Thursday, September 13, 2012

Question and Answer with Michigan Blog Maize and Brew

I've swapped questions-and-answers with the excellent Michigan Blog "Maize and Brew". We also did this back in 2010.

Michigan's loss to Alabama effectively knocked the wolverines out of National Championship contention. In 1998, UMass won our National Championship after we had lost 3 regular season games and were ranked #11. What do you think about playoffs for FBS? Would the Michigan administration support it? Michigan fans?

1. I hadn't thought too much about the "being knocked from BCS contention" angle until you brought it up -- I guess that's what happens when you consistently find ways to lower your expectations for the season.  It is funny how that works.  I would like to think that if Michigan won out it would have a good argument for going to the BCS championship as long as there weren't two major undefeated conference teams, but judging by the performances around the Big Ten thus far, that could be a hard argument to make.

As for the playoff I think that Michigan and the Big Ten are as supportive as we are going to get, but at this point that should be enough.  The big question is -- as always -- money.  Now that the conferences and school presidents have some idea of the money that they can make from a playoff in college football, things are changing.  I'm not sure a four-team playoff is the answer, but if it is the first step (I think it is) then things should work out in the long run.

The Big Ten has a dominate record against the MAC. How do you view the relative strength of the two leagues?

2. The Big Ten has had quite a bit of success against the MAC, and I don't foresee that changing for the same reason that college football is about to have a playoff: money.

The Big Ten is a lucrative television product capable of filling some of the largest stadiums in the country, and with all the marketing, ticket revenue, and now BTN revenue that won't change for some time.  With that kind of money comes better facilities, better coaches (on average), better day to day infrastructure for student athletes (academic, athletic, and rehabilitative), and ultimately better recruits.

The level of athletes at Michigan or Ohio State is just always going to be better than that of Eastern Michigan or Miami (OH).  Even schools like Indiana, Minnesota, and Purdue can consistently rake in better players than the MAC.  Such is life in major college football where the rich have inherent advantages not only from the money they make now, but the fact that they've been rich for so long.

If Michigan gets a big lead in Saturday's contest, how much do you think Michigan will play their first team?

3. It will depend on how quickly Michigan gains the lead, but history says that Michigan will probably look to bench its primary guys early.  Once Michigan is up by three or four scores I imagine Robinson and Toussaint will hit the bench, and I have to believe that Michigan will substitute more liberally along the offensive line in an effort to keep seniors healthy and get freshmen experience -- that's nearly all there is: seniors and freshmen, it's scary thin.

My fear is that UMass makes a few plays to keep it within a couple scores at halftime and Michigan has to lean on its starters more, but that's the nature of the game: injuries are always a risk.  Hopefully both teams make it out healthy.

Do you think Michigan and Umass will play again?

4. I can see Michigan playing UMass again -- hell, Michigan is playing App State again, so anything possible.  Michigan routinely schedules MAC teams, and with things beginning to shift away from scheduling FCS teams and toward more "real games" I think MAC teams are an interesting substitute for the bodybag games that most BCS teams have been living off of for the past decade. 

However, this probably hurts UMass to an extent.  I can see Michigan wanting to schedule more of the local MAC programs on the thinking that tickets will be easier to sell with a built in fan base.  UMass can't bring that and therefore might not be as attractive an option as Central Michigan or Toledo.

How do you think Saturday's game will go?

5. I hope Saturday's game goes like it should.  By that I mean, Michigan gets a good deal of push with both lines, Robinson puts up a couple touchdowns early and by halftime Michigan is up by enough scores that you need two hands to count them.

I don't think things are quite that smooth though.  Michigan's defense will probably struggle a little early, and the offense still has yet to do anything with a true running back this season.  I think the first half looks a little ugly but opens up in the second as Michigan gets comfortable.  I would expect a five TD win in the end with UMass putting up 10 or 14 points.