Saturday, September 3, 3:30 pm EDT, TV: ABC
Who really wants to watch a MAC team take on a Big Ten team? What possible interest could there be in this game outside of the two participating teams' fan bases?
With all due respect to Western Michigan, no one outside of Kalamazoo, Michigan really cares—or even takes notice—of what the Broncos do on a week-to-week basis.
Being in the MAC is bad enough. Being a .500 MAC team is even worse. Sorry WMU fans, but this game isn't interesting because of the Broncos.
What needs to be looked at is Michigan.
The Wolverines have finally dropped excess baggage in the form of Rich Rodriguez, and in his place, Michigan has hired “Michigan Man” Brady Hoke.
People who aren't familiar with the “Michigan Man” mentality don't quite understand what this means to people in Ann Arbor circles. It all goes back to Bo Schembechler and his days as the Michigan football coach and athletic director. When U-M's basketball coach, Bill Frieder, announced shortly before the 1989 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament he would be leaving at the end of the season for Arizona State, Schembechler promptly fired him on the eve of the tournament's first round. Schembechler believed that only a person completely dedicated to the university should be the coach, and Schembechler famously stated to the press, “a Michigan man is going to coach a Michigan team.” Schembechler appointed Steve Fisher as interim head coach, who led the team to an NCAA Championship in that very tournament. The legend was born.
Hoke, unlike Rodriguez, is a “Michigan Man,” having begun his coaching career at Grand Valley State, Western Michigan, Toledo, Oregon State, and finally Michigan, under head coaches Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr. As such, Hoke is a man familiar with Michigan's program and was schooled in the ways of coaching by graduates of the “Schebechler College of Football Coaching” Moeller and Carr.
Hoke's biggest task will be the remodel the Wolverines into a traditional Michigan team, and defense will be a big part of that.
So why should be sure to catch WMU at U-M this weekend?
As bad as WMU is, the Broncos have a serviceable offensive attack. It will be a good first week practice exam for the Michigan defense. If the Wolverines struggle against WMU's offense, the Maize and Blue could be in for another long, grueling season.
But if Michigan can shut down the Broncos and cruise to an easy win with few WMU scores, it may be the first signs of a resurgent Michigan.