Where does the Michigan Wolverines' football schedule rank in terms of difficulty in 2020? We look at some analytics.
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Is U-M's Schedule The Toughest In The Big Ten? Stats & Analytics Weigh In

When the revised Big Ten football schedules were released for the 2020 campaign two weeks ago, the Michigan Wolverines' was instantly viewed as one of, if not, the toughest in the league.

This was due to the fact the Maize and Blue drew Wisconsin and Minnesota from the West division, which are thought by many to be the two best teams (though Iowa is on the verge of that conversation as well) on that side of the conference.

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Michigan Wolverines football coach Jim Harbaugh
Michigan Wolverines football coach Jim Harbaugh has compiled a 47-18 record during his five years at U-M. (USA Today Sports Images)
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The statistical and analytical data agrees as well that Michigan's schedule is one of the toughest in the league in 2020. It's important to look at not only who U-M is playing when determining the difficulty of the slate, but also who it's not playing.

The Wolverines miss, most notably, Northwestern and Purdue from the West, who are expected to be the two worst teams in the division.

The Associated Press Poll began including Big Ten clubs in its top-25 once again this past weekend, and placed Ohio State at No. 6, Penn State at No. 10, Wisconsin at No. 19 and Michigan at No. 23.

Minnesota and Iowa were each removed after initially having made the original AP top-25 back in August. The three ranked clubs Michigan will face in 2020 (Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin) are tied for the second-most in the conference, with Indiana being the only school slated to face more (four).

Indiana Hoosiers football
The Michigan Wolverines' football team will play at Indiana on Nov. 7. (USA Today Sports Images)
Number of Current Ranked Opponents Each Big Ten Team Will Face in 2020
School Ranked Opponents on the Schedule

1. Indiana


T-2. Maryland


T-2. Michigan


T-2. Michigan State


T-2. Nebraska


T-2. Rutgers


T-7. Illinois


T-7. Iowa


T-7. Minnesota


T-7. Ohio State


T-7. Penn State


T-12. Northwestern


T-12. Purdue


T-12. Wisconsin


ESPN's FPI index, meanwhile, has U-M's slate rated as the second-toughest in the Big Ten, citing the difficulty in its crossover games with Wisconsin and Minnesota and the fact that those two clubs' average FPI rank is 13.5 nationally.

Per ESPN, Nebraska was the only Big Ten squad who drew tougher crossover matchups, having to play Penn State and Ohio State from the East. The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions have an average FPI rating of 3.5.

Billy Connelly's (of ESPN) S&P+ ratings, finally, have also gained popularity in recent years, and are "a tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of college football efficiency," ranking ranks teams as a whole, offenses, defenses, etc.

Connelly's rankings have Ohio State at No. 1 in the country, Penn State at No. 7, Wisconsin at No. 9 and Minnesota at No. 20, all of whom Michigan plays this fall. The Wolverines and Cornhuskers are the only two Big Ten clubs who will play four teams rated inside Connelly's S&P+ top-20.

Indiana will also play three programs currently rated inside the top-10 of those rankings (Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin), but avoids Minnesota and as a result won't face four of the top-20 (like Michigan and Nebraska do).


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