October 15, 1993: The group poses for a picture in the Clearfield Days Inn the night before Michigan’s first meeting and first victory over Penn State 21-13 in Happy Valley. This and the rest of the pictures from that trip (which predates my introduction to the tailgate) are part of a massive conversion of The Godfather’s photo albums to digital. Enjoy taking a look back at yesteryear when the tailgate group was just “old” as opposed to “really ancient” by visiting that now archived game page here.
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!
...so let's look at Penn State pictures and get depressed.