The concept of college football game day cannot be fully understood until you have experienced it for yourself. Take a moment to step away from the panning camera angles and the comfort of your recliner for just one Saturday.
My first experience came on Sept. 8, 2012, alongside 112,000 other loyalists. As we made our way into picturesque Ann Arbor, we didn’t have to wait long to notice the fever that had struck the city.
Not only was it game day, it was opening day at the Big House.
Maize and blue draped all visible areas of the city, from window signs to flyers, to flags waving proudly from the shop windows as we made our way along East Liberty Street.
Game day in college towns just like Ann Arbor aren’t viewed as an event by the locals; it’s a way of life.
The school’s legendary drum line took to the steps of Revelli Hall for its pre-game performance, which led to the traditional walk to the stadium. We were soon swept into a literal sea of fans making their way down Hoover Street that eventually came to a stop at the gates of The Big House. We proceeded to squeeze into our shoulder to shoulder seats to observe the contest against Air Force.
That day allowed us to witness a young man who grabbed all of our attention midway through the game by leaping a head and shoulders above his competition in a very Plaxico Burress-like fashion.
That was just the start for a then-freshman tight end who would give the fans a highlight reel that was as fun to watch as it was saying his last name. Devin Funchess quickly became a force to be reckoned with.
This season is already producing a possible twist, due to an injury suffered last November by starter, Devin Gardner. Coach Brady Hoke has made it known that the starting role at quarterback will have to be earned this season. Gardner’s 2,960 yards from last year are expected to face off against up and coming sophomore, Shane Morris for the role.
Morris came on the radar following his Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl start by going 24 of 38 for 196 yards and rushing for 43 yards, despite the eventual loss.
As the Wolverines look toward taking the field on Aug. 30, Hoke and his staff are upbeat about what they have seen so far from the roster.
“Overall, we’re really happy with the progress we’ve made from spring,” Hoke said. “We are not as far as being a good football team yet, but the way they’ve come to work every day and what they’ve done, I think the identity of this team is still one that we’re developing.”
Conference experts seem to share Hoke’s sentiment and have already leaned heavily in favor of Ohio State and Michigan State to make another strong push this year for the Big Ten. Coach Urban Meyer and his Buckeyes finished out an impressive run last season with a conference record of 8-0 (12-2 overall) and the title of Big Ten Conference runner up.
Ultimately, “little brother” truly got the last laugh as Mark Dantonio’s Spartans silenced doubters by playing out a season for the books. Finishing 8-0 (13-1 overall) in regular conference play, they went on to secure the Big Ten Conference Title and their first Rose Bowl win since 1988.
While a respectable run from Hoke’s young roster is anticipated this season, I’ll still be expecting the highly unpredictable, edge of your seat organized chaos that is Big Ten football.
Emily Waldon was raised in Howard City and currently resides in Wyoming, Mich. A lifelong sports enthusiast, she also enjoys photography, traveling and bringing a fresh outlook to the world of athletics, both collegiate and professional. She can be reached at email@example.com