Steven M. Sipple: NU fans should understand Michigan's plight

2012-09-06T23:45:00Z 2012-10-27T02:49:59Z Steven M. Sipple: NU fans should understand Michigan's plight JournalStar.com

I'm fighting to avoid a rush to judgment.

I'm trying to convince myself that Michigan could recover splendidly from last week's debilitating loss to Alabama.

"The Wolverines got all of this offseason and preseason hype, and then got absolutely whacked on national TV — shell-shocked," says Charles Davis, FOX Sports' lead college football game analyst.

Now — can you believe this? — Michigan prepares to face Air Force on Saturday. Just the headache Brady Hoke and his crew needed: a well-schooled triple-option team that also can hurt defenses with the pass.  

Heisman Watch
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QB Matt Barkley USC
RB Le'Veon Bell Mich. St.
QB Geno Smith West Va.
RB Marcus Lattimore S. Carolina
RB De'Anthony Thomas Oregon

Triple-option teams, because of their uniqueness, create automatic stress for defenses.

If you're a Nebraska fan, you probably should watch Michigan closely. How long will it take the Wolverines to recover from their 41-14 loss to the Crimson Tide? Will they ever fully regain their footing this season? It's not a given. In 2007, NU never fully recovered from its loss to top-ranked USC.

If Michigan doesn't recover sufficiently, perhaps it will evolve into more of a two-team race in the Big Ten Legends Division.

It's not a stretch to think the Wolverines may have incurred lasting physical, mental and emotional damage.

"Is that a fear? Yeah, it's a fear. It's a true one," Davis says. "But I think Brady Hoke will have his kids ready to play Saturday, and he'll need to."

The 47-year-old Davis, a seasoned analyst and former Tennessee standout defensive back, knows not to jump too quickly to conclusions this early in the season. It's a wise approach.

His impression of the Big Ten didn't necessarily change much in the wake of last week's games, he says.

He anticipated most of the results, including  Nebraska's 49-20 home victory over Southern Miss. He was impressed by the Huskers' cleanliness — two penalties, no turnovers.

He even was impressed with the defense.

"To me, they looked like a team that's thinking less and going after the ball more," Davis says.

Nebraska had better be prepared Saturday against UCLA, which comes off a 49-24 win at Rice. The Bruins, 6-8 last season, fired head coach Rick Neuheisel and hired Jim Mora in the offseason.

"UCLA has talent — that really wasn't the issue," Davis says. "They just never got going in the right direction. Mora knows what direction he wants, and is going to demand it."

I envision Nebraska winning a high-scoring game.

But last week's Big Ten results remind us to be prepared for the unexpected. Will we ever learn?

Wisconsin nearly blew a 19-point fourth-quarter lead against Northern Iowa of the Football Championship Subdivision. Should we be surprised UW's offense didn't operate at the level it did when Russell Wilson was at the controls?

Meanwhile, be careful jumping to conclusions about Iowa in the aftermath of its 18-17 comeback win against Northern Illinois.

In 2009, Iowa needed two blocked field goals in the closing seconds to edge Northern Iowa 17-16 in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes went on that season to defeat Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

So, don't write off Iowa.

Or even Michigan, as tempting as it might be.

Thumbs up, down

Thumbs up to Washington coach Steve Sarkisian, who brought a live tiger to practice to help rev up his team for Saturday's trip to LSU. Said Washington State coach Mike Leach: "Well, I think it would be impressive if they let that tiger out of the cage. …"

Thumbs down to Michigan State players who tweeted critical comments about Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson's play against Alabama. Classless.

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.

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About the writer

Steven M. Sipple | Lincoln Journal Star

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.


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