Michigan has little to lose vs. Alabama

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
2:32
PM ET

Experts from around the country have weighed in on their Week 1 picks, and there seems to be one clear consensus: Alabama will beat Michigan.

Look here, here, here, here, here or, ahem, here. It doesn't appear that anybody, outside of Bob Asmussen, a FoxSports.com personality and Brady Hoke, thinks the Wolverines have a chance Saturday night in the Cowboys Classic. In fact, most people think the heavily favored Crimson Tide will win big.

[+] EnlargeBrady Hoke
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesBrady Hoke may be one of the only people picking Michigan to beat Alabama.
“We wouldn’t want it any other way,” Michigan safety Jordan Kovacs told the Detroit News.

That's what players on underdog teams are supposed to say. But in this case, it's actually the right thing to say as well. Fact is, the Wolverines have almost nothing to lose in this game.

Sure, they could lose their No. 8 national ranking, their chance at an undefeated season and quite possibly a shot at the BCS title. But a loss would be far from the end of the world.

That's because Hoke has made it clear that winning a Big Ten title is Michigan's No. 1 goal as long as he is the head coach in Ann Arbor. He has repeatedly called last year's 11-2, Sugar Bowl title season "a failure" because the Wolverines did not hang a Big Ten banner.

Well, the Alabama game obviously has no effect on the Big Ten race and will give Hoke's team a great measuring stick. A loss on Saturday could even provide some benefits.

Pundits everywhere are slobbering over the Tide's talent and how Nick Saban has built a dynasty after he won his second national title in three years. The general perception is that a Big Ten team like Michigan can't possibly belong on the same field with such an SEC superpower.

So just staying close to Bama would be a victory in a sense, as the Wolverines would earn respect for the effort. They probably wouldn't fall that far in the polls with a competitive loss and would remain in great position to earn an at-large BCS bid if they went 10-1 the rest of the way.

Of course, Michigan isn't thinking about moral victories. We all know what an upset of Alabama would do for the program and for the Big Ten.

But the Wolverines are basically playing with house money here. If they do lose, all they have to do is look at last year's champions of the West. Oregon got blown out by SEC power LSU in the 2011 Cowboys Classic. The Ducks rebounded to go 12-2 and win the Rose Bowl.

If Michigan follows the same path, there's no chance Hoke would label the 2012 season a failure.

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