The 2017 season is still several months away. But we never stop looking forward here at the Big Ten blog.
It may be ridiculously early, but we’re examining what will be the must-win game and the potential trap game for each league team this fall. Up next: the Michigan Wolverines.
Must-win game: Nov. 25 vs. Ohio State. Only one head coach in Michigan’s history has lost his first three meetings with rival Ohio State: Rich Rodriguez. That’s not good company to keep for Jim Harbaugh, who has been largely considered a godsend for the Wolverines. Ultimately, though, Michigan shelled out for Harbaugh to win championships and beat Urban Meyer in the process. In that regard, the school is still waiting for a full return on investment. The 2016 version of The Game (a controversial, double-overtime Buckeyes victory) is about as close as a team can get to winning without actually winning. In order to feel like things are still moving forward in Ann Arbor, no game will be as important in the coming year as Meyer & Co.'s trip to the Big House on Thanksgiving weekend.
Trap game: Oct. 14 at Indiana. Speaking of double overtime, it took Michigan two extra periods to defeat Indiana on its last trip to Bloomington in 2015. This year’s game is wedged between the annual in-state rivalry game with Michigan State and an away game at Penn State. The Hoosiers may have a new look this season under head coach Tom Allen, who made big strides as the team’s defensive coordinator last fall, but will be running the show in place of offensive-minded Kevin Wilson this year. The past couple of years have seen a handful of close calls for Indiana, threatening to unseat a top-10 team before coming up short. Michigan would be wise not to overlook the Hoosiers.