The Big 2 and the Little 8. That’s how the Big Ten for a long stretch of time. From 1968 to 1982, Michigan and/or Ohio State had at least a split of the Big Ten title. Michigan State and Iowa each grabbed one split during that time, but Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes dominated the era. Since that time, young people throughout the Upper Midwest are essentially faced with a choice: which one will you hate more? You can hate both teams for certain, you can cheer for an asteroid to barrel into Ann Arbor in late November for certain – but odds are one or both are going to be good, so you pick the lesser of two evils.
As a Notre Dame fan, the decision was easy. Michigan sucks. And I’ll tell you all the reasons why.
(Quick side note – this is nothing against the state of Michigan, which seems to be a fine state. Traverse City has a really cool Cherry Festival! I like Mackinac Island! Mateen Cleaves and the Flintstones remain among my top 5 favorite college basketball teams ever! I’m really rooting for Detroit to bounce back, Motown is cool. All that. Cool? Cool.)
First, let’s start with the nickname. Wolverines. No, not the comic book one. This one. I admit, they are really cool, ferocious little beasts. They can kill things several times their size. Two problems though:
1) THERE ARE NO WOLVERINES LEFT IN MICHIGAN.
You killed them all in the 1800s. Trapped them, sold their pelts, etc. They ran north and mainly reside in Canada now. Naming yourself after one of your state’s most significant victims is terrible.
2) Another story says that Michigan received the moniker “Wolverine State” because that’s what Ohioans called Michiganders during the Toledo War. Reminder – there’s no such place as Toledo, Michigan. Because YOU LOST THE WAR. Ohioans – people whose ancestors now do things like this and this and this (NSFW) and this – they beat you in a war. And you still boom with pride with what they called you, despite the fact that you were the losers. Wolverine is forever a moniker associated with losing.
The winged helmet seems to be a point of pride. Here’s the thing: Michigan didn’t invent it. Ohio State, Indiana, Georgetown, and even Michigan State all wore it before Michigan did. Check the link, there’s citations and stuff. The winged helmet was invented to help passers better identify their receivers downfield. Really helpful stuff.
Moving on. The Big House. So big and scary with it’s 115,000 people all crammed into one sp- wait, what’s that? The students aren’t here? That’s right! Michigan students won’t even go to football games! Of course, this is a problem throughout college football. Not just Michigan. Surely, the athletic director of one of the great and powerful athletic programs in the country can find a way to get kids to the stadium!
You know what his idea was? Raising ticket prices 23 percent. It’s proved to be incredibly unpopular, and less students are coming to games again. So of course, they thought of new-fangled ideas over the offseason and said “Fireworks! That’ll put butts in seats!” So they approved a fireworks display for two different games… and it was promptly shut down by their Board of Regents. In fact, one regent said, and I swear this a real quote: “The fireworks should be on the field, not above it.” The only fireworks coming out of Michigan Stadium last year were being lit by opposing teams’ defensive lines.
(Side note – Michigan Stadium is an eyesore as well. It’s a giant bowl. There’s nothing distinctive about it. It’s just a mass of concrete that’s made to cram as many bodies together as possible for no apparent reason.)
Michigan also sucks because they just haven’t won that much lately. Quick, when was the last time that Michigan won the Big Ten? 2004. That’s right, Michigan fans haven’t even had the chance to tweet about a Big Ten title. That’s despite the fact that, according to Rivals, they’ve had a top three recruiting class in the conference for all but one year since 2002. The exception was a 4th placed finish. Talent and hype and terrible quarterback play. The Michigan way.
You know what really ticks off Michigan fans though? The fact that they, in essense, created the beast that is Notre Dame football. Back in a time before the Spanish-American war, Notre Dame students asked Michigan to teach them football, and Michigan students kindly obliged. Eventually, Notre Dame got good and beat Michigan a handful of times. That made Michigan coach Fielding Yost mad, and he refused to play Notre Dame in 1910 and beyond. In addition, he corralled all the other members of what’s now known as the Big Ten together and made them agree to not schedule Notre Dame. Notre Dame would have been a Big Ten member, if not for Fielding Yost.
So Notre Dame was forced to play a national schedule from coast-to-coast. Long story short, it made them a national power – one that kids (especially Catholics) from all across the country were giving their left hands to play for. It made Notre Dame the 11-time national champion that it is today. Michigan can’t get over the fact that the student overtook the mentor and overshadows them to this day.
In what I’m sure was just a coincidence, Notre Dame announced this week that it will be playing a home-and-home with Ohio State in 2022 and 2023. Again, a coincidence that this comes in the week leading up to the last scheduled Notre Dame-Michigan game in the foreseeable future, I’m sure. Michigan coach Brady Hoke called Notre Dame chicken last year for ending the series. Notre Dame has since replaced the Michigan game with future home-and-homes against Georgia, Texas, and now Michigan’s arch-rival, Ohio State. Michigan is not the end-all be-all. But maybe, just maybe, they were never that great to begin with:
Isn’t every Michigan coach’s aspiration to be just like Bo Schembechler? 0 national titles and a 2-8 Rose Bowl record.
— Chris W. (@rakesofmallow) May 14, 2013
GAMES OF THE WEEK (All times glorious CT)
#14 USC (1-0, 0-0 Pac-12) @ #13 Stanford (1-0, 0-0 Pac-12) – 2:30pm, ABC
This has been the most compelling series in college football the past seven years. It started with the greatest upset in college football history in 2007, and has only gotten wilder from there. This series even set the stage for what is currently the NFL’s best rivalry, with Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll taking their pure hate for each other to the NFL. The Matt Barkley/Andrew Luck duels were legendary, and Coach O ended USC’s four-game losing streak to Stanford last season. He led the band afterward brandishing a sword. This series is awesome.
It should be no different this year. The Farm is always hopping when the Trojans come to town. USC looked very dangerous against Fresno State, where they ran a school record 105 plays. Stanford obviously can handle up-tempo attacks, and they’ve seen Steve Sarkisian’s offense before. The Cardinal may be catching USC at a bad time though – early in the season, before USC’s lack of depth can be exposed. This one could go either way. It will be fun. USC 24, Stanford 23
#7 Michigan State (1-0) @ #3 Oregon (1-0) – 5:30pm, FOX
Michigan State’s world-renowned defense puts pressure on offense to be perfect. They press with their corners and use a lot of zone, putting themselves in position to get beat – but only if the offense makes the perfect play. Take a look at this great Chris Brown piece for more on their schemes.
There’s no doubt that Mark Dantonio and Pat Narduzzi have schemed all offseason to plug up Oregon. Similar physical, fast defenses, like Stanford, have had success in slowing down the Ducks. Stanford has an advantage Michigan State doesn’t have though – they’ve seen the Ducks at game speed for several years now. The two keys to the game will be Michigan State getting early stops in each half and special teams play. If Sparty stops Oregon early on, they’ll have proven that they’ve prepared properly to Oregon’s tempo, speed, and second half adjustments. They’ll also take the bite out of the crazy Zoo crowd. As for special teams – in a close game, it could come down to which team has better field position throughout. Oregon 31, Michigan State 13
#15 Ole Miss (1-0, 0-0 SEC) @ Vanderbilt (0-1, 0-0 SEC) – 3:30pm, ESPN
The perfect halftime appetizer for that USC/Stanford bash. Ole Miss’s defense whipped up on Boise State last week, and the offense finally caught up late and hung 35 on the Broncos. Vanderbilt got crushed 37-7 by a Temple team that was quite terrible last year. Week 2 games can be great at reaffirming things that surprised you during week 1. Can Vanderbilt actually be this terrible from the world “go” in the Derek Mason era? Is James Franklin really that big of a miracle worker? Sometimes beatdowns are fun to watch! Ole Miss 41, Vanderbilt 10
Brigham Young (1-0) @ Texas (1-0) – 6:30pm, Fox Sports 1
Last year, Texas went up to Provo and promptly got run over, in a literal sense. BYU put up 550 yards rushing on the Longhorns, including 269 from Taysom Hill, and they beat Texas 40-21. It was pretty much the end of the Mack Brown-era in Austin, who got a nice lame duck victory over Oklahoma, but that’s about it. New Texas coach Charlie Strong just kicked two linemen off his team this week, continuing a rash of dismissals as he tries to set up the program as he sees fit. The problem? The starting offensive line for Texas now has just four combined starts. Texas will also be without starting QB David Ash, who has been burdened by concussions and is considering walking away from the game.
BYU’s defense isn’t quite as good as last year, but it remains stout. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall has built this team around great defensive play, and they could beat up on Texas’s inexperienced front. The battle between BYU’s line and Texas’s front seven will be key – BYU is experienced, but Texas is finally healthy up front. This will be an interesting test for both teams. Texas did look very impressive in their opener, but this is the kind of physical test that they failed last year. BYU 20, Texas 14
Michigan (1-0) @ #16 Notre Dame (1-0) – 6:30pm, NBC
All bias aside, Michigan looked great last week. It’s like getting rid of Al Borges does an offense well. Devin Gardner was 13/14, Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith were a terrifying two-headed running attack, and Devin Funchess was all over the place. Brady Hoke has been recruiting at a high level for years, and if Michigan finally gets its act together, the can make a run at the Big Ten and – maybe even the playoffs?
Of course, Notre Dame looked fantastic last week too. Everett Golson was nearly immaculate on deep throws, with only his wide receivers and tight ends letting him down with drops. Two years ago, he was always money on short and intermediate throws. Adding the deep game to his arsenal makes the Irish offense potentially very dangerous. Notre Dame also rotated three running backs in, and all looked solid. There were some coverage breakdowns defensively, but the front seven swarmed at the ball and looked great against the run.
Michigan sucks. Notre Dame 38, Michigan 27
Other games to watch:
#24 Missouri (1-0) @ Toledo (1-0) – 11:00am, ESPN (Why in the world is Mizzou playing AT Toledo???)
Virginia Tech (1-0) @ #8 Ohio State (1-0) – 7:00pm, ABC
Fresno State (0-1) @ Utah (1-0) – 2:00pm, Pac-12 Network
#20 Kansas State (1-0, 0-0 Big 12) @ Iowa State (0-1, 0-0 Big 12) – 11:00am, Fox Sports 1 (Farmageddon!)
East Carolina (1-0) @ #21 South Carolina (0-1) – 6:00pm, ESPNU
And for the locals:
Ball State (1-0) @ Iowa (1-0) – 2:30pm, ESPN2
McNeese State (0-0) @ #19 Nebraska (1-0) – 11:00am, ESPNU (McNeese State had a great convo with @FauxPelini on Twitter this week.)