Opinion Roundtable: Could Cincinnati Take Washington's Place?
As things stand right now, college football schedules have not been altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone seems to believe that early-season road games, especially long-distance road games like Michigan at Washington, could be in jeopardy. If the trip to Seattle is scratched, who should Michigan replace the Huskies with?
As much as I hate scheduling creampuffs, this season is obviously different than any other and a cross-country trip to Seattle seems foolhardy. Michigan should immediately move to schedule a regional opponent, and if it wants to maintain some level of "big-game" feel, I'm sure Cincinnati wouldn't mind dropping FCS Austin Peay for the Wolverines in Week 1.
Other options include Western Michigan (who plays Colgate the opening weekend), Akron (Youngstown State), Northern Illinois (Rhode Island), or Ohio (NC Central). Is it ideal? No, but this is the one season where Michigan can probably get away without having a big-name school on its non-conference slate and the fans will forgive them.
TV executives might not - and since most of the money in 2020 will come from media-rights deals - the Bearcats could be an ideal opening-week opponent. Throw in Luke Fickell attacking U-M last year (when Michigan OL James Hudson was not granted immediate eligibility at Cincinnati after transferring) and this could be an intriguing first game for both sides.
I sort of discussed this idea a few days ago, and I'm with Steve — Michigan should schedule a tune up.
I'm all for big, early season matchups, but Michigan is really behind the eight ball after missing spring football. Finding a new starting quarterback and replacing four starting offensive linemen is tricky during any offseason. This year, it might end up being impossible; we just don't know yet.
If the Washington game gets cancelled, I think U-M should bring a MAC program in for the opener. I know that's a bummer, but it's the easiest, most logical fix.
Teams like Akron, Toledo and Central Michigan all seem like realistic options. Toledo is scheduled to at Tulsa, which is an 860 mile trip for the Rockets. Akron is scheduled to play Youngstown State, which is certainly regional but the Penguins are an FCS program. Central Michigan is the home team for its opener, but if Michigan doesn't travel to Seattle, San Jose State likely isn't traveling to Mt. Pleasant. There are other regional options that don't move the needle like the Huskies, but if UW doesn't host the maize and blue, it becomes more about just getting a game scheduled.
I would like to see Michigan schedule a win. With question marks at the vital positions of quarterback and offensive line, the more tune ups the better. Especially with the mid season gauntlet that awaits, starting with the Big Ten opener against Wisconsin. There are plenty of opportunities in Big Ten play to distinguish yourself — establish yourself first.
If Michigan were to schedule a season opener closer than Washington, a couple schools fit the bill as attractive matchups. As Michael will mention, a game that pits Luke Fickell and Jim Harbaugh against each other immediately adds intrigue to the contest, and Cincinnati will likely hold a ranking at the start of the season. But what about a team like Iowa State? As Wolverine Digest covered not long ago, Michigan has yet to play a game against the Cyclones, so this would be a historic matchup for that reason alone. But to compound the intrigue, Iowa State is a quality team that might also sneak into the top 25. Iowa State welcomes back quarterback Brock Purdy to lead its offense, and the team was dangerously close to defeating Oklahoma and Baylor a year ago, so the program is quickly building relevance under head coach Matt Campbell.