Are we into Week 3 already? Michigan fans--we have this game against UMass and then Notre Dame, and then we have our conference opponents. Here's just a few thoughts I had coming into this week's slate of games:
1. I'm sure most people have heard of the Notre Dame/ACC decision by now. While Notre Dame is not a Big Ten school, and now probably never will be, this still does affect some teams. Michigan currently has a contract with ND to play them up until the contract expires in 2020, with years 2018 and 2019 not being played. Okay, so Michigan will be playing ND up through 2017, which amounts to 5 more games. Michigan State has a contract with ND that is valid through 2031, so within the next 5 years neither school will be booted from the schedule. By signing this agreement with the ACC, ND will have to schedule 5 ACC games per season in football. ND is not leaving any conference in football, therefore I'm not sure when the agreement goes into effect. For other sports it's a 5 million buyout and they must wait two years...for football that might start as of next year. So think of it...for 5 years ND has to schedule 5 ACC games, Michigan, MSU, probably Purdue; and traditional games against Navy, USC, and Stanford. That's 11 games right there folks.
2. I know this is a Michigan blog, but I'm going to keep going into this Notre Dame mess for a bit. What does Notre Dame playing ACC teams, 5 of them, affect Michigan? Well...it's going to do a number on recruiting. Currently there are 9 players on their 2013 recruiting roster that are based in the Midwest; 9 players who could otherwise be with Big Ten teams. There's a mix of 3* and 4* star players and even one 5* player in LB Jaylon Smith. Now, how can that affect us? If those recruits go to ND vs ACC games, they could very well go to an ACC school. I know you might think I'm stretching things a bit here, but I've seen it happen when Florida State and Miami left their old conferences years ago. That means all Big Ten teams have some more work to do on pitching recruits. In the end all be all, I can understand why Notre Dame gets all the publicity. Fans have a long memory and it's been a long time since they've been championship material. I suppose they're surviving on a name. This week they play Michigan State, and right now MSU is looking to be the strong arm of the conference. Should be a good match-up.
3. Now, back to your regularly scheduled reading: Wisconsin is a shell of what we all thought they were going to be. Now who's fault is it this time? O'Brien not as good as Wilson. Their O-line is not what they were the last few years. The defense is just plain bad. No one else besides Ball is contributing on offense, and even then, he hasn't been great. Their offensive coordinator lasted all of two games. It's a multitude of things that is bearing down on Wisconsin. You know the old saying that if a bunch of things go wrong, it's the perfect storm? Wisconsin is weathering that storm right now. I know Bielema will try his hardest to keep his team competitive, but this season might already be out of reach.
4. The camel's back--Navy plays Penn State this week in a matchup that the Nittany Lions need to win. I repeat--need to win. It was one thing at the beginning of the season to cheer on the team and the school, after what they've gone through. Now, it's just getting sad. Junior WR Shawney Kersey has also left the program due to undisclosed reasons; and that makes it sadder.
5. Cornerback Carousel--Countess is out for the season, which has meant Courtney Avery has gotten the starting job opposite of JT Floyd. Yet last week, he was largely ineffective and due to an injured back, was replaced by Raymon Taylor. Avery should be back at full strength against UMass, but Michigan will give Taylor time also.
6. Since we are now in year 2 of the Brady Hoke era, there has been something quite obvious. Hoke's first full recruiting class is receiving playing time. Dennis Norfleet is seeing a bunch of time at special teams, Devin Funchess is emerging at tight end, and Joe Bolden has been sighted on the field quite a bit. We're also seeing Ondre Pipkins and Jerrod Wilson at free safety. It might not mean much to the casual fan, but to Michigan fans it means the world. Why? Because slowly but surely Michigan is transitioning from RichRod's spread players; the smaller and faster kind that for the most part, did not make an impact on the Big Ten. When we say "it's only a matter of time"....well, that time is coming fast.
7. Predictions--I'm not a betting man. Never have been, never will be. Yet if I had some spare cash to bet on the Michigan-UMass game, you'd better believe I would. For one reason--there's a 45 1/2 point spread and I don't think Michigan will cover it. I've heard Hoke doesn't think Michigan will cover it. In the end, I say it's going to be Michigan 41-3.