Monday, October 27, 2008

Third Down...of DOOM!

I whipped up a quick MGoDiary about how Michigan's third down defense has spelled its doom this season, particularly in the last three games.

I posted it there in tribute to Brian's strong penchant for data analysis and NOT because I am trying to win a t-shirt.

You can find the post here.

When you look at it, oy.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Where Do We Go From Here?

Let's start with doing the right thing. Congratulations to Michigan State and its fans. You were the better team this year and you got a well deserved win. That's it. No back-handed compliment, no vows of revenge, no warnings for the future. Just a simple nod of congratulations. See you next October.

It was a strange feeling last night to realize that for the first time in my life, I want a Michigan season to be over. I never have felt this way before. The end of the season always meant the longest period of waiting for a new season to start. But this year, I'm just looking at the last four games and waiting for the conclusion. It's a strange feeling, because I refuse to give up on the season, but I also don't know how much more of this season I can take.

I don't know what else to say. In each of Michigan's last three Big Ten games, Michigan has taken a lead, only to see the opponent roar back with a metric ton of unanswered points. The defense, which was bend, but don't break, is not giving up massive plays, particularly on third and long. The offense is maddeningly inconsistent, which I will attribute to the youth and inexperience of the starters, but even still, it just boggles the mind to see things happen that you just know aren't right.

But, what are we to do? We can't make them play better? We cannot urge them on to anything more than what they do already. We can't tell them to practice harder, or to "make plays". We're kind of stuck here. But we are here. We're here because we choose to be here. Because we have committed ourselves to something larger than ourselves, rain or shine. We're here because in the dark, we learn who we truly are as fans. We're reminded how much certain other segments of the college football world holds us in disdain for who we are and revels in our failure. But mostly we're here because it's where we need to be.

So, where do we go from here? We sit, we wait, we hope, and we're reminded that sometime next August, we'll be 0-0 again, and a new season will await. But until then, we're sitting here, cold, wet, and angry, but here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Posts Full of Links Are Easy

Last chance to enjoy this as the reigning image in the rivalry:

Former Wolverine Mike Van Ryn felt the need to tear down some of the barriers between fans and players last night in Boston.

That's gotta smart. (HT: Awful Announcing)

Michael Rosenberg talks more about Dantonio and in-state recruiting. A reminder from Craig (who took it from an MGoDiary by chitownblue): Of Michigan's 10 career leaders in rushing yards and receiving yards, respectively, only one of each has come from the in-state ranks (Tyrone Wheatley and Braylon).

Yost Built on Niagara and the upcoming tilt at BU, including ways to actually watch the game.


WTI: Sparty Time

Craig: Good evening and welcome once again to Whatever This Is (Lite Edition). I'm Craig Barker, and I'm not even feeling this week like I should.
Geoff: It's that feeling that we're the entire Big Ten's punching bag, and that Little Brother will take out eight seasons of frustration on us.
Craig: Don't you mean six? Oh, right, never mind.
Craig: I just, it's maddening, we see flashes, glimmers of hope, and they are taken away by the harbinger of doom
Geoff: Things started out so well for us against Penn State, but the inevitable was always staring us in the face.
Craig: I steeled myself to not get too excited. And yet, that little bit of hope, it is a dangerous thing. I mean, I had pretty much decided Michigan was going to be destroyed. And then we weren't. So then I wondered how badly it was going to end
Geoff: When Threet came out, that was it. And even before then, giving up that late score in the first half made life a lot more difficult.
Craig: Now, I find myself more interested in the Penn State/Ohio State matchup this weekend than the Michigan State/Michigan tilt. I'm still looking forward to going and whatnot, but it just feels like Little Brother will pull it together and get the job done. And that makes me sad.
Geoff: We could have another moment of "Sparty, no!", but you can't count on that to bail you out forever.
Geoff: I have to say, Brandon Graham probably should have kept his mouth shut on the upcoming festivities.
Craig: You know what, though (and I mean this): I didn't mind what Brandon Graham said. It shows me that the team still believes. I took it as being more about Michigan and less about State. Dantonio said himself that it was kind of weak for BB material and I must agree.
Craig: I don't know, I guess I just like that there still seems to be some fight in this team. Brandon Minor looked good on Saturday. I hope he can keep that up, mix in some McGuffie, see what happens
Geoff: Dantonio seems a lot more circumspect this year. We don't hear about any countdown clocks or moments of silence. There was that whole thing about having the reporter repeat the names of the crappy teams we've lost to at home since 1990, but that's pretty weak too.
Geoff: Me too. Minor was running hard and holding onto the football. It was an impressive performance from him. Before, it feels like his big performances usually included a long run distorting his YPC, but this seemed a more consistent one.
Craig: Agree. The 4th and 1 conversion sold me. That was a literal hard yard.
Craig: I'm trying too hard not to read the tea leaves, but at some point after Toledo did Rich Rod say "Everyone is benched, you win back your starting jobs starting today!" and that's where we ended up with the line up we did?
Geoff: I wouldn't be opposed to that strategy. It goes along with the quote in the weight room about reverting to the level of your preparation. You play well in practice, you get time on the field.
Craig: So, how can we be nice to Nick Sheridan? His safety was not "as bad" as Dan Orlovsky's that week, no?
Geoff: No, it wasn't. He was actually tackled.
Craig: And he did nearly get the pass off. To an o-lineman, but still, good situational awareness.
Geoff: What do you think the offensive and defensive keys will be this weekend?
Craig: I think on offense, it will be good, time-consuming drives where Michigan can adapt to the game-planning of MSU's defense and change things up. Also, it almost goes without saying, a healthy Stephen Threet.
Geoff: I'm picking pass protection on offense. Like you said, healthy Threet is necessary, and he has to be able to make it through a full game.
Craig: On defense, it's building up what worked against Wisconsin, getting good contain on Ringer and making Brian Hoyer beat us, which, admittedly, with our safety play lately, is not exactly a challenge I am thrilled to be offering.
Geoff: It gives us a better chance to win than if Ringer piles up the yards. And Hoyer being irresponsible with the football could work to our advantage, if our DBs can manage to catch an interception right on the numbers, Charles Stewart.
Craig: I also think field position will be critical. And remember, we're looking at a rainy Saturday, so you know, even on the field turf, strange things can happen.
Geoff: I'm curious what this "Trains" show from the MMB will be about. And there's going to be some sort of combined performance with the SMB.
Craig: I am curious as well. I hope a little "Chattanooga Choo-Choo", a little "City of New Orleans" and ending with some "Meet Virginia"
Geoff: A little bit of "Oh Streetcar"?
Craig: Long before the Superdome, where the Saints of Football play...lived a city that the damned called home....hear their hellish rondolette!
Craig: Why can I remember this and not understand basic microeconomics remains a mystery to me to this day.
Craig: Well, that's all for this lite edition of WTI. Enjoy the game this weekend, be nice to the Sparties, because...see, I don't even have the joke this week. It's just very sad. Go Blue.
Geoff: Let's hope we can keep one streak alive this year, and I'm not talking about the OSU one. Go Blue.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Liveblog: Hockey vs. Niagara

It's a Purps-centric "NSN" crew tonight. Apparently there's a revenge factor. Michigan stole their dream? Really? And would winning a non-conference regular season game really be an equalizer?

Ouch, Ted Cook is out with a broken hand. That's rough for the Purple Eagles.

The new uniforms look sharp and the regular hockey band is in for this Thursday night game.

Apparently Niagara isn't intimidated by this kind of atmosphere. Good to know, Walrus In a Suit. Hogan gets the start tonight, as Yost Built anticipated.

Rust wins the faceoff, but the puck is quickly tipped out of play. Michigan wins the next one and moves it quickly into the Purps' zone. Palushaj tries to find someone in front of hte net, but fails. Back and fort play again. Finally, Turnbull gts a near-breakaway and a shot on net, but Niagara's Anderson got a weak-ish hook on him, so the anemic powerplay gets a shot. Michigan gains the zone. Pateryn has a sharp-angle shot that nearly goes in, and then Turnbull thinks he has one, but Pagliero kept it in front of him. They clear the zone, but Palushaj comes back in and nearly snipes one.

Michigan's been dominating on the draw. Oooh. Pass to Hagelin from behind the net went to the wrong side or else that was a sure goal. Clear. The power play expires. A little pressure, but Michigan is flying. Wohlberg tries a centering pass from the slot on the rush, but his intended target is covered.

After a clear, Michigan tries to take it out of their zone, but a turnover at the blue line stops that. It comes to nothing, but on the other end Summers has his shot blocked and it turns into a rush beautifully broken up by a sprawling Pateryn.

14:00 left. Oooh. A Purple Eagle goes down and it's a turnover in their own zone. Palushaj has been very active and again Pagliero has to step up to stop him.

Moran on Niagara goes down on a knee-to-knee hit that isn' called. It looks bad as he crawls to the bench.

Elmblad's playing tonight, as we should expect. He's paired with Llewellyn Pateryn, it looks like.

Pateryn gave it away on the blue line, but managed to poke it away again.

Sergott and Hall are the refs tonight.

Niagara player has lost a stick and Michigan has a great triangle set up behind the net. Rust has the puck slip on him as he tries to jam it home, which quickly dissolves into a race between Vaughan and an Eagle for the puck in the Michigan zone. The Eagle wins it, but Vaughan is on him before he can do anything.

10:13 left. After Pagliero freezes a puck, Niagara manages to get a clear and come to the other end of the ice. Hogan makes his first real stop of the night, hugging the post on a shot from near the left circle. And we reach our first break.

Breaks are quick tonight, almost as if there weren't any TV coverage. Elmblad takes down a Niagara player on what should've been a clear tripping penalty and gets away with it. Seriously? Nobody noticed that? Instead, Niagara is called for a hand pass.

Hogan makes the save on a shot that keeps rising on him, as play just kind of dissolves for a while after that. Eventually, Rust dekes a guy and gets a shot on net, but Pagliero handles it with relative ease.

Vaughan still needs work on his shot.

Niagara gets a 4-on-2 working against Michigan, but the (first) trailer apparently didn't expect the puck. Michigan gets a clear, but Niagara comes back. Caporusso goes down in a mass of bodies in front of the net, and Hogan makes the first stop, but the puck pops clear to a wide open man to the left of the net who gets about as easy a goal as you can score. Seriously, Caporusso was basically setting a pick on Turnbull, who absolutely should've gone to the other side of the net when there were already 3 white jerseys on the right. He left #11 and Baco wide open and completely unmarked.

Faceoff to Hogan's right won by Michigan, but Niagara's clearing pass finds Baco again alone on the blue line. Hogan makes two stops on him before Elmblad gets over. Vaughan was still way up on the rush, hustling back. Niagara's buzzing around the net and Hogan has to be sharp to avoid a 2-0 deficit. Icing on Michigan when it's finally cleared.

Turnbull takes a 1-2 but manages to get a decent shot off. There's some fuss around the net, but Hagelin's stick is tied up.

Michigan's top line comes in three-abreast, but the shot is directed up over the net. Less than a minute to go. Icing on Michigan waved off. Ciraulo playing tonight, Niagara having trouble clearing. Hogan has trouble on a shot that goes wide anyway. He freezes the puck with :08 left and hangs onto a sharp shot from the point with :04 left. And so the period ends. 1-0, Niagara. Michigan started well, taking the play to Niagara and flying down the ice, but that dissolved by the midpoint of the period. NSN gets it right that Palushaj has been outplaying everyone else, but our defense has looked scatterbrained at times and it feels like we're pressing.

The intermission report is focused on defenseman Armando Scarlato who apparently is a musician specializing in Euro-sounding acoustic guitar/keyboards-based rock. Niagara then runs a chemistry commercial that could've been straight out of my junior year of high school. A balloon full of hydrogen! Let's put a marker in liquid nitrogen!

Meanwhile, in 2004 it's tied 7-7 in the Michigan-MSU game. Stanton's still in the game and State is on the march. The Big Ten Network so often has audio that sounds like it was recorded inside an oil drum.

Second period. Summers gets the first shot of the period, from the blue line, but Pagliero handles it easily. The Wolverines are owning on faceoffs, but Niagara's been solid on defense and Michigan hasn't been able to dictate play. After a change, Czarnik tries the wraparound, but can't put it in.

Niagara knocks down a pass in their own zone, but can't clear. The shot is weak. Ciraulo tries a pass to Glendening in the slot, but he can't get a good shot on it with a man on him. A shot from the point is redirected by Elmblad, but there isn't a lot of velocity on it and it skips along the ice into Pagliero's pads.

Michigan gives up a stupid 2-on-1, but doesn't get burned on it. The shooter skates into the corner and gets uselessly hit from behind by Glendening, who picks up a 5:00 major and gets tossed from the game.

Quick clear by Llewellyn. Michigan's keeping the diamond with a lot of discipline, and gets a rush out of it that ends with Miller getting dumped into the net. Could've gotten a tripping call to even it up for a while, but Sergott and Hall aren't calling much tonight. After another Llewellyn clear, Hagelin steals it in the Niagara zone and wastes some more time. Niagara's getting nothing, and then Michigan gets a 2-on-1! Wohlberg slips it across to Winnett, but it's to Winnett's backhand and he can only muster a weak shot on Pagliero. Wohlberg breaks up another pass at the Niagara blue line and gets hauled down. On the delayed penalty, Caporusso to Llewellyn, but he can't get a shot off and Niagara stops play. Michigan has looked so much more focused and in control on this PK than any time since the opening whistle.

Michigan keeps attacking during the 4-on-4. Maddeningly, Turnbull can't bang home a rebound that goes across the slot. The Niagara penalty expires and Michigan kills off the penalty, but Niagara gets a dangerous opportunity with a loose puck on the blue line. A rebound goes right off Hogan and onto a Niagara stick, but he nearly whiffs the shot and the net is knocked off. Yikes.

Michigan looked so dominant with that PK. Winnett is absolutely hauled down in front of the Niagara net. Annesley fell down after knocking a puck down with his hand and Winnett was almost alone. Pass deflected and Hagelin has to chase. He flies in down the left wing. Palushaj dekes a man and Palushaj takes a useless hooking penalty as Rocco takes a wildly obvious dive. Gah.

Caporrusso comes up with the puck. Turnbull gets dumped in a corner and Niagara comes up. Hogan makes a couple of sharp saves. Niagara looks like they have heavier shots than Michigan tonight. Hogan sees another one and hangs on. Niagara's getting traffic in front as Hogan freezes another one from the point. After an icing, Niagara wins the faceoff and gets off a quick shot and then they're on the powerplay, peppering Hogan. Hagelin 1-on-1 vs. Annesley, but he can't get a good look.

Penalty expired. Michigan gets a 3-2 and once again Niagara dumps a Wolverine to the ice rather than give up the shot. This time it's Caporusso.

BOOM! Langlais to Hagelin, back to Langlais, over to Palushaj and he snipes it home. NSN walrus didn't like the call; argues that Sullivan barely touched him and it should've been goalie interference. No matter, it's a 1-1 game now.

Wohlberg takes the short side on his shot from the left circle, but Pagliero has it blanketed.

Ciraulo's weak pass to Naurato just sits on the blue line and Niagara picks it off. Hate that.

Niagara's picking it up, but Turnbull dumps it down into the Niagara zone for a change. They've been doing a much better job the last couple minutes of keeping the puck in the Michigan zone, but Vaughan slide the puck from the corner to Winnett near the half-boards who gives it right off to a streaking Caporusso and it's suddenly a 3-on-2! Caporusso gives it to Vaughan who of course gives it right back. Pagliero makes the first save, but the puck flutters to the right side of the net and Caporusso just has to skate around and stuff it in to give Michigan the 2-1 lead.

Michigan's been working a lot harder this period and finally the pucks are going in. 3:10 left and a Niagara shot is deflected into the netting.

The Sabres owner donated $10M for a new science building and got a new Niagara sweatshirt. You'd think they'd at least give him a hoodie.

Czarnik, that was idiotic. 2:33 left in the period, he takes a swing at the head of a man he just dumped on the ground. Roughing, contact to the head. ROBBERY! Vaughan was on the ground between the corner and the net and Llewellyn wasn't in position for the man comin into the slot. Hogan flat out robs him with a quick glove save. Niagara wins the faceoff...and what?!!! From behind the redline, some prayer of a shot goes off Hogan's back and into the net. Such a frustrating goal to give up with 1:29 left in the period. Walrus calls it a "thinking man's goal". No. Praying man's goal.

The goal's given Niagara a spring to theri step. Michigan gets caught on a change and Langlais hacks at someone's stick. His breaks and he gets called for the slash. Michigan clears. :15 left. Hogan freezes a shot from the point with :03 left. Play expires without a shot. Gah, what a down ending to a period of quality hockey from Michigan.

Niagara's AD is interviewed outside of Yost and then they go inside, talking about growing the program

Niagara starts the 3rd on the power play. PK looks a little more disciplined than things got at the end of the 2nd. Michigan kills it easily. Wohlberg steals the puck deep in the Niagara zone but can't get it past Pagliero. Caporusso knocks a pass down jsut outside the Niagara blue line, but Niagara manages a clear. Their pass to a guy down the ice is wide. Hagelin dekes around a man but Pagliero is hugging the post on the shot from the boards.

The faceoff in the Niagara zone shoots straight back to Hogan. As Michigan starts bringing it out, Niagara recovers, but is immediately whistled for a high stick to the head. 2:00. Palushaj behind the net to Hagelin in the slot, but he wasn't expecting it and Pagliero makes the save. 1:15 left after a Niagara clear. Turnbull gets a nice shot, but it's blocked. Clear. :50 left. Caporusso's pass to Turnbull hops over his stick and out of the zone. Michigan has dominated possession. Caporusso at the top of the left circle sends a weak pass into the right slot to Naurato. The puck kicks out directly in front of the net, where Caporusso has walked right in and he sends it home for goal #2 W00t! Michigan leads, 3-2.

Vaughan unleashes his best shot of the night, but Pagliero handles it and the puck kicks back out past the blue line. Ciraulo takes a shot that Pagliero handles. 13:37 left, commercial sign.

Caporusso gets a great pass on his stick in the left slot, but there's a man draped all over him. The band gets some love, as does the Yost crowd, as Bullwinkle is played.

Czarnik lowers the boom on his man and breaks up a Niagara possession in the MIchigan zone. Palushaj snakes a pass from the corner across the Niagara zone to Llewellyn, but his shot doesn't get through. Rust tries to find Palushaj coming down to the net, but can't. Palushaj dances around two men out at the point, but his off-balance shot is wide.

The Turnbull line almost has a sure goal, but Niagara falls on the pass from the red line next to the net across the crease. Rust blocks a shot and then, from his seat, sends it out of the zone.

Michigan gets away with one as two defenders collide in front of the net. Suddenly, Wohlberg's in alone on Pagliero with a defender chasing. Pags goes down, Wohlberg lifts the puck, and hits the outside of the post. So close. We need an insurance marker.

Pateryn gives up a bad turnover in the Michigan zone, but it's recovered withouty incident after Hogan makes a solid save. Finally a clear and both teams change. Hagelin gets the puck stolen after skating in. Hogan goes down, the puck is loose, but the defense covers for him. Whistle. Summers catches Consorti up around the jaw with his stick flailing after a puck, but Consorti's going to the box for the unnecessary sell on the call. Definitely "embellishment." Even the Walrus agrees.

6:00 left, :55 in the penalties. Rust takes a shot, the rebound sits there, but Niagara knocks it away. They have some trouble getting out of the zone, but finally do. Michigan's only sending a pair on the attack. They get a change. Niagara ices the puck as they try to get a change. Oops.

4:39 remaining. Wait, what? The faceoff is in the Michigan zone. I don't know what that whistle was for, then. Langlais rifles one across from the point and Dowd gets called for a crosscheck. He thinks Winnett helped a little on that one as he goes to the box. Michigan collects a clear and Rust heads up. He goes cross-ice to Czarnik, who feeds him right back and Pagliero is razor-sharp on the save.

Langlais bombs another one from the point. Hagelin adjusts, tries to snipe one, but Pagliero has a good line of sight on the puck and makes the save. NSN is incredulous that Palushaj can get away with some extracurriculars. Michigan keeps control of the puck in the Niagara ends as the penalty ticks down. Niagara clears and the penalty expires. Michigan brings it in offsides with 2:03 left in the game.

Niagara ices the puck at 1:50 on a missed breakout. They collect behind their net and try to come up at 1:30. Winnett gets it back and takes a shot form the point. Once Niagara clears the zone, Pagliero heads for the bench. Michigan gets a clear, but can't follow it up. Llewellyn clears, Hagelin streaks down to recover it, but can't get it out to Palushaj. However, Niagara can't clear, Palushaj tracks it down, settles it and buries the empty-netter. That should be the game, folks. 4-2, Wolverines!

Nothing much of note happens in the remaining few seconds, and Michigan finishes off the victory.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Strange Days Indeed

It was a bit strange settling in for my first Michigan game of the season on television this year. It was equally strange to watch this game and pretty much know that Michigan was not going to win the game. Not even not going to win, but had no chance to win. Yes, I realize that every team has "a chance", but Michigan's seemed so small and insignificant as so not to get excited about it.

One of my friends who has been through seasons like this before, all you can really look for are signs of improvement and hope for the future. It may be a bit disappointing, but really, that's where we are in this year, what can we build upon going forward?

So, consider me pleasantly surprised, well, really, down right shocked first a quick three and out for Penn State and then at Michigan's execution on their first drive of the game, their longest of the season. Brandon Minor was running well, getting hard yards, including a really terrific pick up on fourth and one where he was blown up behind the line, rolled off the hit, and got the first down. When Michigan went up 7-0 early on a Minor touchdown and Lopata extra point, I was pleasantly surprised, but refused to get too excited. It was good, but would it hold up?

So when Michigan recovered a fumble on the next drive, I thought they needed a touchdown to really establish themselves as a threat in the game, especially with a shorter than not field. But Michigan only got as close as the Penn State 13 before McGuffie took a loss of two (which became even more maddening when the Nittany Lions took an illegal substitution penalty to make it 4th and 1 instead of a first down. But you know, it happens.) Now Michigan's up 10-0 after just a little more than 11 minutes of this game. Confusion reigns. I'm happy, but wary

Sure enough, it took just two plays for Michigan to get back to Michigan 2008, giving up a long touchdown run to Evan Royster to make it 10-7. It seems liked the portend, that Michigan playing over its head was just going to keep them close.

I now wonder if Michigan does well on opening and early drives this year (Illinois and Penn State) because they are, if not scripting plays, coming in with bread and butter plays that have been practiced all week and it accounts for what the opponent would have seen on film. Another Minor touchdown early in the second quarter and Michigan was back up by 10. It would also be the last time Michigan put points on the board during the game.

I don't want to recap most of the rest, because, well, it's kind of painful. It was almost the reverse of your usual college football blowout, the better team gets way out early and the downtrodden puts some points on the board to make it look respectable. The safety was just an absolute killer, and while I shouldn't hate on Nick Sheridan, it's very clear that it's not when you have two quarterbacks, you have none, it's when you have one injured quarterback and Nick Sheridan, you have none. But, you know, it's also where Michigan is.

I knew this could always happen, because I knew it had happened to so many other teams. So I can't say that nobody told me there would be days like these, because they clearly had. If I claim otherwise, it was probably because I was not listening. But we had to know, and now we must look at what we are, and hope that what is happening can build for the future.

So now we're 2-5 and looking at Michigan State this week at home. I don't know what to expect, in part because this team doesn't play consistently enough to hazard a guess. For as much as Michigan looked better early, they did not look good late. For as much as Brandon Minor looked good early, without the threat of Threet, Michigan looked helpless in the second half. For as much as Michigan has looked terrible, Michigan State did not exactly look good against Ohio State. For as much as I should be hyped for what is my favorite moveable feast of the college football season, Ohio State/Penn State next Saturday night almost is more intriguing to me.

Strange Days Indeed.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Game Time: Penn State vs. Michigan, 2008

It's a strange thing, today. Going into a game without any real hope of a win is a foreign concept in Michigan football. Even last year, when we were unranked and Penn State was a top ten team, I expected us to win. Not even hoped: Straight-up expected. I didn't have quite that confidence in 2005, but I didn't find it nigh-unthinkable. The last time an unranked Michigan team played a top-ten team not called Penn State? Wisconsin. Before that? Florida in the Capital One Bowl. Before that? 1993, a 28-0 win against #5 Ohio State. But that was a team that finished the season 8-4 and had knocked off #7 Penn State in Happy Valley, not a 2-4 team that couldn't beat a bad MAC team in Ann Arbor.

Daryll Clark should slice us up on the ground and toast us through the air unless something truly bizarre happens. If bizarre things occur, Penn State should still come out with the win. At this point, I'm hoping to come out without any injuries and with a sense of purpose for next week when Michigan State comes to town. Modest expectations like these are new, and I don't want to get used to them, but they're reasonable for this team. And maybe next year we can start up the revenge tour and begin new streaks.

Michigan vs. Penn State, 1999: Fourth Quarter

We go three wide and Brady drops back. It's a setup for another screen to A-Train, but Thomas juggles and then drops it. On 2nd, Thomas does a good job with his blitz pickup, but PSU sends the house and Brady can't find anyone. LaVar Arrington comes flying in to smack Brady on a flying leap at his chin.

Punt. Branch is bottled up on the return, stepping out at the 22. TE John "Rory" Gilmore gets the pass from Thompson for a first down at the 33. Jim Herrmann's moustache sees something and gesticulates wildly as the ball is blown ready for play. Larry Johnson gets the carry up the gut for no gain. Michigan rushes four, but James Hall is spun down and sat on as Kevin Thompson delivers a strike downfield to Gilmore on the seam, 25 yards down to the 41, with another 15 tacked on for a dumb, ineffective roughing-the-passer call on Renes. Gilmore was Dhani Jones's man, who was looking to see if Thompson would scramble and was consequently slow to react as Gilmore blew by him.

First down on the Michigan 26. Fields again with a huge cushion from Howard and he takes the easy 9 yards. Flags before the play, false start on PSU. PSU has rushed 17 times for 14 yards. B.A.D. in at corner. Thompson's pass is batted as Jake Frysinger comes in unblocked. On 2nd, Todd Howard comes on a corner blitz that doesn't come close. Thompson finds Fields on the hash. Terrell's playing tighter coverage, but can't break up the pass. First and ten from the 11. Thompson's fade doesn't come close to Corey Jones, who's still out on the 3 with Whitley. On 3rd down, Drummond has Terrell initially beat on the slant, but the ball is slow in arriving and Terrell gets a solid hand on it to break it up. Penn State kicks the field goal to take their first lead of the game, 20-17. 11:59 remains in the 4th quarter.

Walter Cross takes the ball on the goal line and brings it up to the 16. Play action from Brady, but Terrell is covered and well overthrown. Brady comes down to Thompson on second down for a gain of 14. Thomas tries to run the ball behind the right tackle, but he's been driven back too far for Thomas to get more than 2. On the next play, Brady gets destroyed as Maurice Williams (-2) gets owned by DE Justin Kerpeikis. 3rd and 15, Brady hangs in a pocket that's slowly collapsing and hurls one at Marquise Walker near midfield, where Bhawow Jue picks him off and takes it back for 6. It was a tight window, as Walker ends up between three blue jerseys, and Jue went right to the ball and got some blockers. 27-17, PSU. Their mascot looks like an old carpet sample. Danielson thinks lazy route-running from Walker was the cause of the interception.

Lloyd is not happy with Walter Cross ending up on the wrong side of the 20 and Charles Drake gets the kickoff...and takes it to the 19. Blerg. Shea gets the screen and gets hit immediately. Brady gets hit as he lofts one behind Marquise Walker. 3rd and 8. Trips up at the top of the formation. Brady gets hit as he releases and the closest receiver is a PSU LB, but a flag comes out and Brandon Short, the LB, gets flagged for interference. Against the nickel, A-Train finds a big hole and takes it for 9 yards. Brady takes a timeout. Or doesn't. Delay of game, and he's snowed under on the 2nd down. On third down, he hits Terrell at the sticks for the first. 6:47 left and we get a good shot of the band, including my section leader Lucy.

And now we take penalty off a confused/illegal substitution. Double tight ends and Brady can't find anyone, so he takes off. This time he has room to run and scrambles for 15 yards and a first down. 6:00 left, ball at midfield. Brady steps up and fires a strike to Terrell 20 yards downfield. DT is slow to get up. Brady pumps once, then launches a parabola to Marcus Knight on a slant-and-go. The ball is a bit overthrown, but David Macklin has his hands on Knight's jersey and he gets flagged for PI. 5:12 left. Danielson notes that Terrell is limping as Brady gets his pass attempt batted at the line. A-Train on the sweep to the right side and there's nothing there. Michigan goes four wide. Marcus Knight draws attention away from Marquise Walker, who gets the ball and makes a few yards with his feet before getting caught at the 2. First and goal, 4:20 remaining. Toss sweep to Thomas and he loses three, as PSU saw it coming. Brady again can't find anyone, but the middle of the field has cleared out and Brady just manages to extend the ball into the endzone as he's tackled. Woooo! Michigan draws to within 3, 24-27, 3:26 remaining in the 4th quarter.

Penn state has the regular kick return formation, and Epstein does indeed boot it deep into the endzone. PSU takes a knee. The Nittany Lions still only have 18 rushes for 14 yards, so they go to the air on first down and Thompson throws it out of bounds. McCoo loses three yards on his rushing attempt, bringing up 3rd and 13. Brady's sacrifice of five yards to preserve a timeout bears fruit as Michigan can use one now, with 3:10 remaining. Thompson throws up a parabola to Eddie Drummond as he starts to feel the pressure. It's underthrown and Whitley's in better position for the ball than Drummond.

The punt is a line drive to DiAllo Johnson at the Michigan 42. He makes the first man miss, finds a hole in the middle of the second wave and busts it down to the Penn State 35. Brady's screen is over Shawn Thompson's head, and it wasn't going anywhere even if caught. Brady looks for Terrell at the sticks, but he's not there in time. Brady from the gun, 4 wide. Knight and Walker combine again, this time Knight coming all the way across the formation as Walker sucks the coverage deeper, leaving him wide open. First down at the 19, the ball goes to Thomas on a sweep. Aaron Shea levels his man. Thomas stumbles leaping over him, but it's a gain of 7 with 2:00 left. Brady has a ton of time and MARCUS KNIGHT!!! Knight headed inside a little bit and then busted back out in the endzone and Brady hit him in stride. For what it's worth, Knight was matched up against the same safety he toasted on his earlier touchdown. Michigan takes back the lead, 31-27.

Another touchback from Epstein. No matter they moved the kickers back. Thompson looks for Fields running down the sideline, but Todd Howard (+1) is locked up on him, finally, and has good position. Eddie Drummond finds the hole in the zone between three defenders and gets the ball for a 19-yard gain. Michigan is rushing three again and Thompson fires the ball out of bounds as McCoo broke off his route waaaaay early. 2nd and 10. Michigan threatens blitz pre-snap but one man bails out for a four-man rush. A DE gets vaguely near, but has two blockers to occupy him as Thompson sails one over Eddie Drummond's head near the Michigan 35. With 3rd and 10, Michigan is playing soft and Thompson makes an easy throw to Corey Jones for 5 and then 3 more before Cato June and Todd Howard escort him out of bounds. It looked like Howard was giving his man miles of room again, but I guess Thompson wanted a sure thing. On 4th and 2, they again go to the air. Michigan has a 3-man line and 3 LBs in the box. Whitley falls on his face from Eddie Drummond's block, leaving Drummond wide open on the slant at the Michigan 45 and he runs for another 10.

1st and 10 from the 34. Three man rush again and Thompson has time. He tries to float a ball into Drummond racing down the sidelines, trying to exploit a hole in the zone, but Whitley makes an excellent play, jumping up to tip the ball out of bounds. The yikes part of the play comes from the fact that instead of taking the man, DeWayne Patmon also took the ball and Drummond has a good shot at 6 if Whitley misses. 0:59 left, 2nd and 10 and Michigan sends the house. Ian Gold comes from the blind side and the fullback takes a lousy angle. Gold speeds around and through him, smacks the ball out of Thompson's hands, and Larry Foote falls on the fumble.

The offense comes out, needing to pick up a first down to guarantee victory. Thomas is tackled after a two-yard gain, as newborn children know what's coming up. PSU timeout, 0:47 left. Give to Thomas on a sweep to the left. Shea locks up on his man, so does Thompson. Hutchinson has moved to the second level and Backus is left with no one to block. Thomas runs for an easy first down at midfield. Brady takes a knee and Danielson emphasises that it's now three in a row for the maize and blue. Musberger, meanwhile, calls Tom Brady "the most underrated college quarterback in the country," and boy did that prove out in a big way. Brady takes a knee, and that's the ballgame.

Penn State would lose its next game to Michigan State, 35-28. Though no doubt devastated over the loss of the Land Grant Trophy, the Nittany Lions would destroy Texas A&M 24-0 in the Alamo Bowl. Michigan still had a chance at the Rose Bowl, but Wisconsin destroyed a woeful Iowa team to secure their trip to Pasadena. Instead, Michigan would go to the Orange Bowl, playing the first overtime game in school history, against Alabama.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Michigan vs. Penn State, 1999: Third Quarter

Second half. Walter Cross is back deep for the Wolverines. Gary Danielson wants to remind us he's not as old as Musberger. I think if I ever attended a game in Happy Valley I'd develop a pathological tic due to that roar. Cross wisely takes a knee 6 yards deep in the endzone. Brady fakes the pitch to Anthony Thomas and finds Courtney Brown in his face. Thompson had released too early for the same TE flare that worked in the first half. Danielson disagrees with me, saying it was Bennie Joppru on a crossing route who was his real target. 2nd and 14. David Terrell! He comes upfield on the skinny post to the middle of the field and Brady puts it right on his hands again. Good protection and it's 1st and 10 on the Michigan 42.

Courtney Brown beats Backus and flows to the hole to bring down A-Train after a gain of three. Brady has nobody and a collapsing pocket. He gets a couple, but there are flags aplenty. Again it's Courtney Brown forcing the issue. Holding on Michigan, 2nd and 17. Brady drops back, launches downfield to Marcus Knight, who can't bring it in. CA-, 2. Brady doesn't like what he sees and calls a timeout. After the break, Brady finds Terrell exploiting a soft spot on the sideline in a rare zone from Penn State and converts the first down.

Thomas has no luck creasing the PSU line and gets maybe a yard. Brady discusses having Henson eager to stab him in the back and steal his job. Marcus Knight takes off on the same skinny post Terrell ran, absolutely smoking his man, and Brady hits him in stride for a beautiful touchdown. Michigan, 17-7! Michigan exploited Knight's matchup against a strong safety in man coverage.

Watson breaks a pair of tackles on his way up to the 22 and gets a bonus 15 for unnecessary roughness on Charles Drake. Eddie Drummond is open on a screen. McCoo gets the handoff and goes nowhere. Whitley gets there right as the ball arrives and breaks up the 7-yard pass to Fields. Terrell is in as a DB. Thompson can't find anyone and tries to run for the first. He slips one tackle, but gets pounded between a pair of Michigan defenders. An excellent punt and lucky bounce leaves Michigan at their own 4.

The give is to A-Train with a small hole and he stumbles for 3 or 4. A-Train again for less. 3rd and 5. Brady can't find anyone and gets rid of it rather than take a sack on the 1. The snap almost goes over Epstein's head and he has to get rid of the ball quickly as someone (Eddie Drummond?) comes flying in, almost getting the block. Naturally, it's a crappy punt, going out of bounds near the 30. Musberger thinks it's because we're trying to avoid Branch, but whatever.

McCoo gets a long run in, relatively speaking, going 4 yards. The FB Mike Cerimele catches a pass for 4 more. On 3rd and 2, McCoo runs up the gut and is stopped nowhere near the first. Travis Forney in for a 39-yard attempt and it's good. Michigan 17, Penn State 10.

Cross should've took another knee. Michigan starts at the 16. Brady drops back and finds Marcus Knight for 4, where he's hit immediately. LaVar Arrington comes across to bring down A-Train after a couple more yards. 3rd and "3". The pass is incomplete, but PSU was clearly offsides, so it's immaterial. Brady is swarmed and sacked back at the 20 as the line collapses on the blitz. On 2nd, Thomas takes the ball up the gut for 5, bringing up 3rd and 13. Brady from the gun. Looks like Terrell was coming across, but not deep enough for the first and the ref set and effective pick. Epstein boots it back to the 34.

Thompson back to pass, pumps and finds Fields wide open on a similar route to his big first-half catch. Todd Howard comes flying in to bring him down, but he was beat like a drum/rug/Todd Howard. Eddie Drummond gets 5 yards, as a matchup with Ian Gold favors him. Whitley helps clean up. Fields again, another huge cushion from Howard on a shorter route to the sideline. PSU is trying to work a hard count aainst Renes. Eddie Drummond fights James Whitley on a fly route and beats him. Whitley can't find the ball up in the air and it's an easy catch for Drummond in the endzone. Tie game, 17 all. 2:09 remaining, 3rd quarter.

Cross takes a knee on this kick. It's loud in Beaver Stadium. Shea gets the handoff and gets nothing. On second, screen to Thomas. Chris Ziemann on the turf gets just enough of LaVar Arrington to open the play up for a 24-yard gain, but there's a flag on the play, likely on Ziemann's grab, especially since it's a spot foul. 2nd and 12. Arrington looks like he's coming dead in on a blitz from Brady's blind side, but actually tries to come between the tackles, but there's no hole for him. Instead Brady finds Terrell on the 30 at the numbers. David Macklin slips as he tries for the pickoff and Terrell races to midfield for another 20 yards. Anthony Thomas and LaVar Arrington collide like Japanese movie monsters and fall to the turf. Thomas loses a yard, but Arrington is shaken up and has to come off the field. So ends the 3rd quarter.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Michigan vs. Penn State, 1999: First Half

The year: 1999. Joe Paterno, a young and spry 73, leads his Nittany Lions (9-1) against a 7-2 Michigan team that had dealt with back-to-back losses against MSU and Illinois by escaping from Indiana with a 34-31 victory and then thrashing Northwestern 37-3.

Musberger makes a reference to "putting Minnesota behind them", as the Nittany Lions had lost to the Gophers the week before, 24-23. CB Jeremy Miller takes a knee. In an interview, QB Kevin Thompson talks in despairing tones of the loss ruining PSU's national championship dreams. Uh, Kevin? Don't look now, but...

Eric McCoo carries it nowhere as safety Tommy Hendricks comes up to stop him. McCoo tries the same thing again, but James Hall takes him down after a couple yards. Musberger calls Todd Howard "the corner to watch". Diplomatic, that Brent. FUUUMMMBLLLEEE! The exchange is dropped, Rob Renes drives his man straight back more than two yards, allowing Ian Gold to pounce on the ball.

Michigan ball at the 22. Brady drops back, looking for David "B.A.D." Terrell down the sideline, but his man is in good position and the ball falls harmlessly out of bounds. Brady pitches to Anthony Thomas heading up the right side for four yards. Aaron Shea is the tailback on an obvious passing down, and Brady wings one wide of Terrell, who shows up his QB by giving the universal "What was that?" signal. PSU deploys that stupid lion roar. Hayden Epstein boots it through to put Michigan up 3-0.

12:42 remaining in the first. Another deep kick, but Watson brings this one out to the 25. Dhani Jones and Ian Gold blitz straight up the middle. Both are cut, but Thompson doesn't move and Ian Gold reaches up and grabs his leg to drag him down. 2nd and 15. Renes jumps across to give those five yards back. Chafie Fields is getting a huge cushion from Todd Howard, who compounds the error by backing off further when Fields turns to the sideline on his flag route. Easy throw and catch. First and ten from the 45. McCoo gets the carry and goes for good yardage until he's hit by Cato June. June puts his helmet on the ball and it pops out. It looks like the Lions have it back initially, but it's Michigan coming up with the ball. It looks like NT Eric Wilson came up with it.

A Train gets the call, running inside of the right tackle. Brady gets mauled by LB Brandon Short coming free on a blitz. On 3rd and 15 from about the M 40, Terrell takes off on a skinny post and Brady delivers a perfect strike to the hash, only to have Terrell absolutely smoked by James Boyd. Miraculously, he holds onto the football. Amazing catch. After the play, Brady goes off to the sidelines and Musberger suspects he's injured as Henson comes to the line. First and ten on the PSU 43. He throws a long handoff to DiAllo Johnson who steps and throws it right back to him. It's a prototype for the Navarre Water Buffalo Stampede of '03 and Henson takes off down the sideline with a wall of blockers. He rumbles down to the 21. Wooooo! DiAllo Johnson: Also a high school QB.

Thomas gets the handoff on a counter and Steve Hutchinson blows up a guy in the second level. Thomas delivers the hit down at the 3 for an 18-yard gain. TE Bill Seymour moves early to back things up 5 yards. Thomas gets the ball again and drives down to the 5. Thomas again, getting the pitch. He probably could have cut it up behind Jeff Backus, who was owning his man, but instead heads outside where he's tackled by a couple Penn State players at the 2. Same play, run to the other side. Thomas cuts it up and heads into the endzone untouched. Touchdown! Epstein hits the extra point to make it 10-0. Fun fact: This is the last time the full MMB traveled to Penn State.

We now move ahead in the action. 11:14 left in the 2nd quarter, Michigan still leads 10-0 and has the ball on its own 25. Brady finds Shawn Thompson on that TE flare route for an easy 15 after he disengages from his man. A Train tries to bounce it outside, but loses three. On 2nd and 13, Brady looks downfield and delivers a perfect ball right on the hands of David Terrell, but B.A.D. flat-out drops it. Maybe he was afraid of getting destroyed again, but he had the CB beat. On 3rd and 13, Brady can't find anyone and is under pressure. He moves up in the pocket to avoid the sack, but has no chance to pick up a first down with his feet.

Epstein punts it away and Bruce Branch takes it near the sideline, immediately cutting back across the field, and he's gone. A couple bad angles and that's all Branch needs to take it to the house. Apparently Michigan had already taken two halo violation penalties and Danielson thinks that affected our tepid punt coverage.

And so ends all action from the first half, according to ESPN Classic. Penn State was held to a meager 6 yards of rushing in the first half on 7 attempts and neither QB completed a pass for more than 20 yards.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

WTI: RickRolled

Craig:  Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to Whatever This Is. I'm Craig Barker, and I am holding myself together way better than a majority of our brethren...
Geoff:  I feel like I'm making progress. My therapist says I'm doing well.
Craig:  Did you get your shoelaces back yet?
Jeremy:  I don't want anyone to die or be fired, and judging from everyone else around me in the stands, I feel like I'm in the minority there.
Geoff:  There's a clear difference between being unhappy with the present and not believing in the future.
Craig:  Exactly. I'm not thrilled about now, but I can accept that this is the reality and wishing it better doesn't make it so.
Craig:  All right, let's talk about the Rockets' Blue Glare. Hats off to Toledo, they beat Michigan by making the most of their opportunities, a wee bit of luck (how does that bounce in?) and some just plain awful from Michigan.
Geoff:  It was awful to see the defense picked apart on those little 6-yard routes.
Craig:  And yet, you're right, it was, but it was a defense that only allowed two (ok three) field goals. If your defense allows six points, short of actually scoring the ball themselves, what more can they do?
Geoff:  I would've been fine with that output if we could've forced Toledo off the field earlier on their final drive or if I'd seen some better adaptation of the game plan. Example: Toledo kept showing us a formation with two receivers split wide in a sort of stack. Six times they deployed that formation, six times it was a run, and (if I'm not mistaken) it led to 5- and 8-yard gains late in the fourth quarter. The first time I saw it, I called "run". If *I* can see that, why can't we stop it?
Jeremy:  But among those two camps, I'm in the "but 350 yards and 20 catches" camp. That coverage was pillowy soft. We're now deathly afraid to give up the big play, since we saw how that worked vs Illinois
Craig:  So basically it's either gaping stab wound, or death by a million cuts?
Jeremy:  Yep. Lose like it's 2005 or lose like you're playing Illinois
Craig:  I was killed by the five penalties, three idiotic personal fouls and two holds. Those things are just glaring execution errors. I can see where people can use that as evidence of RR doesn't have that team in line yet. I could also see it as frustration
Craig:  And, let's face it, I am not sure Toledo's receivers did not have jetpacks on during that game. Seriously, did people see how they skied for some of those balls?
Jeremy:  How come their Tacopants helps them out?
Craig:  They clapped harder for him to come to life than we did
Geoff:  A lot of good teams also take a lot of penalties, but the problem here is that our offense is so poor that a holding penalty is an absolute drive-killer.

At least the band won halftime.
Craig:  I thought the band sounded really good this week. And this doesn't even count the RickRoll.
Geoff:  Jeremy, like you said: You called it.
Jeremy:  I was delighted. I'm sure 80% of the people there had no idea what happened, but those who did loved it.
Craig:  It took me about three seconds to realize that wait, that's Rick Astley's music!
Geoff:  The show itself was a good one. I liked the "Paralyzer" arrangement the best.
Jeremy:  The drill was good too. I saw lots of rotating blocks, which are difficult to maintain and preserve as they move.
Craig:  I thought it was fantastic. I will say, I thought that Toledo sounded solid. There was a Buddy Rich joke I had, but it only works if you know about his legendary rants.
Jeremy:  Toledo's band announcer was exceedingly polite, as if begging for our sympathy.
Craig:  Well gentlemen, we do this every year, the half way post-mortem.
Jeremy:  Their incessant stands cheer sounded like "Buckeye Battle Cry" from a distance. With all the annoying repetition of USC's Fight Dirge (oh yeaaaahhhh!).
Craig:  Where are we now and where do we see us in six weeks.
Geoff:  We suck, we will continue to suck. We might beat MSU on a "Sparty, no!", but I don't expect it.
Jeremy:  We didn't expect it in 2004, 2005, or 2007 either.
Geoff:  I think we have a shot at scratching out a couple of victories, but Toledo was the must-win to keep the bowl streak alive.
Craig:  I moved from "this is not a very good team" to "this is a bad team" this week. Right now, I just want to get out of the season relatively injury free and with two more wins, just so we have four. Anything after that is gravy.
Jeremy:  I'm reduced to banking on Spartan Collapse to save face. And I'm sure that, come OSU week, I'll talk myself into thinking we stand a chance.
Craig:  I still believe the Curse of Eddie Brown may save us yet.
Jeremy:  For example: all their wins have come on blocked punts and punt return TDs, and since the Space Emperor is far and away the best player on the team, we'll be fine.
Craig:  Wow, that is epic rationalization. Tremendous work there.
Geoff:  Unfortunately, it looks like the streak against Penn State is on life support. (Streak: "I'm not dead!" John Cleese: "Well, it will be soon, it's very ill.")
Craig:  But it has been an amazing run. 9 straight wins, 11 years without losing to Penn State. It's nigh unfathomable, really.
Craig:  So let me ask you this gentlemen: What was your favorite win in the streak, and why?
Geoff:  There are a couple ones that are neck and neck for me, but I have to go with the epic Judgment Night victory from '97.
Craig:  That was Dave's (my college roommate and friend of the blog) choice as well. He claims that is his favorite Michigan road win of all time.
Geoff:  To go on the road to the #3 team in the country and just bludgeon them like that, it's beautiful.
Jeremy:  2002 was special, as it was the first OT game in Michigan Stadium...
Craig:  2002 was my vote, but I am biased because I got to hang in the Regents' box that game
Jeremy:  I'd have to say 2005. It meant so much for our season at that point (avoiding 3-3), and it salvaged a glimmer of hope in my otherwise dismal senior year in the band.
Craig:  2005 of course is the legend of The New Math 86=1 and handing Penn State its only loss during that year. And yes, it did salvage the Year of Infinite Pain, didn't it.
Craig:  2002 and 2005 also share the "in the gloaming" aspect, where the win comes when it's dark, making it somehow more memorable.
Geoff:  2005 was my #2. It doesn't lead to glory, but on its own it's an awesome game to behold.
Jeremy:  Plus in terms of pure schadenfreude, it was an incredible toe-stubbing on PSU's part. All they had to do was one of these two things: Don't kick to Steve Breaston, or stop the worst Michigan team in 20 years from scoring a TD on the last play of the game.
Craig:  I actually have a soft place in my heart for 2007, which I call the Mutated Sea Bass Game.
Jeremy:  The game was a hard-fought defensive struggle in the first half and a shootout in the second.
Craig:  Because it got us back to .500, we realized that we still had a chance at the Big Ten championship, and it was a return to normalcy after The Horror and Oregon.
Geoff:  The 2006 Quarterback Massacre was also special, especially coming on the heels of the Ordonez walk-off to send the Tigers to the World Series.
Jeremy:  The "let's go Tigers" chant was almost as fun as singing the Victors on the concourse of their stadium that night.
Craig:  And Michigan staving off a five-goal Connecticut rally to beat the Huskies at Yost (Last time I ever buy fall hockey tickets for a road game night with the new ABC Saturday Night Football in place).
Jeremy:  Also:
Craig:  It's been just amazing, truly amazing run, one I am going to miss when it is gone.
Geoff:  It's been great while it's lasted.
Jeremy:  I wonder if the students will rush the field if they win.
Geoff:  That would be sad. For them.
Jeremy:  it would be validation that we mean that much to them.
Craig:  I really wanted the T-Shirt that said "We Are....Ten Straight". But, it was not meant to be, which is probably for the best.
Geoff:  Anyway, thanks for tuning in, everyone.
Craig:  And please, remain calm, remain rational, and know that the present does not guarantee the future.
Craig:  We'll be here through it all, we hope that you can make it back next week.
Jeremy:  Keep cheering, and to quote Mr. Arnold in Jurassic Park: Hold on to your butts.
Jeremy:  Go Blue.
Geoff:  Go Blue.
Craig:  Go Blue.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fallow Years

As a suburban guy, my knowledge of farming is largely limited to historical advances in the realm of agriculture. I can't tell you what the best crops to grow are for the soil type you have, and I can't tell you anything about futures or the like. But I do know about the concept of the fallow field as it related to crop rotation. The idea is that by leaving a field empty (or changing the type of crop grown in a field) during a given year, the soil will replenish the nutrients during that fallow period and the crops that grow in the next year will be stronger, heartier, and more disease resistant.

It is my guess that by now, you see where I'm going with this.

Michigan has been, in the words of Jeremy, exceptionally adept at "not sucking". Which is to say that while we have not always had the fantastic season, we have also not had the seasons of dread either. It's been 40 years since the last losing season; so certainly, we have very little experience in the modern day with regard to this. But what about the other major football powers, the all-time winningest FBS schools? Have they had the same kind of success over the last 40 years?

(Hat tip: As I was writing this piece and doing the research, similar points were raised by Dave at Maize 'n' Brew. We're on the same page here essentially, but I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the similarities.)

In this PDF chart, I examined the 13 winningest programs in FBS which play in BCS conferences (sorry Boise State) that had been around for the entire 40 year time span of my research (sorry South Florida). I used 60% as my divider for "Fallow Year" wherein any season that had a winning percentage of less than .600 was considered to be a "bad year". 60% was chosen as it is the rough divider between the Top 20 winningest teams of all time.

My research looked at Michigan (OK, I actually knew it without looking) as well as Notre Dame, Ohio State, Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Nebraska, Southern Cal, Tennessee, Penn State, Florida State, Georgia, and Louisiana State. A sub-.500 year was noted in bold on the spreadsheet. I also noted when fallow years led to coaching changes in the following season, whether or not a team played in a bowl game during their fallow year, and if the fallow year occurred in a coach's first season (denoted in green on the spreadsheet.) Lastly, I examined the record of the team the next season to see if it was a harbinger or bad things to come, or an outlier. The results of the data:

Michigan Two fallow years since 1968 (1984 and 2005).

This one is very simple. When a portion of your fan base calls the 7-5 record of 2005 (which was one more lateral away from being an 8-4, I'll note again) "The Season of Infinite Pain", even in jest, you don't have a whole lot of down years to make reference to in recent memory. Couple that with the fact that Michigan would have 10+ win seasons after each of them and we see that the pain did not last long. Again, not always the best team, but the best at not sucking.

Notre Dame 13 fallow years since 1968 (1981-86, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2004, and 2007)

We tend to forget as football fans that Notre Dame has many more ups and downs than we would think. Last year's 3-9 record under Coach Weis was certainly a low point, but the 32-25-1 record of Gerry Faust during the early 1980s were rather lean times as well, even if it did include two bowl appearances. Notre Dame also had a losing season during Lou Holtz's first campaign and a pair of losing seasons under Bob Davie sandwiched around a 9-3 year. It's worth noting that three of the fallow campaigns led to coaching changes for the Irish, which might have been more if not for the considerable patience shown Gerry Faust.

Ohio State: Five fallow years since 1968 (1971, 1987, 1988, 1999, and 2001)

Had I not just read War as They Knew It, I would have never suspected that Woody had a fallow year during this run, but he did, 1971. That was followed up by a 9-2 campaign the next year (which, coincidentally, marked the arrival of Archie Griffin on campus. So even when it was a "bad" year, Woody still got players) and the first of six straight Big Ten championships, won outright or shared as Woody installed the I formation to make better use of his personnel. A 6-4-1 campaign in 1987 saw Earle Bruce get shown the door in Columbus during the week of the Michigan game, making way for the sainted John Cooper, who proceeded to go 4-6-1 in his first year as the boss at the 'Shoe. (By the way, the Wikipedia section on Cooper in the Ohio State football history is unrelentingly negative. The man was 111-43-4 at Ohio State and was handed his walking papers over the 2-10-1.) That leaves room for our final OSU fallow season, 2001, when Senator Tressel took over and guided the Buckeyes to a 7-5 record, which did include a victory over Michigan in Ann Arbor as well as a perfect second season in 2002 (also notable for the arrival of a freshman running back on campus.)

Texas Ten fallow years since 1968 (1976, 1980, 1986-89, 1991-93, and 1997)

Even beloved Darryl Darrell Royal had a "bad" year in 1976, going 5-5-1 and leading to his retirement as UT's football coach (though he remain on as AD.) The following season saw Fred Akers lead the 'Horns to an 11-1-0 campaign (powered by Earl Campbell's Heisman season). Akers had two "down" years, 1980 and 1986, the latter leading to his resignation to take the Purdue job. David McWilliams was brought in as his replacement and he proceeded to reel off four fallow years in the next five, his job saved only by 1990's "Shock the Nation" tour and his ultimate dismissal to make way for Illinois coach John Mackovic in 1992. Mackovic had two more fallow years before reeling off three good years in a row (including the 1996 inaugural Big XII title) before a 4-7 campaign saw him ousted to make way for Mack Brown. From that point forward, the Longhorns have yet to look back. Five losing seasons in the last forty is more than you might expect for Texas, but the proof is in the numbers.

Oklahoma Five fallow years since 1968 (1994-1998)

The Sooners are a fascinating case because they have one of the lowest number of fallow years during the last forty, but they all occurred consecutively. It also is a classic case of botching not one, but two hires before landing on the right guy. The end of the Gary Gibbs era saw Howard Schnellenberger come on board, only to lead the Sooners to a 5-5-1 record and his resignation at the end of 1995. That led to three years of John Blake, who won a grand total of twelve games during his three years leading to Oklahoma hiring Bob Stoops. In this case, the Sooners are a much clearer example of "when it rains, it pours." with regard to fallow seasons.

Alabama Nine fallow years since 1968 (1969, 1970, 1984, 1997, 2000, 2003-04, and 2006-07)

Though it should not have surprised me, it was amazing to see that even legendary coaches had down years. Bear Bryant actually had a couple of fallow years in 1969 and 1970, only to turn things around in 1971, roughly the same time that the Crimson Tide began recruiting African American players. Ray Perkins had a losing year for 'Bama in 1984, his only losing campaign as Tide head coach. Mike DuBose had two losing season, the latter leading to his dismissal, the hiring and dismissal of Mike Price, and then the Mike Shula era, three down years mixed in with a 10-2 season in 2005. Nick Saban's 7-6 campaign last year was his worst collegiate season since he was the boss in East Lansing and included a loss at home to Louisiana-Monroe, but that fallow 2007 appears to be bearing fruit in 2008 (a heck of a recruiting class can also help that cause.) (Update: As I was writing this, Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports makes a similar case on Saban's first year in Tuscaloosa.

Nebraska Three fallow years since 1968 (2002, 2004, and 2007)

I'll admit it right now, this is the parallel that scares the heck out of me because it's arguably the closest example to Michigan's current run in a number of ways. Fewest "down" years of any program on this list that isn't Michigan, a coaching change after a successful season deemed by some to be not successful enough, a brand new offensive scheme brought in by a coach that is different than anything run in the past there, and a short leash and a new coach brought in when the campaign does not bear fruit relatively quickly. Frank Solich's 7-7 campaign in 2002 was followed by a 2003 where he went 9-3 and was fired before the bowl game (which Bo Pelini won as interim coach.) 2004 sees the arrival of Bill Callahan and the West Coast Offense, and a 5-6 season. Two solid years later, Callahan has a "disastrous" 5-7 season in Lincoln, sees all of the old foes rise up to trounce them (Kansas, Missouri, etc.) and is shown the door to bring back Solich's defensive coordinator as the new boss. If you're a Michigan fan, pray that this is not what we are in the midst of, in part because we do not know the end game as yet with Pelini.

Southern Cal Twelve fallow years since 1968 (1970-71, 1983, 1985-86, 1991-92, 1996-97, and 1999-2001)

Like Texas, it's hard to remember when USC wasn't a perennial contender, but that dominance extends back only to Pete Carroll's second season in the City of Angels, having gone 6-6 in his first season as the Trojans' boss. John McKay followed a pair of 6-4-1 seasons with a perfect 1972 campaign, while three "weak" seasons mixed in with one 9-3 record saw the end of the Ted Tollner era in the Coliseum. Larry Smith's 3-8 in 1991 was followed by a 6-5-1 record in 1992 and his being shown the door for John Robinson, whose second stint in Troy ended with a 6-6 and a 6-5 campaign, making way for Paul Hackett, who had saw two "down" years, including a 5-7 record, leading to Carroll's hire, and remember, Carroll was USC's fourth choice after Erickson, Bellotti, and Riley, after a crazy 18 day search. Sound familiar?

Tennessee Ten fallow years since 1968 (1975-1980, 1982, 1986, 1988, and 2005)

Tennessee is a strange case to me until I did a little research. How did Johnny Majors get away with pulling off so many losing seasons in a row and not get fired? Well, it helps if you played at the school, and even more so if you're a legend there. If you're coming off a National Championship at your previous job, as Majors was at Pitt, which should buy you some time, and if you show improvement, say a 7-5 record in 1979, that should help. Majors accounts for seven of Tennessee's ten fallow years. Phil Fulmer, a national championship winning coach has also had a down year, 2005, which he followed up with a 9-4 campaign. Early returns on 2008 aren't promising either, which have lead to the grumblings around Knoxville that this may be his last go round.

Penn State Eight fallow years since 1968 (1976, 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, 2001, 2003, and 2004)

Penn State provides us with an interesting case because it has had the same coach during the entire tenure of the period being examined, Joe Paterno. The data shows us a few strange things, for starters, JoePa seems to lose focus during leap years (maybe it's the Presidential campaign, who knows. It does make 2008 all the more remarkable, if only in coincidental fashion, then again, in 1980 and 1996, PSU had ten-plus win seasons capped by Fiesta Bowl victories. So it's just sort of random.) Paterno's "down" years include a losing season in 1988, and then the "Lion in Autumn" period in the earlier part of this decade. Oh and how has Penn State been since 2004? 11-1, 9-4, 9-4, currently 6-0, so yeah, maybe you can teach an old lion new tricks.

Florida State Seven fallow years since 1968 (1973-1976, 1981, 2006, and 2007)

The Seminoles are another strange case, because part of the fallow year premise is that your fan base is conditioned to expect your team to be successful. However, in the pre-Bowden days in Tallahassee, you had a couple of nice seasons under Bill Peterson in the 1960s, the presence of Fred Biletnikoff, but not an expectation to be a national power. Bowden's arrival at FSU has seen the 'Noles win 300 games on his watch and had the amazing run of ten straight ACC championships and the constant presence in the end of the year polls. But, 2006 and 2007 have seen the Seminoles fall back to among the average (heck, Wake Forest has beaten them three straight) and of course, this has lead to the Jimbo Fisher succession plan at Doak.

Georgia Ten fallow years since 1968 (1969-1970, 1974, 1977, 1979, 1989-90, 1993, and 1995-96)

My lack of SEC knowledge is showing, but I know that Vince Dooley won over 200 games in his career and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and he even had five "down" years during his tenure (at least during the period upon which we are focused.) His 1979 campaign was a 6-5 season, which he immediately followed up with a 12-0 season and a national championship. The difference? A freshman running back named Herschel Walker. Any coach can look good when you bring in superior talent. Ray Goff, who played under Dooley, was a young head coach and mixed "down" years with successful ones, including a Top 10 finish in 1992, but a 6-6 record in 1995 was his last season, paving the way for a losing year in Jim Donnan's first campaign, who was dismissed after two eight win seasons. Of course, Georgia found the right successor in Mark Richt and the 'Dawgs are a power once more.

Louisiana State 13 fallow years since 1968 (1974, 1975, 1979, 1981, 1983, 1989-1994, and 1998-99)

If you want to look at how winning makes you a power and how a couple of coaches can make the difference, it's clearly LSU, who suffered 11 losing seasons under coaches like Charles McClendon, Jerry Stovall, Mike Archer, Curley Hallman, and Gerry DiNardo, but not one since the Saban-Miles era began. (Hallman's tenure consisted of four straight losing years on the Bayou before he was booted.) The right coach and perhaps the right recruiter can change everything.

So, what have we learned? Well, several things come to mind.

The right player can turn everything around (Archie Griffin, Earl Campbell, and Herschel Walker). That "down years" under first year head coaches who end up being successful are not all that uncommon (Lou Holtz, John Cooper, Jim Tressel, Pete Carroll, and Bobby Bowden).

That even legends have down years on their watch (Schembechler, Hayes, Royal, Bryant, McKay, Paterno, Bowden, and Dooley, all members of the College Football Hall of Fame.)

That there is no "perfect" solution on a coaching change (Nebraska and Georgia both changed coaches after eight win seasons to vastly different results.)

That the college football world is far more competitive in 2008 than it was in 1968.

And perhaps most importantly, that history may show us what has happened, but it does not guarantee what shall happen.


Nestled into Saturday's debacle was a brilliant halftime show by the Michigan Marching Band, including this arrangement of "Paralyzer" by Finger Eleven:

Sorry, I couldn't resist. But seriously -- here's what I wrote on August 5th:
My one hope for the season is that, at some point, Professor Boerma Rickrolls the crowd.

Sometimes dreams do come true. Well done, band. Well done.

In a way, we were all Rickroll'd twice on Saturday. Once by the MMB, and once by fate. We all bought tickets to the Toledo game knowing that it was going to be a tune-up for a tough rest of the season, and a chance to give the starters some extra reps. We all knew what we were in for. This was the football equivalent of clicking on a link that says "RICHROD STEAMROLLS TOLEDO 48-7."

But instead of seeing the five-score blowout we all figured was coming, the link took us to something completely different, something campy, ridiculous, tacky, embarrassing and unexpected. It was a classic bait-and-switch. You really got us good.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Little Things

This is not what many of you want. This is not a call for calm, nor is it a call for panic. This is not a an attempt to rationalize, nor will it be a woe is us and unto our program. No, this is just a moment of Zen, courtesy of Gavin Rossdale and Bush.

As a fan of Sirius' Lithium 24 channel, it was on every time I got in car yesterday after the game, and each time, a song by Bush was playing. Back at the parking garage, it was "Little Things". Having dropped off my future brother-in-law at his house, it was "Machinehead". Having finished eating at Big Boy, it was "Everything Zen". I knew I had my hook (particularly after "Hang on Sloopy" was playing at Big Boy. I mean, I know its not their fault, but seriously...) for this column.

"Little Things"

Going up
When coming down
Scratch away, way, way, way, way
It's the little things that kill
Tearing at my brains again
Oh, the little things that kill
The little things that kill

The reality is, this is no longer "not a very good football team." This is a bad football team. The difference, well, when you can't tackle and you can't block, you're not going to win very many games. I'd love to be angry at the defense, but let's face it, they allowed six points. Six. That's it. Two field goals, one of which was a 49 yarder that hit the crossbar and bounced over. (Admittedly, Toledo missed what I called a gimme at the time. That was probably a mistake on my part.) And yet all Michigan's offense could muster was a total of three points (the touchdown scored negated by the touchdown allowed.) Sure injuries didn't help, missing Odoms, missing Graham, missing Warren, losing Threet, certainly that isn't a great moment, but you know what, injuries are a reality that must be dealt with. You scored ten points on a team that had allowed an average of 35.8 in its five previous games. You're not going to win when points don't go up on the board.

The bigger you give
The bigger you get
We're boss at denial
Best at forget
Cupboard is empty
We really need food
Summer is winter
And you always knew

But in the end, it was the little things that were killing me. Why all the personal fouls after the play (at least two I remember for sure, maybe a third)? Why the holding? (Actually, I know the answer to that. You hold because you have to.) What was with the clock management at the end of the game. (Not that I was confident that Michigan could win in overtime. Then again, they had not allowed a touchdown, so...) Couple that with a turnover deep in your own red zone which becomes points the other way, and well, it is the little things, the fundamentals, that kill you. (Positive note: No lost fumbles today.)


Deaf dumb and thirty
Starting to deserve this
Leaning on my conscience wall
Blood is like wine
Unconscious all the time
If I had it all again
I'd change it all

I think the hardest thing to avoid right now is rationalization. It would be so easy, it is so easy to do so, and yet, it doesn't get us anywhere. The reality is that there have been down times, though very few and we would prefer to ignore them or forget them and hope for a better tomorrow. The reality is that we're halfway through a bad season which is only going to get harder from here. All of our beloved streaks are likely going to fall by the wayside this year, and we must deal with that, because it is the reality we are facing. Right now, all we are left with is hope, but not even hope for this season, hope for next year and for the future. For the first time in a long time, Michigan fans are going to need to be patient, and that's not an easy task, considering how good Michigan State looks and how we had such high (if unfounded) hopes for this year. It will come, and good things will emerge. Running on momentum for forty years is like running down hill with a snowball chasing you, you better stay ahead of it, but remember that the longer you run, the bigger it's going to be when it finally catches you.

"Everything Zen"

Try to see it once my way
Everything zen
Everything zen
I don't think so

There is much discontent in the realm of Michigan fandom, and I'm just one guy trying to figure out how I feel about this. I'm going to try and get through by looking for hope for the future in the wreckage of now. How each of you deals is up to you, but I ask you this. Weather the storm. Be what we have always wanted to think we've been, fans through it all. We know Michigan fans can handle the thick, and now we're being asked to handle thinner than we thought was thin in the past. Deal as you see fit, but fight the good fight.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

This Is A Chemical Burn

What is this?

This is a chemical burn. It will hurt more than you have ever been burned, and you will have a scar. What are you doing? (Guided meditation worked for cancer, it could work for this.)

Stay with the pain, don't shut this out.

No, No. Oh, God!

Look at your hand. The first soap was made from the ashes of heroes. Like the first monkeys shot into space. Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing.

(I tried not to think of the words "searing" or "flesh.")

Stop it. This is your pain. This is your burning hand, it's right here.

I'm going in my cave. I'm going in my cave, I'm gonna find my power animal.

No. Don't deal with this the way those dead people do. Come on!

I get the point, I can see--

No, what your feeling is premature enlightenment. Come on... This is the greatest moment of your life, man, and you're off somewhere missing it.

I am not!

Shut up! Our fathers were our models for God. If our fathers bailed, what does that tell us about God?

I don't know...

Listen to me. You have to consider the possibility that God does not like you, he never wanted you. In all probability, He hates you. This is not the worst thing that can happen...

It isn't... ?

We don't need him...

We don't I agree!

Fuck damnation, man. Fuck redemption. We are God's unwanted children. So be it! Listen. You can run water over your hand and make it worse, or -- look at me -- or you can use vinegar to neutralize the burn.

Please, help me, please!

First you have to give up. First you have to know -- not fear, know -- that someday, you are going to die.

You don't know how this feels.

It's only after we lost everything that we're free to do anything.

Friday, October 10, 2008

WTI: Really?!?

Craig: Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to Whatever This Is. I'm Craig Barker, and I just shed three Michigan tacklers to get here...
Geoff: I just got clobbered, because I'm not holding a football.
Jeremy: I can't believe I watched Brad Banks and the Iowa Hawkeyes upset Michigan at homecoming again.
Geoff: The weather was better this time, at least.
Jeremy: But my heart felt the same in the end.
Craig: Well, we'll get to the game soon enough, but let's start with a positive from Saturday, Blast From the Past. Geoff, Jeremy, you were there, your essential takes, my friends?
Geoff: The organizers of that event do a phenomenal job of putting it together.
Jeremy: The old cheerleaders are simply incredible. Not only do they actually, like, fire people up, but their mirrored handstand gig involves near certain death if one of them makes a mistake.
Craig: I have to admit, I love the old cheerleaders, but I had someone ask me if we will keep doing the locomotive cheer until all of them pass on to the Big House in the sky.
Geoff: Yes. Yes they will.
Craig: And I am OK with that. One of the hardest things about being in the stands for Blast is that you have so many things going on, there's baton craziness in the North End Zone, there's looking for your friends on the field, there's just, it's a lot of things, too many voices!
Jeremy: It's always great to be back in the tunnel again and play the fight song in the stadium.
Geoff: It was strange to be so relaxed about everything. See a hole, fill it in. Make up your own rank moves on the parade. Whoever feels like it, let's go play the business school tailgate. And I definitely haven't played that much since I was in the MMB.
Jeremy: It's all the fun of being in the band with almost none of the responsibility.
Craig: It does seem nice and loose. John Wilkins certainly is in his element on a day like that.
Jeremy: He clearly relishes that time with the alumni.
Craig: I also want to note, I thought the Jersey Boys show was very crisp. And I will tell you, like Jonesy on the Dallas, I swore I heard....singing... It was faint, but it did seem like the crowd was singing along.
Geoff: The crowd certainly seemed to be into the show from where I stood. Did we have any drum majors playing with fire this year? I know I saw Cavi with the knives in his pack on Saturday morning.
Craig: I did not see any, but there was a lot going on
Geoff: One of the things I forgot was how different a view of the game you have from that close to the field. You either have to find a way through the people standing on the sidelines or the ball is right in front of you.
Jeremy: Yeah, I had to watch most of the first half on the scoreboard because of all the event staff and cameramen standing in my way.
Jeremy: The lesson here is to sit higher up in those bleachers.
Craig: But would you want to have seen what was happening in the second half...zing!
Geoff: I think we just gave up another long touchdown.
Craig: Third and ten...holy flark!
Jeremy: Oh, I missed it, I was watching Obi Ezeh crush the running back who did not have the ball.
Craig: I mean, those were the best ball fakes I have ever seen, replacing the Brandon Minor fake from the week before.
Jeremy: At least since Dennis Dixon's fake statue of liberty.
Craig: It was just, it was a demoralizing loss. In part because I bought in to the "turned the corner" delusion.
Jeremy: The second half really yanked you right back around the corner. It rubbed in that the Wisconsin comeback was more of an accident and outlier than positive trend.
Geoff: Let's play a little game here. So, Michigan. You've got Illinois in 3rd and 10 and they throw it 6 yards downfield. And you decide that the best thing to do is run wind sprints up the receiver's back. Really?!?
Craig: You lost by so many points to Illinois that the name "Red Grange" was invoked for the sake of comparison. Really?!?
Geoff: Instead of throwing a bubble screen to a guy who racked up 129 yards receiving on the day and who has a linebacker basically ignoring him, you run it inside behind a guy who was playing left tackle last week and the guy who was his backup on the bench. Really?!?
Jeremy: Anyone else surprised Stevie Brown chased down Juice to tackle him at the 2? I figured he'd overpursue it and dive in front of him four yards into the endzone.
Geoff: Finally: Juice Williams. 420 yards. Most in stadium history. Still called "Juice". Really?!?
Craig: But, this week is a new week, and Holy Toledo, the Rockets are in town. Will there be Cake? And what is on the half-time slate for this week?
Jeremy: Halftime is the Modern Rock/Pop show
Craig: Woo hoo, Modern Rock! Woo! More _____ Pipe!
Jeremy: Scotty B and his Blues Band will be performing at Northwestern this year.
Jeremy: MMB songs this week: "Sugar We're Going Down", "Paralyzer", and "Welcome to the Black Parade".
Craig: Ahh, so it's 2000s Modern Rock. No [Sirius] Lithium show for me. Still, should be interesting. And somehow, "Welcome to the Black Parade" is totally appropriate for this Michigan season
Jeremy: "Sugar We're Going Down" has been played at basketball games for a couple seasons now. Which means it, like the rest of the show, was arranged by Jamie Nix.
Geoff: Have we heard anything about him recently? Still at Miami (Yes, That Miami)?
Jeremy: Yep. University of Miami '10, Doctoral Fellow in Conducting (h/t: facebook)
Geoff: Switching gears, I have no idea what to expect from Toledo. Absolutely none. Ball State shut them out, but the Fightin' Football Cardinals are a decent team, and the Rockets lit up Fresno State like nobody's business.
Craig: But FIU, Geoff. NED beat the Rockets. The first time FIU has beaten a FBS team on the road. EVER.
Geoff: Ned is an American Hero. Much like J Leman.
Craig: Who will be calling MSU/Northwestern this week. You know, a game with Big Ten title implications?
Geoff: I believe that should be "Big Ten title implications".
Jeremy: That is a job that requires a tie. He has to wear the flag tie, right? please?
Craig: I think it will be a tie made up of dozens of small American flags
Geoff: I mean, this game might have Capital One Bowl implications, but we still don't know if either one can hang with the top of the conference.
Craig: Also, as much as we're focused on Toledo, this weekend also marks the return of joy to our lives, as St. Lawrence visits for a pair of games to open Michigan's regular season slate
Geoff: Ron Mason's alma mater. Let's hope that hockey can put together another good season, even if nobody ends up with a Hobey.
Craig: I would hope Michigan will come out hot and get off on a good foot. I do not expect the torrid start of last season, simply because the schedule does not look like it will help out. There's dozens of pitfalls early on.
Geoff: Last year was unbelievable. And I'm not so concerned about the start as the finish.
Craig: Hey, no games in Denver. Sauer should be fine.
Geoff: I (we?) close this week with a plea for the football team: Please don't lose to a MAC team. That would suck. A lot.
Craig: Yes, please, I can accept that some streaks may end this year, but the no losses to MAC schools is one you can never change.
Jeremy: Indeed. Two very important streaks are at stake this week. A 3-game win streak vs Ohio teams would be a nice one to get this season too.
Craig: So gentlemen, until another week...I'm Craig Barker.
Geoff: And I'm starting at left guard next weekend.
Jeremy: I'm twenty yards into the secondary already. Goodnight and Go Blue.
Geoff: Go Blue
Craig: Go Blue

On Wisconsin

WKOW in Madison has the scoop on the aftermath of the Wisconsin band incident. The "not flattering" haircuts are clearly the straw that broke the camel's back; a tasteful trim here and there and they would've gotten away with it all.

Blast From the Past in Pictures