Proponents of college football's bowl system love to point to the fact that the current system means every regular season game matters. Their theory is basically that one loss can derail a season and wreck national title hopes. So sorry, UConn fans, I don't think UConn is winning it all this year. Of course, the flip-side of that theory is that it really only applies to the top 10 or so teams in the country and UConn, as yesterday made painfully clear, is not one of those teams. As such, in the long run, yesterday's game is little more than a three-hour disappointment. The good news is that the Huskies are still 0-0 in the Big East and still have a few weeks to tune-up for a run to the Big East title.
So with that in mind, let's take a look at some of the good and the bad things that came out of yesterday.
The good: UConn will never have to play against Denard Robinson again, and thank God for that. A few weeks ago I drew the ire of Michigan fans by saying I felt the Huskies had more talent than the Wolverines. Clearly, I was wrong. After yesterday, I'd say that on-balance, for every position but quarterback, the teams are pretty equal, maybe with Michigan grabbing a slight edge. But holy hell what a difference that quarterback makes. Video I had seen of Robinson didn't even come close to doing justice to the monster that he was yesterday. I don't care if UConn always struggles against mobile QBs, Robinson is something special.
The bad: UConn still struggles terribly against mobile quarterbacks. It has been a problem without an answer for years, and I hoped with an offseason to prepare for Rich Rodriguez's system, Randy Edsall might have been able to find some sort of answer, but this is looking like a permanent flaw in UConn's system. Honorable mention for the bad: The fact that Devin Gardner exists and will be Michigan's senior quarterback when they visit East Hartford in 2013.
The good: Zach Frazer didn't throw a single interception. The Huskies are a much better team when Frazer isn't making mistakes. Last year he threw 10 picks, but only two in the last five games (which included a two-point loss to conference champ Cincinnati and a four-game winning streak). If he keeps playing mistake-free football, that will bode well for the Huskies. Of course....
The bad: Zach Frazer didn't throw a single touchdown pass. He also completed less than half of his passes. A lot of the blame for that should be shared by the thoroughly underwhelming receiving corps, but either way it's not a good sign. It's great that Frazer is limiting turnovers, but this isn't 2008 and he isn't Tyler Lorenzen. Both Frazer and UConn need to do better.
The good: The linebackers. In a lot of ways, this should be more of an incomplete, especially with the Lutrus situation, but it was nice to see Greg Lloyd back on the field yesterday. I still have high hopes for this group and I'm not going to hold the fact that Edsall's gameplan never stops running qbs against them too much.
The bad: The secondary and defensive line. Say it with me now, 19 for 22. That's Denard Robinson's completions/attempts from yesterday, and that is not a good sign. Add that to the fact that the defensive line couldn't seem to buy a break and you get a recipe for disaster. I'm going to be a blind homer here and say that UConn was cheating so much against Robinson's running that he was able to find some easy weaknesses. Still, guarding against opposing passing games is by far the Huskies biggest weak point and after yesterday I'm very worried. (Important meta-note here, this was Meacham's response to the phrase "buy a break:" "'Buy a break' implies that they were not tossed around rather easily by gentlemen 100 pounds heavier and stronger." He has a good point.)
The good: The offensive line. Frazer had plenty of time and the backs had room to run. These guys did a good job yesterday and deserve a lot of credit for their work. As much as anything, they kept UConn in the game.
The bad: D.J. Shoemate's 4th-down fumble. Hilariously crippling misfortune at the worst possible time is so last year D.J., get with the program. Other than that, the running game looked solid and, fumble aside I think Shoemate is going to be a great addition to the team, I'm looking forward to watching the three-headed hydra of him, Frey and Todman for the rest of the year.
The good: Michigan fans and Michigan Stadium. I can't say enough good things about the Michigan fans I met in Ann Arbor yesterday. They were a fantastic, friendly and knowledgeable bunch that created an incredibly welcoming and fun atmosphere. Inside the stadium I think the contingent of Husky fans acquitted themselves nicely, but they were completely overwhelmed by the size and passion of the Wolverine crowd. A fantastic experience all around.
The bad: The first quarter. I'm always unsure of how much (if any) credit should be given to a team based on atmosphere, but the Michigan Stadium crowd did a great job pumping up their team and drowning out the Huskies early on. UConn deserves credit for fighting back, and I think the last 40-minutes or so were relatively evenly matched, but the opening wallop the Wolverines delivered was too much to overcome.
The bad: Sorry to break the format here, but I wanted to end on a good note, and the special teams didn't have a neat partner to match up with, but it needs to be mentioned. Special teams problems seem to have haunted UConn almost as much as running qbs in the past few years and yesterday was no different as Michigan blocked Dave Teggart's first field goal attempt yesterday. UConn lost five games last year by a total of 15 points, and if they want to have a chance at winning the conference this year, that means those close losses will need to break the other way. Special teams problems aren't going to help.
The good: The upcoming schedule. UConn's matchup with Texas Southern is a mere six days away, which means the Huskies should soon be able to move past yesterday's loss. Plus, as bad as the Huskies looked at times, they weren't alone as both Pitt and Cincy turned in underwhelming performances and no one else in the Big East played an out-of-conference game of note. If anyone deserves credit for carrying the banner for the conference, it's Syracuse, who blew out Akron, so you know the Big East sucks.