Sunday, August 06, 2006

Openers: Home and Road

Michigan enjoys great success at the Big House in playing home openers as it has not lost an initial home game since 1998. However, it has not enjoyed the same success in road openers each season. In fact the Wolverines are 1-7 in road openers during the same time frame (and 0-6 during the past six seasons). The dismal road opener record was achieved as follows:

  • 1998: at Notre Dame 20-36
  • 1999: at Syracuse 18-13
  • 2000: at UCLA 20-23
  • 2001: at Washington 18-23
  • 2002: at Notre Dame 23-25
  • 2003: at Oregon 27-31
  • 2004: at Notre Dame 20-28
  • 2005: at Wisconsin 20-23

Three of the losses came against the Fighting Irish. Some people suggest that Michigan should take Notre Dame off the schedule to give Michigan a better shot at a National Championship. I suggest a different approach. Beating Notre Dame on the road! That will give Michigan a better shot at a National Championship than dropping ND from the schedule and adding a Michigan directional school (i.e., Eastern, Western, Central). Michigan needs to beat the best to be the best. I firmly believe that beating tough teams on the road early will pay dividends down the road (pardon the pun) during the Big Ten season and even in the Bowl game.

The question is not so much what team the Wolverines should play but how should Michigan prepare for their road opener. The coaching staff needs to get the team mentally ready for the challenges the team will face away from the safety of the familiar confines of Michigan Stadium. As a review of the above list of opponents reveals, the quality of initial road opponents was fairly high and when the Wolverines failed to bring their "A" game they ran into trouble. Some people believe that the intense pressure of trying to be perfect affects the players' performance in the first road game. Once they have a loss in the column and the intense pressure of attaining an undefeated National Championship season is gone, the players play more loosely as the season goes on as they re-focus on winning the Big 10 title and going to the Rose Bowl. Coach Carr navigated the minefield successfully in 1997 leading the team to a National Championship and there are legions of fans that hope he can find the right formula again to inspire the team to win all the games including the all-important road opener. Go Blue!

3 Comments:

At 2:55 PM, Blogger Maize n Brew Dave said...

One other problem, Michigan has come into everyone of the those games as a favorite. This has not been a team that manages expectations well early in the season. If ND is undefeated and Michigan is as well, I expect to see good things out of Michigan as the weight of expectations will rest squarely on the Irish rather than lloyd's group.

Keep your fingers crossed

 
At 3:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to see us schedule the Notre Dame late in the season. This would allow us to have an easier road opener, but still keep a challenging, championship-caliber schedule. Our early season losses are too deflating to the team and its fans. Why risk ruining a season at the very beginning? The longer we can maintain a strong record, the more excited everyone will be.

There may be a logistical problem with scheduling ND so late in the season, but we should make it work. I don't even care if we play them after the OSU game.

Ken

 
At 9:26 PM, Blogger mzgoblue said...

The weight of expectations brought about by being the favorite is a mighty weight indeed and it is just as well that it is on ND this year rather than Michigan. Let the Irish cope with the pressure for once. Hopefully a loose group of Wolverines is a winning group. Go Blue!

 

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