- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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August has arrived, so it's football season at long last. To get you ready, we're analyzing every Big Ten team's complete 2013 schedule. Arriving third in our series: the Michigan Wolverines.
Nonconference opponents (with 2012 records)
Aug. 31: Central Michigan (7-6)
Sept. 7: Notre Dame (12-1)
Sept. 14: Akron (1-11)
Sept. 28: at Connecticut (5-7)
Legends Division games
Oct. 5: Minnesota
Nov. 2: at Michigan State
Nov. 9: Nebraska
Nov. 16: at Northwestern
Nov. 23: at Iowa
Oct. 12: at Penn State
Oct. 19: Indiana
Nov. 30: Ohio State
Gut-check game: Nov. 2 at Michigan State. The Spartans have won the last two meetings in East Lansing, and this looks like the toughest road test on the Wolverines' schedule. You know Michigan State fans will be hyped up for the game, and that nasty Pat Narduzzi defense is never fun to face, especially away from home. It also starts the key stretch of the league season for Michigan, which may benefit from a bye week prior to the Paul Bunyan Trophy game.
Trap game: How about that Nov. 23 game at Iowa? It comes on the heels of a very difficult three-game stretch and one week before the showdown against Ohio State in the finale. The Wolverines could have an emotional letdown if they remember last year's easy win over the Hawkeyes a little too much. But remember that Iowa knocked off Michigan two years ago in Iowa City, severely damaging the Maize and Blue's Legends title hopes.
Snoozer: Akron went 1-11 last year and is a long way from being able to compete with the big boys. That could be a good weekend for Michigan fans to catch up on some sleep after what should be a long night the previous Saturday.
Non-con challenge: There's no Alabama on the schedule this year, which is good, but the Wolverines still have to face one of the two teams that played for the national title last season. The Notre Dame game is almost always a thriller, and having it under the lights at the Big House will capture everybody's attention. Win that one, and Michigan could rise in the polls quickly.
Telltale stretch: Will Michigan make this a November to remember? Brady Hoke badly wants his program to win another conference title, and the Wolverines' chances of getting to Indianapolis for their first Big Ten title game will largely depend on how they fare against what looks like the top three Legends contenders in a three-week stretch: at Michigan State, Nebraska and at Northwestern. Win all three of those, and it will be hard to keep Hoke's crew out of Indy.
Analysis: If you're a Michigan man (or woman), this sure looks better than last year, when Team 133 played Alabama, Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State all away from Ann Arbor -- and lost all four. Road trips to Michigan State, Northwestern, Penn State and Iowa won't be easy, but the Wolverines' toughest opponents (on paper) all will come to the Big House. If they can get past Notre Dame, they should be 5-0 heading to State College on Oct. 12. That November stretch will determine whether this is a title-worthy team or not. And of course, there's always the chance that Michigan and Ohio State could play in back-to-back weeks. Hoke's team would take that if it meant a shot an elusive Big Ten title.
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