More lengthy home stands possible

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It looked strange at the start, more like an early-season basketball schedule than one for football.

Five games at home to open the 2011 season, and only leaving the state once -- Saturday against Northwestern -- before November. It resembled something Jim Boeheim would put together. The Syracuse basketball coach hardly ever leaves New York, save for an exempt tournament before Big East play begins.

"This," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said, "is unusual."

Unusual? Yes. Unheard of? Hardly.

Two FBS teams started this season with four home games: Clemson and Maryland.

Two teams started the year with five straight home games. Both are in the Big Ten. They also happen to comprise two of the league's remaining undefeated teams -- Michigan and Illinois. Both the Illini and Wolverines go on the road this week. The Big Ten's third undefeated team, Wisconsin, played four home games and one, against Northern Illinois, at a neutral site.

"I don't know if it's helped," Hoke said. "It's always good to play in this great stadium with the passionate fans that we have. I don't know if it's that much different, you know, and that doesn't sound quite right.

"But being at home is great. Has it helped us as a team? Maybe youth wise and all that. But we like playing here."

It's possible to expect more of this from Michigan in the future, especially in seasons when Notre Dame is on the schedule at home. U-M athletic director Dave Brandon has said that as the Big Ten transitions to a nine-game schedule it likely won't go on the road in the nonconference except for the Irish or a unique situation.

So if the Big Ten gave Michigan two home games in a row to start the league season, a five-game home stretch at the outset could easily happen.

"With the exception of the Notre Dame rivalry, we're going to play every nonconference game at Michigan Stadium," Brandon told WolverineNation last month. "We'd be crazy not to. Unless we ran into a really unique situation, like Alabama in Texas, or we have that one unusual situation to live through with Connecticut in 2013, for the most part we've got to play those games here.

"We need the revenue and our fans want the games and that's the prudent thing to do."

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan sports for WolverineNation. He can be reached at michaelrothsteinespn@gmail.com or on Twitter @mikerothstein.