Predicting the Michigan Wolverines 2018 Season, Game-by-Game

Predicting the Michigan Wolverines 2018 Season, Game-by-Game

Football

Predicting the Michigan Wolverines 2018 Season, Game-by-Game

No. 14 Michigan notoriously has one of the nation’s toughest schedules, playing five teams ranked in the top 12 in 2018, with three of those games taking place on the road.

However, the Wolverines should still have an elite defense and a revamped offense that could, so long as the key positions stay healthy, be vastly different and better than it has been in Jim Harbaugh’s three-year tenure in Ann Arbor.

With the health caveat obviously being a major factor, here’s WolverinesWire’s game-by-game predictions for the 2018 season.

WEEK ONE: Notre Dame (away) – September 1 @ 7:30PM

Series record: 24-17-1

Last meeting: Notre Dame 31-0 (2014)

2017 ND record: 10-3

Setup: The last time these two rivals met was set to be the last in the storied series, with Fighting Irish AD Jack Swarbrick canceling the series before the game. The series is back on, at least for two games, and Michigan will seek to avenge its embarrassing loss the last time the two foes faced off at Notre Dame Stadium.

Prediction: A bad matchup for Notre Dame given the departure of its two former All-Americans on the offensive line, its starting running back from a year ago and the wideouts, to boot.

The front seven should be formidable, but with Michigan unleashing a “tweaked” offense, the Wolverines should be better in at least two of the three phases against the Fighting Irish, with special teams being the biggest question mark

Michigan 27 – Notre Dame 10

WEEK TWO: Western Michigan (home opener) – September 8 @ Noon

Series record: 6-0-0

Last meeting: Michigan 34-10 (2011)

2017 WMU record: 6-6

Setup: The last time the Broncos came to Michigan Stadium was in 2011, and the Wolverines rolled. WMU reached new heights under now-Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck, but struggled a year after it reached a New Year’s Six bowl. Michigan could see a familiar face in wide receiver Drake Harris, who transferred to the Kalamazoo school this offseason.

Prediction: Michigan has never lost to a directional school in its own state, and it won’t start now. The air in Ann Arbor isn’t quite what it’s been in the lead-up to the season, but fans will take an unspectacular game with another checkmark in the W column.

Michigan 48 – Western Michigan 3

WEEK THREE: SMU (home) – September 15 @ 3:30PM

Series record: 1-0-0

Last meeting: Michigan 27-16 (1963)

2017 SMU record: 7-6

Setup: These two teams have faced once before, in 1963, before SMU faced the NCAA’s only death penalty, while Bo Schembechler was coaching the maize and blue. It’s the final non-conference game for the Wolverines in 2018.

Prediction: The Mustangs in year two of the Sonny Dykes era should have a formidable offense, but they’re not on par with Michigan’s defense. Think UCF in 2016.

Michigan 42 – SMU 10

WEEK FOUR: Nebraska (home – Big Ten opener) – September 22 (TBA)

Series record: 4-4-1

Last meeting: Nebraska 17-13 (2013)

2017 NU record: 4-8

Setup: Nebraska and Michigan last faced each other in November 2013 in a winnable game for the Wolverines squandered away. Since, Nebraska fired the successful Bo Pelini in favor of Mike Riley, and the Cornhuskers haven’t been the same since. New head coach Scott Frost returns to The Big House two years after his UCF Golden Knights got trounced by the maize and blue, but one year after he led them to an undefeated season. Can Frost return Nebraska to glory in short order? We’ll see.

Prediction: The Huskers will have a similar resurgence to Michigan’s in 2015, but playing against a confident Michigan team with an elite defense at The Big House doesn’t bode well for a team on the rebuild.

Michigan 35 – Nebraska 13

WEEK FIVE: Northwestern (away) – September 29 (TBA)

Series record: 57-15-2

Last meeting: Michigan 38-0 (2015)

2017 NU record: 10-3

Setup: Last time Northwestern and Michigan played, both teams were ranked, but the Wolverines took the opening kickoff to the house and never looked back. Ryan Field should be a friendly Michigan audience, but the Wildcats seem to be a team on the rise.

Prediction: We have Northwestern taking its semi-annual, inexplicable step back (which alternates with its semi-annual, inexplicable great season) this year, and Michigan takes it to the Wildcats on the road.

Michigan 28 – Northwestern 10

WEEK SIX: Maryland (homecoming) – October 6 (TBA)

Series record: 6-1-0

Last meeting: Michigan 35-10 (2017)

2017 UM record: 4-8

Setup: Coached by former Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, the Terrapins were a trendy pick to do big things in 2017. After defeating Texas in the season opener, Maryland lost quarterback after quarterback to injury, and redshirt freshman QB Brandon Peters rolled in just his second start for the Wolverines. Will Maryland rebound with healthy personnel when it returns to The Big House?

Prediction: Last year, Maryland was plagued by significant injuries at the quarterback position. This year, it’s uncertainty at the head coaching position that does the Terrapins in. Michigan rolls.

Michigan 38 – Maryland 3

WEEK SEVEN: Wisconsin (home) – October 13 (TBA)

Series record: 50-15-1

Last meeting: Wisconsin 24-10 (2017)

2017 UW record: 13-1

Setup: When these two Big Ten foes face off, it’s heavyweight warfare in the trenches. Michigan won a top-ten matchup in dramatic fashion in 2016, but lost on the road last season when quarterback Brandon Peters was knocked out of the game with a concussion. As the reigning Big Ten West champion, the Badgers will be a formidable matchup.

Prediction: With Jonathan Taylor and Alex Hornibrook returning on offense, and a solid offensive line, as well as defense, the Badgers offensive attack is perhaps enough to get by the Wolverines, in one of the biggest games of the college football season. Despite a big-time ranked matchup, Michigan is looking ahead to the in-state rivalry game it wants more, and loses grip against an experienced Wisconsin team.

Michigan 20 – Wisconsin 21

WEEK EIGHT: Michigan State (away) – October 20 (TBA)

Series record: 69-36-5

Last meeting: Michigan State 14-10 (2017)

2017 MSU record: 10-3

Setup: The Spartans hate the Wolverines more than vice versa, and they always come to play, usually emptying their arsenal in the process. Michigan had a winnable game at home against MSU, but failed to make plays offensively down the stretch. The last time both teams faced each other at Spartan Stadium, Michigan rolled, but head coach Mark Dantonio has an 8-3 record over the Wolverines.

Prediction: These two rivals should be remarkably even in just about every way, as both will be driven by their defenses and have offenses that aren’t quite as good as their counterparts. However, this is the year where Michigan’s talent wins out, and continue the trend where the rival team wins in the other’s home stadium.

Michigan 23 – MSU 17

WEEK TEN: Penn State (home) – November 3 (TBA)

Series record: 13-8-0

Last meeting: Penn State 42-13 (2017)

2017 PSU record: 11-2

Setup: Last time the two faced off at Michigan Stadium, the Wolverines absolutely trounced the Nittany Lions, but Penn State returned the favor in a white out last year. Gone is phenom running back Saquon Barkley, but quarterback Trace McSorley returns under center in what could be a big late-season matchup.

Prediction: Despite McSorley returning, Penn State should take a step back with Barkley’s departure — and even more importantly — former offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead leaving for the Mississippi State job. But, unlike the previous two years, this isn’t a rout.

Michigan 24 – Penn State 20

WEEK ELEVEN: Rutgers (away) – November 10 (TBA)

Series record: 3-1-0

Last meeting: Michigan 35-14 (2017)

2017 RU record: 4-8

Setup: Rutgers saw a modicum of improvement under head coach Chris Ash, and rebounded from 2016’s embarrassing 77-0 loss at the hands of the Wolverines. Michigan returns to Piscataway looking to continue its three game winning streak in the series.

Prediction: Rutgers continues to improve, and that will be apparent in this matchup. But Michigan is far too talented, and wins handily.

Michigan 42 – Rutgers 14

WEEK TWELVE: Indiana (home) – November 17 (TBA)

Series record: 57-9-0

Last meeting: Michigan 27-20 OT (2017)

2017 IU record: 5-7

Setup: Indiana took Michigan to the brink in 2017 under new head coach Tom Allen, with the Wolverines requiring OT to walk away with a victory. These two teams always play each other tough, but Michigan hasn’t lost to the Hoosiers since 1987.

Prediction: This game is always a scare for Michigan, and though the Wolverines are rolling, it’s no different than in past year. The next week looms large, and the maize and blue will have to regain focus in a hurry on Senior Day as to not suffer 2016’s fate.

Michigan 20 – Indiana 17

WEEK THIRTEEN: Ohio State (away) – November 24 @ Noon

Series record: 58-50-6

Last meeting: Ohio State 31-20 (2017)

2017 OSU record: 12-2

Setup: The Buckeyes have had unprecedented success against the Wolverines in The Game, having won all but one matchup going back to 2004. The last time Michigan went to Columbus, the maize and blue nearly came out with a victory, but after a controversially called Ohio State first down in overtime, the Buckeyes sent U-M home with yet another loss.

Prediction: Ohio State is still the more talented team across the board, and the offseason woes should be in the rearview mirror by the time The Game rolls around. But, in the past two years, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has outcoached Urban Meyer & Co., but haven’t had the personnel to take advantage.

After the debacle in 2016 — where there was not only “the spot” but a questionable pass interference call late in the 4th quarter that kept the Buckeyes alive — Michigan clamps down and wins for the first time since 2011 (and in Columbus for the first time since 2000).

Michigan 24 – Ohio State 14

Big Ten Championship game

By virtue of having played (and lost) to Wisconsin during the regular season, the Michigan defense clamps down on the Badgers, and wins a tight game in Indianapolis.

Michigan 17 – Wisconsin 14

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