Monday, June 25, 2012

Unfamiliar Territory: Part I of II

It started with a simple premise.  When Michigan and Virginia Tech were matched up in the Sugar Bowl this past season, many writers correctly noted that it was the first time that the two venerable college football programs had been matched up.  It also marked the second straight bowl game in which Michigan faced an opponent it had never faced, even though we don't discuss the 2011 Gator Bowl matchup with Mississippi State...ever.

So I wanted to know, what Division I-A teams has Michigan never faced in its long 132 year history.  I used the Stassen database lookup to find teams which Michigan had never faced.  I also used a 1936 cutoff point (the first year of the AP poll) to find teams Michigan has not faced during that time frame.  The complete list will follow, but let's look at the Big Five conference teams first, along with some commentary:

Michigan vs. Clemson
Doesn't it just seem like Michigan and Clemson should have played at some point in history?  But, nope, it's never actually happened.  Death Valley seats 80,500, so it's not like a home and home would be out of the question.  Plus, Dabo, so, yaknow. 

Michigan vs. Georgia Tech (1934)
Also known as the Willis Ward game, I'm wondering if lingering resentments and issues stemming from that game have prevented a rematch from ever happening.

Big East:
Michigan vs. Cincinnati
Kind of surprising, because of the proximity, but then again, Ohio State has only played their southerly neighbors six times ever, so...

Michigan vs. Louisville
Interestingly enough, Michigan has only played one team from the state of Kentucky in history and none in the last century.
Michigan vs. Rutgers
As two of the "founding fathers" of college football, coupled with Rutgers proximity to the New York metro area, this one is shocking.  I kept presuming that Rutgers and Michigan will square  off at MetLife Stadium at some point in the future, but the Pac-12 scheduling alliance makes that less likely now.

Michigan vs. South Florida
USF played its first football game in 1997, so this is not too shocking.

Michigan vs. Temple
Temple would actually be a great team for a home and home, as the Owls play at Lincoln Financial Field.  Temple was a MAC school until last year, so this could also account for a lack of Temple in our lives.

Michigan vs. West Virginia (1904, non I-A)
Michigan played Fielding Yost's alma mater during the run of four straight national titles, winning over the Mountaineers by a 130-0 score.  While I think it would be great to play the Mountaineers, recent history suggests that this matchup is not in the offing any time during the Brandon tenure.

Michigan vs. Kentucky (1908, non I-A)
Michigan won the only match-up in 1908 by a 62-0 score, but it should be noted, like the West Virginia game, Kentucky was not considered I-A level at the time of the game (which is kind of nebulous at best anyway.)  Most of Michigan's matchups with pre-2012 SEC schools have come during bowl games in the last 20 or so years: 
  • Arkansas-1998 Citrus Bowl
  • Alabama-three times, #4 coming up
  • Auburn-twice, 1984 Sugar Bowl & 2000 Citrus Bowl
  • Tennessee-2001 Citrus Bowl
  • Ole Miss-1990 Gator Bowl
  • Mississippi State-2010 Gator Bowl
  • Florida-two times, 2002 Outback Bowl & 2007 Capital One (Citrus) Bowl
  • Vanderbilt-no bowl game, but that 2006 game is the most recent of 11 games
  • South Carolina-two regular season home games - 1980 & 1985
  • Georgia-two regular season home games - 1957 & 1965 (meaning Michigan has never played "Between the Hedges" which is a major bummer.

Michigan vs. LSU
This is not only the #1 matchup I would love to see Michigan make in the next few years, I am sure the networks would love it, the story lines write themselves, the teams would hopefully be pretty good, and honestly, given the SEC/Big Ten bowl tie-ins, its a distinct possibility.  Let's just not do it in New Orleans.  

I will actually make the argument that this is one of the five best college football matchups that has never been played.  That will be Part II of the article (there's a matrix, it's awesome) when I get a chance to write it up.

Big XII:
Michigan vs. Iowa State
Makes sense on some level.  If you're playing Iowa, you don't need to play Iowa State.

Michigan vs. Kansas State
K-State was so bad for so long in the pre-Snyder era (and the post-Snyder, pre-Snyder era) that I can think that Michigan would not see any benefit in playing K-State.  Why schedule a terrible purple clad Wildcat squad when you already are playing Northwestern.  (Northwestern pre-1995)

Michigan vs. Texas Christian
TCU is only here because I had to remember that TCU is a Big XII team starting this season.  TCU would be a tough matchup because it's a high risk/low reward scheduling notion, just like Boise State.

Michigan vs. Texas Tech
If we're going to play the Red Raiders, play them now, in the post-Leach era, when it's a "Dumpster Fire". ("Tuberville Dumpster Fire" courtesy Fake Dan Beebe on Twitter)

Mountain West/Big East/Somewhere?
Michigan vs. Boise State
Boise State, of course, is a up and comer, but Michigan State is playing Boise State this year to open up the season.  Michigan and Boise State should figure something out.  Just not on the Smurf Turf.

Michigan vs. Akron (on the schedule)
On the schedule for 2013, so that takes care of that.

Michigan vs. Buffalo (1901, non I-A)
Would have been a better possibility if Warde Manuel (Michigan alum) had stayed at Buffalo as the AD, but yeah, not seeing it.

Michigan vs. Kent State
Just kind of seems like a fluke.  Then again, Michigan's only ever played Toledo once and Bowling Green twice, all within the last 12 years.  If Michigan is going to play a MAC school, it tends to play the Michigan MAC schools (Eastern 10 times, Central 3 times, Western 6 times) instead of the Ohio MAC schools (Toledo 1 time, Bowling Green 2 times, Miami 5 times [amazingly, never once while Bo was coach], Akron 0 times, Kent State 0 times.)

Michigan vs. Ohio
Seriously, this needs to happen, if only to revel in our mutual animosity toward Ohio State.  Then again, Ohio State has only played Ohio University thrice ever, so it's not like they're playing frequently either.

If I were ranking the matchups I would most like to see Michigan play among teams it has never, ever, played , it would probably be:
  1. LSU
  2. Clemson
  3. Rutgers
  4. Ohio
  5. Cincinnati

Stay tuned for our national rankings, some time soon.

Everybody else:
Michigan vs. UAB
Michigan vs. Arkansas State
Michigan vs. Central Florida
Michigan vs. East Carolina
Michigan vs. Fresno State
Michigan vs. Idaho
Michigan vs. Louisiana Tech
Michigan vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
Michigan vs. Louisiana-Monroe
Michigan vs. Marshall
Michigan vs. Middle Tennessee State
Michigan vs. Nevada
Michigan vs. UNLV
Michigan vs. New Mexico
Michigan vs. New Mexico State
Michigan vs. North Texas
Michigan vs. San Jose State
Michigan vs. South Alabama
Michigan vs. Southern Mississippi
Michigan vs. Texas-El Paso
Michigan vs. Texas-San Antonio
Michigan vs. Texas State
Michigan vs. Troy
Michigan vs. Tulsa
Michigan vs. Utah State
Michigan vs. Western Kentucky
Michigan vs. Wyoming 

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