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starts at 1:00
They weren’t relying on long-snapper completions but it was otherwise very much like the Sugar Bowl. DeMarcus Walker, their richer man’s Wormley, played tackle all game and worked Michigan’s guards. They go through each guy’s season and decide what the short take is on the 2016 starters. Yelling back at Twitter.
starts at 32:49
Other than three plays, two of which traceable to no Peppers, the defense was as advertised: it turns out he’s pretty important. Shit happens; in 2016 that means the worst possible shit that can happen. What the shit happened on the kickoff return?Pitbull is a national treasure.
- “Let’s Have a Real Good Time”—Pitbull
- “Across 110th Street”
THE USUAL LINKS
Michigan is in the market for a new offensive assistant. FoxSports's Bruce Feldman reports that passing game coordinator and QB/WR coach Jedd Fisch will be UCLA's next offensive coordinator.
It was only a matter of time before Fisch climbed the ladder. He joined Jim Harbaugh's first Michigan staff after a two-year stint as offensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Due in part to circumstances beyond his control, he's never spent more than two years at the same job since 2007, when he finished off a three-year assistant stint with Baltimore before working his way up the coaching ranks with the Denver Broncos, Minnesota (B1G), Seattle Seahawks, Miami (YTM), and Jacksonville.
Harbaugh will have some flexibility with his next hire because of his ability to handle the quarterbacks himself if need be. He could look for someone from his coaching tree; Greg Roman, Harbaugh's offensive coordinator for the 49ers who's looking for a new gig after an abbreviated stint in Buffalo, is already being put out there as a potential candidate, though his specialties (OL and TE) overlap with Tim Drevno's. If Harbaugh desires a more passing-oriented coach, he could go for a coach without a previous connection to him; that worked out rather well when he took Fisch two years ago.
Fisch played a big role in Jake Rudock's remarkable in-season development in 2015 and had plenty of input as a playcaller the last two seasons. We'll always have "good shit, Jedd":
Fisch will now get to work with a potential #1 draft pick in UCLA QB Josh Rosen. Best of luck to him.
11/26/2016 – Michigan 32, Florida State 33 – 10-3, 6-2 Big Ten, season over
I can feel the hot take brigade trying to get through the door already: tweets about how much of this gets put on Drevno, the near certainty I'm going to hear something that sets my teeth on edge on WTKA this Thursday. Michigan's epic season ended with a wet fart, yes. In the aftermath I don't care to complain about it. I don't care to argue about what Michigan should or should not have done, or just... whatever.
Jim Harbaugh is an elite coach. The man has a track record. He is going to be here for a long time. His teams will be very good and often great, and sometimes they will meet other very good or great football teams, whereupon they will play a close, exciting game that will turn on one or two plays that are made or are not made. I hope they win these games. If they don't, they don't. Michigan's done all they can do and now it's time to sit back and see what happens.
That could be an extremely long period of being very good and not breaking through to satisfy the moist goatee brigade. The annals of sports are littered with excellent teams that met other excellent teams and didn't win. The difference there is razor thin and largely determined by luck.
Michigan isn't that juggernaut just yet. They were about 85% of one. The remaining 15% was why a one-point game felt lopsided for 58 minutes: the offensive line.
FSU's defensive gameplan was simple, and weird: move one of the best defensive ends in the country to DT. The guy you saw running into the backfield virtually untouched all game was, yes, DeMarcus Walker. Michigan's inability to handle him was total. He racked up a +9.7 in PFF's grading, which is a single-game season high for Michigan or its opponents. That's a good season total for many players. Walker had ten pressure events in 45 pass rush snaps and crushed some runs besides. A quick review of the game confirms that Walker killed everything, with an assist from Derrick Nnadi on the other guard.
The two guys with tire treads on their jerseys in the aftermath are at very different points in their career, but the reason they were put in that spot is the same. Ben Bredeson is a freshman who should not be playing yet. Kyle Kalis is a senior who's played too much. Both had to be on the field because there was almost literally nobody else available.
David Dawson's apparently so far from the field that he decided to transfer before taking his shot at a starting job this spring; Juwann Bushell-Beatty's brief cameo after the Newsome injury was the impetus for inserting Bredeson in the first place. Everyone else is either Patrick Kugler, a low-rated redshirt freshman, or a true freshman. If Kugler's a miss, and it appears that way, you have no choice but to die in a fire.
That goes back to Michigan's inability to evaluate, recruit, or develop offensive linemen under Brady Hoke. Hoke could find an All Big Ten DT under a rock; he and his staff had no idea what a good player on offense looked like, and this was most true on the offensive line. Michigan's six-man 2013 OL class is down to Kugler. None of the five departures was particularly close to breaking through.
The next year Michigan took just two OL, which is always a terrible idea. One of them, Bushell-Beatty, was the guy replaced when Bredeson stepped into the starting lineup. Hoke's final class had just one guy who signed, three-star legacy Jon Runyan Jr. Newsome committed in the interregnum; Michigan added Nolan Ulizio in the late scramble.
None of these guys started getting coached well until Harbaugh arrived, and the damage could only be mitigated, not undone. Sometimes OL don't work out, and sometimes you have to keep playing the ones that don't because you don't have anyone else, and sometimes this results in an elite defensive line digesting your quarterback.
I don't know, man. I started this season's coverage off by proclaiming this to be The Year, and it more or less was. Michigan spent most of the season in the top five of the human polls and #1 in fancystats. They're about to send a dozen guys to the NFL draft. They played like an elite team for most of the season, and if you think losing in double OT in the Horseshoe with an injured quarterback and a rain of terrible calls is some sort of stain on your honor, well... I cannot help you.
The difference between an epic season and a merely good one was razor thin and largely due to the vagaries of fate. Michigan had two spots at which they absolutely could not afford any injuries. They got it in the face at both spots. Grant Newsome went out for the season, paving the way for a true freshman to start. Wilton Speight missed the Indiana game; it's unknown how much of his late slide was due to that collarbone/shoulder injury. Survey says: enough to make a difference, probably.
So they did not win all the things. That sucks. They were very good at all the things it was reasonable to be very good at, though, and that should offer some more confidence going forward. If that's a disappointment I'm with you; if it's an outrage the door is that way.
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Kenny Allen did the impossible: he graded out positively in all three kicking facets per PFF. His eight punts for 47 yards each, 44 yard net, nine return yards ceded, and lone touchback was worth a whopping +0.5 to Pro Football Focus Punter Batman. He hit three chip shot field goals and only had one of his kickoffs end up returnable—alas, that.
Also he terrified the FSU punt returner into a terrible muff that set Michigan up at the one.
#2 Taco Charlton kicked off his day by delivering the kind of hit to Deondre Francois that triggers the Deondre Francois Gets Obliterated Repeatedly montage that follows the poor kid around wherever he goes. He wasn't blocked on that one. On a bunch of other plays he was, usually by Roderick Johnson. Johnson, an All-ACC player who was the best player on the FSU line, ended up –2.2 to PFF and Charlton had a sack to go with four QB hits. Good luck in the NFL, sir.
#3 Ryan Glasgow had a similar day against worse competition, forcing a bunch of pressure up the middle and helping shut off Dalvin Cook, with a couple of Dalvin Cook exceptions.
Honorable mention: Maurice Hurst had another extremely productive day in limited snaps. Chris Evans had that touchdown that momentarily staked Michigan to the lead.
12: Taco Charlton(three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers, #3 Maryland, #2 Iowa, #2 Indiana, #1 OSU, #2 FSU).
10: Wilton Speight (#1 UCF, #1 Illinois, #3 MSU, #1 Maryland),
9: Jabrill Peppers(T2, Hawaii; #3 UCF, #1 Colorado, #2 Rutgers, #2 MSU)
6: Ryan Glasgow(#2 UCF, #1 UW, #3 FSU)
5: Chris Wormley (three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers, #1 Iowa).
4: Jourdan Lewis (#3 UW, #2 Maryland, #3 Indiana), Mike McCray(#1 Hawaii, T2 OSU), Ben Gedeon(#3 Colorado, #3 PSU, three-way T1 Rutgers, T2 OSU), Kenny Allen (#3 OSU, #1 FSU).
3.5: De'Veon Smith (four-way T2, PSU, #1 Indiana).
3: Amara Darboh(#1 MSU).
2.5: Karan Higdon(four-way T2, PSU, #2 Illinois).
2: Jake Butt(#2 Colorado), Kyle Kalis (#2 UW)
1: Delano Hill (T2, Hawaii), Chris Evans (T3, Hawaii, four-way T2, PSU), Maurice Hurst (three-way T1, PSU), Devin Asiasi(#3 Rutgers), Ben Braden (#3 Illinois), Channing Stribling (#3 Iowa).
0.5: Mason Cole(T3, Hawaii), Ty Isaac (four-way T2, PSU).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
We have a lead! I bet this lead lasts a long time and—aww, hamburgers.
Honorable mention: Mike McCray pick-sixes Francois. Kenny Allen uses Zoltan Mesko punt lasers to force a muff.
Hawaii: Laughter-inducing Peppers punt return.
UCF: Speight opens his Rex Grossman account.
Colorado: Peppers cashes it in.
PSU: Wormley's sack establishes a theme.
UW: Darboh puts Michigan ahead for good.
Rutgers: Peppers presses "on".
Illinois: TRAIN 2.0.
MSU: lol, two points.
Maryland: very complicated bomb.
Iowa: The touchdown.
Indiana: Smith woodchips Michigan a lead.
OSU: Goat. Duck costume. Yeah.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
Jabrill Peppers is warming up... and Jabrill Peppers is obviously not playing. Goodnight, sweet prince.
Honorable mention: all plays on which OL were asked to block Walker. The kickoff return. The 92-yard touchdown. The Cook items.
PREVIOUS EPIC DOUBLE BIRDs
Hawaii: Not Mone again.
UCF: Uh, Dymonte, you may want to either tackle or at least lightly brush that guy.
Colorado: Speight blindsided.
PSU: Clark's noncontact ACL injury.
UW: Newsome joins the ranks of the injured.
Rutgers: you can't call back the Mona Lisa of punt returns, man.
Illinois: They scored a what now? On Michigan? A touchdown?
Michigan State: a terrifying first drive momentarily makes you think you're in the mirror universe.
Maryland: Edge defense is a confirmed issue.
Iowa: Kalis hands Iowa a safety.
Indiana: A legitimate drive.
OSU: The Spot.
[After THE JUMP: let's have a real good time. An okay time?]
Senior OG Dave Dawson announced today on Twitter that he does not plan on returning for his grad year:
I will forever be thankful, GO BLUE pic.twitter.com/WK02dhbwAb
— BIG DAVE (@DaveDawson_) January 1, 2017
Despite a relatively soft depth chart and high rankings as a recruit (the sites rated him around the same spot as they did fellow Technician Michael Onwenu) the big Cass Tech product struggled to crack the lineup in four years. Offensive line recruits are notoriously late to develop and hard to predict, however the more time spent behind some below-average starters the less likely it seemed that Dawson would meet the expectations of a top-150ish prospect.
The closest Dawson came to starting was in the 2015 offseason, when classmate Patrick Kugler was hurt, Dawson returned from the offseason 20 pounds heavier, and practice rumors suggested he was pressing Braden at left guard. This site held out hope that Harbaugh and Drevno would manage to tap the potential of a guy Joe Mathis described as “one mean cuss” coming out of high school.
Dawson was running with the ones while starting right guard Kalis was nursing something just last August, but remained buried all season despite plenty of opportunities for OL to crack the lineup. Kugler earned an early start at left guard in place of Braden, and true freshman Ben Bredeson passed both RS juniors to start the remainder of the season at left guard once Newsome went down and Braden shifted out to left tackle. Onwenu, also a true freshman, siphoned seasoning snaps at right guard during this year’s garbage time, but Dawson played some right tackle against Illinois and even a little defensive tackle in the Rutgers blowout.
Just sticking around even this long was remarkable within the context of his class. In 2013 Brady Hoke brought in six offensive linemen rated 3 stars or above on the 247 composite, not counting the scholarship long-snapper. OT Chris Fox lost his career to a knee injury before he got to college and late offer OG Dan Samuelson retired from football before ever threatening a depth chart. OT Logan Tuley-Tillman was kicked off the team for some very bad behavior, tried and failed to transfer to Wazzu a year ago, and wound up at Akron, where he started 12 games at left tackle. The only significant contributor was OG Kyle Bosch, who transferred due to some personal issues when Harbaugh arrived, and wound up starting the last two years at West Virginia, earning all-Big XII this year. Kugler, the only one rated higher than Dawson, should have his chance to salvage the class of 2013 this spring.
With Kalis and Braden graduating, Bredeson expected to kick out to RT in place of Magnuson, and left tackle an open question thanks to Newsome’s injury, playing time on the offensive line was wide open for Dawson. Even a position switch to DT was an outside possibility given Michigan’s needs. If Dawson still didn’t like his chances to pass Onwenu and the other underclassmen, it’s probably best for for him that he use his grad year to go somewhere he can play. Meanwhile Michigan loses another bullet in a rather bare chamber for upperclassmen OL:
Via that depth chart Michigan now has 61 scholarships committed to currently returning players (including Peppers) and 26 commits, putting them 2 over the 85 they need to be at by the start of next season. Expected attrition from here gets that class to about 30 with room for some walk-ons to earn scholarships.
Look past the final result and you can see this year's Michigan squad taking shape. Derrick Walton is more off-guard than point guard. Zak Irvin, filling the void, is a point-forward. Moe Wagner and DJ Wilson are the team's two best players. Duncan Robinson's offense has moved him past Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman in everything but the starting lineup.
Wilson starred for much of this game, the best of his career thus far. In 44 minutes, he scored 28 points, made 7/10 twos and 4/8 threes, grabbed 14 rebounds (six offensive), dished out six assists to only one turnover, and added a block for good measure. Wagner also looked excellent, scoring 12 points on ten shots while playing disruptive defense that resulted in a block and three steals. This was a glimpse into a pretty exciting future:
Those two will eventually be the go-to players on this team. This afternoon, however, their relative inexperience in those roles showed in overtime. Wagner missed a corner three on Michigan's first overtime possession when it appeared he had an open lane to roll to the basket instead of popping out the perimeter. Wilson badly missed his two three-point attempts in the extra session, including a rushed shot with plenty of time left on M's final possession that bonked off the backboard; while M corralled the rebound, Zak Irvin lost the ball on his game-tying attempt and Wagner's desperate volley from two-point range had no effect on the outcome.
While Michigan had the advantage up front, Iowa's backcourt, especially Peter Jok, held a similar edge. Jok poured in 25 points. Freshman point guard Jordan Bohannon outplayed Walton, posting 17 points and six assists with no turnovers and a couple huge shots late in the game. Irvin distributed the ball well in the first half when his shot wasn't falling, then committed a few costly turnovers in the second half and overtime when he finally regained his scoring touch. With Robinson only going 3/9 from beyond the arc and MAAR disappearing entirely, Michigan needed more efficiency from their senior guards.
They didn't quite get enough. Michigan starts 0-1 in Big Ten play, and while they have four very winnable games ahead of them on the schedule, they missed a great chance to tally a rare conference road win this afternoon.
Michigan (10-3, 0-0 B1G) vs
Iowa (8-6, 0-1)
Iowa City, Iowa
|WHEN||2:21 pm ET, Sunday|
|LINE||Michigan -2 (KenPom)|
PBP: Brian Anderson
Analyst: Jon Crispin
Michigan is one of only two Big Ten teams (Ohio State) yet to play a conference game. I don't expect any changes to the rotation. Even if John Beilein wants to get Duncan Robinson more playing time than the struggling Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, bringing Robinson off the bench—which allows Beilein to pick his matchup—appears to be his preference.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||3||Jordan Bohannon||Fr.||6'0, 182||65||20||97||No|
|High assists and turnover rates, solid outside shooter, really struggling to finish inside arc.|
|G||4||Isaiah Moss||R-Fr.||6'5, 205||41||19||101||No|
|Efficient young scorer. Had 7+ points in six straight before Purdue blanked him.|
|G||14||Peter Jok||Sr.||6'6, 205||71||30||117||Not At All|
|B1G POTY candidate. Massive usage, great shooter, good finisher, draws fouls.|
|F||0||Ahmad Wagner||So.||6'7, 235||44||17||103||Very|
|Solid offensive rebounder, active defender, draws a lot of fouls.|
|F||35||Cordell Pemsl||Fr.||6'8, 249||46||23||114||Very|
|Shooting 73% from field with excellent rebounding and shot-blocking numbers.|
|F||51||Nicholas Baer||So.||6'7, 200||53||16||121||No|
|Good inside-outside scorer. Active rebounder and defender.|
|F||25||Dom Uhl||Jr.||6'9, 217||42||19||89||Yes|
|Stretch four having a brutal year: 39.5 eFG%, 24.5 TO%.|
|F||5||Tyler Cook||Fr.||6'9, 253||31||25||101||Yes|
|Promising freshman missed 7 games to injury, returned to go 6/10 against Purdue.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Dalvin Cook lived up to his billing. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Sometimes you make it a game despite yourself and the human lightning bolt that is Dalvin Cook and then a freshman receiver who looks like a tight end turns a dumb play into a game-swinging kickoff return and a 5'11" guy beats Jourdan Lewis for a touchdown because sure why not and a series of improbable events occur and a laugher turns into a heartbreaker.
For most of the game, Florida State showed why Michigan is on the wrong side of the playoff bubble. Michigan's offense couldn't overcome a shaky offensive line to put any sort of consistent attack together, mustering only 83 first-half yards. Florida State's couldn't either but for the notable exception of Cook. The future Pro Bowl running back had 141 yards and a score on 16 touches. Nyqwan Murray exploited a busted coverage for a 92-yard touchdown. The rest of the FSU offense had 22 yards on 17 plays. The Seminoles held a 20-6 lead at halftime.
Neither team did much of anything in the third quarter until Kenny Allen, for seemingly the umpteenth time, backed up FSU deep in their own territory with 1:12 left in the quarter. Facing second-and-ten from his own eight-yard line, quarterback Deondre Francois rolled right to escape pressure and threw a pass directly to Mike McCray, who ended his short trip down the sideline with a dive into the end zone to make it 20-15. Michigan had pulled within a score for the first time since the opening quarter, setting up one of the wildest finishes of this college football season.
Chris Evans, flying. [Fuller]
Cook once again pulled the game almost out of reach, breaking a 71-yard run on third-and-22 to set up a three-yard touchdown run by his backup, Jacques Patrick. After the teams traded punts, Wilton Speight capitalized on great field position with a third-and-goal touchdown pass to Khalid Hill. The Wolverines returned to the end zone less than four minutes later, forcing a three-and-out before Chris Evans juke-posterized an FSU safety on a 30-yard touchdown scamper. Before you could say "Captain America," Michigan had taken a 30-27 lead.
The ensuing kickoff looked as innocuous as could be. FSU freshman Keith Gavin fielded Allen's boot a couple yards deep in the end zone, surveyed the field, and paused. In football, when you pause on a kickoff return, you kneel for a touchback. That is the only play. Except for this play. This play, Gavin belatedly took off despite the protestations of fellow return man Kermit Whitfield, burst through a tackle, and was finally dragged down 66 yards later by Jourdan Lewis.
The winning touchdown. [Fuller]
Cook got the Seminoles to the 12-yard line on a screen pass. Two plays later, Murray rose over Lewis to haul in the go-ahead touchdown. As if this game wasn't frantic enough, Michigan blocked the extra point and Josh Metullus, filling in for an injured Jabrill Peppers, brought it all the way back for two points. With 36 seconds left, down a point, Michigan had the opportunity to give this meandering game one final twist.
Instead, the Seminoles held strong, intercepting a desperation fourth-and-ten heave by Speight forced by instant—perhaps too instant—pressure by DeMarcus Walker.
It may be coachspeak cliché, but it's true: Florida State made more plays. The better team, at least tonight, won the game. Cook showed Michigan what they lack: an offensive playmaker that makes opponents sigh with relief every time the ball goes elsewhere. That, or an elite quarterback, can overcome a porous offensive line. The Wolverines had neither.
Maybe next year.
This is how it ends.
New features this week: Nothing. We’re going to be rolling out a suite of questionably functional things for a basketball game sometime later.
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What's German for "you should play me more"? [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
Michigan begins Big Ten play on Sunday at Iowa. As the team's long holiday break comes to a close, it's a good time to take some mailbag questions. I got enough good questions this time around that I'll probably do another one of these next week; a couple of these required deeper dives than I expected.
— Crisler Spider-Man (@CrislerSpidey) December 28, 2016
I'll begin with this: I'm less concerned about the team making the tournament than most Michigan fans, or at least that's the sense I get. They're 10-3 with no resume-crushing losses and a couple neutral-site blowout wins over top-40 teams. While it's early yet to keep tabs on this, the Wolverines are a nine-seed in the Bracket Matrix with eight at-large teams below them. A handful of the teams ahead of them have the look of paper tigers. I'm not ready to believe Minnesota and Northwestern are tournament squads; both are currently ahead of Michigan in the matrix. This team is in better shape both statistically and resume-wise after the nonconference schedule than last year's team, which had Caris LeVert through the Big Ten opener. Unless there's an injury to a major contributor, which we obviously can't rule out, then this will be a tournament team.
With that out of the way, the key to season is Moe Wagner earning John Beilein's trust enough to become the focal point of this team. This is both on Wagner and Beilein. Wagner, for his part, needs to cut down on the oft-inexplicable mental errors that he makes on defense; those have been Beilein's focus when he explains why Wagner got pulled from a particular game or doesn't have a bigger role in general. Beilein, for his part, needs to realize that Michigan is usually better off with Wagner in the game even when he's made a couple mistakes. While I understand the need for teaching moments, they don't always need to come during games, especially when they may be at the expense of the team's chances to win.
There are already encouraging signs on this front. Wagner has played 25+ minutes in three of the last six games; the exceptions were UCLA, when he got in foul trouble, and the blowouts over Central Arkansas and Maryland Eastern Shore, when Beilein had a chance to give Jon Teske some extended playing time.
Meanwhile, Wagner's relatively low minute total—he's still playing a shade less than half of the available minutes—partially obscures the reality: when Wagner is on the floor, he's the lead offensive player. His 24.0% usage rate is the highest on the team, as is his 26.2% share of shot attempts when he's on the floor. His seven assists already outnumber last season's total by three. He's cut his turnover rate nearly in half, an especially difficult feat given the major uptick in usage. He's drawing more fouls. Most importantly, he's obscenely efficient as a scorer, shooting 71% on twos and 50% on threes. While those numbers will fall back to earth as Wagner can no longer feast on the Kennesaw States of the basketball world, it's clear that Wagner has the highest ceiling as a scorer of any of Michigan's rotation players, and it may not be close.
Wagner has done an excellent job of cutting down his foul rate, which has dropped from 7.3 fouls per 40 minutes last season to 3.9 this season. As long as that continues, it's time for Wagner to play closer to 30 minutes per game than his current mark of 19.2.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the mailbag.]
Wanting it more [Patrick Barron]
By Bryan MacKenzie
"Who wants it more."
You hear that from broadcasters and talking heads all the time. And it's usually a dumb trope to try to explain an outcome that was either unexpected or random. Who came out of the pile with the fumble? Obviously, it was the team that wanted it more. Who made the clutch free throws at the end of the game? It was the team that was hungry enough for victory to suddenly become more skilled at a particular task. That's dumb and oversimplified, right? Yep. Very dumb.
Except in bowl games.
Bowl games are the one place where you can confidently say that, yeah, motivation is probably a huge factor. Bowl games are the only place in competitive sports where teams play an entire season, take more than a month off, and then play what amounts to a glorified exhibition game. Players finally get to dip their toes into a quasi-normal student life, then they've got final exams*, and then they're asked to jump right back into the maw to play one more game.
For obvious reasons, some teams come out, shall we say, less than fire emoji fire emoji fire emoji 100 emoji. Different people treat exhibitions differently, and you never know until kickoff whether your guys are Sean Taylor, or whether they are the poor damn punter who thought this was a game.
We saw this last year. Michigan probably wasn't 34 points better than Florida, but it was pretty clear midway through the Citrus Bowl that the two teams weren't playing the same game. Maybe it was the "Christmas Camp" that was reportedly unusually intense as bowl practices go. Maybe it was the knowledge that the competition for spots in Michigan's 2016 lineup had already begun. Or maybe Harbaugh just scared the living hell out of guys. Who knows. But Michigan showed up for blood. And with Jim Harbaugh being as Jim Harbaugh as any coach in America, I'd bet good money that Michigan does so again today.
And what do we know of Florida State's bowl show-up-ishness? The Seminoles got walloped by Houston last year in the Peach Bowl 38-24 despite being a touchdown favorite. The year before that, they lost the college football playoff semi-final to Oregon 59-20. Of course, the year before that, they won the national championship. So who knows what kinds of conclusions we can draw.
If both teams arrive in force, this should be a really good game, though I'd still favor Michigan. There is no realistic scenario in which Florida State's offensive line holds up against Michigan's defensive line. Deondre Francois has already had a Hackenberg-esque season of picking defenders out of his ribs (FSU has allowed as many sacks this year as Rutgers), and the odds of him being able to stand in against this pass rush are slim. FSU's back seven has been iffy, and will be without one of the best players in the country in Derwin James. And sure. Dalvin Cook is a scary, scary dude, especially if he's healthy, but the kind of effort he would have to put forth to beat this Michigan defense single-handedly would be superhuman.
That's if both teams show up. If only Michigan shows up, this could look a lot like last year's Citrus Bowl.
* [Note: yes, I know that at some schools, this means "it's final exams for the players' tutors and/or trainers." But the good news is that some of those schools don't have to worry about bowl prep. Because they are not bowl-eligible. Because they finished 4-8.]
Michigan 30, FSU 17
By Nick RoUMel
It was the best of times, until the second play.
Michigan’s 1991 squad was #3 in the nation and featured Desmond Howard and Elvis Grbac, with Greg Skrepenak anchoring a monstrous O-Line that averaged 294 lbs.
Bobby Bowden’s Florida State squad was #1, and might have been defending national champions if not for a little “wide right” issue the year before against Miami. On this perfect September afternoon, Michigan was favored, and the home crowd was raucous.
It was the worst of times. On the second play, Terrell Buckley stepped in front of Desmond to pick off Elvis’ floater to the south end zone, and the Seminoles never looked back in thrashing the Wolverines, 51-31. At that time (nearly two decades before “The Missing Years” of R-R and B-Ho), it had been the most points ever laid on the home team in Michigan Stadium. It would have been even worse, but Florida State missed five points after touchdowns and lost a fumble at Michigan’s one yard line. (Michigan only gave up 118 points in its other 10 regular season games in’91, combined.)
It was the best of times. 1991 was the first year I had my season tickets. Before the FSU game, my Dad and I watched Michigan beat Notre Dame, with Desmond kickstarting his brilliant Heisman season with a diving TD catch on a fourth-and-one-foot play in the fourth quarter, in the corner in front of me and Dad.
It was the worst of times, the beginning of the Curse of Dino. My then brother-in-law suffered through the Florida State debacle with me, the first of a five-game winless streak for games he attended, broken only when Punt Classic and I performed a full-on exorcism before allowing him to enter the hallowed grounds of the Big House for the 1997 Ohio State game.
It was the best of times. It was the midst of Coach Gary Moeller’s successful five-year stint as Michigan coach, featuring three Big Ten titles, three top ten finishes, and four bowl wins. This run was cut short when Mo was unceremoniously fired for having an argument with his wife in a restaurant. (Just ponder that, Penn State fans.)
It was the worst of times. The Florida State “War Chant”, credited to Rob “Sweat” Hill of FSU’s Theta Chi fraternity in 1983, evolved into the Tomahawk Chop of today that was heard in Ann Arbor, for the first and only time, on that sunny fall day in 1991. (Unfortunately, Michigan fans cannot claim the moral high ground, with their own version of the chop ending in the stunningly crass “you suck!” shout, after the band plays “Temptation” - it’s almost enough to yearn for the halcyon days of marshmallow tossing.)
Twenty five years later, it is the best of times. Michigan is once again a top ten team, two cruel plays away from undefeated, and only kept from the College Football Playoff by a KGB-led conspiracy.
As for prognostications, Punt’s theory is correct. The edge cannot be determined by the players on the field, who are matched evenly enough. Instead it will be won by the team that wants it more, that has something to prove. Will Michigan flip the script from 25 years ago, and prevail in front of what amounts to a boisterous Seminole home crowd? Or will the ironically named JimBo MoLlo Fisher cunningly hand the Wolverines another stunning last-minute defeat?
Florida State is exciting, but flawed, and the metrics favor Michigan. But that hasn’t stopped the 2016 Wolverines from showing its dispirited side, even when it’s mattered most. This game gives me the same heebie-jeebies as when I first heard that war chant in 1991. I fear we cap 2016 with the worst of times.
Whoa, oh, whoa. Whoa, oh, whoa.
FLORIDA STATE 30, MICHIGAN 28