I am sure that comes as no surprise to anyone. A quick perusal through the main stream media sites like ESPN, CFN as well as the blogosphere reveals that the Utah Utes Bandwagon tomorrow afternoon is pretty much damn well full. Now, I am not here to ring up those short sighted fools for blindly taking the Boys from the Beehive State. Despite most going against UM tomorrow, an interesting meme is developing as I read through a lot of those predictions. Many are going with the Utes, but also mentioning a caveat somewhere along the lines "Michigan will be much better than people expect this season, but they'll fall just short of the more experienced Utes." Ok, so at least thats an improvement after most of the off season where a lot of people expected us to be bedfellows with Indiana in the Big 10 standings.
What I want to talk about here, however, is the point spread. Michigan is still favored, so obviously when all these experts are picking Utah to win, they're gobbling up the points as well. Utah is the prototypical publid dog, one whose bark sounds so attractive and tough that everyone and their mother collars it. The line movement of this game bears that out.
Back in a UV in the middle of summer, Brian linked to the Las Vegas Sports Consultants, a handicapping forum and research site, that had released an initial line of UM -7 over Utah. In a subsequent diary, I theorized that line would not be valid for very long. Since LVSC is not an actual site where you could place I bet, I said expect that when the real books come out with a line, to see something much smaller, perhaps as close to a field goal. The public would subsquently jump on Utah and drive the number down even farther.
I was kinda, sorta correct. The first official live line I saw was 5.5 at various offshores from BoDog, Pinnacle, 5Dimes and Sportsbook.com. It took about two weeks of August betting, but the line plunged at all those sites to 3.5. It has stayed firm at the number for the second half of this month. This morning I am seeing that the hook has, at least temporarily, been chopped off and UM is an even 3-point favorite. We'll see if it dips below three. I might be interested at that point as the public keeps buying Utah. I am a big fan of fading the room, mostly because I have never met a cash poor bookie.
In each of the last two years, the Utes--always a solid underdog--have failed miserably against a BCS school in the season lid lifter. In both those games, vs UCLA and Oregon State, the Utes struggled putting up points. Despite the quality of Brian Johnson at QB, they wont be lighting up the scoreboard tomorrow. Utah also gave up 22 sacks in their six regular season games vs bowl opponents last year, so I think our pass rush will be a big factor.
Of course, the real rub is that nobody is expecting either team to score much. I know, not really breaking news, is it? Tomorrow's Over/Under total is either 40 or 40.5, depending on the book. That is the lowest total on the board for the entire weekend. I cant remember any other time where the Michigan game had this low a total put on it and was the lowest on the board. There are a couple of games in the 41.5 to 42.5 range, but just about every other game has at least another TD added to the O/U line.
While the actual line for tomorrow's game has been plummeting all August, the lines for Michigan's "games of the year" this season have stayed steady. I did a separate diary that broke down the lines released for the ND, PSU and OSU games. Those lines have not budged at all and remain with Michigan decided underdogs: +3.5 vs ND, +9.5 vs PSU and +14.5 vs OSU.
I can guarantee these lines will change dramatically based on tomorrow's actual UM performance. If Michigan lays an egg, those lines will rise. Heck, even if they lose close, I think the public will basically have the expectation that UM is heading towards a ND '07 disaster and look to fade the Wolverines until proven otherwise. Considering OSU and PSU will win their games tomorrow by a combined score of 97-9 and ND does not play (which means they can only look better in the minds of the pundits....lol), a Michigan loss will set off more alarm bells than are going on now. But, if they win and look good in the process, many folks might re-evaluate and consider investing in the Wolverines. That is esepcially the case for the ND and PSU games. As much as I would like to grab close to double digits when they play PSU, I would settle for a line of less than a TD because that would mean Michigan is already outperforming the expectations of the experts in the desert and Joe Public.
Michigan football is entering the 19th hour. No turning back, jumping ship and no fan left behind. We've heard the words of Bob Ufer, we've had tidbits from Bob Davie, heard about team prayers and we have have heard everything under the sun regarding the new U of M regime.
The QB picture is fuzzy, many believe the O-line will be lousy, a lot of the skilled positions are virgins on collegiate turf and the LB's are green. If Michigan was running a pro style offense with the above question marks, then I would worry much more. I'm not worried about Michigan's offense, defense, special teams, coaching staff or game plan.
I'm worried of the fear of the unkown. We have all watched spread teams play week in and week out. Michigan never ran it, other than variations here and there. Expectations will be at an all time medium for most of the season with many fans. Believe in Michigan with a firery passion. I feel confident of this team and I expect a different energy in the Big House tomorrow and cannot wait to feel it. Lastly, I'll end this rant with and Bob Ufer quote and a Go Blue, "Oh They Came to Bury Michigan, but Michigan Wasn't Dead".
The Michigan Wolverines Football that we've known and (usually) loved for the past 312 years is long gone. Ushering in a new era to Ann Arbor is Rich Rodriguez, Mike Barwis, and a shit-ton of speedy freshman, and a quarterback that has never played football in college before.
But before we're so quick to forget the past, and all the good that came with it, to embrace the future that will smack us in the face in under 48 hours, let's take this time to remember this past season. The final season for so many beloved Wolverines.
Lloyd Carr, Chad Henne, Mike Hart, Jake Long, Mario Manningham, Adrian Arrington, Shawn Crable, Jamar Adams, among others, will never don a Michigan uniform again. They won't run out of the tunnel, touch the banner, or sing with their bretheren during the post-game celebrations in the locker room.
They won't ever be able to play against the Scarlet and Grey with that fiery passion in their hearts that can one can only feel whilst playing in the Michigan-Ohio State game. They won't ever get to beat their little brothers from East Lansing, a rivalry that, although somewhat one-sided during their time in Ann Arbor, is a hell of a rivalry nonetheless.
They won't ever put a rose in their mouth, knowing that Pasadena awaits their arrival.
As the players and coaches put their final season behind them, so in a way does the Michigan faithful. The Michigan team we watch take the field on Saturday isn't going to be like anything we've ever seen in Maize and Blue before. The defense will blitz relentlessly, our running back corps is as quick and deep as we may have ever had. Running backs will pass, quarterbacks will (attempt to) run.
This is a new team, not because of the departed Seniors and the incoming Freshman, but because of something much, much grander.
So let's take a look at not only the last Michigan Football season for many players and coaches, but in the grander scheme of things, the last "Michigan Football Season" for many of us fans.
Because Saturday will be something completely new, and I for one can't wait.
Check out the tribute video below:
Sorry if this is already widely known, but I hadn't seen it.
The BTN has posted its coverage map for this week's games: http://www.bigtennetwork.com/gamefinder/index.asp
(The map shows you which will be the "featured game" in your area. The other games will be available to you either on overflow channels or not at all.)
The most interesting feature is that you can type in your zip code and cable system, and it will tell you whether your system is showing games on overflow channels and whether they'll be in SD or HD.
For example, if you are living in Atlanta (zip code 30301) and subscribe to Comcast, at noon on Saturday you only see OSU vs. Youngstown State, and not in HD. So you will be deprived of watching the glory of Penn State vs. Coastal Carolina in HD on your plasma screen.
On the other hand, if you're living in DC (zip code 20006) and subscribe to Comcast, you get all five noon games on overflow channels, albeit only in SD. (I remember someone was concerned about whether Comcast would show overflow games in DC, so hopefully this is some reassurance.)
This may not seem that important right now because Michigan isn't on the BTN this week, but if you're a cable subscriber outside the Big Ten footprint, it's worth looking into. Presumably, the cable companies that have overflow channels this week will do the same in the future.
Michigan is a big national draw and will often be BTN's featured game, the way OSU vs. YSU is this week. But it's very possible that at some point this season, Michigan will be on BTN as a non-featured game. You'll want to know if you'll get that game at home and whether it's in HD, or whether you need to switch to DirecTV or Dish Network.
This is part of a speech that Bob Ufer gave at Chrysler arena in 1976 at a rally for President Gerald Ford.
"There run's through the core of all Michigan activities both on and off this campus, a certain intangible thing. We call it "The Michigan Spirit". Maybe you can relate to it. It's the atmosphere that permeates that stadium every Saturday afternoon in the fall where over a hundred thousand fans patiently wait to see whether Bo Schembechler is going to continue his winning ways. You know what I mean! You can feel the tension, the excitement, the charisma that surrounds that stadium every Saturday afternoon. Especially ten to fourteen minutes before kickoff. When a hush settles over that stadium and we all anxiously wait for that simple 4 word command to eminate out of the P.A. system. I can hear it now! "Band take the field!" and out of that eastern tunnel pour 215 well drilled, well disciplined Michigan bandsmen. They pour over the Eastern sideline and they form the big block M and they play the greatest college fight song ever written! The Michigan Victors!! That's when the chills go up and down your spine! You get goose pimples all over, your blood turns maize and blue and everyone out there becomes part of the winningest tradition in the history of Big Ten football as well as the winningest tradition in the history of Big Ten athletics. Folks lets join in and sing the song that the late and great John Phillip Sousa claimed was the greatest college fight song ever written. The Michigan Victors!!!"
If only Bob Ufer were with us this Saturday to see the dawn of a new era of Michigan football. I'm sure some of you out there are Bob Ufer fans and also talented writers. Maybe someone can come up with an example of what Ufer would say this Saturday in Ann Arbor if he were in the announcers booth broadcasting on the Michigan Football Network.
Go Blue!! God bless your cotton pickin' maize and blue hearts!!
I'm sure we all have our favorite M football experiences. Here's one of mine:
Last September I got a call from Scott Draper asking if I would be willing to do a prayer for the team before the Illinois game (I'm now a pastor in Illinois just west of Champaigne, although I was an EECS guy at UM a while back). Apparently Lloyd was aware that players wouldn't get to go to church typically on Sundays after road trips, so they brought in a priest, a Protestant minister (me in this case), and perhaps someone else depending on demand, to hold a little service for the team before games. My instructions were: a one-minute prayer, an eight-minute, spiritually-based motivational talk, and a one minute closing prayer. It was a late game in Champaigne, so I got to the hotel around 1:00 that afternoon. The players were all in their matching sweats. They ate first, which took NO time, I couldn't believe how fast they ate, and then if any of them wanted to they could go to a worship service. I'm embarrassed to say I didn't know enough of the players without their numbers to know who I was speaking to. About 35-40 of them came to my room, along with a few assistant coaches (not Lloyd, he arrived late and was still eating. I don't know if he would have come otherwise). Chad Henne was one I did recognize, and he was in the middle of the front row. They all filed in and completely filled up the front rows while the coaches sat in the back. I did my thing, and after the closing prayer, every player came up (Chad was the first) and shook my hand with their bear-paw sized right hand and thanked me. They were unbelievably classy, not just in thanking me like they were obviously taught to do, but also in their attentive listening -- to a man, complete with nodding at the right times and smiling at the right times and the whole bit. I couldn't have been more impressed. Nor more nervous. I could easily speak in front of Congress after speaking in front of those guys, even if they are just kids, practically. Any other team would have been no big deal, of course, just Michigan. I hope that level of class continues with the new regime. Maybe all teams are like that in D-1, though. I guess I wouldn't know.
Afterward I asked "Soup" Campbell, who was my escort during the process, if what I did was alright. I had no idea what I was supposed to say, really. I graduated seminary with Frank Reich, who qb'd for Maryland and then the Bills, and I emailed him asking for suggestions, but he didn't get back with me until after the fact. Soup said, "That was perfect. We'll have to tell Lloyd to ask you back next time." But I doubt Lloyd will get rehired, so I won't start planning what to say any time soon. And I have no idea if all schools offer such services or if Coach Rodriguez will continue the practice.
It was cool that Chad Henne then went out and gave one of the gutsiest performances ever. All because of my two prayers and eight minutes of Christian motivation. Yes, I know I had zero to do with the team's win and Chad's performance, but it's infinitely cool to have been part of what the team did that day.