ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The Allstate Sugar Bowl is less than two weeks away, the Big Ten basketball season starts next week, and 2011 is almost at an end. And with that, we turn to this week's Mailbag.
Remember, the Mailbag is only as good as the questions you ask. So send those over to @chanteljennings on Twitter or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sean from Parts Unknown: Coach [Brady] Hoke has put together a great staff at Michigan. I can see Al Borges leaving for a head coaching opportunity in the near future, but do you ever see Greg Mattison leaving Michigan for a head coaching job, and if so who do you think Coach Hoke would hire to replace them?
MR: Sean, good question, especially as we reach the coaching carousel time of year for assistants as well as head coaches. I have a tough time seeing Mattison leaving for anywhere at this point. He's 62 years old and took the job in part to be closer to his daughter, who lives in Michigan. Frankly, I can't see him coaching for more than another five years or so, anyway, before shuffling off to retirement. Borges, at 56, probably would need to land a head coaching gig in the next couple of years if that were the route he wanted to take. If they leave, I think there are in-house candidates, should Michigan want to go that way. On the offensive side of the ball, I'd look at receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski. Defensively, I'd say defensive backs coach Curt Mallory is a definite candidate. If Hoke were to go outside of this staff, he could look anywhere, and it'd be too difficult to guess on that.
Phil (via Twitter): Outside of Maui, Michigan basketball had a pretty easy out-of-conference schedule. Would you like to see some bigger games, like Ohio State's schedule?
MR: Phil, yes, and I don't think that is necessarily Michigan's plan entering this season. The ACC-Big Ten Challenge placing the Wolverines on the road this season at Virginia instead of an anticipated home game changed how John Beilein put together his schedule. It left Michigan scrambling for a BCS-level home opponent, which is how Iowa State came into play. And Michigan will still go to Arkansas during Big Ten play, which will boost the non-conference schedule.
So that's six games against major conference-level teams -- Memphis, Duke, UCLA, Virginia, Iowa State and Arkansas -- and that isn't terrible. It wouldn't shock me if the Wolverines put together an even more difficult schedule next season, with the additions of Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III. Already there is the preseason NIT, the likelihood of a marquee game in the Challenge, a road game at Iowa State and a home game against Arkansas. That's not a bad schedule. I bet Michigan has a top-10 level schedule next season.
Scott (via Twitter): Should Urban Meyer's recent recruitment of Bri'onte Dunn and Noah Spence cause Wolverines fans to be concerned for Michigan verbals? Is it a trend?
MR: Scott, I'll start with this. A wise recruiting coordinator once told me that a verbal commitment these days just means you have an excellent shot at actually getting a player to commit. That's how I usually view verbal commitments, because anything can happen. I think Michigan is going to be OK in this class when it comes to the verbal commitments it has now, but recruiting against Urban Meyer, especially in the state of Ohio, is going to be a major, major battle in the future. In some ways it might be more fun than the on-field game each season because it goes all year long. But yes, Meyer is making a big stand in his first month as Ohio State's coach -- and it is a statement of "I'm here, and I'm going to compete hard."
Paul from Ann Arbor: Ever been to New Orleans? Stories? Suggestions?
MR: Paul, yep, been to New Orleans twice. Love the city, and I think it is one of the most fun cities in the country (along with New York, Los Angeles, Denver, Seattle, Louisville and this place in Nevada called Las Vegas). I was in New Orleans for a friend's bachelor party and then for the 2007 Sugar Bowl -- otherwise known as the Jamarcus-Russell-made-a-lot-of-money-because-of-a-bad-Notre-Dame-secondary game. Bourbon Street is a must-hit for tourists, but I actually like Uptown a lot better as a place to go out. More of a local flavor. As far as suggestions, we had some a couple weeks back and will have more blog posts with things to do as we get closer to the game. Read: Next week. One of the best aspects of the city is the plethora of live music -- and really, really good live music -- in almost every bar you walk into. If you like that, you'll enjoy your time there, for sure.
Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan sports for WolverineNation. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @mikerothstein.