Saturday, October 17, 2015

Michigan football. Goodbyes and hellos

After a stunning last second defeat at home by their in-state arch-rival Michigan State, Michigan can say goodbye to....

Any national championship aspirations. Outta here.
Winning the Big 10 football title. Poof -- gone.
Even if they run the rest of the table, not likely with Ohio State looming in another month, finishing in the Top Ten of the national rankings. This is their second loss and getting beat at home when they were a touchdown favorite is a no-no.

The Maize and Blue can say hello to.....

Another year of being MSU's "little sister". Ouch.
The merciless taunts that will come along with it from East Lansing.
Another second tier bowl game that will be hyped to the max but actually quite meaningless.

Truth is, UM should have won this game. They had it in the bag with only 10 seconds to go. All they had to do was punt the football, a routine play, and time would have ran out with UM ahead 23-21. Game over.

But no. Their punter fumbled the snap, then picked it up and fumbled it yet again -- right into the hands of a Spartan defender. He would run it back for a touchdown as time expired. Game truly over. The 100,000+ crowd at the Big House was absolutely stunned. So was I. Yours truly has seen a lot of football in his day, both college and pros, and cannot recall ever seeing a game end quite like that. Ever. The chances of that last play unfolding like it did are likely one in a million. It was the granddaddy of all boneheads.

For Michigan, it happened at the worst possible time, in the worst possible place (at home), to the worst possible opponent not named Ohio State. And in front of a national TV audience that had been anticipating the game for weeks. If that wasn't bad enough for UM, the talking heads will be ranting about that particular play for days, weeks, while replaying it a bazillion times. Sports scribes will write about it from coast to coast, and perhaps beyond. It's already all over the net, and who knows how much action it will get in various social media forums in the future? Likely plenty. The furor over that game-ending bonehead play is going to take a while to die down. And not to be cliche, but it will indeed live in infamy. Ten, twenty, maybe fifty years from now, somebody will drag it back out as one of the biggest gaffes of all time in sports history.

But you know who's really, really, REALLY in trouble? The punter. Some poor sap named Blake O'Neill. #12.

How would you like to be that kid after what happened? In the course of ten seconds, he went from school stud status as a football player --if only a punter -- to the goat of all goats. Good luck to him when he has to go back to classes and/or is walking about the campus with all the other students. You just KNOW he's going to get a lot of not-so-good looks, and faintly hear the mumbles and grumbles around him. Poor devil. If only he had caught that snap.

Conversely, head coach Mark Dantonio and his Spartans will likely say they continue to find ways to win. Horsebleep. They got incredibly lucky on a fluke play to win this game. Everybody knows MSU didn't deserve the victory. UM's punter just flat-out blew it on the last play. The entire country saw it. To claim otherwise is somewhere between hubris and delusional.

To their credit, Michigan State remains undefeated, but they've also been playing with fire all year. They've BARELY scraped by a few teams they should have routed, if they're to be believed as national contenders. Michigan was the first competitive team they had faced, and it took a miracle not of their own doing for the Spartans to squeak out a last second victory.

Yours truly continues to firmly believe Michigan State isn't all that. Playing with fire week after week will likely result in them getting burned somewhere down the road. This is not a Top 5 team by any stretch of the imagination.

They got lucky and good for them. Everything remains great in East Lansing.

Not so much in Ann Arbor, and alas, what of poor Blake O'Neill?

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