The Michigan Wolverines have posted a historic 25-3 record over the last two seasons and will look to keep that momentum rolling with an experienced and talented team in 2023.
While professional declarations will not be finalized until next Sunday, Team 144 is expected to return a minimum of 15 starters, with optimistic projections ranging as high as 18.
It also remains to be seen whether or not head coach Jim Harbaugh will return, but assuming 15-18 starters return and the coaching staff remains intact for Harbaugh’s ninth season, Michigan is expected to be a preseason top three team.
Can the Wolverines finally get over the hump and win a national championship? Let’s take a way-too-early look at the 2023 schedule (where nothing will change and none of this will age poorly) and how Michigan stacks up on paper.
East Carolina, September 2
Head coach Mike Houston has restored pride to ECU as a respectable middle tier program. In his fourth season, Houston led the Pirates to their best season since 2014 (8-5) and smoked Coastal Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl, 53-29.
While ECU will have to replace several starters and improve in the secondary —ECU was ranked No. 130 in the country in passing defense— Houston will have his upset minded team prepared to play spoiler. As a 12.5 point underdog in Week 1 last year, Houston was an average kicker away from taking down a healthy No. 13 North Carolina State.
This will be the first meeting ever between the two programs.
UNLV, September 9
First-year head coach Barry Odom will look to awaken a dormant UNLV program that has only won more than six games once since 2000 (2013). Odom was most recently a defensive coordinator at Arkansas for three years, and was last a head coach at Missouri from 2016-2019, where he posted a 25-25 record.
Despite his mediocre resume, UNLV believes in what he’s selling and made Odom the highest paid head coach in the Mountain West.
Michigan and UNLV have only played once prior (2015), which saw Michigan win handily, 28-7.
Bowling Green, September 16
In his fourth season at the helm, Scot Loeffler finally led the Falcons to a bowl game, but unfortunately lost, and finished with a losing record again. Bowling Green has still not had a winning season since 2015.
The Falcons will have to replace a lot of production and a trip to Ann Arbor will not help Loeffler’s seat being any less hot in 2023. Michigan is undefeated in two meetings against Bowling Green (2000, 2010) and most recently beat them 65-21.
Rutgers, September 23
The last two years Michigan has struggled in its Big Ten season opener. Last season, Maryland forced the Wolverines to play from behind for the first time all season, and two years ago Rutgers had the Wolverines on the ropes.
Rutgers returns to open up Michigan’s Big Ten schedule in 2023 and head coach Greg Schiano will have his team prepared. Despite the one-sided final score last year (52-17), the Scarlet Knights were physical and challenged the Wolverines in the trenches.
With the team gaining experience and highly touted freshman quarterback Gavin Wimsatt set to return, Rutgers could once again pressure the Wolverines in their Big Ten opener.
AT Nebraska, September 30
Michigan’s first road test of the season will be in Lincoln against first-year head coach Matt Rhule. Rhule will have his hands full replacing several key transfers, but this is not Rhule’s first or hardest rebuilding collegiate job. Rhule took over a decimated Baylor program and posted a 1-11 record in his first season, but by his third season, he took Baylor to the Sugar Bowl and posted an 11-3 record.
Rhule will look to establish a physical identity on both sides of the ball and air the ball out offensively. But the question remains, how long will it take Rhule to shake the frost off the culture and reignite a winning atmosphere?
Michigan has currently won three-straight games against the Cornhuskers.
AT Minnesota, October 7
Head coach PJ Fleck has guided the Gophers to nine wins in three of his four seasons and an undefeated 4-0 bowl record. However, he now has to replace two sixth-year foundational pieces in star running back Mo Ibrahim and quarterback Tanner Morgan.
Furthermore, the Gophers will have a lot of depth concerns to answer, but will have the luxury of a welcoming back wide receiver Christ Autman-Bell from injury.
Harbaugh has never lost to Minnesota at Michigan and every game has been memorable. 2015 saw the Wolverines survive on a goal line stand; 2017’s game featured two 100-yard Michigan rushers (Chris Evans, Karan Higdon); 2020’s game the lone light in the darkest year in recent memory.
What will this year’s game be remembered for?
Indiana, October 14
Indiana football has been reeling the last two seasons after a resurgent 6-2 campaign in 2020. After posting a 2-10 record in 2021 and a 4-8 record in 2022, is the seat warming up for Tom Allen? Or do seats even get warm for Indiana football coaches?
At times last season, Allen found ways to sneak out big wins in the most surprising ways. Against Illinois in Week 1,the Hoosiers capitalized on four turnovers to secure victory, and against Michigan State in Week 11, Indiana found a way to win by only attempting two forward passes.
With quarterback Connor Bazelak transferring —among many others— and star tailback Shaun Shivers graduating, the Hoosiers are facing more questions than answers. Can Wake Forest transfer and former Michigan running back Christian Turner help save Tom Allen’s job?
Michigan has not lost to Indiana with fans in attendance since the Reagan administration.
AT Michigan State, October 21
After a disappointing 5-7 campaign in 2022, the honeymoon is officially over for head coach Mel Tucker. Offensively, the Spartans face questions at quarterback and wide receiver with the departures of Payton Thorne and Jayden Reed, but return All-BIG Third Team receiver Keon Coleman, and have once again been VERY active in the transfer portal.
Defensively, several players have either graduated or transferred out of the program, and this is where the biggest concerns lie. Can Tucker revamp his defense —especially the secondary— and get the Spartans back to the top of the Big Ten?
Harbaugh is 4-4 against Michigan State and 1-2 against Mel Tucker. Tucker is the only Big Ten coach that Michigan’s head man has a losing record against and to move to 2-2, he will have to do so in East Lansing.
A BYE week after an inevitably emotional rivalry game is a great opportunity to reset and refocus for the final quarter of the season.
Purdue, November 4
Freshly appointed head coach Ryan Walters will have his hands full replicating the success of Jeff Brohm, especially without quarterback Aidan O’Connell and the nation’s leading wide receiver Charlie Jones.
Walters will undoubtedly revamp the defense, but the offense will struggle to keep pace in year one just from a personnel standpoint. Michigan has won five-straight against the Boilermakers, with their last loss coming in 2009.
AT Penn State, November 11
If Penn State can figure out the quarterback situation, this team could be a threat to win the Big Ten in 2023. The freshman running back duo of Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen rushed for a combined 1,928 yards in 2022 and powered the Nittany Lions to an 11-2 record and Rose Bowl victory.
The Nittany Lions will be revenge-minded after Michigan rushed for a modern record 418 yards against them last year, and won in the waning minutes in Happy Valley in 2021.
With a potential white out atmosphere late in the season, this could be one of the pivotal marquee match-ups in all of college football next season.
AT Maryland, November 18
The Terrapins lose a lot around head coach Mike Locksley and quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, but those two are STILL in College Park. After a regression year, Tagovailoa will look to bounce back and play spoiler in the Big Ten East. A version of this sentence has been written every year in support of the younger Tagovailoa and he is running out of time to see it to fruition.
Maryland challenged Michigan in the Big House and Ohio State at home in 2022, but can they repeat these efforts and finish the job in 2023?
Michigan has not lost to Maryland under Jim Harbaugh.
Ohio State, November 25
The quarterback position will make or break the season for the Buckeyes, but whoever steps in will be surrounded with the best weapons in college football. Once again, Ohio State will be one of the most talented teams in the country, but for the first time in a long time head coach Ryan Day and the Buckeyes will face an immense amount of pressure to beat Michigan and win the Big Ten East.
Can Ohio State come to the Big House and beat Michigan with potentially win No. 1,000 on the line for the Wolverines?
How do you see the Wolverines finishing up in 2023? 12-0? Three-straight Big Ten Championships? National champions?