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Friday, November 17, 2006

Kings of the Road?

Much of the reason a vast majority of people believe tOSU will beat Michigan on Saturday is because the game will be played in Columbus. This is understandable, as tOSU has an intensely supportive home crowd that could inspire the Buckeyes and influence officiating. Also, in addition to the boost tOSU gets in the Horseshoe, many believe that Michigan will suffer from playing on the road.

But in the words of Game Day Goofball Lee Corso, "Not so fast, my friend!"

With an emphasis on focus, execution, and outcome, below is a ranking of the best games played by the 2006 Michigan Football Team.
1) @ Notre Dame
2) @ Indiana
4) @ Penn State
5) @ Minnesota

As you can see, Michigan's best games have been disproportionately road games

Though four games is admittedly not a large sample, it seems that Michigan plays better on the road. They definitely seem more focused. There are a few theories to explain this:

* The "Big Quiet House" Theory: Michigan doesn't get much of a lift at home. Therefore, when Michigan goes on the road it does not relinquish an important advantage that many other team's enjoy.

* The "We're Used to This" Theory: Literally every game Michigan plays on the road is a huge game for their opponent. Because of this, Michigan has developed a steady and apparently successful approach for dealing with opposing crowds that few other teams are forced to develop.

* The "Us Against the World Mentality" Theory: If the Soviet Hockey Team or 1927 Yankees were playing in today's sports culture, they would probably join what seems like every other team in saying, "Nobody believed we could do it but us! We shocked the world!"
The Michigan Football Team seems to have utilized a similar attitude this season following the debacle that was 2005. This unity becomes even more solidified on the road, when a team truly is up against almost everyone else. This thinking when combined with the ultra-aggressive defensive attack that has propelled Michigan all season makes Michigan a very formidable--perhaps unbeatable--force.

I would be shocked if Michigan loses on Saturday due to problems typical of road teams (imtimidation, flat play, etc...)In fact, evidence suggests that playing on the road might spark the focus and intensity that Michigan needs to topple the number one team in the nation.


Eric S. said...

Good post IC, I was thinking the same thing for the Buckeyes too though (with the exception of Illinois...) For my personal rankings, I'd put game level as

Penn State

So with the exception of Illinois (they were looking ahead, just like Michigan with Ball State), Ohio State seems to rock it out pretty well on the road and at home. But you are right, Michigan is a better road team than home team. Just thought I'd share my $0.02. Welcome back to the blog.

Anonymous said...

Not so fast, my friend ...

"* The "Big Quiet House" Theory: Michigan doesn't get much of a lift at home. Therefore, when Michigan goes on the road it does not relinquish an important advantage that many other team's enjoy. "

You've forgotten the jangling keys that intimidate visitors to the "Big House". If Michigan fans who dare to enter "The Shoe" bring their keyrings, they'll transport a feared "home field advantage" unlike any other in football ... the dreaded "Key Play."

When youi've got it, flaunt it!!!!

BaggyPantsDevil said...

I agree that this is a team that is more focused and probably plays more intensely on the road. I think it has something to do with the fact that Michigan relies heavily on the defense and I have my own goofy theory about it.

I think there's a fundamental difference between athletes who play on offense and those who play on defense. Offense is about scoring and showing off for your own fans. Offense is positive, it's about building and sustaining drives that ultimately lead to points and displaying running, throwing, and catching skills. Offense is about creating.

Defense is about the negative. It's about spoiling all those attempts at running, throwing, and catching. It's about stopping drives and ruining a team's attempts to score. Defense is about destroying. If offense is about making good things happen for your team, defense is about making bad things happen to your opponent. When on the road, a defense has the extra benefit of making bad things happen to close to 100,000 opposing fans as well.

I'm sure Alan Branch's squishing of Anthony Morelli was all the more satisfying because he did it in front of a stadium full of Morelli's own fans. He got to hear the collective gasp and then silence of the crowd, was able to feel their shock and disappointment.

I think defensive players want to see the negative responses to their actions. They want to see opponents getting up slowly and looking groggy. They want to see their opponents walking stiffly and limping slightly after hitting them. The want to see quarterbacks making bad throws because of pressure and want to see receivers drop easy catches because they're already thinking about the hit that's coming. They want to see fear and frustration in their eyes. Seeing and hearing the distress of a stadium full of opposing fans must add to that exponentially.

I look at an offense as some ancient civilization trying to build a great city with all those accumulated yards and points and the defense as some sort of barbarian horde coming to sack and loot that great city. Pillaging is always best when done in someone else's territory.

IC said...

Baggy, there's nothing "goofy" about that theory. Though I didn't describe it nearly as well in the post, your brilliant analysis gets at why I think we're going to win this game.

Flop said...

21-20-1 at the 'Shoe. This is our house, too.

Just check the flowers in the rotunda. What color are they again?

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