go go go
About Last Week:
Melanie Maxwell/Ann Arbor News
I went back.
I don’t know why I went back. The pluie de grâce had so mercifully released us all from any sense of obligation. Despite being the most literal example possible, there would be no talk of “fair-weather fans” after this one. Long after the weather suggested we leave, and even longer after our souls begged us to leave, Carl Grapentine demanded that we leave. Eventually I emerged from the rain at the Blue Tractor. I partook of food and drink with friends. We spoke about it as the most dispiriting game we had ever attended, which is a high (and ever-rising) bar to clear. We listed the things we would rather do than watch any more of that game. We spoke of our kids and our jobs and our lives. We had moved on.
And then we went back.
From even before we slogged up the Stadium stairs until the moment I write this, I have been trying to figure out why. No sane person would do this. I have a home with dry clothes and warm blankets. I have a television that displays other, better football games. I have two dogs that love attention and never turn the ball over. I have a loving wife and a fun little toddler and a brand new baby girl. Game traffic had cleared. The game was over in all but the most technical sense. There was nothing preventing us from escaping to a more comfortable place, both physically and mentally.
But we went back.
Maybe we went back because we thought, deep in some deranged recesses of our waterlogged brains, that Michigan could actually win that football game, or at least that something would happen that we would have been glad to have seen. Maybe it was to support the players. Maybe it was to collect the ultimate Fandom Endurance badge: the kind of ultimate trump card that can be played when speaking of the trials and tribulations of Michigan Mandom. Maybe I am secretly a football hipster (see: the fact that I write about the Big Ten every week). Maybe it was sheer morbid curiosity; surely as Rome burned, some Romans remained on the seven hills overlooking the city and observed in awe the awesome downfall. Maybe I went back because I really, truly love the Big House, and the actuarial tables tell me there are only 400 or 450 home games left before I am no more.
But I think I went back because I wanted there to have been a reason. I went back because I couldn't stand the prospect that I could watch a football at Michigan Stadium and walk away feeling like there hadn't been a reason. But sitting here a week later, I can't tell you why I was there.
We keep coming back. But the reasons are becoming harder to find.
The Road Ahead:
Minnesota (3-1, 0-0 B1G)
Last game: Beat San Jose State, 24-7
Recap: 1 for 8. Seven yards. Zero touchdowns. One interception. Against a GERG defense. And a 17-point win.
As you can tell, from the lede, Minnesota completely abandoned any hint of a running game. Chris Streveler is many things, but he is unlikely that he will wrest the “Unstoppable Throw-God” title from Trevor Siemian any time soon.
Minnesota only passed for the total distance of a pretty makeable putt, but they rushed for 380 yards on 58 carries. David Cobb rushed for 207 yards, and Streveler tacked on 161 yards at 8.9 yards per carry. They mixed in all of the usual dual-threat running game stuff, including traditional zone read, inverted veer, belly, and QB lead/iso.
In theory, they are a really favorable matchup for Michigan. Who wants odds.
This team is as frightening as: A very, very poor man’s 1990’s Nebraska. Fear Level = 0*
Michigan should worry about: Maxxxxxx Williams. He’s averaging 18.3 yards per catch, and has two of Minnesota’s three receiving touchdowns. Michigan’s safeties haven’t been fantastic, and we still haven’t seen all that much from Michigan’s linebackers in coverage, so Maxxxxxx could be a problem.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Maxxxxxx only gets the ball through the air. Which… yeah.
When they play Michigan: WHO WILL START FOR EITHER TEAM? THE INTRIGUE IS SO EXCITING.
Next game: @ Michigan (Minn +12, which, wow?)), 3:30 Saturday, (ABC/ESPN2)
*Fear is for the living.
[AFTER THE JUMP: We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.]
About Last Week:
Note from Samuel L. Jackson to Big Ten defenders: hold onto your Butts.
The Road Ahead:
Utah (2-0, 0-0 PAC-12)
Last game: Bye
Recap: No recap. Bye.
This team is as frightening as: I am of two minds. The first is that Utah hasn’t played anyone yet, so their two blowouts provide us almost no information. They beat Fresno State by 32… which is the closest the Bulldogs have kept a game this year (they lost by 36 at Nebraska and 39 to USC). They also beat Idaho State by 42, and at least Idaho State has won a game this year. Over Division II Chadron State. By 5. The point is that if you think the transitive property of college football is unreliable, believe me when I say that the second order transitive property is slightly more unreliable.
On the other mind, Utah has an experienced QB, a very talented receiver, a couple of quality running backs, and a defense that can walk and chew gum at the same time. And Michigan really needs this one. Fear Level = 7.
Michigan should worry about: Dres Anderson. The wide receiver is averaging 27.8 yards per catch. Which is many.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: This will be Utah’s first road game of the year. It will also be Utah’s first game against a team with a pulse.
/checks Michigan for a pulse
/moves fingers to slightly different location on Michigan’s wrist.
HA. Totally feel a pulse. Knew it all along.
When they play Michigan: The clenching. So much clenching.
Next game: @ Michigan (UM -6), 3:30 Saturday (ABC/ESPN2)
Minnesota (2-1, 0-0 B1G)
Last game: Woodshedded by TCU, 30-7
Recap: Minnesota’s team is designed around one thing: running the ball effectively. TCU stuffed Minnesota’s running game. The results were… predictable.
Minnesota ran for 2.5 yards per carry, and David Cobb was held to 41 yards on 15 carries. In the first half, Minnesota put up 111 yards of offense in nine drives. Those drives ended in three turnovers, five punts, and the sweet mercy of the halftime gun. By then TCU led 24-0, which they extended to 30-0 in the third quarter before calling off the frogs.
Mitch Leidner finished 12 of 26 for 151 yards (5.8 YPA) and 3 picks. And if THAT wasn’t enough, he ended up with a foot injury (reports are mixed between a broken toe, turf toe, and a general angering of the gypsy). He’s also coming off of a sprained MCL two weeks ago. His backup, Chris Streveler, is a redshirt freshman. I wonder if he knows how to throw a football?
I’m pretty sure “Flick the Booger” is actually Minnesota’s motto this year.
This team is as frightening as: Fighting a guy you’ve fought a bunch, and who you’ve beaten 39 of the last 42 times. Except this time he has one arm tied behind his back. And the other arm has turf toe. Fear Level = 3
Michigan should worry about: You know what you’d get from Leidner, and it is the kind of thing that Michigan is ideally suited to stop. If Streveler is in, maybe he gives Minnesota an added dimension of some kind. Like, he can throw a football. Kind of.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: The most frightening thing I could think of was “maybe Minnesota will be starting a freshman.”
When they play Michigan: Booooooooring. But in a good way.
Next game: vs. San Jose State, 4:00 p.m. Saturday
[After the jump: OH MAH GAWD IS THAT MILEY'S MUSIC???]
The sun had risen, though it was hard to tell through the lingering haze and dust. It all seemed so surreal; they had so recently stood beaming with pride, assuring the peasantry that the claiming of Rutgersland and the conquering of the Turtle People had ensured our long-term security. We had been told that our leaders had won the kind of Lebensraum that would see us through the coming ages. When was that? Had it been a day? A month? Surely it could not have been so long ago.
Some would argue whether the Big Ten had ever really existed at all; that even before The Weekend, the “conference” was merely an idea. A fleeting notion. A foolish homage to the time of 22-personnel and punting from the opponent’s 35 yard line. But whatever it had been, it was no longer. Reports were sketchy, but from all indications the destruction was similar throughout the realm. The borders had been shown to be merely transitory, and the defenses illusory. This was surely not the last incursion, but did it matter? What more damage could be done than had already been done?
Big Life. Big Stage. Big Ten.
About Last Week:
The Road Ahead:
Miami (NTM) (0-2, 0-0 MAC)
Last week: Lost to Eastern Kentucky, 17-10
Recap: The good news for Miami was that they outgained Ohio Valley Conference team Eastern Kentucky 445-280. The bad news was that they turned the ball over six times, including three interceptions from Tommy Hendrix. This runs Miami’s losing streak to 18 games.
This team is as frightening as: A team that has a full compliment of 85 scholarships available, plays a MAC schedule, and hasn’t won a single football game in the last 18 tries. Fear Level = 1.5
Michigan should worry about: Andrew Hendrix is throwing for 338.5 yards per game…
Michigan can sleep soundly about: …at 6.7 yards per attempt. Against Marshall and EKU. Also, if you believe silly superstitions like “reviewing game film,” you should probably feel pretty good.
When they play Michigan: A crowd of “100,000” will get to witness a comfortable, boring win over a terrible opponent.
Next game: at Michigan (-34), 3:30 Saturday (BTN)
[AFTER THE JUMP: Combative dromedaries are the best dromedaries]
Hello again. That was fun. Let’s do it again. Unfortunately, we didn’t learn much this week because everyone played cupcakes, soup cans, and assorted other non-challenging foodstuffs.
About Last Week:
Yep. That’s what you did. (h/t Ace, obviously)
The Road Ahead:
Notre Dame (1-0, 0-0 quasi-ACC)
Last week: Beat Rice (48-17)
Recap: Rice kept it close for a while (it was 14-10 late in the first half), and then it really really wasn’t close. Everett Golson threw for 295 yards at 13.4 YPA and 2 TDs, and ran for three more scores. Rice just wasn’t athletic enough to hang with ND’s playmakers. The Owls did average 8.7 yards per pass, which would have been their third best average last year ago.
But while this was an encouraging debut for the Irish, the hole they’re digging continues to get deeper. Safety Eilar Hardy was suspended in the ongoing EYES ON YOUR OWN PAPER situation, and starting safety Austin Collinsworth sprained an MCL. As a result, Notre Dame’s defensive two-deep now features… you. Congratulations. Suit up. And please do your own homework.
This team is as frightening as:
Michigan should worry about: There’s still a chance Notre Dame un-suspends these players, which will be in no way related to the fact that they are playing Michigan this week.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Even if they DO reinstate these guys, they will get one real practice (at most) after sitting out of practice for weeks. So they almost certainly won’t play, and if they do they will be rusty as hell.
When they play Michigan: The all-time win percentage will be on the line… until Notre Dame vacates a bunch of wins.
Next game: vs. Michigan, 7:30 p.m. Saturday (NBC)
[We jump, and then I have to pretend I learned something from Utah-Idaho State]
Hello! We haven’t spoken for a while. How are you? I am fine.
Once again this year, we will take a weekly guided journey through the inner workings of Michigan's schedule. It's like "It's a Small World," but where making fun of the various characters doesn't seem quite as ethnocentric or jingoist.
About Last Year:
The Road Ahead:
Appalachian State (0-0, 0-0 Sun Belt)
Last year: 4-8 (4-4 Southern), no bowl game because FCS. And because record.
Recap: App State is far removed from the team that won several FCS championships and did… that. They lost their only FBS matchup to Georgia 45-6, and that was in November after Georgia’s entire roster tore, sprained, and/or broke its everything. Jerry Moore is gone, as is Armanti Edwards. I think. This is not the ideal time to try to move up to whatever we’re calling the FBS now. Can we call it Division 1A again? Please?
Anywho, App State doesn’t figure to be much better this year.
This team is as frightening as: The glass floor of the Sears Tower Skydeck. Sure, there’s almost no chance you’ll fall through. We live in a society based around certain principles that make it almost impossible to find yourself in a position where you could fall through. Objectively, you know this. But what if. Fear Level = 1. But also 11.
Michigan should worry about: What if.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Oh my god, what if. Shut up shut up shut up. Everyone SHUT UP. I’m trying to think here. I just need to get closer to the ground. I’m way too high. This isn’t safe. I need to lie down. Shut up. Shut up.
When they play Michigan: WHY IS IT SO LOUD IN HERE.
First game: At Michigan. Because that was an idea someone had. And someone else said “that idea is a good idea.” And they got a group of people together, and that group concluded that it was a good idea. And they made it happen. On purpose.
[AFTER THE JUMP: The opponents get better and less memory-stabby]
Yea, and God did say unto his people, “hot damn, I’m glad it’s basketball season, for verily, football season sucked.”
~ First Letter of St. Paul to the Annarborites
With the dong-punching albatross of 2013 behind us, we can move fully into winter sports season with vigor and aplomb. But without Mitch McGary. Worst. Trip. Around. The. Sun. EVER.
Every week we’ll keep tabs on Michigan’s non-conference opponents, the state of the Big Ten, the potential NCAA Tournament draw, and the suggested viewing /rooting guide for the upcoming week.
RPI Effect Only Teams:
It’s becoming clear that Michigan’s non-conference schedule was assembled by people who either don’t know how RPI works,* don’t know how math works, or aren’t sold on this whole “Arabic numerals are the wave of the future” thing. Three of Michigan’s opponents, UMass-Lowell (1-11), South Carolina State (4-8) and Houston Baptist (3-9) are below the 300 mark to KenPom, and Coppin State (4-9) fails to crack the super-elite group in the Top 270. Ben Folds Five wrote a song about these teams. Hint: it is not “The Luckiest.”
|RPI: drowning slowly.|
Outside of these masonry-like objects, Michigan played three of the ideal good-enough-to-not-kill-your-RPI-numbers-but-not-good-enough-to-beat-you-unless-LeVert,-Stauskas,-and-McGary-all-miss-significant-time type teams. Long Beach State (4-9) has won three in a row, including wins over Nevada and USC, and gave VCU and NC State some real competition. Holy Cross (6-6) hasn’t really beaten anyone, but they have beaten six non-anyones, so that’s something. Charlotte (8-4) has wins over Michigan and Kansas State, presumably because they were mad about not being invited to the BWW Bowl.
Big Sorts of Teams
Iowa State (12-0)
Significant Wins: Michigan, Iowa, @ BYU, Boise St.
Losses: [404 file not found]
The Cyclones weren’t ranked when Michigan played them, but they definitely are now. Forwards Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang are both shooting around 50% from the field, with Ejim nearly averaging a double-double (18.0 ppg and 8.8 rpg). One caveat is that they have only played one game away from
Iowa City Des Moines Corn Rapids Ames, that being a 2 point win over BYU.
Florida State (9-3)
Significant Wins: VCU, UMass
Losses: Michigan (waives tiny flag), @ Florida, @ Minnesota
How important does that crazy-ass Michigan comeback in Puerto Rico feel now? At the time it was an amusing, “oh that’s a nifty little win,” but in hindsight it is a “THANK YOU BASED GOD” non-conference salvager.
Florida State could easily be 10-1 right now. They blew a 16 point lead against Michigan (including an 8 point lead and possession with 3 minutes left), and lost to Florida by 1 on a last-second offensive rebound despite outshooting and generally outplaying the Gators. Still, they look to be in that second tier of the ACC behind Pitt, Syracuse, and Duke, and MAYBE UNC. They are far from the most skilled team in the country, but will pose some significant matchup problems for a number of teams, given their overall largeness/tallness and tendency to be freeking huge. As Michigan’s best NonCon win, you will want to cheer hard for the Seminoles.
Significant Wins: Michigan, UCLA
Losses: Kansas, Arizona
From the makers of Jadeveon Clowney comes: Jabari Parker!!! Now with kung-fu crossover and Dick Vitale utility belt!!! Duke’s true freshman guard/wing/forward/goalie/ambassador/imperial wizard has been exactly as advertised, looking like the most college-ready of the mega-frosh. He’s averaging 22 and 8, and has scored 19+ points in every game but one this season. Guess which one.*
|Duke is really missing the Yellow Plumlee|
The weird thing is, we really don’t know that much about Duke. They lost to the two elite teams they played, beat Michigan (at home) and UCLA (at MSG), and beyond that have dispatched a large pile of unconvincing opponents by occasionally unconvincing margins. They beat Vermont by 1 point, ECU by 9, and Alabama by 10. Maybe it’s the fact that they are down to three Plumlees on the roster, which isn’t enough to form up the Megazord. They have played great offense and middling defense, and are probably among the favorites in the ACC once Parker settles in (/shudder).
*to those who accused GRIII of not being “into” that game, I suggest you try to stand between a bull mastiff and a squirrel for 40 minutes and tell me how it goes for you.
Significant Wins: San Diego St, Duke, @ Michigan
Losses: [Should have lost to Michigan but KenPom lied to all of us]
They’re okay, I guess. Arizona is deservingly number one in the polls, based on how the polls work, and are definitely among the elite teams, but… eh? Purported super-frosh Aaron Gordon has had a whelming start; according to people who watch last night basketball regularly, he's playing great defense and flashing hilarious athleticism, but isn’t consistent or diverse on the offensive end of the court. Arizona continues to look to Nick Johnson as their primary scoring option, and he’s dropping about 16 ppg. They’re clearly the class of a middle-heavy PAC 12.
Significant Wins: @ UConn
Losses: BYU, Pitt, Michigan (/blasts Katy Perry, waives crap out of tiny flag)
Stanford isn’t all that good. But they are okay. And Michigan beat them. So we will continue to treat them as if they are good. We call this the Akron Delusion.
Pay no attention to the fact that Stanford’s only remotely impressive win was a grinding, brick-laden slugfest over a UConn team that decided to play the entire second half in the style of breakdance-fighting. Seriously: Stanford was down by 10 at the half, scored 25 points in the second half, and won. That’s a crime against ManBearPig.
[After the jump: objects ahead, and the return of THING THEY ARE LIKE]