Watching the ESPN morning show Get Up on Thursday 28 November 2019; Mike Greenberg made a prediction that Michigan would beat Ohio State in their upcoming game on Saturday 30 November 2019. As seen on this video. I can’t see how any serious sports fan can back up this sports “take”.
I can see how Michigan fans will back their team. I would expect that. As well from Michigan alums like Desmond Howard. Michigan fans are vocal about their desire for their team’s continued excellence. Go Blue is one of the most recognizable slogans in support of any Power 5 program. They have a rich history. But this year; they are not living up to the hype.
I understand their passion and in fact, I am the same way. I backed Penn State last Saturday when they went up against Ohio State. The odds weren’t good but as a lifelong Penn State fan, I held out hope. Sadly the Nittany Lions have already lost a game to Minnesota. Against the Buckeyes, Penn State was overmatched during the game. But not by much thanks to a second half comeback . They did not get blown out like many of the Buckeyes opponents. But the Nittany Lions are a much better team than many as well. That is why they beat the Wolverines on 19 October 2019.
But somehow people are still propagating the “take” that Michigan can win this weekend. They play a lot of sports well so, they will likely have many wins this weekend. But in football; I believe they are going to lose.
I have, in my “take, accounted for the fact that the game will be played at the University of Michigan aka “The Big House”. However outside the Buckeyes being the visitors; I can’t think of one disadvantage they have. In the main aspects of the game; they are superior. I don’t see a match up where the Wolverines are better.
The Buckeyes have 3 of the best players in the country. Much has been made of Chase Young this season. The defensive end Young has been spectacular this season. If not for missing 2 games for taking money, he might be the only player talked about. Still his impact on the field has affected all the offenses that have faced him.
Justin Fields has been fantastic in his first season as a Buckeye. His output has outshined both Jake Fromm who he sat behind last season. Also, Fields could have been behind Jacob Eason who himself moved to Washington. He has outshone both. Taking snaps for one of the best statistical offenses this season.
The third standout player is J.K. Dobbins. Back when Heisman voters still respected running back, this is the type of back people looked for. Along with Jonathan Taylor of Wisconsin and Najee Harris of Alabama; Dobbins has speed, strength and great hands out of the backfield. He has 15 rushing TDs and 2 receiving TDs and getting close to 2000 yards all-purpose. Very impressive resume.
Not sure how big the Heisman list going to the Downtown Athletic Club will be this year; but these 3 will likely be in the top 10 of voting. They are joined by a team of Buckeyes who are talented as well. With that being said; how is Michigan going to win?
Michigan has lost to Wisconsin and Penn State already this year. Wisconsin beat them 35-14 and still have a chance to represent the Big Ten West. Penn State’s win was closer at 28-21. But there is one game that should be a bellwether for where Michigan is.
Also the “Big House” is the same place that Army took the Wolverines to overtime on 7 September 2019. A triple option, run early and often offense was able to push one of the “big boys” into overtime.
[Full disclosure- Army is my alma mater. I am biased towards them. But I am also honest enough to say that this season has been a rough one for the Black Knights. Losing close games and possibly not being bowl eligible. This pains me to say but all Army really has to do is
I am not sure what in the resume makes Michigan look like they can keep pace with Ohio State. Michigan has won impressively in their other games they have won. But none of those teams are Ohio State. There are no significant injuries on the Ohio State side. Plus this is a rivalry game for both. Does that throw away logic?
I have consistently railed on rankings. I still do just not so vociferously on here. I am not going to use rankings to make my point. I will although add, Michigan with 2 losses is somehow outranking 4 one loss teams. Why? The committee unfairly discriminates against non-Power 5 conferences, sometimes referred to as Group of 5 (American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference, and the Sun Belt Conference). I admitted my biases about Penn State being my lifelong team and Army my alma mater. Neither of which affects my ability to talk about either.
But there shouldn’t be biases involved in rankings or championships. Just standings should be used to determine who is the best. Ten conferences have devised a plan for crowning a champion without any rankings involved.
And Michigan is tied for second in the Big Ten East with no hope for a spot in the championship. Ohio State is the only team that will represent the East. While the winner of Wisconsin and Minnesota this weekend will represent the West. Wins and losses on the field; that is the way to determine champions.
So the Wolverines and Buckeyes will determine this on the field. My “take” won’t determine it. Neither will anyone else’s. A bunch of older teenagers or just in their twenties guys on the field will. I wish these guys good luck. I hope that it is a good game.
OK, that is my main point. But that video inspired another thought. So one more thing.
In the video, Paul Finebaum talks about the Iron Bowl where Auburn will host Alabama on Saturday is the greatest rivalry in football. Finebaum says it is the biggest game and laughs off calling it “war with bullets” in contrast to Desmond Howard’s characterization of Michigan vs. Ohio State as “war without bullets”.
I know he meant it as an in the moment hyperbolic contrast to Desmond’s prudent description. But as a veteran, it was dismissive. But it explains more why the SEC mindset exists. I need more time to type out what I fully mean by SEC mindset but an analogy is a rising tide lifts all boats. Which in this case, I disagree with. In fact, only rising rankings disregarding standings raises all SEC non-champions.
What? It isn’t the oldest, that is Yale vs. Princeton. It isn’t the first one with a nickname, that is Harvard vs Yale aka “The Game”. It isn’t the most prestigious, that is Army vs. Navy which has had four Heisman winners and a few Presidents either involved or attending. I know there will be some future NFLers in the Iron Bowl but it is of little consequence. Or at least it should be.
In fact, it doesn’t determine anything real. Neither team can get to the SEC Championship. More to the point, either team will be a champion without someone else’s help. They will not be a Power Five champion. They won’t even be a Group of Five champion. Neither can be. Not this year. How is that a big game?
Moreover, how could either be considered for the National Championship over any of the 10 conference champions?
Change is hard but it is necessary. Time for play on the field to be the biggest determiner of a champion. Only champions should play for championships. Save the “match ups” for bowl games.