First off, typing 2018 in the headline kind of freaks me out. Think about it. 20. 18. Shouldn't we have flying cars, robot doctors, and monkey butlers at this point?
Second, when the Michigan Notre Dame series takes a two year hiatus in 2018 Michigan is looking at a high profile gap in it's schedule. So who is Michigan going to play? Over the last few years we've heard the same line over and over again, "because Notre Dame is on the schedule we don't need to schedule another top 25 opponent. We have one." But now that there's a break, it could be anybody! Since we've got some time on our hands and little else besides Big Ten Expansion to talk about, let's look at some possible home-and-home match ups from the Sublime to the ridiculous. I probably should mention that "ridiculous" means "likely", this is modern college football we're talking about.
The University of Georgia Bulldogs - I refuse to let this die. A Dawgs Wolverines home and home would be the pinnacle achievement of Dave Brandon's tenure as Athletic Director. On paper it's a tremendous match up, two of the top tier players in the Big Ten and SEC butting heads in September on national TV. This wouldn't be like USC shellacking Arkansas by 50 or Cal eeking one out against Minnesota. It would be a dead even brawl for conference bragging rights. At least, until Iowa kicks the ever living shit out of LSU/Florida/Alabama in the Capital One Bowl in 2019 and 2020.
Michigan and Geogria share so many cultural and aesthetic similarities that UGA faithful would feel right at home on Ann Arbor's pristine, sometime old-world style campus. Lord knows Michigan fans would love to stroll down the avenues of the Classic City too. We bring the beer and brats, you stoke the coals and fry the chicken. As an added bonus we'd be able to tour the sites where Hal Needham filmed his opus, Smokey and the Bandit. Now before you poo-poo this as carpetbaggers coming to sack Athens or rednecks coming to burn couches on the Diag, I suggest there is common
groundbunda on which both sides can agree.
Like I said. Make this happen.
The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA Bruins)- On the west coast it's hard to think of a better school to match up against than UCLA. UCLA boasts a highly educated, football passionate fanbase that has just as high levels of of cynicism, pessimism and fatalism as the Michigan fanbase. Honestly, you could transplant the two campuses and no one would notice the difference for a year, or at least until it got cold. At that point our buddies at Bruins Nation would attribute the cold weather to God punishing UCLA for ever hiring Karl Dorrell and Steve Lavin. Similarly, Michigan fans would blame the unseasonably warm weather on global warming and stage a protest of some kind before breaking to go to a coffee house to congratulate themselves on being so globally aware. For those of you who say UCLA is a basketball school first, au contraire my friends. UCLA's passionate football fanbase is just beginning to be re-awakened by Pretty Boy rick Neuheisel, and will be primed for a Midwest Coast West Coast battle. And let's be honest, there are worse places to go in September than UCLA's campus. The match up would re-awakend the Pac10 Big Ten rivalries and garner a load of public interest. Also, there's a reason David Lee Roth covered the Beach Boys....
The University of Texas Longhorns - The Longhorns may be a prime target for Big Ten expansion, but that doesn't mean it's going to happen. As a result we need to plan ahead. If there is a clear Michigan of the South, it's the University of Texas. An athletic giant in college sports, a research institution with few peers, a selective undergraduate population, and graduate programs consistently ranked in the top 15 in every major area of study. Frankly, you could say Michigan is the Texas of the North. But we won't. This is a Michigan blog after all. Ann Arbor and Austin are remarkably similar cities during the Football season, though Austin outsizes Ann Arbor in terms of populace and square footage. The student populations are remarkably free thinking despite being surrounded by and funded by conservative states. They both have little brother schools that came along well after their founding who are trying desperately to live up to their big brother's accomplishments. On the field the two programs share similar histories and successes, and remain among the elite members of college football (by 2018, yes, I believe Michigan will be back to normal). It's a natural fit. Plus...
More potential match ups after the jump.....
Vanderbilt University Commodores - I know, I know. We've already played them. I get it, but the Commodores give Michigan the double benefit of playing an SEC squad with little threat of getting beat. I mean they're not the two time defending D1AA national champions, right? if Michigan plays it's cards right they might even be able to screw Vandy out of getting a return date to Tennessee, just like they did last time around. Vandy satisfies the University's desire to play an "equal" academic institution without having any real exposure for the athletic department. I'm not putting a photo of their cheerleaders up here. You know why.
University of North Carolina Tar Heels - This one could work nicely. UNC is a very good academic institution with a football team on the right side of the .500 equation. The program benefits from the glow of the men's basketball program and isn't as good as it's uniforms, but they're a solid feather in the cap of whomever bests them. UNC in September wouldn't be much different than September in Ann Arbor and we get the benefit of being in Chapel Hill at least once to eat bar-b-que and drink whiskey. As usual, there are ancillary benefits.
University of Virginia Cavaliers - Remember when this was a proud football institution? Well, if you're in your twenties, probably not. I don't have a clue what happened to UVA, but damn. Virginia isn't half the pelt it used to be on the Football field, but it is a BCS conference win against a program that will remain in a BCS conference. Academics are good, it's a premier state institution and top grad school destination. Since we've already played them in the last 15 years, it shouldn't be too hard to set up a rematch between the schools. The only tough thing about it is the cheesecake is rather plain.
University of Kansas Jayhawks - Like UNC, it's a program on the right side of the .500 ledger, plus the Jayhawks recently won an Orange Bowl. But with Kansas axing the coach that brought them that title, you have to think the Jayhawks will slide back a little bit to a middle of the pack BCS school with a good recent pedigree. It's a good match up for Michigan and one the Wolverines should be in a position to win. Kansas meets the administration's academic match up requirement and we'd get the benefit of some sweet bar-b-q in the deal. The athletic departments have already talked, having set up the Michigan/Kansas hardwood home-and-home, so there shouldn't be too much standing in the way of doing the same on the gridiron. We'd also have the battle of the soccer moms versus the.. uh... big-footed hoodies?.
The University of Delaware or Princeton University - No threat at all, and we have the same helmets!
Another MACrificial Lamb - Guh. You know this is going through the Department's mind right now. No home and home and a year with 9 home games has to make the department's mouth water. All that stadium revenue with only a million dollar payout to some MAC team willing to take a beating. Brace yourself. Its probably going to be this or some Sun Belt team.
With David Brandon on board, I have to think that he'll try to make a splash with scheduling someone huge. it's just too big an opportunity for Michigan to pass up. All the Networks counting down the days till the Michigan v. ______ match up. They've never met before or they've only met in a bowl game, it'll be a great angle to pull in viewers. If Bill Martin was still in charge, I'd bet dollars to donuts that we'd get two more D1AA schools. But with one of Bo's former players now at the helm, I'm expecting something big. Even if it won't be announced for a while.