MADISON During his press conference following Saturday”s game, a despondent Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez told the assembled media of his postgame exchange with Michigan coach Lloyd Carr.
According to Alvarez, when the two coaches met at midfield after Michigan”s memorable 20-17 victory, Carr told Alvarez, “Your team deserved better.”
Hmm. That sounds familiar, doesn”t it?
Two weeks ago in East Lansing, following the Wolverines” equally astonishing 26-24 loss to Michigan State, Carr kept telling the press, “We deserved better.”
The common axiom “what goes around comes around” is the first thing that came to my mind when I heard what Carr told Alvarez. And when you think about it, that phrase is a pretty accurate description of Michigan”s season thus far.
In the second week of the season, Michigan traveled to Seattle and thoroughly dominated Washington, only to lose the game in a span of 51 seconds in the fourth quarter (the memory is painful enough for Michigan fans that I won”t bother to go into further detail).
Then, on Oct. 27 at Iowa, the Wolverines stole a game that they easily could have lost thank you, Marquise Walker. The loss to Michigan State and Saturday”s miraculous win over Wisconsin only serve to further underscore my point.
Ten years from now, Michigan fans will still be talking about the last second of the Michigan State game. Actually, check that until they are lying on their deathbeds, Michigan fans will be talking about that last second. They”ll never stop insisting that Jeff Smoker shouldn”t have had time to loft that pass to T.J. Duckett.
But 10 years from now, Wisconsin fans will probably still be talking about when freshman defensive back Brett Bell accidentally touched the ball on a punt with 10 seconds left in the game.
No matter how you look at it, Michigan caught an enormously lucky break on that punt. I was standing on the Camp Randall Stadium sidelines perhaps 20 feet from Bell when the ball hit him in the leg, and I still can”t come up with a word to describe what I saw (feel free to send me some suggestions, if you have any).
After the Michigan State loss, Michigan fans lamented the fact that Michigan”s national title “hopes” were gone, thanks to that (insert expletive here) Michigan State timekeeper.
Please. Michigan fans shouldn”t kid themselves this edition of the Wolverines has absolutely no business playing for a national title, and the 28 yards of total offense in the second half against Wisconsin should be enough evidence for anyone.
But as much as Michigan probably didn”t deserve to beat Michigan State, the Wolverines didn”t deserve to lose to this Wisconsin team. On the surface, these two games might appear to have a lot of similarities, but there is one big difference.
As hard as it might be for a Michigan fan to admit, Michigan State outplayed the Wolverines, those 12 sacks by Michigan”s defense notwithstanding. Wisconsin on the other hand missed a field goal, had two punts blocked and has to deal with the fact that its quarterback is the worst passer in the Big Ten not currently playing for Ohio State.
Sure, with a few breaks, Michigan could be 10-0 right now. If the Wolverines were undefeated, a win over Ohio State next week would, in all likelihood, have lifted them into the Rose Bowl.
Just imagine the possibilities Michigan”s secondary vs. Florida”s receivers, Michigan”s secondary vs. Miami”s receivers OK, I”ll stop scaring you now.
But, on the flip side, Michigan isn”t that far from being 6-4. Just imagine those possibilities the Wolverines trying to stifle the vaunted Southern Cal offense in front of a half-empty stadium at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. Makes you sick, doesn”t it?
So, did Alvarez deserve better on Saturday? Maybe.
Did Carr deserve better against Michigan State? Maybe.
Assuming Michigan beats Ohio State, do the Wolverines deserve better (or worse) than 9-2, a Big Ten title and a BCS bid?
Arun Gopal can be reached at email@example.com