September 26, 2012

Borton's Blog: Serious scheduling

Michigan absorbed the 1-2 punch in the non-conference schedule, failing in its semi-pro debut against Alabama and dropping an early Christmas present on the folks in South Bend. The third blow developed more like a well-placed kick.

That's when ND athletic director Jack Swarbrick slipped his Michigan counterpart, Dave Brandon, a letter just prior to kickoff between the Wolverines and the Irish on Saturday night. It was a "Dear John" missive cancelling the 2015-17 games between the teams, at the last possible opt-out moment.

So Michigan moves on, with opportunities for headline-grabbing, attractive match-ups to replace the Notre Dame game in the not-so-distant future. This much seems certain - Brandon isn't going to be shy in the scheduling department.

A little caution might be understandable. After all, Alabama rearranged the Wolverines' dental work in this year's opener, using its rich pool of talent to dominate.

Some might not want to touch that burner again any time soon. Brandon shrugs off that sort of thinking.

"It's easy in hindsight to say, 'Gee, we went down to Dallas, we didn't play well and we got beat by Alabama, so maybe we shouldn't have done that,'" Brandon noted. "I can assure you, if we'd have gone down there and played really well and they didn't play well, and we'd have won that game, we'd have had a lot of happy fans.

"That's why you play the games. I think by anybody's standard, when you go into that game, we had two top-10 teams, in terms of pre-season rankings. I understand pre-season rankings are not always as accurate as you want them to be, but it was a match-up of No. 2 Alabama and No. 8 Michigan, in an incredible facility, on a big stage.

"Our coaches and our players and our recruits were all incredibly excited about it. We're disappointed we didn't play as well as we know we could have played, against a team that played very, very well. Against a team where, if you don't play really well, you're not going to be competitive."

Plus, he indicated, it's impossible to project how two teams will match up when schedules are made.

"These games are scheduled typically two, three, four years into the future," the AD said. "The idea that you can somehow forecast where your team is going to be versus another team gets really difficult. Frankly, I don't do that, and I don't know of many other ADs who do that.

"I don't really know in two, three, four years how strong certain teams are going to be in different conferences around the country. They don't know how strong we're going to be. You schedule the game and you take your chances."

Oh, and Michigan will continue to take its chances, Brandon assured. With Brady Hoke and his coaching staff pulling in top recruiting classes and building the roster back to compete with the elite, it's reasonable to assume the Wolverines won't shy away from top competition, including in the non-conference schedule.

The Alabama game stung, Brandon acknowledged, but nobody from the U-M side is backing down.

"You learn from that," Brandon said. "You take that lesson as a player and as a coach. You learn from it, and you build on it, and you prepare for the next opportunity to play on that big stage. I don't think there is a young guy on our team, or a coach on that coaching staff, that doesn't look forward to an opportunity sometime in the future to play another game like that.

"That's what Michigan does. And we will. We'll be scheduling, from time to time, against big, national opponents, to create that excitement for our recruits and our players, to put Michigan on the big stage where we belong, to give ourselves an opportunity to knock off somebody and put ourselves in a position where we're in the national hunt. That's Michigan.

"I have no regrets, and hopefully, we will continue to be willing to take on those kinds of challenges for many, many, many years to come."

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