Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Boom Times

We at the Hoover Street Rag have seen it reported in numerous locations that Florida State has been seeing a dramatic drop-off in attendance in the past two seasons, leaving tens of thousands of empty seats at Doak Campbell Stadium. At the same time, I can't help but notice that the same can not be said of Michigan, even though the 'Noles have made bowl games (and won them!) both years, finishing 9-4 and 7-6. This is Doc Sat's chart of FSU attendance:

Yikes. That's a steep cliff. Now, to be fair, the 2008 season saw Doak Campbell 94.7% full, which isn't too bad, and it was 2009 when it dropped down to 90.3% full, a year the Seminoles barely cracked .500. But let's look at Michigan attendance in terms of % capacity since the Moeller era.

Now there's a graph you can set your watch to. If you want to see anything exciting, you have to back up to the start of the Schembechler era.

There's a dip in there at the end, mostly taken up by the 2008 and 2009 seasons. You may recall that Michigan struggled somewhat in the first couple of years of the Rodriguez regime, and that accounts for some of the drop-off I'm sure, but this was also when the University added additional handicap seating as they started construction on the luxury boxes. The official capacity was not recomputed, so the number of seats lost is not certain, but total attendance fell by 1,860, or 1.69%, and actually rose by 387 (0.35%) following Michigan's worst season in 46 years. In 2010, with the renovations complete, attendance through three games is off by 0.27% in terms of capactiy, but up by 2,137 per game in raw numbers thanks to a 2,400-seat increase in capacity. This is what the raw attendance figures look like:

Honestly, they're only likely to get better this year, and it's not just due to the sheer wizardry of Denard Robinson. The official re-dedication of the stadium was exciting, but following that the other two games were against an FCS squad and a MAC school. Whatever the actual merits of the teams, historically they don't draw big crowds. Over the past couple seasons, an extra 2,136 fans have come out for Big Ten/Notre Dame games than games against other opponents. I fully expect next year's Ohio State game to crack 114,000, assuming the feat isn't accomplished against MSU next Saturday (and also assuming they don't re-number the benches before then). The 104.29% capacity from the 2003 edition of the Game translates to a crowd of 114,621 in the bigger Big House, and if both teams are as good as they could be next year, 115,000 isn't ridiculous.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Break Even

This is the space where I get to tell you what I think.  I made myself a couple of promises when I decided to start doing these.  First, I was never going to judge other people for their feelings.  Their experience is their experience, how they feel is based on how they take in the data before them and process it.  I do not need to agree with their feelings, nor do they need to agree with mine.  Second, I decided that I was going to try and be positive and forward looking, because the alternative just makes me something I don't like and something I cannot sustain for very long.

Now, all of the said, consider, if you will, where a Michigan fan might be standing right now.  Since September 1, 2007, you have seen your team play 40 games.  In that time span as of this weekend, you have seen your team win as many games as they have lost.  Twenty Saturdays up, twenty Saturdays down.  Twenty times happy, twenty times sad.  You have seen hope crushed in the waking moments of a new rising sun.  You have seen hope's corpse taken out back and burned repeatedly.  You've seen redemption come from unlikely sources.  You've seen a cold night in Champaign.  You've seen a darn near miracle in Orlando.  You've seen a comeback like nothing you've seen before in Ann Arbor.  You've seen another quarterback in orange and blue leave flame trails behind him like a time-traveling DeLorean.  You've seen a walk-on save the Jug.  You've seen a freshman led an unlikely comeback in a shootout.  You've seen all hope die on four chances from the one.  You've seen an invasion of red into the Big House.  You've seen a sophomore do things we only thought that other teams did to Michigan.  You've seen 20 wins and 20 losses. 

So maybe this is why Saturday's performance doesn't bother me.  It was a win.  The gap between "survives upset bid" or "gets a scare from an FCS school" and losing is a chasm visible from space.  We've been on the other side of that chasm, or perhaps more accurately at the bottom of it.  Michigan won on a day when they didn't play well.  That genuinely may not happen for the rest of the season.  Why would this bother us?  It's because college football has an amazing propensity to be unable to allow people to live in the moment.  The future and the past are always eminently more important in college football, as exemplified by "recruiting" and "tradition".  We cannot enjoy a win because of worries like "What does this say to recruits?" and "How does this fit in to the Michigan tradition?"  We're fixated on the two end points because we do not like the middle, the place we are standing right now.  It saddens me because it's hard to appreciate the moment when you're in it.  So allow me to try. 

On Saturday, I saw some amazing things at a game that was just one of many that day.  I saw a marching band put on an exceptional performance in a circumstance of whose difficulty and emotional toll I cannot even begin to fathom.  I saw a tribute to a Michigan man that was so perfect for him because it didn't try to recast him as a saint, but simply as a fantastic athlete who genuinely cared about where he came from and being a part of the fabric of that.  I saw a sophomore quarterback throw an interception and shake it off to have a really remarkable day, including a couple of deep balls that are among the prettiest I've seen.  I saw a receiver get to show off his new field vision and some of the promise he's long been purported to have.  I saw a pair of running backs find holes, drag guys, and gain yardage.  I saw Vincent Smith cut so hard on the wet turf that the rubber pellets in the field turf made a little cloud under his feet.  I saw a team with flaws but flaws that can be worked on.  I saw a team with promise, but promise that needs work to be fulfilled.

I don't get to watch next week's game for the first time in seven years, family commitments.  I just hope the next 40 games find us happier, smarter, wiser, and more able to live in the moment.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Notre Dame: Two Videos

The first video from my trip to South Bend: Dave Brandon on the MMB and amplification. Trust, but verify: The second: Celebration in the concourses.


(photo credit: Michigan Daily)

I just don't know what to say. I've never seen a player account for more than 500 yards of total offense for his team outside of a video game. I've never seen a player take a team on his back with such ease. I've never heard a player who had such an amazing stats day say that he had no idea what his stats were, that he's a team player.

It's very simple. We know it's just two games. We know we spent too many words last year thinking that Tate Forcier was the solution to all of Michigan's problems only to find out that he was not. We know that we have learned that September means nothing without October and November. We know that Notre Dame might not be a very good team. We know that we need more evidence and that the next two weeks may not provide very much in the way of evidence. But for now, Denard Robinson feels very special, and this is a feeling that we have not known, perhaps not ever in our lives as Michigan fans.

One game at a time. One play at a time. Fix that which can be fixed. Improve that which can be improved. Everything will spill out from there.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Farewell Mr. Kramer

Jerry Green did this about a million times better than I ever could, but I wanted to share my Ron Kramer story.

Last year, my college roommate and longtime Michigan football seatmate Dave talked me into going to a local card show because Al "Ox" Wistert was signing and so was Ron Kramer, meaning two of Michigan's retired numbers would be there, and well, they're both older and we don't know how much longer they'll be around.  So we go to the Livonia Elks club, and we wait in line, and we get a chance to talk to Mr. Wistert, and we then make our way down to Ron Kramer.  He's wearing a cowboy hat, shooting the breeze with the gentleman sitting next to him, signing autographs with his huge hands, and being just an overall good guy.  So Dave says "Mr. Kramer, would it be possible for us to get a picture with you?" and instantly Kramer says "Go f*ck yourself."  Dave turns as white as a ghost, I don't know what to do and then Kramer just bursts into the biggest smile and starts laughing his ass off and says "That was hilarious!  You made my day kid."  Dave and I got our picture and a story that we will never forget about a Michigan legend.

Thank you Ron for everything you did for the Maize and Blue and thank you for being a man who loved every second he was here on this earth.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Damn Lies: Connecticut

[Author's note: I'm going to try this year, in the vein of statistical analysis, to try and find things that struck my from the Michigan box score after each game. However, because I do not have as much time as I used to to write meaningful things, this analysis will be limited to 120 seconds of looking at the box score and attempting to find something. Sometimes it will build off something that struck me while watching the game, other times it will just be something that stands out. My impressions could be wholly and completely incorrect, my conclusions could be completely wrong, but this is why I am calling this feature "Damn Lies", because well, we're looking at statistics.]

1). Michigan was 15 for 19 on third down, and 1 for 2 on fourth down yesterday.

Michigan needed an average of six yards yesterday on those 19 third downs. Their average game on those third downs was 7.3 yards. Of the 14 conversions, Denard Robinson ran for 7 of them himself, and passed for six of them. Michael Shaw's two yard run in the first quarter was the only third down conversion for which Denard was not partially or wholly responsible. More amazingly, of the four failed third down conversions, none were the result of an incomplete pass. Which is why Michigan likely only needed to punt once.

2). Michigan had drives of 96 yards (5:57), 77 yards (2:35), 75 yards (8:05), 96 yards (4:22) and 51 yards (7:59).

If you're convinced that Rich Rodriguez's up-tempo style does not protect leads (or by extension, the defense), look at those drive totals. While Michigan did have some short drives, Michigan ate up the clock with a long early TD drive, a long TD drive to start the third quarter, and a long drive late that came up short, but left Connecticut without much time to do anything.

3). Denard Robinson targeted 8 different players yesterday, but a running back scored the only receiving touchdown of the day.

I thought that Stonum and Roundtree came up on the short end of the stick yesterday, and I was partially right, Roundtree was targeted once, the first play of the second half, and lost one yard on his catch. Stonum actually caught five balls, so my bad on that one.

[Author's addition (Monday): So, missed this initially, but Roundtree was hurt during the game, which would further explain this. Sorry Shaft!]

4). The officials called a total of three penalties in the game. Two false starts on the Connecticut offense, one personal foul on the Michigan offense.

I am not saying this is the most penalty free game I have ever seen, but I would be hard pressed to remember a game where there was a gap between penalties from the second drive of the game to the final drive of the game. Whether this was an effect of coaching, officiating, or a combination thereof remains to be seen.

5). Denard Robinson was 19 of 22 passing yesterday, after being 14 of 31 passing...for all of 2009.

Robinson's Quarterback Rating was 188% higher than his average QB rating for all of last season. More impressively, his 197 yards are 56.12% of his rushing total from last season. I have no idea what this means, it's just what it is.

The First Heroes

This past winter, I read a book by Craig Nelson entitled The First Heroes. I had picked it up because Geoff suggested Nelson's book Rocket Men to me, which was essentially a biography of the Apollo project, and always one to go on the premise when you find a history writer you like, read all of his stuff, I read his Thomas Paine biography (which is really bringing this full circle) and then First Heroes.

The First Heroes is the story of the Doolittle Raid and more importantly, the story of the Doolittle Raiders themselves. In the book, Nelson makes the case, like so many World War II histories, that these were essentially ordinary men placed in extraordinary circumstances and that the stories that came from the Doolittle Raid were just that, extraordinary circumstances.

The B-25 Mitchell bomber that flew over Michigan Stadium Saturday as a part of the rededication ceremonies was a similar model to the one flown over Tokyo by the Doolittle Raiders. The Doolittle Raid was an audacious plan by an unconventional man who felt a strong sense that, in the wake of Pearl Harbor, America had to do something to strike at the heart of the Empire of Japan, so what better than to design a crazy, shouldn't work on paper, never been tested plan that would break the Japanese of their long-held belief of invincibility, and boost American morale...

If it worked.

Doolittle knew that there was a huge chance that for all of the planning, all of the training, the raid still had a very small chance of success. Even if the planes were successful in their mission, there was still no guarantee that any of them would come home. Doolittle himself loved to point out that the raid only meant something in retrospect, that because of what happened after the Raid, including the Japanese decision to attack Midway and the decisive American victory there. Most of the Raiders themselves would not even know what the raid meant for many months afterward because of the nature of what happened to their planes after the mission.

Which brings us to a football game.

Rich Rodriguez may not count Jimmy Doolittle among his heroes, but it would not surprise me if he did. Doolittle was an innovator, someone who saw possibilities born of necessity, who met with resistance among the traditionalists who could not see what he was seeing, who would get in trouble just to show his bosses he was right, and who was willing to take risks where others worried about their career track. Doolittle's development of instrument flying was to give the pilot complete operational freedom, and his efforts to convince Shell to develop 100 octane aviation fuel allowed planes to run faster, fly longer, and do more. In 1932, he won the three major air racing trophies of the time by flying faster than any one ever had. Most importantly, Doolittle knew that a pilot was only as good as his plane.

And in the spread offense, a coach is only as good as his quarterback.

Denard Robinson is not, even metaphorically, a B-25 Mitchell bomber. He is a quarterback, but he is also an evolutionary improvement, something better than it was because the opposition compelled improvement in the machines given to the planners. In a way, Rich Rodriguez looked at his Michigan teams, and he looked at his quarterback position and what he wanted to do with what he had. Metaphorically, Nick Sheridan was a Brewster F2A Buffalo, Steven Threet was a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk. They were equipment he inherited who were designed before the rules changed. He needed something more, and so he went out and got Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson. Tate is a Grumman F6F Hellcat, taking the lessons of battle and applying them, getting something much quicker than its predecessors and effective in getting the job done. But Denard is a Lockheed P-38 Lightning, as fast as anything built to that point, different than anything people had seen. When you watch him, he's more a fork-tailed devil, a dual threat who does things that the opposition has never seen before this point. (By the way, to painfully conclude this metaphor, there is part of me that wants to believe that Devin Gardner is a North American P-51 Mustang, the evolutionary conclusion of the lessons learned, just as fast as the Lightning, but more robust and able to handle a greater variety of missions. Time will tell on that front. For now, this is Denard's day.)

If the lesson of last September is that September means nothing without knowing how October and November will play out, then we cannot get too excited about one game, no matter how good it feels. This is the larger working thesis of several prominent national writers and they are correct. In the end, only time will tell what today meant. Was it the start of something that has been longed for by Michigan fans for the last two seasons? Was it part of a roller coaster ride of good days and bad days which will tease us for weeks with its absence? Was it the high point that marked the beginning of the end of an era? We don't know today, and we cannot know today.

When word of the Doolittle Raid got back to America, it felt good; it was necessary relief and release for a people both stunned and angry at something that happened to them that they never saw coming until they were in the middle of it. But Doolittle himself noted in his autobiography (entitled I Could Never Be So Lucky Again) that it would have been a footnote, a blip, if the war had gone differently; that without planning, preparation, dedication, and no small amount of luck, the Raid would have just been a hill of beans. But with the success of the Raid, America once again believed that it could win, that it may take longer than they thought, but that victory was possible, even against long odds and monomaniacal opposition.

It's one victory. It feels really good in the moment. It may end up meaning nothing, and the next test of our resolve is right over the horizon. But for now, let us believe again that victory is possible, but we cannot presume it will be there. We must earn it.

Friday, September 03, 2010

To begin the world over again

"We have it in our power to begin the world over again. A situation, similar to the present, hath not happened since the days of Noah until now. The birthday of a new world is at hand."

--Thomas Paine, "Common Sense", 1776

I cannot write anything better than FOOTBALL SEASON IS OVER. FOOTBALL SEASON HAS BEGUN., really few among us could. In the end, what struck me was simply this, every September brings us the chance for renewal. Every September will be someone's first Michigan football season. It may be your first season you cared about the team, it may be your first as a student, it may be your first under any number of different circumstances, but even for someone who has been a lifelong Michigan fan, tomorrow is the first day of another first season. Because, before that first game, every season is your first season, every season holds the promise of what could be. Because hope is born again every September, and hope dies last.

Enjoy tomorrow, and enjoy the season, because, really, what is the alternative?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Geoff's MGoMix 2010

1. Sleater-Kinney - Dig Me Out

"Dig me out, dig me in / Outta this mess, baby, outta my head" is an apt description of how much of the summer, and the past three years, has gone. We're hoping and pleading for better things, but it's not in our hands.

2. Tegan and Sara - The Con
Yes I'm guilty of this
You should know this
I broke down and wrote you back
Before you had a chance to
Forget forgotten
I am moving past this giving notice

The allegations leveled against the Michigan football program were true - practices ran long by an average of 15 minutes, which rises to the level of a major violation. More embarrassing was the record-keeping fiasco and the grad assistant who lied to NCAA investigators, not to mention the miserable battle with the Freep. Now is the time to start putting the past in the past.

3. The Thermals - I Let It Go
I looked my fear in the eyes!
Looked at the water below!
I knew I could love or live!
I let it go!

There's been a point in 3, maybe 4 of the last 5 seasons where I've had to pull back from how much I put into the Michigan football team, how much I live and die with wins and losses. Losses have traditionally been such a painful thing for this team, and learning how to want them to win so badly without getting too crushed by a defeat has been a difficult process. But that's just it: Wins are so precious and so sweet, and we need to celebrate them that way. Let go of unrealistic expectations and media hype and watch Denard find his passing game or an unheralded Carvin Johnson grab a starting spot as a true freshman. There's joy to be found in that.

4. The Replacements - Can't Hardly Wait

Such a great song. And I can never wait for the season to start. We're just a few days away.

5. Rilo Kiley - With Arms Outstretched
It's sixteen miles
To the promised land
And I promise you, I'm doing the best I can

Everyone involved in this team is doing their damnedest to get to that promised land. The coaching staff's jobs probably depend on making a bowl game, and any kid that's stuck it out is playing for more than just his own pride.

6. Thin Lizzy - The Boys Are Back In Town
Guess who just got back today?
Them wild-eyed boys that had been away

Mike Martin wrecking fools. Tay Odoms blocking some dude who's got 50 pounds on him. Tate Forcier juking a Notre Dame safety out of his jock and taking it to the house. Denard dropping the snap, picking it up, and scoring a ridiculous 40+ yard TD on his first touch as a college player. Goosebumps.

7. Stars - Take Me To The Riot

I've only watched one Michigan home game on TV since I became a student -- I had enough time to watch the first half of EMU last year before my cousin's wedding, and I just wanted to be there, to here the crash of the helmets and the thud of a good hit.

8. The Avett Brothers - I And Love And You
One foot in and one foot back
But it don't pay to live like that
So I cut the ties and I jumped the tracks
For never to return

It feels like this team can never get moving in the right direction, whether it's a great non-conference followed by a disastrous Big Ten season, or an offseason of progress derailed by a key injury, or any of the countless PR contrivoversies. But we're doing our best to make a clean break with all of that, to do the difficult thing and to trust in the future.

9. The Gaslight Anthem - Meet Me By The River's Edge
See I've been here for 28 years.
Pounding sweat beneath these wheels.
We tattooed lines beneath our skin.
No surrender, my Bobby Jean.


10. Warren Zevon - Lawyers, Guns and Money
Send lawyers, guns and money
The shit has hit the fan

Barwis will handle THE GUN SHOW, Bill Martin already sent the lawyers in, and David Brandon can take care of the money. But man, it's a deep pile we're standing in.

11. The Pixies - UMass
It's educational!

Such an obvious choice. So unlikely that the MMB does a Pixies tribute. What a waste. (NSWF language)

12. PJ Harvey - Victory

I love the bass line in this song

13. Gnarls Barkley - Going On
And you can stand right there if you want
But I’m going on
And I’m prepared to go it alone
I’m going on

The Puma campaign that used this song as the soundtrack for their World Cup spot was pretty good, but I like the original video better. And my fundamental belief is that Rodriguez didn't forget how to coach and will eventually successful again. I hope it's at Michigan.

14. The National - Bloodbuzz Ohio
I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees

I would like that "swarm of bees" to be half a dozen Michigan helmets and the "I" to be "Terrell Pryor's spleen"

15. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts - Bad Reputation
An' everyone can say
What they want to say
It never gets better anyway
So why should I care
'Bout a bad reputation anyway

The media story on Rich Rodriguez hasn't varied from the same basic template ever since he decided to leave West Virginia - He turned his back on his home, he's engaged in various shady activities, he's no MICHIGAN MAN. Rodriguez can't do a lot to change opinions on this. He can only coach football. So suit up and get to work.

16. Drive-By Truckers - Never Gonna Change
Mean and strong like liquor.
Mean and strong like fear.
Strong like the people from South Alabama and mean like the people from here.

The DBT's are Alabaman to the core, so no use transplanting this to Michigan, but you want your football team to hit like a truck and run twice as fast, and there's a lot of that toughness in this song.

17. Silversun Pickups - Future Foe Scenarios

The Big Ten has now released their 2011 and 2012 schedules. Now you just have to find a way to beat them.

18. Guided By Voices - Teenage FBI
Someone tell me why I do the things
That I don't wanna do
When you're around me I'm somebody else

Sometimes it really does feel like "Michigan Football" died when Bo did. I know this is ridiculous, and there have been some bright spots, but sometimes you feel like you're watching a different school, one that just can't get it right, but one that has the potential to put it all together.

19. Barenaked Ladies - The Old Apartment

Sometimes the urge to compare the way things are versus the way they were is overwhelming.

20. Josh Ritter - Empty Hearts
Singing don't let me into this year with an empty heart
With an empty heart
Don't let me into this year with an empty heart

Don't let this team go out without a bowl game to reward them for the last few years of disappointment. Get them over the hump and back in the postseason. A win over OSU is probably too much to ask for, but a man can dream...

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Like a fiddle

We doubted Dave Brandon. We knew better and yet, we doubted him nevertheless. The storm clouds were gathering, we quaked with fear that all that we cherished, that all we held dear, was being rent asunder.

We said that they were wrong, that they would sell their souls and screw it up.

And it was a smoke screen. It was a head fake and we bought it hook, line, and sinker.

We must trust Dave Brandon. Trust, but verify.

It is wholly possible that Michigan is one of the biggest winners in the Big Ten divisional alignment. I see the downsides, but here's what I see as the upsides for Michigan: You now get a major annual game against Nebraska, a traditional power with over 800 wins and a built in animosity between the 1997 National Championship issue, and the 2005 Alamo Bowl. It will not be an instant rivalry, but it will hit the ground running. A bonus is that Michigan and Nebraska will face off in the game before The Game, at least for 2011.

Michigan State is a divisional rival, meaning that Michigan's two protected rivalries will be preserved. It means that the Michigan/Michigan State game means something beyond bragging rights and the Paul Bunyan Trophy. Also, Michigan State is not the last game of the season. I was genuinely dreading that possibility. They'll now close at Northwestern in 2011 and at Minnesota in 2012.

You now get the annual playing of the Little Brown Jug game against Minnesota, improving that situation from the old schedule where it occurred eight out of every 12 seasons. The Little Brown Jug's history is full and rich and is the essence of the Big Ten Trophy game. This is a very unexpected perk of this division.

An annual game against Iowa, which just feels right. 1939 Heisman winner Nile Kinnick vs. 1940 Heisman winner Tom Harmon. Forest Evashevski and Bump Elliot as Venn overlap!

An annual game against Northwestern, meaning every other year, Michigan plays in Chicago, where it has a ton of alums. Also, the battle of the two biggest university endowments in the Big Ten.

Michigan and Ohio State playing The Game on the last weekend, even if in opposite divisions, with the potential rematch in the championship game if someone [glares at someone] can ever get their act together.

The downsides:

The biggest loss is going from playing Penn State 10 years on, 2 years off to playing Penn State 2 years on, four years off. I hope that the nine conference game potential change in 2015 will help that. Jim Delany even acknowledged that Michigan and Michigan State both "gave up" playing Penn State every year, or almost every year as one of the losses in the new configuration.

No Indiana and Purdue annually, well...Michigan frequently didn't play Indiana every year during the ten team era of the Big Ten, so that's not that surprising (similarly, they were frequently off the schedule in the rotation in the Penn State era of scheduling.) I lament losing Purdue, as that is quickly becoming a heated rivalry, what with wizard hats and such, but they are on the schedule for 2011-12, so, there's that.

No Wisconsin or Illinois annually, well, Wisconsin was also frequently off the schedule in the old ten team era. Plus, we'll still, hopefully, play them in hockey every year with the Big Ten's effort to make the CCHA and WCHA Big Ten teams play one another.

As for Illinois, I am sure they are bummed as they consider Michigan one of their arch rivals, but again, each of the five teams Michigan does not face every year previously rotated off the schedule at some point.

So yes, there are down sides, but I think the upside is better for Michigan.

A couple of other notes. Jim Delany says that he "doesn't do trial balloons." I am pretty sure that he believes that, but consider, the last three weeks of the run up to college football, pretty much since after Michigan went to Seattle, have been discussions about the Big Ten's divisional alignment, and then about possibly moving "The Game". It has kept the Big Ten in the media spotlight for the last three weeks, and now tomorrow night Ohio State and Marshall play on the Big Ten Network. This is about building the brand. Similarly, Jim Delany targeted hopefully 90 days from now, or December 1, oh yeah, the week of the Conference Championship games for the Big XII, SEC, and ACC. Jim Delany keeps the Big Ten in the discussion for another week and reminds people that next year, the Big Ten will be playing one of these as well. This is brand management and it's pretty darn slick.

Is it the best of all possible worlds? No. But honestly, if you're a Michigan fan, there's a lot to like here. Now to work with Nebraska to create the "We call it Maize, you call it Corn" Trophy.