December 18, 2013

Borton's Blog: Say what?

Bill Snyder isn't on his first rodeo, and won't experience his first heat wave when his Kansas State team heads to Tempe to take on Michigan. He's showing his savvy in the days leading up to the showdown.

Snyder has taken a page out of Lou Holtz's pre-game proclamation script, and has the Wolverines somewhere around the 1997 version of the storied program's offerings, rather than a 7-5 team playing in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Mark Twain once said there are "Lies, damned lies and statistics."

He forgot to go one extra step: press conferences.

So, here's a little Snyder/Reality back and forth, as the days roll on to the Tatanka WW Bowl.

Snyder: "I was at Iowa for 10 years and when Bo Schembechler was at Michigan, we played them every single year and I know what that is like. They are a very physical football team. They are a team that will beat you with fundamentals and execution and toughness."

Reality: It's not the 1980s. Although Michigan is moving back towards being able to beat people with "fundamentals and execution and toughness" its own offensive coordinator noted how the Wolverines didn't execute for 80 percent of November, right up until they hit Ohio State. It's a nice goal and an easy reach in a presser, but if Snyder looks around, he's not at Hayden Fry's side, either.

Snyder: "From an offensive standpoint, there are some people that will tell you that they have the best offensive line in the Big Ten Conference."

Reality: Nobody would tell you that. Snyder wouldn't tell you that, unless he was about to play against them. Offensive lines don't allow 35 quarterback sacks and have two straight games with negative yards rushing if they're the best in any league.

Wild Bill knows better. But he has to fill the notepads.

Snyder: [Jeremy Gallon] is everything that they indicate that he is. He runs, he catches it, he's got 80-some catches, and he is not just a speed guy - he is a speed guy that has finesse and movement about him.

"The other wide receiver/tight end is, according to a ranking company, ranked the 17th-best underclassmen player in the country, and that is not hard to see. He is a 6-foot-4 guy and they can put him out wide and lay the ball up to him. He matches up pretty good with most of the defensive backs that he has faced."

Reality: Well, if he kept going, he was going to get one right. Right?

Snyder: "I think that you see a team like Michigan teams of old - very physical up front. Tough guys that can run, a lot of movement up front, a lot of slants, a lot of blitzes and stunts, but they are engrossed in being fundamentally sound as well. They play hard and they play physical up front. They run well.

"The back end is basically the same thing - fundamentally sound. They don't try to do more than what their guys are capable of, and they fit in and understand the system very, very well. Their defense forces turnovers. I think they have 17 or 18 interceptions on the year, and that is a good number."

Reality: Well, except for the 393 yards surrendered to Ohio State on the ground, the crucial big plays given up at Penn State, and a number of other key breakdowns at crucial times.

He's right about the 17 interceptions. But the Wolverines aren't where they want to be defensively, and Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison would be the first duo to acknowledge it.

Of course, it works both ways. Michigan coaches are busy extolling a Kansas State crew that lost to North Dakota State, then went 0-for-4 against the big boys on the slate: Texas (31-21), Oklahoma State (33-29), Baylor (35-25) and Oklahoma (41-31).

The fact that they kept some of those as close as they did is certainly worth noting. At the same time, a Michigan crew that came one play away from beating Ohio State shouldn't be overly awed by those results.

Then again, if Devin Gardner isn't available for that game, Michigan is NOT the same team that scared the tattoos off the Buckeyes. Or even close.

So, reality always insists that talk is cheap. Leading up to this particular bowl game, it's downright bargain basement.

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