More and more, UM-MSU con­test looks like night­cap

Mean­while, Speight con­tin­ues to draw read­ers’ com­ments

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY AN­GELIQUE S. CHENGELIS The Detroit News achen­ge­lis@de­troit­news.com twit­ter.com/chengelis

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.

Leon Halip/Getty Images

Michi­gan fans seem far more con­cerned about quar­ter­back Wil­ton Speight than coach Jim Har­baugh does. Har­baugh has kept the faith.

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