Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What to make of Michigan?

You may have seen me kidding in the past couple weeks about all of the "We're back!" proclamations coming from Michigan fans after they beat Notre Dame earlier this year, considering how much they've struggled recently. But all kidding aside, their early performance seemed to indicate that while they were probably not back to being conference title contenders, they were at least much improved over last year's horrible team.

(Quick aside: While Jana and I were in New York in August, we were in Times Square and I saw a young man wearing a "Michigan Football 2008" T-shirt. Thought it was pretty funny -- that's like wearing a "Wisconsin Football 1988" T-shirt, but probably even worse given the infrequency of poor seasons in Ann Arbor.)

But they've been losing an awful lot lately, and I'm not quite sure why. They're Michigan, and Rich Rodriguez's whining last year aside, the cupboard was not bare when Lloyd Carr left. There's talent there.

On offense, Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown are good running backs. Roy Roundtree and Martavious Odom are among a roster full of high school All-American wideouts. Tate Forcier looks like the exciting playmaker they lacked last year, and Denard Robinson is an electric athlete. On defense, Brandon Graham, Donovan Warren, Stevie Brown and others are above-average players.

So why are they struggling so much? Appparently they're losing the turnover battle decisively, and they give up big plays on defense. Sounds a lot like us last year.

We should win this game. Not easily, because as I said before there's a lot of talent on that roster, and most of their coaches have had some level of success at previous stops. If we establish the running game and pick our spots in the passing game, we should put up a lot of points. Red zone trips need to end in touchdowns, not field goals like they did in the first half of our game last year. If we keep their guys in front of us on defense, chances are they'll turn the ball over eventually.

And we'll leave it at that. As readers of this blog know, the Michigan game last year was completely devastating to me (and obviously the team as well), and I lashed out with some poor-loser commentary that earned rebukes from visiting Wolverine fans. I'm working on being a better sport, and it's coming along fairly well. That should hold true this weekend ... as long as we win.

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