More and more, UM-MSU contest looks like nightcap
Meanwhile, Speight continues to draw readers’ comments
Wilton Speight, eye rolls and Air Force filled the mailbag, but let’s start with a question about a Michigan Stadium night game this season.
Question: Have you heard anything for potential night games this season? I know MSU and Minnesota were mentioned over the summer. Any update? —@ realbeerbaron
Answer: Still nothing definitive on that front, and there might not be until 12 days before either kickoff — MSU is drawing nearer and nearer — because of the way the new TV contract works. Those are still the two games that are potential night games, and Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel recently said Michigan has agreed to host three night games in the next two seasons. Frankly, looking ahead to 2018, it looks like there are two better night-game TV options from among this group — Nebraska on Sept. 22, Wisconsin on Oct. 13 and Penn State on Nov. 3.
So with that in mind, it seems the Michigan-Michigan State game on Oct. 7 fits the bill.
Also consider that MiamiFlorida State was originally scheduled to be the primetime game on ABC that night, but with rescheduling, the time and network are no longer set in stone. Perhaps I’m showing a regional bias here, but looking at the rest of the college games that day, Michigan-Michigan State looks awfully appealing, while in Week 10 there are games across the country that likely have more appeal than Michigan and Minnesota — no offense to the Little Brown Jug.
If TV is going with setting the game time 12 days earlier, then we should probably find out by Sept. 25 or so, maybe the weekend before.
Q. Wilton! What has happened from last year to this year? — @Theonly2nd2none
A. I’ve been considering this a lot lately, and … I think because so many of the pieces around Speight have changed, he has had trouble adjusting. Yes, he’s a second-year starter. Yes, he went through the spring with a lot of these young players and spent the summer working with his receivers.
But Michigan’s receivers haven’t always run perfect routes, they also haven’t always been open, and that right side of the offensive line remains a work in progress.
This is not to absolve Speight of responsibility, but to point out it’s not all him. He has to be better, but it took him a good three weeks or so last year to figure out the timing with some veteran receivers.
Q. Thoughts on Speight overthrowing the ball? Play of secondary? — @bakingmom14
A. Speight has had some footwork issues; that was apparent last week against Cincinnati. But I think he’s feeling some heat. I don’t think he’s comfortable yet with the protection from the right side, and that could be contributing to him not setting his feet on throws.
It’s there. We’ve all seen it, even this year, but I believe the timing will eventually materialize, as it did last year.
As for the secondary, I kept hearing in the days after Mike Zordich made those critical comments and the start of opening game week that the talent there is real. It looks real now.
Q. I think the DBs are not the weakness projected. What have you seen? Am I missing something? — @JohnJAndersen1
A. Nope, John, you’re not missing anything. See above to answer your question in part.
The group was considered a “weakness” because of all the youth and departure of an AllAmerican. And then there were the Zordich comments.
Those did what they were meant to do — light a fire under the corners. Those who had gone to practices in camp told me the athleticism in this group is phenomenal and would not be a weak link on the defense.
Q. What stands out to you about the football schedules that came out for 2018 and beyond. What do you like and dislike about them? — @HBWolverinesfan
A. What stood out to me first was Michigan playing Notre Dame on Oct. 26 in 2019. Just so weird to see that in the middle of the conference schedule. And 2020 appears to be a brutal schedule. The Wolverines open at Washington, have Virginia Tech (will Josh Jackson still be QB?), Wisconsin and Penn State at home, before traveling to Michigan State and Minnesota.
Q. Do programs need blowouts for player development? i.e. Get young players game experience — @bongioronmd
A. They definitely help. I sure thought they’d get an opportunity last week against Cincinnati to work in some of the young guys, even Brandon Peters, but that didn’t happen. The goal, of course, is to win, and you’re going to play your best players to achieve that.
That’s why a lopsided score is so important to give these young players a chance, and not just in mop-up time.
Michigan fans seem far more concerned about quarterback Wilton Speight than coach Jim Harbaugh does. Harbaugh has kept the faith.