Across the Border: Penn State

Massey from Buckeye Commentary stops by to give his weekly take on Michigan’s game. My contribution can be checked out over there.

What I saw: There are occasions when watching Michigan is similar to an old science fiction movie (think Mystery Science Theatre 3000). You are witnessing the present one moment but then there are strange flashes to alternate spaces and realities. You assume they are imaginary, but those flashes make you question whether they are the true reality because they seem to make perfect sense at that moment. Then something dreadful happens to drag you back to the previous real moment. The transitions are never smooth or well-explained.

The Wolverines offense creates this same sensation for me. I have watched enough to know the likely outcome of each play, but for some inexplicable reason, I am constantly fooled when they appear to be progressing or finding a groove. It happened to me at the beginning of the games versus Notre Dame, Illinois, and now Penn State. There are moments when you can see exactly what the offense will look like in the future, and then BAM! Suddenly, the offense is shaken from the flash-forward and the predestined awfulness that is the real team returns in full Technicolor.

Part of this reverse déjà vu is that I have seen it before – in similar uniforms, to boot – with Rodriguez’s West Virginia teams. So, it does not seem foreign when Michigan succeeds. Quite the contrary, actually. When you couple Rich Rod’s past success with the Michigan tradition, I expect to see Michigan’s offensive plays actually gain positive yards. It just does not happen for more than a few drives per game.

What I didn’t see: A reason to ever play Nick Sheridan again. If Threet cannot play – meaning he is dead – they should play Feagin. If that is not plausible (as yet, an unexplained phenomenon) they should line up Minor or McGuffie or Odoms or anybody else at QB. Sweet Jesus! I may not write about college football forever, but no matter how long I do, the Sheridan proclamation will be my worst ever.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot: tackling.

Who I watched: Brandon Minor looked impressive early on, but the flash-forward ended and Michigan was lucky to punt on the remainder of its possessions. Still, Minor looks more controlled, which I guess is to say, more traditional. McGuffie is whirling dervish (minus the chanting). Minor’s yards look more dependable. Perhaps Minor just fits my perception of Michigan’s past offenses better, but he seems like a better choice. I suppose if he does not fumble he is the starting running back, but that appears to be a big “if” – for everyone on the offense. Then again, I thought McGuffie had the starting spot locked after the ND game.

What I expect next week: I expect to be fooled again. Last week, I told you that I did not expect Michigan to be blown out as Vegas predicted. For almost three quarters I looked like a genius. Then, I looked like more normal, mostly-wrong self.

Michigan State was totally one-dimensional against Ohio State but that was a weird game. Ohio State’s instant lead plus Hoyer’s injury created a terribly unfriendly rushing environment for MSU. Who knows, if a couple of those fumbles turn out differently the Spartans may not have been playing catch up all day.

I doubt Ringer will have two bad games in a row and Michigan needs to tackle this time out, but with MSU’s quarterback situation I imagine Michigan will be selling out to stop the run. I want to say that Michigan will be competitive, but that could be a pre-game alternate reality.

What this game tells me about The Game: Last weekend was the single most disparate week of the season for Ohio State and Michigan. Ohio State had its best game while Michigan had its worst. Of course, the Wolverines played the league’s best team while OSU got to play the league’s best pretender. If Michigan were to tackle that poorly in Columbus, Wells and Pryor would have a combined 250 yards rushing. But that probably will not happen so there is no sense talking that way.

I know I keep saying it, but Michigan has these flashes of greatness and for whatever reason – lack of execution, talent, poise, discipline, creativity – it never lasts for entire game. But, what if it does? Penn State has a nice defense with a defensive line far better than Ohio State’s and Minor was running straight through it. What would happen if they played well for an entire game? Is that possible?

We will know a lot more on Saturday night, and then we can apply the non-existent transitive properties based on mutual performances against PSU.

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