We have seen a number of Board posts about how struggling against UMass was a wake up call and therefore not such a bad thing. By the fifth one, it was tiresome. So naturally I decided to elevate the discussion to the diary.
The reason is that several elements have been missed:
1. If UMass were the first game, overreacting to the defensive performance would make sense, but we have two other data points that, while this defense may not have the ability to make you forget the 97 D, they have ability to function adequately. Is Sparty lamenting their D this morning? No. There is obviously a distribution of performances forthcoming from any team, from Appalachian State to Florida in Lloyd's last year for example. If you take our Florida performance that year and install it against ASU, they would still be gathering body parts of walk-on Mountaineers. If you take our ND performance and install it against UMass, we score 60+ points with the extra TOP and win by 40.
2. It has reinforced a meme that Michigan can't play D, which is a very good thing for the Sparty game. My guess is that we give up some points to BG and Indiana, too. Such a young and thin D will have a wider standard deviation in performance with the peak performance coming during high motivation games. Having Sparty thinking Michigan's D is tissue paper will only help, whether it is tissue paper or not. Sparty's D last year, if you read Brian's preview, was tissue paper, and Sparty deviated in a high-motivation game to kick our offenses ass for three quarters.
3. It can't get any worse. Now, many of you may laugh at the implication that Wisconsin and OSU can't outperform UMass on Offense, but they pretty much can't. UMass dominated TOP - which will be the number one anti-Denard potion going forward - and gashed us with 1st down rushing. They employed the perfect beat-Michigan formula, which we allowed due to a deviant performance on D. I would argue our D against top opponents will perform closer to the ND data point than the UMass data point. So even a superior team may only rise to the productivity of UMass on Saturday. In other words, Wisconsin can, I would argue, at best hope to duplicate UMass's result. That would be bad, of course, but then...
4. Open the playbook that was closed for much of the UMass game (except for panic time) and the Wisconsins of the world will be contending with a different offense. All in all, probably a push.
5. Finally, the most commonly made point: it is a good kick in the ass for anyone and everyone who was starting to believe a little too much hype.
Would we feel that much better or know that much more about our team if Michigan won comfortably against a horrid team? I will take the W knowing that they mailed it in and still won...and that they learned a lesson. There's a lot of kids playing meaningful miuntes on D who have no frame of reference like Toledo and Appy State.