Saturday, October 10, 2015

Michigan football. Amazing

The prevailing wisdom was new head coach Jim Harbaugh would turn the Michigan football program around. Eventually. Harbaugh's track record speaks for itself. Both at other universities and in the pros, the former Wolverine has enjoyed terrific success. Wherever he goes as a head coach, teams win.

But it wasn't supposed to happen this fast at Michigan. Their resurgence has been nothing short of amazing. Let's remember that as a first year head coach at UM, Harbaugh basically inherited the Bad News Bears left over from the woeful Brady Hoke administration. That, and whatever true freshmen JH was able to recruit -- but how often do true freshmen play football at a major university?

After Michigan's opening game loss at Utah, most likely yawned. It was to be expected from the Ann Arbor rag-taggers. But it turns out, the Utes are really good. Losing a close contest to them in Salt Lake City is nothing to be ashamed of.

Since then, the Wolverines have been basically lights out. Consider what happened when Northwestern visited Michigan just a few hours ago. The #13 Wildcats were undefeated and featured the #1 defense in the nation. They had given up only a paltry 7 points per game. Do the math. After 5 games they had allowed a total of 35 points.

Then #18 Michigan torched them for 38. Do the math again. 35+38 = 73. In the course of one game Northwestern's points allowed zoomed from 7 to over 12. They won't be #13 anymore. After a 38-0 drubbing, they might even fall out of the Top 25 altogether.

Meanwhile, Michigan featured the #2 defense, allowing an average of 7.6 points per game. After holding the Wildcasts scoreless (BTW, their third shutout in a row), the math says Michigan's points allowed average just dropped to 6.3.

Even playing at home, scorching the #13 team in the country 38-0 is bound to catch the attention of the pollsters. The opening loss at Utah has long been forgotten. [Remember, ever Ohio State lost a game early last year to Virginia Tech (in Columbus), and look where they wound up in the end.]

Michigan could well jump into the Top Ten when the new rankings come out.

And that sets up a big in-state showdown next week with Michigan State coming to Ann Arbor. In recent years past, the Spartans have pretty well owned the Wolverines. Their head coach Mark Dantonio has built quite the powerhouse. Thing is, as good as MSU has been, they never seemed to get the national respect they craved. Sure, they finished #4 or 5 in the national rankings, but were always a tad short if getting to the Big Dance.

This year that changed. The pollsters went out of their way to give MSU a lot of love. Somehow, they even briefly made it to #2 in the national rankings. But this was not deserved. Yes, MSU remains undefeated, but they've played a patsy schedule so far. At that, even against what could be called "minor league" teams, the Spartans have struggled. Central Michigan? Western Michigan? The always terrible Air Force? Pitiful Purdue? At home the Spartans barely nipped Oregon 31-28. The East Lansing faithful thought that was a signature victory. Then the above-mentioned Utah blistered the Ducks 62-20. Maybe not so signature. Just another patsy. Earlier today, MSU barely, and I mean BARELY survived against Rutgers. RUTGERS!!

With their lackluster performances, Michigan State has rightly dropped a few spots in the rankings. I mean, c'mon, six games into the season and they haven't faced a good team yet? If they were blowing them out, that would be one thing, but nail-biters against Girl Scout teams is definitely not a good sign.

They will be tested next Saturday when they visit Michigan. Big Brother appears to be back. It will be interesting to see where both MSU and UM are ranked when the new polls come out in a few days. Michigan will surely have jumped, and Michigan State might have slid another spot or two.

It will also be interesting to see what the point spread is. Before the season started, UM was unranked and not much was expected of them. MSU was thought to be a serious contender for a national championship. Could UM actually -- gasp -- be favored to win?

Oh my, how the tables have apparently turned. Regardless, the hype will reach a crescendo during the next week, and well it should.

This game is one of the most anticipated in recent history between the two schools.

Sure, the Major League baseball playoffs are a big deal, and they'll be looking at their League Championship Series' next Saturday. The NHL has started another season and will feature a full slate of games. Somewhere there will be golf and tennis tournaments, the NBA is getting ready to roll again, and NASCAR's "chase" is getting down to the nitty-gritty.

But it's probably a pretty safe bet a whole lot of TV viewers in southeastern Michigan, and across the country, will be tuned into watching UM and MSU duke it out next Saturday on the gridiron.

Oh yeah. Bring it on......

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