Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bye Weeks Are For Us Too

The other day, a buddy of mine interrupted me at the bar during one of several Michigan-related thoughts I was rambling about when he was clearly trying to watch the World Series. He laughed and pointed out that I kept referring to Michigan as "we": "Don't you mean 'they'?", he corrected, "You're not on the field". I didn't realize I was interchanging my pronouns when discussing Michigan. It just felt so natural to include me as part of the team. "No, I don't", I responded as I continued to talk about the need for Blake Countess to emerge as our #2 corner in order for us to succeed during the 2nd half of the season. My friend went back to ignoring me. He didn't care. I didn't care that he didn't care so I finished my thought. Sometimes I wonder how I have (non-Michigan) friends.

I haven't been posting much and part of that was intentional because of the bye. When you watch enough Michigan football--and I know those who read this blog do--you sometimes need to get away from it all. Week after week, most of us rewatch games 2-3 times, read up on analysis, dissect plays, scour the message boards and scout the next opponent. The days and weeks fly by and before you know it, Friday Previews are up and you are gearing yourself up to do it all over again. Times moves in weird ways during college football season. As a fan, you feel there aren't enough days in the week to mentally prepare for the next game. Imagine what it's actually like for the players or coaches.
Fans need to rest too. Mike brought up the point to me the other day that this year's bye was particularly weird because of how much energy was invested in last year's bye before Penn State--the turning point for whoever was still left on the Rodriguez boat. Fans wanted that game so badly. It was a make or break moment: win that game and a load comes off Rodriguez's, and the program's, shoulders. With so many comparisons and arguments on why this year is not years' past, this bye week proved to be another unsettling time. Purdue's unexpected win over Illinois certainly perked our ears up enough to remind us that this is still the Big Ten. We are part of the middle-meddling mush. And our season can just as easily slip into a Rodriguez-like 1-4 finish as it can shoot up to a Hokemania-like 4-1. Who knew @Iowa, outside of November 26th, could define our season?

So are byes actually helpful? Logic tells us the extra rest and preparation time should theoretically give players and coaches coming off a bye week an added advantage. Yet the stats tell us otherwise; bye weeks seem to hurt teams more than they help: "From 2002-2010, Big Ten teams are a combined 17-32 when coming off of a bye.  This is good for a 0.35 win pct." Last week's loss against State doesn't make us feel any better but the statistic remains true. Do teams intentionally schedule tough opponents after a bye that ultimately skews the statistic? Perhaps. LSU and Alabama both have byes this week before their showdown on November 5th. I bet Saban and Miles welcome the extra time.

But what about us? In our minds, the bye is an opportunity for us to take a break too, whether it be actually paying attention to a fall wedding, shopping for winter clothes you had ignored all season, or--as last year's epic Bye week preview, "WifeDay 2010" by Six Zero pointed out--spending time with your significant other/wife. But does it throw us into a funk? Are we more or less prepared to handle the rest of the season? We, just like players and coaches, are creatures of habit. And whether the extra time is actually helpful or not, I wonder if we are better or worse fans after a bye?

Part of the reason I think Penn State was such a turning point last year was because the bye amplified the meaning of the game in fans' minds, not necessarily the team's. Ask any fan sulking on their walk back from a Halloween party that night and their first gripe was probably about the inability for Rodriguez and his staff to properly prepare for the Lions with an extra week. Forget that it was on the road and Rodriguez's teams never responded to pressure. The added pressure also came from fans; losing the game after a bye is just as demoralizing for us as it is for the team. We were fully rested for that game too.
This year, if I had to pick any scenario of the last 5 opponents for our post-bye week game, it'd be Purdue at home. It gives the team, and us, the best chance to win convincingly and wipe the bitter taste of State from our mouths, re-right the ship heading into back-to-back road games against Iowa and Illinois. The bye week was good for me. I did stuff. Like Other stuff. But now I am refocused on Michigan Football and finishing this season strong. Excuse me. We are refocused on Michigan Football and finishing this season strong. Go Blue.

No comments:

Post a Comment