somehow we're only 124th
Years ago, the University of Michigan's football team was in supposed turmoil. It had been years since Michigan won a national championship, and years since a Big Ten championship. The head coach was effectively a replacement for the legitimate guy, exiled in a media firestorm.
Coming into the season, Michigan seemed to be a distant third behind two conference juggernauts, and that embattled new coach was on the hot seat, to the point of the athletic director getting asked whether or not this guy was good enough, on a live pregame show. That AD defended the coach by saying he's set up to have a great year, and then we'll see.
That embattled coach, of course, was Lloyd Carr. That year was 1997. Michigan was coming off of some 4-loss seasons, and hadn't won a conference title in five years. Carr, who bcame the head coach after Gary Moeller's public meltdown, was seen to potentially be just a transitional guy.
I'm not joking. That clip is below.
At the 5:28 mark, Don Shane questions the future of Lloyd Carr as Michigan coach. At the 3:22 mark, Michigan State head coach Nick Saban spouts generic platitudes about systems and preparation while looking shifty. And at the 13:10 mark, Keith Jackson welcomes you to an afternoon at Michigan Stadium, mentioning Michigan's star defender Charles Woodson, and officially beginning The Greatest Season In Recent Michigan History.
This year, the atmosphere is the same. Michigan is in chaos, according to most of the die-hards. Last year was the worst offense ever, and the team is taking a step back! Devin Gardner had a bad year, and he's the starter again! The offensive line! Michigan State is legitimately good now! It's been X long since Michigan won this thing, or did that thing! Records! Everything off the field! We'll be fine. In fact, we'll be better than fine. Michigan will be good this season. For that matter, Michigan will be borderline great this season. Michigan will do the things that will bring all the national critics around, only this time, they'll be back with a team built upon a foundation.
Michigan football has not been the most fun, record-wise, since 2005 or so. Individual years can be debated, and some games were legitimately exciting. But for what seems to be the tenth season now, Michigan football isn't what we thought it was.
Here's the thing, though: all the pieces are there for Michigan to have a great year. All of the on-field pieces are there for Michigan to be a great team. All of the attrition and injuries to our rivals are there for Michigan to have a great year. Everything within the schedule sets up for Michigan to have a great year.
Michigan returns Devin Gardner, a senior quarterback who was incredibly injured for most of last season, a season that basically ended when this one player was beaten down to the point of not being able to go. Michigan returns a defense that held the team in games last year, and continues to improve. Across the board, Michigan's roster is improving with the maturity of existing players and an incoming recruiting class that includes one star playmaker and a ton of depth. And, the two most glaring problems of last season are gone, personnel-wise. Everything sets up nicely. The pieces are there to have a great team.
Which brings all of us to the upcoming schedule. Appalachian State, Miami, Utah, Maryland, Indiana, Rutgers - all wins. Six wins. Northwestern just lost their top player, win #7. Michigan blew out Minnesota last year, that's win #8 this year.
Is Notre Dame winnable? Absolutely. The Fighting Irish just lost a notable number of starters in an academic scandal, their quarterback situation is worse than ours, and they are always worse than expected. Win #9.
Is Penn State winnable? Of course. Penn State has a new coach who is talking a big game, but that roster still has more structural problems than Michigan's. Penn State will end up coming down a notch from the hype, they will struggle a little over the course of the season, and that will be win #10.
Can Michigan win in Columbus? Sure. This isn't the Rich Rod years, where Ohio State would come out and simply outscore an overmatched Michigan squad. This isn't another game where Michigan will lose in Columbus, because that's just how things are now. MIchigan beat Ohio State in 2011, lost in 2012 due to field-goal kicking and a bad offensive half, and was a two-point conversion away from winning in 2013. Now, Braxton Miller is out for Ohio State, and things are looking grim in Columbus. Is this win #11?
Can Michigan win in East Lansing? Sure. Michigan State had a great defense propel them to a conference title last year, but they've lost some playmakers. Can Michigan's defense rise up to reduce the defensive advantage? Maybe. On the other side of the ball, can a Nussmeier/Gardner offense outduel Connor Cook? Probably. Look, this game isn't a likely win. But it's not hopeless to the point of the Rich Rod years or anything. It could be win #11, win #12, or simply a close-fought loss. All of those options are in play.
It's an optimistic look at the season, but it's not unrealistic. All of those things stand a better chance at happening than a repeat of 2013, where the offense was built around a strong offensive lineman and quarterback, the lineman was an ass, leading to the quarterback getting injured and the offensive coordinator's utter hopelessness. This isn't that. This won't be that.
Right now, our biggest problem seems to be that the general attitude towards the whole team is that of a dismissively negative one. Once a closer look is taken, all of the pieces seem to be potentially great, with everything coming together. Just going by realistic on-field expectations, Michigan will go, barring chaos, at least 10-2, with those two losses being close. That biggest problem is simply the scars of the recent past.
And to reference recent history, the worst case scenario is 2011 with more optimism for next year. Optimism in guys like Morris and Peppers, optimism in having all of our rivals at home, optimism for what is to come.
Here's where the negativity comes in. The only two things against Michigan having a great year is idiotic off-field moves and a steady stream of national pessimism that leads to a third thing: local dread. All of these things are easily removed, and will be removed as time passes.
Once football kicks off, everything else will be forgotten. That means you, Dave Brandon, proverbially standing on a highway off-ramp into Ann Arbor, hoping that the incoming traffic will roll their windows down to buy tickets. That means you, memories of 2013, those of the infinite stream of rushes into the middle of an unblocking line. That means you, Arizona bowl game that literally doesn't exist anymore. All of you, gone once actual football starts up.
The reason why these kinds of things become spectres that haunt places like this, is that the college football season is so brief, and the summers so long, that these kinds of things become bigger than they are. There's literally nothing going on, but the appetite for Michigan discussion (or any team, for that matter) never goes away. When easy discussion bait comes up, like Dave Brandon, everyone hops to get it on it, because we're starving to talk about something. Once the game starts, we'll all move on.
It's the same as the sputtering end to 2013. Last season, from the Penn State game on, was almost entirely terrible. Terrible in every possible way, leading to a whole summer with that taste in our mouths. Once the games begin, and we see what the 2014 Michigan team can do, that 2013 team will fade. It will fade into a rough collage of barely beating Ohio State, that field goal against Northwestern, and that horrendous Nebraska home game.
(Playing the games will also cause another unfortunate discussion topic to fade away - Michigan's terrible home schedule. Yeah, we all agree, there are no standout games at home this year. Penn State is not Michigan State, on many levels. No big names are coming in as random highlights on the non-conference schedule. Everyone understands. But once the games begin...that home schedule will be somewhat of an afterthought.)
This leads to the second mark against Michigan, that stream of national pessimism that comes over the course of the summer, cresting in an August of overreaction. The two preseason polls came out, Michigan was unranked in both. The rest of the country, which casually looks at Ann Arbor and sees the faintest glimpse of a rebuilding project, tosses some votes for us sparingly. Which leads to worry and panic, because Michigan isn't ranked.
That ranking, with wins, will come. As someone who tracks the polls more than most, I'd say Michigan gets an official ranking after a win against Notre Dame at the earliest. Michigan is 37th in the AP poll, and 32nd in the coaches' poll, and will inevitably rise with wins and opposing attrition.
Once that happens, of course, everyone will be in town to write/speak/yell about how Michigan Is Back. Michigan's undefeated through their first six games, and Penn State comes to town this week! Michigan just beat Penn State, they're 7-0! Doug Nussmeier is the real deal, so is Brady Hoke! Devin Gardner for Heisman! This team could go to the playoffs! Anyone reading this can see these headlines coming. It happened from 2009-2011. Denard was gonna win the Heisman, remember?
In case you doubt this will happen, look at Notre Dame. Notre Dame flailed their way to an undefeated season in 2012, and everyone was stumbling to write a paean to Notre Dame's return to greatness. Despite a team that wasn't actually that good, the story of the 2012 college football season was ND, from November until January.
If Michigan starts undefeated, that national tide of positivity will come our way. All the momentum of the old days will be back again, as Michigan will be back in the eyes of the national media. It's an easy story, one that would be covered extensively, especially in the Big Ten with Ohio State going down in Miller's injury. Someone will be the media darling towards the end of the season, and it will be the winner of the Michigan-Michigan State game. However, if Michigan is the winner...we'd be the story of the year going into the Ohio State game.
Once all of that starts to happen, and it will, the pessimism of the Michigan fanbase will go away. It will go away until some sort of collapse, pop back up again, and disappear. Michigan football might not have the same offseason aura as the '90s, but it will certainly feel like the summer of 2012, when anything seemed possible after a season that restarted everything.
That leads to the best case scenario for this time next year. We all know what the worst case scenario that is, in whatever little permutation that would be. The best case scenario is a full winter and fall of positive energy coming out of Ann Arbor, with a solid season going into a stacked schedule towards next season.
The last thing that a great season will dismiss is the dread. The fear of another season of getting proverbially kicked in the ribs, of dealing with another offseason of low self-esteem brought on by bad memories. If Michigan has a great year, 2015 will begin in optimism. A high ranking to start the season. A schedule that features two rivalry games at home, a transition out of mid-majors in the preseason, and the return of true/high expectations. All will be well. We just have to get there first.
As I start this, the clock has just expired on one of the worst seasons ever for Big Ten football.
The season ended with another embarrassment for the conference, summing up a season of negative momentum and catastrophe. The 7-5 Wisconsin Badgers, 4-4 in the conference, are your 2012 Big Ten champions. Your Big Ten champions won the conference by showing up in the title game, and getting grouped in with two ineligible teams. Hurrah.
This game, one where the Badgers blew out the scoreboard and blew away a national television audience to other games, seemed like an appropriate end to it all. Sloppy football, in the most generic of settings, with every other option more attractive.
How did we get this way? A couple of reasons, all of which can be turned around.
First, there's Ohio State and Penn State's ineligibility. With these two banned teams doing so well, they essentially knocked off all the legitimate schools on their way to useless records. Since neither school counts in the BCS standings, the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions created a scenario where the talking point was constantly 'the Big Ten has no schools in the top 10/15/20...but would have one if Ohio State was eligible!'
Looking at the week-to-week polls, Ohio State's victories knocked Big Ten contenders out of the polls, and out of the national discussion in the process. In week 5, a Michigan State team that had dropped from 10 to 20 after a loss to Notre Dame faced Ohio State, and the Buckeyes' 1-point win dropped Sparty out for good.
The next week, Ohio State beat a 21st-ranked Nebraska team, knocking them out of polls for a month or so.
Meanwhile, Penn State struggled early (taking them out of any polls), but lit up the Big Ten schedule. Their 3-0 start inside the conference included Northwestern's first loss, a crippling blow in the rankings for the Wildcats.
If these two teams came out struggling in 2012, the perception of the conference is that of a strong conference with traditional winners and new blood, plus two longtime powers that will come back soon. But with their success this year, Ohio State and Penn State created wins that couldn't really be celebrated and losses that really made an impact.
Second, Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are 12-0, with two early wins over Michigan and Michigan State. Typically, both of our in-state teams can beat up on the Fighting Irish in at least one of the two games, and get a momentum-building win on a national stage. That didn't happen this year.
On top of that, both Michigan and Michigan State lost to Notre Dame before they became the nation's darlings. Notre Dame won in East Lansing as the underdogs, with a #20 ranking against the #10 Spartans. The Fighting Irish beat Michigan as the #11 team in the country two weeks later, just out of top-10 status. No honor to be gained at the time with those losses.
Third, all out-of-conference play killed the Big Ten.
It wasn't Michigan losing badly to Alabama. It was Michigan losing to Alabama after Wisconsin barely beat Northern Iowa. It was Wisconsin getting upset by Oregon State, despite that unranked Oregon State team going 6-0 to start the year. It was Penn State starting 0-2, Iowa dropping a couple early, and the week-to-week consistency of a surprisingly tough schedule beating the dregs of the conference.
Even though Louisiana Tech finished 9-3 and Illinois finished 2-10, it still looks bad for the conference at the time.
Even though Wisconsin lost to Oregon State and barely beat Utah State, two opponents who ended with great seasons, it looked bad in the national dialogue.
And having the flagship program, Michigan, start 2-2 seems to be a bad sign of things to come.
There aren't that many great games in September, so any kind of storyline gets beaten into the ground. And by the time conference play began, the Big Ten had a rough month through a stretch of shockingly tough opponents, with the effects showing all year.
Lastly, legitimate scheduling hurt the conference.
The vast majority of the nation's football fans only look at the top 25. When there's no Big Ten teams in the top 10, and barely any outside of the bottom, there's a bad perception. Sure, it's only perception, but that really is the only thing keeping this sport together.
By having a tradition-based conference where so many good teams play each other, teams are bound to drop a game or two. Of the top conference teams, here's who they lost to:
Nebraska - Ohio State
Michigan - Nebraska, Ohio State
Northwestern - Penn State, Nebraska, Michigan
Ohio State - None, but they're ineligible, so are always mentioned with a verbal asterisk
Penn State - Ohio State, Nebraska
Wisconsin - Nebraska, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State
Of the top six teams, only one lost to a team outside this group, Wisconsin to Michigan State.
It was the same in the SEC, where the top three teams in each division went undefeated against everyone else.
Problem is, a loss in the Big Ten means that you're not as good as you thought. But a loss in the SEC means that the SEC is just a great conference that's so tough to win in. Perception, perception, perception.
Once again, when looking back, Big Ten teams played the toughest schedule. At the time though, it just looked like a weak conference.
All of these problems can easily be fixed next year.
It starts by taking care of business in September, and getting that momentum going for the conference schedule. In the second week of the season, Michigan hosts Notre Dame. One week later, Nebraska hosts UCLA. Those two potential wins, over 2012's most talked-about comeback teams, could set the tone for the season.
Next, having Ohio State come off probation is huge. The Big Ten needs to get teams in that BCS discussion when the time comes around, and the obvious candidates are Michigan, Nebraska, and either Ohio State or Wisconsin. The either/or is due to those two teams playing in late-September, knocking one out of the national championship discussion.
In a perfect world for the Big Ten, Michigan and Nebraska go undefeated for two months, both open up in the top 10 of the BCS, play a game with national implications, then end the season with Michigan aiming to knock off Ohio State, and Nebraska awaiting their potential shot after that. That's the best case scenario for the Big Ten, and it only happens when Ohio State is eligible.
Last (or first), the conference has to win some bowl games. If Wisconsin can upset Stanford like they upset Nebraska, it's good for the conference. If Michigan can take out Johnny Football, it's good for the conference.
Since everything comes down to perception, those wins to end the year can start some positive talk for the conference, or at least shut up the naysayers for eight months of offseason chatter.
This was a rough year for the Big Ten. Conclusively 4th out of the major conferences. Shut out of national title discussion. It was a perfect storm of suck.
But hey, next year starts tomorrow. And there's always basketball.
Now that the Big Ten is in full meltdown expansion mode, a lot of people are asking about The Game and its impact on the Big Ten championship game, now and in the future. How often both teams appear, how The Game affects the division champions for better and for worse, and everything affliated with it.
The biggest complaint has been a schedule that has Michigan and Ohio State playing each other every year, with weaker teams having guaranteed rivalries against each other. As it turns out, due to regularly dominant teams...Michigan and Ohio State typically come out on top anyway.
I looked at the Big Ten standings and results from 1969-2011. 1969 is the arrival of Bo Schembechler, the start of the modern M/O rivalry. And in 2012, Ohio State is ineligible to win the division, the first time that's happened as the game was being played.
The standings are from the regular Big Ten schedule, without it being weighted for divisional matchups. Division winners were the two teams that finished highest in the Big Ten standings, as divided up by the current divisions. (If a 4th place team was the highest of a current division's teams, they were the appointed division champions.) Ties were broken with head-to-head matchups, and if the teams did not play each other, I split the division title.
First off, here's how the Big Ten championship games would have looked like, under the current divisions.
With that in mind, let's first look at the potential for rematches.
Going by the eventual matchups, 20 seasons would have featured Michigan/Ohio State rematches for the Big Ten title, or about 47% of the time. 16 of those, or 38% of the time, were outright victories with no tiebreakers.
Those seasons are as follows: 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1986, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1998, 2003, 2006, 2007
Michigan would have won the Legends division title in 28 seasons, with 27 of those outright. Michigan won more division titles than any other team, pulling ahead of Ohio State for two reasons. The first is that Nebraska, a division rival, does not factor into these seasons at all, winning zero titles in their one eligible year. The second is that Minnesota, a longtime doormat, also won zero division titles over 43 seasons. In comparison, every team in the Leaders division won a division title, with five of the six (all but Indiana) winning at least three titles.
Michigan's division titles are as follows: 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007
Ohio State won a division title in 26 seasons, with 23 of those outright. The Buckeyes had a much stronger division to contend with, but much of their faults were somewhat of their own doing, from timely losses over the years.
Ohio State's division titles are as follows: 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1984, 1986, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009
In only 9 seasons, the Big Ten championship game would not feature either Michigan or Ohio State, with 8 of those without any tiebreakers. In only 19% of the time, a Big Ten championship game did not feature either Michigan or Ohio State. Those seasons, with a matchup, are below.
Since there's been a lot of discussion in various threads about conference strength, where the Big Ten can improve, voter perception of the conference affecting all of the teams...here's the quick guide to the major out-of-conference games coming up for the 2013 season. Some teams still have open dates, and some games are bigger than others, but this should do.
Here are the relatively big games for 2013. No gametimes have been announced, nothing but dates and matchups.
I realize this is very early, but this kind of thing will come in handy once further discussion of conference comparison and the Big Ten's relatively disappointing 2012 rears its ugly head again.
August 31st - Penn State at Syracuse (in MetLife Stadium, NY)
The first significant Big Ten game of 2013 features a surprisingly good Penn State team against an alright Syracuse team. Given the big-time venue (chosen because Syracuse wants to take hold of the NYC market), this game could get some attention. If Penn State wins, it's a small boost to the conference, while a loss would be pretty bad, yet not disastrous.
September 7th - Notre Dame at Michigan
Big for a variety of reasons, this would be Notre Dame's first major game of 2013, where they could be defending a national championship. (Michigan opens with Central Michigan, Notre Dame opens with Temple.) It's the last scheduled Mich-ND matchup in Michigan Stadium, and this will be on the national radar all summer.
This one has an outside chance of becoming a featured game of the week, with College GameDay, ESPN, and all of that. This one will be anticipated all summer, and it will turn into one of the year's great games.
Notre Dame will play at Purdue on September 14th and against Michigan State on the 21st, for their only games against Big Ten opponents.
September 14th - UCLA at Nebraska
One of the biggest out-of-conference games, this one could feature the defending Big Ten champion against a highly ranked Pac-12 team. This game will likely go on a prime television timeslot, maybe even College GameDay. Nebraska's result here would be the focal point of any conference recap for the rest of the season, so the Cornhuskers have to win this for everyone else.
September 14th - Ohio State at California
Ohio State could be coming off of an undefeated season, and this is their first big game of 2013. The Buckeyes should win this game, and should win it big. Obviously, I hope they do not, but this should be a conference win.
Cal will also play Northwestern to open 2013, making the Golden Bears a weird litmus test for the Big Ten next year. If California has a great season, and the Big Ten beats them twice, we must have a great conference. And vice versa.
September 14th - Wisconsin at Arizona State
Another Big Ten/Pac12 matchup, but this one should go to Wisconsin, even on the road. If the Badgers lay another egg in a Pac12 stadium, this season could feature even more "what happened to the Big Ten?" columns.
September 14th - Washington at Illinois (in Soldier Field)
Illinois is having a terrible season, and Washington is on the upswing, but this one is only important if Washington starts the season with some hyped momentum.
September 21st - Missouri at Indiana
While both of these teams are around the 6-win mark, this is still an SEC/Big Ten matchup in a Big Ten stadium. It doesn't come around too often, and an Indiana win would be huge for that program and the conference. It's the only Big Ten/SEC game of 2013, and might have even been scheduled back when it was a Big Ten/Big 12 game.
November 9th - BYU at Wisconsin
It's a late-seaosn game designed to keep Wisconsin humming on all cylinders as the season comes to a close, and a relevant Badgers team will be making the last case for the Big Ten before bowl season. With another catastrophe like this season, the game becomes the last chance for the conference to salvage itself within the polls. With an improved season, this becomes a great day to showcase how we've "turned things around".
That's pretty much it. September 14th could be D-Day for the Big Ten, shaping the conference for the rest of the season.
A full, team-by-team, out-of-conference schedule is below. Teams in capitals are from auto-qualifier conferences (and ND), teams in italics are anything below FBS. Therefore, a win over a capitalized team is a good one, and a loss to an italicized team is a disaster that clearly means we aren't as good as the SEC, or something like that.
There's been some complaints recently on the message board about how BTN always shows the same cycle of classic Michigan games. Last year's games against Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Ohio. A game from the 1997 season. An old Rose Bowl. Some original programming to top it off.
Someone speculated that lots of people go into the decision-making process for these games, from network execs to AD's. Obviously, some games are probably off the list to be shown.
This is one of those games.
Going into the tail end of the 1999 season, Michigan was looking like a team for the ages. Despite two mid-season losses, the Wolverines were in the process of ending the season strong, at 4-2 in the conference and 8-2 overall. Senior quarterback Tom Brady and Anthony Thomas led the offense, with Dhani Jones and Rob Renes on D.
Penn State, on the other hand, was going into their final home game reeling. After starting the season 9-0, Minnesota upset the Nittany Lions on the last play of their game, leaving Happy Valley with a huge upset. Still, Penn State was in the hunt for a Big Ten championship, making their game against Michigan one of 1999's last big matchups. Penn State and Wisconsin were the Big Ten's leaders, with Michigan closely behind. This game would essentially knock someone out of the race for a championship, and possibly a BCS appearance as well.
Of course, despite all of these circumstances surrounding the game, there was another subplot that factored heavily into ABC's coverage. This game was Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky's last home game, making the TV coverage Jerry Sandusky-themed. That's right. It's a Jerry Sandusky-themed broadcast.
Needless to say, the Big Ten won't be taking this game for a visual victory lap any time soon.
Watch and enjoy. The first half is in the first link, the second half is in the second. And as always, go Blue.
One of the pressing topics around the whole implosion of Ohio State University Football is how that team dominated the Big Ten illegally. The team won games they shouldn't, with the most obvious being the 2011 Sugar Bowl. Ohio State shouldn't have played as well in that game, and frankly shouldn't have been in it at all.
Everyone seems to be talking about what Ohio State's record books will look like when all this is done. Seasons getting voided, players getting wiped out, all of that.
With that in mind, I'd like to take a look back at what truly should have been. What seasons should have gone differently for the various schools tormented by Tressel? What teams got screwed out of bowl games, out of national championships, out of huge victories? There's many victims of Ohio State's illegal run besides us here in Ann Arbor.
Let's take a look back, year-by-year. Here are the basic ground rules to keep in mind:
- Ohio State wouldn't have realistically lost every game. At worst, they'd have been a version of the 2009-10 Wolverines: losing many games, but not completely out of it. So, close games in Columbus will now tip towards the visitor, and fairly close by the Buckeyes will also go towards their opponents. I'd assume that Ohio State would still be pretty good, just not great. Or, if they were amazing, simply great.
- I'm not going to go back to look for specific players, instead the entire team will be downgraded. Specifically, i don't want to wade through Ohio State game logs to figure out how much of an effect a replacement RB would have had over Maurice Clarett, for example.
- Except when it ties into Michigan, no frivolous extraneous circumstances. So, no jobs will be saved by a miracle win over the Buckeyes that leads to a random Big Ten coach keeping his job. I don't want to open up too much alternate history.
- I'm mainly focusing on the Big Ten championship race, and the national championship race, when applicable. No September non-conference wins that led to some opponent winning another conference.
- No recruiting alternate histories. The only players that would be added to different games are the guys that picked the school in the first place. This opens up one scenario later on. Existing transfers can still happen though. Ohio State gets the same general recruits they had before, only they are universally downgraded. The assumption is that Ohio State, even in bad times, would still get some great players, as they are Ohio State.
- Things in bold are major changes.
Okay, on to the games...
(More To Come tomorrow, as I do 2006-2010 then.)