With the season opener against Alabama just eight days away, Wolverine247 examines eight reasons why Michigan will - or will not - win the B1G in 2012. Be sure to stay tuned, as we will be revealing one reason every day leading up to the opener.
REASON NUMBER ONE WHY MICHIGAN WILL - OR WILL NOT - WIN THE B1G IN 2012: THE SCHEDULE
Will: Michigan's schedule in 2012 is considerably more difficult than the 2011 version, starting with the showdown against Alabama, the defending national champions, in the season opener. While the Alabama game will undoubtedly provide a stiff challenge, there is a good chance the Wolverines will not face another team as good as the Crimson Tide for the rest of the season. No matter the outcome on September 1, that game should make Michigan more battle-tested than any of its opponents the rest of the season.
If the Wolverines beat Alabama, or even keep the game close, they will develop the confidence that their best football should be good enough to win against anyone else on the schedule, no matter where it is played. When subsequent games reach crunch time, Michigan should have more confidence in being able to make that one extra play that is needed to win a close game. So while the final 11 games of the schedule are still more difficult than the final 11 games of last season's schedule, Michigan should expect to win each game week in and week out.
One other factor to consider is that both of the teams that beat Michigan last year - Michigan State and Iowa - come to Ann Arbor this year. With the Big House rocking, this should represent a significant shift in homefield advantage in each game. The Wolverines owe both the Spartans and the Hawkeyes some payback, and there is no better place to inflict it than the Big House.
Will not: Michigan did not win any overly challenging away games in the 2011 regular season. In order to win the B1G in 2012, the Wolverines must play their best football away from the Big House, as this season features more difficult road games than last season did.
The Alabama game is not technically an away game, but it will not be played in Ann Arbor, and will certainly be a much more hostile environment for Michigan than the Big House is.
Additionally, the Wolverines will be going to South Bend for a showdown with Notre Dame under the lights as well. So clearly, the nonconference portion of the schedule is much more difficult. While that doesn't necessarily impact Michigan's B1G title hopes, it may make it much more difficult for the Wolverines to build momentum, rhythm and confidence heading into the conference slate.
Speaking of the conference schedule, the two road games that stand out are the October 27 night game at Nebraska, and The Game in Columbus on November 24. Lincoln is always a very difficult place to play, and it will be that much more daunting at night. And the Huskers may be seeking a little bit of payback for the blowout they suffered in Ann Arbor in 2011. Also throw in the fact that that game takes place immediately following the Michigan State game. Can Michigan play its best against top teams two weeks in a row?
As far as the Ohio State game, the Buckeyes have beaten the Wolverines five straight times in Columbus. And just like Nebraska, Ohio State will also be seeking payback for a crushing loss in 2011, and should be better in 2012 than the Buckeye squad the Wolverines beat in 2011.
Should the Wolverines win the Legends Division, they will face yet another quality team in the B1G Championship Game. While it would be a neutral-site game, it would require Michigan to win away from the Big House once again.