What you need to know about this squad
SALINE, MICHIGAN AUGUST 10, 2006
Expectations are high once again for Michigan. Here’s this season’s look at the upcoming season and this team.
– Last Season. Obviously this was ugly, and 2005 will be looked at as the worst season since the early 80s. Michigan could have won every game on the schedule and had significant leads in every game, blowing it five times in losses to Notre Dame, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl. And the wins didn’t come easier either, with Michigan winning on the last play of the game against Michigan State in DB13 (OT), Penn State and Iowa (OT). While it is the worst season since I entered the U of M campus in the Fall of 1989, it probably featured the most exciting games.
– Sun Belt Refs. Speaking of exciting, the Alamo Bowl all in all was quite a ride. The pathetic crew of referees from the Sun Belt conference that lost control of the game are a running joke in town. Check this out, the Sun Belt conference even produced a full report to rebut the hammering they took in the national media [check it out]. These guys were so clueless.
– Last Play of the Season. I captured the diagram below of the seven laterals for the archives. I was half pickled watching the game with Lew and K’s, but I remember it well. It’s funny to think this was the last time we touched the ball last season. Why Tyler Ecker didn’t stay in bounds or pitch it to Steve Breaston is hard to understand. You can view a video of the final play here, and this is the diagram:
– Ticket Style. The Michigan ticket department changed the format of the tickets this year, for the first really since 1993 (visit ticketmuseum.com for an archive of Michigan football tickets). They are bigger and are bar-coded. Each game has a different sponsor, and the they made a special mention of the two “Maize Out” games, Wisconsin and Michigan State (good luck with that Maize Out- according to my research, Michigan Stadium ranks dead last on earth in participation in “[Color]-Outs”). And for whatever reason, my tickets appear to have a purple and gold border, I assume they meant to have a blue border, but it just didn’t work out. Speaking of my tickets, they actually moved me 2 sections over toward the field this year, not sure why (I didn’t ask for it).
– Conditioning. While Michigan made many changes to the coaching staff, they kept strength coach Mike Gittleson around. As would be hoped, the team clearly took a new approach to conditioning, focusing on making the team lighter, quicker and more durable. Given the second half leads that Michigan surrendered last year this was a good move. This was really all the talk during the Michigan media day.
– Back-up QB. With Matt Gutierrez leaving to attend I-AA Idaho State, the back-up quarterback position is definitely a question mark. Coach Carr indicated that Jason Forcier is likely to be the guy. Hopefully we’ll find out during the opener against Vanderbilt.
– Bass Out. Versatile wide receiver/quarterback Antonio Bass will miss the entire season after injuring his knee during a quarterback drill (but rumored to have actually happened during a pick-up basketball game). During the Big Ten conference press conference in Chicago, Carr seemed to leave it up in the air whether Bass would ever play again. The tune changed a few days later at Michigan’s press day to more of an optimistic tone, indicating that Bass would return in 2007. We’ll see.
– Eyes on Bucks. There is clearly a lot of pressure on the Blue this year. To make matters worse, the hated Buckeyes are ranked #1 in the coaches poll and will get a lot of attention. The Big Ten coaches agreed that Michigan and Iowa would round out the Top 3 in the conference. We’ll know pretty quickly where Ohio State will stand, after a trip to Austin to visit the 2005-06 BCS champion Texas Longhorns.
– College Football News notes. I really like collegefootballnews.com – first off, they only focus on one thing, and they really know their stuff and they’re not afraid to put it out there. They will go to minute details on a lot of the aspects of college football, here’s a few tidbits:
* They actually projected every bowl game already for the 2006-07 bowl season, they have Michigan in the Capitol One bowl vs. Florida.
* They predict the outcome of every regular season game as well. They’ve got Michigan beating the Irish but falling on the road to Ohio State and Penn State.
* CFN ranked the 2006 Heisman candidates from 1-100, and provided some commentary on each. Of note: Chad Henne #17, Michael Hart #15, Breaston #34.
* Here’s a real beauty. There’s always talk about who is overrated and underrated. CFN took a somewhat scientific approach. They took data in the AP poll since 1971, and included teams that have been in ranked in the preseason poll 10 or more times, and compared this to where they finished in the final AP poll. The results are interesting. While Michigan stacks up somewhat favorably, Michigan State did not. The Spartans just qualified for the study (with exactly 10 pre-season rankings), and out of those ten years, finished out of the final rankings in nine. Wow.
– Road Opener Woes. There is clearly a problem here, as the Wolverines have dropped seven of their last eight opening away games of the season, and six straight. Each game was close and looking back I’m pretty sure Michigan had a decent lead in just about all of these games. This year M’s first road test is none other than Notre Dame – we’ll see if we can stop this brutal trend. Here’s a history of these games:
Year Opponent Result
1998 @ Notre Dame Loss – 36-20
1999 @ Syracuse Win – 18-13
2000 @ UCLA Loss – 23-20
2001 @ Washington Loss – 23-18
2002 @ Notre Dame Loss – 25-23
2003 @ Oregon Loss – 31-27
2004 @ Notre Dame Loss – 28-20
2005 @ Wisconsin Loss – 23-20
– Outlook. After last season, it is tough to walk with a lot of confidence. There are bound to be a few kinks to work out with the new coordinators and the schedule includes three brutal road games (Notre Dame, Ohio State and Penn State) and tough home tests with Iowa and Michigan State). I see Michigan dropping at least 3 of these games and winning the bowl game to finish a respectable but lackluster 10-3. As far as games that might sneak up on us this year? Check out Lew’s Sleepers for 2006.