End Ron Kramer was selected as a consensus All-American and a first team All-Big Ten player. Guard Dick Hill was selected as the team's Most Valuable Player and was named by the Associated Press (AP) as a first-team All-Big Ten player. Halfback Terry Barr averaged 6.1 yards per carry rushing and 19.7 yards per punt return and was selected as a first-team All-Big Ten player by the United Press (UP).
On September 29, 1956, Michigan opened its season with a 42–13 victory over UCLA. The Bruins were ranked #4 in the final AP Poll in 1955, but lost a number of players due to sanctions imposed by the Pacific Coast Conference. Michigan rushed for 234 yards against UCLA, including 67 yards by junior halfback Jim Pace. In the air, Michigan completed four of nine passes for 103 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown pass from Bob Ptacek to Jim Van Pelt and a 70-yard touchdown pass from Terry Barr to Ron Kramer. Barr also set up a touchdown with a 51-yard punt return to the UCLA 15-yard line in the first quarter. Halfback John Herrnstein scored two touchdowns for Michigan on runs of six and four yards. Ed Shannon and Jim Dickey also scored touchdowns for Michigan. Kramer and Maddock each kicked three extra points for Michigan.
On October 6, 1956, Michigan (ranked No. 5 in the AP Poll) lost to Michigan State (ranked No. 2), 9–0, before a crowd of 101,001 at Michigan Stadium. After a scoreless first half in which Michigan dominated statistically, turnovers led to two Michigan State scores. In the third quarter, John Herrnstein was intercepted at Michigan's 38-yard line, setting up a 20-yard field goal by John Matsko. In the fourth quarter, Herrnstein fumbled, and Michigan State recovered the ball at Michigan's 21-yard line, leading to a Spartan touchdown shortly thereafter.
On October 13, 1956, Michigan (ranked No. 12 in the AP Poll) defeated Army (ranked No. 15), 48–14, before a crowd of 93,101 at Michigan Stadium. Army fumbled eight times with Michigan recovering six times. Michigan led, 27-0, at halftime, and none of Michigan's starters played in the second half. Michigan totaled 246 rushing yards and 124 passing yards. Seven different Wolverines scored touchdowns: Jim Pace, Terry Barr, Bob Ptacek, Gary Prahst, John Herrnstein, Jim Van Pelt, and Jim Maddock.