San Diego State (3-0) at (22) Michigan (3-0) (-11)
The Rich-Rod Wolverines would often make games like this much too close for comfort, and the Aztecs are good enough to make Michigan fan think about bringing an extra tube of Preparation H to the Big House. If you haven’t been paying attention, and judging by the fact that the BCS still exists, you haven’t, the Mountain West Conference isn’t just made up of chumps like it was when it used to be the Western Athletic Conference. Phillips, Booter, and I should know since we were kids in San Diego when the defense-optional WAC was at the height of its powers (BYU national title, Marshall Faulk’s SDSU teams).
The Aztecs, many might be surprised to find out on Saturday, actually play the kind of solid, major-conference football that the BCS snobs say doesn’t exist in the non-AQ conferences. They run a very balanced offense based around running back Ronnie Hillman running wild and quarterback Ryan Lindley throwing it around a little. Their defense is at least as good as Oklahoma State’s and Michigan’s, so the BCS snobs can’t say that’s the main difference, either. Expect SDSU to grind a little when they have the ball since it’s a good idea to keep Denard Robinson off the field for as long as possible.
Then again, most everything about this game screams “shootout that comes down to one or two key turnovers/big plays.” While the Aztecs’ defense is respectable, Robinson tears up even the better defenses in the BCS conferences. Turns out he’s the only good thing Rich Rodriguez did for Michigan in his three years there, and his “system” that was so revolutionary at West Virginia and Clemson, isn’t really anything that can’t be duplicated by some one with a video camera and some football knowledge. Robinson would be a total yards machine in pretty much any system, even Houston and Georgia Tech, for example, though Les Miles would try to move Robinson to defensive back/return man.
I feel like I remember reading something about former SDSU/current Michigan head coach Brady Hoke texting his players to tell them he would no longer be the Aztecs’ coach, but I was still surprised when I read it again in ESPN’s preview of this game. I realize they were on a semester break or whatever, but man, a text message? At send an email or notorized letter or something, coach. I’m wondering if he’ll wish he’d done it differently when Ronnie Hillman is torching Michigan’s still-shaky defense. Nah, Hoke is at Michigan, his dream job, and that’s all that matters.
So one more Michigan game comes down to Denard Robinson’s ability to save the day. If he goes big (220 yards passing, 175 yards rushing 3-4 total TD), Michigan wins a surprisingly easy one. But that’s a lot of pressure on one player, especially when he’s shown a penchant for at least one killer turnover per half when in big games. As good as he was against Notre Dame in their win this year, he also threw three interceptions and fumbled, including one INT and the fumble in that crazy fourth quarter. Maybe he’ll realize this game doesn’t have to be so unnecessarily close. Those of us in the gambling community would sure appreciate it.