"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Sorry for this
It was an unseasonably warm late November day in St. Louis, the kind of day that happnes once or twice or three times each winter there but would never grace Ann Arbor. My buddy's apartment complex had an outdoor pool that was still open, and he invited me over for a swim.
It was 2010, and we had just watched the Michigan vs Ohio State game a few days before. Even on this perfect day, standing in perfectly warm water looking around at beautiful, barely-bikini clad co-eds with perfect bodies we couldn't be completely happy.
I broke the silence first: "Rich Rodriguez has to go." My buddy bristled. His face transitioned from relaxed to tense almost instantly. We had both been RR supporters since his arrival on campus, but his expression told me that he knew I was right. "We'll never have an offense like this again," he responded. I nodded, then gave the obvious counterpoint we both already knew: "But hopefully we'll never have a defense like this again, either."
Here's the thing: though Ohio State had pummeled us by a score of 37-7, the game wasn't nearly that one-sided. We had piled-up 351 total yards of offense and had opened the game with two long drives: one that ended with a turnover on downs--since by that point in the season we didn't trust our kicker to even attempt a 45-yard field goal--and one that ended in a lost fumble at the Ohio State nine-yard line. Terrelle Pryor had to scramble about 50 yards on one thrid down to keep their first TD drive alive, then thread a perfect pass between two defenders that might have picked it off had it been just inches different in either direction for the score. And even though the Michigan offense chugged along a bit more, the defense completely fell apart and it was 24-7 by halftime. Game over. Season over. RR era over.
This is Michigan
Since I am an unreasonably passionate fan, I started doing research on who would eventually replace RR right away. While Dave Brandon said he was going to follow a "process" before deciding what to do, it was pretty clear that Rodriguez was on his way out the door. Even a victory in the Who-Gives-A-Fuck bowl wouldn't save the man who had coached Michigan's most fun offense and least effective defense. As it happened, the bowl game made the decision even easier.
Among the publicized possibilities for the position--Miles, Harbaugh, Fitzgerald, Hoke, etc.--I quickly found myself in the Brady Hoke camp. He had taken Ball State to an undefeated regular season. He had turned around SDSU in two years on the job. He seemed genuine, likeable, and he clearly loved Michigan. Don't get me wrong--I was hardly sold on Brady Hoke as the savior of our once-proud program, but he seemed like the best option.
But then he said all the right things at that first press conference, fergodsakes. My optimism took over. We were back.
In a lot of ways, that 2011 season was very un-Michigan-like. Things seemed easier than they should have been. The loss at Michigan State was maddening, but the trash tornado and brazenly unnecessary roughness of Staee made it feel a bit invalid. The Iowa game was VERY Michigan-like: an unexplainable gameplan with an even harder to understand performance that would give the Hawkeye faithful renewed faith in their consistently inconsistent head coach. But other than those two aberrations, the bounces all seemed to go our way, we broke the streak against Ohio State (now just "Ohio"), and we won a BCS bowl game to which we maybe should not have been invited and in which we certainly didn't outplay our opponent. Michigan never wins games like that, much less has seasons like that.
The 2012 schedule seemed foolishly challenging, and an 8-5 result with a close bowl game that we perhpas did deserve to win with our shiny new starting QB who seemed more than capable of both passing and running (Devin Gardner) gave us great hope. 2011 had proven Hoke's coaching chops in our minds, and even with doubts about Al Borges, 2013 looked oh-so-promising.
QB Oh Noes
Rather than talk about the Season of Infinite Pain--which is still all-too-fresh in our minds--I'd rather bring-up this happy memory. The great thing about RR's offense isn't that it always works--it didn't. No, the truly beautiful thing about a well-run spread outfit is how easy it looks when it's clicking. Watching Denard take two steps toward the line of scrimmage before flicking a wobbly duck to a W I D E open Roy Roundtree never-ever-ever got old. It made defenses look inept and Rodriguez look like a genius. When it worked.
And maybe that's why it was destined to leave Ann Arbor: Michigan isn't allowed to have it easy. I'm not sure if this is God's decree, but U-M is not graced with swimming pool days in late November or football seasons where everything goes our way. Even 1997 seemed impossibly hard, overcome only by the superheroics of Charles Woodson and friends.
This just happened
And maybe that's why I was so furious on Saturday. It shouldn't be hard against Miami (NTM), should it? I mean, it shouldn't be hard against any team whose football prowess is so pathetic that a paranthetical clarification is required. Not for Michigan. And yet, here I am, four years into the Hoke era, with my optimism completely erased and thinking to myself, "I will have to reassess my loyalty to this coaching staff at the end of the season."
But this is as it's always been. And looking at the numbers, I wonder if my frustration is somewhat without merit: through three games, we are 25th in the country on yds/play on offense and 10th in the nation on yds/play on defense. Sure, we've played two cupcakes, but so has everyone else in the top 25 (actually, Nebraska has played three). The offense seems to make sense, and the fake-bubble TD was reminiscent of the ease of QB OH NOES! Of course, even on that play, the throw was a bit off and the catch was bobbled. Still, a calm, rational thinker would look at our team and say, "You know what, this team actually could be really good before the season is over."
But this is as it's always been. The Lloyd Carr era brought a National Championship, but was consistently frought with losses that should not have been. Nine or ten wins felt like an unbreakable ceiling. Even the orgasmic streak of victories over Cooper's Buckeyes was shattered by a Youngstown State coach.
So why does a game against NTM have to feel like a Herculean effort? Why does a very respectable loss to an underrated (by me, at least) Notre Dame team have be a 31-0 result? Why can't it just feel easy, or even easier than impossible when we take the field? Why can't I feel even slightly confident about a game in East Lansing or Columbus?
I don't have answers to these questions, so I will do what a Michigan fan does: I will watch every game, often in agony, and wait for the end of the season to decide if there is any optimism left in me, or if it's time to have another talk with my buddy in the pool. Why? Because this is Michigan, fergodsakes.
I know its mostly meaningless, but there it is...also, Morgan listed without the "OR" 2nd and 3rd string.
EDIT: essentially this was the same vs. MOH so....probably a lot of "nothing to see here." Delano Hill seems to be the only change.
Week 1 thread here. If you missed it, the premise of the thread was for the pessimists and optimists to make bets against each other on predictions for the game or season, with the loser donating to the charity of the winner's choice. The terms of the bet were proposed and any takers would respond with a "I'll take that bet." Detailed instructions in the OP of the linked thread if you want to make propose bets for this week (put proposals in this thread)
There were quite a few good bets made last week, but most were season long bets. The only one for the game against against Miami (NTM) was mine that the secondary gets 2 or more INTs. Despite Jourdan Lewis having the 2nd one in his hands, the secondary fell short with only 1 INT on the books. As promised:
The season long bets:
WEEK 3 IN THE BIG TEN: REPORTS FROM THE EYEWASH STATION
As we are aware, the Big Ten has not exactly gotten out of the gate this season at a blistering pace. Just this past weekend, for example, Rutgers chokes away a lead against a Penn State team that seemed to be forever 3rd and 6, Iowa had the impudence to lose to Iowa State and saddle them with the CyHawk trophy, Indiana loses to Bowling Green, Minnesota gets curbstomped by TCU, Kent State really had Ohio State on the ropes for a few precious seconds when their bus parked across two spaces in the parking lot…and so on. Let’s just say that the explanation for all this probably sounds a lot like this:
So, let’s embark on a discussion of where Michigan sits after three weeks, and again, we’re going to rely a little more on a discussion format here as averages still don’t mean much at the moment. Still, for what it is worth, here are Michigan’s summary averages and where they sit with regards to the conference as a whole:
Scoring Offense – 28.7 points, 9th
Scoring Defense – 18.3 points, 5th
Now, 10.4 points in the positive for a differential may not be impressive to some, but slap a minus on the same number and you can be Purdue. Just saying.
Total Offense – 436.3 yards, 5th
Total Defense – 252.7 yards, 1st
The defense has definitely been doing its job. Actually, we’ve been gaining 2.1 yards more than our opponents so far on average on a per play basis, which is excellent.
Rushing Offense – 242 yards, 3rd
Rushing Defense – 80 yards, 3rd
On one side of the run game, a huge turnaround. We have made 44% of last year’s entire net rushing in three games. We’re also quite good at stopping the run so far too.
Passing Offense – 194.3 yards, 12th
Passing Defense – 172.7 yards, 3rd
Cumulatively for pass defense, we’re 52-93 for 518 yards total, good for a 55.9% completion percentage and about 5.6 yards per attempt. When we’re doing the throwing, it’s 48-73 for 583 yards overall, good for about a 65% completion percentage and about 8.0 yards per attempt.
Other notes – Michigan’s 1st down differential is quite good, averaging 6.1 more first downs than our opponents (all three of them, I know) to date, and our 3rd down conversion differential is 12.1% in the positive, so we win that battle too. Indeed, we’ve managed to allow only 31.8% of all third downs so far against us to be converted.
Here are some of the summary stats for the conference to date. Again, average of three numbers, strength of conclusions, grumble grumble…
... according to the lines that ESPN has posted so far (BETONLINE.ag, 5Dimes.eu, SportsBetting.ag).
Other Big Ten games:
Texas State +14.5/15 @ Illinois
Indiana +16.5 @ Missouri
Iowa +5/5.5 @ Pittsburgh
Maryland +1.5 @ Syracuse
EMU +45/45.5 @ MSU
Miami (FL) +7.5 @ Nebraska
UMass +28.5 @ Penn State
Bowling Green +21.5/22 @ Wisconsin
No line yet:
San Jose St. @ Minnesota
Western Illinois @ Northwestern
Southern Illinois @ Purdue
Rutgers @ Navy