Going up against the Alabama Crimson Tide, perennial SEC powerhouse and winner of two of the last three national championships, to start the 2012 season is absolute scheduling genius for the Michigan Wolverines.
Sure, the game was set in stone years ago, but the chips have fallen into place for Brady Hoke's team, a group dealing with heightened expectations after a 2011 season that ended with a Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech in January.
The Alabama game is a total win-win for the Wolverines—here, I explain why.
Right now, USA Today has the Wolverines ranked No. 8 while the Crimson Tide are the No. 2 team in the land.
If Michigan pulls off an upset victory against an Alabama squad that's seemingly reloaded after losing Trent Richardson, Courtney Upshaw, Dont'a Hightower, Dre Kirkpatrick and Marquis Maze, it'll shoot up the early-season rankings into legitimate national title contention.
Also, it'd be an enormous statement win for the Big Ten, a conference that has recently been smacked around by the SEC.
With a victory, the Wolverines would instantly have the highest possible benchmark on their 2012 resume, something that'd carry a great deal of weight in the future BCS rankings. Because of that, they'd likely be able to falter against, say, Michigan State, Nebraska or Ohio State and still have a legitimate argument to advance to a BCS Bowl, if not the national championship.
On the flip side, a loss would hardly be devastating.
All Michigan has to do is avoid getting completely blown out.
The old college football cliche goes something like this—"if you're going to lose, lose early."
In Michigan's case, not only would they lose early, but they'd have been defeated by a true national title contender.
Losing to Alabama in the opening game on your schedule is probably the best loss imaginable.
After being defeated by the LSU Tigers in this prime time game last season, the Oregon Ducks weren't able to reemerge into the national title picture, but even with a November loss at home to the USC Trojans, they made and ultimately won the Rose Bowl.
It's easy to fathom a similar fate for the Wolverines following a disappointing loss in the "Cowboys Classic."
Making and winning the Rose Bowl—I think any Michigan fan would be fine with that.