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June 2, 2014

Brandstatter readies to call historic App. State, ND games

Jim Brandstatter has only called one Michigan game in his career - against Northwestern in 2003 - but he will be ready when Aug. 30 rolls around, practicing as often as he can this summer after serving as a color commentator the past 30 years.

"I'm turning on Big Ten games, it doesn't have to be Michigan, and I'm sitting there and I'm actually trying to call the game as a play-by-play voice," Brandstatter said.

"When I'm driving in the car to Ann Arbor, I'm thinking, 'How am I going to open up the Appalachian State game?' I'm already rehearsing what I'm going to do and how I do it.

"Then when [new analyst] Dan Dierdorf and I get together, we feel each other out as we go along, but both of us have been doing this for well over 30 years so I think we'll have an easy transition."

There are a number of potential milestone moments this season so Brandstatter will receive a baptism by fire, starting with the moment he opens the broadcast against Appalachian State - a program that made college football history when as a Division I-AA team it upset a top-25-ranked Michigan team in 2007.

Brandstatter will also call Michigan State and Ohio State games for the first time, but a travel date to South Bend Sept. 6 has his full attention.

"You're broadcasting and opening a game up to your fan base from Notre Dame Stadium in the last game of the series," he said. "That is a historical moment and it doesn't get lost on a guy like me. This is the last time these two teams are going to play unless it's a bowl game for the foreseeable future. So that adds a different impact on me.

"I have to make sure I do it right to give that moment the proper respect it deserves considering they are the winningest programs in college football. Last time they play, that's a big game.

"And then the rivalry games. At Michigan State, at Ohio State. Those games are special. I think it will also be great to be playing at Rutgers for the first time. That's another historic event. Those are the three games that mean the most. And then of course, Minnesota and a game for the Little Brown Jug.

"You have to make sure you do your job."

The one thing Brandstatter will not have to do is call two Michigan-Ohio State games in one season. For all the hullabaloo over a potential rematch in the Big Ten Championship Game, one week after the two teams closed out the regular season, the second contest did not occur in three seasons of the Legends and Leaders.

U-M and OSU will be in the same East Division going forward, and can only play once.

"It was more important to me to play the last Saturday of the season than it was playing them twice, and it was important to play Michigan State very year," Brandstatter said. "Basically, we have the same thing in the East and West that we had in the Legends and Leaders; in my judgment, Michigan's football traditions have been preserved.

"Whether you played Ohio State twice or not on consecutive weekends doesn't matter. What matters is that you play the game once at the end of the year, you beat them and you go on to compete for a Big Ten Championship the next week."

As for the likelihood that the Maize and Blue will be playing in Indianapolis the first weekend of December … odds makers may bot be betting on it, but Brandstatter believes.

"I have the hope they will, and I think they can," he said. "They need to improve upfront offensively, run the ball much better than they did a year ago, and not turn the ball over. If they do those three things, they could have contended last year. But they didn't, and those are the things they have to repair.

"Those are all fixable mistakes. Brady Hoke can get those things corrected. Doug Nussmeier can help bringing his offense in. Another year of experience will help with Devin Gardner.

"I think they can contend but of all the contenders out there, they will have the most difficult road because they have to go to Michigan State, last year's Big Ten Champion, and they have to go to Ohio State and play on their turf. And that's a difficult road to go.

"But can they get it done? Yes, I believe they can."

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