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College Football 2018: The End
Saturday, 2018 December 1 - 1:27 pm
Sigh. This will be my last college football post of the year.

Michigan 39, Ohio State 62
Yeah. That happened. The number one defense in the country got plastered by Ohio State's speedy receivers. How did this happen? There have been plenty of hot takes on the Internet: "Michigan got out-coached, plain and simple." "Ohio State has better players; plain and simple."

Nothing is actually plain and simple about it; there are a combination of factors. The loss of two key defenders (David Long and Devin Bush) to injury early in the third quarter certainly didn't help; that contributed to a 17-0 run by OSU in the quarter. The lack of depth in the secondary was evident, as Michigan didn't simply have enough players with the speed to cover OSU's receivers. The defensive scheme wasn't working; Don Brown's favorite man-to-man defense was vulnerable to the pick routes and crossing patterns that OSU liked to run; and when Brown shaded the defensive backs inside to stop that, the OSU receivers faked the crossing pattern and cut back to the outside, and were wide open for that too.

On offense, Michigan was able to score mostly abandoning their attempts to run the ball. It's baffling to me how the running game was so ineffective, given OSU's difficulty in stopping the run against Maryland. But perhaps having backup Andrew Steuber in at tackle instead of Juwann Bushell-Beatty was a factor. And OSU seemed to have correctly scouted Michigan's tendencies. But in some stages of the game, Michigan was passing the ball well and scoring points; if not for a critical interception and a blocked punt, maybe the final score isn't quite so out-of-hand.

So there's blame to go around everywhere. Some of it is on the coaches, but as they say, you can't coach speed. Michigan needs to get better athletes, and it's hard to do that locally when OSU is sucking up all the oxygen in the local recruiting area. The high school talent pool in Ohio is better than it is in Michigan, and OSU doesn't have to compete with other Power-5 schools in-state. Michigan recruits pretty well nationally, but then there's the Alabamas and Clemsons of the world to contend with. Success breeds success in college football. There was a time that this was to Michigan's advantage as one of the blue-bloods in the sport. Now it's just hard for different teams to break into the top tier.

But it'll happen. One day, Michigan will beat Ohio State again, and order will be restored to the universe. One thing about fandom is that it requires patience. Another is that it demands loyalty: a real fan doesn't abandon their team in the face of adversity.

There's a difference between fandom and, say, politics: fandom isn't rooted in a belief system. It's pretty random where anyone ends up going to school. I'm a Michigan fan mostly by accident of birth and the choices of my parents. Maybe if I'd grown up in Indiana or something, I'd be a long-suffering Purdue fan. Maybe that would have been easier, not having the crushing weight of lofty expectations every year. (Hi, N.C. State.) The point is, you don't just choose whom you're a fan of. So yeah, I'll still root for Michigan every day, and I'll say supportive things about the team instead of bashing them.

To the people who want to fire Jim Harbaugh: with all due respect, you're idiots. What better coach do you expect Michigan to get in this situation? Are you still holding out for Les Miles or something? I remember when some people suggested Greg Schiano might be a good fit, and maybe that talk is being revived after his performance as an OSU coordinator. But really? Really? Different isn't always better. Let's not forget that Michigan ended the Hoke era as a 5-7 team. This year's Harbaugh team went 10-2 and won a lot of games in spectacular fashion. We should be happy and proud of that performance. Most college teams are envious of Michigan, and rightfully so.

Michigan is likely looking at a Peach Bowl appearance, perhaps against Florida or another mid-to-upper-tier SEC team, assuming that OSU fails to make the CFP. (For people suggesting that we should root for OSU to make the playoffs so that Michigan can go to the Rose Bowl: pffft. I'd rather Michigan miss the bowl season altogether if it meant keeping OSU out of the national championship.)

N.C. State 34, UNC 28 (OT)
This was a closer game than I expected; some dreary weather may have put a damper on the NCSU offense. The end of the game was marred by a brawl. Not exactly either team's finest moment.

But State did get the win, and they should get a pretty good bowl berth as a result. The projection is perhaps the TaxSlayer bowl against Missouri, which isn't terribly exciting, but at least it's an SEC opponent and a decent payout.

Penn State 38, Maryland 3
Good for McSorley; he had a stellar day on his last game in Beaver Stadium. Ending the season on an uptick must be a nice feeling... I can't remember what that's like.

Penn State should get a decent bowl, though it's a crowded field with the Big Ten; they'll be competing with Northwestern and Iowa for upper-tier berths. The current prediction is the Citrus Bowl against Kentucky, which would be a fascinating matchup.

Conference playoffs happening today:
- Ohio State vs. Northwestern
- Alabama vs. Georgia
- Oklahoma vs. Texas
- Utah vs. Washington
- Clemson vs. Pitt

The current view of the CFP is Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma, but that of course could change wildly depending on the outcome of today's games. Ohio State could get in if Oklahoma loses, unless Georgia wins and Alabama still gets in.

I don't think I'll watch any of the games though. It's basketball season now, right? Michigan has had two convincing wins against Villanova and UNC, and a title run looks possible.
Permalink  1 Comment   Bookmark and Share
Posted by Ken in: sports


Comment #1 from Dan (Guest)
2018 Dec 1 - 2:35 pm : #
I can’t believe the regular season is over already.

I love your remarks on fandom. Whenever I can, I like to wear my colors after a big loss. People will say things like “Why did you wear that today?”, or “You know they lost, right?”. But I believe that if you don’t support your team after a loss, then you aren’t really a fan of the team, you’re just a fan of winning. So, they can go pretend to be an Alabama fan and leave me alone :-)

Thank you again for the Penn State coverage this year. I’ve enjoyed it from start to finish. I hope you have the time and interest to continue blogging about college football next year. I’ll be a reader whether you include PSU or not.

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