Friday, August 29, 2008

Know Your Foe - Utah

Since one of my favorite Michigan football-centric sites, The MZone, closed its doors a couple months back, I thought I would steal borrow one of my favorite features of theirs - Know Your Foe. I don't expect this to be as good and exhaustive as Benny's on the MZone were, but it's my first one. Consider this as an homage to Benny, Yost, and the MZone. What are they gonna do - sue me?* Cheers, fellas.

*Note: Please don't sue me.

As everyone who's reading this is probably aware, this is the first game of the Rich Rodriguez era ("It's a New Dawn!"). The only time Michigan and Utah squared off was in 2002, the year before Urban Meyer took over at Utah and introduced the spread (he was at Bowling Green that year). The game was a thrilling 10-7 snoozefest in the heat of September. I was at the game, but I don't remember all that much about it. Looking at the recap of the game, it was indeed ugly. Phil Brabbs missed a couple FGs (including a 27-yarder), Chris Perry ran for 91 yards, and the defense only allowed 20 yards rushing. This season, Utah is expected to challenge BYU for supremacy in the Mountain West conference, and this week's game should be an entertaining contest, if only for the fact that both teams like to utilize the spread offense. This should be a welcome relief from last year's grueling opener.

Pretty boring logo

The University of Utah was founded in 1850 by none other than Brigham Young and it was originally called University of Deseret. It closed two years later for financial reasons and reopened in 1867. It was renamed University of Utah in 1894. The current enrollment is listed at 22,661 undergrads (for reference, Michigan's undergrad enrollment is 26,083).

Salt Lake City, Utah. Portions of the present campus are located on the grounds formerly belonging to the US Army's Fort Douglas, which was closed in 1991. The first permanent settlers in the Salt Lake Valley were Mormons, led by Brigham Young (unsurprisingly, his name is all over the state's history). In 2002, the University was home to the Olympic Village, and hosted the opening and closing ceremonies and several Olympic events.

"The Utes," named after the Ute tribe of Native Americans. The basketball team is known as the "Runnin' Utes," a reference to the time when Brigham Young ran all of the Native Americans off of "his" land so he could build his big church in the Salt Lake Valley. "Look, them Utes is runnin' now!" For some reason, the women' gymnastics team is known as the "Red Rocks." Insert your own joke, because I can't manage to come up with one.

The Utes colors are a very popular combination - Red and White. In fact, three of Michigan's first four opponents this year wear these colors as well. The logo is a capital "U" with a couple indian feathers hanging off the back.

According to US News and World Reports, Utah ranks a mediocre 127th, on par with the likes of Arkansas, Colorado State, Michigan Tech, and SUNY-Buffalo (as a reference, Michigan ranks 26th). They're right at the bottom of the "tier 1" rankings. Their medical school is known as one of the finest in the region (yay). However, in 1989, then-chair of the chemistry department, Stanley Pons, claimed to have discovered a chemical process known as "cold fusion," which has since been discredited by the scientific community (boo).

Current head football coach Kyle Whittingham has coached the Utes to three straight bowl victories, and the school is currently on a seven game bowl winning streak overall, dating back to 1999. The basketball team has traditionally been pretty successful, last making the final four in 1998, when they lost in the finals to Kentucky (a game that I watched in a sports bar in Trinidad). The women's gymnastics program is consistently successful, with ten national championships since 1981, as well as seven second place finishes in the same time period (including the last three in a row).

Famous Alums
As you might expect, the list of alumni from the University of Utah includes numerous former Presidents of The Mormon Church. In addition, Robert Jarvik, the inventor of the artificial heart, is a former Ute; as is Wilbert Gore, the inventor of Gore-tex fabric. The list of "celebrities" from the University of Utah is woefully lacking, unless you count Ted Bundy, who attended law school there before he was arrested for killing and raping a large number of women (estimates range from 26-57), and former Bush aide Karl Rove, who attended Utah but did not graduate. In fact, he does not have a college degree, which is probably why GWB kept him around for so long - to make himself feel smarter ("Hey Rove, where'd you get your degree again? Oh, I forgot - you don't have one. Heh heh. I went to Yale."). Numerous sports stars are former Utes, including two former number one overall draft picks in their respective sports - QB Alex Smith, and forward Andrew Bogut.

The Game
I wish I could offer some sort of insight as to what's gonna happen here, but just like everyone else, I have no clue. I'll make a stab at it anyway. Michigan's defense plays stout, holding the usually efficient Utah offense under 300 yards, and forcing a couple key turnovers. Michigan's offense sputters at first, but bolstered by a strong running game, manages to take advantage of the Utah turnovers to put three TDs on the board. It will be a close game until the fourth quarter, when the Wolverines will add a late TD to seal the victory. Michigan 24, Utah 13. The Rich Rodriguez era begins with a solid, but unspectacular victory. Huzzah. (Take that, Candyman!)

Go Blue!


Brakeman said...

My personal T-shirt design for the 2008 season:

spread M

Assman said...

I would love to see the possibilities for the graphics on that T-shirt, Brakeman. Make up a couple dozen and sell 'em on gameday.