Tough schedule could help put Michigan in College Football Playoff
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Michigan has a tough schedule this year. Any thoughts on it? — Steve Lacey, via Facebook
There’s no question that Michigan will face a challenge each weekend this fall. The Wolverines will try to earn more than eight wins this season with a schedule that could include at least four top-10 opponents.
The Wolverines’ 2018 schedule is ranked the toughest in the nation by 247Sports. The NCAA, via FootballScoop.com, ranks Michigan’s schedule as the third-toughest Power 5 conference schedule in the nation. ESPN released its Football Power Index rankings in February, and the Wolverines face five teams in the top 15. (The Wolverines are No. 11.)
If Michigan successfully negotiates this schedule and wins the Big Ten Conference Championship Game, the Wolverines will make the College Football Playoff and contend for the national title.
Here’s a look at whom I believe to be the Wolverines’ five toughest opponents in 2018:
Sept. 1, at Notre Dame: We will find out immediately what the Wolverines are made of in the season opener in South Bend, Ind. We’ll know whether Shea Patterson is eligible — and if so, whether he’s the starting quarterback. We’ll learn how much the wide receivers have matured as players and whether the offensive line has improved. Michigan does not want a repeat of its last visit to South Bend, a 31-0 loss in 2014.
Sept. 22, vs. Nebraska: The Wolverines open their Big Ten schedule against a rejuvenated Nebraska team, led by former Huskers quarterback Scott Frost. He is in his first season as coach of a program that needs a shot in the arm. It sounds sort of like Harbaugh’s first season in Ann Arbor.
Oct. 13, vs. Wisconsin: The Badgers are a methodical, grind-it-out team, but are almost always among the Big Ten’s top programs. After games against Nebraska, Northwestern and Maryland, the Badgers will be a measuring stick for where the Wolverines stand as they prepare for Michigan State a week later.
Oct. 20, at Michigan State: The Wolverines barely had teeth on offense in an October home loss to Michigan State last season. The Wolverines must show marked improvement in their offense if they want to bring the Paul Bunyan Trophy back to Ann Arbor.
Nov. 24, at Ohio State: Like the matchup against Michigan State, no explanation is needed for the regular-season finale. The Wolverines have beaten Ohio State just once since 2003 (in 2011) and Harbaugh, 0-3 against the Buckeyes, needs a victory against the rival.
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