ASK CFN - Can Michigan Turn the Corner?
Posted Apr 12, 2007

Can Michigan turn the corner ... does it need to? Why doesn't CFN give enough respect to Florida? Should there be a super-conference between the WAC and Mountain West? These and more in the latest ASK CFN.

Pete Fiutak

Fire over your questions to me at I might not be able to answer them all, but I promise they're all read. Any e-mails sent to this address may be published or edited unless requested otherwise. (Please put ASK CFN in the subject line, and PLEASE keep the questions short ... it makes my life easier.)

Past ASK CFNs ...     
Mid-majors who should be in the bigs
The potential new superpower
The 5 best coaching jobs
March Madness for football?
Potential Bowl Shockers
Tim Brewster?
Fox's BCS broadcasts
- Is Brady really better than Russell?
Hot & Cold Bowl Programs
- How ineffective was Reggie Ball?
- A 2007 Top 10 Mock Draft
Can Michigan win a national title?
- BCS possibilities for several teams
- West Virginia schedule, BCS rules
- Toughest coaching jobs
- Hidden Heisman 5

- Is Temple worst ever?
- Oklahoma-Oregon fiasco
- Has Bob Stoops lost it?
- Is Colorado done?

Geez, can you ever write an article when you don’t rip on Florida? You must live in Columbus or something cause you just can’t seem to handle that we’re winning at EVERYTHING. We were dominant last year in the national championship and made all you Buckeye lovers foolish when we showed too much SEC speed and talent. You must have been one of those Big Ten lovers who wanted a Michigan – OSU rematch. Get over it and accept how much we dominate! Your pathetic. - LT

A: We? I must have missed it. Were you the one wearing No. 12 or the one blanketing Anthony Gonzalez?

First of all, I was adamantly against a Michigan – Ohio State rematch to the point of getting e-mail bombed by Wolverine fans (still to this day) about a supposed bias against the Maize and Blue (of course, I also would’ve been against a rematch if Michigan had beaten OSU). Secondly, while I picked OSU to beat Florida, I was in the rare minority of those who said the Gator defense was going to shut down Troy Smith and the Buckeye attack. I thought it was going to be a defensive slugfest with OSU pulling it out because of a better kicking game, but I gave full credit to that Florida D from the start. Finally, let’s not rewrite history here.

Yeah, Florida whupped up on the Buckeyes, but it’s incredibly conveeeeeeeeenient how many Gator fans completely forgot just how much of a struggle it was just to get to 11-1 before taking things to another level in the SEC and BCS title games. There was the close call against a very good, but not elite, Tennessee, there was the loss to a very good, but not elite, Auburn, Vanderbilt almost pulled off the upset, a mediocre Florida State team gave a push, and had South Carolina’s special teams been able to block Jarvis Moss, Ol’ Ball Coach would’ve won two in a row against his alma mater. Don’t get me wrong, Florida was absolutely worthy of playing for, and winning, the national title, but there was a reason why it took a loss from USC to get in. By the way, replace the Florida with Ohio State in the first sentence of your question and that's what I had to deal with over and over again last season.

Ok, we've gone over the scenario of college football and basketball against the pros but what about baseball? I believe the NCAA baseball champs or maybe an All Star team could win several games against the worst team in MLB.  - WP, New Orleans

A: Several games if the MLB team is trying, no. A few here and there, yes. It’s all about the pitching. The college baseball lineup can eke out four hits and two runs and get a brilliant pitching day to pull off an upset in a one game shot, but no way could it win a seven game series. The key to all these scenarios is want-to. If the star college team is playing the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in a one-game mid-August exhibition, it would have a chance. If there was some major incentive for the winner, the college team would get destroyed. Always remember in these scenarios, even the best college teams would have no more than a few future pros going against a team of pros.

For my variation of a question you probably get 20 times a day:  How does Michigan finally turn the corner?  I know you'll want to quote stats showing how the maize and blue faithful shouldn't be disappointed, but, come on, it's pretty much national consensus that this team is consistently underachieving. – Matt

A: (Heavy sigh) “Consistently underachieving?!” Turn what corner? Your Wolverines went 11-0, played the number one team in the nation almost dead-even on its turf, and would’ve gotten a rematch had Arkansas won the SEC title or if Florida looked lousy in the win over the Hogs. Forgetting how things turned out after the Rose Bowl, Michigan was this close to playing for the national title, and it underachieved? 116 teams, USC and LSU included, would’ve killed to have been in that spot.

With that said, you are right in a way and I’ll quote stats to prove it. Since winning the 1997 national title, Michigan has gone 3-6 against Ohio State. Quick, name the three biggest wins over a non-Buckeye team since the national title? I’ll help you out: 1) The 35-34 2000 classic Orange Bowl win over Alabama, 2) the 2005 27-25 last-second win over a Penn State team that finished 11-1 with an Orange Bowl win, and 3) the 1998 27-10 win over a Wisconsin team that went 11-1 and won the Rose Bowl. Good wins all, and the Wolverine got another win over a great Badger team in 1999 and gave out the only regular season loss to Illinois in 2001. Where are the Rose Bowl wins? Where are the big bowl victories? Where are the signature key wins that prove the program deserves to call itself the leader and best?

To actually get to the national title game, Michigan needs luck; every top team, for the most part, does. There’s an old adage that college basketball coaches like to use that applies here. Keep cranking out great team after great team and get into a position to be in the national title hunt, and eventually it’ll be your turn.

What is the one position (besides kicker/punter) that a team would be most likely to get an immediate impact through recruiting in a BCS conference?  What position in easiest to transition from high school to college?  Is it the same? –Garett

A: Whoever’s the NFL caliber player. It’s different in the pros where, according to theory, it's easiest to go outside in. Wide receivers and corners can step in and play right away, quarterbacks and middle linebackers tend to need longer. Once again, in theory. Since there’s such a greater talent disparity in college, you can have a guy who’ll make $2 million a year in the NFL playing next to a guy who’ll be making shakes at Sonic, so the true star always stands out. In general, a freshman running back can likely make the biggest impact as long as he’s not required to be a key blocker, but once again, anyone at any position can rock right away if he's a next-level talent.

Just wondering why you think Notre Dame belongs in the Big Ten? – John

A: Geography and history. South Bend might as well be a way-south suburb of Chicago. There are also the natural ties considering the yearly battles with Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue to ease the program into the misnamed conference. It just makes sense.

After seeing Utah's schedule I have a few questions. 1) Will Utah have to go 12-0 to get an at large BCS bid, 2) Should Utah have to go 12-0 to get an at large BCS bid.  3)  How would Notre Dame do with Utah's schedule and would it be good enough to get them an at large BCS bid and finally 4) How many teams do you think would have a legitimate chance of going 12-0 with Utah's schedule? – Alex

A: Utah’s schedule: at Oregon State, Air Force, UCLA, at UNLV, Utah State, at Louisville, San Diego State, at TCU, at Colorado State, Wyoming, New Mexico, at BYU. To answer your questions: 1) Maybe not. If everything breaks the right way and if the Utes beat the big boys like UCLA, Louisville and TCU, and gets tripped up in a close loss at Colorado State, that might still be good enough. Or if they go 11-1 with a tight loss at Louisville, who would then go on to win the Big East, might get it done. 2) No, but it might get in like Boise State did last year and finish high enough to get an automatic bid even if it goes 11-1. 3) I think the Irish will stink this year, so I’d say they’d go 8-4, 7-5 at worst. The top-to-bottom schedule’s not that nasty. 4) Not many. The road trip to Louisville alone would be a killer, playing at TCU will also be nasty, and UCLA is going to be one of the 10-15 best teams. Maybe the top five teams can go unbeaten with this slate, but most of the elite would go 11-1.

What does Boise State have to do to get national respect for the off-season.  It seems like every year, with the exception of the 05 campaign they do great they get ranked in the top 5 or top 25 at least but then the football brains talk about BYU, Utah, and TCU.  Why not BSU being the mid-major to beat again? – Chris

A: Losing the starting quarterback and several key defenders would be the main reason this year. Look, Boise State can play, but it’ll have to beat Washington in Seattle to kickoff the national love again. Even with all the team’s holes to fill, it’ll likely go 10-1 at worst (the schedule isn't bad) before going to Hawaii to close things out. This might not be one of the 25 best teams to start the season, but it’ll end up being ranked there on record alone.

What would you say a better non-conference schedule would be; one game against a top team and the rest chumps, or playing two or three good solid teams but no one real special? I'm asking this wondering which one would be better for the BCS. – Paul

A: Always the interesting theoretical question. It depends on the team. If it’s a BCS caliber program, the better schedule, at least for the fans, would be against one great team and a bunch of chumps. That’ll be the better indicator of how good it is when trying to put together the whole puzzle. If you’re a mid-range team shooting for a BCS spot, it’s probably better to play the solid teams as long as there’s not a truly bad game to worry about. In general, I always want to see the killer teams play big games, even if that means a few dogs to deal with.

Why are some teams over-rated year in and year out (Notre Dame, for example), while other teams are under-rated year in and year out (GA Tech, for example).  The ratings that I am referring to are both the media voters and the coach voters.  Let's take Notre Dame for an example:  every year, the "voters" vote Notre Dame as one of the top teams, usually in the top 10;  but more often than not they drop throughout the season in the polls.  Why do the voters do this to teams?  Is it really that hard to remove emotion and to vote on reality? – RG

A: The pollsters go with what they know. They know Notre Dame, they don’t know the ins and outs of, say, Oregon State or Maryland. You’re also assuming the voters know the reality. Since most don’t watch enough college football to have an informed opinion on all the teams (I guarantee you the Fiesta Bowl was the first time roughly 75% of the pollsters had actually watched Boise State play), they go with the flash and the big names. I always get punchy around pollsters and ask them to name the starting quarterback for teams like (for this year) Georgia Tech or Wisconsin. If you can't name the quarterback for a top ten team, how are you going to know if TCU is any good or not?

What if the WAC and Mountain West combined to form "super conference" for BCS purposes only.  Each league would remain as it is today, but at the end of the season, the champs of each league would play each other in a championship game. Good enough to earn a BCS auto-bid for the winner, or just another chance to knock a good mid-major out of the running? – Ed

A: The Mountain West would get the raw end of that stick. Stick perennial Mountain West also-ran Wyoming in the WAC and it probably finishes in the top three or four every year. Instead, I’d take the 18 teams combined in the two leagues, throw out six, and create a super-conference worthy of an automatic BCS bid. Imagine this for a 12-team league leaving out Air Force, Idaho, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State, and Utah State.
NORTH: Boise State, BYU, Colorado State, Fresno State, Utah, Wyoming
SOUTH: Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, San Diego State, TCU, UNLV