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September 21, 2013There are 112 players on the Michigan roster, currently - and 80 of them have freshman or sophomore eligibility. Having so much youth on the team can cause coaches a lot of headaches, with missed assignments, mistakes and growing pains as the kids learn what it takes to compete among the upper echelon of college football.
It can also be a pain to travel.
"We'll take nannies with us," Michigan coach Brady Hoke joked about taking his young team on the road for the first time this season for Saturday's 8 p.m. kickoff at Connecticut.
"It is a young team. Every experience will be different. Even the redshirt freshmen, they didn't travel besides the bowl game. Believe me, I've thought about the travel."
Under Hoke, the Wolverines haven't always played their best football away from Michigan Stadium. The team lost five games away from home last season, including a 41-14 loss in Dallas to eventual national champion Alabama in the first week of the season and a 33-28 loss to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl.
In his two-plus seasons at Michigan, Hoke has posted a perfect 17-0 record in The Big House, which stands the second-longest current home winning streak in the country (Northern Illinois has won 21 straight home games). But he has a middling 5-7 record on the road, including a 4-5 record in true road games.
"We're obviously not playing in The Big House," fifth-year senior right tackle Michael Schofield said. "We're going to be in front of fans who will be booing us and everything. They have to be prepared for that. As a senior class, we're going to prepare the young guys as much as possible."
Sophomore outside linebacker James Ross III played his first game in a Michigan uniform away from Michigan Stadium.
After the Wolverines' disappointing performance on the road last year, he has learned a lesson about what it takes to win outside of your comfort zone.
"It's all about staying focused and no distractions," Ross said. "There's going to be a lot of distractions out there, but you can't pay attention to that. It's a game waiting to be played. It's going to be a 100-yard field just like our field is. Nothing different. You just have to stay focused."
With or without a lot of youth on the roster, the first road game of the season has traditionally been a tough game for the Wolverines.
In the last 15 years, Michigan has posted a 5-10 record in their first game of the season away from The Big House, including a stretch of six-straight losses from 2000-05. During Hoke's tenure, the Wolverines are 1-1 in such games, with the aforementioned loss to Alabama last year and a 42-24 win at Northwestern in the first road game of 2011.
Michigan is 81-43-8 all-time in the first road game of the season (61.4 percent).