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Stadium and Main: Looking ahead to next season

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Looking ahead to next season

I realize that this season isn’t over, and that we will be playing USC in what many fans are thinking could be a preview of next year’s BCS Championship Game (I hate typing those words). If you’ve read this blog semi-frequently, or if you’re one of my friends (or both!), you know that I’ve been looking forward to 2007 for a long time. I’ll save the unimportant details for a later date, but as of now, here is how I see Michigan Football 2007: Better Offense, worse Defense, worse Special Teams, and a much easier schedule. This could be one of those weird things where the 2006 team is actually better, but the 2007 team runs the table. Primarily because of this:

Sept. 1 Eastern Michigan
Sept. 8 Oregon
Sept. 15 Notre Dame
Sept. 22 Penn State
Sept. 29 @ Northwestern
Oct. 6 Bye (Will be filled with a cupcake at home)
Oct. 13 Purdue (Homecoming)
Oct. 20 @ Illinois
Oct. 27 Minnesota
Nov. 3 @ Michigan State
Nov. 10 @ Wisconsin
Nov. 17 Ohio State

We will probably only have 2 “guaranteed” wins (keeping in mind that I’m more pessimistic than most) – Eastern Michigan and whoever fills the Bye week. Teams like Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue, and Minnesota could be terrible, but they could also make Bowl runs. However, I would be surprised if any of them can hang with us. So, that’s 6 of the 12 games.

So here’s where it gets interesting, or maybe not. The other 6 games, “on paper,” just don’t look too tough:

Oregon – Time to (finally) get revenge for 2003. Note that Oregon is the only team on this list that will have a returning QB with both (a) significant playing experience, and (b) an IQ above 17. Let’s hope Oregon wins its Bowl game this year (vs. BYU) and is ranked in the Top 25 next season, because we all know that it’s about the “body of work” when we talk BCS. “Body of work” in the sense that you compare wins and losses, and not the actual scores of the games. Idiots.

Notre Dame – Let the “Beat-down Part III” talk begin. I’m sure plenty of Michigan fans will be talking about 38-0 and 47-21, and hoping for another blowout. Notre Dame loses pretty much every good experienced player on their team, and will be comprised of many good inexperienced players. No more Quinn hype. No more Samardzija hair. No more Zbikowski boxing gloves. Can we destroy these guys again, please?

Penn State – Maybe the IQ jokes about Anthony Morelli are uncalled for, but the guy just isn’t that good. Couple that with the likelihood that he will be peeing his pants when he sees the Michigan DL walk onto the field (Alan Branch, please come back for your Senior year!). I think Penn State might be a good team next year, but if they couldn’t get it done this year, at night, in Happy Valley, why would one think they can win in Ann Arbor (especially once my wire transfer to the refs goes through on September 22nd)?

@ Michigan State – Reasons State could beat us: (1) They don’t have John L. Smith anymore. (2) They don’t have Drew Stanton anymore (0-5 vs. Michigan). Reasons we should beat them: (1) It’s State. (2) They don’t have Drew Stanton anymore.

@ Wisconsin – This will be labeled the “trap game” by many Michigan fans. While Wisconsin loses QB John Stocco, his probable replacement, Tyler Donovan, got some playing time (including the entire Iowa game), and looked more-than-adequate. My fear here is that Wisconsin will lose a few games early in the season, but won’t really be any “worse” than they were this year. Good Defense, good running game, annoying coach. Plus, this one has night game written all over it, and you know how I feel about road night games.

Ohio State – Troy Smith will be gone, and so will Ted Ginn, Jr. (according to Buckeye fans, at least). Now, will Ted Ginn, Sr. provide Tressel with another Terminator from Glenville, Ohio, sent to break Michigan hearts yet again? Let’s hope not. The apparent replacement is Rob Schoenhoft, who threw a TD pass to Mario Manningham in the Big 33 Football Classic. Oh, there will be irony when Manningham catches 3 TDs in this game, and Alan Branch knocks Schoenhoft out (again, Branch, please?!). Yes, it’s still Ohio State. Yes, Tressel pwns Lloyd. But, I mean, come one. Let’s win. Seriously.

So there you have it. 4 of the 6 potential “trouble” games are against teams with new QBs. As you can probably infer, I think replacing a QB is one of the hardest things for a college football team. It might be OK to lose your starting QB when you’ve got Braylon Edwards on your team (see Michigan 2004), but I don’t see any Braylons on the teams listed above. Thus, I really think our schedule looks like a National Title type of schedule. It actually reminds me a lot of the 1997 schedule, in terms of the teams we play at home and on the road, and the order in which we play them.

Certain things will happen in the coming months (injuries, transfers, etc.) that could change my outlook on 2007. But one of the most important elements is already in place – a manageable schedule. If Jake Long comes back (sounds like he might), and Alan Branch follows suit (third time’s the charm!), we could have a very special season ahead of us.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

eight home games and four road games. interesting. like the ratio of a college basketball schedule.

i love michigan games, but who the heck wants to pay these exorbatant prices for another cupcake game?

11:41 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

Cupcakes stink, but you gotta admit that it's tough to beat a home slate that includes Oregon, Notre Dame, Penn State, and Ohio State.

10:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob Schoenhoft will most likely not be the starter for OSU. Todd Boeckman or Antonio Henton will probably get the nod, or at least that's the talk around Columbus. Either way, Michigan should get them this year.

2:11 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Thanks for the info about OSU's QB situation. Anybody but Smith is OK with me.

4:07 PM  

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