Rantings of an avowed Michigan homer.

Is it the pants?

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I was doing some thinking the other day, and it occurred to me that as far as the current state of Michigan football goes, there's a couple things that jump out at me as slightly unnerving, and are as follows:
1. Inability to win the rivalry game.
2. Shaky play on the road.
3. Total loss of consistency when the team bus/plane leaves the Eastern time zone.

Which brings me to an odd observation: Could it be the pants? Stay with me here for a minute.

While watching some vintage game footage this week, I was reminded of a rather odd abnormality during the 1974 and 1975 seasons: On the road, Michigan wore white pants. Now, the only reason I bring this up is because these teams were able to do several things current Michigan squads can’t seem to pull off. Let’s look at the game-by-game results from those seasons:

Iowa W 24-7
Colorado W 31-0
Navy W 52-0
@ Stanford W 27-16
Michigan State W 21-7
@ Wisconsin W 24-20
Minnesota W 49-0
@ Indiana W 21-7
@ Illinois W 14-6
Purdue W 51-0
@ Ohio State L 12-10

10-1 (7-1) Big Ten Co-Champions (Ohio State goes to Rose Bowl, UM stays home)

@ Wisconsin W 23-6
Stanford T 19-19
Baylor T 14-14
Missouri W 31-7
@ Michigan State W 16-6
Northwestern W 69-0
Indiana W 55-7
@ Minnesota W 28-21
Purdue W 28-0
@ Illinois W 21-15
Ohio State L 21-14
Oklahoma (Orange Bowl) L 14-6

8-2-2 (7-1) Big 10 2nd place

Now, the first thing that jumps out at you about these two season results is the 0-2 mark against Ohio State. That really doesn’t concern me, as I’m willing to give Michigan the “greatest of all time” pass, as Archie Griffin lined up in the backfield in both games on his way to back-to-back Heisman Trophies. I’m also willing to overlook the Orange Bowl loss by token of the 2004 Rose Bowl pass. Same idea- Freshman quarterback (Rick Leach) starting against team on their way to a National Championship. Also, with the change of the Big 10 bowl rules after the 1974 season, the first Michigan team to play in a bowl other than the Rose Bowl.

But let’s look at the rest of the stats:

18-3-2 (14-2) overall record (.782)
8-1 on the road in the white pants (.888)
4-2 in rivalry games (2-0 against MSU and Minnesota, 0-2 against OSU)
A win against Stanford IN Palo Alto. That’s on the west coat.
0-1 in bowl games.

Let’s look at Michigan’s record in this same general category of stats since 2000, adding Notre Dame into the mix of rivalry games (the series with ND having not been resumed until the 1978 season):

53-21 (37-11) overall record (.716)
17-12 on the road (.586)
12-9 in rivalry games
0-5 on the west coast (UCLA, Oregon, Washington, 2 Rose Bowls)
2-4 in bowl games.

So, what am I proposing here? Was it the pants? 8-1 on the road sounds really nice, actually. As does a win on the west coast. Let’s face it- last time we won out there was (dusts off history books)… January 1, 1998. And, no, I’m not counting the ’98 Cupcake Bikini Bowl against Hawaii into the equation. Additionally, there's that little indisputable fact that Michigan has gone 0-for-the-Holy Trinity in South Bend since Remy Hamilton's game-winner on September 10, 1994. Does the psychological edge of the goofy white road pants give Michigan the edge? I’m not sure. I’m thinking out loud here.

Basically, I’m at the point where I’m looking for any intangible oddity to give us a shot on the road. Just imagine rolling into South Bend on September 16. The Domers are donning the green jerseys, Michigan is donning the all-white Purity Pants. Honestly, I like our odds in that kind of a matchup. I mean, it’s either that, or figure out a way to re-enroll Remy Hamilton and Todd Collins for one last hurrah of eligibility… On that note, what’s Rick Leach or Dennis Franklin doing these days? Think either can still run the option?

One last tidbit of evidence. Pictured in this post are two Michigan running backs who sported the #5. Gordon Bell, 1973-5, and David Underwood, 2002-4. Career stats for Bell? 2902 rushing yards, 53 touchdowns. Underwood? 612 yards, 6 touchdowns. It's gotta be the pants.

Long live the pointless intangible.

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