Hoke was top notch at this aspect of his job.
Yahoo! Sports made a top 12 list of the best non-conference games of the upcoming season. The Michigan-Alabama game checks in at #1. Here's what they have to say:
Two of the most storied programs in history get together for just the fourth time; the three previous meetings were in bowls, with the most recent coming in the Orange Bowl following the 1999 season. Alabama is a lock to open the season in the top 10, and the Wolverines should be in there, too. This will be the third time in five years that Alabama has opened the season in a neutral-site game; the other two were in Atlanta.
Other games of note:
#2 Boise St. @ MSU
#3 Notre Dame @ Oklahoma
#4 Miami-Notre Dame @ Soldier Field
#6 Cal @ Ohio St.
#8 Nebraska @ UCLA
I'm loving the non-conference scheduling of late, although it likely won't last, which is a shame. I'm putting myself out there right now as well and I'm saying that we beat Bama, opening night. The first of many great victories this year.
With Michigan playing their final game of the decade I thought I'd list what I believe to be the 10 best games of the 2000s:
1. Michigan 35 Ohio State 21 - 2003
This is Michigan's only victory against the Buckeyes in the Tressel era but it was a significant one. The winner of the game would be undisputed Big Ten Champion and Ohio State was playing for a chance to defend their National Title. Chris Perry had over over 200 yards of offense and 2 TDs in a performance that won him the Doak Walker award and made him a Heisman Finalist. Braylon Edwards also had 130 yards receiving and 2 TDs (and another one called back), and John Navarre became a Big Champion quarterback. The Wolverines went to the Rose Bowl and ruined the Buckeyes bid for a second National Title. Michigan hasn't beaten OSU since.
2. Michigan 45 Michigan State 37 (3OT) - 2004
"The Braylon Edwards Game" as it has been called. Michigan was down 17 with about 7 minutes left and came back thanks to an onside kick and the heroics of Braylon Edwards coming down with jump balls in the endzone. In the first overtime Michigan stopped MSU on 3rd and 1 to force a field goal and a second OT. In that period Jason Avant made an amazing grab in the back corner of the endzone to force a 3rd OT, when Braylon Edwards came through for the game winning TD. As big an adrenaline rush as I've ever had watching that game. The game won Braylon the Biletnikoff Award and Michigan went on to win the Big Ten Championship for the second year in a row.
3. Michigan 47 Notre Dame 21 - 2006
Michigan had lost 2 in a row to the Irish and came into South Bend with a streak of 6 straight losses in road openers. The Wolverines were also coming off a 7-5 season and looking for respect against the 2nd ranked team in the country. This game was when the hype machine around Charlie Weis was in full force and everyone was talking about how great a coach he was. The Wolverines dominated ND in all phases. Mario Manningham caught 3 TD passes, Mike Hart ran wild and the Michigan defense was as dominant as ever, forcing 5 turnovers, scoring 2 TDs and killing Brady Quinn's Heisman hopes. The iconic photo of Shawn Crable hovering over Brady Quinn said it all. Michigan had made a statement to the country and started the season 11-0.
4. Michigan 35 Alabama 34 (OT) - 2000
This game was played on the first day of the decade in the Orange Bowl and it was Michigan's first overtime game ever. Tom Brady threw 4 TD passes, 3 of them to David Terrell and was named MVP, leading Michigan back from 14 point deficits twice. Michigan won when Alabama missed the PAT after a TD in OT that could've tied the game. This is the only BCS bowl win for the Wolverines in the BCS era.
5. Michigan 38 Ohio State 26 - 2000
Michigan won a share of the Big Ten Title with this victory and put the final nail in the coffin of John Cooper's (2-10-1) career. With Michigan up by 5 and facing a 4th and goal late in the game everyone thought Lloyd would kick the field goal to go up 8. Instead he decided to put Ohio State away for good and Drew Henson made a great play faking a handoff and running into the endzone. This would be the end of Michigan's dominance in the rivalry.
6. Michigan 38 Minnesota 35 - 2003
The biggest comeback in school history. Michigan trailed by 21 in the 4th Quarter. Michigan's season that had begun with such promise was in dire straits. They had lost 2 of their last 3 and were playing terribly. Minnesota set a record for rush yards against the Wolverines with Marion Barber, Laurence Maroney and Thomas Tapeh. However Michigan scored 31 points in a wild 4th quarter as Michigan came back to win, saving their season and igniting a 6-0 finish to end the season and win a Big Ten Title. John Navarre was masterful in the 4th Quarter as well as Chris Perry and Garret Rivas made the game winning kick in the final minute.
7. Michigan 41 Florida 35 - 2008
The Capital One Bowl on New Years Day was the final game of Lloyd Carr's career. Coming into the game none of the pundits gave Michigan a chance against the SEC speed of the Florida Gators with their running QB Heisman winner Tim Tebow and their mastermind of a head coach in Urban Meyer. Lloyd Carr was carried off the field a winner and was given a certain type of vindication after his recent struggles with spread teams and bowl games and running QBs. Seeing Urban Meyer throw his headset in frustration of his teams inability to stop Michigan's offense was priceless. Chad Henne won MVP as he Jake Long, and Mike Hart got their first bowl victory.
8. Michigan 27 Penn State 25 - 2005
Michigan went 7-5 this year, but they were the only team that was able to beat Penn State, winning on a TD pass on the last play from Chad Henne to Mario Manningham. PSU went ahead with under a minute to go, but Steve Breaston's kick return gave Michigan great field position and Henne led the Wolverines to victory. Lloyd Carr also argued correctly that too much time ran off the clock when Michigan called timeout, and 2 seconds were put back on the clock that were absolutely huge at the end.
9. Michigan 38 Notre Dame 34 - 2009
A great back and forth battle that was won thanks to the heroics of freshman Tate Forcier leading Michigan downfield for the final TD with 11 seconds left on a pass to Greg Matthews. Brandon Minor also played very well and Michigan benefited from Charlie Weis' curious decision to throw the ball deep late in the game with his team winning instead of forcing Michigan to call their final timeouts.
10. Michigan 28 Michigan State 24 - 2007
This one holds a special place in my heart not just for the great comeback but also because of the aftermath of the game with Mike Hart calling MSU "Little Brother", Mark Dantonio trying desperately to comeback by mocking Hart's size and just the fury in general by MSU fans with Michigan's "arrogance" after winning the game. The Wolverines were down 10 points late, but Chad Henne led Michigan back with 2 great back-to-back drives where he completed almost every pass and threw TD passes to Greg Matthews and Mario Manningham on a great leaping catch in the endzone.
Honorable mention to the following games:
Michigan 27 Wisconsin 25 - 2008; Michigan 27 Penn State 24 (OT) - 2002; Michigan 34 Michigan State 31 (OT) - 2005; Michigan 38 Florida 30 - 2003 Outback Bowl; Michigan 31 Washington 29 - 2002; Michigan 27 Minnesota 24 - 2004; Michigan 23 Iowa 20 - 2005; Michigan 16 Purdue 14 - 2004; Michigan 27 Wisconsin 13 - 2006; Michigan 14 Penn State 9 - 2007; Michigan 17 Penn State 10 - 2006; Michigan 31 Auburn 28 - 2001 Capital One Bowl; Michigan 32 Iowa 26 - 2001; Michigan 30 Iowa 17 - 2004; Michigan 58 Indiana 0 - 2000(My first game in the Big House); Michigan 27 Vanderbilt 7 - 2006(First game as a student); Michigan 63 Delaware State 6 - 2009 (j/k)