Michigan football is entering its most difficult stretch of the season as it prepares to take on Penn State, its first ranked opponent of the season, Saturday.
Veteran coach Jim Harbaugh has led the Wolverines to a 9-0 record through Week 10, but, according to the NCAA, it has played the 84th toughest schedule to this point.
After taking on Penn State at Beaver Stadium this weekend, Michigan will next travel to Maryland and finish out the regular season at home against No. 1 Ohio State, making the remaining schedule the second toughest in the country.
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Former Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson praised the program’s development in an interview with Fox News Digital, comparing it to his junior year in 2020 when the Wolverines finished with a 2-4 record in the pandemic-altered season and were not selected for a bowl game for the first time since 2014.
“To be where they’re at right now, it’s just very inspiring,” he said during an interview on behalf of USAA’s “Go Beyond Thanks” campaign.
Hutchinson played four seasons at Michigan. His junior year came to an abrupt end after he suffered a season-ending injury. He came back the following year and started all 14 games, registering 62 tackles, including 16½ for loss, and a program-record 14 sacks.
He was the Heisman Trophy runner-up that year.
He was drafted second overall by the Detroit Lions in the 2022 NFL Draft.
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“Just knowing what happened in 2020. We were 2-4 in 2020, and [then] 2021 happened. We finally got over the hump, and they’re continuing it and just being very consistent with it. So, I’m very proud of them, and I hope they win it all this year.”
The challenging schedule ahead won’t be the only thing that tests the program.
Michigan has been embroiled in an NCAA investigation into sign-stealing allegations. Low-level staffer Connor Stalions, who is at the center of the controversy, resigned Friday after being initially suspended with pay during the investigation. The program is already the subject of an NCAA investigation into in-person scouting.
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The investigations come as Michigan chases a third straight conference championship and the school’s first national title since 1997.
Hutchinson declined to comment on the sign-stealing allegations beyond the comments he’s already made.
“They’re doing all their investigations, and they’re coming at Michigan when Michigan’s got a shot to win the national championship this year,” he told reporters last month. “So, I don’t know. It is what it is. I guess time will pass and people will forget about it and move on once we’re the [Big Ten] champs again.”
Fox News’ Joe Morgan and The Associated Press contributed to this report.