Monday, June 1, 2009

2010 Inaugural Opponent for Michigan Football Still Undetermined

The Michigan Wolverines have one more schedule slot to fill for the 2010 college football season. This open date is September 4th, 2010 when renowned Michigan Stadium will re-open with a new 108,000 plus fan capacity, making it the largest college football venue on the face of the planet (again). Here is the current 2010 schedule

Sept. 4 TBA
Sept. 11 at Notre Dame
Sept. 18 Massachusetts
Sept. 25 Bowling Green
Oct. 2 at Indiana
Oct. 9 Michigan State
Oct. 16 Iowa (Homecoming)
Oct. 30 at Penn State
Nov. 6 Illinois
Nov. 13 at Purdue
Nov. 20 Wisconsin
Nov. 27 at Ohio State

University of Michigan athletic director, Bill Martin, is working to secure an arrangement with an opponent of some stature:

"We are working hard to line up an opponent for the opening game in renovated Michigan Stadium," added Martin. "We hope to have an announcement in the near future."

So let’s think about this for a second.

The opening game for renovated Michigan Stadium is going to be a rather meaningful event for the University of Michigan, for the NCAA, and for their opponent as well, because current college football game attendance records are likely to be summarily smashed on this date. Prospective opponents would not only be interested in some of the game proceeds, but they’d also be very interested in the added publicity and notoriety as well.

So who would be some ideal opponent candidates for Michigan?

Inaugural events usually are symbolic of “the future”, but they often simultaneously celebrate “the past” as well. Let’s review some of Michigan’s key non-conference opponents over the last half-century (50 years) in Michigan Stadium:

5 Years Prior (2005): Northern Illinois, Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan

10 Years Prior (2000): Bowling Green, Rice, UCLA

15 Years Prior (1995): Virginia, Memphis, Boston College, Miami (OH)

20 Years Prior (1990): Notre Dame, UCLA, Maryland

25 Years Prior (1985): Notre Dame, South Carolina, Maryland

30 Years Prior (1980): Notre Dame, South Carolina, California

35 Years Prior (1975): Stanford, Baylor, Missouri

40 Years Prior (1970): Arizona, Washington, Texas A&M

45 Years Prior (1965): North Carolina, California, Georgia

50 Years Prior (1960): Oregon, Duke

The importance of 1927
Prior to 1927 the Wolverine football team played their home games at Ferry Field in Ann Arbor. The first non-conference opponents faced by the Wolverines in Michigan Stadium in 1927 included:

82 years Prior (1927): Ohio Wesleyan, Chicago University, Navy

Will History Be Repeated?- Michigan’s Anniversary Opponents

The “ideal opponent” in terms of historical storyline would be Navy Navy is the only non-conference opponent still around who faced Michigan in the inaugural season of Michigan Stadium (1927). But Navy is already booked to play Maryland on September 4th in Baltimore, MD. Scratch Navy.

Terrapins are out. See Navy above.

Ducks have had Michigan’s number lately. It’s just us well that they play New Mexico on September 4th.

North Carolina
Michigan last played North Carolina in the 1979 Gator Bowl - a soul-crushing 15-17 loss for the Wolverines to cap off a kicking-game-impaired 8-4-0 season. Unfortunately, Tar Heels already have their home opponent sorted for September 4th: William & Mary.

California is certainly helping out the Gophers to open up their new outdoor TCF Stadium in Minneapolis this fall (Thank you also University of Minnesota and supporters!). Can California do the Wolverines a similar favor, citing a 30th and 45th anniversary meeting with the Wolverines in Michigan Stadium. This is unlikely as the Golden Bears are hosting Louisiana Tech on September 4 in Berkeley. Plus Michigan tried to schedule Cal earlier, but failed, as UM would not (read: will not) agree to a home-home series with anyone right now.

Mike Stoops is remembered for getting emotional on the sidelines during Iowa’s last second loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1983. He’s now the head coach for the Arizona Wildcats. Interestingly, right now Arizona is booked for a road contest at Toledo on September 4th!

So if I’m correct, Stoops is going to have his Wildcat team travel 1,600 miles east to play the Toledo Rockets in the Glass Bowl, capacity 26,248? Let me see, Arizona’s payout versus Toledo is x, while the payout versus Michigan would be y.

Seems to me y might be > x in this situation, no offense to the Rockets.
Add in the lacy 40 year anniversary match up for the Killer Bees versus the Wolverines and presto!

Huskies are playing at Brigham Young on September 4th. I don’t think they’d break this date to play Michigan. Sarkisian might. But I highly doubt it.

Texas A&M
The Aggies are playing Stephen F. Austin on September 4th.
I’m sorry to say that as much as I would LOVE for these two to play each other during the regular season, the drive for money will never allow it.

Cardinal are booked to play San Jose State at home on September 4th. PAC-10 teams play 9-game round robin conference schedule. Stanford needs as many easy, home dates as they can just to qualify for a bowl. Stanford-Michigan would be an excellent match up historically with all of the great story lines: 35 year anniversary meeting, Stanford HC was a star QB at Michigan, Harvard of the Midwest vs. Harvard of the West, but it probably will not happen.

A lot of people I know knock on Baylor. I don’t understand this at all. It’s a good school and they’ve had some pretty cool football teams in the past (I love their uniforms and helmets!). The athletic department almost ran Baylor football into the ground, but they appear to have pulled their head out 2 years ago. By the way, no school is as organized as Baylor right now about their future football schedules. The Bears have published their non-conference slates up to 2016! Besides this, Baylor now has innovative head coach Art Briles at the helm and quarterback Robert Griffin is already a rising star. When Michigan last faced Baylor, the Wolverines beat them 38-3 and went on to win a national title. Before that, in 1975 the Bears tied the Wolverines in Michigan Stadium. Currently, Baylor is playing a road game at TCU. It’s expensive to break contracts, but given the pay day and history, I think the Bears would be very interested in playing Michigan on September 4 and rescheduling their bout with the Horned Frogs.

Tigers are out of contention. They’re slated to play rival Illinois in St. Louis on September 4. Michigan vs. Missouri would be an outstanding football match up to watch, but economics will never bring these two together unless it’s a bowl game.

South Carolina
The ‘Cocks have a home date vs. Troy State. I suspect ‘Ball Coach Stever Spurrier would prefer home games and victories right about now.

Forget about it. The Bruins are playing Kansas State in Manhattan on September 4th, plus have contests vs. Houston and vs Texas at home. Not knowing how good or bad Michigan will be in 2010, I’m guessing Neuheisel is already content with the Bruins’ strength of schedule in 2010 as it is.

Nope. Owls are hosting Texas on September 4th.

Other Potential Opponents

The last time Michigan and Pittsburgh played, Germany divided in two, and Michigan destroyed the Panthers 69-0 to finish the season unbeaten at 10-0. It was 1947.
September 4th 2010 is wide open right now for Pitt, but they have 3 non-conference opponents already in Miami (FL), at Notre Dame and New Hampshire which is curiously still TBA. A possibility, but doubtful.

This is an interesting situation. Syracuse has already has 4 opponents: at Washington, at Akron, Virginia Tech and Boston College. Syracuse could drop Akron for 2010 and play at Michigan for a much larger payout. But the result would be one brutal schedule for the Orangemen. So what else is new?

OK, don’t laugh. These two teams have played each other 8 times historically. Last meeting was 1942. It’s a high-profile opponent, just not from an athletics perspective.

Again, don’t laugh. Michigan and Yale have met 8 times. Last meeting was 1939. Yale would be another high-profile opponent, but from an academics perspective.

Last meeting was 1940 and Tom Harmon won the Heisman Trophy. A September 4th meeting would be a 60th anniversary rematch for these two schools.

This would be a good classic game. Scheduling a military academy may not be sexy, but it’s got certain appeal. Michigan is 4-5 versus Army all-time. Last meeting was 1962 when Michigan won 17-7. The Cadets are an independent, so they are not slave to any conference schedule. And the September 4th date appears to wide open.

Air Force
September 4th date is open. Last meeting with Michigan was 1964. A possibility, but completely meh.

Definitely a possibility. As of now, the Scarlet Knights are slated to play at Florida International on September 4th. I'm sure they'd consider dropping this game to play at Michigan if the terms were right. Then again Florida International is an almost certain win for Rutgers.

Powerhouse Programs and Other Candidates

Texas Tech
Scheduled home date with SMU on September 4th makes a match up with Michigan highly unlikely.

Home date with Western Kentucky is already set for September 4th.

Home date with Utah State already scheduled for September 4th.

Trojans play at Hawai’i on September 4th.
Michigan? Hawai’i? Michigan? Hawai’i? Now you choose.

Home date with Miami (Ohio) is already scheduled for September 4th.

Florida State
Non-conference schedule is already booked with at Oklahoma, BYU, Samford and Florida.

Miami (Fla.)
Already have a date September 4th with local marshmallow Florida A&M. With at Ohio State, at Pitt and South Florida on deck, Michigan is an impossibility for 2010.

Fresno State
Head coach Pat Hill has major cajones. He has repeatedly stated that FSU will play anyone anywhere. And the Bulldogs have played pretty well on the road and at home over the years. Right now the Bulldogs have a date with Cal-Poly at home on September 4th, but Hill and his Bulldogs are usually the last NCAA team you’ll ever find to walk away from an opportunity to knock someone’s teeth out on national television. (Watch this year’s Fresno State game versus Illinois in case you don’t believe me).

Boise State
September 4th is open, but looks like their non-conference schedule is already full.

Boston College
Golden Eagles are 0-4 versus Michigan all time. Last meeting was 1996. September 4th is open, but non-conference schedule may already be full.

The Cavs last played Michigan 15 years prior and lost in dramatic fashion 17-18 to Michigan. Right now Virginia has a game scheduled at USC and vs. Richmond TBA.
September 4th date is amazingly open.


Of course at this late stage Michigan doesn’t have many outstanding choices when it comes to the September 4th 2010 open date, but there are a few interesting possibilities.

Here are the top opponent candidates:

Best choice: Army
1st Runnerup: Arizona (provided game at Toledo is dropped)
2nd Runnerup: Syracuse (provided game at Akron gets dropped)
3rd Runnerup: Virginia
4th Runnerup: Rutgers (must drop game with FIU)
5th Runnerup: Fresno State (provided game vs. Cal Poly gets dropped)
6th Runnerup: Boston College
7th Runnerup: Air Force (UM’s Air Forcier vs. Air Force?)
8th Runnerup: Baylor (provided game vs. TCU is rescheduled)]

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