Sunday, November 22, 2020

All Kinds of Time

Cade McNamara made the most of being inserted at QB for the second half.
Cade McNamara made the most of the opportunity. (Detroit Free Press)

Betting lines should not set narratives in sporting events, but when Michigan was rolled out as an 8-10 point favorite in the early line this weekend over Rutgers, it was simultaneously seen as an indictment of where Michigan is right now because a). I mean, they should be way more of a favorite over Rutgers in a normal circumstance and b). it still seemed pretty generous even with how Michigan had been playing this season.

So when Michigan was down 17-0 in the second quarter and the college football watching portion of the internet began bird-dogging the trainwreck, in stepped Cade McNamara to take the reins at QB from Joe Milton.  Milton's 5 of 12 for 89 yards performance was not inspiring, and several drops or near misses were a source of frustration.  But Michigan needed a spark and McNamara did exactly what was needed.  He hit Mike Sainristil for 14 yards to get Michigan into Rutgers territory, then found a wide-open Cornelius Johnson for 46 yards and Michigan's first score of the game.  Though the two-minute drill left a lot to be desired, Michigan at least had stanched the bleeding and would get the ball back to start the second half.

Giles Jackson's kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half will be somewhat muted by the fact that Rutgers countered with their own touchdown just three plays later.  But it set the tone for the methodical 8-play drive of its own that Michigan countered with, especially the hard yards by Hassan Haskins to get Michigan first and goal on the Rutgers 10.  Michigan would score two plays later and pull within three.  The offense had settled into some kind of rhythm, and the defense holding Rutgers to a field goal felt like the tiniest of victories.  An exchange of punts later, it was McNamara moving the ball down the field again with a mix of well-executed passes (and a bonus gift of 15-yard penalty for a facemask by Rutgers) and Michigan took its first lead since the end of the Minnesota game.  Hope slowly began to seep back in, like water into someone's unfinished basement, unwelcome but undeniably present.  

When Michigan forced a six and out, aided immensely by a sack by Little Boss Josh Ross, it began to look like Michigan could run a long drive that would salt the game away.  They did just that, to an extent.  A 12 play drive with a solid mix of run and pass burned six minutes of game clock but still left five minutes in the fourth quarter, even as Michigan sat up 8.  Could the defense, as banged up as it is,  find the old magic and get out of New Jersey with an ugly, but still meaningful win in regulation?

No.  It could not. Rutgers made the most of both third and long and fourth and long situations, slipping through the Michigan defense to get a score, and then Noah Vedral dragging Michigan defenders through on a QB draw for the 2-point conversion to knot the game at 35.  It felt like once again the dam of negative feelings was about to burst.

Quinn Nordin's third missed field goal of the day in the opening half of 1OT certainly seemed to confirm the worst.  No way Michigan could hold Rutgers and even if it could, Valentino Ambrosi had been money all night.  The math even backed up the despair (well, not despair, the resignation.)

But Michigan did hold Rutgers to -2 yards on the sequence and Ambrosi missed a 45 yarder to send the game into a second OT and push the game closer to finishing on Sunday morning.  So when Rutgers used a clever pass to get into the end zone on one play, Michigan needed to counter.  And it did, thanks to McNamara continuing to find receivers, Haskins continuing to find ways to get extra yards, and Rutgers continuing to get facemask penalties.  McNamara kept the ball and flipped into the end zone and we headed for 3OT.

Thanks to a DPI prayer on 3rd and 18, Michigan was inside Rutgers 10 once more, and after a pair of Haskins run, they were inside the 1.  People much smarter than me explained why, based on Rutgers' defensive strengths, Michigan did not want to sneak the ball, but it was still maddening to a long-time football observer that Michigan was lined up in shotgun when they needed six feet to get the ball in the end zone.  After McNamara was stopped for no gain on third down, it looked it would be the reasonable question of the day.  But Haskins got in, but the two-point conversion failed when McNamara threw the ball to the wrong side of Ronnie Bell, and now Michigan needed to hold Rutgers off.  Would the defense finally get it done?

Yes.  They did.  They held Rutgers to net one yard on their four plays in 3OT, sealed by a Dax Hill interception in the end zone, to mercifully bring this game to a close, over four and a half hours after this whole affair had begun.

There is no great lesson from this game just as there is no great lesson from this season.  Michigan has a bunch of players injured in the middle of a global pandemic in a season that probably shouldn't be being played, but here we are.  We still came together to suffer collectively but we did it collectively.  It was the most Michigan football thing possible.

Sunday, November 08, 2020

New Routine

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh reacts towards a game official after a call during the second half of U-M's 38-21 loss on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Bloomington, Indiana.  (Doug McSchooler/AP)

It doesn't hurt at all and I couldn't figure out why.  It's not because I don't care, because I do.  Perhaps not as passionately as I did in my youth, but I still care, but it is a level of caring tempered by realities both small and larger. It's not that it wasn't expected, hardly, I was going to be fully and completely shocked if Michigan managed to pull this off.  No, it was just, it was a game, one of several, being played at noon on Saturday, and Michigan, like a lot of teams in 2020, did not look very good in their playing of it.

It was the last connection to be severed.  Every connection to the Bo era had been broken but one.  That Michigan's last loss to Indiana was in 1987.  A winning streak begun in the dying embers of the Schembechler era, carried through Moeller and Carr, inexplicably moved through the direst ebbs of the Rodriguez and Hoke years, and in spite of some wild endings, carried through the Harbaugh years.  All things must pass* and yesterday in Bloomington, it finally did.  That cutting of that link did perhaps reminds us, finally, that the past is truly in the past.  We can honor the past, celebrate the past, but we cannot be beholden to the past, held prisoner by it.

Indiana earned it, there's no doubt.  Indiana looks like a team in control of what it wants to do and making it happen.  Michigan looks like a team that thinks that they can show up and play and that should be enough.  I am sure that people much better versed in interpersonal group dynamics and 
the like can explain better what is going on with Michigan, but right now, it's just not a very good football team and time is running out for it to get better.

Until next week.

*-unless you're Ohio State, which it was pointed out in an AFLAC trivia question last night that they are they only team in the AP Poll era to never have a 5 game losing streak.

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Troubled Times

Well, I mean, at least Blake Corum looked good. (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

And it takes a lot of nerve to ask how she is doing. 
Start with a weak foundation, you will end in ruins. 
The ways the days and hours pass you'll never understand 
Falling like rain through your hands

"Troubled Times" by Fountains of Wayne from their 1999 album Utopia Parkway

It was more troubling than a blowout might indicate because it was a thousand deaths in the margins.  Michigan decided that it would keep doing what it thought it should do on paper, despite the evidence facing them in the game.  Michigan's defense relies on superb DB play to cover in man, and it showed time and again yesterday that it was going to be difficult.  Michigan State's receivers made some absolutely difficult catches, but they made them when they counted, and that was enough.

Michigan's offense kept running up the middle with little to no discernable effect, lighting first downs on fire like they were trying to keep warm in the old abandoned stadium, then looking confused when they were off schedule on third and longs.  Joe Milton did his damndest to keep things going and did a lot more than he didn't, shades of poor damn Devin Gardner. Still, in the end, Michigan State looked like they wanted to win more, were playing looser and freer, and Michigan couldn't get things together for long enough to get out of their own way and try to win the football game.  When you run a wildcat pass inside the five instead of using your 6' 5" highly mobile quarterback, a play that costs you four points in a three-point loss, maybe you're just too committed to clever?

We're looping back to the feeling of being lost, like in 2014, but without any real sense of where to go next.  That sense of dread that Michigan is slated to forever be something like boring Auburn or store-brand Wisconsin.  Good, very good, but not top tier, and maybe not even second tier.  And there's nothing that can be done about it.  Michigan got the best coach it could get, one that everyone agreed would be a great fit and a great coach, and it's basically still what it was for a long time.  This is, admittedly, a significant improvement over the seven years of RR and Hoke, but it's just not going to happen.  In other years, it was more explicable, a loss to Notre Dame to start the season or twin losses to Wisconsin and Penn State on the road.  But this one, this loss, makes no sense on paper.  When things make no sense on paper, people look to intangibles, and there's a lot of not liking what they see.

For so long, Michigan has taken solace in the past, that once was could be again.  "The world has changed, and none of us can go back. All we can do is our best, and sometimes the best that we can do is to start over."  What was isn't any longer.  We can celebrate the past, and we should, but we must remember that it is not a guarantee of the future because no one's future is guaranteed.  You have to work hard to earn what you want, and too often, there is a sense that Michigan presumes a birthright path to the top of the heap.  We want to tell ourselves that we're different, but it's a delusion built on years of arrogance.  We refuse to get out of our own way because we so desperately want that world back, a world from many of our GenX childhoods where Michigan was ultra-reliable as long as it wasn't bowl season.  But even the historical record since World War II doesn't bear out this sense of entitlement.  There is a strange simultaneous tendency to get mad at anyone who dares point these things out and gets mad at anyone who dares not give Michigan its perceived due.  Michigan doesn't hold up its end of the bargain in "the best rivalry in sports" and has trouble holding up its end in the in-state rivalry.  We're wandering aimlessly, hoping for a sign that will lead us forward, a sign that will never come, but instead chasing after false prophets, destined to let us down, time and time again.  Yet, there is no sense that the signal is coming, or will ever come to us.  

I often point to the fact that one of the hallmarks of Michigan fandom is the Michigan fan community, the ties that bind us, in person or virtually, across the years, the good times, and the tough ones.  This just feels different because it's just this strange sense of "I'm not angry, I'm not disappointed, I'm just sad."  When so many people tie up their belief in the possibility of something, only to see those ideas slip away from them, sadness becomes the primary feeling, because we've already been through the other notions of what we can do about it.

This column is probably too pessimistic, too forlorn, probably tapping into other strains of sadness that are running parallel but very close to this stream.  In this strange year, it is difficult to see individual notions of what is making one sad, all of the colors are bleeding into one.  It was perhaps too much to expect and even too much to ask to have Michigan football be something more than it's been in decades to lift our spirits; fervent hope still runs headlong into the limitations of reality.

But it would have been nice to keep Paul home and save the football existential crisis for another week.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Radiation Vibe

The Big Ten returned with, among other things, a fullback diving for the pylon for a touchdown.  Welcome back.
(David Berding/Getty Images)

"Are you alone now
Did you lose the monkey
He gave you backaches
And now you slouch"
"Radiation Vibe" by Fountains of Wayne  from the 1996 album Fountains of Wayne

Like so many of you, I want to start by acknowledging that playing football in a global pandemic is probably not a good idea.  I respect those of you I know who have opted out of your fandom this season on principle.  Were that I had the willpower to do it.  But Michigan football is back and I want to talk about it because, once more, it has brought me joy.

It has been a long road to get here and for many a challenging road with unexpected twists and turns.  The feeling that time has lost all meaning struck me as I was trying to determine which musical artist to use as the theme for this year's game columns and I was reminded that it's only been just a shade over six months since we lost Adam Schlesinger, the multi-talented songwriter known best for his work with Fountains of Wayne, but also a multitude of other projects, including writing "That Thing You Do" for the movie of the same name and being a leading member of the tremendously underrated Ivy.  We've had so much loss, so much anguish, and so much unknown in the weeks and months since all of this began.

Over the last week, I opened up the window to Blogger and began to try to write a column about how everything about this season felt unknown and unknowable.  There was a tempering of the excitement, not just coming from the circumstances of the delay to the start of the season, but the sheer number of things that Michigan was having to replace.  I felt validated in this thinking when Raj said as much, and so much better, in Punt/Counterpunt on Saturday morning.

Could you blame the well-worn Michigan fan for going into a shell when, following a nice run by freshman Blake Corum, Michigan saw Ben Mason earn a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct flag for excessive blocking, then an incomplete, then an eight-yard loss, and then a blocked punt and a quick Gopher touchdown later, everything felt bad and wrong.

So thank you to Zach Charbonnet, who hit a gaping hole in the line and just went for 70 yards and a score in all of 11 seconds to tie the game at 7.  Michigan would never trail again, thanks in part to Michael Barrett's monster hit on Tanner Morgan leading to Donovan Jeter's fumble return touchdown and Ben Mason's pylon dive (as seen above.)  Michigan got the job done. 

(Side note: Welcome back Chris Evans.  The sheer variety of options in the Michigan running backs room brings a smile to my face.)

There was a lot to like last night.  Yes, there are things to fix, concerns over the Dax Hill and Quinn Nordin injuries, there are concerns that Joe Milton will need to do better in the passing game against perhaps more stout Big Ten East opponents.  But on a cold night in Minneapolis, the Jug was retained until at least 2023, the Michigan football family felt like they could celebrate, albeit in a socially distanced way, and Michigan heads into Halloween with a Paul Bunyan Trophy showdown brimming with confidence.  This does not erase the realities of anything beyond football or larger than football.  But, if only for one night, a Michigan football season exists, and a victory was attained.  Shine on.

And now it's time to say
What I forgot to say
Baby, baby, baby
Come on, what's wrong
It's a radiation vibe I'm groovin' on
Don't it make you want to get some sun
Shine on, shine on, shine on.    

Thursday, January 02, 2020

ESPN CFB Images of the Decade 2010-2019: Annotations

Continuing a "long-standing tradition" from 2010, here is my annotated list of the ESPN College Football Images of the Decade video for 2010-2019.  I welcome corrections and specifics in the comments!

  • Instagram Introduction with a Clemson football being kicked off.
  • PSU pregame
  • FSU pregame
  • LSU coach  Les Miles is excited
  • Oregon mascot Puddles is excited
  • USC pregame
  • Michigan players touch the banner
  • Colorado's non-animal mascot Chip fires up the crowd
  • Georgia players break through the banner
  • 2010: Auburn's Michael Dyer was down?  We'll never know.
  • 2010: Auburn's Wes Byrum kicks a field goal and Auburn wins the 2010 BCS National Title
  • 2015: Clemson beats Notre Dame in the rain and Dabo's happy about that.
  • 2016: Louisville's Lamar Jackson hurdles a Syracuse player
  • 2017: Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield plants the flag at the Shoe
  • 2010: MSU beats Notre Dame on Little Giants
  • 2016: CMU beats Oklahoma State at the last second
  • 2017: Penn State's Saquon Barkley
  • 2011: Baylor's RG III
  • 2016: Clemson's Deshawn Watson 
  • 2011: LSU kicker Drew Alleman beats Alabama
  • 2011: Stanford's Andrew Luck
  • 2010: Boise State's Kellen Moore
  • 2012: Alabama's Eddie Lacy runs over Notre Dame in the BCS title game
  • 2015: Ohio State's Braxton Miller spin move TD beats Virginia Tech
  • 2017: Notre Dame's Miles Boykin beats LSU in the 2018 Citrus Bowl
  • 2016: Iowa upsets #2 Michigan at Kinnick After Dark.  Harbaugh looks disappointed.
  • 2013: Auburn's Nick Marshall throws a 73-yard touchdown pass to Ricardo Louis to beat Georgia at the last second on "The Prayer at Jordan-Hare."
  • 2011: Under the Lights - Denard Robinson to Roy Roundtree to beat Notre Dame
  • 2014: Mississippi State's Dak Prescott stiff arms an LSU defender en route to a 54 yard TD.
  • LSU player
  • Wisconsin Player
  • Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley
  • 2012: Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel does Johnny Football things vs. Duke in the Peach Bowl
  • 2014: Arizona's Austin Hill catches a Hail Mary TD to beat Cal
  • 2017: Florida's Feleipe Franks hits Tyrie Cleveland on a Hail Mary to beat Tennessee
  • 2014: Arizona State's Jaelen Strong catches a Hail Mary TD to beat USC.
  • 2012: Notre Dame makes an OT goalline stand to beat Stanford
  • LSU's Leonard Fournette (maybe?)
  • One-handed catch at Temple
  • Stanford's Christian McCaffrey scores a TD
  • 2014: Nebraska's Jordan Westerkamp makes "the butt catch" against FAU.
  • 2018: Oklahoma's Kyler Murray scores against WVU
  • 2019: Ohio State's Justin Fields points in the air.
  • 2015: Michigan State roughs the snapper.  Michigan's Blake O'Neil has trouble with the snap.  Bad things ensue. A meme is born.
  • 2018: Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa runs in for a TD at LSU
  • 2019: LSU's Joe Burrow celebrates
  • 2017: Ohio State's JT Barrett celebrates against Penn State.
  • 2012: South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney dehelmets Michigan's Vincent Smith in the 2013 Outback Bowl.
  • 2017: Miami celebrates with The Turnover Chain.
  • 2013: Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin catches the game-winning TD from Jameis Winston in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.
  • 2014: The College Football Playoff is born
  • 2014: Ohio State's Ezekiel Eliott scores in the 2015 CFP Championship Game over Oregon, Cardale Jones celebrates the first CFB National Championship, Urban Meyer gets a Gatorade bath.
  • Instagram interstitial with Boston College's Mark Herzlich
  • 2010: Notre Dame pays tribute to the late Declan Sullivan
  • 2018: Purdue celebrates the life of superfan Tyler Trent and upsets Ohio State at Ross-Ade
  • 2011: Rutgers player Eric LeGrand returns to the field with his teammates after being paralyzed in a game in 2010.
  • 2016: Nebraska honors the late Sam Foltz who had died in a car accident the previous summer.
  • 2018: Washington State honors the late Tyler Hilinski.
  • 2017: USC long snapper Jake Olson becomes the first blind player in NCAA history.
  • 2016: Pitt running back James Conner comes back to the field after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
  • 2018: Maryland honors their late teammate, #79, Jordan McNair.
  • 2017: Iowa introduces the "Iowa Wave" college football, where after the first quarter, fans wave to patients at The University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital.
  • 2010: Auburn's Cam Newton scores in the opener against South Carolina and celebrates.
  • 2015: Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer finds Will Fuller with 12 seconds left to beat Virginia and sad UVa fan.
  • 2016: Army beats Navy for the first time in 14 years
  • 2015: Alabama's Kenyan Drake returns a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown vs Clemson in the 2016 CFP National Championship Game.
  • 2011: Oregon's Chip Kelly asks some people behind his post-game interview with Erin Andrews to shut up.  Erin Andrews thanks him for doing so.
  • 2015: Alabama's Nick Saban doesn't even know what your question was, he just wanted to say that.
  • 2017: Washington State's Mike Leach calls the postgame celebration after upsetting USC on the Palouse like Woodstock, except everybody's got their clothes on.
  • 2018: Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy does not hold a high opinion of Twitter.
  • 2017: UCF's Scott Frost wants his Knights to know that the College Football Playoff committee was conspiring against them.
  • 2014: At an Oregon presser with Mark Helfrich, 12-year-old reporter Charlie Pape says that the only things that matter at his school are Jesus, Girls, and Marcus Mariota.  Bonus inclusion of 2018: LSU fan Kaileigh Thomas gives the death stare to the camera.
  • 2015: Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds goes into the record books.
  • 2016: San Diego State's Donnel Pumphrey becomes the FBS "all-time leading rusher"
  • 2015: Western Michigan's PJ Fleck crowd surfs the locker room after a win.
  • 2018: Kentucky coach Mark Stoops crowd surfs the locker room after a comeback win over Missouri.
  • Iowa State celebrates with water 
  • Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy "gets low" after a win
  • Clemson's Dabo Sweeney dances in the locker room.
  • 2017: Georgia's Sony Michel runs for the game-winning TD over Oklahoma in the 2018 Rose Bowl.  This makes Kirby Smart happy.
  • Washington's Dante Pettis celebrates a touchdown over Oregon.
  • 2018: Alabama's Jalen Hurts does the Superman celebration after leading the Tide to a win over Georgia in the SEC Championship Game
  • 2019: Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts celebrates a Sooner victory.
  • 2016: Ohio State's Curtis Samuel scores a game-winning touchdown against Michigan after a VERY QUESTIONABLE SPOT.  NO, SERIOUSLY.
  • 2017: USC quarterback Sam Darnold celebrates.
  • Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon celebrates.
  • 2019: Clemson's Trevor Lawrence celebrates in the 2019 Fiesta Bowl
  • 2015: Alabama's Derrick Henry celebrates during the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
  • 2018: Texas freshman kicker Cameron Dicker beats Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout with a late field goal.
  • 2015: Michigan State's kicker Matt Geiger celebrates after his field goal as time expires helps Michigan State upset OSU in the Horseshoe.
  • Oregon's LaMichael James scores.
  • A Penn State player celebrates after a score.
  • 2013: Auburn's Chris Davis returns a missed field goal attempt all the way and Auburn's gonna win the football game on the Kick Six.
  • 2016: Clemson's DeShaun Watson finds Hunter Renfrow for the game-winning touchdown in the 2017 College Football Playoff Championship Game.  Dabo celebrates.
  • 2017: Alabama freshman Tua Tagovailoa hits DeVonta Smith for a 41-yard TD in OT of the 2018 College Football Playoff Championship Game as Bama walks off for a national title.  Coach Saban celebrates.
That's what we gathered from this.
Music used: Thirty Seconds to Mars "Walk on Water" and Imagine Dragons' "Walking the Wire"

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Semi-Charmed Life

Hey, pictures are worth a thousand words. (John Raoux/AP)

What exactly could I say here that we haven't said at the end of each of the previous three seasons?  Michigan looked pretty good in the first half, had a lead on Alabama going into the locker room, and then did exactly nothing on offense in the second half.  The Shea Patterson experience ended with him missing most of his deep balls, in an increasingly frustrating manner, only to see that in the moments after Michigan's defense got a three and out to give Michigan a shot to get back into the game, he threw a pick that sealed Michigan's fate. 

Part of you may want to be happy that Alabama, even a wounded Alabama, didn't run Michigan off the field.  I respect that because I understand the desire to be happy about the situation.  I also understand that this is who Michigan is now, but simultaneously, this is who Michigan has been (with one not inconsequential blip) pretty much forever, certainly for the last 30 years.  Michigan is back to being what it has been forever.  The problem is that the world has changed and what that was would no longer get the accolades that Michigan got used to when it was this way in the past.  Nothing in the last five years have really shown us anything different, it just took many of us longer to get used to the idea than we perhaps realized it would.

So I don't even know what I want for Michigan to be.  Perhaps the most frustrating notion is that Michigan hasn't won a game in the Harbaugh era in which it was an underdog.  0-10.  47-8 as a favorite, 0-10 as an underdog.  So basically, when Michigan is supposed to win, by and large, it does, but if Michigan isn't favored, it has no shot.  There is no unexpected surprise.  That's the real frustration.  Michigan is chaos free Auburn.  The difference is that Auburn will lose games it's supposed to win, but then it will beat Bama when it's not supposed to and people are happy for a touch.  Michigan doesn't do that, and we all end up sad.  (Truthfully, Michigan should have been in the Outback against Auburn, which would have been a much better game, as would have Minnesota/Alabama, but that's now how bowl ties work anymore.)

There are bright spots you can point to for next season and that's what we'll do because not having hope in sports makes it pointless to even be a fan.  We'll talk about the loaded running backs room, we'll talk McCaffrey/Milton, we'll see which receivers come back for another year, and we'll tell ourselves with a few breaks, we can make it to Indy.  We won't, of course, but we'll tell ourselves that because feeling hopeless for eight months is probably more than fans can bear to ponder.

So thanks for another great season, Thank you for continuing to read, even when we haven't had a lot to say.  We'll see you around.  Go Blue.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Losing a Whole Year

I mean, it's kind of a metaphor (David Guralnick/Detroit News)
I probably should wait to write this, because right now, I genuinely feel like Michigan may never beat Ohio State again.  I don't see how it can happen.  I don't see a path forward.  I just see year after year of having to eat this.  They never go fallow.  They never get punished meaningfully.  They never suffer transition costs.  They just keep doing and doing and doing.  Michigan can come out and play reasonably good football and it will just keep getting smoked by Ohio State.  I don't see how it will ever be different.  I want to feel differently, I want to feel something that isn't meaningless existential dread at the end of every November.  I want this to be different and I genuinely do not feel like it ever will be because no one can explain to me how it can be.

I went into today believing that Michigan was likely going to lose this football game.  I had no real reason to believe that Michigan would win.  I sat surrounded by bro OSU fans who ran their mouths the whole game.  I just sat there, largely silent, wanting more than anything for this to be different and knowing that it wouldn't be.  This is a stupid feeling and I should have been more prepared for it, but here we are, hours later, and I am still just soul numbed.  I don't want to feel like this.  I don't want to be like this, so upset about the result of a college football game.  But because I wanted the joy of something going against the script, against the expected, the price paid is this feeling.

The only way Michigan had a chance to win this game was to play perfectly.  So when the first extra point play resulted in a bad hold and a miss, it pretty much was over, even if it was just the first possession.  The miscues were plentiful, the decisions occasionally maddening, but the same result happened one more time.

No one knows how to fix this, short of Ohio State being found guilty of massive NCAA violations, and even then, I'm sure they'd figure out a way to roll with it and go back to winning double-digit games every year.  Michigan may never beat Ohio State again and I don't know if knowing that is likely true is comforting or not.  (If you would like to share your rational and feasible plan for this to not be the case, please, by all means.  It still won't likely be enough.)

Friday, November 29, 2019

Nothing's been the same since New York

(This morning, we're teaming up with the Action Cookbook newsletter for a little Black Friday preview of The Game.  If you are a regular here, this will not be anything new, but if you came to us via the Cookbook, we welcome you.  If you'd like to subscribe to the Action Cookbook newsletter, please click here.) 

Iron Man 2 is still the better movie.  This is my most controversial MCU opinion. (Disney/Marvel Studios)

"Nothing's been the same since New York."

Perhaps because the holiday season is upon us, this simple expositional quote from Tony Stark in Iron Man 3 has been resonating in my head. Because the Michigan football version of this has been "Nothing's been the same since Bo died."

Let me unequivocally state before we go any further that this is not an effort to elicit pathos from the reader. Michigan fans know damn well no one will shed one tear for a program that has built its reputation and veritable mythos around being the leaders and best, the winningest, the very top of the heap. The Michigan man thing is mocked, and perhaps we could stand to be knocked down a peg, maybe that's true. Many Michigan fans are more than willing to laugh at themselves and the notions of what Michigan thinks it is, especially relative to what it is and has become.

But as Michigan fans also tend to be sentimental and romantic about the past, that day, November 17, 2006, is an easy thing to point to as defining. The moment when everything changed.

Ohio State does not get enough credit for it nationally. Still, the reality of the Buckeyes is simple: They never go fallow. Their "down years" are when they only win ten games.  Only one team since 2004 has failed to win double-digit games, the 2011 team interim coached by Luke Fickell, the season that led immediately to the hiring of Urban Meyer. Ohio State never misses a beat. There were those dreamers, and even realists, in the Michigan fan community that thought 2019 would be the year. New coach, even with the talent, you never know what could happen. Nope, Ohio State looks every bit the Big Ten juggernaut it has since the turn of the millennium, maybe even more so given their defensive improvement.

There are plenty of practical reasons why you can point to Ohio State's dominance in the rivalry this century, with nary an aspersion cast at OSU. You can look to their generally excellent recruiting year in and year out. You can cite tremendous player development during this time. You can credit a single-minded Cato the Elder-like devotion to destroying Michigan and salting the earth. You can look at the shifts in population trends in Michigan, Ohio, and the greater Midwest and how that impacts recruiting in this day and age. You can look at other factors that sound a bit whiny and cheap. In the end, it still comes down to a straightforward thing, Ohio State wins, Michigan loses.

Saturday, November 23, 2019


If one has earned the right to stunt on 'em, stunt on 'em. (Tyler Carlton)
In 1969, Michigan was 7-2 after a 51-6 demolition of Iowa at Kinnick.  They had lost two games early in October, a non-conference game against Missouri and falling victim to the Curse of Paul Bunyan in Bo's debut in their match-up with Michigan State.  This meant that Bo, in his first year in Ann Arbor, would need to beat Ohio State to match Bump's 1968 win total.  Even though it was pretty much a given that Michigan would be heading to Pasadena regardless of what happened in the not-as-yet dubbed Big House on that November 22nd, the 12th ranked Wolverines were facing a daunting task.  Ohio State hadn't lost in 22 games.  They were being called one of the all-time great teams, even better than their national championship winning predecessors.  There was no way Michigan was winning this game, 17 point underdogs that they were.

Trap game, they yelled.  Indiana's really good!  #9Windiana was lurking.  Harbaugh teams always have trouble at the Quarry.  And early on, it was holding to form.  Indiana looked really good picking on Dax Hill on their first scripted drive, and though Michigan responded immediately (yeah Ronnie Bell!), the short punt after the interception and Indiana's subsequent touchdown generated that oddly queasy, yet wholly expected feeling.  That Giles Jackson didn't hear a whistle did not matter as he was down 62 yards earlier, he played the game until he was told not to do so.  That Shea mixed it up and hit a bunch of receivers made it feel good, but the circus catch by DPJ was a thing of beauty to tie the game back up.

From that point forward, it was the Nico Show, with three touchdowns, each beautiful in their own way, be it the catch and GO for 76 yards for his second or the repeat of last week immediately after a turnover for the third and the nail in the Hoosiers coffin.

Plenty was said today, on GameDay, during the game, about just how different this Michigan team has looked since halftime of the Penn State game.  The numbers bear it out.  It feels different.  The BPONE doesn't settle in.  It looms, but it gets up and leaves a lot earlier than you expect it to do so.  But it also gives Michigan fans hope.  Because that moment 50 years ago this past Friday is our origin myth, or at least, the reboot version of it.  It's setting up to be close enough to what it was if you squint a little.  Is it all just a little bit of history repeating?  Maybe, probably not.  But it's not fun to not hope.  It was utterly improbable that Michigan could upset Ohio State 50 years ago until it happened.  I know that was then, but it could be again.

Beat OSU.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Blinded (When I See You)

Donovan played the hits, and the people were happy.  (Photo by Patrick Barron)
Let's be clear.  When Michigan State went up 7-0 in the first quarter, all of the old narratives were settling in.  Michigan was taking bad penalties to extend Spartan drives, Michigan was not covering short and intermediate routes and Brian Lewerke looked like he had one more game in him to screw things up for Michigan.

But Michigan answered on the next drive, even if it took to just past the quarter break.  Michigan State extended the drive with a personal foul, and getting back to even at 7-7 was a solid reset.

So when Aidan Hutchinson got an unsportsmanlike penalty, the teeter was tottered by Michigan State earning a pair of unsportsmanlike penalties (on the same play!) turning a twenty yard gain into a ten-yard loss on the play, and eventually leading to a Michigan State punt that would be downed at the two-yard line.

3 yards, incomplete, 8 yards, 3 yards, 15 yards, 14 yards, 6 yards, 5 yards, incomplete but DPI so 15 yards, -3 yards, 5 yards-touchdown.  98 yards in 12 plays with just one (non-penalty) incompletion and one negative play.  That drive was a Michigan team playing within itself, spreading the ball around (Haskins, DPJ, Charbonnet, Patterson keeper, Bell, Bell again, Charbonnet, Sanistril, Nico targeted, Haskins, and then Eubanks, eight different Michigan players moved the ball on the drive.)

So you could be forgiven, going into the half with Michigan up 17-7 for thinking "We're letting them hang around.  No good can come of this."  They could be forgiven for worrying, up 27-10 as Michigan State lined up for a critical fourth and 1 at their own 45 that this thing was not over yet.

And then one of the most remarkable three-play sequences in the history of this rivalry left no doubt.  First, Michigan's defense drew a false start, allegedly using the "MOVE" play that Don Brown is so fond of using.  Then, Michigan State, deciding that they need to punt on the 4th and 6, fell prey to Khaleke Hudson's sixth career punt block/deflection, giving Michigan the ball on the MSU 22.  One snap later, Shea found Nico Collins on the goal line and the entire stadium could sense the rout was on.

But all of this pales in comparison to the fiesta of penalties.  This from the same crew that called OSU 2016.  Here now, a list, in order:
  • False Start - Michigan
  • DPI - Michigan [cough]
  • Offsides - Michigan
  • Personal Foul - Michigan State
  • Unsportsmanlike Conduct - Michigan
  • Unsportsmanlike Conduct - Michigan State
  • Unsportsmanlike Conduct - Michigan State (on the same play!)
  • DPI - Michigan State #chuckittoNico
  • Roughing the Passer - Michigan (on the same play as a defensive holding, Michigan and a DPI, Michigan.)
  • 12 Men in the Defensive Formation - Michigan
  • Unsportsmanlike Conduct - Michigan (flexing is now a crime)
  • Intentional Grounding - Michigan (because Shea was the second player to pass the ball)
  • False Start - Michigan State
  • Unsportsmanlike Conduct - Michigan State (a flagrant!)
  • Sideline Interference - Michigan
  • Unsportsmanlike Conduct - Michigan State (by the brother of the flagrant!)
  • Personal Foul - Michigan State
(This doesn't even count Giles Jackson nearly costing Michigan 30 yards on a kickoff that went out of bounds because he almost touched it before it went out.)

The Battle for Bunyan is always a chippy affair, so it's understandable that Michigan was happy to see it over and done with a comfortable win.  It may be the last stand of Mark Dantonio as Michigan State's coach, that remains to be seen.  But Michigan's won three of the last four in the series.  It's not quite back to "just like old times" but Paul's staying home and has fancy new pants.  We'll take it.

Saturday, November 02, 2019


And we felt silly for even being slightly worried. (Julio Cortez, AP)
I'd like to cop to something.  I was slightly worried about this week's game.  Road game being what it is this year, coming off a big win, you never know.

That worry evaporated after approximately 15 seconds when Giles Jackson ran back the opening kickoff for a majestic Skycam tracked touchdown.  While it would be annoying on occasion on offense, the defense once more did their thing (the only points coming on a 97-yard Maryland kickoff return in the second half) and Michigan won 38-7 that was described variously as "pedestrian" or "much closer than the score indicated." 

Michigan beat a Maryland team before a homecoming crowd just a shade above 40,000 people, most of whom looked and sounded to be Michigan fans.  A Michigan team that was looking like they were about to white flag the season at halftime in Happy Valley has been, in fact, turning in what Jim Harbaugh described as "our finest hour" over the past ten quarters.  Yes, it is too late for any of Michigan's pre-season goals, and that is frustrating, but there's something satisfying in seeing this Michigan team come together and play as we suspected they might be able to from the first hiring of Josh Gattis.

In the end, it's a road win, a conference win, and it takes Michigan into the second "improvement week" of the season on a solid note.  So much like this game, this column did just what it needed to do before moving on.  Enjoy the off week!

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Never Let You Go

That's one small step for a man, one giant leap... (Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images)

"You say that I've changed
Well maybe I did
But even if I changed

What's wrong with it."
--"Never Let You Go" by Third Eye Blind from their 1999 album Blue

I was at the grocery store this morning in my small town south of Ann Arbor, wearing my Michigan hat that I recently reclaimed from an unfortunate smoothie spill during summer 2018 (the initial wash didn't work, hammering it with the Shout gel with the brush end did the trick.  Honestly, good as new.)  A woman in her mid-50s relatively non-descript, walked by me in the aisle, saw my hat and said "Go Blue.  They kicked Notre Dame's ass last night."  To which I could only reply in my best Phineas Flynn voice "Yes, yes they did."

One of my mentally recurring themes of this season comes from the first line of my first column of the season: "Harbingers don't actually exist, except in retrospect."  A fanbase as astute as the vast majority of Michigan's (you know the ones that started chanting "Ronnie, Ronnie" when Ronnie Bell made his first catch of the game) is going to know the contours of how football games work.  To wit: Michigan settling for three inside the five so will cost them later on, Michigan's drops will cost them, John O'Neill's crew is going to steal this game from Michigan, that replay review on Nico Collins's catch right after the first Notre Dame* touchdown is going to haunt us.  These are fair, reasonable, and informed systems of belief.  These are the reflections of an astute and well-informed fanbase that has been beaten down, time and time again.

And none of it mattered.  The breaks didn't all break Michigan's way, but enough of them did because all too often, Michigan was making its own luck.  Michigan's game plan respected the weather and trusted its veteran offensive line to get things moving and get things done.  The still relatively untested duo of Charbonnet and Haskins shined, following blocks, breaking through holes, and second efforting to extra yards ("fall forward!").  Michigan was only up 17-0 at the half, but it felt like it was simultaneously dominant and not enough, because just last week, a ranked team on the road stormed back after some halftime adjustments.

Smart football people will remind you that the three hours of football you see on Saturday/Sunday are just a sliver of the actual work that goes into football during any given week.  Film study, practice, game planning, all of these are much more meaningful and much more telling of what a team is than the game, but the result of the game is all that matters to everyone on the outside.  So Coach Harbaugh's record as an underdog, against Top 10 teams, how Michigan looked against Wisconsin and Penn State this season, all of those things loomed over Michigan Stadium like the nigh impenetrable cloud cover that blanketed southeast Michigan yesterday evening.  The rains fell, steadily, then harder, then not at all.  Would the break in the weather pay off for Notre Dame's commitment to its core offensive philosophy?  It would not.

The Michigan defense of 2019 is not that of 2018.  This has some negatives, but it also has some evolutions.  According to Bill Connolly's SP+, Michigan currently has the #2 defense in the nation behind only...Ohio State.  Crap.  But Notre Dame's game plan on offense appeared to be predicated on Ohio State's from 2018, which is not unreasonable, except for the fact that Michigan is no longer solely a man team.  They may get burned by crossing routes on occasion, everyone does, but mostly Michigan's defense is back to its relentless, pursuing self.  It shook Book to his cleats, making him hear sloshing footsteps, never letting him off the hook, as he stood in the pocket, only to flee many an open look.  This was classic "solve your problems with aggression" and while it was not perfect, it was what Michigan fans have come to expect from their defense in the Brown era.

Though it did not end up costing Michigan in this game, the Big Ten must look at the performance of the John O'Neill crew and ask how they keep getting away with this.  The ABC crew was incredulous at the interception erasing PI flag on Hudson and rightfully so.  When the towels rained down from the student section, it was the logical extension of a crowd that was continuing to boo an officiating decision that was utterly baffling.  I still hope Michigan is sending a strongly worded email to Chicago and asking the Big Ten to explain themselves.

There were so many electric moments in the game that if you surveyed 25 random Michigan fans, it's possible to conceive of getting 25 different answers, largely based on what they value.  Perhaps the Haskins hurdle is your flavor, maybe the relentless Spanellis pancake into the nether regions of the Notre Dame sideline made you smile, maybe Shea getting the ball out a split second before getting crushed and finding DPJ in the end zone on a crucial "stanch the bleeding" moment that allowed the rout to commence in earnest.  Maybe it was Shea out lead blocking on the Tru Wilson touchdown that showed this team was not done.  There are many others.  Whatever it is, this game serves as a reminder to fans of three critical things: 1). While you may be disappointed that Michigan's major goals are now out of reach, this team is still playing hard for itself if no one else.  That matters.  2). College football should not simply be about the playoff.  There's too much weird, too much absurdity, too much fun to enjoy even if the goal of being "the best" is out of reach.  3).  Winning does beat losing.  Even if the Harbaugh narrative goalposts move again (and they will), this at least quiets those voices for a time.

Harbingers aren't harbingers until they are, after all.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Crystal Baller

When all looked lost, they found a way to fight back.  (Gene J. Puskar, AP)
There's a great scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier where the still finding his way in the modern world Steve Rogers visits a nonagenarian Peggy Carter.  As people so often do in the MCU, Peggy gets one of the great lines when talking to Steve: "The world has changed, and none of us can go back. All we can do is our best, and sometimes, the best that we can do is to start over."  (We are unabashed Peggy Carter fans, we recognize this.)

There is a strain of Michigan fan I have seen, most frequently on Twitter, who is having a terrible time fathoming why Michigan isn't Michigan again in Year Five of Harbaugh.  Essentially, a "this is not what I signed up for" sort of breakdown that looks at all of the ways in which Michigan is failing to live up to its historical grandiosity.  I understand that feeling on a primal level, that this is just another false messiah after a decade and a half of wandering in the desert.  Though some may accuse me of setting up a straw man, if you've been on Michigan Twitter, you more than likely have seen someone like this or you have the best curated follow list I've ever seen.

I'm not going to call this a moral victory, because it's not and because Michigan shouldn't do the moral victory thing.  It's a loss.  It's another brick in the narrative about Harbaugh's teams.  It's plenty of evidence to those who want it that Michigan cannot beat teams of equal or superior talent, especially on the road.  Acknowledged.

This is not the world Michigan fans grew up in, and for many of us, we cannot figure out why things are different.  Michigan plays in what is perpetually one of the two hardest divisions in college football (alongside the SEC West) and that is a division that still counts Rutgers among its members.  Michigan will always face at least three stringent tests on its divisional schedule, all from teams that consider Michigan a rival to one degree or another, not to mention the six-year-long cross-division lock-in with Wisconsin, and that's before you get to non-conference scheduling and deciding that tradition is important and bringing back Michigan/Notre Dame because the people want it.  This is not an excuse, if Michigan wants to be something like the Michigan of old, it has to face this down and win those games.  The problem for many lies in that Ohio State seems to run through this with maybe just one hiccup a year, and Michigan can't seemingly leave its house without stubbing its toe.

But the thing is, Michigan can't be the Michigan of old anymore.  It's impossible.  The divisional structure means that Michigan can't tie for the Big Ten championship any longer, which added a large number of titles to Michigan's trophy case back in the day.  Players have much more agency over where they start their career and where they end their career, as evidenced by the transfer portal (this is a net positive in my mind, even when it hurts Michigan.)  The state of Michigan's population has shrunk, meaning that a state that already did not turn out Division I football talent at a high level compared to say Ohio, is turning out fewer players Michigan should theoretically have a primary shot at signing (yes, Michigan has already recruited nationally, yes, Michigan has always gone into Ohio and got kids, but the demographics here are no lie.)  There are other challenges, writers smarter and better than I am have listed them for you in the past.  The world has changed and sometimes the best we can do is start over.

Which brings me to the second half.  Jim Harbaugh told Maria Taylor at halftime that he thought that the second half would be Michigan's finest hour.  College Football Twitter would have some fun with this, how perfectly Michigan Man it was, how once again, a Michigan Man invoked World War II and the like.  But Harbaugh's reference struck me because it was not a perfect parallel, but it was the choice of words of a leader who looked at the odds his side was facing and instead of folding, chose to rally his people.  And in Harbaugh's case, it damn near worked.

For the next 30 minutes of game time, Michigan looked like something closer to the Michigan that people thought they could be.  It is easy to say that, save the one coverage error by Don Brown, leaving a safety on KJ Hamler (yes, we know, we know), Michigan's defense stiffened, forcing Penn State into punt after punt.  Meanwhile, Michigan used a variety of offensive tools, including all four of its big-time receivers to bring the game back to within one possession, and was driving late to tie.  Two critical plays by Nico Collins, including a crucial fourth down conversion, Erick All's snag to set up first and goal, and then a fourth and goal from the three.  Penn State did get pressure and forced Shea to scramble a little, but he threw a ball in a window and spot that gave Ronnie Bell a chance to make a play.  Unfortunately, it hit Bell in the chest and fell to the turf and the moment evaporated.

I felt for Ronnie Bell when they showed him on the sidelines distraught.  It's so easy to forget that the players are college kids and its also easier to forget that they are humans, not digital avatars that only react the ways in which they are programmed to do so.  I felt deeply for him because no one in that stadium felt worse about what happened that he did.  There is no worse feeling than believing you have let people down that you care about.  At the 10:40 mark of the fourth, Michigan absolutely needing a third down conversion to keep things rolling, Ronnie Bell caught a screen pass three yards behind the line of scrimmage, made his defender miss, gets the first down, and then keeps going.  Thirty-five yards later, Michigan has first and goal and though it did not quite go down as expected, four players later, Shea got a push from Ben Mason to bring Michigan back within seven.  Michigan isn't in a position to tie later without what Ronnie Bell did in this moment and for too many people, that is easy to forget.

The one positive takeaway I will have from the fourth down that didn't make it was that so many of his teammates were picking Ronnie Bell up.  There were notions this past fortnight that fans don't see all of what goes on with this team behind the scenes, and that is true.  But if there is something that gives me hope going forward this season is that Michigan got punched in the mouth in the first half, tasted the blood, and pulled the strap of the shield on tighter and walked back into the face of doom once more.  That isn't how things looked or felt at Camp Randall.  This was different, this can be built upon.  But the key is, it has to happen.  You cannot waste this moment.  You have a perfect chance to change some of the narratives next week against the Irish.  Don't waste it.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

An Ode to Maybe

It was at this point in the third quarter that we were all Don Brown (Patrick Barron)
I can't explain.  Illinois, a team that lost at home to Eastern Michigan this year and coached by a man whose beard looks like it comes out of mythology, was down 28-0 to Michigan, did not look like it could stop Michigan's rushing game on the edge, had a punt blocked which Michigan turned into a quick work touchdown, and generally looked, well, bad.  Oh sure, they got a touchdown late in the first half to at least make it interesting, but it looked like the only thing that was going to stop Michigan was stupid unsportsmanlike conduct penalties or fumbling.

So when Michigan looked bad in the third quarter, three and outs, lost fumbles, general malaise on defense, you could understand the building apoplexy in the Michigan fanbase.  But the math was telling a different story.  Ladies and gentlemen, the unhappy valley.

The lowest Michigan's win probability dropped to was 77.3% on the ensuing kickoff after the touchdown to make it 28-25 Michigan.  The moment Shea Patterson converted the 4th and 2 at the Illini 10-yard line, the win probability jumped back up into the 90th percentile and never looked back.  That the defense came out and immediately forced Matt Robinson to fumble, giving Michigan a short field, which they could not cash in on, only to then force Robinson into a sackfumbleception by Carlo Kemp on the Illini one-yard line, which Michigan did score on thanks to a plunge by Patterson and the score was something more like what Michigan might have expected.

The problem with pre-season expectations is that they put the best possible cast on every problem in the hopes that the concerns will be magically solved.  The weirdest part about college football is that, sometimes, they are.  Sometimes your new offensive coordinator works his magic and you look like an unstoppable machine [glances in a confused manner at Baton Rouge].  Other times, the legitimate concerns you have are well-founded and you keep trying to convince yourself that it's going to be OK.  The glimpses of Michigan doing things well in the first half today were almost enough to make you think maybe something was finally clicking.  Until, of course, it wasn't.  Even if Patterson did have an effective fourth quarter drive where he took care of business to get momentum back on Michigan's side, he still was only 11 of 22.  I know people were calling for McCaffery, but he just got out of the concussion protocol, I don't know how ready he was (yes, he made the trip.)  On a day when Nico Collins, Lavert Hill, and Kwity Paye did not see action, Michigan still ended up taking care of business, even if it wasn't how anyone wanted it to happen.

We've reached the halfway point of the journey and Michigan is 5-1.  The real tests begin in earnest next week with a White Out in Happy Valley.  I think the tempering of expectations has been such that Michigan fans are fully in "not in the face" territory, but strange things do happen in college football.  We'll just have to see what happens.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Michigan Scorigami

This will make more sense in a minute.
Very early in the comments on Brian Cook's MGoBlog game column on the Iowa game, a poster noted that it was remarkable that this was the first every 10-3 Michigan victory.  This was immediately noted that a Michigan "Scorigami" would be a fun thing.  Yes, yes it would.  Challenge accepted.

As explained at NFL ScorigamiScorigami is a concept thought up by Jon Bois. It is the art of building final scores that have never happened before in NFL history. Due to the unique nature of how points are scored in (American) Football, where it is impossible to score 1 point on its own, as well as the rarity of the 2 point safety and 8 point touchdown and 2 point conversion, there are a lot of scores that are possible, but have never happened. For more info, check out the video made by Jon Bois about Scorigami.

Now, Michigan Scorigami would be a little different, because we would want to know every score relative to how many points Michigan scored in a game.  So we would not have the blacked-out bottom half like you would have in the NFL version, because Michigan points are what matter.  With this in mind, we went to work.

We meticulously copied the data from every season page at the Bentley Historical Library's U-M football page (we were a little surprised to learn we had not already done this.)  1,335 games later (we hand entered the 2019 season results), we sorted, we added locations for each game (using the Bentley data as well as Wikipedia's season pages), we cleaned up the team rankings, adjusted the data on attendance so it would sort, and turned every result into a Michigan score column and an opponent score column.  (That the Bentley listed the Michigan score first every time made this possible without having to hack and slice the data.)  After learning Excel has issues with pre-1900 dates, we had to convert the date data into a Month, Day, and Year column so it was sortable.  We then did a two-variable CountIf and built the matrix.  As we did this, we learned some things.  One of which was that we accidentally pasted the 1977 season results in again instead of pasting in the 1978 results (thank you oddball Northwestern score for helping me see that.)

1). Michigan's 130-0 win over Buffalo in 1901 totally screws up our ability to condense the entire matrix in a meaningful way.  To wit:
You can't even read it but that one yellow fleck in the top right corner is the 130-0 game.  At the center bottom, you will see the legendary 67-65 3OT classic against Illinois during the Rodriguez era.
That other yellow fleck near the bottom left.  Yeah, we're not talking about that, but you know dang well what it is.

2). The commenter was correct, Saturday's game against Iowa was Michigan's first-ever 10-3 victory.  Old-timers would immediately, however, remind you that it was not Michigan's first-ever 10-3 result, as USC defeated the legendary 1969 team in the 1970 Rose Bowl by a 10-3 margin with Bo in the hospital recovering from a heart attack.

Interestingly enough, Michigan had twice previously won 10-4 games against Notre Dame in 1888 (the second game where Michigan was in South Bend to "teach" the Irish the game.) and against Vanderbilt in 1906.)

3). Michigan has pitched 347 shutouts over 1,335 games.  That means historically, 26% of all Michigan games have ended in the Michigan defense shutting out the opponent.  That is an artifact of the 19th-century game, but it's still remarkable to consider.  Michigan has 81 different shutout based Scorigamis, including, remarkably, a pair of 88-0 wins in 1902 and 1903 against Albion and Ferris State respectively.

4). Michigan has scored one point in a game, once.  As many of you will immediately know, it was Michigan's first-ever game against Racine in 1879.  The vagaries of the old scoring rules in the pre-20th-century game help Michigan generate more Scorigamis.  No team has ever scored exactly one point in a game against Michigan.

5).  Michigan's most common result?  A 14-0 victory, which has happened 18 times. most recently in 2000 against Michigan State.  Next most common?  A 21-0 result, which has happened 16 times, most recently against Navy in 1964.  0-0, 28-0, and 35-0 each come in next most frequently with 12 occurrences.

6). Four Three of Michigan's five results have been Michigan Scorigamis this year, with the 24-21 result over Army being the only non-unique result (the most recent 24-21 win prior to Army?  That UConn game in 2013 that we all agreed to forget about.) (Edited to add: 10/9/19 at 8:00 PM EDT: Rutgers 52-0 score had previously occurred twice.  Poor coding in the initial version prevented the two previous games from showing up initially.  We regret the error.)

7). In wanting to avoid doing unnecessary coding, I took all results where 50 or more points were scored and entered them by hand.  I did not have the game associated with it, just the result, like the aforementioned 67-65.  But like many of you, I knew immediately what score 31-51 was.  I immediately knew 39-62 (ugh).  I immediately knew 51-54 and 14-52.    12-58 and 0-56 (Michigan's worst-ever shutout loss) stumped me.  Turns out they are both....Cornell?!?  The shutout in 1889, the other in 1891.

8).  The most points Michigan has given up in regulation and won?  47, against Indiana in 2013. #chaosteam

9). Unrelated to Scorigami, but I found this fascinating while sorting the data.  Of the 100 largest announced crowds Michigan has ever played in front of, only one, 2017 Penn State (73rd largest), is not at Michigan Stadium.  Also unrelated, Michigan is 9-13 all-time in overtime games.  The sole loss, bleeping 4OT in State College in 2013. (Edited to add: The Bentley did not have MSU 2009 and OSU 2016 listed as OT games.  This has updated in the data.)  (It amazingly has two identical results in OT, 23-20 wins over Iowa in 2005 and Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl following the 2011 season.)

10). Of the 12 highest point totals on Homecoming (the Bentley is really good about noting which game is Homecoming, so it went into the spreadsheet), 7 of them have come against Minnesota, including a Homecoming record 63 against the Gophers in 1992.  Conversely, the 10 points scored by Michigan on Homecoming this past weekend were the fewest on Homecoming since...2002, when they scored 9 against...well, Iowa.  (Difference there, Brad Banks' Iowa scored 34.  (Since that game, Michigan has averaged 34 points on Homecoming.)

11). The most points Michigan has ever scored while ranked #1 in the nation?  70, against Navy in 1976.  The fewest?  0, against Minnesota in...oh dang it, 1977.

Anyway, that's all we have for now.  We encourage you to look at the data and play around with it yourself.  If you find mistakes, please let us know, we're happy to fix them.  But as a goof, we hope you enjoyed this.  Our thanks to everyone who helped make this possible.