i like 'em both
The 3 or 4 still = 4 formula or "You ARE freaking out, MAN."
I can't belive so many people are tired of speculation about the upcoming season. It's the most exciting (and UNKNOWN) start of a season in quite some time. Besides, what do you people do at work? If the answer is "not speculate about sports" then what is it you do for a living that's so fascinating?
Anyway, I will be honest, I have been freaking out (man), but in an attempt not to I thought back to a formula that my family has been using to calculate Michigan wins for a while, and actually under Lloyd Carr (and actually for Bo too, come to that), it was fairly accurate, except for the last couple of years, but those were very up and down and unpredictable, and even had names like the Year of Infinite Pain. You can't predict a year with infinite pain.
The formula is the 3 or 4 still = 4 formula, and requires the steadfast refusal to listen to all the if's and a refusal to listen to a lot of analysis- or the discipline to discount it. The theory is that in college football, tradition is still very important, and except when Charlie LLLLLLLLWLWWeis is ruining it, teams are really surprisingly consistent despite other factors. In this theory tradition wins out, and what usually happens will happen again.
So now I am wondering out loud if things will really change this year, or if a different system will yield really similar results? We will see, and to do it I will introduce the formula. To use this, the analysis is REALLY simple. Is the team:
quite good? Give it a 1/2 (still equals 2)
pretty good, a 2/3 (still equals 3)
good, but a little disappointing for Michigan: 3/4 (still equals 4)
That's all the analysis that's required, and these are the ONLY choices. What the numbers say is this: If we win the lower number, we will be overrated and lose our bowl game, giving us the higher number of losses anyway. If we lose the higher number we will be mad, get a worse bowl opponent and beat them, keeping the number of losses the same. Like I said, the last few years were weird, but take 2004, Chad Henne's freshman year. This was probably a "pretty good" team. During the season they only lost twice- maybe playing just a hair above themselves. But they lost (albeit by a hair) to a good Texas team to get 3 losses. If that team had lost 3 regular season games, though, I submit that we probably would have won that bowl game. Hence 2 or 3 still equals three. The reasoning behind only 3 choices is also simple- the vast majority of our seasons have had 2, 3, or 4 losses, and so that's where we start.
This analysis obviously sacrifices something up front: you can't predict years that are weird (and this admittedly could be one, by the way). It is a system that admittedly aims to be only USUALLY right. It wouldn't have predicted the national championship year, it wouldn't have seen last year's injuries. But I would argue that those circumstances are usually unpredicatable anyway: if you HAD known about the circumstances, how would you have predicted least year? Knowing Not full-strength Chad Henne and remembering that we had lost 3 defensive superstars, you might have said this team was only "good", so 3/4 still equals 4, and you'd have been right. Ok, so a LOT of circumstances come out in the wash, but remember we take for granted a lack of Henne. You say 4 losses and we win the bowl game. We shouldn't have beat Florida, true, but we also shouldn't have lost in The Horror, so like I said, it comes out in the wash sooner or later. If that team had only lost 3, and we had had to play "up" a game then we almost certainly lose to Tennessee or USC. It's one of those things- if you try to pick MOST of the games and seasons right you can, but somehow if you try to pick them all you get more wrong, just like the NCAA basketball tournament bracket where you thought about it for a long time and then all of a sudden you have too many 12 seeds winning games. Your five minute bracket was a lot better. This is the same principle. Think about it this way: who is more right, the person who says the Lions will not go to the playoffs ever, or the person who tries to pick the year they get there? It's the former, of course.
This analysis is strong in its simplicity and its ability to either ignore factors that will be inconsequantial or combine with other factors to cancel out. Football analysis is hard, and it's fun, and I love it, but really, I think we tend to overthink it. In almost any given year Michigan will be good, Indiana will suck, and Michigan State will blow it at some point. This analysis is true for like 95% of the college football seasons ever. Like I said, the great thing about this system is it makes up for things coming out in the wash. Let's take 2003. I actually argued at the time that despite all the seniors this team was only "pretty good" because I didn't quite trust the defense or John Navarre. And our competition that year was quite good- I think that people would have said that losing two out of three to Notre Dame, Michigan State, and OSU was totally possible. Well, actually we won all of those games, but then crapped out at Oregon and Iowa. Still though, the 2/3 formula was right as we lost to a better USC team. I think if that's a 3 loss team during the season that they tear up the Capital One Bowl to stay with 3 losses.
If you want to get a little more complex and you want to be able to predict an undefeated (or 5 loss) season then you can add a season modifier: +1 for a good chance something horrible happens, -1 something wonderful happens. But it's hard to quantify that, so I don't usually.
So even though my natural tendency is to freak out and say we have new (or even no) QBs, and a crappy OL, and that we will all be put to the sword, and the stadium will burn with red flame, and we will lose every game, the formula suggests only 4 losses. (And to imagine a day when we said "only 4", but that's just me yearning for Bo again...) Anyway, the 4 losses- this year we have to be a 3/4, not better, and I'd even say there is the potential +1 for something horrible (Notre Dame plays one good game this season). My prediction is we lose 4 during the regular season (Utah, MSU OR ILL, PSU OR WISC, OSU), get forgotten about, and pulverize someone in a crappy bowl, like the Aloha Bowl or something. But I think surely if we somehow lose only 3, which would be very (VERY) good result I think, in a bowl game we have to play some team from the SEC east that is almost certianly overrated, but also almost certainly better than us. So four losses either way.
Now, sometimes you have to listen to the analysis. Sometimes everything is not business as usual- sometimes you can't just have your head in the clouds and wish something away. I hope that's not this year, because when I sit down and do the analysis and think that with no QBs, no OL, and no LBs we suck suck suck. So I sit down and try to trust the formula. Still, we all know what happens with willful ignorance- "Rodents of unusual size? I don't think they exist..."
Out here on the streets, I see some pretty weird things. Some of them are even real, not just fortified wine-fueled visions of the apocalypse. Like that one where a fire-breathing dragon descends from the sky and gives birth to Condolleezza Rice, who picks me up off the street and sets me on the back of the dragon, who flies us both to an undisclosed location in a bunker underground somewhere and there's Martha Stewart and Dick Cheney and Scarlett Johansson only with the head of a goat and all these other people in robes (bath robes) and they're all singing "Screaming in the Night" by that '80s hair metal band Krokus, who were from Sweden or something, and I turn to Condi and she says to me, all Twin Peaks-like, "The snails are farting. Do you not hear them?"
But I digress. Today I've been seeing a lot of dudes looking like the one in the pictured here walking all around downtown Ann Arbor and knocking on people's doors. Since I don't have a door, they've ignored me, praise be to Joe Smith.
My advice is, if you are fortunate enough to have a door and a home (you asshole), don't answer. Just stay on your couch watching Orgazmo until they go away.
That is all.
The magic question: How are we going to do this year?
Many are sitting on pins and needles. Many of us have butterflies in our stomachs. We have talked about tradition. We have talked about change. We see a lot of things we like in Coach Rodriguez. We know that this is a young group, especially on offence. There are a whole lot more questions than we would like coming into the season. Quarterback? O-line? Who really knows? And although I do not consider the Utes a serious contenter to be a BCS crasher, they are not the creampuff you might like to help break in a virgin offence. Instead of a beautiful thoughtful Hollywoodesque lady of the evening to lead our young men into adulthood, we have a savvy streetwalker who is likely to snitch our wallet and keys, and have her pimp beat us up and toss us out into the back alley. We need to hit the ground running…
All of us like to think we know something about something. So lets have some of the loudmouths [and other more civilized men as well who had some culture instilled in them as undergrads] put up their predictions, game by game, on how things are going to go this season.
Here are my educated guesses:
Utah – They give us a run for our money and we squeak out a win.
Miami – They give us some much needed game time practice, a win.
Notre Dame – Charlie Weis is not a genius and his team will continue to be bad, a win for the Maize and Blue.
Wisconsin – We will try hard, hopefully have fun, and give them a run for their money, but they will be the better team, a loss.
Illinois – This is the only one I am unsure about. They could be good, but I think they have questions and we will have had enough game time experience to rise to occasion, a win for us.
Toledo – The nice gentle prostitute we should have been so lucky to start the season with, a win for us.
Penn State – They will be better than us, and the 9 win streak comes to an end, a loss.
Michigan State – They will be hungry, they will sense blood, and they will rise to the occasion, a loss.
Purdue – Snake oil will win the day, a win.
Minnesota – The Little Brown Jug stays where it belongs, a win.
Northwestern – They will not be able to out spread the spread master, a win.
Ohio State – In the shoe against a veteran, talented OSU team…hopefully we can keep it close…then again unless we can pull of a Bo, count this one as a loss.
Total: 8-4 and perhaps even a New Years Day bowl
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: