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Posted on Fri, May 11, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Michigan football team could face historically difficult road schedule next season

By Kyle Meinke

Alabama is ranked No. 3 in's preseason college football poll. Notre Dame is No. 24. Nebraska is 17th, and Ohio State 20th.

And what, exactly, do they have to do with Michigan?

The Wolverines face each -- on the road.

Michigan's offseason focus has been, and will continue to be, its blockbuster opener against the Crimson Tide in Dallas. It perhaps is the Wolverines' most-anticipated opener since 1989, the last time they began a season against a defending national champion (Notre Dame).

But the schedule doesn't let up from there.


A look at the road schedules for Big Ten teams (rankings from preseason poll; AP and coaches polls have yet to be released):

Road games: Five.
Ranked teams: Wisconsin (16th), Michigan (10th), Ohio State (20th).
Unranked teams: Arizona State, Northwestern.

Road games: Six.
Ranked teams: None.
Unranked teams: UMass, Northwestern, Navy, Illinois, Penn State, Purdue.

Road games: Five.
Ranked teams: Michigan State (12th), Michigan (10th), Nebraska (17th).
Unranked teams: Northwestern, Indiana.

Road games: Six.
Ranked teams: Alabama (3rd), Notre Dame (24th), Nebraska (17th), Ohio State (20th).
Unranked teams: Purdue, Minnesota.

Michigan State
Road games: Five.
Ranked teams: Michigan (12th), Wisconsin (16th).
Unranked teams: Central Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota.

Road games: Five.
Ranked teams: Wisconsin (16th), Nebraska (17th).
Unranked teams: UNLV, Iowa, Illinois.

Road games: Five.
Ranked teams: Ohio State (20th), Michigan State (12th).
Unranked teams: UCLA, Northwestern, Iowa.

Road games: Five.
Ranked teams: Michigan (10th), Michigan State (12th).
Unranked teams: Syracuse, Penn State, Minnesota.

Ohio State
Road games: Four.
Ranked teams: Michigan State (12th), Wisconsin (16th).
Unranked teams: Indiana, Penn State.

Penn State
Road games: Five.
Ranked teams: Nebraska (17th).
Unranked teams: Virginia, Illinois, Iowa, Purdue.

Road games: Five.
Ranked teams: Notre Dame (24th), Ohio State (20th).
Unranked teams: Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois.

Road games: Five.
Ranked teams: Nebraska (17th).
Unranked teams: Oregon State, Purdue, Indiana, Penn State.

Michigan features six games away from home next season, which ties Indiana for the most in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers, though, don't face a single team ranked in that ESPN poll on the road.

Michigan faces four.

The last time the Wolverines traveled four times to face teams ranked in The Associated Press poll during the regular season was 2003. The only other time it happened was in 2000.

And how did Michigan fare against those gauntlets? It went 4-4 in the eight road games against ranked teams, and 14-1 the remainder of those two seasons.

Two great teams, cut down on the road. Can next year's team avert the same fate?

It's possible -- in fact, likely -- Michigan will be a better team next year with a worse record than last year, because of its schedule. There is a silver lining, though, and it's two-fold.

First, the Wolverines will be relevant nationally throughout the season, with so many big-time games, most of which are slated for national TV. That helps with recruiting, exposure, etc.

Second, the big-time road lineup means much of it will be played in prime time, where Michigan fared well last year.

So far, each of the three announced road start times are late. Add in the expected night kickoff against Alabama, and Michigan will open its road schedule with at least four consecutive late games.

Three of the four -- against Alabama (in Dallas), Notre Dame and Nebraska -- are true night games, which could play into the Wolverines' favor. They went 3-0 at night last year, and won each game dramatically.

Two of them were away from Ann Arbor, too, after they staged a second-half comeback at Northwestern and prevailed in overtime against Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.

Coach Brady Hoke has spoken frequently of his disdain for night games, because players have to find a way to remain focused throughout the day without peaking too early. Yet, he's also been successful in them.

He said he devised his game plan for night-game preparation while at San Diego State, which plays on the West Coast and often deals with late starts.

Michigan safety Jordan Kovacs said Hoke's template for night games is simple: A regimented schedule to remain focused, with regular breaks to stay relaxed.

"He's kind of anal about (the pregame routine)," Kovacs said of Hoke. "We're always going through a walk-through at this time, we're eating at this time, talking at this time. He likes to keep it at that pace. It will shift depending on what time the game's at.

"The longest break you'll have is 45 minutes, then you go back to the room and watch football and try to take a nap and find something to kill the time. My biggest thing is I try to take my mind off football, forget about the game, watch some TV and relax. Then go through walk-throughs and you can start thinking about the game."

That process will be put to the test early and often next season, and could be the determining factor in whether Michigan can match last year's 11-win campaign while facing perhaps the most difficult schedule in the country.

"You come to Michigan to play on national TV," Kovacs said. "It's exciting that everybody's going to be watching."

A look at Michigan's full schedule, with announced kickoff times:

Sept. 1 Alabama (Dallas)
Sept. 8 Air Force
Sept. 15 UMass
Sept. 22 at Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 6 at Purdue, 4 p.m.
Oct. 13 Illinois, 3:30 p.m.
Oct. 20 Michigan State
Oct. 27 at Nebraska, 8 p.m.
Nov. 3 at Minnesota
Nov. 10 Northwestern
Nov. 17 Iowa
Nov. 24 at Ohio State

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Sat, May 12, 2012 : 2:54 p.m.

10-2 and a BCS game would be another very good season. I can see us in the rose bowl this year. Losses at Alabama and at Ohio State. But still a good season.


Sun, May 13, 2012 : 10:21 a.m.

boo, did I miss something ? I thought the season starts next September.


Sat, May 12, 2012 : 5:09 a.m.

Considering how much is charged for game tickets and reserving seats, season ticket holders deserve attending eight home games each year. Since Michigan Stadium seats more than any other stadium in the country the Michigan football program will generate the most revenue by having as many home games as is possible. Visiting teams will also be financially rewarded by receiving the most money for an away game visit than they will receive anywhere else. For some mid-level teams the money that is taken home after a game at Michigan may exceed all other income from remaining games, important for many teams with tight budgets.


Sat, May 12, 2012 : 1:27 a.m.

On game days I'll fly my Mich. flag and have my barbecu's and drink some beer and cheer on my Wolves just like I have for 50 yrs. This is about the Michigan Wolverines, the greatest tradition of winning and the best fans in college football bar none. Our coach is a winner and he is an emotionally solid coach (teacher) and good family man, what more can you ask for well, one little thing, our coach brought on board two of the best assist. coaches in college ball, there you have it.

Robert Granville

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 9:15 p.m.

Interesting Fact: The Michigan Football program has the #1 all-time strength of schedule ranking in college football. Seasons like next year are how we keep it that way.

Robert Granville

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 9:16 p.m.


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 8:02 p.m.

This is a tough schedule but not impossible. This is the type of schedule that could lead to a NC game birth. This year we'll find out what we really have in coaches. Sorry guys, but last years 11-2 record was not a true barometer of how well the coaches outside GM performed. The wins over ND, OSU and VT were very fortunate, UM cannot play the same football this year as they did last year and be successful, not with this schedule. Easy girls, don't get defensive, I'm not picking on your boy friend, just being an honest fan.


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 8:12 p.m.

1st post ever here... been an avid follower for years though. Tally, got to totally agree on last years schedule not being a true barometer. That said, as a fan, have to say(not to be a RR hater), if it weren't for Hoke, would we even be discussing a possibility of a winning season next year? Could we imagine the slaughter at the hands of Alabama, Nebraska, that team in Ohio, or MSU? Notre Dame MAYBE would be a win, as somehow RR managed to pull off wins with even the horrible defense he fielded(though, we all remember Weis' gift defensive calls at the end of the game that led to that win). I can't believe we are already back to hoping so soon! I was so depressed for 3 years, I can hardly contain the enthusiasm now. Even with losses, I feel we are becoming true competitors again. Not to mention the pride the players feel again... it is tangible enough to see it. Go Blue!

Terry Star21

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 6:37 p.m.

There is no doubt Michigan is both the winningest team and the most popular watched college football team. This is why it remains imperative that Michigan schedule the best teams, play the best schedules at a variety of venues. My only negative is, as we all know notre dame, michigan state, nebraska and ohio will not be ranked (again) when Michigan actually plays them - unfortunate but true. That being said, I am proud to be a Michigan Football Faithful, joining the voices of all America - and what an absolutely great time to be so ! MgoBlueForTiM...Michigan's the Team and Here's the Threat..


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 8:11 a.m.

Zeeba- I dont think last season was enough to say UM is back. I do think they surpassed just about all expectations and had a great year considering they have a new staff. Every fan says the same thing.."UM got lucky" and "UM played 8 home games". Forcing and recovering fumbles is a trademark of a good defense, not a lucky one. While UM did play 8 home games, most teams played 7. Big deal. UM will be an improved team next year, despite having a worse record. UM has as good a chance to win the B1G as anyone this year. And btw, VaTech isn't a Big east school.


Sun, May 13, 2012 : 10:27 a.m.

zeeba, if you are not a Mich. fan why do you waste your time on our site could it be you are intrigued by this proud and tradition filled school and it's great fan base, it sounds like it. I wouldn't waste a minute of my life on another schools site. Zeeba, you must have a lot of spare time, bless you.


Sat, May 12, 2012 : 12:08 a.m.

RJ - and you must be part of that crowd claiming that last year's U-M record was a mark of excellence, and not the result of a *very* favorable schedule and some extremely lucky breaks. You guys didn't even play Wisconsin, and lost 2 of your only 4 road games. Add in 20 fumbles that fell into your laps and a ND game you should have lost by 3 touchdowns, and last year was the very definition of dumb luck. Not to mention the travesty of drawing a Big East opponent in a supposed "BCS" bowl - if we still had truth in advertising, they would have dropped the "C". Don't look for those kinds of breaks this time around.


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 9:30 p.m.

Every non UM fan says the same thing zeeba. I bet you were also a part of the crowd saying they were going to struggle last year too.


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 7:46 p.m.

I would wager that Michigan will lose three of those four games, and Bama as well. Michigan will continue to do well against teams that poorly defend the run, but will struggle when it has to rely on Denard's arm. The loss of three starters on the D-line will be a serious handicap against strong running teams. WIth a much tougher road schedule coming up, I just don't think this is your year.


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 6:55 p.m.

I dont know about that... I would hope your just joking that MSU, OSU, and NEB will all be unranked when UM plays them. If that were true, then that means the B1G is terrible. Either way, that will not be the case. I would bet NEB and MSU will be ranked. OSU could be as well, depending on how fast they can get things going under the new system. ND is ND... so who knows. They may be ranked due to them being overrated as usual.

sid haque

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 5:43 p.m.

Historically Michigan ALWAYS had one the toughest schedule if next year schedule happens to be one toughest so be it.Want to be the best then must play and beat the best .That's one reason why am losing appetite for college football bc every one scheduling weak sisters so they can qualify for post season bowl game.We should ALWAYS have the toughest schedule what ever the outcome and accept it with pride.GO BLUE.


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 4:13 p.m.

I say they go 9-4 this season. Anyone want to bet say, lunch at Zola!? HAHAHA


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 8:06 p.m.

I'd say 8-4 regular season, with a coin flip in the bowls, depending on who their opponent is.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 6:48 p.m.

I'd say 94 is a reasonable "quesstimate."


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 4:09 p.m.

I will make no predictions this early. Like many others, I think Hoke's Team 133 will do very well just based on Hoke's first year. But everyone sees that this schedule is not like last year's and I see others wisely putting the game vs 'Bama in the "To Be Determined" category. The most positive thing I can say this early is that the Wolverines were called a "good but not great" team starting the 1997 season. Then they took #5 Colorado down early and from there, it became a different picture as Michigan handled a tough schedule relentlessly toppling top rated teams. Even as late as November, predictions were that Michigan would lose to Penn State. That game went 38-8 for Michigan. And remember: Brady Hoke was coaching at Michigan that year. :-)


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 3:20 p.m.

Bama is the key match up. If Michigan miraculously pulls that one out - the season should be quiteinteresting. With a loss against the Crimson Tide, the Wolverines national reputation will take a serious beating. The road schedule appears to be brutal. I predict Michigan will somehow finish with a #3 ranking once the Bowl games have ended. Al Borges and Greg Mattison will coach beyond the possible. Brady Hoke will continue his winning ways as a head coach and finish 12-1. #16 Denard Robinson will play more at receiver thus giving the other QB's more time to develop their leadership skills. Go Blue!


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 6:51 p.m.

UM wont be 12-1 and Denard will play QB all year except for a handful of plays. Getting to 10 wins is going to be a challenge, but if they play well they can do it.

Robert Granville

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 4:59 p.m.

A loss to Alabama will do absolutely nothing to tarnish Michigan's national reputation. They're the national champions.... everyone is an underdog to them!

Chad Williams

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

Though i dont like the bama game i feel Michigan is scared to lose twice. If they were to schedule a home and home series like penn state did that would give them 7 home gamhes instead of 6. Then next year you will still play bama on the rod and have 7u games at home. That being said i thought 10-2 was fair last year witg 8 home games so i think 9-3 and can still possibly play in the B1G champ game is possible. Bama is a loss im prepared for and a road game at osu as well. The fact this team was under rated and the comp was ovet rated last year. Now hoke has to show me he can pull off back to back 10in win seasons which he has never done in fact this is when he gets a new job where expectations are back to 0. Now he has expectations that are at his highest as a head coach. His recruiting has been good but if it doesnt equal to even conference titles it neans nothing.

Terry Star21

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 6:26 p.m.

Chad, this is funny stuff.....your good. The SEC is a joke, also very funny.


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 5:35 p.m.

@Mr. Granville. Oh please, let's talk facts shall we; if you want to compare conference schedules: Mich didn't play a ranked team last year til Week 7 (didn't play an away game til week 6). First game against a ranked team for the rest of Big 10: Wisconsin -5, PennSt - 2, Purdue -7, OhioSt - 6, IL - 3, IN - 6, MichSt - 6, NB-5, Iowa-9, Northwestern -4, MN - 1. First game against a ranked team for SEC: AL- 2, LSU - 1, AK - 4, Auburn - 2, MS St. - 3, MS - 6, GA -1, SC - 9, FL -5, Vandy - 4, KY -4, TN -3. Oh and let's not forget, Michigan doesn't play (in a Big 10 stadium) at night, in the rain, or after Thanksgiving...

Robert Granville

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 4:58 p.m.

Scared to lose twice? No. How about you try to convince an SEC power to travel all the way up north for a road game against an actual contender in the first 3 games of the season. Not gonna happen... just like they're not going to allow playoff semifinals in big ten stadiums in december.

Robert Granville

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 2:38 p.m.

The outcome of this season depends upon one factor more than any other: Injury. If several key players can stay healthy, the future is relentlessly bright. If we lose guys in the trenches to injury, we could fall into a tailspin. Most fans don't realize it, but Denard and Fitz aren't the most valuable guys on the field.


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 2:04 p.m.

This is the type of schedule which all Michigan fans and alumni should embrace and love. To be the best, you have to beat (and therefore play) the best. Is it risky? Of course. But with risk comes a lot of reward and growth. You know a whole lot more about a team that has been challenged than a team which, say, beats Delaware State 65-3. This is the type of scheduling which more college teams must embrace and do (and only a few do--such as USC, Oregon to a degree, and Boise State if teams would play them--like MSU is doing).

Terry Star21

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 6:18 p.m.

I agree, Michigan needs to play the best, and I like the direction Brandon is going in scheduling....


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 5:40 p.m.

Well said! It is competition like this that will make Michigan a national contender once again.


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.

I agree with you ... a schedule full of non-conference cupcakes doesn't really serve anyone that well. I know the visiting team loves it -- there's a big payday in coming to Michigan Stadium -- and I know it's fun to watch Michigan roll up 60+ points on someone. But it doesn't prepare Michigan for the tougher games. Your reference to Boise State is spot on.


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.

Say what you want, but it will be interesting! If Michigan splits their night road gauntlet, and beats msu, they should play in the big ten title game. If they win that, it's back to the BCS and another big time coaching job from the staff. This whole thing hinges on the d line, can they be at least "serviceable"?

Robert Granville

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

Oh, they'll be much better than serviceable. The question is can they handle Alabama's NFL quality O-line. After that challenge, the rest is all downhill. We don't play Wisconsin. The Big Ten O-lines outside of Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio don't really worry me.


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 1:32 p.m.

Well I guess it makes up for padding their schedule and having 8 home games last year.


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 1:24 p.m.

Michigan is the only team in the Big 10 this year who has the potential to be a top 10 team. The rest will be lucky to crack the top 25. With their program and tradition, Michigan should play an Alabama or any other top 10 team every year. None of this playing non-confernece cupcakes at home to pad the overall record.


Sat, May 12, 2012 : 1:15 a.m.

gene - first, the discussion on this thread is about U-M's prospects, not MSU's. On that score, Robinson is simply not an elite quarterback. He may have been if he was still in a spread offense, but he can't cut it pro-style. Every year we hear the big buildup about Denard as a Heisman prospect and the balloon deflates as soon as he encounters teams that can defend the run. Very few mediocre passers become accomplished ones in their senior year. Since you did mention State, I'll point out that Maxwell has three years of apprenticeship in the MSU system, has greater physical skills than Cousins had and is regarded as much further along than Cousins was at this point in his career. College QBs with that type of setup typically do quite well - first-year starting QBs often excel in college, unlike in the NFL. Also, don't forget that last year, MSU was playing and winning with a patched-together O-line, which will be a veteran unit this year. I would be very surprised if they do not win their division this year and think they have to be favored to win the conference as well.


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 11:09 p.m.

Zeeba, I am a State fan by default (marriage), but I am also a realist. MSU lost a three year starter at QB and have no one with meaningful game experience to replace him. Denard Robinson is the premier QB in the Big 10 this year and if Michigan can beat Alabama, there is a good chance they can run the table and go unbeaten this season. There are always teams that surprise us once the season starts but I do not see one of those in ther Big 10.

Terry Star21

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 6:11 p.m.

Yep, I love how all these outsiders rave about Michigan 'being lucky to win...', then they change their tune each week during the season and have completely disappeared by bowl MICHIGAN - 'Here's the Threat' !

Blue Marker

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 4:16 p.m.

zeeba, you'd have probably said the same thing before last season. On paper you may be right but let's wait and see how the games turn out, shall we.


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 2:35 p.m.

What a joke. Michigan will be lucky to finish in the top 20, while a top 5 ranking for State is a realistic possibility. Nebraska will likely rank ahead of Michigan as well, while others may be in the mix. Michigan's problem is that it's got too many players to replace in the trenches and it still has Shoestring under center. They guy can't pass to save his life, he's lost the main receiver who could go after his jump balls and teams have learned they just have to bottle him up and force him to pass. Given the difficulty of the road schedule, 4-5 losses is probable for Blue.

Robert Granville

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 2:26 p.m.



Fri, May 11, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

i agree, but let's not play at souless NFL stadiums, please. what's wrong with a home-and-home?


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 12:49 p.m.

It seems Michigan is ranked higher than three of the four. That makes their schedule difficult because...?

Robert Granville

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.

I just said the exact opposite of what I meant. "Screw you guys.... I'm going home."

Robert Granville

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 2:14 p.m.

This is facepalm-worthy. Playing against top-25 competition is easier than playing against unranked teams, as long as the rankings are decently accurate. Playing top 25 competition away from home is even harder. Obvious point is obvious.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 1:45 p.m.

theoretically because right now months away the other teams are also ranked.


Fri, May 11, 2012 : 12:31 p.m.

And this year's home schedule has the marquee game of...MSU. thanks for sending us to jerry world, DB. I'm sure the season ticket holders feel they're getting their money's worth this year. at least they better, with the nonstop fee hikes.

Scott Laux

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 12:09 p.m.

it was good fortune to have last years schedule in Hoke's first year. If Michigan beats Alabama- be prepared for a "Remember the Titans" type season.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 10:33 a.m.

The only ranked team Michigan will face for sure is Alabama. Ranking is only relevant the week you play. If Notre Dame is 1-3 by the time we play them they won't be ranked. The toughness of your schedule is determined as the season unfolds. To a large extent it is a hind site thing.

Robert Granville

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.

Try to find a team with 4 road games vs unranked opponents that you think would be comparable in difficulty to Michigan's 4 road games against pre-season ranked opponents. When you fail, you'll have discovered the value of preseason rankings. They aren't worthless... they're just not infallible.

Blue Marker

Fri, May 11, 2012 : 11:16 a.m.

Your point is valid. However, we know enough about all of these teams to know they'll be tough to win, ranked or not.