I honestly believe that I can’t say it any better than the rush end LaMarr Woodley.

Jess Cox

“This wasn’t just for the Jug, it was for the Big Ten Championship,” Woodley said. “They came across and took all of that away.”

With this most recent loss to Minnesota – the first one in 19 years – Michigan essentially eliminated itself from the Big Ten race. Purdue and perennial bottom-dweller Illinois are now the only teams in the conference worse than the Wolverines.

And it’s possible that it won’t get any better. Michigan is one of the most talented teams in the country, but something is different this year. And the Wolverines don’t have any easy games left on the schedule. There are no more Eastern Michigans to beat up on in bounce-back games. In fact, it’s possible that Michigan will lose all of the rest of its games.

It’s a little something I like to call the transitive property of football – basically, since team A beat team B and team B beat team C, it follows that team A should beat team C. There’s also a corollary of the transitive property, which says that if team A beats team B by one point and team C beat team B by two points, team C is clearly better than team A. It’s not perfect, but I figure that, if it’s good enough for mathematicians, it’s good enough for me.

Still writhing from the agony of a 3-3 record, I spent Saturday night studying these properties. Since I’d like to start making New Year’s plans – and in order to do that I would have to know what, if any, bowl game I will be traveling to over winter break – I decided to use the transitive property of football to figure out where Michigan will end up this year. Here it goes:

Oct. 15 vs. Penn State – This one is easy. Penn State crushed Minnesota two weeks ago, 44-14. Minnesota just walked into the Big House and beat Michigan 23-20, so it looks like Penn State will be a loss. Plus, Penn State beat Northwestern and the Wildcats just edged Wisconsin in a shootout, 51-48. If you didn’t remember, Wisconsin was the first Big Ten team to beat Michigan.

I remember, Ian. If I recall correctly, the offense couldn’t get anything started against Wisconsin and wide receiver Steve Breaston made just one catch for negative one yard. At least it looks as if Breaston has returned from his sabbatical even if quarterback Chad Henne couldn’t hit an elephant.

Oct. 22 at Iowa – The Hawkeyes beat Purdue this weekend, reclaiming their manhood and sending Purdue and its 0-2 conference record to the bottom of the Big Ten. But Purdue took Minnesota to overtime in Minneapolis a couple of weeks ago, which is better than Michigan did. Note: Michigan probably could have gone to overtime if it hadn’t called three timeouts in the last two minutes before letting Minnesota’s Gary Russell run 60 yards. Still, the Boilermakers’ effort stands, putting up another notch in the loss column for the Wolverines, according to the transitive property.

To be fair, Minnesota ended up beating Purdue by seven, which might mean that the Boilermakers are actually worse than Michigan. But you know what they say about statistics – they’ll testify for either side.

Oct. 29 at Northwestern – Like I said before, the Wildcats’ victory over Wisconsin basically assures them of toppling Michigan on Halloween weekend. Northwestern only beat Northern Illinois by one point, and Michigan topped the Huskies by 16 in the first game of the year. So this game presents a little bit of a dilemma for the transitive property. Because the ghosts will be out that weekend – and it’s at night in Evanston – I’m giving the edge to the team wearing purple.

It wouldn’t be the first time the Wildcats toppled a Big Ten powerhouse. Last year, Ohio State walked into Evanston at night and lost an overtime game. This year’s Halloween game is in Evanston at night. Scared?

Nov. 5, bye week – Michigan is pretty safe this week. According to the mathematicians, the Wolverines have lost four straight heading into the bye week. They have two more games to go – although, at this point, they’ve already assured themselves of not playing in a bowl game. My New Year’s Day plans are set for back home in D.C.

You can’t lose what you don’t put in the middle. Damn next year’s addition of the twelfth game.

Nov. 12 vs. Indiana – The Indiana game may not look like the toughest game on the schedule, but it’s the toughest test for the transitive property. Bear with me. Indiana beat Central Michigan in the Hoosiers’ first game of the year. Central Michigan then turned around and beat Miami (Ohio) the very next weekend, meaning that Indiana is better than Miami (Ohio). The Redhawks lost to Ohio State, but only by 20 points (34-14). Ohio State beat Iowa 31-6, which is more than 20 points. Because they did better against the Buckeyes, Miami (Ohio) is clearly a better team than Iowa. And since I already showed that Michigan is going to lose to Iowa in Iowa City, it’s painfully obvious that Miami (Ohio) is better than the Wolverines. Therefore, if the transitive property of football does in fact hold up, Michigan will almost certainly lose to Indiana on Nov. 5. The team’s record heading into the Ohio State game should be 3-7.

It is often said that a win against Ohio State can save any Michigan season. If it gets to this point, I’m not sure that’s true.

Nov. 19 vs. Ohio State – This is an obvious loss. Ohio State beat Iowa by 25 points, and I have already used the transitive property of football to clearly show that Iowa was a better team than Michigan – remember, the Hawkeyes are going to win in Iowa City on Oct. 29. By that logic, Michigan should get creamed by the Bucks.

Michigan has made it to a bowl game every year since 1975. That’s an awfully long time.

With a record of 3-8, it’s obvious that I will be spending my winter break almost entirely at home in Washington D.C. Without a bowl game to go to, I won’t really have anything to do. Maybe I could study math.

 

– Ian Herbert can be reached at iherbert@umich.edu.

 

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