On my way back from lunch on Monday, I was listening to the Two Live Stews and they were discussing whether Denard Robinson is: (1) faster than Mike Vick; and/or (2) a more accurate passer than Mike Vick. (For the record, Vick is a better comparison for Robinson than Pat White. White was not as good a passer as Robinson, certainly not at this stage of his career. Vick has a significantly stronger arm than Robinson, but I don't remember him being this accurate. We'll know more when Robinson plays Iowa and Penn State. Notre Dame and UConn aren't going to make us forget the '92 Tide anytime soon.) This morning on the way to work, David Pollack was discussing the advantages of defending against Ryan Mallett as opposed to Robinson.
If Denard Robinson is being discussed on a regular basis on sports talk radio in Atlanta, then he has invaded the national picture. Normally, this would make me uncomfortable. Robinson is receiving a ton of attention for two brilliant performances against teams of questionable defensive quality. My alarm bells are going off for "overreaction based on a small sample size! Hyping a popular program to generate clicks!" However, in this case, the hype is good for Michigan, so I'm all for it.
This is a get-over-the-hump year for Rich Rodriguez. If he wins at least eight games and shows the offense that got him hired, then he'll make it into year four. In 2011, Rodriguez will have: (1) an experienced team (there are two senior starters on the offense and four on the defense); (2) his best corner back (Troy Woolfolk is out for the season with a broken ankle); (3) a running back who projects as Slaton to Robinson's White (Dee Hart, who has Michigan, Alabama, and Auburn in his final three and Michigan probably leads as long as Rodriguez keeps his job); and (4) Ohio State, Nebraska, and Notre Dame all at home. Thus, positive national buzz is a big deal to make sure that this confluence of events happens in 2011, as opposed to Jim Harbaugh trying to figure out the best way to move the ball with players recruited for the Spread 'n' Shred.
Positive national buzz can also perpetuate itself by leading to recruiting victories. It can't hurt Michigan's chances with Hart or North Carolina linebacker Kris Frost (another blue chipper who could start from day one at a position of need) when LeBron James is tweeting about Denard. (This would seem to be a good point at which to worry about the attention getting to Mr. Robinson's wonderfully coiffed head. One imagines a montage of the past two weeks with "Take it to the Limit" playing in the background. That said, Denard seems to have a Leo Messi-style humility to him [from what little one can tell so far].)
The way the media portrays a team or individual will shape our perceptions. To steal an idea from Jonathan Chait, TV producers can make or break a coach by showing him after particularly good or bad plays so we associate that coach with success or failure. (A great example from this morning: at the close of the highlights of the Yankees-Rays game, a no-name Yankee rightfielder made a phenomenal throw to cut down Carl Crawford at third for the last out of the game, pushing the Yankees back into first place in a pennant race that would have mattered 17 years ago. The camera immediately pans to Derek Jeter for the obligatory fist pump. We [consciously or unconsciously] associate Jeter with the win. Footnote: Crawford was only on second because Jeter dropped a perfect throw from Jorge Posada when Crawford was attempting to steal the base.) To date, the media narrative on Rodriguez has been that the team has been losing and that he got Michigan football its first NCAA sanctions. The latter was driven by the Detroit Free Press in vendetta fashion and it became part of the national perception. Denard's first two games have changed the story arc. I hate the cliche that perception is reality, but it does matter (especially in college football), so it's a big deal that Michigan is on the lips of sports talk hosts 700 miles from Ann Arbor because the quarterback is good.
All that said, if non-Michigan fans get annoyed by the hype, I'll understand.