Grapentine may have been here 40 years, but he only recently took over PA duties. Howard King did them until a couple years ago. Until then, Grapentine only announced the marching band.
at least it's not just us?
Anyways, you've mentioned several times that you have season tix—do you also attend all road games? I suppose Sparty is probably a given, but have you traveled to, say, Kinnick or Camp Randall? My goal is to visit all the B10 stadiums (been to 5 so far - MSU, PU, PSU, NW & UM obvs), and I was wondering if you had a favorite road venue or notable road game that sticks out to you (07 MSU for me). This season I'll be going to State for the 2nd time as well as Illinois Memorial for the first time.
Once again, many thanks for the excellence of the blog.
P.S. Autodesk sucks. I hate them.
P.P.S. M-Den is full of win.
I don't go to all the road games but I usually hit 1-3 per year depending on how the team is doing and where the road games are. I've been to Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State, Illinois, and Northwestern, with a first trip to Iowa on the docket this year. (I'm also going to Madison, but in February for an outdoor hockey game.) To your questions: Northwestern is my favorite road venue, if only because it's a road venue in little but name and it's situated next to Lake Michigan and there's always some place to crash because if you went to Michigan and don't know anyone who lives in Chicago you probably lived in Baits all four years and never left your room. Also no one attempts to throttle you. I'm annoyed when NU isn't on the schedule.
Favorite game: also '07 MSU for multiple reasons. There was, of course, the lead up to the game with Dantonio and "moment of silence" and "we won two games today" and Mike Hart etc etc etc. I ended up in the Michigan student section, which was a jolt after a few years away from that scene in one of the real blue-hair sections of Michigan Stadium. And two minutes before the opening kickoff an idiot state fan chewing on an unlit cigar accused me of sitting in his seat. I wasn't, but the State fan insisted to the point where he got the ushers, who were all prepared to do some bootin' until they saw I was actually in my seat. It turned out that the guy had the seat next to mine. He eventually swapped with some Michigan students who were three rows below us. It was weird.
Anyway, all that meant I was pretty fired up. And then the way the game turned, with Michigan jumping out to a significant halftime lead and State coming back to lead by 3 and then 10 and then someone whacking Chad Henne's shoddy Southeast Asian motherboard in just the right spot, followed by robot Henne enacting a mini version of Braylonfest… well, it was extremely satisfying afterwards.
PS: Hey, Autodesk provided yrs truly with the nest egg via which the blog's first couple of years as a job—in the same way Walmart greeter is a job—were tolerable. Also I still have some stock of theirs. So go Autodesk.
PPS: Yes, now that you mention it, the M-Den is full of win. Also when you do not mention it.
I noticed during the game and again in your UFR that Will Campbell got zero playing time against ND. This was especially evident in the 2nd half when it seemed that the dline was rotating new guys in on every play with WC not one of them. I also recall he only played in scrub time against Western. With a dline sorely lacking depth, is Campbell in the doghouse? Is he not as good as we thought? Or is this more a case of a freshman just being behind veterans on the depth chart. For a dline sorely lacking depth, it seems hard to believe a highly recruited player cant crack this rotation, even as a freshman.
Thanks, and Go Blue!
(This email was sent before the EMU game, but remains relevant now because Campbell saw a couple of goal line plays and little else.) Dude: I don't know. I'm seriously bothered by the prevalence of walk-ons in the two-deep and the lack of mega-recruits. Justin Turner didn't see the field at all against Eastern—even Teric Jones did—and now looks like a certain redshirt. Demens, Fitzgerald, and Smith are all apparently behind walk-on Kevin Leach at linebacker. And erstwhile spring starter Vlad Emilien is behind Kovacs and possibly Van Slyke at safety.
At least Campbell has an excuse that's a bit better than those guys: Renaldo Sagesse is about the only legitimate depth player on the entire defense and has turned in a fair number of plays in limited time spelling Mike Martin. He's getting about the same amount of time you'd expect a third-string freshman to get, no matter how hyped.
I'd like to see Michigan try running Martin and Sagesse out there at the same time, like everyone else; if that happens with some consistency against big beef machine teams then Campbell will see more extensive time.
During Rich Rod's first summer, we were looking forward to bringing in Kevin Newsome and Shavodrick Beaver at QB. Both guys were relatively unpolished but with high upside. Not the type of guys that you would be comfortable with to start as freshmen to say the least. Do you think that RR anticipated a rocky first year and the need to win early in year two, and possibly directed Michigan's recruiting more toward QBs able to come in and play right away? Would you even go so far to say that Michigan may have cooled on Newsome and Beaver at the chance they land Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson. Regardless, as a trade, we got the better end of the deal.
I have no idea what happened with Michigan's quarterback recruiting but have heard from a couple reliable sources that Kevin Newsome's commitment was always as solid as paper tissue and that was one reason Michigan continued to pursue Tate Forcier heavily despite having two guys nominally in the fold. (The other reason: duh.) I mentioned this at the time and will restate it now: while Kevin Newsome seemed to have excellent upside he was not a great fit for what Michigan needed this year. They needed Tate Forcier, a guy who'd been relentlessly drilled to be a quarterback from the womb and would be polished (and foolhardy) enough to step into the starting lineup fresh out of high school. Newsome, who's looked inept so far in spring and limited garbage time, was not that guy. Was that motivation to get rid of Newsome? Probably not. I think Michigan would have taken three quarterbacks last year if they could have latched onto that many.
Beaver I don't know about. He was a well-regarded recruit who supposedly picked up an offer from Texas to play wide receiver, so you'd think Michigan would try to hold onto him even if they were gaga about Denard Robinson (which, again: duh), too. I don't think either decommit was a Jordan Barnes sort.
I have a question re: the defensive alignments. In the Notre Dame Defensive UFR, you commented a couple of times on the fact that Michigan's pre-snap alignments made no sense. Who's responsibility is it for the way the defense aligns? The coaches obviously put in the personnel package as far as a 4-3-4, 4-2-5, but they cannot know until the offense lines up what type of look they are going to get. Does a player (I'm assuming it'd be Obi since he's the MLB and they are traditionally the "quarterback of the offense") set up the defense or do the players look to the sideline for direction from their coaches? Thanks in advance.
The only presnap alignments that I found bizarre were the ones in which Obi Ezeh aligned at safety depth a few times on obvious passing downs. That was indeed strange. The only thing I can figure is that it was a version of the Tampa two defense that's popular in the NFL. Tampa two allows you to bracket both outside receivers without giving up the deep middle—an excellent idea against Notre Dame's terrors on the outside, but maybe not so much when ND also has a great pass-receiving tight end. And when Michigan did line up in their weird Ezeh-as-safety formation, ND hit Kyle Rudolph on a simple slant that went for big yardage.
I've seen Michigan roll out the same formation once so far against EMU, so it might be something we see occasionally down the road. I've yet to determine what the point of it is.
On to some emails that are more helpful than anything else.
Just wanted to add some more evidence re: your post on the noise level at the new stadium. Yes, it is absolutely, positively louder. Carl Grapentine, long-time voice of the MMB and now the PA guy, too, wrote me this after the game this weekend:
It was as loud as I've ever heard it at Michigan Stadium. Those two new massive structures on either side of the field are like giant resonators.
Keep in mind this is Carl's 40th year doing games from the press box; that's a pretty significant body of work from which to make that statement. Didn't want to post this in the public comments, though.
I have the same beef with the MMB as you; I was in section 13 at the WMU game and we could hardly hear the band. Thought it might just be the placement, but think your analysis is right. Needs more horns, less winds.
BTW, love the blog; it's part of my daily must-reads.
UM class of '87
Johnathan Chapman-Rienstra (JCR)
FWIW. More fuel for the luxury box fire.
Questions I can't answer:
I was at the Eastern/UM game Saturday and noticed the student section doing a chant where they extend their arms at the opposing team and wiggle their fingers... sort of like they're "jinxing" them. It sounds like the students are saying, "boo" or "ooh." At first I thought it was the "key play" chant where they shake their keys, but there were no keys in their hands. Can you enlighten me?
Um… I have no idea what this email refers to. Any help?
I'm pretty sure your tickets aren't near mine. I sit in section 19, row 76.
As long as I've been in these seats, and my old seats in section 17, fifteen years or so, there's been an old guy with a knit cap that sits near the very front of (I think) section 18. After every Michigan TD, he would go down to the front row, stand up, face the crowd, and get the crowd involved in a cheer where he (and the fans) would spell out M-I-C-H-I-G-A-N with his arms.
After sitting through every minute (!) of every home game, AND the ND game at ND last year, I did not make it to the ND game this year. (I know, I know...) However, I was at Western and Eastern. And Old Michigan Spelling Guy (i don't know anything better to call him) wasn't at EITHER game. My wife and I are very concerned.
The guy I call "Superfan" (wears the cape, helmet pattern do-rag, glasses, plays cowbell, gets on TV at a lot of away games) also sits near the front and has taken over the M-I-C-H-I-G-A-N spelling. I love "Superfan" and his mad-crazy cowbell skills, but it isn't the same for the M-I-C-H-I-G-A-N. And beyond just football games, I really do care about Old Michigan Spelling Guy.
Do you know, or can you ask your vast readership if anyone knows, the fate of Old Michigan Spelling Guy? Hopefully, he's just evangelizing in another part of the stadium.
I am nowhere near this guy but I have seen him from across the stadium and envied those sections for being near a guy doing the Michigan locomotive cheer because some old guy demanded they do it. Anyone have an answer for this emailer?
Grapentine may have been here 40 years, but he only recently took over PA duties. Howard King did them until a couple years ago. Until then, Grapentine only announced the marching band.
The email did say "and now PA guy", implying it wasn't always so. I think the point was that he's still been in the press box for the last 40 years, so he has perspective on the changes in volume over time.
The one that the email and Brian know nothing about - it started in the MMB a few years back, and this is the first year (that I can think of) that most of the student section is doing it.
What happens - you say 'ooh' and stick your arm out, while shaking/wiggling your hand, then bring it back in (and repeat a few times)... and its something thats always led by the band (I think on 3rd downs?)
You are correct. The "You suck" chant is quite obviously "you suck."
basically they wanted kids to stop doing a key play on every third down (which, depending on how bad your defense is, might not be that unrealistic.)
So yeah, you're hexing them like a succubus or something. Seriously, i'm pretty sure that's the idea.
I've been thinking that it's cool when the away team's offense is headed to the north endzone (where the student section is) since all the hands/fingers would have the ability to distract... when they have their backs to the north not so much...
I'm fairly certain this started last year, since we didn't do it to my recollection in 2007, when I was a senior.
That year we played a medley from the musical "Wicked". A section of this was a loud entry fanfare, which was adapted to play before third downs. The motion Brian and other posters refer to is a spell-casting motion of sorts, to jinx your opponents.
Since it was introduced, there have been a couple different fanfares they've played before third downs, and while the now-standard is no longer wicked, the hex motion remains.
Great explanation, thanks - I have been doing but not entirely understanding this all season.
I do have one issue with The Hex, though - it's becoming its own GD3DKPT because it often ends just seconds before the snap. It is somewhat louder than Jingle Keys, but the "Ohh" is intermittent and I think some people are still not getting the timing well enough to reach max loudness.
I've been jumping ship midstream on the cheer and I just go into a constant yell when Football is about to resume, but the student section really seems to like this one and I wish the participation could be harnessed to turn up the intensity right before the next play starts. Maybe the drums could just ramp up to signal "Yellin' Time"? Anyone here what can make this happen?
The wavy finger cheer started in Fall of 2008 and is called "Intimidation". It came from the band and from what my friend in there said, it was supposed to be a replacement for the 3rd Down key jingling and otherwise silence that preceded the song in years previous.
I personally am not a fan of the cheer because it doesn't get fans loud enough (it's a poor replacement for constant yelling of "ohh" IME). However, it is an improvement over the silently horrible key jingling.
on goal line plays. The one or two plays I saw him on the field, he absolutely demolished whoever was across from him on the O-Line when they were trying to run on him. Did anyone else observe this?
The answer to Q-not-A #1 is band-related. It's a cheer-type thing that the band has been doing a while, and now the students are apparently getting involved (if it's what I'm thinking of, which matches the description).
I'm not sure there's any significance or symbolism to it, but I bet a band member could clear that up much better.
The jinxing that the question is referring to started sometime last year AFAIK. The band initiates it and it basically consists of the student section pointing at the field repeatedly with "spirit finger"-like motions, while yelling "oohhh."
Pretty effective. I mean, what offense wouldn't get rattled by thousands of wiggling fingers?
Perhaps some of the more highly regarded young players have not been hitting the weight room enough. I have no inside info here, I'm just not willing to extrapolate the depth chart and playing time based on the number of stars a guy had coming out of HS. These coaches have coached before; I'm willing to trust their judgement. Go Blue!
One guy may be an exception to the rule, but there is no way that multiple walk-ons playing ahead of recruits is not a commentary (at least right now, today) on the playing readiness of said recruits. If you trust the coaches judgement as you say, then you'd have to admit that since they actually offered these guys scholarships and did not offer the walk-ons, that this situation was unexpected to them, and perhaps a concern as well. Kovacs isn't even a preferred walk-on, he came in through a general student tryout. It's not about star ratings, it's about the staff offering some guys schollys to play football, and them getting (so far) beat out by guys that other schools did not want.
All I'm saying is that this set of coaches may be placing more emphasis on conditioning than before the transition.
The true freshmen, Campbell, Turner, Emilien are the only ones offered schollies by RR's staff, right?
"I was at the Eastern/UM game Saturday and noticed the student section doing a chant where they extend their arms at the opposing team and wiggle their fingers... sort of like they're "jinxing" them. It sounds like the students are saying, "boo" or "ooh." At first I thought it was the "key play" chant where they shake their keys, but there were no keys in their hands. Can you enlighten me?"
The "You suck" chant?
MGoGarbs nailed it right above you.
That is something that was just brought into the section last year (I graduated in 2009). Essentially, the band plays a short, ten second riff (much like the cheer where everyone raises their hands and then launches into "Ohhhh... Let's Go Blue!") and then the student section "punches" forward and wiggles their hands. From what I've seen, it's brought out after a good second-down play that leads to a (key) third down play.
This seems like the best answer to me. Although, even after the first two games, I have a hard time telling if everyone is shouting "Go" to pump up the defense or "ohh" to jinx the opponent. Regardless, it seems to help get the noise up. I prefer this to the "key play" by far. It would be great for this cheer to catch on throughout the stadium. Would be really intimidating, especially if everyone had a towel.
1. My wife was born in Evanston and is an NU fan.
2. I worked across the street from Mustard's Last Stand (and the stadium) for 5 years.
3. It's still Dyche Stadium to me, not that sideline reporter from FoxSports Detroit.
to re-read the "Nails" column http://mgoblog.com/content/nails. outstanding work. I would urge all to enjoy it.
"I first thought "Chad Henne is a robot" a long time ago.
It was the middle of 2004. A then-freshman Henne strode onto the turf at Michigan Stadium facing a four point deficit against Minnesota. The ball was on the Michigan thirteen; the clock read 3:04.
Five plays and 56 yards later, Henne zeroed in on Z45 Part A Subsequence C Tight End Tyler Ecker, Rabbit-Hunting Mormon, crossing in front of a Minnesota linebacker; various servos and hydraulics kicked in. Henne flung a pass into Z45PASCTETERHM's outstretched arms, declared GOAL COMPLETED, and initiated nailcoeds.exe."
I think they're chanting "Booo-urns."
I think Campbell needs to get his reps now...not later. He is that player (and for all of you who player, you know what I mean) that will get under your skin because he is always yapping. All the offensive lineman will be thinking about is shutting him up and they won't be thinking about being technically sound and doing what they need to be. Unleash the MAN-CHILD
That strategy doesn't seem to work for Cissoko...
with the criticism of Cissoko.
While I'm annoyed by his yapping, we need to lay off Cissoko. We run the risk of giving him the full-on 'James Whitley' treatment.
He doesn't start getting the Whitley treatment until he starts repeatedly muffing punts. and/or developing a slight marijuana problem.
That being said, he's pretty close.
I truly wasn't criticizing Cissoko. I agree with you that people are being too hard on him given the circumstances. My post was just pointing out that getting into players heads with your talking doesn't make up for ones on the field deficiencies.
Booboo does a lot of celebrating, even on plays where he was straight up lucky. He did it against ND, and against v. EMU.
For instance on the 4th down play at the goal line, he turned the wrong way, but the pass fell incomplete. Nonetheless, he felt the need to make the "incomplete" sign over their receiver, as if he had done anything to contribute to that incomplete.
I don't think that's a criticism, I think that's just a statement of fact, is it not?
Is Turner redshirting really a bad thing?
People always complained about Carr burning redshirts on a play here or there and now that RR is trying to preserve a redshirt we're going to question that?
This defense is going to struggle this year regardless of whether Emilien or Turner are playing in the backfield. If there's a chance to redshirt these guys (at least Turner) and not completely fall apart then I am for it. I'd rather have 4 full good years of Turner rather than just 3.5.
One possibility to consider re: redshirting J. Turner, if he is as good as he was hyped to be coming out of HS he might be a three year guy, thus leaving after his RS Soph year and only seeing two years of PT for UM.
This is a good problem to have, not something to worry about.
but regarding Emilien, he's been playing special teams according to reports I've seen. So that ship has sailed.
Yeah I thought he had played but couldn't remember. Thanks.
He can't be a redshirt unless he gets hurt.
His name is Rob. He's worn an old school, maize and blue knit beret for as long as I can remember (family had season tickets in row 3 of section 20, started going in 1990). He sits in Section 20 (west side, 10 yard line), and after every Michigan score, he makes his way down to the front row through the crowd, not down the steps, stands on the railing, leads everyone by spelling out Michigan with his arms, then yells "Michigan!" as everyone points to the visiting fans section. In recent years, "Superfan" would play his cowbell doing the "Go Blue!" chant. Rob would even get the cheerleaders up on the railing with him, and the alumni up there during the homecoming game. I have since moved out of that section, and did not know that Rob no longer spelled out Michigan. Very sad if true, but glad that "Superfan" has carried on the tradition.
From age 2 to 18, I sat in Row 20, right on the border of 18/19 and always felt so lucky to sit there because of him. I, too, knew his name was Rob, but not much else. Don't really have anything to add, just like to reminisce. I really hope he is okay and will be back soon!
My two cents:
NU is OK, but tailgating sucks (very little near the stadium) and taking public transportation from Chicago can be kind of a pain in the ass. One train takes forever and the other only runs once an hour.
Wisconsin - holy crap do they like to drink. Also, get your ears ready for some Foreigner and Loverboy.
Illinois - they think we're their biggest rivals and are not shy about it. Also, it's a basketball school and they tend to not know much about football anymore. The tailgating setting is mediocre, but they do a really good job with it.
Iowa - never been there for a game, but Iowa City is a solid campus, reminds me of Ann Arbor in a few ways.
Purdue - Gah. I am not planning a return. Decent tailgating area, but beyond that there's not much to get excited about.
Ohio State - I mean, you're going to be in a screaming match if not a fight. Not very friendly tailgates in general.
MSU- been way too long for me, but I always had a blast there. It's a fun rivalry (when we don't lose).
I can't wait to see Minnesota's new stadium.
Did Brian misspell Bates? That's a fantastic line and is even better if the spelling is incorrect. The fact that I can't remember even though I spent a year in Bursley, well, that just makes it funnier for me.
NWU protip: I've made the trip there a few times, and every single time we've been able to park within 5-10 minutes walking distance on neighborhood streets just West of the stadium. Very different from A2 on gamedays. Significantly easier than taking public transportation or even the parking shuttles that they run. And as long as you avoid taking Lake Shore back into the city, the traffic isn't bad after the game.
Come on, everyone loves riding the Red Line through Uptown and Rogers Park headed up to Evanston and having some scammer on there trying to rip people off with a shell game or 3 Card Monty or something like that.
(Actually happened the last time I went to a UM/Northwestern game in Evanston)
Living in Chicago, I love the UM/NU games in Evanston. Like Brian said, if you went to Michigan, you must have some friends who live here. For the last 3 games at NU, we have parked in the lot near the NU swimming pool, it's right next to Lake Michigan. It is a bit of a walk to the stadium, but it's not too bad. The plusses include:
1. It's free with no parking tyrants pointing you to spots. First come, first served, set up however you please.
2. Ton's a Michigan tailgates since most of the NU fans are in the permit only parking lot next to the stadium
3. (and perhaps most important) They let tailgaters use the bathrooms in the swimming faciliy - no need to find a hidden bush. This become much more important as your wife/girlfriend goes from 20-something to 30-something!
I was there in 2000 for the A-Train fumble/no fumble/fumble game. I was amazed at how much they hated Michigan and wanted to talk trash about "the rivalry." The fans around me got all irate when I said it was just another Big 10 game for Michigan.
Michigan is 66-22-2 against the Illini (including wins of 70-21, 69-13, and 57-0). They are a rug and we beat them. There is no rivalry, never was, and likely will never be one.
They have a burrito joint in Champaign with a mural on the wall with a picture of Red Grange running past Michigan D and a score of 99-0. It's a pretty comical place. Be prepared for some people who hate Michigan for no apparent reason, other than, 66-22-2, of course.
Ohhh... Vera Baits. Hahaha. Seriously, this makes it more hilarious for me.
NU - Tailgating seems to be a bit spread out and isolated. I like a certain level of hostility from opposing fans when I go on the road (ie. semi-friendly back and forth banter). Unfortunately NU fans just don't care and there's not that many of them to hold up their end of the bargain on this one. Thus, the stadium becomes Michigan Stadium West. Again, NU just lacks fun road game atmosphere. If you do this game in conjunction with spending time in Chicago though, it is still a good time.
Wisconsin - Madison is an awesome college town. Get there on Friday night and hit State street. Tailgating is decent and it's one of the better Big Ten stadiums and watching the entire student section doing Jump Around is entertaining. Opposing fan interaction can get a little intense, but nothing too crazy. This trip is a must do.
Illinois - Andrew pretty much nailed this one. "They think we're their biggest rivals and are not shy about it. Also, it's a basketball school and they tend to not know much about football anymore." Fans seem to be of the bandwagon variety. I wouldn't go to a game here unless Illionis is doing well that season because their fans just don't care otherwise. Tailgating is ok, but the stadium kind of sucks with extremely rude ushers. Depending on wind direction, the whole place smells like pig waste. Also, hope the UM defense is really strong. After hearing "first and 10 for the Illini" more than twice you'll want to stab yourself in the ears.
Iowa - Pretty good tailgate with a vast majority of great freindly fans. The stadium is decent. When walking to the stadium, watch out for the occasional flying beer can. That's about the only draw back. Heading there again this season and would definitely recommend this road trip.
Purdue - Pretty average across all categories. If you do go, bring a costume with you and go to breakfast club at one of the local bars starting at 7am Saturday morning. Dollar screwdrivers! Just don't do a boilermaker...my whole day went down hill after that. For food after the game, check out the Triple XXX Family Restraunt and get a Purvis burger.
Ohio State - One of those things you just have to experience once. Extremely hostile and honestly at times not that fun. Very few friendly people at all which really destroys the tailgating atmosphere. Their open container laws really suck too. Cops everywhere and they will write you up instantly if the see a beer can or bottle open. If you can get it in a plastic cup without them seeing you, you're fine, but watch out. Great stadium and traditions that are annoying but worth seeing in person.
MSU - In recent years, tailgate policies have changed and you're only allowed to drink at the tennis courts which turns that place into a giant debacle. If you're like me though, and you have Sparty friends it's usually a lot of fun...unless they fail to work the clock properly, then it sucks hard.
IU - This is a big who cares. Take all the mediocrity of Purdue, combine it with the apathy of Illinois, and then make it all 2 or 3 levels lamer. I would only go here if it's the last school you need to complete all of the Big Ten venues.
PSU - Great tailgating, pretty good stadium, great fans (unless you're one of the OSU clowns that got hit by urine bags a few years ago). The school is in the middle of no where, so everyone comes from far away and is ready to have a great time. The town is just ok, but everything else makes this a must road trip every 2 years.
Minny - I have not been to the new stadium yet, but I'm looking forward to it. I saw it in person this summer and it looks great. Previously, the Metrodome was an off campus piece of crap. Surprisingly though, Minneapolis is a great and fun city. I would definitly recommend checking out the new stadium and Minneapolis the next time we play up there.
ND - For us much as I dislike the Domers as a whole, going to road games there is surprisingly enjoyable. The majority of the fan base is pretty friendly while tailgating and there's always plenty of fellow Wolverines around. This is a really nice campus with plenty of things to explore and the stadium is pretty good except for the extremely annoying announcer. You can pretty much walk around anywhere with a beer too, as long as you stay away from the church. Also, wearing the "Charlie Weis should probably eat less" t-shirt here is extremely entertaining. Reactions are both positive and negative, yet always hilarious.
After 15 years in the Detroit area (including 4 in Ann Arbor) I've lived in Champaign for the past 4 years. I can confirm they most definitely consider Michigan a football rival. The more savvy football fans are aware, and slightly embarrassed, that it's unrequited.
There are Orange "Muck Fichigan" shirts for sale in all campus-area apparel stores. There's also a burrito chain, La Bamba, whose campus location has an interior wall completely covered by a mural of a farcical football game in which Illinois leads Michigan 99-0. It's mid-play, and every Illinois player is holding except Red Grange, who has the ball. It's worth stopping by for a laugh (and a good burrito) if you're in town. :)
Its funny that the La Bamba's on Lane ave here in Columbus has a very similar mural with a bunch of OSU players (who have burritos for heads...) sitting on Michigan players shoulders. I am assuming they are supposed to be tackling them or something but it looks very strange.
NU - I like the experience. More laid back, but easy parking, nice environment, usually plenty of room in the stadium, solid chance for a W every time.
Wisc - Tough to get tickets on game day, no real tailgating with of a more bar scene. Also, hotel locations can make logistics a little more challenging. Wisc marching band makes appearances at various bars pre game. Stadium is loud with a good student section. Post game in town is fun.
OSU - I was there once (2002, OSU NC season) and vowed never to go back. Tailgating not friendly, fans not friendly, generally less than fun experience. For 1 hour after the game, I was actually glad we lost as I would have been concerned about my safey. I had one beer poured over my head, a few other personal space violations and I'm not a taunter, by any stretch. Stadium is crazy loud and very intimidating. I was very low in the endzone section and it felt like the upper deck was going to crash down on top of us. I wished our stadium was that intimidating.
PSU - great tailgating as everyone is in one HUGE field outside the stadium. Closest to emulating the golf course, but much less pictuesque than Ann Arbor. Stadium is very impressive and loud. Fans were generally nice and post game in town was pretty fun.
Purdue - decent tailgating field, suprisingly nice campus. Stadium is good for watching games, but all the damn train themed cheers from the student section get very old, very fast...especially when you lose on a hitch and lateral.
Metrodome - not relevant anymore, but that was as sterile as sterile can be. It was very loud even though it was 3/4 full. I can't wait to see the new stadium. I'm guessing it will be a good environment, unless the game is in November. Then it will just be cold.
ND - Always have had a good time. It's how a rivalry should be. We don't really like them, but we will respect them and it's reciprocated. Tailgating is fun and it's always nice to remind people that ND stadium was designed after the big house after Michigan taught ND how to play football.
Indiana, MSU, Iowa, and Illinois are left to visit. Iowa and Illinois lined up perfectly this year, but new baby in next few weeks is making that highly unlikely.