I cant help but be a little disappointed that THE KNOWLEDGE has not checked in to give us his thoughts on last weekend's college football results. It's funny how fast things can change in the sports world. One day you're wallowing on a 15-game losing streak. A week later, you're upending the Mighty Trojans.
Around these parts, you could say the exact same thing about our Meeechigan Wolverines. Pick the subject matter, and the storyline has done a 180 from the tales spun last season. Can't move the football across the street in 2008 has given way to one of the nation's top rushing offenses. Cant score, period, in 2008 has given away to 38 points per game. A charitable turnover strategy in 2008 has given way to more takeaways than giveaways on this young season. Stevie Brown, goat of the D in 2008, has given way to Stevie Brown, our best linebacker. A 3-win season with only 2 covers in 20008 has given way to a 3-0 SUATS start. I think you all get the picture.
Here is one of my favorite numbers so far on the season: Michigan has scored 114 points through three games. In 2008, it took Michigan six games to ring up 113 points. Like, whoa. To keep up the pace this week--that being scoring as many points that took twice as many games last season to score--the Wolverines need to lay at least 38 points on the board against the Hoosiers this Saturday. That would give Michigan 152 points through four games, a number exceeded last year only after the first touchdown against Purdue, in the ninth game of the year.
Now, I know everyone here would take a 10-7 game over IU as long as it s a 'W' for Michigan. But, let's play some fun e-speculation my fellow MGoBloggers. Will Michigan hit the 38-point mark Saturday? Who you got, the Over or the Under on that one? I'll say this: It sure will be intriguing to see how the offense matches up in its first Big 10 test of the season.
How about Carlos Brown? Say what you will about his frailities and difficulties staying on the field fulltime, but he sure does know how to get the bang for his buck, doesn't he? He is the only person in the last decade years to crack the list of longest runs in Michigan history. And, he's done it twice. His 90-yarder against the Eagles was the third longest run from scrimmage in school history. Dont forget in the 2007, he scored on an 85-yard run against Minnesota, a run that stands tied for seventh-place on the all-time list.
Ah, I remember that run well. A gloomy, soggy Ann Arbor afternoon had given way to early evening darkness. Late in the fourth quarter, Michigan held a 27-10 lead, and Brown ripped off the right side of the line, cut into the middle and outraced several LOLphers as he weaved his way down the rest of the field. How important was that touchdown? It helped Michigan cover the -23 number that day. And I was there, pumping my rolled up program in the air, the way a jockey whips his horse, urging Carlos to take it to the House. It was a magical moment at the Big House.
I am also old enough to remember the two runs on that list that were longer than Brown's this past Saturday. Admittedly, my seven-year-old memory is a bit hazy on how Butch Woolfolk's run in 1979 went down. I do, however, have strong memories of the game in 1989 when Tony Boles went for 91 yards and a touchdown. The game was against the Hoosiers, and, believe it or not, during the late 1980s Indiana fancied themselves as a darkhorse contender in the Big 10. The teams' games in 1987 and 1988 both served as October elimination games, of sorts, atop the Big 10 standings, and the '89 contest shook out the same way.
Michigan's defense dominated most of the game. After a scoreless first quarter, Michigan kicked it in gear with three second quarter touchdowns to break the game wide open. Boles sprint highlighted the action en route to an easy 38-10 Michigan win.
Indiana's lone touchdown on the day came in garbage time in the fourth quarter. Despite the timing, the score did prove rather historic. They had a stud back by the name of Anthony Thompson, who was one of the leaders in the Heisman Trophy race that season. He was a touchdown machine. Coming to Ann Arbor that day, he stood one score away from breaking the NCAA all time record for career touchdowns. Down 35 points, A.T. notched the record with a 1-yard score in the fourth quarter with one of those patened, old-school leaps over the pile, landing in paydirt.
At Assembly Hall on the IU campus hangs an amazing photo of the play. The way its prominently displayed shows that the folks at IU feel this is an extremely important point in the history of IU football. In a 28-point loss. I think that tells you all you need to know about football in Ann Arbor compared to football in Blookington. It's right up there with home games in Maryland, I suppose.
There has been a lot of discussion this week about the fate of our current second string quarterback Denard Robinson and what his ideal palce in the program is. My take? He has to stay at QB. It's pretty obvious, isn't? If Forcier goes down, I feel this team still has more than a puncher's chance at succeeding with Shoelace behind center due to his speed and playmaking ability. Hopefully, Rodriguez keeps giving him possessions as I dont think too many teams in the Big 10 have the speed to contain him. Regardless, we all should be excited at the prospects of this offensive weapon, and I am stoked to see what kinds of tricks the coaching staff has up their sleeve to get Robinson invloved in the game plan.
My thoughts on the issue aren't dramatic or too revealing. I bring it up because more than anything I want to discuss the stat line that Shoelace produced against EMU: 0/4, 0 yards, 0 tds, 2 INT, 3 rushes for 60 yards and 2 scores.
What a goofy boxscore line. I thought it might be interesting to throw a couple other stat lines out there that are comparable with other UM quarterbacks:
2/10, 32 yards, , 1 TD 3 IN , 8 rushes for 30 yards
0/3, 0. yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 1 carry for 11 yards
2/15, 33 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 13 carries for 84 yards
Do any of these look familiar? You might have to be older than I am (37) to recognize these amazing games by the above quarterback. The answer? Rick Leach. All three of these are from his freshmen season in 1975. The first was the season opener, a 23-6 win at Wisconsin. The second game, which includes the 0-3 passing line and is eerily similar to Robinson's game from Saturday, took place in a 14-14 tie against Baylor. The final stat line, which saw Leach throw as many picks as completions, not to mention more than six times as many incomplete passes as complete, was from the Orange Bowl, a 14-6 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners. Leach became one of the best signal callers in school history, yet in his freshmen season, he had at least three games with as many interceptions as completions.
1/5 3 yards 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 14 carries for 144 yards and 2 TDs
Anyone? I am going to guess nobody remembers this game, but these were the numbers that Michael Taylor put up in his first ever start at quarterback with the Wolverines. Against Northwestern in Octoebr, 1987, Taylor subbed for an injured Demetrious Brown and paced Michigan to a 29-6 win. I was at this game. I had taken the SATs that morning, and I still remember my father picking me up from the testing center and racing us up to Ann Arbor in time to make kickoff. We were treated to one of the most boring games I have ever attended. But, Taylor emerged as a killer option QB. He eventually became an effecient passer as well. He never lost a Big 10 game he started and led the Wolverines to the Rose Bowl in 1888 and 1989.
12/26, 158 yards, 1 TD. 7 INTs, 9 rushes for 13 yards.
Seven picks! That's a dead giveaway for folks who are around my age. This was the aforementioned Demetrious Brown and his effort in East Lansing during the 1987 Michigan-Michigan State game. MSU won 17-11. If Brown only has six picks, Michigan likely wins this one. Lorenzo White was a beast, IIRC. Anyway, this game took place a few weeks before Taylor's debut as a starter. And, it took place on the same day the Tigers beat the Twins in Game 3 of the ALCS at Tiger Stadium. Pat Sheridan hit a 2-run bomb late in the game to notch the win. Otherwise, lets not talk of Brown's game, that ALCS or the freaking Twins again.
3/8, 62 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 5 carries for 27 yards
The rare Rich Hewlett start, this one from the 1980 opener against Northwestern. No offense to Mr Hewlett, but when Anthony Carter is split out wide, you have to have better numbers than this. At least, he connected to AC on a pair of scores. They were needed as UM escaped with a 17-10 win. Folks, this was back in the days when NW ripped off 20-game losing streaks like it was their job, so being involved in a fourth quarter game with the Mildcats could be deemed, uh, unacceptable. Anyway, Hewlett was only starting because incumbent QB John Wangler ended to season before getting his knee torn to bits by UNC's Lawrence Taylor in the Gator Bowl. Bo was too nervous to play him, but seeing Hewlett's performance eased those fears out of necessity. Eventually Wangler regained his starting role and his passing mojo helped led Michigan to their first ever Rose Bowl win under Bo to cap the season.
3/18, 39 yards, 0 TDs, 3 INTs, 11 carries for 40 yards and 1 TD
Is it good if you're the preseason #1 team in the country and your QB throws up the above numbers in the opener? Not if you're Michigan. Steve Smith's career as UM QB could not have started any rockier. Again, if you have Anthony Carter as your wideout, you have to complete more than three passes. Smith bounced back the following week and led UM to a win over Notre Dame, the newly installed top ranked team, and hit AC on a bomb in the process. Smith started for three full seasons at Michigan, but he was constantly booed during every inconsistent stretch of play he had as Michigan fans never really forgave him for the embarrassing 1981 loss to the Badgers.
Do any of those stats matter? Probably not, but I thought it might make a fun trip down memory lane. Michigan had a .500 record in the above games that involve head scratching QB lines. At least Michigan won the game in which Robinson's bizarre stat line took place. As long as he is not relied upon as the Man this season, Robinson might still produce some funny box scores, but probably wont drown the Wolverine's chances either.
Before signing off, how about a word on the defense? Would you have believed me if I told you a month ago that Jordan Kovacs would play the second half against Notre Dame and that Kevin Leach would lead the team in tackles for a game? What would you have said? You probably wouldnt think the team would be 3-0.
Otherwise, I dont want to talk defense. At the risk of incurring GSimms wraith, defense is a boring to talk about. I mean, you're with me, right? OK, its not really boring to talk about, but it sure is scary as hell. I still feel the starting 11 is fine, but the line between fine and disaster seems pretty small.
Instead of obsessing about the defense, I will instead quietly point out the possibly profitable strategy of taking the Overs the rest of the way in Michigan games. In the Rodriguez era, 10 of fifteen games have gone Over the total. Those that didn't included both MAC snooze fests last season, the Jug winner against the LOLphers, the Northwestern Slush Bowl and this year's opener against Western. Nick Sheridan started three of those games, went the distance in two and figured prominently in the four Under games from last season.
Given the new found offensive potency and the shaky defense, I expect this trend to continue. For that matter, I think all Wisconsin, Michigan State and Notre Dame games should lean strongly to the Overs as well. The total for the Michigan-Indiana game is 53, by the way. I just have a feeling Michigan is going to lose a game during which they score at least 35 points. Hopefully, the loss will be muted a bit with an Over ticket in my pocket.