Saturday, October 11, 2008

Holy Toledo

Holy Toledo! That’s what I exclaimed 3½ decades ago when the Toledo Rockets played Michigan in basketball at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor. The University of Toledo’s mascot, a rocket, was a six foot tall phallic symbol. Seeing was believing, or disbelieving as the case may be.

Why Toledo “Rockets”? It doesn’t make sense. Logical alternatives could include the Toledo Jeepsters, Toledo Glass, Toledo Scales, Toledo Fallen Timbers, Toledo Blades, Toledo Tippiecanoes, Toledo Danas, or even the Toledo Strip. The Toledo Mud Hens have a nice ring, but that name’s taken. Thank God the Rocket did not strip.

Perhaps Toledo’s problem is one of identity crisis. It still, after almost two centuries, hasn’t figured out if it’s part of Michigan or Ohio. It roots for both the Buckeyes and Wolverines. That’s weird.

The University of Michigan and University of Toledo are 45 miles apart, but no matter how many times the mighty Wolverines have beaten up on Mid American Conference teams, Saturday marks the first football game between the two schools. Michigan does not lose to MAC teams, but then again it doesn’t lose to Appalachian State.

The 2-3 Wolverines are 17 point favorites over the 1-4 Rockets. The Rockets lost 31-0 last week to Ball Street, but only two weeks earlier showed an explosive offense in a double overtime 55-54 loss to Fresno State. Even Toledo doesn’t know which team will show up. But neither does Michigan.

The Wolverines, of course, showed both offensive and defensive promise in the first quarter last week against Illinois, and then reverted to earlier season form. Eight fumbles and interceptions against Notre Dame, 5 against Wisconsin, and another 5 last week is normally a recipe for disaster, as it was against the Illini. The much improved and quicker defense still seemed a step slow against a mobile QB. The offensive line looked better, but the phenon running back, Sam McGuffie, couldn’t get untracked, and the freshman receiver of the future, Martavious Odom, who reaped 129 yards on receptions and 183 on kickoff returns, may not play on Saturday or may play injured with shoulder problems.

A win and 3-3 record would be great, and a morale boost going into next week’s game at Penn State.

Even with new injuries, Michigan should win tomorrow, but don’t bet either the Big House or point spread on it.

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