Spring practices have come and gone as the Michigan Wolverines held their spring game earlier this month and now turn their attention towards the summer as they look to defend their Big Ten championship.
One reason why the Wolverines are once again considered title contenders in the conference is the manageable schedule on tap for 2022. Calling Michigan's non-conference schedule in 2022 a cakewalk would be an insult to cakes. The combined record of its three non-conference opponents — Colorado State, Hawaii, and UConn — in 2021 was 10-27.
Digging into the heart of their Big Ten slate, the Wolverines benefit from not facing West Division favorite Wisconsin for the first time in six years. A perfectly-timed bye week is scheduled in Week 8, sandwiched in between matchups with Michigan State and Penn State, both of whom have to travel to Ann Arbor. The Game against the Buckeyes in Columbus will be an absolute meatgrinder for the Wolverines, given the beatdown they put on their rivals a year ago, but everything leading up to the finale sets up well for Michigan to have another successful year.
Below is a breakdown of the Wolverines' 2022 slate.
Bye: Week 8
Week 1 – Sept. 3 vs. Colorado State (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
The Wolverines kick off the 2022 campaign against a program in Colorado State that has won just four games in the last two seasons. That said, the Rams turned over their roster this offseason under new head coach Jay Norvell, bringing in 10 transfers, most of which came from his previous stop at Nevada. Norvell will once again employ his Air Raid offense and does have some pieces to work with right off the bat with talented redshirt freshman quarterback Clay Millen, and a trio of experienced receivers in Tory Horton, Melquan Stovall and Dante Wright.
Week 2 – Sept. 10 vs. Hawaii (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Hawaii was a program in desperate need of a reset after two mediocre seasons under head coach Todd Graham who was let go after reports surfaced of verbal abuse towards players. His replacement is school legend and former quarterback Timmy Chang, who spent the previous five seasons as a positional coach within the Mountain West at Nevada. This is a tall order ahead for Chang as he inherits a roster that is dead last in the country in returning production from a year ago.
Week 3 – Sept. 17 vs. UConn (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
The third straight game to open the season in which the Wolverines will face a team with a new head coach as the Huskies hired Jim Mora Jr. away from the ESPN desk for his second stint at the collegiate level. Not quite the rebuild that Chang has in front of him at Hawaii, as the Huskies do return a good bit of experience from last year’s roster, but another program that was in desperate need of a reset. Offensively, Mora will inherit a good bit of talent with three starters back on the offensive line and an exciting receiving corps that features Cameron Ross, Keelan Marion and Aaron Turner.
Week 4 – Sept. 24 vs. Maryland (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Michigan has won nine of the 10 matchups with Maryland since the Terrapins joined the Big Ten with only one contest (Maryland win in 2014) decided by fewer than 10 points. Last year’s matchup was much of the same as the Wolverines ran away with the game by halftime, winning 59-18 behind more than 500 yards of total offense. The Terps won’t be favored in Ann Arbor, but their offense could cause some problems for the Wolverines’ young secondary as Maryland boasts one of the top wide receiver groups in the conference with Dontay Demus, Rakim Jarrett and Florida transfer Jacob Copeland.
Week 5 – Oct. 1 at Iowa (Iowa City, Iowa)
While Michigan fans thoroughly enjoyed their previous matchup with the Hawkeyes, defeating Iowa 42-3 in the Big Ten Championship Game last season, the thought of traveling to Kinnick Stadium is always unnerving. The last win for the Wolverines in Iowa City was all the way back in 2005, and the previous matchup in 2016 cost Michigan a shot at the College Football Playoff. Nine starters are back on offense for the Hawkeyes, though considerable improvements are needed after finishing 13th in the Big Ten in total yards per game.
Week 6 – Oct. 8 at Indiana (Bloomington, Ind.)
The last time the Wolverines and Hoosiers met in Bloomington, Indiana ended a 24-game losing streak to Michigan. They now have a one-game losing streak after falling 29-7 at the Big House in a contest that was indicative of Indiana’s entire 2021 season, as the Hoosiers accumulated just 195 yards of total offense. IU wound up finishing the year dead last in the Big Ten and 13th in scoring, failing to capitalize on one of the best seasons in program history in 2020. Head coach Tom Allen attacked this issue full-on this offseason, bringing in a new OC in Walt Bell, along with a pair of potential starters via the portal in quarterback Connor Bazelak (Missouri) and running back Shaun Shivers (Auburn).
Week 7 – Oct. 15 vs. Penn State (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
James Franklin isn’t on the hot seat entering 2022, but there is considerable pressure for a successful season after compiling an 11-11 record over the last two years. Fixing the offensive line must be priority No. 1 for Franklin as the Nittany Lions were dead last in the Big Ten in sacks allowed and averaged just 3.21 yards per carry as a team. The Nittany Lions will also have a new-look defense under former Miami head coach Manny Diaz.
Week 9 – Oct. 29 vs. Michigan State (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Michigan’s lone loss during the regular season came at the hands of their in-state rivals in a very entertaining 37-33 defeat in East Lansing. For the second straight year, head coach Mel Tucker hit the transfer portal hard in the offseason, bringing in seven P5 transfers that should play integral roles immediately on both sides of the ball. The most intrigue resides in the backfield for who will take over at running back for the departed Kenneth Walker III, the Doak Walker Award recipient and the nation's second-leading rusher last season. Jarek Broussard (Colorado) or Jalen Berger (Wisconsin) are the likeliest candidates to start.
Week 10 – Nov. 5 at Rutgers (Piscataway, N.J.)
In five Michigan-Rutgers matchups between 2015-19, the Wolverines outscored the Scarlet Knights by a margin of 256-37. While Michigan has won both meetings in the last two years, the games have been much more competitive with the Wolverines winning by a total of 13 points. Head coach Greg Schiano must figure out his quarterback situation this offseason as the Knights ranked just 114th in passing yards in 2021. Veteran Noah Vedral and former 3-star recruit Gavin Wimsatt will compete over the summer.
Week 11 – Nov. 12 vs. Nebraska (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
It’s never a great sign when an athletic director must put out a public statement of support for a head coach. Scott Frost’s homecoming has been a struggle, to say the least, coming to a head last season with a 3-9 record that put him at 15-29 since his arrival in Lincoln. Drastic changes were made over the offseason in what could likely be Frost’s last-ditch effort, including the additions of offensive coordinator Mark Whipple and likely starting quarterback Casey Thompson (Texas). Frost has lost both meetings with the Wolverines since taking over the job.
Week 12 – Nov. 19 vs. Illinois (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Michigan and Illinois are heated rivals on the basketball court. Not so much on the gridiron as the Wolverines have won the last five meetings in decisive fashion and lead the overall series 71-25. The Illini were fine defensively in the first year under head coach Bret Bielema, ranking in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten, allowing just 22 points per game. It was offensively where Illinois struggled, ranking 112th in the country in total yards per game. Bielema hired a new offensive coordinator in Barry Lunney who comes over from UTSA and added Syracuse transfer quarterback Tommy DeVito who will likely get the nod in this run-heavy scheme.
Week 13 – Nov. 26 at Ohio State (Columbus, Ohio)
Think the Buckeyes will be amped for this one after the blowout loss they suffered a year ago? Ohio State is once again the favorite to win the Big Ten in 2022 with the seemingly unending amount of star power Ryan Day's team possesses, including a trio of Heisman contenders on offense in quarterback C.J. Stroud, running back TreVeyon Henderson, and wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba. If all goes to plan for both teams prior to the regular-season finale and each matches expectations, this year’s version of The Game could be one for the ages.
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— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Follow him on Twitter @MBainbridgeCFF.