Punt-Counterpunt: South Carolina
1988: M 28, Alabama 24
Something's been missing from Michigan gamedays since the free programs ceased being economically viable: scientific gameday predictions that are not at all preordained by the strictures of a column in which one writer takes a positive tack and the other a negative one… something like Punt-Counterpunt.
NOW ON THE ROAD!
PUNT/COUNTERPUNT TRAVEL DISPATCHES
12/30/12 – Dateline: Chattanooga
No two words make a vacation more festive than “Chattanooga, Tennessee.” Punt and I settled here last night into a hotel, after a mere 600 miles of driving, abbreviated by two social visits and swirling Kentucky snow. We lulled ourselves to sleep watching Sparty in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, and awoke early for the 570 remaining miles to Tampa, with a breakfast stop at the Marietta (Ga.) Diner, a destination recommended by “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.” Nothing like a Greek omelette with grits, especially when served by Bulgarian beauty Tatyana, prompting Punt to comment, “Isn’t immigration wonderful?”
Punt occasionally converses with me, but directs most of his comments towards other drivers, offering insightful observations about their lane usage, lack of turn signals, and general inattentiveness to the roadway. I am in the passenger seat, my mobile office cluttered with laptop, jet pack, Blackberry, iPod, and our GPS companion (Sari), who did not even bother with a “good morning” before brusquely directing us back to I-75 from the hotel. Car travel has its own rhythm, the hum of the tires over the undulating highway, sunlight and shadow through the Georgia Pines. We are then rudely interrupted by Sari’s snappish direction to turn right on South Marietta Parkway, Southeast – then sending us in a pretzel-shaped series of turns before landing in the parking lot of the diner. I suspect Sari’s irritation stems from her resentment over the success of her much more famous sister Siri, the voice of the iPhone, but who am I to psychoanalyze the disembodied female voices of electronica.
Far more genial is our UM talisman, “GnoMie,” content to be wrapped in a UM blanket in the back seat for most of the trip. We had been planning to arrive in Tampa by late afternoon, but after Punt’s expansive tour of the Atlanta metropolitan area in search of a car wash, I have revised that to evening. In the meantime, we roll down I-75, the sun continues to shine, Sari is blissfully silent, and even Punt seems momentarily content with his fellow drivers.
On to the predictions.
[ED: hey guys congrats on purchasing one of the most embarrassing things you can own as a Michigan fan look forward to your ski-jumping wolverine dispatch soonest.]
It’s been many a year since Counterpunt and I have taken to the roads to attend a Michigan bowl game. Not since the ’84 Sugar Bowl vs. the Auburn “War Eagles.”
When Counterpunt propositioned me with the prospect of attending the Outback Bowl, I figured, why not? Unfortunately it was too late to get a reasonably priced airfare, so this became a true road trip—me gassing up the Rav 4 for the 1000+ mile trip to Tampa.
After many miles, stops to see friends of Punt and Counterpunt, associates of Counterpunt, and attempts to see “clients” of Counterpunt—vetoed by yours truly—and getting served breakfast by a Bulgarian bombshell named Tatyana - we finally arrived at our destination. It now time to turn to the reason for our travels.
I’m having a hard time deciding how this game is going to go down. Some people are of a mind that Michigan has little to fear, that South Carolina is a predictable offense, and that Mattison will have had time to come up with the defensive scheme from Hell. But the Gamecocks are ranked #10 in the nation, are a top tier team in the all-powerful SEC and have the “Old Ball Coach,” Steve Spurrier, running the show. Hmm, who do I pick?
I think it’s clear that Michigan has more to gain from a win than South Carolina. They need to keep their momentum and return the Wolverines to the upper echelons of college football. My heart bleeds Maize ‘n’ Blue, but my head says:
MICHIGAN 26, SOUTH CAROLINA 31
My mind is still boggled at Seth’s detailed analysis of this contest (“Hokepoints Previews South Carolina” 12/27/12), fueled by six hours of watching Gamecock football, which is about 5 ½ more hours than my total bowl viewing thus far. I come at this game with a far less scientific mindset, tending to break down in adolescent laughter every time I see the word “Cocks.” But here goes my take on Michigan’s noble battle with the evil SEC and cocky Steve Spurrier.
On the offensive side of the ball, I trust Al Borges about as much as Ronald Reagan trusted Mikhail Gorbachev; but if Borges utilizes Gardner and Robinson to maximum effectiveness, we should be able to neutralize Clowney’s disruptive domination. The Lewan/Clowney matchup is much anticipated, but even an All American will need some help against that beast, and Borges may have to utilize a blocking back to assist in this regard.
Defensively, without J.T. Floyd in the lineup, we may have some difficulty handling Carolina’s speedy Smurf-outs; but on the whole, I am less concerned with our ability to contain the ‘Cock offense than I am with intangibles like turnovers and special teams.
On the whole, I believe the circumstances are ripe for Michigan to go out on the winning side, which will certainly make the ride home a lot more pleasant. Who knows; if Punt is sufficiently elated, he may be inclined for a return to the Marietta Diner, and ask Tatyana if she wants to come live with him in the melting pot of Ann Arbor.
MICHIGAN 23, ‘COCKS 13