For the third year in a row, Brian (Not That Brian) at House Rock Built and I have put down the blunderbusses and come together to talk Michigan-ND. For the second year in a row, we’ve spent most of the time grimly laughing at each other and ourselves.
It’s a better time than it sounds like. Part I is over at HRB; I suggest you read that first because it features one of the greatest Michigan farks of all time.
So, the San Diego State game didn't exactly go as planned. I hesitate to ask this because the most obvious retort to the question is "I know you are but what am I," but how does a legit D-I team struggle to put up 20 points on a team returning the third-worst defense in D-I that just lost to a I-AA team and had a million man march of injured defensive linemen?
A little thing I call the trademark Notre Dame self-immolation offense and special teams. Hilarious blunders became such a hallmark of the 2007 Notre Dame team that I'm pretty sure any time a broadcaster uses the term "unforced error", they have to pay Charlie Weis like 39 cents in royalties. Two goofed field goal attempts and two turnovers in the end zone really were the heart of the matter. Take those out, and you're looking at a three touchdown Irish victory.
These goof-ups are much more the norm for this team then they are an aberration, so it's pointless to speculate what would happen if you magically "took them out"
Okay. Did the offensive line look any better?
I really don't know. We couldn't create any rushing game at all against a defensive line that, terrible to begin with, was crushed with so many injuries that I'm pretty sure I saw the mascot playing tackle for a few series. That being said, they did create time for Jimmy to throw the ball, and "zero sacks allowed" are three words I had forgotten existed in the English language. I'll give them an incomplete for now. At any rate, they can't possibly be any worse.
Indeed, they cannot, but Clausen Sacked By All DL picture goes here
even if that wasn't the OL's fault.
That's the facet of the game I'm most confident about: the Michigan DL stomping the ND OL, but they can take that all away with a goofy three-step drop passing game. Got any little guys with dreads? Or the inkling that a bunch of slants and curls can go off without someone screwing up? I fear precision. Got any of that?
There's a glimmer of hope there. First and foremost, Jimmy Clausen looks like a completely different person. So different, in fact, that I think he's been secretly replaced by his mulleted Canadian half-brother, Jacques Clauseneaux. His arm has completely healed from his surgery last year, and he has shown a brand new ability to deliver the ball with zip and precision, particularly when he's rolling out. That bodes well.
Similarly, it looks like Golden Tate is turning into a real receiver. He doesn't have dreadlocks, but he apparently learned how to run routes in the offseason. Last year, he was a one-trick, go-route guy. In this last game, he was tearing it up with cutback routes, posts, and gut-check slants that involve snagging the ball in traffic and absorbing crushing hits from half the defense. Between Clausen's improved throws and Tate's ability to catch in traffic, there's a faint hope of that magical “precision.”
So why is the hope only faint? Other than the blindingly obvious.
Brian, you don't know what pain is. You can pretend you do, but you've never lived through a season like we did last year. It was colon surgery without anesthesia. When your soul is crushed at that level, you do what it takes to survive: learn to never love again.
Or at the very least, never to feel openly optimistic about anything again.
Hey, man, you birthed one ugly baby last year, but imagine giving birth to that ugly baby OVER THE SPAN OF THREE HOURS ON
NATIONAL TV REGIONAL SYNDICATION THE BIG TEN NETWORK.
Cry me a river... we lost to that ugly baby 38-0.
Oh I have known pain. If Hypothetical Wife gives birth to Hypothetical Future National Championship Winning Quarterback I Don't Care If It's A Girl at some future point and Hypothetically Screams at me "YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT THIS FEELS LIKE" I'm just going to show her my printouts of the last field goal.
I take mine everywhere.
Tis a bare existence, this life.
Yeah, seriously, this has been lame the last few years. Do you have a crazy ninja punter?
Negatory. Your punter is the James Bond villain. Ours is unremarkable.
We have a crazy ninja punt coverage team gunner. Does that count?
No. Because, no, seriously, Miami's punter was from beyond space.
Man, that would be nice.
We don't even have a kicker that's, like, college-level. Where's this secret cave that grows all these Michigan kickers whose weigh 345 pounds and wear the number 63?
You think Michigan has a cave that grows kickers? We think Ohio State has a cave that grows kickers.
Why is Mike “Ted” Nugent being instructed by Mike Krzyeweasfizski
in a Tressel costume? It is the mystery.
Our guys are all little fat guys who can only kick 35 yarders but are accurate.
How's the defense, BTW? Our offensive line is now (maybe) starting a walk-on at left tackle. Got anything to exploit that?
Our defense is Tenutatastic... the magical Blitz By God Blitz Everybody style really came out against SDSU's pass-happy offense. They were able to dink and dunk around it, but by keeping all of their plays with under two seconds, it was hard for them to do any real damage. Our nickelback Sergio Brown suddenly burst on the scene as a blitzing maniac, and he spent the whole day in the backfield.
With Michigan, I think the idea will be to get into the quarterback's face as much as possible. If we can find some fleshy sweet spots in the line to blitz through, it'll make things quite nice. On the other hand, well-run misdirection plays like the ones you peppered Miami with in the first half might have a good chance at exploiting our overcommitting blitzers. SDSU had two gargantuan gains on little shovel passes in the middle behind the blitzers (that is, until we adjusted and picked their third one off).
Yeah, I'm actually with Rakes of Mallow on this: I wouldn't blitz this Michigan offense much unless it was an obvious passing down. If you sit back and maintain responsibility eventually they'll shoot themselves in the face and punt.
One interesting thing I saw in the Miami game: our leetle center—who dissed Weis after committing to Michigan, BTW—was really, really good at cutting off opposing NTs in the zone stretch. But against Utah his butt ended up touching the ball like four times. It is never good when someone's butt touches the ball. Rule 1 of football: do not let your butt touch the ball. Vince Lombardi told me that.
Anyway, I think the deal with him is that he can seal off anyone because he's small (ish) and quick (ish) but if you can pick him up and drive him backwards Michigan's run game dies. Ian Williams is the NT, right? What's his deal?
He's a big fella, but probably not an actual NT. He's more of a DT that is taking that spot in the scheme mostly due to girth. He's a little bit of a mystery, as he's a young guy who showed some promise as a substitute last year. I'm not sure if he'll be able to blast the center's butt into the football, but if he takes my advice, he'll pin him down after the whistle and forcefully jam the football into his butt. That way, everybody wins.
So at least I win.
And Tom Hammond.
[Ed. note: TOM HAMMOND WOULD LIKE YOU TO KNOW HE IS VERY INTERESTED IN THE BUTT FOOTBALL JAMMING YES MY EYES ARE BURNING INTO YOUR SOUL AREN’T THEY.]
I'd ask about your secondary now but I figure they can watch balls sail ten yards over their head as well as anyone else can.
My seats are in row 68. Should I bring my baseball mitt?
I would go with the hockey helmet--full cage, of course.
Nah... clashes with my cape
Do you have singlet? You are the man who gave USF Singlet Guy to the world, after all.
And he gave himself to me. Good times.
Tom Hammond is now quivering with excitement.
“Oh... wide open.”
Seriously, though, is it a requirement for Michigan fans that they have to wear a cape to the game?
Just that one water buffalo guy.
I saw a couple on TV. I guess he started a trend.
Hey, capes are cool. Also when you wear a Michigan cape it kind of looks like you're really into summations. Which is double-cool. And by "double cool" I mean "the exact opposite of that."
Special teams we've touched upon: kicker still tetchy?
Beyond tetchy. Last week saw one honest miss, one extra point that just baaaarely made it, and a botched snap. God help us all if this comes down to a last second field goal.
Awesome. FWIW, Kicking Competency Lopata nailed a couple long ones and missed a more makeable one.
I think we've covered everything now. It's down to the undoubtedly humiliating section of the talking. Predictions.
So... who do you have?
Well, there's a good chance it will rain. And if Mike Valenti taught us anything, it's that you shouldn't run the spread option in Hurricane Katrina.
So I say Notre Dame wins on a defensive touchdown. And I will go double or nothing on last year's prediction that Jimmy Clausen will propose to Scarlett Johansson at midfield immediately after the game.
What have you got? First, score prediction, then absurd event not related to actual gameplay prediction.
I've got nothing, really. I mentioned this earlier in the week: nothing short of Notre Dame starting a hippogriff at middle linebacker would surprise me. I keep seeing 1) long ND touchdowns caused by horrible M safety play and 2) Clausen getting mauled, fumbling, and Yakety Sax playing.
So I kind of think Michigan has to get set up with two short fields and capitalize to win. I think there's a 55% chance they get those and tentatively suggest M 21, ND 20. It will be at this point that God emerges from the clouds and declares himself an Oklahoma State fan.
Which, weirdly, would explain everything.
I think we both can agree that, either way, this game will set the sport of football back 40 years.
Anyone planning a "Yakety Sax" montage has to include both teams. This we plead. Unless it's just a lopsided asswhooping. But you can't have one of those in a 5-4 game.
And now… 100% pure nightmare fuel!