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This Wolverines game day in history is split

The Wolverines have played only two games on August 30th in their 135-year history. That's the easy part. But how have they fared on opening day in seasons similar to 2013? Let's take a look.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Seeing as the Wolverines didn't start a football season in August until 1995, there are only two Aug. 30 games to choose from: a 45-7 victory over Central Michigan in 2003 and a 23-25 loss against Utah in 2008.

Greatest Victory

Easy, the domination of the Chippewas, the day's only win. Chris Perry led the way for Michigan, rushing for 232 yards and two touchdowns while breaking records and career-highs. Perry broke Michigan's opening day rushing record, previously held by Gordon Bell with 210 yards in 1975. His 232 yards was a career-high for Perry as well as his 63-yard rush on the second play of the game. The game was never really in doubt even when the Chippewas narrowed the Wolverines lead to 17-7 early in the third quarter. Michigan responded with 28 unanswered points to cap off the victory. They finished the season as Big Ten Champs, ranked #6 with a 10-3 record after falling to USC in the Rose Bowl.

Worst Defeat

Easy, the painful beginnings of the RichRod era, the day's only loss. After taking a 10-6 lead in the first quarter, Michigan surrendered 19 unanswered points heading into the final frame. The Wolverines fought back, scoring a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns, but a failed two-point conversion ended up being the difference in the game. Granted, '08 was the best season in Utah Utes history as they finished 13-0 and ranked #2 in the AP poll after beating #4 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. As for Michigan, they floundered through the season to a pitiful 3-9 record.

Overall Record on Aug. 30


Game Scores

2003 vs. Central Michigan, 45-7

2008 vs. Utah, 23-25

So, two Aug. 30 games, one win, one loss. That was straightforward. Let's dig a little deeper and see how the Wolverines have fared in the opener after a season similar to 2013:

Season Characteristic Record in Next Year's Opener
Seven wins 12-1-1
Six losses 3-2
7-6 overall record 1-0
Three conference wins 13-3
Five conference losses 2-2
3-5 conference record 1-0
Bowl Game loss 18-3-1
Losses to Michigan State and Ohio 10-6

Three Reasons for Optimism

1) Michigan doesn't lose many season openers

Since Michigan State joined the conference in 1949 - making it the Big Ten as we know it today - the Wolverines have gone 49-15-1 in season opening games. More specifically, in season's similar to last year, there's only one characteristic that gives Michigan a non-winning record in openers: five conference losses.

2) Michigan performs well in August

In six August games, the Wolverines hold a 5-1 record, the lone loss being the aforementioned letdown against a powerful Utah squad. Furthermore, three of those games occurred after season's similar to last year: '95, '01, '12. In all three of those years, Michigan lost its bowl game and in '95, the Wolverines also lost to both Michigan State and Ohio. Following all three of those seasons, Michigan won its home opener, giving it a 3-0 record in August following 2013-like seasons.

3) The last time 2013 happened, Michigan won the following season's opener

There's only been one other season in Michigan history when the Wolverines have finished 7-6 overall with a 3-5 conference record including losses against both Michigan State and Ohio: 2010, RichRod's final year. It's actually eerie how similar both seasons unfolded: in both years, the Wolverines sprinted to a 5-0 start before falling in the second conference game as well as dropping their last three games. Granted, there hasn't been as much staff turnover prior to this season, but bouncing Borges and hiring Nussmeier will bring a new look to the offense. Following '10, Michigan won their opener in '11 against Western Michigan, so even those it's a single data point, it still supports the Wolverines winning Saturday.

Three Reasons for Pessimism

1) The season opener records for seven win and three conference win seasons are skewed

Back in the day, the college football season wasn't upwards of 14 games long. Heck, disregarding a handful of years before and after the start of the 20th century, the Wolverines didn't play double-digit game totals yearly until 1963. For instance, Michigan's won the conference with only three conference wins on two occassions: 1898 and 1903. They've also won the conference twice with seven overall wins - 1925 and '26 - and the National Championship once with seven victories in 1933. Needless to say, seven total and three conference wins wasn't always frowned upon.

2) The 2007 Appalachian State game happened after Michigan lost its bowl game the previous year

It speaks for itself, but the Wolverines fell 32-18 against USC in the '07 Rose Bowl. Everyone knows what happened the following season opener.

3) Michigan holds 0-1 records against 12 teams and only one loss occurred in a season opener

You can guess which team the lone season opener loss occurred against *cough* Appalachian State *cough* but the '07 loss, beyond the obvious, is truly in a league of its own. Of the 12 teams the Wolverines have faced once and lost, three no longer exist as they did before (the Chicago Athletic Association team, the Chicago University Club team, and the Cleveland Athletic Association team) and seven of the other nine faced Michigan in a bowl game (Arizona State, BYU, Kansas State, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas). The final two teams consist of App. State and Toledo, another game that would like to be forgotten. However, the Toledo debacle occurred in game six, not the season opener.

No matter what, I'll never understand why this game is happening tomorrow. It was bad enough living through it once. Now, not only do Wolverines fans have to relive the past, there's yet another chance at complete devastation. Is history likely to repeat itself?  No. As you can see above, history points to Michigan coming out on top rather than another Appalachian State upset. But the chance still exists, and that's painful enough to think about. Go Blue!