For those of you who complain about the Michigan football team’s easy nonconference schedule, your cries have finally been heard.

Jessica Boullion
Scott Bell

This past season, after the Wolverines fell to Ohio State on Nov. 18 and their BCS title game hopes fell into the hands of random Harris Poll voters and a few computers, one of the biggest arguments to keep Michigan out of Glendale was the Maize and Blue’s relatively easy early-season schedule.

But not next year.

As announced on Friday, the Wolverines will open their 2007 season by welcoming the defending national champs into the Big House.

That’s right, the Maize and Blue are opening up its schedule in style, by competing against Urban Meyer and the Flori.

Wait, what’s that?

Yeah, check the fine print on that press release.

Oops.

You might want to hold off on the “Lloyd-Urban I” posters.

Michigan will be clashing with Division I-AA powerhouse Appalachian State. And though the Mountaineers can in fact claim they’re the defending national champions (two-time champs, actually), the addition of a non-Division-I opponent isn’t exactly the schedule strengthener the Wolverines needed coming off of last year.

Winning a national title in Division I-AA is kind of like beating your not-so-ripped, not-so-athletic younger brother in an arm wrestling match. Sure, it’s cool, but it’s probably not something you’d use as a line to pick up a girl.

And following a season where Michigan came under fire for scheduling teams like Ball State, Central Michigan and Vanderbilt in its nonconference schedule, I’m pretty sure this isn’t a step in the right direction.

Now, before everyone begins e-mailing Bill Martin, asking him why we can’t get a nice home-and-home set up with Texas like Ohio State recently did, it’s not that easy.

First, it’s hard enough even to find a decent team with a date open for the 12th game. With the NCAA’s new mandate for 12 games (driven solely by the almighty dollar, by the way), it’s very difficult for two strong teams to find a similar open date on which they can agree.

And while we’re on the subject of money, that certainly comes into play, too. There were probably more qualified opponents that offered to play Michigan, but they either wanted us to come there and play, or wanted a long-term home-and-home deal. Both may be better for fans, but when you rely on home football games to fund the rest of your athletic programs like Michigan does, the popular thing isn’t always the right thing to do.

But still, Appalachian State? Did we lose a bet?

It sucks, plain and simple. Even though the three games following the home-opener against the Mountaineers will be matchups against Oregon, Notre Dame and Penn State – all quality opponents – Michigan fans will still have to live with the fact that for the next six-and-a-half months, the “next opponent” portion of most fan sites will be graced with those dreaded 16 letters:

A-P-P-A-L-A-C-H-I-A-N-S-T-A-T-E.

I gave the men’s hoops team enough crap for scheduling stinkers like Army and Wofford for its nonconference schedule, but that’s a little different – our basketball team sucks.

For a football team stacked with senior power and poised to make a run at the BCS Championship Game, jumpstarting your Road to New Orleans Tour against a school the size of my poli sci lecture is a joke.

Blame it on the NCAA, blame it on Martin, blame it on not wanting to lose early. No matter what excuse you hear, there shouldn’t be one.

And there shouldn’t be excitement for a season-opening 52-3 win against an undersized, outmanned and awestruck team just happy to be beaten in the Big House.

– Despite his whining, Bell is still excited for the 2007 season. He’s just going to pretend it starts on Sept. 8 and not Sept. 1. He can be reached at scotteb@umich.edu.

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