What the Deuce: Football Thoughts

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Football Thoughts

Lots of events happening in the football world this week. Michigan football is in the news for a variety of reasons. My thoughts:

Michigan Football:

It unfortunate that Michigan lost Matt Gutierrez to transfer, but its hard to blame him for his decision. Matt just was a victim of bad luck, unfortunate circumstances, or whatever-you-want-to-call-it. Let's be honest, kids want to display their skills in college to get to the pros and getting some experience, even at the 1-AA level is better than nothing. Barring injury to Chad Henne, its unlikely that Matt would have gotten snaps in other than mop up situations. Like Brian at www.mgoblog.blogspot.com said, Matt was gracious and handled his situation with nothing but class. Good luck to him in the future.

Also leaving Michigan is Max Martin, 4th string running back this past year. Martin was prone to fumbles and never really seemed to build confidence or gain the trust of the coaching staff. Reports are that he's heading to Alabama. With Carlos Brown coming in, Kevin Grady getting more practice, Mike Hart getting healthy, and Jerome Jackson there is a lot of talent on the roster and Martin's departure is unlikely to hurt the team next year.

Finally, next year's schedule is finalized. Contrary to popular belief, Vandy, not UMaine Black Bears is the 12th game. Personally, I would have liked a stronger opponent, but it seemed unlikely to happen. Vandy will be a fun opening game, a different taste from a MAC opponent - like having cocoa pebbles instead of fruity pebbles.

This shouldn't be a tough game with Vanderbilt losing their star player to graduation and that is what really bothers me. I know that Michigan didn't have a good year but this program seems to be ducking quality opponents because the Wolverines would have to go on the road (to be fair, UMiami contacted Michigan before the 2004 season to fill out the 'Canes' schedule and Michigan responded by saying the game would be a go...if it took place in Ann Arbor).

The only road game this team faces in the non-conference is Notre Dame and there are grumblings that Lloyd wants the Irish off the schedule. I don't know how much truth there is to this.

Now I know that it was hard to get another opponent for next year given the time crunch, but hopefully, in the future, Michigan will be playing more challenging teams than the Commodores. I remember as a freshman, the first home game, my first game as a student was against Colorado. My sophomore year, Michigan traveled to Boulder and skipped out with a close victory.

Personally, I wonder if there is a rift in the athletic department on how to handle the 12th game. Its well know that Lloyd doesn't like the idea of exploiting the kids, blah, blah, blah. On the other hand, the extra home game makes the athletic department about an extra $4M. Its an opportunity to bring in a quality opponent, even if it means a home and home situation.

It would be great to see a team like Oklahoma, LSU, or Miami come up to Ann Arbor. There is a thought going on the road in the non-conference could kill National Championship dreams, but to get that far, a team is going to have to win on the road and getting a victory over a contender on the road could only help in the long run. Although there is not tournament in college football, I still think road victories can only help a team get stronger for its conference road games. I think a victory on the road against a quality opponent is worth more than a home victory over a patsy (see Texas 2005).

Maybe Lloyd is afraid to go on the road given his lack of success in opening road games. Maybe Lloyd really believes that a weak home opponent is a good thing. Maybe Bill Martin would rather sign one year contracts with teams that will only come to Ann Arbor to get the additional coin. Yet, I don't think the decision is being driven by Martin as evidenced in John Heuser's column in the Ann Arbor News:

" Although home games - which net the school's athletic department more than $4 million each - are enticing from a financial perspective, Martin acknowledged that there is also value in going on the road during the non-conference season."

Martin was quoted as saying,"We'd like to do away games in areas where we have strong alumni bases, and where there is a big talent pool in terms of high school football players (for recruiting purposes)."

I guess we will see what happens in the future. Hopefully, it will involve playing some quality opponents.


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