The beginning of the 2014 season is months away, but it’s never to soon to look ahead.
Sat., August 30 vs. Appalachian State
Last meeting: Michigan lost 34-32 at Michigan Stadium in 2007. Appalachian State’s 2013 record: 4–8 (4–4 SoCon).
Michigan’s home opener is a classic no-win game; win big and people will question why the game was scheduled, win by a comfortable margin and critics will wonder why the margin of victory wasn’t larger, lose and it could cost Brady Hoke his job.
Fortunately for Michigan, the 2014 version of Appalachian State is a shadow of the team which came to Ann Arbor in 2007. Michigan may be vulnerable to upsets—Akron almost pulled a big one last season—but this Appalachian State team won’t be beating Michigan next season.
Sat., Sep. 6 at Notre Dame
Last meeting: Michigan won last season 41-30 at Michigan Stadium. Notre Dame’s 2013 record: (9-4).
This will be the final time these teams meet for the foreseeable future with Notre Dame opting out, for now. Michigan and Notre Dame had disappointing 2013 seasons but at least the Irish finished strong, returning to the Top 25 with a bowl win over new Big Ten member Rutgers.
With the return of quarterback Everett Golson, who missed last season after disciplinary issues, the Irish look to rebound. Michigan would like to end the series with a win. Hoke has blamed Michigan’s road woes on youth, but that excuse won’t fly. This would be a great opportunity to put that recurring problem to rest in a nationally televised game.
Sat., Sep. 13 vs. Miami (Ohio)
Last meeting: Michigan won 16-6 at Michigan Stadium in 2008. Miami’s 2013 record: 0–12 (0–8 MAC).
New Coach Chuck Martin will have his hands full as the RedHawks visit Michigan Stadium. Martin is familiar with Michigan from his previous job as offensive coordinator at Notre Dame.
Sat., Sep. 20 vs. Utah
Last meeting: Michigan lost 25-23 at Michigan Stadium in 2008. Utah’s 2013 record: 5–7 (2–7 Pac-12).
Utah beat Michigan in the home opener of Rich Rodriguez’s first season and Michigan fans are hoping for a payback this year.
Utah has struggled since joining the Pac-12 in 2011 but has the potential to beat Michigan. The Utes stung Stanford last season and return top performers on offense, led by quarterback Travis Wilson. This game will be a significant test for the Michigan defense headed into the Big Ten slate.
Sat., Sep. 27 vs. Minnesota
Last meeting: Michigan won last season 42-13 at Michigan Stadium to retain the little brown jug trophy. Minnesota’s 2013 record: 8–5 (4–4 Big Ten).
Despite its recent struggles against the rest of the Big Ten, Michigan has continued to dominate the Golden Gophers. Minnesota has only managed two wins in the past 22 meetings.
The Gophers return quarterback Philip Nelson and running back David Cobb, who combined for more than 2,500 yards, and hope to build upon Minnesota’s eight wins last season—and return the little brown jug to Minneapolis.
Sat., Oct. 4 at Rutgers
Last meeting: Never. Rutger’s 2013 record: 6–7 (3–5 The American).
This will be the first time Rutgers and Michigan have met and it'll Michigan’s second road game of the season. Michigan has struggled on the road under Hoke, and the stadium should be full of fans from both teams.
This game will be a critical test for Michigan. On paper, Michigan should win easily but the team struggled against UConn last year in a similar situation.
Sat., Oct. 1 vs. Penn State
Last meeting: Michigan lost last season 43-40 in 4OT at Beaver Stadium. Penn State’s 2013 record: 7–5 (4–4 Big Ten).
This is the premier home game on Michigan’s schedule and should be quite a battle. Michigan will be looking to avenge a 4-overtime loss to Penn State last season, while new coach James Franklin will be looking a for a signature win in his first season.
Former coach Bill O'Brien bailed for the NFL, but he didn’t leave the cupboard bare.
Sat., Oct. 25 at Michigan State
Last meeting: Michigan lost last season 29-6 at Spartan Stadium. Michigan State’s 2013 record: 13–1 (8–0 Big Ten), Big Ten Champions.
A quirk of Big Ten scheduling has Michigan playing on the road in East Lansing for the second year in a row. In past seasons Michigan could complain about missed calls by the officials, poor timekeeping or rough play by the Spartans for the occasional loss to Michigan State. But under Dantonio the Spartans have tried a new strategy—just being better than the Wolverines and physically dominating recent games.
Michigan has one win over Michigan State under Hoke, a 12-10 victory in 2012 on a field goal in Michigan Stadium as time expired. Michigan State returns much of its offense and will replenish its defense to make another run at the Big Ten title and a possible national championship run. Michigan will need to beat the Spartans to have a chance at winning the Big Ten. This game will be a measuring stick of how Michigan is progressing under Hoke.
Sat., Nov. 1 vs. Indiana - Homecoming
Last meeting: Michigan won last season 63-27 at Michigan Stadium. Indiana’s 2013 record: 5–7 (3–5 Big Ten).
Indiana is the perfect opponent for homecoming; Michigan will score a ton of points while alumni recall the glory days.
Sat., Nov. 8 at Northwestern
Last meeting: Michigan won last season 27-19, forcing OT with a field goal as time expired. Northwestern’s 2013 record: 5–7 (1–7 Big Ten).
Another repeat road game thanks to Big Ten schedule quirks. Michigan barely beat a disappointing Northwestern team last season in poor weather conditions. The Wildcats were probably the only Big Ten team more disappointing than Michigan last season. Don’t expect Northwestern to be have two bad seasons in a row—they’ll be ready to avenge Michigan’s OT victory.
Sat., Nov. 22 vs. Maryland
Last meeting: Michigan won 45-17 in 1990. Maryland’s 2013 record: 7–6 (3–5 ACC).
A rather uninspiring closing game for the Michigan home schedule— unless Michigan loses. Maryland returns to Michigan Stadium as a member of the Big Ten and will cause problems if Michigan gets caught looking ahead to Ohio State.
Sat., Nov. 29 at Ohio State
Last meeting: Michigan lost last season 42-41 at Michigan Stadium. Ohio State’s 2013 record: 12–2 (8–0 Big Ten), lost to Michigan State in Big Ten championship game.
This a major yardstick game for Michigan under Hoke. Michigan has only managed one victory over Ohio State in the past decade, a 40-34 win in 2011 in Ann Arbor in Hoke's first season. Last year Michigan came close—failing on a two-point conversion that could have won the game in the final minute.
Can Michigan beat Ohio State in Columbus? A victory might be propel Michigan to the Big Ten title game; a loss will increase the pressure on Hoke.
Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via Press Conferences or in person.