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Posted on Sun, Aug 16, 2009 : 11:15 a.m.

Meandering through the maize (and blue): Rich Rodriguez wants a preseason in college football

By Dave Birkett

University of Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez wouldn’t mind seeing Grand Valley State on his schedule. Or Alma.

But not as another gimme game. Rather, he'd like one of them to serve as an exhibition opponent to help his team prepare for the regular season.

Rodriguez said he supports a preseason in college football and even raised the idea before at the annual coaches convention.

“I brought it up a couple years ago and everybody said, ‘Yeah, that sounds good,’ and then it just faded into oblivion,” Rodriguez said. “And then we talked about spring games against somebody else, and I thought that’d be good. Imagine the crowd we’d have at the Big House if we had a spring game against somebody here, not charge them. I think it’d be fun.

“I don’t know if we’ll go that way or not, but I think it’s something to (look at).”

Admittedly, little thought has gone into either proposal, and while the plan surely would encounter resistance from those concerned with elongating the season, Rodriguez has a middle-ground solution: Allow teams to practice against each other for a few days each fall as was common in the old NFL.

“Just practice against them just so you have different bodies against them and increase that competitiveness,” Rodriguez said. “I’d love to do it. That’s what’s so amazing. For our guys, they get four weeks of camp, no exhibition games, no going against somebody else and they got to perform at a high level. I’m not making excuses, but in the NFL you’ve got four exhibition games, you’ve got teams coming in to practice against and all that kind of stuff.

“That’s why (we) try to teach our guys the importance of every practice, the importance of every play and competing because our time goes like this and next thing you know we got to get ready to play against a team on Sept. 5.”

While you’re considering that thought, here’s a few stories that caught my eye this morning:

• One-time Michigan signal caller Ryan Mallett had a pretty good day in a scrimmage at his new U, throwing for 310 yards and five touchdowns while working mostly against Arkansas’ first-team defense. He’s in line to start for the Razorbacks this year.

• Reports have been mixed about the health of Purdue running back Jaycen Taylor's knee. Taylor tore his ACL last year and underwent a second procedure in the offseason. He says he's almost 100 percent now.

• Meanwhile, Iowa running back Jewel Hampton tweaked the knee injury he suffered in summer workouts. He missed Iowa's scrimmage Saturday and his status for the Sept. 5 opener is uncertain.

• Wisconsin suspended two backup safeties for at least the remainder of fall camp. No confirmation on what they did, though it’s unlikely they beat up a hockey player.

• Finally, not Big Ten related, but The Wizard of Odds details the rise and fall of a prominent Auburn booster. Every program has one.

Dave Birkett covers the University of Michigan football team for He can be reached at



Tue, Aug 18, 2009 : 7:34 p.m.

You're exactly right, Buck1, and I would love to see OSU winning their bowl games for that reason. It's actually painful every time you lose. As for RR's idea, I have been thinking the same thing and have wondered why you don't hear much about it. I think a preseason, spring game/practice and such would be totally different from scheduling cupcakes in the regular season. People whine so much about weak scheduling in the regular season non-conference schedule. If we had games that actually didn't count against our record, we would probably then go out and actually tap the big boys for the dream games we'd all love to see. I'm sure a lot of teams really would love to know how they'd do against USC, Florida and Texas rather than getting a false sense of security against Montana or getting ridiculed for the rest of your lives for losing to Appalachian State. I understand saying MSU and that's a good idea, too, but teams really could use these games to their advantage as well as to college football's advantage on the whole...and, let's face it, most years, gaming MSU before the regular season really wouldn't help Michigan so much as it'd help MSU. I do think injuries is an issue, but players and teams take that risk in the NFL and it's not like players haven't been getting injured this summer anyway (OSU, USC, VT, Iowa and even Michigan all have injured players right now, among other schools). But I think it's more important that teams can feel free to see what they've got before the games count against your record, and it would help with things like figuring out starters.


Tue, Aug 18, 2009 : 1:17 p.m.

I have to agree with rrod on this. Tho I disagree that it should be teams like alma. I think that schools should use games against appy state and youngstown state as a preseason game and then fill the schedule in with a game against a bcs school. I would like to see football do something similar to acc/big 10 challenge. Even tho I am a buckeye, i must admit that I am looking forward to seeing what forcier or robinson can do. Lets face it the big 10 needs michigan AND ohio state to be strong to repair the damage of the leagues image.


Mon, Aug 17, 2009 : 7:31 p.m.

Hills, I can't tell if you're a troll or just frustrated. If you're a troll I'm disgusted because I agree. RR sure picked a really bad time to ask that these games not count. I still stand behind him but you need to think about his timing and wonder how many more gaffes this program can take. And I'm not just talking about RR. Go blue!


Mon, Aug 17, 2009 : 3:01 p.m.

Considering the depths U-M has fallen to, playing GVSU might not fall under the description of "gimme game". I'm pretty sure U-M could handle Alma, or any other MIAA team, for that matter. Too bad we can't say the same for U-M vs.the MAC.

Macabre Sunset

Mon, Aug 17, 2009 : 2:46 p.m.

There's a huge difference between scheduling Appalachian State, which in 2007 was a top-40 team, period, and scheduling Delaware State, which would lose to a MAC school, 49-0, more often than not. Scheduling Delaware State was a panic move - a sign that there isn't that much confidence in RichRod and the team may need a win then at the cost of the integrity of the scheduling process. It would be a little fairer and useful to scrimmage against a MAC school. Or why not a scheduled scrimmage against one of the Big Ten schools not on the regular-season schedule that year?


Mon, Aug 17, 2009 : 1:19 p.m.

UMthicknthin; You forgot to mention Troy, Kent State, and Akron. NoBowl's living in a glass house and throwing stones. Not wise.

Dave Birkett

Mon, Aug 17, 2009 : 8:20 a.m.

Games against FCS schools are essentially preseason games now, only 1) it defeats the purpose when you play them in October, and 2) they're really lose-lose since fans hate them and they actually count in the standings so a loss is beyond embarrassing. Personally, I like the idea of a preseason. Eliminate games against FCS schools in the regular season (or don't allow them to count towards the number of wins you need to make a bowl, as in basketball) and play a smaller school like that in an exhibition (again, like in college basketball). The bigger school the better, of course, but it'd be hard to convince BCS schools to cross paths for an exhibition. The practice weekend idea has merit, too, but as with everything budgets would come into play. It's not cheap to travel and house a team for a few days. In all likelihood, we're stuck with the system we have. I think a weekend where you practice against another school might be the most practical. The Big Ten and MAC can work that into their scheduling arrangement. Preseason games


Mon, Aug 17, 2009 : 7:01 a.m.

I don't think pre-seasons games are practical. I think allowing for a scrimmage during the camps might be more realistic. High schools do that today. The scrimmage would be similar to the spring games. One team runs a set number of plays on offense, then they switch. Maybe the second weekend of camp? The teams would have to play at the same level to avoid injury. UM and Alma really doesn't make sense. How about UM and MSU? Yes they play in the regular season, but, under scrimmage type rules, neither team would really get much of an advantage when it comes to the regular season game. They are close and could alternate from year to year. The game would be free and more of a festive type setting. You would fill the stadiums.


Mon, Aug 17, 2009 : 2:29 a.m.

I think it would be cool to play a team that has a great deal of respectability however lets not go ovet the top!. We need the "W" i have not seen the schedule for this year however would love to watch UofM play Central Michigan. If that is already on the schedule how about Ball State?


Sun, Aug 16, 2009 : 10:04 p.m.

Forgiveness on the early games would be good for us. We're tripping up on the 'gimme' games. This year we have E.Mich. and W.Mich. and on paper it shouldn't be a problem, but neither was Toledo or A.S. I say they shouldn't count. We are a good team and don't deserve demerits for losing to teams like this early in the season. And Delaware State should count as preseason too even though its halfway through because its not part of the regular Big 10 season. Its not as important and we might lose to them too.


Sun, Aug 16, 2009 : 9:21 p.m.

Macrabe, There would be some cash flowing after a game like that. People will be interested in football again for the upcoming season. It'd be fun. Nobowl, Don't forget Youngstown state, Ohio U, Navy, Toledo. and New Mexico St.


Sun, Aug 16, 2009 : 4:45 p.m.

That is why one schedules an App State, Toledo or Conn as a warm up to see what you have.


Sun, Aug 16, 2009 : 3:39 p.m.

I can't see how this would be worthwhile from a potential injury standpoint.

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Aug 16, 2009 : 3:30 p.m.

There are varying levels of readiness among the different football divisions. I can imagine what an in-shape, tough, Michigan lineman knowing he's fighting for a job could do to a kid half his size just out for a little test drive in the spring at Alma or Albion. Practices can be tough, but the players know what they're in for, and there are limits. In a scrimmage? All bets are off. If I were a Division II or III coach, there's no way in the world I'd agree to have my players mauled in a friendly spring game*. * - unless I receive lots and lots of cash and I were assured the mauled players' parents couldn't find me afterward.


Sun, Aug 16, 2009 : 2:15 p.m.

As for that practice game, I think it would be great if they played little brother every spring. Neither team would have much trouble selling it out if they wanted to charge a little money to get in.


Sun, Aug 16, 2009 : 2:13 p.m.

I think I will hope for UM to make it down here to the Outback Bowl and hope that Arkansas somehow makes it, too. I'm sure the defense wouldn't need a lot of external motivation to play against Mallett.


Sun, Aug 16, 2009 : 11:22 a.m.

I think RR's idea is a good one. It would certainly up the enthusiasm and competitiveness of practices and would give a better feel for where each team stands. Doing it with another in state school would be great because it would benefit both teams. We used to scrimmage against other teams when I played High School ball and it was great for preparing for the feel of the season. I hope someone follows up on this and gets it done.