ANN ARBOR, Mich. — For the first time in more than a month, Michigan will cross state lines to play a road game.
The company line is that this Saturday’s game at Iowa will be like any other game in any other week.
Except it will require a plane trip on Friday. An adjustment in personal schedules. A packed bag or two. A changing of the clock (Iowa City is an hour behind Ann Arbor). Trying to get a good night’s sleep in a hotel room instead of in an apartment a few minutes away from the football facility.
It will also require a little more hydration as well as time management, little things that go into the process of traveling.
But Michigan’s players won’t divulge any travel secrets they may have. In fact, they say it’s business as usual.
“It’s really the same schedule,” Michigan cornerback Jourdan Lewis said. “We travel on Friday afternoon, but we have the same schedule at home that we do when we go on the road. It’s the same thing, just preparing. Be prepared for the game. That’s it.”
No. 3 Michigan (9-0, 6-0 Big Ten Conference) kicks off at 8 p.m. ET Saturday at Iowa, only its third road game so far this season. Eight of Michigan’s 12 regular-season games are at Michigan Stadium this year, including its first five games of the season.
In a typical (or ideal) season, an FBS football program plays six games at home and six games on the road. Prior to this year, Big Ten teams also only played eight conference games; in 2013, the conference announced that the schedule would include nine conference games, beginning this season.
According to the Big Ten’s 2013 release, “teams from the East Division will host five conference home games during even-numbered years, while teams from the West Division will host five conference home games during odd-numbered years.” Michigan’s five conference home games this season are: Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Maryland and Indiana.
Michigan’s schedules from 2016-2019
|Sept. 3||Hawaii||Sept. 2||Florida (in Arlington, Texas)|
|Sept. 10||UCF||Sept. 9||Cincinnati|
|Sept. 17||Colorado||Sept. 16||Air Force|
|Sept. 24||Penn State||Sept. 23||at Purdue|
|Oct. 1||Wisconsin||Sept. 30||Bye|
|Oct. 8||at Rutgers||Oct. 6||Michigan State|
|Oct. 15||Bye||Oct. 13||at Indiana|
|Oct. 22||Illinois||Oct. 20||at Penn State|
|Oct. 29||At Michigan State||Oct. 27||Rutgers|
|Nov. 5||Maryland||Nov. 4||Minnesota|
|Nov. 12||At Iowa||Nov. 11||at Maryland|
|Nov. 19||Indiana||Nov. 18||at Wisconsin|
|Nov. 26||At Ohio State||Nov. 25||Ohio State|
|Sept. 1||at Notre Dame||Aug. 31||Open|
|Sept. 8||Open||Sept. 7||Open|
|Sept. 15||SMU||Sept. 14||Open|
|Sept. 22||Nebraska||Sept. 21||at Wisconsin|
|Sept. 29||at Northwestern||Sept. 28||Rutgers|
|Oct. 6||Maryland||Oct. 5||Iowa|
|Oct. 13||Wisconsin||Oct. 12||At Illinois|
|Oct. 20||at Michigan State||Oct. 19||at Penn State|
|Oct. 27||Open||Oct. 26||Notre Dame|
|Nov. 3||Penn State||Nov. 2||at Maryland|
|Nov. 10||at Rutgers||Nov. 9||Open|
|Nov. 17||Indiana||Nov. 16||Michigan State|
|Nov. 24||at Ohio State||Nov. 23||at Indiana|
|Nov. 30||Ohio State|
Minnesota coach Tracy Claeys — whose team doesn’t face Michigan this season — saw opportunity with an unusual dynamic in the conference’s schedule change.
“I figured with the West teams playing five road games, that the winner, good chance, (would) have two losses,” Claeys said Tuesday on the Big Ten coaches teleconference. “We burned up ours right away in the conference with those first two (losses at Penn State and against Iowa), but our kids have responded and just kept fighting and winning each week.
“Our goal all year long was, hey, let’s get to the last two, three weeks of the season and have an opportunity to go to Indianapolis.”
Money also comes into play. According to contracts obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by Landof10.com, Michigan’s nonconference games for this season were scheduled in 2012 and 2013. Michigan agreed to pay Hawaii $1 million to play one game at Michigan Stadium, UCF $1.5 million for one game at Michigan Stadium and Colorado $1.45 million for one game at Michigan Stadium.
A buyout would also be a costly proposition: not only would Michigan have to pay its opponents at least $1 million each to take them off the schedule (unless both schools agreed in writing to cancel the game, which would free Michigan of any fiscal responsibility), there was also the cost of paying another team to fill the schedule.
Because of the home-heavy schedule, Michigan’s first road game wasn’t until Oct. 8, a 78-0 drubbing of Rutgers in Piscataway, N.J. Three weeks later, Michigan traveled less than an hour northwest to play in-state rival Michigan State.
Now, two of Michigan’s final three games are on the road: Saturday at Iowa and Nov. 26 in the much-anticipated regular-season finale at Ohio State.
The Wolverines say they haven’t put too much stock into the scheduling wrinkle.
“Football is football,” Michigan linebacker Jabrill Peppers said. “The field is still 100 yards, 53.3 yards wide, so we just, I guess, when you talk about the offense, they try to emulate the sound or the loudness that may occur, but other than that, it’s nothing different. It’s about preparation.”
From a coaching standpoint, secondary coach Mike Zordich has one piece of advice he gives to players.
“Get a good night’s sleep on Friday night, before the game,” Zordich quipped. “I don’t think about it. It’s just another game. Get on the bus. Get on the plane. Get off the bus and in the hotel.”
As for coaching in a road game?
“I don’t think it’s very different,” Zordich said.