AROUND THE NATION
Gotta be honest, even though Michigan doesn’t elicit pom-pom waving here, it is better for college football when one of its most storied programs is playing well, and not the laughing stock it has been the better part of the last decade. My only concern right now, though, is if Ohio State can hold up its end of the bargain when the two meet the Saturday after Thanksgiving to close out the regular season.
From the non-partisan, yet appreciative eye, the Buckeyes are out of sorts and they haven’t shown any signs of rectifying that issue. Head coach Urban Meyer, in my opinion, made a blunder in benching J.T. Barrett for Cardale Jones at QB. Yeah, yeah, Jones was a revelation for three games, performing at a high level in leading OSU to the national title down the stretch last season. He also benefitted from RB Ezekiel Elliott playing out of his mind then, completely opening the door for others to succeed while the opposition had to focus on not getting plowed under by his legs.
Ummm, Barrett never enjoyed that benefit when he was busy getting the Buckeyes in position to make that championship run with a record-setting Big Ten season. Granted, Jones is bigger and probably the better pro prospect. But, at this level, where quick decisions and quick feet are a priority, sorry, he’s not in Barrett’s league. He’s also more of a kid, a goof-balling kid whom everyone loves, when, right now, yeah, at the level OSU competes, it’s a business – one much more suited for the serious Barrett.
So, for me, until Meyer comes to his senses and gets his best QB in there, full time, the Buckeyes’ chances of continued domination in their ballyhooed series with That Team Up North dwindle with each passing week.
WEST COAST RULES: This weekend it does. With six ranked teams in action, including four going head-to-head, even the SEC has to take a back seat to the Pac-12 in Week 4. No. 9 UCLA visits No. 16 Arizona in the featured game, although No. 18 Utah at No. 13 Oregon. In addition, No. 21 Stanford, fresh off an upset win at Southern Cal, stops at Oregon State, and the 19th-ranked Trojans head to previously ranked Arizona State.
The first one noted, the biggie, will be highlighted by freshman Bruins QB Josh Rosen, aka The Rosen One, making his fourth career start. However, the LB portion of this tilt now favors Arizona with Scooby Wright returning from injury and UCLA losing the multi-faceted Myles Jack to one.
On a side note, wear some retina-burning block if you plan to stare at the host Wildcats’ new lids. Yowza.
LOGO UNTAPPED: Speaking of headgear, cannot believe all the crappy helmet designs Indiana runs out there year after year when the logo it has smack-dab in the middle of Memorial Stadium in Bloomington is perfect. It’s the state outlined in white, colored in the school’s red, with the interlocking IU centered inside in white. Now that the Hoosiers are 3-0 and thinking bowl for the first time in almost a decade, it’s time to class this act up a bit.
STAR TAPPED: He was the top recruit in the country when he signed with LSU two years ago, and Tigers RB Leonard Fournette is starting to show why. Already drawing comparisons to some of the greatest backs of all time, the sophomore with breakaway speed attached to his bullish 6-1, 230-pound frame has imposed his will – and talent – on opposing teams to a national-best 198.5 rushing yards per game thus far this season.
ON TAP: Cincinnati visits Memphis tonight in what likely would have been the American Athletic Conference’s game of the year if not for Temple upsetting the Bearcats two weeks ago. Still should be a good one at the FBS level, with the AAC’s most talented teams squaring off. In FCS action, No. 5 Villanova hosts neighborhood rival Penn … without reigning player of the year John Robertson, who is out with an injury.
It’s happening … fast.
While opening weekend to college football 2015 secured nothing for the University of Michigan future team under first-year head coach/favorite son/miracle worker Jim Harbaugh aside from no immediate meteoric rise from the ashes, it did show the Wolverines had some potential.
Unfortunately for us louts not in his or his alma mater’s corner, it already is starting to be realized.
Not for nothing, but Michigan and Jimmy Jaw are annoying. They’re a match made in heaven. An elitist heaven for the some of the smartest and most privileged out there who like to act tough and just might, indeed, be tough. If “entitlement” had a company logo, the school’s block “M,” or Harbaugh’s over-the-top death stare, could serve as the foundation or inspiration.
Not being smart, privileged or tough, me and my cohorts are not fans. We don’t “blend” with those sorts. So we revel in those times that have been hard on Michigan and Harbaugh, and, frankly, those times haven’t been all that rare. Hence, pure enjoyment for extended, uninterrupted periods.
That, however, is about to change … if it already hasn’t.
Having shed any negative emotional remnants of that 24-17 loss at Utah back on Sept. 4, the Wolverines have rolled Oregon State and UNLV the past two weeks by a combined 63-14 score – so, basically, 120 minutes of beatdown the likes of which Penn State and Ohio State apparently revel in putting on each other once a decade.
Hmmm, we’re due for one of those soon, ain’t we?
But I digress …
It looks like our party, long and continuous, is about to end for the foreseeable future. With nine games remaining in the regular season, the Wolverines will face four ranked opponents the rest of the way. I don’t like their chances.
The ranked opponents’ chances. A split would be nice for us Michigan … ummm, haters is too strong – let’s go “dislikers.” The Wolverines winning three, or even – gulp – all four, though, especially given reigning national champ Ohio State’s inability to get things in order thus far, seems a very distinct possibility.
From what I’ve seen from Michigan of late, as well as Nos. 22 Brigham Young, 17 Northwestern, 2 Michigan State and 1 Ohio State, we’re not talking current rep equaling realistic fate, per se. Defensively, talent wise at least, the Wolverines, led by LBs Joe Bolden and Desmond Morgan and DE Chris Wormley, stack up with anyone. The speed, and commitment, is evident as Michigan defenders fly around, making plays sideline to sideline.
Offensively, yeah, they’re a work in progress. Harbaugh has his game manager in Iowa castoff Jake Rudock, a line committed to being physical even beyond its limitations, and RBs aplenty, 6-3, 240-pound junior Ty Isaac likely having taken center stage with last week’s 18-carry, 161-yard performance.
The Wolverines, in their coach’s image, will play hard, intense and, when emotions are controlled, disciplined. Frankly, they already are good. Heck, they showed that against the Utes, a ridiculously underrated outfit who should have been ranked when the teams met.
In short, Michigan appears to be back. Perhaps not among the sport’s top programs. But the Wolverines are closing in on returning to such status. Quickly.
- Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org