The Thin Line Between Love and Hate Should Be Thicker

The bulk of the Michigan faithful stayed around longer than I expected them to, no doubt clinging to the hope that Tate might have another rabbit left in that winged hat.  The one redeeming quality of losses of this nature?  When games are over just a couple of minutes into the second half, you have a couple of hours to wallow around in it, to make your peace with it before it's actually done.  It's cathartic to have to sit in a cold light rain and see two small, white-clad sections of the stadium exchange their "WE ARE"s and "PENN STATE"s.  I sat there, wondering how this could have happened...not the 35-10 drubbing, but how I let my expectations change so rapidly after that 4-0 start.  More amazing is how I never let them fade after barely nipping Indiana, then falling to MSU and Iowa.

There's something that everyone needs to understand.  This is not a very good or even good football team.  This is an average football team.  They're too young, too inexperienced, and too thin at nearly every defensive position.  But being average means that this is certainly not a bad football team, and it is a country mile ahead of where they were last year.  Being average means we can beat teams like Notre Dame, we can blow out teams from the MAC, and we can be competitive with the best this league has to offer.  Being average also means that we can have our ass handed to us on occasion.  Saturday was such an occasion.

Immediately following the loss, those that cheered the new coach after the 4-0 start, and admitted they were wrong for their snap judgment after last season, quickly went back to wanting the return of Lloyd-ball.   The haters who had been patiently waiting for...and even wanting a loss like this dusted off their soapboxes.  Suddenly the piped in music was hurting their ears, the spread offense became a passing fad, and *gasp* Rich Rod yelled at one of his coaches on the sideline indicating obviously that this whole house is about to come crumbling down.

Someone really needs to shut this whole internet thing down, or at least gag Drew Sharp.

These knee jerk reactions from game to game and this over-analysis of a season, a program and a coaching staff based on a single contest is getting really ridiculous.  It was ridiculous when it we were 4-0 and had just beaten an Indiana team that we convinced ourselves was good, and it's ridiculous when we're 5-3 and we just lost to a Penn State team that we had convinced ourselves was not so good.  You see, the thing is, Indiana is not so good, and Penn State is good...I think.  So that makes things confusing, beyond your understanding, and if nothing else it should widen that thin line between praising Rich Rod for a turnaround and anointing Tate Forcier as the next coming of Christ, and wanting Rich Rod to step down and say that you can't wait for Devin Gardner to get here.  Come to grips with the fact that you just don't know, that you can't predict the future.  There's a pretty big damn difference between 5-7 and 9-3, and there's a pretty big damn difference between "Rich Rod is the man for this job" and "Rich Rod should be fired."

We all need to spend some more time finding that gray area, exercising patience, and waiting to make broad analysis of the direction of the program until the season has ended.  Bonus points if you wait until after 2010.

From Oh Crap to Ho Hum

You don't like to find yourself some stupid lucky play away from being tied at half with a far inferior opponent, but it's important to keep in mind that after EMU tied it up at 10-10, Michigan went on a 35-7 run to finish the game.  They also gashed the Eagles for 380 yards rushing, the most since 2003.  Tate was rarely called upon to throw, and I'm inclined to believe that the focus on the ground game was intentional and calculated.  The ground game keeps the boys grounded.  In short, we won't be having another week of Tate is Jesus press conferences.  Though he might actually be Jesus.  Oh, and Denard is still really fast, and still really a quarterback, he just can't throw so well....yet.

The defense was again, timely, but left a little something to be desired, especially early on.  However, the third quarter continues to be our quarter.  Michigan has given up zero points in the frame following halftime adjustments.  For the Western game, the Broncos had two third-quarter drives, one that resulted in a turnover on downs, the other ended in an interception.  The Fighting Irish had three third-quarter drives, a fumble and two punts, and a total of 22 yards.  Eastern had four drives in Saturday's third quarter, two ending in punts, one interception, and one turnover on downs.  So, ya, I think that means something.

In the end, it wasn't like we were all sitting around at the half, worrying about what would have been the ultimate disaster.  That fear is waning.  We were just all looking for something a little better, a little bit more "last week."  Call it Irish hangover, or lack of inspiration going into a meaningless game.  Whatever.  While we're not quite in a position to be looking past opponents, that's what we did, and we still won 45-17.  So there's that.  And that's enough as we transition to conference play.

Things Are Different Now

Going into Saturday's game, I really had no opinion on the outcome.  I didn't know, on any level, what was going to happen when Michigan took the field.  I mean, I knew what I wanted to happen, but I was probably more preoccupied with what I didn't want to happen.  I didn't want the euphoric feelings I felt after Western Michigan to be erased by a loss at the hands of the Irish.  Overcoming the adversity of practice-gate and the anti-Rich Rod rhetoric by way of a 31-7 victory was a really big deal.  But people don't want to hear about what you did for them yesterday, they want to hear about today.  I thought a lot about what people would think following a loss to Notre Dame.  I would have certainly been an apologist:  Notre Dame has a good team...Michigan is young and when they get more experience watch out...Next year is the year, maybe the year after that...yada yada yada.  But I don't have to worry about that anymore.  Because a group of very young men and a coach under fire have decided they don't want to wait.  They want it all...right now.

Though I don't do it very much in my day-to-day life, and I attend religious services about as often as I root for Michigan State, I find myself praying sometimes at football games.  I literally look to the sky with my hands folded, thinking there's some higher power that isn't busy with famine or disease or world peace that has time to fix a football game.  I was just in the middle of of something along the lines of "if you let Michigan win I'll volunteer at a..." when my connection was interrupted by Seven Nation Army and an entire section of students whipped into a frenzy.  This whole piped in music thing is so simple, so effective, that I can't believe we waited so long to implement it.  But that is just one of the many New Michigan Traditions.  The Victor's Walk, the honorary captains, and the team immediately sprinting towards the student section following a victory to sing The Victors, were brought here by Rich Rodriguez and are designed for one thing: FUN.

Michigan football, everything about it, is fun, perhaps for the first time.  From the play on the field, which is like some kind of wild circus of speed and trickery with a ringmaster that would've gone to prom four months ago if he didn't have spring practice, to the players seemingly as intent on getting us into the game by flapping their arms and pointing to crowd as they are with making the next play.  Rich Rodriguez, whose recruiting prowess grows with every early signee, made a pitch to the most stubborn of prospects.  And though two games, by showing what can happen when the right personnel runs a system, by saying all the right things, and by shedding a few tears, Coach has landed the biggest recruit in Michigan Football  We are on this team.  We are the 12th man.  We are All-In.

"Everybody kept saying a freshman couldn't do it," Michigan quarterbackTate Forcier said. "I did it."

Michigan is now ranked, which, as I discussed earlier in the week, changes the chemistry of the situation.  There are expectations now.  We are all assuming 4-0 going into Michigan State, and following Sparty's celebration of Mark Dantonio's contract extension by losing to Central Michigan for the third time, things are looking pretty good for our afternoon in East Lansing.  But we need to remember that despite Tate now being college football's poster boy for "freshman poise under pressure," he has yet to have his back against the wall with a stadium of people that want him dead.  The plus side is that we seem to have two consecutive cupcakes in front of us, which means that Tate...and please don't forget Denard...are going to be three weeks older, three weeks better, with two more games worth of plays and film analysis to help them.

But I'm here to tell you not to get ahead of yourself, to remember that while they are fearless and talented, they are still kids...and it's a long long season.  So let's just relax and enjoy these next two weeks, and revel in this miraculous start.

"I told them after the game, they have to stay hungry and humble. It's two wins. They'll get some respect back, but it's still a long way to go. If they stay humble and hungry, then some of that national respect that all of us want, our fans want, our players want, they'll get it." - Rich Rodriguez

Four Things You Are Wasting Your Time Worrying About

1) Piped in Music: What would it take for me to convince you that piped in music is a great idea?  If I said it would help us win just one more game, would you get on board?  I've been to every Big Ten venue.  And yes, there was a time when I mocked those that used amplified sound to induce crowd reactions.  Braveheart and that damn Boiler Up whistle in Ross-Ade...the tolling of the bell and "300" in Spartyville.  Tacky?  Maybe.  But tell me you don't find Penn State's rendition of Zombie Nation or Wisconsin's commencing of the 4th quarter with Jump Around freakin' cool.  Live a little, will ya?  Quit being such an old fart and dance.  Dance like there's no tomorrow.

2) Who's Starting Against Western Michigan: 

Mark this down as the point in which I turn a blind eye to any chance that we will lose to the Broncos.  So, that being said, whomever trots out on to the field after Greg Robinson's new look defense forces it's first three-and-out will be fine.  Look, honestly, if it is Sheridan, you shouldn't be mad that it is Sheridan, you should be disappointed that neither Tate nor Denard are ready yet.  But the writing is on the wall.  Tate and Denard both have a superior physical skill set, and that is why when the staff refers to Sheridan, you only hear that he is ahead in the area of "decision making."  This whole "all three quarterbacks will play" is such obvious coachspeak... and maybe that's what we need here, out of respect for a walk-on that has been giving it his all, and to continue to motivate two true Freshmen to duke it out in practice.

3) New Defensive Coordinator Hangover: Before "The Season That Never Happened," the previous two changes in defensive coordinator equaled unparalleled success.  Jim Herrmann took over at DC in 1997, Ron English from him in 2006.  Those two seasons represent two of the three times in Michigan history that Michigan started with an 11-0 record (the other being 1971).  With the expected improvement on offense (read: less three-and-outs) the defense will be just long as they stay healthy.

4) Your Liver and Your Cardiovascular Health: In eleven days, you will be introducing a number of toxins into your system.  Well, maybe not toxins, but beer, wine, liquor, and foods fried in partially hydrogenated vegetable shortening.  The kind of shortening that is solid at room temperature.  You can't fight it.  It's gonna happen.  The first two games are at 3:30pm, which equates to around 7 hours each pre-game of inbibing and ingesting.  But if you prepare yourself properly, you will be bright eyed at 8am, and still going strong when we return from gridiron victory.  So, right now, wherever you are, whatever you are doing...stop.  Head to the nearest liquor store and get a pint of Jack Daniel's.  Then go to  McDonalds and get a large double quarter pounder combo and tell them you want it with Big Mac sauce.  Chase that with a ten piece McNugget with BBQ and sweet and sour sauce.  Drink half of your 32oz coke, then pour in the jack.  Suck that down and repeat every other day.  On alternate days, you should spend the entire day not sitting down.

It's so close now, you can taste the Bacon Explosion.

Not Doing Wonders For My Tate Confidence Level

I've always been a little uneasy about the QBForce website.  I remember looking at it for the first time back when Tate was scanning all of his offer letters and posting them on there.  Sure, there are players out there that think they are the shit, and they talk some trash or seem smug or arrogant when talking to the media.  But this whole Brothers McQuarterback dedication site is just a little on the creepy side.  Honestly, it seems to be only about a step away from having a picture of Dad Forcier's penis emblazoned across the top of it.

As reported on Deadspin, Chris Forcier is transferring from UCLA to Furman.  New coaching staff comes in, quarterback transfers...we know this story.  But what is particularly interesting is the press release is that it is a list of "facts" about Chris, about the UCLA situation, and his desire to wear #7 again like he did in high school.
Fact: I was practice player of the week as a freshman multiple times.

Fact: I want to be part of the "Greatness of Fuhman University" academic's.

I am really really hoping that the Forcier family is sitting in a room somewhere laughing their collective asses off.  I hope that they are being funny, putting a comedic spin on things.  Because if this is serious, and Chris is as in love with himself as he seems to be...then I would imagine that we've got our own version of this problem suiting up on Saturdays in less than 90 days.