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Michigan football game-by-game predictions

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, center, walks the field as players jog around him during an open practice.

Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News predicts Michigan’s season, game by game.

Sept. 1 at Notre Dame

The rivals are renewing the series that was last played in 2014, also at Notre Dame Stadium. Brandon Wimbush accounted for 30 touchdowns last season, including 14 rushing, which broke DeShone Kizer’s program record for a quarterback (10). Nine starters return on defense. This will be Shea Patterson’s debut for Michigan at quarterback, and he will have something to prove. But this game will be on the Wolverines’ defense. Winner: Michigan.

Sept. 8 vs. Western Michigan

The Broncos struggled last season after suffering a barrage of season-ending injuries, including quarterback Jon Wassink. But Wassink is back and healthy and could make WMU into a Mid-American Conference contender this season. The Broncos have four starters returning on defense. Michigan will be looking to make a big statement in its home opener. They last played in 2011 and Michigan has a 6-0 series advantage. Winner: Michigan.

Sept. 15 vs. SMU

This will be SMU's first game against a Big Ten team since playing at Wisconsin in 1965. The Mustangs were 7-6 last season with a bowl loss to Louisiana Tech, which was SMU’s first bowl appearance since 2012. They played in the wake of a coaching change from Chad Morris to Sonny Dykes. With the switch to Dykes comes a new staff and new schemes on both sides of the ball, which could mean plenty of growing pains. SMU has five starters return on offense and four on defense. Winner: Michigan.

Sept. 22 vs. Nebraska

Scott Frost is back at his alma mater and the confidence high in Lincoln now that he is coaching a program that went 4-8 last season but returns six starters on offense and eight on defense. Frost most recently led Central Florida to an unbeaten season. This will be his team’s first road test of the season. The Cornhuskers were last in total defense in the Big Ten last year — they allowed 36.4 points a game and 5.57 yards per rush. Their secondary could be an issue this season. Winner: Michigan.

Sept. 29 at Northwestern

The biggest question entering the season for the Wildcats is the health of quarterback Clayton Thorson’s reconstructed right knee. He suffered a torn ACL in the bowl game. The Wildcats finished the 2017 season as one of the hottest teams in college football and got their 10th win with a 24-23 victory over Kentucky in the Music City Bowl. They lost a couple key players in running back Justin Jackson and safety Godwin Igwebuike, but return seven starters on offense and six on defense. The Wildcats should be solid across the board. This will be a tough one for the Wolverines, but they should squeak it out. Winner: Michigan.

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More: Michigan State football game-by-game predictions

Oct. 6 vs. Maryland

It has been an offseason of turmoil for the Terps and it is anyone’s guess how the season will unfold. Before this, it appeared Maryland could be on the upswing, certainly after last year’s dreadful 4-8 record and the boatload of injuries at quarterback. They were forced to use five different quarterbacks. The Terps return six starters on offense and five on defense, which needs to make some serious improvement from last season. The Terps were last in the Big Ten in scoring defense (37.1 points) and second to last in total defense after yielding an average of 419.4 yards a game. Winner: Michigan.

Oct. 13 vs. Wisconsin

Many national pundits are predicting the Badgers will be a national championship playoff team. This offense returns a ton of talent. Alex Hornibrook is back to quarterback a program that he helped lead to a 13-1 record last season, while uber-talented tailback Jonathan Taylor also is returning after a breakout freshman season. The biggest loss on offense is All-American tight end Troy Fumagalli. This will be strength against strength — Wisconsin’s offense against Michigan’s defense. Tough one to call. Winner: Wisconsin.

Oct. 20 at Michigan State

The Spartans return nine starters on each side of the ball from a team that won 10 games last season. Quarterback Brian Lewerke is one of the best at his position and has his big-time receivers back, not to mention a strong backfield led by LJ Scott. Linebacker Joe Bachie is a top-notch defender. This is the second of Michigan’s three rivalry games on the road. Michigan's lone victory over Michigan State under Jim Harbaugh came in 2016 at Spartan Stadium, and he is eager to even the score and get the record to 2-2 against his in-state rival. This won’t be easy, but Michigan’s defense — if as good as advertised — has to be the difference. Winner: Michigan.

Nov. 3 vs. Penn State

The Nittany Lions have seven starters back on offense, including highly respected quarterback Trace McSorley. Gone is running back Saquon Barkley and offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, who is now the head coach at Mississippi State. Ricky Rahne is the new offensive coordinator and plans to stick with much of what Moorhead laid out. Penn State has only three returning starters on defense, though, and that could be an issue as James Franklin tries to lead the team to a third straight season with double-digit victories. The Wolverines will be coming off a bye. Winner: Michigan.

Nov. 10 at Rutgers

This is the second tough game in a row in the late stretch for Rutgers that starts with Wisconsin on the road, followed by Michigan and Penn State at home, and then ends at Michigan State. Chris Ash is entering his third season and Rutgers fans are eager to finally see things looking up for a program that has missed a bowl for three straight seasons. With a freshman quarterback, Artur Sitkowski, running the show, it’s hard to say how the offense will look. Defensively, the team improved, and Ash has got to hope that continues, especially during the late stretch. Winner: Michigan.

Nov. 17 vs. Indiana

The Hoosiers went 5-7 last season and they will look for progress this fall without several key players. However, the starting offensive line is back, and that’s a good starting point. There are only three returning starters on defense — gone is linebacker Tegray Scales, and that’s a big deal. Winner: Michigan.

Nov. 24 at Ohio State

Michigan got a look at quarterback Dwayne Haskins during the rivalry game last season. Haskins showed how much different a quarterback he is than J.T. Barrett. Haskins was 40 of 57 passing (70.2 percent) for 565 yards, four touchdowns and one interception, but he is not the capable runner Barrett has been. Michigan wants to have the best defensive line in the country but so does Ohio State, and the game will feature a few of the nation's best — Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich from Michigan and Nick Bosa from OSU. It’s always tough to win in Columbus. Winner: Ohio State.

FINAL RECORD: 10-2 (7-2 Big Ten)