Wisconsin Looms; Can M Buck the trend?
Wolverines Struggle in first road game each season
SALINE, MICHIGAN SEPT 21, 2005 Five seasons in a row Michigan football has headed into its first game on the road undefeated with sights on another national title. 5 straight times the Wolverines have stumbled. That said, heading into the Wisconsin game, Michigan has two positive trends on its side: M has won 6 straight against the Badgers (Lloyd Carr has never lost to Barry Alvarez) and get this: the Wolverines have not lost a Big Ten opener since 1981. Unfortunately, that loss was to the Badgers.
Taking it back to 1998, Michigan has actually dropped 6 of 7 road openers. Here the summary:
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
There’s no positive spin. This is a team that has and should have national title aspirations and basically they’ve been derailed right off the bat in all of these seasons. If there’s a good side it’s that Michigan has rebounded in these years, winning Big Ten Titles in four of these seasons. The other side of this take is that these team’s aren’t Ball State. They are major conference teams and each presents a difficult challenge on the road. And in the last five losses, the margin of loss is just over 4 points.
To the typical Michigan fan, this record is not acceptable and it is not chalked up to poor luck or bad refs. Most put the blame on the coaching, not letting an athletic team loose early in the season or not opening up the playbook (until it is too late).
This year Michigan has a unique situation. Three straight home games to start the season, then right into Madison for the road opener against Wisconsin. The Badgers lost many starters last year, but may find some inspiration as beloved coach Barry Alvarez will retire at the end of the season. Despite their success in the Rose Bowl, Wisconsin hasn’t had much luck against big Blue. Wisconsin has only beaten Michigan twice since 1981 in several meetings.
Wisconsin moved the game to night, meaning the normally pickled Badger faithful will reek of sausage and liquor well before kick-off. Watch out!