Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Miscellaneous Minutiae, 9/19/2012

Hope For Pahokee Update: Martavious Odoms's "Hope For Pahokee" Kickstarter is getting closer to its goal but isn't quite there yet. So far, 759 backers have donated $30,917 of the $35k goal. If you haven't donated yet, do it! Let's not let this fail because of a short Internet attention span (or any other reason, really). 

Yes, I'm talking about Northwestern again. If you haven't noticed by now, I'm a grad student at the venerable Northwestern University these days, and have thus followed the Wildcats' football program somewhat closely for the last eight or nine months. It has been somewhat of a breath of fresh air from the monumental expectations and resulting disappointment that comes with being a Michigan fan. Obviously, I am a Michigan fan first, and it's not even close, so don't worry (not that you were, person that isn't reading this, probably). Still, there's something inherently good about rooting for a program like Northwestern, one that does things The Right Way (if you are rolling your eyes, that's fine) and makes the most of what it has, usually without the major expectations and glowering spotlights of major college football programs...and I better stop there before I literally transform into one of those NCAA PSAs about athletes going into something other than sports. 

Say what you will about the quality of Northwestern's wins thus far, but 3-0 is 3-0. The strangest thing about is, other than the shootout that was the Syracuse game, the Wildcats have done it largely with defense and a strong running game, powered by Kain Colter, Venric Mark, and Mike Trumpy. Make no mistake about it, Michigan's matchup against the Wildcats will not be an easy one. All my kidding about being warrior poets and whatnot aside, the Wildcats play a decidedly grit-astic brand of football that belies their reputation as a spread team with little defensive speed and/or talent to speak of. 

In any case, here's Lake The Post's take on this season's proceedings
Wow. That’s a pretty good feeling to wake up to this morning.  Rewind for a second. If someone had told you that after week three, NU would be 3-0, one of only three teams in the B1G undefeated and, the facilities plan would be announced, you may have pulled out your checkbook.
I will conclude this Northwestern section that is probably annoying you by saying this: I don't think that we, as Michigan fans, say "wow" enough.

Meanwhile, back to the supposed focus of this blog...it's Notre Dame week. It was Notre Dame week even before the UMass game even ended, if we're being honest with ourselves. Brady Hoke said some things about Notre Dame:

 I really don't know how to feel about this game. I'll have a preview up later this week, but, needless to say, this might be the biggest Notre Dame game since the 2006 contest. I know that we've won in South Bend in two of our last three trips down there, but there's still that residual anxiety enduring from our winless streak there stretching from the Remy Hamilton game winner in 1994 up until the "oh wide open" game in 2006. Michigan has won the last three seasons on the back of some pretty serious offensive sorcery the past three years, but I'm getting the feeling that the same cannot happen this time around if Michigan is going to win.

Wondering about whether or not Notre Dame is truly "back" is a useless endeavor better left to people interested in pointless narratives and STORYLINES, but this game will be won--WARNING, ENTIERING CLICHE LAND NOW--in the trenches. For that reason, I have a pretty disagreeable feeling about this game in the pit of my stomach right now, but maybe that will change between now and Saturday.

The future of the rivalry. Speaking of Brady Hoke talking about ND, he weighed in on the future of the rivalry:
Hoke loves playing Notre Dame. But, if for some reason the Fighting Irish aren't on the Wolverines' schedule at some point down the road, Hoke won't exactly be heartbroken.
"They've got to do what they need to do for them," Hoke said Monday. "If (the Michigan-Notre Dame series) continues, it's great.
"If it doesn't, then we'll move forward."
As a person who has accepted Brady Hoke's "no chicken on pizza" as the law of the land since last week's radio show, you may take this with a grain of salt, but...I generally agree. I'm not necessarily one of those people that wants to see ND disappear from the schedule out of some sense of misplaced spite or whatever, but it would be nice to get some other teams on the schedule. I don't think that this is a novel or controversial opinion.

NO RESPECT. Matt Hinton reveals his Week 3 top 25, and it does not include Michigan. If Michigan sports talk radio had a PAWWWLLL equivalent, I would so be calling into it right now. Not really. Of course, Hinton explains his rationale as incisively as you'd expect:
September rankings are always a "Damned If You Do/Damned If You Don't" proposition. By mid-October or so, resumés are fleshed out, and everybody more or less agrees on what they're looking at and how to assess it. But what exactly are you assessing when a significant chunk of the country has yet to play a meaningful game? What is the criteria?
In the past, I've hewn to a strict resumé approach that might, for example, jump Louisiana-Monroe into the top ten for an early upset over a top-ten team, and let the deck sort itself out over the course of the season.
So, that's fair. It feels weird to see teams like Rutgers, Iowa State, and Oregon State in there and not Michigan, but the Wolverines have not had the opportunity to do anything of note outside of the Alabama, a game Michigan was probably not going to win even if it pulled out the greatest game it has ever played.  I would imagine that a win in South Bend would propel the Wolverines into his top 25, if not his top 15.

I'm sure he would agree, but when you really get down to the business of attempting to construct a top 25, you really begin to realize how byzantine and completely arbitrary college football really is. That is part of its charm, I guess, and I wouldn't trade college football for anything in the world. Still, college football comes with the underlying notion that attempting to place teams on a relativistic spectrum of quality is like trying to decide whether Beethoven or The Beatles were more influential than the other. In a few words: it is impossible. As long as you accept that, you'll be doin' just fine.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Not Russell Wilson. For a team that was a preseason favorite to win the Big Ten, this is not exactly news you want to hear heading into the fourth week of the season with a running game working about as well as the average person does in the morning before having their coffee:
Wondering if Danny O'Brien will be Wisconsin's starting quarterback when the Badgers take the field against UTEP on Saturday the answer is: Maybe.
While offensive coordinator Matt Canada intimated O'Brien would remain the team's starting quarterback, he wouldn't commit to it.
Like everybody, I just sort of assumed that Wisconsin would be able to withstand the exodus of offensive lineman to the NFL and assistant coaches to Pitt, but that has decidedly not been the case thus far. The Badgers take on a 1-2 UTEP team that should result in a fairly stress-free win before a trip to Lincoln the next week, a primetime derby against a Nebraska team looking to avenge last year's thumping in Madison.

This has not been the first time that people have questioned Bret Bielema's ability to be the primary braintrust of the Wisconsin program in spite of his sterling record. After winning 21 games in his first two seasons in Madison (12-1 in 2006, 9-4 in 2007), Bielema led the Badgers to a disappointing 7-6 season in 2008 (of course including what was probably the most embarrassing loss to Michigan that Wisconsin has ever taken), leading to the usual gripes about how his first two seasons were made possible on the backs of Alvarez recruits, yada yada yada.

In any case, this 2012 Wisconsin football team should continue to be an interesting case study in the importance of assistant coaches, those behind-the-scenes shadows that are more important than any of us can really ever know (whether in a good or a bad way). With uncertainty at the quarterback position and a running game that has been almost unnervingly bad, it's not difficult to imagine this season spiraling out of control for the Badgers if Nebraska is able to return the favor in Lincoln.

More? Sit down around the fireplace kids and let's talk to Uncle Barnhart about what we learned this week.

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