There are always some fireworks in the Mailbag, and we saved a few boomers for July 5. Some of the most explosive talk continues to center on the impending college football playoff.
Since college football's commissioners were finally willing to break with tradition and recommend a four-team playoff, how long before they take it one step further - largely due to public demand - and go to eight teams in what would likely be a far more thorough way to determine a national champion? I know this version of the playoff is supposed to run through 2025, but will it make it that far?
It won't make it to 2025. There is simply too much money to be made, and too much excitement over the playoff that will be generated, for the four-team model to hold up. College football dips its toes in the water for 2014, and will take a plunge not far down the road.
By 2020, and probably sooner (perhaps within four years), there will be a jump to an eight-team playoff. Hopefully, once that move is made, the expansion ends there. As they used to say on television, eight is enough.
Had there been a four-team playoff during the past 15 years, I have U-M in the semifinals three times - in 1997, 2003 and 2006. Here are my matchups based on the final regular season AP/BCS polls:
No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 4 Florida State
No. 2 Nebraska vs. No. 3 Tennessee
No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 Michigan
No. 2 Southern Cal vs. No. 3 LSU
No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 4 LSU
No. 2 Florida vs. No. 3 Michigan
How do you see those three playoffs unfolding? Does Michigan win the national title in 1997? Does it make it to the championship game either other year?
Interesting game to play. You'll never convince me that the '97 Michigan team wouldn't have won it all, just like you'll never convince close followers of the Cornhuskers that Nebraska wouldn't have won it.
Michigan simply featured the best defense I've ever seen from a group of Wolverines. As has often been pointed out, that entire team was studded with NFL players, including one of the greatest of all time in Charles Woodson.
The Wolverines would have beaten Florida State that year by double digits, then taken down the Cornhuskers, 20-17, in a classic title showdown.
Michigan experienced some close calls that year, but Nebraska didn't just roll over everybody. The Cornhuskers pulled out an overtime win at Missouri, 45-38, when a Scott Frost pass kicked into the air by his own receiver (ruled unintentional) produced a touchdown and sent the game to OT.
Two games later, Nebraska barely survived in Bolder, 27-24, against a Colorado team the Wolverines crushed to open the season. Nebraska fans will cite their own list of reasons the Cornhuskers would have prevailed, but the difference is
well, they're wrong.
The 2003 match-ups are tough to figure. Oklahoma beat Alabama early that year, then rampaged through the Big 12 until getting smoked by Kansas State, 35-7, in the Big 12 championship game. In other words, the Sooners weren't unbeatable by season's end (they subsequently lost to LSU in the Sugar Bowl, 21-14.
John Navarre, Chris Perry and Co. would have certainly had a chance, but we have to call this Oklahoma over Michigan, and USC sweeping its way to the title.
Florida fans will point to their team's crushing of Ohio State in the national championship game as evidence that the Gators would have handled the Wolverines as well. We later found out, though, how ill prepared the Buckeyes were for that game, both physically and mentally, following the No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown against Michigan in Columbus.
There's something to that, but we still have to give the edge to the Gators. LSU would have handled OSU, and then lost to Florida in the title game, like it did in the regular season (23-10).
The Big Ten Media Day is later this month, and I know that each school usually brings a three-athlete contingent. I think Denard Robinson is obvious, but who do you expect the coaches to also bring? And is this a good indicator of the likely captains this fall?
I'd expect fifth-year senior safety Jordan Kovacs to make the trip to Chicago, as a natural leader for the defense. It would be a shock if he isn't a captain this fall.
That leaves one spot, and it could go to a senior such as offensive lineman Patrick Omameh or Craig Roh on the defensive side of the ball. Tougher call on either of them as captains, although they certainly could be.
Michigan recently unveiled its full non-conference schedules for 2014 and 2015, and half of 2016. What were your impressions, good, bad or otherwise?
Start with 2014, and the beef of many that bringing in Appalachian State is a horrible idea. They see a week's worth of negative buildup for the Wolverines, with constant flashbacks to 2007 and the all-time upset at Michigan Stadium.
That rematch gets a shrug here. Yes, there will be some angst and agony U-M fans get to revisit (accompanied by Michigan haters reveling anew in the '07 takedown), but U-M fans in some instances need to be as tough as Brady Hoke expects the Wolverines to be.
Appalachian State will likely be a Division-I program by then, and was better than a number of Division-I foes the Wolverines have played in the non-conference schedules over the years. Problem is, it's a no-win situation, because of the label.
One of two things happens here. The Mountaineers pull off another, at which time David Brandon gets pounded for worst scheduling move ever, or Michigan evens the score and everyone (except Appalachian State fans and upset hopefuls) walks away happy.
Utah is a good opponent, but you're again caught in the name game. Many would like a bigger-name foe (like UCLA) that hasn't done nearly as much in recent years. So much depends on the strength-of-schedule factor in the upcoming playoff scenario, so this could be a good move.
Love the return game at Utah in 2015. Michigan hasn't made many big trips in the non-conference in recent years, and this will be one. Plus, you're opening the college football season in a Thursday night game, and have extra time to prepare for Notre Dame, nine days later.
I think Michigan is over-scheduled that year, like it is this year, but at least in 2015, Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State all come to Michigan Stadium. So do Oregon State and UNLV following the ND game, the former a possible trap game.
Good that Michigan gets to see Colorado again in 2016. I'm with Buffs fans, though, on the disappointment regarding no return game. It's great for U-M's scheduling, logistically, but going to Boulder for a football game is a terrific experience.
I need you to settle an argument my buddy and I have been having. We've been debating when the "unofficial" start of the new football begins. I say on the first day of preseason camp for Michigan. He argues the conference's media day. My brother is old school and thinks it doesn't get going until the first Monday of game week. Who wins out?
Well, if you're on The Fort, it starts the day after the bowl game. But if your brother isn't gearing up until Monday of game week, he's got all sorts of catching up to do.
Guaranteed, all those directly involved know media day in Chicago (and the subsequent start of fall camp) gets everything going in high gear. Jobs will be won and lost in that first fortnight following the Windy City stop. Freshmen will show whether they can contribute this fall. Teams are made, many times, in August, provided they've laid the proper foundation in the months leading up to that one.
Tell your brother he can still enjoy his summer. But if he's not paying close attention during its traditional final month, he's way late to the game.
With the arrival this week of your 2012 Football Preview, I went back through some old editions and in 1999 your staff, with the help of some well-informed long-time observers, ranked the Top 100 football players in Michigan history. Obviously there has been a lot of great football since then and I was wondering what 10 players from 1999 and on would you find a way to include if you were doing that list today? Maybe it's only eight? Five? And where does Denard Robinson rank?
Here are 10, all of who earned All-America status in '99 or beyond, who almost certainly would have found their way into the top 100: offensive tackle Jake Long, center David Baas, receivers Braylon Edwards, David Terrell and Marquise Walker, tight end Bennie Joppru, defensive end LaMarr Woodley, running backs Mike Hart and Chris Perry, and defensive back Marlin Jackson.
You can bump it to an even dozen by including Chad Henne, who racked up record passing numbers for the Wolverines while becoming the first freshman to ever lead a team to a Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl, and the current quarterback. Robinson will become Michigan's all-time total yardage leader this season, and he certainly would rank very high in any top-10 list.
How high? To some degree, it depends on this season, both his and Michigan's. If he becomes a more proficient thrower, takes care of the football better and leads Michigan to a Big Ten championship game and another BCS bowl, top 20 (with room to move way up) is certainly valid.
On production alone, he's already in the top 30.
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