Michigan Faces Brutal 2020 Schedule As Jim Harbaugh Enters Pivotal Season Needing to Win Big

By David Regimbal on June 4, 2020 at 10:10 am
Jim Harbaugh

Michigan's 2020 schedule is as tough as it gets.

That's not hyperbole or mockery. The Wolverines are set to face one of the most daunting slates in all of college football when the season kicks off this September. Four of the opponents they'll face this year find themselves inside the top 16 of this way-too-early ranking for the 2020 season, and that doesn't include the in-state rival they've struggled with recently or the other two opponents who are expected to compete for their conference divisional titles this fall.

Please note, this doesn't justify the act of, say, Michigan coaches insanely bragging about bowl losses to boast a delusion notion of out-of-conference scheduling supremacy. That moment was remarkably insane, and the biggest challenges this team face in 2020 are primarily in-conference.

It's a bad stroke of luck for Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, who's coming into his sixth season at the helm of the Wolverines program without a win over Ohio State or an appearance in the Big Ten title game.

247Sports.com ranks the Wolverines' 2020 schedule as the 11th toughest in college football this year. Let's take a closer look at the road Michigan faces this fall.

A Rough Path

Michigan's 2020 Football Schedule
Date Oppoent
Sept. 5 @ Washington
sept. 12 Ball State
Sept. 19 Arkansas State
Sept. 26 No. 13 Wisconsin 
Oct. 3 No. 5 Penn State
Oct. 10 @ Michigan State
Oct. 17 @ No. 16 Minnesota 
Oct. 24 Purdue
Nov. 7 Maryland
Nov. 14 @ Rutgers
Nov. 21 Indiana
Nov. 28 @ No. 2 Ohio State 

Michigan's season starts with a stiff road test against a Washington team in transition.

The Huskies will have a new face roaming the sideline after former head coach Chris Petersen stepped down following the 2019 season. Jimmy Lake, a defensive backs coach for 18 years before he became Washington's defensive coordinator in 2018, took over the head role.

It's a tough game for Michigan to open the season. The Huskies are expected to contend in the Pac 12 North, and ESPN's FPI projections have the Wolverines as slight underdogs going into the game.

Two cupcakes in Ann Arbor against Ball State and Arkansas State follow that road trip to Washington, but the schedule turns brutal as the nonconference slate turns to league play.

Michigan begins Big Ten play by hosting Big Ten West Division favorite Wisconsin, which very well could be a top 10 team by the time it travels to the Big House on September 26. And then seven days after that bruising contest, the Wolverines welcome what should be a top five Penn State team to town.

There will be no rest for the wicked after that brutal back-to-back stretch against ranked opponents. Michigan hits the road the following week to play a rival Michigan State squad that's desperate to beat the Wolverines for the first time since 2017. A week later, Michigan packs up and heads further west for a matchup against a surging Minnesota program under P.J. Fleck.

That's as brutal a four-game stretch as the Big Ten can offer as Michigan was on the receiving end of an unlucky draw, as it faces two of the tougher cross-divisional opponents in the Big Ten West in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Fortunately for the Wolverines, that's when the road becomes decidedly less tumultuous. Home games against Purdue, Indiana and Maryland are only disrupted by a trip to New Jersey for a game against Greg Schiano's fighting Rutgers.

But then there's that regular season-finale against Ohio State.

That'd be a tough slate for any team to navigate, but Harbaugh and Michigan are forced to go after it with a first-year starting quarterback. And as mentioned earlier, Harbaugh has yet to either beat Ohio State or make a postseason trip to Indianapolis for the conference title game. 

The pressure to win big is turning up in Ann Arbor, but this year's schedule will make that very difficult for the Wolverines. 

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