Michigan football yields irritation. Not the University of Michigan, not Michigan athletics, not even commercials where between grunts Tim Allen extols the state’s sleepy resort towns and purity, Flint water crisis and fallout from the auto industry be ignored, just football.
Blame Jim Harbaugh and the buzz he generates, the prime time games, and the ugh, takes-one-to-know-one vapid praise of someone as a Michigan Man. Yes, old Thurston, Jackson, and Jefferson, the types who believe two pairs of boat shoes and a family summer home equate to superiority. The existence of the term alone generates enough animosity to hope for spilled soup on the in-seam, throw in the school’s posturing as an elite college football program for added distaste.
Crackerjack internet sleuths go all Joe Friday and hammer any Michigan Man with just the facts: The Wolverines have yet to play in the Big Ten Championship; the last national title, not an outright one, is now old enough to drink, and after the 24-21 overtime win against Army in Ann Arbor, will need something to consume without the formality of a rocks glass.
So, when Michigan gets pushed to the edge against an unranked team a contaminant settles into the college football landscape. Irritation and ineffectiveness mixed with heightened expectations create justified panic for a Michigan Man and a willingness for unaffiliated third parties to forecast doom. Both feelings will hover over the season until Michigan loses. If only a few alternate routes and cancelled flights kept both from descending upon Ann Arbor so early in the season.
The Michigan Man broke the emergency glass and phoned his congressman. Expect a flyer for a community meeting on your windshield sometime this week. Since Michigan has been better, but not great or even very good under Harbaugh fans want to get in early on the worry. Harbaugh detractors and Michigan detractors (there are two camps) want to be the first to plant the flag (in the Baker Mayfield way, not the Kenan Jones way) for the program’s failure. At least we can stave off both camps for a week.
The extra week to prepare for Jonathan Taylor and the Wisconsin rushing attack with preemptive ice baths will keep the defense fresh for a brutal bout of physicality. There’s also the whole “Who do you want to be” or “Find your best self” soul-searching routine for Harbaugh, offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, and the rest of the offensive football staff. Let’s hope it includes a talking stick used for communication and battering the offensive game plan into oblivion, only for the ashes to be sprinkled onto the field at Michigan Stadium as some sort of ceremonial rebirth. We can at least take a step back from the noise with Michigan on a bye.
The Wolverines need a chance to exit the stage and study its lines before they go off-book a week from Saturday in Madison. Allow the panic to reach a more reasonable level after the volatility of the weekend.
No talk of the offense and quarterback Shea Patterson’s propensity to fumble, no talk of a vulnerable offensive line that through the early part of the game against Army so spooked Gattis that he and Harbaugh (believe what you want about the play calling but that could not have been more Harbaugh if comments on the play sheet disparaged Lynyrd Skynyrd, Waffle House, and the almighty Greg Sankey brand) abandoned the pass early for the grind-it-out efforts led by running back Zach Charbonnet and his three yards per carry. Can we at least ask for silence? We need a break, even if it’s unlikely we’ll be granted one.
It being Michigan though, the program will manage to make noise. It seems almost inadvertent. Somehow, someway, someone prominent in the program stirs things up, whether it’s a Harbaugh quote or Gattis’ tickle fight with Mike Locksley over who deserves credit for Alabama’s success last year on offense. Something will come up to brew a whole new batch of controversy brought on by blather. Not that I don’t enjoy the blather, I heard it’s one of my better conversational traits.
Now, for a program that gives us so much in regards to quotes and stories, I am guilty as charged for finding all things Michigan interesting, we need a week away. Let the panic subside and chase away the doom-sayers until Michigan loses. Be prepared though, the reinforcements might not last past October.