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Monday, September 26, 2005

This wasn't the way it was supposed to go. It was supposed to be something like what happened to Big Ten Wonk: start a blog, operate it with verve and panache, and the team nearest and dearest to your heart will repay your affection and devotion with a remarkable season, going something like 37-2 or whatever.

Check and check.
Well, Michigan's got the -2 part done already, but the 35- bit looks like it will take them the better part of eight to ten seasons to reach. Let it be declared that this is the low ebb of Michigan athletics in my cognitive memory, which dates to the late 80s. Nothing good has happened since the end of the Northwestern game last year. Michigan was humiliated by an average-at-best Ohio State team, then blew a 10 point fourth quarter lead against Texas. The basketball team either beat up women or broke critical portions of their bodies or both and limped through another year of miserable failure. The hockey team blew a 3-0 lead in the second round of the NCAA tournament and then lost its best player to the NHL at the last moment, blindsiding teammates, coaches, and fans... again. This football season has two scintillating victories over MAC teams and then two other events which are strangely absent from my memory.

All told, you have a football team that's lost its last four games against non-MAC competition, a hockey team whose mythical aura of tournament-crushing was punctured in a major way and now limps into this season sizably reduced in stature, and a basketball team whose persistently hilarious incompetence is a source of black humor, scorn, and little else. The soccer world has a term for that one magical year when everything comes together and championships and cups flow like Guinness in Dublin: annus mirabilis. Michigan is currently undergoing the theoretical opposite of that--annus terriblus, maleficus, Stephen A Smithicus, whatever--and it is Not A Good Time. It is Too Little Fun. If Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer is to be believed, all across Michigan men are testosterone-depressed weenies--the birth rates in the state will plummet nine months from now.

I'm not one to panic. This has happened before; Michigan's 2003 team lost to Oregon and Iowa early in the year and then didn't lose again until the Rose Bowl. The key difference between that team and this one, however, appears to be that the 2003 team was good. Both losses were due to a horrendous special teams meltdown that was largely fluky. The 2005 team appears to be bad. What appeared to be an unrepeated offensive meltdown against Notre Dame has revealed itself to be no such thing. Chad Henne has gone backwards (and unless you think Braylon was 11 feet tall and/or Stretch Armstrong, he wouldn't be much help). The interior of the offensive line completely failed to push back the 200 pound 10th graders Wisconsin ran out there to play on the DL. Steve Breaston can be found on the proverbial milk carton. Our running backs are fumblers.

This is usually the point in the year during which Carr does his best Wayne Fontes impression and pulls Michigan's ass out of the fire, but... yeah. Not so much. Unless a miraculous turnaround arrives right freakin' now, MSU is going to beat us, and since we haven't held any running back that's opposed us under 100 yards you have to figure the Minnesota game will be a dogfight at the very least. At this point the Alamo Bowl looks like an appealing proposition.

So, rather than list all the things I was completely and totally wrong about, I'll save you all some time and just list all the things I was right about:
  • Drew Stanton is the best QB in the Big Ten.
  • Indiana is bad.
  • The Gang of Six is a crappy idea.
Safe to say that the only people in the blogosphere who have managed to be wronger than me have been the "Gang of Six, er, Two... er... Probably Just USC" (BTW: USF 45-14 Louisville? QED, MFer) but I would trade that--even though the OMG BLOGGERZ set would be intolerable--for a football team that wasn't squandering every advantage it ever had.

The proposition that Lloyd Carr is somehow responsible for Max Martin's fumble or Henne's slide to "maybe better than Michael Robinson" still has a faint patina of ridiculousness, but 0-7 is incrementally harder to justify than 0-6, especially since the script seems so similar: domination of the first half but no reflection of such on the scoreboard, turnovers, conservative offensive playcalling (questionable in this game--did you really want Henne's Random Pass Generator hurling the ball downfield), and a late defensive collaspse == uptick in knife sales across the Wolverine diaspora. Remember kids, cut down the artery, not across.

There will be no "Fire Carr?" ponderings here since it's a moot point: he's not going anywhere until he chooses to do so. You can't fire someone with his track record unless you can get someone like Bill Callahan, and, my friends, The Great One is busy beating Pitt 7-6. But I'm tired of this, like everyone is, and at this point I'd probably greet Carr's retirement with renewed optimism towards the program. At least, I will if this damn pill bottle's lid won't come off.