- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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It's time to jump back into our series looking at the most important game on each Big Ten team's schedule in 2012. As a reminder, these are games that will have the biggest impact on the league race or hold special meaning for one of the teams involved.
You're up, Michigan Wolverines.
Most important game: Oct. 20 vs. Michigan State.
Why it's important: I know there are going to be a lot of Wolverines fans who disagree with this and insist that the Ohio State game is the most important one on the schedule, this year and every year. And they certainly have a strong argument, as that rivalry will always supersede just about everything else for those on both sides of it. But it's also true that the Maize and Blue haven't won a Big Ten title since 2004, which is an eternity in Ann Arbor. Hanging another one of those league title banners is clearly and unquestionably Brady Hoke's No. 1 goal, so much so that he called last year's 11-2, Sugar Bowl championship season a failure because his team didn't get that done. Well, to claim the league title, the Wolverines first have to outlast the competition in the Legends Division. Michigan State, the defending division champ, is one of the main obstacles in that path and just so happens to have beaten Michigan in each of the past four years. Hoke's team is already facing a brutal schedule, with games away from home against Alabama, Notre Dame, Nebraska and those Buckeyes. If it can't break the streak against the Spartans in the Big House, Michigan is going to have a very difficult time getting to Indianapolis for the conference championship game. And the Wolverines players definitely don't want to hear about a five-game losing streak to their in-state rivals. Which is why, for this year at least, I see the Michigan State game as even more important than The Game.