By now, it’s common knowledge that Michigan has one of the most difficult remaining schedules in all of college football: Michigan State, Penn State and Ohio State still lurk, while the likes of Northwestern, Indiana and Maryland simply serve as fillers around 3 of the biggest games the Big Ten has seen in years.

Unless, of course, Northwestern, Indiana or Maryland finds a way to disrupt the No. 6 Wolverines’ progress toward the Promised Land — which is being undefeated entering both rivalry weeks, vs. the Spartans and the Buckeyes, who are both currently ranked in the Top 10. MSU is No. 9, OSU is No. 5 and, for good measure, we’ll mention PSU, which is No. 7.

Yeah, it’s about to get realer than real for Michigan, which was projected to win about 6 games this season. ESPN’s latest Power Index has UM as a solid 10-win team.

Tune-up for MSU: vs. Northwestern, Oct. 23

The Wildcats haven’t lived up to preseason expectations. They were supposed to contend for the Big Ten West title. Right now, they’re a mediocre team that doesn’t have a signature win. Yeah, they beat Rutgers by 2 touchdowns, a team which UM struggled against. But they also lost 56-7 to Nebraska, a team Michigan beat 32-29 a couple weeks ago.

This game can’t be overlooked by Michigan, but it’ll likely be a tune-up for the Spartans the following week. Coming off a bye, Michigan needs to regroup, get QB Cade McNamara more comfortable, and get ready for the first installment of the biggest game of its season.

Prediction: Michigan 33, Northwestern 10

Bragging rights: at Michigan State, Oct. 30

This one is going to be fun, especially for those who live in the state of Michigan. This is basically our Super Bowl, because, well, the Detroit Lions will never give us such joy. Every year, families and friends are divided by maize and blue vs. green and white. That’s just how it goes in the Mitten.

Michigan State had a nice run under Mark Dantonio, winning 8 of 10 at one point. The past 10 have evened out, with MSU holding a 6-4 advantage. With 2nd-year coach Mel Tucker, the Spartans look like they’re trying to rekindle the success of the Golden Era with Dantonio.

Michigan’s defense is better. Both teams have solid running games and receivers. MSU’s pass defense is No. 14 in the Big Ten, giving a slight advantage to the Wolverines. These ones are always so tough to call. Paralysis by analysis. You can know all the stats, trends and details and still be wrong because something “rivalry” happened — like a botched punt or something along those lines. Something funky will happen in this game, blowing all rational predictions aside.

Most stats point toward Michigan being a favorite, including ESPN FPI calculations. So that might be a red flag.

The game is in East Lansing this year, if that matters. In this case, it kind of does — so that’s why this prediction is in favor of the Spartans.

Prediction: Michigan State 28, Michigan 24

Hoosiers pay a visit: vs. Indiana, Nov. 6

Lately, Indiana vs. Michigan has been a pretty good game, going back to the time John O’Korn started against and barely escaped the Hoosiers, 27-20 in OT, in 2017.

These days, the Hoosiers don’t look like what most thought they’d look like in 2021 — not after the quick improvement under coach Tom Allen. Fresh off a very winnable 20-15 loss to Michigan State, Indiana is now playing for dignity. There is nothing else left to gain this year, except maybe a bowl appearance.

Considering they’re 2-3, and still have to play Ohio State and UM, a postseason-berth looks out of reach. The Hoosiers will likely put up a fight, but they won’t have enough to go toe-to-toe with the Wolverines.

Prediction: Michigan 31, Indiana 14

Onward to the Valley: at Penn State, Nov. 13

Playing in Happy Valley is one of the most challenging tricks to master for Penn State’s opposition. Not everyone, even good teams, can manage to block out the distractions of one of the most raucous environments in college football.

Star QB Sean Clifford suffered an undisclosed injury vs. Iowa, so his status remains unclear. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions are trying to figure out a contingency plan. QBs Ta’Quan Roberson and Christian Veilleux have been getting reps in practice.

If Clifford is healthy, Penn State has a shot at grabbing a big, late-season victory. But that’s a big “if,” and it’s also going to depend on how well the rest of the Nittany Lions play (obviously).

Should be a fun one. Michigan vs. Penn State has also been entertaining over the years.

Prediction: Michigan 28, Penn State 19

Shell shocked? at Maryland, Nov. 20

Starting Nov. 6, the Terps have 3 consecutive weeks of hell, starting with Penn State, then Michigan State and then Michigan. By time the Wolverines get them, the Terps will probably be beaten up pretty well. Three straight weeks against the top of the Big Ten, and after being torched 66-17 by Ohio State.

Yeah, it’ll get ugly for Maryland later this year. Well, uglier, let’s say.

Prediction: Michigan 42, Maryland 17

Those guys, again: vs. Ohio State, Nov. 27

If the previous predictions come true, Michigan will hop into the final week with a 10-1 record. It’s a tough decision, but funny things happen in rivalries — especially with UM and MSU — so picking the host Spartans was basically a coin-flip. We’ll know more after Oct. 30, of course.

But back to the Buckeyes, who have only lost 3 times in the series since 2000. The Wolverines will need to channel their inner-whatever and play their best game of the Harbaugh era to finally end the regular season with a win.

But it won’t be this year.

Ohio State’s athleticism and controlled offense with QB CJ Stroud, the Big Ten’s leader in everything passing, will probably be too much. However, at least the Buckeyes probably won’t hang 60 on UM this time around.

Prediction: Ohio State 33, Michigan 21