Opponent Watch: Finale
No. 2 Alabama (12-1 overall, 8-1 SEC)
Last game: Beat Georgia 32-28 in the SEC Championship after Georgia futzed a last-second goal line play.
As frightening as: Rome, ca. 450 A.D. Currently idling between sacks. Fear level = 9 but waning.
Superlative: Best cry after a win.
If Michigan could play them now: The humanity would overwhelm.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Not scheduled them.
Bowl game: Will play No. 1 Notre Dame in a battle of which team Michigan fans want to cheer for less.
Prediction: It’s Notre Dame.
Air Force (6-6 overall, 5-3 MWC)
Last game: Blown out by Fresno State 48-15. It’s like people know how to defend the triple option. Crazy.
As frightening as: Kryptonite. Ostensibly harmless, inert substance that glows green around Michigan players and makes them appear slow and weak. Fear level = 5.
Superlative: Most infuriating to root against due to nameplates bearing noble ideals.
If Michigan could play them now: Nobody needs that twice in one season.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Scheduled them later, as in not right after Alabama.
Bowl game: Will play Rice in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl.
Prediction: The ratings will be higher overseas.
UMass (1-11, 1-7 MAC)
Last game: Lost to Central Michigan 42-41.
Mike Cox!: 17 carries, 66 yards, 1 TD.
As frightening as: A flap of a butterfly’s wings. Every once in a while it might trigger a tiny vortex that blows a nearby butterfly off course. In this case that other butterfly would be 1-11 Akron. Fear level = 0.
Superlative: Most likely to appear in highlight reels of other teams.
If Michigan could play them now: It would be a nice glamour photo shoot for Michigan’s tailbacks complete with dramatic lighting, airbrushing, and green space.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Not scheduled them. This game didn’t do anything for Michigan other than show us that Denard can throw a pick-six to even the worst defenses.
Bowl game: There should be an anti-playoff to determine the worst team in Division I.
No. 1 Notre Dame (12-0 overall)
Last game: Failed to lose to USC, 22-13.
As frightening as: MRSA. Fear level = 8.
Superlative: Most referees on payroll.
If Michigan could play them now: Michigan would probably find another way to lose again, which is fine. This year, as they say, is Not Ours.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Run the ball more, which sounds crazy now, but back then people had luxuries like ulnar nerves and tibias. This kind of thing worked.
Bowl game: Notre Dame is 60 minutes away from Returning to Glory. Agasp.
Prediction: Either way Ohio State won't end up No. 1 in the AP.
Purdue (6-6 overall, 3-5 B1G)
Last game: Won rivalry game against Indiana 56-35, fired coach.
Arithmetic: WALRUS minus STACHE equals MANATEE.
If Michigan could play them now: It would be a semifinal match for the title of “B1G Team with most season-altering injuries.” In the other bracket of this hypothetical tournament is Iowa, which has a bye because of its self-explanatory No. 1 seed.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Savored this win more.
Bowl game: Heart of Dallas Bowl vs. Oklahoma State.
Prediction: Oklahoma State is 7-5. All five of its losses have been to teams that were ranked at one point or another during the season; Purdue lost to Minnesota. In conference play, Oklahoma State beat TCU, No. 24 Iowa State, West Virginia, and No. 23 Texas Tech by multiple scores; in conference play, Purdue beat Indiana by multiple scores.
This should go real well.
Illinois (2-10 overall, 0-8 B1G)
Last game: Could not overcome five-score deficit; lost to Northwestern.
As frightening as: Someone else’s septic leak. Schadenfreude level = 4. It’s been a few years since they last beat Michigan, so it’s difficult to relish their misery.
Superlative: Most likely to develop oropharyngeal malignancy.
If Michigan could play them now: Be careful what you wish for, or Jim Delany might put them in Michigan’s division so Michigan can play them year after year after year until Fresno State joins the B1G and they have to redo the thing again. Playing Illinois every year doesn’t seem so bad, though. I just wish they could go back to being interesting rather than sad.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Not injured Denard’s arm, since the arm issue would turn out to be kind of disastrous two games later. This is foreshadowing, for those of you who suffered from alcohol-induced retrograde amnesia after the OSU game and are now trying to piece the events of the season back together.
Bowl game: Ha. (By the way, what is with people typing “ha” over text or gchat? I normally have a two-“ha” minimum when I laugh electronically, unless I’m feeling derisive. Is being stingy with the “ha’s” a Michigan thing? I only ever notice this when communicating with people from Michigan.)
Michigan State (6-6 overall, 3-5 B1G)
Last game: Beat Minnesota 26-10, avoided a losing record.
As frightening as: A rock.
Fear level = 5.
Superlative: Most likely to throw up on self en route to Disney World, ruining the trip for everyone.
If Michigan could play them now: Maybe Michigan could have some fake audibles. Like, okay, you don’t want to play chess with Narduzzi, but wouldn’t it be fun to pretend like you are? “Alert alert alert!” = base play. “Blue 42! Blue 42!” = base play. “We’re going to throw it to Dileo!” = We’re going to throw it to Dileo.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Anticipated the most obvious fake punt situation ever, which has only become more obvious in hindsight.
Bowl game: B-dubs vs. TCU. Should be fun to watch actually.
No. 16 Nebraska (10-3 overall, 7-2 B1G)
Last game: Lost 70-31 to Alabamasconsin.
As frightening as: A teenager who finally gets his license after failing twice. Fear level = 7, to others and self.
If Michigan could play them now: Oh if only.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: I hate them so much.
Bowl game: It’s more loathing than hate. It’s how you would feel about someone who you let copy your homework and then gets both of you in trouble.
Prediction: Nebraska plays Georgia. Good luck!
Minnesota (6-6 overall, 2-6 B1G)
Last game: Lost to Michigan State 26-10.
As frightening as: Anything that can be described as “scrappy.” Fear level = 3.
Superlative: Best tire fire mitigation effort.
If Michigan could play them now: Same story, different day.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Prepared Devin Gardner to play quarterback a week earlier. This is purely a hindsight thing, though.
Bowl game: Ritual gopher slaughter at Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas vs. Texas Tech.
Prediction: The gods will be pleased.
All the better to play Monopoly with.
No. 20 Northwestern (9-3 overall, 5-3 B1G)
Last game: Managed to hold onto a five-score lead, beat Illinois 50-14.
As frightening as: Receiving an email with the subject line “Remove Me From This List!” Fear level = 7.
Superlative: Worst utilization of Kyle Prater.
If Michigan could play them now: I liked the screw-with-their-reads plan Mattison used late against Northwestern and Ohio State. Mattison knows how to play chess.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Michigan had a good game plan. Northwestern put up a good fight. Not much to change.
Bowl game: Gator Bowl vs. Mississippi State.
Prediction: No idea actually. This will be a good match, oddly.
Iowa (4-8, 2-6 B1G)
Last game: Lost to Nebraska 13-7. What a tease.
As frightening as: Nomads indigenous to the Great Plains who believe most bright colors to be evil and think the best cure for a gangrenous running back situation is to sacrifice linemen to a deity named AIRBHG. Recently discovered fire and a vertical passing game, no idea how to use either. Fear level = 3.
Superlative: Most unexpectedly overrated. People thought I was being harsh when I predicted Iowa to go 6-6.
If Michigan could play them now: It would just be sad.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Saved some of the game plan for Ohio State. This was the annual “We wasted the good surprise on you” game.
Bowl game: Iowa is a proud people who do not believe in bowl games.
Ohio State (12-0 overall, 8-0 B1G)
Last game: 1,000 newborns in the state of Ohio were named “Urban.”
As frightening as: VRSA. Fear level = 9.
Superlative: Worst thing ever.
If Michigan could play them now: By the end of the game, Braxton Miller will have sustained his tenth concussion (but still play anyway). Michigan will employ Denard and Devin in the same formation but hand it off to Vincent Smith anyway, because Ohio State would never expect it.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Scored some points in the second half.
Bowl game: Gator Bowl vs. Florida, last year.