If the Michigan Wolverines are going to improve on last season's 8-5 record, they would be well-served to improve on the 1-2 record they had against the three teams captured below.
The three games on this list are always of particular interest to the Wolverines and their fans, and it just so happens that all three of their opponents in these games look poised to have a good year.
So Brady Hoke is going to have his work cut out for him this year, but he also has a strong foundation building at Michigan and plenty of talent.
Here are the three biggest challenges facing Hoke and his Wolverines this coming season.
Notre Dame at Michigan on Saturday, Sept. 7
On their way to an undefeated regular season last year, Notre Dame beat Michigan, 13-7, in South Bend on Sept. 22. This performance was aided by two interceptions from Manti Te'o.
That win reversed a crazy trend as Michigan had beaten the Irish in each of the last three meetings with a score in the final 27 seconds.
Notre Dame is returning a strong core group of players, and while it is hard to see the Irish competing at the same level they did last year, this is still going to be a quality football team.
This is always a big matchup, and it will have extra significance this year as it is the Wolverines' second game of the season. If they can win this key game, it will provide a tremendous amount of momentum as they prepare to enter conference play.
Michigan at Michigan State on Saturday, Nov. 2
On the strength of a Brendan Gibbons 38-yard field goal with five seconds left, the Wolverines beat their in-state rivals last year, 12-10, on Oct. 20.
Hoke had to be breathing a giant sigh of relief when that field goal went through. The win snapped Michigan's record-long, five-game losing streak against the Spartans.
They will attempt to continue their fresh winning streak this season.
The Spartans are coming off a down 7-6 year, However, they suffered numerous close losses and were a stronger team than that record indicated.
The Spartans had an excellent defense last year, and will again this year as they return the core of that group.
This game will come right in the middle of the Wolverines' conference schedule, and picking up a win will be pivotal in setting them up for a big close to the season.
Ohio State at Michigan on Saturday, Nov. 30
This is the regular-season finale for both teams, and it is likely to have huge postseason ramifications.
The Buckeyes beat Michigan last year, 26-21. Of course they beat them. The Buckeyes didn't lose a game last year. However, the outcome against Michigan was certainly in doubt.
The Wolverines took a 21-20 lead into halftime, and then came out and didn't score in the second half.
Michigan can expect a similar battle this year. In Year 2 of the Urban Meyer era at Ohio State, the Buckeyes figure to be an even stronger team. This isn't to suggest that they will go undefeated again, but that they will be talented on both sides of the ball and a load for anyone to handle.
If both of these teams live up to their immense potential next year, this game will be huge and the Big House will rocking.
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