be tiring, especially if it’s a bus ride, and there’s still a level of home-field advantage for the home teams because of their comfort level playing in their own stadium and town.

(Game 6) Indiana plays a lot of teams tough in the conference, and plays Michigan especially tough when UM travels to Bloomington. (Game 7) Ohio State is Ohio State and is always the toughest game on the schedule. Whether Michigan beats the Buckeyes, or loses, they’ll be a bit battered and bruised heading into another physical game against (Game 8) Wisconsin. This three game stretch represents a massive amount of physicality that will be inflicted upon Michigan, the question is can Michigan endure it? Indiana, Ohio State, and Wisconsin are some of the most hard-nosed teams in the conference and are coached to hit hard and not let up.

After this three-game stretch Michigan finishes the season against Maryland and Northwestern, a more manageable two games on paper.

A new schedule, a couple different back-to-back-to-back rough stretches, but what remains the same is Michigan’s going to be ready to play those games or they’re not. How tough the games are coincide with the abilities of the Michigan players and their preparedness, both mentally and physically. Some games in the Big Ten feel more like bare-knuckle brawls, and it’s just about surviving while landing more punches than the talented opposition lands on them.