Saturday, October 06, 2012


Let's be clear, we've seen this movie a number of times and we still love it. (AP Photo by Michael Conroy)
(The great irony of this column is that I am the only member of the writing team here who does not hold an engineering degree from Michigan.  So I may get some of the details wrong, but I am not letting that stand in the way of a clever premise.)

Purdue gets a lot of play as an "engineering school" and there's obviously something fair about this*, after all, it is the #11 rated engineering graduate school in the country and it does have a lot of very successful engineering graduates.  But, here's the thing.  Michigan is also an engineering school, in fact, it has the #9 rated engineering graduate school in the country, in addition to highly rated law and medical schools to name just two more.  Basically, Michigan not only does the thing that Purdue does best as well as Purdue does if not better, it also does lots of other things better.

(*-I also think people think of Purdue as an engineering school because their mascot is a train and that's just how people's brains work.)

I think it was easy to believe that "Bad Denard" was going to show up because we only tend to remember the last thing we have seen.  But Denard's apology after the Notre Dame game, and all of the right things we heard from the team and the coaches during the bye week* brought me to the conclusions that this was going to be an OK day.  It didn't make me any less fearful about the game, but I had staked out my position ahead of the game on that ground.

(*-We call it a bye week, but technically it is not.  A bye is a round off in a tournament setting that allows you to advance to the next round of play without having played.  If anything, it's an open date.  This is also semantics.)

The first quarter was a clinic of what you can do with an extra week to prepare and to work on execution.  13 of 17 plays on a nearly nine minute drive were rushes.  Some were Denard, some were Fitz, a couple to Jeremy Gallon, one to Vincent Smith, but in the end, the variety and the execution put Michigan up 7-0 in the middle of the first quarter and everything started to click.  No matter how good people thought Purdue's front seven were on defense, Michigan looked better in all phases of the game.  Even the small things, like Brendan Gibbons dropping it exactly on the crossbar (which is actually harder when you think about it) or the bad exchange between Denard and Vincent Smith that led to the fumble and Purdue's late score in the first half and that slight tightening of the collar that you can't help but get when bad things happen.

But the predicted doom and gloom never came.  Michigan looked like a team that had two losses to teams ranked in the top ten and Purdue looked like a team who had three wins over some of the dregs of FBS.  We don't know a lot of things after September.  Some things are obvious, usually which teams are really good and which teams are really bad, but we also don't know a lot about the middle because of the imbalance of schedules.  Would we feel better about Michigan if the Alabama game had been, say, Buffalo or Ball State?  Probably, but we don't have that luxury now.  But we do know that no one who is eligible to play in the Big Ten championship game is really that much better than anyone else.  Today we saw Northwestern lose to Penn State, we saw Michigan State struggle with Indiana, a sentence I had difficulty typing over the sheer incredulity of it, and Nebraska and Ohio State trade points and make people question the existence of their defense.  Michigan answered its critics in a way that no other Big Ten team can claim today.

Michigan still has a way to go, but I liked what I saw today much more than I have at any point during this season.  Jake Ryan started out today strong, Raymon Taylor gives me hope, and I liked the tackling fundamentals out there.  Michigan isn't a great team, but it's a very good team, and a very good team may be all that is needed to win the Big Ten this year.

Never a dull moment!  Oddly, not pointing.  (AP photo by Michael Conroy)
So Homecoming week, a blast from the past to come, yet another game not starting at noon, and our second straight game outside the division.  Let's make it count.

1 comment:

Steve said...

I like this post. Not gushing, but honest. UM may have gotten the Notre Dame funk off them and headed over the hump. Go Blue!