What a difference a year makes.
Ohio State executed a flawless transition from Urban Meyer to Ryan Day and still reigns supreme. Meanwhile, the Wolverines tripped up against Wisconsin and Penn State on the road, finishing a disappointing 9-4 after a loss to Alabama in the Citrus Bowl.
The backbone of that team is gone, with many of coach Jim Harbaugh's recruits from his first full class (2016) taken in April's NFL draft. Michigan must replace more than a dozen starters, with the offense particularly inexperienced.
As Harbaugh enters his sixth season in Ann Arbor, the program faces more questions than ever. Can the Wolverines take a step forward and contend with Ohio State for the conference title? Or will they take yet another step back?
Here’s a game-by-game score prediction for Michigan's season:
Oct. 24: at Minnesota
Last season: Did not play. Minnesota went 11-2.
The buzz: A season-opening night game on the road is not as difficult as it would've been in a normal year, as there won't be any fans in attendance. Still, the Golden Gophers are a difficult matchup. They return quarterback Tanner Morgan, who averaged 10.2 yards per pass attempt and had the Big Ten's second-highest passing efficiency. He's joined by star receiver Rashod Bateman, who caught 60 passes for 1,219 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. That's a difficult first matchup for a young secondary.
The pick: Minnesota wins, 27-21.
Oct. 31: Michigan State
Last season: Michigan, 44-10.
The buzz: First-year coach Mel Tucker has the unenviable job of turning around a program without any spring practices and a shorter-than-usual fall camp. What could go wrong? The Spartans could show more fight in this game later down the road, but the odds are stacked against them this season.
The pick: Michigan, 31-14.
Nov. 7: at Indiana
Last season: Michigan, 39-14.
The buzz: The Hoosiers have played Michigan tough in recent years with the exception of last season, when Michigan's offense was unstoppable in Bloomington. The Wolverines who starred in that game are, for the most part, no longer with the program anymore, while Indiana returns promising quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who missed last season's game due to injury.
The pick: Michigan, 31-24.
Nov. 14: Wisconsin
Last season: Wisconsin, 35-14.
The buzz: The Badgers took apart Michigan in Madison last fall, jumping out to a 35-0 lead in perhaps the Wolverines' flattest performance of Harbaugh's tenure. Wisconsin no longer has All-American running back Jonathan Taylor (and quarterback Jack Coan is out indefinitely with a foot injury), but the Badgers will likely have a formidable run game. Can Michigan's defensive line — particularly the interior linemen — stop the run?
The pick: Wisconsin, 27-20.
Nov. 21: at Rutgers
Last season: Michigan, 52-0.
The buzz: The Scarlet Knights re-hired former coach Greg Schiano this offseason. Maybe he can bring old magic from his first time around, but it's hard to see that happening in 2020. This is the least talented team in the conference.
The pick: Michigan, 49-10.
Nov. 28: Penn State
Last season: Penn State, 28-21.
The buzz: Michigan nearly pulled off an improbable comeback on the road last season, falling short after an end-zone drop late in the fourth quarter. Both teams look different now. Penn State hired former Minnesota offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca and former Boston College offensive line coach Phil Trautwein; both are considered rising stars in college football. With a solid cast of returning players on offense, the Nittany Lions could be hard to stop.
The pick: Penn State, 34-31.
Dec. 5: Maryland
Last season: Michigan, 38-7.
The buzz: Maryland has made progress since hiring Mike Locksley and even signed a five-star receiver in the 2020 class. But this is a long-term rebuilding job, and the Terrapins' roster is not as deep as Michigan's. It would be stunning if the Wolverines lost.
The pick: Michigan, 41-17.
Dec. 12: at Ohio State
Last season: Ohio State, 56-27.
The buzz: Two straight years of blowout losses in which Michigan has surrendered 118 points and had no answer for Day's offense. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, it doesn't get any easier. Quarterback Justin Fields, offensive guard Wyatt Davis, center Josh Myers and receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson give Ohio State the most talented offense in the Big Ten. It's hard to see any Big Ten defense slowing the Buckeyes down — Michigan included.
The pick: Ohio State, 48-24.
Michigan's record: 4-4.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan football 2020 schedule predictions: Game-by-game picks