Michigan didn’t need a bye week after unleashing 4 quarters of hell on the ground against Penn State. Then again, no one is going to say no to time off, right?

The Wolverines (7-0, 4-0 B1G) look to be the leading — and perhaps only — team that can contend with Ohio State for the conference title. JJ McCarthy is playing smart, efficient football under center. The 1-2 combination of Donovan Edwards and Blake Corum should send shivers down defensive coordinators’ spines.

And the defense, you know, the one that lost David Ojabo, Dax Hill and Aidan Hutchinson to the NFL? Have you noticed a drop-off? You’re lying if you say yes.

Through 8 weeks, the Wolverines are top 10 in total defense, run defense and scoring. And they’re only getting better with more time to gel under 1st-year defensive coordinator Jesse Minter.

Four opponents are standing in Michigan’s way for a potential undefeated matchup with Ohio State in “The Game” on Nov. 26. Would someone like to point to the team that’s defeating this Buckeyes offense? Better yet, is anyone going to stop Jim Knowles from turning Ohio State’s defense elite moving forward? If so, please call the B1G office so they can make sure it’s a must-see event.

As for Michigan, its next 4 games are winnable on paper. Will the Wolverines fall flat in the coming weeks before traveling to Columbus?

Here’s a look at each game and a prediction on how it will end.

vs. Michigan State (W)

The last 2 games have swung in favor of Mel Tucker’s team. Last season, Kenneth Walker III went X-Games mode for 5 TDs and 197 yards off 23 carries. The year before, Rocky Lombardi kept targeting Connor Heyward in the red zone for the easy points.

This is a game where McCarthy should try to take a few risks passing. The Spartans have been abysmal in coverage, allowing opponents to average 269 passing yards per game. Michigan State also has allowed 3 or more touchdowns to Power 5 programs 3 times since Week 3.

Lombardi targeted his running back in the flat to win in 2020. Maybe Harbaugh and Sherrone Moore follow suit with dink-and-dunks to Edwards and Corum in the flats to move the chains. Then again, wouldn’t Michigan fans love to see “little brother” Sparty get beaten over the top against receivers like Roman Wilson, Ronnie Bell and Cornelius Johnson?

To be fair, they likely just want Paul Bunyan back in Ann Arbor for the first time since 2019. Anything else is an added bonus.

@ Rutgers (W)

Does anyone remember the last time Rutgers defeated Michigan? We’ll save you the trouble: It was 2014. Elmwood Park’s own Gary Nova tallied 3 TDs and took a 9-point lead going into the closing minutes of the 4th quarter. If Devin Gardner had just one more drive, what could have been?

Does anyone know the other time Rutgers took down Michigan? If you said anything other than “never,” put a dollar in the fib jar. And yes, this is the nice way of saying the Scarlet Knights and their 102nd-ranked scoring offense aren’t winning at SHI Stadium to kick off the month of November.

vs. Nebraska (W)

Everyone was expecting Anthony Grant to be the driving force for the Huskers moving forward. That title belongs to Trey Palmer, who firmly has become Casey Thompson’s go-to weapon in Lincoln. Since the start of B1G play, the LSU transfer has totaled 426 yards off 27 catches and has scored 4 touchdowns.

Palmer will be the best receiver either Gemon Green or DJ Turner has seen at that point in the season. And when Casey Thompson finds his groove, he can beat teams with his arm. Then again, the game is in Ann Arbor, and the Huskers are allowing a whopping 190.4 yards on the ground to opponents.

Corum cements his seat at the Heisman ceremony while Edwards tacks on another 100 to his rushing total.

vs. No. 17 Illinois (W)

This needs to be McCarthy’s game. The one where it all clicks passing-wise. Throws need to be sharp and precise. And sure, no one is going to ask him to throw for 500 yards, but proving that elevated completion percentage is more than just a number built against bad opponents is essential.

Illinois is legit. At least defensively it is. The Illini held Wisconsin wunderkind Braelon Allen to 2 rushing yards. They held Tanner Morgan and the Golden Gophers’ passing attack to 2.1 yards per attempt. Teams are averaging less than 9 points a game against Illinois, and it’s in large part why defensive coordinator Ryan Walters is going to get looks for several high-profile openings this offseason.

If McCarthy can move the sticks and connect in the red zone with his tight ends, the Wolverines coast on senior night. If McCarthy misses wide-open targets and underthrows receivers at the point of attack, Michigan wins close.

@ Ohio State (L)

It’s shame divisions exist. One of these powerhouses is going to get gypped out of playing for a conference title and potentially more national implications because of this matchup.

Of course, this is why we love college football and the madness of rivalry week.

Michigan’s best chance to walk away victorious is all based off the play of CJ Stroud. All 4 turnovers from the junior quarterback have come against B1G opponents. His passer rating in conference play is 197.4 compared to his out-of-conference rating of 215.5. If one were to catch him on a bad afternoon, could it be the difference between playing in Indianapolis a week later?

The atmosphere surrounding this likely top-5 matchup is going to make this the most talked-about game of the week. Rivalries have that flare to begin with, but it’s vastly different when both teams are more than capable of winning a national title. And with the way the SEC continues to look like a 3-team race, there likely won’t be room for 2 B1G teams in the Final 4.

The Big House factored into Michigan’s win last year. The Horseshoe is the final piece to close off an undefeated regular season in Columbus for the Buckeyes.

At least Pasadena is pretty in January.