is there such a thing as an etsy genuis? if so, this is it.
New feature! Who's dead! Who's almost dead! Who has a mysterious illness that mysteriously forces them to mysteriously not play! Updated regularly! If you have any tenuous speculation/corrections/updates email or leave a comment! Too many exclamation points(!)!
This week's changes: Removed Riley, Biggs, Englemon, Barringer. Added Long. Injury information is very thin out there and no one's status has been confirmed, but I believe that everyone on the list is available except Arrington, Mundy, and McClintock. That does not mean they're 100%. I would not be surprised to see Manningham hampered by the knee issue he picked up on the punt return. Given what is known about the rest of the injuries I think everyone else should be ready to go, but don't rush out to your bookie based on this post.
|RB||Hart||Rolled ankle||Iowa||DTD||probable||Carr last week: "Mike Hart will play, definitely." He didn't. Precaution or ominous note? No one knows.|
|WR||Arrington||Ankle sprain||NIU||season||out||Carr: "If I had to guess, I would say he will not play this year."|
|WR||Manningham||undisclosed||IU||DTD||probable||Doesn't seem too bad but apparently he's got something wrong; guess is a strain or a pull of some sort.|
|OL||Long||Ankle aggravation||IU||DTD||probable||Left after a couple series against the Hoosiers, probably just as a precaution.|
|OL||Kraus||Minor knee||NW||DTD||probable||Did not play against IU.|
|DE||Woodley||Deep arm bruise||Iowa||DTD||probable||Did see some time against IU.|
|LB||McClintock||Chronic back issues||preseason||DTD||doubtful||Not dressing.|
|LB||Graham||Two broken thumbs||PSU||~3-4 weeks||playing||Returned against NW; played more than Thompson.|
|S||Mundy||Shoulder||preseason||season||out||Probably will return by spring.|
Exited the list: Riley, Barringer, Englemon, Biggs.
Almost Off: Hart, Kraus, Graham, Woodley, Long, Manningham.
We'll take a step back from the mindless (but fun!) Buckeye bashing to actually talk about, you know, the game, and we've got an enormous assist from Tom Orr. Orr is the man behind the Michigan Monday column at the OZone and a occasional sparring partner here. He's so credible that every column he publishes gets linked on Michigan message boards across the Internet. The replies are usually along the lines of "I know he is a Buckeye and thus destined for the fiery furnance, but that's a damn good column"--an accomplishment not to be taken lightly.
We've exchanged questions and answers over the past couple days. Tom's responses are so extensive and useful that I've broken them up into two posts so you can absorb them at a more leisurely pace. What follows is (obviously) part I. Part II is tomorrow.
You've watched every Michigan game this year. What were your personal expectations going into the season? Do you think Michigan has underachieved?
Going into the year, I thought this was a pretty typical Michigan teamâ€”probably two losses somewhere along the line, but solid on both sides of the ball. I also thought that there was a chance (not a great chance, but a chance), given their schedule, that they could run the table.
OSU at home, Penn State at home, Notre Dame at home, Minnesota at home... that's the recipe for a great year. The only glaring landmine was playing Iowa in Kinnick Stadium.
Remember, before the year the trip to Madison didn't look particularly daunting to most people, myself included.
Going on the basis of my expectation of a two-loss season, I don't really think it's fair to say this team has underachieved. There are people every year who think teams are going to run the table, then get all ticked off when it doesn't happen.
This team had some question marks, especially on defense, and I don't think perfection is a fair standard to hold them to. That was a miscalculation by the prognosticators, not a bad season by the team.
The notion of underachieving is particularly unfair when you consider the injuries this team has suffered this year. It's pretty remarkable when you think about it; for at least a stretch of a few games, and in some cases for the majority of the season, this team lost its star tailback (Mike Hart), arguably its best offensive lineman (Jake Long), another offensive lineman (Mike Kolodziej), its biggest offensive play-maker (Steve Breaston, who I'm convinced was about 75% all year), one of its promising wide receivers (Adrian Arrington), its best defensive lineman (LaMarr Woodley), and three safeties (Ryan Mundy, Willis Barringer, Brandent Englemon). That doesn't even get into losing Lawrence Reid in the spring, getting about a half of a season out of Gabe Watson, and all the other dings, bangs and bumps to guys like Jeremy Van Alstyne, Chris Graham, etc.
Looking back, I think this team has been more crippled by injuries than any Michigan team since 1984. That team never really circled the wagons and finished 6-6. This team is going into the final weekend of the season with the entirely realistic possibility of playing in a BCS bowl game.
I think the idea that they've underachieved is probably more than a little misguided.
Obviously the offense has been a major disappointment. In my tape reviews I've singled out Henne and the interior offensive line as the major sources of the problems. Do you think that's accurate?
I think the problems for this offense all start with that line, and again, some of that has to be chalked up to losing Long for most of the year (he still hasn't played an entire game), and losing other guys for parts of the season. When you've got a guy like Rueben Riley playing right tackle, you're going to have problems running the ball and protecting the passer, and that's what Michigan had to deal with for a bunch of weeks in the middle of the season. Riley's probably not a bad fit in the middle of that line somewhere, but he just looked completely out-classed against some of the better defensive ends in the league.
I think to some degree, Matt Lentz has followed David Baas' footsteps as a guy who was highly touted, but sometimes failed to live up to the hype. Kraus (at center) has been banged up and is still in his first year as a starter. Henige at the other guard position has been okay, but far from outstanding. Stenavich has been pretty good, but he's only one guy.
Michigan's line is an above-average Big Ten unit, but they're not anywhere in the neighborhood of some of the dominant, road-grader lines they've had in the past. That makes it tougher to run the ball, which in turn makes it tougher to throw the ball.
It seems like whenever Hart gets a handoff, he either gets hit at the line or about a yard or two downfield. To his credit, he gets low and drives through guys and always falls forward, so you look at the stat sheet and he's averaging 4.7 per rush. But he's really earning those yards.
In the passing game, Henne's not getting hammered by pass rushers, but it seems like he's getting knocked down a little more this year than in the last couple seasons (I don't know if the stats will bear that outâ€”it's just something that has occurred to me at times this fall).
Certainly, Henne has had his struggles. He looked dreadful against Notre Dame and dreadful again in Wisconsin. He's clearly got some mechanical issues that they've supposedly been working through (arm angle, release point and stride length have all been mentioned this year), but I remain convinced that Hart's absence has had at least something to do with Henne's issues.
His worst games have come on days when Hart is not playing; you can chalk that up to some mental dependence on Hart or the fact that his absence allows defenses to focus more on the passing game, but I think there's a definite link there.
I know you're not a big believer in that "security blanket" theory, but we keep hearing how Hart is such a commanding presence in the huddle, and how guys look into his eyes and get inspired... blah, blah, blah. If there's any truth at all to that, one would think that when he's not there, there would be some negative effect from the loss of that presence/ those eyes... whatever.
[Indeed I don't necessarily buy a correlation between Henne's accuracy and Hart's presence but I do think that his absence has hurt the blitz pickups and allowed opponents to focus more on coverage. I just don't think when Henne throws he's subconsciously aware of Hart's absence. -ed]
Ohio State's defense has been almost entirely impregnable save for that strange 31 point outburst by Minnesota that featured 396 yards for Brian Friggin' Cupito. How the hell did that happen? Is there anything there that Michigan will be looking to exploit?
The Minnesota game was sort of a weird confluence of circumstances that added up to an ugly performance.
For one, the defense was obviously keyed primarily toward stopping the run, leaving the corners out on islands on a lot of plays. Also, Minnesota's receivers (especially Ernie Wheelwright) are tall, and can create matchup problems on jump-balls, even against a 6-foot-1 corner like Ashton Youboty. Add in the fact that Bryan Cupito played the game of his life and you have a recipe for an offensive explosion.
I haven't watched that tape since the week of that game, but I remember one of the times Youboty got beat, he tried to jump a quick out, and the guy gave him double-move and got deep for a big play. On at least one of the deep balls, Cupito just shot-putted one up into pretty good coverage, and the Minnesota receiver came back and made a great play (tha
t was the one that got them down to the 1 and set up a touchdown). It wasn't like he was constantly missing tackles or getting toasted deep on every other play.
Of course, what set that up was Minnesota's ability to run the ball. Maroney had a long run and put up 100 yards before the half. That forced the Buckeyes to dedicate more guys to stopping that run game and left them vulnerable deep.
Certainly, Michigan will be looking to do the same this week. If they can get Hart established early, that could set up some big plays in the passing game.
Michigan State did the same thing, running the ball decently early then using the eerily-accurate Drew Stanton to get it downfield. If Henne plays the way Stanton did in that first half, there's no way to defend it.
You can throw on this defense, but you need to be able to run the ball a little, and your quarterback needs to be pretty accurate. Stanton carved this team up because he was hitting guys on the numbers all day and getting time to throw.
Last week another pretty good quarterback, Brett Basanez, had about three good minutes, then spent much of the rest of the day running for his life, throwing into tight coverage and piling up wildly unimpressive numbers.
The defense is not consistently terrible like Michigan State's, but if you can do certain things well, you can attack them.
It seems like Ohio State's extremely thin at corner past Youboty. Tyler Everett's a converted safety and then you guys have who exactly?
A true freshman named Malcolm Jenkins has been playing a lot this year. He didn't play last week, and was shuffled down the depth chart this week, but if he can go, he's a decent cover guy.
You'll see Brandon Mitchell, who's one of the backup safeties, on the field as the nickelback Saturday. There's another true freshman, Jamario O'Neal, who has played on passing downs this year.
Generally, I would guess that the defense is going to try to keep its strength (the linebackers) on the field as much as possible, even if it means playing a 4-3-4 consistently against a three-wide receiver set.
You might not see much of that cornerback depth unless someone gets hurt.
Michigan's running game has been good with Hart and mediocre without him, but this week they're clashing with an entirely different animal than your Northwesterns and Indianas. Assuming Hart is fully healthy, how do you think he'll do relative to last year (around 3 YPC for 60 yards and one 40 yard screen)?
I'm not necessarily the person to ask, because I didn't think Chris Perry was going to be able to run on the Buckeye defense two years ago. However, assuming Hart is 100% or close to it, I think he would be hard-pressed not to match or top last year's numbers.
There is a significant question in my mind about just how rusty he's going to be, and how healthy he is. I know he's probably running in practice all week, but the holes he's seeing on Wednesday are going to look a lot different from the size of the holes he'll see Saturday (at least I sure hope they do). He's still relatively young and has really never gotten himself into a groove at any point this season.
Still, he's a good back. As I mentioned before, he's going to fall forward for a few yards even if you hit him right in the hole. If this defense form-tackles all afternoon (they have shown that they know how, but occasionally forget), they could contain him, maybe even holding him to 75-100 yards.
If Hart gets more than 130 yards, Michigan almost certainly wins.
First... I am outraged on behalf of my multitudinous Kazakh fans in regards to Sasha Baron-Cohen's awful portrayal of their country as cow-punching drunkards and stand by them in their hour of need.
Maybe you aren't all evil monkeys sent from space to ruin my life. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer has an interesting article written by one of the refs in the 1973 Michigan-Ohio State game.
Crackdown on this. Last year during the WCHA tournament Jeff Paukovich broke Robbie Bina's neck with a check from behind. Paukovich was given a minor for the incident, though he was suspended by the WCHA for Denver's next game. As a result, the NCAA declared all checks from behind to be five minute majors and game misconducts.
This decision has proved to be entirely dumb, as you could probably guess. The huge penalty for even benign half-checks from behind has caused anyone near the boards to turn away from incoming checkers, hoping to draw a cheap major. The NCAA's overreaction to one unfortunate incident has caused more harm than good.
Uh, yeah, we all saw this coming. INCH has an analysis of the new rule and also concludes that it's total wack stupid, too.
Yost Built has quarter season grades up, by the way.
You cannot defy science part II. IBFC has scientifically proven that Michigan wins 27-13 via the power of the interwebs.
Yes. Use your hate. Hate makes you strong. Former Michigan quarterback Michael Taylor on OSU:
"But let's be clear -- I'm from Ohio and I don't have any respect for Ohio State. They have always done shady things, which is why I didn't even consider going there. They have lost all aspects of sportsmanship to win at all costs ... that's why their boosters give their players money."
Goddamn! Michael isn't one for diplomacy. (I would throw in an Axis & Allies reference here but EDSBS beat me to it.)
Diplomacy is pretty much out the Window for the rest of the Wolverine blogopshere as well. Johnny from RBUAS lights up bling-sporting Ted Ginn, Sr.; Westsider rider is flying out from California to catch the game for year #7 in a row.
Juvenile fan sites are really sad, especially ones that resort to stupid stuff like this:
Beat M*ch!g@n Week!
What's that you say, that's an official site from the Ohio State University? Should we really call it a "University" any more? How about "retard factory"? The 0H!0 $t4t3 r3t4rD f@ct0ry?
America: now with three wangs! Yeah, well, this is a juvenile fan site, so I invite you to observe the following logo from the new digs of All Things Longhorn:
As noted philosophers Beavis and Butthead might say, hur hur hur. Wang.
Hurray, that's the poll hurray. If you're interested, you can see all the individual ballots here.
Fallers: Many in an upset-filled weekend in college football. Florida took the most severe hit after losing to poll debutant South Carolina and that guy who looks somewhat familiar. Florida State's dismal stretch has dropped them all the way to #21 with Florida and Miami upcoming. Both Georgia and Alabama dropped narrow games against ranked SEC foes and dropped four spots. Bama's chart is remarkably coherent now.
Risers: The Old Ball Coach has new tricks at South Carolina and makes an impressive debut at #19. Pitt Sports Blather dropped them in at #12(!). The teams immediately in front of the other USC mostly benefited from the mass destruction in the middle of the poll: Fresno State, TCU, Michigan, and Louisville all experienced nice gains.
Outrage!!! Texas Tech is still ranked? Is UTEP really better than the major conference teams behind it? Very little this week, though--everything seems reasonable as the teams begin to dictate our ballots in great detail.
Wack Ballot Watchdog: Not much this week. See below.
Now on to the extracurriculars. First up are the teams which spur the most and least disagreement between voters as measured by standard deviation. Note that the standard deviation charts halt at #25 when looking for the lowest, otherwise teams that everyone agreed were terrible (say, Eastern Michigan) would all be at the top.
Voters are clearly undecided on what exactly to do with a team that has one loss by a billion points to a crappy team and several other hair-raising escapes, as UCLA is the new King of Variance.
Ballot math: First up are "Mr. Bold" and "Mr. Numb Existence." The former goes to the voter with the ballot most divergent from the poll at large. The number you see is the average difference between a person's opinion of a team and the poll's opinion.
Mr. Bold is actionBERG again, no doubt due to his tendency to rank any Texas team with a good record against crappy competition way, way high: TCU is #10, UTEP #13, and Texas Tech is #19. In other wackiness, WVU is #9, Ohio State #14, and Notre Dame #16.
Mr. Numb Existence is the DJL Zone. Everything on his ballot is relentlessly reasonable, as one might expect.
Next we have the Coulter/Krugman Award and the Straight Bangin' Award, which are again different sides of the same coin. The CKA and SBA go to the blogs with the highest and lowest bias rating, respectively. Bias rating is calculated by subtracting the blogger's vote for his own team from the poll-wide average. A high number indicates you are shameless homer. A low number indicates that you suffer from an abusive relationship with your football team.
The Straight Bangin' Award has returned home, sort of. It's the same guy at new digs, as Joey takes his namesake award, though the margin this week is fairly low: Michigan checks in at #20. In front of Rutgers, even!
Swing is the total change in each ballot from last week to this week (obviously voters who didn't submit a ballot last week are not included). A high number means you are easily distracted by shiny things. A low number means that you're damn sure you're right no matter what reality says.
Mr. Manic Depressive are the GT guys at Golden Tornado, who were forced to freak out by recent events as they were amongst the heavy Auburn doubters. The Tigers shoot from #24 to #10. They also excised former #14 Texas Tech entirely and punished Wisconsin and Florida heavily for their losses.
Mr. Stubborn is TrojanWire... and this is a really weird ballot. LSU drops three places for beating Alabama. Va Tech moves up four for doing nothing in particular. Florida and Florida State go nowhere. Cal moves up 5 for getting waxed by USC. What is the deal?
|1||Texas||Kansas was supposed to have a good defense.|
|2||Southern Cal||Thought about putting Notre Dame here, but no.|
|3||Penn State||Gameday in EL? MFer!|
|5||LSU||Forced to respect them now.|
|8||Ohio State||What they did to a very good Northwestern offense bodes unwell. Jury still out on the offense: the last five opponents have been flailing retards on defense.|
|9||Notre Dame||Another year, another week of Notre Dame fans waxing eloquent about Navy and how they're doing the Middies a big favor by playing them every year. The mighty sacrifices of winning for 40 straight years.|
|10||Oregon||Main beneficiary of this carnage below.|
|11||Auburn||Georgia con Shock does count as anyone, though they squeaked by.|
|12||Georgia||Let 'em score.|
|13||UCLA||Finally got what was coming to them.|
|14||Fresno State||Playing Oregon toe-to-toe continues to look better.|
|15||West Virginia||I guess.|
|16||Michigan||Functional DNP vs Indiana.|
|17||Wisconsin||No, this sequence doesn't make sense...|
|18||Minnesota||...but what does in the Big Ten?|
|19||South Carolina||Goddamn. I commend Orson for retaining his sanity in the aftermath of the OBC's suddenly scorching hot jilted girlfriend routine.|
|20||Florida||Yeah, well, Vandy... I dunno. Weird day for the middle of the poll.|
|21||Florida State||No QB problem rears up again. Was fortunate to beat Miami.|
|22||TCU||Hard for me to take them more seriously.|
|23||Oklahoma||Picked itself up off the mat.|
|24||Toledo||Yes, I'm out of teams.|
|25||Boston College||And... scene.|
Dropped Out: Texas Tech(#20), Northwestern(#25), Colorado(#22)... etc.
Games I Saw: Michigan-IU, 'Bama-LSU, Auburn-UGA, bits of USC-Cal.
When Saginaw PG Tory Jackson committed to Notre Dame, I levelled an accusation at Tommy Amaker's defenders that the 2007 class would end up being as disappointing as the last two classes. 2007 SG Alex Legion--currently a 5-star ranked in the top 20 by both Rivals and Scout--went a long way to making that prediction look about as good as all the rest of mine by committing today.
This is an unambiguously super-awesome development for the Wolverines as Legion's extremely early commitment is both an impressive piece of recruiting by Tommy Amaker and possibly an indication to the rest of the loaded instate '07 class that Michigan is a place to consider taking your game. That didn't work out so hot this year, but given the choice between having Legion and not, er, I'll take Legion.
It's day two of our five day format-killing Ohio State blowout! Today: the coaches. A study in contrasts. One has a gruff exterior that hides a heart of gold, the other a gelatinous sheen that hides dark, tentacled horrors. Let science decide between them:
|"Could you maybe go to the gym or something?"||NCAA As Husband||"One of these days, POW, right to the moon!"|
|Gruff imparter of wisdom||Uncle Genre||Creepy offerer of babysitting services|
|No||Thought Maurice Clarett Was A Good Idea?||Yes|
|Unfortunately necessary bridge between punts||Offensive Philosophy||What do you mean, "this isn't the Battle of the Somme?"|
|"I am a football coach."||What Attire Implies||"I take deleting things from my hard drive very, very seriously."|
|Wildly schizophrenic||Treatment of Sideline Reporters||Robotically dullsville|
|Split||National Championship Drawback||Due to obviously phony pass interference|
|2||League Championships since 2003||0|
|1-0||Record versus Penn State since October||0-1|
|1||Head to head wins in 2003||0|
|Received spyware from the Accuser after placing Celine Dion album into CD-ROM drive||Relationship with Satan||Calls on a regular basis to ask for money and to assure him that the end times are nearing|
|"I like 'em both."||Catchphrase||"I don't recall."|
|Finding good homes for all these beautiful kittens||Offseason Troubles||Raising bail|
So, there you have it, irrefutable scientific proof that Carr is vastly superior to Tressel. Carr in a blowout, 11-0-3. You can't defy science, unless you're from Kansas.
(A note: mgoblog is generally a PG-13 website. This post ain't. The F word shows up. A lot, for versimilitude and shit. Also the word "shit" appears.)
(A second note: A while ago I posted a much-abbreviated version of this story on a message board. Ohio State fans found and copied it as a classic example of someone making stuff up in order to tarnish the good (ha!) name of Ohio State. This is not the case. Every word of this story is true. You can't make this stuff up.)
(A third note: I wish to preclarify my positions here given previous debacles with opposing fanbases. Ohio State fans are probably a lot less sensitive than Notre Dame fans, but this is going to be less benign than "you have sucked in the recent past." I think that OSU has a problem with a significant section of their fanbase. Yes, there are dicks that support every team, but I don't think I'm going out of my gourd to suggest that OSU fans have a well-deserved reputation for being uncouth. I do realize that Michigan fans are not immune to this disease.)
The thing started going wrong well before we ever got to Columbus. We ended up in Dayton after a missed turn and arrived in the evilest place in the universe late after traversing the two legs of a right triangle instead of its hypotenuse. As such, parking was impossible. The officially sanctioned lots were full and we, out of town idiots in hostile territory, had no backup plan more sophisticated than "we could drive around and stuff."
We executed the plan and eventually found a strip-mall lot with a miraculously open spot and a woman wandering around, glaring owlishly into the windshields of the cars packed into the lot, looking for some magic symbol of passage--or at least the right to peaceful repose instead of a quick trip on the back of a tow truck. Clearly we weren't home free yet. Also I had to go to the bathroom.
The parking attendant took pity on us and told us that we could acquire a pass from the sports bar situated in the strip mall. We attempted to do this but were rebuffed; the sports bar was "out" of passes. A return trip to the parking lot coupled with some peeking inside windshields revealed that the pass consisted of "Michigan Parking" scrawled on a piece of paper. Phil, who is diplomatic, and Raffi, who is crippled, were dispatched back inside to guilt the bartender into giving us said piece of paper and succeeded in their mission. ("You done spell Michigan with one U or two?") This task grudgingly accomplished, we were ready to head off into the belly of the beast.
Let's just get this out of the way: things are not going to go well here. Disaster looms. Disaster did not loom over my 2000 trip to Columbus, and after the events described here I wondered why this trip had come to such a bad end. The worst thing that happened in 2000 was a trucker screaming "what is that, fucking pleather?" at my uncle's jacket and, incidentally, me, as I was wearing it because I had neglected to remember that it was cold as shit and left my jacket at home. In 2000 the Buckeyes were dispirited, beaten down by the cruel trick of fate named John Cooper and trudging through a season that would end with a dismal loss in the Outback Bowl. In 2002 they were gunning for a national championship under Jim Tressel. Also, in 2000 they lost. In 2002, they didn't. However, in retrospect neither of these sweeping sociological reasons really suffice to explain what happened. No, in the end, it was the capes.
I don't remember whose idea the capes were, but I do remember that once said idea--going to the Ohio State game with huge Michigan flags draped across our backs like mighty capes--was conceived, it was inevitable. There wasn't any debate about the wisdom of garishly declaring ourselves the enemy amongst the wretched and drunk of Columbus because the idea was clearly idiotic on its face. But one night when I was in college I played something called "SHANKAI JUKU DANCE TROUPE," which consisted of a friend and I screaming "SHANKAI JUKU!!!" over and over, jumping up and down on the furniture, tearing the massive pile of former residents' mail that lived in the family room into tiny bits (a felony), and throwing the bits around the room--we were not the kind of people who would forgo doing something awesome and ridiculous because it was stupidly dangerous.
So. Flags were procured and string to tie them with was procured and we, parking pass in hand, donned them in their glory. They were spectacular, aside from one problem: since flags are generally longer than they are tall and people are generally taller than they are long, we had to wear them sideways, turning the famous block M into more of a block epsilon. Anyone with a lot of math knowledge and no football knowledge whatsoever who happened to run across us would think that the four of us were really into summations. Nonetheless, they were spectacular. No, screw that, I love math: they were fucking amazing. Few things in my life can match their wonderful, useless stupidity.
Capes flowing gracefully behind us, we set off in the direction of the game. Not a minute into our journey a shirtless man grilling something on his balcony cried out to us. "Fuck Michigan!" he exclaimed. We would soon learn that whenever an Ohio State fan does not have anything else to say, he says "Fuck Michigan." It is appropriate for any situation you find yourself in, from meeting a new coworker to cops busting your meth lab to being confronted with your infidelity on Jerry Springer. It's a "Roll Tide" for the gap-toothed central Ohio set. I heard or read "Fuck Michigan" probably over 100 times during my brief sojourn in Columbus. Perhaps this will suffice to explain the thing's magnitude: I assume the "Ruck Fival" t-shirt scourge is a nationwide thing. You've all seen the slack-jawed moron who wears this incredibly clever shirt into the stadium. These things exist because you can't wear a shirt that says "Fuck Rival" into a stadium... unless that stadium is Ohio Stadium and that opponent is Michigan, in which case approximately 10% of the crowd can and will wear shirts that say "Fuck Rival" and declare to fans of Rival who pass by that Rival can indeed get fucked and how. I think this is "hegemony" or something, but I'm not sure since I am not a humanities grad student. And thank God for that.
In any case, I merrily responded to our first-but-certainly-not-last "Fuck Michigan" of the day with a listing of the multitude of times in the 90s when all that stood between the Buckeyes and a national championship game (de facto or otherwise) was an undermanned Michigan team. Each meeting had been a Buckeye-soul-equivalent-crushing Michigan victory, often times in ridiculous and unexplainable fashion (313 yards for Tshimanga Biakabutuka, etc.). I finished it with a predictive flourish: "...and 2002!" The shirtless man said "Fuck Michigan!" again.
I had blown my rhetorical wad and thus returned to silence as we continued on. The people walking around us limited their hostility to evil-eyed glances but every minute or so a car full of booze-veined Buckeyes would zoom past screaming "Fuck Michigan!" I made a stop in a Value City Arena bathroom, where a grizzled old man saw me and said "Fuck Michigan." Eventually we reached the immediate surroundings of the Value City Stadium, having dodged Fuck Michigan flak every step of the way. I was striding in front, my companions flanking me, when I noticed something ominously wrong.
People have a sixth sense about moving in packs. When people you believe to be following you at an appropriate distance cease popping in and out of the edges of your peripheral vision, you notice something is wrong with the migratory pattern. This probably the case for deeply important evolutionary reasons favoring hunters who notice when their friends are being eaten by horrible toothy beasts.
Unfortunately, I would make a very bad caveman. My awaren
ess was at an ebb because of my single-minded focus on the fact that we were LATE LATE LATE because of the triangle thing and very possibly going to miss the kickoff. (The kickoff! I'm horrified to arrive at the stadium after the bands have taken the field. Not once have I ever missed the kickoff. Ever ever.) It took me some time to realize that I was no longer towing my three companions behind me.
I turned around.
(A moment for a digression on my companions, in case anyone is wondering whether we antagonized someone. Raffi, currently a med student at Wayne State, has cerebral palsy. This has turned his legs into things that don't work very well. He walks with crutches; we call him "Cripplewitz" or "Dr. Cripplington." He smiles and nods amiably when we do this, because he's the smiliest ambiabliest man in the world (this is why he is spectacularly unsuccessful with women*). Ryan is an electrical engineer who is a Michigan Marching Band alumnus, a hardworking man best described as fundamentally good if slightly boring. Sorry, man. Phil has just finished teaching math in Botswana as a part of the Peace Corps. He always liked John Navarre. When he left everyone threw a party and some people actually cried. Mother Teresa tried to come but couldn't get a ticket.
All right, all right, I know what you're thinking, "what about you, you nasty man?" All I can say is that while I am indeed prone to fits of volcanic anger, these are generally referee related and my preferred method of approaching stadiums at away games is a practiced look of arrogant disdain. After all, I went to Michigan. Twice, bitches! I didn't get a master's degree to go around looking humble. But, as mentioned, I was too busy panicking about the time to antagonize anyone. And even if I tried, I probably would have used a word like "festering" and confused Ohio State fans instead offending them.)
Anyway... I turned around.
The tableau that confronted me could not have been more frightening and alien. It was as if I had turned around to find that Columbus, Ohio had turned into the airless cratered moon. Ryan had been tackled into a bush along the side of the road. A man in an Ohio State jersey was attempting to shove Ryan's jaw into his brain. Raffi laid on his back, arms, legs, and crutches flailing in the air wildly, looking quite like an upturned beetle. My memory does not supply details as to Phil's disposition. A purple, vein-splattering rage descended upon me. We were walking to the game, saying exactly nothing to anyone save ourselves, and we had been descended upon like Crips walking into the wrong part of Compton. For a split-second I was ready to murder.
Instead, I ran over to Ryan and, instead of giving the drunk fuck the shattered skull he so richly deserved, merely attempted to pry him off my friend. Eventually he released his grip and tumbled to the ground, swearing incoherently and slurring obscenities. When I turned back to Raffi, Phil had reappeared and was busy flipping Raffi over and removing any stray rocks from his carapace. Later I would ascertain that my friends had not even made eye contact with their assailant. He had just charged at the first sight of blue.
Though I had managed to restrain my fists, my mouth proved too wily a foe to be locked down. I exploded. "What the FUCK I wrong with you fuckers? You fucking trash! You fucking human fucking trash! Who treats people like this, you fucking assholes? You stupid, pathetic shits!"
They said, "Fuck Michigan."
Phil placed his hand across my chest, giving me the international symbol for "cool it, there are twenty of them and four of us, one of whom walks with crutches." I muttered "motherfuckers," and turned back to the path, stalking my way to the game. Ten seconds later two more Ohio State fans--older, gentlemanly, not bombed out of their skulls--approached us and apologized for the behavior we had just experienced.
"That shouldn't have happened," one said. It would be nice to say that I thanked them warmly. I didn't. The only thing that managed to grit its way out through my teeth was a cold, terse "No, it shouldn't have."
The assaults receded to the verbal level once more and we finally arrived. A game happened. Its details are largely irrelevant to this story, except for the fact that, aided greatly by one questionable offensive pass interference call and the services of a man who was undoubtedly ineligible, the Buckeyes won 14-9. As we exited the seating areas of the stadium, an Ohio State fan said "good game" and shook my hand. The shirt he wore said "Fuck Michigan."
(Why did this happen? Why do these people act like this? How can this guy shake my hand and look me in the eye while wearing a shirt that essentially says "Fuck You, Brian"? I've thought long and hard about that and arrived at this conclusion: collegiate fan bases can take on the personality of iconic coaches. Penn State fans have absorbed Joe Paterno's paranoia. Michigan fans have taken on Bo Schembechler's mix of arrogance and cantankerous adherence to tradition. 'Bama fans will live under the shadow of Bear Bryant until the sun is a grey cinder. Ohio State fans have become Woody Hayes.
Hayes' hatred for Michigan was legendary and insane. What can you say about a man who refuses to get gas in a state because of a football team that plays there? What can you say about a man who said "I didn't like that SOB when he played for me, I didn't like him when we worked for me, and I certainly don't like him now," about Bo Schembechler, a man who counted Woody as a mentor and friend? A man who never referred to the school by its name? You can say "but he won a lot" and come off like an amoral mercenary. Or you can say "but he was really, deep down a beautiful person," and come off like a battered wife. Woody Hayes is a man you always say "but..." about. There's no justifying his childish outbursts unless you are a Buckeye of a certain tribal stripe, in which case you adulate him for it and emulate it, becoming just as emotionally immature as a man who was infantile enough to punch an opposing player at 65.
Woody made it cool to hate Michigan, to obsess about them every day, and to punch innocent people. Connect the dots.)
After the game the area outside the stadium was Pandemonium with a capital P--check your Milton. Abuse flowed freely; I told someone to live it up in the trailer park tonight because you never knew when a tornado was coming. He said, "Fuck Michigan." We reached the tunnel spanning whatever river runs by the stadium (Styx, probably) and trudged through it. As I reached the end of it, I felt a tug on the cape I had forgotten I was wearing. I felt another.
Again, I turned around. What confronted me this time was exactly what I had expected: a man who looked like an extra from Deliverance adorned in Ohio State finery, 32-ounce cup of beer in hand, and a woman who looked like she had just finished applying the entire contents of K-Mart's makeup department to her face.
"What's your problem?" I said.
What followed was inexplicable. The man looked at me muzzily for a moment, then threw all 32 ounces in my face. A red mist descended over my vision. Luckily, my friends were better prepared to aid me than I had been to aid them before the game, or I would probably be writing this missive from prison or the afterlife. Phil's hand immediately rested on my shoulder; Ryan stepped between us. The future balanced on a knife edge for a brief, tense moment.
I wiped the beer from my face and walked off once again, fists clenched, more angry than I had ever been before. Woody would have been proud.
So no, I don't particularly like Ohio State.
*(anyone desiring Raffi's number for possible carnal adventures--he's going to be a doctor, ladies--please email me.) n>
That darned BCS sure is livin' high on the hog these days. I don't figure we'll have any ballots left without Texas and USC #1 or #2 in some order, but I guess we'll see.
Ballots go here. Question of the week: how much credit should non-BCS teams with lousy schedules but good records get for winning, especially if they're squeaking out wins?
First... less discursion, more hate! Hate makes strong bones. No hockey this week; Yost Built has your weekend recap.
Briefly. Indiana being the cuddly punching bag of the Big Ten that it is, much joy was not had yesterday. It was nice to get Functional DNP back on the schedule for the first time since Eastern. Vijay has his usual batch of highlights up. Johnny at RBUAS (who I continually almost call "Ron Bellamy") has some assorted thoughts. Joey's new digs at Schembechler Hall apparently don't have an edit function(?); check his comment to himself.
Tom Orr's Michigan Monday is also up and contains this:
Dear Holy God, do NOT kick the ball to Steve Breaston.
Uh... yeah. Ditto re: Ginn. Breaston's imitation of Steve Breaston is heartening, but I'm wary since he pulled the same "guess who's back" routine last year against Northwestern and was then totally neutralized by the Bucks. MM is highly recommended this week (not that it isn't all weeks).
Uh, I don't think so. A few obsessives have noted that the Michigan player participation from the Indiana game claims that supposed redshirts Tim McAvoy and Johnny Sears entered the game. I doubt this is true in a major way. I watch substitution patterns like a really strange, man-lookin' hawk when I attend the game and panic when I don't recognize a number. "25," which is Sears' number, did not appear. McAvoy's 62 is shared with walkon Jon Saigh, who probably got in late. No one's going to burn a redshirt in the 10th game of the year on guys who won't play.
WTF indeed. Michigan did spend the bye week installing all sorts of gadgetry. Then they used it against the mighty Hoosiers, surprising damn near everyone. I mean... they've set up the trasncontinental from the diamon screen for two years now and they break it out against Indiana? And that pitch play to Bass? Count me in with the fans everywhere sporting large cartoony question marks over their heads.
The leading theory espoused was that Michigan was giving the Buckeyes a reason to cease their ferocious pursuit on Michigan running plays by giving them the old trickeration a week early, but I have a different theory: Ohio State knows that Michigan knows that Ohio State knows that Michigan ran those trick plays and thus will throw caution to the wind when facing similar situations, since Michigan wouldn't be so stupid as to run trick play that the Bucks have already seen. So Michigan is setting up the Buckeyes for their trick plays by running the trick plays!
You don't buy that, either? Damn.
Punchline coming. Sam of BC&RS has deduced this:
Blue and Maize, my friends. It is INTEGRAL TO THE SUBATOMIC STRUCTURE OF THE UNIVERSE.