The Wolverine

September 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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10 THE WOLVERINE SEPTEMBER 2016   INSIDE MICHIGAN ATHLETICS BGI Senior Editor Tabs Michigan For The Title Game Lou Somogyi has seen it all in the game of college football. As the senior editor at Blue & Gold Illustrated, covering Notre Dame athletics, he's witnessed national championships, great rivalries and thrilling finishes since 1985. If he's correct this year, Michigan football will be in for a thrilling finish itself. Somogyi predicted a national championship battle between the Wolverines and Alabama's Crimson Tide this year in the Blue & Gold Illustrated 2016 Football Preview. Such a call goes beyond those of even the most optimistic prognosticators, but Somogyi can see it happening. "I remember back when Lou Holtz was hired by Notre Dame in 1986," Somogyi recalled. "I have a friend who follows Michigan football very closely. He called and said, 'Our worst fear was that Lou Holtz was going to become your coach.' "I had a chance to call him back this time and say, 'Our worst fear was that Jim Har- baugh was going to be Michigan's coach.' I just think he has that type of mountain- moving ability as a head coach. I think we've seen it." Somogyi harkens back to Harbaugh's resurrection of Stanford, describing it as "just phenomenal." "That program was a wasteland," he said. "Stanford might have a competitive team … but they were known as a finesse operation. He totally transformed the entire culture there into a blue-collar, hard-nosed, power team. "He takes a program that was 1-10 when he came in and gets them to 12-1. He goes to the San Francisco 49ers, who were also struggling for a couple of decades, and has them in the Super Bowl, after going to the NFC Championship Game their first two seasons. He just has that type of impact." Combine the Harbaugh Effect with a schedule featuring home games in six of the first seven contests, and Somogyi sees a Michigan squad that could be rolling and likely undefeated in mid-October. He acknowledges the road games in the back half of the slate — at Michigan State, at Iowa and at Ohio State — but he insists the Wolverines could very well hold up with their bags packed. "After what happened against Michigan State last year, I see Michigan avenging that loss," he said. "I don't think Iowa will duplicate the season they had last year. "Now, one of my number one rules is, never, ever, ever bet against Urban Meyer — especially at home. That, to me, will be the game for them." Somogyi noted a second-year surge under Harbaugh wouldn't be unprec- edented. He pointed out that since the turn of the century, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops won the national title in his second year, Meyer did so at Florida and so did Ohio State's Jim Tressel. "I can see him making a run," Somogyi said. "To me, all roads to the national title in college football go through Tuscaloosa and Columbus. Saban and Meyer have combined for seven of the last 10 national titles." He also touched on the renewal of the Michigan-Notre Dame series, after think- ing it might be gone for a decade. He was surprised it came back as quickly as it did, given the sour ending and Notre Dame's impending ACC commitments. "I was impressed by how much Michigan wanted to get the series back on, hav- ing to pay Arkansas $2 million," he noted. "That speaks volumes. … That would have been an appealing matchup. For Michigan to make the move it showed how much they want to be in the series. The same with Notre Dame — they've had to make some accommodations as well." Somogyi cited Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick's comments about needing games versus Power Five conferences to show the College Football Playoff selection committee the Irish mettle. Future Notre Dame schedules feature a host of games against Ohio State, Purdue and Michigan State. "Now, to be able to have Michigan in 2018 and '19, it's a feather in their cap as well," he pointed out. "It was one of the top series in college football, one of the more anticipated games. "You look at all the early season games this year — Clemson playing Auburn, Ala- bama playing USC, Notre Dame and Texas. It's like let's get that excitement back." — John Borton Harbaugh also cleared up a roster question about duplicate numbers. He explained that he didn't want to settle questions over jersey numerals desired by multiple players by choos- ing one over the other. He noted the competition will do so. "Any number that wasn't already taken by somebody that was play- ing in games, they'd compete for the right to wear that number," Harbaugh said. "Whoever is going to play first will get that number. The others will switch to a different number. "I think it's right. I think it's fair. I told everybody up front, here are the open numbers. You can compete for that number if you want." That said, here are the competitions for numbers, based on rosters handed out on Michigan's media day. (Dupli- cate numbers are allowed for players who perform strictly on offense and defense, so only duplicate numbers on the same side of the football are listed here). • No. 1 – Crawford and true fresh- man tight end Nick Eubanks. • No. 2 – Mitchell and Asiasi. • No. 8 – O'Korn and redshirt fresh- man tight end Tyrone Wheatley. • No. 9 – Senior linebacker Mike McCray and true freshman linebacker Devin Gil. • No. 10 – True freshman lineback- ers Devin Bush and Josh Uche. • No. 12 – Redshirt freshman quar- terback Alex Malzone and Evans. Finally, Harbaugh noted he likes the hardening process he's seen among the Wolverines. "I feel like our team is building a callus now," Harbaugh said. "That bodes very well for us." 2016 Schedule Date Opponent Time Sept. 3 Hawai'i Noon Sept. 10 Central Florida Noon Sept. 17 Colorado 3:30 p.m. Sept. 24 Penn State TBA Oct. 1 Wisconsin TBA Oct. 8 at Rutgers 7 or 8 p.m Oct. 22 Illinois 3:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at Michigan State TBA Nov. 5 Maryland TBA Nov. 12 at Iowa 8:00 p.m. Nov. 19 Indiana TBA Nov. 26 at Ohio State TBA

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