Michigan Football: Ranking Toughest Games on 2013 Schedule

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistMay 23, 2013

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 1:  Quarterback Devin Gardner #12 of the Michigan Wolverines passes in the fourth quarter against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Outback Bowl January 1, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  South Carolina won 33 - 28. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Michigan will look to get back to a BCS bowl next season, but there are a bunch of tough opponents who stand in the team's way.

The Wolverines certainly have a lot of promise in 2013. A full year with Devin Gardner at quarterback should help create a more balanced offence, especially with Taylor Lewan blocking his blind side. Meanwhile, the defense should continue to improve under Brady Hoke.

However, there are difficult games on the schedule starting as early as August. While Michigan should be able to get a lot of wins this season, these are going to be the most daunting matchups of the year.


5. Michigan State (Road), Nov. 2

Going on the road against an in-state rival will always be a tough game. Michigan finally ended a four-game losing streak against the Spartans last season and is looking to build a new winning streak this year.

The problem is that Michigan State still has one of the top defenses in the country and will be tough to score against. This game could end up being similar to last year's 12-10 victory for the Wolverines.

Fortunately, the Spartans struggled on offense all year in 2012 and lost their best offensive weapon in Le'Veon Bell. It is unlikely the squad improves on that side of the ball this year, giving Michigan a good chance of earning a road victory.


4. Nebraska (Home), Nov. 9

Nebraska is very likely to be Michigan's biggest threat to come out of the Legends Division. Taylor Martinez is heading into his senior season as one of the best rushing quarterbacks in the country with an improved passing game.

Adding in some talented running backs like Ameer Abdullah will make this offense incredibly difficult to defend.

While the defense is still improving, it is clear that the Cornhuskers are one of the teams to beat in the Big Ten this year.

The good news, however, is that Michigan gets to play this game at home in the Big House, where the team won every game last season. All four of Nebraska's losses last season were away from home, so it gives Michigan a much better chance of winning.


3. Penn State (Road), Oct. 12

Few expected Penn State to be as good as it was last season. In Bill O'Brien's first year as head coach, the squad went 8-4 with the No. 16-ranked defense in the country.

While the Nittany Lions are still ineligible for the postseason, they should be even better this year with an improved young roster and an infusion of young talent in the most recent recruiting class.

This is one of Michigan's first Big Ten games and it could be a quick loss for the Wolverines if they are not prepared to go into Happy Valley. Penn State is clearly their toughest road game of the year, so they must be ready for a battle.


2. Notre Dame (Home), Sept. 7

Notre Dame lost a lot of talent from last year's team that went to the national championship game, but there are plenty of players ready to pick up the slack.

Most importantly, Everett Golson returns as the team's undisputed starting quarterback and should have more confidence heading into the year. The young player was relatively mistake-free down the stretch and will look to continue that this season.

This experience will play a big role in the second game of the season. He was certainly less than stellar last year when these teams played, which gave Michigan a chance of winning.

On the other hand, Gardner will still be coming into his own and could struggle against a strong defensive front for the Irish. If the young offensive line is not ready to compete, it will be destroyed by defensive tackle Louis Nix and the rest of the Notre Dame defense.


1. Ohio State (Home), Nov. 30

Every year, this is the game that is circled when the schedule comes out. This season, the game might be even more important, as Ohio State looks to challenge for a national championship.

Braxton Miller is clearly one of the top players in the country with his ability as a passer and runner. He finished last season with over 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards and is always a threat to make a big play.

Additionally, the Buckeyes defense will be just as strong with quick pass-rushers and playmakers in the secondary to force turnovers.

Either this game will be a final test for the Wolverines to clinch their division or it will be a chance for them to play spoiler against their biggest rivals. Either way, this will be a big one to watch.