Well, we’ve seen more inspiring efforts but I get that fans are testy.  The stakes have been raised and along with it the expectations.

As far as the quarterback situation, here’s the deal.  If I were heading on vacation I wouldn’t trust Coach Harbaugh to water my plants and feed my goldfish.  They’d all die.  But I do trust him to handle the quarterback position.   Even if you forget about his track record everywhere else, he’s earned your trust with what he did with Jake Rudock – remember that?  So chill, go feed your pet and let Harbaugh handle the QB.

More importantly it was gorgeous out there Saturday, and here are a few sights and sounds:

Jalen & Jansen:  These guys might make a decent local radio show, no?

 

The Fab Fiver and #77 were honored for their recent induction into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.  Jalen’s teammate Jimmy King was also on prem supporting his man JR5.  BTW – if they have a creepy-looking-mannequin Hall of Fame but here’s my nomination:

Decals.  Dr. Sap killed it with his helmet stickers this week.

Levert Reverts Back – Here is Caris repping AC with Coach Beilein:

 

Drink each time you hear “Red Zone”   Ahh yes, we’ll be hearing that a lot this week.  Thankfully David Brandon’s plan to sell the rights and rebrand it “The Autozone Red Zone!” fell flat.   Thankfully Quinn Nordin’s leg did not.

On Duty.  AG Bill Schuette is running for governor and was hanging out and talking shop with a few D-list celebs on the sideline before the game.

Flannel guy has a water bottle jammed in his left pocket but he’s also happy to see you.

Saline Car Wash is hiring:  I spotted a stadium sideline usher asking Mrs. Jim Harbaugh for her credential.  I’m not exactly sure what was said but methinks he quickly recognized his mistake and moved on to harassing helping photographers.

EVERITT RULES!  What, this guy doesn’t rule?  He’s asking for your help…

He’s a Key West guy, and Irma left the area in a shambles.  We don’t even know the extent yet.  Here’s his GoFundMe page, he’s gathering money for gift cards for the locals.  I’m in – you should too.

Permission to Buzz the Tower(s)  – We’ve had our share of pregame fly-overs but don’t they take on special meaning when we’re playing Air Force?

Dropping in  – Based on what happened at the BYU game it appears we had the “A” team out there Saturday:

Band, take the field – The band stepping into formation from different perspective than you’ve seen, just perhaps?  Again, this was the 45 year anniversary of the MMB being gender-integrated:

Men, take the field – I love the James Earl Jones hype video that precedes this:

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Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis is a Schembechler-era savant and once again this season he’ll be diligently handing out his postgame helmet stickers after each game. Sap has pored over hours and hours of U-M games over several decades, and in these posts he’s able to tie the present to the past.  I encourage you to subscribe to Dr. Sap on YouTube, or follow Sap on Twitter or catch Steve rolling around town in the Sap-mobile:

OFFENSIVE CHAMPION:  Nothing notable here, but don’t panic, see COACHING CHAMPIONS below..

DEFENSIVE CHAMPION: Chase Winovich seemed to be all over the field on Saturday, especially the Air Force backfield. His intensity and energy seemed to drive him and the rest of the defense to keep pressuring the Fighting Falcons offense all game. While Gary, Hurst and Bush got all the pre-season hype, Winovich’s play is starting to command some attention of his own. Gonna need him to keep it up and do the same come November.

SPECIAL TEAMS CHAMPION:  I’m going with Quinn Nordin and Donovan Peoples-Jones, for obvious, and different reasons. First of all, when you kick 5 of 5 field goals and tie a school record for most 3-pointers in a game, you deserve a helmet sticker!
Ok – now for DPJ. Amazing how much more comfortable he looked back there against Air Force this week. Part of it was getting past the first-home-game-in-front-of-your-hometown-friends-and-family-jitters out of the way. As a player, sometimes you want to do so well and so much that you end up what is called “playing outside yourself” and not just letting the game come to you. That’s nerves, that’s excitement, but that’s also coachable. Which gets to my next point about coaching.

A couple of years ago, Lloyd Carr shared with me what he was hit with during his first year as a young Michigan football position coach in 1980. The year before, in 1979, Michigan was the absolute WORST team in the country when it came to Special Teams execution. The Wolverines fumbled trying to receive punts, missed field goals galore, and even had some punts blocked. It was not good. How did Bo handle it? With an enthusiasm unknown to Lloyd Carr. Because Bo felt the special teams were not coached as well as they should have been in 1979, he assigned every coach a position on the 1980 special teams. Much like anything in life, business or sports, if you focus on something and monitor whatever you are concerned about, you will more than likely improve performance. So what happened in 1980? Michigan led the country in several Special Teams categories. The same thing happened this week. Jim Harbaugh obviously put more focus and attention to Special Teams and it showed on Saturday – specifically the punt return team. The talent is there, and now it seems the coaching and focus is as well.

COACHING CHAMPION:  I’m going to talk you all off the ledge and go with the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach, Jim Harbaugh. Am I concerned that the offense has struggled to put up points and score touchdowns once again this season? No. Here‘s why: generally and historically speaking, teams typically have their defenses more developed and ready to go at the start of the season when compared to the offense. Why? I think the answer is twofold:

(1) Defensive play is typically more emotionally based, while the offense has more of a cerebral look and feel to it. Not saying that there is less strategy involved and employed on the defensive side of the ball, it’s just that defenses can hit the ground running a little sooner than the offenses do. Maybe it’s a timing thing with offensive pass routes and blocking. Maybe not.

(2) I can remember Bo and even Lloyd talk about how much of the offense was still needing to be “installed” as the season progressed. I used to hate hearing that, by the way, but I do understand that performance and victories are based and founded on execution. Plays don’t get called by the coaches and/or get successfully executed in games until they are perfected in practice. All you had to do was look at the Cincinnati offense last week and all the passes their QB missed on.

Don’t panic. It is a common coaching strategy to not reveal all your cards so early in the season – especially against teams that you have a schematic and talent advantage over.   Do you really think the Michigan offense used all the plays in their playbook against Air Force? I don’t. Remember how that-sweatervest-coached-team-from-down-south won a national championship when it seemed like they were just barely beating their opponents each week? Remember how awful Connor Cook and the MSU offense looked at the beginning of the 2013 season? Remember how they won the B1G Title that year?

The offense is gonna be just fine – trust me.

UNIFORM CHAMPION:  The lack of white and nothing but maize and blue on the home uniforms is starting to grow on me. I’ll be the first one to tell you that I loved the white socks and white wrist bands the players wore back in the day. That was a cool look back then, but as they say, “That was then and this is now.” Now, the look is ALL maize and blue from head to toe and I gotta admit, the Jordan Brand has nailed the home uniforms – they look solid!\

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Week by Week Champions (O = Offense, D = Defense, T = Special Teams, C = Coaching, U = Uniform, E = Editor’s pick)
Week 1 vs. Florida:  Ty Issac (O), Devin Bush (D), Quinn Nordin (T), Don Brown, Greg Mattison (C), all-maize unis (U), Camaron Cheeseman (E)
Week 2 vs. Cincinnati:  Ty Issac (O), Tyree Kinnel (D), Grant Perry (T), Greg Mattison (C), refined helmet decals (U).
Week 3 vs. Air Force:  N/A (O), Chase Winovich (D), Quinn Nordin & Donovan Peoples-Jones (T), Jim Harbaugh (C), full on maize and blue uniforms (U)
Week 4 vs. Purdue: 

UGPtop[3]

[A repost on the anniversary of ‘The Catch’.  A thanks once again to Coach Moeller for sitting down and doing this with us.]

I mentioned earlier this week that Ira and I recently sat with Coach Moeller, who will be honored Saturday at Michigan Stadium, in studio at WTKA.  This was my favorite part and it’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.  We methodically mo catchstepped through the headset audio from The Catch (recall that the athletic department released it last year in the UTL ND game program).

As a bonus – I’ve included a second clip of the man on the other side of the field.  Writer John Kryk interviewed Lou Holtz for his book Natural Enemies, the definitive tome on the U-M-ND rivalry, and he was kind enough to share this clip from his archives.  It’s Holtz discussing the defensive play call and their strategy.   It’s a little scratchy but I sent it over to Ira who cleaned it up a bit.

The Moeller clip is over 17 minutes long so give it a chance to load up and we cover just about everything that is said on the recording and more.  Holtz is just over a minute (that’s Kryk asking the questions).

A crude diagram:
The Catch options
What you can’t see is the Irish safety, who is back and over on the left side of the defense (toward Desmond) but immediately goes to double cover Howard when the ball is snapped.

Listening to the clips basically you learn that Notre Dame called the right defense to stop this, and more importantly, they successfully disguised the formation enough to get Grbac to believe ND would leave just a single defender on Desmond Howard (I love how Coach Lou calls him his full name) and thus call the pass.   If Elvis knew ND intended to swing the safety over to put double coverage on Howard, he would have checked to the 29 toss to Ricky Powers (or possibly the Caesar off tackle) to move the chains.   As Holtz said, they basically conceded the first down if Michigan ran the pigskin and you can see on the clip they would have struggled stopping the toss.

One thing I think Holtz denies or didn’t recall (or he’s just stubborn)—on the replay (see the endzone view later in the clip below) it does look like the Grbac pump does made the safety take a step in before adjusting and heading to the end zone to try to break up the play.  That change may have provided Desmond just enough of a window to make the play.

Either way, the bottom line here the Irish were in the right coverage but the execution of the pass and catch trumped the Notre Dame defense.

Video clip:

A big thanks to Ira for running the 1s and 2s, to Kryk for the Holtz clip and of course to Coach Moeller for walking through this with us.   Also thanks to pink shorts guy in the end zone:

pink shorts guy

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Could Bo reload?   That was the question before the 1972 season after losing 4 All-Americans.  I’ll give you the answer now: Damn right Bo could reload!

But there were a few nervous folks in these parts as we kicked off Bo’s fourth season at the helm.  Adding to the anxiety was the prospect of opening the season with a conference game, as the Northwestern Wildcats strolled into town.  A few notes:

  • I’m not sure how the passing of Harry Kipke was treated in Ann Arbor.  He won a national championship as a player and coach (twice), but his coaching regime ended in a shambles amidst scandal in the late 1930s, opening the door for Fritz Crisler.  That’s why his name is on a service drive in the Michigan Stadium parking lot.
  • Speaking of the reception, I wonder if Michigan fans in 1972 had any emotions about having a black quarterback take the reins – did anyone care?   I was too young, but I remember the buzz around guys like the Redskins’ Doug Williams and all that.
  • And speaking of breaking barriers, this game marked the first gender-integrated Michigan Marching Band.  I did not know that there were no female musicians marching back in the day.  Check out James Tobin’s fine piece in Michigan Today for more on this milestone.

Here’s the clip:

TWIMFbH is sponsored by Hillside Terrace of Ann Arbor, so go live there.  This segment can be heard on the Keybank Countdown to Kickoff inside the Go Labatt Blue Victors Lounge starting at 8am on Saturday.  You can listen live on 1050AM in Ann Arbor & on wtka.com around the world.

You can hear the archive of This Week in Michigan Football History clips here.    If you have suggestions for future games hit me on Twitter @MVictors.  Go Blue!

/script …after the jump

More »

Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis is a Schembechler-era savant and once again this season he’ll be diligently handing out his postgame helmet stickers after each game. Sap has pored over hours and hours of U-M games over several decades, and in these posts he’s able to tie the present to the past.  I encourage you to subscribe to Dr. Sap on YouTube, or follow Sap on Twitter:

OFFENSIVE CHAMPION – For the second week in a row, Ty Isaac seemed to give the offense the spark and, more importantly, the consistency it needed to win this game. When the offense sputtered, Isaac seemed to relish the role of carrying the rock. I thought he was finally going to take one to the house in the 4th quarter, but his long run set Michigan up for another score to essentially put the game out of reach. Solid, steady, turnover-free, production from the running back spot is something that Isaac seems to have mastered so far this year. Hopefully he can continue to deliver that kind of play throughout the rest of the season.

DEFENSIVE CHAMPION – Tyree Kinnel not only had the pick-six that appeared to (at the time) ice this game early in the 1st quarter, he also had a sack and led the team with 9 tackles. Getting good, smart, athletic play from the safety position is critical for any defense. They run and organize the defensive backfield and are critical to the unit’s success and execution. This team, and this defense, needs Kinnel to keep on keepin’ on!

SPECIAL TEAMS CHAMPION – The momentum of this game turned on the Special Teams miscues in the first half. Much like Jim Harbaugh sat down Wilton Speight last week against Florida to settle his QB down, the insertion of Grant Perry returning kicks in the second half settled not only the special teams down, but I feel, the entire Michigan squad. Skill and athleticism are important traits to have if you are going to return kicks, but experience and communication are just as important. We may have taken for granted what Jabrill Peppers did last year, as far as being sure-handed and very fast. Not saying Michigan doesn’t have that type of player on this team right now, I’m just saying that it might take a few more games to settle on who will be the regular at this position. Might be a veteran like Perry, might be someone else. We’ll see…

COACHING CHAMPIONS – I’m going to go with Defensive Line Coach, Greg Mattison. The d-Line was constantly in Bearcat QB Hayden Moore’s face all game. The Cincy signal-caller heard footsteps all afternoon and if the opposing QB has happy feet, that’s just as good as a sack because that affects not only the quarterback’s timing and throws, but more importantly, his mindset. If he is thinking about where Maurice Hurst is or where Rashan Gary is, that’s less time he is spending thinking about where to throw the ball next, and that’s a good thing!

UNIFORM CHAMPION – I can’t tell you how cool it was to (once again) see the wolverine decals on the Michigan helmets! As I said last week, as long as Jim Harbaugh is the Michigan football coach, there will be helmet stickers on the Wolverine headgear. Now, from what I can tell, it does indeed appear that the blue outline has been removed and it also seems as though the stickers may be that much smaller in size. Probably a wise move, as making them smaller will allow for more to be placed on the Michigan helmets. I’ll see if I can track down one and provide a more detailed analysis later in the season.I also noticed that the warning label has been moved from the side of the helmet to the back and bottom of the helmet. Why do I call this out?  Well, this frees up more space on the helmet for at least one more helmet sticker, but more importantly, this allows for a more symmetrical placement of the stickers on each side of the helmet. Oh, and by the way – the last time the warning label was located on the bottom and back of the Michigan helmets?  1986.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so…

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Week by Week Champions (O = Offense, D = Defense, T = Special Teams, C = Coaching, U = Uniform, E = Editor’s pick)
Week 1 vs. Florida:  Ty Issac (O), Devin Bush (D), Quinn Nordin (T), Don Brown, Greg Mattison (C), all-maize unis (U), Camaron Cheeseman (E)
Week 2 vs. Cincinnati:  Ty Issac (O), Tyree Kinnel (D), Grant Perry (T), Greg Mattison (C), refined helmet decals (U).
Week 3 vs. Air Force:

 

SEE YOST SPOT GOAT

I mentioned last week that in the month of September, we don’t often get to travel too far back in time in history because, well, no one used to play football in September.  We got a break this time because September 9th happens to be the date of birth and the date of passing of the iconic Point-A-Minute back Willie Heston, arguably the finest ever to suit up for the maize and blue.   A couple notes here:

  • While the NCAA gives Heston 72 touchdowns, John Kryk pored over the records and box scores and says it’s between 69 and 71 – depending on how you interpret the records of two games (Wisconsin in 1902 and American Medical in 1904.  No one had really come close until Jim Thorpe suited up in the 1920s.   He averaged nearly 2 TDs a game, and no one touched that until Marshall Faulk in the early 1990s.
  • Is he the best Michigan player ever?  It’s so hard to compare eras but he’s probably right alongside Tom Harmon for me.
  • Regarding Heston’s lengthy college career, starting San Jose State and and then still having Michigan eligibility.  Back then the transfer eligibility rules were looser but in a nutshell, you were allowed to transfer from smaller schools and start over at larger schools.  No, you couldn’t suit up for Michigan for 4 years then hop over to play for Penn for another four.

Here’s Saturday’s ep:

Hat tip to my man John Kryk and his incredible book  STAGG vs. YOST.  Don’t have it?  Get it, man!

TWIMFbH is sponsored by Hillside Terrace of Ann Arbor, so go live there.  This segment can be heard on the Keybank Countdown to Kickoff inside the Go Labatt Blue Victors Lounge starting at 8am on Saturday.  You can listen live on 1050AM in Ann Arbor & on wtka.com around the world.

You can hear the archive of This Week in Michigan Football History clips here.    If you have suggestions for future games hit me on Twitter @MVictors.  Go Blue!

/script …after the jump

More »

 

Yes!  Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis is a Schembechler-era savant and once again this season he’ll be diligently handing out his postgame helmet stickers after each game.  Lots of folks hand out postgame awards but Sap is different.  He’s pored over hours and hours of U-M games over several decades, and in these posts he’s able to tie the present to the past.  I encourage you to subscribe to Dr. Sap on YouTube, or follow Sap on Twitter:

OFFENSIVE CHAMPION For those of you who were panicking midway through the 2nd quarter, yours truly included, I harkened back to some sage old advice that Bo Schembechler used to always mention when the going got tough: “It’s time to get back to basics, and play Michigan Football.”  How does that happen? You run the football. Ty Isaac did just that against Florida. Not only did he gain 114 yards, but his clutch runs on 3rd down kept drives alive and that seemed to be the spark Michigan needed to get their mojo back. The runs and play-calling were very reminiscent of what Bo & Jerry Hanlon would call on 3rd & long back in the day – draw plays – and Isaac delivered clutch 1st downs when they were desperately needed.

DEFENSIVE CHAMPION There have been some great linebackers over the years at Michigan, but it’s been a long time since I have seen one fly around with the speed, power and ferocity of Devin Bush.  Sure I thought he was out of the game after one play, and I’m glad he stayed in the game because, my gosh, the way he plays the game is so infectious for the rest of the defense. You can see that he sets the tone for that unit and they follow his lead.  He reminds me of a cross between Ian Gold, Dhani Jones and Tommy Hendricks. He’s as fast as Gold was, is as football-smart as Jones and can lay the wood like Hendricks used to do 20 years ago. Dude is some kind of special!

SPECIAL TEAMS CHAMPION When was the last time a Michigan kicker kicked two field goals that were 50-yards or longer in one game? Never?  [Ed. Never.] Quinn Nordin has a cannon for a leg and that was so impressive to see!  As solid as the kicking game was last year under Kenny Allen, it seems to have gotten off on the right foot with Nordin this year.

COACHING CHAMPIONS It’s incredible to realize that Florida did not score any offensive points after their 1st possession field goal. The Michigan defense recorded six sacks and forced three turnovers and oh ya, the Gators only gained 11 yards rushing for the entire game!  Those are incredible stats to drop in the first game of the year. While the credit goes to the players for making all those plays, Don Brown and Greg Mattison deserve some props for coaching these guys and putting them in positions, formations and schemes that enable them to be successful. Remember how your jaw dropped when Michigan throttled Colorado in the 1997 season opener? That’s how I felt Saturday. This defense is gonna be that kind of good this year!!

UNIFORM CHAMPION Not sure where you stand on the all-maize uniforms, but I for one really like them! I’m not saying they should wear them every game, but it was cool to see them Saturday. Years ago, Michigan used to call themselves the “Athens of the West.” Well, I just got this feeling that pretty soon Nike will be calling Michigan the “Oregon of the East,” as I just think this won’t be the last uniform tweak we see this year…

Lastly, I’m hoping the helmet stickers will be back on the Michigan helmets this year. My guess is that as long as Jim Harbaugh is coaching the Wolverines, you’ll see decals on the maize & blue headgear. Each year it seems the helmet stickers have had a slight change to them. In 2015, the oval-shaped decal had a slight, let’s call it “adidas orange” color to them. They also had a blue outline around the edge of the design that was just a bit smaller than the actual sticker. In 2016, the color switched to, let’s call it “Nike Amarillo” and the blue outline now matched the size of the sticker. Will there be a change this year? Who knows? If you are asking me, I’m hoping the blue outline will be removed – I was never a fan of that look. I also would want them a tad smaller so you don’t have to put stickers in the sacred zone on the helmet – between the stripes. Just saying! I guess we’ll have to wait until Saturday and, as Bob Ufer used to say, “We shall see, what we shall see…”

EDITOR’s PICK: Unlike Sap I was not crazy about exhuming the canary maize uniforms.  That said, for reasons I can’t put my finger on, Camaron Cheeseman looked sharp as a cheddar-clad lad on Saturday.

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Week by Week Champions (O = Offense, D = Defense, T = Special Teams, C = Coaching, U = Uniform, E = Editor’s pick)
Week 1 vs. Florida:  Ty Issac (O), Devin Bush (D), Quinn Nordin (T), Don Brown, Greg Mattison (C), all-maize unis (U), Camaron Cheeseman (E).
Week 2 vs. Cincinnati:

 

Look at those Nikes with the white panel behind the swoosh /flame emoji x 4

You thought you could get rid of this?   No way man!   It’s back –>   This Week in Michigan Football History returns for Season VIII with WTKA 1050AM The Ticket’s own Ira Weintraub on the 1s and 2s.  To open the 2017 season, we tip toe back 22 years to 1995. A few things here:

  • As usual with the start of the season, it’s tough to go too far back because heck, Michigan didn’t even start the season until October back in the day.   So we’ll delve a little deeper as the season progresses, unless I can pull a rabbit out of my hat like I’ll do for September 9th.
  • Second, on Illinois.  I noted in this clip that our friends from Champaign can’t stand us – why is that?  Anyone?
  • Finally note that #TWIMFbH has a sponsor this year – Hillside Terrace of Ann Arbor.  Go live there!

Clip:

TWIMFbH can heard on the Keybank Countdown to Kickoff which starts 4 hours prior to kickoff on 1050AM in Ann Arbor on on wtka.com around the world. It’s a must listen if you have the means – Sam, Steve and Ira never disappoint.  You can hear the archive of This Week in Michigan Football History clips here.    If you have suggestions for future games hit me on Twitter @MVictors.  Go Blue!

 

/script …after the jump

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Given the buzz around the prospect of your beloved Wolverines opening the season in a maize alternate uniform, you should know it’s not the first time.  Readers of this site are aware of the canary disaster of 1928, but here’s a refresher:

I first read about all this thanks a tip from Bruce Madej, the legendary U-M SID, who reviewed the Uniform Timeline sent over a ditty from his book, Champions of the West.  Within a section of the book talking about Fritz Crisler and the launch of the winged helmet at Michigan in 1938, it gets into a little uniform history— including this spicy meatball:

The only change in the typical blue uniforms before 1949 came in 1928.  As Michigan planned to play Navy in Baltimore, the Midshipmen refused to wear any other color than their traditional blue.  Therefore, Michigan came out in bright yellow jerseys with blue numerals.  The team was said to look like canaries, and the uniforms were put away after the 6-6 tie.

Fast forward to today, and we can see that Navy did indeed have a uniform that resembled the gear the Wolverines wore back in the 1920s.  (But note, FWIW, I think that happened a lot back then).   Anyway – Via eBay, here’s a look at an advertisement that was created for that very November 10, 1928 game, in the form of a pop-up Navy footballer.

Navy vs. Michigan ad 1928 - Baltimore, MD

The only major difference was the Midshipmen’s striped socks so they wanted to do something.  Here’s a game photo from the ’29 Michiganensian, and while it’s gray and grainy, you can see that one squad is wearing the lighter color:

[Update via Reader Jumpman – a colorized version of the canaries:

Now, for the serious historians, you should know that Michigan was trying to figure out how to deal with this conflict of color vs. Navy before 1928.  In fact in 1927, the year the freshly minted Michigan Stadium opened for business, your Wolverines wore maize helmets (or headgears as it were) at the game in Ann Arbor [via the Michigan Daily archives]:

Of course this is still more than a decade before the winged helmets appeared, but it is significant nonetheless.

1928 wasn’t the only time Michigan had a challenge with the fairer of our two school colors.  Just a few years ago those high and bright maize numerals on Outback Bowl jerseys became invisible, like Wonder Woman’s jet, when viewed in the Florida sun from beyond 55 yards:

Can not see michigan uniforms

Related: Uniform timeline (updated)
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