Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tide To Roll Over UM? Not So Fast.

Ahhhh game week.  It's FINALLY here! And unlike most years when the Wolverines open up against a MAC opponent, Team 133 starts the 2012 campaign vs. the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide.  The crown jewel of the BIG BAD SEC.  A daunting task to say the least.  In fact, almost every person you talk to, media and fans a like, seem to agree with the Las Vegas line which favors 'Bama by 12.5 points.  Most prognosticators don't give Michigan a snow ball's chance in hell in this game citing Alabama's ability to "reload" coupled with UM's inability to replace the players that have graduated, the extra time the Czar Nick Saban will have to plan for Denard and Co., and that the SEC is just that much better than the B1G.  From the sounds of it, the Wolverines should just play their reserves in this game to avoid injuries to their starters because they clearly do not belong on the same field as the Tide.  It's David's infant son vs. Goliath on steroids.  In the words of Lee Corso: Not so fast my friends.

Alabama won last year's national championship with a Heisman Trophy finalist at RB and a defense that may have been better than that of our Detroit Lions (exaggeration).  Well, that ball carrier and 7 starters from that stellar defense are no longer on the team.  They are now in the NFL.  That is a lot of talent to lose especially on defense.  And I get it.  Alabama stays dominant by recruiting top talent year after year.  They do not rebuild, they reload.  The players who will be filling these vacated spots may very well be absolute studs.  But, what people are completely losing sight of is the fact that these players will be starting the very first game of their college football careers.  They may be ultra talented, but inexperienced.  Inexperience leads to mistakes.  Mistakes, if enough are made, can lead to defeat.  It's the simple logic that the experts fail to acknowledge.

On the flip side, Michigan is coming off of a 11-2 season including a Sugar Bowl victory.  Some say Michigan was fortunate to finish the way they did.  To that I say 11 wins is 11 wins any way you slice it.  However, they lost 3 beasts on the D line (Martin, Van Bergen, Heineger), 2 playmakers at WR (Hemingway and Stonum), the best center in the nation (Molk), and sure-handed TE Kevin Koger.  That is also a lot of talent to lose but why is it that UM can't also have guys step in that will be very capable of filling these voids?  Does Michigan recruit tackling dummies?  Are the coaches at Michigan incapable of coaching up said players?  How do we know these players may not end up being as good or, dare I say, better than their predecessors?  I am not saying that this will be the case but it's possible.  We do not know a thing until these players take the field for real and show what they can do.  The analysts may indeed be spot on but to speak in such absolutes may be a bit premature.

The experts also say that Michigan, especially Denard and the offense, will be at a tremendous disadvantage in this game because Nick Saban and his staff will have extra time to put together a game plan to slow them down.  Um OK, well do they get some sort of a head start on Hoke, Mattison, and Borges?  Do they not have the same amount of time to come up with a scheme to stop the Tide from rolling?  Are Mattison and Borges not considered to be upper echelon coordinators in college football?  If anything, this aspect is a wash.  Again, the so-called experts are only looking at one side of the coin.  Not to mention many of the same experts consider Denard Robinson to be a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender as one of the nation's best players.  So if true, wouldn't logic say that it is entirely possible that maybe he could be just the guy to overcome the genius that is Nick Saban and his can't-miss game plan?  I've got news for Denard doubters, if what we hear out of camp is true that he is taking care of the ball much better and truly taking a step forward as a passer in Borges' offense, then he could be the single most dangerous player in the land.  Those putting him on their Heisman lists have to believe this to be true. Maybe he proves to be too much for the mighty 'Bama to handle.  To be consistent with my criticism of those praising Alabama, we will not know if Denard can truly live up to the hype and take the next step as a senior QB capable of leading a team to greatness until he takes the field.  But that is my point.  When a snap has yet to have been played in the 2012 season, speaking in absolutes is silly.

Let's all take the time to pay homage to the gods of college football.  We must all bow to the SEC and realize that the simple fact that Alabama plays in the SEC and Michigan plays in the B1G is further proof that Dave Brandon should simply call the NCAA and cancel Saturday's game and forfeit.  There is absolutely no way the puny Wolverines could hang with such SEC royalty.  It's simply men vs. boys.  Enough.  Yes, the SEC has been absolutely dominant on a national scale.  Yes, Alabama has been arguably the best program in college football over the last 5 years.  But in the words of Brady Hoke: "this is Michigan."  I am not saying this to be arrogant or to spew cliches.  I am simply stating that despite the dark years of the program ('08-'10) Michigan is also a premier program in the college football landscape.  Ann Arbor Pioneer will not be stepping off that plane in Dallas.  It also will not be, no disrespect, CMU, EMU, WMU, UTEP, or UNLV.  Michigan is a big time college football program that has been awakened and is hungry, and despite the oversight of many, they too have elite talent on their roster.  And for good measure Michigan sports a 20-5-1 all time record vs. the SEC (7-1 since 1994).  I can also assume they are even more sick of hearing that they do not belong on that field on Saturday and that they have no chance than we the fans are.  Michigan is talented.  Michigan is hungry.  Michigan has something to prove.  Those aspects cannot be overlooked.  The media is doing just that.  Alabama better not.

Look, I am not screaming from the mountain top that Michigan is going to win on Saturday.  On the contrary, I think they will lose the game.  However, I do think it will be a very good game.  I think it will be a close, hard fought game on both sides and IT IS POSSIBLE THAT MICHIGAN IS VICTORIOUS.  I will not be completely flabbergasted if Denard and the boys find a way to shock the world so to speak.  I will be shocked if it is a blowout...either way.  It is the first game of the season in which players, many of which will be making their first career starts, can make mistakes.  The first game of the season is as good of a time as any to beat not just Alabama, but any team.  Just ask Appalachian State.  Michigan is a good team that has something to prove and is hungry.  If the Tide does not believe that now, they will on Saturday.  And if they get caught up in reading their press clippings and patting themselves on their backs, it is possible they leave Cowboys Stadium 0-1.

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