Thursday, October 21, 2010

Stop me if you've heard this one before

Michigan comes out fired up, makes a defensive stop or two and takes the lead. Opponent comes right back down the field and scores and then continues to score throughout the second and third quarter. Michigan scores in the fourth quarter, but its too little to late. Michigan offense gains lots of yards, but is undone by turnovers. Michigan defense looks good in spots, but fails to make the stop at the key moments. Yes, this game looked a lot like the MSU game, and further reinforces what we have thought for several weeks now -- this team is not quite ready for prime time. The defense is still far too weak to be counted on to stop any team that is trying to score. Poor positioning, poor tackling, or just poor recognition - they simply don't have enough talent to be successful. The offense has also shown its youth in the last two weeks with costly turnovers, ridiculous penalties and an inability to make clutch plays. And special teams (other than punting) is still a weight on the offense.
Still, there were some positives:
-Tate's play (other than the two interceptions) was encouraging, and opens up the possibility of bringing him in future games as a change of pace when Denard is struggling.
-Kenny Demens looked better than horrible in place of Obi Ezeh. Hopefully his play against Iowa effectively ended Ezeh's playing time for the year.
-522 yards is a lot of yards to gain on a top ten defense. It does lend some credence that if (and that's a big if) turnovers can be cut down, this offense can duplicate some of their early season domination.
-The defensive and offensive lines played decently considering that David Molk and Mike Martin missed most of the game.
-The receivers looked good, especially in the fourth quarter. I think it's clear that most of them react better to Tate as a passer than Denard.
-Zoltan, Jr!
-Crowd was really into the game, especially during the mini-comeback in the fourth quarter. After the game, Iowa players reported troubles hearing audibles.

Of course, watching them shoot themselves in the foot for the second straight week has led to a lot of grumbling about Rich Rod and a lot of discussion about his future here. Towards the end of the game, there were chants of "We want Harbaugh" audible in the sections near us. Personally, I'm not ready to kick him to the curb just yet. There are still five games to be played, and there have been enough positive signs to suggest that a winning conference record is not far fetched. Unlikely, maybe, but not impossible. So I will reserve final judgement for at least two more weeks.

Thoughts on other games:
-The Wisconsin / OSU game was surprising so much because the Badgers, but rather for the way they won - by imposing their will on the Buckeyes and ramming the ball down their throat. I'm not surprised that the OSU offense stalled because they've looked rather pedestrian at times this year, but I didn't think Wisconsin would score over 30, when they only scored 20 against Arizona State at home.
-OSU's loss really helps MSU. If Iowa loses to Wisconsin this week, MSU has a one game margin over everyone in the conference, and can almost afford a lose in their toughest game left, in Iowa City. Of course, MSU has yet to play outside of the State of Michigan, and I wouldn't be surprised if Northwestern gives them a scare. Still, they are looking good for a New Year's day bowl, at least, if not a BCS bowl.
-I think we are heading for a TCU-Boise national championship game. The SEC undefeateds both have to play Alabama and each other. Oregon still has tough games with USC, Washington, Arizona and Oregon State. Oklahoma, Missouri and Oklahoma State all play each other, along with games against Nebraska and Texas. Finally, MSU still has to go to Iowa City. If Boise and TCU run the table, they will each be 37-1 in the last three years. Meanwhile, some other BCS bowl will feature a game that will be hyped as the "real" national championship game (Alabama/OSU in the Sugar, perhaps).