It's been two weeks since Michigan's last home game, and for me and the wife it meant two Saturdays at someone else's stadium: Notre Dame and—unrelated to the Great Meeting of the Bloggerati—Georgia. The first I went with my cousin and her kid, who's about the age I was when his father took me up to campus and I got Desmond'ed. The second was with two of my best friends from college, one of whom married a major Bulldog fan and couldn't bring his kid because you don't bring kids to SEC conference games—maybe Florida-Atlantic, but people still look at you strange.
I thought I'd use the bye week opportunity to share the experiences as compared to Michigan.
South Bend and Notre Dame du Lac vs. Ann Arbor: If not for the signs (which you should ignore because they tell dirty lies) you wouldn't realize there's a city here. Northern Indiana once you leave the part you pass to get to Chicago is right out of Rudy: small industrial belt homes nooked close together right up to the point campus has to start. We parked (for free) on the south side of Coquillard Park and at this point you notice or somebody informs you that Notre Dame is a fifth of the size of your median Big Ten school. The closest thing they have to a State Street or South University is a one-block collection of chain-ish restaurants in a pair of newer building complexes that straddle Eddy Street.
Their Main Street/downtown is about 2 miles southwest of the stadium and reminds me of Kalamazoo or a smaller Grand Rapids. The College Football Hall of Fame is here but we wanted to tailgate and it's something you rope Greg Dooley into doing with you but probably not a 12-year-old.
Coming from the south you are hitting a collection of buildings constructed or heavily renovated after 2004. The stadium owns this area. Once past (and to the left of) that and the new stuff you're in something a late Bourbon king probably commissioned. And it's here you remember or someone tells you that despite the mascot this started as a French institution, and was designed to French tastes. Having been to Ireland extensively and lived in France, this is a good thing.
On to the stadium and such, after a jump.
9/29/2012 – Georgia 51, Tennessee 44
[WHAT THIS IS: I took the opportunity presented by the Michigan bye week to head down to Georgia and take in an ESS-EEE-CEE game with Spencer Hall, Doug Gillett, and Michael of Braves and Birds and SBN Atlanta. I'd gone to an Auburn game a few years back because a good friend is an Auburn guy and acquired a taste for college football tourism, which is why I went.]
You go on a plane and get off of it and eventually you end up in the upper deck of a stadium far more vertical than Michigan's and look down at everything and in that moment you get the full weight of college football.
When it's your fandom, you've got a lifetime of dog-kicking and air-walking that tethers you to the larger institution. On Sunday I ended up watching most of the Falcons-Panthers game with a couple of Falcons fans who had mostly contempt for the larger NFL*. When you're just there to catch some football, you can appreciate the thing itself. On Saturday, I wiped the corners of my eye when Georgia put that Herschel Walker run on the screen and saw Orson do the same when they put a solo trumpeter in the corner of the upper deck to play the opening notes of the Battle Hymn of the Republic as Larry Munson said the same thing he always has.
Neither of us gives a damn about Georgia; both of us are pledged to other outfits. Doesn't matter. The weight of the institution is heavy, and genuine, and involves weird things that evoke Ghostbusters…
…and that Herschel Walker run. There's a dog on the opponent's sideline with an air conditioned house, and Tyler Bray is about to take the field. Football.
I was pretty sure the guy who would leave the lasting impression would be Jarvis Jones, Georgia's missile OLB/DE. He'd spent most of Georgia's game against Missouri flossing Tiger QB James Franklin's teeth and promised to do so again against college football's leading artillery piece, Tyler Bray. That was not to be the case. Jones did little, and I left thinking "I saw Tyler Bray play."
Bray is not great. He may be good, but it's hard to tell on a Tennessee team that can't run the ball or stop the run or maintain leverage even one damn time in a three-hour football game. This only increases the enjoyment of watching Bray play as he tries to cover up for Tennessee's myriad other flaws. Bray is gonna Bray. We have Derek Dooley to thank for this.
Several times a game you will see Bray decide to unleash the dragon well before it's clear this is a good idea. If you see Bray lean back, the ball is going 40 to 60 yards. He will do this ages before it's clear this is a good idea. Bray don't care. You will see teams of orange-pantsed gnomes wind the kid up as the play develops. He'll sidestep a rusher (or fumble) as the gnomes get a satisfying CHUNK out of Bray and he clicks further back. Once sufficient chunks have been chunked, the ball will zing out of Bray's hand at lethal speeds, destination unknown but awesome.
After Georgia rolled out to a 27-10 lead that was one fluky pick-six away from being game over, they did neutrals a favor by taking a shotgun to their foot repeatedly at the end of the first half. After the first of these, the game became a series of spectacular MMA knockouts. Orson and I ended independently going "OHHHHHHHHHH" and jumping up and down and laughing when Bray would laser a flat-footed pass 60 yards downfield into coverage for a completion, or do the same for an interception, or fumble, or throw a perfect deep ball that Cordarelle Patterson would drop, or chop a linebacker down as Patterson turns a failed trick play into a knee-slapping did-you-see-that winding touchdown run that took him from one side of the field to the other.
By the fourth quarter, the Bray lean was Christmas morning. On Tennessee's second to last drive, he tossed a back-foot laser to Patterson 30 yards downfield (dropped), then leaned back to hurl a spectacular NFL interception twenty yards downfield on a line. On UT's last drive he scrambled around in the pocket, leaning back the whole way until he fumbled, ending the Vols' hopes. Bray finished 24 for 45 with two touchdowns, a third eighty-yarder dropped, three interceptions, and a lost fumble.
I have seen Tyler Bray play football, and it was everything it could have possibly been. He's three hours of jumping up and down and going "OHHHHH" as you feel a stadium you don't belong to lurch back and forth queasily, in a place that puts the weight of Herschel Walker on your shoulders.
*[As they should, since this is a league that looks at fourth and one for the game with Cam Newton at QB and says "punt." Rod Gilmore swells with pride, NFL.]
Obligatory Comparison Bullets
Apparently I only do this when Michigan has two losses. M was 1-2 in 2008 when I went to Auburn.
Auburn test: passed. The weirdest thing about that Auburn game a few years back was preparing to stand and yell on what would eventually be LSU's gamewinning drive, looking around, and having to sit down sheepishly because no one else in the section thought this might be a good moment to yell their throat raw. I really needed "they s'posed to be SEC!" to be invented already to describe that.
Anyway, on two different Tennessee fourth quarter drives to tie, Georgia passed the Fans S'posed To Be SEC test. Auburn, you're on notice.
Bands. For the second straight week I was about as far away from a band as I could be—this time it was Tennessee's—and could hear them loud and clear. Unlike Notre Dame's, this had nothing to do with amplification. They were just loud as hell. Michigan either needs to figure their amplification out or start blasting it as loud as other folks, or they won't recover their lost status. The piped-in music at Georgia was significantly less frequent than it is at Michigan Stadium, FWIW.
I asked Orson, BTW, and he related that virtually all SEC games feature both bands. They're more tightly packed than the Big Ten—or at least were before expansion—but not busing the MMB down to Northwestern or Indiana or Purdue is pretty lame.
Also the MMB should play "Paint it Black," as the Georgia band did.
Chants. Georgia fans are short on them. They have a couple of generic GO X and GEOR-GIA chants but I didn't come away from the game with anything else in my head at all. Auburn was considerably different, and Michigan has a lot of inscrutable student stuff and Let's Go Blue and the wave and whatnot. [Ed-S: They bark a lot. There's also a "Who's that comin' down the line?" responsive chant the students were doing during the walk down to the stadium]
Georgia fans. A collared shirt tucked into khakis is their equivalent of OSU fans wearing jerseys. Median names are "Tad," "Chad," and "Brad." In general looked like a group of folks keenly interested in Ryder Cup updates. Extremely friendly—didn't see anything approximating crap given to Tennessee fans, or vice versa, though there weren't a whole lot of opportunities because Volunteers seemed scarce.
Michigan similarities are obvious.
Athens. Like Bray, everything it was supposed to be, at least insofar as that can be determined in a day. Gorgeous, seemed packed with things to do, kind of like an Ann Arbor that happened to be the best place in the state to catch a show. A college town with adult things in it.
SEC tailgating: great until you turn campus into Fallout. This was also a thing at Auburn I noticed: there's a lot of extremely pretty tailgating going down on the campus itself. The equivalent would be if a large portion of Michigan's tailgating was on the Diag, which is not possible because Michigan's main campus is extremely compact and the football stadium is a hike.
By contrast, a lot of Big Ten tailgating takes place in parking lots. Michigan: golf course or parking lots. Ohio State: all parking lot. ND: parking lot. PSU: not a parking lot because it is an open field. Northwestern: parking lot. Etc.
This makes for excellent tailgating, and a lot of dead grass on campus.
Desire to play Georgia: significantly incremented. I would love to go back to see winged helmets run out of the tunnel. That would be a wow experience.
Spread is dead, part XVIVII. Four years ago at Auburn I watched a guy do this:
Auburn now does the thing where the team doesn't huddle, lines up, looks ready to snap the ball, relaxes, and then looks to the sideline for the call. Whenever Auburn would do this, an elderly Auburn fan was visibly, I-can't-set-the-time-on-this-damned-VCR agitated, throwing his hands in the air in disgust. This obvious discontent seemed to spread to the other oldsters around him as the game continued.
This was during Tony Franklin's brief tenure as Auburn OC. Four years later Auburn has won a national title with a spread option and both of these teams spent a majority of their snaps in the shotgun, refusing to huddle and looking to the sideline for play checks. Now, this spread does not equal a Rodriguez spread 'n' shred or Oregon or the Air Raid or whatever, but I was struck by how much different the conventional wisdom is now. No one had a conniption fit about any of this; it was just natural.
This is bizarre.
That is all.
Orson on the game:
One scoreboard graphic is the shell game cartoon most stadiums use as interstitial entertainment. In UGA's case, a bulldog puts an order of fries beneath one of three small doghouses, and then shuffles them around quickly while fans scream out "THREEE! IT'S UNDER THREE, Y'ALL!!!"
At one point the cartoon came to a stop, and UGA pulled up one doghouse to reveal a tiny UGA. A guy behind us, in the thickest Georgia accent imaginable, cried out:
"NOOOOOO!!! YOU WANT THE FRIES, NOT THE DAWG!!!!"
Maybe it's because Tennessee fans have been beaten down by life, but I did not see a single angry word exchanged between Dawg and Vol fans in Athens on Saturday. It was really the best that the SEC can be in terms of a passionate crowd that does not spill over into being Philadelphian assholes.
Doug takes the UGA fan POV.
Like Saban, except without the wins; a guy who made a bad decision
DeAnthony Arnett wants to leave Tennessee. This should be enough reason for Derek Dooley to release him, full stop. When Dooley left Louisiana Tech for Tennessee, he did not require the permission of Louisiana Tech. Because of the way the NCAA "just works"—to quote that guy at Indiana State—Arnett does need permission from UT if he's going to be on scholarship somewhere next season.
Dooley won't give it to him. This is because Tennessee has a "policy."
A Tennessee spokesman said Arnett is not being denied the opportunity to be released and play FBS-level football. The school has a policy of not releasing players to schools Tennessee plays or recruits against, the spokesman said.
Joe Paterno should have thought of that. "We have a policy of not disclosing the activities of sexual predators on campus." End of story. There's a policy, folks. Nothing to see here.
Arnett is the fourth Tennessee player that Derek Dooley has vindictively screwed over on a transfer. The first, All-SEC lineman Aaron Douglas, had to transfer to an Arizona JUCO for a year before transferring back to Alabama*. Dooley imposed a requirement that Douglas transfer at least eight hours away from his home in Knoxville and offered this explanation:
“I’m trying to help him. If the problem is truly at home, then he shouldn’t be at home. But if it’s not truly at home, then we think he should be at Tennessee.”
"They're within their legal rights to do what they're doing, but we're adults. Part of our business is to help young people develop and stay in line, but it's also to take care of them. I can see if Nick was in the plans for them, then fine. But if he's not in the plans, let him go play somewhere else."
Lamaison was an unlikely candidate to play for the Vols this season or down the road, and he never seriously threatened either Jonathan Crompton or Nick Stephens for playing time a year ago either.
Stephens transferred midway through spring practice, but like last fall, Lamaison was again clearly stuck behind two quarterbacks as junior transfer Matt Simms and freshman Tyler Bray quickly jumped him on the depth chart.
He ended up going back to JUCO for a year and then starting at UTEP. The only players Tennessee has actually let go are Todd Campbell, a little-used fifth year senior who transferred to MTSU, and backup QB Nick Stephens, who transferred to D-II Tarleton State. Anyone with the slightest bit of talent at Tennessee will not be released to play at a BCS school. QB coach leaves, dad is terribly sick, you are never ever going to play: doesn't matter. Dooley owns you.
So if you're thinking about going to Tennessee, be sure you want to play for a nepotistic failure coming off a 1-7 conference record with no track record of success hired by a total moron. It's going to cost you five figures if you're wrong.
*[Douglas died with a cocktail of drugs in his system in May. This is not relevant to the rest of the post but it seems impossible to mention his story without its tragic conclusion. Dooley didn't show up at the funeral, BTW. Quality guy.]
Sponsor thanks. It's The Game week, when tailgates are packed with people you haven't seen all year and space is tight. If you plan with our local sponsor Park n Party you get peace of mind and a total lack of implied eyebrow cocking at your lack of support. Visit their Ohio State reservations page. Or I'll lift that bad boy.
NOM. So this was weird.
"This program's been starving for a while," Robinson said Monday. "It's time for us to make something happen.
"We've been starving. It's time for us to eat."
BONUS THING YOU CAN HEAR IN YOUR HEAD LIKE FARNSWORTH:
Michigan hasn't beaten the Buckeyes since 2003, when Robinson still was in the seventh grade at Deerfield Beach Middle School.
"Oh man, that's crazy!" Robinson said.
Kablam. Memphis: you officially suck worse than Western Illinois. Sorry.
The constant referencing of five-star Joe Jackson makes the lines to read between less than cryptic. Good thing Rivals dumped him lower after his Ohio Mr. Basketball high school season. Credibility: shot. ESPN is currently the worldwide leader in Michigan-basketball-related recuiting cred.
Anyway. Big win against a team whose flaws won't be exposed much against a Conference USA schedule and should end up a nice neutral-site feather in the cap when it comes tourney time. Most impressive aspect of it: defensive rebounding. Even with Morgan out big chunks of the game and Michigan playing with Smotrycz at the 5 a for a not-inconsiderable period of time, Michigan rebounded something like 80% of Memphis misses. That should mitigate your otherwise understandable Smotrycz frustration.
Chad Ford checked the game out and reported back on a couple of players the NBA finds notable. On Burke:
What stood out most was Burke's poise in the face of an athletic and aggressive defense from Memphis. A number of NBA scouts are keeping a close eye on Burke. While he's not an elite draft prospect yet, the potential -- thanks to a great NBA body, quickness and poise -- is there.
- On Hardaway:
Hardaway grew an inch to 6-foot-6 this summer, but where he's really grown is in his shot selection. Last season, Hardaway shot 42 percent from the field. He's now at 49 percent for the season and is playing under control more and more. While scouts saw him as a marginal pro prospect coming into the season, they are warming to him. Several told me after Michigan's practice on Saturday that they were impressed by his maturity and leadership. If he keeps playing like this all week, he could be a potential late first-round pick.
I've heard that the Hardaway plan is three and out, which makes sense in that context. Establishing yourself as maybe a late first rounder is usually not a reason to leave unless you're jumping into the weakest NBA draft in a long time, like Morris.
Ford also pointed out the various massively ranked Memphis players who struggled against Michigan, particularly post Tarik Black, who "should have dominated the Michigan bigs." He made one field goal.
Beilein owned Josh Pastner, which makes sense. Pastner is a glorified agent. Seriously:
"We're not a big zone team," said Memphis coach Josh Pastner, whose team went 19-for-57 from the floor. "(Michigan is) very good at what they do."
That is not about Memphis playing zone. It's about them playing against it. Josh Pastner: agent.
Seniors. The Daily on Michigan's seniors:
“There were rumors that Denard (Robinson) was going to transfer,” said fifth-year senior defensive end Ryan Van Bergen. “There was going to be people going all over the place. Everybody was going to jump ship.”
“We’ve seen it before — we saw it when coach (Lloyd) Carr left and Rich Rodriguez came in — where everyone who was on that swing fence, where they could either leave or stay, they left,” added fifth-year senior center David Molk. “And we kind of disbanded as a team. And it wasn’t good for our team in a lot of ways.”
In early January, Van Bergen and Molk called a team meeting to make sure everyone bought in — not to a coach, but to themselves.
“We didn’t really have (a coach),” Van Bergen said. “There was speculation it was going to be the coach from Stanford or LSU. And we’re just like, ‘We need to stick together. Whatever happens, we’ve got a good thing going that people don’t necessarily see.’
“We wanted to see this thing through.”
One more win.
We be having the moneys. Random bit of an enormous XKCD chart on money:
Injury whine. I try not to use the word whine, but Nebraska complaining about Michigan simulating injuries in Saturday's game is a straight-up no-evidence whine about getting annihilated. Michigan had all of two defensive injuries on Saturday. Jordan Kovacs went out. Kovacs:
- is one of Michigan's best players
- did not return for the rest of the drive
- was clearly getting attended to on the sideline
- had been on the field for like twenty plays all game because of Nebraska's offensive incompetence
Sure, that's definitely an injury Michigan faked. The other one was Brennen Beyer; I watched that happen from the stands and knew he was hurt as soon as it happened. This is not MSU falling over and winking about it in the postgame.
Why you should not be mad at Borges for Illinois. Is anyone? Probably not. In case you are, this bit from A Lion Eye in a post containing various items on their impending coach search emphasizes the wind conditions in Champaign:
Wind. It plays a role in 60% of the games played in Memorial Stadium. There are no hills in east central Illinois, and because of that, the wind rolls in off the plains unabated. And the design of the stadium doesn’t help – the balconies concentrate the wind towards the center of the field.
As head football coach, I will make that wind my obsession. The wind is there for nearly every October and November game, so when those games arrive, my team will have an advantage.
I will have had my quarterbacks work on giving it a little extra and taking a little off. I will train my punters to read the flags and set their angle accordingly. And my returners – yes, I will pull my returners out to practice on a windy day, put them on the turf inside the stadium, and have each and every one of them learn how far a ball will drift (or die) because of the wind. My kickoff returners will be ready at the 20 instead of the 8, my punt returners will never let a ball sail over their heads, and my field goal units will be well-versed in the wind swirl that sometimes happens at the south endzone.
Michigan played Illinois on a particular windy day even for that section of the country; after the MSU game and the way the defense set up against the Illini offense any complaints about play selection are complaining for complaining's sake.
Penn State bowl apocalypse scenario. I wondered why Jerry Palm had Penn State in the Hawaii bowl when they're going to be 9-3 at worst; Ryan Terpstra pointed out an article on CBS sports suggesting bowls will look at the Nittany Lions like poison.
I thought that was silly because this is not 'Nam. There are rules. Rules that I thought would preclude the Big Ten bowls from selecting a 7-5 team over a 9-3 team. There is a rule, but not one strong enough to help Penn State out:
CITRUS BOWL — Can select any eligible team after the BCS except a team that has two fewer wins or two more losses than another eligible team.
OUTBACK BOWL — Can select any eligible team after the Capital One Bowl except a team that has two fewer wins or two more losses than another eligible team. BUT if a second Big Ten team moves up to the BCS, the two-win/loss differential no longer applies.
There are no rules past those two bowls. Penn State is boned since Nebraska and the title game loser will be more attractive candidates.
Even so, I'll believe someone takes Purdue over Penn State when I see it and if I was Delany I'd be leaning on the Fiesta Jr. or Gator to take the Nittany Lions. Dropping them out of the bowl selection order will hurt the league's bowl slate and probably their record.
Worst cheer ever. You know that thing Akron State does when they sing about how they don't give a damn for the whole state of Michigan? Yeah, somewhat dumb. One percent as dumb as this in the aftermath of Tennessee's OT win over Vandy:
The team goes on to sing, "Don't give a damn for the whole school of Vanderbilt, the whole school of Vanderbilt, the whole school of Vanderbilt. Don't give a damn about the whole school of Vanderbilt, we're from Tennessee." Catchy, right?
Tennessee would like you to know that their pathological hatred for Vanderbilt extends to the entirety of… Vanderbilt.
The game, understood. Ramzy on the weekend:
The reality is that like Notre Dame, Michigan has long been everyone's rival, and that's fine for everyone. But Michigan - not the recent odorous, incompetent Michigan, but the traditional pain-in-the-ass Michigan - cannot reciprocate. It can have big national games, it can even have a state championship, but it can only have one arch-rival.
Hoke understood that, and he's given each opponent the appropriate focus and esteem. This isn't great news for Ohio State, who had made this rivalry one-sided in part because Tressel also understood the philosophy that Hoke has clearly embraced.
He is now at the brink of a ten-win season in what had been scheduled to be a year of cleaning up the wreckage of the last three years. Neutralize Ohio State to end his first run and the tone for the Hoke era is established. It would be the ultimate validation of his stewardship and confirmation of his methods.
Should Michigan lose - as an 8.5-point favorite at home to an Ohio State team that is as listless as it is lacking any cohesion - then not only is Hoke's eventual legend weakened, but the success of the 2011 season will be questioned.
This game is ripe for Michigan to take, and convincingly. Failing to do so would lacerate healing wounds. Schembechler won his first Ohio State game. So did Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr. Rodriguez did not, annually losing in a disastrous manner so abysmal it practically had style points.
Whole thing recommended.
Tagged. OSU's Mirror Lake, where people will jump in stuff on Friday:
Via a reader. SWAT teams are been deployed to erase this as we speak.
Etc.: Alumni Association interview with Desmond Howard. Dave Brandon talks economics and stuff, but the Daily's four page transcript gives you access denied after page one. WSJ bombs Paterno with an interview with a "former chief disciplinarian" who Paterno got fired for wanting to, like, discipline people and stuff. Rich Rodriguez hired at Arizona.