Is irrational exuberance blossoming in Ann Arbor?
In a 1996 speech about the dot com boom Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan popularized the term “irrational exuberance.” The market was overheating he argued, and he warned that all market bubbles must eventually burst. And as we know, after a dazzling few years, the dot com hype eventually gave way to the cold harsh reality that businesses actually have to, you know, make a profit.
Brandon Peters came in for a struggling John O’Korn on Saturday and immediately made Michigan’s offense look more competent. Peters himself looked calm and in command, completing passes to nine different receivers and recording his first touchdown pass (and just as importantly – not throwing any interceptions). His presence on the field clearly energized his team. When Peters entered the game halfway through the 2nd quarter it was tied at 7-7. By half the Wolverines were up 21-7. Peters’ second half performance was drama free, allowing Michigan’s running game to close out the victory. Clearly the Messiah has arrived.
Skeptics have pointed out that Peters was playing Rutgers, was not asked to do much, showed some signs of hesitation out there, and that even if he is the next Messiah, there will be significant growing pains along the way. Others have noted that O’Korn looked like the answer after Purdue, only to be revealed as a false prophet. All bubbles, they seem to be saying, must eventually burst.
Maybe so, but after Saturday’s game fans were in no mood for such logic. Brandon Peters’ performance on Saturday not only satisfied the demands of growing chorus of fans calling for a quarterback change, it also seems to have reignited hopes for a season many had written off as lost. The result: both the game satisfaction index (73.9) and the season satisfaction index (62.9) are at their highest levels since Purdue despite the fact that Michigan did not in fact cover the spread. Interestingly, there was no difference this week between hot takes and cold takes. It just felt good.
Figure 1. Rutgers Game Satisfaction
Figure 2. Season Satisfaction after Rutgers
Michigan has clearly entered the roller coaster portion of its season. Figure 3 shows the whiplash fans have been through the last month.
Figure 3: The Season So Far
Themes, Thoughts, Trends
Looking back at Figure 3 you will note that this is the first week where the game satisfaction level was higher than fans’ satisfaction with the season as a whole. I think this reflects at least two things. First, many fans started the season with very high expectations, which was reinforced by the win against Florida. That, combined with a series of underwhelming wins, saw season satisfaction continue to outpace game satisfaction even as it dropped after losses to MSU and PSU.
Second, as jazzed as fans may be about Peters, even the Messiah can’t undo the losses already suffered. Nor are most fans ready to believe – yet – that Peters can deliver them to the promised land (victory against the Buckeyes) this season. This week’s results might just reflect a sort of rational irrational exuberance. Irrational hopes about the future with Peters mixed with lingering ennui and doubts about beating the Buckeyes. Sounds like a fan to me.
The Road Ahead
Vegas has Michigan a 14.5 favorite over the Gophers this week. I’m holding my breath to see what the Messiah looks like in his first start. You can feel the fan base holding its breath. If Peters fires two or three touchdown passes will fans lose their sh*t and start promising victories over Wisconsin and Ohio State? How do folks feel if Peters looks human and Michigan pulls out a close one? And God forbid, do the walls cave in if Peters looks like a freshman and Michigan stumbles again under the lights? We shall see.