Punt/Counterpunt: Maryland 2016

Punt/Counterpunt: Maryland 2016

Submitted by Brian on November 5th, 2016 at 1:07 PM

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[Bryan Fuller]

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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

nick-roumel13

COUNTERPUNT

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.

Seriously?

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?

MICHIGAN 50, MARYLAND 14

Punt/Counterpunt: Michigan State 2016

Punt/Counterpunt: Michigan State 2016

Submitted by Seth on October 29th, 2016 at 8:32 AM

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And maybe one day again [the Moms]

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PUNT

By Bryan MacKenzie

Life comes at you fast. Two years ago, Michigan State fans spent the week before the Michigan game humming gleefully in anticipation of the inevitable trouncing. Michigan State was a top-10 with a 6-1 record. Michigan was 3-4 with blowout losses to Notre Dame, Minnesota, and Utah, as well as a loss to Rutgers. Sparty entered as a 17 point favorite, and that felt low. Michigan State ended up winning 35-11, and Michigan fans were somewhat relieved that it hadn't been as DIRECTLY IN THE FACE as we had feared.

Two years later, things have changed more than a little bit. Michigan enters as a 24.5 point favorite in Vegas and an even heavier favorite to the advanced analytics people. In twenty-two months, Jim Harbaugh and Don Brown have built a relentless, remorseless monster. They are outscoring opponents 341-70. They are outgaining opponents 6.37 yards per play to 3.67 yards per play. Meanwhile, Michigan State has spent the last month losing to Indiana, BYU, Northwestern and Maryland.

But let's go back a couple of years for a moment to that 2014 game. During pregame warmups, something thoroughly unimportant happened. Joe Bolden made a one-square-inch hole in the sideline of a football field.

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Pictured: blasphemy against the realm

Now, one would think that a gesture so minor (and ultimately foolish and futile) would be quickly forgotten. The key takeaway was that Michigan State was a better football team, top to bottom. They didn't need trickery or shoulder chips or #disrespekt, which is ultimately a stronger message. Man on man, State lined up and thrashed "big brother." Nevertheless, Michigan felt the need to apologize profusely, and Mark Dantonio felt the need to use it as an excuse to run in a late touchdown. This was what Dantonio said afterwards:

You might as well come out and say what you’re really feeling at some point in time, because I can only be diplomatic for so long, The ‘little brother stuff,’ all the disrespect…it didn’t have to go in that direction. We tried to handle ourselves with composure, and that doesn’t come from the coach, it comes from the program.

You know, throwing the stake down in our back yard out here, coming out here like they’re all that it got shoved up their…up their…shoved up…it got shoved the last minute and a half, and we’re not going to pull off of that.

That was the reason. That's what affected his decision-making in a football game: a tent peg. In the field. Before the game.

[These guys went long so hit THE JUMP]

Punt/Counterpunt: Illinois 2016

Punt/Counterpunt: Illinois 2016

Submitted by Brian on October 22nd, 2016 at 11:17 AM

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By Bryan MacKenzie

Ah, Homecoming. That annual tradition when we see the return of long-lost friends who look only vaguely familiar.

"Wait, don't tell me... Illinois, right? Oh, man, good to see you again. How's things with Tim? Still good? Oh... sorry to hear that."

This year's edition may be a nostalgic throwback in several ways. The last time Michigan played Illinois was 2012, when the Wolverines threw Tim Beckman a 45-0 farewell party. The last time Jim Harbaugh stood on the opposite sideline from Illinois was 1986, when he quarterbacked the Wolverines to a 69-13 hamblasting of the Illini. The last time he faced off against new Illinois hear coach Lovie Smith, Harbaugh's 49ers defeated Smith's Bears 32-7 in the game that saw the emergence of Colin Kaepernick as a starter. And the last time Harbaugh coached a game at Michigan Stadium, Michigan State was 2-1 and ranked in the top 25. My, how time flies.

On the other side of the ball, there's a good chance that Jeff George will be under center for Illinois. Not That Jeff George, of course. Not the two-year starter at Illinois who went on to be the #1 overall selection in the NFL draft before pissing off everyone he came in contact with in the NFL. That Jeff George  played two games against Michigan, getting outscored 62-19. No, this year's edition is his son, Jeff George, Jr. George the Younger is a redshirt freshman who was a two star greyshirt, and who has yet to see any real action. But now, with Wes Lunt questionable with a back injury (he missed the Rutgers game) and Chayce Crouch questionable with a shoulder injury (he could barely physically throw a football against Rutgers), George may be throwing the first passes of his collegiate career in the the Big House into a Don Brown defense.

So, all things being equal, history would seem to favor Michigan. But oh, good sweet galloping ghosts, nothing about this game is equal. Illinois is coming off a game in which they were outgained by Rutgers. The week before that they lost to Purdue, a team that fired its head coach eight days later and is PURDUE. They are giving up the most yards per pass in the Big Ten. They haven't won multiple road games in a season since 2010. And their backup quarterback this week might be a guy they moved from defensive back... this week.

Michigan, meanwhile, has been an absolute sower of destruction on defense.

  • They're in the top 5 in the country in most of the fancystats, including the top overall defense in S&P+ by an unfathomable amount. 
  • They're #1 the country in scoring defense (10.3 points per game). 
  • They're #3 in yards per carry allowed (2.86). 
  • They're #1 in yards per pass allowed (4.6) by more than half a yard. 
  • They're #1 in total yards per play allowed (3.58) by more than half a yard. 
  • They're #1 in 3rd down conversions allowed, and have only allowed 10 first downs ALL SEASON.

Oh, and they are also #2 in the country in scoring at 50 points per game.

If you average the scores of those four games I mentioned above, you get something that seems fair, if even generous, to Illinois under the circumstances. But above all, Homecoming is a time to honor the past. Michigan 52, Illinois 10.

nick-roumel13

COUNTERPUNT

by Nick RoUMel

Michigan and Illinois have had some memorable games. Mostly because Illinois isn’t always aware they’re supposed to suck, and they come in to the Big House to do noble battle. Sometimes they win, others they fall a tad short.

1981 – The Illini were 5-3 and loaded for bear against the 6-2 and 12th ranked Wolverines. They scored the first three times they had the ball behind all-Big 10 quarterback (and future New England Patriot) Tony Eason, roaring to a 21-7 first quarter lead.

Michigan went on to win 70-21. LOL.

1992 – The unranked visitors battled undefeated and #3 Michigan to a 22-22 tie. The Wolverines fumbled ten times, losing six.

1993 – Playing for a second consecutive year in Michigan Stadium, 26-point underdog Illinois stunned Michigan when Simeon Rice stripped Ricky Powers of the football in the final minute and the Illini drove for the touchdown to win 24-21.

1999 – Led by Tom Brady, the #9 Wolverines were supposed to have an easy time against unranked Illinois, and led 27-7 in the 3rd quarter. Illinois stormed back to win 35-29.

2001 – The last time both teams were ranked when they met, #17 Michigan defeated #21 Illinois 45-20. Despite the loss, the Illini won the conference, but lost to LSU in the Sugar Bowl.

2010 – Michigan’s 67-65 triple overtime victory was the highest scoring game in the history of the Big Ten - and indeed thrilling to watch, in sort of an icky way - especially when you realized afterwards that we gave up 8 more points in that game than Bo Schembechler’s defense gave up in the entire 1972 football season.

2012 – All was right with the world as a loaded Brady Hoke roster shut out Illinois 45-0 behind my all-time favorite Wolverine Denard Robinson. After that game, Hoke’s record at Michigan stood at 15-4. From that point forward, his teams went 16-16 before his inglorious firing.

2016 – Illinois is supposed to suck. They are a 28-point underdog to the #3 Wolverines. They sport two wins: against Murray State (the only college named after an accountant) and a truly woeful Rutgers squad.

On paper, today’s game is as bad a match as Man O’War vs. Upset. You remember this 1919 horse race, of course. It’s the only contest Man O’War lost in his career, to a 100-1 underdog, that gave us a name we still use 97 years later to describe a shocking, unexpected loss.

Illinois is no stranger to being an underdog. (Another language lesson: underdog and top dog come from dog fighting, referring to the relative position of the winner and loser.) The Illini have come into Michigan Stadium before, fearless and irrepressible, and shocked the Michigan sports world. Whenever the odds makers count them out, the Illini rise like ... like ....

... Nah, I just can’t do it. Brian, dude, I love you; but you just don’t pay me enough.

[ed note: fact]

MICHIGAN 80, ILLINOIS 3

Punt/Counterpunt: Rutgers 2016

Punt/Counterpunt: Rutgers 2016

Submitted by Brian on October 8th, 2016 at 10:56 AM

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By Bryan MacKenzie

On the surface, this is a mismatch. In fact, even below the surface, this is a mismatch. Okay, okay, so the layers go:

  • Mismatch
  • Mismatch
  • Mismatch
  • Mismatch
  • Crust
  • Mismatch
  • Nougat
  • Mismatch
  • Mismatch
  • Magma
  • Mismatch
  • Sesame Seed Bun

But if you dig deep enough, it's there. Something is changing in this series. You've gotta squint hard; it's like the fourth or fifth derivative. It's the rate of change in the rate of change of the rate of acceleration of the program. But Rutgers is slowly turning this thing around. And it starts for real today.

Rutgers is 2-1 against non-Top 5 opponents. They almost beat Iowa,who almost beat the team that won five straight national championships. They beat New Mexico, which is the fifth largest state in the country by area. They outscored mighty Washington (also a geographically large state) 10-0 in the fourth quarter. They forced JT Barrett into more interceptions than did Oklahoma.

Off the field, things are turning even faster. They already stole Ahmir Mitchell from the Wolverines, They have as many four-star commits in the current class as they've had in the last four recruiting classes combined. The Fence is in full operation, as Michigan hasn't landed a single commit from New Jersey in this class. Maybe Michigan's satellite camp shenanigans caught up to them, and served only to legitimize Chris Ash as a recruiting threat.

Sure, there are still some kinks to be worked out, such as the offense, defense, and special teams. But winning football games isn't about tactics or strategies or talent. It isn't even about having a general cohesive plan for scoring points or preventing the other team from scoring points. It's a positive mental outlook. And Rutgers has that. Their spirits will not be dampened by ONE mere 58-0 hamblasting. They won't slow down simply because they lost their best offensive player and their starting left tackle and their second best defender. Chris Laviano won't stop throwing the ball just because the last few dozen throws didn't go so well. Their secondary won't stop chasing receivers just because they have a couple of yard head start. No, sir. this defense will keep chasing and chasing and chasing.

Vegas, S&P+, and F+ all favor Michigan by at least thirty points. But this Rutgers team won't be intimidated by statistical realities. Because they have heart. Gumption. Pluck. And in front of tens of thousands of screaming fans this evening (many of whom will be cheering for the home team), Rutgers will shock the world. Thirty points? Clearly these guys don't know the *REAL* Rutgers. Michigan 29, Rutgers 0.

nick-roumel13

COUNTERPUNT

By Nick RoUMel

It is my goal to visit every Big Ten football venue. Trouble is, they’ve been adding teams faster than I can visit. I will be rocking Kinnick Stadium next month, which will leave Minnesota as the only traditional Big Ten venue to visit. But then there’s Nebraska, Maryland and Rutgers. So four more to go, barring another add.

Woe to those who did visit the Scarlet Pimpernel’s playground in 2014, Michigan’s first-ever joust with Rutgers. I watched the lowlights from that game this morning and watched as their senior quarterback Gary Nova torched our defense, and Michigan’s comeback fell short, 24-26.

It was odd watching De’Veon Smith score a touchdown in that game, because I have compartmentalized that version of the Wolverines as a completely different team.

Michigan was 2-3 as it traveled to Piscataway, a 3.5 point underdog, coming off the infamous home loss to Minnesota in which Dave Brandon suffered a probable major concussion to his career. People were not talking about Michigan football as a powerhouse, but as a national laughingstock. There were demonstrations and calls to boycott. Through it all, the team played with class and dignity; but could not shake the Scarlet Letter of the season, limping home with a 5-7 record.

You know the rest of the story. A scant two years later and Michigan is undefeated and a serious contender for the college football playoff. This remarkable turnaround is a testament to what happens when the entire team - from University administration, to the coaching and support staff, to those young men on the field – “believes in each other, doesn’t criticize each other, doesn’t talk about each other, and encourages each other,” to borrow a phrase from not so long ago.

Rutgers has gone the opposite direction, from a successful inaugural Big Ten season, to 4-8 last year, and an indifferent 2-2 this year. Today they are the home dog, by 30 points. Yes, 2014 was indeed a galaxy far, far away. There is no Scarlet Fever, only malaise. And at the end of the night, Rutgers shall be blue.

MICHIGAN 48, RUTGERS 3

Punt/Counterpunt: 2016 Wisconsin(?)

Punt/Counterpunt: 2016 Wisconsin(?)

Submitted by Brian on October 1st, 2016 at 11:14 AM

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Blue and Joe

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By Bryan MacKenzie

You may remember "Wisconsin" from your childhood, but if you don't, here's a brief refresher: Wisconsin is a state just west of Michigan that somehow claims to be the one shaped like a mitten.

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This is somewhat like Louisiana trying to claim the title of "the one shaped like the wang" from Florida, or Idaho trying to declare itself "The Great Rectangle State of the American West." But I digress.

The reason you may not remember Wisconsin very well is that Michigan hasn't played the Badgers since 2010. Both schools have gone through two coaching changes since then; Brady Hoke's Michigan never played Wisconsin, and Gray Andersen's Wisconsin played Michigan. The last time these two teams met, Wisconsin did to Michigan what Michigan just did to Penn State; they ran the same. damn. play. over. and. over. They ran for 357 yards at 6.2 yards per carry. Greg Robinson, who believe it or not was Michigan's defensive coordinator, rubbed a stuffed beaver in Kenny Demens' face on the sidelines. Remember 2010? 2010 was weird as hell. 2010 sucked in a lot of ways.

A lot has changed since 2010. Gas was $0.27 per gallon, but we didn't notice because cars ran on Arcade Fire and Four Loko. Our computers SUCKED at playing Jeopardy. We hadn't seen Anthony Weiner's Florida a single time. Rutgers still sucked, but they sucked WAY THE HELL OVER THERE. Global warming was still called global warming, and hadn't produced a single Sharknado.

2016 is emphatically not 2010.

2016 Wisconsin is not 2010 Wisconsin. You can see a family resemblance, of course. But those old Wisconsin teams always had a massive, immovable, road-grading offensive line consisting of three-star corn-fed midwesterners. 2016 Wisconsin's offensive line is fine, but they are far from the mass of murderous thunder-flesh that blew those RichRod teams three yards off the ball on every play.

2016 Michigan is also decidedly not 2010 Michigan. 2016 Michigan is the Michigan that runs the same play eight times in a row, because the opponent can't stop it. 2016 Michigan is the team that can throw "rock" on every snap because the rock is Wormley-shaped. 2016 Michigan is the river carving the canyon through simple operation of physics over time. And this game is when that really becomes clear. Michigan's defensive line will simply overwhelm Wisconsin's line, and they force Wisconsin's young quarterback to put the ball up and pray for rain. Meanwhile, Harbaugh uses a combination of crazy wizard magic and Jabrill Peppers (admittedly, these are related fields) to put points on the board against a stout defense.

Welcome to 2016, Bucky. Michigan 31, Wisconsin 7

nick-roumel13COUNTERPUNT

by Nick RoUMel

Last week Michigan fans came tantalizingly close to the exceedingly rare “quad-fecta.” Michigan trounced Penn State, Sparty was crushed by the Badgers, Notre Dame lost at home to Duke, and Ohio State did not win (drat … only because they didn’t play).

We also enjoyed two bonus games. Colorado, behind their second-string quarterback, won at Oregon - thus enhancing the value of Michigan’s win against the Buffalos. The other was 0-4 Furman’s 20 point drubbing by Coastal Carolina, a margin that exceeded Michigan State’s 28-13 home victory over the Paladins on opening day. Thus both of Sparty’s victories were significantly diminished Saturday.

(To be fair to Michigan State, as I must because I am married to a Spartan grad, it is looking like a rebuilding year for them; and I am certain they will come back strong behind their handsome and determined coach Mark Dantonio.)

I was curious enough to look up the last time we experienced an actual quad-fecta. You have to go back to September 12, 2009, when the Buckeyes lost to Southern Cal, MSU lost to Central Michigan [insert helplessly laughing emoji here], and Michigan stunned Notre Dame in the Big House, 38-34, on the legendary Tate Forcier’s pass to Greg Mathews with 11 seconds to play.

The last quad-fecta where none of these teams played each other happened on October 2, 2004. Michigan beat Indiana; and Ohio State (Northwestern), MSU (Iowa), and Notre Dame (Purdue) all went down ingloriously. No doubt Wolverine fans everywhere rejoiced long into the night.

Can we have another today?

Let’s start with Ohio State, which hosts Rutgers, a 38-point ‘dog. Unlikely.

The Flailing Irish travel to Syracuse as a 10 ½-point favorite. Could be an upset special.

And Michigan State, distracted by those pesky Dantonio-to-LSU rumors, visits Indiana as a shaky 6.5 point favorite. The non-horrible Hoosiers will give it a good shot.

Which brings me to UM.

This one makes me nervous. The oddsmakers are too generous here, giving 10 ½ points to Wisconsin, which is rolling like the thunder Mother Nature has in store for us on Saturday. Those behemoths on both sides of the ball are going to battle in the trenches a lot tougher then Pederast State did last week, and lefty QB Alex Hornibrook showed a lot of poise against the Spartan defense. The weather could also be a factor to slow down Michigan’s offense.

But Wisconsin is vulnerable in the secondary, which was lit up by 0-3 Georgia State’s Conner Manning two weeks ago (20-29, 269 yards, 1 TD) in an upset bid at Madison that fell just short, 23-17.

So what’s the call, Counterpunt?

Say it ain’t so, Superboy … it’s going to be a Bizarro quad-fecta:

WISCONSIN 28, MICHIGAN 27

OHIO STATE 54, RUTGERS 20

MICHIGAN STATE 23, INDIANA 15

NOTRE DAME 24, SYRACUSE 16

[Insert stunned Bizarro emoji here]

Punt/Counterpunt: Penn State 2016

Punt/Counterpunt: Penn State 2016

Submitted by Brian on September 24th, 2016 at 10:58 AM

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By Bryan MacKenzie

Fandom is an exercise in optimism untethered from reality. Every year, Vegas sports books put out a line on the Cleveland Browns winning the Super Bowl, and every year, people literally hand their own money to another human being with the understanding that they get nothing in return unless the Cleveland Browns win the Super Bowl. When a team is announced as a #11 seed in the NCAA tournament, its fans look at the bracket and see how hard their draw to the Final Four will be. I went back to watch the end of the Utah game a couple of years ago JUST IN CASE.

Fans are stupid about being fans. We know this. And we accept this, both in ourselves and in others. It actually makes the whole endeavor more entertaining; what would be the fun of College Gameday showing up at your school to signs like and "Covering the Spread For Harambe" and "Moral Victories are Victories Too?"

Ordinarily, we do not begrudge fans their optimism. We point and laugh at outlandish predictions, and we remind those optimistic fools of the error of their ways when their hopes are found wanting. but that's because we have all been blinded by fandom, and we know that some day we will be those blind fools predicting glorious victory over the windmills.

Penn State fans are not unlike Michigan fans (or fans of dozens of other schools) in their proclivity to predict great things for their program, whether or not such predictions are even remotely rational. And if it were any other team, I wouldn't be as annoyed when they predicted their team to cover the spread by 58 points, or declared their coach to be superior to Jim Harbaugh, who is destined to fail. Hell, Rutgers has been engaged in a similar battle of words with Michigan, and Michigan fans collectively see this as somewhere between amusing and downright cute.

But Penn State fans aren't just apologists for a bad football team. They are, from the Board of Trustees to the Athletic Department to a shocking and disappointing number of the fans, apologists for a man who hid child sexual abuse for decades. They talk, without a shred of self-awareness, about how much JoePa cared about the kids he coached. They make mealy-mouthed arguments about honoring Paterno's first team, not Paterno himself. They demand a return of the statue. They threaten to sue anyone and everyone. They quote Martin Luther King.

So when Penn State fans scream "CONSPIRACYYYYYY" every time the referees call a hold or add two seconds to the clock, it just serves to remind everyone how far from reality they have drifted, and that the disconnect extends way beyond the football field. That the toxic, deluded culture that permitted so much damage continues to exist, and that five years later they still don't get it. And yes, I know that a throttling on the football field probably won't change anything. But it couldn't make it worse. And it would feel damn good.  Michigan 34, Penn State 8

nick-roumel13COUNTERPUNT

by Nick RoUMel

I promised myself I would try to get through an entire article about Penn State without once mentioning the permanent stain of corruption on the program and the entire school. But there are things that become forever identified with one thing that defines them. These include people, places, institutions and even dates (just ask anyone whose birthday is September 11). What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when someone says they attended Penn State University? Oh, yeah, that Thing. Nice meeting you; I think my Uber is here.

The Nittany Lions wear this thing as a badge of defiance, what former safety Malcom Willis once described as the “us against the world” mentality. Coach James Franklin, with his relentlessly positive attitude and the official end of scholarship sanctions, is trying to return the football program to normalcy and prominence. But Penn State still see themselves as underdogs.

The problem is that unlike other underdogs, Penn State is not loveable. Even before the Thing, they were jerks. When they joined the Big Ten, they boasted that they would dominate the league. Pennsylvania’s Lt. Governor said of the merger, “What it means is that Penn State fans can make plans to attend a Rose Bowl in the very near future.”

It didn’t work out as they had hoped. While 1994 was a very good year for them, it was their only outright title. Northwestern has won or shared as many since Penn State joined the league. And as for Michigan, the Wolverines rang up ten straight victories from 1997-2015* under coaches Lloyd Carr and Jim Harbaugh, while Penn State fans groused about ridiculous conspiracy theories, such as Coach Carr’s ability to personally add two seconds to the clock.

But see, that’s the difference between our programs. Our embarrassing thing is a bad hire or two. We get an awful AD, we pretty much scrub him from history. That’s done more easily when the man was a loser both on and off the field. The problem Penn State has is that Joe Paterno and his minions were winners, and people too often look the other way when the wrongdoers are otherwise successful. That’s why Penn State still has its fits of moral ambiguity, such as when it “honored” Paterno at its last home game.

Well, I broke my promise to myself that I wouldn’t write about the Thing. So let’s talk football:

MICHIGAN WOLVERINES 42, PENN STATE PEDERASTS, 20-TO-LIFE

[*Michigan temporarily suspended its football program from 2008-2014.].

Punt/Counterpunt: Colorado 2016

Punt/Counterpunt: Colorado 2016

Submitted by Brian on September 17th, 2016 at 11:28 AM

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Blue and Joe

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By Bryan MacKenzie

In case you missed it, Colorado tried to be cute with their depth chart. And pretty much every media outlet responded with a headline about Jim Harbaugh not being ‘amused.’

The implication of that headline is that Harbaugh found it stupid or distasteful. Or maybe he judged it to be a failed joke; it was an amusing idea, but was poorly executed. However, from all outward indications, the truth is likely is that Jim Harbaugh is the kind of guy who divides all information into two categories: 1) information that is relevant to the task at hand, and 2) why are you telling me this?

Colorado sent us a funny depth chart? Why would they do that? They could have been using that time to break down film or find a more efficient route to the stadium. And why would you show it to me? This does not help me win this football game. I’m not going to waste disk drive space or RAM on this, when I could be spending that computing power on a fullback wheel route.

He does not take vacations. He doesn't get sick. He doesn't observe major holidays. He is a jackhammer.

Harbaugh is not unlike a number of successful top-tier football coaches in this way. The line between this kind of behavior and mental illness is a fine one (as this week’s Urban Meyer piece artfully demonstrated). But while it may lead some to point and laugh at the way he interacts with the world, it also means that Jim Harbaugh isn’t going to leave anything on the table.

Why does this matter for Colorado? Because while Colorado isn’t awful, they also aren’t very good. And more importantly, they aren’t a complete team. They have a few strong pieces, but they have some glaring deficiencies. And if you have Jim Harbaugh throwing wearing the headset, those weaknesses are going to be exploited. Betting on Harbaugh to either not notice, or to not find a way to take advantage of, an opponent’s weaknesses, especially when they are not particularly small not well disguised, is an unwise gamble.

Why would you even send me a depth chart? I’ve already watched every snap you’ve ever put on film. I know your backup quarterback’s favorite color, and the shoe size of your associate athletic director. We might not need the trebuchets I’ve specially designed to the type of stones you’ve used to construct these walls, but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to build them just in case.

Michigan 41, Colorado 7.

nick-roumel13COUNTERPUNT

by Nick RoUMel

Scotty Frost, the half-championship, half-baked half-wit, was only half right. Despite last week’s 51-14 thrashing, Frost boasted that his Knights “outhit” Michigan. I was reminded of the Black Knight from Monday Python and the Holy Grail, brushing off his quadruple amputation as a “scratch” and a “flesh wound:”

“We’ll call it a draw, then.”

While it might be more accurate to say that CFU “out-held” Michigan, Frost did have a point. Our offensive line wasn’t blowing anyone off the ball; the defense gave up yardage; and the Wolverines looked curiously lackluster at times - despite the final score.

The good news is that our passing game seems ahead of where it was last year, when Jake Rudock was rusty in early games. Wilton Speight, blessed by a splendid receiving corps and enough time on pass blocking, took full advantage of the Knights packing the box to stop the run. With CFU daring the pass, Coach Harbaugh was happy to oblige; whereas certain past coaches in the same circumstance would keep trying to “establish the running game.” (Fitz Toussaint’s 27 carries for 27 yards, anyone?)

Colorado gives us a much harder matchup than CFU, is coming off two impressive victories, and is projected to play in a bowl despite a ferociously difficult schedule. In short: they are the real deal. They can pile up yards in a hurry, led by their dual-threat quarterback Sefo Liufau (a cross between Lucy Liu and a loofah).