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Posted on Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 9:45 a.m.

Brady Hoke says Alabama game is a business trip, and Michigan's only shot at a great first impression

By Nick Baumgardner


Michigan football coach says the team's opener against Alabama won't be treated like a bowl game. It'll be treated like business.

Melanie Maxwell |

The Michigan football team's 2012 debut will have all the bells and whistles of a bowl game.

There's the neutral site in Arlington, Texas. The massive venue at Cowboys Stadium. The blockbuster opponent in Alabama. And, of course, the national spotlight of a prime time audience on ABC.

If it looks like a bowl game, feels like a bowl game and smells like a bowl game -- it might as well be one, right?


"This is business," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said bluntly Sunday. "We're going down there and playing the defending national champs with a lot of great players. (Alabama) coach (Nick) Saban has done a tremendous job, obviously.

"This is about us preparing to play our best football on Sept. 1."


Want to check out Michigan take on defending national champion Alabama? Click here to visit the Michigan Football News and Views Facebook page and vote for who will be the Wolverines' most important player, besides Denard Robinson, in the 2012 season. That vote will earn you a chance to win three free tickets.
Michigan's Sept. 1 tangle with the Crimson Tide is, without question, the program's most difficult season-opening challenge in more than two decades.

The last time the Wolverines opened the season against an opponent ranked as high as No. 2 Alabama, the year was 1990. Michigan opened that season against then No. 1 Notre Dame, a game the Wolverines lost, 28-24, after the Fighting Irish erased a 10-point second-half deficit in South Bend, Ind.

The year before, 1989, was the last time Michigan opened the season against a defending national champion. That opponent was also Notre Dame, who used two Raghib Ismail kick return scores to grab a 24-19 win at Michigan Stadium.

The season-opening matchup with Alabama isn't something Michigan fans have been used to in recent years, but it's something Hoke says he craved.

After Hoke took the job in 2011, Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon asked him his thoughts about playing a team like Alabama to open his second season. Hoke never flinched.

"You come to play football at Michigan to play in those kind of ballgames," he said. "You're expected to play and perform, and playing the defending national champs is a great challenge and a great opportunity."

For Michigan, the possible gains of a win over Alabama are massive. It would vault the Wolverines in all early-season polls, and could give the team a nice feather in its Bowl Championship Series cap moving forward.

Also, it would further improve the external perception of the program, as Michigan hasn't beaten a top-five team since 2006. And if that weren't enough, it could also give the Big Ten a boost in terms of national prominence -- as the league has been considered widely inferior to the powerhouse Southeastern Conference in recent years.

"We get a chance to represent the Big Ten Conference also, and that's important," Hoke says. "We've got a lot of great schools from the academic side of it and the football side of it.

"We're not just representing the University of Michigan, but we've also got a chance to go out and represent the Big Ten Conference."

But most importantly, of course: Michigan gets to represent Michigan.

The 2012 season may not be defined by the season-opener against Alabama (Hoke hopes it'll be remember for a Big Ten title), but it certainly won't be forgotten.

Michigan gets one crack at a national measuring stick in prime time. And, according to Hoke, it's time to get to work.

"(Alabama's) a storied program with a lot of tradition, just like we have," he said. "You don't get a second chance to make a first impression.

"And our first impression of 'Team 133' will be Sept. 1 against Alabama."

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan sports for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.



Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 7:35 p.m.

This is going to be a great game; I think Michigan will beat the Crimson Tide. Alabama might've won the national championship last season, but their defense isn't as strong. I'm going to miss the live coverage, but I'll be recording it on my Hopper so I can view it later. I can record several games and regular shows with more than enough DVR storage space. One of my Dish coworkers thinks Alabama is going to repeat as national champs, but I hate the SEC and hope Michigan can represent the Big 10 well!

Hawaiian Neal

Tue, Aug 14, 2012 : 7:10 p.m.

It'll be an interesting game. UM has changed a lot under Hoke and Brandon. We now have special uniform days like MSU and we've chosen the Woody Hayes road on name calling. I loved when Michigan coaches from Bo through Lloyd said, "This may be a rivalry game for MSU, but it's just another game for us." Not sure I like Hoke making the MSU game a rivalry. Will be interesting to see how UM does against Alabama. It's a good test.


Tue, Aug 14, 2012 : 1:21 p.m.

Can't remember ever looking at a MSU or Alabama discussion board. Wonder why all these state and bama fans are taking the time to come on ours? Maybe it's because they offer free internet at McDonalds, so all of you msu grads working there can spend time on the boards all day? But, I'm disappointed in you bama fans. I thought that was a class school.


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 10:17 p.m.

Nick Saban does not have a winning record against Michigan. He does however have a winning record against Joe Pa. With or without Toussaint and Clark, the Wolverines will play valiantly against a top notch opponent. I predict a maize and blue upset over the reigning national champs.


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 9:02 p.m.

Axe grinding by anti Michigan trolls aside, I'm going to trust Coach Hoke's judgment on this one. He's closer to the situation than any of us. If Hoke decides to play Toussaint in the Alabama game, so be it. The self-righteousness on these boards border on the ridiculous. Regardless of what Toussaint was accused of blowing on the breathalyzer, he is still innocent until proven guilty or he agrees to a plea. And regardless of what crime Frank Clark was alleged to have committed, he has not been convicted of anything as of yet. Should either of them be convicted or accept a plea of guilty, I will gladly accept Hoke's benching of them. Coach Hoke's definition of the word suspend doesn't match up with yours? So what, deal with it. I'm glad Coach Hoke won't let his decision making be influenced by message board Regents of the University, anti Michigan trolls and a not very Sharp hack writer from a certain Detroit newspaper who needs to Sharpen his perspective and be less predictable when it comes to covering University of Michigan athletics.


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 10:12 p.m.

Well said!

Shlobodon Dobodon

Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 3:55 p.m.

Nick Saban is going to send Hoke out to cut a switch and bring it back for his whipping.


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 3:51 p.m.

Maybe I'm missing something??? Fitzgerald Toussaint and Frank Clark are "suspended" but allowed to practice with the team, go to team meetings, view film with the team, eat team meals. Where exactly is the suspended part?? sus·pend (s-spnd) v. sus·pend·ed, sus·pend·ing, sus·pends 1. To bar for a period from a privilege, office, or position, usually as a punishment: suspend a student from school. 2. To cause to stop for a period; interrupt: suspended the trial. If a student is suspended from school, they are NOT allowed to attend classes or take tests! That's the definition of "suspended". If Hoke has punished them, fine! Say So, I would not question his judgement in what a fitting punishment is. But for Hoke to say that this is a suspension, either makes him a JOKE or Illiterate!

Nick Baumgardner

Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 7:19 p.m.

Hoke has said repeatedly that they are still both part of the team. And no, they have not been suspended from school. No one ever said that was the case. Runner, we've asked for further clarification from Hoke repeatedly on both Toussaint and Clark's situation -- and we always get the same answer. "I'm not sure." Both players are part of the team, have been allowed to re-join the group at practice, but have yet to get clearance (from Hoke) for the season-opener or beyond.


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 5:49 p.m.

Why in the heck would they be suspended from school? Michigan is not a military or catholic private school...geesh!


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 5:03 p.m.

In all fairness, this has me baffled, too. Another word that comes to mind in con-tra-dict-ory. Not trying to turn on Coach Hoke but this matter does need more clarification. Not sure if Toussaint and Clark have been suspended from school. Maybe Nick can be of help.


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 4:27 p.m.

Sounds like someone is scared about a certain game on Sept 1st if Tousaint and Clark are playing. Hmmm.


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 3:50 p.m.

I would expect Hoke to keep his players focused, and it starts now, early in the preseason camp. Dave Brandon signed this deal about two years ago, when he thought Rich Rod would bring a highly explosive offense to Dallas, as I recall.

Nick Baumgardner

Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 7:09 p.m.

Correct, MRunner. And he approached Hoke about the game once he was hired, and asked him his thoughts. Hoke was obviously in. Though it might not have mattered anyway -- a massive TV deal is always hard to turn down.


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 2:47 p.m.

Michigan is going to get crushed in Dallas. Your fans criticize the hell out of Dantonio for his "lack of discipline" which is ridiculous. Now it's your turn to take the heat!!


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 10:15 p.m.

No matter what the final score is, Ill bet it looks better than 49-7!


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 8:34 p.m.

Wait is this really a sparty talking about lack of discipline??


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 3:47 p.m.

I am still keeping track of these predictions. Keep 'em coming.


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 2:37 p.m.

For all those who think it would be horrible if this young man played in the first game, lets remember how this type of offense affects almost 99.9% of the world. Every day, numerous people face this same situation, yet they don't see thier name in the paper every day over it, nor do they find themselves suspended from work, school, or almost any other activity. I'm not suggesting that his one week suspension was too much, or too little, only that this young man is paying a far bigger price for his poor decision that 99.9% of the others who make the same poor decision.


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 5:50 p.m.

There are THOUSANDS of people at UM that get free scholarships. They were called your GRADUATE TEACHING ASSISTANTS. When I was there, I had a full ride and a 10,000 a year stipend.


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 5:49 p.m.

thank you


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 5:41 p.m.

Numerous people don't get free athletic scholarships to UM (and lets face it, if they are good, a gateway to the pro's). I am still on the fence on this one, but I don't get the comparisons of elite athletes getting a full ride at a top school with the average drunk driver.