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Stadium and Main: The other ASU. No, not Arkansas State.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The other ASU. No, not Arkansas State.

The official 2007 Michigan Football schedule was finalized last week, as you likely heard, with the addition of Appalachian State as the season opener. I’ve updated the sidebar to the right accordingly. Some thoughts…

Yes, it really could be worse

Just because they’re not Division I-A doesn’t mean they’re terrible. In fact, there are dozens of I-A teams that are clearly less desirable than Appalachian State (for BCS purposes, that is). In an era where voters have admittedly manipulated their BCS votes to reflect their own, arguably illogical criteria, or create their preferred matchup, every team would be wise to get the BCS computers on their side. With that in mind, Michigan did the best it could.

Take a look at last season’s final Sagarin ELO-Chess rankings (the ones in red, which are used for the BCS), and you’ll see that Appalachian State (at #44) was ranked ahead of teams like Iowa, Alabama, Kansas State, Missouri, Michigan State and even the last two seasons’ openers, Northern Illinois and Vanderbilt. I understand that the general public would rather see a “name” school instead of Appalachian State, or maybe even another MAC school like CMU or WMU. But believe it or not, Appalachian State will likely help our strength of schedule more than most of the other mid-level opponents that might have been available.

Side note: The new, proper names for the different subdivisions are the “Bowl subdivision” (formerly I-A) and the “Championship subdivision” (formerly I-AA). Pretty dumb, huh?

Looking at the big picture, long-term

As usual, Brian from mgoblog has this mild controversy covered. The only thing I’d take issue with is his comment that “The Pac-10's notable lack of really dire OOC opponents (only one I-AA matchup across the conference) is less steadfast nobility and more a response to the West Coast's notoriously fickle/crappy fanbases.” I’d add that, more realistically, the Pac-10’s “better” non-conference schedule is first and foremost a result of the fact that each Pac-10 team plays 9 conference games (round-robin), leaving room for only 3 non-conference. Other conferences have at least 4 non-conference games that must be filled, and more slots to be filled equals more crappy opponents on the schedule. Well, they don’t have to be filled, but they will be filled in order to maximize revenue, as Brian and several others have pointed out.

The NCAA only approved the 12th regular season game a short time before last season, giving teams little time to prepare their upcoming schedules. ESPN helped Michigan set up the Vanderbilt game, but no such agreement could be made this year. Seeing that schools schedule years in advance, teams just had to make do. Last year we lucked out with Vandy, this year we didn’t. I think that, as time goes on, you’ll see more appropriate and (could it be?) imaginative planning from the Michigan Athletic Department. Rumors persist regarding Michigan’s desire to play Notre Dame “semi-regularly” (as opposed to annually), and schedule home-and-homes with various regional powers (Georgia continually gets mentioned. I hope that smoke equals fire). As if losing to Ohio State on a consistent basis the past few years hasn’t been hard enough, it is also tough to see them in marquee non-conference games seemingly every year, and scheduling some great opponents: Texas in 2005 and 2006, USC in 2008 and 2009, Miami in 2010 and 2011, Cal in 2012 and 2013, Virginia Tech in 2014 and 1015. That’s the kind of lineup I want to see.

So with 4 slots to fill for the foreseeable future, we might get a few more substandard opponents in the immediate future, for the reasons discussed in the previous paragraph. But as time goes on, and proper planning is more feasible, I think we’ll see:
- No more I-AA opponents
- Less Notre Dame
- Home-and-homes with exciting opponents
- More home games against mid-level BCS conference teams (Cincinnati? Stanford?)
- One MAC opponent each year, guaranteed
- 3 home games 80% of the time, 4 home games 20% of the time
The problem with Notre Dame

Going off on a tangent here… A big part of Michigan’s scheduling “problem” is the fan base’s psychology, in my opinion. Many fans, including myself, have grown a bit tired of playing Notre Dame every year. Call it sour grapes (and it might be), but I don’t think Michigan has anything to gain from playing Notre Dame, judging by recent experience. If ND beats us, it’s “Return to Glory Part 8.” If we beat ND, they’re overrated. And I’m convinced that if ND absolutely stinks, we still have just as good of a chance to lose to them. You say “2003,” (38-0) I say “2004” (losing at ND the week after they lost to BYU. A year in which ND finished with home losses to Purdue, Boston College, and Pitt, but not Michigan). Another issue is the illogical, yet prevalent, mindset that Notre Dame is a de facto Big Ten team. Living in ACC country (which is horrible, by the way), I’ve been amazed at how many seemingly knowledgeable college football fans (a) think ND is in the Big Ten, and/or (b) chastise Michigan’s non-conference schedule by focusing on the MAC schools and failing to realize that we play Notre Dame, as a non-conference game, every year. People seriously think that we should play Notre Dame, just because we always have, but they are unwilling to give us credit for doing so. The risk/reward formula for the Notre Dame game is way out of whack. It’s time for a change.


Blogger Mathew said...

Hard though it is to say, I think playing ASU should take us out of the running for the MNC game. I've long been oppossed to scheduling down at all and feel that it should be automatic grounds for disqualification for a BCS bowl. Would I love for UM to play in and win the MNC this year? Absofuckinglutely. But I don't think we deserve to go for playing a DIAA school (or whatever the hell they are these days).

11:10 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

You're right - The Florida fans are really kicking themselves for scheduling a Division I-AA school, Western Carolina, last season. Oh, wait, they're not. They won the National Championship, and the rest is gravy.

I feel your pain here, but I think Michigan fans just need to deal with themselves. Yes, "we're Michigan," and we do things differently. But times have changed, and this is just a case of us being forced to be reactive instead of proactive.

We play Oregon and Notre Dame this year. Do we really need to add another quality opponent? Is there really a difference between scheduling Appalachian State and Temple? Certainly - Appalachian State is WAY better. To schedule Temple would be to "schedule down" in this instance. People just refuse to see that because they're blinded by the "I-AA stigma."

11:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

App State is the two time 1-AA champs, with most of their starters returning. They will probably be a tougher opponent than the majority of 1-A schools, except for maybe the smaller size of 1-AA players. UM has nothing to worry about BCS wise. App State is a far better opponent than Western Carolina was for Florida last year. I except the game to be much closer than people think.

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

haha oh man, in hindsight it did cost you a national championship... b/c you lost!

1:11 AM  

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