Coach Rich Rodriguez has had a lot of questions to answer lately, some of them actually about Michigan's upcoming opener against Western Michigan. (John T. Greilick/The Detroit News)
This is huge, as big as it gets for an opener, a scintillating matchup of in-state rivals from opposite ends of the college football spectrum.
At one end you have Western Michigan, a conference favorite with a snazzy quarterback, just looking to get tuned up for the Mid-American showdowns ahead.
At the other end you have Michigan, a Big Ten also-ran with about 17 untested quarterbacks, desperately trying to pull the upset and show it belongs.
The Wolverines are so worried about their chances, I heard they've put in lots of extra practice time. Yep. Apparently, it's caused quite a stir, and now Michigan and Rich Rodriguez have to convince the NCAA that "voluntary" workouts don't technically mean "um, sort of voluntary."
I'll let the serious-looking people in black-rimmed glasses sort through that. It really wouldn't be appropriate for me to comment, except to note the program's famous slogan has been slightly updated from "Those who stay will be champions" to "Those who stay really, really late will be champions."
(Note: I get paid by the cheap shot, in case you were wondering.)
Ah, let's revisit a few numbers:
As you might have guessed, this is a big season for Rodriguez, and by "big season" I mean, "he'd better not lose the opener." The thing is, Western Michigan is better than Toledo and actually might be better than Michigan. The Broncos have a senior quarterback, Tim Hiller, who probably looks at film of the Wolverines' defense and drools all over his face mask.
There are, however, reports -- unconfirmed at this hour -- that Michigan defensive players now are being instructed to direct opposing players to the ground with force, instead of gentle pushing. Good idea, because Rodriguez is testing the patience of the Michigan faithful, even the ones who didn't personally witness the days of Fielding H. Yost.
Changes not so good
Rodriguez changed a lot of things when he got to Ann Arbor, including the tired tradition of attending bowls. I'd at least have kept alive the practice of winning nine games and beating Penn State and Michigan State every year, but hey, that's me.
Near as I can tell, the public is evenly, rabidly split on Rodriguez.
Pro-Rich Rod people: He's fresh and different and his offense will be great if it ever stops fumbling. Give him a chance! (Unless he pulls that 3-9 garbage again.)
Anti-Rich Rod people: He's always stirring trouble and he talks funny, and what was wrong with the time-tested off-tackle run on third-and-11? He couldn't spell Bo if you spotted him the B!
A turnaround can only start with a shocking victory over a MAC powerhouse.
Pick: Michigan 27-19