Not So Familiar Territory

The 2006 tailgating season got underway early Saturday morning, but not on the plush grass of Ann Arbor Golf and Outing. AAGO made an announcement Friday afternoon that wet conditions would leave the contingency homeless in week one. A mad Friday night scramble ended with a alternate location just a few blocks from the Big House, in the backyard of the college homes of a couple of our regular tailgaters. This marks the first time that the tailgate was not on the golf course or the tennis courts since...1997. Ya, I didn't want to be the only person in the world not to reference the National Championship year.

It didn't take long for the group to adapt to the new surroundings. We hit our stride, and as the food began to fry and the drinks began to flow, nobody even knew the difference. Fry Daddy Frank didn't disappoint, providing a monsterous amount of coconut shrimp and a mango-habanero accoutrement. Pork loin, fried chicken, and cheesy potatoes may not have screamed "Luau," but tasted so good it didn't matter. A few "brief" announcements by the Godfather later it was time to head to the game.

On the field, it was old school Michigan football, as defense and "establishing the run" took center stage. The Wolverines 246 yards on the ground eclipsed the Commodores 171 total yards, as Mike Hart did his best Chris Perry impression with 31 carries for 146 yards. It was ball control. It was defensive aggressiveness. And from those perspectives, it was everything that last year was not. At the same time, however, it was a glorified practice against a second rate squad from the SEC.

The passing game left a bit to be desired, as Chad Henne's 10-22 performance was not exactly world beating. Plagued by some dropped passes and some timing issues, the dismal 5.9 yards per pass leaves Michigan with something to practice for next week.

Michigan 27-Vanderbilt 7

Staff Predictions: Vanderbilt Commodores

The Hammer:

Vandy's two leading tacklers on defense in 2005 were defensive backs and they lost them to graduation. Their top middle linebacker signed a free-agent deal with the Titans and their four year starter at Quarterback could very well replace Jake Plummer in Denver by the end of the year. The coaching staff is talking about running the triple option with a sophomore or redshirt freshman. What does that say about Arizona's 2005 starter who transferred to the school this year to start his graduate work?

On the bright side they might possibly have the SEC's top wide out in sophomore Earl Bennett who set an SEC reception record in '05 with 79. Did I mention they're thinking of running the triple option? Yikes.

In short, whether it's the triple option, or the passing game, it won't matter in Ann Arbor. Their defense will have their hands on their knees by halftime. We won't hit our stride until the third quarter but look for three straight scores from the Wolverines in that quarter to finish off Vanderbilt.

Offensive MVP: Steve Breaston

Defensive MVP: Chris Graham

Michigan 34, Vanderbilt 13

Johnny Cleveland: 

Setting up to be a typical home opener, a couple conservative drives establishing the run and throwing to the TE on third down. Look for 5 different Wolverines to score, with Henne throwing for two. Looks like 41 to 17 to me, with at least 10 of the 17 coming against the 2nd and 3rd team D. Best case scenario: we get a glimpse of the incoming Freshmen. Worse case: the weather is nice and we are back at the tailgate drinking by halftime. Either way, bring on the Chips cuz we are 1-0.

Offensive MVP: Kevin Grady

Defensive MVP: David Harris

Michigan 41, Vanderbilt 17

The Webmaster:

For the last nine months, the players have lived with the stigma of being labeled as the worst Michigan team in twenty years. They've heard it from the media, felt it from the fans, and seen it in the eyes of their classmates. Nine months of "coach-on-a-hot-seat" talk. Nine months of reliving lost 4th quarter leads. Nine months....and they could do nothing about it...until now.

Unfortunately for the Commodores, they will feel the frustration of 2005 from the kickoff THROUGH THE FOURTH QUARTER.

Offensive MVP: Chad Henne

Defensive MVP: David Harris

Michgan 45, Vanderbilt 3

The XBox 360: 

Michigan 34, Vanderbilt 7

Know Your Foe: Vanderbilt

Less than three days before Michigan takes the field in an attempt to get their 850th all-time victory, which is, of course, a record. Ann Arbor will welcome the SEC into the city limits for the first time since a 1980 visit by South Carolina. As you well know, Michigan is no stranger to the teams of the SEC, as the Big Ten-SEC bowl contracts seem to arrange for a holiday matchup nearly every year. Simply put, if you are in the Big Ten and you don't make the BCS, chances are you'll be staring across the field at an SEC opponent. Come to think of it, sometimes you'll see the SEC even when you are in the BCS.

This will be the 28th time that Michigan has faced an SEC opponent, and the 11th time they have faced Vanderbilt, compiling a 21-5-1 and 9-0-1 record respectively. The Wolverines last squared off against the Commodores in the 1969 season opener...the first game for Michigan under Bo Schembechler, in a season that would see round one of Woody vs. Bo.

The University

The Long Past:

  • Vanderbilt is 538-526-50 all time.

  • Vanderbilt was 352-140-31 through 1950. That's right, a pre-WWII powerhouse. However...

  • With a 186-386-19 record since 1950, Vanderbilt finds itself dead last in winning percentage in all of college football for that period.

  • Last winning season was in 1982

  • Most wins in a season: 9 (1904, 1915)

The Recent past

  • Finished 2005 with a 5-6 record

  • Had big wins at Tennessee and at Arkansas, though Tennessee and Arkansas both had horrible years.

  • Had an embarrassing loss to Middle Tennessee State

  • Lost QB Jake Cutler in the first round of the 2005 NFL draft

Player to watch:

  • Sophomore WR Earl Bennett
    • Freshman Team All-American in 2005

    • Preseason all-SEC

    • Preseason Biletnikoff Candidate

    • 42 catches for 545 yards and 9 touchdowns in the final five games of 2005.

Fun Facts:

  • Vanderbilt's head coach from 1995-2001 was Woody Widenhofer, who grew up in Riverview, Michigan and was childhood friends with Lloyd Carr and Bill McCartney.

  • Vandy QB Richard Kovalcheck and Michigan QB Jason Forcier played for the same high school in San Diego.

On the Line:

  • Michigan's 7-game home opening winning streak. Last loss in a home opener came at the hands of McNabb's Orangemen back in 1998.

  • Michigan's two-game losing streak, their last win coming against Indiana on November 12th. Hurts, doesn't it?

  • Michigan's 28-2 home record under Coach Carr in the month of September.

  • Michigan's home streak of 193 games with 100,000 or more fans in attendance.

  • Lloyd's job?

  • My sanity