The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
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A coaching change can only do so much.
Michigan flashed their potential to turn the corner. De'Veon Smith had some punishing runs. Jake Butt couldn't be covered. Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson consistently got open. The alignment of Chris Wormley and Willie Henry looked like a stroke of genius at times. Jourdan Lewis locked down one side of the field. After an up-and-down first half, Jabrill Peppers looked like a five-star talent in the second. Blake O'Neill had that punt.
But the mistakes were numerous. Jake Rudock's first interception looked to be the fault of freshman slot receiver Grant Perry, who hitched when Rudock expected him to cut outside. The next two Rudock picks, both thrown in Perry's direction, looked to be the fault of the quarterback; the third proved especially costly when Utah's Justin Thomas jumped a throw to the flat and took it back 55 yards for a score, giving the Utes a late 24-10 lead. Rudock also missed a few open deep throws that could've changed the outcome of the game; he finished with an underwhelming 279 yards on 43 attempts and didn't tally his second touchdown until desperation time.
The errors weren't limited to Rudock. Michigan's second cornerback spot is far from settled; neither Channing Stribling nor Jeremy Clark stood out there. Joe Bolden missed a handful of tackles on slippery Utah running back Devontae Booker. The offensive line got manhandled in the run game, losing leverage and missing assignments. Smith offset many of his broken tackles by failing to hit the correct hole. Kenny Allen pushed a 44-yard field goal wide right, after which Jim Harbaugh could clearly be seen muttering "I should've gone for that."
There were flashes, chief among them Peppers' second-half TFLs and Jake Butt's spectacular third-quarter touchdown catch to briefly pull Michigan within seven.
But on the road against a decent team, Michigan simply made too many mistakes, big and small, to expect to come away with a victory. They'll be better than they looked tonight, there's little doubt of that. There'll also be rough patches. Home games against lesser teams lie ahead until BYU comes to the Big House, by which time the Wolverines should look more impressive.
At least there was Harbaugh, a sensible gameplan, and a solid outing from the defense. That's something to build on. If this turns out to be an anomalous performance from Rudock, this squad still could be very good. After all the offseason excitement, it's painful to wait through the development process, but even tonight it wasn't hard to see that the process is underway. It just might take a little longer than we had hoped.
|WHAT||Michigan at Utah|
Salt Lake City, UT
8:30 pm Eastern
September 3rd, 2015
|THE LINE||Utah –4.5|
|TELEVISION||Fox Sports 1/Fox Sports Go|
|WEATHER||mid 80s, partly cloudy, 10-20 mph wind|
It's here. It's finally here.
It's safe to say things are little different this year. Yes, Utah beat Michigan in 2014, but even by that early juncture in the season M fans certainly weren't saying "IT'S HERE" in tones normally reserved for Christmas Day or a particularly indulgent Amazon Prime order.
The Utes enter the game as the favorite, though the line has creeped down a point after holding at -5.5 for much of the offseason. Both teams should look substantially different than they did last fall. That bodes well for Michigan; we'll see how it goes for Utah.
Since we don't run a FFFF in the first week, Seth threw together a diagram of the Utah starters (click for big):
Booker, Norris, Dimick, and Hackett (seriously) qualify as dangermen.
Run Offense vs Utah
holes like this one would be quite nice [Fuller]
If the biggest loss for the Utes wasn't DE Nate Orchard, the nation's leader in sacks a year ago, it was up-and-coming defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake, who left for the same job at Oregon State during a tumuluous offseason. In Sitake's place steps John Pease, whom Kyle Whittingham coaxed out of retirement; Peace last served as Whittingham's defensive line coach from 2009-10. Whittingham is a defensive specialist, so the impact of the coaching shakeup may be minimal, but it's worth keeping in mind. They're also switching to a 4-3, though like Michigan's "3-4" the difference may be more semantic than anything else.
Peace inherits a strong front seven even without Orchard. While the Utes only finished 50th in rushing S&P+ last year, their worst performances came against spread teams, and Michigan is very much not one of those. They're anchored on the interior by sophomore DT Lowell Lotulelei, younger brother of Star Lotulelei, who's coming off an impressive freshman campaign. The other tackle spot could be a weak point; Filipo Mokofisi is a 285-pound sophomore with two starts to his name. Utah boasts a pair of playmakers at defensive end; Hunter Dimick (4.5 run TFLs) and Jason Fanaika (4.5 run TFLs as a backup) were overshadowed by Orchard last year, but both are good players in their own right.
The linebackers are both experienced and productive; all three starters are seniors. MIKE Jared Norris led the team with 116 tackles in 2014, with 13 of those coming behind the line (nine against the run). "Rover" Gionni Paul is something of a poor man's Darron Lee, a 225-pound linebacker who's comfortable making plays in space. "Stud" Jason Whittingham, nephew of the head coach, missed most of last season but played well in ten starts as a sophomore.
The departure of strong safety Brian Blechen, a longtime standout who tallied 45 solo tackles last year, could hurt the run defense, but the Utes appear to have a ready-made replacement. Tevin Carter was one of Utah's best defenders in the four games he was healthy last year and he'll step into his more natural spot at strong safety this season.
There aren't many obvious holes in Utah's run defense, but their mediocre performance last year suggests they can be worn down; as Bill Connelly noted, they got worse as games went on last year, and depth could be even more of an issue up front this season. If Michigan's offense can control the ball for long enough stretches to force the Utes to rotate, De'Veon Smith and the rest of the committee could be in for a solid night of work.
Key Matchup: Ben Braden vs. Utah's interior line. Braden had some trouble keeping leverage in the run game last year and the Utes have guys who can get under your pads and make you go places you don't intend. I'm expecting M's line to hold up pretty well, but if Braden has a rough outing it could submarine the run game.
[Hit THE JUMP for CAN I MAKE IT THROUGH THIS PREVIEW WHILE BREATHING THROUGH A PAPER BAG LET'S FIND OUT.]
Pass Offense vs Utah
Hunter Dimick had ten sacks last year
While Utah's run defense looks stout, there are major questions surrounding their pass defense. The Utes relied heavily on their pass rush to bolster their secondary in 2014, and it's unlikely they can post the third-best adjusted sack rate in the country again without Orchard coming off the edge. Hunter Dimick, who had ten sacks of his own, will be a big test for M's tackles; it remains to be seen if his production and that of the rest of the pass rush is negatively affected by Orchard's absence—he's no longer there to take the focus off the rest of the group.
The much bigger concern, however, is in the secondary. Last year's top corner, Eric Rowe, went in the second round of the draft; their next two corners also aren't available due to graduation (Davion Orphey) or indefinite suspension (Dominique Hatfield). Slot corner Justin Thomas and part-time free safety starter Marcus Williams are the only returning starters in the secondary.
Utah's corners were very active knocking passes away last year. Now there's uncertainty. Their starters project to be junior Reginald Porter, who sat out all of 2014 with an injury after seeing primarily special teams duty in his redshirt freshman year, and JuCo transfer Cory Butler-Byrd. If Michigan's receivers can scrape their ceiling, there will be opportunties for big plays; that's one of the bigger ifs for the Wolverines, of course.
Michigan might have most of their success underneath. Even without Blechen, Utah's safeties should be solid, and they were good at preventing big plays last year. Jake Butt is a matchup nightmare, though, and Amara Darboh has shown he can work the intermediate stuff pretty well. Jake Rudock should test Utah deep a few times, but he might find the going easier with quick passes if the receivers can get an early advantage on Utah's green corners.
Key matchup: Drake Harris vs. his hamstrings. If Harris can take the top off the Utah defense even once or twice, the middle of the field could open up for Butt and Darboh to have big days.
Run Defense vs Utah
M limited Devontae Booker to his worst output of 2014 [Fuller]
The Utah run game was very average last year and with much of the same guys returning projects to be right in that area again. Running back Devontae Booker is getting a little dark horse Heisman hype (mostly from Utah fans) after rushing for over 1500 yards last year, but his production was as much a product of volume as ability. After a season-low output of 34 yards on 11 carries against Michigan, Booker toted the rock at least 30 times in three of the following five games, and his best outputs tended to come against underwhelming defenses.
That's not to say Booker isn't a threat. He runs well between the tackles, isn't easy to bring down, and he's an excellent receiver out of the backfield. He'll get a lot more touches tonight than he did in last year's game and whether or not he's particularly efficient he's likely to crack 100 total yards.
Quarterback Travis Wilson is a capable, if sometimes reckless, runner—you may remember him attempting to hurdle Jake Ryan and Joe Bolden to ill effect last year before going to the locker room for fear of a head injury. He's a long strider who can pick up chunks through designed runs or scrambles. Michigan's new-look defense with Jabrill Peppers playing in the box should dissuade Wilson from trying too much on the ground.
The offensive line returns 3.5 starters (RG Salesi Uhatafe had five starts in 2014) but loses a big pile-mover in left tackle Jeremiah Poutasi, who entered the draft early and went off the board in the third round. They're a big group; all three interior lineman weigh 315+ and both tackles are 300 pounds. They pushed the pile well last year and will provide a solid test of Michigan's revamped front four.
Key Matchup: Chris Wormley vs. interior doubles. The depth chart release provided a surprise when Wormley was listed at 3-tech with Willie Henry at SDE. That move can really pay off against the run if Henry can routinely bash through the tackle and tight end, which seems quite plausible given his strength. The bigger concern is if Wormley can hold strong when two linemen try to blow him off the line. He's got the strength to hold up, but Utah also has a lot of size. This will be an intriguing battle.
Pass Defense vs Utah
Travis Wilson sacrificed yardage for efficiency last year [Fuller]
Much like the pass defense, Utah's pass offense loses several significant pieces. Gone are three of the top four receivers: Dres Anderson, Kaelin Clay, and TE Westlee Tonga. Senior wideout Kenneth Scott led the team with 49 receptions but barely cracked 10 YPC; he's very much a possession guy. 6'4" freshman Tyrone Smith is the projected starter on the other side; he sat out 2014 while getting academically eligible and was unranked coming out of high school. Bubba Poole, the backup running back last year, is set to start in the slot.
Wilson is the constant at quarterback, winning the job in the spring after staving off a challenge from Kendal Thompson, who made an appearance in last year's game but didn't prove any more effective during spot duty. Wilson traded off aggressiveness for smarter play last year, improving his TD-to-INT ratio from 16:16 to 18:7 while seeing his yards per attempt drop from a solid 7.7 to a mediocre 6.9. When he's on, he can be really on, but he often needs to be reigned in.
The line struggled to protect the passer last year, finishing 94th in adjusted sack rate; blame for that can probably fall equally on the line and Wilson, who sometimes tried to keep plays alive too long. That isn't likely to improve with Wilson back and a third-round left tackle gone. Whether Michigan can generate an organic pass rush without blitzing is another issue entirely.
Key Matchup: The #2 corner (presumably Channing Stribling) vs. the long ball. Utah doesn't have an explosive threat on the outside; Michigan has a major question mark opposite Jourdan Lewis. As long as M can tread water in that matchup, and especially avoid any big plays to that side, the rest of the defense should hold up quite well.
Utah may have the best kicker/punter combo Michigan will face all year. Kicker Andy Phillips made 23 of 28 field goals, including 12 of 15 from beyond 40 yards, and over half his kickoffs went for touchbacks. Aussie punter Tom Hackett knocked 36 of his 80 punts inside the 20; he was a major reason Utah finished 13th in adjusted field position in 2014.
The good news is fearsome return man Kaelin Clay, who was nearly as good going against 11 guys as he was against ten, is gone. Michigan will also spread punt and hopefully field 11 guys, which is progress.
Michigan will try to figure out whether Kenny Allen or Kyle Seychel is worthy of starting at kicker. The rest of the special teams should be vastly improved with John Baxter coaching, Blake O'Neill rugby punting, and Jabrill Peppers fielding returns.
Key Matchup: YOU PUT THE BALL THROUGH THE UPRIGHTS
- M can't get movement up front against Utah's interior D-line
- The receivers can't get open
- The game comes down to a battle of field goals
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- De'Veon Smith is finding holes and hitting them
- Drake Harris burns a guy deep
- Jabrill Peppers does Jabrill Peppers things
Fear/Paranoia Level: 6 (Baseline 5; +1 for Last Year Really Sucked, +1 for That Front Seven Looks Stout, +1 for Road Night Game, -1 for As Long As This Looks Like Football I'll Be Happy, -1 for HARBAUGH)
Desperate need to win level: 7 (Baseline 5; +1 for A Win Could Easily Mean a 4-0 Start, +1 for Let's Start This Off The Right Way, +1 for Seriously a Win Would Feel Soooooo Good, -1 for Non-Conference Road Game During a Year of Significant Change)
Loss will cause me to... look for the positives. Seriously!
Win will cause me to... completely lose all ability to keep things in context.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Utah's weak points line up nicely with Michigan's weak points. They may not have the receivers to test the shaky spot in the secondary. They lost their top three corners. If Michigan can keep the field position battle level—Hackett vs. O'Neill is quite a matchup—then I like their chances to come up with the handful of big plays needed to tip the scales.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Friday:
- De'Veon Smith rushes for 80 yards on 18-ish carries.
- Drake Harris only catches three passes, but one of them helps swing the game.
- Jabrill Peppers makes the Sportscenter Top Ten.
- Michigan, 26-18
By Heiko Yang, unplugged
Now that I’m more than a year out from my full-ish part time mgoblog duties, I think I can finally admit this: I suck at watching football.
Don’t get me wrong: I love physically watching football. I love watching it on TV, in the stadium, from the press box, and especially from the sideline, which I was lucky enough to do many times over the past few years. But that’s not the issue.
It's just that on any given play I like to pay attention only to whatever is most interesting, and usually that is the ball. This is precisely what you’re not supposed to do if you want to watch the game with any sort of sophistication, and realizing this tendency (and not really being able to help it) has been somewhat embarrassing. When Ace and I started covering Michigan games together, it didn’t take more than a few quarters to figure out who should handle the analysis.
From the Ohio State game in 2011, via the Live Blog:
That run went nowhere, but Lewan planted Shazier on the ground ten yards downfield.
— Ace Anbender (@AceAnbender) November 26, 2011
Damn, Ace. That was a great observation. You appreciated a relevant aspect of the play that was independent of where the ball ended up.
There's a guy wearing a Ghillie suit in the student section
— Heiko Yang (@Heiko25) November 26, 2011
Over the past year I’ve been learning how to be a doctor. One of the most difficult skills to acquire early on is the ability to assess a patient’s problems. There's a lot of data to consider, both relevant and distracting, when you want to fully understand the situation. You have to force yourself to stop watching the quarterback and the ball to instead systematically look at field position, down-and-distance, personnel, offensive formation, and defensive alignment, and once the ball is snapped you have to watch the how the offensive line blocks, how the defense blitzes or executes their run fits, how the receivers run their routes, how the coverage responds …
This analogy sounds ridiculous now, so I’ll stop. The point is that being an active observer, a description that I’ve found to describe good doctors as well as people who watch football at a high level, is hard work. In medicine, I have to work hard at this because I have a responsibility to fulfill. In football … for me, not so much. I never wanted it to feel like a responsibility, so I guess that’s why I never bothered to get better at it.
In a lot of ways I'm happy about this. After a work day that started at 4:30 this morning, I’m looking forward putting my brain on passive mode to enjoy the game for a few hours. No cortical function is required to cheer when the ball moves forward and boo when it does not. Plus there are so many things – Harbaugh! Peppers! Offense! Night game! Thursday?? Uniformz????? – to keep me tickled. I almost don’t care if Michigan wins or loses.
But you know what? Prognosticating based on little to no evidence is just another small liberty I can enjoy only in football, so what the hell:
Michigan 28, Utah 17.
by Nick RoUMel
Dave Brandon Answers Questions About the Upcoming Season.
I am very excited about Michigan's prospects. The oppressive feeling of embarrassment and hopelessness is gone, as surely as the Munchkins danced after Dorothy killed the Wicked Witch of the West. What do you think?
- Art S.
You simpleton. Just as those Munchkins remained short, your team will remain bad. Find another one to root for.
I'm a little nervous about the quarterback situation. Why won't Coach Harbaugh name a starter? Do you think it has anything to do with Shane Morris' concussion?
- Matt G.
What have you been drinking? Shane Morris did NOT have a concussion. Did you not read the press release that our marketing team issued in the middle of the night, after 48 hours of consulting medical manuals? It was a "probable sinus headache."
What do you think of Coach Harbaugh's pre-season antics? There's been a lot of great buzz created about this Michigan team. I'm excited.
Some coaches create more embarrassment than buzz. For instance, you don't see me running around shirtless at Toys "R" Us grand openings. I remain as dignified on the first day on the job, as I will when I eventually drive the stock price into the ground.
I don't know who to pick in this one. I truly believe we are much improved, but playing a tough Utah team on the road might be too much to overcome.
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. You need to grow up. Michigan is going to get its ass kicked. I say, Utah 24-UM 20.
Now let me go back to running my toy company, please.
For the first time in years Sparty's walking into this season without a single elite guy in their secondary, but Cook + that OL should more than compensate [Eric Upchurch]
For those just joining us, this feature is the MGoBlog weekly roundtable. This week's question:
Who is Michigan's most underrated opponent? Who is the most overrated?
Underrated: Penn State. I guess this counts? Penn State might be all-over-the-place rated. But for the purposes of this content, Penn State might be the team that I am most worried about after the two rivals. We've previewed and speculated at length about their defense, which was fantastic last year. And they have possibly one of the most intriguing defensive players in the league in Anthony Zettel...who's obviously from the heart of Michigan (argh!). The question mark in Happy Valley is on the opposite side of the ball. Their offense has been 'Michigan minus one year' for the past couple of seasons, so we could be in line for a Michigan 2014 offense...oh. However, IF their O-line progresses and Hackenberg is more ceiling than floor, they have a couple of skill dudes who could make that team rather formidable. Speaking of NOT formidable, glance at their schedule. Arguably, the toughest non-conference game will be playing at Temple. There is a definite argument that they COULD anter the game against Michigan at 9-1. Maybe.
Overrated: Maryland. I've seen multiple outlets predicting this game as a Maryland lean with a 50/50 at best for Michigan. I just don't buy it (Yes, Colin...'buy' not 'bye'). Maryland lost their starting QB who was their top rusher AND passer, 4 WRs -including their top 2-, 60% of their OL which wasn't that great to begin with, and six of their starting front seven. So, if Will Likely can clone himself (and enlarge those clones) and the nation's best kicker can...yeah, I don't even know. I don't think their defense will be very good. Or their offense. I think Maryland could very easily have a rough year. If Michigan can't play well in that game, that will be troublesome.
Ok, that's it! I'm off to Utah!! HARBAUGHHHHHHHHHH!!!
[After the jump: We're bullish on States and things from Utah, bearish on Gophers and stuff]
Underrated: I agree on Penn State. Draftageddon—yes, it's useful—helped us realize they have a lot of intriguing pieces if they can just figure out the O-line. That's a huge 'if', of course, but they at least bring back a lot of guys from that group. If the offense can even creep towards mediocre, their defense will carry them to a good number of wins. The combination of Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson up front is frightening. Keep Hackenberg upright enough to start looking like the top NFL pick he's supposed to be and this team could make some noise.
|PSU's defense returned a LOT, but really it
comes down to whether or not it's still open
season on Hack. [Upchurch]
Overrated: I want to say Michigan State, but their offense—especially their O-line—is reaching the level where it mitigates a lot of the questions they have on defense, especially in the secondary. Instead I'll go with Minnesota, who's only expected to compete in the Big Ten West because the Big Ten West is really, really bad. The Gophers lost almost the entirety of their pass offense in TE Maxx Williams, their workhorse running back in David Cobb, and the heart of their front seven in MIKE David Wilson. Other than perhaps at running back, they don't have replacements who can step in and replicate their production, and that bodes especially unwell for the offense, which threatens to be even more one-dimensional than it was last year.
Underrated: Michigan's fanbase is probably the least likely in the country to overlook a home non-conference game after the last seven years, yet I feel I'm more terrified than most of BYU. After a year cut short by injury, Taysom Hill returns to wreak havoc; he alone creates the run/pass conflicts that keep defensive coordinators up at night. Before his 2014 season was cut short by a knee injury, Hill was completing 66.7% of his passes, throwing for 7.4 YPA, and rushing for 5.38 YPC. With that kind of versatility it comes as no surprise that Hill committed to Stanford in 2009 before going on a mission trip and decomitting after Jim Harbaugh left. When Harbaugh's doing the blank-look shark stare thing he isn't processing what the person in front of him is asking, but rather trying to figure out how to make his QB more like Hill. In fact, Hill texted Harbaugh to tell him how excited he was to play against him at Michigan Stadium. Harbaugh's response? "I'm not looking forward to playing you, my friend."
Overrated: I'm going to echo Ace and say Minnesota. As he mentioned, Draftageddon is a useful tool for figuring out team's strengths and weaknesses, and Minnesota got weaker in so many areas between 2014 and 2015. Minnesota spent the spring experimenting with a no-huddle offense, but they've since scrapped it; with it went my concern over matching up with their offense. Their secondary does feature two quality players in Eric Murray and Briean Boddy-Calhoun, but I don't think they'll be enough to counter losing the two cogs that kept Minnesota's offense moving in 2014.
Underrated: You guys have already beaten the PSU thing to death and Adam took BYU. I'm also worried about Utah. They're a tough team to pin down because last year they played in a super tough division (Colorado was the only unranked Pac12 South team) plus Oregon and Stanford, yet went 9-4. Their defense got manhandled by the uber spreads. On the other hand they lost at home to WSU. Travis Wilson has an annoying habit of being very good early in the season, then dramatically losing efficiency as the hits pile up. You want to face him the last game of the season, not the first.
Overrated: Minnesota is a middling team in a bad division, but Kill's program is back to that Glen Mason point where he's able to find new 2-stars to play like 3's and 3-stars who can scrape into the lower NFL draft rounds. A fully armed and operational Harbaugh machine should have no trouble snatching one of a Mason/Kill regime's four or five annual losses, but 2015 Michigan is certainly still vulnerable. Is it 50/50? No, but neither am I comfortable giving Michigan more than a 2-in-3 shot.
I'm with David that Maryland is not the 50/50 game it's made out to be. None of their quarterback options are good, their receivers were ravaged, and they are not good at blocking. I think they'll be easier to run on this year, and they have the kind of offense Michigan's defense was born to eat up. Defensively they are bendy until a safety does something stupid, the perfect kind of defense for Harbaugh's mind games to eviscerate. Ngakoue and Likely are problems; teams that go in hoping to test Likely's size end up throwing away drives until they learn their lesson, and Michigan was certainly guilty of that last year. This is a game where the coaching upgrade will make a huge difference. Even on the road, this Michigan matches up very well against them.
Hello. You have made it to the end. This year's preview checks in at 42,835 words.
This Winter Hasn't Been So Rough. The bad man is gone, and a good one is here.
Quarterback. Dry white toast. Glorious dry white toast. He should really be named "Elwood," though.
Running Back. IT PUTS THE FOOTBALL IN THE HOLE OR IT GETS THE HOSE AGAIN
Wide Receiver. Don't spook the hamstring. In fact, don't even look at it. Or think about it.
Tight End And Friends. You have been moved to tight end as well.
Offensive Line. The nadir has passed. I swear.
5Q5A: Offense. The Harbauffense is, like its progenitor, tough and weird.
Defensive Tackle. Veterans, and good ones, but not huge ones.
Defensive End. Or buck linebacker. Whatever. Can they get to the quarterback?
Linebacker. Seniors have leadership, which is why they don't join biker gangs.
Cornerback. Half awesome, half frayed thread upon which defense hangs.
Safety. JARROD WILS /is hit by shoe
5Q5A: Defense. It's pretty much the same, except Peppers.
Special Teams. Aussie aussie aussie, field goal oy oy oy.
Podcast 7.0. Many people complimented the music selection, probably because I used a Beyonce breakup song.
Heuristics And Stupid Prediction. Could go a lot of ways. I've got 8-4 and "resembles football." Seeya, sludgefart.
Preview at 2.
Holding The Rope comes out of the bunker:
For the first time last year, I found myself getting up during game action to grab something from the kitchen. There was once a time when, once the game started, I did not move from my sitting spot, as if tethered to it for eternity or the end of the game, whichever came first.
Last year, during the Indiana game, I vaguely remember falling asleep during a portion of the third quarter. It was a long week and a dreary day, and even the surprising success of Ann Arbor's own Drake Johnson couldn't fend off a doze.
Maybe I was tired. Maybe I'm getting older. Maybe it was something else: indifference, a dissipation of pointless resolve.
GQ drops a major article on Harbaugh. Hell of a lede:
The Big House, when empty, rises on all sides in limestone gray, like the machine-carved rock walls of a Midwestern quarry; on game days, the sold-out stadium—a hundred rows high, 110,000 fans in maize and blue—becomes the fourth-largest city in the state of Michigan. Here on the field this last official day of spring, 230 high school quarterbacks tune in to a former quarterback and current head coach in a block-M ball cap and a pair of slack khakis, extra-wide. This is Jim Harbaugh, and this is his dominion.
I talked to the author, Daniel Riley, at Frita Batidos one day this summer. Frita being jammed most hours of the day and night, it was loud. Loud to the point I worried that nothing from his tape would be useful. I'm glad it was, because his article reminded me about this part of our conversation about Jim Harbaugh:
“What he says now about football,” Cook says, “is that it’s worth it.”
Football's taken a ton of shit over the past few years because it is dangerous. Harbaugh knows this. I know it. You know it. But I say that life is not lived all at the same rate. Some days and weeks and months shrink away to tiny motes; some hours and minutes and moments expand to fill your consciousness.
Nice high kick, got a little wind under it and he runs Howard back—time inflates, you can pluck a dragonfly hanging in mid-flight in front of you out of the air—LOOK AT THAT oh my goodness ONE MAN GOODBYE HELLO HEISMAN
Football is dangerous. It is dangerous to play, and it is dangerous to love. And it is worth it.