19
Nov
12

distractions.

It wouldn’t be Michigan Week without a couple things beyond the actual game part of The Game. And yes, we have a couple good ones already this week.

Uniforms.

Maybe I’m mellowing with age. Perhaps my wary satisfaction of previous examples has caused me to relax somewhat on the issue of alternate uniforms.

And that’s a good thing, because Nike’s Moneygrab Alternate Uniform Freakout Program has returned.

Thanks, Eleven Warriors.

This is the pic that started circulating last week; it’s since been confirmed by the university. Apparently we’re going for an homage based on the 1968 team — the only one that hasn’t so far been honored by a throwback uni. The piping on the helmets and pants is wider, the jersey numbers are bigger and we’ll have to see what a “dull chrome” helmet looks like.

I’m still not entirely pleased with the whole idea that we need to have alternate uniforms of any kind — I know the kids dig ’em, and I realize that it’s probably a necessary part of marketing the program these days — but I’m mostly OK with these. As they have been in the past, the alts have enough basis in actual uniforms of the past, so we’re not just getting something completely out of left field on game day.

And, lest we forget: it could be much, much worse.

Expansion.

Hey, speaking of Maryland…

At some point this afternoon, officials in College Park, Md., will host a news conference in which they will announce that Maryland will join the Big Ten at the start of the 2014 season; apparently they’ll be closely followed by Rutgers, which will announce its move on Tuesday.

OK then.

Here’s why we’re adding two Eastern schools to our (mostly) Midwestern conference: television. The Big Ten Network will suddenly have access to two giant media markets — Washington and NYC — and that equals more eyeballs, more exposure and — here’s the important part, boys and girls, more money.

(Note: I’m not convinced that anyone in the D.C. or NYC markets actually give a shit about college sports. But, hey — money!)

The money, I’d guess is why the move is important to Maryland; it recently cut varsity sports to try to stem the financial losses suffered by the athletics department there. As for Rutgers?  The Big East — especially as a football conference — has looked like a loser for several years now, and if we’re going to ramp up conference re-alignments again, it might make sense for the Scarlet Knights to jump before their ship sinks entirely.

But if these additions make sense — on some level — to our new members, I’m not sure I can say the same for the existing ones. Maryland’s a great addition if we’re talking about basketball, but the Terps’ football history is spotty. Their last conference title came in 2001, and they’ve had a decent run of bowl games in the last decade (5-1, with the last appearance coming in 2010). With one exception, the entirety of Rutgers bowl history has come in the last decade, and they’ve put together a a 5-1 record in those games.

On the surface, not terrible. But then you think about the competition and you realize that these are Purdue- or Illinois-level programs at best; they’ll be good for a solid season or two every few years, but otherwise, we’re diluting a schedule that already seems a little thin to begin with. And with an actual playoff on the horizon, strength of schedule is going to be even more important that it is now.

Maybe the biggest thing is this: I was never a fan of conference expansion, but I was excited about the addition of Nebraska; good school, unmatched football tradition and solid athletics all the way around. The Huskers have held up their end of the bargain as well; depending on the outcome of this weekend’s games, they could be playing for the B1G title on Dec. 1.

In short: I was excited to add Nebraska as B1G member. I wish I could say the same about Rutgers or Maryland, but at the moment, I can’t.

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2014 schedule

Aug. 30: vs. Navy at Baltimore, noon
Sept. 6: Virginia Tech, 8 p.m.
Sept. 13: Kent State, noon
Sept. 27: Cincinnati, 6 p.m.
Oct. 4: at Maryland
Oct. 18: Rutgers, 3:30 p.m.
Oct. 25: at Penn State, 8 p.m.
Nov. 1: Illinois, 8 p.m.
Nov. 8: at Michigan State, 8 p.m.
Nov. 15: at Minnesota
Nov. 22: Indiana
Nov. 29: Team Up North
Dec. 6: Big Ten Championship

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