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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Living in DC, I've been a loyal DirecTV subscriber to the ESPN Gameplan package for 5 years, since it is the only way to reliably ensure that I'll be seeing Michigan's Big 10 games on the east coast instead of the typical Clemson-Wake Forest ACC dreck that ABC generally substitutes as the "regional game of interest" each week.

I was surprised to get my glossy DirecTV ESPN Gameplan mailer this week telling me that for my $109, I'd be fortunate to get football games from major conferences like the Big 12, SEC, Pac-10 and ACC, along with the Big East, WAC, Sun Belt and MAC (these are major?). Glaring omission: Big 10 is out of the Gameplan.

Possible plus: I can save $109 by cancelling Gameplan, and I get BTN for free as part of the DirecTV package I already pay for.

But...a possible (and very disturbing) minus: Michigan game is on ABC, East Coast idiots determine that Clemson-Wake Forest is the more interesting regional game, and I am unable to see the Wolverines on either BTN or ESPN Gameplan. The latter was always insurance for these purposes, but with Big 10 out of the plan, that option seems to have been wiped out.

Frustrating call to a rather clueless DirecTV rep named Conchita failed to answer any of these questions adequately.

In your exhaustive review of the BTN and its global impact, have you run up against this issue? It would seem that the Big 10 would still want to participate in ESPN Gameplan so that loyal out-of-state alumni will have some option to see those ABC regional games that don't make it out of the midwest.

Thanks, and of course, Go Blue!

I've knocked the Big Ten office for a lot of stuff in recent weeks, but they did handle this Gameplan exit deftly. In short: if you have ESPN and ESPN2, there is no such thing as a regional ABC game anymore. All Big Ten games on ABC will be shown in markets that aren't receiving the game on either ESPN or ESPN2. No more frantically hoping that the daft programming director avoids UConn-BC. Every game that Michigan plays is either on the BTN or nationally televised.

As a result: Michigan fans should not get Gameplan unless they want it for ACC/SEC/Big 12/etc purposes.

(Sidenote: hopefully this means I can now regularly watch things like the Red River Shootout, which is almost always an ABC regional game that gets blown off the air by something like Minnesota-Penn State. That ESPN channel showing the regionalized Big Ten game has to show something in the areas where said game is on ABC, and it'll probably be another ABC regional game, yesno?)

Brian, I was considering the benefits of scheduling a difficult non-conference opponent, and they are many. Michigan can maintain seven home games if they schedule two cupcakes at home, then alternate travelling to difficult sites when the Irish come to Ann Arbor and hosting difficult opponents when they travel to South Bend. When ND is off for two years, schedule home-and homes with two tough opponents. When ND comes back on, organize a home-and-home with one difficult opponent.

Tougher scheduling would mean increased exposure and possible primetime Saturday games. Michigan must do a better job appealing to recruits nationally if they want to become a powerhouse like USC (and who would not like that?). Schedule games against opponents in talent-rich markets with plenty of potential viewers. Bring our team to the recruits. Here are my top ten candidates MIchigan should consider.

Miami, USC, Texas, UCLA, Miami, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Texas A&M, and Virginia Tech. Cal would also be a good opponent because the Bay Area has a lot of talent.

Michigan needs to back up their claim to being "The Leaders and Best". If we schedule tougher opponents we wouldn't be so scared of mid-level Big Ten teams or tough opponents in the Rose Bowl.

Thoughts? Maybe bloggers and concerned fans should write the AD. From, Andrew.
I don't think there's a college football fan alive that wouldn't like his team to step up their scheduling unless our hypothetical everyfan likes USC. I'm with you: while I'm glad the Notre Dame series is continuing, the brief moment in which a Texas or Georgia or Tennessee series seemed feasible was fun. Now it's unlikely any Michigan fan will see a truly elite nonconference opponent in the Big House until we have the technology to send Arnold Schwarzenegger back in time to prevent Jim Tressel from ever being born. Even if we accidentally schedule some mid-level BCS team that manages to flail itself into the top ten just in time for us to play them, that team won't have the history or sex appeal of the aforementioned trio or one of the Florida schools. If only we could rely on Notre Dame to maintain their 90s-level performance; alas and alack, it is not so. We're not going to get a big time team in any time soon.

But I do think that the above proposal for a seven game home schedule with two MAC pancakes and two actual opponents should be the model going forward. This year is an anomalous schedule with both eight home games and two respectable nonconference opponents borne of our desire to delay Oregon's return trip originally scheduled for 2003; future eight-game home schedules will be like Penn State's 2007 nonconference schedule: Notre Dame and the three dwarves (Temple, Buffalo, and FIU). Michigan shouldn't stand for that. Repeats of last year, where the interesting nonconference home game was Vanderbilt, should not be allowed to happen.
Now that we have him in our grasps I feel more comfortable asking the question. Does McGuffie have any chance of moving up to 5-stars on Rivals when they re-evaluate (whenever that is). This guy is talked about everywhere. I can't believe how much hype it seems he gets. What do you think? Also, is he going to step right in and play with Grady, Minor, and presumably Carlos Brown ahead of him?

McGuffie will have plenty of chances to convert doubters this fall with a senior year at Cy-Fair and the Army Bowl to come. If he can replicate last year's success behind what I believe is an entirely (or almost entirely) new offensive line, he'll probably crack the Rivals 100. A five star? Probably not, but it's worth nothing that both ESPN (#97 overall) and Scout (#59) are higher on McGuffie than Rivals, which omits him from its top 100, and maybe one or two services could be impressed enough to move him up into such rarefied air. Tom Lemming is probably going to rank him way ridiculously high, too, but around these parts we don't take him seriously. So there's a chance. Personally, I am doubtful Rivals will change course on him. They've pigeonholed him not as a white guy but as an "all-purpose back" and even when he went to the Boulder Nike camp and impressed, Rivals guys said he was really good catching the ball out of the backfield and it just confirmed their opinions. They've adopted a bunker mentality here and significant movement in his rankings is unlikely.

As far as playing time goes: the opportunity is certainly there. The coaches cling to Mike Hart like he's their Binky Bear, but in his absence it's doubtful one running back emerges from the pile two games in and establishes a death lock on the job like he did. For the first time in what seems like forever, a rotation is likely deep into the season. McGuffie will be a part of that rotation.
I've been looking all over the web for the incoming freshman jersey numbers. Do you know when they arrive on campus and get there jersey numbers? I heard that Woolfolk is already on campus.---Jim Boyle
My super-secret sources declare thusly:
  • #6 Donovan Warren
  • #15 Ryan Mallett
  • #17 Toney Clemons
  • #21 Junior Hemingway
  • #26 Zion Babb
  • #29 Troy Woolfolk
  • #30 James Rogers II
  • #32 Vince Helmuth
  • #33 Marell Evans
  • #34 Avery Horn
  • #38 Artis Chambers
  • #40 Mike Williams Jr.
  • #50 Dave Molk
  • #53 Ryan Van Bergen
  • #58 Brandon Herron
  • #72 Mark Huyge
  • #80 Martell Webb
  • #81 Steve Watson
  • #95 Renaldo Sagesse
JUCO Austin Panter is #54.
I am a student at the university and I am concerned about the tight end position this year. I was reading on the Mlive forum that Carson Butler's father talked to Lloyd Carr about a possible reinstatement. Do you think this will happen, and is it a good idea or not? On the field he is a better pass catcher than Massey, and if he is able to overcome his past woes, he may end up in the NFL.

This has been batted around as a possibility and there is enough internets smoke to declare that, yes, Butler would very much like to rejoin the team after being acquitted in the St. Patrick's Day Nerd Massacre, and that someone affiliated with his camp has been attempting to talk Carr into it. We won't know anything more until someone works up the temerity to ask Carr about it at a press conference of some sort -- I have put in a request to FanHouse machine Michael David Smith, who will be at Big Ten media day today -- and even then things promise to remain murky into the fall. Even if Butler does end up back on the team, which is not close to a given, I doubt he sees the light of day this year, as Carr will probably put him on Pierre Woods triple-secret-you-don't-play- even-if-the-alternative-is-Pat-Massey* probation for 2007 with the potential for full reinstatement only coming in the Mallett era.

I'd like to emphasize that the above is speculation and consists of no insider info at all.

*(Operative theory here is that Woods would have been a fine weakside DE and allowed Branch to move back inside, leaving the 2005 DL to read like so: Woods-Branch-Watson-Woodley.)