In your lifetimes, has there ever been a final home game you're less excited for than this one?
Drew: Yes. The dishonor belongs to Michigan's home finale in 2008. The Wolverines were in the midst of their worst season since 1962 and, just two weeks prior, had earned their seventh loss, which ensured that their streak of bowl game appearances would be snapped at 33 straight years (1975-2007) -- just two years shy of the NCAA record. With nothing meaningful to play for, the opponent needed to be a rival, or at least a ranked team, to pique my interest. Instead, the opponent was Northwestern, which may be the Big Ten school that I'm generally the least eager to watch Michigan football play year in and year out, although Rutgers may have claim to that title soon. Then, to top it all off, the weather forecast was sleet with high gusts of winds, which not only meant that the level of play on the field would be significantly worse, it also meant that I would be even more miserable watching it from the stands. And, oh, boy, was it ever.
Though I'm not very excited to watch Michigan-Maryland for a variety of reasons, unlike the home finale in 2008, at least the Wolverines still have something to play for tomorrow. With a win, Michigan would become bowl-eligible, which would give the seniors an additional game to put on the winged helmet and the underclassmen 15 additional practices to gather more much-needed instruction. And, since this is a game that Michigan can reasonably win, that incentive is enough to put this game ahead of 2008 Michigan-Northwestern for me.
Zoob: Honestly, I feel as though the majority of the final home games, outside of Ohio showdowns, have been letdowns for the majority of the last 10-15 years. I was in The Big House when we had that glorious victory over Ohio in 2003 I believe it was. We stormed the field, it was memorable.
I won't even be able to watch most of the game Saturday, got a friend who has a daughter's birthday. I'll tape it and hopefully, as unexcited as I am about the game, I'll still tune in.
Those who stay, those who stay....
John: I'll be honest, I can't be objective about this game as it will be my last game in the Student Section. Am I excited for the matchup? Not really, but I agree with Drew that it is much better than the 2008 game against Northwestern.
Kevin: I am torn. I was at the 2008 game, and earned my badge of fandom with the rest of you...but this...is going to be boring, cold, and dark. I won't even want to shake my head at those who don't go because I know that was the smarter decision. It's unfortunate that these seniors have been dealt this hand, but they will still play their rear ends off.
Oddly enough I think Maryland is a better level of competition than Northwestern was in 2008. Maybe.
Josh: I'm with Kevin, 2008 was a struggle. This game has the "bowl eligibility" thing going for it, so there's something to work towards. But yeah, this season as a whole has been just terrible.
What does Maryland do well that Michigan might have trouble with, if anything?
Drew: Michigan has two areas of weakness that Maryland may exploit. First, the Terrapins have a threatening pass rush that's spearheaded by Andre Monroe, who is second in the Big Ten with eight sacks. Michigan's young offensive line protected Devin Gardner well in its past two games, limiting Indiana and Northwestern to one total sack, but neither the Hoosiers nor the Wildcats have a pass rush near the caliber of Maryland's. I fear the Terrapins will be able to collapse the pocket around Gardner and force him to make poor decisions if they don't take him down first.
Second, Maryland will have a decisive advantage on special teams, particularly when its punt return team takes the field. We've discussed ad nauseam Brady Hoke's utter stubbornness in continuing to use a traditional punt formation that sends only two gunners as opposed to the five or six that the spread punt formation sends. This has allowed opponents to return more punts than the average team. And the last thing Michigan wants is for Will Likely, one of the most explosive punt returners in the Big Ten, who already has a punt return for a touchdown this season and two in his career, to field a punt and find himself with acres of room to run.
Zoob: Honestly, I haven't seen much of Maryland this year. I know Diggs is out, so that's huge for Michigan to not have to deal with that kind of weapon. I would say Michigan will have to make sure Maryland doesn't completely stop the run game, cause if Michigan is forced to throw a lot, that could lead to a lot of turnovers for Maryland to capitalize on.
John: I'm with Zoob, I've watched zero Maryland games so far and there's hardly an abundance of literature of the Terps. I do know their kicker Brad Craddock is solid and could be a factor if the game is close. I just hope the weather cooperates and neutralizes the Maryland kicking game.
Josh: Drew did his homework. The thing I've been watching from the Terrapins was their talented receiver group. Obviously, with Diggs missing the final two games of the season, we won't get to see him play against Michigan. So, yeah, that pretty much leaves that idea out.
Michigan again struggled with offensive production against Northwestern...is there anything they can do these final two games to give us even a shred of hope?
Drew: What would we be hoping for? Hope that Michigan can win at least one of its final two games? Hope that Michigan's offense can bounce back next season? Either way, there are two things I would like Michigan do offensively against Maryland. First, the Terrapins do not have the strongest run defense, so I would like to see De'Veon Smith or Drake Johnson -- or both -- find a rhythm on the ground. A Michigan running back has topped 100 rushing yards two games in a row, and it would be encouraging to see it happen thrice in three games. Second, as I mentioned in my preceding response, Maryland can inflict damage with its pass rush. If Michigan's offensive line can keep Devin Gardner's uniform clean tomorrow, I'd feel much better about the development of the offensive line heading into The Game and the 2015 season.
Zoob: Let's hope Drake Johnson can keep things rolling and get back to his great performance a few weeks ago. Funchess has been a disappoint this season, partly his fault and partly to misusing him. Funchess should've stayed at TE and utilized him in the middle of the field. If I see one more run for Funchess, I will want Nuss gone and a new OC next season with a new coach.
John: Drew hit the nail on the head with the offensive line. I believe that aside from the coach, quarterback and AD, the offensive line will be the biggest question mark next year. While I'm not entirely sold on Nuss, I think a solid offensive game plan and execution over these next few games will help build his confidence the confidence of the players heading into the (hopefully) bowl game and next season.
Kevin: Which would you rather have for a Christmas present: five new, five-star offensive lineman or a different offensive coordinator
Does the attendance streak fall on Saturday?
Drew: No. The athletic department won't allow it to happen.
Kevin: It's fun to think about what would happen though isn't it? I am also certain they will do everything in their power to prevent a sub-100k number. That might include: busing in high school kids, begging university staff and faculty to go, scanning each ticket twice, allowing students a "plus one," and counting all the concession workers.
Zoob: Better chance of Rich Rod returning to Ann Arbor.
John: So the thing is tickets for this game are crazy cheap, because everybody wants to sell their tickets and avoid seeing a terrible game in terrible weather. Yet, all these cheap tickets mean people who normally don't get season tickets can go see a Michigan game. No matter what the score or the team, seeing the Big House is an experience and I think a lot of people will take advantage of it. I think the game passes 106,000 freezing fans.
Josh: What Drew said. They'll fudge the numbers. If there were over 100k at the Indiana game, they were hiding somewhere.
Bonus Q this week: As a precursor to Thanksgiving week, what are we thankful for from our beloved Wolverines this year?
Drew: I'm thankful that, despite all of the losing on the field and the off-the-field drama and controversy Michigan immersed itself in, the players on this Michigan football team never quit or conceded this season. Sure, there were times when games turned ugly, but it was because they were overmatched, not because they no longer cared. There were plenty of times when they just could have said, "Screw this. Why should I have to continue to put up with this crap?" But they didn't. They stuck it out and gave it their all, which is why they will forever be Michigan Men.
Kevin: I'm thankful that I got to go to Michigan games for a second consecutive season even though they were misery-inducing. I had about a 20-year streak going, and then when moving out of state took me away for a few years, I missed them. As John says, going to Michigan Stadium is still an experience, no matter the team's struggles. Got to sit with my older brother, cracking jokes about Dave Brandon, got to ride over to the games with my folks. Not a bad deal in exchange for sitting through three hours of bad football.
And, like Drew, I'm thankful for the small group of seniors who will be bidding Michigan Stadium farewell. In particular, Raymon Taylor, who became a dad a week ago, and did what a man should, and put life before a game.
Zoob: I'm thankful that Michigan has such a passionate fan base and a way of life in Ann Arbor. The athletic program is a great resource of a great institution, and I'm glad that things will be rocking and rolling soon enough. I'll always root for the Maize and Blue, and I'm thankful for that ‘97 championship and for a school who has multiple schools who consider the Wolverines their number one rival. Everyone gets up for Michigan, regardless of the record. Michigan is what I am thankful for, I met my fiancee on campus in a dorm room ten years ago. Let's hope Michigan can get back to the top of the College Football landscape.
John: I'm thankful for getting rid of Frank Clark immediately. After all the issues with the Shane Morris injury and the Brandon Gibbons off-field issues, it was nice to see the Athletic Department handle a situation the right way. For the first time in awhile, I was proud of the Michigan Athletic Department.
Also I'm thankful for John Beilein. Team 99 is looking crazy good this year.
Josh: Man, that's a tough question to answer. I'm thankful for having the opportunity to cover this team--even though they stink-- in-depth and doing the things I grew up wishing I could do. Okay, that's enough of the sappiness. Enjoy the holiday with your families.