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Five games that will determine Michigan football’s 2023 season

Three of the Wolverines’ most important games are the same year in and year out. However, there are two other games to keep an eye on.

Vrbo Fiesta Bowl - Michigan v TCU Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Another year, another group of tests for a Michigan program that seems to have finally put it all together.

While the Wolverines have taken the Big Ten by storm the past two seasons, the road to a third consecutive conference crown will be just as formidable as it’s always been. Here are the five games that will determine Michigan’s success or failure in 2023.

Nebraska and Minnesota

For the fourth straight non-COVID affected season, the Wolverines find themselves spending a sizeable chunk of October on the road, going to Lincoln and Minneapolis two straight weeks. These road trips have been no cake walk recently, but have given the Wolverines the steel in their spines they’ve needed to go all the way.

While it’s unclear just how much new head coach Matt Rhule will turn around the Cornhuskers in his inaugural season, it’s unlikely they’ll be worse than under Scott Frost, who managed to give the Wolverines a near heart attack the last time these teams played in 2021. The Golden Gophers, meanwhile, are a known commodity, having finished as a nine-win team or better in the last three non-COVID seasons.

In addition, while the Little Brown Jug doesn’t mean as much as it used to, it still has significance for both teams, especially with the Wolverines sitting atop the college football landscape.

Michigan State

When it comes to this game, two words come to mind; chaos theory.

The Spartans are not the team they once were, that much is certain. But too many weird things happened in this rivalry year in and year out to just overlook the matchup in East Lansing. With the dynamic between Michigan and Michigan State arguably at it’s most bad blooded ever, this is still a white-knuckler kind of game.

Penn State

The good news is Michigan’s clash with the Nittany Lions won’t be the school’s official White Out game.

That unfortunately doesn’t count for a whole lot, though. In the past five matchups with Penn State in Happy Valley, the Nittany Lions have a 3-2 record and the Wolverines needed a late-game miracle from Erick All to get past them in 2021. While James Franklin has positively floundered outside of Beaver Stadium’s friendly confines, Penn State always seems to have a trick up its sleeve when Michigan comes to them.

Ohio State

In all honestly, there’s only one game that’ll truly determine the success or failure of 2023 for the Wolverines, and it’s the same game it’s always been — Ohio State.

While the Buckeyes are marginally less formidable than in previous years having come off back-to-back wins and with the departure of several key talents from Columbus, to expect anything but their fullest efforts is a folly. With The Game back at the zenith of the landscape, the center of the college football universe once again is in Michigan Stadium on Thanksgiving weekend.