A Tale of Two Cities

The Long Way

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. That is the best way I can sum up the 5500 mile journey across the United States...from Ann Arbor to Las Vegas...to Los Angeles and back. The best of the trip occurred in Vegas, the finest in food, entertainment, clubs, and playing blackjack with former college roomates and friends. Winning makes things better as well, and some of us came away with solid paydays.

On the 30th we moved from Vegas to LA, and checked into the Hyatt on Sunset, AKA the "Riot House", with a balcony overlooking the greater LA area. This is where things went downhill for many of us on the trip, as the flu made itself present starting on that evening, and flourished throughout the remainder of the vacation. We passed it around to eachother, and struggled to attend our private New Year's Eve party, the tailgate, and even The Game.

I took no pictures at the tailgate (thanks to JJ for chronicling the event with my camera), drank no alcohol at the tailgate, and shivered my way through four horrible quarters of Michigan football, passing in and out of conciousness as USC put point after point up on the board. USC's 2nd half opening drive was the nail in the coffin, putting them up 21-0 in front of a USC tilted fan base.

So the season ends with a loss, giving USC a piece of the National Championship. Michigan finishes 10-3, and in the top-10 in both polls. Given our talent base, we expected more, but given our quarterback and special teams...we should've expected less.

Thanks again to everyone for the successful tailgating season. Though I was incapacitated, the turnout in Pasedena was amazing...a testament to the strength of the UMTailgate.com family. I wish you all a Happy New Year, and look forward to all of you joining us in our exploits in the coming season.

The Conquering Heroes

Dynasty Undisputed

The rising sun broke the horizon as I loaded the last of the tailgate equipment into my car. It was a brisk and mostly cloudy morning. This is one of those games where the tailgate is just something you need to get through. I exchanged a few salutations and a 'Go Blue' with the families of Grant Bowman and Andy Mignery, expressing cautious confidence verbally, while maintaining the utmost confidence mentally in the team which I follow with unwavering passion. So when we ventured out at 7:30am to a stadium that is less than one mile away, but didn't arrive at the tailgate until 9:30am, my frustration with the unprecedented traffic was quelled by the fact that the game was still going to be played, and I wasn't going to miss a single snap.

We celebrated a few birthdays in the pregame, but all of the festivities that took place prior to kickoff are just flash memories to me. Even the absence of our tailgate's founding father was over-shadowed by the sheer excitment of the pending matchup. I hadn't even noticed how many other regular tailgaters still hadn't arrived as we got to just an hour before kickoff.

Leaving early from the tailgate to go to the game, I was able to see the "band take the field" for the first time this season. 400 previous varsity football letter winners held up the "Go Blue" banner, and as the hair on the back of my neck stood at attention and a chill ran down my spine, the Wolverines poured onto the field, congregating on the home sidline, piling onto each other with jublilation as if the outcome was already in hand.

Michigan posted the first 21 points, and after opening the 2nd half with a 5-play, 62-yard drive, led the Buckeyes 28-7. Ohio State then mounted a comeback that made the score as close as 28-21. But the Wolverines would not be denied. Chris Perry added a touchdown for the Wolverines with just under 8 minutes to go, and the defense clamped down forcing 3 punts and an interception on the Buckeyes last four possessions.

The Michigan Wolverines are THE 2003 Big Ten Champions. No one else. Fans jumped down onto the field, celebrated with the team and with each other. Then, after about 30 minutes, they calmly went back into the stands to listen to the band complete the experience with a post-game concert and a rousing chorus of "The Victors". With the victory, the Wolverines have guaranteed themselves a trip to at least the Rose Bowl, and leave themselves an outside shot at the Sugar Bowl. Bowl games will be officially announced after December 6th.

The Season Ends

It seems to go by so fast! Another sucessfull season for the Wolverines and for UMTailgate.com. Special thanks to everyone for participating in the themes, and for being a part of our tailgate family. I hope to see you all out at the bowl game, wherever it may be, but if not, enjoy the winter, and stay tuned to UMTailgate.com for more wonderfull alcohol-inspired exploits courtesy of myself and the tailgating family.

Those Who Stay...

It starts with just the name. Michigan-Ohio State. It's not Ohio State-Michigan, and it shouldn't be.

Ninety-nine times before, these two teams have met, most of the time with something on the line. Saturday will be no different. The Ohio State Buckeyes will enter Saturday's game as the defending National Champions of college football. A little hard to swallow. Add on the fact that Michigan is most likely the only thing standing in the way of the Buckeyes getting a chance to defend that crown, and the pressure increases.

Your ears begin to pop when you think about how this game will be the defining moment in the careers of John Navarre, Chris Perry, and perhaps even Lloyd Carr. You find it hard to breathe when you realize that there's a new guy in town, Jim Tressel, who finds ways to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat on a weekly basis. You remember how Michigan dominated the Buckeyes in last years game, only to find themselves riding home on the short-end of a 14-9 scoreboard.

Anticipation started at the end of the first half of the Michigan - Northwestern game. And it has only been building since then. Words can't describe it. It's as if the Buckeyes are getting the advantage, two in a row, which is something you cannot recollect ever happening before. The discomfort that you feel is similar to that which has plagued the Buckeyes for 20 years. Two in a row can be a aberration, three in a row is a bonified streak, and you can't bear to think about what it would be like if it happened. It's like worrying about the Russians taking over during the cold war. You imagined then what it would be like to be forced into drone-like employment, and all the red...damn that red.

Well, I've seen enough red now. It seems there's a few at each of our games, home or away, as if they're scouting out trying to find the weakness in our team, our fans, and our way of life. What is our way of life? It is the dynasty. Not a dynasty in the modern sense of the word, like the Red Wings being a "dynasty", or Michigan State basketball having a "dynasty". In sport, you may look to the New York Yankees to find something comparable. Michigan has been in the Big Ten (AKA the Western Conference from '17-'52) for 95 seasons, and has won nearly half of the championships in that stretch. All-time leader in wins in all divisions of college football, 2nd only to Notre Dame in winning percentage, and last had a losing season in 1967. That's a dynasty.

But dynasties have been known to be vulnerable. The world will be watching, the gameday crew will be on hand. On Saturday, November 22nd, it will be the 34th anniversary of Michigan ending the Buckeye's 22-game winning streak in the first battle between Woody and Bo. And on the biggest stage in the country, Ohio State will be defending its National Championship while Michigan is defending its dynasty. Who wants it more?

Do You Believe in Miracles?


So, my plan for the bye week was to write a complicated formula that would somehow result in Michigan playing January 4th in New Orleans. It was really great, really well thought out, and really impossible. Looking at who was ahead of the Wolverines with just 3 or 4 weeks of football left, the outlook was bleak at best, with powerhouses Florida State, Miami, Virginia Tech, and USC looking down upon us and our two losses. Nobody seemed to have a formidable schedule remaining, so it would take a miracle to get us back into the National Championship hunt. I was content with that fact. The last few weeks had me settling on the task at hand, winning our remaining games, including a drubbing of Ohio State, and getting back to the Rose Bowl.

And then it happened. All in one day. A special day, where there was no game to attend, no road trip to plan, no food to prepare. The college football world came crashing down on this day as Miami, Florida State, and Virginia Tech all fell victim to the upset. When the dust settled, there was Oklahoma, USC, Ohio State, LSU, and Michigan. No longer was it a complicated formula to get us to New Orleans, it was a simple one. Win out, and with a slip up by LSU and USC, we're in. LSU's remaining schedule is very difficult, including games @ Alabama, Arkansas, and @ Ole Miss. If they win all of those, they will still have to endure an SEC conference championship game...so that side of the outlook is good. On the other hand, USC has a cakewalk into New Orleans. A win against lethargic Arizona, followed by a win against UCLA on November 22nd, and their season ends on Bourbon Street. (USC also has a game on 12/6 against Oregon State-WM Ammended 11/10/03) But that's why they play the games. USC has shown it can hiccup against a lesser opponent (34-31 loss to the 5-5 Cal Bears) so anything can happen.

But anything can happen to our mighty Wolverines as well. A slip up against the Buckeyes, or worse yet, against Northwestern, and it becomes yet another story of what could have been. Iowa? Oregon? Take away a fun punt or two and we'd be sitting pretty next to the Sooners.

Do We Belong?

That will quickly become the story as things play out. Why should Michigan be the two-loss team to go? Well, Michigan has beaten a top-10 team in the last two consecutive weeks, and if they win out, they will most likely have beaten another. And remember this, a case can be made that the Big 10 is one of the top two conferences. The champion of that conference should represent them in the National Championship game. And don't fret, if we take care of business and things don't fall into place...we still have the Rose Bowl to 'fall back on'.

State Champions

Welcome to the Big Ten

They say that the game was played in a grind-it-out fashion, just like Michigan-Michigan State matchups of years ago. A world where linemen tell the story, and time of possession is second only to points. Where speed and reverses give way to braun and halfback dives. But that is simply not the story from Saturday...it is but half the story. Michigan State did not play that game, Michigan did.

Michigan, so rich with tradition, not only went back to their traditional ways, but took it to another level. Chris Perry had 51 carries, breaking the previous record by nine, and amassed 219 yards on the ground. Hello John L., and welcome to the Big Ten. No flash, no glamour, just three (or four) yards and a cloud of dust. We run to set up the pass, Mr. Smith, that's what we do. But you and all of your pre-game trash talk about making this a bitter rivalry only made you look as dumb as your predecessor, and you couldn't stop our run. And just so you know, we only passed for fun, Big Fun if you will, because our receivers look so good, we felt they needed camera time.

Michigan State's one-dimensional offense had nothing to offer. The only significant drive was a broken coverage bomb to one of those Michigan State receivers...sorry, I just don't remember any of their names. And by the way John L., I'm not proud of Jeff Smoker, and neither should anyone else there at your land grant college. Michigan State's window of opportunity was last year, when they had at least ONE receiver, and your re-hab hero called it quits, closing that window. It's all downhill from there John L., as you will see when you attempt to recruit, when you see that you will only get what we don't want. This is the Big Ten John L., it was here while you were at Idaho and Utah State, and it will be here after you are no doubt unceremoniously released by the 2nd rate University that employs you somewhere down the road. So, John L., I suggest that while you are here, you attempt to recruit Big Ten players and play Big Ten football. Otherwise, there will be more of the same year after year as we run it RIGHT UP THE MIDDLE and show you just how weak you really are.

A few costly mistakes made the game look good for the overmatched Spartans, as Michigan outgained them 216 to 36 on the ground with one touchdown and added three touchdowns through the air. Michgan wins 27-20.

Destiny Revisited...Revisited

Now you can officially get yourself worked up, because barring a collossal flub up in Evanston, November 22 will once again be a red-letter date in Michigan history, as the Wolverines will be aiming to end a Rose Bowl drought with a win over the Buckeyes.