I’m writing this — a football column on Michigan’s 42-7 win over Rutgers, in Piscataway — from the Crisler Center press box. And, well, the basketball game was more competitive. If you didn’t think it would be, you probably either overestimated the basketball team, or underestimated how terribly bad the Scarlet Knights are at playing football.
Jim Harbaugh tried his best to praise Rutgers after the game. He really, truly, tried his hardest. After being asked a question about the large contingent of Michigan fans that showed up in New Jersey, he turned it around to praise Scarlet Knights’ fans, and by proxy, the Scarlet Knights.
“Rutgers has a — that was a good — I thought their home fan base was really good,” Harbaugh said. “The team was really improved and competitive. That’s a competitive football team. They did as good a job of anybody at containing our running game and also really impressed with their young backs. And they run hard, those guys. Quarterback looked good, too. He made some real plays. That was a competitive game. Knew it would be, going in. We saw the way they played Northwestern. Saw the way they played Indiana. That’s a team that’s very close to breaking through and winning multiple games, consecutive games. Rob does a really good job with the team. Thought they had a really good plan offensively and defensively.”
Let’s parse this.
[After THE JUMP: Some parsing]
First, Rutgers’ home fan base is not good. Sorry. It’s just not. I’m from New York. I’ve had zero casual conversations about Rutgers in my life that didn’t center on how pathetic the Scarlet Knights are — and most of those have been with Michigan media or fans.
We’ll let, “their team is really improved and competitive,” slide on two grounds. The first is, it’s a low bar. The second is that last time Michigan was in Piscataway, it won 78-0. Technically, there’s some fact here. Same for the bit about the Scarlet Knights’ running backs — Isaih Pacheco broke an 80-yard run for Rutgers’ only real bright spot all game.
Then there’s this: “Quarterback (Artur Sitkowski) looked good, too. He made some real plays. That was a competitive game.”
That's generous, at best. Harbaugh, of course, can’t say the truth without causing controversy. Artur Sitkowski is having a terrible season, and played terribly in this game, going 8-of-19 for 40 yards with an interception. The game was over by halftime — and for Rutgers, that’s an accomplishment. This school should be shot from the Big Ten out of a cannon.
Harbaugh did, accidentally, let slip a little honesty within that long, winding quote. “That’s a team that’s very close to breaking through and winning multiple games, consecutive games,” he said.
Multiple games — that may be a glass ceiling the Scarlet Knights can shatter. In fact, they’ve already done it this season, beating Texas State and Morgan State. The next barrier will be losing to Kansas by less than 40. Then, and only then, maybe we’ll start thinking about the remote possibility of winning a Big Ten game.
Of course, the last part of that quote can’t go unmentioned. The allusion to Rob. Who is Rob? It seems that Rob is Rutgers coach Chris Ash, whose name Harbaugh simply got wrong.
Regardless of what Harbaugh says — of what anyone says — that shows just how much thought was put into this game by the Wolverines.
The scoreline? That shows how much thought they needed to put into it.