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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

2005 Football Season...or The Twilight Zone?

Just read online today at cfbnews.com that Saturday's game with Northwestern will be the first time since 1959 that the Wildcats will be the higher ranked team going into the Michigan game. Coming on the heels of the MSU game in which they were favored for the first time since 1967, I'm starting to think maybe we've crossed over into some alternate reality this season. What's next? Is "F*ck Michigan!" no longer going to be the most popular chant in Columbus (ok, let's not get carried away).

Saturday's game really does present some problems. The (no longer mild) 'Cats have one of those pesky spread offenses and a QB who refuses to stay in one spot so we can tackle him. Unfortunately, this does not bode well for a Michigan defense which, after practicing with John Navarre all those years, apparently is still under the impression that such tomfoolery was banned and thus refuses to tackle any quarterback outside a 3 foot radius of the pocket. Of course this also assumes our defense could actually reach the quarterback before he either a) completes a 14 yard pass on 3rd and 12 (which is cheating to begin with because as every Michigan fan knows, on 3rd and 14, a team is only allowed to throw a 5 yard out pass) or b) the opponent's offensive line chants "Red Rover, Red Rover send your linebacker on over!"

However, what gives me hope is that Northwestern has some misconceptions of its own, apparently believing that because their offense is so good, they are no longer required to play defense. The NW "defense" is ranked dead last in college football giving up an impressive 504 yards per game with a we're-not-even-really-trying 316 of that through the air. That being the case, Chad Henne should be able to pass for 900 total yards Saturday (300 to Jason Avant, 550 in lateral sideline passes and 50 to either Manningham or Breaston -- but only late in the 4th quarter when the game gets tight and never to both as using all our offensive weapons in the same game, for the entire game, is prohibited in the Michigan playbook).

Which means Saturday's showdown will unfold something like this: because NW being higher ranked is as insulting to Michigan as being told there's a one plate limit at a wedding buffet is to Jim Brandstatter, Michigan will come out firing on all cylinders and quickly race to an insurmountable 7-0 lead with 10 minutes left in the first quarter, after which they will go into a shell to protect the lead and run out the clock.

Then, when that doesn't work and we surprisingly find ourselves down 28-7 in the third quarter (after injuries to our first through sixth string tailbacks, our starting left tackle, any remaining DBs on scholarship and the kid who carries Lloyd's headset), Michigan will mount a furious comeback and, by the grace of God (as well as a few well-timed instant replay reviews), will be ahead 35-31 with three and a half minutes left in the game and possession of the ball at the NW 35. That's when Lloyd, having learned from his mistakes the last two weeks, will take destiny by the throat and try to ice the game right then and there.

So after three consecutive QB sneaks, he will confidently direct his punting unit onto the field in order to pin NW deep and turn the ball over to his stout defense, figuring NOBODY marches down the field for a game winning fourth quarter drive against a Jim Herrrrrrmannnnn coached defense more than 68 times in a row. Nobody.

But, this is 2005. So...

After Michigan's punt is blocked and recovered by the punter-nobody-can-name-this-year in the Wolverine endzone for a 65 yard safety, Michigan is faced with a dilemma: With just under a minute left on the clock and only up by 2, the coaching staff now finally sees the light, realizing that kicking the ball away will almost certainly lead to another heartbreaking defeat.

Thus, Michigan surprises NW with an onside kick and recovers the ball at its own 30. But faced with 4th and 10 with :08 seconds left on the clock, instead of kicking the ball away with so much time left for an opponent's offense to work with against the Michigan D, the Wolverines opt to have the punter run around to kill off the remaining eight seconds before falling in the endzone for another safety in order to get the game into the slam dunk that is overtime.

Once there, knowing resistance is futile, Northwestern head football coach Randy Walker will instruct his once high-flying offense to do it's best "Michigan with three minutes and the lead at our 25 impression" by calling three straight off-tackle running plays before kicking the go-ahead field goal. With the trap now set, Michigan will win the game on Jason Avant's TD pass on 3rd and goal as Chad Henne tries to throw the ball away.

Motor City Bowl my ass!

Note: Funeral services will be held for Bo Schembechler next Thursday. In lieu of flowers, donations should be made to the Make a Defense Foundation.


M82 said...

Is it just me, or do I detect a faint note of sarcasm?


DanDierdorf said...

Dude, Even the Michigan Insider on the radio thinks NW will beat Michigan on Sat. You don't really think that the Michigan defense will attemtpt to show up, do you?

Yost said...


Oh, they'll show up. They may not stop anything, especially in the 4th quarter if the game is close. But they'll show up.

LAGuy said...

What's depressing is even if, by some miracle, we beat Northwestern, and OSU (plus that other team) it's still hihgly unlikely we'll take the Big Ten. I know, I know, one game at a time.

Benny Friedman said...

I must have missed the memo where Northwestern became a combination of USC, Texas and the Indianapolis Colts. We need a miracle to beat the Wildcats? I don't think so. We haven't needed a miracle to win a game yet, and we won't need one on Saturday. What we will need is to play turnover-free football. If we do that we'll score plenty.
Am I guaranteeing victory for the maize and blue? Hardly. Not this season. Not with this team. Undoubtedly it will be a close game, maybe even another overtime. But there will be no miracles needed. Just some solid, smart play which we've actually showed signs of doing the past couple of weeks.

IC said...

I agree with you for the most part, Benny, though I think that tomorrow night's Michigan-Northwestern game will not necessarily be a close game. And that bodes well for us.

Consider the following:

* We've been sharper on the road: Though this is more of a neutral site game (as about half the crowd will be cheering for Michigan) we seem to focus better when playing away from Ann Arbor. Maybe our guys get headaches from the infernal racket of all those jangling keys.

* We're the healthiest we've been since the NIU game: Jake Long is back and ready to revive his uncanny impression of a road grader. Hart should start and has three guys behind him who can provide some relief and change of pace. We won't have the equipment guy who broke his leg last week, but I bet Lloyd has a solid backup ready there too. We can keep their dangerous offense off the field by running it down their throats and if they want to take that away, let them try to cover Avant, Breaston, Manningham, and company one-on-one with their tenth-ranked-in-the-conference pass defense.

* We're catching NW at the perfect time: Like State after they beat ND and annihilated Illinois, and Penn St. after they won their biggest game (over tOSU) since the days when Joe Paterno wasn't a raging schmuck (circa 1994), the Wildcats are flying high and are set up perfectly for a fall. Also, the fact that this is a "Big Game" helps us. We play nationally televised games every other week. They play them once every other year.

Look, Northwestern is certainly a good team. They abused the Wisconsin D that stymied us and they have been solid since getting walloped by Arizona State. But if anybody expects us to roll over against them the way Heartless Sparty did, well, to quote Judas Priest, "You've Got Another Thing Coming."

Michigan 41 Northwestern 27.

Yost said...

First of all, I have great respect for anybody who quotes Judas Priest in their post.

I hope your prediction is right, Ian. Really do. I don't feel as confident so I hope you and the Priest can help us pull this one out.