Random Stuff. You Know the Drill...
With mere hours to go before the season starts, all of the season previews and predictions are popping up. I'll leave that stuff to the big boys - I just haven't had time for it this year (I apologize to my few (loyal!) readers). But I wanted to bring up a topic that has been popular on the message boards in the past few days. What is the most "important" game of the year?
Many fans feel that Utah is the most important game this season. I disagree. But I guess that depends on how you define “important” – something I’m not going to get into, because there are so many different takes. So the following few paragraphs don’t really have a point – I just wanted to discuss this (with myself).
A loss to Utah will be bad any way you slice it. The words "Appalachian State" will be uttered a few thousand more times. The complaints about Rodriguez's coaching ability will start, after enduring 8 months of ridiculous attacks on his character. The fear of losing the nation's longest bowl appearance streak will be the subject on talk radio. It won't be fun. And maybe that’s what Michigan fans are fearing: that the fun and excitement surrounding our new regime will be squashed (or at least tempered) immediately. They envision a loss to Utah that could precede a 1-4 start (with additional losses to Notre Dame, Wisconsin, and Illinois), making us look like the 2008 version of ND’s 2007 team. And that is definitely possible. We might end up turning the season around during the more manageable second half of the schedule, but a bad start isn’t unfathomable.
My take is that loss to Utah will stink, but it won't be the end of the world. How quickly people forget that we lost to Appalachian State last year, got destroyed by Oregon, but finished 2nd in the Big Ten and ended the season with a victory over media darling and defending national champion Florida. The program didn't dissolve, the season was played out, and we acquitted ourselves fairly well (all things considered). Considering this is our first game under a new staff implementing a new offensive system, I think it’s fair to think that we’ll improve a bit after Game 1.
Also, if we didn't open the season with Utah, would people be discussing this game as much? If we played Toledo on August 30th, and Utah on October 11th, would it be getting as much play? I highly doubt it. Yes, the game is more “important” because it is the season opener, and the way you start can set the tone for the entire season. But if we can finish the season with 8 wins, I don’t people will care too much if Utah was or wasn’t one of them. I don’t think you can say the same about a handful of other games on the schedule, and that’s why Utah isn’t as important to me.
Another way of looking at it: If we beat Utah, but lose to Ohio State, people won't be giving us much credit for that August 30th win. But if we lose to Utah and beat Ohio State, that victory will be the talk of the off-season. You can see the headlines now, can’t you?: "Rich Rod Reignites Michigan-Ohio State Rivalry". So I say Ohio State is the most important game, like most every season, even though we don’t have a good chance of winning. Michigan State and Notre Dame are also very important, for rivalry and recruiting purposes.
Don’t get me wrong – Utah is a very important game. But it seems clear to me that as the season progresses, whether we won or lost the Utah game will become less and less important.
3 tips to live by
Maize and Blue Nation and Varsity Blue have some fan “guidelines” that are worth checking out. I figured I’d add my take on what I feel are the 3 most important things:
1 - Make noise. Serious noise. The “key play” stuff with the jangling keys is so weak. Think about it this way: If you’re walking in a parking lot and you want to get the attention of someone 50 yards in front of you, what do you do? Jangle your keys at them? Clap at them? No, you YELL at them, because that’s the loudest sound you can make. Your voice is your loudest “noisemaker,” for lack of a better term. When Michigan is on defense, scream your lungs out. If your voice isn’t hoarse on Sunday, you haven’t done your part. It’s that simple.
2 - Wear maize. As Varsity Blue put it, “A maize shirt costs you a maximum of 16 dollars (and even that's only if you get the official T-shirt). Wear it.” Yep. It creates a better atmosphere and looks very impressive on TV and to recruits in the stadium. I can never understand all of those 275 pound dudes who rock their #18 Amani Toomer jerseys from Coolio’s “1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New)” video. Those things are just guaranteed heat, sweat, and stank. Wear a maize t-shirt. It’s made of cotton, it reflects the sun (blue attracts it), and it’s 100 times cooler (in both senses of the word).
3 - Enough with the “down in front” stuff. If people stand up in front of you, you can choose to stand up or stay seated. Either way, don’t whine about it. If you want to enjoy the game in comfort with a great view, guess what?... it’s available in beautiful high definition in the comfort of your living room! You’re not at a movie, you’re at a football game. People are going to get involved in the action, and standing up is a perfectly acceptable way of doing so. Yes, once in a while some idiot will stand up for no apparent reason. He’s probably drunk, and he’s the exception to the rule. But in general, Michigan fans are very knowledgeable, and if they stand up it’s for a reason.
And so it begins
I’ve seen some posts this week asking “when was the last time you were this excited for a season to start?” Sadly, most fans (if they’re responding truthfully) would have to say “last season – 2007.” Ouch. But I don’t think the fans asking this question are only inquiring about this season and its results, but rather the new era of Michigan football. Jake was right when he said: “Some have compared it to an upgrade. I compare it to a transplant. The body is the same but the substance is entirely new.” In my opinion, any fan who isn’t looking forward to this season (because we probably won’t be that good, or for any other reason) is insane. Would you rather go back to the days of dreading that first loss? Fearing those road trips out West? Knowing that we were “saving things” for Notre Dame? Sitting through an uninspired, lackluster effort against a team we were favored to beat by 28 points? Those are things that we dealt with far too often over the past decade. Lloyd Carr is a great man and he was a good coach. But we needed a change. We needed a transplant. And, yes, I understand that there will likely be a variety of things that I will dislike about Rich Rodriguez and his coaching staff sooner or later. But for now, I am downright giddy that I have no idea what to expect. That I’ll see a bunch of weird formations and random plays I never thought I’d see in Michigan Stadium. That no matter what happens this weekend, or this season, the future is bright.
The long-term prognosis for the Michigan football program is better than it has been in recent memory – arguably in my entire life. We have one of the best coaches in college football, unbelievable facilities upgrades in the works, and we’re getting amazing exposure thanks to the openness of the new coaching staff. If you can’t get excited about that, it’s time to find a new team. Or, rather, another sport. Because in college football, it doesn’t get any better than Michigan. Go Blue!