Thursday, October 30, 2008

World Series and a Happy Halloween

  First things first:  Congrats are in order to Rob, our good friend and Sports Director at WCBN.  His Phillies took home the World Series, their first since 1980 and the city's first major chmapionship of any kind since 1983.  It was a weird series with the delay in Game 5, but I actually think that made people tune in and added a wrinkle to this series that no other before it had.  Each game was entertaining (with Game 4 being the only exception) so I was pleased, even though I'll admit I was parying for a Manny vs. Red Sox Nation championship bout. 

As for "the Bet," which was discussed last week on the Blog, I will reveal Rob's new task that will be the alternative to the Dalembert mohawk proposed back in May (special thanks to Stu for helping me out on this one).  Tune in to Game of the Week this Friday (or check the blog after the show) to find out what our Sports Director is in for!

Last point of business:  Michigan Basketball starts in exactly 1 week!!!  However, the AA News reported today (via MLive) that freshman Center Ben Cronin is looking at a possible redshirt for his first season in college.  Cronin is reportedly having hip problems and can't
even complete full court drills.  This would make an already thin front court even thinner as Michigan would only have Gibson and Puls as players over 6'9 ( The prospect of 6'8 ft DeShawn Sims playing the 5 spot this season at some point speaks to where this team could be headed.  Their offense would consist of all five players lined up around the three point arc, with Sims sometimes sneaking inside to hit a 15ft

Tune into WCBN for all home games this season and look for highlights here on the Blog.

Shafer's improvement from Year 1 to Year 2 at WMU: My Apologies to Scott Shafer...for now

So I just put a post up pretty much ripping our defensive schemes to shreds. And for the normal football fan's eye, like mine, they have appeared to be terrible. The rushing two or 3 guys on third down, what has looked like zone coverage due to some terrible safeties, and terrible giving up of big plays has made Shafer the main spot of criticism for me this year on the staff.
But I am not an expert on football schemes right now and will readily admit that. Having just read Brian on mgoblog and GSimmons, a football coach's analysis of Michigan's defense in the Michigan State game, my opinion of Scott Shafer is not as bad as it has been.

While it appears Michigan gets burned on zone coverage alot, they did actually play alot of man coverage in the State game. Simmons also pointed out that they are blitzing a good amount as well. After reading the breakdowns though, it seems to me that I underestimated the importance of at least having one great linebacker and safety on the team. The linebackers and safeties were responsible for all of the big plays given up in that game and much of the season. Thompson, Ezeh, and Mouton are not good right now. Ezeh, I believe, does have potential, but he's still young. Thompson and Mouton are just not good. Having a weak, slow to react linebacking crew has left holes at the line for opponents in the running game and has left the middle of the field open on many pass plays with terrible reads and reactions on the field.

I now think even Shafer's schemes might have been a more dramatic shift than fans might recognize. While he talks simple saying they are an "attack-react" defense as opposed to a "read-react" maybe that is a big time change from what these guys were used to. That could explain the poor angles, mis-reads, and late reads in coverage and against the run. This made me look back at Shafer's job at Western Michigan, the only place he's been for multiple years as a coordinator.

In 2005, Shafer's first season, Shafer's defense gave up a lot of points. Shafer's first year Bronco's gave up 29.8 points per game, eerily close to this year's 28.8. This year's team has already eclipsed that team's sack total of 17 by having 19 sacks, and Michigan has 9 INT's to that team's 15 on the year. So, the numbers are very similar to that other first year for Shafer. That defense was not very good and ended up losing their top tackler for the next season.

But the improvement from year one to year two for Shafer's defense was astounding. Despite losing that top tackler, the 2006 Broncos gave up just 19 points per game and led the nation in sacks jumping from 17 to 46 in one year, and going from 15 interceptions to 24. That team also was 6th in the country in run defense surrendering only 76 yards per game, and 11th in the country in total defense. They were 105th in total defense the year before; worse than this year's Michigan squad. To turn around that much in one year, suggests to me that maybe Shafer's schemes and mentality just take a while to get used to.

The one thing Shafer seems to need for success, is a great (do everything) linebacker. Shafer had one in Ameer Ismail at Western, who put up an absolutely mindboggling stat line of 90 tackles, 25.5 TFL's, 17 SACKS, 2 Ints, 2 recovered fumbles, and a forced fumble. Michigan is currently lacking a linebacker who can put up anywhere near those numbers. Ezeh can be good, but is definitely taking his good sweet time in developing and is still slow to react. But if Michigan gets any linebacker to step it up next season, maybe one of the freshman like Fitzgerald, Michigan could see a dramatic improvement in year two with Shafer.

But the fact remains for this season that Michigan is stuck in a scheme that takes some getting used to and quite frankly has safeties and linebackers who are not good. Coming into the year I thought Michigan could mitigate their lack of good safeties and linebackers by blitzing and using their talented corners in press coverage. I vastly oversimplified the weaknesses on the defense and oversimplified what could be done to mitigate those weaknesses.

I still believe that, for this season, Shafer and company could have done a better job covering up the weaknesses of this team by putting more pressure on the QB's and not running those 3 man rushes and fronts so much. This defense is more talented than the numbers indicate this season.

But if Shafer is installing a defense that will be anything like Western Michigan's was in 2006, I will most certainly be patient.

Scott Shafer, I owe you and everyone else who has heard what I have said about you an apology. You need another year or two, just like everyone else on this staff, before a judgement is made. And while this year looks terrible, hopefully the team can develop or recruit some linebackers and safeties to help out next year.

Jelani Jenkins? Do you want to put up numbers like Ismail did for Shafer? I suggest you come to Michigan and you will be rewarded.

Go Blue!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Game 9: Is the season over yet?

The fact that the Michigan defense made Brian Hoyer look like Tom Brady, and the offensive line made State's D-line look like the old Steelers, I finally cannot look for positives in this year's team (at least for a week). Michigan can't block, can't run, can't pass, can't stop the run, can't stop the pass, can't avoid turnovers, and for the last five weeks can't win.

And while some of the coaches want to blame the players, whose execution should be better, the blame goes all around. We've watched weeks go by with continual 3 man rushes on third down, zone coverages, three safeties (the worst players on the D) in at the same time, predictability on an offense that needs to be able to outsmart opponents since they have a complete dearth of talent and experience, without any changes. Scott Shafer still repeatedly uses the three man rush on third down AND three man fronts on running downs though they have repeatedly ended up with the defense staring at the back of the guy toting the ball downfield. That is a coaching error. We have seen Harrison, Stewart, and Brown, 3 huge liabilites at safety on the field at the same time instead of mixing up the nickel passage by putting Cissoko in for some dare i say press coverage. That is a coaching error. On the offense, it's mainly on the players and a terrible offensive line that limits your options, but still we have seen predictability and a bad case of going to the same play 10 too many times to where defenses know exactly what's coming. That's on the coaches.

I know the players are the least talented and least experienced group that Michigan has had in a while, but for the coaches, especially McGee who came out and said "Threet was erratic like he always is," to blame just the execution is flat out WRONG. Shafer and the defense have a very good D-line to work with, but for some reason has chosen to only play 3 of them time and time again meaning you have to take out one of your better players and replace them with one of your worst in a safety or outside linebacker. The defense has had success when you play a four man front and pressure the opposition and has gotten burned constantly with a three man front! It doesn't take a genius to figure out to stop using the damn 3 man front so much, a baby could do it! It certainly shouldn't be hard for a guy who coached a defense that led the nation in sacks and interceptions a few years ago! And back to McGee, what do you expect from a first year starting quarterback who is force to throw when there is no threat of a running game. Two of his interceptions came after Michigan State took the lead and took all of the momentum in the fourth quarter. The kid did not play well, but he didn't do bad if you take everything into consideration including the coaches.

I still love the coaching staff, don't get me wrong, but at this point it is not just the players not executing this season. The staff also has not made adjustments even on the defensive side of the ball which is where their is enough experience and talent to have success. Yes it would help if you had a left tackle who doesn't whiff on blocks repeatedly, yes it would help if you had a quarterback wise beyond his years, yes it would help if you had safeties who were not constantly out of position. But you found that out a few weeks into the season as coaches and have made no apparent adjustments to mitigate those things. The reason Michigan is 2-6 is a combination of the players not executing and the coaches not making simple adjustments. In my mind though, nobody should throw these players under the bus simply because they have given a greater effort game in and game out than I have seen from some of the more talented teams Michigan has had in the past. The simple fact is, the players just are not that good at this point. Fans need to accept that for the rest of the season. Their suckiness is out of their control in a short time span like the weeks of a season, at least they're trying.

Sorry about that, just wanted to clear my rambling thoughts for a moment, but there is some good news for the week ahead. Don't worry, I'm not trying to say there is good news for anything related to Michigan's play, I've currently given that up. But, Purdue comes in at 2-6 too and might be one of the few teams that has looked as bad or worse in the last 4 weeks. Purdue is on a 5 game slide since losing to ND, and the team is in complete disarray.

Purdue Offense vs. Michigan Defense

Curtis Painter, the guy who threw for nearly 4,000 yards last season with 29 TDs to 12 INTs, has thrown 6 TDs to 10 INTs this season. Oh yeah, and he could be out for the game on Saturday. Purdue is without their backup QB too who is injured meaning third string RS Fr. Justin Siller might get the nod at QB. At first I thought this would be great news. Then I found out Siller was playing some running back a few weeks ago and is mainly a running QB. While this still should be good news since he hasn't thrown for a few weeks, I'm still scared since the defense has not been able to stop anyone and a mobile QB could be more problems. Still, even with their quarterbacks, the last four weeks Purdue's offense has been very sporadic and unproductive, with the one week they got over 300 yards of offense and double digit points they turned the ball over five times. For a team that almost beat Oregon earlier this year and had some high hopes, this is a terrible terrible collapse. But good for Michigan.
Purdue is 97th in the country in rushing offense, and for being a passing team they are a terrible 108th in the nation in passing efficiency and 93rd in scoring offense. Michigan's pass defense has been terrible though at 101st in the nation so if Painter is healthy, this would be a great opportunity for him to get back on track. Michigan is 86th in scoring defense and has shown that they can make even Brian Hoyer look like a O'Brien award contender. Unfortunately, despite how bad Purdue has been, I can't give Michigan's D an edge since Shafer has been so dumb and the D is coming off a horrendous performance.

Advantage: Purdue

Michigan Offense vs. Purdue Defense

The last time I thought Michigan was going against a pathetic defense to the point of giving Michigan the advantage, Toledo happened. I will not give Michigan an advantage on offense for the rest of the season no matter how bad Purdue's defense is because the offense is way to inconsistent. Michigan is 111th in total offense and 102nd in scoring offense. So what if Purdue can't stop the run, Michigan hasn't proven they can run it. So what if Purdue is terrible at the pass rush, Michigan can't block.

Advantage: Purdue

Special Teams

Zoltan and Michigan have a NET punting average of over 42 yards (#1 in the nation) while Purdue has a NET punting average of 31 yards (110th in the nation). With one offense that has not been good all season, and one that is disintegrating into shambles, this could decide the game and kill Purdue as Michigan, barring horrendous turnovers, should get some good field position.

Kicking is a push as Purdue's two kickers are 10-18 on the year and Lopata has been struggling.

Neither team is good at returning.

Hooray that means it comes down to Zoltan!

Advantage: Michigan

If Michigan does not beat Purdue, 2-10 is a clear possibility. Purdue is one of the few teams that, right now (injuries and collapse), is worse than Michigan. And this game is important too. Recruits are starting to get turned off by the lack of wins as Michigan had a big recruiting weekend last week expecting some commitments after the visits, and got zero. Four guys have decommitted a couple are shaky and while a 2 win season wouldn't drop this top ten class out of the top 20, it is probably the difference between getting a couple more big time prospects vs. settling for some lower tier guys. Plus, if Michigan loses, the fantasy of a bowl game will even be shot and the guys won't have much to play for the rest of the year.

I'm going back to not predicting simply because I have no idea what Michigan team will come out or what Purdue team will come out. Michigan better win though...seriously.

Worst game ever.

Be sure to tune in on the sportstream from at noon on Saturday. Rob and Jeremy will have the call live from West Lafayette.

Go Blue! Please win.

Monday, October 27, 2008

WCBN College Picks Standings after Week 9

Congrats to Rushi and Seid with 3-2 weeks.  Here's where we stand:

Stu (20-9-1)- 32 pts
JK (17-12-1)- 22 pts
Rob (20-19-1)- 21 pts
Rushi (16-15-1)- 18 pts
Wiggles (14-15-1)- 13 pts
Seid (17-22-1)- 12 pts
Tobin (13-16-1)- 10 pts
Bill (8-6-1)- 10 pts
Jeremy (13-17)- 9 pts
Christian (4-1)- 7 pts
Nick (3-2)- 4 pts
Andrew (4-6)- 2 pts
Kevin (2-3)- 1 pt
Matt (1-4)- negative 2 pts
Mike (1-4)- negative 2 pts

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Game 8: Michigan vs. Little Bro

Michigan State is not that good. I was very confused with all the hype they were getting prior before getting killed last weekend. They had played nobody going into that game last weekend yet were being talked about like they had done something to prove themselves. Sparty has been outgained in every game since the Indiana game (and in that one they still gave up 400 yards). First up was a struggling Iowa team at the time (coming in averaging 10 points a game), but Shonn Greene completely outclassed Javon Ringer and if it wasn't for three first half turnovers, two of which were deep inside Michigan State territory, Iowa would have handily beat State. Up next was Northwestern who also committed two early turnovers that lead to Sparty scoring on both to help take a 17-0 lead. Northwestern outplayed MSU the rest of the game, though, outgaining State 459-297. Take note, Northwestern runs a spread where they like to run their not so fast white quarterback (Bacher). Then came last week's game, which I was not shocked to see. An O-State offense, seriously struggling to get in any kind of rhythm, found a Spartan D that was just right to help get the ball rolling. 216 rushing yards later, while holding Ringer to just 67 yards and outgaining Sparty 332-240, MSU finally showed their true colors with a 45-7 drubbing at home.

Let me repeat, State is not that good. But then again neither is Michigan. But this game and Purdue remain the only two I am confident about for the rest of the season.

The reason? State's offense is very similar to the old-fashioned Wisconsin offense which Michigan shut down, and State's defense is a worse version of the Wisconsin defense when it comes to defending the spread. The last two games for State were against spread offenses and we all saw what happened against the Buckeyes, and they did get ridiculously outgained against NW as mentioned above. If Threet is healthy enough to play the whole game Saturday, Michigan's offense finally showed they can move with a healthy Threet in last week's first half. There was something there, because Penn State has a legit run defense and Michigan was successfully running right at them for the entire first quarter and some of the first half. For Michigan to have their first running success against a top 3 team at Penn State is a very good sign. Granted, if Threet goes down, it seems Michigan has no shot at moving a nerf ball down the field, but if he stays healthy, State cannot stop the spread and Michigan could have some big time success for the first time all year.

State has relied on not turning the ball over this season, and on capitalizing on opponent mistakes. Despite getting outgained in both the Iowa and Northwestern games, Iowa coughed the ball up twice inside the redzone and NW threw two early picks which put State in very good field position to score (and they did). In the Iowa game, State only had one turnover to Iowa's three which was the difference in the game, and against Northwestern, State did not have any miscues while NW had 3, again the difference in the game.

Last weekend, State turned it over 5 times leading to the madness that would ensue. With Hoyer banged up, as much as State fans want to hate on him, he has done a decent job this year of not throwing interceptions. A freshman in Kirk Cousins or a banged up Hoyer, may not have the same fortune.

State Offense vs. Michigan Defense

State's offense is, simply put, #23 Javon Ringer running behind a fairly veteran O-line. Other than that, uh...Bri..uhh..Hoy...uhh NOTHING. Yes I did say State fans shouldn't hate on Hoyer too much, but, let me be real this time, hate on. He has completed UNDER 50% of his passes this season so MSU has NO passing attack. They hardly ever spread the field so the speed of Mark Dell (#2) has been vastly underused this season with him averaging around 60 yards a game and only scoring twice on the year. Freshman #3 B.J. Cunningham and Junior #25 Blair White have turned into the main threats in the passing game. Neither are averaging over 45 yards a game this season and neither has scored. Wide Receivers have not done anything this season for State (probably b/c Hoyer can't seem to get the ball to them). State does like to go to the tight end though and they have a decent one in sophomore #83 Charlie Gantt. He has three of the passing unit's 7 TD's this season. Yes, State only has 7 passing TD's on the SEASON (through 8 games). They will be running to Ringer and hoping not to get in a third and long all game.

State has a very strong right side of the line with 5th yr. Sr. Roland Martin at Guard (330 pounds) and 5th yr. Sr. Jesse Miller at tackle (6'6" 318). There is no question they favor that side. Michigan, and Shafer, will hopefully actually put 8 in the box here and run/zone blitz the safeties and outside backers often in this game to come help out the D-line. There is no reason Shafer and the D should play any nickel this week or sit back. State has no passing game so they need to attack...come on Shafer. I think they will because nobody in their right mind would be too worried about the passing attack of State. In third down passing situations though, Michigan will have to mix up their blitzes though and still try to attack the right side of State's line even if it is stronger. Against Illinois, Shafer and the D thought they would take advantage of a weaker Illini right side, which is good at first. But Illinois caught on quickly and, remember all those screens that went for big yardage. All were to the left side, and Shafer and the D for some reason continued to only bring pressure on the right. Opponents are not dumb so mix it up.

Michigan should have success though against State's Wisconsin style, one-dimensional offense. If they don't have success Michigan might not win another game this season.

Advantage: Michigan

Michigan Offense vs. State Defense

Please be healthy enough to play the whole game Threet...please. The truth came out and Threet has gotten shot up with cortisone before both the Toledo and Penn State games, because he has been injured for a while. Hopefully he is near healthy because Michigan finally was having some great success in the first half against Penn State with Threet running the show and Minor in the backfield. The entire O-line, except for Ortmann, seems to be improving now and looked their best in that first half vs. Penn State. Ortmann seems to be getting worse for whatever reason. Regardless, if Threet is healthy, and Minor again holds onto the football, I think we might be able to see Michigan's first close to complete four-quarter game offensively against a State team that cannot defend the spread. A complete game for Michigan would probably mean moving the ball for a few first downs every drive and having about 4 touchdown drives with a field goal maybe sprinkled in. A few things would need to happen for this to be possible.

1. Threet has to be healthy

2. Michigan cannot turn the ball over more than twice.

3. The coaching staff has to keep mixing things up throughout the game and stop letting defenses catch on after running the same plays over and over.

If those happen or come close to happening, I think we could see a Michigan offense that looks like a legitimate college offense for the first time this season.

Michigan State's defense does not impress much at all. Junior DE #58 Trevor Anderson is their only real pass rush threat on the line with 5 sacks on the year. I'll be concerned anytime he gets matched up with Ortmann. In passing situations with Ortmann in the game, I'd like to see Minor or Moundros back there on the left side of Threet to pass protect.

State will bring their linebackers up alot too especially on zone/run blitzes. Sophomore #53 Greg Jones on the outside and Junior #55 Adam Decker in the middle will be the ones who mainly come up. Overall, though, the linebacking crew of Jones, Decker, and #43 Sophomore Eric Gordon, reminds me alot of Michigan's linebacking corps this year. That bodes well for Michigan's offense who should look for Koger often or one of the slot receivers who ends up getting in a favorable mismatch with those guys. They will miss alot of tackles so if Michigan just executes and mixes up their play calling...

State's secondary is certainly their best unit. Their safeties in SS senior #21 Otis Wiley and junior #33 Dan Fortener are having pretty good seasons in coverage, especially Wiley who has 4 picks and 7 PBU. #37 Ross Weaver is an ok corner and #29 Rucker, #5 Fr. Johnny Adams and #9 Jeremy Ware should all see some time. They are bound to look bad though as State will probably sit back in the zone. The one thing that scares me, however, is those balls that Threet just floats in. He has not shown any propensity to throw the ball hard and if he floats any up in the vicinity of Wiley, there is a good chance Wiley will find it. Threet will have to make very good decisions as to when it is safe to float the ball into the receiver.

If Michigan spreads the field though, with a healthy Threet and a non-fumbling Minor, they should have some success running the ball against a not so good State defense who also cannot stop the spread. If the running game gets going with Minor and Threet out of the shotgun, they hopefully will not have to look down the field too much with Threet's elbow and floating balls. I do think Michigan will do well, but there is no way I can give them the edge after seeing just one half of solid execution. State has also seemed to take advantage of nearly every mistake the opposing offense makes. Michigan will need to avoid the stupid mistakes that have plagued them all year.

Advantage: State

Special Teams:

Brett Swenson has been a very good kicker for Sparty so far this season making 15 straight after missing the first one of the season putting him at 15-16 on the year. Aaron Bates has been a pretty good punter too averaging near 42 yards a kick, but that unit has given up two blocked punts this season so hopefully Michigan brings the pressure since they've been close a couple of times this year. Todd Boleski has been good on kickoffs with opponents averaging a start at their own 25 yard line.

Otis Wiley has returned punts this season pretty well returning 16 for an average of 12 yards a return and one big one of 78 yards. Ringer has returned kicks and has averaged an average 20 yards a return. Nobody seems to be tough here except for Wiley so Zoltan will have to continue to do a great job of kicking away from the returner.

Michigan's return game is just...I hope they find an answer, but if McGuffie is going to fumble it, I don't know who will hang on. I don't know what to expect here so it'll probably be bad again.

Lopata still scares me and is not very consistent but Zoltan is doing great. I now do believe he has worked on how to put that forward spin on the ball to get good bounces and he continues to get better each game.

Advantage: State

All I want to say is Mark Dantonio could have a case of trying way too hard to win this game. First of all, he keeps saying something like "it's not over until it's over" which nobody knows what it means because last year's game certainly is over. Secondly, for a coach to defend his school against comments made by a player by insulting the player's God-given height is completely classless as is MSU and he needs to learn how to take the high road. Thirdly, Rodriguez has played him twice and owned him in both games 38-0 and 42-24.

Brandon Graham came out and pretty much guaranteed a win for Michigan. While I don't agree with this because he is not Mike Hart and State is still better than Notre Dame was a year ago, I am happy to see the players still have confidence after what they've gone through this year. That defense knows that State is one of the few offenses on the schedule that play right into their strengths. Michigan should be able to shut down State as long as they stop sitting back in that stupid zone. There is no reason to defend the pass in this game so Michigan should have 8 in the box often.

I think State is going to come out overprepared (burnt out from the prep and pressure Dantonio puts on them for this game), overhyped, and will again struggle against a spread if Threet plays no matter how bad Michigan is.

Prediction: Michigan 26 MSU 17

This is, again, one of the only two games I am confident about the rest of the way due to State's style of play.

Be sure to tune into the game LIVE on the Sports Stream at 3:30 PM Saturday. By going to and clicking on the link that says Sports Stream.

Hopefully we can finally shut Dantonio up, but even if Michigan does win it probably still "won't be over." Win or lose, State is still going to be little Bro b/c they emulate us in every way including trying to be like big Bro and have football players beat up hockey players.

Sparty Can't Read Can't Write

Go Blue!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Football Player Assaults Hockey Team member... at MSU

In a story that seems all too familiar, MSU's AJ Sturges was released from the hospital last night after an altercation involving him, his teammates, and allegedlly members of the MSU football team this past weekend.  The Police Department has told the media that one or two players could face possible felony charges.   The link is below: 

Talk about your Deja Vu episodes:

Doesn't this seem a little familiar?  I mean, talk about irony.  This same exact situation happens a week ago to the day at U of M with Steve Kampfer.  And now, a week before the MSU/U of M game in football, they do the exact same thing at MSU.  It shocks me that MSU's Coach Rick Cromley didn't warn his players to stay out of trouble after what was reported about the Kampfer incident.  Even though both teams should know better by this point in the season, the lack of restraint they showed is alarming (esp. since the U of M incident isn't even two weeks old).

Some people just don't learn from the mistakes of others...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

4 More Wins...Please!!!

With a Phils-Rays World Series days away, Philadelphia's craving for a sports championship has never been greater.  If you don't believe me, just look at some of the youtube videos from Broad Street after Game 5 of the NLCS.  It's been a quarter century long wait since the Sixers title in '83.  My mind goes back to close calls (and have there been many) in recent Philadelphia sports history.  Let's revisit.

2005- Super Bowl XXXIX: Eagles vs Pats 
The one and only year that McNabb and TO worked out.  Still, the season had its drama.  From TO's late-season injury that caused him to miss the playoffs 'til the Super Bowl to McNabb's "sickness" on the final drive of the big game.  Despite an early 7-0 lead, the Birds fell 3 pts shy of a championship in Jacksonville, 24-21.

2001- NBA Finals: Sixers vs Lakers
With the best record in the NBA at the All Star Game, the Sixers traded for Dikembe
 Mutumbo.  I can still clearly remember being in the stands for the final few seconds of Game 7 of the Conference Finals against the Bucks.  Starting PF Tyrone Hill stood on the table at press row and waved a rally towel around for 10-plus minutes.  The Kobe-Shaq Lakers were the
overwhelming favorites in the Finals, not having lost a single game in the postseason.  AI had a memorable Game 1, typified by his OT three-pointer against Tyronne Lue. Despite the Sixers keeping it close in Games 2 and 3, LA took the title in 5.

1997- Stanley Cup Finals: Flyers vs Red Wings
The so-called 'Legion of Doom' of Lindros, LeClair and Renberg led the Flyers to the precipice of a championship.  I attended Game 1 at the Spectrum, remembered most for a Sergei Federov goal from outside the blue line on goaltender Ron Hextall.  At least it was quick and easy, a Red Wings sweep.

1993- World Series: Phillies vs Blue Jays
Philadelphia's most beloved team in the last 25 years was known for their care-free attitude.  A wild team included Dykstra, Daulton, Schilling, Kruk and of course Mitch 'Wild Thing' Williams.  I went to Game 1 of the NLCS against the Braves, a game that saw Phillies 3B Kim Batiste commit a crucial error early in the game, before delivering the game-winning hit in extra innings.  In the fall classic, Schilling won 2 games.  Yet, Mitch Williams blew the lead in Game 4 and Game 6, where he gave up the memorable HR to... you know who.

Now its 2008 and 25 years have come and gone since a championship.  Wouldn't it be ironic
that the one major Philadelphia sports team that has been the model for futility, the first franchise to 10,000 losses, a team that failed to sign JD Drew, traded away Bobby Abreu for nothing, a team whose biggest star players for a decade were Robert Person, Kevin Sefcik, Kevin Stocker, Kevin Jordan, Jose Mesa, Ricky Bottalico, Greg Jeffries and Doug Glanville would be the one to break the curse and win a championship first?  Only in Sports.


WCBN College Picks Standings after Week 8

Congrats to Wiggles with a 3-2 week. Here's where we stand:

Stu           (20-9-1)- 32 pts
JK            (17-12-1)- 22 pts
Rob          (20-19-1)- 21 pts 
Rushi       (13-13-1)- 14 pts
Wiggles   (14-15-1)- 13 pts
Tobin       (12-12-1)- 12 pts
Seid          (14-20-1)- 8 pts
Jeremy    (11-14)- 8 pts
Bill           (6-3-1)- 9 pts
Christian (4-1)- 7 pts
Nick         (3-2)- 4 pts
Kevin       (2-3)- 1 pt
Andrew   (2-3)- 1 pt
Matt        (1-4)- negative 2 pts
Mike        (1-4)- negative 2 pts

Monday, October 20, 2008

World Series Wager (Suggestions appreciated)

Last night, the Tampa Bay Rays rallied to beat the defending champion Red Sox in what turned out to be a great post-season series.  They showed the heart and determination of a champion when they could've just laid down ( *cough* Kelly Pavlik *cough*) after seeing their opponent put up a fight.  

Now, for me, a Phillies-Rays series looked like it had no interest to me what-so-ever.  Sure, the Rays are a nice story and the Phillies played solid baseball throughout the year.  Still, I have no vested interests in either team and really couldn't have cared which team won it all.... That is, untill a few days ago.

Last week, when the Phillies won it all, I remember seeing Rob S., our good friend and WCBN Sports Director, in class following the Phillies/LA game.  He was in high spirits, lo
oking a little weary in class the next morning having just celebrated a Phillies WS berth the previous night.  I remember thinking "Man, I should have made a World Series bet with h
im this year.  It'd at least keep me interested." 

Well, as it turns out, I already had!

 Last Spring, Rob did a Live Blog  for the Sixers/Pistons first round playoff series.  The Pistons were up big, on their way to another disappointment in the Eastern Coneference Finals, so 
I thought I'd spice things up a bit with this bet: 

If the Phillies win the Series this year, can we get you to sport the Dalembert 'hawk, and have "RS" on one/both sides of the head? 

Rob took the bet, thinking he was in the clear.  Heck, no Philly team has won professional sports championship is his lifetime.  Why start now? 

Now, the liklihood of Rob sticking to this bet isn't good; A Dalembert hawk during autumn in Michigan doesn't do much to keep a guy warm.  Therefore, I want to get all the readers out there to help me find a new wager to take the place of the old one.
(Keep in mind, if Rob wants to keep the old bet, I'll let him.  This is just a contingency plan)

So what should the alternative wager be?  Leave your suggestions in the Comments area and the winner will be revealed this Friday during the Game of the Week at 7pm on WCBN 88.3 FM.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Game 7: Michigan vs. #3 Penn State

I started to work on this post and then I just stopped. I am making the trip to State College to take in the game. If I were to write an objective post, it would probably be very ugly. I can never remember a time Michigan was an underdog by this much (24 points) and I think that Michigan was never this big of an underdog at anytime during the Bo-Lloyd regime. Michigan has fumbled the ball 20 TIMES this season losing 11 and has thrown another 8 picks for 19 TO'S through 6 games.

An objective, detailed post would entail me trying to predict and live through this game of incredible mismatches in favor of Penn State which would culminate in a final score that is something like Penn State 100 and Michigan 0. Although I don't think it will be a blowout (gut feeling), there is a good chance it will be and I would have to live through it at the game, I choose not to live through it before the game if the nightmare will happen.

The numbers speak for themselves:

Penn State Offense vs. Michigan Defense

Penn State averages 482 yards of offense and 45.3 points per game, both #1 in the Big Ten.
Michigan's defense has surrendered 344.2 yards and 24.8 points per game, #6 and #9 respectively in the Big Ten.
Penn State now runs a spread with a mobile quarterback and Daryl Clark.
Michigan has not had any clue on how to stop a spread team this year especially with a mobile quarterback (Juice).
Penn State is #1 in the Big Ten in Pass Efficiency.
Michigan is 2nd to last in the Big Ten in pass defense and 8th in the conference in pass efficiency defense.
And just to be safe, the Nittany Lions have a running back averaging over 7 yards a carry and 100 yards per game in Evan Royster.

Michigan's only hopes of stopping this defense is if they somehow don't allow Penn State to neutralize the D-line, which every team has done, and if they finally change schemes and stop playing three of our worst defensive players (the safeties) at the same time. They need to start blitzing instead of staying back in coverage and since Penn State has three very good wideouts (Williams, Butler, Norwood), try maybe putting Trent, Warren, and Boubacar (played pretty well last weekend) on them instead of letting the slot guy get matched up with Thompson (see Arrelious Benn in Illinois) and give yourselves a chance. I think they'll stick with what they have been doing which only can mean good things for Penn State.

Advantage: Penn State, obviously

Michigan Offense vs. Penn State Defense

Do I even need to say anything here? I certainly don't want to.

Advantage: Penn State obviously

Special Teams:

I wish Michigan could at least have an advantage here since they've learned to hang onto the ball and they have the best punter in the Big Ten in Zoltan who will have to play great for Michigan to have a chance (like pin Penn State inside the ten everytime) but:

Penn State's kicker Kevin Kelly is very good (9-10 on the year 2-3 from 50 out).
Penn State has a decent punter if they even need to punt in Jeremy Boone.
Penn State has the best returner in the Big Ten and one of the best in the country in Derrick Williams. The unit is #1 in kickoff returns with 2 TDs already and second in punt returning with a TD there too.
K.C. Lopata is becoming less and less reliable.

Advantage: Penn State


Completely subjective and homerish defying all odds pick here (surprise surprise). Somehow Michigan will win this thing. I know people don't think Penn State is looking past this one since they have not beaten Michigan in like a decade, but let's be honest. Michigan is 2-4 and lost to Toledo and PSU has a huge game at 6-1 O State next weekend. They are looking ahead. There is absolutely no reason I should think Michigan will win on paper, but the defense will finally fix themselves up while Jay Pa and Penn State's offensive coordinators do what they did last year vs. Michigan, Threet will be healthy, Michigan will only turn it over once somehow, and Michigan will get 4 big plays to score enough to win.

I don't know why I am thinking positively and setting myself up for disappointment in the form of a 50 point blowout, call it a gut feeling, but:

Michigan 28 Penn State 24

There you have it...I'm an idiot! Repeat of 2005 baby!

Go Blue!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Confirmed so far is Big Ten Network studio host Dave Revsine.

You can tune in from 7-10pm on 88.3 WCBN FM in Ann Arbor, Michigan or online at
More info to come on additional guests as confirmed...

UPDATE #1: Travis Johnson, Senior Football Writer for The Daily Collegian at Penn State will be joining us.

UPDATE #2: Hall of Fame Boxing Writer and Michigan Law School alum Bert Sugar will preview Kelly Pavlik-Bernard Hopkins with us.

UPDATE #3: John Heuser of the Ann Arbor News will discuss Michigan football.

7-7:45: MLB- ALCS, NLCS  
            NFL- Cowboys, Around the League
-7:45: Bert Sugar
8:00: Michigan hockey, volleyball
-8:15: Dave Revsine
8:30-10: Michigan-Toledo, Michigan-Penn State, NCAA Football, "He Said What?" (New Segment)
-8:45: John Heuser
-9:15: Travis Johnson
9:45: College Picks

WCBN College Picks Standings after Week 7

To try to reduce discrepancies between games played, I have decided to give 2 points for a win and minus 1 for a loss.  Congrats to Stu who went 3-2 last week (only one above .500).  
Here's where we stand:

Stu        (20-9-1)-  31 pts +1 (for Toledo)= 32pts
JK         (17-12-1)-  22 pts
Rob       (18-16-1)- 20 pts
Rushi    (13-13-1)- 13 pts +1 (for Ole Miss)= 14pts
Seid       (13-16-1)- 10 pts
Wiggles (11-13-1)- 9 pts
Jeremy  (11-14)-    8 pts
Tobin     (9-10-1)-  8pts
Bill (6-3-1)- 9 pts
Christian (4-1)- 7 pts
Nick (3-2)- 4 pts
Matt (1-4)-  negative 2 pts

Monday, October 13, 2008

First half of the year, through the eyes of a Hopeless Optimist

As Nick Sheridan threw interception number two, I mindlessly glanced at the ground and picked up a soda cup that had been sitting on the empty bleacher in front of me for the entire second half, and out of fury chucked the cup straight down to the ground harder than any Michigan quarterback has thrown a football this year. With that pick, I realized, we were probably going to lose to Toledo.

Toledo, the place I've grown up in admiring Michigan football since I was 7. The place that used to have one of the better mid-major football programs in the country. Until Tom Amstutz took over that is, and has sent the team from national hype and a 10-2 year his first season (with Nick Saban recruits) to progressively worse and worse years with back to back 5-7 campaigns, followed by the dismal 1-4 start this season.

I've been optimistic about Michigan football this whole year. While I'd hoped for a national title every year with Lloyd under the helm, I realized this season was going to be tough. We'd lose a few games here and there due to a freshman quarterback and an inexperienced and decimated O-line, but our defense with Scott Shafer's hyped up aggressiveness, blitzing and press coverage, would no doubt be dominant. We would probably be in the 8-4 range maybe up to 9-3 or 10-2 in contention for a Big Ten title I naively thought.

I watched the Utah game, very patiently knowing this team would take a while to get going. So while I was disappointed with the loss, I was actually pretty happy that the team fought back. I would not get too upset this year,this team needs time.

I watched the Miami game in much the same way. At the end, a victory was getting the program back on track. I partied the night away and for the first time in my life actually truly celebrated a win against a MAC team. I still thought the team had great potential, but I was relishing every positive moment we had with the young team.

I watched the Notre Dame game at Notre Dame Stadium. I watched, enraged, at the stupid mistakes of dropping the ball when noone was around and it wasn't even raining. I was infuriated that the Notre Dame team that went 3-9 a year ago was leading 21-0 on my Wolverines. Surely we would have some rough games, but 7 turnovers, most unforced?!? Even though I came out of that game angry at the dumb mistakes, I still came out optimistic. They moved the ball when they held onto it, they found a QB and running back, I still loved Rodriguez, the players won't drop balls, fumble, and muff kicks like that again, and this was the rough patch of the year for the young Michigan team. Despite all the f-bombs dropped on the ride home, things will get better, there are some good things going here.

I watched the first half of Wisconsin, in disbelief. I refuse to be classless and boo the team this season knowing what kind of transition is occurring. While I remain optimistic, I was always prepared in the back of my mind for what an year-length (or two) transition would be like as opposed to a half season transition (which is what I was hoping for). So I watched with my head in my hands as the team that had two weeks to work on solely holding onto the ball dropped kicks, and fumbled away their opportunity to beat a top 10 team.

I didn't boo, I did not even venture to say we sucked at half time. They were still dropping balls which was unacceptable, and maybe this year would be alot longer than I thought. But the defense still held Wisconsin to field goals, and maybe in the next game if we did not turn the ball over, we could still win and have a good year. But winning this one was certainly out of the question, right?

I thought I truly believed the game was over, yet something compelled me to turn to the person next to me and promise them we were going to win this game as the 3rd quarter began. I watched the first half, resigned to our fate and with no reason to think anything good would happen, but it was one of those moments that had no explanation. The rest of the second half I could not stop moving as the team marched back to a miraculous win. I left the game on a high I never felt before leaving that stadium. The 2003 win over O-State, the OT win over Penn State, the Manningham catch in 2005 vs. Penn State, nothing compared to this moment. I bathed in it all week, wary of a let down the next week.

That second half involved the type of momentum shift that one is lucky to witness once every 30 years. But taking a look back, the team still couldn't move the ball consistently, and Wisconsin's under center offense played right into the defense's hands. A let down against Illinois was certainly possible.

There was no let down at the start against Illinois, a quick 14-3 lead, and Michigan looked like they turned the corner on the transition year. Yet, the defense collapsed, and the rest of the game was 42-6 in Illinois' favor. This game was not a "let-down" in which Michigan's players came in overconfident or unprepared following a big win. This game showed that Michigan had a lot more REAL problems that were yet to surface.

The defense still cannot stop the spread. The defense gets fooled easily. The coaches make adjustments far too late, and sometimes not at all. Although Shafer was supposed to be aggressive and liked to play press coverage and blitz, he is, for whatever reason, not aggressive, constantly plays zone, and is perhaps not that smart. The offensive line will not be very good this season. I still believe in Rich Rodriguez with all my being, but there are certainly some wrinkles he can throw into the offense to respond to the opposing defenses who soon learn exactly what's coming.

All of that, or, it was just another bad game for the young Wolverines who will have a few this season. Regardless, it was loss number 3 and Michigan had a losing record again. Luckily, Toledo was coming up.

I was a bit scared of Toledo's spread attack. They lit up Fresno and we certainly cannot stop the spread, or have not proven it yet. But I'd seen enough of the offense in the first quarter of Illinois, to the second half of Wisco, to the majority of the Notre Dame game (when we didn't turn it over that is) to know that even we could have success against Toledo's terrible defense. The talent disparity alone between Michigan and Toledo should win Michigan this game.

Slow start in the first half, kind of expected. It is Toledo, and no matter how bad this Michigan team is, it probably will be hard to get up for a MAC team in the middle of the year. Again I am hearing boos, and yes it looks bad, but all I can think of is "SHUT UP!" You didn't boo in '06 when Ball State almost beat an unbeaten Michigan team. This is the youngest team Michigan has seen, maybe ever, and you are going to boo them for having a rough half? Please..

Second half, no adjustments. Nick Sheridan is playing? Are you flipping serious?!? If Steve Threet is not hurt and Sheridan is playing, that is one of the only things that could get me furious at Rodriguez this year. Luckily, after the game, they said he was hurt. But as the minutes ticked on, I was more and more shocked at how Michigan never could move the ball against a Toledo defense. That is unexplainable except for the fact that Sheridan was playing, but that was just the second half.

And as Sheridan threw his second pick of the game, as Michigan was trying to respond to a UT field goal, I did something I have never done before. I picked up the closest thing to me, a cup of pepsi, and chucked it at the ground harder than I ever have thrown anything before. As the pop exploded and would get a couple of the people in front of me wet (I am sorry still to you) I could only think of how shocked, stunned, and appalled I was that we were losing to Toledo.

Toledo, the place I've grown up in admiring Michigan football since I was 7. The place that used to have one of the better mid-major football programs in the country. Until Tom Amstutz took over that is, and has sent the team from national hype and a 10-2 year his first season (with Nick Saban recruits) to progressively worse and worse years with back to back 5-7 campaigns, followed by the dismal 1-4 start this season.

I will never live this down as a Michigan fan, as I will never live down the App. State loss. That's what had me so pissed. It then hit me, I am not mad at Rodriguez, any of the coaches (maybe still Shafer), or any of the players. I am more upset of the pain I have to endure after witnessing the two worst losses in school history these past two seasons. I then realized how pathetic of a reason that is for being upset.

Sports teams, no matter how much we want it to be true, will go through cycles of being great, to good, to bad. Some teams will have more of one or the other, but as Michigan fans, we have been spoiled with the longest bowl streak, by far, in the country. Nobody has been consistently as good over the last 30-40 years. It still does not make us immune from the cycle, especially with this big of a transition.

Rodriguez's system is something completely foreign to this program and, to be honest, the players here. This program had not seen an innovative offense since the days of Harry Kipke and Fritz Crisler back in the 30's and 40's. For 38-39 years under the Bo regime it has been the three yards and a cloud of dust mentality for the most part. All of the players here, minus some of the freshman, came here thinking that the offense was going to be similar to what was run under Lloyd. Surely, none of the O-line, Matthews, Hemingway, Minor, Threet, Brown, or Grady thought they would be running a Rich-Rod offense in their careers.

To those of you who have been booing, did you really expect there to be this drastic of a change without some major growing pains? I was, and to a lesser extent now, still optimistic, but I've been prepared for a rough year the whole way through. It takes an idiot not to have been prepared for it. If we were seeing guys dog it like they did last season at Wisconsin, or before the App State game last year, I might understand some of your booing. But these guys are playing hard, they just are not very good. The Toledo loss was not expected and really sucks (I have to hear about it for the rest of my life) but Rich Rod needs to be given time to turn this around. Until then, we have to accept that at least this year, we have to live with a sucky team in transition. Booing won't help them, they know they suck. They're working on it and we have to give them a legit chance.

I don't want to hear "but losing to a MAC team is unacceptable." You know maybe it is, but they are going to have an extremely rough time at points throughout the season as we have seen. Unfortunately, one of those times happened against Toledo. The offense is getting adjusted to an offense, especially the O-line. This offense is still completely foreign to them. That takes time.

The defense should be playing better, but under Lloyd they couldn't stop the spread either. Luckily then, there was an experienced offense that could keep the defense off the field. As for Toledo, Michigan's D struggled at times, but only gave up 6 offensive points to Toledo. I don't care what team you are playing, let alone Toledo, if the defense gives up only 6 points, that is a great performance because it should win you the game. This disaster is on the offense, which really, just is not that good this year.

Anyone calling for Rich Rodriguez's head right now needs to shut up because you sound like a moron. This is his first year in a program that has never seen anything like his schemes, and any transition of that magnitude would take a year or two, even if this was USC. Look at Rodriguez on the recruiting trail and you can see a bright future on the horizon. A pretty nice class shaping up for next year, and two stud wide outs already committed for the year after. Rodriguez will have Michigan back where it should be, eventually, but fans need to stop being idiots and have some patience.

So with Happy Valley approaching, two years removed from the game that Anthony Morelli prays of forgetting that had me watch Michigan walk out undefeated, I am not canceling my trip. Michigan is 2-4 and Penn State is unbeaten and #3 in the country. Michigan just lost to Toledo, Penn State just pummeled Wisconsin in Madison. Why support this Michigan team that just handed a loss that I will never live down as a fan?

Because I am a fan. I am a homer, and I will bleed maize and blue until the day I die. I really don't care if we lose 58-0 to the team that has not beaten us in over a decade, though I'd much prefer a replica of 2005. I will not boo, I will cheer and scream for our defense no matter how bad the game is going. I'm not going to cheer for dumb mistakes, I'll scream in anger like I always do. If they ever look like they are not even trying, then I will scream in rage just like any fan should.

But giving up on this team halfway through the season is lame. So what if they are not going to win a championship, or even make a bowl. I'll be at every game watching and hoping for the team and program to progress in some way. It will ugly at times like it has been, but being a fan involves witnessing those terrible times and still supporting the team.

This season sucks so far, yes, but I also wouldn't rule out a couple moments similar to Wisconsin where for no explainable reason, this team pulls off the unbelievable. Those who love ranting about how the team sucks, and love booing whenever the offense goes 3 and out, and those who have stopped really supporting the team simply resigning to the fact that "we suck," you might be there for the moment. But I guarantee I'll be enjoying it much more whether that moment comes this year, next year, or two years from now.

So where does the optimist go from here, when I never thought I would see the day Michigan started 2-4. I stay optimistic looking at how a disappointing Michigan team in 2005, handed Penn State their only blemish of the year at the last second. But, that year we weren't going through a transition and did end up making a bowl which is questionable for this team. So I probably should just go in knowing we will lose, right.

For better or worse, I choose to keep looking up. If people rip me for trying to keep my spirits up, so be it.

Remember in 2005 when...

GO BLUE!!! In Rod I Trust.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Changing Times for Michigan Football

You had to wonder what he was thinking as he walked out of Michigan Stadium today. He stayed twenty minutes after the kick missed wide left leaving his team defeated. Maybe he remained to take in the band or maybe he simply couldn’t muster up the energy to leave his seat. Whatever the reason, he stayed.

You had to wonder what he was thinking as he watched Michigan lose to a MAC team for the first time in school history. Sure he’d seen his team suffer an upset loss before but certainly not like this. He was there when Appalachian State stunned the college football world to open the 2007-08 season. That was different though, we knew what he was thinking then. What about now?

You had to wonder what he was thinking as he passed by fan after fan, the vast majority not even batting an eye as he brushed shoulders with them. They just kept walking; head down, arms slumped at their sides. He kept walking; head up, hand-in-hand with his wife by his side.

You had to wonder what he was thinking as his men have gotten off to the worst start in 41 years. He’s no stranger to rough starts. After all, the team did lose back-to-back games to start last season. That was different though, that team had experience. Their head coach won 122 games for Michigan. Their quarterback was a four-year starter and all-time leading passer. Their running back was the school’s all-time leading rusher.

You had to wonder what he was thinking as he walked through the stadium gates before the game. Exposed steel looming high above the top of the bowl, set to be the home of plush luxury boxes in the coming years. This was not the same Michigan Stadium that he had frequented each fall Saturday afternoon for almost thirty years.

You had to wonder what he was thinking as he heard the starting lineups announced today. This wasn’t the team that he had come to know so well over the years. The offensive starters combined for just 21 career starts before the season began – all of those belonging to two players. The nine others names he heard had never started a game for the Maize and Blue until this year.

You had to wonder what he was thinking as he watched the action unfold on the field. Spread formations with five wide-receivers, true freshmen lined up at running back, a defensive tackle starting at right guard. The starting quarterback was a redshirt freshman and his backup was a mere walk-on. It was a first-year head coach pacing the sidelines, surrounded with a completely new coaching staff. He couldn’t find many familiar faces as he scanned the home sideline.

You had to wonder what he was thinking as he walked out of Michigan Stadium today. Most fans walked right on by the wrinkled, balding, grey-haired man wearing a simple black leather jacket. Some turned to take a second look, remembering the face they had seen for so many years surrounding Michigan Football. Once or twice, someone would stop him for a handshake but most just kept on walking, oblivious to the fact that they were stride for stride with a Michigan legend.

You had to wonder what Lloyd Carr was thinking as he walked out of Michigan Stadium today, disappearing into the anonymity of Maize and Blue tailgates.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Game 6: Michigan vs. Toledo

After the pathetic second half vs. Illinois, many are left scratching their heads about the Wolverines team. Are they the team we saw in the second half vs. Wisconsin, or the team we saw in the second half vs. Illinois? It's not black and white and I have finally accepted that this year's team is mediocre. They aren't terrible. They are a young team where every game is winnable, but they just won't put it together every weekend because of the inexperience. But if the defense plays like they did vs. Illinois, they will be terrible, period.

UT Offense vs. Michigan Defense:

Luckily, Michigan gets Toledo this weekend and if they take the game seriously, this should be an easy win. Yeah Toledo almost beat Fresno, but that was in Toledo and since then, their offense has been terrible. Toledo is 84th in the country in total offense even though Toledo prides itself on having an explosive offense. Michigan's defense, though, has not done well against the spread (see last week) and that's what Toledo runs. Still, still, if we can't stop them...

Toledo gets their top running back DaJuane Collins (#22) who was out and limited by injuries the last two games. Collins is averaging over 7 yards per carry this year including nearly 140 yards on 15 carries against Fresno. Toledo's quarterback Aaron Opelt (#11) is not very good (under 60% completion percentage), but he does throw it a lot and have some talented receivers who are all at least 6'4". So that could really give the Michigan secondary troubles after struggling last week with missed assignments aplenty. Michigan's front four needs to play better for Michigan to shut down Toledo. I think they will since Toledo's offensive line isn't good. If the front four does play bad, this will be a shootout and Toledo could win this game.

A friend of mine who goes to Toledo, but is a diehard Michigan fan, said he has watched both teams this year, was at the UT Fresno game, and still thinks Michigan should blow out the Rockets. I sure hope so, but if they don't pressure Opelt, it will be a long day for the defense. They should get pressure and bounce back from their pathetic performance last week. Scott Shafer admits he was outcoached last week and I don't think he will let that happen against Toledo.

Advantage: Michigan

UM Offense vs. Toledo Defense:

So Michigan has a lot to work on after doing nothing in the second half last week and still without any running game. Ortmann at LG did not work out well. He is a tackle. The coaches said that they have found the starting five with Dorrestein, Ortmann, Molk, Moosmann and Schilling, but they definitely need to shuffle up the spots of all of them. It'll be interesting to see what they do tomorrow. Dorrestein will play despite getting, as Rodriguez said, "dinged in the head". "Dinged" seriously.

Martavious Odoms is questionable with a shoulder injury after having a pretty good game last week. I expect him to play. Darryl Stonum will be back after being suspended last week. That will help Threet against a pathetic Toledo defense. Toledo's defense is so bad that Michigan's offense (109th in the nation) has the advantage in this matchup. Toledo's defense is 110th in the country in scoring defense, and that unit is said to be improved from last year. The only good player on Toledo's defense is safety Barry Church (#8) but with the terrible Toledo pass rush (93rd in the nation in sacks) even he will probably look bad from time to time. I don't care how bad Michigan has been this season they will be able to run the ball, pass the ball, and score. The only thing that can kill them is if they turn the ball over alot. That means, Michigan should not hand it to any back other than McGuffie to avoid fumbles, and Steve Threet needs to limit his ball slipping out of the hand thing to one time. Threet has been good about not throwing picks so if he keeps that up, Michigan will have success against Toledo's pathetic defense. The offensive line is terrible, but you could put tackling dummies on the O-line vs. the Toledo D-line, and Threet would still have enough blocking.

Advantage: Michigan

Special Teams:

Lopata keeps looking worse and worse as the year goes on; Zoltan keeps looking better and better (Statistics wise, still relying on good bounces) but Michigan is tops in the country in net punting average; and the return game finally looked decent last weekend with Odoms returning (until his fumble, but that was a good helmet on the ball type hit). If Odoms is healthy and plays, I am calling it right now that he will return a kick for a touchdown. Toledo is 115th in the country in kickoff coverage and if Odoms is healthy he is explosive enough to return one. Even if he doesn't play, Avery Horn or James Rogers even could have success.

Toledo has a good kicker in Alex Steigerwald who missed his first kick in two years last week. He is pretty reliable. Toledo's punting is atrocious averaging only 36 yards per punt, but they have some decent coverage there. Toledo has no explosive returners.

This speaks for itself, even if Michigan fumbles once..

Advantage: Michigan


I want to say Michigan will come out and kill Toledo after a horrid performance last week, but I'm not sold on the defense stopping any spread, even Toledo's, after last week. Michigan will score though because Toledo's defense is just that bad. Michigan will reach the unfathomable 40 point plateau tomorrow with the offense finally running the ball well with McGuffie, hitting some deep passes, Threet with a long run or two, and a touchdown off a kick return. Toledo will score too though making it scary for a while. Hopefully they get pressure, but if Opelt gets off quick passes, they will hurt the Wolverines D.

Michigan 42 Toledo 20

You can get the call live on the sportstream at noon. Log onto, click on listen live and sportstream.

Go Blue!

Big Weekend for Michigan Athletics

Here's the weekend schedule:

Women's Soccer vs #23 Penn State 4pm
Women's Swimming/Diving vs Minnesota 6pm
#23 Volleyball vs #18 Purdue 7pm ESPN2
#2 Ice Hockey vs St. Lawrence St. 7:35pm

Football vs Toledo 12pm
#23 Volleyball vs #19 Illinois 6pm
#2 Ice Hockey vs St. Lawrence St. 7:35pm

Softball vs Notre Dame (DH) 12pm
Women's Soccer vs Ohio State 12pm
#24 Men's Soccer vs Western Michigan 2:30pm

That's 11 games in three days for you to choose from! Matt and I are going to try to make it to all of them. We'll blog it as internet permits.

Monday, October 6, 2008

WCBN College Picks Standings after Week 6

First PUSH of the season with the Penn St 20-6 win over Purdue.  Congrats to Stu who extended his lead with a 4-0-1 week.  Here's where we stand:

1 Stu (17-7-1)
2 JK (17-12-1)
3 Rob (16-13-1)
4 Rushi (11-10-1)
4 Tobin (8-6-1)
6 Seid (12-12-1)
7 Wiggles (9-10-1)
8 Jeremy (9-11)
Bill (6-3-1)
Christian (4-1)
Nick (3-2)
Matt (1-4)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Game 5: Michigan vs. Illinois

Coming off the emotional high some say the Wisconsin game will propel Michigan to contention in the Big Ten race. Wait a second, this offense was terrible in the first half, still gave up 220 passing yards to a heavy running Wisconsin team, and cannot hold the ball on special teams. This team has alot of work to do week to week if they want to compete for any title, just as Rodriguez said. Hopefully the team came back to Earth after the win, because Illinois is still a team that might be better than Michigan right now and is certainly better if Michigan continues to the turn the ball over. Having said that, Illinois has struggled this year including a 20-17 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette. This is a winnable game for the Wolverines.

Michigan Offense vs. Illinois Defense:

Even if you disregard the awful first half in which Michigan had -7 passing yards (yes negative). Even if you disregard the three fumbles in that half along with Threet’s first two interceptions, this team still cannot move the ball consistently against a solid defense. This team proved in the second half that they live and die by the big play. The offense could only move the ball consistently on the first touchdown drive culminating in the Kevin Koger 26 yard touchdown reception. The next score needed a roughing the passer penalty on 3rd and 15 and then led to the huge 36 yard TD run by Minor (big plays and big breaks). And the final offensive score needed the 58 yard miracle run by Threet. Michigan’s offense has only three drives of ten or more plays this season. They have not proven they can consistently move the ball at all. The reason Michigan won that game because of a shift in momentum the magnitude of which happens once every twenty years. The surge of big plays that occurred in the game will not happen again and this team needs to learn to move the ball. Or continue to play solid defense, for a change not turn the ball over, and wait for a couple big plays to get some scores. I don’t think we are going to suddenly see an offense that can move the ball, unfortunately, no matter how bad Illinois’ defense is.

Fortunately, Illinois defense is prone to giving up big plays. They are not so great. The supposed strength of the team at the start of the season, the defensive line, has hugely underperformed. And unlike Michigan, where I attribute it to a lack of schematic aggression, Illinois has blitzed and still has not been productive on the defensive front. They rotate nine guys on that line and have some talent there. #81 Will Davis was an all Big Ten DE last season, but is off to a slow start with 2 sacks coming off his 9.5 sack season last year. I would not be surprised to see him breakout for a couple more though against Michigan’s front. On the other end, Doug Pilcher #95 who had 5.5 sacks last year has 0 so far and only 1 TFL. The Defensive tackles have underperformed too. But one of them, #94 Dave Lindquist, had his best career game last season against Michigan with 2 sacks. For whatever reason though, this unit has struggled this season. Even against EIU. The defense gives up 182 rushing yards per game. That can also be attributed to a linebacking corps that is ok, but has been slow to get to the ball and has tackled poorly. #44 Brit Miller is a 1st team Big Ten talent and leads the Big Ten in tackles with 11 per game. He also has 7.5 TFLs, a sack, a TD on a fumble recovery, and an INT. #45 Rodney Pittman has been alright this season with 18 tackles and 5 for loss. The big disappointment in this group is #2 Martez Wilson who is 6’4” 246 and extremely fast. He was a five star recruit two years ago, but takes terrible angles, has been terrible in coverage and seems to be the Illinois’ fans’ Stevie Brown except he plays linebacker. He might not play much tomorrow though as Zook said he wants to play a nickel 4-2-5 much of the game.

This plays hugely into Michigan’s hands, IMO, as Notre Dame ran the same scheme. Also, Wisconsin was much more talented than Illinois. Illinois’ has a pretty shaky secondary too, with the exception of All-American corner #1 Vontae Davis. He will probably shut down a slightly hobbled Greg Matthews and hopefully Threet does not try to force it into tight coverage. Davis can and will make him pay if he does. The rest of the secondary for Illinois is not so good and should be easily exploitable. With Stonum out though for disciplinary reasons, Hemingway out with Mono, and Robinson questionable someone else like Savoy, Clemons, or Odoms has to step up big. Also, Koger, who had the big grab last week, might have a bigger role. If Illinois stays in the Nickel, Michigan should have some more success running with McGuffie and that should help loosen Threet up as it did vs. Notre Dame. Expect some better running and when Illinois blitzes, some quick passes to Odoms, Koger and maybe Clemons which could go for big plays or at least a consistent 5 yards. Illinois does not have the speed and talent with the safeties to stop the screen plays like Wisconsin did. Hopefully Threet can get the ball there.

Illinois has struggled mightily on defense and has openly expressed the need to change it up after the PSU game. Yet, the mighty Ron Zook has decided to keep the starters the same. Whenever we play Illinois, I count on Zook to help us out. This might help us out huge. While Michigan will still stink at times on offense, expect them to have a running game and actually have 2-3 nice drives and a couple more with the fortune of some big plays. Moving the ball will be easy, but Illinois has forced 8 turnovers on the year including 5 fumbles. Michigan needs to hold on to the ball for the entire game or they’ll pay. They should be better, but there is no way I can give them the nod here until they prove they can be somewhat consistent.

Advantage: Illinois

Illinois Offense vs. Michigan Defense:

While Illinois defense has struggled, the offense has not. Led by mobile QB Juice Williams, this spread team reminds me a little of Utah and that could mean trouble. Illinois is averaging 444.5 yards per game this year including 215 yards on the ground. Williams is the team’s second leading rusher and despite losing Rashard Mendenhall, Junior Daniel Durfene (#22) with 396 yards on the year averaging 6.7 YPC. Juice has improved as a passer, but still is completing under 60% of his passes. But he has arguably the Big Ten’s best receiver in returning freshman All-American #9 Arrelious Benn. Been is used both as a passing target and in the running game and is going to be a tough cover for Michigan. He plays in the slot alot, but I’d think Michigan still has to keep Warren or Trent on him, preferably Warren, taking them out of their element on the outside. If one of the safeties (Stewart, Harrison, or Brown) is found on him, expect a big play for Illinois. Benn needs to be kept in check and hopefully gets as few touches as possible because he is fast. Juice doesn’t have many other proven receiving targets, but he does have a great and reliable tight end in #16 Michael Hoomanawanui. I am not looking forward to saying his name tomorrow. Unfortunately, we may have to say it alot as he has 12 catches for 169 yards this year and has picked up 5 first downs this year as the third down go-to guy. If Michigan is not aggressive and plays back like they did against Utah, #16 will have a huge game; as will Benn and probably all Illinois receivers.

Luckily for the Wolverines, Illinois offensive line is not anywhere near Wisconsin’s and the D-line did pretty good against Wisconsin. Illinois has a pretty good left tackle in 5th year senior Xavier Fulton who was a preseason all Big Ten pick by many. Also, their Center Ryan McDonald is 1st team all Big Ten. Other than that, the two guards and the right tackle are not very good. The right tackle is a true freshman in Jeff Allen who started his first game last week against PSU. Graham or Jamison (whoever gets on his side) should feast on the young guy. The O-line as a whole has been very susceptible to blitzes and if Michigan blitzes, they should pressure Williams alot and, if they bring zone blitzes, they should be able to stop the run in the backfield pretty consistently.

The key here is Michigan’s aggressiveness. If they lay back like they did against Utah, and don’t blitz electing to stay in soft coverage, not only will Illinois have the short middle of the field open for 10 yard passes and for Benn to get the ball and take off, but Illinois will run the ball down Michigan’s throat out of the spread in the zone read and option. While Michigan should have one guy, preferably Ezeh, keeping contain and spying on Williams, they should bring the pressure early and often. Like we say vs. Wisconsin, Shafer blitzed early and the D-line was able to take over in the second half. But, when they laid back against Wisconsin on the last two drives, rushing three most of the time, Wisconsin even drove it down the field through the air. Michigan needs to keep bringing the pressure or Illinois will have success. Plus, this offense has ten turnovers on the year. Putting pressure on Juice, will force him into bad decisions. He has six interceptions on the year, and has thrown one in every game. If Michigan brings the pressure, Illinois will struggle with the exception of probably a couple big plays.

Advantage: Michigan (If Shafer decides to bring pressure)

Special Teams:

“The return game is atrocious,” says Rich Rodriguez. That is about the only assessment you can give the return game with returners seemingly unable to just hold on to the ball, and when they do, they decide to dance in place instead of running forward (Harrison). Odoms and Horn are listed as kick returners right now, which seems ok since they haven’t screwed up yet. Then James Rogers who never plays is also listed along with Harrison. Let’s give Odoms and Horn a shot I guess, at least we don’t have the same guys who have fumbled (Cissoko, Trent, Shaw). Warren is listed as the punt returner with an “or” for Matthews too....Yikes...

The kicking game is still doing pretty well with Lopata at 3-4 on the year still and Zoltan up to 16th in the nation in punting due to some very nice rolls. Even more impressive was Jason Gingell on kickoffs with one touchback in the second half keeping it from dangerous returner David Gilreath and then making him take it from 6 yards back in the endzone. I never thought I would ever be happy to see Gingy after last year, but I actually hope he does kickoffs again.

Illinois kicking game is not as good as Michigan’s with RS-Fr Matt Eller as the kicker who has gone 5-7 on the year, but with one make from 51. He is pretty good, but not near great. Their punting is not good with punter Anthony Santella averaging just 38.6 yards per punt. This should help Michigan’s offense get some good field position. One place I would say Illinois has the advantage is on kickoffs where Illinois has 7 touchbacks between Eller and Mike Cklamovski. Part of that probably is because Illinois has a lot of kickoffs since they score a lot, but Michigan only has the one touchback from Gingy on the year.

In the return game, Illinois is not great, but holds onto the football so they are way above Michigan right now. Freshman A.J. Jenkins is their best kick returner averaging 24.5 yard per return so far. Benn returns punts and kicks too, but has struggle on kickoff returns (16.7 yards) and has not gotten chances punt returning, probably because of Illinois’ bad defense, going for 27 yards on 2 chances with one going for 22 yards. But they hold onto the ball so way better than Michigan. Illinois did give up a kick return for a touchdown to Penn State last weekend, but against Michigan, until they hold onto the ball, that should not be a concern.

Michigan needs to hold onto the ball.

Advantage: Illinois

I really have no idea how this game will play out. Michigan is trying to come off a high, and has struggled against the spread tending to not bring pressure. Illinois’ offense is good, but their defense is bad. They could be pumped to beat Michigan for the first time since 1999 or just indifferent at 2-2. I’ve decided to base my decision on the Zook factor. I figure we can always count on Ron Zook for a few big gifts during the course of the game. He already has helped Michigan, by not changing any of the starters on the struggling defense. I expect a few inexplicable calls and substitutions that give Michigan the nod, in a game I otherwise have no idea how to pick. Player of the game is Ron Zook for the Wolverines.

Michigan 24 Illinois 21

Remember to tune in at 3:30 tomorrow afternoon by going to and clicking on the sportstream to listen live.

Go Ron Zook help the Wolverines!!!