There’s been a lot of talk about Michigan’s 2017 schedule. Some people think Michigan blew a prime opportunity to go undefeated and make the playoff in 2016 because of an easy schedule, and now they’ll have a tougher go of it in 2017. Here I’ll take a glance at what’s coming this fall with the teams’ 2016 win-loss records in parentheses:
September 2 vs. Florida (9-4) in Arlington, TX: Florida has won the SEC East two years in a row under Jim McElwain. The offense still hasn’t been productive, but they play good defense. Michigan beat them 41-7 in the bowl game after the 2015 season. Early guess? WIN.
September 9 vs. Cincinnati (4-8): Tommy Tuberville is being replaced by former Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell. Cincinnati has had some solid teams over the years, but it will be tough for them to top Michigan, especially in Fickell’s first year. Early guess? WIN.
September 16 vs. Air Force (10-3): Air Force is always tough and almost pulled off an upset at Michigan Stadium a few years ago, but that 10-3 record was against zero ranked teams. The last time they beat a ranked team was Boise State in early 2014. Early guess? WIN.
September 23 at Purdue (3-9): Purdue hired Western Kentucky head coach Jeff Brohm, who has run some high-powered offenses. Still, it’s an uphill climb to beat Michigan when the Boilermakers got blown out by the two top-10 teams they faced in 2016 (111-44 total against Penn State and Wisconsin). Early guess? WIN.
October 7 vs. Michigan State (3-9): Michigan State will be breaking in a new quarterback. They took a major step back in 2016, and they lose some of their best underclassmen in Montae Nicholson and Malik McDowell. I do think Mark Dantonio is a good coach, but I don’t think 2017 will be another banner year. Early guess? WIN.
October 14 at Indiana (6-7): Another team breaking in a new coach, Kevin Wilson was fired for mistreatment of his players. Good coaches or not, Indiana always struggles to beat Michigan. Early guess? WIN.
October 21 at Penn State (10-3): Penn State just played a great Rose Bowl against USC and they’re developing an explosive offense. They also return almost all of their young talent at the skill positions. Maybe James Franklin has finally hit his stride in Happy Valley. Early guess? LOSS.
October 28 vs. Rutgers (2-10): Michigan beat them 78-0 this past year. Early guess? WIN.
November 4 vs. Minnesota (9-4): The Golden Gophers will be on their third coach in three years now that Tracy Claeys has been fired. Going back to 2008, Minnesota is 0-33 against teams who ended the season ranked in the polls. If Michigan is 7-1 in November, they’ll definitely be ranked. Minnesota will also have to break in a new QB. Early guess? WIN.
November 11 at Maryland (6-7): I like the direction Maryland is going under D.J. Durkin, and they’re bringing in some high-quality talent. But that talent will still be very young in 2017. Michigan beat them 59-3 this past season, and I don’t think they’ll be able to make up that differential in just one year. Early guess? WIN.
November 18 at Wisconsin (11-3): This game will be at Wisconsin, which makes things more difficult. The two teams played a close 14-7 win for Michigan this past year. The Badgers are losing some key players (Vince Biegel, T.J. Watt, Corey Clement, Dare Ogunbowale, etc.), but they should still be tough. Early guess? LOSS.
November 25 vs. Ohio State (11-2): The Buckeyes will be bring a lot of guys back next year, and even though co-offensive coordinator Tim Beck has been hired by Texas, they won’t skip a beat. In fact, it sounds like former Indiana coach and Oklahoma offensive coordinator might be his replacement in Columbus. I don’t think Michigan will make up any ground, especially because Michigan loses a lot and OSU loses relatively little. Early guess? LOSS.
So there you have it. I see Michigan having a 9-3 season next year with losses to some of the prime suspects. Florida will also be a tough game, and teams like Air Force and Michigan State linger, as well. The Wolverines need some offensive players to mature and some young defensive players to take a step forward if they want to win, but I don’t see them winning their division next year, let alone the conference.