In-state rivalries are great. Some may be lopsided (see: Ohio State's utter dominance over the rest of the state), while others are pretty intriguing (see: NIU as the "Chicago's Team").
In Michigan, you have two set's of good rivalries with the Big Ten's Michigan-Michigan State game and the MAC's Michigan MAC rivalry between Western, Eastern, and Central Michigan. Additionally, Michigan State did a great service to both themselves and their MAC counterparts, with their "Celebrate the State" series, that created great exposure to all programs involved.
Yet, the one stickler in all of this is the massive ego that sits in Ann Arbor. The Michigan Wolverines haven't played one of their MAC counterparts since 2013, when they opened their season by thumping a hapless CMU team. Before that, they hosted both WMU and EMU in 2011, using solid defensive efforts in Brady Hoke's first year.
In fact, ever since the Wolverines had to fend off a pesky Miami squad in 2014, they haven't played a MAC school period. The next MAC opponent on the Wolverines' radar appears to be Ball State in 2020. Now, couple the facts that the College Football Playoff almost assuredly requires schools to not play a ton of cupcakes in non-conference play, the Big Ten expanding to 9 conference games starting this year, and you don't have a lot of wiggle room for the Michigan MAC schools or MAC schools in general.
I get why Michigan might not want to play any of the MAC schools, Michigan-based or otherwise. EMU is really bad on the schedule for the committee to take seriously (at least right now). Michigan has struggled against the MAC as of late, with four wins decided by 11 points or less after not coming close to that mark in the previous 10 years. Hell, Toledo beat them in 2008 (which, coincidentally, is when scheduling started to shift away from MAC schools.)
I say it's high time that the Wolverines started playing the MAC again, and specifically one program in particular: Western.
The last game the two teams played in 2011 was pretty fun before the rain. WMU dominated the possession, and had a 7-0 lead after the first quarter. They were due to score again, before Alex Carder threw a 94 yard pick-six. It was 20-10 at the half, and the 3rd quarter was wet and wild (Carder had two fumbles in the quarter to help Michigan extend their lead before the storms). Imagine another go around between these two teams.
I get that it won't happen any time soon, and by the time it would happen, all of these storylines will be gone. But it's still fun to think about. Here's what we could have:
- The Ultimate Bro-down - Fleck vs Harbaugh. Those two have bro'ed out the past couple years, with their antics drawing criticism from some. However, they have also mastered the recruiting process, and have turned their programs into the best of their respective leagues. The lead-up to the game would be great.
- Corey Davis vs the Michigan secondary - This would only happen this year, but imagine if another player like that came around. Jordan White was having a game against the Wolverines 5 years ago before the rain, so the odds that Davis could replicate (or usurp) that performance are decent. Terrell is a more efficient QB than Carder was as well. We'll never know, though another QB-WR combo like this could come around again (see: Carder-White, Ryan Cubit/Tim Hiller-Greg Jennings)
- Fleck's recruits and his dream for a National Title - Obviously, Michigan would have an upper hand on WMU by the time the game would be played, but Fleck would have more time to build up better recruiting classes than he has had thus far. This also implies that Fleck stays, which would be a miracle in itself. However, if Fleck were to ever want to play for a National Championship as he has said in the past, beating a Harbaugh-led Wolverine team would be the perfect stage to start that journey.