It’s an honor to follow in the footsteps of Ken “Sky” Walker and Heiko “Never Picked a Nickname” Yang, and I look forward to working with Nick. Punt/Counterpunt has graced the pre-game routines of countless Michigan fans over the last two decades, myself included. I remember some of my earliest trips to the Big House, when the first thing I did after plopping down in my seat was to flip to see Ken’s and Nick’s thoughts on the game. I would then call whoever made the more pessimistic prediction an idiot. They alternated in this role; sometimes it was Ken, and sometimes it was Nick. And even when the more pessimistic take was ultimately correct, said author was still an idiot. And probably jinxed the whole thing with their pessimistic juju. Look what you did, idiot. Michigan just lost because of you.
Such is the nature of fandom. You respect the superstitions. You don’t talk about a no-hitter during a no-hitter. You wear your Lucky Game Shirt even if your team is 2-7, on the off chance it suddenly makes Nick Sheridan an unstoppable throw-god. You don’t bring up 2007 before a season opener. I guest-Punted last year’s MSU P/CP, and I still feel bad about it. So I promise to do my best to not mess anything up this year, because this promises to be a HELL of a season.
The good news for me in stepping into this role is than now I get to assume Nick is the idiot 100% of the time. And the good news for everyone else is that, having read my stuff for a while, you all know that I am the idiot. It’s win-win.
Fortunately, this week’s game provides less opportunity for idiocy than normal. Michigan is a 40-point favorite against a team that is flying across seven time zones after spending the previous week in Australia. The biggest questions this week are “will Hawaii score?” and “how high will the rubble bounce?” Such questions do not lend themselves to declarations of “told you so.”
Yes, Michigan beats Hawaii. They beat Hawaii by a lot. The extent of the devastation will come down to how early Michigan lets off the gas, and whether they even slow down once that happens. Hawaii turned the ball over five times against an awful Cal defense, so there’s a good chance Michigan either scores on defense or ends up with multiple short fields. Hawaii gave up 9 plays of 20+ yards against Hawaii, most of which were the result of poor tackling and the Rainbow Warriors exhibiting the gap integrity and situational awareness of a Roomba. This is not a recipe for success and glory against a Harbaugh offense. Vanilla Garbage Time Michigan Offense is still likely to run all over this undersized, jetlagged, not-that-good-to-begin-with Hawaii team. And given Michigan’s depth on defense, it’s hard to see that side of the ball going much better as the game wears on.
So, my answers are “eh, maaaaybe?” and “quite high, thank you very much.” Michigan 49, Hawaii 3
by Nick RoUMel
Yes, Punt, there is a way for Hawai’i to beat Michigan.
There are certain results that cling to one’s memory like a leech. There’s Kordell Stewart’s Hail Mary to beat Michigan in 1994, Appalachian State in 2007, and something that happened last year in the Big House on October 17, 2015. One wishes fervently to Spotless Mind these events. Jack London once wrote, “To be able to forget means sanity.” Friedrich Nietzsche one-upped London, asserting “Without forgetting it is quite impossible to live at all.”
But for Hawai’i coach Nick Rolovich, it wasn’t enough to merely forget Michigan’s 49-3 shellacking on September 3, 2016. He wanted a thorough do-over.
The embarrassment was so acute. Nearly 113,000 screaming fans, on an achingly beautiful late summer afternoon in Ann Arbor, celebrated Michael Jordan, Jumpman, and a thumping defeat of Rolovich’s Rainbow Warriors.
Shockingly, Hawai’i struck first. Taking the opening kickoff, a nifty drive surprised the Wolverines with a field goal. It temporarily silenced the home crowd, but that was all they had. As the police officer told Clark Griswold about his forgotten puppy, “Poor little fella, the first mile or so he tried to keep up with you, but after that ...”
Yes, “after that.” In response to Hawai’i’s opening drive, the Wolverines were merciless: scoring touchdowns on 6 consecutive drives until emptying the bench, even giving Jordan a try at a field goal for the longest three-pointer of his career. (He missed.) Embarrassed, and exhausted from their travels halfway around the world, the Warriors could not be consoled in the locker room by their new coach.
Rolovich thought back on the humiliation - not just of the football game - but of being jilted by Coach Harbaugh’s refusal to give him film of Michigan’s scrimmage. While Rolovich claimed later he was joking, it was a lame attempt to cover the pain of rejection.
“What if I could have seen the game film?” Rolovich wondered. “Would it have made a difference?” Or was it all the travel that tired us out so much, including going back-and-forth over the International Date Line?” He drummed his fingers, then stopped cold. The idea was so bright it blinded him from the inside.
Furiously, he acted. He chartered a plane as quickly as possible, and arranged for provisions to be stocked for a long trip. Gathering his players, he steeled himself to go back in time. “Men, we’re going back to Australia.” Puzzled, the 0-2 Rainbow Warriors thought their coach daft. But by the second west-to-east journey, they’d already gone back a day and a half -but not before they managed to dissect a video replay of the Michigan game, play by play.
By the time the plane reversed course, went back east-to-west, and landed in Detroit Metro, they were ready. A bewildered Coach Harbaugh said afterwards, “It was like they knew exactly what we were going to do on every play.” Michigan’s superior talent almost saved the day, but the Rainbow Warriors hung on for the shocking win.
Coach Rolovich smiled. This was even better than forgetting.
HAWAI’I 21, MICHIGAN 20
P.S. Welcome Bryan!
By Heiko Yang
This is going to be my last punt column. Assuming I match into residency (20 days until urology match day ahhhh /vomits), I won’t have much time next fall to do this anymore. I’m bad enough with deadlines as is, and I’m the kind of the writer who likes to type three words at a time and then delete two, i.e. slow. Not really compatible with the 80-hour workweek.
A Michigan-Florida Citrus Bowl is a weirdly poetic last game for me. The same matchup in the same bowl game in 2008 was my introduction to Michigan football. I had just been accepted to medical school at Michigan that year. For my second-look visit they showed us highlights of that game, and they even had Lloyd Carr speak to us about leadership and teamwork and a lot of other stuff I can’t really remember. I wasn’t even a college football fan back then, but meeting the legendary national title-winning coach of college football’s winningest program was still a pretty cool experience.
Whatever impression of the football team I got that day, the next eight years were anything but. Yeah we all know this. Woe is me, you, and everyone else. I’ll try to spare you the Daily Sports column redux that people have been writing every year for the last half-decade or so. On the bright side there was that one good season in 2011, and I did get to see (on the sideline, no less) exhilarating wins against Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan State, and in a BCS bowl. Beyond that, I am thankful that I’ve gotten so much more than entertainment value and school spirit out of this experience. How do you win and do the right thing when the odds are stacked against both? It seems like the Michigan football program has been running daily experiments to explore this question ever since I got here, and there’s an endless number of lessons, good and bad, to be drawn from the data.
At least the answer seems clear now, finally: wear khakis. No, but really. Winning the Michigan way is a lot like crowd surfing at a rock concert. The program can be buoyed only by the uninterrupted arm strength of the people in it, so the less everyone worries about their pants, the more time and energy they have to making sure it doesn’t tumble to the ground the way it has done so often in recent years. Also because they are the quintessential business casual pant material. Jake from State Farm agrees.
For poetry’s sake I’m going to predict the same score and outcome as that of the 2008 bowl game. Like Michigan, Florida has also spent a lot of time wandering the desert only to find itself recently. (One could say that their string of personnel issues is an indication that they’ve found a little too much of their former selves.) Both teams now have great defenses hamstrung by up-and-down offenses. In Michigan’s case, it’s been mostly down to up; Florida not so much. The Gators will score their points early and late, but the Wolverines will control the game, much like they did when Carr coached his last game.
But there will be something very, very different about this one. Rather than a sentimental elegy for the good ol’ times of the past, today’s victory will be a harbinger of amazing things to come in the future. We’ve got a monster recruiting class. Our roster won’t be decimated over the next month. And our head coach is here to stay – oh, and his name is Jim Harbaugh.
It’s an exciting new era for Michigan football, and wherever I end up, I can’t wait to see it.
Michigan 41, Florida 35
By Nick RoUMel
COUNTERPUNT – Citrus Bowl – Florida vs. Michigan 1/1/16
By Nick RoUMel
Just before Christmas, on Main Street, Ann Arbor, I was out for “Midnight Madness.” Among the shoppers and merchants were UM Medical students with buckets, collecting for the annual “Galen’s Tag” charity fundraiser. I said hello to a young man I knew, working on his Medical School Ph.D., when he motioned towards the student next to him. “I believe you know Heiko?” he asked.
Heiko Yang, Off-hour Postdoc
(full time M3 at Medical School)
I glanced over. Heiko looked just as he does in the photo above (from his Med School lab’s web page), perhaps taller than I’d remembered. But I didn’t immediately recognize him, since it was only the second time we’d ever met.
We talked for a long while, about football and residency search. He told me then he was leaving this column, due to his anticipated workload. Still, Heiko’s official announcement today leaves me with inexplicable sadness. I have enjoyed our friendship, mainly consisting of peppy email exchanges for our column, and occasionally during games. I have come to appreciate Heiko’s enthusiasm, humor, intellect, and above all, his mastery of creative syllogisms. This is a guy who can start out talking about being concussed in a softball game collision, and draw an analogy to forgetting the bad stuff about UM football; and today, he manages to connect crowdsurfing with football fan support. And here I thought I was the one who more easily –
“Look! A squirrel!”
Ahem. Well, that went off-topic quickly.
Heiko’s only flaw, as Punt, has been his wrongness. Counterpunt, channeling Nostradamus, has consistently been on the right side of these picks, while Punt predicts the result about as often as a blind squirrel finds a nut.
Today Heiko has chosen the safe choice. He knows, as Einstein never once said (despite memes to the contrary), that “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.” In this context, the usual result of a January Florida bowl game, at least in the last 30 years, is a high-scoring Michigan victory:
Jan. 2, 1988 Hall of Fame (Tampa) Michigan 28, Alabama 24
Jan. 1, 1991 Gator (Jacksonville) Michigan 28, Ol’ Miss 3
Jan. 1, 1994 Hall of Fame Michigan 42, NC State 7
Jan. 1, 1997 Outback (Tampa) Alabama 17, Michigan 14
Jan. 1, 1999 Citrus (Orlando) Michigan 45, Arkansas 31
Jan. 1, 2000 Orange (Miami) Michigan 35, Alabama 34
Jan. 1, 2001 Citrus Michigan 31, Auburn 28
Jan. 2, 2002 Citrus Tennessee 42, Michigan 17
Jan. 1, 2003 Outback Michigan 38, Florida 30
Jan. 1, 2008 Capital One/Citrus Michigan 41, Florida 35
Jan. 1, 2011 Gator Mississippi State 52, Michigan 14
Jan. 1, 2013 Outback S. Carolina 33, Michigan 28
That’s an 8-4 record, and 3-1 in Citri Bowls, with at least 4 touchdowns in each win. Not bad - and better if you don’t count 2011 (when that thing happened); and 2013 (when that other thing happened). Oh, and another thing happened in ‘13: a fortuitous angle on a tackle helped make Jadeveon Clowney the #1 NFL draft pick in 2014.
So my hat is off to Heiko. He’s not insane, he’s just wisely foreseeing the odds-on result.
But my friend, here is where our friendship departs. In contrast to Punt’s La-Z-Boy bravado, not daring more than to changing channels in the dark, Counterpunt opts for the bold and the reckless path - nay, the insane choice – like motorcycle daredevil Evel Kneivel, who once attempted to jump the Snake River Canyon (seen here thrashing bravely at E.T.):
Yes Heiko, this is my parting gift to you. Because you are leaving and I am passive aggressive about it, my gift is not very nice. I give you a loss, from a banged-up Michigan team, fighting hard but losing by the skin of their teeth.
But there’s one more gift, and more important – it is my best wishes to you for a successful career. Go Heiko, and we’ll always be back here at this URL when you miss us.
FLORIDA 24, MICHIGAN 21
By Nick RoUMel
According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association rule book, college athletes are not to receive preferential treatment, gifts or other special benefits because of their athletic skills. Michigan fans will recall that our athletic teams have been punished more than once because of this rule.
In February 1996, UM basketball players Maurice Taylor, Robert “Tractor” Traylor, Louis Bullock, Willie Mitchell and Ron Oliver took Mateen Cleaves, then a senior at Flint Northern High School on his official recruiting visit to Michigan, to a party at a Detroit hotel. On the return trip, Taylor’s Ford Explorer rolled over on M-14, breaking Traylor’s arm and leading to many questions. Ann Arbor News sports reporter Jim Cnockaert reported, in a 2002 article, that immediately after the accident, the NCAA asked Michigan for financial records detailing the leasing arrangements for Taylor's vehicle. The aftermath led to the Ed Martin booster scandal that rocked the Michigan basketball program, causing its rapid and long demise.
In enforcing the rule against providing benefits to players, the NCAA did not limit the scope of its inquiry to college. In February 2000, UM basketball freshman phenom Jamal Crawford was handed two separate suspensions totaling 14 games, arising from his relationship in high school with a man he considered his father figure and godfather, who helped rescue him from a childhood of poverty and criminal influence. The major accusation against Crawford was that this good Samaritan had given him a used car to help him get to school. The New York Times reported in 2000 that Crawford’s was just one of a rash of aggressive investigations the NCAA launched against college players accepting benefits while they were in high school.
The NCAA has been kinder to Ohio State. In 2010 it was learned that several players had traded “nine Big Ten championship rings, 15 pairs of cleats, four or five jerseys and one national championship ring” for cash or trade, including tattoos. The players were suspended for five games – but they did not have to sit out until the beginning of the non-conference 2011 season. They were permitted to play in the January 4, 2011 Sugar Bowl, which the Buckeyes won over Arkansas to cap a 12-1 season. After the game it was determined that then-coach Jim Tressel was aware of the NCAA violations by his players, had led others to believe he wasn’t, and failed to report them. He too was eventually suspended for five games, but in the face of controversy about his relatively light punishment, he left amid allegations of more extensive problems.
The Buckeye football program was transformed by these violations, but in a good way. After a 6-6 2011 season that saw Michigan’s only gridiron victory over their rivals since 2003, OSU hired Urban Meyer to head their program, less than a year after Meyer retired as Florida’s coach to “spend more time with his family.” (Sportswriter Mac Engel quipped, “Urban Meyer has apparently spent enough time with his family.”)
Some may argue that Meyer has brought an SEC mentality to Ohio State; others respond that nothing has changed. Their reaction to the complete beatdown that Sparty laid on them last week was outrage. Suddenly a coach who had won 23 straight games didn’t know what he was doing. Star running back Ezekiel Elliott blasted the playcalling, and declared there was “no chance” he would return next year. Cardale Jones also announced he would not return. One might expect that such openly public criticism would lead to discipline; no chance of that in Columbus. Meyer stated of Elliott, “He apologized. We squashed it as a team.”
Thus the Buckeyes, remarkably, come into Ann Arbor as a cohesive unit, and the rumors of their implosion are highly exaggerated. They are the same program that has owned Michigan for a dozen years, and the same team that are the defending national champions. They have been ranked #1 for much of this year, and are still in the top ten.
Sure, Sparty exposed some vulnerability. But don’t expect Michigan’s offensive line and running game to enjoy the same success, and I think that Barrett/Jones/Elliott will fare better offensively, especially with Ryan Glasgow’s absence in the middle.
If you’re looking for scandal: move along, nothing to see here. The Buckeyes are one big, happy, dysfunctional family. This is who Urban Meyer really wanted to spend more time with, and he’s found a home.
OHIO STATE 23, MICHIGAN 19
By Heiko Yang
Hate is a strong word, but it’s the only way to describe what I felt when OSU fans swarmed onto the field around me after their team beat Michigan 26-21 to secure an undefeated season in 2012.
I remember the final moments of that game cinematically: the last kneel down, the roar of the crowd, and then just a muted daze as I looked around and marveled at how much I hated everything in that frigid stadium. I hated their band, hated their fight song, and hated that all the prematurely made victory signs somehow weren’t enough to jinx the outcome. I hated that I was there to suffer their happiness. I had to force my way past throngs of jubilant idiots on my way to the press conference area, and I just hated that they were euphoric about the very thing that made me miserable.
I didn’t know I was capable of such all-encompassing hate until that moment. I had to keep telling myself “it’s just a game and none of this matters,” but never had those words felt so hollow.
Hate is a powerful thing. We don’t even need to talk about the recent tragedies around the world to know that it can inspire terrible things when misguided and left unchecked. But hate isn’t always bad. In the world of sports, we happily subject ourselves to regular exercises in hate on because it’s a constructive outlet for an emotion so potent that even for a contest premised on moving a leather balloon 100 yards back and forth we will cultivate century-old rivalries based on little more than geography, provisional ideologies, and color schemes.
Our capacity to hate gives these rivalries meaning and character. It’s no longer just a simple game with inconsequential outcomes; when we’ve invested our very identities into something, everything matters. We remember all the verbal slights, the guarantees of victory, the recruiting battles, the midfield brawls, and the tearing down of our banners, and for one day every year we lay that hateful history on the line. The stakes are very real: emerge triumphant or be sentenced to suffer your opponent’s gloating happiness for another year.
This is Michigan’s proverbial Year. It’s been on the warpath toward this game ever since Jim Harbaugh took the reins of the program and channeled a decade of personal frustration over Michigan losses into his coaching. Like Bo in 1969, Harbaugh has built this team to beat the Buckeyes. The Wolverines defense is rock to Urban Meyer’s scissors, and the offense has been meticulously stockpiling weapons capable of punching holes through the Ohio State defense. More importantly, the team has come together over the course of the season and achieved a heightened level of focus and determination just as the Buckeyes are beginning to fall apart. This year more than ever, Michigan is prepared to win. And they will – with character, cruelty, and hate.
The Ohio State fans here today will be in for a real treat. It’s been too long since they’ve been forced to suffer our happiness. I don’t think they remember what it’s like to regret having to be in our frigid stadium to listen to our band play our fight song while they filter out miserably past our throngs of jubilant fans.
It’s time to remind them what hate feels like.
Michigan 24, Ohio State 12
By Heiko Yang
This feels like Michigan State all over again. All week we’ve been reading about the opponent’s mediocre bits: its offensive line is no good, its secondary is prone to busting big plays, and the only way Penn State going to come close to winning is if its quarterback can consistently make NFL throws while its defensive line plays lights out.
Once again, I have a terrible feeling that this is going to be the outlier game where everything somehow clicks for the opponent. After being in Beaver Stadium for whatever the hell you want to call the 2013 game, I can confidently say that a vulnerable Michigan team is totally the kind opponent Penn State would get up for. There’s an unspoken rivalry here, too. The two teams have had a lot of interesting history over the past two decades, and if you think about it, there’s currently more parity between them than there is between Michigan and its other rivals.
Beyond that, a win for the Nittany Lions would go far to validate James Franklin’s tenure in Happy Valley. It would his first win over a ranked team while at Penn State and also his first over a perennial conference powerhouse (if we ignore the last decade or so. Womp womp.). Being able to hang this trophy on his mantle would be a great way to divert attention away from his numerous clock management gaffes and the gradual Algernoning of Christian Hackenberg.
But let’s be clear. Nothing short of a Shane Morris-like debacle would do anything to affect Franklin’s job security. There’s no shame in losing to a 12th-ranked Michigan team when your roster is as deep as the lyrics to a Carly Rae Jepson song at nearly every position. Franklin is playing with house money so long as the repercussions from the Sandusky scandal linger, and that’s really what scares me about him and this team. It’s never a good position to be in when the guy sitting across the poker table puts you all in with someone else’s chips.
At least Michigan is better equipped this season to deal with the things they can control. At this point 27 for 27 feels like a distant memory, even if the run game hasn’t gotten that much better and could easily reproduce that outcome against Penn State’s defensive line. It’s comforting t know that we might actually throw a screen when defensive backs line up 15-yards off our receivers. It’s also nice to know these days that both Channing Stribling and Jourdan Lewis are behaving less like waves and more like particles. That was the difference maker two years ago and it’s possible that it will be the difference maker once again.
I don’t know. I can’t bring myself to predict a victory, and I learned a few days ago that certain members of the MGoCrew are heading to Happy Valley today to attend the game in person. I can’t fathom why. We did something two years ago there to anger the football gods -- maybe it was the urinating outside the port-o-potty, or maybe it was the taunting of the waitress on her birthday. Either way, I can’t imagine that a return visit would inspire them to look favorably upon Michigan, and for that reason I’m going to call this game a loss.
Michigan 23, Penn State 24
By Nick RoUMel
Heiko, you are going to get flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Why would you taunt a waitress on her birthday? Was she reciting Carly Rae Jepson lyrics? (By the way, I for one happen to appreciate the dark irony of “Call Me Maybe.”)
I believe in karma. You will get yours. One day a waitress will avenge the memory of her taunted friend. A beer on your head, Dr. Yang!
I remember when Penn State joined the Big Ten and taunted its new siblings, boasting that it would run away with every conference title. I gloat to this day that Northwestern has just as many titles as the Nits. (By the way, I love calling Penn State the Nits, another name for head lice.)
We have had some great games with them, beating them about ten straight times at one point, having their number like Holly Holm vs. Carly Rae Jepson. I remember when Michigan went into Beaver Stadium in 1997 to face the #2 Nits, and won 34-8. I savored beating them in ’05 for their only loss. Heck even B-Ho beat them last year. They are reeling, on the ropes.
But I do understand where Punt is coming from. The tale of our beloved Wolverines is one of two teams: the disciplined one that plays to their fullest capability, compared to the Keystone Kop team where every offensive lineman has his own internal start clock, the defense misses tackles, and we somehow let mediocre teams claw us within one inch of our death.
What to make of Michigan? They’ve probably done a little better than expected, on the whole. Pundits ranged between 9-3 and 7-5. Add a bowl game and no matter what happens the rest of the season, our waves and particles are still bouncing around in the same tight little prediction box.
Yet some have gone too far. Like Punt, I cringe a little when fans have already tucked Penn State, Ohio State and Iowa in the win column, sneak us into the playoffs, and end the season with Carly Rae Jepson crowning us national champions, with some wry and ironic words of praise at the victory podium.
But I refuse to believe that this James Franklin team, as directionless as an iPhone without Maps, whose most impressive victory is … Rutgers? Army? Maryland by one point? …is going to threaten us. Because Christian Hackenberg is about as scary as that adorable three year old toddler on Hallowe’en dressed up as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle with the fake muscles and six pack that you are too stingy to give a full sized Snickers bar to, because CVS had a sale on “fun sized” bars and you ate all the Kit-Kats and only gave out Milky Ways and Three Musketeers because nobody, I mean nobody, eats those unless they are all that’s left and they’re desperate for chocolate and have no pride or willpower whatsoever and probably have the munchies anyway.
MICHIGAN 24, PENN STATE 20
I don't know what Heiko is talking about either –ed
By Heiko Yang
Having Indiana on the schedule is a lot like having the Goosebumps books on your third-grade teacher’s bookshelf. They’re frequently entertaining and occasionally good for a cheap scare, but you’re pretty sure there’s nothing there that would cause any kind of lasting damage.
True to form, all season long Indiana has played out the recurring plot where they threaten to upset good teams late in the fourth quarter only to blow it by abruptly returning to ineptitude. It’s like that time Goku and Vegeta fuse to beat the evil dragon but then run out of time just as they’re about to deal the final kamehameha.
Against Michigan, though, I have a bad feeling. I guess I usually have a bad feeling about Michigan games, but I’ve been feeling pretty leery about this particular game for some time. I don’t know why Vegas has such a lopsided line favoring Michigan by almost two touchdowns. On the road this season Michigan hasn’t scored more than four touchdowns total. Meanwhile, Indiana has been averaging just a point shy of that in each their losses to Ohio State, Michigan State, and Iowa. My feelingsball take is I don’t expect Michigan to run away with this one unless something bizarre happens. Speaking of, I’m going to go ahead and say that neither their 29-7 loss to Penn State nor their 55-52 loss to Rutgers makes any sense to me, but then again I didn’t watch either of those games because I don’t hate myself.
But what about Michigan’s shut-down secondary vs Indiana’s pass offense? Or Harbaugh’s fancy manball offense vs their flimsy front?
These matchup advantages don’t seem to make much of a difference as often as we hope, especially against competent coaches, which I think Indiana has. Underdogs can benefit from known mismatches, too. Similar to the way the Indiana basketball team knew two years ago to put a point guard on Nik Stauskas, there are ways the Hoosiers football staff can game plan around Michigan’s strengths to force the Wolverines into making difficult compromises in their own game plan.
I’m also not giving Indiana enough credit here. They’ve got offensive playmakers Michigan certainly has to account for, and their spread attack is more sophisticated than anything the Wolverines D has seen all season. Additionally, their defensive weaknesses don’t seem quite on a Rutgers level of incompetence (although they did lose to Rutgers, because football is complicated).
Michigan will probably struggle out of the gate, and an empty possession on offense paired with a quick strike from Indiana would be doom for a team that relies on maintaining early momentum. The Wolverines will need a lot of luck to avoid falling into this kind of hole; I just don’t know if they’ll find that in Bloomington.
Michigan 27, Indiana 30
By Nick RoUMel
Heiko has tried mightily. Giddy from reading Goosebumps, he has nearly convinced himself that today’s contest will actually resemble a football game. I suspect there were fits of giggles as he wrote his column, solemnly analyzing the matchup as if there were something to worry about.
There is not. Not ever. Michigan is 54-9 lifetime against Indiana. They have not lost in 28 years, when they fell to an 8-4 Hoosier squad that also crushed #9 Ohio State and featured the durable and dangerous Anthony Thompson at tailback. Since then it has been all Michigan. I mean, even RichRod and B-Ho beat Indiana, although the 2009 game saw the Hoosiers score the most points they ever had against a Michigan team, 33. That record stood until 2010, when the stalwart RichRod defense gave up 35, a record that would be unbroken until the very next time Indiana played Michigan, in 2013, when B-Ho’s disciplined D held them to 47 points and a mere 572 yards of offense.
It is actually quite telling that other than the 1987 game - the only one Indiana has won in the last 48 years - their most memorable battle was the 1979 homecoming contest in Ann Arbor, when they were coached by Lee Corso who had the audacity to believe he could play toe to toe with the Wolverines. That he did, until the final play of the game, when Johnny Wangler hit Anthony Carter on a 45 yard touchdown pass that had Bob Ufer going ape-s*** crazy in the broadcast booth. The clip is de rigueur every time Michigan plays Indiana:
(Did you know that the horn Ufer beeped so happily was actually from General Patton’s World War II jeep? A fact I did not know until writing this column.)
Does anyone really think that these 2015, Harbaugh-led Wolverines are going to let Indiana even come close to sniffing victory, like a skanky perfume sample in the middle of a magazine is supposed to make you fantasize about a date with somebody like Vera Farmiga?
I think not. Outside of a few random Nate Sudfeld passes, Indiana will be lucky to sniff its own armpit. Their evening is going to be about as fulfilling as Tom Waits taking himself out on a date, as he describes so forlornly in “Better Off Without A Wife:”
Yes Wolverine fans, hit the easy button. This one’s in the bag.
MICHIGAN 56, INDIANA 10
By Heiko Yang
Sometimes you get burned.
In medicine, everyone has stories about “that time I missed diagnosis X because I was so sure it was diagnosis Y.” Earlier this year I missed a retroperitoneal bleed because I was utterly convinced that my patient’s back pain was a routine case of muscle spasms from straining to get out of bed (he was not in the best physical shape). I coolly presented my findings as “benign” and “unremarkable” only to watch in horror as the senior resident ran her hand over the subtle but sinister-looking bruise tracking along the patient’s flank.
It was one of the few moments in medical school where quitting seemed like a good idea.
The reaction is pretty natural, I think. Misdiagnosis happens, but at a tertiary center like Michigan, a lot of times Y is some weird life-threatening thing while X is garden variety, so you just feel a little silly and move on. But when it’s the other way around, especially if you don’t catch your mistake and something horrible happens to your patient*, you feel like you no longer deserve to be a doctor. The negative reinforcement is so powerful that there’s even an acronym for it – IGBO, or “I Got Burned Once” – because it’s actually kind of a healthcare problem. Costs increase and routine problems become more complicated by doctors who recommend unnecessary tests and interventions because they have PTSD from the last time they missed the rare but scary diagnosis. You better believe I’m going to think “retroperitoneal bleed” every time a patient on a blood thinner complains of back pain, and it’ll be a conscious effort to resist the urge to scan every one of them.
Last week Michigan’s defense got burned. Minnesota got lucky and hit a few big plays in the first half, which put the Wolverines on their heels for the rest of the game and gave the Gophers the opportunity to hit even more big plays. The way everything played out made it a little easier to appreciate the overused adage about the secondary having a “short memory.” They have the unenviable position of being almost always culpable for the big 20+ yard gainers, and letting those mistakes influence how they play the next down usually just leads to more mistakes. The signs and symptoms of IGBO were rampant throughout the secondary. It felt like they were still reliving the last big play on every snap.
I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that Michigan’s secondary is relatively inexperienced. Half of the major contributors – Hill, Thomas, and Clark – are new. I’m optimistic about this. With more and more experience, they’ll learn to spend less time dwelling on their mistakes as they eventually adopt the cool poise of seasoned veterans. In the short term, however, the fact that Michigan won should help eliminate the hangover from last week’s poor performance and hasten the return to form this week. Instead of the 3rd-and-17 conversion or Channing Stribling’s bust on the double move, the last big plays they remember from this game should be the goal-line stand and then racing to the opposite sideline to reclaim the jug.
Oh, and they’re playing Rutgers. That should help, too.
Rutgers 3, Michigan 31
*Don’t worry, that patient ended up doing okay. It’s a good thing they don’t let medical students make any real decisions.
By Nick RoUMel
IGBO. Just “once,” Heiko?
I’m not sure how I feel about a profession whose practitioners will admit to only one mistake. We lawyers screw up all the time, whether it’s missing a shortened statute of limitations buried deep in the fine print of an employment application from 20 years ago, or bungling strategy on the verge of victory that’s the legal equivalent of Minnesota’s final 19 seconds last Saturday.
On the other hand, we lawyers wrote the U.S. Constitution while doctors were still curing people with leeches. (But when you look at how people still argue about what the Constitution means over 220 years later, maybe we screwed that up too.)
One mistake we can all agree on: Rutgers does not belong in the Big Ten. It still baffles me why the conference honchos thought it was a good idea to expand the conference in this fashion. Rutgers? Nebraska? Maryland? I’m sure the addition of these three red-clad teams also relates to one of our founding fathers - or in the vernacular, “It’s all about the Benjamins.”
Today one of those outliers engages in noble battle with a team from Michigan, the heartland of the conference. On paper this is a mismatch. The favorites, despite some heart stopping moments, have are a strong team that has exceeded a lot of expectations. The underdog is already on the verge of a losing season and is playing today with an air of desperation.
However, we do know they can move the ball and score points; it’s their defense that’s a question mark. One advantage they have is that the favorite may be overlooking them. It’s the worst kind of trap game.
I feel pretty strongly about the upset. And frankly, nothing will make me happier:
BIG RED 33, MICHIGAN …. STATE 28
Whoops, did I make a mistake? Well at least no one got hurt!
Let’s try again. The good guys win, but not so convincingly:
MICHIGAN 28, SCARLET KNIGHTS 20