Last season the Michigan football team had camoflauge shirts that read “Road Warriors.” Then the Wolverines went 2-5 away from Ann Arbor.
Their only wins came against Minnesota and Purdue, teams that finished a combined 5-11 in Big Ten play.
Ask Michigan coach Brady Hoke what the Wolverines’ issue was on the road last season and he has a simple diagnosis.
“Turnovers. Turnovers. Turnovers,” Hoke said. “That's what has plagued our team."
Against Alabama, Michigan turned the ball over three times. Against Notre Dame, it was a very memorable six. In Columbus, Michigan gave Ohio State the ball four times.
All in all, the Wolverines turned the ball over 20 times away from Michigan Stadium and just seven times when they were playing inside the Big House. Broken down that means the Wolverines’ offense averaged just 1.2 turnovers per game inside the Big House, and 2.9 per game away from home.
Obviously, some of that has to do with the caliber of the teams they played on the road and at home.
The Wolverines played Air Force, Massachusetts, Illinois, Michigan State, Northwestern and Iowa at home -- not exactly an impossible schedule by any account. However, Michigan dropped games at neutral sites to Alabama and South Carolina, and lost to Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State on the road.
But it seems pretty straightforward. When an offense gives the defense the ball, bad things happen.
The problem with Hoke’s diagnosis is that he doesn’t have a remedy.
“I don't know [why it happens]. I have no idea,” Hoke said. “You wouldn't think it would. It did last year."
Road games -- especially the first of the season -- are always a unique experience for a young team. The Wolverines have a fair amount of true and redshirt freshmen in their three deep and those are players who have likely never flown to a game or stayed in a hotel (with the amount of structure Michigan enforces) the night before a game.
Hoke joked that he needed to bring nannies or au pairs along for the trip, but he’ll have plenty of senior leadership to make sure the young players are keeping their focus.
They know that these games can be exciting but are crucial to the season. It’s not all about chartered flights and police escorts to the field. If Michigan can’t make a statement on the road against UConn, it’ll only get harder from here.
The Wolverines will follow this trip up with road games at Penn State, Michigan State, Northwestern and Iowa.
Michigan might be 17-0 under Hoke in the Big House, but unfortunately for the Wolverines, they can’t win Big Ten championships playing only at Michigan Stadium.