|Jake Butt, in triple coverage? Why not? (Photo by Bryan Fuller)|
If we're truly honest with ourselves, it wasn't that different than our usual collective delusion of a summer. We overinvest in the positives, we paper over the negatives or doubts with rationalizations or dismissing them as unknowns. We talked ourselves into the notion that the guy who only had 1.9% of his pass attempts last year intercepted would take better care of the ball. We told ourselves that the O-Line would have improved technique and hey, throw in some Harbaugh and boom, problems solved, past buried, ship righted.
It's not going to be easy, because if it were easy, Brady Hoke would probably still be Michigan's coach. There are flaws and they're not necessarily fixed quickly. But I'm going to not focus on the flaws, because we're all going to see them. They're very similar to the ones that haunted Michigan last year. But they also feel correctable. They feel like things that happen against a pretty good team, on the road, in your opener. Utah left lots of points on the table as well, so this was not exactly a classic of the genre. This was a game where the home team played better than the visitor that it was probably a bit better than anyway and won by a touchdown. That's like 40% of all football games. (I have no way of proving that, but it feels about right.)
Positives are there. Jake Butt looks tanned, rested, and ready to go. He's going to be a weapon for the offense. Jabrill Peppers didn't make a ton of huge plays, but the presence was there and the plays he did make gave me confidence that there's something here. De'Veon Smith had churn. He didn't hit every hole, but there were a bunch of moments in the game where he could have had one or two yards became three or four or five. It was a little Mike Hart-ish. Do we believe that Rudock, with a little more time and practice, can hit the open receivers deep? Because they were there and if they were there tonight, they could very well be there in the future. Drop that ball in the basket, and Michigan is cooking with gas.
It's a start. It's a data set that we previously lacked. We can be hopeful and think it will be the roughest and rawest Michigan will look all year. We can be pessimistic and think that all of the issues we've spent the last few years dealing with are still there. The truth is probably, as it almost always is, somewhere in the middle. Besides, years of early season games against Notre Dame temper ones dread about Septembers that didn't quite start right.
But now the hype is over. Michigan's moment in the spotlight, nine months in the making, was not a triumph, fists raised overhead in glory. It wasn't an embarrassment, facepalms and garment rending as appropriate. It was a loss, one that can, will, and should be learned from. Michigan will come home to Ann Arbor and more than likely look better against Oregon State next Saturday. Not every great book has a tremendous opening chapter. Not every script has a great opening act. If it gets better as it goes, though, you can forgive the flaws, because you see where it came from. The difference right now is that I believe that it will get better, because the adults in charge won't accept anything less than that.