ANN ARBOR - Lloyd Carr has had to battle former confidants in the past, and he did not enjoy it. Tomorrow, Carr has to do it again, and he's not happy about it.
When the 12th game was added to the 2006 Michigan schedule, Ball State became the opponent, and the Cardinals are in their fourth season under Carr's former right hand man - Brady Hoke.
That means Carr, in order to keep his team's No. 2 ranking, its unbeaten record, and its full steam charge toward a showdown with No. 1 Ohio State in two weeks, will need to put a whipping on his friend, his former assistant coach, and a previous member of Michigan's inner circle.
"As far as this game goes, I really was not excited about it," Carr said. "I'm just talking about a personal relationship."
Hoke was a defensive line coach at Michigan under Carr from 1995-2001, and Carr thought enough of the former assistant at Oregon State, Toledo and Western Michigan to name him as the associate head coach at Michigan for the 2002 season. That helped vault Hoke into the top job at Ball State, and eventually into Saturday's meeting with the Wolverines at the Big House.
"Brady is a tremendous guy that loves the game. He has a passion for it," Carr said. "He did a great job here recruiting. I think he really opened the doors into California for us."
Carr suffered through the same kind of torment a few years ago when the Wolverines played Central Michigan and the Chippewas were under the direction of Mike DeBord.
DeBord had been on Carr's Michigan staff from 1992 through 1999, serving as offensive line coach, assistant head coach, and offensive coordinator. He was hired as head coach at Central Michigan in 2000, and Carr's team pounded the Chippewas 45-7 in the 2003 opener. When DeBord was not able to turn that struggling MAC program around, he rejoined Carr at Michigan, and is back in his role as offensive coordinator.
"We played against Mike DeBord when he was at Central, and I didn't enjoy it very much," Carr said. "And I just think it's one of those deals where I'd rather have played somebody else."
Carr expects that same reticence to be coursing through his mind in the hours before tomorrow's kickoff, but once the game starts it will be business as usual for Michigan. He expects Hoke to be experiencing similar anxieties.
"It's the same for both of us," Carr said. "We have responsibilities and jobs to do, and certainly those come first. And your concentration is on doing the things that you can do to help your team be successful."
Hoke, 13-30 in his fourth season in Muncie, stressed his respect for Carr, and indicated that scheduling the game was strictly a practical matter.
"Coach Carr is a great man who I admire more than anybody in football. He is an outstanding football coach, but even more important he is a better man," Hoke said.
"This game came about because we needed a game and they needed a game. We talked when the possibility of this game came about, and from a regional standpoint it made sense to play."
MANNINGHAM MAYBE: Carr indicated earlier this week that sophomore wide receiver Mario Manningham, sidelined for the past three weeks after undergoing minor knee surgery, will likely play at some point in the Wolverines' final three games this season. Carr was vague about any timetable for Manningham's return. Manningham has 527 receiving yards and nine touchdown catches this season, and is considered the team's top deep threat.
STAR TREK: Carr is piling the praise on Alex Mitchell, a junior offensive lineman who had to jump to tackle last week after starting the first eight games of the season at guard. An injury to Rueben Riley necessitated the move.
"Playing guard and playing tackle, that's two different universes," Carr said. "I mean, the difference is incredible. And he moved to tackle last week when Reuben went out, and I think he's done a great job, considering this is his first year as a starter. That was a major thing for us."
MAC DADDY: Michigan has compiled a perfect 21-0 record against the current members of the Mid-American Conference. Tomorrow's game will be Michigan's first against MAC West Division member Ball State. Michigan has outscored those MAC schools by a 748-162 margin in those 21 games, which have all been played in Michigan Stadium.
FINAL FLING: Tomorrow's game is the last in Michigan Stadium for 24 Wolverines seniors. Michigan plays its final two games of the season on the road, at Indiana and Ohio State.
The Michigan senior class is 35-11 over its three-plus seasons in Ann Arbor, and 25-5 in the Big Ten. The group was part of back-to-back Big Ten championships in 2003-04, and has not finished lower than third in the conference.
Toledo native Willis Barringer, a backup safety for Michigan, is part of that group. Barringer has played in 39 games in his Michigan career, with 81 tackles, and three interceptions.
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