As No. 11 Michigan heads to Seattle this weekend for a much-hyped game against No. 15 Washington, many observers are wondering which team will have the upper hand.
Usually, it”s fairly easy to tell who has the advantage. Since Washington gets to host this game at raucous Husky Stadium, the initial impression might be that the Huskies have a clear edge.
But that conclusion fails to take into account several factors. For starters, although Washington went 11-1 last season, won the Rose Bowl and finished No. 3 in the country, the Huskies have a lot of holes to fill. Last year”s game-breaking quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo is gone, and defensive stalwarts Hakim Akbar and Jeremiah Pharms went with him, along with four starters on the offensive line.
With so many question marks on both sides of the ball, it seems logical that a school would like to have a game under its belt against an inferior opponent before it plays a nationally-ranked team.
This is where Michigan has the distinct advantage the Wolverines tuned up for Washington by dispatching Miami (Ohio) last Saturday. And the Huskies? They haven”t played a game yet Saturday”s tilt is their season opener.
So, who has the advantage? Good question. Unfortunately, the answer isn”t very clear.
“There are two schools of thought on this,” Washington coach Rick Neuheisel said. “Number one is that the biggest improvement a football team can make is between game one and game two. The other school of thought is that if we look down the road five weeks, normally people believe that the team that has the bye in preparation for the game has the advantage over the team who has to prepare for another opponent.”
Michigan fans have to hope that the first school of thought is the one that will prevail. The Wolverines didn”t look terribly impressive in knocking off the RedHawks, but at least the contest gives Michigan a chance to analyze itself in a game situation and diagnose any glaring errors.
“Now, we know what we need to work on,” Michigan defensive lineman Dan Rumishek said. “We have done things at game speed. You have that fear and you get the jitters out of your system.”
But Washington will be analyzing the same game film. The Huskies can review the various offensive and defensive sets that Michigan employed against Miami (Ohio) and get a sense for the Wolverines” personnel this season.
Since Washington hasn”t played a game, the Wolverines don”t have any current videotape to go off of. Michigan will have to rely on tapes of last season”s Washington team, but with so many changes on the Huskies” roster, it will be difficult for the Wolverines to get a good impression of what they will be going up against.
“The main thing we will focus on is the formations,” Michigan safety Julius Curry said. “Hopefully, we will have some film on them, but if not then we will have to go out there and play them the best that we can.”
In the end, all of the perceived advantages and disadvantages don”t mean much if one of the teams doesn”t come out and give a maximum effort. The Huskies” boss is well aware of this.
“The fact of the matter is that this is a great game for both teams,” Neuheisel said. “As a player and an assistant, I have been across the field from Michigan a number of times and it is always the same you are going to get into a fist-fight with one of the top programs in the country.”