Why is this here? Why am I talking about Michigan when we're about to play UCLA this coming weekend?
Because your site manager has a horrible sense of timing. Because your site manager has content ready to be published, and by the dogs, it will be published!
Plus, it seems like good timing now right after a weekend where Michigan got pounded and Nebraska did the pounding (although not of each other, of course).
Zach from the SB Nation Michigan site Maize N Brew joins us for an article that should have been published last week.
Name one thing you learned about Nebraska or its fans that stood out last season.
Zach - It had never occurred to me before that Nebraska had two mascots. I had seen both independently of each other, but for some reason I never put it together that this was a college that had two mascots that were essentially the same thing -- a corn farmer -- in slightly different form. That doesn't even touch on how creepy looking both mascots are, which, if I'm being honest, is a real feat.
Other than that, it was nice to become a little more acquainted with a storied program like Nebraska; one that always existed as something of an "other" when it came to college football. Nebraska came to the Big Ten and fit in very well with the rest of the conference, both football-wise, and fan-wise.
Now that Nebraska's honeymoon season is over, is there anything you'd like to say to Husker fans before the 2012 season starts?
Zach - Welcome to the Big Ten, where things rarely make sense.
Nebraska lost in a rout to Wisconsin then weeks later hammered Michigan State in an old fashioned bludgeoning. After taking control of the Legends division the Huskers proceeded to...lose to Northwestern.
This is a very "Big Ten" series of games (Michigan has been pulling off these schizophrenic nine- and ten-win seasons for years) that even came with a Big Ten staple: an inexplicable loss to Northwestern. After a single season, the Huskers have successfully lived nearly a full Big Ten life.
Brady Hoke. Beginner's luck. Tell us whether those two things have a lot in common or not and then explain why.
Zach - To discount luck in Brady Hoke's first year as coach at Michigan would be foolish. Michigan:
- Orchestrated a 28-7 fourth quarter comeback against Notre Dame.
- Recovered 80% of its forced fumbles.
- Won three games in which the starting quarterback completed less than 50% of his passes.
- Beat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl after holding the Hokies to five redzone field goals in six trips and gaining a lot of moment on a couple special team plays that are very un-Hokie-like.
Now, don't get me wrong, Michigan did a lot of things to insure that these little things went right, but sometimes bounces just go your way. Michigan didn't have many moments where things went wrong.
Still, Brady Hoke brought in two great coordinators, coached up a roster that had been beaten down under years of losing and disappointment. He constantly made smart decisions on when to play aggressive and when to dial it back, and his team consistently got better as the season progressed.
Brady Hoke caught his share of breaks in year one, but you have to do a whole lot of things right to set yourself up for that kind of windfall. Hoke executed nearly everything under his control flawlessly, and it paid off.
Denard Robinson, Taylor Martinez. One was 162-for-288 for 2,089 yards, 13 TDs and 8 Ints. The other was 142-for-258 for 2,173 yards with 20 TDs and 15 Ints. Pretty comparable stats, yet Martinez gets bagged on heavily while Robinson is widely praised. Comment on that, please.
Zach - I think it is a combination of things.
First, while those numbers are even on a level of pure efficiency, the thing that stands out to me is the touchdowns and interceptions. Robinson scored more. Sure, he threw more interceptions, but in a way that helps too. He becomes a more divisive player because he is simultaneously explosive and a turnover liability. That gets people talking, and like they say, all publicity is good publicity. If Martinez scored as much, things would be more even perception-wise. That leads to the next point...
Second, Martinez and Robinson are both spread quarterbacks with obvious limitations in the passing game. The difference is that in their first year as breakout players, Martinez was part of a system -- one that was heavily reliant on a pair of skilled running backs -- while Robinson was literally Michigan's entire offense. Even the late emergence of Fitzgerald Toussaint last year couldn't do much to hurt Robinson's status as Michigan's alpha and omega because it came after a year and a half of Robinson carrying the whole damn thing on his back. That kind of singular presence rubs off on a player's reputation a lot more than someone who is just another cog -- especially one that isn't very efficient as a cog -- in the offense.
Third, and probably most importantly, Martinez simply lacks the big moments in his career. What games can you look back on and say "Taylor Martinez won Nebraska that game"? I'm a pretty big college football fan, and even I can't begin to come up with a good answer. Yes, he has had solid wins, but there was always the help from Rex Burkhead or the defense or someone else.
Conversely, Robinson's career is littered with the kind of high profile wins that college football legend status is built on. Look at the last two Notre Dame games, look at the Ohio State win from last year, or the Northwestern comeback in 2011. Even the one game between Nebraska and Michigan ended with Michigan winning and Robinson scoring four touchdowns on 260 yards of total offense while Martinez completed less than 40 percent of his passes, totaled less than 175 yards, and scored only one touchdown.
The perception that Denard Robinson is a better quarterback is based a lot more on the moments than the stats. Even when you discount the wide gulf in yards and touchdowns that the players put up during the 2010 season (something you failed to bring up that would see Robinson with a 1700 yard and ten touchdown advantage), Martinez simply lacks the career defining moments that Robinson already has.
Everyone already knows that neither player is all that great at throwing the ball. What they don't know is whether Martinez is capable of taking over a game and delivering the kind of highlight reel performance that can single-handedly win a big game. Robinson has answered that question already.
Pre-season game prediction, what do you see happening in Lincoln this season?
Zach - I think things are much more even than last year as Nebraska doesn't suffer from as many bone-headed mistakes. However, by the end of October when these teams match up I think Michigan will have worked through a lot of the trials and tribulations that will plague the defensive line early. Michigan has one of the best offenses in the conference, and Nebraska is to a certain extent rebuilding the defense after a down year (relative to the standard of the Blackshirt defense, that is) and the loss of a few high profile players.
I think Michigan wins a close one, but it ends up being a three or four point game.