It's finally official.
After months of speculation, Michigan and Alabama confirmed Thursday that they will open the 2012 season in a primetime showdown Sept. 1 at Cowboys Stadium (i.e. Jerry World) in Arlington, Texas. It marks the first regular-season meeting between the Wolverines and Crimson Tide -- they've met three times in bowls, with Michigan holding a 2-1 edge.
The Wolverines are designated as the road team in the matchup, and a Big 12 officiating crew will work the game.
I know a lot of fans don't like these neutral-site games, which are becoming the rage in college football. But any time two big-time programs are willing to play one another, it's reason to rejoice. Especially when the teams come from the Big Ten and the SEC, two leagues largely resistant to giving up valuable home games.
"This is a great way to kickoff the 2012 season with two of the nation’s winningest college football programs," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said in a statement. "We are excited about playing a regular-season game in the state of Texas, a region of the country where we have traditionally recruited. Our goal is to get as many Michigan fans to the game as possible to witness this match-up of traditional powers."
The Alabama game means that Michigan will play at least two nonconference games away from Ann Arbor in 2012, as the Wolverines are already on board to face Notre Dame in South Bend. Michigan also faces Nebraska and Ohio State on the road that year, creating a pretty brutal schedule for the Maize and Blue.
U-M still must fill two nonconference dates -- I'll go out on a limb and say these will be at home against low-tier opponents -- and work in a bye week, which will be early in the schedule.
Here's how Michigan's 2012 schedule looks right now:
Sept. 1 vs. Alabama (Arlington, Texas)
Sept. 22 at Notre Dame
Oct. 6 at Purdue
Oct. 13 Illinois
Oct. 20 Michigan State
Oct. 27 at Nebraska
Nov. 3 at Minnesota
Nov. 10 Northwestern
Nov. 17 Iowa
Nov. 24 at Ohio State
Michigan doesn't play Indiana, Penn State or Wisconsin in league play.
Again, I know these neutral-site games take away from the on-campus settings that make college football so special. But I'd still rather see Michigan face Alabama than Massachusetts or Delaware State any day.
I'm fired up for this one.