The 2018 schedule for the Michigan Wolverines does them no favors with away trips to three of their biggest rivals in Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State. The home slate is no easy task either, featuring Wisconsin, Penn State and Maryland.
If Jim Harbaugh is to have his Wolverines in the upper echelon of the Big Ten this upcoming season, his team will have earned it. In all, Michigan faces seven teams that played in a bowl in 2017, but has just five true road matchups.
Bye: Week 9
Week 1 – Sept. 1 at Notre Dame (Notre Dame, Ind.)
After a three-year hiatus, the two winningest programs in college football history renew their historic rivalry right off that bat in a prime-time season opener. Both the Wolverines and Irish enter 2018 with high expectations and will look to this game as a spring board for the rest of the season. While both teams have talent littered up and down their rosters, each team enters this offseason with major questions marks at the most important position – quarterback.
Week 2 – Sept. 8 vs. Western Michigan (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Surprisingly, despite being so close in proximity, the Wolverines and Broncos have only met six times since the year 1917, with the last meeting coming back in 2011. Western Michigan is coming off a 6-6 season in the first year under head coach Tim Lester, but this will be an uphill climb against a Michigan team that it has never beaten in school history.
Week 3 – Sept. 15 vs. SMU (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
New head coach Sonny Dykes will have SMU lighting up the scoreboard in 2018 with a 3,000-yard passer in Ben Hicks along with a stable of talented running backs with him in the backfield. That said, don’t expect points to be easy to come by against what was the No. 1 scoring defense in all of college football last season in the Wolverines who bring back nine starters on that side of the ball.
Week 4 – Sept. 22 vs. Nebraska (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Many anticipate new head coach Scott Frost to have Nebraska back among the elites in college football at some point, but expecting such results in Year 1 would be a tough ask. First order of business for Frost this offseason is settling on a new starting quarterback as last year’s starter Tanner Lee departed early for the NFL. After three straight home games to open the year, the Cornhuskers hit the road to Ann Arbor in what would be the first road start for whomever wins that starting job.
Week 5 – Sept. 29 at Northwestern (Evanston, Ill.)
The Wolverines could potentially catch a break here in Week 5 in facing a backup quarterback in their matchup with Northwestern. Senior quarterback Clayton Thorson tore his ACL in the bowl game against Kentucky last year and may miss the start of the season as head coach Pat Fitzgerald has not set a timetable as of now for his return. Michigan leads the current series 57-15 over the Wildcats and has won the each of the five past meetings.
Week 6 – Oct. 6 vs. Maryland (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
The last three matchups for Maryland against the Wolverines have not gone particularly well as the Terrapins have been outscored by a combined 109 points. Maryland could be one of the surprise teams in the conference in 2018 if it can ever have some luck at the quarterback position which is devastated by injuries seemingly every year. Maryland also has to replace leading receiver and potential first-round draft pick D.J. Moore.
Week 7 – Oct. 13 vs. Wisconsin (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
After going five years without facing off, this will now be the third consecutive meeting between the Wolverines and Badgers, and there is little reason to think this won’t be another tightly-contested matchup. Both of the last two games have been within one score heading into the fourth quarter. Michigan will need a good performance at home as this is the first of a brutal three-game stretch.
Week 8 – Oct. 20 at Michigan State (East Lansing, Mich.)
The Wolverines will have plenty of motivation heading into the matchup with their in-state rivals as most feel they gave the game away to the Spartans last year due to five inconceivable turnovers once the downpour of rain began. Michigan State will be a formidable foe once again in 2018 with 21 returning starters, including quarterback Brian Lewerke and running back LJ Scott.
Week 10 – Nov. 3 vs. Penn State (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Two years ago, Michigan blew out Penn State at home. Last year, it was the opposite with the Nittany Lions dominating in Happy Valley. What does Round 3 have in store? Per LVSuperbook, both teams currently sit at 12/1 odds for reaching the College Football Playoff in 2018 so, at least on paper, this looks to be a fairly even matchup.
Week 11 – Nov. 10 at Rutgers (Piscataway, N.J.)
The last time the Wolverines traveled to Piscataway, it was a 78-0 beatdown by the Maize and Blue. Rutgers appears to be headed on the right track under head coach Chris Ash, and the point differential won’t be quite as substantial as it was two years ago, but Michigan should once again cruise to an easy victory here.
Week 12 – Nov. 17 vs. Indiana (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Michigan enters 2018 on a 22-game winning streak against the Hoosiers dating back all the way to October 1987 (before I was even born). The last time Indiana actually won in Ann Arbor goes all the way back to 1967. Each of the last three years, though, the games have been very competitive with the average combined differential just nine points.
Week 13 – Nov. 24 at Ohio State (Columbus, Ohio)
As with each and every season, The Game could very well end up deciding who comes out on top in the Big Ten East Division to secure a spot in the conference title game in Indianapolis. The Buckeyes need to replace J.T. Barrett at quarterback, but this will once again be the most talented roster in the B1G and Ohio State enters 2018 as the prohibitive favorites.
— 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.