Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Saturday skittishness

Did I really go this whole week without writing about Michigan-Ohio State? Even after reading Bob Wojnowski's hilarious column in yesterday's Detroit News? Or accounts of the apeshit craziness of Ohio State fans from MGoBlog and Blue Cats and Red Sox?

I experienced that insanity first-hand during my only visit to Columbus. Fans wore "Fuck Michigan" t-shirts, of course. I heard a few "Michigan sucks!" chants. And while walking through the tailgating area, I saw a fan holding up a rubber head on top of a stick. The head was wearing a Michigan football helmet, and had fake (I think) blood dripping from it. And oh, there was a dick in the head's mouth. This was before the opener against Miami (Ohio) in 2001.

Yesterday almost felt like a holiday, with sports talk radio devoting entire shows to the game. And here I am, writing about the Lions. (But there was a lot of interesting stuff going on this week. Steroid policy in baseball, anyone? The now 8-0 Detroit Pistons?)

But after sleeping on it, and having a heartfelt chat with myself in the mirror this morning, I realized that trepidation may have compelled me to write about other subjects. I'm really nervous about this game. I've tried to take solace from sportswriters (including "the evil" Drew Sharp) and broadcasters picking Michigan to win. But I just can't shake the feeling that Ohio State is the better team, and I'm not sure the home-field advantage is enough to overcome that.

What really makes me nervous is Chad Henne. This would be a fine time for his best game of the season, but I don't know if he has it in him. He looked sharp last week, which was encouraging, but that was against Indiana. He can't miss the throws he's been missing in big games this season - too long on deep balls, behind on slants, etc. Yet I think Ohio State's defense could pressure him into doing just that. If Henne's responsible for more than one turnover, I don't think Michigan can overcome that.

(Photo by John T. Greilick / The Detroit News)

However, I don't think Troy Smith will look as Heisman-esque as he did last year, when he ran for 150 yards and passed for 241. Michigan seems to have learned how to defend spread offenses and mobile quarterbacks. Yet despite the defense's strong play this season, it's been vulnerable against the run in several games. So I'm still nervous.

Mike Hart will play, which is a big boost to the Michigan offense (despite the improving play of Kevin Grady and Jerome Jackson). And we'll hear plenty of cliches from writers and broadcasters about how he's the heart of the Michigan offense. But cliches often have the ring of truth to them, and if Hart can grind out tough yards and first downs as he normally does, helping to keep the Ohio St. offense off the field, that help Michigan's chances greatly.

Yet A.J. Hawk will likely have something to say about that. I would love nothing more than for the Michigan running backs to bowl him over and show he's overhyped. But he's not overhyped (well, maybe a little bit), and I'm sure we'll hear his name far too often from Brent Musburger and Gary Danielson. (Maybe playing the Brent Musburger drinking game would help ease my nerves.)

So yes, I'm nervous. I talked with Lil' Sis (of Penn State phone call fame) yesterday and she seemed shaken when I expressed my anxiety. She didn't exactly help me with that, but she did say something that I'm going to carry into today's game. "Michigan has to win this game," she said. "Lloyd has to beat Tressel."

Doesn't that say it all? Lloyd Carr's record against Jim Tressel can't fall to 1-4, can it? His record against Top 10-ranked teams is too good (though not nearly as sterling as it used to be). And he can't possibly want to give those "John Cooper" rumblings more fuel.

So despite my head telling me Ohio State should win this game, I'm going to go with the heart on this one. (Credibility? Have you seen the name of this blog?) Michigan's playing at home. They're sick of losing to the Buckeyes. They're still mad about last year's bomb-sniffing dog traveshamockery in Columbus. And nothing would make the salvaging of what previously looked like a lost season more complete than a victory in this game.

Michigan 26, Ohio State 23. My fingertips should be bloody nubs by dinnertime.

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