So going into this 2009-10 college season, more so than any previous year, I was totally wound up for Michigan sports.
This blog had something to do with it.
But it was also this thought that a Ninja offense with Michigan-level talent would finally be unleashed upon the Big Ten. That our Lazarus of a basketball program would do something with its resurrection other than walk headlong into the next speeding train. That the fall of MSU and retention of a sick collection of talent would propel Michigan Hockey from an elite CCHA program to the elite NCAA program.
I was marrying this program, and planning the reception.
But someone forgot to invite the groom:
Am I starting to sound like a bandwagon fan? Well, how do we know if any of us are bandwagon Michigan fans, really? I mean, we're talking about a wagon that's been rolling along for like 150 years.
I know I've been guilty of bandwagonism in the past. Certainly I do it with the Pistons. I can trust my Tiger loyalty because I held tough through some really bad years. I know I have no Lions loyalty because I've never really cared. Red Wings: same boat as Big Blue.
All I know is that something broke inside me this week. Something about Vincent Smith tearing a ligament, while our best defensive player says he really really really hopes to be in the NFL, and one of three dire remaining spots in the 2009 class is filled with a Kovacs clone (no offense to the new guy), and for the first time in my life, I wondered if the M fandom was causing more pain than I could reasonably expect to be repaid in joy.
And this was keeping me awake, when I have to be up really early tomorrow for Adopt-a-Shelter, wasting away precious sleep hours on my favorite corners of the Web, doodling around on GiMP, and pondering ultimate goods of M fandom.
And here's where I came down: I don't have a choice.
If Donovan leaves, and Vincent Smith can't play, and the recruits are weenie-sized lost puppies, and Ohio State wins a 7th game in a row, I'm still going to be rationalizing and cheering, and convincing myself each week that Michigan will never lose again, because, hell man, I've been through 3-9 and 5-7 and I still haven't had a whiff of ennui. If Michigan goes down the toilet, I'm going to feel really shitty.
So at least I've got that settled.
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
I hate Henri the Otter of Ennui.
For me, losing hurts. Watching Ezeh bite on a Juice Williams ninja fake hurts. Getting run over by Wisconsin hurts. Getting run around by Purdue hurts. Coming up just short after outplaying Iowa, having a win in East Lansing slip out of our grasps after a tantalizing tie, getting out-coached and out-executed by Penn State: these things hurt.
Henri can turn himself off. He can be blasé about such things. I can’t. I hate Henri for that.
Here’s some things that I seriously thought today:
- “Maybe it’s because I’ve been wearing maize each week.”
- “When have the holders of conventional wisdom ever had to prove themselves?”
- “Is RR just a fantastic offensive or Big East coach promoted beyond his capabilities?”
- “What is the percent chance that RR brings Michigan back to the top of the Big Ten, and what is the percent chance that it could happen under, say, Jim Harbaugh?”
- “Maybe we should just shut down the football program altogether and concentrate on being a hockey monster.”
- “But then we wouldn’t have Barwis.”
- “What have I done to deserve this?”
Because unlike Henri the Otter of Ennui I am incapable of shutting down my feelings, after losses, I grieve. This is part of the grieving process for me: questioning all that is given, thinking the thing that hasn’t been thought for awhile. To quote Dunder Mifflen Paper Co. Regional Manager Michael Scott, “there is such a thing as good grief; just ask Charlie Brown.”
I have tried several ways of dealing with post-loss grief this year, none of which have really done the trick. The best – but least repeatable – method was to go late-season lake perch fishing, catch almost 30 perch and a handful of smallmouth bass, race back home, and throw the still-twitching perch in a frying pan and gorge, all the while lashing out at snarky Spartan family members.
I also tried zoning out to Law & Order reruns with my head in Misopogal’s lap (although this had the probably foreseeable outcome of receiving an assessment on my need for a haircut). I tried drinking copious amounts of whiskey and losing $25.00 to friends who are better at poker than I am. I tried sitting in a grumpy corner during a weekend-long in-law family event, eyeing the guitar case in the corner that would allow me to belt out my sorrows between Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, and Bob Dylan songs, and avoiding eye contact with Misopogal, who has a strict No-Belting-Out-Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, and Bob Dylan Songs-During-Events-With-Her-Side-of-the-Family policy. And I tried sucking back Boddingtons and Stilton Fries in the window seat of Ashley’s while watching the throngs of maize-clad disappointment and waxing half-hearted existentialism with my best friend.
All of these are cathartic in their way. Some got me very full. Some got me very drunk. Some finally got me into the barber shop. But I’m running out of new and exciting coping mechanisms. So my latest is going on MGoBlog with a bevy of stupid questions, which I go on to answer at length using Hamlet and Charlie Brown and The Office and buried Infinite Jest references, i.e. logorrhea.
1. “Maybe it’s because I’ve been wearing maize each week.”
I’m a Johnny-Come-Lately to the whole ‘Maize-Out’ thing. I started wearing maize on Football Saturdays last year. We started really really sucking last year.
This should not be taken for a causal relationship. Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc. Moving on.
2. “When have the holders of conventional wisdom ever had to prove themselves?”
C.S. Lewis had this theory (actually it was more of a mourning observation) that there is no such thing today as a fair argument. There is no right or wrong anymore. Rather, in any disagreement, there is one side that is popular, and another side that is unpopular. The side that is unpopular has the burden of proof, and must argue with perfect clarity. The side that is popular – whether it is right or wrong – is best served by arguing with platitudes and rhetorical tricks. The only way they could possibly lose is actually have a fair argument, therefore a fair argument should be avoided at all costs.
The sports radio you can get in your car in Detroit is all platitudes. It’s also All-Fire-Rich-Rod-All-the-Time these days. Unfortunately, I finished my last CD-on-Tape (a biography of C.S. Lewis) last week and have little else to listen to in the car when stuck in construction-abetted gridlock, and I can’t stand Jim Rome because that guy is more in need of an ass-whopping than any man in history, so I end up listening for like five minutes to Mike Valenti (MSU brah!) and Terry Foster (Drew Sharp Lite) until I’m literally pounding my fists on the dashboard.
This is where having Misopogal around is incredibly important for me, because she knows how to use an Adam Sandler movie quote to make me realize how little it really matters what, say, Mike Valenti or Sean Hannity or those douche bags who say “Unacceptable” while walking out of Michigan Stadium have to say.* I won’t attempt to do her justice on here. Suffice to say that if everyone was as fair and open-minded and good at listening as my fiancé, well, she wouldn’t be as remarkable. People have strong biases and much prefer hearing that they’re right to seeking truths, and if you let this bother you, you will end up a grumpy old Oxfordian who’s as insufferable to others as others are to you.
Fuck Sean Hannity. Fuck Bill Maher. Fuck Mike Valenti and Terry Foster. All they do is reinforce opinions that weren’t going to change anyway. Those who make the important decisions don’t listen to these fucks. I seriously doubt that Mary Sue Coleman and Bill Martin and Bill Martin’s replacement are the type of folk to let Valenti and Foster talk them into felo-de-se.
* “Well, I have a microphone and you don't, so you will listen to every damn word I have to say!”
-The Wedding Singer
3. “Is RR just a fantastic offensive or Big East coach promoted beyond his capabilities?”
The Peter Principle … holds that in a hierarchy, members are promoted so long as they work competently. Sooner or later they are promoted to a position at which they are no longer competent (their "level of incompetence"), and there they remain, being unable to earn further promotions … Peter's Corollary states that "in time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out his duties" and adds that "work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence".
Dunder Mifflen’s Michael Scott is the modern paradigm of the Peter Principle. The character was a fantastic salesman because of his everyman charm, * which earned him a promotion to Regional Manager, his spectacular incompetence at which provides the majority of the show’s humor.
The way you avoid the Peter Principle in your own hierarchy is to judge candidates on whether they show the skills required of the higher job.
I think you can make a great Peter Principle case for Charlie Weiss. I don’t think you have as much of a case with Rich Rodriguez. Rodriguez built a national power in West Fucking Virginia. While the Big East is not as on-par with the Big Ten as whatever the SEC version of Sean Hannity is would like you to believe, neither is it that huge of a jump to go from head coach at a Big East school to head coach at a Big Ten school.
I said you don’t have as much of a case. But there is a case. Because Michigan really isn’t “just a Big Ten school.” Michigan is to the Big Ten what Texas is to the Big XII, or Florida State is to the ACC. Wherever you draw the arbitrary line of where college football history doesn’t matter anymore, Michigan is still one of the top programs in a sport that functionally rewards top programs more than any other.
* In my biz we call these guys “handshake guys” – they are not necessarily bright, nor do they even know the real value of what they’re selling, but they interface very well with clients’ handshake guys, with whom they form handshake-guy bonds that generate a ton of inexplicable sales.
There are parts of this job that require much more than a successful Big East coach needs to be successful:
- Winning nationally recognized rivalry games
- Handling a huge amount of media pressure
- Recruiting athletes from anywhere in the country who are coveted by every program in the country
- Placating egos of 21-year-olds with assured NFL futures
- Winning in horrible weather
- Out-coaching guys who are a lock for the coaching Hall of Fame
- Winning when things go against you
- Winning when you are the biggest game of the year for every team you face.
Some of these things we can assess. Others are way too early. I will make a stab at each, with regard to Rich Rod, but include percentages after each to tell you how sure I am of my assessment:
Winning nationally recognized rivalry games.
I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to get a nervous, John Cooper-esque feeling (not helped by the smartest sports guy in my office saying this all the time), that RR doesn’t “get” rivalries. What I mean by that is mostly that he doesn’t know how to blow enough smoke up everyone’s asses about rivalries.*
There is a “it’s basically a football game” attitude that engineers can appreciate, but which makes us LSA folk whinge. I’m starting to think that RR falls in that engineer category, which makes sense since he is widely considered (by the considerably small group of people who actually consider things) to be one of the best football engineering minds in the game. What engineers don’t realize, but LSA folk seem to understand intuitively, is that if you blow enough smoke about something, you can convince yourself and others that it is true, and then your brain can make it come true, and it actually does become true.
There is no good physical explanation for how Bo writing 50** all over the place in 1969 led to a huge upset over Ohio State, or why Bo was able to build off that win to establish a dynasty that lasted almost 40 years. You engineering folk are just gonna have to trust us wussy-ass liberal artfarts on this: for the head coach of Michigan, beating Ohio State matters more than any two wins anywhere on the schedule. And part of the way you beat Ohio State is to be more irrational about beating Ohio State than Ohio State is about beating Michigan. I believe this. I don’t think Rich Rod believes this. 60 percent.
* This was the subject of a recent bout of existentialist post-(Purdue) loss grief therapy in the window of Ashley’s.
** i.e. the amount of points the 1968 Buckeyes put up on Michigan.
Handling a huge amount of media pressure.
This is one of the few jobs in the United States that is conducted in a national fishbowl. People know who’s coaching Michigan like they know who the Vice President is. RR came in with a more open, aw-shucks, honest approach than Lloyd's "Eat the crags in my face, bitches" answer.
The local media's response was to eat him alive.
In media, as in football, those who are in the room for the big stuff are those who have already managed to succeed in the highly competitive, dog-eat-dog industry we work in. The problem with a room full of carnivorous survivors is that predators can't resist weakness (or, like me, find other, less-competitive niches to exploit).
We journalists are as incapable of coming up with a mutually beneficial relationship with a public figure as a bear is incapable of independently coming to a working relationship with a Salmon population. Since the early days, RR has adapted, and adapted very quickly.
Until taking a job like this, there is really no way of assessing how a person will do in it. Think of how many promising politicians have flamed out in the first month of a presidential campaign.
Nobody does well at first. When you enter the fishbowl, you either have the stones to handle it, or you don't. At this point – and it's still early – it is my professional opinion that Rich Rodriguez does absolutely have the cojones to hang in. It may be he'll lose it after a few more years, but I think at this point that is pretty doubtful. We are lucky as all hell because this is a very rare trait, but this is a guy who has been put through the worst we can dish out, often, and early, and come through. I think RR can handle the media. It won't ever be, like Obama-level graceful, but in his own clunky way, this guy's got it. 70 percent.
Recruiting athletes from anywhere in the country who are coveted by every program in the country.
If there's a place on Rich Rodriguez's resume that was cause for concern, this was it. Granted, it's hard to get anyone with an opportunity to go somewhere else to live in Morgantown, W.Va., for four or so years. But RR's teams, wherever he has gone, have been explicitly built with "his" kinds of guys.
This isn't someone who can go in and win with other guys' players, as has been demonstrated so thoroughly by our underperformance of talent the past two years.* The thing is, the real blue chip high school talent pool is small and therefore not so varied. What I mean is that RR won at West Virginia and Clemson and Tulane by taking his hand-picked 3-star guys against someone else's base sample of 3-star guys.
You don't get to hand-pick so much with the smaller 4- and 5-star talent pools. There aren't four 5-star ninja slot guys every year – rather, you get like one national Percy Harvin or Reggie Bush once every four years. This creates a recruiting disadvantage for RR as opposed to Lloyd, whose M.O. was that any 4-star receiver can come here and head to the NFL. As Brian has pointed out, the dynamics of his system will result in lower-rated classes (if much higher than West Virginia).
Even if the system more than makes up for that, this has an unfortunate corollary, in that our rivals (e.g. Ohio State, Notre Dame, USC), get to mop up on what we don't make a play for. There's a limit to what you can do, recruiting-wise, with a system-based program. Just as Beilein probably can never be MSU, I get the feeling that Rich Rod can never be USC. If he's winning just as much, I don't give a damn, but it does leave the door open for USC to be USC, and Ohio State to be Ohio State.
Of course, we may never find out. Early returns are not good. RR went head-to-head with Ohio State for perfect-for-our-system athlete Terrell Pryor, and lost out because Pryor thought the Buckeyes would make him a better pro. That this was a bad decision by Pryor is pretty much not in dispute (Hannityism nonwithstanding). It says something that RR went all-out for a recruit who was clearly better off at Michigan and lost him. However, at this point you can't knock RR too much – there is more evidence that Pryor is a bad decision-maker than there is for RR not being able to be a player in the blue chip recruit market. Seantrel Henderson, 2010's uber recruit, had Michigan a top consideration until the bottom fell out of our season. Until we see Rich Rod recruit with a 10-3 bowl win, we won't really know. 35 percent
* This is the subject of a future blog that I'm working on, but basically he won 3 games with a 5-win talent level last year, and is on pace for 5 wins with a 7-win group of talent this year. These are both within the margin of error, but as I'll show in that future blog, Lloyd almost never (2005 was the lone exception) came more than a game under expectation, and twice at the bottom of the margin of error is not a good sign. For now, you're just gonna have to trust me.
Placating egos of 21-year-olds with assured NFL futures
So far, obviously not a problem. Nuff said. 35 percent.
Winning in horrible weather
I know I'm chancing a visit from Captain Obvious here, but Michigan is in Michigan. September in Ann Arbor is perfect for a wedding (keep your fingers crossed for me), but playing games in Ann Arbor, and Columbus, and Chicagoland, and Madison, and Minneapolis, yada yada in October and November is just crying for chill, rain, wind, sleet, snow, hail, and of course the State of Michigan's specialty, chillrainsleetwindsnowhail.
- Is it all that different, weather-wise, than the Big East? I'm led to believe it is, though not like the difference between Big Ten and SEC.
- Does it affect Rich Rod's teams more than other teams? Well, doesn't it kind of look like it so far?
- Again, we are in small sample territory here. But I'm starting to think that weather and the spread-n-shred are not good buddies. On pretty days, we have shredded. On crummy days, we have been shredded. On surface observation, when it rains on us, it pours.
- Shitty weather is bad for any offense, e.g. 2007 Michigan/Ohio State. The reason I think it hurts us more is that our whole offensive concept is to get ninja buggers in space who then make guys miss. When the ball becomes slick and uncatchable, that limits the places we can go with it, which is counter to the spread's philosophy of keeping everything an optional point-of-attack. When the ground becomes un-maneuverable, that neutralizes a team that tries to beat you by having guys who make sharper cuts.
- The last two years we have gotten worse as the season progressed. Michigan State has gotten better late in the year. Is this because we are more subject to the weather? I don't know. I can only muse. 5 percent.
Out-coaching guys who are a lock for the coaching Hall of Fame
- That Penn State game pissed me off. I thought they looked better prepared for us than we were for them. And we were the guys who got a week against a sacrificial lamb to prepare. We were at home. This is all crap you could hear on the radio and means nothing.
- Was it getting out-coached? Brian had this to say in UFR's new "RPS" metric:
That's on GERG, not Rich Rodriguez. There's more to it than that, but yes, we've been getting out-coached a bit this year, and not just from Joe Paterno. In the Michigan State games of this year and last, Dantonio took personal command of his defenses and had game plans that were as close to perfect against RR as you can come up with.
RPS 6 13 -7 Robinson got pwned.
- Other than that, though, the offense has been conceptually better than everyone else we've faced – execution by the young and talent-deficient has been the O's biggest problem.
- On defense, like woah.
- One thing that I think most any college football fan is incapable of doing is having a completely realistic view of their own head coach. So long as that coach is your coach, you are married, so either you're doing whatever you can to make the relationship work, or you're in the process of destroying the whole thing. So let's look back and see what Michigan fans thought of Rich Rodriguez before "Head Coach of the University of Michigan Football Team" was one of his accolades (from Maize n Brew, 12/10/2007 (emphasis mine)):
So there really there is nothing before Rich Rodriguez arrived in Ann Arbor, nor anything since, to suggest that he's even an average defensive coach. RR relies on his defensive coordinators to handle that.
Positives - Excellent recruiter. Excellent in game coach. Runs a clean program (as far as we know). Seemingly a good guy who would fit into the mantra of a "Michigan Man." Recruits awesomely, awesomely named players.
Negatives - Loss to the Wannstache with a MNC berth on the line. Seriously. That's a significant negative. His players have an uncanny ability to fumble at the worst possible times. Defensive has never been the strongest tool in the utility belt and the Mountaineers generally have to outscore their opponents to win ball games. Limited ties to the Midwest and no ties to Michigan. May benefit from coaching in a weak conference.
At Michigan, his first DC hire was a total, fired-after-first-year flameout, which set back our defensive development by at least a year. His second? I don't know. GERG is in his first year, and has unheard-of depth problems and talent deficiencies. He's also getting pwned in Rock, Paper, Scissors by the Galen Hall and the Spread HD.
It could just be that Jay Hopson sucks. That's been kind of the unofficial premise around here. But I'm also looking at a weak 2008 defensive class, and a 2009 defensive class that didn't go balls-out on defensive backs when balls-out on DBs was like more necessary than any time in recent history. It's too early, but early returns say that Rich Rodriguez is and probably never will be a good defensive coach, and that this puts him at a disadvantage to guys like Paterno, Dantonio, and Bielema in recruiting and developing that side of the ball.
Even if RR had the best DC in the game, not being a defensive guy, in my opinion, will always hurt him. There's a huge difference between the man at the top having every faculty, and the man at the top having to trust his lieutenants.
MnB's Madden-esque way of saying this was "generally have to outscore their opponents to win ball games." Well, you actually ALWAYS have to outscore opponents to win ball games (not counting "Moral Victories," Lions fans). But it might be fair to say that Rodriguez's Michigan teams will have to be extraordinarily successful offensively, because the defense isn't going to win games himself. 40 percent.
Winning when things go against you
This is easy. Basically, if you want to win despite random, no-fault turnovers, and crappy officiating, and Michigan-X-Hating-Gods, etc., then you have to not just be better than other teams but be WAY better and WAY deeper than other teams.
That takes time. And luxury. At this moment, we have neither.
The other thing is attitude. This is another one of those things that engineers don't appreciate, and the poetic know but don't understand. Again, way too early, but RR's teams are now starting to get a bit of a reputation for folding when things go against them. Illinois stands us up at the goal line: utter disaster. Purdue executes a perfect onside kick: instant long touchdown. Wisconsin basically gets gifted a turnover on a bogus roughing the kicker penalty: touchdown, fold, go home.
Of course, we're saying that about the same team that clawed its way back when overmatched against Notre Dame, roared back to tie the MSU game, and hung in there despite five turnovers against Iowa. Or if you prefer, the team that looked like a match for Ohio State in the first half last year. The thing is, when there isn't much hope, there is a performance drop on this team, particularly defensively. My guess is that it's not a lack of heart so much as guys who are normally prone to bad decisions trying to do too much. Either way, you expect the coach to be the guy getting that sort of stuff under control, and it has so far been a profound disappointment that Rich Rodriguez has not been able to do that. 35 percent.
Winning when you are the biggest game of the year for every team you face.
When is the last time you saw a reaction like that from someone who just beat a 2-6 team? Sparties still e-mail photos of the final score to each other. Srsly! I got one last week!
The reason why this is such a big deal to them is because Michigan still has that cachet.
I posited before the Penn State game that maybe we would be overlooked. One of the better Black Shoe Diaries visitors that week was incredulous. Overlook Michigan?
The point is that we don't just face opponents each week – more often than not, we are the second or first game circled on the schedule for every team we play. And that's just when we suck!
What does this have to do with anything?
It means there's more to "getting back" than just having the talent of a typical Carr team again. Maintaining Michigan's place in the standings to go along with its place in college football history means either being so good that you can take anyone's absolute best shot, or being so crazy competitive that you don't want just to win – you want to murder death kill every comer. Of the two, the second sounds easier. Since we haven't been in this situation yet, we have no idea how RR will stand. 0 percent.
4. “What is the percent chance that RR brings Michigan back to the top of the Big Ten, and what is the percent chance that it could happen under, say, Jim Harbaugh?”But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
- Given until 2014, pretty good. Given through 2011, pretty bad.
- How the hell should I know? In the hypothetical of firing RR and hiring Harbaugh today, the chances are pretty slim, for reasons outlined nicely by Brian, and not nearly so nicely by the WLA.
5. “Maybe we should just shut down the football program altogether and concentrate on being a hockey monster.”
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
I wonder if a Northwestern fan has to go through this like every year. For me, justifying having a football program that could bring me such pain is not like something that I've ever considered.
I think losing the football program is a bad idea, and will always be a bad idea.
Let's say we weren't 5-6, but 0-11 right now. And let's say instead of Brandon Graham and Donovan Warren and Tate Forcier and Brandon Minor and Zoltan the Space Emperor et al. we had a lot of Jordan Kovacseses.
This would still be totally worth it, from the walk through the foliage, the by-far cleverest t-shirts of any fanbase, the toppled pumpkins in the streets, a stomach full of Blimpy Burger…
Ann Arbor rocks. Ann Arbor particularly rocks on Football Saturdays. Michigan Football Games would be awesome with half as good of a team as we have now.
We're rebuilding. Rebuilding looks ugly. But if you're sticking around and reading MGoStuff and putting on your M gear and Keep Coming Back, you can now imagine what this thing will look like when Big Ten Championship banners rather than pipes and cables, are hanging from the rafters.
And really, things aren't all that bad.
6. “But then we wouldn’t have Barwis.”
And thus the native hue of resolution
Do you still believe that the best-conditioned team in the land is the one most likely to win?
I'm still in.
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought
8. “What have I done to deserve this?”
Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now?
That's just the thing, Prince Hamlet, this play is about vengeance, and comeuppance arrives for the jester as it does for the prince.
The thing about having a 40-year run at or near the top of college football is that we end up taking things for granted. We imposed our will upon so many 5-6 teams just crying for a bowl game – any bowl game – that we have forgotten what it feels like ourselves.
Now, I think we would make much finer winners than, say, repugnant Ohio State fans. But if we can learn anything as fans from this year, it's humility. For we have indeed been humbled.
- Michigan State, who has come so close and then self-blown so many great victories there's now a saying for it ("Sparty NO!"), got to watch Michigan come back only to snatch defeat from the hands of victory. With an OT interception in the end zone no less.
- Iowa, the team that is always in a position to win, but so often gets punished for every single tiny mistake, leaves a guy wide open for Denard Robinson that would have put Michigan in range for a game-winning field goal, and instead our freshman QB tossed an INT to a double-covered guy.
- Penn State, having held on to their coach since the '60s, finally got a win on the road in awful weather that was vintage out-coaching.
- Illinois, who spent the last three years waiting for their unheard-of collection of recruits to germinate, who walked into this year with one of the Big Ten's best offensive weapons and then inexplicably proved useless all year, finally got a signature home win.
- Purdue, the whiniest program in the country, the whoa-is-me-est guys in the Big Ten, the "we've had a spread since 1996 and all we got was this damn t-shirt" guys, got to excise demons and execute a perfect on-side field goal recovery, got refereeing even they couldn't hate, and finally stuck it to somebody.
- Wisconsin, for whom running the ball up the gut and playing hard defense against the run are practically religion, got to run the ball up the gut and play hard defense against the run, and when they had the lead and the ball at the start of the 4th quarter, they got to keep the ball for the whole 4th quarter. It's not just that we lost these games. It's the way we lost these games. This year is like Big Ten catharsis year, with every team beating us exactly the way that we have been beating them for four decades.
- Fortunately, for us, then, this whole year isn't written yet. And there's still one Big Ten game left, and they have zero karma going for them, and zero catharsis against Michigan that needs to be exercised, and they will show up in a Nike modern mockery of the uniforms they wore for their 1954 split national championship.
- That's the year Michigan had them on the ropes, then couldn't punch it in, and Ohio State drove 99 yards for a touchdown. But that's already happened this year. Excised.
- If there's anyone left in the Big Ten who doesn't deserve to beat Michigan, it's these guys. Karma-wise, we are cleansed. Of course, we also walk in to a fencing match with poisonous linebackers and poison-tipped Ohio State talent.
- By this point, the Buckeyes have exhausted every conceivable reason to beat us. They're going to the Rose Bowl regardless of this or any other outcome. Sweatervest has won virtually every recruiting battle over Rich Rod not including a guy whose knee got blown out. They're not in front of their fans. The lifetime record against Michigan for Tressell is not in doubt. Mike Hart's and Chad Henne's and Jake Long's careers have been left unavenged, as has Bo Schembechler's death. Consecutive wins over Penn State and Iowa have Pryor back in the fanbase's good graces, and OSU back atop the Big Ten, ready to once again blow the conference's reputation with a half-hearted BCS blowout. And as for fanbases generating goodwill, though there be plenty of kind Buckeyes about the world, you will never in college football find such a wretched hive of scum and villainy.
- To come out of this game with a win would take a miracle, the kind of miracle which around here you can build a 40-year dynasty upon. I don't know if it's possible, or if Rich Rod will ever really have the team to beat those guys. But I know that our guys have gone through coaching changes and Barwisizing and hellish officiating and hellish game conditions, and every other hell you can throw at a football program that still has more wins than any other. So I know this: we deserve it more.
- Not the world is particularly fair.
- And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.