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Stadium and Main: Taking Another Look at the Football Schedule

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Taking Another Look at the Football Schedule

Let’s Start with the Weakest of the Weak

There are 4 teams, in my opinion, to which a loss would be pretty darn embarrassing:

Appalachian State
@ Northwestern
Eastern Michigan
@ Illinois

One thing about the schedule that I really like is that we have only 2 losable road games. And one of those (at MSU) is only losable because it’s a rivalry and it might be a night game. In a rational person’s mind (read: not mine), that’s a highly probable win. Regarding the (very) winnable road games, Illinois has done a good job promoting its program, but excessive amounts of interviews on ESPNews will only get you so far (I’m looking at you, Brady Quinn). The Illini 5th Year Senior class has won 2 (two!) Big Ten games. Things should change some time, but a win over Michigan is a reach. As for Northwestern, they’re still Northwestern. And not 1995 or 1999 Northwestern.

The September Stretch and Beyond

Sept. 8 Oregon
Sept. 15 Notre Dame
Sept. 22 Penn State

Oregon has really jumped to the forefront as a trap game. 2nd game of the season, lots of (potential) playmakers returning for the Ducks’ offense, combined with a bunch of question marks in the Michigan secondary. But plenty of fans remain skeptical of a team that finished the 2006 season with 4 straight losses, scoring only 10 points against both USC and Arizona, and only 8 against BYU in their Bowl game. Myself? I’ll remain worried, as usual. They’ve replaced their Offensive Coordinator, so maybe they’ll be improved or maybe they’ll be working out the kinks. An optimist would say that a loss here doesn’t completely kill our National Title hopes. A pessimist would argue that a loss here could mean a 2-2 or (uh-oh!) 1-3 start, especially if Oregon gives other offenses a blueprint for exploiting our apparent issues on defense.

The Notre Dame game is sandwiched between what some people consider 2 must-win games: Oregon, the first “real” game of the year. And Penn State, the Big Ten opener against a projected Top-4 Big Ten team (or Top-2, if you agree with Kirk Herbstreit, who went on the radio and seemed to predict a 2005-like season for the Wolverines: 1. Wisconsin 2. PSU 3. OSU 4. Michigan). A loss against Oregon kinda makes ND a must-win. A loss to ND kinda makes Penn State a must-win. This sort of domino effect theory is a bit intimidating, but there is definitely one positive: If Michigan can make it through the first four games undefeated, they should coast into November undefeated. When was the last time we could say that? Usually, there’s a team like Iowa waiting to spoil things for us, or at least give us a scare, in October. Not so much this year:

Oct. 6 Eastern Michigan
Oct. 13 Purdue (Homecoming)
Oct. 20 @ Illinois
Oct. 27 Minnesota

November Night Games?

Nov. 3 @ Michigan State
Nov. 10 @ Wisconsin
Nov. 17 Ohio State

Finishing the regular season with these 3 games will be a challenge, especially if ESPN/ABC gets greedy and makes one or both of the road games a nighttime kickoff. Don’t think it’s not possible – they did the same thing with the Minnesota and Penn State back-to-back road games last year. Granted, these games will be in November, but after seeing their ratings go through the roof with various Big Ten night games last season, ESPN/ABC will be chomping at the bit to keep teams like Michigan playing in primetime. The question then becomes, will MSU and Wisconsin risk the general welfare of their students, couches, and campuses for some national exposure? I have a bad feeling that at least one of them will be onboard.

A win at MSU should happen. A win at Wisconsin might happen. A win against Ohio State MUST happen. Not much else needs to be said. One thing I will be interested in is following Wisconsin’s season. In recent years, we have played them much earlier in the fall. This time around, we get to see how they match up against teams like Penn State, Iowa, and Ohio State before they play us. That should give us a better gauge on their talent level (especially at QB, where they finally have to replace John Stocco).

Other Thoughts

- As mentioned earlier, the road slate is fairly weak this year. And another good thing about it is that the road games get progressively tougher. At Northwestern should be a breeze. Heck, sometimes that crowd can seem pro-Michigan, thanks to a strong Chicago alumni base. At Illinois, the team will be weak but the crowd will be a bit stronger. We might even face some noise issues if the Illini are hanging around. At MSU should be much more of a test, for obvious rivalry reasons. And Wisconsin is a road game against a good team with an unrelenting crowd. The buildup from road game 1 to road game 4 might be a blessing. But after all, with a Senior QB, Senior RB, and a fairly experienced OL, you would think that they’ve got this road game thing down pat. Still, I’ll take any help we can get.

- Is it just me, or do we always miss “good” programs when they’re “down?” Iowa falls off the schedule in what should be a rebuilding year (or two) for them. We missed out on PSU when they were stinking up the joint (of course, they haven’t been a problem for us anyway – zing!). Purdue was pretty average the past two years, and we didn’t play them. Chalk it up to general Michigan bad luck.

The Complete Schedule

Sept. 1 Appalachian State
Sept. 8 Oregon
Sept. 15 Notre Dame
Sept. 22 Penn State
Sept. 29 @ Northwestern
Oct. 6 Eastern Michigan
Oct. 13 Purdue (Homecoming)
Oct. 20 @ Illinois
Oct. 27 Minnesota
Nov. 3 @ Michigan State
Nov. 10 @ Wisconsin
Nov. 17 Ohio State

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No kidding about the bad-timing award for conference foes.

The all-time bad-timing award, though, must go to Don Canham, who scheduled a couple of upstart Florida schools in the '70s to come to Ann Arbor (with no return trips) between 1984 and 1991.

Both times Miami came to the Big House (1984 and 1988), they were ranked #1. Wolverines won the first time, picking of Kosar 6 times in Harbaugh's first career start, but lost the tragic cough-up heartbreaker in '88. Both times to Jimmy Johnson.

Florida State came in 1986, and it was a down year by FSU standards as they searched for a QB (Chip Ferguson?!) and had a brilliant frosh CB named Deion Sanders, if memory serves. But in 1991, the Seminoles were ranked -- natch -- #1 and showed why in dismantling that strong UM team, 51-31, in probably the wildest, most big-play filled half of football the Big House ever has seen.

3:49 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

I was at that 1991 FSU game - right behind the FSU band. Not a good day for us (and some sunburn to top it off).

9:49 AM  
Blogger wheatgerm said...

looks like a wiiner to me

6:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You just might to revist these predictions.

11:23 AM  

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