Saturdays have been perverse endeavors in emotional torture this fall, and not just for people who watch SEC football. Rooting for Michigan has been difficult, what with the underachieving offense, the injuries, the defense that doesn't show up for games until after an opponent's first possession, and the systemic problems that stem from a coaching staff that probably doesn't produce the results that it should. The madness engendered by "are you kidding me" disappointment and "what if" reflection has been especially trying as Michigan has now completed 83-percent of a schedule already replete with the contractually mandated three losses and a string of thrilling victories that have narrowly snatched elated bacchanalia from the jaws of self-destructive mourning. I mean, Wisconsin and Minnesota at home? Really?
Operating within this simultaneously and unpredictably thrilling and corrosive emotional environment, the average Michigan fan can surely be afforded a demonstrative and even obnoxious figurative exhalation every once and a while, and that's what this past Saturday was: One big sigh of relief. Finally, something that didn't seem so hard, taste so bad, and extract so much. What's a Hoosier? College football's answer to Tums.
There really isn't much wannabe-trenchant analysis needed for the Indiana-Michigan game. Here are some numbers from which you can draw your own conclusions. I won't let my subjective view get in the way:
- Time of possession: Michigan, 36:10; Indiana, 23:50
- First downs: Michigan, 26; Indiana, 9
- Rushing yards: Michigan, 216; Indiana, 63
- Pashing yards: Michigan, 209; Indiana, 147
- Total yards: Michigan, 576; Indiana, 229
What sort of game does that seem like to you?
Oh, and, of course, the most important stat: Michigan 41, Indiana 14. Michigan scored all of its points in the first half and then, during the second half, got ready for the work furlough it's hosting next week, if you know what I'm saying.
The most significant development from Saturday that's got the internets going nuts was that Michigan unveiled a number of "trick" plays and different offensive looks: a throw-back pass to Chad Henne; a misdirection pitch to Antonio Bass; a toss sweep to Bass; and several crossing routes that seemed new but might have just been obscured throughout most of the season by Henne's ongoing Xavier Lee impersonation. All fans could rejoice upon seeing some plays that weren't completely standard and predictable, although there were those of us who were left to wonder if someone like Bass really couldn't have run his special plays weeks ago when the offense was dropping anchor at the bottom of the tank in places like Madison. But that hostile skepticism is part of a larger discussion that will never end until Lloyd Carr retires or Norm Chow comes to town.
A more appropriate question for right now is whether those cute plays will mean anything against the inmates from Columbus and their warden, a man for whom we will receive the paternity-test results next weekend. Given that the prisoners use their rec time in the yard to consistently practice good defense, there is a strong chance that the not-so-innovative stuff with which Michigan confounded Indiana won't work too well against bigger, stronger, faster, smarter, better prepared dudes who can probably turn a mouth piece into a shank. Similarly, there is a very good chance that nattily clad (well, relative to the Chuck Amatos of this world) warden is Lloyd's fahzher. Maybe the tricks were taken out of the proverbial bag a week early?
Not that you needed to ask, but yes, I'm skeptical, and am inclined to believe the conventional wisdom regurgitated above. Running some new, crafty, beware-of-over-pursuit stuff against Indiana may have given the Ohio State Joke of a University a few more wrinkles (or "trickeration," if you're into made-up words) to worry about, but will those plays compensate for a quarterback who has played poorly against real competition all season? A running game that features a patchwork line, poses no "big-play" threat, and is often predicated upon the running backs getting yards after contact? A coaching staff that will die before it attempts to beat a real opponent by fewer than seven points? I may be a cynic, but that doesn't mean I don't have real reasons for concern.
But I said that this weekend wasn't about angst, fear, and doubt, so I will employ those feelings to fuel late-night ramblings later in the week. For now, it's great to be a Michigan Wolverine.