College football, on the whole, was exceptionally boring this weekend. But rest assured, this is merely the calm before the chaos in October and November.
Inside the haze of boredom, Michigan found themselves, the Big Ten highs and lows were showcased to the entire country, and more than ten teams are serious contenders for the College Football Playoff.
Let’s do this.
For the first time since early November 2018, football was effortlessly enjoyable for Michigan fans as the Wolverines clobbered the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 52-0. No stress, no worries, just a simple imposing of the will to deliver Michigan their first shutout victory since 2016 (also Rutgers).
Interestingly enough, the catalyst for the enjoyment was a coach changing locations.
Offensive coordinator Josh Gattis coached from the sidelines for the first time this season because he finally realized he is a coach and leader of young men, and not just playing a hyper-realistic version of Madden 20 by calling plays in the press box.
Gattis’s influence on the sidelines was felt throughout the duration of the game. When an offensive player made a mistake, he could walk them through what went wrong and how to correct it. When his players needed fired up, he was there to bring the heat. When his players needed to lock in, he was there to command their focus.
Schemes and tempo are important, but an inspired organizational culture was the biggest install from Josh Gattis this weekend.
Aside from Gattis, Saturday was about the reclamation of dominance and the discovery of self. This game was the polar opposite of Wisconsin, but taught a similar lesson. In Madison, it was not that Michigan lost, but how they lost. And this week, it was not that Michigan won, but how they won.
The Wolverines were disciplined in approach and execution, minimized penalties and turnovers, and played like the team everyone expected them to be in August.
Moving forward, Rutgers will be just a blip in the success of the 2019 Michigan program; a low hanging expectation met and nothing more. But this win represents the Wolverines rising from the mat, answering the bell, and not just winning, but pulverizing their opponent.
For the first time this season, the Wolverines have something to place in their cookie jar.
The ‘cookie jar’ is a concept popularized by former decorated Navy Seal, endurance athlete, and former Guinness World Record holder David Goggins. In his autobiography Can’t Hurt Me, Goggins takes detailed memories of prior victories and hardships overcome, and places them in an accessible memory storage (or cookie jar) to access and recollect when facing future adversities.
In Goggins’s words, “These weren’t mere flashbacks. I wasn’t just floating through my memory files, I actually tapped into the emotional state I felt during those victories… From then on, the Cookie Jar became a concept I’ve employed whenever I need a reminder of who I am and what I’m capable of.”
Saturday felt like the beginning of a new season: working out schematics, finding an identity on both sides of the ball, and stomping your inferior opponent into the ground. This is what Michigan’s game against Middle Tennessee State should have been, but a month later, the Wolverines have finally begun 2019 with everything left in front of them.
It took a loss for Michigan to realize who they are and more importantly, who they are not. Saturday’s cookie jar reminder could be the propulsion this team needs to overcome future hardships, or it could just be a case of facing Rutgers.
Our questions will be answered next week with Iowa.
The location of College Gameday is usually the most intriguing match-up of the weekend with two good teams slugging it out to better position themselves for an opportunity at the College Football Playoff. Usually.
One weekend we are treated to Notre Dame vs. Georgia, and the next weekend we are treated to Ohio State vs. Nebraska. To no one’s surprise, Ohio State boat raced Nebraska 48-7 in Lincoln.
The Buckeyes are perennially elite and the Cornhuskers have not won more than nine games in a season since 2012. Overrated in the preseason polls after a 4-8 season last year, Scott Frost and Nebraska are more than a stone’s throw away from relevance let alone mediocrity, especially if Adrian Martinez is the one casting the stone.
Ohio State on the other hand, is a well-oiled machine with no discernible weaknesses heading into October. Quarterback Justin Fields is a Heisman contender and defensive linemen Chase Young (8 sacks, 8.5 tackles-for-loss) is the best player in the Big 10.
This game should have never been the prime time game of the week and only served to illuminate the talent gap from the top of the Big 10 to the bottom, regardless of name recognition.
Alas, the Buckeyes remain at the top of the conference and are one of the best three teams in college football more than a quarter of the way into the season and Nebraska will battle for four wins.
We know everything we need to know about Nebraska, but we will learn a lot more about the Buckeyes when they begin the competent portion of their schedule next week.
50 shades of red Big Ten rankings:
- Ohio State
The College Football Playoff is as wide open as it as ever been and could be setting up for the most exciting two months of college football since the playoff format was implemented. Here is how each conference will sort itself head out.
- ACC: Clemson plays no serious competition, but appears asleep at the wheel while trying to coast into the Playoff. The Tigers will probably flirt with upset again, but no other team in the conference appears poised to make a run. Sorry, Virginia
- SEC: Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Auburn, and Florida, will all slug it out with one, possibly two of these teams reaching the Playoff. Chances are slim that any of these teams runs the table, but as always, smart money is on the Tide.
- Big 12: Oklahoma and Texas will play once, probably twice again, with the winner reaching the Playoff. I cannot be the only one who wants to see Jalen Hurts exact revenge on his former team.
- Big Ten: Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Penn State, are the undefeated contenders, with Michigan and Michigan State seeking to play spoiler. Two possible games between Wisconsin and Ohio State should determine the Big 10’s Playoff representative.
- Pac 12: Conference parity is great for exciting games week in and week out, but usually results in complete cannibalization of Playoff chances. Oregon, Washington, Utah, Cal, and USC, all with a loss already, will tear through one another, leaving the conference shutout from the Playoff. Oregon has the best chance to make a run, but this conference is a plethora of good, but not great teams.
- Notre Dame: The Irish need to win in Ann Arbor, win all of their remaining games, and have the Georgia Bulldogs look dominant. A 12-1 Notre Dame team with only a six-point road loss at Georgia would be impossible to keep out of the Playoff.
Close games and controversy will rule the final two months of the season with every team, save Clemson, having to earn their ticket into the Playoff. What more could you ask for?
Cheers to chaos, my friends.