2019 Retrospective: Michigan's Most Difficult Games

Jake Sage

As we re-rank Michigan's 12 regular-season games from hardest to easiest, here is a look at who we thought would be the toughest back in August.

1. Ohio State

2. Penn State

3. Notre Dame

4. Michigan State

5. Wisconsin

6. Army

7. Iowa

8. Indiana

9. Maryland

10. Illinois

11. Rutgers

12. Middle Tennessee

Now, how it played out.

1. Ohio State

Record: 13-0 (9-0 in Big Ten) No. 1 in CFP Rankings, Big Ten champs

Result: Ohio State 56, Michigan 27

The Buckeyes are the best team in the country, and they are obviously the toughest team the Wolverines had to face. Ohio State has three Heisman candidates in tailback J.K Dobbins, quarterback Justin Fields and defensive end Chase Young, and dominated on both sides of the ball. The Buckeyes rank first in the country in points per game at 48.7 and rank third in points allowed per game at 12.5

Ohio State never had a victory where the margin was less than 11.

2. Wisconsin


10-3 (7-2 in Big Ten) No. 8 in CFP Rankings

Result: Wisconsin 35 Michigan 14

The Badgers secured a 10-win season for the fifth time in their last six seasons. Their to blemishes came at Illinois, in a surprise upset 24-23 when they blew a nine-point lead with less than six minutes remaining, and against the Buckeyes 38-7 in The Horseshoe the following week and last night 34-21 in the Big Ten Championship.

Wisconsin was led by their defense, which ranks 10th in the country allowing 16.1 points per game, and their run game: running back Jonathon Taylor rushed for 1,909 yards, 203 coming against the Wolverines.

3. Penn State

Record: 10-2 (7-2 in Big Ten) No.10 in CFP Rankings

Result: Penn State 28 Michigan 21

The Nittany Lions started the season 8-0 and got as high as No.4 in the College Football Playoff Rankings. However, Penn State finished the season 2-2 with losses against Minnesota 31-26 and Ohio State 28-17, both on the road. The Nittany Lions are hoping for the Buckeyes to beat the Badgers, so they can possibly sneak into the Rose Bowl.

4. Iowa

Record: 9-3 (6-3 in Big Ten) No. 16 in CFP Rankings

Result: Michigan 10 Iowa 3

The Hawkeyes are looking for their first 10 win season since 2015 when they play their bowl game. All Iowa’s losses came against teams currently ranked in the top 15: No. 14 Michigan 10-3, No. 10 Penn State 17-12 and No. 8 Wisconsin 24-22. Their only win against a ranked opponent came against No. 18 Minnesota 23-19.

5. Notre Dame

Record: 10-2 No. 15 in CFP Rankings

Result: Michigan 45 Notre Dame 14

Though the Fighting Irish only have two losses, they did not beat a single team currently ranked in the Top 20. Their two defeats, however, came to No. 4 Georgia and No. 15 Michigan.

The Irish finished the season winning their final five games. They finished the regular season with the 12th best offense in the nation at 37.1 points per game, the 14th best defense at 18.7 points per game, and third in the country in turnover margin per game at +1.2.

6. Indiana

Record: 8-4 (5-4 in Big Ten)

Result: Michigan 39 Indiana 14

The Hoosiers had their first eight-win season since 1993 and will look for the football program’s first nine-win season since 1967 in their bowl game. Though Indiana still hasn’t beaten a ranked team since 2016.

7. Illinois

Record: 6-6 (4-5 in Big Ten)

Result: Michigan 42 Illinois 25

The Fighting Illini finished the regular season bowl eligible for the first time since 2014. Illinois' best win came against Wisconsin, their first win against a ranked opponent since 2011. While they had a few surprising wins, rallying from down 28-3 to beat Michigan State, they also had a few letdowns against Eastern Michigan 34-31 and Northwestern 29-10.

8. Michigan State

Record: 6-6 (4-5 in Big Ten)

Result: Michigan 44 Michigan State 10

After starting the season 4-1, the Spartans went on a five-game losing streak, which included four losses against ranked teams.

9. Army

Record: 5-7

Result: Michigan 24 Army 21 in 2OT

Though the expectations were incredibly high for the Black Knights this season after an 11-2 record in 2018, Army was not able to live up to the hype. After rattling off two straight wins following the Michigan game, they lost five straight.

10. Maryland

Record: 3-9 (1-8 in Big Ten)

Result: Michigan 38 Maryland 7

After starting the season 2-0, the Terrapins finished the season losing eight of their final nine games. Maryland put up 79 points against Howard and 63 points against Syracuse in their first two games but finished the final 10 games averaging just 17.8 points per game.

11. Middle Tennessee

Record: 4-8 (3-5 in C-USA)

Result: Michigan 40 Middle Tennessee 21

The Blue Raiders went 0-3 in their games against Power Five teams and lost by a combined score of 129-42. Middle Tennessee only beat one team that finished with a winning record, Marshall in Week 5.

12. Rutgers

Record: 2-10 (0-9 in Big Ten)

Result: Michigan 52 Rutgers 0

For the second straight season, Rutgers failed to win a Big Ten game. The Scarlet Knights ranked worst in the Big Ten in both points scored per game at 13.3 and points allowed per game at 36.7. After firing Chris Ash, Rutgers has re-hired Greg Schiano, who served as head coach from 2001-11.