Thursday, October 18, 2012

Breaking Down Michigan's 2012-2013 Big Ten Schedule

As most experts, teams, and coaches will tell you, teams live and die by their performance during their conference slate.  If a team is able to perform well, they are probably going to get a good seeding for March and have a great chance at national success.  Non-conference and postseason play are extremely important for a team's national image and long-term success, but the conference schedule is the longest section of the schedule and ultimately determines the most for any team.

This is why the Big Ten schedule is so important for Michigan this season.  The Wolverines, currently ranked #5, have some pretty large national expectations and goals.  However, getting there will depend on how Michigan fares during Big Ten play.  If the Wolverines can challenge for the conference title and knock off some big wins, there is a good chance that they will end up with a #1 or a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.  If they don't perform as well as expected, it wouldn't be that surprising to see them drop down to a seeding similar to last year.

I have high hopes for this season and Michigan's chances at a high seeding, but I do think there should be some concern about the way the schedule laid out for the Wolverines.  Yes, with the current layout of the Big Ten, every team is going to have to go through some challenging stretches and some of the toughest teams in the country.  However, Michigan has two stretches during the schedule that could really hurt the team's chances at winning the Big Ten again and getting a good seeding for both the Big Ten and the NCAA Tournament.

Michigan's 2012-2013 Big Ten Schedule

  • @ NW
  • IOWA
  • NEB
  • @ OSU
  • @ MINN
  • @ ILL
  • NW
  • OSU
  • @ WIS
  • @ MSU
  • PSU
  • ILL
  • @ PSU
  • MSU
  • @ PURDUE

As referenced above, this is a very challenging schedule.  Depending on which predictions you trust, Michigan is looking at only a handful of cupcake games.  Outside of teams like Nebraska and Penn State, just about every squad was pretty solid last year or has a roster that makes it pretty challenging this year.  I do think home games against Iowa, Illinois, and Northwestern should be very winnable, but that won't do much to help the overall difficulty of this schedule.

I have highlighted the two sections of the schedule that I believe will pose the biggest challenges for the Wolverines.  I do think some of the games like Northwestern could be trap games, but the sheer quality of the teams in the bolded sections makes those the most difficult in my opinion.  I mean, just look at the preseason rankings.  All of teams that are bolded above are ranked except for Purdue.  Plus, Indiana and OSU are both currently ranked in the Top 5.  Not that I agree with the insane ranking of Ohio State at #4, but that's a different debate.

The first bolded stretch will likely be a nightmare for Michigan.  The Wolverines have a four game stretch with 3 road games against teams that are currently ranked and a home game against arch-rival Ohio State who is currently ranked #4.  If Michigan can get through that stretch with a 2-2 record or better, I will be more than happy.  I think Michigan will be able to beat Ohio State, but Indiana should be an extremely difficult game since its the site of College Gameday and games on the road against Wisconsin and MSU are never gimmes.

The final stretch of the season should also be difficult with two of the best Big Ten teams in Ann Arbor during a three game stretch and a tough road game against Purdue sandwiched in-between.  I think Michigan has a good shot at winning all three of these games, but they are going to be extremely challenging, especially with the students gone on spring break during this time. 

If I had to make a rough prediction for the Big Ten schedule and record, I think I would project Michigan at a record of 14-4.  This may sound like a bold prediction, but Michigan should be better than every team in Big Ten play except one.  You could make an argument that OSU and MSU have as much talent or more than Michigan, but neither have as much proven talent as Michigan, especially considering their massive losses.  I think Michigan will lose some of the tough road games such as against Indiana, but they will probably win at least one and blow at least a game at home.  If Michigan can come close to this record, it should be a good year for the Wolverines, but it will certainly be a challenge given the depth and talent of the Big Ten.

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