ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan’s 2017 football season isn’t that far away. In fact, in less than four months, Michigan will open the season against a Power 5 opponent in an NFL venue.
It’s never too early to look ahead. In fact, ticket packages are already on sale for Michigan’s six home games this season, and single-game tickets — or what’s left of those — go on sale for donors July 11 and to the public July 15.
Land of 10 picks six games from Michigan’s 12-game schedule that are worth the cost of a ticket and travel — and three that might simply be better watched from the comforts of your living room or local sports bar.
Three hot tickets
Michigan vs. Florida
Sept. 2, Arlington, Texas
This isn’t just the season opener. It’s a rematch of the 2016 Citrus Bowl — handily won by the Wolverines 41-7 — and will be played at AT&T Stadium, home of the NFL Dallas Cowboys.
The game against the Gators is the first chance for Michigan to show its wares after losing its starting defensive backfield, its starting receivers and three starters on the offensive line. And the Wolverines will have to do it against a Power 5 opponent from the SEC.
Michigan vs. Michigan State
Oct. 7, Michigan Stadium
The Paul Bunyan Trophy is at stake. So are in-state bragging rights. Michigan ended a three-year losing streak with a 32-23 win against the Spartans in October in East Lansing,
The state-school matchup brings out the best — and sometimes the worst — in these teams but has provided for many memorable and sometimes controversial moments in the series, which dates to 1898.
Michigan vs. Ohio State
Nov. 25, Michigan Stadium
This will always be one of college football’s hottest tickets, but Michigan fans are still feeling the burn of last year’s 30-27 loss in double overtime as the series returns to Ann Arbor.
Furthermore, Michigan has only beaten Ohio State twice since 2002, and many argue that the Wolverines’ current legitimacy hinges on a win against Ohio State. Case in point: The November loss at Ohio State knocked Michigan out of contention for the Big Ten East Division title and ended its hopes for a College Football Playoff berth.
Three that might be worth your money
Michigan vs. Cincinnati
Sept. 9, Michigan Stadium
When Michigan and Cincinnati agreed to the 2017 contest in 2012, did anyone anticipate that the Wolverines’ 2017 home opener at Michigan Stadium could simply be another iteration of the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry?
It may not be on as grand a scale, but Luke Fickell takes over as Cincinnati’s coach, after 15 seasons in various coaching capacities at Ohio State, including interim head coach in 2011 and defensive coordinator/linebackers coach from 2012 to 2016.
Michigan vs. Air Force
Sept. 16, Michigan Stadium
During spring practices, Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown said his defense was already preparing for Air Force. It would seem peculiar to look ahead a few games, but Air Force utilizes one of football’s more unusual offenses — the triple option.
It’s always a treat to watch misdirection in college football and how defenses not just prepare for it but defend it. The nonconference game will be the first meeting between the Wolverines and the Falcons since 2012, when Michigan stopped Air Force late in the fourth quarter to preserve a 31-25 win.
Michigan at Penn State
Oct. 21, State College, Pa.
Stand out in a sea of white — if you can get a ticket. Penn State announced in April that its home game against Michigan will be the stadium’s White Out game, so expect it to be loud, intense and hostile.
Penn State is the defending Big Ten champion and the conference’s Rose Bowl representative, but the Nittany Lions will look to avenge their 49-10 loss to the Wolverines in Ann Arbor in 2016.
One caveat for the trip: Good luck finding an affordable hotel room in Happy Valley.
Three to stay home and watch
Michigan at Purdue
Sept. 23, West Lafayette, Ind.
Do you want to make the four-hour drive to West Lafayette? This will be the first meeting between the Boilermakers and the Wolverines since 2012, but there isn’t much that’s exciting or intriguing about this matchup, besides being the first meeting between first-year Purdue coach Jeff Brohm and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.
However, you’re likely to get a good ticket — Purdue averaged a little more than 37,000 fans in 2016 in a stadium that holds 57,236.
Rutgers at Michigan
Oct. 28, Michigan Stadium
You could help Michigan again pack more than 100,000 into the stadium, but you also run the risk of seeing a blowout. The last time these teams met, Michigan routed Rutgers 78-0, and the Wolverines have outscored Rutgers 127-16 in the last two meetings between the teams.
Adding a fun wrinkle to the game is that Michigan has heavily recruited New Jersey, which has become fertile ground for Division I football prospects, including Wolverines defensive end Rashan Gary.
Michigan at Maryland
Nov. 11, College Park, Md.
Michigan has dominated the Terps in the last two meetings, and Maryland Stadium isn’t one of the more vaunted venues in the Big Ten. But if you decide to head to the Washington suburbs, you might get to see two Harbaughs. The Baltimore Ravens, coached by Jim Harbaugh’s older brother, John, have a bye that weekend, and John Harbaugh was on the sidelines of the 2015 Michigan-Maryland game.
Also, Washington D.C., is only a few miles away from Maryland Stadium, so if you go, you can double up on football and democracy.