12/29/2018 – Michigan 15, Florida 41 – 10-3, 7-1 Big Ten
I probably shouldn't have started the season with a dissertation on the Black Pit of Negative Expectations, because now what? I'm sure I've repeated myself in this space quite a bit, but I feel like I'm completely out of reactions to games that aren't so much deflating as imploding. I've talked about the Black Pit, mattresses, message boards, and Hell over little more than a calendar year. When I start writing something usually there's a kernel of something I've been thinking about to expand upon. Not so much right now.
This is mostly because I stopped thinking about Michigan's bowl game during the game. Like many people, some of them in pads and a helmet. Everyone knew that Michigan's season ended with the debacle in Columbus. This add-on exhibition was less an opportunity to accomplish something than an unwelcome reminder of college football's existence.
[After the JUMP: a humorous name for one's billy-berries]
I dunno, man. There's been one season that ended well during the existence of this blog, and that was the fool's gold 2011 season when a lurching .500 Ohio State team under Luke Fickell nearly beat Michigan with a freshman Braxton Miller and then Michigan won the Sugar Bowl with approximately three yards of total offense.
Every other season has featured a loss to Ohio State and usually a bowl dorf. Even when Michigan is legitimately good the season ends in a kick to the ol' yimble-yamble. This year's pratfall was exquisitely designed to turn you into a nihilist: first the 700-yard game by OSU, then the team Michigan always beats turns them into leather and bones.
It wears on you. It wears worse when Michigan has literally replicated Michigan State's in-stadium experience and games are the same fucking Buick commercial repeated 15 times with one play in between.
So: on the one hand this was a game in which Michigan's defense didn't have Rashan Gary, Aubrey Solomon, Devin Bush, Kwity Paye, and Devin Gil for most of the game, the former three for the whole of it. Jordan Glasgow played inside linebacker for a half. Those who did play didn't seem to care very much, which is a thing that happens. A deflated Georgia just got trucked by a Texas team that didn't seem on their level all season.
On the other, Michigan had 50 seconds and two timeouts on the clock, ran for three yards, and called timeout with under 20 seconds on the clock. Michigan's buffoonery before the half isn't a motivation issue. It's something that's plagued Michigan since Harbaugh's arrival. There is no tempo package, in 2018. Down 17 with the end of the third quarter approaching Michigan was still huddling and snapping the ball with under five seconds on the game clock. They had a ten-play, five-minute drive on which the average play stripped 31.4 seconds off the clock. At the end of it they were still down two touchdowns.
Michigan is 124th in S&P+'s pace metric, and the surprising bit of that is that they're not dead last. This is year four. In year four you've got a pretty good idea of what the final product is going to look like. This isn't a bug for Harbaugh, it's a feature.
The last two years Michigan has seemingly scrapped their preseason plan a few games in. There's a ton of coaching turnover, with guys coming in for one year and then bailing. Recruiting has gone in fits and starts; even this year when Michigan's class is the best in the league they still had some baffling in-state failures seemingly brought about by disorganization. The pace of play also speaks to that disorganization.
All of this is probably permanent, and it'll stop Michigan from being an actual power. There will be a breakthrough at some point… probably. I hope I'll be able to appreciate it; I wonder if the whole thing where I look dead-eyed upon another set of hopes going up in the same flames may mute any response I might have to actually winning any damn thing:
The flaw in BPONE operations is of course the impossibility of mining any enjoyment out of your experience. BPONE sufferers assume a football game is a negative emotional event and spread those negative emotions out more broadly. Only if the team should actually come back and win will any regret be felt, and pffffffffft. I'm in the pit, baby! I know for a stone cold fact that a punt snap will somehow lodge itself in the facemask of the punter. I feel it in my bones that the one time we jump a route in this game the ensuing interception will bang off the defensive back's hands and lodge itself in the facemask of the opposition 50 yards downfield.
For now: relief that I don't have to think about this nearly as much for seven months. Basketball school: activate.