More previews from the impending footballpocalypse, the greatest weekend of college football ever. Next up: Michigan/Notre Dame.
Coaching fashion advantage: Lloyd Carr. We base this several factors. First, Lloyd always looks ready to step onto an Alaskan crab fishing boat and tell the world to suck his ass for three months while smiling into the teeth of a gale-force storm on the deck of the Cornelia Marie. Even in games when we see him on a sunny day coaching in a golf shirt, we imagine him in a water-repellent Gore-Tex coat of some sort, covered in sea spray and whale guts. That is a man whose personality and fashion have melded in a seamless whole.
In his soul, he's wearing a yellow rain slicker and cursing the gods.
Charlie Weis, in contrast, is a fat man who wears turtlenecks. We won't even begin to discuss his belting issues. The only way Weis wins this contest is if he pulls out the "hooded playcalling Sith Emperor" look he likes to use in cold weather, but even then Lloyd's radiant grizzledness outshines him there.
Cool, but still not grizzled enough.
Best roster name, Michigan: Zoltan the Imperturbable, of course.
Best roster name, Notre Dame: Brady Quinn. The Fighting Irish finally have a quarterback whose name drips with shamrocks, repressed anger, and a genetic susceptiblity to alcoholism. It's a name you could see sandwiched in between "Finnegan's Wake" and "Danny Boy" on a list of Irish drinking songs you purchased from the bargain bin. Don't believe us?
Sounds of Sheep-smelling Sorrow: Ireland's Finest Drinking Songs: Playlist.
1. Sod Sandwiches Again, My Love.
2. Give My Love To Dublin (and My Teeth to My Barkeep.)
3. The Funeral Of Mike O'Punchsheep.
4. The Cesspits Of Killarney
5. Brady Quinn
6. I'll Weep For Two Tomorrow, And Drink For Four Tonight.
7. Pretty Maid Milking the Cat
8. My Sister Ann From Moneghan (Who Can Really Take A Punch)
See? Fits right in, doesn't it? (Umm, does it matter that we're probably Irish? No, it probably doesn't.)
Mascot advantage: Michigan. A wolverine, the animal that just wishes you would. Have you ever heard one of these coming through the woods? They even growl when they walk by themselves. A leprechaun would become festive, bloody green ribbon against one, especially since wolverines don't exactly understand the idea of currency, and could only be bribed with the cold thrill of killing. Your pot of gold doesn't help you here.
Signs of the apocalypse: Pundits suddenly leaping in bunches to pick against Notre Dame. Mark May is on your side, Michigan--it may be time to MGoBleh if he's picking you. Notre Dame stole JoePa's scotch and snapped his ceremonial drink tray in two last week and has played two legitimate teams; Michigan played Vandy (the current reigning champion of the state of Tennessee burrnnnnn) and Central Michigan. The evidence-based crowd leans toward Notre Dame because it looks like they're in brawling form and developing coherence as a team.
So a Michigan fans and those picking them shoulder the burden of evidence. Their chips, in order of plausibility:
1. New defense, new day. The old one did a bangup job on throttling ND's offense last year, holding them to seven points. This year's model runs out more disguised looks, less predictable tendencies, and fewer helpings of the most popular fourth quarter defense in football (at least with opposing offenses,) the soft zone. The same talent in cagier scheme could equal Georgia Tech style fits for Brady Quinn, who though blessed with abs, talent, and the leering eye of ESPN and Out Magazine, still remains clearly and for Irish fans, sadly mortal.
2. New offense, still kinda groundhog day-ish day. Michigan offenses when not blessed with playmakers capable of spinning gold thread from the rayon of their gameplan (Braylon Edwards,) will always do the same things in sludgy, plodding fashion, even with Mike Debord now calling the plays. Brian's gone moons over his hammy about the revisitation of the waggle as a weapon in the Michigan offense, which shows you just how deprived they've been over the course of the Lloyd Carr era for offensive pizzazz. One thing they haven't been starved of is wins, of course, but remember that Michigan won't have an easy time coming from behind in this game if they get down because they're built to maul and not to sting, running and running and running while throwing when they have to. Mike Hart's good, but ND has been decent enough on the run to assume only a moonshot career day would be enough to assume a Michigan win. We won't even torture Michigan fans by mentioning Steve Breaston's traitorous hands--which we just did. See? Great trick, there.
One serious, serious bright spot for Michigan fans looking for very clear reasons to hope: Notre Dame's given up significant yardage on first down runs this season. Since every first down will be a run, this makes happy for Mike Hart, whose legs may fly off his body with the work he should get in this gameplan.
No worries if said legs do fly off the body, though: the healing hands of Mike Gittelson await.
Michigan S 'n C coach Mike Gittleson: loving, if not lovely.
3. Notre Dame's due, since they're not all that great. In probability, the likelihood of flipping heads after flipping heads 500 times in a row is...50/50, just what it is at the start. No streak is destined to end, and no argument that a team is "due" holds water.
Plague: That Samardkinajaaklnaja guy. The most lethal and unpredictable running white male presence in a sporting event since Gunter Parche.
The Number of the Beast: 4, as in Michigan's rank in turnover margin. Michigan's been like a great pair of underwear this year--tidy, clean ballkeeping for all.
And a great battle commences: Here's where we say why, despite all their strengths, Michigan won't win. That reason: design. The two teams don't match up well design-wise, and whenthe two meet the decision-making strategies favor Weis.
Lloyd is Lloyd is Lloyd. He'll get crusty, kick some turf, and ensure that the machine keeps ticking its way down the field and does what most people assume to be the mathematically appropriate things--which actually isn't what you should do at all on situations like 4th and short, but we digress. He'll play safe, and when there's a crucial 4th and 2 to convert, he'll punt provided it doesn't actually mean shooting his own team's chances of winning in the head (e.g., the last drive of the game.)
Weis, when matched up against this, will go for it on one or two crucial occasions. Talent-wise, the teams are a push, just like many of the matchups this weekend. What will make the difference is decision-making and execution, which the Irish have a leg up on at the moment thanks to two formidable opponents and one nail-biting road game. Weis will go for it if it's close, hold the ball and score, and tip a game when it needs tipping. Carr, for the most part, likely won't.
It's interesting to note that of the teams that played the Irish best last year, two of them forced Weis to make multiple 4th and short or otherwise risky decisions. Michigan State and USC both gambled with a gambler, and countered risk with ballsy decision making. Rather than having to make one or two risky decisions, Weis had to make multiple choices, and ended up losing them to the detriment of his team. There's a brilliant mathematical discussion somewhere in there, but we're too cranked off espresso to parse it out. POINT BEING: if someone's gambling, ante up or leave the table.
(Potentially) False Prophecies: Notre Dame 35, Michigan 23. For entertainment purposes only. We know what Michigan teams do, and kind of understand what Notre Dame teams do, and guess that this looks about right.