Michigan heads into the fall expecting to challenge for the Big Ten title. Last year they failed to meet expectations after a nasty loss to Alabama got the season started and the team failed to recover.
Alabama doesn’t land on the schedule this fall, but what if Michigan and the Crimson Tide switched schedules for 2013? Would that give the Wolverines a track to the title, or a worse showing than a year ago?
This is your answer. We break down each game on the Tide’s schedule as if the Wolverines were taking Alabama’s place.
Will the Wolverines survive the gauntlet?
The Wolverines have a couple of advantages in this matchup. They return a ton of talent along the offensive line and have one of the best defensive units in the Big Ten.
Virginia Tech has a very able body in quarterback Logan Thomas, but he has been terribly inconsistent in big games. Not much will change in the season opener.
There are also a ton of gaps along the defensive line for the Hokies.
It would be a close game to start, but Virginia Tech would give up turnovers and would fail to penetrate the backfield on defense. Once the Wolverines got rolling they would take the win in the late quarters.
Michigan Record: 1-0
Texas A&M is a dark-horse candidate for the national title this year with Heisman winner Johnny Manziel driving the offense. The Aggies have a lot of talent on both sides of the football, and for a second-week matchup that lands on the road, this is as tough as they get.
This would be a tight game, but the Aggies have the clear home-field advantage in this game.
The Wolverines are one of the best programs in the Big Ten, but they don’t have enough to get past the Aggies in this game.
The A&M offense is too strong and a shootout goes to the home team.
Michigan Record: 1-1
Colorado State finished the year 4-8 in 2012 and nothing is indicating the program was on a fast rise.
Facing off with Alabama or Michigan would bring the same results—a huge loss.
The Wolverines would have no issue with this win. The Rams are building a program steadily under Jim McElwain’s watch, but they aren’t ready for a win over Michigan.
Michigan Record: 2-1
The Rebels are on the rise in the SEC under the guidance of Hugh Freeze.
Bo Wallace had a strong season for Ole Miss and is looking to continue his search for Rebels passing records. Donte Moncrief will help him get there.
The defense was shored up this spring when Robert Nkemdiche committed to the Rebels, and they found a lot of playmakers on that side of the football last fall.
This would be a close game that would favor the home team. It lands at home for Michigan in this scenario, tipping the hat in its favor.
Michigan Record: 3-1
This is one of Alabama’s cake walk opponents for the 2013 season.
Michigan would dominate this game from kickoff and would have the backups in by the third quarter. It would be an easy one for the Tide, and it would be an easy one for the Wolverines.
Nothing about this game says anything but win.
Michigan Record: 4-1
Kentucky is entering a new era under Mark Stoops. There are high expectations coming out of Lexington, but not high enough to expect a win against the Wolverines.
This is the first road game in three weeks, and it comes after a very easy home win.
Mark another win off for the Wolverines in this game. The Wildcats will play a tough game, but by the second half the talent of Michigan takes over. The Wolverines march to a comfortable win in this contest.
Michigan Record: 5-1
Arkansas is making a comeback now that the embarrassing Bobby Petrino debacle is behind them, but the program is still not at the top of its game.
One advantage in this game would be that new Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema spent a number of years facing off with Michigan while at Wisconsin. He would know the Wolverines program well, but it would still be a tough game.
This is another contest that would favor the home team. The Razorbacks are on the road in this game.
You have to like the matchups for Michigan upfront and on the outside. It would be a tough game, but the Wolverines pull out the victory late.
Michigan Record: 6-1
The Volunteers are one of the many programs in the SEC facing a coaching change this year. It is a road game for the Vols handing the advantage to the Wolverines.
Tennessee has some talent scattered throughout the roster, but there are lingering questions at quarterback and receiver that make this offense unsteady heading into the fall.
Michigan would have the advantage along the lines and on defense. This would be a big win for Michigan, and a tough road loss for Tennessee as Butch Jones tries to rebuild the national brand.
Michigan Record: 7-1
The Bayou Bengals would bring the second loss of the season for Michigan.
LSU fields a team that is loaded with talent and that is itching for a national title run. This game would fall at the end of the year when both programs were hitting stride.
Zach Mettenberger would be the difference in the game, and with the gaps in the secondary that Michigan has entering the fall, it would be a pitch-and-catch type performance for the Tigers quarterback.
The Tigers also have arguably the best line play in the country on both sides of the football. Michigan would fall hard in this contest.
Michigan Record: 7-2
The Bulldogs are on the rise inside the SEC and are poised to pluck some big wins this fall. They have LaDarius Perkins and Tyler Russell returning to create a dangerous backfield combo.
This would be a road game for the Wolverines with a win being extremely difficult to come by.
The tipping point is the secondary and defense for the Bulldogs. There was a lot of talent that departed for the NFL this past spring, leaving some major holes for Devin Gardner to pick apart.
Gardner has a much-needed All-American type game and comes away with the win.
Michigan Record: 8-2
This is another cupcake game for the Wolverines on the ‘Bama schedule.
Another win would give the Wolverines a nine-win season and a shot at a Top-10 finish.
By halftime most of the fans would have this game changed to a better game. This would be a huge win for the Wolverines.
Michigan Record: 9-2
Auburn was one of the worst programs in the SEC last fall, but the program should surge back this season under the guidance of Gus Malzahn.
The players currently on roster were built for the hurry-up, no-huddle spread that he employs and already know the system. The one glaring issue is the lack of a steady quarterback.
JUCO transfer Nick Marshall will join Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace in the race, but if there isn’t a leap in production value made this summer, Auburn will struggle again this fall.
This is a tough way to end the year—especially on the road. Still, Michigan pulls out a tight win over the Tigers.
Michigan Record: 10-2