Michigan Football: Breaking Down Michigan's 2012 Schedule

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent IMarch 9, 2012

In 2011, Brady Hoke led the Michigan Wolverines to their best season since 2006 with a record of 11-2 and a No. 12 final ranking in the AP poll.

With many of Michigan's key players on both sides of the ball returning, the issue will not be with the talent of the Wolverines, but more how they react to the schedule with which they are faced.

So which three games should get the most attention from the Michigan staff?

Of course, every game is important, as if you want to have a shot at the national championship, you need to beat every team. However, three games are key for the Wolverines in 2012. They are their matchups against Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State.

The first game that warrants intense focus is their game at Notre Dame. Although Michigan beat Notre Dame last season, they did so with much trepidation. It was only the second game of the season, but the Wolverines struggled to stop the Irish offense on their own field.

In 2012, the Michigan offense should be able to better their 35-point performance against the Irish since their offense remains generally intact, and the Irish defense will be looking for lots of replacements. I pick Michigan to win 42-24.

The next game that the Wolverines need to concentrate a lot of effort on is their date with Michigan State. Michigan lost an absolutely embarrassing game on the road to the Spartans in 2011. MSU held the high-flying Wolverine offense to only 14 points.

This year's game will be played in Ann Arbor, which gives Michigan a better chance of taking it. However, there are more reasons besides location as to why Michigan should win this contest. Michigan State's offense shouldn't be able to score four touchdowns on the Wolverine defense this time around. I pick Michigan to win 24-20 and take the Paul Bunyan Trophy.

Finally, the final matchup of the 2012 season for the Wolverines will be against the Ohio State Buckeyes. There's no need to say how important this rivalry game is, but it is worth noting that since it will be the final game of the season, it may be a game in which Michigan needs a win to clinch a spot in the Big Ten Championship.

Last year's game was an entertaining shootout, with Michigan winning 40-34. This year, the game will be played at the Horseshoe, but I still see the Wolverines coming out on top. In a lower-scoring game, I have Michigan winning 27-21.

If Michigan can win these three games, they have a considerable chance at competing for a national championship. Of course, every game is a big game and you need to win them all to really have a shot at a championship, but these three wins would go a long way to help the goals of the Wolverines football team.

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