By Bryan MacKenzie
Remember that roommate in college who you never saw? Like, you knew Pete lived there, and if someone asked you to list your roommates, you would include Pete. Pete's stuff moved around the house from time to time, and every month the check for his share of the utilities was clipped to the fridge. You didn't dislike Pete, necessarily, but you barely ever saw him, and you never hung out together.
Maryland is Pete. Yeah, they're in our conference. We know that. But we have essentially no interaction with them. We have almost no interests in common, and we don't understand their East Coast ways very well. They're always talking about lacrosse and crabs and how The Wire doesn't accurately depict Baltimore. So when we have to interact, we're naturally a little unsure of our social dynamic.
(For the record, Maryland moved in at the same time as Rutgers, but Maryland refuses to admit that they were friends when Rutgers moved in. Rutgers was that roommate who everyone hated. He constantly got in arguments with everyone over the stupidest crap. He was awful at Mario Kart but kept talking shit about it. He smelled bad, and after he used the kitchen it smelled like he'd microwaved a cat.)
Michigan has played five games against Maryland all time. That is fewer matchups than Michigan has had against 32 other teams, including Mount Union, Harvard, and Oberlin. But we're gonna be division-mates for a while, so we need to get used to it. And more importantly, we need to figure out how we relate to each other. Do we develop a indifference-to-their-hatred like we have with Illinois? Maybe a "no YOU have the inferiority complex" tête-à-tête like we have with Sparty? At the moment, I'm leaning towards a "Wait until [football/basketball] season" relationship like we have with Indiana.
From a pure football standpoint, this shouldn't be a terribly close game. S&P+, Sagarin, Vegas, and "I have watched these two teams attempt to football" all suggest Michigan has an advantage in every phase of the game. The Wolverines should be able to move the ball without much issue, and while Maryland's running game is above average, Michigan's defense is designed around stopping spread-to-run teams like this.
The catch, though, is that we don't know what kind of team Maryland is bringing to Ann Arbor. Are they bringing a team that will go gently into that good night, like Penn State and Illinois did? Or will they bring a team hopped up on goofballs who comes out punching, Little Mac-style, like Michigan State or Colorado? Until we know them better, it's hard to say. We don't even have much information about what a "DJ Durkin team" looks like.
There's a good chance Durkin will want to put on good show for his former team, and he certainly has as much insight into Michigan's attack but how much hatred is there for a team he coached for one year, especially when he voluntarily parlayed it into a head coaching gig? My crystal ball says that Maryland puts together a few explosive plays on the ground, but Michigan is just too much and pulls away without much effort. Michigan 38, Maryland 17
by Nick RoUMel
Michigan is in trouble today. I realize they are undefeated, but they have shown vulnerabilities in this young season that can be exploited. Maryland may be new to our conference, but they are a strong team, led by the return of Melo Trimble. After reaching the Sweet Sixteen a year ago, they could be a dark horse contender for the Big Ten title.
[Ed: Don’t be an idiot.] Wait, what? It’s still football season? Sorry, I got mixed up. I went to Michigan’s basketball opener last night with “Punt Classic,” Ken “Sky” Walker, and it was both familiar and strange at the same time. Familiar because it was Crisler Arena; Bob and Judy still sat behind us; a small pop is still $5; and there were a few players I vaguely recalled from last year. But it was also strange because there were all these new guys, like the two guards from Ohio, and the big guy from Onsted with a buzzcut and big ears, and Larry the usher wasn’t in our section anymore.
Then there was the complete mish-mash mind melt, like when they played Bo’s “The Team” speech. Clearly Bo was not talking about the basketball team. If he were he would not have said “you can go into professional football, you can go anywhere you want to play after you leave here.” Because that would have been very confusing to a basketball player. Unless you’re Julius Peppers.
But I digress. What can I say about our sort-of roommate “Pete” from Maryland, that Punt hasn’t already said? You go from not even thinking about Pete, and then one night he comes home at 2:30 AM after the bars close and randomly challenges you to a pull-up contest on the bar that some long ago tenant installed on the bedroom door. And you’re like, this is crazy, Pete; I was just about to go to sleep; but he persists. You do a quiet 16, and he does a lightning fast dozen but then drops to the ground clutching his stomach. And that’s the last you see of Pete, because the next day you wake up and his closet is empty and his dad’s car is pulling out of the driveway while Pete waves forlornly, looking a little green.
I can tell you nothing more of Pete. But I can tell you about Sparty, that cocky kid from that frat that’s always in trouble with the cops and the University administration. Sparty loves to gloat when he’s riding high, but finds a way to blame others when he screws up. He made the Dean’s list the last three years, but this year he’s on academic probation. But he doesn’t talk about that, oh no. Instead he brags that on his last midterm, he got the last two answers right and that proves that he never quits.
-- OK, let me put this parable into plain English. Michigan State was a top ten football team the last three seasons, and preseason top ten this year. How fast and far have they fallen? The best they can do is to claim a moral victory because they only lost at home by nine points to their rival.
Hell, even Pete beat Sparty this year. And Pete’s no stronger now than when he flamed out on that pull-up challenge. Actually he’s even weaker. It’s been a while since you’ve seen him. Now he’s working in tech support for some startup that even he can’t describe what they do. He’s looking a little pasty and he asks if you’re going to finish your doughnut. You finally tell him what you’ve wanted to tell him since he was your roommate in college:
Tell you what, Pete; why don’t we play a little football instead?