Michigan Wolverines Football: ESPN's FPI Predicts The Outcome Of Every 2021 Michigan Football Game
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ESPN's FPI Predicts The Outcome Of Every 2021 Michigan Football Game

ESPN.com's recently-released Football Power Index (FPI) for 2021 is a measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of a team's performance going forward. With that, the index gave a percentage chance for Michigan football to beat each team on their schedule.

The metric predicts that the Wolverines will be the No. 28 team in the country — a rise from No. 40 in the initial April release. It gives the Maize and Blue a rating of 7.8, which correlates to the "expected point margin vs. average opponent on a neutral field."

FPI predicts Michigan, which has to play the country's 12th-toughest schedule according to expert Phil Steele and, to win 6.8 games and drop 5.2 contests — an increase from 6.4.-5.7 in April — which rounds out to a 7-5 record. There are actually 58 teams that are projected to win more games than the Wolverines this fall, showing that their schedule is, in fact, daunting, with ESPN slotting it at No. 31 on its strength of schedule rankings.

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Michigan Wolverines head football coach Jim Harbaugh has won 49 games in six seasons in Ann Arbor.
Michigan Wolverines head football coach Jim Harbaugh has won 49 games in six seasons in Ann Arbor. (USA TODAY Sports Images)

The index gives the Maize and Blue a 0.0 percent chance to go 12-0, a 2.6 percent chance to win the Big Ten East and a 1.2 percent shot of winning the Big Ten at large. It gives Michigan an 80.5 percent chance to win at least six games and become bowl eligible.

Here are the metric's predictions for the result of every game:

Sept. 4 vs. Western Michigan — 83.5 percent chance to win

Western Michigan Broncos football redshirt junior wide receiver Jaylen Hall caught 12 passes in 2020, seven of which went for touchdowns.
Western Michigan Broncos football redshirt junior wide receiver Jaylen Hall caught 12 passes in 2020, seven of which went for touchdowns. (Ashley Huss / Western Michigan Athletics)

Opponent FPI Rank: 79th

Opponent Projected Win Total: 6.7

The Broncos' offense, which returns eight starters including redshirt sophomore quarterback Kaleb Eleby, should give the Wolverines' new-look defense a formidable test in the opener, but their defense is facing plenty of question marks. FPI says this should be an easy Wolverine win to kick off the campaign.

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Sept. 11 vs. Washington — 61.4 percent chance to win

Washington Huskies football redshirt junior left tackle Jaxson Kirkland earned a team-high 86.6 pass-blocking grade per Pro Football Focus.
Washington Huskies football redshirt junior left tackle Jaxson Kirkland earned a team-high 86.6 pass-blocking grade per Pro Football Focus. (Washington Athletics)

Opponent FPI Rank: 25th

Opponent Projected Win Total: 8.5

Michigan holds a 7-2 all-time record when playing at The Big House in primetime, and the extra juice from the crowd may help give the Wolverines an edge when the Huskies, who rank higher than U-M in FPI, come to town.

Sept. 18 vs. Northern Illinois — 92.0 percent chance to win

Northern Illinois Huskies football sixth-year senior linebacker Kyle Pugh’s 36 tackles were tied for the second most on the squad in 2020.
Northern Illinois Huskies football sixth-year senior linebacker Kyle Pugh’s 36 tackles were tied for the second most on the squad in 2020. (Scott Walstrom)

Opponent FPI Rank: 107th

Opponent Projected Win Total: 4.6

Northern Illinois was one of the worst, if not the worst, team in college football last season, when they posted a winless 0-6 record. The Huskies return 17 starters (seven offense, 10 defense), but haven't proven they have the talent to hang around with the Maize and Blue.

Sept. 25 vs. Rutgers — 82.6 percent chance to win

Rutgers Scarlet Knights football junior running back Isaih Pacheco’s 515 rushing yards ranked eighth in the Big Ten last season.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights football junior running back Isaih Pacheco’s 515 rushing yards ranked eighth in the Big Ten last season. (AP Images)

Opponent FPI Rank: 75

Opponent Projected Win Total: 4.6

Rutgers took Michigan to triple-overtime last season and appear to be surging under second-year head man Greg Schiano, but FPI says the Scarlet Knights have about as good of a shot to beat Michigan as MAC school Western Michigan.

Oct. 2 at Wisconsin — 32.3 percent chance to win

Wisconsin Badgers football freshman running back Jalen Berger racked up 87 yards and a touchdown in Wisconsin’s blowout victory over Michigan in 2020.
Wisconsin Badgers football freshman running back Jalen Berger racked up 87 yards and a touchdown in Wisconsin’s blowout victory over Michigan in 2020. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)

Opponent FPI Rank: 17th

Opponent Projected Win Total: 8.4

Wisconsin has had Michigan's number, having beaten the Wolverines by a combined 84-25 over the last two meetings. In addition, Michigan hasn't won in Madison since 2001. FPI has this as the third-toughest game on the slate, behind only Ohio State (home) and Penn State (road).

Oct. 9 at Nebraska — 52.5 percent chance to win

Nebraska Cornhuskers football junior quarterback Adrian Martinez’s 71.5-percent completion rate last season was a school record for a single season.
Nebraska Cornhuskers football junior quarterback Adrian Martinez’s 71.5-percent completion rate last season was a school record for a single season.

Opponent FPI Rank: 51st

Opponent Projected Win Total: 5.6

The Huskers get Michigan at home, which bodes well for their chances to pull out an early-October victory — the location of the game is likely where the slight edge towards Nebraska comes from. On top of that, there's more optimism surrounding the roster in Lincoln than there has been in some time, and junior signal-caller Adrian Martinez has as much experience as any quarterback in the Big Ten.

Oct. 23 vs. Northwestern — 63.4 percent chance to win

Northwestern Wildcats football freshman running back Cam Porter posted a career-high 142 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Illinois during the 2020 season.
Northwestern Wildcats football freshman running back Cam Porter posted a career-high 142 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Illinois during the 2020 season.

Opponent FPI Rank: 31st

Opponent Projected Win Total: 7.9

It's hard to put a finger on Northwestern this season after they lost so many key pieces from their division title-winning club in 2020, and it's clear FPI, like many, sees the Wildcats taking a major step back. Remember, after winning its division in 2018, Northwestern posted a 3-9 record in 2019 — we've seen them flip flop before. The metric believes Michigan has a moderate advantage in this one.

Oct. 30 at Michigan State — 48.2 percent chance to win

Michigan State Spartans football redshirt freshman quarterback Payton Thorne threw for 6.8 yards per completion last season.
Michigan State Spartans football redshirt freshman quarterback Payton Thorne threw for 6.8 yards per completion last season. (AP Images)

Opponent FPI Rank: 45th

Opponent Projected Win Total: 5.9

Will Michigan State beat Michigan for a second straight year? FPI believes so. The Spartans were picked to finish last in the Big Ten East in Cleveland.com's annual poll (Michigan was picked fourth), but the metric sees Michigan State as having a slight edge come late October at Spartan Stadium.

Nov. 6 vs. Indiana — 57.1 percent chance to win

Indiana Hoosiers football junior cornerback Tiawan Mullen allowed just 14 receptions on 30 targets last season, per Pro Football Focus.
Indiana Hoosiers football junior cornerback Tiawan Mullen allowed just 14 receptions on 30 targets last season, per Pro Football Focus. (Indiana University Athletics)

Opponent FPI Rank: 27th

Opponent Projected Win Total: 7.1

Indiana beat Michigan last season for the first time since 1987, and finally made the leap up to second in the Big Ten East. But FPI isn't as bullish on the Hoosiers, who return eight starters on offense and nine on defense, as some others. The metric actually gives Michigan the advantage in this one, despite the apparent trajectories of the two teams over the last calendar year. The fact that this contest will be played in Ann Arbor certainly helps the Wolverines' case.

Nov. 13 at Penn State — 28.0 percent chance to win

Penn State Nittany Lions football fifth-year senior cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields is a preseason third-team All-Big Ten pick by Athlon Sports.
Penn State Nittany Lions football fifth-year senior cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields is a preseason third-team All-Big Ten pick by Athlon Sports. (Getty Images)

Opponent FPI Rank: 13th

Opponent Projected Win Total: 8.4

FPI sees this as the second-hardest game on Michigan's schedule. The Nittany Lions were 4-5 last season but return seven starters on each side of the ball and have the talent to bounce back. Michigan has lost each of the last two meetings with Penn State in Happy Valley, and three out of the last four in the series overall. Those two factors play heavily into PSU's favor.

Nov. 20 vs. Maryland — 61.4 percent chance to win

Maryland Terrapins football quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa threw for seven touchdowns in 2020.
Maryland Terrapins football quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa threw for seven touchdowns in 2020. (USA Today Sports Images)

Opponent FPI Rank: 61st

Opponent Projected Win Total: 5.4

Michigan has a significant edge over Maryland, according to FPI, but the home-field advantage being in favor of the Terrapins has the metric predicting this one to be closer than any matchup between the two schools while Harbaugh has been on the U-M sideline. Sandwiched between Penn State and archrival Ohio State, this could be seen as a trap game for the Wolverines, as well.

Nov. 27 vs. Ohio State — 18.7 percent chance to win

Ohio State Buckeyes junior wide receiver Chris Olave was named a preseason first-team All-American by Athlon Sports.
Ohio State Buckeyes junior wide receiver Chris Olave was named a preseason first-team All-American by Athlon Sports. (Scott Stuart)

Opponent FPI Rank: 4th

Opponent Projected Win Total: 11.5

Ohio State is, unsurprisingly, viewed as the toughest game on Michigan's schedule. The Buckeyes have won the Big Ten four straight seasons, and haven't lost to the Wolverines since 2011. Even with it being in Ann Arbor, FPI only gives Michigan an 18.7-percent shot at winning the regular-season finale.

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