The Wolverine

October 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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16 THE WOLVERINE OCTOBER 2016   INSIDE MICHIGAN ATHLETICS Jon Jansen knows who would have won a Michigan-Nebraska showdown in 1997, he reiterated recently. He's even willing to back it up today. The captain of Michigan's '97 national championship squad shrugged it off when Scott Frost came to town as head coach of the University of Central Florida during the second week of the football season. Frost quarterbacked the Corn- huskers crew that garnered the coaches' vote for the national title, while the Wol- verines earned the Associated Press nod. Jansen waved off that connection, pointing out it had no bearing on the game, won by Michigan, 51-14 (even though Frost insisted afterward that his was the tougher team). But Jansen — a member of Michigan's radio broadcast team — still has plenty to say about Mich- igan-Nebraska, circa 1997. "I do think about that '97 Nebraska team and that '97 Michigan team," he stressed. "I play that game and that matchup in my mind all the time. "If those guys are willing, I know I could make a couple of phone calls and get 95 percent of the '97 Michigan Wolverines back to play a game. I'd throw that out there for them and say, 'Hey, you want a matchup? We want to solve this debate over the last 20 years. Let's solve it on the field.'" Advised Michigan could probably sell out The Big House for even a flag foot- ball version of the '97 game that never happened, Jansen recoiled. He sounded like a Wolverine asked to present a na- tional championship trophy at former Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne's re- tirement party. "Hey!" Jansen challenged. "We don't play flag football in Michigan Stadium! I'm ready to put my pads on. I've stayed in shape, just for the off chance that I get to play football one more time. If it's in The Big House, I'm ready to go." With or without the on-field showdown some two decades later, Jansen isn't shy about making the case for Michigan as the superior program that season. "Michigan was the better team because we didn't win any games by tipped balls in the end zone," Jansen said, referenc- ing a miracle play involving a deflected pass off a Nebraska receiver's foot into the hands of a teammate in the final seconds, saving the Cornhuskers from certain de- feat against Missouri. "Yeah, we were down against Iowa, but we came back and we beat them because we played good football. "When we went out to our bowl game, we played against Ryan Leaf and the Washington State Cougars, we played good football. We had a Heisman Trophy winner on our team. We had players of the year. We had coaches of the year. We had all the intangibles that make for a great team and a national champion." It's a little late, but Jansen assures he's still willing to play for the whole enchilada. The second game of the year against UCF, coached by former Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost, got 1997 team captain Jon Jansen (above) thinking about strapping on the pads one last time to decide the national title the Wolverines and Cornhuskers split. PHOTO COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN Jon Jansen Insists He'd Still Square Off Against Nebraska POINT ❙ COUNTERPOINT IS MICHIGAN REALLY THAT GOOD OR ARE THEIR OPPONENTS REALLY BAD? Michigan went 3-0 while outscoring its opponents 159-45 during the non-conference portion of its schedule en route to a No. 4 ranking in the Associated Press poll. Everything is going to plan, but is it because Michigan is really good or because the opponents have been really bad? Michigan Is Right On Schedule By Chris Balas No, a slate of Hawai'i, UCF and Colorado isn't the toughest non-conference schedule in the country, but U-M has taken care of business about as well as any school na- tionally. Colorado, in particular, will win plenty of games with its veteran team — its skill positions are as good as most in the Pac-12 — and let's not forget, the Wolver- ines have been shorthanded on defense due to injury. The problem U-M has is always being compared to the best teams in the country — not that it's unfair when you're trying to make the four-team national playoff. But Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and others have struggled with lesser teams this year more than the Wolverines have, and Michigan will be clicking on all cylin- ders when Taco Charlton, Bryan Mone and Jourdan Lewis return on defense. U-M Looks Solid, But The Opponents Definitely Aren't By Brandon Brown I don't think there's any question that Hawai'i with new head coach Nick Rolovich, UCF with new head coach Scott Frost and Colorado with fourth-year head coach Mike Ma- cIntyre are better teams than they were last year, but let's not forget that Colorado was 4-9, Hawai'i finished 3-10 and UCF went winless at 0-12 in 2015. The guys running the show might have things headed in a better direction in 2016, but these are bad teams without much high-level talent. Michigan got burned on long scoring plays by both UCF and Colo- rado, and couldn't run the ball against the Knights. Granted, Frost and his staff sold out against the run, but I remember a time when it would've been laughable for UCF to even try to keep U-M from running the ball. Jim Harbaugh is certainly going to win — and win big — at Michigan, but the success so far this year is more a product of lackluster opponents than it is Michi- gan being a dominant force. JOURDAN LEWIS

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