The Michigan football team looked awful Saturday. There’s no way to spin that. But it seems like everything else is getting spun every which way but where it should be these days. How should some of the events from Michigan’s loss to Wisconsin and the trends surrounding this team make you feel? I’ll do my best Bill O’Reilly impression (minus the sexual harassment lawsuits) and turn Fort Schembechler into a no spin zone.
Michigan sits Mike Hart and takes a lot of caution with Chad Henne after just two drives.
The positive spin: The two stayed (relatively) healthy and didn’t get hurt worse than they already were. Carlos Brown, Brandon Minor and Ryan Mallett also got more valuable game experience.
The negative spin: Um, Michigan lost? The passing game is about 900 percent worse with Mallett at the helm than with a hobbled Henne under center. At this point, anyone who cheered when Mallett came in for Henne in the Oregon game should have their season tickets revoked and their heads examined. Hart’s absence not only leaves a gaping hole in the running game, but also in the huddle.
The real deal: Hart wanted to play, I’m sure of it (and everyone who saw him begging Carr to get in on Saturday is, too). But sitting him out wasn’t based solely on hubris – the team knows if it wants to beat Ohio State, it will need a Biakabatuka-esque performance out of Hart. That’s much more likely if he’s quasi-healthy instead of hobbling around on a bad ankle. As for Henne, his injury is simply a lot worse than many thought. The move to sit the two stars was good for the long term, but obviously the deleterious short-term effects were felt Saturday. And screw the game experience excuse – we’re at a point in the season where winning needs to be top option and must trump player development by quite a bit.
Ryan Mallett goes 11-of-36. He struggles early and late, but helps Michigan come back in the early stages of the fourth quarter.
The positive spin: Mallett is gaining loads of experience for next year. He’s seen action in nearly half of the games this season and has shown flashes of solid play. He’s also picking up confidence for the next few years when this team is his.
The negative spin: For every flash of greatness, there are about 10 bolts of awfulness. Mallett looked terrible, save for talented players around him making him look good at certain times.
The real deal: Mallett is really struggling. Yes, he’s a freshman, but he’s now played in a handful of games and doesn’t get the “I’m a freshman” free pass anymore. He simply can’t keep trying to act like Vince Young or Michael Vick out there anymore. The only real positive his poor play might bring is it could bring him back down to Earth a bit. Confidence is great, but in small doses. The only things Mallett seems to be taking in small doses are shots of success.
Ohio State loses to Illinois. Michigan’s loss to Wisconsin is essentially erased, considering the Buckeyes are once again tied with the Wolverines.
The positive spin: Doesn’t take much spinning – Michigan still has a shot at an outright Big Ten Title thanks to its rival’s stumble Saturday night. It erases a pretty dismal performance, and as many of the players pointed out after Michigan’s loss, “the prize is still out there.”
The negative spin: Ohio State’s performance shouldn’t matter. Michigan had a golden opportunity and completely choked. Had the Wolverines taken care of business against, let’s face it, a mediocre Wisconsin team, they would have clinched a share of the Big Ten Title they talked so much about ever since losing their first two games.
The real deal: This week is still Ohio State week. It’s still for the Big Ten Title, it’s still for a shot at the Rose Bowl and, most important, it’s still for bragging rights. Sure it sucks that Michigan doesn’t have a shot to knock off an undefeated Buckeye squad, and ending 9-3 isn’t quite as storybook as winning its last 10 games. But come on: It’s Ohio State.
– Bell can be reached at email@example.com.