Mason NEEDS this, Pistons, after all you've put him through
Many... most... hell, all Michigan fans have skipped right to the wailing and gnashing of teeth thing in the immediate aftermath of the Merry Alamo Farce and the Season of Infinite Pain, calling for everyone from Carr to Herrmann to Mike Gittleson to the kittens to me(!) to be fired. The indictment against me reasonably stated that Michigan has lost five or more games every year since this blog's inception--food for thought.
However, I think before heads roll (at least in the Kids in the Hall "I am crushing you" sense) we should review the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that brought us to this low point in our collective sporting lives. Herein and forthwith, the 2005 Enemies List.
Worst Book Report Ever. EVER!!!
An unprecedented, mind-flaying bouquet of injuries. Michigan got about 1.5 fully healthy games between Jake Long and Mike Hart, two guys who were running neck-and-neck with Lamarr Woodley for the title of best player on the team in the preseason. Long's backup, Mike Kolodziej, woke up tingly and unable to move one day, forcing natural guard Rueben Riley out to right tackle, where he attempted to ward off edge rushers with two broken thumbs. Leo Henige, already limping around on knees from hell, broke his leg. Adam Kraus missed the last few games with another knee issue. Tight end Tim Massaquoi broke his hand and then missed most of the last two games of the year with... yet another knee issue.
And that's just the offensive line. Steve Breaston wasn't right early in the season, missing the MSU game. On defense, exactly one defensive end (Pierre Woods) avoided missing a chunk of the season. A cheap chop block knocked Rondell Biggs out for a number of weeks. Tim Jamison had a sprained shoulder that lingered several games into the year. Lamarr Woodley's mysterious arm issue caused him to miss two games and sit out critical portions of the OSU game. Jeremy Van Alstyne missed the first half of the season. In the secondary, Ryan Mundy went out for the year with a nerve injury. Both Willis Barringer and Brandent Englemon missed large portions of the season simultaneously. WLB Chris Graham contracted a case of Rueben Riley's broken thumbs. Morgan Trent missed the Alamo Bowl.
Uh, yeah, I think that had something to do with it.
Stupid coaching decisions. The Minnesota game was lost when Jim Herrmann called a stupid defense that left inconsistent linebacker Prescott Burgess lined up as a defensive end opposite mammoth Minnesota TE Matt Spaeth. Burgess lost contain and an irrelevant blitz from Jamar Adams from the other side of the field drew Brandon Harrison to the center of the field, leaving no one between Gary Russel and Michigan's demise.
Time and again this year Michigan found itself leading narrowly heading into the final minutes of the game with the ball in hand, changed its playcalling in an attempt to grind out the clock with a terrible running game, and punted with an opportunity to strangle the game. Six times this year Michigan failed to close out a game it was leading in the fourth--often by two scores. Overtime against Iowa and a miraculous last second against PSU meant that Michigan managed to pull out two of those blown leads (and you can't really blame the coaching decisions for the result of the Alamo Farce) , but... six times! I think that's fair evidence that Michigan's "sit back and let 'em screw up" strategy is totally out of place in today's offense-oriented college football world, especially when teams must score or die and use fourth down to do so. The days of dominant Michigan defense are over; Carr has not adapted his strategy.
Henne failing to live up to expectations. More balls whizzed two yards in front of open receivers than I care to remember. His mindblowing interception to Tom Zbikowski was a nail in Michigan's early season coffin; his inability to hit Jason Avant on a corner route plagued Michigan all year; his haircut did remain hilarious. At times he played well, often right before or after doing something Stooge-worthy, but he was nowhere near the All Big Ten performer many expected him to be. It's no exaggeration to say that he was the main reason Michigan lost to Wisconsin.
(DISCLAIMER: Obviously Henne has a world of potential and is only a sophomore. If he ends up throwing straight and reading coverages better, look out and stuff.)
Totally useless guard play. Henne's performance came with a ready-built excuse. Maybe if I was paying as much attention last year as I did this year I would have regarded the loss of David Baas much more ominously. Without Baas, fifth year seniors Leo Henige and Matt Lentz were exposed as intimidating-looking revolving doors. The Notre Dame game featured a bevy of blitzes up the middle that turned Henne into a jittery incompletion machine. Fourth and goal from the one against Wisconsin was stuffed when Henige was shoved backwards into a pulling Lentz, leaving Kevin Grady tasked with plowing through two guys at the point of attack. Ohio State... well, our longest run of the day was 8 yards from Alijah Bradley on a "who is that guy" play.
Hart's absence hurt the run game, certainly, but even when we had him it was clear that he was working with scraps. Anything that would prompt this assessment after the MSU game...
More concerning is the run blocking, which was awful. Yes, awful. It was possibly the worst run blocking coupled with a 200 yard day from the accused team's running back in the history of NCAA football.
...has to be deeply broken, right? The surprising performance against PSU stands as an aberration in a season of massive disappointment.
Run defense charitably described as "nonexistent." Last year the run defense was, despite appearances, very good if you replace Mundy and Shazor with non-ciphers. Running against Michigan was a generally futile exercise in 2004 aside from an 80 yard touchdown run per game. This year, not so much. Not so any. If you remove games against hapless IU and EMU and combine the three-headed MSU backfield into one person, Michigan allowed eight of ten tailbacks it opposed to exceed 100 yards. Only Northwestern's Tyrell Sutton and OSU's Antonio Pittman failed to beat that milestone, and in Sutton's case it was more due to a lack of trying: Northwestern totalled only 17 rushing attempts the entire game. (Yes, Northwestern got 110 yards on those carries.)
- Gabe Watson underperformed. We has still good, but he wasn't an All American.
- ...and thus he couldn't make up for Pat Massey. If only Massey played as purty as he talked. He's 6'8", and there's a reason you've never heard of a 6'8" DT before: every play someone gets under this hypothetical giant's pads and drives him five yards backwards. Massey's only contribution this year was pursuing on screens.
- Chris Graham was a nonfactor. The official winner of the 2005 Grady Brooks Memorial "Practice Field Superstar Award," Graham took bad angles, couldn't shed blocks, and totally disappeared from the UFR reviews after the NIU game except fo
r brief cameos generally accompanied by something like "AAAARGH CONTAIN CONTAIN WHY GOD WHY GOD."
- Prescott Burgess was the Henne of the defense last year, alternating good plays that get NFL scouts clinking glasses of baby blood together with moments even his momma can't condone. His inconsistency combined with Graham's poor play to make bounceouts a guaranteed 15 yards.
- Grant Mason couldn't replace Marlin Jackson's run support, though to be fair it's hard to support the run when you're lined up ten yards off the line and moving backwards at the snap. The hidden damage of Michigan's Cowardly Lion act in the secondary this year was in all those outside runs that the linebackers actually strung out properly but went for seven or eight yards anyway because the corner was late.
This is the magic formula for suck.
Mind-bendingly awful refereeing. No one likes it when the referees come in for a bitchslapping, but it must be said. The Alamo Bowl was a total screwjob, and the lack of review on the first-down sneak against Notre Dame before the fumble was costly. Michigan did receive a slight edge from the blind mice against Iowa (as discussed here), but the ludicrous calls almost evened out in that one and the resulting edge (two bad PI calls) did not result in Michigan points. In total, Michigan was totally robbed of one game and was badly hurt in another, to say nothing of the "fumble" against Michigan State.
(Penn State fans should reserve their bitching for JoePa, who got two extra seconds put on the clock with three minutes left in the game just like Lloyd.)
So what does it all mean?
Just like every other fanbase in the world, Michigan fans (at least those who bother to post on message boards) have fractured into two equally insane groups. The RCMB would call them "Demand Excellencers" and "Sunshine Blowers"; EDSBS broke them down into the St. Fandrew and Master Shake genres.. The Master Shakes declare that Michigan was OMG 3 plays from 4-7 and no bowl this year; the terribly-scarce St. Fandrews (hi deanwerner!) declare that Michigan was OMG 3 plays from 10-2 this year. Well... yeah, that's what happens when you play 7 games that are decided with under a minute left to play. Unless you are a gigantic lucksack like the 2002 Buckeyes, you lose half and win half. If you were to take this Michigan team and have them play this season over and over again against the same teams, what would their final record be? Probably around 7-5. This was a crappy, frustrating football team that deserved most of what it got.
But not all of it. Said outrageous fortune descended heavily upon Lloyd Carr this year, playing up every weakness of his (a tendency to reward hardworking, useless players, terrible late game management skillz, a charming inability to phony his way through press conferences after getting jacked by referees) and minimizing the positives. The plagues of injuries and simian referees were at least a standard deviation above the norm.
I don't see how the coaches can be blamed for the offense's implosion. Chad Henne's lack of progress was crippling in early losses against Notre Dame, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. That combined with the injuries wracking the running game to grind the OMG Michigan Scoring Machine to a halt. We were left with a team incapable of running or passing due in large part to the players Michigan were forced to put on the field. In response Terry Malone went WR-screen mad, which kept Michigan afloat until late in the year when teams had scouted the screens and our general inability to do anything else. There's much complaining about the lack of creativity displayed by Terry Malone, et al, but what exactly are you supposed to do when your guards can't block, your two best players are out, and every clever route you pop someone open on sees Henne wing it yards wide of the helplessly open receiver? I still like Malone. I like the obvious change in Lloyd's fourth-and-short strategy. I like the adjustments that attempted to take advantage of our leetle fast guys at WR without putting undue stress on Henne's erratic accuracy. I don't see a way that Michigan's offense could have been anything other than crappy given the execution of the players in all phases of the game. You have to be able to do something right to set up the other phase of the game--Michigan could consistently do neither, thus the bupkis.
The defense, on the other hand... I think my judgment may be excessively biased by my anger at the killer play against Minnesota. That one incident and its cosmic stupidity color every thought that crosses my synapses about the defense. How could you put yourself in that position? Minnesota is trying to kill the clock, has some redshirt freshman that Glen Mason is clearly terrified of, and is in third and eleven... let's blitz a safety! Let's make the entire defense on the strong side of the formation Prescott Burgess and Grant Mason! Look at all the exclamation points!!! I'm pissed!!!
Seriously, I am. I think that play is representative of two major failings in the Michigan coaching staff. They don't understand math, and they expect players to play like they should, not like they do. In two bullets:
- Math: dude. Seriously. Punting on fourth and four against Penn State when a first down kills the game. Continually playing soft on end of game drives. And deciding that you were going to leave one area of the field extremely vulnerable to a big play when it's the only way you can lose in regulation. All these fly in the face of simple probability... the punt most obviously. What are the chances of making a fourth and four? Well, third and four is about 45%. You make it, you win. Thus unless your punt almost halves your opponent's chance to score, it's the wrong move. But the coaches think "our defense should hold them" and then when they don't they get to sit at press conferences, pissed off and confused that anyone would even ask about the strategy they employed.
- Playing like you "should": The infamous summary for this attitude is "the expectation is for the position," which is nice to say and dumbtarded in practice. You can expect Prescott Burgess to perform well when you line him up at defensive end opposing two separate giant, angry, runblocky Minnesota hulksters all you want, but that doesn't mean an inconsistent linebacker who is allergic to the idea of containment is actually going to perform well. Said another way, "the expectation is for the position" is "we put players in a position to fail because gameplanning is hard and stuff." Michigan's attitude that we will out-athlete you without any of that thinkin' stuff is getting anachronistic right quick. The offense does seem to adjust when faced with personnel deficiencies, but the defense defies them to matter... until they do. The flip side of this is a refusal to take advantage of a player's abilities if they don't fit into the scheme of the defense. (A side note: the unique, creative, and effective deployment of a strange player like Shawn Crable is the exact antithesis of this attitude, so "the expectation is for the position" has exceptions, especially when you're a 6'6" lighting bolt with chicken legs and there isn't a position for you to be expected at.)<
It's been pointed out here and elsewhere that Michigan hasn't ceded less than 28 points in a bowl game since magical 1997, and I wonder if that has something to do with Michigan's bullheadedness lending itself to being scouted into the ground when teams are given ample time to prepare.
We take a break from your regularly scheduled recriminations and bitching...
Um, okay. So I'm watching the Liberty Bowl. Tulsa has a guy named "Germany." He comes on a blitz and hits Pinegar as he throws. This prompts the announcers to say...
They call him "The Germinator."
Obviously I have far too much knowledge about botany, because this causes great galloping guffaws. This is why:
v., -natÂ·ed, -natÂ·ing, -nates. v.tr.
To cause to sprout or grow.
- To begin to sprout or grow.
- To come into existence: An idea germinated in his mind.
Say it with me: "I do not think that word means what you think it means." I suppose it is possible that Germany is a plant biology major and spends his time before the snap screaming "I gonna sprout all up in your ass, mothafucka*" at the quarterback, but it seems unlikely.
However, the real tragedy here is one of omission, not commission. The dude's last name is Germany. Is there a richer field to mine for potentially inappropriate nicknames? They could call him Panzer or Luftwaffe or, I dunno, anything that doesn't reference the Holocaust. He could scream stuff about the offensive backfield being lebensraum he's about to annex for the motherland (muthafucka, natch). Whenever something bad happens that gets him fired up he could scream "this is Versailles, muthafucka!" Instead he's stuck sprouting all up in someone's ass. Alas.
(For those of you who have no idea what the hell I'm talking about, rest assured that the previous paragraph is hilarious.)
Of course, this brings up an interesting point for Michigan fans: if freshman DE Eugene Germany manages to find his way on the field after that stupid cell phone incident, it's our responsibility as fans to come up with something appropriate and History Channel-themed.
*(attempted football player vernacular not racist. I heard Garrett Rivas say this exact same thing before missing a 27 yard field goal.)
Also, a programming note: A multipart season post-mortem--emphasis on the mortem--is on the way starting Monday. Also, if I can stand up without the room going all "Dancing With The Stars" on me, I may liveblog some NYD+1 bowl action.
12/29/2005 - Pistons 106 - 101 Heat - 23-3
I have this theory, you see, about the Pistons. It took them some time to learn about the magic rings that were mysteriously bestowed upon them by Joe Dumars upon their arrival in Detroit, but now they have mastered their respective domains. At the beginning of the year they gathered at center court, screamed 'let our powers combine,' and summoned forth Captain Piston to wreak havoc upon evildoers and floppy, charging Mexicans leaguewide. Rasheed is obviously fire--ask his Nike commercial. Always running Hamilton is air. Steadying Billups is earth. Prince and his suffocating, impossibly plentiful, tentacle-like arms: water. And Ben Wallace defines the concept of heart as it applies to sports.
This occurred to me--
Goddammit. Fine. Here... but don't expect it to be noble or kind or stoic or really anything except a screed. I tried to wait for coherence. It didn't work.
12/29/2005 - Alamo Farce - Michigan 28 - 32 Nebraska - 7-5
I haven't read a thing about this game. I turned it off after filling the halls of a friend's house with enough swearing to build a medium-sized pirate vessel (hyyyarrrrr!), went home, played Civ 4 in a futile attempt to prevent my fists from clenching and unclenching at random, and watched Michigan get annihilated in the GLI, like, again. But I assume that the random squad of barely trained monkeys that were assigned to officiate the game have been rounded up and shot into space, never to trouble college football again, right? And then the Sun Belt was summarily dropped into Division II where it belongs, right?
The tragedy of the final play is that it overshadows the real final play when Mario Manningham was blatantly interfered with on fourth down. Or that Michigan was forced to use timeouts because the ape-men did not realize that they could review plays, including an obvious fumble that was not called as such earlier in the game. I'm at a loss as to why the Alamo Bowl couldn't have found some illegal immigrants from Botswana who thought they were watching a bizarre form of rugby to officiate. Or a pack of ravenous hyenas prone to consuming wounded participants. Or people who enjoy "Everybody Loves Raymond." I don't want to go too far: none of these three groups of totally incompetent, unqualified people would have been an improvement. But they wouldn't have been any worse, and they would have come cheaper.
I'm sure there are a myriad of reasons why Michigan lost that game unrelated to the refereeing. I cannot be bothered to think of them right now. (Okay: 27 yard field goal miss, run defense reliably awful even without much Massey, Henne's inability to find anyone downfield.) All I can think of is truly going off the Penn State deep end and executing the Keyser Soze Manuever on anyone even vaguely connected with that... that... whatever it was.
I hope you'll forgive me: I ain't watching it again. Here's your UFR: screw 2005. The one redeeming feature of the last play of that game was I got to say "it's over" and put Michigan football, 2005, from my mind forever. In retrospect, even the run of success, or at least non-incompetence, that got us to 7-3 only served to raise our hopes just in time for the final two games to dash said hopes broken upon the rocks. Every step in the season seemed to raise the factor of cruel mockery to yet another level.
So: here lies 2005, killed by its own incompetence and that of others. Its gift to future generations is the phrase "well, at least it wasn't 2005." Try it: "well, we may have lost to MSU, but at least it wasn't 2005." "Well, I may have inoperable pancreatic cancer, but at least it isn't 2005." "Well, that rapture thing happened, my bet on Hinduism came up craps, and now I'm faced with hell on earth during Armageddon, but at least it isn't 2005."
We beat Coppin State, though, right? Seriously: did we?
This is by way of notification that the blog is off until the 28th or 29th. Or 30th. Do not despair.
Run Offense vs. Nebraska
Both teams enter the game at less than full strength. Mike Hart's high ankle sprain is likely to linger into the Alamo Bowl, limiting his effectiveness. He will probably go but will lack his essential Hart-ness. Kevin Grady and Jerome Jackson will probably see significant playing time. Starting LG Leo Henige is out; starting C Adam Kraus is questionable. On the other side of the ball, starting NU WLB Bo Ruud broke a bone in his arm and will miss the game. Backup defensive end Wali Muhammad is suspended for violating team rules. Both players will be missed; Ruud was Nebraska's second leading tackler and Muhammad was used frequently. Together they combined for 22 TFL.
It's unlikely that Michigan's line magically assembles itself into an overpowering unit over the span of a few weeks, especially with Jake Long limping around. He will play but he won't be 100% until next fall. Michigan's running game has progressed in fits and starts, playing well below expectations save for an shockingly effective outing against Penn State. Outside of that, the interior of the offensive line has been doing their best Al Montoya impression all year. Michigan will try to get to the edges and exploit Ruud's inexperienced replacement--Grady's favorite play is the pitch--but pulling Matt Lentz has been an exercise in futility so far this year and Kraus is either going to be watching or hobbling. The prognosis is dim.
Key Matchup: RBs Kevin Grady and Jerome Jackson versus NU's linebackers. The should be able to break a few tackles. They'll have to.
Pass Offense vs. Nebraska
The statistical strength of this team (aside from net punting) is the Nebraska pass defense, 12th nationally in efficiency terms. Unfortunately for the Huskers, that number appears to be a total mirage. Check the passing efficiency ratings of these opponents:
- Wake Forest: 85th
- Pitt: 59th
- Baylor: 87th
- Missouri: 83rd
- Oklahoma: 93rd
- Kansas: 110th
- Kansas State: 73rd
- Colorado: 68th
The two NU opponents that managed to finish in the top half of DI-A were Iowa State and Texas Tech. Against ISU the Huskers ceded 317 yards on 41 attempts; against Texas Tech it was 368 on 45. Thees ees not so good. What is good is the sack count: 46. With Leo Henige and Mike Kolodziej out and Adam Kraus questionable, Michigan may find itself under seige... again.
Michigan finished an uninspiring 51st in pass efficiency, but that was due in large part to Chad Henne's tendency to rifle balls to imaginary 11-foot-tall receivers, a problem that may be fixed. In his last two outings Henne's accuracy has improved radically. Granted, one of those games was against Indiana, but Henne was extremely good against an Ohio State defense that is among the nation's best. Insert a standard disclaimer about consistency and the grating lack of it here. Aside from Henne, the Michigan wide receivers are a very good group headlined by sticky-fingered Jason Avant. The only red flag is the offensive line. Again. Henne has been effective when given time to throw but erratic-to-horrifying when pressured.
Key Matchup: The interior offensive line versus NU blitzers. Leo Henige's valiant but ultimately subpar performance is replaced by human yo-yo Rueben Riley, who should be at least adequate. The tackles should do a good job holding off the defensive ends; if Henne is provided ample time he will have open receivers.
Run Defense Vs Nebraska
Cory Ross is Nebraska's leading rusher and projected starter. Ross is a tiny (5'6") waterbug type who had success when given room to operate against bad run defenses like Pitt and Wake Forest, but struggled against Kansas, OU, Colorado, Iowa State... etc, etc. Ross is averaging just under 4 YPC, but only rushed for just over 400 yards in eight Big Twelve games. Is this Nebraska? Apparently.
Gone are the days when the Nebraska ground machine threshed opponents from sea to shining sea en route to national championships, and how: the Cornhuskers are 110th in rushing yards. The mind boggles. This is not due to a Texas-Techian total run aversion offense,--the Huskers tried to run over 380 times this season but netted only 2.61 yards a carry--nor is this due to a slate of rough-and-tumble opponents. Nebraska is in the cotton-candy Big Twelve North, missed Texas this year, and faced a weak slappy-fighter's row of nonconference opponents in I-AA Maine, 4-7 Wake Forest, and national punchline Pitt. You can leave your trembling pants at home.
Michigan is not exactly Ohio State in the rush defense department, however, finishing the year a thoroughly meh 43rd nationally. Undoubtedly you've heard this before: Massey, weak tackling secondary, outside linebackers who think outside the box but run inside of it, etc, etc. Michigan is fighting with an arm tied behind its back, split evenly between good players (Watson, Woodley, Branch, Harris, half of Burgess) and bad (Massey, Graham, the other half of Burgess). But in the land of the legless the one-armed man is king. Or something.
Key Matchup: Prescott Burgess versus Prescott Burgess; John Thompson versus Did Herrmann Watch The Iowa Game? ASSEMBLE YOUR OWN "RUN GAME KEY MATCHUP WITH THE FOLLOWING WORDS: "bounce contain OLB gash aaargh aaargh aargh."
Pass Defense vs. Nebraska
Nebraska QB Zac Taylor has been totally average so far: 56% completion rate, 16 touchdowns, 10 interceptions. He finished strong against CU, going 27 of 43 for 392 yards, but Colorado was going into turtle mode something fierce. They were vivisected brutally by Texas in their next game. He'll probably be operating in a lot of obvious passing downs after the run game fails to achieve, allowing the Michigan line to tee off on him and the defensive backs to tackle after seven-yard outs. Expect a lot of easy completions and a number of unforced errors.
Michigan actually finished the year with a pretty good pass defense--35th in efficiency--by sitting back and letting their opponents screw up until they really needed a killer fourth quarter drive. Lamarr Woodley, Pierre Woods, and Alan Branch got pressure consistently enough to disrupt most long drives and the three-deep zone prevented anyone from completing a bomb all year. This came at the expense of actually having someone within four yards of most short-to-medium routes. I doubt anything will actually change.
Key Matchup: Woodley, Branch, and Crable versus the NU OL. Nebraska yielded 33 sacks this year so there is definitely an opportunity for our line to disrupt their passing game, unlike our zone.
Nebraska's #2 in net punting! Yow! Punter Sam Koch has been murdering the ball, averaging 45.9 yards a kick. Only about 30% of his punts were returned. Steve Breaston not receive many opportunities to break a punt. He should get some kick return attempts. Almost all of NU's kickoffs are returned, though not very far (16.5 yards).
Kicker Jordan Congdon is 18-22, but it's an unimpressive 18-22. Oddly, three of his misses have come from within 20 yards. His season long is 41 yards. Sounds like Rivas: generally reliable on short kicks but a bit light in the leg.
Key Matchup: Um... like, don't screw up. Should be a push unless Breaston manages to crack one.
Kittens don't come out for double-digit spreads.
Three Things I'd Like To See:
- The continued emergence of Good Chad Henne.
- Goddamned man-to-man coverage.
- Rueben Riley looking capable for next year.
Three Things I Don't Wa
nt To See
- A game close enough to lose in the fourth quarter.
- The Aargh Zone.
- Jason Avant's last game.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 3 out of 10. (Baseline 5; -1 for a Review Of The Record Indicates A Stunning Lack of Accomplishment, +1 for I Hope The Team is More Fired Up Than The Fans, -1 for I Can't Believe You Did That With Your Crappy Schedule, -1 for I Remember That Pitt Game Despite My Attempts To Forget It.)
Desperate need to win level: 7 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for 8-4 Does Look Much Better Than 7-5; +1 for OMG 1997 Decided On The Field)
Loss will cause me to... seriously consider the possibility that Bill Callahan is a better coach than Lloyd Carr.
Win will cause me to... camp out in front of Chad Henne's house with a playbook and a stern, let's-not-blow-next-year look in my face.
Sir! It's the Big 12 North... she's gone from suck to blow!
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict: I'm taken aback by what seems to be a flood of predictions that have Michigan winning by some ridiculous score like 38-13. That won't happen. The Nebraska defensive line has a distinct advantage against the porous, banged-up Michigan offensive line. Mike Hart is not going to be right. The defense has too many holes and coaching that's too conservative to pressure the Cornhuskers into mistakes. Michigan isn't going to cover a 13 point spread, let alone double it.
That said: Nebraska has been unimpressive against a wide array of teams that have ranged from suck to blow; they can't run on confused monkeys; their QB completes 56 percent of his passes; they're coached by Bill Callahan. This is a case of two teams with identical records but divergent schedules. Michigan has been enduring a Bataan Death March at half capacity whilst Nebraska has been stumbling drunkenly through a field of poppies, making throat-slash gestures at random magic goats. Michigan isn't good. But Nebraska is bad.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Jerome Jackson is your leading rusher.
- The zone continues in the face of all that is right and good in the world.
- 27-17, Michigan.
The holiday schedule is a bit complicated by Michigan's bleh mid-December bowl berth. I'll get an Alamo Bowl preview up tomorrow. The next post after that will be after the game, probably on the 29th or 30th. The GLI will be studiously ignored.
The Michigan Difference. Reader Jeremy has provided a "Michigan Difference" version of the astounding Pacman video that's made its way around the university. Someone show it to Sam Young.
Yet Another Blog Awards (henceforth known as YABA) can be found over at Red Reporter; this one is obviously much better than the sketchy Weblog Awards because I'm nominated. You can vote if you like. Personally, I pulled the lever for EDSBS. I also endorse Sexy Results(!) even though I think I'm going to have to rumble with Ian after the South Park post.