So an hour before the kick off of the annual Michigan vs Notre Dame game the other night, Michigan’s Athletic Director David Brandon was handed a letter from Notre Dame. When he opened it the next day, he learned that Notre Dame was canceling the annual series between the two schools after their meeting in 2014.....
This is sad for me, because I live 20 minutes from Notre Dame, and I’m a HUGE Michigan fan. The result of this is that the chance I get for yearly bragging rights in my community is gone. Its also sad because Notre Dame and Michigan are two of the oldest football traditions in the country, and they’ve got the oldest rivalry in the nation - which like .... awesome! So Notre Dame is pulling the plug on something I think is pretty cool and pretty important to me.
Why would they do this?
They say that its to protect their coastal important rivalries. I think they’re lying through their teeth when they say this.
Well, Notre Dame - a school with a proud of being independent in football (which makes absolutely no sense to me!) is looking to protect its brand. Now hopefully you’re asking, “What does that mean?!?” Well its about about visibility and recruiting.
College sports are a really weird way that schools build their reputation and influence. Example: Pennsylvania State University. In the 1960’s Penn State was a rather insignificant school, but in the next few decades, Joe Paterno, through the power of his football tradition, built up the school’s reputation. Today, “State College” is one of the more respected academic traditions in the country, a member of the prestigious AAU (a collection of the top research institutions on the continent), and national brand. All of this way made possible by the fame and the cash flow brought in by the football team.
Notre Dame, in much the same way as Penn State, has been propped up by its football tradition. The exploits of their traveling football team in the early part of the 20th century put this midwest school in the front of the nation. They would play anybody, anywhere. As a result Notre Dame has strong connections with major cities on either coast. As a result, many of the students that attend the school are from states far away from the school. And you cannot separate the rise of their academic tradition to a top 20 school, from their football tradition.
Now in the past few years decades Notre Dame’s football tradition has become a bit ..... stagnant. They have not finished in the top 25 for the past 6 seasons, they have failed to win a BCS game since the BCS was started in 1998, and they’ve failed to win a National Championship since 1988. Some have dubbed the phrase, “Notre Dame, returning to glory since 1993.”
Winning 1 National Championship in the past 34 years is something that is tough for the proud alumni of the schools, a fact drilled deep into the awareness of many of the alumni from Notre Dame. They insist that their school do everything possible to return their alma mater back to the level it once was. They have gone through multiple coaches looking for the man who can be their messiah; the chosen one capable of winning it all.
There have been several reasons why their brand has suffered; academics, location, the number of schools getting on TV, and the rise of the SEC have all contributed to Notre Dame’s dip in prominence. These factors have weakened Notre Dame.
There is also the way that the National Championship teams build their schedule. You want to have a strong schedule, yet you need to win the majority of your games. Notre Dame hasn’t been able to do these things in recent years. Either they have played teams that were much superior to them in strength, they have lost to their rivals, or they have played teams that were so poor that it did not prepare them/boost their strength of schedule.
Notre Dame has always fiercely maintained their independence from a conference. The main result would be that this would limit their influence. The problem with the major football conferences is that they end up being tied down to a geographical region. (The SEC mainly recruits students to their school from south eastern, the Pac(ific) 12 recruits the west coast, the Big Ten (12) recruits the midwest, and the Big 12(10) recruits Texas.)Notre Dame knows this, and doesn’t want to become geographically limited; they want to make sure that they maintain their national brand.
Notre Dame is located in the midwest part of the country, near Chicago (the region’s largest metropolitan area). They are very visible in this city, so much so that they aren’t worried about recruiting in their own back yard. They are comfortable with their fan base in the middle area of the country.
To be present on the west coast, Notre Dame has played Stanford and Southern Cal. They rotate the years that they play them, so every year Notre Dame makes a trip out to California. They have also been affiliated with the Big East for the past few decades; full members in basketball & the Olympic sports and playing a number of Big East opponents in football. Thus, Notre Dame is visible on both coasts.
In the past few years, Big East football has become diluted. Many of their traditional football programs have left the conference, and Notre Dame has been left to schedule a number of weak teams instead. As a result, ND has chosen to change is conference relationship to an East Coast conference with some football muscle: the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).
Notre Dame will now play 5 or 6 games a year against ACC opponents. These ACC opponents will be quality football teams stretch up and down the East Coast. So their move to the ACC is good for their level of competition AND it gives them a presence on that coast. Its a win-win for Notre Dame.
This year, Notre Dame is already playing 4 ACC schools, so to add another game or two against these conference teams means that Notre Dame will need to drop one of its non-coastal, midwest opponents; they chose to drop Michigan.
The problem with Notre Dame saying they are stopping the Michigan rivalry because they value their more important coastal rivalries, is that Michigan isn’t the only non-coastal, midwest school that Notre Dame plays; Michigan State and Purdue are also regular opponents. So to say that Notre Dame canceled their series with Michigan is simply because they’re looking to protect their coastal reputation - which was Notre Dame’s reason for dropping the Michigan series - is to miss the point. There are three schools they could have chosen to stop playing. Now if you look at these three schools and their football rivalry with Notre Dame you’ll see something else.
Purdue: Notre Dame has dominated its series with Purdue. Since 1970, Purdue has only beaten the Irish 10 times; only 2 of these wins being in South Bend! (This includes an 11-game winnings streak by Notre Dame.) This rivalry has been completely one sided.
Michigan State: Michigan State is viewed as a thorn in the side of the Irish. They’re the pesky underdog that usually gives them fits. MSU has always been a 2nd level program in the midwest, surviving on the football players that were rejected by the region’s elite programs. The series is a bit more even than the ND/Purdue series (with Notre Dame winning 2/3rds of the games), yet its still a series where Notre Dame is the favorite.
Michigan: In the non-coastal midwest region, there are three big dogs in the football world: Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Michigan. Not just the biggest in the region, they’re three of the biggest football traditions in the country! They are near the top of the of the totem pole in wins, national championships, budgets, stadiums, Heisman Trophy winners, etc. etc. etc. If there is a stat that can be compared, these three schools are among the leaders in those stats.
While Ohio State and Notre Dame don’t have much of a rivalry, Michigan and Notre Dame have a very fierce rivalry that stretches back to the earliest days of organized college football. Some students from Michigan, were the first to teach ND students how to play the football. Michigan was ND’s first opponent in 1887 (an 8-0 UofM win). And Notre Dame was first described as “the Fighting Irish” by a Michigan newspaper. There is also a long period of time between 1909 and 1978 where the two schools refused to play each other.
Since resuming playing one another (in 1978), Notre Dame and Michigan have played 29 games, each team has winning 14 and tying in 1992. Its as even as it possibly could be. And while both teams like to think they’re a better tradition, they’re the same tradition; Notre Dame == Michigan.
[Also, we should note that since resuming this rivalry, Notre Dame has only won one national championship. 10 of their 11 championships were won during the years the teams did not play each other (1909-1978).]
So what we see is that Notre Dame canceled the rivalry with the midwest rival they’re equal with; while keeping the rivalries that they dominate.
I think we should see this move by Notre Dame as nothing short of the Irish cutting the strongest of their non-coastal, midwestern rivals as they amp up their strength of schedule by moving into a relationship with the ACC. This has nothing to do with protecting their coastal allegiances. They want to avoid a strength of schedule that will limit their ability to compete consistently for the national championship.
Every year lots of new people find this corner of the internet, and some struggle to find all the awesome information stored here. First, take a second and scroll up and look under the winged helmet - there are a lot of very useful links. I'm putting some of them here because lots of people have no idea that they exist, and we've seen tons of threads (Where can I watch!?!?) created because... well because people don't know that a sticky thread exists for that.
Not sure who Tacopants is? Slow on the other inside jokes? want to know why Brian has a MS in Computer engineering? There's your answer.
- "Tacopants"? Tacopants is Jason Avant's eleven-foot tall imaginary friend. Chad Henne spent much of 2005 hitting him between the numbers, which are unfortunately eight feet off the ground and made of dreams. Blessed with infinite eligibility and the ability to sneak on and off the field without alerting the referees -- made of dreams, remember -- Tacopants has taken a lesser role in the offense as Henne matures but still pops up at inopportune times. The term has its genesis in this post.
That's stuff about the guy who runs/owns/is MGoBlog. Think he's betrayed his ethics? Have a tip/correction? Email is a way better way to do it than a dickish thread.
Want to advertise: Talk to Seth.
Can't start a thread? Not sure if "Denard" is a bad thread title? What's on topic? This isn't Nam, there are rules.
Guide to eating and drinking. Zingerman's is good, but overpriced. Maize and Blue is better. /shots fired
Stuck in a car on a Saturday? http://mgoblog.com/mgoboard/listening-gameanywhere
WHERE CAN I WATCH THE GAME:http://mgoblog.com/mgoboard/um-friendly-bar-locations-across-us-and-elsewhere
Stop making threads about it.
Hope this has been a helpful and informative little diary. Now go enjoy wife day and the rest of the bye week.
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We've all got our own gameday rituals and superstitions. And we all question them when the game doesn't turn out right. Why do we, the mere fans, look for strange ways to share some of the blame? Is it our own weird way of feeling like we're a part of the team?
What are your gameday superstitions? And did you forget to do any of them on Saturday?
OnThursday the Blockhams look to the bye week.
THE BLOCKHAMS™ runs (typically) every Tuesday here at MGoBlog,
and at least every Thursday on its official home page. Also, don't forget to
check out Friday Roughs, a spontaneous low-end comic based on trending
Michigan events, available on Twitter and Facebook every Friday.
So rather than start another thread questioning the offense, I decided to take a look around our lovely conference:
1: Northwestern/Minnesota - They haven't gone up against great competition, but remain the only two (postseason eligible) teams that are undefeated. Back in August if I told you the October 13th game between the two could feature a 6-0 Northwestern and 5-0 Minnesota, I bet people would slap me silly.
2: Purdue - Again, not so great competition, but since they host Wisconsin at home they should be the favorites for the Leaders division. Let that sink in....Purdue isn't a darkhorse, they're not a longshot, they're the favorites for the Division. Sure it's because the rest of their division imploded, but hey, baby steps.
And that's all the positives for the conference
1: Wisconsin - At worst, they should be 1-3, but in reality they should at least be 2-2. No matter how you slice it, Wisconsin is the leagues Number 1 disappointment. The defending conference champion almost losing to FCS teams, dropping a game against a what will probably be a middle of the pack PAC-12 team, and essentially losing to a WAC team is not how you want to start off your title defense. Couple that with having Montee Ball yet only having the 88th best rushing attack in the country and they're a clear number 1
2: Iowa - Coming in at a close second is the 2-2 Hawkeyes, fresh off a stinging home loss to Central. Going into this year people knew was going to be difficult for the Hawkeyes. They're replacing both coordinators, and were extremely thin at receiver and RB, but they had hopes that with an average defense and a veteran QB, they could make a fight in the division. Plenty of dropped passes later, a few special teams meltdowns, and you've got people questioning whether Iowa will make a bowl or not
3: Illinois/PSU - I don't really know what to say here, at this point we're not talking about teams that are clear disappointments so much as they are performing somewhat below expectations. Illinois has blowout losses to Arizona State and Louisiana Tech (!!!), with a win over WMU and a seal clubbing over Charleston Southern, which is apparently a real school; while Penn State dropped their first two games to Ohio and Virginia, while managing to salvage games over Navy and Temple
4: Nebraska/Michigan - Here we've got teams that could be 4-0 and 3-1 respectively. Both teams could win the conference, but could jsut as easily go 8-4. For Nebraska, the defense should stiffen up if they want some Roses, and for Michigan, well there's about 40 other threads discussing us, go there and talk about it (turnovers)
5: MSU/OSU - They're just below Neb/Mich. Here neither team has lost a game they should have won, but they haven't looked impressive winnning those games. MSU had to give Le'veon Bell 5 million touches in their opener to beat a rebuilding Boise team, and had to do the same gameplan to beat Eastern (!!!!!!!!!). The defense has looked good, but they have also gone up against some pretty bad offenses, Boise got shut out against BYU, and Eastern is Eastern. Notre Dame put up 300 yards on them, but had one big break for a TD, and a bunch of FG's. Right now their best win is over a CMU team. And when you look at OSU, struggles against Central Florida, UAB, and Cal don't bode well for their season. Braxton Miller has been doing it all for the Buckeyes, but as any Michigan fan can tell you, that's not a viable plan for continued success. The passing offense leaves much to be desired and various injuries have knocked their starting RB's out of commision at one point or another. Their defense hasn't been embarrassed, but they can't claim greatness either.
The Meh: Indiana. IU sucks, and a loss to Ball State isn't really surprising, nor are their wins over UMass and Indiana State. Conference play will knock them back down to nothing
There is a myth that lives on this board that Denard was a better passer in 2010. This post is not meant to excuse Al Borges' playcalling, or bash Rich Rod, or elevate Lloyd Carr's run-run-run-punt strategy. It's just a look at the falsity that Denard was a better passer in 2010.
The unfortunate, painful truth that this diary reveals is that our passing offense is not much better than it was in 2010, when it wasn't very good at all (when it mattered).
Let's throw out the garbage games and focus on Michigan's games against opponents that had respectable defenses in 2010:
- Ohio (3rd in total yds)
- Iowa (16th in total yds)
- Wisconsin (23rd in total yds)
- Michigan State (32nd in total yds)
You might be wondering, "Where is Notre Dame and Penn State on that list?" Well, I'm glad you asked. They were 46th and 48th...behind powerhouses like San Diego State, Hawaii, and ILLINOIS!!! (the team we scored 67 points against). So they sucked. But we still lost to Penn State. Even though they sucked. Because our defense was, well, worser.
I don't need to lay out the stats from the ohio game. They trounced us, and Denard got pulled in favor of Forcier at the end of the game. We couldn't move the ball at all, and scored only 7 points.
Let's move on to Iowa...
Their defense was ranked 16th in 2010, and yet we were able to score 28 points. This is actually the best comparable for this weekend's Notre Dame game, since ND is ranked 17th in total defense right now. Yes, we lost the game by a score of 28-38, and those four TDs sure do look good...but only because you either don't remember what happened or judge a book (or score) by it's cover (or...score). Here are some relevant stats:
- Denard 13/18, 98 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
- Forcier 17/26, 239, 1 TD, 2 INT
But here's the most important stat: We only scored 7 points when Denard was on the field. Denard get could get yards (108 on 18 carries) but not points. Iowa was stacking the box, and all the offense could muster was a TD on a drive when Denard threw three passes: one was incomplete, one was for a 6 yd. loss, and the last was a screen to Smith for an 8 yd. TD. Denard got hurt in the 3rd quarter and in came Forcier.
It was Forcier that brought the team back in that game, and Forcier that sealed our fate with his INTs. It's worth noting that completing passes underneath when you're behind by 21 points is MUCH easier. In fact, that leads to lots of confusion about the effectiveness of Denard's passing and the 2010 offense in general: we got loads of "soft" yards because we were hopelessly behind and our opponents played softer coverages and lighter fronts.
Wisconsin has a similar storyline, except that Denard played much more that game. We scored exactly ZERO points in the first half (although we did miss a 30 yd. field goal). With a 24 point lead, Wisconsin converted to prevent defense, and allowed us back in the game. Denard stayed in this time, and racked up a nice, meaningless statline: 16/25 for 239 yds, 2 TDs, and, of course, 1 INT. The important part: Denard was 4/9 for 22 yds passing in the first half. When Wisconsin was playing their base defense, Denard couldn't pass. Only the gooey butter cake version of Wiscy's D allowed DR some meaningless passing yardage. Further proof of this came in the fourth quarter, when we had come back to make it a 21-31 game. Denard couldn't move the ball anymore.
The final example is, perhaps, the most damning. Michigan State had a good-but-not-great defense in 2010. Their success was largely a result of their schedule and some good defensive coaching. They lost badly to Iowa (and 'Bama), snuck by a pretty lousy ND team in overtime, and narrowly edged out a VERY average Penn State team. Their only quality win was against Wisconsin, and that game was played in East Lansing. Despite their easy schedule, the Spartan defense was still only ranked 32nd in total yds. Michigan actually had the lead twice in this game, up 3-0 in the first quarter and 10-7 in the second. Denard was 6/8 for 51 yds in the first quarter, but threw an INT in the endzone. In the second quarter, Denard shined again. He was 4/6 for 81 yds and a TD. At the half, Michigan was down 10-17.
The second half was a very, very different story. Denard was 7/15 for 82yds and 2 INTs. The same guy we saw against ND. Only against a defense that wasn't nearly as good. And we were at home. The 4th quarter TD was only scored after MSU had rung-up a 21 point lead.
So here's the bottom line: Denard has never been a good passer, or even an average passer. And against good defenses, we won't win until he's able to throw the ball somewhat effectively. Maybe that's why Borges keeps making him throw, especially before the B1G season starts.
So what's the difference between now and 2010? The defense. Because our Greg defense is not our GERG defense, we are in every game, and teams don't stop stacking the box against Denard. They don't stop blitzing. They don't play soft coverage. So Denard never gets to ring-up his stats, and looks even worse.
I certainly won't excuse Borges' playcalling on Saturday--it needed to be better. But the fact is that our only quality wins have come when Denard has been able to make plays in the passing game (or Hemingway was able to bail out Denard) and I expect it stay that way. If Denard can't pass, we're screwed, and 4 or 5 losses is our best case scenario.
Growing up, I was not a Michigan fan. I lived in the Chicago suburbs, and I had two favorite college teams: The University of Colorado for football and The University of North Carolina for basketball. I rooted for Colorado because they were my mom's alma mater, while I rooted for UNC because that was where Michael Jordan went, and when you're a kid from Chicago, that's the only reason you need.
The first time I ever watched a Michigan game that I remember was the 1993 basketball championship game, because Michigan was playing UNC. At the time, I was obviously pleased with the outcome of that game.
My life changed dramatically the weekend of September 24th, 1994, when I was 12 years old. The 25th was the day that my dad remarried. Since my stepmom and her family was from Michigan, we all gathered around the television to watch Michigan play Colorado on the 24th. The room's members consisted entirely of Michigan alums and/or season ticketholders with the exception of myself and my dad - my stepmom to be, my stepsister to be, my stepsister's then boyfriend now husband, my stepmom's best friend & husband, and other various relatives and friends from Michigan.
Me being the obnoxious 12 year old that I was, I was rooting on Colorado partly out of loyalty to my mom's alma mater and partly out of wanting to be the contrarian in the room. So when Kordell Stewart heaved a prayer at the buzzer, I went bananas when it connected and proceeded to rub it in everyone's faces the entire rest of the evening.
My new stepfamily realized they didn't want to have someone taunting them every time Michigan suffered a loss in the future, so they promptly began my indoctrination into all things Michigan the following season. I was brought to Ann Arbor for the first of many games before I got to college. It was the 1995 game vs Minnesota where UM won by 35 points. I got to experience tailgating on the Golf Course before and after the game, as well as dinner at Good Time Charley's, on top of my first time inside the Big House. Going to a game annually in Ann Arbor became a tradition, as did going to the games in Chicago every time UM came to play Northwestern.
Once I was in high school and had to start applying to colleges, Michigan was at the top of my list of preferred destinations. I got in to Michigan as well as my safety school of Illinois and Michigan was my clear favorite between the two. My dad, knowing the massive out of state tuition bill that would be coming compared to IL (at the time almost a 90k difference for 4 years), tried to bribe me into going to U of I instead by offering me a new car.
My dad only offered me a new Saturn. As I already was driving a gently used Camry, I turned him down unless he was willing to escalate his offer to a BMW 3 series or a Honda S2000. He declined that, so I was Ann Arbor bound in the fall of 2000.
I've been bleeding Maize & Blue for 17 years now, and I now look forward to indoctrinating my children in all things U of M. The nice thing is I'll be able to get my kids pro-Michigan from birth, as opposed to their teenage years, so they won't have any years missing from their lives as Michigan fans.
Thanks for reading, I just wanted to share as today is the anniversary of a lifechanging day for me.