"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
A referee makes an arbitrary approximation of the spot of the football as Kain Colter is brought to the turf. A couple of guys dressed like crossing guards then take out an extremely precise ten-yard chain. The referee, staring at the football like it's the bottom line of an eye chart, determines that the play has resulted in a first down by the smallest of possible margins. For all intents and purposes, the game is over, decided by an educated guess made at breakneck speed.
Football is the worst.
The contest continues, however, and Michigan sells out against the run for a stop. For a moment, it looks like Jeremy Gallon could provide a miracle as he briefly breaks free after fielding a line-drive punt, but he's tackled at the 38.
18 seconds remain. No timeouts remain. Little hope remains.
But then the backup quarterback hucks the football to the impossibly-skinny senior receiver, improbably left in single coverage, and this wisp of a man somehow bats the oblong projectile out of the air and controls the ricochet, an absurd feat of concentration and athleticism that brings 110,000 despondent humans screaming to their feet in elation.
Football is the best.
From that point, victory feels strangely academic given the prior proceedings. Brendan Gibbons, Keith Stone cool, splits the uprights from 26 yards out for the tying field goal. Three plays after Devin Gardner finds Roundtree again to give Michigan first-and-goal on the opening overtime possession, he fakes a give to Fitz Toussaint, breaks contain, and lopes into the end zone unimpeded. Northwestern can only get within two yards of that blasted first-down marker on their subsequent series before Kenny Demens stonewalls Tyris Jones in the hole on fourth down.
The stadium erupts, again hopelessly in love with the greatest game known to man. Michigan 38, Northwestern 31, football forever.
Something's been missing from Michigan gamedays since the free programs ceased being economically viable: scientific gameday predictions that are not at all preordained by the strictures of a column in which one writer takes a positive tack and the other a negative one… something like Punt-Counterpunt.
By Ken “Sky” Walker
In days gone by, Northwestern vs. Michigan was akin to David vs. Goliath. But unlike the biblical contest, David always ended up as road kill. Mighty Michigan would score 50 – 70 points easily. Cheerleaders did so many backflips off the stadium wall, they’d be throwing up by the end of the game (the wall was lower then). A good portion of the crowd did so too, having consumed amazing quantities of cheap wine. But nothing beat lugging a quarter barrel tapper up Hoover and being rewarded for your efforts with admission to the stadium. (Yes boys and girls, it’s true!). Ah, those were the days…
More often than not, the Wildcats were the homecoming opponents. Like Christians being served to the lions for the pleasure of all the ‘old blues’. The perennial purple patsy, Northwestern never got – nor deserved - any respect. “Why are they in our league?” and “We need to find a replacement for them!” were frequently-heard utterances. But things changed, as they are bound to do, and the boys from Evanston started getting just a modicum of respect.
Current Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald was part of that, playing on a ranked team that beat the Wolverines in Ann Arbor, a mind blowing occurrence if there ever was one. And then they did it again the next year in Evanston. Any mystique held by Michigan was at an end. I don’t think Michigan football has ever been the same since. There are those that claim the Wildcat victories those years were a result of a former Michigan coach joining the Northwestern staff and giving them all of the Wolverines’ plays. True or not, I can’t fault Northwestern for taking advantage, but I can sure blame Michigan for not anticipating this and tweaking their game plan a bit.
You can bet that the Wildcats aren’t going to be intimidated by playing in the Big House. This team plays in front of home crowds that are routinely outnumbered by the opposing team’s fans (That’s got to hurt). The fact that the Wolverines are only a 9½ point favorite at home, tells you the odds makers aren’t real confident in Michigan’s ability to handle Northwestern with any ease. They’re coming off a bye week, so they’ve had time to prepare for both of Michigan’s likely QB starters. Their own Kain Colter is also a dual-threat and a more accurate passer than either of Michigan’s quarterbacks.
The Wildcats are trying to win back-to-back games in Ann Arbor for the first time since 1934 & '36. They are the ranked team in today’s contest, yet they are the underdog. It seems to be a perfect setup for them to make Michigan’s already underwhelming season, one for the dumpster.
Michigan 20 Northwestern 23
By Nick RoUMel
How do the 24th ranked Wildcats feel about playing Michigan? 1000-yard rusher Venric Mark was quoted on Northwestern’s official website, "I'm excited but I'm not overly excited right now." Which led me to wonder, what does it mean to be overly excited?
Urban Dictionary defines “over excitement” as “being too excited about a minuscule idea, activity or item. Example: “Hey! Look at this new video game I got! OH MY GOD OH MY GOD WOW OH MY GOD THAT'S AMAZING. HOLY COW. CAN I TOUCH IT?”
Symptoms of over-excitement, according to www.calmdownmind.com, include being overly talkative, fidgety, and impatient. For a football player, this might involve overrunning a tackle, biting on a fake, or—like Maurice Gholston—attempting to twist Denard Robinson’s head off like a bottle cap.
In Punt’s case, over-excitement is betrayed when he bolts upright from his La-Z-Boy, sloshing his Long Island Iced Tea, and swearing at the TV over a Michigan one-yard loss or an opponent’s first down. (Punt also tends to get over-excited when he’s driving, and other drivers change lanes too quickly or fail to signal. But I digress.)
Without proper self-discipline, a superior team like Northwestern might betray over-excitement by celebrating a victory over a lesser opponent, such as Michigan. In Venric’s case, I suppose he does not want to be overly excited about such a small achievement. He may consider that a “miniscule activity” not worth celebrating.
The author of the URL cited above, the calm and contemplative “Sen,” believes over-excitement can be overcome only by a long and time-consuming process of discipline and self-awareness. However, I would suggest that Venric Mark may find freedom from over-excitement in another, swifter fashion …
… when Michigan kicks his purple-clad ass halfway across Lake Michigan.
MICHIGAN 31, NORTHWESTERN 17
A smile crept across John Beilein's face as he pantomimed Trey Burke turning and flipping the ball underhand with "just the right spin" to Tim Hardaway Jr., who buried one of his five three-pointers (that part, unfortunately, not pantomimed by Beilein).
Michigan hit the century mark for the first time since 2007 in a 100-62 beatdown of Slippery Rock in the season opener, and it was Beilein's stars who led the way. Hardaway played one of his most complete games as a Wolverine, scoring 25 points on 8-10 shooting (5-5 from three) and adding ten rebounds, three assists, and a steal. Burke overcame a shaky first half to pour in 21 points of his own (9-17 FGs) and dish out eight assists; after turning the ball over four times in the first half, he had just one in the second stanza and finished on a 6-7 shooting tear.
Burke wasn't the only Wolverine to struggle out of the gate, as Michigan trailed 15-14 just over six minutes into the game before back-to-back threes by Burke and Hardaway—naturally—began to break the game open. They wouldn't completely pull away until a 10-0 run in the opening minutes of the second half, which featured eight points from Hardaway, including an emphatic one-handed dunk off a feed from Glenn Robinson III and back-to-back threes sandwiched around a missed free throw.
While the freshmen weren't filling the tin like they did in exhibition play—combining for 28 points, 11 of those coming in the game's final four minutes—they found ways to contribute. Robinson scored ten points on 5-7 shooting and picked up his rebounding efforts, pulling in eight total (six defensive) in 32 minutes. Mitch McGary pulled down nine rebounds—five offensive, though three came on one possession when he couldn't lay the ball in—in just 12 minutes while chipping in nine points; he also had three fouls, the big reason why he didn't play more. Nik Stauskas only attempted two field goals, hitting one, but got to the line to shoot a pair twice with some aggressive drives to the basket. Spike Albrecht was just 1-5 from the field, but he handed out two assists and didn't turn the ball over.
After missing the exhibition season with a knee injury, Jon Horford played better than the stats would indicate in eight key minutes after McGary and Jordan Morgan both found themselves in early foul trouble. On his first possession of the game, he rebounded a Morgan miss, hit the putback, and drew a foul, then drew a charge on the very next play. Later in the first half, he deftly slipped a pass to a cutting Robinson for an easy layup. While Horford was still limited—not by injury, but by his gas tank after missing the last two weeks—he appeared to have all of his pre-injury athleticism.
The depth is there for this team in a way that it hasn't been under John Beilein. Last year, there was no Horford to step in for Morgan, and certainly no McGary to add a second big man to the lineup. When Burke was off, like he was in the first half, there wasn't an Albrecht there to give him a chance to sit down and regroup, like he did nine minutes into tonight's game. And to have Robinson as a third scoring option, well, let's just call that an upgrade, and that's no slight to Zack Novak or Stu Douglass.
But tonight, the story was Hardaway and Burke. The two had a synergy tonight, Burke knowing just where to give it to Hardaway, Hardaway knowing just where and when to attack, that could take this team from good to great. And yes, at least tonight, there was even just the right spin on the ball.
Formation notes: Michigan actually spent most of this game in an over front, i.e. shifted their line towards the strength of the line and held Ryan over the slot. Like so:
Michigan would normally put Ryan over that TE to the top of the screen and shift the line the other way. Not sure why they went with the over this time.
Michigan did this once, too: an under shifted line with Demens on the LOS, Morgan in a more conventional ILB spot, and the SAM (in this case Cam Gordon) over the slot.
This was "4-3 under slide." Lingo as per usual is supposed to be consistent and descriptive.
And I clipped this for some reason so here's a reminder of what I mean by "okie":
Seven guys on the LOS, with one deep safety off the screen and three DB type guys. This is of course zoneblitzapalooza.
Also here is Dooley creepin' on the jug:
hey baby wanna get painted?
Substitution notes: Secondary as usual. Wilson got a snap or two in a dime package. After a couple weeks of minimal substitution at linebacker, Bolden, Ross, and Cam Gordon got drives. Gordon left early with an injury of some sort and didn't return.
On the line, Clark and Beyer alternated at WDE with Beyer seeming to get slightly more snaps. Black and Campbell were at three-tech and split about evenly; Pipkins got a few snaps behind Washington; Roh actually got a breather or four as Keith Heitzman emerged to get more playing time than he had yet seen. Roh didn't get a lot of points, and that was a reason why. Seemed like Michigan was comfortable with where they were most of the second half and how Heitzman was playing so they let it ride.
[AFTER THE JUMP: the usual destruction of the enemies.]
UFR coming fiveish. Sorry for the delay.
Bo + DKR + Keith Jackson. Self-recommending, from before the 2005 Rose Bowl:
The Trouba hit. Here it is:
Keep your head up. I guess that's a point of emphasis and stuff, but a few years ago that's just a bad spot to put yourself in.
Michigan takes on State this weekend; Yost Built previews. Rutledge gets the start tonight; Trouba and Serville return to the lineup.
Predictorama. Blogs say things!
- Who Are You And Why Do We Care predicts Michigan 31-17 in unnecessarily tiny font. Fouad agrees, as does The Big House Blog.
- The MZone goes with 31-24, Michigan.
- TTB says 38-20, Michigan.
- Maize and Go Blue says 28-17, Michigan.
- Northwestern's Scout guy says 31-23, Michigan.
- BWS goes with 20-17, M.
- Maize and Brew says 20-18, which is like a score I would predict.
- Maize and Blue Nation goes with 32-13.
- Tremendous goes 30-23.
- Three of four SOP folk predict a Michigan win with one holdout who always picks Northwestern to win and one guy talking soccer.
Talkin' Wildcats. I do the Q&A thing at Lake The Posts…
LTP: Finish this sentence. Northwestern wins on Saturday if they prevent __________ from ___________
MGB: Michigan’s linebackers from flowing to the ball. Given the pass offense NW has–Nebraska is NU this year, remember–if Northwestern is going to put up enough points to win it’ll have to be on the ground, and Michigan’s linebackers are flowing clean thanks to a bunch of Mattison slants. Get to them and you’ve got a chance.
…and Sippin' On Purple:
Northwestern is "ranked". Michigan "isn't." Should they be? Do you like the fact that you played two still-undefeated teams in non-con play?
Mgo: No. No Big Ten teams should be ranked, and in fact anyone who votes for a Big Ten team should be put under house arrest. Indiana may go to the Big Ten championship game. QED.
I like playing ND. Check that: love playing ND. I hate those guys. I love going to Notre Dame Stadium, and am immensely depressed the series is coming to an end so ND can play Stanford for some reason. And Purdue! Come on man. They're good this year, but that series is a bedrock of my Michigan fandom.
Playing Alabama in Dallas sounded like a good idea when it was scheduled. By the time the game rolled around it was clear that it was not.
Denard in the NFL. Rotoworld takes an interesting look at the kind of things Denard might be able to do in the NFL:
When I watch Robinson run (and the way Michigan uses him), I can't help but think his best role would be to start out as a returner and as a situational running back. He's listed at just 6'0/197 pounds, but has a thickly built lower body. The Michigan offense has taught him to make the same types of reads NFL runningbacks are taught. He's totaled over 200 carries the last two seasons, and he was the entire foundation of their run game in 2010 - totaling 256 attempts for 1702 yards (6.6 YPC) and 14 touchdowns. He has a tendency to get upright, but he's a tough and patient inside runner who reads and sets his blocks up well, hits cutback lanes with authority, and has the speed to do damage in space. …
Highlighted in green, the playside linebacker moves Michigan's tight end into the backfield. The strong safety has filled hard off the edge, and the two inside linebackers are scraping hard playside. Instead of allowing the defense to string the play out, Robinson takes advantage of Alabama's pursuit, planting his outside foot, re-directing, and hitting the crease swiftly.
Denard gets skinny through the trash in the cutback lane. He leans and squares his shoulders through the tackle, which allows him to pick up an additional three yards.
Much more at the link.
More Ferns. Tom Rinaldi is just warming up for this guy:
They're not moving it. Dave Brandon will not let the whole playing at Rentschler Field thing die:
"We continue to have discussions with UConn to see if there isn't a better plan," Brandon told a small group of reporters Friday shortly after speaking at the Michigan Sport Business Conference at the Ross School of Business. "Anything's possible.
"It's totally in their control. We're trying to provide them with as much persuasion as we can, in the form of financial benefits for them to move that game to a bigger stadium."
This is not happening. The Connecticut legislature put a bunch of money into that stadium and it is now losing more money than projected; they will freak out if the Michigan game, a guaranteed sellout, is moved.
Michigan is paying BYU and Colorado 1.3 million to come out, BTW. The gap between that and 900k, 1 million dollar snackycakes is incredibly small.
Wait what? I missed this when it happened, but apparently the Orange Bowl is now going to be a potential destination for Big Ten teams that miss out on the Rose:
The Orange Bowl matchup in the new playoff era has been finalized multiple sources told CBSSports.com on Wednesday.
The ACC champion will play the highest-ranked team among Notre Dame and available teams from the SEC and Big Ten beginning after the 2014 season.
This is a problem for the Pac-12 and Big 12, who want access to more than one big bowl but the problem…
"TV doesn't want it," said one official intimately involved in the process.
Etc.: Jeopardy does CFB names. Lloyd Brady profiled by ESPN. "Deal with it Jesus" is amazing. Stubhub wins over season tickets this game; by end of year it will be a better deal, I imagine. A report from an alternate universe. Slippery Rock preview. Delany talks big about Big Ten scheduling, but which he means Ohio State scheduling. And MSU, I guess. Dump these divisions already.