Hang around the Midwest long enough and you’ll hear just about every Big Ten fan say, “I love fall!”
It makes a lot of sense when you experience our famously frigid, gray winters, our non-existent springs, and our surprisingly steamy summers.
But in Big Ten towns, life begins anew not in spring, but in fall— when the students and professors return right on schedule, concerts and shows pack the calendar again, and the whole cycle starts over.
On a cool, crisp fall day, with the colors just starting to turn, you often hear people in Big Ten country say, “Perfect football weather.”
For us, it’s a recognized climatological condition.
It would have been a great weekend to open Michigan Stadium, or travel down to Gainesville, Florida, to see how the Gators do it. But thanks to a deal with the devil signed a few years ago, the Wolverines would be traveling to Dallas to play a team from Florida.
That’s right: Instead of playing at one of the nation’s great stadiums ON one of the country’s great campuses, Michigan’s former athletic director signed a contract a few years ago to play in the Dallas Cowboys’ $1.3 billion, state of the art pleasure dome.
What do you get for $1.3 billion?
Everything you want, plus a few things you never knew you wanted, starting with the world’s largest dome, the world’s largest column-free interior, and the world’s two largest high-definition TV screens – which span over most of the football field, weigh six hundred tons, and cost $40 million.
You also get 10 gift shops, 342 executive suites, 824 concession stands that serve everything from sausage to sushi, and 5,000 high-definition TVs throughout the stadium.
In short, the Dome is the very antithesis of everything college football fans love: a fabulously opulent indoor stadium with zero tradition plopped down in the middle of a suburban asphalt desert.
Fortunately, the commercial atmosphere didn’t ruin the game on the field, played between two traditional college powerhouses.
The Wolverines had their work cut out for them. They entered the game with the youngest team in the country, and had to replace ten of eleven starters on defense.
On the other side were the 17th-ranked Florida Gators. They play in the Southeast Conference, which has won eight of the last eleven national titles.
It would be a good challenge, especially in the season opener, which usually produces a lot of first game jitters, and the mistakes that go with them.
Sure enough, Michigan’s offense made a couple mistakes early on that Florida’s defense turned into touchdowns just seconds later. But Michigan’s offense settled down, and the Wolverine’s defense was dominant.
How dominant? Late in the game they sacked the Florida quarterback in his own end zone, caused a fumble, and recovered it for a Michigan touchdown.
With that, Michigan’s defense had scored six points, while Florida’s offense only three. That’s right: Michigan’s defense outscored Florida’s offense, en route to a 33-17 victory.
That’s what dominance looks like. That’s what serious coaching looks like. That’s what an elite football program looks like – something Michigan fans haven’t seen in a while.
But they can see their Wolverines again this weekend: outside, at the Big House, with a nip in the air and the fall colors poised to change all around them.
Hope they enjoy it.
John U Bacon is the author of eight books on sports and business. His current book, Playing Hurt: My Journey from Despair to Hope, coauthored with John Saunders, is his fifth New York Times bestseller.