On Jan. 17, the University of Michigan basketball team will welcome perennial powerhouse UCONN to Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor. Rest assured, the fans will pack the "House That Cazzie Built."
Less than a year later, on Sept. 4, 2010, the Wolverines will once again play host to the Huskies. This time on the gridiron in Michigan Stadium. Rest assured, the fans will pack the "House That Yost Built."
Yet, the welcome wagon for the Huskies' football program has rolled into Ann Arbor with a few wheels missing. And, at a cursory glance, the skepticism seems warranted. The UCONN football team can't hold a candle to its hoops history and has been a Division I program for only eight seasons.
Hardly a fitting opponent for the mighty Wolverines, the NCAA's all-time leader in wins (872) and winning percentage (.740), to open the 2010 season under a newly renovated Big House. But in the "what have you done for me lately?" society of sports fans—one in which Michigan could look in the mirror after a 3-9 mark in 2008—the Huskies are more worthy than most of the alternatives.
Pitt, Oregon State, Duke and Virginia were among a handful of Bowl Championship Series teams that had open dates on Sept. 4, 2010, and were considered by many front-runners for the marquee season opener that the Maize and Blue faithful craved.
But what have they done lately?
Oregon State has had the most success, winning five straight bowl games and posting a record of 40-23 in the past five seasons (2004-2008), including a 27-21 win over Southern California last year.
Pitt would bring the side-show of past Backyard Brawls to the Big House, when Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez coached the Pather's arch-rival West Virginia. But nothing more. In the past five years, Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt has compiled a record of 31-27 with no bowl wins in two appearances in that span, including a snore-inducing 3-0 loss to Oregon State in the 2008 Sun Bowl.
Virginia would bring back memories of Michigan receiver Mercury Hayes' last second touchdown catch to beat the Cavaliers in 1995. But nothing more. Virginia is 28-30 in a five-year span with one bowl win and two bowl appearances.
Duke. I won't even bother.
Meanwhile, one of the most underrated coaches in the country, UCONN's Randy Edsall, has compiled 34-27 record in the past five years with three bowl appearances—two wins—at a program not even 10 years into it's Division I inception.
The welcome wagon may not be a Sooner Schooner, but considering the alternatives, it's time to roll out the Maize and Blue carpet for the Huskies.