- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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In what is becoming a weekly occurrence this fall, another Big Ten team has some major scheduling news. This time it's Michigan, and -- believe it or not -- an SEC team is coming up north to play in the Big House.
The headliner in the Wolverines' schedule announcements on Tuesday was a home and home series with Arkansas in 2018 and 2019. Both games will be season openers, with Michigan hosting the Hogs in 2018 and going to Fayetteville in 2019. The two teams have played only once before, with Michigan winning 45-31 in the 1998 Citrus Bowl.
Arkansas is a hot mess right now but will be hiring a new coach soon and has all the resources to be a strong team by the time these games roll around. Bravo to the Razorbacks for actually coming north of the Mason-Dixon line to play, something that few power schools from the SEC have done much of, with Alabama's trip to Penn State last year being a notable exception. Any time the Big Ten can play the SEC in the regular season is a good thing in our book, though it didn't turn out to well for Michigan this year against Alabama.
The Maize and Blue also completed its 2015 and 2016 schedules by adding games against BYU in '15 and Hawaii, Miami (Ohio) and Ball State in '16. Here's how the nonconference slates for those years look now:
Sept. 3: at Utah
Sept. 12: Oregon State
Sept. 19: UNLV
Sept. 26: BYU
Sept. 3: Hawaii
Sept. 10: Miami (Ohio)
Sept. 17: Colorado
Sept. 24: Ball State
Both years look quite manageable for Michigan, though the 2015 schedule has a chance to be difficult if teams like Utah, BYU and Oregon State are on an up cycle. (And it sure looks like the Wolverines are taking that whole "champions of the West" thing seriously with that 2015 docket, huh?).
Remember that Michigan was supposed to play Notre Dame in both '15 and '16 until the Irish canceled those games earlier this fall without much advance warning. So the Wolverines had to scramble to find opponents, and BYU was a pretty good substitute for '15. For 2016, the schedule looks very soft, and Michigan will have eight home games, including its first five in a row. Brady Hoke should have a roster full of his kind of players by then, so the '16 season could be set up to be a very successful one in Ann Arbor.
Big Ten teams have been encouraged by the league office to play stronger schedules to get ready for the new, four-team playoff system in 2014. Michigan has accomplished that with the Arkansas series. The 2016 schedule could wind up being a detriment to the Wolverines' cause, but a lot can change in four years.
6dMitch Sherman and Dan Murphy
7dMitch Sherman and Dan Murphy