spoiler alert: i linked this
So I missed most of this game initially; had family over and only saw parts of the 3rd quarter live while the rest was from a DVR re-watch. Thus, I ignored most of the commentary, stopping only to watch Marshall Mathers absolutely trolling Musberger and Herbie in the booth. That was good fun.
One advantage of DVR’ing the game and watching it largely divorced from the in-the-moment fandom gives you a different appreciation for what happened on a per-play basis but, more importantly, the overall game. It gave me a better appreciation of the big-picture elements of the game, even though at times my notes read like an obsessive serial killer - “Gallon, Gallon, GALLON!”
But enough of that; on to the Best and Worst of the Indiana Fig Things
Best: We’re the one without a Goatee
This is the second result from Google Image for “Doppelganger”
Going into this game, one of the major talking points was whether or not UM-ND was a “rivalry”, with Brian Kelly originally seeing it as a regional tilt and then, once he consulted with Grimace, Tinky Winky, and Count Von Count in the only way I presume they know how, he “clarified” that it was a great and historic one. Various people, mostly on the internet where one is duty-bound to correct all falsehoods, chimed in and waged digital battle until everyone exhaustively looked around and realized anyone not associated with either team viewed this as nothing more than the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers arguing over whose pile of money was best for Scrooge McDuck’ing.
It’s this blue-bloodedness that has always separated ND from the rest of UM’s traditional rivals. MSU is the half-brother who always wants to be taken seriously but inevitably shows up to social events slightly drunk with an un-tucked shirt and some “crazy” story about last weekend that inevitably ends with him in handcuffs and urine-soaked pants. OSU has all of the trappings of a worthy adversary, with a veneer of tradition, success, and bright future that is undeniable. Yet, once you dig a bit deeper you realize he holds his 1st-grade “Super Bee” spelling award far too close to this heart and his treasured idols are jerks, crooks, and hypocrites. They might have success and a hatred will always burn true with them, but the nouveau rich odor is hard to shake. PSU, Nebraska, and Wisconsin keep trying to catch your eye and are always ready to throw down, but it feels forced and unstable as they undergo major changes or fail to live up to their own expectations.
Notre Dame, though, has always felt like a perfect foil for UM, and that’s what renders outside perceptions irrelevant. #1 and #3 in all-time wins, #1 and #2 in Win Percentage, and #1 and #1a in ISOS Percentage (Inflated Sense of Self). Both fanbases see themselves as football royalty but with a healthy perception of their team’s current state, which is absolutely true until any additional evidence is provided that contradicts that ideal. We both scoff at meltdowns from fans of other teams yet conveniently ignore our own, constantly question the integrity of other coaches and teams even though both our programs have had issues in the past, and (like all fans) perpetuate the narrative in which our team is always the noble protagonist valiantly overcoming the dark underbelly of the sport. And yes, both UM and ND have been at the forefront at key moments in the sport’s evolution. Yet in the end, we’re just like everyone else except we won a bunch of games back when guys wore leather helmets and the forward pass was an innovation that kept players from killing each other.
So in a way, Notre Dame and Michigan are destined to always be rivals even when they don’t meet on the field; we both strive to obtain the superiority and nonpareil that only one can possess. But at the same time, the institutions are so similar both on and off the field that to truly “hate” the other is nothing more than an exercise of self-flagellation. And yes, this whole section is one shining example; gotta love the hypocrisy.
Best: The Madden Offense lives!
At this point I imagine the Ven diagram of “People who read MGoBlog diaries” and “People who have played computer football” resembles a perfect solar eclipse, so if you only think of John Madden as a character played by Frank Caliendo, I guess just move on to the next section.
For everyone else, though, UM’s offensive playcalling reminded me of those great 16-bit and early PlayStation/XBox/N64 Madden games where they hadn’t quite figured out how to properly balance player attributes when it came to speedy QBs and so you could call a shotgun pass on basically every down with impunity (I know most people consider Michael Vick circa 2001-2004 as the apex mobile QB in video games, but picking the Eagles with Randall Cunningham or the 49ers with Steve Young led to untold fights when I was in junior high). With one of those guys in the backfield, every pass carried the real possibility of a QB run with about a 1% chance that the defense could stop you before 5-6 yards. And on the off chance that you found yourself on 3rd/4th-and-long, just call for a Hail Mary/4 Verts and you could either throw the ball into the tiniest of windows because your QB had a Howitzer or, to be extra dickish, run for the first while juking every LB about 15 times. A mobile QB was about as close to god mode as one could get on the football field.
Well, with Devin Gardner at QB and Borges overjoyed with a QB who isn’t afraid to scramble sensibly (sorry Denard), UM is trotting out the type of offense that seems largely immune to defensive adjustments. Whereas in years past a collapsing pocket was almost immediately followed by a tuck-and-run, Gardner seems more than happy to move around while his WRs work to get open. And if that doesn’t happen quickly enough, or if there are yards available on the ground, Gardner just gallops 2-3 yards a stride and can pick it up efficiently. A couple of times Gardner basically rolled out, outran with ease an ND player barreling down on him from the edge, and calmly surveyed the field looking for an open Gallon, Dileo, Funchess, basically anyone. At least once he just kept running; other times he’d throw for the first. You didn’t often see that type of play last year, or at least run so easily and successfully, and it seems like it will be a staple in UM’s offense going forward until such time as any defense (i.e. MSU and that’s about it) shows the ability to slow it down.
Best: It’s Super Effective
To start the season, UM has had 22 meaningful drives (i.e. not at the end of the half and/or running out the clock). Of those, they’ve scored TDs on 12 of those drives and another 3 have ended with FGs. Four ended with INTs and they punted 3 other times. 15/22 drives have ended with points (and if you want to be snarky, a 16th ended with points for the opposition), and I think most fans would concur that the offense remains a work in progress. The redzone offense was even better, going 4-4 TDs against ND and, outside of an iffy pass interference on the last scoring drive, with relative ease. It’s getting to the point that once UM gets into the endzone, teams might as well let them score and at least conserve the clock.
Gallon was the shiniest of shiny stars along with Gardner, reeling in 3 TDs and 184 yards while consistently abusing anyone Notre Dame put on him. I know he was a little banged up at the end, but it didn’t look too serious and I can only imagine the holy hell these two will drop on teams like UConn and Iowa going forward.
This is the most effective offense I’ve ever seen at UM during the life of my fandom, and it should only improve as the offensive line gels more and Gardner starts to look for receivers other than Gallon and Dileo more consistently. Unfortunately…
Worst: QB Vision Cone still in experimental mode
I’m sure some of this was dictated by defensive alignments inside as well as comfort on the part of Gardner, but Butt and Funchess, those wacky police partners trying to catch criminals on the mean streets of Ann Arbor if they don’t tackle each other first, coming this fall to Fxx, er, accounted for only 36 yards on 5 catches, which follows up on a 3 for 55 game against CMU that was goosed considerably by Funchess’s 36-yard scamper. They are young and should improve as the season comes along (especially Butt, who appeared to drop and/or run out of position for a couple of balls), but Gardner’s passing cone seems a bit skewed toward Dileo and Gallon and that could very well catch up to him as teams adjust or, knock on wood, one of them gets hurt. For as much as I love the idea of this team’s leading receivers both being eligible for the Pomeroy Award, that would feel like a massive waste of talent at other positions on the field and, frankly, counter-productive to this team’s maturation this year and beyond.
As ST3 noted in the always-excellent Inside the Boxscore, the running game was surprisingly competent, posting 166 yards and 11 first downs against an extremely active and talented (if young at LB) Notre Dame front 7. While Gardner’s legs remained a key player in the ground game, Fitz’s consistent inside running and ability to eke out positive yards at the edges is a major reason why this offense remains so dangerous despite less-than-spectacular numbers on the stat sheet.
I know some people like to joke about “Manball” as 3 yards and a cloud of dust, but to me it has always meant establishing the threat of a running game at least in name, if not in production, so as to open the playbook and keep the opposition off-balance. It’s why people smarter than me become giddy when Kalis and Glasgow successfully pull on a 5-yard run on 1st down, or Fitz is able to run around Lewan’s block on Shempo for the first. It’s about drawing a line here, and saying only your guys shall go further.
What makes this type of manball different than Iowa’s, for example, is that the playcalling followed suit, with Gardner throwing more in shorter yardage situations and even on first down when ND’s LBs started to cheat up. If the mantra of the defensive line is the Right to Rush 4, then Fitz deserves to wear an “Earning Those 4” shirt every day. He’s seemingly come all the way back from that horrible day against Iowa, and he’s a major catalyst for this team’s hot start.
Best: Tackling, and the Lack Thereof
If you didn’t have some weird flashbacks of GERG’s defenses during Gallon’s triple-bounce TD rumble in the first quarter, you are either 4 years old or have repressed those memories until such time as you need to punch aliens. After years of seeing missed arm tackles turning into long TDs, it was refreshing to watch UM put on a veritable tackling clinic against Notre Dame. Even on completed passes, Countess or Taylor was a half-step away and tackling almost immediately, and in the 4th quarter I remember at least one WR screen being blown up by a hard-charging Taylor (?) running through the block to hit the receiver immediately. The LBs and safeties kept everything in front of them and limited yards after contact. Rees finished with 314 yards and 2 TDs, but it took 51 attempts and he only averaged 6.1 ypa along with 2 INTs. He dinked-and-dunked his way down the fields at time (his long completion was only 23 yards), but even his completions were into small windows that his receivers had to earn. Jones, Niklas, and Daniels are dangerous skill-position players, and it felt like the secondary played them to a stand-still.
The defense remains a work-in-progress, and it still feels like a year or two away from truly disruptive, but against a ND offense with some real blue-chip players offensively they more than held their own. I think every UM fan will count that as a win.
Worst: Missing the Firestarter
This probably doesn’t need repeating, but Jake MF Ryan’s presence is sorely missed on this team when it comes to putting pressure on opposing QBs. It’s been two games, and while the CMU numbers weren’t as bad as I originally thought, I remain skeptical that the front four will be able to consistently generate a pass rush against a competent line. Mattison’s defense only sacked Rees once, hit him another time, and only infrequently made him uncomfortable throwing the ball; when they did, it either ended with a poor throw or one of his two INTs. With 51 attempts, including a large number when ND was clearly going to pass, you’d expect much more presence by a defense that seems best suited for pining its ears back and delay-blitzing the crap out of you.
With Ryan back I presume some of those blitzes will hit home, and that should open up rushing lanes for the likes of Clark. Luckily there doesn’t appear to be another team coming up before Ryan’s return that should pose much of a threat passing the ball (MAC! Big East!, 1/4 Big Ten!), but this remains the one noticeable deficiency in an otherwise-stout defensive unit.
Best: Michigan Speed!!!
Just something I loved – on a stretch play early in the first quarter, ND’s RB (I think it was Carlisle) kept trying to string out the play toward the sideline; each time he took a step toward the line, though, another UM player was there to drive him back. The athleticism on the defensive side of the ball, while objectively not much different than during the 90’s/00’s heyday, still feels warp-speed compared to those RR defenses that couldn’t hold the edge to save their lives. Part is probably coaching and positioning, but this defense just flashes to the ball the way good defenses are supposed to, and it is a sight to watch.
Best: Give Him All the Women
Brendan Gibbons was 2/2 this game, breaking the consecutive FG record previously held by Remy Hamilton. if Mattison has the Heininger Certainty Principle, then somebody needs to figure out what Hoke did to Brendan and call it the Gibbons Kicking Catalyst. I know kicking is notoriously wonky and unpredictable, but from 1/5 to the record book is amazing. And Matt Wile deserves continued kudos for booming kickoffs into the end zones as needed.
Worst: Obligatory Wrestling Reference
I’m really not trying to make this a common theme, but it just feels right in this context. As always, feel free to skip this section if you don’t care about professional wrestling.
One of the common tropes in professional wrestling history is to exaggerated ethnicity and treat it as “character” for a grappler. That’s why for years you had evil Kozlovs, the “Polish Hammer” Ivan Putski, dozens of Samoans, the Mexicools (with real riding lawnmower!), Junkyard Dogs, and every other horrible stereotype you can think of perpetrated . While there is undoubtedly a racist component to it, a major reason promoters highlight a wrestler’s ethnicity is because it eliminates the need for nuance and “plays” to everyone regardless of their viewpoint; you boo or cheer because you are told to associate some characteristic with good or bad guys regardless of who they actually are; the man is basically just laundry.
For obvious reasons, this characterization has become less common in recent years, as even the most generic of wrestlers are at least given a chance to be more than their last name or nation of origin. That doesn’t mean, of course, that they must turn their back completely on their heritage; in fact, many of them incorporate parts into their persona. The most prominent example I can think of in recent years is Sheamus, an Irish-born grappler with a red shock of hair, alabaster skin, and pun-approved move names like the Brogue Kick, the High Cross, and the Irish Curse backbreaker. Outside of the ring he has a delightful Irish accent, seems to have a reasonable sense of humor, and can carry himself on the talk show circuit like a champ. In so many ways, he should be loved.
But here’s the thing; if you aren’t a little kid, you probably think Sheamus is kind of a dick. His attempts at humor you mind grating, especially when they inevitably take on sophomoric qualities such as stealing a Mexican aristocrat’s car, eating Mexican food in it, and then pooping in it. He’s rather predictable in the ring, and while the higher-ups tried pushing him as a main-eventer, that fizzled out when people realized he just wasn’t that compelling a figure. He’s kind of a relic of a bygone era, and decades ago probably would have been one of the biggest draws in the Northeast and Midwest.
Notre Dame is the Sheamus of college football, and it’s not just because of the obvious Irish connection. Both seem like they should be a bigger deal than they are, and despite WWE/OWMiM’s (Old White Men in Media’s) attempts to convince us otherwise, that connection to the past isn’t strong enough to ignore the mediocrity of the present. And, I guess, both retain the possibility for rebirth with the proper tweaking; Notre Dame under Kelly look to be returning to at least national competitiveness, and Sheamus is probably a new entrance song and catch phrase from main-eventing a PPV. But right now, the luck of the Irish isn’t smiling on her favored sons.
Best: The Signs!
You guys posted some great ones and it was fun to see them IRL. My two favorite remain “Play like your girlfriend’s are real today” and “Where was the ‘Luck of the Irish’ during the potato famine?” I can only imagine what we’ll see next week with Alabama and A&M.
So, a couple years ago, monuMental made an entirely amazing wallpaper for the first UTL game. Being a large fan of monuMental's work and contribution to the blog, I modified his version for post-game purposes (the preview pics are gone but the Skydrive link should still work).
Please note: the above is only a preview version and you should download the widescreen version here. (Yes, I am lame and only did one version.)
Thanks again to monuMental and all credit really belongs to him for the original art and concept.
Many years ago, I played the part of Tiny Tim in my grade school's production of "A Christmas Carol." My only line was to announce that Scrooge had provided the Christmas goose for supper. The class decided that we should have a prop for the goose, to make my part look more authentic. One of my classmates volunteered his rubber chicken. Having some dimensionality, we thought that would be better than a cardboard cutout of a goose. Fast forward to the night of the play. I enter stage right, say my line, and hold up the rubber chicken. The audience burst out laughing; I dare say, that's the biggest laugh I've ever gotten. I learned a very important lesson that night. Rubber chickens are funny.
Burst of Impetus
* For a game that finished with an 11 point margin of victory, and where Michigan had a 14 point lead for a large portion, the momentum seemed to go back and forth quite a bit. One could say that the deflected passes were huge. Like that old adage goes, "live by the deflected pass in the endzone, die by the deflected pass in the endzone." What? There's no old adage like that? Well, there should be. Anyway, each side benefitted from one of those, so I'm not choosing that as our burst of impetus. My burst of impetus award goes to Fitzgerald Toussaint, as I will explain below.
* Honorable mention goes to the 4th and 4 play late in the game, when 3 or 4 of our guys jumped offsides, only ND didn't snap the ball. We got back onside, blitzed and forced a hurried throw. Incomplete. Impetus back squarely with Michigan. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity, or something like that. ND had the opportunity to get a cheap 1st down. They weren't ready for it. Luck of the Irish? Not last night.
Captain Morgan's Crew
* ND only punted twice, after their first and second drives of the game. Perhaps that is why there is some grumbling about the defense. We did turn them over a couple times, stopped them on 4th down twice, and forced them to go for three FGs. Still, I like seeing the other team punt more than twice.
* As should be expected in a game where the other team threw the ball so much, our two leading tacklers were DBs. Taylor had 11 and Gordon had 7. Countess and Wilson round out the list with 4 of our 6 leading tacklers coming from the defensive backfield. I was impressed by our DB's tackling. I don't track these things, but there seemed to be very few broken tackles.
* We had 4 TFLs, 1 sack, and only one QB hurry. The four man line just wasn't getting to Rees. Neither was the blitz, the few times Mattison used it.
* In case you were wondering, Funchess did not get credit for a BrUp on the last play before half.
Ermahgardner, Young 98, Master of Social Work
* Devin is racking up nicknames as he begins his assault on the Michigan record books. At first I was against him being given #98, but now I realize he's the only guy who could wear it. Tom Harmon is known as Ol' 98. That makes Devin the Young 98. (P.S. the 100%BLU license plate was firmly attached to an Olds 98.)
* Additionally, Michigan created College Football. Innovation is in our blood. If we want our guys to wear bumblebee stripes, or M's instead of numbers, or our QB to wear #98, so be it. We're Michigan, FERGODSAKES!
* Gardner was our leading rusher with 82 NET yards, and he ran for 1 TD. He was also mistakenly called Denard half a dozen times. Hey, I get that, but he's making a name for himself pretty quickly.
* Gardner was also 21 for 33 passing for 294 yards. Phenomenal. (We won't mention the one brain-fart, considering it was his 7th game starting, not bad.)
V. Sinha Legends Jersey
* A few weeks ago, there was a post about incoming freshmen and "that guy." I think it was in an Unverified Voracity. Anyway, the point was, Michigan is a huge university, but there is going to be one guy you see everywhere, who will make you think the university isn't all that big. For me, that guy was V. Sinha. My gameday experience wasn't complete until I saw V. Sinha sporting his personalized, #21, "V. SINHA" jersey. I went to school during the Desmond Howard era, so I'm pretty sure V. Sinha's jersey was a tribute to Desmond. If this blog had existed back then, V. Sinha would have been the equivalent of Lloyd Brady or Facepalm Guy. Why do I bring this up now? Well, Brian, Ace, Seth, BronxBlue and all our favorite bloggers are going to have takes on this game, and in the hopes of not being overly repetitive, I'm providing my personal experience. My brother went to the game last night. Of all the things he could have taken a picture of and sent me (flyovers, Beyonce, Eminem, #98, the laser show, etc.) the one thing he sent was this photo of V. Sinha. Now like any great photo of a legendary creature (Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, Sasquatch) the picture is a little blurry, but it's proof that V. Sinha is still cheering on the maize and blue.
* Gallon caught 8 balls for 184 yards and 3 TDs, and successfully deployed his cloaking device.
* Critically underutilized WR, Drew Dileo caught 3 for 18 yards, and had the other receiving TD. Kudos to Borges for calling that play on 2nd down. If ND holds us to a FG, it's still a one-score game. Instead, I imagine Borges going over his playsheet, thinking, hey, it's been awhile since we threw one to critically underutilized WR Drew Dileo. Let's do that. TD. Ballgame. I go to sleep happy.
* Is Jake Butt the TE with the frying pan-sized hands? I can't remember from all the recruiting profiles I've been reading. Anywhere, there were two balls that he could have caught that would have made us all breathe easier. On one, he drifted back instead of coming forward and highpointing the ball, allowing the ND DB to sneak in and break up the pass. Force that DB to go through you, Jake, and make the official throw his flag. He's a frosh. He'll learn.
20 Pound Cheeseburgers
* I somehow managed to forget to include this in last week's diary, when Derrick Green was listed at 220 pounds, but Glen Mason said he looked like he was a cheeseburger shy of 240 pounds. My apologies for the oversight, chalk it up to a first game mistake.
* Touss led the RBs with 22 carries for 71 yards. I was hoping for competence from the rushing game this week, and 166 yards, 4.3 YPC, and 11 first downs certainly qualifies. That's actually better than I expected. By forcing ND to respect the rushing game, Michigan was able to isolate WRs (Gallon) one-on-one and exploit the ND secondary. But it all started with some tough, tough running from Touss.
* Gallon, Norfleet, Green, and TEAM all carried just once. Green may be a *****, but it's clear he hasn't earned the trust of the coaching staff yet. If Touss hadn't been able to make it back from that gruesome injury, there goes the running game. Without the running game, ND attacks Gardner (ESPN had a split showing his ATT/COMP with and without ND blitzing, and the numbers against the blitz were less than stellar.) Fitz' ability to crank out 3-4 yards at a time made those 2nd and 3rd down throws that much simpler. Let's not forget that he was running behind three interior linemen with a grand total of 3 collegiate starts as of game time. That was a workmanlike performance. That was a man's performance. Every ounce of sweat and pain he endured during the off-season was like storing up impetus in a jar, to be deployed against ND.
* Once again, the linemen had no stats.
* Notre Dame did get 3 QB hurries and 1 sack. Frankly, against that D-Line, that's a victory for us.
Norf and Souf
* Norfleet had 1 punt return for 0 yards, and three kick returns for 78 yards. He ran the ball once, and caught one pass. Borges and Hoke were keeping this game in Gardner, Gallon and Fitz' hands. Norfleet will get his chances later this season.
I'm an international umpire
* There were a few questionable calls and non-calls during the game. Mid-way through the 3rd quarter, Brent Musberger mentioned that it was an all-ACC crew. After that, everything made sense. I kid, I kid.
* It was a relatively penalty-free game. Michigan was called for 6 penalties to Notre Dame's 2, until 2 late pass interference calls went against ND, making it 6-4. Notre Dame's penalties were arguably more damaging to them as we garnered 3 first downs by penalty to their zero.
* I have to disagree with Ace on the pass interferences. The ND player clearly shoved Gallon out of bounds, stepped in front of the pass and would have had an interception if he held onto the ball. He clearly gained an advantage by making contact beyond five yards from the line of scrimmage. Funchess' jersey was nearly torn off on the 2nd interference call. The only controversial part of those calls is that plays similar to them weren't called earlier in the game. Twice, I quoted Musberger as saying the ND DB was, "All over the intended receiver," but no call was made.
* Kalis got his first, off-setting, unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. After reading so much about his nasty streak, it was nice to see him get that first one out of the way. ESPN did not show the play, so we may never know how he earned that.
Fantasy Announcer Team
* Like Eminem, I was born in Southfield, Michigan. Makes me wonder what was in the water back then. Unlike Eminem, Brent Musburger would never be on my Fantasy Announcer Team. I love how he left Herbie off his team. That whole segment was so bizarre. As Eminem said, "I'm really uncomfortable now." Weren't we all. Best to just move on...
* I find it interesting that both of Michigan State's games so far have been delayed by weather. Had this happened, oh say, 10,000 years ago, the natives would have rightly decided that the land was cursed, burned everything in site, and moved on to appease the gods. And that's how I believe the couch-burning tradition got started in East Lansing.
* Shout-out to Seth's Robots.
* We had 25 first downs to their 23, but were more balanced with 11 rushing and 11 passing.
* Total offensive plays was split 50/50 with 72 plays for each team. We tallied an extra 50 yards on offense. We also took an extra 8 minutes and 8 seconds to run our plays. MANBALL UBER ALLES!
Dad was a pretty prominent member of our Parish. He was a lector and sang in the choir. So whenever we played Notre Dame, he was sure to get confronted by a Golden Domer after Mass. "Hey, ST2, are you really rooting against the Irish this week?" His response was simple and educational, "The University of Michigan was founded by a Catholic Priest and a Protestant Minister*, and UofM has more Catholic Alumni than Notre Dame." He left those Irish fans wondering why they weren't rooting for Michigan.
I'm pretty sure Dad would not have been pleased with Special K playing the chicken dance after the game. His response would most likely be something like, "We're Michigan, we don't mock our opposition. How boorish." And then when nobody was looking, he'd chuckle, because chickens are funny.
*Yes, the University of Michigan was leading the ecumenical movement decades before it became popular.
Thank you for the kind comments - I love Michigan and forecasting for the games on here is truly one of my favorite things to do! Let's get to it! It's a similar set-up to what we had last week. A cold front is working its way across the Great Lakes from north to south and is expected to drop through SE MI during the evening/overnight. This means we've got warm, humid air out ahead of the front, and a chance of rain & storms as it passes through - the better chances arriving in the afternoon with storm possibilities weakening in the evening hours. As of this morning, the chance of rain/storms is still just a chance - with severe weather possibilities (main threats being heavy rain and isolated strong wind gusts) looking to remain to the north (think north of I-69) and not be a concern for A2.
Starting off the day about ten degrees cooler than last Saturday. Those of you out there at 8am can expect 59 degrees and partly cloudy skies, winds out of the SW at 8-10mph (small twigs and leaves blow about). If you wore a light jacket in the morning, you won't need it by lunchtime with temps in the mid 70s. Still seeing some sunshine with those clouds, so today may be another one where you need some sunscreen fair-skinned friends! Winds are shifting to become more westerly at 10-12mph (loose paper blows about, small tree branches sway). The afternoon will bring a high of 84 degrees, and you'll notice an increase in cloud cover as well as a decrease in the winds (down to about 6-7mph towards the start of the game). The chance of a passing shower or storm is the highest in the afternoon, but it's a small chance.
Still warm for the start of the game tonight- 76 degrees! Still a decent amount of cloud cover around too, and also the chance of a rain shower. Winds are out of the west at about 5mph (just enough to feel it, some leaves will rustle).
Halftime will still have us feeling pretty darn comfy under those lights! Dropping just a bit to 70 degrees. We'll have a lot of clouds hanging around, and that pesky chance of rain too. Winds are starting to shift a bit again as the front moves further south - out of the WNW at about 5mph.
We'll cool off a little more by the time you walk out of the stadium - down to 64. Winds are light at 3-5mph out of the WNW (winds this light you'd barely see ripples on a lake). We're going to keep just some of those clouds, and the slight chance of a passing shower. Didn't get enough throughout the day and headed out to celebrate a win? That walk home will be in the mid 60s, with a light NW breeze, and we haven't been able to shake that slight chance of rain yet. The rain possibilities come to an end early Sunday morning. For those traveling home from this epic game, Sunday afternoon will bring more and more sunshine, and highs will be in the low 70s - but it will be breezy. Winds behind our passing cold front are out of the NE at 10-20mph with gusts in the mid 20s (small trees begin to sway, some plastic garbage cans may tip over). To hell with Notre Dame!
Christina Burkhart is a meteorologist for NBC/ABC in Traverse City, MI. She grew up in Ann Arbor and associates Saturdays with Michigan football. Go Blue!!
I was going to spend my MGoTime this week addressing the shifting odds in the Big Ten after week one, but it's hard to focus when it's Notre Dame week. With all the semantic arguing about whether or not it's a real rivalry, I've found myself wandering down memory lane a lot. However it's couched, it's been a grand run of games over the years, and I am old enough to have memories of all of them, even the Rick Leach-Joe Montana duel that started the modern day series back in 1978. Of course, this is a rivalry, but pointing out the Irish's countdown clock to this game probably would make me an MSU fan, so I wont do that. Instead, how about I take you down Memory Lane with, of course, a point spread angle.
The underdog is 23-6 ATS in this series since the 1978 renewal. Can you name the six times that the chalk covered the spread? We played this game on twitter last night, and it didn't take very long for most of the correct answers to reveal themselves. So, you are under a bit of pressure to perform here, guys. While pondering, I will quickly list the spread changes on Michigan's future games this season. Odds per sportsbook.com:
At Penn State: Last week, UM -3; Today, UM -3
At Michigan St: Last week, MSU -2.5; Today, UM -2.5
Vs Nebraska: Last week, UM -4; Today, UM -3.5
at Northwestern. Last week, UM -3; Today, UM -6
Vs Ohio State. Last week, OSU -4; Today, OSU -3.5
I have no idea why the Nebraska line is shrinking. Also, it's worth noting that 5dimes had more future Michigan games on their preseason Games Of The Year board. However, that book apparently doesn't re-release new lines as the season goes on, so we're stuck analyzing only sportsbook.com's more limited action. I wanted to see how much the UM -12 line over UConn moved, but we'll have to wait until game week to find out.
Alright, had enough time on the trivia question? Hope so, because here comes the big reveal........
1981, Ann Arbor. Michigan 25, Notre Dame 7. Closing Line, UM -4...... One of the most bittersweet wins in program history. I don't know if anything could top the 2008 Outback Bowl on this list. Like that rousing victory over Florida, the Wolverines showcased everything that had made them such a highly touted team to begin the season. Butch Woolfolk rushed for 139 yards and as a team the Wolverines churned out 320 yards on the ground. Michigan just completed four passes on the day, but three went to Anthony Carter who took two of those to the house, including a 77-yard bomb to open the scoring. The Michigan D suffocated the Irish at every turn. It's just that they did it a week after losing 21-14 at Wisconsin, an inglorious season opener for the preseason #1 team in the nation. Seriously, how many preseason #1 teams lose their opener? FIRE BO ROD. The good news here is Michigan throttled the Irish, who had taken over the #1 ranking in the wake of Michigan's loss. The bad news is that other than this game, Michigan wasn't very sharp in their important games of the year. They lost to Iowa and Ohio State by uninspiring 9-7 and 14-9 scores. Had they split those games, they would have gone to the Rose Bowl. Instead, the Hawks went to Pasadena and Michigan played UCLA in something called the Bluebonnet Bowl at the Houston Astrodome.
1982,South Bend. Notre Dame 23, Michigan 17, Closing Line, ND -4.....Wait. Bo not only lost, but couldn't cover the spread against Gerry Faust? Honestly, I don't know why we kept that guy around for as long as we did. AC returned a punt for a score, but it wasn't enough. ND's Dave Duereson stripped Michigan flanker Vince Bean of the ball on the Wolverines final attempt to take the lead, and the game was over. This was Notre Dame's first home night game in program history. We waited nearly three decades for revenge over this moment and 2011 delivered. I love it when a plan comes together.
1991, Ann Arbor. Michigan 24, Notre Dame 14. Closing Line, UM -3.5....... This game speaks for itself. Desmond Howard's catch is the signature play of this series, launching a Heisman Trophy campaign and perhaps the most dominant single season individual performance in Michigan history. The game made Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) list of top-5 Michigan moments in series history. Hard to quibble with Tremendous here, but I will.
I would kick 1994, his top choice, off the list, move his other selections (2011, 1991, 2010, 2006) each up a notch and put the 1985 win over the Irish in the fifth and final spot. Admittedly, I am biased towards the '85 team. It's my favorite Michigan team of all-time, non national championship division. The run-up to the 1985 season was a down time for Michigan. They went an unheard of 6-6 the year before, had lost three of their last four to Ohio State and teams called Iowa and Illinois were going to Rose Bowls instead of them. Conventional wisdom said Bo had lost it and Michigan was a program in slow decay. The Irish were supposed to come into Ann Arbor in 1985 and extend the Wolverines misery. Instead Michigan kept the Irish out of the end zone all day en route to an inspiring 20-12 win. It was our first look at what would go down as one of program's best defensive units. Michigan capped the season with wins over Ohio State and then Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl, ended #2 in the nation and re-established itself as a national power. Michigan would win Big 10 titles in six of the next seven years with five Rose Bowl berths. That whole run started with the '85 upset over the Irish. Besides, you cant have a top-5 that includes outcomes from two seasons that ended with the coach getting fired. The 2010 win gets to stay on the list because OH MY GOD DENARD!!! The 1985 gets bonus points because of the drunk Irish fan sitting behind us at the game who kept yelling at Gerry Faust. PINKETT, PINKETT, PUNT GERRY!! WHY DONT YOU GIVE IT TO PINKETT AGAIN GERRY!! WE'RE ALREADY PUTTING FOR SALE SIGNS IN YOUR YARD GERRY!! Easily one of the funniest random fans I've ever sat near during a game. Right up there with Barfie at the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium for Browns games, but that's a whole different story.
2003, Ann Arbor. Michigan 38, Notre Dame 0. Closing Line, UM -10...... The 'Houston Is Better Game.' Please tell me this is true. The students were chanting this comparing the Irish to the Cougar team the Wolverines whipped the week before, right? We had been waiting our whole life it seemed to see Michigan just annihilate Notre Dame for a game, rather than give us a typical heart attack inducing win or loss. We got it in this game. I didn't even mind that I lost $50 on the +10. What can I say, I don't analyze this game, I just take the underdog. Speaking of 38-0 scores.....
2007, Ann Arbor. Michigan 38, Notre Dame 0, Closing Line, Michigan -9.5........ The 0-2 vs 0-2 cripple fight. Let's not talk about the preceding events. Just focus on Jimmy Claussen vs Ryan Mallet. Installment II of this series' three part Yakety Sax run. High times, indeed. I actually did not bet this game. How could you? The Irish looked like they had just started their football program during their first two games. And Michigan? Woof. Let's just move on.......
2012, South Bend. Notre Dame 13, Michigan 6, Closing Line, ND -6......Last year. What did it take for Notre Dame to cover as chalk in the series for the first time in 30 years? How about Michigan throwing interceptions on five straight passes, the last four by previous Irish foil Denard Robinson. Let's talk about the first of that bunch, a halfback pass that Vincent Smith lobbed into the hands of an Irish defender on first and goal. I place it third on the list of worst Michigan picks in this rivalry, behind Elvis Grbac hitting a wide open Michael Stonebreaker in the end zone in 1990 and Chad Henne in 2005 chucking it across his body on a bootleg killing a critical third quarter scoring chance. But at least its ahead of Demetrious Brown's cumulative effort in the 1987 game.
That's the rundown of the six times the favorite covered the spread in this series since 1978. The most common incorrect answer was the 2008 clash. It's an obvious, albeit wrong, guess given how bad Michigan was that year. Believe it or not, they were favored on the closing line by -1. Twitter friend @DrewCHallett did point out to an archival link showing ND favored by -1, but cover.com lists UM -1 and my Phil Steele magazine lists UM -2. I'm keeping this in the underdog covered column. Otherwise, I really don't want to talk about the 2008 game because it wont take long before some Michigan fan chirps in and tries to explain how Michigan really was the better team that day and should have won, blah, blah, blah. Look, this was the first in a long line of Rich Rod turds, to pretend otherwise is as lame as clinging to the notion that all Rich needed was Jeff Casteel, and he'll still be here. La La Land, folks.
Other popular guesses included the 1987 season opener that Michigan lost by a dismal 26-7 score as 3.5-point chalk; the 1999 game when A-Train scored the game winning TD to give Michigan a 26-22 win, but failed to cover the -7.5 line; 2011, however Michigan was 3.5-point home dogs that evening; and even a few 1997 guesses. Michigan won that game by a 21-14 score, a rather large margin for the series, but the Wolverines were a whopping -14.5 coming into the game. It was the fourth game of the season and the Irish were a shaky 1-2 coming into Ann Arbor, fresh of 28-17 and 23-7 losses to Purdue and Michigan St respectively. Hey, how about a hearty shout out to the Irish's #RealRivals for softening up the Domers for us and helping Michigan out in their national title quest!
As for this year's game. The line has grown from UM -3 to -4.5. It's a classic look ahead game for the Irish, what with Purdue on deck, so maybe it makes sense that the line is growing towards Michigan. Given the history, it's hard to turn down those points. And I wouldn't. I think it's the play to make if you decide to go to the window on this one. After a six year run of high scoring games in this series, during which the winner averaged 36.5 points per game, the series returned to the defenses a year ago. I think it stays defensive centric tomorrow. Michigan wins 20-17, Devin Garden runs and passes for a touchdown and a late defensive stop, let's say a Blake Countess interception, seals the win, but not the cover, for the Wolverines.........Have fun, enjoy the day and if you're Ann Arbor, swing by Fingerlee Lumber for our tailgate. We're the ones with the Desmond Howard RV. Go Blue!
I'm 31. This means that unlike Mark May (Age 53) and Skip Bayless (Age 61) I have never known a time in which Michigan and Notre Dame were not playing each other, apart from the occasional two-year break. It also means that I don't know who Bubba Smith was, but I'm reasonably certain he never played for Michigan.
Like many of you, I was astounded to learn that the Michigan-Notre Dame series is not a rivalry. Wikipedia claims it is, but then wikipedia also claims there is such a thing as "Puppy pregnancy syndrome", a psychosomatic illness in which the victim thinks that "shortly after being bitten by a dog, puppies are conceived within their abdomen." So now I don't know what to believe.
I've always counted Ohio State, Michigan State, Notre Dame and maaaaaaaybe Minnesota as Michigan's rivals. The thing is, when I was growing up Notre Dame was the only team that was really a threat. Minnesota has beat Michigan twice since I've been born. Michigan State has always been and will always be Little Brother, even if a nasty Michigan coaching transition gave them the upper hand for a few years. Ohio State is undoubtedly Michigan's greatest rival, but my football brain was congealing during the John Cooper era in which Ohio State was more of a cartoon villain. Sure, they were menacing and evil, but at the end of the day they almost always got what was coming to them. Notre Dame was different, though. They were good, like the Buckeyes but without the hilarious tendency to choke games away. As often as not, a game against Notre Dame was going to end in tears, and that made the victories all the more sweet.
Here are my personal top memories of the rivalry that never was.
#8: Rocket @#$%ing Ismail, 1989
Hey, I didn't say they were all going to be GOOD memories, did I?
In 1989 the college football world was centered at the Michigan-Indiana border. #1 Notre Dame faced off against #2 Michigan at Michigan Stadium. I was only 7 years old but I knew this was a big deal. Things went pretty well... except some dude named Raghib "Rocket" Ismail returned two Michigan kickoffs for touchdowns, and Notre Dame won 24-19.
#7. Remy Hamilton Drills It, 1994
There's a special feeling of dread when your team needs to attempt a last-second, do-or-die field goal. There's so many things that could go wrong. A bad snap. A bad hold. A bad kick. A block. A sudden gust of wind. But when Remy Hamilton lined up for a 42-yard attempt with Michigan down by one point, he drilled the cleanest kick you could ever hope for. And he knew it, too. Watch the video. Foot hits ball at 0:17. Kicker and holder are in celebration mode not one second later, even though the ball still has a few more seconds of flight time before it makes it to the uprights.
#6 and #5: Thirty Eight to Nothing, 2003 and 2007
By the turn of the 21st Century, Notre Dame had fallen on hard times. In spite of Returning to Glory in 2002 and 2005, they had a nasty penchant for losing seasons. That did not stop their fans' (or the pollsters') belief in Notre Dame's divine right to a vastly inflated preseason ranking. It fell to Michigan to introduce reality, and we frequently did so, most notably with a pair of 38-0 beatdowns, in 2003 and 2007. 2006's 47-21 beatdown (aka the "Brady Quinn for Heisman" game) wasn't bad either.
#4: Tate sees Cover Zero, 2009
After enduring by far the worst football season I had ever witnessed in Rich Rodriguez's first year, 2009 started out with promise. After slapping around WMU the week before, Michigan settled in for a slugfest with Notre Dame. Michigan would win it 38-34 with a short touchdown pass with 11 seconds left, but it was this earlier play that really sticks in the memory. True freshman quarterback Tate Forcier found a hole in the Notre Dame defense on 4th and 3, and scampered straight up the middle 31 yards for an untouched touchdown. Finally we were starting to see how the Rodriguez offense worked! All we needed was our quarterback for the next four years to keep his head on straight and for the defense to be something better than terrible...
#3: Denard Robinson is to Midfield and They'll Never Catch Him, 2010
Denard Robinson's name appears in a lot of recordbooks. One of them is Notre Dame's. See: Longest run from scrimmage in the 83-year history of Notre Dame Stadium. Once again the game would be won by Michigan 28-24 on a short last-second touchdown, but it was this 87-yard run that is the lasting memory of the day.
#2: Under the Lights, 2011
In 2011, in the first-ever night game at Michigan Stadium, Michigan defeated Notre Dame, scoring the winning touchdown on a screen pass to Vincent Smith with 82 seconds left. In 2011, in the first-ever night game at Michigan Stadium, Notre Dame defeated Michigan, scoring the winning touchdown on a deep pass to Theo Riddick with 30 seconds left.
In 2011, in the first ever night game at Michigan Stadium, Michigan defeated Notre Dame, scoring the winning touchdown on a pass to Roy Roundtree with 2 seconds left. It was the craziest end to a football game I've ever seen. It was the craziest end to a football game not involving the Stanford Marching Band that I've ever even heard of. I nearly put it at #1 on my list, but not quite...
#1: Desmond Howard makes The Catch, 1991
The 1991 game was won by Michigan 24-14, which means it wasn't as close as most of the others on the list. This one play, though, left such an impression on my 9-year-old mind that it has not been topped since. To this date, when my wife asks for my opinion on interior decorating, I tell her what we really need is a floor-to-ceiling mural of The Catch. She hasn't gone for it yet but I'm still fighting the good fight. On 4th "and a foot", nursing a 3-point lead, Michigan did the most un-Michigan thing you could imagine. Elvis Grbac pump faked, then lobbed the ball into the endzone. When the ball was in the air, Desmond Howard was bracketed in double coverage. When the ball came down, his impossibly outstretched arms were there to cradle it. Touchdown.
Thank you to all the youtubers who posted the above videos, many of which are members of Mgoblog.