You have to feel bad for the Badgers. Desperately attempting to recapture the sucess of their recent history in the face of a bunch of quick coaching changes, perhaps brought on by their version of Bo not being a fun guy to work for or follow in the footsteps of, all while still trying to convincince you that football didn't exist prior to 1993. Seriously, Wisconsin had a 40% winning percentage over the THREE DECADES of the 60's, 70's, and 80's. Dudes at the tailgate that are 50+ years old will tell you of a Wisconsin that was akin to Indiana (oh, hello Sparty), a rollover and die Big Ten team with no fanbase and no future.
When you've played a team 65 times but only managed to muster 14 victories, you'd like to take advantage of them when they are down. But while the Wolverines were vulnerable and mired in the worst years in their program history, the Legends/Leaders/East/West realignment debacles kept Wisconsin vs. Michigan on the shelf for 6 years. Prior to that, the Badgers had won 4 of the last 6 ('05-'10), their best stretch by far in the series, but nowhere near the 23 of 24 the Wolverines once took from them from 1965-1990. Even the upstart Wisconsin teams, the ones that boasted all those Rose Bowls and got Ron Dayne the first and only longevity-based Heisman, typically had their success despite a loss at the hands of the Wolverines. And in the cases of the Badger's one-loss seasons of 1998 and 2006, their only defeats came vs. Michigan. Ouch.
But hey, these boys don't remember that. Maybe some of their fanbase does, but there was no history on the field on Saturday, it only looked that way. Wet and sloppy, lines dictating the action, straightforward offenses (minus the 11-man I-formation), strong defenses, and always less than a touchdown between us. Oh, and a patented unsuccessful Lloyd Carr double reverse. 1993, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2016...they're all pretty much the same.
There was a lot of "disappointed with a 17-point win" banter after that Colorado game. Now it seems Colorado is also part of the 90's revival tour of 2016, as they join Nebraska, Tennessee, and Washington in the top 25, (hello unranked Sparty) and you dig up your Soundgarden cassette. But there was some murmurs of disappointment on this Saturday too. There seems to be an stigma with winning and not beating the spread. There's also a national discontent with strong defensive football, which is why Louisville and Clemson are sooooo good even though they each gave up 500+ yards to their opponent. Anyway, couple that with the field goal frustration and those goddamn punt team penalties, and we ended up coming out of the game just happy and relieved as opposed to hugging each other and spraying champagne in the air. We just beat a top-10 team. A team good enough that after we beat them, they still remained at #11, and are the 2nd highest ranked team with a loss after Louisville. And I hate to sound all Scott Frost here, but we outgained them in the air 219-88, and outgained them on the ground 130-71. No, yards are not points. But they usually translate accordingly when you don't have a kicker with the yips.
So celebrate your ass off people! Worried about kicking field goals? Well, we've got until 10/29 until we will need to kick one that has any meaning. That's 26 days to make a kicker. Any chance Harbaugh brings in a special coach to work with kickers? Yes. Any chance it will be Janikowski on his bye week and I can hang out with The Polish Cannon? I hope so.
I find it difficult not to build extensive transitive-property-filled matricies in my head to grade strength of opponent and compare us to our rival (our rival is Ohio State btw, we have just one) and the rest of the teams in the top 10 (Sparty is not in the top 10). I do this even though I am very aware that it is meaningless and stupid. Every game is built on its own emotions and motivations, oftentimes not understood by those outside that locker room. Every game is is unique, filled with injuries, matchups and strategies that don't necessarily apply to last week or next week. Not sure if Wisconsin is more Georgia State tightrope or MSU domination...or if everybody would have had Furman driving for a game tying touchdown in the 4th quarter.
One-dimensional offensive attacks rarely work. In these days of parity, 90% (this is a made up number) of college football games feature defenses have the ability to force you to do that which you are the least proficient at. So the ability to be a running team that can also pass, or a passing team that can also run, is huge. It's called balance. And it doesn't necessarily mean passing and rushing yards come out equal in a game. It means that you can identify and prey on the defensive weaknesses. Run all day one day. Pass all day the next. Repeat through January.
On Saturday, Michigan was freely able to do both pass and run the ball. Penn State was able to do neither. Of our opponents in 2016, Penn State was either the worst, or they saw our best. Hawaii could at least play the jet lag card. My fear of Franklin being a good coach that could find some weakness in the Wolverines and exploit it was all for naut. Outclassed. Out-manned. Out-coached. They'll have that Paterno statue back up in State College soon. They have nothing else.
I keep trying to decide if we are good. The data set is too small and the teams we have played maybe just suck. As much as closing the deal during next week's hot date with a top-10 Wisconsin team would do wonders for our perception nationally, the Badgers beat a floundering and now coachless LSU team and a shitty Michigan Agricultural College team. I'm left with no comparison data for the only two teams I think are any good: Ohio State and Alabama. See, I'm thinking too much again. We're back to last week's conundrum. We're supposed to shut up an enjoy this.
I'm not really sure if we've seen this before. This is not the blueprint of Bo or Lloyd, or the confusion of Rich Rod and Brady, this is what building a program looks like in 2016. The rotations, the competitions, the silent swagger. This is beautiful. The loyalty is less and the expectation is more. Pick any coach from the Michigan tree prior to Harbaugh, and Deveon Smith would be an every down back. You can't put a value on what we've got out of that position by having that role split. Not that it matters, but you can't put a value on the fun we've had as fans getting to watch it either.
And speaking of balance, have you ever seen week to week footwork improvement out of a Michigan quarterback like you have out of Wilton? He went from Navarre to Tate-lite in 4-weeks. That statuesque bastard was side-stepping rushers and even ran for a first down with a juke for good measure on Saturday.
Michigan has a HUGE game this Saturday vs. #8 Wisconsin. It's EXCITING! The Wolverines have not beaten a top-10 opponent in the Big House since 2008 (also Wisconsin - Rich Rod and Tate basically made out at the end). It's the last of the 5-home games to start the season before taking Jabril and Rashan back to their home state to tap Rutger's ass.
Other good things in no particular order: Taco is back. Sparty got housed. Lewis is back. Rashan is going to be a dominant force by the time we get to Indy. Iowa seems to suck. Harbaugh could bring in Les Miles as an advisor to finally force the Miles - Moeller fight we've been waiting 25 years for.
That's all. Go Blue!