The good news for Michigan fans: You got the guy you wanted, Jim Harbaugh, as head coach. The bad news: Now he needs to lead a team that appears to be average at best in terms of talent against a schedule littered with programs on the rise.
That could make for a very long season.
If there is another potential silver lining to this season, it's the presence of Jake Rudock — the graduate transfer from Iowa who is likely to start at quarterback. He'll go under center with a good idea of what it takes to play and succeed in the Big Ten. His leadership and experience will be invaluable to a team going through a coaching change.
Here now are Michigan's 12 regular season games, ranked in according to degree of difficulty from easiest to most difficult.
12. Sept. 19 vs. UNLV
The Rebels are working in a new coach of their own, coming off a season in which they won only two games. It's going to take some time to turn it around, and an early-season trip to the Big House isn't going to help that process.
11. Sept. 12 vs. Oregon State
Forget the fact that they lost their head coach and the most productive quarterback in the program's history, the Beavers only won five games a season ago. Of those five wins, only two came against Power 5 opponents. Mike Riley hit the lottery when Nebraska called. This should be a nice confidence booster for Harbaugh's bunch.
10. Oct. 3 at Maryland
More bad news for Michigan fans: There isn't another "gimme" on the schedule, starting with Maryland. The Terps, as of right now, probably have similar talent as Michigan. Rudock is the wild card in this one. His play will decide whether or not Michigan wins its Big Ten opener.
9. Nov. 14 at Indiana
This will be one of a handful of games where the Wolverines won't have the better quarterback under center. That said, even as empty as the cupboard is, Michigan is more talented and should be the better-coached football team.
8. Oct 10 vs. Northwestern
This is another game where the two teams will have similar talent. The difference-maker in this one could end up being Northwestern's discipline and system continuity. I'm not sure how much a home-field advantage helps Michigan in this one.
7. Nov. 7 vs. Rutgers
Let's not forget that the Scarlet Knights have "scoreboard" on the Wolverines right now. Last year, Gary Nova threw for over 400 yards against the Michigan defense. Nova is gone, but the core of the 10 targets he completed passes to return, including Leonte Caroo, one of the conference's most talented wideouts.
6. Nov. 21 at Penn State
The kickoff time for this one is TBD as I write this. I'm guessing it will be a night game and a White Out. Beaver Stadium will be electric for Harbaugh's first visit as a coach to Happy Valley. It could be a long night for Michigan.
5. Sept. 26 vs. BYU
BYU is simply one of the toughest matchups in the nation — largely due to the dual-threat nature of quarterback Taysom Hill. Toss in a couple of the nation's better players on the Cougar defense and this looks like a tall order for the Wolverines.
4. Oct. 31 at Minnesota
Don't think for a minute that the Gophers and their fans don't want to hold on to the Little Brown Jug for another season. Minnesota is a team on the rise, with elite talent in key places to give Harbaugh's squad nightmares for four quarters.
3. Sept. 3 at Utah
Kyle Whittingham's Utes have their sights set on competing for a division title in their own conference. Regardless of the caliber of talent on Michigan's roster — it's still Michigan — and Utah would love to start off the season with a win at home over a name-brand program and coach. Harbaugh probably welcomes the challenge, but I can think of a lot better ways to start the season than a trip to Salt Lake City.
2. Oct. 17 vs. Michigan State
The Wolverine faithful can call themselves "big brother" all they want, but the fact remains that the Spartans have owned the state for quite some time now. I'm not expecting that to change in 2015, as Michigan State looks to be better than Michigan at every position on the field - and possibly one off of it.
1. Nov. 28 vs. Ohio State
Let's be honest: barring several catastrophic injuries to or suspensions of key Ohio State players, nobody expects this one to be close. The rivalry and emotions that come along with it might help keep this close for a quarter or so. After that, Michigan is simply not in Ohio State's class right now.