Who's Left? Ranking The Six Power 5 Teams Michigan Has Yet To Face
Throughout the storied history of Michigan football, the Wolverines have been pitted in a matchup against nearly every Power Five school in the country. Michigan has faced off against Vanderbilt 11 times for a 10-0-1 record, tussled with Washington a dozen times for a 7-5 record and battled against Syracuse just as many times for a 6-5-1 split overall.
But which Power Five teams have the Wolverines yet to play against?
Six teams fit that billing: LSU, Clemson, Louisville, Iowa State, Texas Tech and TCU.
Each team represents a different set of pros and cons for Michigan. Smaller schools, such as Iowa State or TCU, would be more likely to travel to Ann Arbor for any potential matchup. Programs such as LSU and Clemson could be better served scheduling a home-and-home against U-M since the Wolverines would register as a quality non-conference opponent and vice versa. Then squads such as Louisville and Texas Tech might fancy playing in a neutral site venue, such as At&T Stadium for a game against the Red Raiders or a contest at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, which is a little over an hour from Louisville's campus.
These different facets certainly impact how the Michigan fan base would react to seeing any of these six teams on the schedule for the neat future. Let's operate under the hypothetical scenario that Michigan has one open slot for the 2020 season, and athletic director Warde Manuel is considering a game against one of those schools. Who should Manuel target first and who should he avoid?
Here are the rankings:
Last year, the Cardinals turned in an 8-5 season, but Louisville has experienced a high level of success recently. In fact, Lamar Jackson lit the college football world ablaze in 2016 as he turned in one of the most dynamic and prolific seasons as an game-breaking dual-threat quarterback, winning the Heisman Trophy to cap off his successful campaign.
As it pertains to this coming season, Louisville is expected to find success, and Louisville Report's Matt McGavic provided a look into this year's team.
“There's a feel around the program that they will match how they did last year and maybe even have a 9-to-10 win regular season,” McGavic said. “Very few are expecting any sort of regression.”
That record is not far from where Michigan may fare in 2020. A victory over Louisville would reflect favorably for the Wolverines if the Cardinals can reach nine or 10 wins, however, and the team does have areas that U-M can exploit.
McGavic mentioned that defense is Louisville's weakness at the moment, but the Cardinals should feature a strong offense with wide receiver Tutu Atwell and running back Javian Hawkins both fresh off 1,000-yard seasons.
Overall, a game against Louisville presents a winnable opportunity for U-M to build its non-conference resume against a notable team that could contend for the ACC crown.
Last season, LSU won the National Championship with a remarkable 15-0 campaign with Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow at the helm. This year, the Tigers will be faced with replacing Burrow, who produced one of the most prolific seasons from a quarterback in college football history. Without Burrow executing LSU's offense, Michigan may be able to sneak away with a victory against a program that is refilling a lot of its starting lineup.
In fact, LSU had 14 players selected in the 2020 NFL Draft, so there are holes to fill all over the team's lineup. Michigan also had a slew of players picked with 10 draftees, but the Wolverines have fairly clear replacements at most of the positions. The two teams could realistically agree to a home-and-home series, so for the purpose of this discussion LSU travels to Ann Arbor in 2020. This would put U-M in a clear position to claim a victory over the reigning National Champions, an outcome that would assuredly excite the fan base.
Though Clemson lost to LSU 42-25 in the National Championship game this past season, the program picked up a victory in the title game to cap off the 2018 season. On top of that accomplishment, Clemson ranks in the top 25 schools for all-time winning percentage with a clip of over 60%, so a potential game against the Tigers should be highly anticipated given the stakes.
But with that great potential rewards comes a boat-load of risk as Clemson still has Trevor Lawrence at the helm. The returning starter led the ACC with 3,665 passing yards and 45 total touchdowns a year ago, and he will likely have a greater command of the Tigers' offense this season. A game against Clemson is a risky proposition for U-M but would likely generate a wealth of ticket sales for the hypothetical contest.
4. Texas Tech
Although the Red Raiders were only able to manage a 4-8 record a year ago, a game against Texas Tech could make sense if the matchup were to take place at AT&T Stadium. With as large of a fan base and alumni market as Michigan has, U-M fans typically travel well, and a game in Arlington where the Dallas Cowboys play would be no exception.
Michigan last played at AT&T Stadium at the start of the 2017 season in a game against Florida, but the Wolverines also shared the venue for a 2012 meeting with Alabama. This shows that the U-M athletic department have a history in negotiating with those in charge at the facility, so a preexisting relationship is there and could be called upon to set up this game.
5. Iowa State
With both TCU and Iowa State on the board, neither school offers a particularly marquee opponent, but Iowa State takes a slight edge due to posting a better winning percentage last season. At 7-6, Iowa State finished third in the Big 12, so the team is fairing well in relation to its own conference. Head coach Matt Campbell has helped reinvigorate Iowa State and breathe new life into the program, but Michigan still brings in much higher rated recruits and typically field a stingy defense, one that would create difficulties for a Cyclones squad that ranked No. 39 in the country for total offense.
To round out the list, TCU takes the final spot as this opponent does not do much to move the needle for Michigan. As a team that struggles to compete in its own conference, the Horned Frogs would likely be asked to travel on the road and face U-M in Ann Arbor. Under that circumstance, this game does not feature much else from a typical non-conference opponent for the Wolverines. Michigan should overmatch TCU from a talent standpoint, and U-M has performed exceedingly well at home under Jim Harbaugh, so this game actually shapes up more as a trap than it does as an enticing pairing of two teams set to play each other for the first time.
How would you rank the six teams that Michigan has not played against yet in terms of how anticipated each matchup would be? How does your list differ from this one? Let us know!