2015 Way Too Early Look Ahead: The Schedule

'14 Final
AP Rank
9/3 TBD @ Utah #21 Salt Lake City, UT TBD 9-4 (5-4) W 45-10
vs Co. St.
9/12 TBD Oregon State - Ann Arbor, MI TBD 5-7 (2-7) -
9/19 TBD UNLV - Ann Arbor, MI TBD 2-11 (1-7) -
9/26 TBD Brigham Young - Ann Arbor, MI TBD 8-5 L 48-55
vs Memphis
10/3 TBD @ MARYLAND - College Park, MD TBD 7-6 (4-4) L 45-21
vs Stanford
10/10 TBD N'WESTERN (HC) - Ann Arbor, MI TBD 5-7 (3-5) -
10/17 TBD MICHIGAN STATE #5 Ann Arbor, MI TBD 11-2 (7-1) W 42-41
vs Baylor
10/31 TBD @ MINNESOTA RV Minneapolis, MN TBD 8-5 (5-3) L 17-33
vs Mizzou
11/7 TBD RUTGERS - Ann Arbor, MI TBD 8-5 (5-3) W 40-21
vs UNC
11/14 TBD @ INDIANA - Bloomington, IN TBD 4-8 (1-7) -
11/21 TBD @ PENN STATE - State College, PA TBD 7-6 (2-6) W 31-30
vs BC
11/28 TBD OHIO STATE #1 Ann Arbor, MI TBD 14-1 (8-0) W 42-35
vs Bama
W 42-20
vs Oregon
B1G opponents in CAPS.

2014 is over. Done. And with it, maybe one of the worst schedules Michigan has had in recent memory. Last year was just no fun at all.

And now as Michigan turns the page to 2015, they do so with after making arguably the single biggest hire in college football history in luring Jim Harbaugh back to Ann Arbor. There's going to be a tendency to look at everything differently going forward with Harbaugh as the head coach. Are there more wins on this schedule because he's here? I think so. Let's dive in.

Non-conference opponents
Most astute Michigan fans will notice there's a distinct lack of Irish this season. Notre Dame has been replaced on this schedule by BYU. Actually, the Irish were originally slated to the home opener on Sept. 12 with Oregon State coming in one week later as a result of the short-lived B1G/Pac-12 scheduling agreement. Once the Irish backed out of the series in 2012, Michigan was able to slide the Beavers up a week and schedule BYU for the 19th.

The trip to Salt Lake City in the season opener is a result of the home-and-home agreement (again, the B1G/Pac-12 deal) that brought the Utes to Ann Arbor last year. This game will be on Sept. 3rd, the Thursday before Labor Day weekend. Time and TV have yet to be announced, but we expect a primetime kickoff time on ESPN.

Under head coach Kyle Wittingham, Utah finished the 2014 season 9-4 and ranked #21 in the nation. They demolished Colorado State in the Las Vegas Bowl 45-10. Most Michigan fans will remember the 2014 matchup because it was a miserable 26-10 defeat, which also ended Michigan's 17-game home winning streak. It also happened to feature a 2 1/2 hour weather delay which pretty much sent every Wolverine fan home, leaving just the few hundred or so Utah fans left to celebrate in the Big House.

In terms of low points for the football program…that was one of them. Jim Harbaugh's first game at the helm will be a hefty redemption effort.

Oregon State had a rough year in 2014. The team went 5-7, losing 6 of their last 7 games. And when it was all said and done, their head coach Mike Riley up and left for Nebraska after 12 season in Corvallis which saw very mixed results.

However, Wisconsin's Gary Andersen will lead the Beavers in 2015, which can only be seen as a pretty decent upgrade as Andersen did pretty well in Madison. Both coaching moves were head-scratchers, so it'll be interesting to see how it all plays out.

UNLV and BYU...I don't have much for you here. UNLV was 2-10 last year with a 13-12 win over Northern Colorado and a 30-27 win over Fresno State. BYU on the other hand was 8-5 with wins over UConn, Houston, Cal and a 41-7 pummeling of Texas early in the season.

B1G West opponents
Northwestern and Minnesota remain Michigan's B1G West crossover opponents yet again this year. Northwestern will visit Ann Arbor on October 10 (which, coincidentally is 3 days before a real actual full #M00N) and Michigan travels to Minnesota on Halloween night...which was surely give every Michigan fan nightmares of Illinois 2009.

Michigan has a history of playing down to Northwestern's level despite having any advantage. And of course Minnesota was pretty good in 2014 despite losing 4 of their last 6 games.

Last year, the Minnesota game was the absolute rock bottom for this program in it's final year under Hoke. Gardner was benched, Morris was playing concussed, Bellomy is still looking for his helmet, and Dave Brandon...well, let's just not go there.

Let's just assume Minnesota will be more than ready to defend the Little Brown Jug on their home turf.

B1G East opponents
The Big Ten East could very well be the toughest division in the nation next year. No, really. With Ohio State reaching the pinnacle of the college football world, they're as good as anyone and the obvious preseason #1. Michigan State stunned everyone with their dramatic come-from-behind win against Baylor nabbing their 11th win of the season, Penn State pulled off a win in their bowl game and is now free of any and all NCAA sanctions. And of course with Michigan hiring Jim Harbaugh…we could very well be in for a true golden era for Big Ten football led by these 4 traditional powers.

If there's two huge selling points on the 2015 schedule, it's that both Michigan State and Ohio State travel to the Big House this season. I think between Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State…there are no obvious wins or losses. This division is going to be a dog fight week in and week out.

For Michigan, their division test starts with a trip to Maryland to avenge last season's 23-16 loss. Two weeks later, Michigan State comes calling in what will be a much anticipated home matchup after two in a row in East Lansing.

The rest of UM's division games all come in November to close out the season. Rutgers makes it first ever trip to Michigan Stadium on Nov. 7th, and then it's off to Bloomington and then Happy Valley before returning home for the finale against the Buckeyes.

Best case/worst case?
Incredibly difficult to tell right now. The ink is barely dry on the coaching staff's contracts. But with Harbaugh and this amount of coaching talent on board, expectations are sure to be high. But at the same time, the reality is probably around 8-9 wins on the high side. Vegas odds have Michigan at 8.5 wins right now which seems about right.

Now, of course stranger things have happened. Michigan could be a juggernaut right out the gate. But with question marks at quarterback and receiver and some holes to fill on defense, one shouldn't put the cart before the horse.

Worst case? Well, Michigan won 5 games in 2014…so use that as your baseline and add 1 or 2 wins because Harbaugh. It's not scientific…at all actually…but with this non-conference schedule and a favorable home slate, even the low end should be an improvement from 2014.

Night games?
Aside from the opener against Utah in Salt Lake City, what about the rest of the schedule?

Oregon State on Sept. 12? Both squads have new coaches and the prospect of Jim Harbaugh's first home game might be one a primetime audience would enjoy. Michigan State on October 17th is an obvious candidate because it's Michigan-Michigan State and Harbaugh-Dantonio. The storylines will write themselves for this one. Michigan will likely balk at this because of the public safety concerns they've had in the past...but Hackett may feel differently than Brandon did.

I don't see Ohio State ever being a night game, even in Columbus and surely not in Ann Arbor. Although, the build up for November 28th has already begun.

As far as road games, @ Maryland on Oct. 3rd and @ Penn State on Nov. 21 seem like the most likely candidates.

Our Way Too Early Look Ahead series will be ongoing and will cover a number of 2015 topics over the next few weeks and months leading up to the spring game in April.

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