Sunday, September 21, 2014

Michigan and the Big 10. Random hits

First of all, it's ridiculous for the Big Ten to still call itself that, now that they have 14 teams. The member schools may well offer top-notch programs in various disciplines, but if they don't know the difference between 10 and 14, perhaps this is not a preferred destination for a math or accounting major.

Trivia question: Over the first three weeks of the season, which was the only Big 10 school to record a football victory over ANY opponent from the 5 "power" conferences?

Though they shamelessly continue to schedule them, UM football avoided being upset by a patsy this year. But overall, despite supposedly recruiting blue chip preps every year, their program appears to be merely a shell of its former self. So far this year, they have only ventured away from home once. At then #16 ranked Notre Dame, they were shellacked 31-0.

A couple days ago, the Wolverines faced Utah, an unranked team, and again at home. They were drubbed 26-10 by the Utes, in front of a stadium that featured a whole lot of empty seats. It never used to be that way for Michigan. They always packed them in. But that's what eventually happens when a team is taking on water faster than a submarine with screen doors. Brady Hoke and his staff have clearly proven over the last few years they are little more competent, if at all, than the disastrous Rich Rodriguez regime that preceeded them. The Blue faithful are getting bluer by the day.

And speaking of water, even Mother Nature gave Michigan the Rodney Dangerfield treatment in a big way. Torrential rain during the Utah game. The game had to be halted for a couple hours because the field was flooded and unplayable.

Things like this don't happen very often, but consider Michigan Stadium itself. Unlike other venues, most of it is beneath ground level. Fans enter the stadium about 3/4 of the way up in the stands. All the good seats are technically underground. The better the seat, the father down a fan has to go.

Once upon a long time ago, somebody had to dig a very big deep hole to create that stadium. And supposedly, the venue itself sits on an aquifier, an enormous pool of water just beneath it. Though the playing field itself is ever so slightly convexly dome-shaped for drainage, when Mother Nature brings the heavy stuff, the rain water has no place to go. So the field gets flooded, like it did yesterday. One would think, after all these years, and all the brilliant engineering minds at Michigan, they would have come up with a contingency plan by now. Obviously not, but Michigan is Michigan. It's all about tradition.

And don't look now, but that "tradition" has become an embarrassment.

Michigan gets Minnesota next week, again -- SURPRISE -- at home, and the Gophers aren't exactly world beaters. But don't be surprised if they waltz into Ann Arbor and claim the historic Little Brown Jug the two teams have always played for. Such is the sorry state of Michigan football.

The following week, Michigan travels to Rutgers. In years of yore, the Maize and Blue would have considered that a gimme game. Not now.

Which brings me to the answer of the trivia question. Rutgers, RUTGERS, a brand new member of the Big 10, 12, 14, whatever, was the only conference school to defeat an opponent from a major conference in the first three weeks. They got by Washington State of the Pac 10, 12, 14, whatever.

The other so-called powers in the Big 10 have either had their way with patsies -- or lost when they faced a good team outside the conference.

With QB Braxton Miller of Ohio State on the shelf for the year, it appears Michigan State is the only remaining school in the conference that's even remotely relative on the national stage. And THEY got hammered when they faced a top tier school like Oregon a couple weeks back.

Some of us can remember when Big 10 football was the Big 2 (Michigan and Ohio State), and the Little 8 (all the rest). Oh my, how times have changed.

Nationally, these days the conference looks like 11 pipsqueaks, a couple mediocres, and one possible contender who, as mentioned above, has already suffered a blow-out loss to a top team.

Sadly, at least for some, the once proud Michigan program appears to be amongst the bottom of the barrel in an already weak conference. Not counting the patsy walkovers, the Wolverines have played two games against competent opponents, and didn't score an offensive touchdown in EITHER game. If a #16 ranked team could trash them 31-0, what might the score be against a top 3 team? 70-0? 100-0?

Not long ago, such a scenario would have been unheard of. Nobody could have possibly foreseen such a monumental collapse happening over the years. But it did.

We have come to abbreviate a biblical passage -- Pride goeth before the fall. Actually, the original wording was/is -- Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)

At Michigan, there's certainly been no shortage of pride and haughty spirits over the years. They've been about as proud and arrogant as it gets.

Though definitely wobbly for a while --  now they've finally fallen. Problem is, the football "front office" at Michigan seems to realize and embrace the need for changing with the times at about the same rate as the Vatican, or your average ultra-right wing talk show host. Let's just say it takes them a good while before the lightbulb finally goes on -- if ever. And by the time they finally make a change -- they're STILL behind -- because other programs have morphed into something even better.

The sad part is Brady Hoke still remains proud of his team (and himself). The sadder part is Michigan is on the hook to pay him millions, not only for the remainder of this season -- but for two more. And the REALLY sad part is none of them appears to remotely grasp the fact their program is, was, and will continue to be a joke until they clean house, start over, and hire a coach that realizes pride and haughtiness doesn't win football games. Good grief, Brady Hoke is the only college head coach yours truly is aware of that doesn't wear a headset. So he has no idea what plays, on both sides of the ball, are being called, or what to look for to make adjustments while the game is still going on. Brady yells when things go wrong, which has been a lot lately for Michigan. But it's gone from apparent to blatantly obvious Hoke doesn't have a clue how to put this Humpty Dumpty team back together again.

Yeah, it's usually not cool to fire a head coach in mid-season, but in this case they could bring in Barney Fife or a Kardashian and not do a whole lot worse.

Yet if Hoke is still in charge next year at Michigan --  it will send a loud and clear message.

The "brass" at Michigan is even more clueless than he is.

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