Tuesday, January 09, 2024

Wild Horses

The secondary that was essentially a primary. (Patrick Barron)

Childhood living is easy to do
The things you wanted, I bought them for you
Graceless lady, you know who I am
You know I can't let you slide through my hands

--"Wild Horses" by the Rolling Stones on their 1971 album Sticky Fingers

I have a confession to make. When I decided in April that the theme of this year's columns would be Rolling Stones songs, I presumed the most straightforward choice would be to simply drop in "You Can't Always Get What You Want" for the first loss of the season. Maybe it was to Michigan State, perhaps it was some random unexpected "one of those days" games, maybe it would be the Ohio State game, perhaps a CFP game. But the answer was right there all along. You can't always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need. 

 It is perhaps unsurprising that I believed Michigan would win as soon as ESPN used "Gimme Shelter" as a backing track for promos. Sure, the two lightning-strike Donovan Edwards touchdowns were a few evidentiary points in favor of that sense of belief, but when you are looking for evidence of things yet unseen, you take any signs you can that show you the way home. But then, after a while, it began to feel like a harbinger of doom. Michigan never trailed in this game, but for a long stretch of the second and third quarters, it felt like letting Washington hang around, especially this Washington team, would be a mistake. When Washington got their touchdown late in the second quarter, then Cornelius Johnson could not get out of bounds to stop the clock, essentially killing any chance of getting a quick score before the half. Every pundit was all too eager to point out that Washington was going to get the ball to start the second half, so Michigan was likely doomed.

Though likely unaware of the specifics, Will Johnson did not agree with this assessment. Johnson picked off Michael Penix's first pass of the third quarter, and while Michigan, due to some uncharacteristic pre-snap penalties, could not turn it into more than a field goal, it put Michigan up 10. Washington answered back with a field goal of their own before the third quarter turned into the classic Big Ten game we were expecting, with a dizzying array of six punts between the two teams. The sixth in the sequence was aided by a brief moment of terror when Penix finally hit Rome Odunze for a long pass, only to have it called back on a penalty because Braeden McGregor was thrown to the ground as he rushed Penix. The pressure on Penix all night was tremendous, and as the game wore on, Michigan's defensive line began to harry Penix more and more effectively, making Washington's Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line look suspect in the same way that Georgia did to Michigan's award-winning unit in the 2021 Orange Bowl.

Jake Thaw fair caught the punt at the Michigan 29, and the conventional wisdom was that Michigan could just go on one of their trademark clock-chewing drives to...oh no, wait, JJ McCarthy found Colston Loveland for a 41-yard catch and run, and Michigan was suddenly in striking distance of the Washington end zone. A short Blake run, Roman Wilson for 12 on a nifty crossing route, Blake for three more. Then the theoretical dagger, Blake Corum for 12 hard yards and a touchdown, his 15th game this season with a touchdown. The man who came back one more year specifically to win a championship had just put Michigan in a position to be able to do it. The final 8th of the game was about to ensue, and Michigan was up two scores.

Washington would need to use the chaos engine they had ridden to 14-0 to get them back in this game, but Michigan's defense was determined to not allow it. OK, they were determined not to allow it after Penix hit Odunze for a 44-yard pass to get Washington within striking distance of Michigan's end zone in a bit of nifty symmetry. The torpor that the game had fallen into had been duly shaken off. But then a Washington false start, two incompletions with a short two-yard gain, and Washington faced 4th and 13. Michigan took a time-out, the play went off...and both teams committed a penalty, so we did it all over again. That's when Mike Sainristil, a player already in the hall of Michigan immortals for his textbook PBU on Cade Stover in the 2022 Ohio State game, ascended to Michigan football Valhalla with his interception and 81-yard return to the Washington 10. It would have been cool if Sainristil cashed that one in, but, well, you can't always get what you want. Besides, two quick Blake Corum runs put Michigan up 21, and Michigan fans could finally breathe.

I watched you suffer a dull, aching pain
Now you decided to show me the same
No sweeping exits or offstage lines
Could make me feel bitter or treat you unkind

15 wins. 0 losses. A seven-touchdown shutout of their in-state rival on the rival's field. The first football program in the nation to win one thousand games. A third straight win over Ohio State. A third straight outright Big Ten championship. A ninth Rose Bowl win in program history. The first College Football Playoff championship game win. The 12th claimed national championship in program history. For all of the doubt about Michigan being a fading blueblood that would have been reasonable in the late years of the first decade of this millennium, reinforced by the first half of the 2010s, it was not unreasonable to think that the college football world had passed Michigan by, turning the Wolverines into an FBS equivalent of Princeton or Yale, legends of the early 20th century that did not have a place in the modern era. So when Michigan hired Jim Harbaugh, many people outside the Michigan circle treated it with skepticism because of the way that much of the fanbase regarded it with a near messianic fervor. It was also reasonable to see it from their point of view. The two-thirds of Harbaugh's tenure to this point was marked with varying levels of disappointment that can only come with a rising tide of expectations. But the last three years have been utterly remarkable. A likable group of guys built on the idea of "let's build the entire team out of dorks who love football and are really, really good at it."  A group unburdened by the fanbase's collective history. These players may know the shapes and silhouettes of "The Horror" or "The Spot," but they are merely scars on other people's souls that they have inquired about respectfully. But whether one has been here for one game, one season, one decade, or one lifetime as a fan, this banner now hangs. (OK, weirdly, Michigan Stadium doesn't really have banners. The Glick does, but that's beside the point.)  It was a fantastic ride, with, as the ESPN pre-game stated, "memories that will, paradoxically, grow sharper as the years pass."  Michigan is your 2023 Division I FBS College Football Playoff Champion.

Wild horses* couldn't drag me away.
Wild, wild horses, we'll ride them some day.

(*-I swear it wasn't until about 45 minutes into writing this column that I realized someone would think that "Wild Horses" was a Connor Stallions joke, which I did not intend, but...)

Tales from the Spreadsheet
  • Win 1,004
  • 34-13 is NOT a Scorigami (2nd time, most recently 10/31/1981 in Minneapolis, retaining the Jug.)
  • 72,808 were in attendance (the 12th-largest crowd of Michigan's season).

  • Michigan moves to 9-5-0 all-time against the University of Washington.
  • Michigan extends a three-game winning streak over the Huskies.
  • Michigan moves to 1-0 all-time on January 8. (OK, that isn't surprising.)

  • Michigan moves to 38-0 when scoring exactly 34 points.
  • Michigan moves to 46-12-1 all-time when allowing 13 points to the opposition.
  • Michigan has won 35 games all-time by precisely 21 points, most recently, the 2022 B1G Championship Game win over Purdue.

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

Route 66

Blake put the team on his back, and the rest is history. (Patrick Barron)

Well, if you ever plan to motor west
Jack, take my way that's the highway that's the best
Get your kicks on Route 66

--"Route 66" as covered by the Rolling Stones on their 1964 album The Rolling Stones

In late June of this year, my family departed on a road trip covering 28 days, 7600+ miles, 19 states, and ten National Parks. When discussing some of the ideas on social media, noted Michigan game photographer and National Parks enthusiast Patrick Barron gave me a strong note not to sleep on Canyonlands after leaving Arches; it was majestic and beautiful and worth my time. So even though we had to get from Green River, Utah, to Zion the next morning (which was poor timing on our part since it put us in Zion on the most popular day of the year, but that's not the story), we slipped down to Canyonlands and explored a bit of one of the Mighty Five. At the end of the main road in the Island in the Sky section, we discovered the Green River Overlook, a vista 1,000 feet above the canyons carved by the Green and the Colorado rivers, explored by John Wesley Powell and his team in 1869.

Green River Overlook, Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands NP, July 1, 2023.

A perfect combination of timing, weather, and nature's glory combined to get the picture you see above. My wife and son have expressed confusion about why Canyonlands rated so highly of the ten parks we visited, but this moment spoke to me. I thought back to how Ralph Waldo Emerson believed that if man communed with nature, it could lead to a moment where you would achieve a tremendous spiritual understanding. I had never had that moment before standing there looking out at these canyons carved over the ages by the rivers below. It was one of the most singular experiences in my life, and it made me realize that there are endless possibilities; we just have to be willing to seek them out.

Well, it winds from Chicago to LA
More than 2000 miles all the way
Get your kicks on Route 66

The Rose Bowl Stadium facade, Pasadena, California, July 3, 2023.

Two days later, we departed St. George, Utah, very early, drove through the Mojave and Colorado Deserts and Joshua Tree National Park, and ended up in Pasadena, where we would stay on the first night of our week in the LA area. We pulled into the massive parking lot of the stadium, and despite being nearly 100 degrees in southern California that day, I began to explore this secular holy place in the religion of Michigan football. In Slate yesterday, Split Zone Duo's Alex Kirshner made the following case:
The extent of football fans’ care about the Rose Bowl as an institution cleaves along geographic lines, with plenty of Southerners not yearning much for a game or stadium whose history is wrapped up in the Big Ten and Pac-12. But Michigan has as much of that history as anyone. The Wolverines won the first Rose Bowl in 1902, before the current stadium even stood, and no fan base sees its team as a guardian of sacred college football tradition quite like Michiganders do. The Rose Bowl is Michigan-core.

One of the paradoxes of the Rose Bowl is that Michigan fans do generally hold it in their hearts as the pinnacle of the college football season, even if Michigan was 4-12 in their 16 appearances here since man first landed on the moon. Why are we drawn to this place that knows vastly more heartache and disappointment for Michigan teams than glory? Because this place is special, and that is all it needs to be. As I walked around the stadium's perimeter that July afternoon, catching what glimpses I could while it was being prepped for an LA MLS Derby the next day, I found myself forced onto the neighboring golf course and having to slip through a couple of locked gates to get back to my car. But I had walked the perimeter of the shrine of the Arroyo Seco, knowing that if the Michigan team that was to kick off in two months was worthy, they themselves would be in this place for the first time in what seemed like an eternity.

On the first day of this decade, the day that also marked the most recent meeting between Michigan and Alabama, Spencer Hall laid out the case for loving the Rose Bowl that has stuck with me henceforth:

On January 1, color TV images of college football games beamed back to Midwesterners and Northeasterners drinking bad coffee in their freezing living rooms. Someone watching the immortal, glorious sunset against the San Gabriels had to look and think: Why am I here, and not there?  The Rose Bowl wasn't just the place teams went when they were very, very good. It was a little piece of a whole life anyone could have simply by having the will to go. 

The Rose Bowl Stadium facade, Pasadena, California, January 1, 2024.

I did not expect to be here. That is not a stand-in for the concept of Michigan not being at the Rose Bowl; while the path to immortality in any college football season is fraught with the peril of a thousand little breaks that can go wrong, I knew Michigan had an excellent chance to be in Pasadena as the world celebrated the beginning of the New Year. No, I genuinely meant me. I never expected to be at the Rose Bowl. I wouldn't have deigned to ask, especially after the epic nature of our summer sojourn west. But when my wife and her brother coordinated that, yes, we were buying the Alumni Association tour package, and staying at the team hotel, here I was, just a shade under six months later, standing at The Grandaddy of them All. We had done all of the things that go with this tour: we had finished second and third place in the Rose Bowl trivia contest at the welcome party, we had attended the Pep Rally where the MMB sounded great, and someone needed to fact-check President Ono's pep related messaging (which he then, to his credit, at least made the same mistake about Tom Brady vs. Alabama in a bowl game the next day at the tailgate.), we talked to players in the lobby (shouts out to the always awesome Leon Franklin, Kenneth Grant, and Trente Jones.)  We were about to head into the biggest football game in modern Michigan football history, either a program redefining win or the end of a great era that never quite got to the mountaintop. All Michigan had to do was defeat the Great and Powerful Saban and his not-quite-fully operational battle station...with a month to prepare.

Well, do get hip to this kindly tip
And go take that California trip
Get your kicks on Route 66

When I mentioned to people that we were doing the trip, I heard refrain repeatedly: "It's one of the few things in life that lives up to the hype." Those people were absolutely correct. Any expectations I had built up in my mind were being met. The grass so green, the sky so clear and blue, the breeze feeling like a late September game in Ann Arbor, not the first day of January. I stood in my seat in the Michigan end zone, a mere forty rows up as opposed to my usual seventy in The Big House, and I soaked everything in, the Alabama band and the MMB in their pregame, followed by the MMB nailing the anthem as the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber flew directly overhead. The game was about to kick off, and I was ready. I had a feeling akin to that moment at Canyonlands, but this time, it was the beauty of nature combined with the curated hands of people to make a moment. There were endless possibilities, but only one outcome to be determined.

I don't really have any pictures from the Rose Bowl Game. I have the moment before kickoff and nothing else after that until after the last snap. I was genuinely trying to live (and not die) in the moment. When JJ's first pass looked like an interception, I laughed at how the football gods had decided to tell us straight away that pain, our longtime companion in Pasadena, had also bought the tour package. But then it was overturned on replay. By the end of the first half, even though Michigan led, I had no fewer than half a dozen "you just cannot make this mistake in the post-season and expect to win" ledes written for whatever this column would become. But I was never angry, not even when Alabama took the lead, not even when Alabama extended their lead. But, as Michigan got the ball back with 4:41 left and ESPN's win probability peaking for Alabama at 88.8%, all I could hear in my head was Leonard Nimoy's voice near the end of Star Trek VI, "I've been dead before." I did not know it was going to work; I did not know Michigan would win. I had to believe that it could work. So Blake and JJ went to work themselves, determined to write their own legend, joined by an offensive line holding fast and Roman Wilson atoning for a block in the back with one of the most improbable, spectacular catches I've ever witnessed in person, followed by his touchdown. Turner's extra point tied the game, and the concern was, "Did Michigan give Bama too much time?" Well, maybe, but Michigan's defense was not going to let things end poorly and forced an Alabama punt, leading to the utterly terrifying sequence on the opposite end of the field from where I was sitting where Jake Thaw's misadventure with a punt nearly gave Michigan a game-ending fate forever worse than "trouble with the snap." But Providence did not choose cruelty today, and Michigan moved the game to overtime. I chuckled to myself. I was trying to figure out the symbolic meaning of my hotel room number 1348. Game 1348 was the 2020 game against Rutgers or Michigan's most recent overtime game. That's what it meant.

If you were watching at home, you saw Mike Sainristil come out alone for the coin toss for overtime and perhaps thought it was odd until Blake ran in from off-screen. What you did not see at home is that Blake had run all the way down to the Michigan end zone, and with every ounce of energy he could muster, he exhorted the Michigan crowd to get up and get loud, which it did. Alabama won the toss again, but this was perhaps a blessing in disguise, forcing a hot Michigan offense back out on the field and forcing Alabama to try and score on an end zone defended not just by 11 players in maize and blue but by a chorus of fans desperate for not just a victory, but this victory. Corum took care of his part with a solid run on first down and a showstopper on second down that looked like 2022 Blake Corum. Now, it would be on the defense to try and end this. After getting a stop on first and goal, a TFL on second down, and Josh Wallace planting his cleats in the verdant grass of the Rose Bowl turf to stop Jermaine Burton from getting beyond the three-yard line, we faced a fourth and goal from the three, essentially a two-point conversion that would either keep Alabama alive or end the game. Burton cramped, leading to a delay, then Michigan called a time out, then Alabama called a time out, but the play was finally here. Like so many in the game, the Crimson Tide snap was low, Jalen Milroe had to take a half step back to retrieve it, Michigan's defensive line collapsed the center of the Alabama line, and Milroe was stopped after just one yard. Michigan had won the football game.

The Michigan crowd exploded into a roar, a cathartic release that comes from a combination of years of heartbreak and rising expectations on the impossibility that, for the first time in more than a quarter-century, Michigan would leave Pasadena in sheer joy. There was hugging, so much hugging, hugging family, hugging strangers, cheering, crying, singing The Victors, and just knowing that just happened.  

For the first time in 144-team history, Michigan football will have a singular opportunity to stake a claim to an undisputed national championship. It will need to defeat a Washington team that can move the ball and score as well as anyone in the country. But that matchup in Houston is still to come. For now, let us celebrate the moment when the past, present, and future of Michigan football finally came together in one of the most hallowed places in the program's heritage. Michigan won the Rose Bowl. 

Tales from the Spreadsheet
  • Win 1,003
  • 27-20 is NOT a Scorigami (4th time, most recently 10/14/2017 in Bloomington, defeating Indiana in Overtime)
  • 96,371 was the attendance (the 15th largest crowd of Michigan's 21 Rose Bowl Game appearances.)

  • Michigan moves to 3-3-0 all-time against the University of Alabama.
  • Michigan snaps a two-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide.
  • Michigan moves to 16-20 all-time on January 1. This game was Michigan's first New Year's Day win over a school that wasn't Florida since the 2001 Citrus Bowl win over Auburn.

  • Michigan moves to 44-7 when scoring exactly 27 points (fun fact: four of Michigan's 14 overtime wins have been with a score of 27 points. And yes, one of the losses, you know which one.)
  • Michigan moves to 24-20-1 all-time when allowing 20 points to the opposition.
  • Michigan has won 52 games all-time by precisely 7 points, most recently, the 2023 Maryland game, bka Win 1000.
  • Michigan moves to 14-3 in overtime games, with this being their second overtime win over Alabama, the first being the 2000 Orange Bowl (also Michigan's first-ever OT game), 35-34, which you may remember, hinged on a missed extra point by the Crimson Tide in OT.  

Sunday, December 03, 2023

It's Only Rock 'n Roll

Apparently, we can have nice things! (Patrick Barron)

If I could stick my pen in my heart
And spill it all over the stage
Would it satisfy you? Would it slide on by you?
Would you think the boy is strange?
Ain't he strange?

There was a long-time criticism of the movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially in the first two phases, that while Marvel has excellent heroes, there was a tendency to make the villain just a dark mirror of the hero.  Iron Man faces Iron Monger, Hulk faced Abomination, Captain America faced Red Skull, Ant-Man faced Yellow Jacket, and Doctor Strange faced Kaecilius.  In each case, the complaint was that it made the framework of the conflict sort of boring and predictable.  

In other news, it is worth noting that Michigan decided that the best way to beat Iowa and its nation's best defense was to basically become Iowa with a better offense.  How did Michigan win this game?  Lockdown defense (which, admittedly, was made easier by Iowa's offensive inability), timely special teams play (the Semaj Morgan punt return to give Michigan a short field on which they cashed in, James Turner being perfect on field goals.), and forcing turnovers (if you would like to believe that the Big Ten officials might have a bias against Michigan, the replay review where Josh Wallace's timely remembrance to pick up the ball and hand it to the official gave Michigan another short field), Michigan essentially became MegaIowa and the result was a 26-0 victory to end the Big Ten East/Big Ten West era of Big Ten championship games 10-0 in favor of the East.

If I could win you, if I could sing you
A love song so divine
Would it be enough for your cheatin' heart
If I broke down and cried?
If I cried

Michigan fans have long seen Pasadena as the just reward for a great season.  You win the Big Ten, you go to the Rose Bowl.  While the results of that game have not always been great, there have been great moments in the shadow of the San Gabriels.  While it would have been nice to have a Pac-12 opponent to face in the last "real Rose Bowl," a battle of the two winningest programs in college football history is a nice framework to look at as we head into the New Year.  Michigan has learned, hopefully, the lessons of the last two years, and know that Alabama, and specifically, Nick Saban, with time to prepare, is a nightmare.  But Michigan wants to win a national championship; they have a path they need to walk to get there.  We'll see if they can do it, but for now, at least they have the opportunity, which is more than other people can say.

I said, I know it's only rock 'n' roll, but I like it
I said, I know it's only rock 'n' roll, but I like it, like it, yes, I do

College Football is a deeply screwed-up sport, in ways that I do not need to catalog for you, the reader.  We have to accept that if we like, love, and appreciate this sport, there will be things that make no sense.  From the playoff selections this Sunday to NCAA investigations into petty infractions while looking the other way for years on other systemic wrongdoing.  All of these things are just part of what makes this sport what it is.  But for now, Michigan has a chance to win the Rose Bowl, something they have not had an opportunity to do since New Year's Day 2007.  California dreamin' indeed.

Tales from the Spreadsheet
  • Win 1,002
  • 26-0 is NOT a Scorigami (12th time, most recently 11/15/1980 while hosting Purdue)
  • 67,842 was the attendance (largest of Michigan's three Big Ten Championship game appearances.)

  • Michigan moves to 45-15-4 all-time against the University of Iowa.
  • Michigan has won four straight over Iowa.
  • Michigan moves to 1-0 all-time on December 2.

  • Michigan moves to 28-1 when scoring exactly 26 points (the loss is 27-26 to 1994 Colorado.  You may remember the ending of that game).
  • Michigan moves to 338-0-12 all-time when allowing 0 points to the opposition.  It is Michigan's second shutout of the season, and Michigan's eighth game holding its opponent to single digits.
  • Michigan has won 22 games all-time by precisely 26 points, most recently the 2021 Northwestern Game. 

Saturday, November 25, 2023

She's a Rainbow

The sweetest buffs of the year.  (Bryan Fuller)

Have you seen her dressed in blue?
See the sky in front of you
And her face is like a sail
Speck of white, so fair and pale
Have you seen a lady fairer?

On a week where Jim Harbaugh referenced Ted Lasso, and the MMB made a "Believe" sign during halftime, it is perhaps fitting that today's column takes its name from one of the finest needle drops in the series.

When not thinking about the holiday this week, most of my spare time was fluctuating between dread and complete dread about this game.  Everything on paper said that these were two evenly matched teams, except one was without its head coach due to a suspension.  Would that be too much?  Would Michigan, being at home and united under the "Michigan vs. Everybody" mantra, find a way to do it?  It was a different feeling than what I had felt going into The Game for much of the last decade.  Most of the time was hoping Michigan could find a way to pull it off, only to have that hope dashed either quickly, or crushingly, or sometimes both.  2021 allowed Michigan fans to dream again, and 2022 allowed Michigan fans to feel something wholly different, something ancient awoken in our souls; the dream of the 90s was alive in Ann Arbor.

But 2023 has been a ride.  A completely stupid ride.  One that I regret spending so much mental energy on, as elucidated by BryMac in Punt/Counterpunt this week.  But it was perhaps inevitable when you spend so much time thinking about Michigan football.  These were the narratives, the things that had to be mulled over, and there they were.  Narratives aren't reality; we try to predict the story based on what has happened before; it's one of the most basic reading comprehension skills we teach children.  But we cannot predict the future; we are not clairvoyant, and our tendency to catastrophize as a means of guarding ourselves against the disappointment to come later.  But we cannot lose sight of hope.

She comes in colours everywhere
She combs her hair
She's like a rainbow
Coming colours in the air
Oh, everywhere
She comes in colours

See, hope comes in colors.  Sometimes it's the mono-blue uniforms that Michigan has made a new tradition at home against Ohio State.  Sometimes it's the steel gray sky of the late fall in the Midwest.  Sometimes it's the polarized brown of the buffs after not one, but two critical interceptions, one to get things rolling, and one to close the door.  But hope will sit with you as Michigan bleeds clock in the fourth quarter until Ryan Day starts calling some time-outs.  You start to think about how one more first down will win this game.  You hope that kicking the field goal to go up six is the right call.  You wonder if hope is leaving early to beat traffic when Kyle McCord keeps completing passes.  But then, Michigan got just enough pressure on McCord to force him into a bad throw, and Rod Moore got both hands under it, and you realize that yes, hope has left the building, not because she abandoned you, but because hope has become reality once more.   

Have you seen her all in gold?
Like a queen in days of old
She shoots colours all around
Like a sunset going down
Have you seen a lady fairer?

Michigan still has some work to do.  Another matchup with a 10-2 Iowa squad in Indy.  Win that, and Michigan heads back to Pasadena for the first time since New Year's Day 2007 in what is, in some ways, the last real Rose Bowl.  Maybe it's Michigan/Washington for a fitting farewell, but there is still too much daylight between now and selection Sunday to make any predictions.  But as I think about the future, I am reminded of the past.

Ten years ago, a flawed Michigan team went blow for blow with #3 Ohio State in the Big House.  Trailing by 7, Michigan drove 84 yards in 100 seconds to score a touchdown to make it 42-41.  Hoke asked the players if they wanted to go for the win.  They said they did; they came out with a two-point conversion play.  Ohio State called time out.  Michigan came back out with the same play, and Ohio State knocked it down to survive Michigan's upset bid.  I wondered at that time who Michigan football was for, and what Michigan football was for.  Ten years later, I came to the same conclusion, it is for them.  These players wanted all of this, and this time, they got it.  Three in a row against Ohio State.  What a time, what a team.  Onward to Indy.

She's like a rainbow
Coming colours in the air
Oh, everywhere
She comes in colours

--"She's a Rainbow" by the Rolling Stones from their 1967 album Their Satanic Majesties Request

Tales from the Spreadsheet
  • Win 1,001
  • 30-24 IS a Scorigami (I know, I'm just as surprised as you are.) (Five of Michigan's 12 games thus far this season have been Scorigamis.)
  • 110,615 was the attendance (the smallest home crowd to watch Michigan play a football game against Ohio State since the 1997 game.)

  • Michigan moves to 61-52-6 all-time against the Ohio State University.
  • Michigan has won three straight over Ohio State.  Three straight for the first time since 1995-1997.
  • Michigan moves to 11-6-1 all-time on November 25, 6-5 vs Ohio State on this date.  It marks Michigan's first win on this date since 1995, which allows me to yell BIAKA for a good reason.

  • Michigan moves to 9-1 when scoring exactly 30 points (the loss is 31-30 to 1988 Miami).
  • Michigan moves to 17-18 all-time when allowing 24 points to the opposition.
  • Michigan has won 30 games all-time by precisely 6 points, most recently the 2020 Rutgers 3 OT game.  (Fun Fact: Michigan also beat Ohio State by a six-point margin in 1997 to finish an undefeated regular season.)

Saturday, November 18, 2023

(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

A journey that began in 1879 has a new milestone.  (Nick Wass/AP Photo)

"When I'm driving in my car
And that man comes on the radio
And he's telling me more and more
About some useless information
Supposed to fire my imagination
I can't get no, oh no, no, no!
Hey, hey, hey!  That's what I'll say!."

--"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" from the band's 1965 single of the same name

It was a lot this week.  Which is weird because, in some ways, it was less than the week before, but in other ways, it was more.  But it was a lot as a fan, so I can only presume it was worse as a player or coach.  But it was reasonable to believe that the dust would settle enough when Saturday came, and Michigan would come out and play some solid football.

We must have forgotten a critical truth of the college football season.  The game before the Game is always stupid.  Deeply stupid.  To look back at the last few, there was last year's Illinois game, the 2021 Maryland game (perhaps the least stupid of the lot), the 2019 Indiana game in freezing rain, and the 2018 Indiana game that featured six Jake Moody field goal because the offense could not cash in.  It's not that it's a trap game; it's just you don't want to lose anyone to injury before The Game, and you don't want to put too much on tape.  That's a restrictor plate, and it can lead to some weird results.

Michigan came out flat initially, but after a Maryland field goal, it got an offensive touchdown, a strip sack touchdown, a punt block converted into a safety, and then a touchdown drive to go up 20-3.  Michigan looked ready to downshift into cruise mode, but Maryland had different ideas and got a touchdown to take it to 20-10.  OK, Michigan, actual two-minute drill practice, which was going well enough, even with a near pick by JJ, which then became an actual pick in the end zone on the next play.  There were many arguments as to why it happened: JJ's dinged up, and Roman Wilson had left the game as a precaution after a hit to the head on Michigan's second offensive drive.  Maryland had some momentum and would get the ball back to start the third quarter.

Sure enough, Maryland marched down the field and got a touchdown, and Michigan's 20-point lead was down to six, and every Michigan fan seemingly turned into a doom machine, especially when Michigan went three and out on three straight runs.  Maryland looked like it would march down the field to take the lead when Mike Sainristil reminded the Terps that to live by Taulia Tagovailoa's arm is to die by Taulia Tagovailoa's arm.  Sainristil got a crucial interception and nearly made it a pick-six before he was ruled down.  No matter, Michigan moved the ball downfield and used a Semaj Morgan jet sweep to put themselves up 12 (a failed two-point conversion was in the mix.)  Nope, Maryland immediately went back down the field and got another touchdown, and now, it was only down five points late in the third quarter.  Michigan punted, but the defense came through, with a critical sack of Tagovailoa on third and 13, which allowed Michigan to get the ball at midfield on the ensuing punt.  But then Michigan went three and out after a sure TD pass to a wide-open Cornelius Johnson on first down, but at least pinned Maryland inside their own ten.  Kenneth Grant got a run stuff, then a sack that was nearly a safety that set up third and 18, which resulted in a Tagovailoa armpunt to Mike Sainristil, again.  But once more, Michigan could do nothing with the ball, going backward thanks to a holding call in Trente Jones during a rare JJ McCarthy scramble during this game.  This left it again on the foot of Tommy Doman, who executed a dead solid perfect punt downed at the Maryland 1-yard line.  Four minutes remained on the clock, but Maryland would need to go the length of the field against a resurgent Michigan defense.  It ended up being moot because on second down, Michigan's pass rush forced Tagovailoa into a pass without forcing him out of the pocket that got nowhere close enough to a Terp receiver.  The officials threw a late flag and awarded intentional grounding in the end zone, thus a safety, giving Michigan a seven-point lead.  Maryland would never touch the ball again, and Michigan escaped College Park with a win, the 1,000th in team history.

Michigan played nowhere near their best football on this day, and it showed up repeatedly on the field.  But once more, Michigan won over a bowl-eligible team on the road.  It did what it needed to do.  Ohio State did its part, and, once more, 11-0 Michigan and 11-0 Ohio State will face off in another edition of The Game.  Who knows what potential horrors and distractions await during the week, but for one more week, Michigan kept all of its goals ahead of it despite all of the adversity it faced, self-induced and otherwise.

Nothing more to say.  Beat Ohio.

Tales from the Spreadsheet
  • Win 1,000
  • 31-24 is NOT a Scorigami (the other was a 1965 game against another ACC team, North Carolina.  29-24 would have been.  The consensus thought this would be a more common score, even if Michigan got there in a weird way.)
  • 49,546 was the attendance (the smallest crowd to watch Michigan play a football game this season and the smallest crowd since...Maryland 2021.)

  • Michigan moves to 10-1 all-time against the University of Maryland.
  • Michigan has won seven straight over Maryland.
  • Michigan moves to 15-4-1 all-time on November 18, breaking a two-game losing streak on this date, which started with the 2006 edition of The Game.

  • Michigan moves to 45-4 when scoring exactly 31 points.
  • Michigan moves to 16-18 all-time when allowing 24 points to the opposition.
  • Michigan has won 51 games all-time by precisely 7 points, most recently the 2022 Maryland game.  (Fun Fact: Michigan also earned win #500 by a seven-point margin over Illinois.)

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Street Fighting Man

Blake Corum, bloodied but unbowed. (Angelique Chengelis-Detroit News)

"Yeah, think the time is rightFor a palace revolutionBut where I live, the gameTo play is compromise solution."

--"Street Fighting Man" from the band's 1968 album Beggar's Banquet

You could be forgiven for forgetting that Saturday's contest marked the first top ten matchup between Michigan and Penn State in Happy Valley since 1997's "Judgment Day." That would have been enough. But then Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti suspended Jim Harbaugh "for the remainder of the regular season" under the conference's sportsmanship policy in the wake of allegations of in-person scouting by a Michigan analyst. Michigan learned of the suspension when they landed in State College, leading to a series of social media posts by Michigan players that simply read "Bet."  So many posts that said "Bet."

Michigan's administration had hoped to get a Temporary Restraining Order that allowed Harbaugh to be on the sideline for the game. However, that did not come through, leaving the interim head coach reins to OC Sherrone Moore. I have to admit I thought for sure they would go with Mike Hart, which would have allowed Moore and Minter to focus on the playcalling duties, but it makes sense that Moore, seen widely as a leading candidate for several open jobs around the country, would get the call.  

In a game that lived up to the expectations of two high-level defenses, Penn State took an early lead on a field goal after running the first play inside the Michigan 10-yard line all season. Michigan looked shaky early on offense, but after a couple of protection adjustments, Michigan roared back with a pair of second quarter touchdowns on the ground, the first a short dive by Blake Corum, the second an explosive run by Donovan Edwards, coming on 75 and 78-yard drives, respectively. While Penn State would get a score late in the second quarter, after a successful halfback pass on a fourth down and then a Drew Allar scramble, James Franklin went for two, and Penn State missed, and it was 14-9 at the half. The stats said that, like last year, Michigan was outplaying Penn State, and it's worth noting that Michigan's win expectancy was virtually the same at halftime as it was last year.

Penn State got the ball to start the second half and was moving the ball reasonably well until a Drew Allar fumble on a QB keeper recovered by Makari Paige. Michigan proceeded to squeeze the life over of the third quarter clock slowly. 13 plays, 45 yards, eight minutes of clock. Though the drive ended in just a field goal, those three points would prove critical in the final outcome and in the final disposition of the fourth quarter. Over the next six drives, neither Penn State's nor Michigan's offense could not put anything together, with no drive lasting longer than six plays and several three-and-outs.  

Penn State took the ball back at their own 26, and after a first down run, two quick Allar incompletions led to Franklin's...aggressive...decision to go for it on 4th and 2. Choosing to do so deep in his own territory, with two time-outs still in his pocket and over four minutes remaining, did not pay off. 

Michigan responded to this sudden change with a 30-yard run by Blake Corum to extend Michigan to a two-score lead. On the ensuing Penn State possession, a near interception by Michigan on first down nearly snuffed all the drama out of the game. Still, with a couple of assists from the officials, Penn State did march down the field to get a touchdown, but once again, Penn State went for two and failed, leaving Michigan still up two scores. Michigan recovered an onside kick, got a first down, and salted away a gratifying win.  

Coach Moore's postgame interview with Fox's Jenny Taft caught the raw emotion of the man (and a few expletives) who shouted out Harbaugh, the university president, the athletic department, the alumni, and the fans. Michigan got Win 999 without its head coach and a chance to be the first school to get Win 1000 next Saturday in College Park. Another week of drama regarding the Harbaugh suspension will ensue, but it's worth remembering that Harbaugh can still do everything during the week; he just can't be at the venue on game days. Michigan will likely continue to fight the suspension on due process and failure to follow the Big Ten's bylaws grounds, which I think they have to in terms of not conceding that the scheme was not necessarily improper (there is a way to read the vaguely written rules to make it reasonable. Whether you want to agree with that read is a different matter.)  Michigan will be defiant to the joy of their fans and the scorn of the rest of the country. Michigan has embraced the villain role, which I never expected to see happen, but here we are.  Well, what can a poor boy do?  Except to play for a football band? 'Cause in sleepy Ann Arbor town, There's just no place for a street fighting man.

Tales from the Spreadsheet
  • Win 0999
  • 24-15 is a Scorigami (thanks Frames)
  • 110,846 was the attendance (second largest crowd in Beaver Stadium history, largest non-Big House crowd Michigan has ever played in front of.)

  • Michigan moves to 17-10 all-time against the Pennsylvania State University.
  • Michigan has won three straight over Penn State.
  • Michigan moves to 15-4 all-time on November 11, including 12 in a row (they are 13-1 since 11/11 became Veterans Day).

  • Michigan moves to 37-8 when scoring exactly 24 points.
  • Michigan moves to 7-2 all-time when allowing 15 points to the opposition.
  • Michigan has won 10 games all-time by precisely 9 points, most recently the 2016 Michigan State game.

Sunday, November 05, 2023

Gimme Shelter

"It's just a shot away, it's just a shot away."  (Jacob Hamilton | MLive)

Ooh, a storm is threateningMy very life todayIf I don't get some shelterOoh yeah, I'm gonna fade away

"Gimme Shelter" by The Rolling Stones from their 1969 album Let It Bleed.

It was certainly not a boring bye week for the Michigan football program. It was a week that required a lot of incredulity, skepticism, and steeling oneself against wish casting in both directions. Facts were few and far between, but information still needed to be presented as such, with conflicting interpretations of what was, what is, and what shall be. I found myself wanting to exclude myself from any of these conversations because I was not comfortable with what I actually knew about things.  

But I can talk about this game.

One of the most challenging things about setting a high standard for yourself or your team is that it can be challenging to maintain that standard. Standards are not set over one game or two games, but eight games into the season, everyone around the country had a pretty good sense of what Michigan is capable of doing.

Early on, the best feeling about the game was that Michigan looked sharp in all phases of the game in the first quarter, something that had not been happening with regularity at home this season, getting out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter and while there was a slightly off-target pass from JJ McCarthy here or there, it looked very much like this was the match-up of an 8-0 team and a 2-6 team.

Then, the flatness settled in.

It did not actually show up mathematically in the analytics because of the weirdness of how Purdue got to this point. Still, a long Hudson Card completion where a freshman DB appeared to give up on the play (which is probably not what happened, but the way it looked in real time was rough), Purdue extending a drive by getting a punt to carom off one of Michigan's blockers, and Michigan trying to get a 4th and 1 on their own 34. The latter two events gave Purdue excellent field position, with which they could only garner two field goals. Simultaneously, Michigan just could not move the ball with any regularity or consistency, 

The malaise continued after the half, and it could be chalked up to a combination of Michigan perhaps believing that they had enough points to win the game and not wanting anyone to get hurt, seemingly telling JJ not to take off and run after the first quarter, and a little bit of post-bye week rust. But cracking the playbook back open just a little, a nifty end around to the speedy Semaj Morgan, bolstered by a neat fake on the counter, and Michigan extended the lead to 21 points and got things unstuck. A couple more fourth quarter touchdowns would put a bow on things, tarnished only slightly by Purdue's late drive that found the end zone on a hanging arm punt on a fourth and three. This pushed Purdue to 13 points, the highest total of any opponent this season. But Michigan came into this game and handled its business ahead of its first ranked match-up of the year in State College next Saturday against the Nittany Lions. No one knows what the week ahead holds, though many would like you to think they do to sell premium subscriptions. But for now, we wait, and we hope.

Tales from the Spreadsheet
  • Win 0998
  • 41-13 is a Scorigami (41-6 would have also been.)
  • 110,245 was the attendance (106th largest crowd in Michigan Stadium history.)

  • Michigan moves to 47-14 all-time against Purdue University.
  • Michigan has won six straight over Purdue.
  • Michigan moves to 14-6-1 all-time on November 4.

  • Michigan moves to 19-1 when scoring exactly 49 points (you may remember the one loss).
  • Michigan moves to 45-12-1 all-time when allowing 13 points to the opposition.
  • Michigan has won 31 games all-time by precisely 28 points, including once already this season against UNLV.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Paint It, Black

Pick Six into Hitting the Bunyan (Michigan Athletics)

Maybe then, I'll fade awayAnd not have to face the factsIt's not easy facing upWhen your whole world is black
No more will my green seaGo turn a deeper blueI could not foresee this thingHappening to you
"Paint It, Black" by the Rolling Stones from their 1966 album Aftermath

Well, that was something else.  The Bobby Williams Game in 2002, the 49-3 beatdown so bad that when asked if he had lost his team, then-MSU head coach Bobby Williams replied, "I don't know," has long been my gold standard for "Michigan not only has more talent, they want it more than Michigan State" games.  The nature of the rivalry, especially in the 21st century, has yet to allow Michigan to demonstrate much of this.  So when you combined what this blog's founder Geoff called "the Bad Ideas Bowl" of playing this game at night in East Lansing with liquor sales allowed for the first time in the stadium, there might have been a little trepidation.

Michigan left no doubt in their intentions.

The 12-play, 84-yard opening drive was not flawless, but it showed one of the elements that Michigan has demonstrated time and again this year: their ability to keep moving the chains even when it doesn't look great.  An uncharacteristic false start penalty on Corum and an incomplete pass by JJ?  No problem, just find Barner for 21 yards.  It wasn't dink and dunk; it was purposeful, efficient, and ended in the end zone for six.  

Michigan State's first drive looked interesting enough.  NBC made a point to show Katin Houser going over to the sidelines to get the play call on each play, a precaution against the accusations of sign stealing by Michigan that had cropped up during the week and some thought might be a distraction.  But for anything Michigan State tried to get going, a holding call put Michigan State off schedule, leading to a 4th and 2 at midfield that Michigan State went for.  At the time, it was a good call and a right call, but they failed to convert and gave Michigan a short field with which to work.  A series of McCarthy passes ended with, once again, Roman Wilson in the end zone (giving him the most TDs by a Michigan wide receiver since Desmond Howard in 1991.) Michigan was up 14-0, and a rout looked at least like a reasonable surmise as the end result.

The rest of the half, Michigan's defense did not allow Michigan State to gain more than ten yards on a drive while adding two more touchdowns by Colston Loveland and nearly a third were it not for a false start call on Donovan Edwards that probably should have been picked up since Edwards was moving backward, but nevertheless, a 10-second runoff ensued. 

Michigan State had a chance to come out after halftime with their scripted drive, and it looked promising, but faced with a 4th and 7, Mike Sainristil picked off a Houser pass and ran it back 72 yards for a touchdown.  Michigan's fourth pick-six of the season.

The rest of the game was largely academic.  Michigan State got into the personal fouls as a form of expression territory; Michigan's backups were undisciplined themselves.  Still, a wonderful bookend of a Jaden McBurrows interception led, in part, to an Alex Orji option back drive that resulted in the final TD of the game after Michigan State was more than happy to commit yet another personal foul, setting Michigan up with first and goal from the MSU six.  Orji put the capper on a night of domination, Michigan's largest win over the Spartans since they joined the Big Ten and the largest shutout victory over the Spartans since they were renamed Michigan State.  Perhaps Michigan State's black uniforms were just knowing that the atmosphere in Spartan Stadium would end up funereal for their fans?

No one knows how the rest of things play out this year.  Is the NCAA investigation a witch hunt because they're pissed at Harbaugh, or did Michigan actually screw something up?  Is Michigan actually good, or do they just keep processing opponents so thoroughly it's hard to tell if anyone they're playing is good?  None of these answers will come this week during the bye, but for now, Michigan looks like they're rolling, and that's enjoyable enough.

Tales from the Spreadsheet
  • Win 0997
  • 49-0 is NOT a Scorigami (one of the fastest confirmations I've ever had because of Michigan's first two Rose Bowls.  This was the seventh such occurrence, most recent was Homecoming 1974 vs Minnesota.)
  • 74,206 was the attendance (Yep, it wasn't even a sellout at Spartan Stadium.)

  • Michigan moves to 73-38-5 all-time against MAC/MSC/Michigan State University.
  • Michigan has won 2 straight over Michigan State.
  • Michigan moves to 17-3-0 all-time on October 21.

  • Michigan moves to 21-0 when scoring exactly 49 points.
  • Michigan moves to 337-0-12 all-time when shutting their opponent out.
  • Michigan earns its first shutout since 2022 UConn, its first B1G shutout since 2019 Rutgers, and its first road shutout since 2016 Rutgers.
  • Michigan has won 8 games all-time by precisely 49 points (the seven 49-0 results and the really wacky 70-21 game against Illinois in 1981, a game that Michigan was down 21-7 in the first quarter before scoring NINE unanswered touchdowns.  The Bentley has the digitized game film!)

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Under My Thumb

Roman and Colston, after Michigan went ahead for good. (Maize and Blue Nation)

"It's down to me, oh yeah
The way she talks when she's spoken to
Down to me, the change has come
She's under my thumb
Yeah, it feels alright."

--"Under My Thumb" by The Rolling Stones from their 1966 album Aftermath

I don't like to think about Michigan losing to Indiana.  Truth be told, it has only happened twice in my lifetime, one of which was the COVID year that we don't talk about. It's just, "Oh, Indiana games are always going to be stupid."  This is not wholly true, but the stupid ones do stand out.  But Indiana has only beaten Michigan ten times in seventy-two tries ever.  The Hoosiers have not won in Ann Arbor since the Johnson administration.  So there's this strangeness of simultaneously not wanting to worry about Indiana but being really annoyed that I have to worry about Indiana.

So when the first quarter ended with Michigan having not crossed midfield AND being down 7-0 to the Hoosiers on a cold, wet, miserable day in Ann Arbor in the middle of a solar eclipse, you could be forgiven for thinking this was about to be one of the weird ones.  But to start the second quarter, Michigan ran seven consecutive plays for positive yardage, ending with a Blake Corum one-yard TD run, and the game was all tied up.  This is the closest it would be the rest of the way.

A lot of the rest of the game felt perfunctory.  A long drive that resulted in a TD pass to Roman Wilson, a shorter TD drive set up by a good punt return by Tyler Morris that ended with a Blake Corum TD, but not before a Mahomesian flip pass by McCarthy to Donovan Edwards that got Michigan inside the 5.  Michigan scored on every subsequent possession until the game-ending kneel-down, and the result was a 52-7 final.  (There was a tense moment at the end of the game where Indiana looked to have a touchdown that would have put Indiana at 14 points, but the Hoosier receiver Omar Cooper, Jr. was found to have stepped out of bounds before he made his catch, and Michigan kept the result as 52 unanswered points.

This game was not boring, especially because there were a lot of cool plays by Michigan on offense and defense (two picks and two fumble recoveries, for starters.) but, at a certain point on a rainy October day, if you're in the stadium, no matter how well you've prepped your outfit choices, you're getting ready for it to be over.  Michigan stayed on course for all of its goals, especially important as they headed into Michigan State week up at East Lansing.  A great deal of business was accomplished, just as expected.

Tales from the Spreadsheet
  • Win 0996
  • 52-7 is NOT a Scorigami (previously occurred October 29, 1988, vs. Northwestern)
  • 110,264 was the attendance (highest of the season, 106th largest crowd in Michigan Stadium history.  Especially impressive given the weather and being Fall Break.)

  • Michigan moves to 62-10-0 all-time against Indiana.
  • Michigan has won 2 straight over Indiana, 27 straight in non-pandemic seasons, and 22 straight in Ann Arbor over the Hoosiers.
  • Michigan moves to 14-4-1 all-time on October 14.

  • Michigan moves to 13-0 when scoring exactly 52 points. (This marks the second time this season that Michigan has had the exact same offensive scoring output in back-to-back weeks)
  • Michigan moves to 111-13-4 all-time when allowing precisely 7 points.
  • Michigan has won 7 games all-time by precisely 45 points.
(Also, through a lot of hard work and cross-checking, I found the two issues that were making the Win Count not make sense.  One of them was a transcription error in the original data from 1998 that made that year's Wisconsin game appear in 1988.  But if you would like to see The Spreadsheet, please click here.)

Sunday, October 08, 2023

Jumpin' Jack Flash

Kris Jenkins shows off the spoils. (Michigan Athletics)

"I was born in a crossfire hurricane
And I howled at the morning drivin' rain
But it's all right now, in fact, it's a gasBut it's all right, I'm jumpin' jack flashIt's a gas, gas, gas"
--"Jumpin' Jack Flash" by the Rolling Stones from the 1968 non-album single of the same name
The thing that struck me in last night's post-game interviews is that while I don't think it was the actual plan, I think the Michigan coaching staff accidentally said, "What if we built the whole team out of dorks who sincerely love football and are also really good at it?"  Like, to listen to JJ and Blake postgame, they said all the right things about the team, about not focusing on anything more than the task at hand and doing the job they need to do, but you just get this vibe of the team reflects this notion that it's OK to be a football dork.  If attitude reflects leadership, we may have the most Jim Harbaugh team ever.
I thought it last week on the second Roman Wilson touchdown, but I think it was confirmed on both McCarthy's second touchdown run this week and the Loveland TD.  JJ might be everything I had ever wanted or hoped for in a Michigan quarterback.  Accurate, smart, fearless, has enough of an arm to go deep, willing to tuck it and run, can throw off platform, can avoid pressure, and plays with joy.   On his second TD run, McCarthy did a dead-leg slide step to...pump fake a defender with his legs, who he then stiff-armed same said Gopher into the turf, and got in for six.  On the Loveland touchdown, JJ saw a free rusher likely coming to his left, adjusted his line protections, Mullins picked up a blitzing linebacker, and JJ threw a dime to Colston Loveland as he got him (actually got roughed as he threw) to put Michigan up by 28 (thanks to Todd Blackledge for explaining this very concisely on the replay).  
Michigan's defense outscored the Gophers 12-10 thanks to pick sixes by Will Johnson and Keon Sabb, and other than one bad bit of coverage at the end of the first half did not really allow the Gophers to do much of anything on offense.  It was a complete game from top to bottom, every member of the traveling party, save backup long snapper Greg Tarr, got into the game, and Michigan handled its business as one would expect or hope.  The Jug stays in Ann Arbor for another year (hey, Minnesota ended up on next year's new schedule as well), and Michigan gets to decide where the next five scores go on the Jug (social media seemed to indicate they'll be putting them above the Minnesota M).  Hoosiers for Big Noon next week.
Tales from the Spreadsheet
  • Win 0995
  • 52-10 IS a Scorigami
  • 52,179 was the attendance.

  • Michigan moves to 77-25-3 all-time against Minnesota.
  • Michigan has won 4 straight over Minnesota, and 18 straight in Minneapolis.
  • Michigan moves to 17-4 all-time on October 7 (weirdly, Michigan was 1-3 in their last four Oct. 7 games going into last night, including that MSU game in 2017 in the squall line.  Also, Michigan has been a Top Ten team in each of their last eight October 7 games.)

  • Michigan moves to 12-0 when scoring exactly 52 points. (Weird note: Four of the games with exactly 52 points were against Minnesota.  Minnesota has never had the same score on their side of any of those four.)
  • Michigan moves to 56-10-1 all-time when allowing precisely 10 points.
  • Michigan has won 15 games all-time by precisely 42 points.

Sunday, October 01, 2023


This should not have worked, but it did, and it was spectacular. (Patrick Barron)

"Did you ever wake up to find
A day that broke up your mind
Destroyed your notion of circular time"

"Sway" by the Rolling Stones from their 1971 album Sticky Fingers

This was more like it.  This is what most of Michigan fandom wanted but did not hope for.  Michigan has never had an easy time of it in either of their B1G games in Lincoln, but having lost the toss, Michigan started on offense for the first time all season and began a methodical drive, churning out first downs without any play longer than nine yards, setting up 2nd and 2 at the Nebraska 29 when J.J. McCarthy waited out the patterns to develop thanks to a clean pocket and fired an absolute laser into the back of the end zone where, somehow, Roman Wilson did his best Tyrone Prothro impression, held on to the ball, and opened the scoring on the day for Michigan.  It's easier to say in retrospect, but the vibes were immediately excellent after this.

So when, on their second play from scrimmage, Nebraska had a pass batted in the air and Kenneth Grant, quickly becoming a fan favorite, waited for it to come down like the biggest kid in your fifth-grade class getting ready to pull down a wounded duck in a recess game of "500", letting Michigan cash in three plays later on a beautiful 20-yard rush by Kalel Mullings, yep, the rout was on.

Nebraska did try to make a game of it with a solid 68 yard drive, but Michigan stopped Nebraska on a 4th and 1 and turned around to go 88 yards in nine plays to get a touchdown when J.J. saw nothing but green grass in front of him and celebrated by feasting on some corn on the cob.

A series of three traded punts ensued, and with time winding down, J.J. McCarthy did something that qualifies as all I have ever wanted from a Michigan quarterback, all in one play:

McCarthy took the snap, saw pressure, and thus, he rolled out to his left, he had plenty of space in front of him if he wanted to run, but instead threw an absolute dime to the back of the end zone (Jason Benetti said it had a vapor trail on it) to a crossing Roman Wilson, who snagged it in stride, touchdown Michigan, 28-0.

The second half was largely about keeping up the solid effort, scoring on their three drives, pulling the starters to avoid injury, and save one big bust by the backups to allow Nebraska to keep their scoring streak alive, largely just doing the good work over and over again, it was a comfortable, easy-going afternoon of Michigan football.  Not a bad way to start the road slate.

Jug security is now at a premium for the week to come.

Tales from the Spreadsheet
  • Win 0994
  • 45-7 is NOT a Scorigami (fifth ever, most recently August 30, 2003, against Central Michigan.)
  • 87,134 was the attendance.

  • Michigan moves to 8-4-1 all-time against Nebraska.
  • Michigan has won 4 straight over Nebraska.
  • Michigan moves to 10-3 all-time on September 30.

  • Michigan moves to 23-1 when scoring exactly 45 points. (sighs in Fiesta Bowl)
  • Michigan moves to 110-13-4 all-time when allowing precisely 7 points.
  • Michigan has won 18 games all-time by precisely 38 points.