The Michigan Wolverines host the Massachusetts Minutemen at the Big House on Sept. 15 in a completely pointless game in which the Wolverines can't win. That begs the question: why do they keep scheduling games against programs like UMass?
Who Are the Michigan Wolverines?
Michigan is one of my favorite college football teams. I follow them closely, and yet I'm not sure what to make of this squad. What head coach Brady Hoke pulled off last season was nothing short of a miracle, but the No. 8 preseason ranking seemed high to me going into the Alabama game, even before the Crimson Tide hammered Michigan, 41-14.
That flop against Alabama was still valuable, though, because there were lessons to be learned from failing (and flailing) against a very impressive team.
The run defense was a sieve. The maddening tendency of Wolverine defenders to attempt--and miserably fail at--arm tackles was exposed. Quarterback Denard Robinson was inaccurate with his throws all night, pointing to a need for coaching in that area. Turnovers and penalties only compounded the problem.
Michigan certainly wasn't the 8th-best team in the nation.
Air Force Nearly Grounds Michigan
Michigan entered the Air Force game ranked No. 19--a much more suitable ranking for this team. Air Force is no slouch, but Michigan should have beaten the Falcons handily at home. Instead, the Wolverines escaped with a 31-25 win.
Nevertheless, it was another valuable learning tool.
Against the Falcons, Robinson was a little better with his arm and outstanding with his legs. The turnover (1) and penalty (5) counts were better, too. But the tackling and run defense were still horrid as Air Force ran for 290 yards. Michigan could do nothing to counter Air Force's triple option.
Michigan didn't look like the 19th-best team in the nation, but instead of dropping a couple spots after the near-miss, the Wolverines actually rose to No. 17.
I'm not sure that I grasp the logic behind that one.
UMass-acre on Deck
The Minutemen are 0-2 and were just throttled, 45-6, by Indiana. Yes, the Indiana Hoosiers. You know you're bad when the Hoosiers hammer you, 45-6.
The week before, UMass was crushed by Connecticut, 37-0. The Minutemen gained 59 yards of offense and three first downs … in the entire game. Not once did they set foot in UConn territory on the field.
These guys are awful, and they should be. It's their first year as an FBS team. Last season, they only went 5-6 in the FCS. The Minutemen are simply offering their services as a punching bag to big schools in order to fill their own coffers--the same line of thinking used by Savannah State.
No-Win Situation for U of M
I get why UMass is playing this game. But why are the Wolverines doing it? It's a no-win situation.
Sure, Michigan can work on protecting the ball and actually playing defense for a change, but even if it succeeds at both tasks, it will have been done against a horrible team. Just because something works against the new kids on the FBS block doesn't mean that it stands a chance of working against Notre Dame.
Blowing the Minutemen out does nothing to clarify the picture on how good this Michigan team really is. They'll have been destroyed by a very good team, barely gotten past a mid-range team, and slaughtered a weak team. That tells me nothing.
Turn in another debacle like the 42-37 home win against UMass two years ago--or even beat them by anything less impressive than Indiana's 45-6 smackdown--and the Wolverines lose credibility.
Lose this game and … well … I shudder at the thought.
Lose a key player to injury in this game--as the Hoosiers did when starting quarterback Tre Roberson was hurt last week against UMass--and that could spell the end of the Wolverines' season.
There is nothing to be gained by playing this game. There are no lessons to be learned, and there is only heartbreak to be had.
The Wolverines can't win.