Michigan mailbag: Don't expect Wolverines to turn turkey in home stretch
So next week is Thanksgiving. Gotta get a turkey. Need to prepare the sides. Then travel south to cover the Michigan-Ohio State game. Oops. There I go again, looking ahead. It’s OK for me to do that. After all, I grew up in Ohio and The Game was essentially a holiday in our house and the week of the college football season I've always eagerly anticipated.
But first things first, and that’s Indiana on Saturday, the final game of the season at Michigan Stadium. The Michigan players keep saying that even though they know a trip to Columbus to face Ohio State is only a few days away, they will maintain that week-by-week, game-by-game focus. But I don’t have to. So what sides should I make? Here we go with this week’s mailbag.
Question: With the recent tough games against Indiana the past few years and Michigan vs. OSU looming, do you see Indiana as a trap game? Or will Michigan be ready to take care of business in Ann Arbor this weekend? — @ValiantWolveri1
Answer: I have always considered Indiana a potential trap game. Always. In part because Indiana is what I’ve described as a pesky team, not to mention Michigan and Indiana have had a couple overtime games the last three meetings. The Hoosiers don’t back down and won’t back down. Michigan is the superior team, but as we’ve all seen before — not just with Michigan but in all of sports — that doesn’t always matter. There’s also the fact that Ohio State is a week away. It’s not like it’s a surprise. The players know that game is next and assure there has been no peeking. This Michigan team seems more than equipped to take care of the business at hand. It’s also Senior Day and no one wants to let the seniors down.
More: View from the other side: Michigan vs. Indiana
More: Niyo: College football needs chaos, but Michigan doesn't
Question: To start the season you had Michigan losing to OSU. I did too. One of my scenarios was “bookend” losses on their season. I will always predict us to lose against OSU until we actually win again. Can’t help but feel that way. Now, given this season, do you feel we beat OSU? — @michmike69
Answer: I didn’t bookend the losses as you did, Mike. The truth is, after talking to the players in the spring and especially in the summer and listening to them tell me they felt like they had something special brewing, I was thinking, "Yeah, with Shea Patterson eligible, he will be the difference maker.” So back to the truth. I was making my game-by-game picks, and although I thought very strongly they had the personnel and new offensive coaching pieces to make a run, something held me back and I felt like there would be two losses.
I thought the Wolverines would lose at Ohio State for a couple reasons — it’s in The Shoe, Nick Bosa was healthy then and Dwayne Haskins performed so well coming in against Michigan last season. Then I felt like, well, it’s hard to know how this team will perform and felt like I had to pick another loss, so had them losing at home to Wisconsin. Boy, does that look silly now. And that’s exactly why I detest making preseason record projections. You just don’t know how the chemistry and identity of a team will develop, and right now we all have a good sense of it. For that reason, my assessment has changed, and I think Michigan has a very, very good chance of beating the Buckeyes because of the overall balance, but mostly because of the defense.
Question: Is there any risk of losing Don Brown over the next few years? Does he seem like a guy who would take over a team? — @realmikeallen
Answer: I asked him about this last year, and he was pretty adamant that he’s happy in Ann Arbor. This, to me, isn’t an age thing. For some programs, sure, but he’s a young 63 and could very well become a head coach. Clearly he has the energy, but running a team is way different because of all the other demands beyond preparing and coaching a team. What Michigan needs to do for Don Brown is extend his contract and give him some more cash. That seems like the best option. The only option.
Question: How did you equate Don Brown’s "cerebral side" to his "feminine side" and live to tell the tale? — @ajruszk5k
Answer: Aaron, heh, heh, heh, just having a little fun with Brown when he was discussing his “masculine” and “cerebral” sides. Just took the opportunity to suggest maybe that was actually his feminine side. And, yes, I got away with it. Heh, heh, heh.
Question: Sorry to beat a dead horse with injury questions, but any update on Lavert Hill/Josh Metellus? Either practicing this week? And LONG term (concussion protocol for 'Vert) what’s the chance he misses more than a week? — @jeff122380
Answer: Jim Harbaugh explained concussion protocol last year with regard to Brandon Peters. It really depends on the player. Lavert Hill had not practiced early in the week and unless he made some remarkable recovery, I’m not sure it’s worth playing him against Indiana. Why not rest him for Ohio State? The same for Josh Metellus, who missed the Rutgers game with a “soft tissue” injury, according to Harbaugh. Don Brown said he could be back and said the same about Hill. Again, it might be better to have them sit out to get healthier for the Ohio State game.
Question: Hypothetical 1-loss Michigan, Georgia and Alabama. Only 2 make the playoffs, which 2 and why? — @RajLakra
Answer: Raj, like you, I’m sure, I’ve been hearing all the conversation and how even with a loss to Georgia, Alabama will still be in the top four. I know why analysts have said that, but doesn’t it depend on how Alabama loses? If it’s a blowout, of course the Tide will fall out of that top group. But here’s the rub. Let’s say it’s a close loss to Georgia, overtime or something crazy, maybe the committee decides Alabama still needs to be in the top four and hypothetical one-loss Michigan drops out. That said, Michigan is the one-loss team that has the resume — including a touchdown-loss on the road to Notre Dame in the opener — and is built and designed with balance in mind, not to mention a relentless defense, that should keep the Wolverines in the top four if Alabama loses.
Question: Why do you like Brian Griese so much? — @JonJansen77
Answer: What’s the problem, Jon? Jealous? So let me address this myth that Dan Dierdorf created on the radio a couple years ago during a Michigan game that Brian Griese was working for ESPN. Griese and I played phone tag that week for a story. Before the game that day, I was in the radio booth chatting with Dan, and I admit I was looking past him a lot to see if I could see Griese in the TV booth so I could say hello. Dierdorf decided I was snubbing holding a conversation with him for Griese, and that, my friends, is where this silly little myth began. Maybe, Jon, you should have asked why I like Griese more than I like you. Let me count the reasons...
Question: Who is your favorite Michigan football player past or present? — @bshelton77
Answer: Wow. Now I’m going to get in trouble. This isn’t fair. But if you listened to my “View from the Press Box” podcast this week, Mike Hart was on and I asked him what year we met and he reminded me it was 2004 and added that I was 20 then. This is a lie, of course, but Mike said just the right thing to be elevated to the top spot.
Honestly, I’ve always had a great deal of respect for Mike Hart. I always liked his cockiness and his fire, and he’s really really smart. Let me just share one little story. It was the Rose Bowl his freshman year when I think we clicked. We were all in southern California, and I had an interview scheduled with him one day. He was late. And late. And later. Finally, Michigan associate athletic director Dave Ablauf, who works in media relations, arrives with Mike. I was about to start the interview and looked at him and said, ‘Nah. I don’t want to do this now.’ And I walked off. Mike started laughing. He laughed hard. And I laughed. I also kept walking. After that, we had a terrific rapport.
Question: Which senior is most likely to cry at Saturday’s game? — @Blazefire84
Answer: The correct answer is all of them, but since you asked, I’m going with — drumroll please — Tyree Kinnel and Karan Higdon. OK, that’s two of them, but I can’t pick one.
Question: Dr. Chengelis, do you think we are camouflaging Tarik Black until Columbus? — @shanepj41
Question: What’s up w/Tarik Black? Been back and doing nothing. We saving him for OSU? Hearing he’s making plays in practice. — @PascalShea
Question: I want to see more of Black, DPJ and Nico sets … is this realistic? Or are we still patiently working Black back into the rotation? Potentially waiting to release the three headed monster on Ohio? I just don’t see how their DBs could match that much athleticism. — @RyanTHendrix
Answer: Yeah, yeah, Dr. Chengelis. OK, OK, I don’t like flu shots! Back off! You and Harbaugh! Anyway, lots of questions about Tarik Black. I watched him walking off the field after the Michigan State game, his first back in uniform, and thought he was walking a bit gingerly. I can’t imagine that should be considered shocking. He broke the foot a week before the season, after all. Harbaugh said there are still some routes that have proven more challenging to run in terms of comfort level. That will come, obviously, but why push him?
Question: Will Shea go pro and turn over the reins to DM? — @joshjreynolds
Answer: Joshua, this has been a staple of the mailbag for weeks, and I haven’t changed my answer. I’ve always thought he was a one-and-done transfer. Now, I could be wrong, but that’s my hunch. And yes, I think Dylan McCaffrey has shown how effective he can be and will make a smooth transition to the starting job.
Question: Please rank Big Ten stadiums in terms of food buffet provided to media. Also, is it true that the Detroit News keeps attorneys on retainer to handle all Wojo buffet-related rage issues? — @oldmancoyote
Answer: OMC, there are no Wojo buffet-related issues because he gets in line first and boxes everyone out. Years ago, Michigan State had by far the best press box food. It was INCREDIBLE. But now, that is way down the list. Purdue used to be good. They would have “pork day” and that was always fun. Let’s see, Northwestern is pretty good, but the standard now is set by Penn State, and Ohio State is usually pretty strong. I think the best press box food was forever ago when Michigan played at Boston College. There was a chef in there preparing tortellini with some amazing sauce. Memories …