Michigan slid to 7-6 last season after an abysmal 1-4 month of November that began with a crushing defeat on the road to Michigan State and ended with a loss at home to Ohio State. Michigan sat idle while its two main rivals met to decide the Big Ten Championship—clearly not what Brady Hoke had in mind when he returned to Ann Arbor to replace Rich Rodriguez.
|Brady Hoke's Record at Michigan|
Hoke’s teams have struggled since his initial 11-2 season and fans are getting restless for a Big Ten championship as he enters his fourth season.
Michigan faces a brutal schedule because of its alignment in the new Big Ten East Division with Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Indiana and new conference members Maryland and Rutgers.
How likely is a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game this season for Michigan?
Michigan starts by facing a ghost from its past. Appalachian State returns to Ann Arbor as Michigan looks to avenge its epic 2007 loss, which marked the beginning of the end for former coach Lloyd Carr.
Several seasons ago, this game might have been interesting, but the Appalachian State program is a shell of its past glory. An argument could be made that Michigan is too, but even so, there is no way the Wolverines lose this game.
Next up is a road contest with Notre Dame which marks the final meeting between these two historic programs for the foreseeable future. The key here is that Michigan travels to South Bend. Hoke’s teams have struggled on the road under his tenure, and it’s difficult to see a scenario where Michigan wins this one—not while rolling out a new offense while piecing together an offensive line.
Michigan then returns to Michigan Stadium and should roll over Miami (Ohio) and Utah as the offense jells and the quarterback situation gets settled.
|at Notre Dame||Loss|
Big Ten (First Half)
Michigan begins the Big Ten season with Minnesota at home. Expect the Gophers to make a game of it but eventually fall short. The brown jug trophy will stay in Ann Arbor.
Next up is a road game with Rutgers. Michigan often struggles on the road, but this game should be a rude welcome to the Big Ten for the Scarlet Knights. Expect east coast Michigan fans to pack the stadium as Hoke finally coaxes a stellar road performance from his team.
Michigan then returns to face Penn State for a night game at Michigan Stadium. The Wolverines fell in overtime last season to Penn State, but there will be no such repeat this season. Michigan is money in night games at home under Hoke. No reason to expect anything different versus Penn State this year.
Because of a scheduling quirk (thanks Big Ten!), Michigan then heads on the road to face Michigan State for the second consecutive year. Both teams should be undefeated in conference play, and the winner will be the favorite to represent the division in the Big Ten championship game. Expect Michigan to compete better than last season but fall short. The combination of a road game and tough opponent proves too much for Michigan to overcome.
|Big Ten: First Half (3-1)|
|at Michigan State||Loss|
Big Ten (Second Half)
Michigan should enter the backstretch of the season 6-2, with losses to rivals Notre Dame and Michigan State. The heat will be on Hoke in Ann Arbor.
Michigan will handle Indiana for a homecoming victory that should placate the fans a bit. Then, the Wolverines travel to play Northwestern on the road for the second year in a row. Last season, Michigan barely avoided a loss to Northwestern with a desperation field goal in the final seconds of regulation to force overtime. Expect Northwestern to win this year unless the team goes on strike before kickoff.
Michigan should then defeat Maryland for its final home game of the season.
Michigan ends its season with another bitter loss to Ohio State in Columbus. Another case of not being good enough to overcome a tough opponent and a hostile crowd.
|Big Ten: Second Half (2-2)|
|at Ohio State||Loss|
An 8-4 finish will keep Michigan from the Big Ten Championship Game and put Hoke firmly on the hot seat for the 2015 season.
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.