Many thanks to Maize and Blue Nation for kindly hosting this week's roundtables. Maize and Blue Nation has, quite simply, the best banner of any Michigan blog out there, and the writing is good too. I encourage you to check them out.
Usually these things are a bit tedious. You get the standard questions about your team's week to week performance, which this season for Michigan has ranged from "death" to "creative death" to "Final Destination 3 death." It hasn't been fun. However, these questions are good because they actually drive at some very good talking points, about which I'm sure there will be some disagreement. So, without further ado, the questions:
1) With two weeks left in the season, it's safe to say that most
schools have reached the point where the year has been a success or a
disappointment. How has your school fared this year in your opinion?
Or, is the jury still out?
This year has been both disappointing and oddly liberating. It took a long time to get over the fact that we were probably going to lose more than we were going to win. Actually, it took until the Michigan State game for that to sink in for me. For the first time in any of our lifetimes (I'm guessing...) Michigan was going to lose more than they were going to win. And that realization, when the fanbase collectively came to it, sucked. Frankly, it still rankles. I think you're seeing an entire fanbase going through the 5 stages of loss, with all of us being at a different point depending on your own personal level of bat-shit crazy.
1) Denial: I think that a lot of people (Champ...Paging Champ...) experienced this stage very early. Heck, I thought that a 8 win season was probable, with 6 at the low end of the spectrum. If Utah didn't dispel the denial, well, your cup of bat-shit runneth over.
2) Anger: Here we get to a stage that some haven't gotten past yet. "This didn't have to happen," they'll say. You see this on message boards a lot. I kinda got over this after I broke my cell phone during the Notre Dame game.
3) Bargaining: "If only we'd gotten Les Miles." "If only Mallet had stayed." "Why did Boren have to transfer?" "We should have never hired Rodriguez." All of these are forms of the bargaining phase, and frankly a lot of completely normal Michigan fans are still stuck here. The win over Minnesota actually helped jolt people out of this wishful thinking and back into "ok, none of that actually happened and we can't change it" thinking.
4) Depression: In this situation and in the uber-short College Football season, there isn't much time for depression. You lose. You get over it. You play again next week. I openly pine for a win against Ohio State (who doesn't?) but there isn't really time to be too depressed about it. It's more like "fleeting moments of depression" followed by a reassurance that everythings going to be ok.
5) Acceptance: And we've come full circle. It's in this stage that this season becomes oddly liberating.
You heard right. If you've reached this stage, then you've probably been following Michigan for the majority of your life, you've stuck with the team despite the fact that they just aren't very good, and you've probably grown to love a few of the tough-luck players. Sure, they're not very good, but dammit, they're your team and you've grown to love the deer-in-headlights-Threet-face. That's why the win against Minnesota was so much fun. For years and years, Michigan fans have been conditioned to expect winning, so much so that a win itself was simply satisfying expectations; never something to be celebrated. Well that's obviously come and gone, and if you've accepted that, the wins mean even more now because for the first time in my life, they don't count towards any sort of greater good. The win is simply a reward for the players and the fans who know they've seen better teams but are working as hard as they ever have to beat Minnesota. There's something special about that, and we as a fanbase have forgotten that. The kids are tryers. Wins are rewards deserving of celebration rather than the cold calculations of how that win fits into the greater scheme.
2) Is your school heading to a bowl? If so, which one? And if not,
No, no they're not. Ohio State is our bowl game, and Godspeed gentlemen.
3) The Big Ten has recently had a hard time getting respect among the
national media as a top conference. Has the Big Ten taken a step
forward or a step backward in this debate this season?
We'll obviously know more after the bowl games where we get to see some matchups between good teams from the various conferences. Personally, I'm of the SMQ/Hinton persuasion that conference parity is high and that any perceived strength of any particular conference will vary year to year and is largely window dressing. This year I think the B12 is super strong on top. Through the middle though? Not so much. The Big Ten has Penn State on top, which is kinda "meh" but I believe we've got some pretty strong teams through the middle. The SEC is kinda "meh" from the very top to the very bottom with the exception of a Florida team that should be undefeated but, uh, isn't. I expect this year's bowl season to follow the pattern of nearly every conference being about .500 against nearly every other conference.
4) Would the Big Ten benefit from adding another school to create two
divisions like the SEC, Big 12, ACC and MAC? And if so, which school
should be added? Or, should we drop one school?
A Big Ten team has played in the National Championship game for the past two years, and each of those years has featured another Big Ten team in a BCS bowl. Why mess with that?
The answer is that the tide is changinig and national perception of the Big Ten is waning thanks to the 4 enourmous BCS eggs that the teams referenced above layed in their bowl games and "bler bler" media types. I do think the Big Ten is going to have to address this problem eventually. This year, there was a good chance that Penn State was going to run the table and still get left out of the Championship game. Essentially, Penn State was going to have to pay for Ohio State's BCS misfires. A few years ago, Michigan saw their #2 ranking slip after not playing while Florida looked impressive in their SEC Championship Game.
This is a whole other post, but my position is that yes, the Big Ten should add another team, divide into...well..divisions, and play a conference championship game. I expect there to be some divergent thoughts on this, and I am more than happy to hear them.
5) Do you agree with President-elect Obama that college football
should have an 8 school post-season playoff?
Again, this is probably a whole other post, but I'm starting to lean a little to the playoff side of the argument. Either way, ths system we have currently is broken; any change will be good change.
6) Who is your favorite network television play-by-play announcer/
color commentator/sideline reporter?
Keith Jackson called the Rose Bowls of my childhood. He remains the voice that I hear in my head when I go over past games both good and bad regardless of whether he actually called them. Why was he good? He knew when to shut-up and let the moment speak for itself. Witness the difference between Jackson and some Cowboy doing the Texas broadcast in the following video. Which call gave you chills?