until Texas vs Kansas

Tuesday, November 1


ATL Interview Session: Probing the Michigan Mind

Last week we interviewed Warren St. John of Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer. This week’s interviewee is Brian Cook, author of the MGoBlog. Besides being the creator of the brilliantly conceived Blog Poll, Brian’s writing and commentary are second to none. For those of you who don’t read it regularly, start now. Even if you could care less about Michigan sports, it’s essential reading—if for no other reason than you’ll just be plain smarter for doing so.

ATL: Brian, what's been your overall impression of the Big 10 this year? Do you agree that it's the best top-to-bottom conference in the country?

BC: The Big Ten has been whack-a-mole this year. Whoever pops their head up as the dominant team gets smacked down immediately.

I try not to get into the Conference X is vastly superior to Conference Y arguments because they usually degenerate into really, really dumb arguments, but er... I do think the Big Ten is the best conference in the country in this particular year. It doesn't have a juggernaut like VT, UT, or USC, but there are about eight teams that would be the second or third best team in just about every conference in the country. The only teams that seem totally hopeless are Indiana, Illinois, and Purdue. I'm probably even more biased in favor of the Big Ten this year because Michigan misses two chumps (Illinois and Purdue) and each week I look at the schedule and go "could we please get a breather?" We've had six straight weeks of "oh God, there is a reasonable to extreme possibility of a loss." Can any other conference claim that?

ATL: Can you summarize Michigan's season in one sentence for us?
BC: Too close for comfort.

ATL: What's your opinion of Lloyd Carr? Are you ready to abandon ship?
BC: 'm in the reasonable middle on Carr. I think he's exactly the kind of person I'd like to see run Michigan's program and the idea of firing him is completely out of the question but he has certain flaws that prevent him from being a truly great coach. He gets a bad rap around the country because he treats the media like they're Nazis, but the team has a deep affection for him. He recruits very well year-in and year-out and has never had a truly bad year, but he's only had two great ones--the '97 championship and the Tom Brady Orange Bowl year.

When he retires--which will be within the next few years--I'll be both nervous and excited, because whoever comes next could drive the program into the ground or the stratosphere. The Carr question is not an easy one to answer.

ATL: I assume you watched last year's Rose Bowl. What do you think about Vince Young?
BC: Actually, my therapist has advised me not to. At all. I posted something that summed up
my general impressions in May.

The thing that shocked me in the Rose Bowl was Young's passing. That's the real reason we lost the game, despite the flashy billion yard touchdown runs. VY came into that game as an erratic, unreliable passer and left it as something I don't look at directly in case my retinas burn. He threw a couple of dumb picks against Ohio State but went 18 for 27 and won the game. He still has moments where he looks like a guy the NFL will definitely want... for wide receiver, but hell, now he's the closest thing to Michael Vick since Michael Vick. And you get him back next year! That's some Leinart-level crap right there. That's like Woodson returning for his senior year. It's not fair. (Cue snide Notre Dame fans.)

ATL: Have you had a chance to watch Texas any this year? What are your impressions of the Horns?
BC: I haven't had much of an opportunity since I live in Big Ten country and Texas is always on regional ABC opposite our games, but I did see the Ohio State game, and I was impressed with Texas' ability to play what seemed like a flukishly subpar game (unless Young always tosses interceptions directly to linebackers) and still win in that snakepit. That defense you opposed is one hell of a unit despite the Gopher weirdness and coming out of that game unscratched was an accomplishment.

ATL: Michigan gets Ohio State at home on the 19th of November. Can the Wolverines win that game?
BC: They certainly can. "Will" is another matter entirely.

Michigan seems to have a much better handle on mobile quarterbacks this year and is developing an intimidating defensive line. I'd be shocked to see Troy Smith repeat his performance from last year. Offensively, though, we have issues. Mike Hart was shut down by the Buckeyes last year and probably won't have much room to run. Ohio State can be had in the air but Henne has been very inconsistent.

It'll be close. One thing to watch for is Michigan's secret anti-Ginn weapon in punter/KO guy Ross Ryan. He's booming his kickoffs well into the endzone and only 25% of his punts have been returned last year. Ginns punt return touchdown in last year's game was the beginning of the end--he won't get many opportunities to repeat that.

ATL: Lastly, project the following for us: Big 10 BCS representative, BCS #1 and #2, Heisman Trophy winner, and National Champion.
BC: Oy. I think the team out of the Big Ten will be Wisconsin since Penn State doesn't really have the consistent passing game to exploit the Badgers' weakness in the secondary. The title game will be Texas versus Virginia Tech after USC loses to Fresno State (BOLD!). Young wins the Heisman after the USC loss, but Va Tech wins the battle of mirror images in the Rose Bowl.

Can't have everything, guys. Good to see you holding up your end of the Rose Bowl rematch bargain.

ATL: Thanks for chatting with us, Brian.


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