Michigan football fans have to be riding high right now.
In new head coach Brady Hoke's first season in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines went 11-2, beat archrival Ohio State for the first time since 2003 and capped off the year with a 23-20 overtime win over the Virginia Tech Hokies in the All State Sugar Bowl.
But before fans of the Maize and Blue start believing they will be singing "Hail to the Victors" at the BCS National Championship Game anytime soon, I have a bit of bad news for you:
Last season was an anomaly.
The schedule was a joke.
Going 11-2 and winning a BCS bowl game is a great accomplishment, but even the most loyal Michigan fan has to know that the main reason the record was "inflated" was due to the strength of schedule. Or lack thereof.
Even though the Wolverines might have more overall talent in 2012 than they did in 2011, not only will they fail to reach a second straight BCS game, they will also fail to win the Legends Division in the Big Ten.
In 2011, the toughest road game for Brady Hoke and company was their trip to East Lansing to face the in-state rival Michigan State Spartans, a game the Wolverines lost 28-14. Other than that, Michigan had to travel to Northwestern, Iowa (lost 24-16) and Illinois. Those three teams combined had a record of 9-15 in conference games.
The home schedule was much tougher either, with the Nebraska Cornhuskers being the only ranked team outside of the Spartans, and they had the luxury of missing the Wisconsin Badgers and the Penn State Nittany Lions all together.
While the team does skip Wisconsin and Penn State again in 2012, they have to open the season at Cowboys Stadium against the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide. After that, the Wolverines get two probable wins at home when they face the Air Force Academy and the University of Massachusetts in the Big House.
Michigan does have the luxury of playing Michigan State at home—along with Iowa, Illinois and Northwestern—as the road games are brutal.
The team has to travel to South Bend and West Lafayette in consecutive weeks to face the revenge-minded Irish and dark horse Leaders foe Purdue. They have to go to Lincoln, Nebraska to play the Huskers, and they finish the regular season against Urban Meyer and archrival Ohio State.
I see no reason why Michigan shouldn't go undefeated at home, but the only "gimme" on the road is at Minnesota.
While the Wolverines might have a better team (they return 16 starters from last season's team), finishing the season 8-4 should be a realistic goal in Ann Arbor in 2012.