By Bryan MacKenzie
You know what college football doesn't have enough of? Equations.
I don't do much with the maths, but from what I remember from high school algebra, there's a general rule that if you have a variables system of linear equations, you need that same number of distinct equations to solve the system. In other words, the more variables, the more information you need if you want to know what the hell is going on and why. And hoo boy does college football have a lot of variables. Player turnover. Injuries. Weather. The way an oblong ball bounces. The ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ nature of 18- to 22-year-old man-children. The general bloodymindedness of the universe.
“System of linear equations” is the most boring thing that has ever been Google Image Searched.
And the equations? Oh, there aren't many equations. Give me 162 baseball games, and we can calculate the exact value of every player down to the run. Hell, even if you’ve got 16 NFL games against other professional teams with rosters that are similar to those of the last couple of seasons, and you have a decent idea what you’re looking at. But in college football, you've got twelve regular season games. And odds are, three or four of those games are going to be against tomato cans. So you're really looking at a sample of eight or nine games against real teams. One will be in the rain. One will be windy and cold. In one game, the opponent's quarterback will get knocked out. In one, YOUR quarterback will get knocked out.
Sure, we can draw some general conclusions, like “Mo Hurst is greater than or equal to everything,” or “you cannot divide by Mike Riley.” But to get more specific, we need more data. So we go searching in the places where your stats professor warned you not to go without a chaperone. Like spring games. Insider practice hype. Coaches’ press conferences. Tarot card readers. ESPN talking heads.
Sure, there is information to be gleaned. But the temptations is to look for the shiny objects. Look no further than the narrative around the Big Ten bowl record. There is real value to the wins by the top echelon of the conference. But all everyone is talking about is “7-0,” despite the randomness of Iowa ice-skating better than Boston College, Kentucky dropping a two-point conversion against Northwestern, and Purdue completing a two-minute drill against Arizona.
Pictured: the Big Ten being unbeatable (USA Today)
Michigan is going to beat South Carolina, because Michigan is pretty good, and South Carolina isn’t particularly good. Whether it is by a field goal or four touchdowns is largely irrelevant. A big shiny multi-score win would make everybody feel better, and would be a talking point for those 30 second pre-season rundowns on ESPN 7 (“Michigan is coming off a bowl win, something something rivalry record, Rashan Gary, something quarterback competition, latest Harbaugh thing”).
But 2018 is set up to be a really, really good year regardless of how this game goes. So forget about the narrative. Instead of worrying about the final score, just enjoy the Hammering Panda and Mo Hurst destroying people one last time. Try to learn a *little* bit about Brandon Peters and the other new or like-new guys in line for playing time next year. And enjoy watching a real, honest-to-god football game for the last time for the next three quarters of a year.
(But yeah, Will Muschamp, so Michigan is probably going to bludgeon these guys)
Michigan 27, South Carolina 10
[Nick RoUMel has retired and a full CP search deserves a more thorough process, so this being bowl season we've promoted a guy in-house, MGoBlog GifMaster and Waffle Chef Smoothitron, with an interim tag and suggested a good performance can win him the job]
A year full of interesting storylines, compelling characters, and underwhelming results has culminated in a very appropriate finale. The Outback Bowl is the historical home of the also-rans who didn’t also-run well enough to even make the Citrus. Everything about this game is ho-hum, from the uninspiring Tampa locale, to the rehashed matchup of teams, to its relegation to ESPN2 in favor of UCF vs. Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
Even the Outback Bowl Trophy is an underwhelming prize. It features a crystal boomerang, which was a disappointing second choice when the Golden Crocodile Dundee Trophy™ was deemed too expensive to license.
TRULY A MISSED OPPORTUNITY
The B1G’s bowl performance thus far has injected a certain amount of fake conference pride to the stakes, with a perfect B1G bowl record on the line. Unfortunately, it will mean little for Michigan fans. A defeat today sullying the B1G’s otherwise flawless bowl record might add a different arrow to the quiver of rival fans, but won’t increase the inevitable barbs that will be lobbed all offseason.
None of this means that the game won’t be worth watching of course. There are fascinating storylines to keep an eye on. Chase Winovich spearheaded an effort to turn the leadup to the game into a tremendous fundraising opportunity for #Chadtough, resulting in a massive discharge of the Michigan Money Cannon and the glorious opportunity to see a great deal of our heroes sport luxurious orange locks(or facial hair in Don Brown’s case) for the game. As of this writing the fundraiser is barreling towards a staggering $200,000.
FRANCHISE OPPORTUNITIES AVAILABLE
Simultaneously, in a wonderful example of what Internet 2.0 is capable of, notable Eddie-Murphy-impersonator Ryan Nanni successfully conned the bowl sponsor into facilitating his yearlong dream to depict the Official Outback Steakhouse Bloomin’ Onion Man. Inspiringly, Nanni gets to portray a food item that contains more calories than his own body, while also depriving whatever local vagrant was previously going to wear the suit out of his New Year’s booze money.
As for the game itself, however, I will consider it a victory if it’s different enough from the last Outback Bowl vs. South Carolina that I’m able to successfully differentiate between them in five years. If you know where to look, there are plenty of ways the Outback Bowl will be an interesting and compelling experience. Unfortunately, an uninterested performance will mean the game won’t be among them.
South Carolina 20, Michigan 13