Monday, September 11, 2006

Skunkbear Week

My opinion of Skunkbear football is pretty low. They like to think of themselves as the greatest team in history, but in reality, they have never been the best team of a decade, much less the best team of all time
I've compiled the National Championship statistics, and have come up with the following list of best teams by decade: 1870s: Princeton; 1880s: Yale; 1890s: Yale and Princeton (tie); 1900s: Yale; 1910s: Harvard; 1920s: Notre Dame; 1930s: Minnesota; 1940s: Army (followed closely by Notre Dame); 1950s: Oklahoma; 1960s: Texas, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Mississippi (tie - 2 championships each); 1970s: Notre Dame, Nebraska, Southern Cal, and Oklahoma (tie - 2 championships each); 1980s: Miami (FL); 1990s: Nebraska; 2000s: Southern Cal.
Can you tell who is missing from this list? Thats rights, the Skunk Bears of Ann Arbor. They like to toss around their all-time winning % lead, and the fact that they've won more games than anyone. But it helps that they've been playing much longer than everybody else.
Here is the truth about Michigan's claim to the "winningest" program in history: They haven't done squat 'since the 1800s
I'd also like to point out that it's Michigan's own fault that Notre Dame is the greatest team in college football history. You see, if Michigan hadn't blocked Notre Dame's entrance into the Big 10, the Irish would be on par with Michigan and Ohio State - great football tradition, but not the best. The fact of the matter is that Michigan forced Notre Dame to barnstorm all over the country, building a fan base that no other team can rival.
Greatness requires not just winning most of the time. It requires a constant drive for perfection. It requires taking risks. Three-loss Llloyd doesn't take risks. He runs the ball well, throws high-percentage passes, and tries to outmuscle their opponents. When those opponents are the likes of Central Michigan and Ball State, they win. When those opponents are evenly-matched, with them, the team that takes risks wins. Which is why the Irish have knocked Michigan out of the National Championship hunt early in 3 of the last 4 years. And why the one time we failed to do so (with our worst team of the past 20 years), Oregon took care of it for us the next week. Surprisingly, Michigan hasn't scheduled an out-of-conference opponent like Oregon since then, preferring to feast on cupcakes like San Diego State.
All of which leads me to another point. Michigan recruits great players, year in and year out. they have a huge stadium which generates tons of revenue which has provided them with one of the best facilities in the nation. They have everything in place to churn out a championship every decade or so. Which makes one begin to think:
Never has a team done so little with so much. Under Carr, with the exception of the 1997 season (when Michigan got to feast on one of Notre Dame's worst teams ever under first-year coach Bob Davie) Michigan has lost on average just over 3 games per year. They lost 5 once (last year), and lost 2 once (1999). Every other season they've lost 3-4 games. They have never been in the discussion at the end of the season in regards to the Championship.

So, you say, that's just recent history. Michigan surely was a title contender under the "great" Bo Schembechler, right? Wrong. In fact, Schembechler never had a "perfect" season. The closest he got was in 1973, when he stumbled into a 10-0-1 season. Of course, that was the year the Irish went undefeated and beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to claim the championship.
Under Schembechler, the Skunkbears were worthless. Bo went 2-6 in the Rose Bowl, and 4-6 in the games against the Irish that Bo wasn't able to get out of. The only reason Schembechler is lauded by Michigan fans is that he (barely) has a winning record against Ohio State.
Can anyone give me any reason to believe that Michigan is a top program in history? They aren't in the top 10, by my calculations. Notre Dame, Southern Cal, Yale, Princeton, Harvard, Alabama, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Miami, and Army all have some claim to a better history than Michigan. So, while you listen to all the hype this week about the winningest programs in history battling it out and all the history and tradition of both programs, remember what this really is. A grudge match. There is on thing, and one thing only, that Notre Dame wants to do this week:
Kill Michigan. Kick their sorry little asses up and down that field, and hand them the first of their annual three losses en route to a National Championship. Remind them that they had a losing record against the Irish when the Irish had Boob Davie and Ty "I need to work on my handicap" Willingham pacing the sidelines. Now Charles is in charge, and he has no intention of ever losing to Michigan. And until Michigan hires a coach with a playbook more complicated than Madden '97, he will.
So sit back this weekend, crack open a beer, and prepare to watch Michigan get relegated to the dustbin of history once again. No championships for the Skunkbears this year. But that's OK. At the rate they've been winning championships, there are only 40 more years for them to wait. As for the Irish, the time is NOW.