Good old-fashioned Big Ten football arrives this week in the form of the Fightin’ Ferentzes. Or, Iowa. However, if Michigan plays that style, they’ll lose, because this isn’t Hayden Fry’s Iowa. The new Iowa scores points and throws the ball to no less than 47 different tight ends disguised as receivers. As expected, we learned nothing from the Rutgers matchup, because Rutgers is bad, and Michigan merely needed to sneeze at them and they got shut out. But Cam McGrone and Daxton Hill used their playing time well. Josh Gattis appeared on the sideline to be Jim Harbaugh’s Enthused Guy and to be able to quickly tell Shea Patterson to do the opposite of whatever he did in Madison. The effort to make something out of this season starts on Saturday, and somehow Michigan is favored, but Iowa is not afraid of Michigan Stadium. The last time the Hawkeyes came to Ann Arbor, in 2002, I watched in horror from the south endzone as a better Michigan team got destroyed 34-9, also on homecoming weekend.
Take it away...from your favorite dumb homecoming tradition to the game matchup to a certain California law that got passed and anything in between...
Precursor: READ THE BILL
Kevin: Favorite dumb homecoming tradition: the band always used to wait until homecoming to break out the stacked marching band with the flag coming out of the center. Now they seem to change which game they do that for each year...so a safe bet is the Meechigan Locomotive led by the alumni cheer team. Yes it reminds me of something that would occur at a high school game, but it’s delightful…
I nor anyone else on this esteemed site will offer Darren Rovell-level bad takes regarding a very important piece of legislation that California enacted. SB 206, heretofore referred to as the Fair Pay to Pay Act, will not go into effect until *2023*. That’s important, since some would have you believe it has already signaled the NCAA’s extinction.
When viewed as a leverage tool, it reads as a pretty effective piece of legislation...and it clearly lays out the stipulations for it so that it doesn’t jeopardize an athlete’s eligibility or scholarship status. At most, this is something that will (eventually) only impact maybe 1% of all student athletes, but it begins to break down the barriers between exploitation and fairness. The NCAA will be forced to respond in some manner, and to take a look at what their big business has done to get them into this position. If more states take a look at this model and view it as a way to force a policy change by the governing body, that’s a good thing, no?
What it doesn’t do, in my view, is foster a wild-west-type environment among recruits, agents, and the schools trying to sign talent. The notion that it opens the floodgates on the transfer portal and ushers in some kind of free agency thing is a little far-fetched, precisely because of the requirements for scholarship retention. I don’t envision a scenario where everything, like autographs or jersey prices are suddenly thrown into disarray because of this...I think the intent is to simply pave the way for players to have the option to be compensated for their time while maintaining their contract with their school. There’s a specific line about this stipulating that nothing can violate the letter of intent that was signed to play a sport at the school. The problem area down the road could be this: boosters. I don’t see anything in the bill language putting rules in place for donations being construed as compensation. I suspect that will have to be ironed out before this thing takes effect. There’s a gray area pertaining to one thing the University does, should our state ever consider a law like this. The M Den constantly has players in their store for appearances/autograph signings (most of the time *former* players are featured), but, how would something like that change, since it definitely uses a player’s name…
Silver lining here, though, folks: It puts us on a path to the return of NCAA Football video games.
Daniel A: my favorite as a student was Mud Bowl. Does that still happen anymore? I think the uptight introverts kind of killed Greek life so it probably doesn’t occur anymore. For shame too. That event was sick.
Anyway, I have a weird confession for Saturday:. I feel absolutely nothing. I’m not nervous, I’m not excited. It’s just a game that exists. Beat Iowa? Meh, fine I don’t think it proves anything other than we don’t suck that bad. Lose? Well, might as well get the apathy treatments started early because it’s going to be a long year.
The offense looked immensely better last week against Buttgers, but who doesn’t? The one string of optimism I have is that they looked better against Buttgers this year than they did last year. So maybe there’s something there. I don’t know man, I have so many questions and Harbaugh has fallen on his face so hard in our last three ranked games that it’s just very hard to get myself worked up for this one. It’s Iowa.
Jay W: Last week the band did the cake formation that Kevin mentioned in their pre-game show and I half-convinced myself that I had just gotten which game was the homecoming game wrong. Maybe that’s just not a homecoming game tradition. Anyways, gimme some old guys doing cheerleader stuff in sweaters.
Last week in this space I suggested that everyone should stop worrying about what actually happens in the game so much and just try to enjoy Michigan football, the concept. This week, we have no such luxury. For the first time since 2015 a higher ranked team is showing up in Ann Arbor, setting up the earliest absolute must-win game for the Wolverines that I can remember. Chalk me up as an optimist. The thing that excited me about the Rutgers game was that for the first time, it looked like Shea Patterson really had all of his offensive weapons at his disposal. DPJ looked fully healthy, and so did Shea himself. The red zone rushing TD’s bode well for their trust in him to run without getting injured. I’m hoping that what we saw was, yes, a team playing well against an awful Rutgers squad, but also an offense that had to hit rock bottom so it could refocus and play with nothing to lose.
Will any of that matter against the Iowa rushing attack? Clearly Wisconsin put some things on tape that Iowa can probably exploit, and that is ultimately my main concern. I think we’re going to give up some points, but I also think that the defense might be able to get just enough well-timed stops so Michigan wins a 35-28-type game. I hope I’m right.
As far as California goes, your friendly neighborhood non-revenue columnist has one quick thought: for many Michigan baseball players the height of their value as people able to sell autographs and do other appearances was sometime last July. Same will be true if, say, the women’s basketball team goes on a big run (which, oh baby they might). Allowing athletes in less highly-watched sports, and also guys on the fringes of the bigger sports, to capitalize on their fairly brief windows of marketability is going to move the needle more for student-athlete day-to-day quality of life than it will for draftable football and men’s basketball players. It’s hard for me not to see that as a good thing.
Dan P: Iowa is no slouch of a football team and should be expected to come in and give the Wolverines a tough challenge. They want to prove that they are one of the best teams in the country, and a win against Michigan in the Big House would help push that narrative.
Iowa is kind of like a poor man’s Wisconsin, so I expect them to run similar sets offensively to try and beat the Wolverines as efficiently and effectively as the Badgers did. It will be a clear example to see if Don Brown is going to learn from his schematic coaching mistakes or if he is going to put his players in a place to fail like he did at Camp Randall two weeks ago.
The most important element to this game is the fact that it is on Michigan’s home turf. This game against Iowa will be a predecessor to some of the bigger games and bigger opponents that Michigan hosts this season. This is the first true home test that Michigan has had in 2019, and they have much tougher games to come. After this game, the final three home games of the year are against their biggest rivals: Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State. This game will prove if the Wolverines plan on protecting the Big House in 2019, or if they will struggle in their most important games at home.
David: At the beginning of the season, you look at their schedule and four or five games jump off as the group of opponents, versus ranked opponents, that would define the season. The Iowa game now is that defining game that will make or break their season. All the pressure is on the Wolverines because a loss would shift this seasons outcome that would not achieve the goals they set. The Hawkeyes have the fifth best defense in the country and will test Michigan’s offense. They also haven’t been tested much yet and with their closest game being against Iowa State.
The biggest concern for Michigan is the amount of turnovers so far almost close to their season total of 12 last year. Last week, their offense looked better, but it was against Rutgers. Improvement must continue and if the offensive line can protect Shea Patterson to make some impressive throws and create explosive plays with this talented wide receiver group, they have a chance against the Iowa defense who’s only allowing 8.5 points per game.
Don Brown’s defense must try to stop the run game for Iowa, who’s averaging 211 yards on the ground. I want to see more success like we saw against Rutgers to avoid big plays and mistakes. Kwity Paye and the squad must be physical, fast, and shut down the Iowa run game.
I see this being a close game as it’s being predicted with Michigan favored by four points. Michigan gets the job done in the end to help recharge this hungry fanbase and we see a glimpse of what this team can become by November. If Michigan wins, the narrative likely is Iowa was not a top-15 team and their defense was not that good.