Thursday, November 30, 2006

Well, the heat is officially on

After rolling up a 7-0 record agaisnt the cupcakes of the schedule, Tommy Amaker's Michigan Wolverine basketball team went out and turned in a sloppy and uninspired loss in their first nationally televised game of the season. Injuries? Nope. In fact, N.C. State was hit by the injury bug when their best ballhander went down in the first half. The Wolfpack was down at that point and rallied from there to win. Undermanned? Nope. N.C. State reportedly was balling with only five scholarship players.

But we've been through all that already. I'm just going to be honest here. Our loss was bad enough but watching Ohio State trot out on the court last night with a bunch of underclassman and seeing that #1 next to their evil name made me want to take off my hat and puke in it. The OSU cheaters did not win, but they battled, battled the whole game in Chapel Hill, and that was revolting enough. As the Dude once said [in the Big Lebowski] "This aggression will not stand! Man!"

Tommy, you are unquestionably a good man, a caring mentor. But if this task is too much for you, we will just need to go in another direction. Things would be a lot easier if you had a brand new practice facility, I know. I also know that there are coaches out there from mid-majors taking teams into the dens of ranked opponents and coming away victorious. You do not have the advantages North Carolina or Kansas have, but these coaches do not have the advantages you have.

I don't want to hear any more excuses. Just get er done. That's it.

So, It Looks Like it Will Be LSU ...

A quick look at the Tigers.

LSU finished the season at 10-2, with losses at Auburn (7-3) and at Florida (23-10). Notable wins include at Tennessee (28-24) (where JaMarcus Russell may have made his signature comeback, leading the team to a TD in the waning moments in front of a sea of screaming rocky toppers) and at Arkansas (31-26) (where a kickoff return TD helped offset the bazillion rushing yards allowed to the SEC's top rushing offense).

Statistically, the Tigers rank out as follows.

Rushing Offense: 37th (159 YPG)
Passing Offense: 23rd (245 YPG)
Total Offense: 18th (404 YPG)
Scoring Offense: 11th (33 PPG)
Passing Efficiency: 6th (163.91)
Sacks Allowed: 30th (1.50 SPG)

Rushing Defense: 15th (93 YPG)
Pass Defense: 4th (145 YPG)
Pass Efficiency Defense: 3rd (92%)
Total Defense: 2nd (238 YPG)
Scoring Defense: 6th (12.5 PPG)
Sacks: 7th (3.25 SPG)
Tackles For Loss: 61st (5.58 TFLPG)

Net Punting: 100th (32.5 YPG)
Punt Returns: 57th (8.8 YPR)
Kickoff Returns: 47th (21 YPR)

Turnover Margin: 61st (0)

I am focusing entirely on LSU in an attempt to trickt the sports black cloud that seems to be following me these days into screwing me over by willing UCLA to victory over USC. I wonder if buying Rose Bowl tickets would do the the trick?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Just When I Was Starting to Recover, ESPN HAD to Televise That Basketball Nonsense

How humiliating was that? A team picked to finish dead last in the ACC, with 5 scholarship athletes, whipped our asses.

Amaker's teams all look the same. Can't shoot. Can't dissect a basic 2-3 or 2-1-2 zone. Can't deal with a double team. And most frustrating, can't hold onto the damn ball.

I don't call this the Apologist's Den for nothing. I have given the guy every opportunity. I defended him for years. It started to unravel for me last year in a game where Courtney Sims kept turning the ball over when the wing defender would drop down to the box for the double team, and Amaker had no answer. Nothing. People said, it's not Tommy's fault Courtney wouldn't kick it out to the open man. I say bullshit. It is Tommy's fault. Because if you're telling him to do it, and he's not doing it, then sit his ass on the bench. Because I can guarantee you that there are a half dozen students up at the IM building right now who could kick that ball out. Unrealistic, blah blah blah, but at least we won't look stupid when we lose, and keep doing the same stupid shit.

I'm through apologizing. I'm done. By all accounts, Amaker is a class guy and a good man, but I can see no possibility that he will ever be consistently successful as a major college basketball coach. It's one thing to be at an athletic disadvantage. It's another thing altogether to be sloppy, disorganized and consistently inconsistent. His days are numbered.

Monday, November 27, 2006

There Is No Justice In the World

None. OSU and slithering coach Jim Tressel win again. Admitted cheater Troy Smith clinches the Heisman. A great man dies and we are unable to honor his passing by pulling off the win in Columbus. And to top it all off, we will be denied a chance at redemption at a neutral site in no small part because the rest of America (particularly the voting coaches) does not want to see a rematch.

USC lost to Oregon State, eeked out a couple of other wins, beat Notre Dame by a lesser margin at home than we did in South Bend, yet VAULTS (not slips, mind you) past us seemingly into the BCS championship game.

Say what you want about USC deserving its shot (and granted, some of it will be true), but it sure seems like a hell of a penalty to impose upon the only 1 loss team whose downfall came by three points in the stadium of the undisputed number one team in the nation. Name any other team whose single loss should be regarded higher. It can't be done.

Yet, here we sit. Apparently, we had our shot, though of course, USC doesn't have to set a single foot into the lion's den they call Columbus to get theirs. Nope - they get to play a 42 minute flight from home at a neutral site, in what is likely to be perfect weather.

If I am wrong, and any justice remains in this world, UCLA will pull off the stunner, Florida will win the SEC championship, and we will move back into the championship game. That's right, Florida will win the SEC championship. Because if there truly is justice, then Urban Meyer's moaning, bitching, and myopic (yet, typical SEC) ass will continue his whine storm for several weeks before having his ass handed to him by USC in the Rose Bowl.

Now that would be justice.

Friday, November 17, 2006




When I Said Monumental Was Not a Big Enough Word ...

I had no idea that The Game could possibly take on any more meaning.

Well, as we know, suddenly it has. The greatest Michigan coach of the modern era, the coach who has defined Michigan football since the late 1960's, is no more. On the eve of the greatest Michigan/OSU game of all time, with the game of the century a mere day away, the great Bo Schembechler passed away.

Bo preceded me in Michigan history by a fair margin. Yet, I tell you without hesitation, his passing has crushed me. My heart aches. Bo Schembechler WAS Michigan football as I know it.

I can only imagine how his protege' Lloyd Carr must feel. Suddenly, an overwhelming challenge has just taken on a whole new level of suffocating pressure. How do you lose a guy who means so much to you, yet find a way to honor him properly in the face of this momentus game without winning?

Quite frankly, you can't. And while it's not fair, I can tell you, the only way that Michigan players and coaches can properly honor Bo is to beat Ohio State tomorrow. It's not fair, but it's what we've been dealt.

Let god be my witness, I believed we could do it before, and I believe we must do it now. I have no doubt we will.

God Bless and keep you Bo. Go Blue. That's all I have to say.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

You Want Hyperbole? You Want Rah Rah? I'll Give You Hyperbole and Rah Rah.

I find I am unable to stretch my mind enough to fully comprehend the enormity of what is about to take place.

A Michigan football team, led by a maligned coach, has furiously surged back from edge of irrelevance. On September 16, 2006, we announced to the rest of the college football world that we would no longer tolerate their disrespect. We went into one of the more storied atmospheres in the game and had our way. We feasted until our bellies were full, and took our sweet time digesting the spoils, all under the watchful eye of Touchdown Jesus. We did it after their self-proclaimed genius coach had spent the off-season telling our recruits that our staff was on its way out and that he had just signed a 10-year contract. We did it after he spent the night before lying about having done so, and telling the world that mighty Notre Dame would do their talking on Saturday. Well Charlie, who's talking now?

On November 18, 2006, this Michigan team will make an even stronger statement. As a touchdown underdog, they will go into the most hostile college football environment on the planet, against the undisputed number one team in the nation, and IMPOSE THEIR WILL. OSU and Tressel will pay. They will pay for running bogus stories about an arrest warrant on Ohio native Prescott Burgess, and embarrassing his family in the name of gamesmanship. They will pay for searching our players and equipment as we entered the stadium last time we were there, and then lying about until Schembechler outed them. They will pay for the words of their former players, who have described a well-respected senior member of our team as "worthless." They will pay for admitting that their QB accepted cash bribes, and then launching his Heisman campaign. And tears will flow like rivers throughout the state of Ohio as the stunned buckeye faithful experience a heartache so deep, their children's children will remember it.

We are hearing from our most trusted sources that this team is ready. Prepared, focused, confident and pissed. I truly believe that we have seen a weakness, and we have been preparing all year to exploit it. We will claw, scratch and fight for every inch, Cindarella Man style (That's for you LC.)./

Get ready for the greatest football Saturday of your lives.

"Wait and see, man. Wait and see."

Not one to make predictions or talk any trash, that's what one of the current wolverines reportedly advised one of the committed recruits regarding Saturday's outcome.

It's not often that you get to be so clearly right about an event in the future....while the vast majority of the country is just so clearly wrong. Enjoy these last few days of smug knowingness. Then enjoy the inevitable AMBUSH that is coming to Ohio Stadium.

Wait and see, man. Wait and see.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

It's Only Tuesday ... But It's Not Too Early To Put It On The Line

Personally, I feel it brewing. I feel it coming together. I look around, look back, close my eyes and stop looking altogether, and it becomes painfully clear.

Michigan is destined to not only beat OSU on Saturday, but to do it in a historical fashion.

Think about it. I could go through the particulars (and no doubt, will in the near future), but those of you whose hearts beat maize and blue will already know - something extraordinary is brewing, and OSU happens to have the misfortune of being the villian in a predestined story of greatness.

We are in the middle of what will become the greatest week in Michigan football history. Cherish it. Smile knowinglingy in the face of those who would doubt it. Be patient, trust, and get ready for the greatest Saturday of your life.


This is not the time for half measures.

You want to know who knows that as well as anybody? Somebody who has been there, risen to the challenge, brushed off a dirty buckeye who tried to take him out of the game by twisting his ankle under the pile, and run through the cocky Ohio State defense en route to a convincing win. I'm talking about former Michigan running back, Chris Perry.

If you're going to play in this Game, you better bring a lunch and a lantern because the bodies are flying all day and all night. Chris Perry brought his as a player. Now he's bringing it again as a celebrated alumnus. Here are some highlights from his interview today "Branch is going to knock the stuffing out of -- what's his name -- Troy Smith. You all set that [Heisman Trophy talk] up anyway. That's some BS to begin with." Here's some more goodies: "Tressel's been cheating. So, hey, we're going to keep it real. There ain't nothing else to say."

Do your part this week. This is not the time for insincere bullshit, like "Should be a great game. I'm looking forward to watching it. May the best team win." (Puking Sound!) Seriously, F that! If you're going to talk smack this week, TALK SMACK! Rarely do fans of a dominating undefeated team have an opportunity to lay some unexpected wood on two high profile opponents in one season. Cherish this. Do not shrink from the moment. Chris Perry didn't.

To finish off, Perry added a seemingly innocuous description of defensive personnel. "We've got a defense with Branch...We've got LaMarr Woodley, David Harris, Leon Hall. You want me to keep naming names?" In Apologist's Den vernacular, that translates into "They big. They fast. They mean. They nasty....And they fast."

We're coming for you Tressel. Fear this.

Three Primary Keys to THE GAME.

1. Rabid Intensity. To beat OSU in Columbus, we need to be going at full throttle from the time we get off the bus until we finish the post-win serenade of The Victors before the tiny contingent of Michigan fans brave enough (not to mention, well-insured enough) to make the trip. Michigan teams have a tendency to reflect the attitude of their coaches. When any senior on this team speaks in an interview, you swear that Lloyd Carr is back there somehere answering the questions and pulling strings to make their mouths move in sync. When he's intense, they're intense. When he's pissed, they have a tendency to follow suit, and play downright nasty. Well, LC is pissed, reportedly storming out of an interview with ABC, cursing all the way. What set him off? Some say its leftover anger from the Columbus TV station's reporting that Prescott Burgess would be served with an arrest warrant. Some say a question regarding Breaston, and earlier comments by a former Buckeye calling him worthless. Some say it was repeated questions about Jim Tressel having his number. I'll have to wait to see for myself to know the truth, but honestly, it doesn't matter. Because at the end of the day, ABC could have wanted to talk about ice cream and LC would have found a way to get worked up. The fact of the matter is, this is the last big stop on the redemption tour, and he intends to make it count. It all starts with palpable intensity. It doesn't hurt that Schembechler is throwing "by gods" across the airways, daring OSU to try and pull another chickenshit pre-game dog sniffing fiasco. Make no mistake. Michigan, the entire living breathing nation of Michigan, is pissed. Intensity will not be a problem.

2. Destroy Troy. The difference in the last two OSU victories was Troy Smith. He's bigger and faster than he appears. Despite early shakiness in his career, he has evolved into an amazingly accurate passer. However, he does have a tendency to fumble the ball. Turnovers will be at a premium, and he is seemingly more likely to fumble than to throw a pick. Of course, he is more likely to fumble with Alan Branch and Lamar Woodley knocking him to the turf. Also, I would not be surprised to see OSU use Smith as an intentional rushing option, and not just as a scrambling passer. IU's QB had some success last week running QB draws. Keep in mind, however, that in several of those instances, he did so because Will Johnson and Chris Graham just missed making a tackle. Branch and Burgess would probably have fared better, at least on part of the successful runs. If Smith runs the ball, the opportunities to force a fumble increase. In the end, this will probably be the best front 7 that Troy Smith has ever faced. If they can't contain him and put him on the ground a few times, then drive him straight to New York and give him the damn Heisman Trophy. But I think they can. When these guys get after you, they get after you. They big. They fast. They strong. They nasty. And they fast.

3. Hart of a Lion. The Buckeyes have amassed some unbelievable numbers defensively, particularly considering that so many starters moved on to the NFL last season. They are giving up fewer points per game (7.8) than Michigan's vaunted '97 defense (9.5). They are averaging nearly 2 interceptions per game, including a spooky number of picks by the linebackers. But if there is one area where teams have had (relative) success against OSU, it's running the football. Michael Hart can make the difference in this game. If he is able to find the creases and get 4 yards here, 6 yards there, it becomes an entirely different ball game. The play action will work. The middle will open up. The long pass will be there. The screens and draws will work. It all starts and ends with Mike Hart. And there is not a single offensive player whose shoulders I would rather put it upon. No offense to Chad Henne, who everyone knows I love, but Mike Hart must carry this team to victory in Columbus. If he cannot make OSU cheat to stop him, they will pressure Henne on the edges, and sit back at the safety and LB positions and wait for him to make a mistake. They have done it to everyone they have played. They will jump on you offensively, force you to pass, and squat in the passing lanes. Well, if Michigan's D can keep the Buckeye offense in check (and if it can be done, it will happen Saturday), and Mike Hart can be reasonably effective, OSU won't have the luxury to sit back. They will have to commit tighter to the line of scrimmage to stop Hart. If they do, look for lightning to strike in the form of Manningham, Arrington, and/or Breaston. If they don't, then DeBord will try to grind them into dust.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Monumental Is Not a Big Enough Word

In virtually every relevant poll ever taken, Michigan vs. Ohio State is the greatest rivalry in all of sports. It is known simply as The Game. And for good reason. Not only are these two teams traditional powerhouses in college football, they have played one another more than 1oo times. The hatred runs deep. Woody Hayes once ran out of gas on recruiting trip because he wouldn't buy gas in Michigan. Under Hayes, OSU dedicated an entire day of practice per week to preparing for Michigan - Michigan Monday, as it was known. OSU still hands out golden "pants" pieces of jewelry to symbolize victories over Michigan.

Yet, despite the history, the deep seeded rivalry, and the success of each club, NEVER have they met when they were ranked #1 and #2. Never. Moreover, in the storied history of college football (which is BTW, more than twice as old as pro football), no two teams from the same conference have ever been 11-0. Of course, you might say, teams play more games these days, and you'd be right. But still, last week, OSU and Michigan were both 10-0, and became the first teams to claim that record in the same conference in 71 years.

Make no mistake, this is the biggest Michigan vs. OSU game in our lifetimes. It is a rare opportunity for players from each team to carve their names in college football history.

I for one, cannot wait. My stomach has been doing somersaults for hours. Go Blue.

Friday, November 10, 2006

I Love You Like Mary Loved Jesus ...

That pretty much says it all.

If you are reading this, then you no doubt understand the bond between the University of Michigan, and those that become part of it. It's bigger than us, bigger than life. Some of the greatest minds and spirits that have ever lived roamed Michigan's halls. Great philosophers, physicists, journalists, doctors, lawyers, presidents, actors (and yes, mad bombers). They have all (or at least, most of them) contributed to the legacy of one of the greatest public institutions that this country has ever known. Michigan, our Michigan, is commonly referred to as the Ivy League resident of the midwest. In fact, any self-respecting Michigan grad will tell you, Harvard is the Michigan of the East. You may ask, what is the difference between a Harvard student and a Michigan student? Well, the answer is, we are just as smart as you, we just don't feel the need to to profess it.

Despite the academic accolades, with engineering, medical and law programs (among others) lodged solidly among the nation's best, Michigan is best known for its prowess in a game it helped invent and develop - football. It is here, in the greatest of all sports, that Michigan truly separates itself from the pack. No top 10 academic institution can hold a candle to the maize and blue. Even Notre Dame, with all of its history and (deserved) spectacle, is second-fiddle to the mighty UM on athletic and academic fronts. Put simply, if you are a Michigan grad, and a Wolverine football fan, you can live your life without ever feeling the need to look up to, apologize to, or explain anything to anyone, including Notre Dame, who is a distant second in this regard.

That's a powerful thing. A mighty powerful thing. A thing that you can only understand if you have lived it. And by living it, I mean walking through America's streets with a maize and blue jacket blazing, a Michigan degree on your CV, and a satisfied and knowing look on your face (which BTW, is MUCH more recognizable in years like this where we're 10-0).

And for this, I love you Michigan. I love you like Mary loved Jesus. Go Blue. The final step in sweet, sweet redemption is 8 days away.

So, NOW Can We Talk About Which One Loss Team Will Play for the Title?

Thank you Louisville. We really enjoyed debating your merits for the past two weeks. It was a good exercise in remembering just how bullshit the whole BCS thing can be. Thank you also for not making it to the title game. No offense, I have nothing against you per se, but facing you is any traditional power's worst nightmare. If we beat you, then it's a big "so-what." If we lose, people laugh at us. I'm not saying it's right, but it is presently the way things happen to be. You are doing all that you can to change that, and beating the likes of Michigan or OSU on an up year would help tremendously in that regard. But before you can demand that day, you simply must beat the Rutgers' of the world.

After this weekend, the lot of one loss teams could narrow, as Arkansas travels to Knoxville, USC faces a stubborn Oregon squad, and Wake travels to sleeping traditional powerhouse FSU. The remaining one loss teams should be around another week to argue their right to play for it all in January.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Potential OSU Hero: the Final Group

Previously identified potential heroes include:

Henne: 8.5
Manningham: 9.0
Harris: 8.0
Breaston: 6.5
Hart: 8.0
Woodley: 8.0

The final group are as follows:

Arrington: Biding his time, skirting possible personal issues last year that some hinted were unlawful, yet organic, AA emerged on the scene EXACTLY when we needed him, when MM went down. He was finally ready for the limelight, and seemed to be coming into his own before running into a new batch of trouble. Not benched, but almost certainly distracted, AA has been falling a tiny bit short of the mark in the past two games. Still, he has been the go-to guy in MM's absence, and has earned Chad' confidence in the process. Kind of makes you wonder what would happen if AA at his best, and MM at his best hit the field at the same time? Touchdowns, I predict. And lots of them. OSU lacks the big, physical and imposing corner to handle AA. If they spend too much time shitting themselves over MM's propensity to smoke OSU safeties, including the former blue chipper now known as Manningham's bitch (don't worry Jamarrio, you share that title with at LEAST one PSU DB), then Arrington could belly up to the buffet and gorge himself. 8.0

Reuben Riley: A known commodity at RG, Riley was forced to duty at RT when several underclass prospects failed to timely hit the mark. While we were all disappointed that he was unable to play his natural position at RG, we quickly learned upon his injury exactly why he was playing RT in the first place. Make no mistake, Reuben Riley is not going to score two TD's, or even record 3 pancake blocks at RT. But, if he can help stem the OSU DE and blitzing tide and give Henne time to choose between three very talented WR's, he could instantly become the game's MVP. Henne has been NFL-like precise when protected, not so much when not. Riley locking up the right side, ala Jake Long on the left, and suddenly moving the football a moderate 8 yards at a time gets dramatically easier. 7.0

Prescott Burgess. Let's just say you're sitting there, in the midst of a brutal physical and mental onslaught the likes of which the vast majority of us have never known. You study, practice, study, practice, study, kill a PSU QBU, study, cut your mohawk, bang one of a handful of hot chicks in the vicinity of south quad, study and practice. You'd be pretty worn out, right? Then, on top of that, what if you learned that a Columbus TV station was running your picture with a caption above it reading "ARREST WARRANT?" Think you might find a second wind? Think maybe it was time to kick a little jealous ohio ass? Definitely. The key here will be the ankle. If Burgess is healthy, he'll get a chance to take an emerging TE Rory Nichol out of the equation AND get the occasional shot on a running Troy Smith. Burgess' talent was widely doubted for 3 years. Not anymore. If he's healthy, he can be a difference maker. 7.5

Honorable Mention dark horses:

Leon Hall, who has the ability to shut down at least one OSU WR, pick a few passess, and force Smith to work the Trent side and middle of the field. If Smith refuses to take the obvious second choice, Hall could make him pay. Smith just strikes me as the kind of guy who throws caution to the wind in his final meaningful college game and tries to beat Hall. We'll see what happens, cheater. It's not as easy to get out of throwing an errant pass to Leon Hall as it is accepting cash and gifts from boosters. BTW, good luck with the Heistman you fraud.

Alan Branch, who has been dealing with double teams since day one. And why not, the guy is a man mountain of QB pain waiting to deliver a fatal blow. At 6' too much, 300 hundred too much, and a RB's agility, Branch always has the potential to take over the trenches. He may be the most unnoticed players on the D as of late, because he's occupying 500 pounds of offensive line, allowing David Harris and Prescott Burgess to clean-up with regularity. But don't let his punishing style put you to sleep. Keep an eye on the New Mexican jumbo athlete, because when he gets through and hits you, you don't get up.

Do NCAA Rules Apply in Columbus?

Recently heard that Smith and Ginn have been in contact with an agent. Of course, you'll never believe me because I cannot reveal a source, and I have no credibility. But I figured I would post it anyway, so if they get caught I can come back here rub it in after the flaming I am surely about to take, ala the Texas A&M guy who first outed Brett Bomar.

Of course, not that it's earth shattering news or anything (and certainly not as juicy as Bomar's money-for-nothing scam), as I suspect this sort of thing happens fairly regularly in big time college football. In fact, I think I may have just cracked a glass wall dating back a decade or so.

Flame away.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

OSU Hero: Part II

I recently rated the following candidates on the OSU Hero scale:

Breaston - 6.5.
Hart - 8.o.
Woodley - 8.0.

Here are the remaining candidates.

Have you ever felt like you got screwed for doing the right thing? Well, tonight, while watching election returns, minding my own business and doing no harm, I wrote three lengthy paragraphs on this subject, proofreading and feeling like I had conveyed my point. Then, trying to improve my previous blogging and better myself, I ran the stupid spell check (having noticed that my earlier posts had errors). The goddman program flashed my entire post and flushed it. Therefore, I give you my (RE)thoughts on the issue below (dammit!). I ask for your genorosity. Please recognize that the second time around is seldom as meaningful as the first.

Chad Henne. Somewhat surprisingly, if you ask OSU fans, and I have ad nauseum, you will find that most of them put the outcome of The Game squarely on Chad Henne's shoulders. Yet if you ask them to explain and dig deep enough, you will find that most of their expectations fall less on Chad's experience (who did NOT lose the previous contests), and more on the fact that he's not Troy Smith. In other words, they don't expect Chad to lose it, as much as they do not believe he can win it. Fair enough. But please remember fans, Chad has been battle tested. And as one who often wears pajamas bearing his likeness, I can comfortably predict that he will be spot on, and has every abilty to be the difference. 8.5.

Mario Manningham. From Ohio, super Mario has plenty of reason to want to torch the Buckeyes. He ran a little last week, though the one toss his way was overthrown. Yet, his ability might be the key to this game. Cheat a safety to his side to avoid the bomb, and we'll probe your midsection. Cheat a safety not, and we'll test you 1 one 1 on the side and downfield. It's your choice JT. That's what Mario brings to the table. Confer with your star recruit Jamario O'Neal and decide how to play it. My guess is you'll make him beat you. And he will. 9.0.

David Harris. Two weeks ago, I asked another "feverish" fan who his favorite player was on UM's defense. He responded, I would like to pick David Harris, but he's not that sexy defensivey. I grinned, cut his response in mid-stream, and offered, I'll take David Harris. He simply makes plays. Every play that comes his way, in fact. We both agreed that of all defensive players that we rely upon most, David Harris is the one that keeps emerging. At that time, I would not have truly guessed that DH could have surpassed Woodley, Branch or Hall as defensive MVP. Then he racked up the past 2 week's numbers, and all of the sudden it didn't seem that far-fetched. Put simply, he's big, he's fast, he's strong, he hits like a truck, and he's fast. Yeah, we said that already. 8.0.

Rivals Releases Updated Top 100 Recruits

Notables from this group of 27 five star and 63 four star from the Michigan perspective include:

Michigan recruit Ronald Johnson of Michigan. Moved all the way up to No. 5 overall and now listed as a WR/DB. Considered a must get for Michigan, is considering Michigan, OSU, USC, Texas and Florida, among others. Insiders remain confident, but do not expect this one to end until near/at signing day. USC and OSU thought to be main competition. *****

Michigan recruit DE Everson Griffen of Arizona. Somewhat surprisingly, the nation's top DE gave Michigan an official visit a few weeks back. It is widely thought that USC is the team to beat for this athletic freak, but when you get one of five allowed official visits, you have some sort of shot. *****

Michigan verbal commitment QB Ryan Mallet of Texas. Unquestionably the nation's top arm, Mallet moves up a few spots to No. 21 overall and No. 3 QB, behind No. 1 overall J.C. Superstar (Clausen) and John Brantley. The glove-shredding, 80-yard throwing legend continues to work the phones to bring in additional talent. *****

Michigan verbal commitment DB Jeremy Finch of Indiana. One of the biggest movers in the new top 100, Finch blows past fellow DB recruit and OSU verbal Eugene Clifford of Ohio, landing in the 30 spot overall, and just missing five star status. Finch is considered a heavy hitting and instinctual safety who could grow into an OLB. ****

Other top 100 prospects who are still interested in Michigan and vice versa, but who are way too long of long shots to spend much time on include:

RB Noel Devine *****
DE Martez Wilson *****
OL Matt Romine ****
DT Josh Brent ****
RB Robert Hughes ****

Is The Defensive Line Beginning to Wear Down?

Some have begun to wonder if fatigue is slowing what has been at most times this year a dominant defensive line. I think the easy answer is yes, at least to some extent. It's been a grueling run through a series of physical games (appropriately deemed by many to be the "gauntlet").

But I also think that this defensive line is probably not as fatigued as they have been in the past for a few reasons. First, there is no question that the entire team, d-line included, came into Fall in much better shape. That will continue to pay dividends down the stretch. Second, Michigan continues to lead the nation in time of possession, keeping the defense on the sidelines more than any other team out there. Finally, the staff has consistently rotated Jamison and Johnson, and less consistently a few others like Van Alstyne and Marques Walton.

The two guys most susceptible to being worn down are obviously Branch and Taylor, one or both face double teams on practically every play, and neither regularly shares time with a backup, as does Biggs, and to a lesser extent, Woodley. But I have't seen signs that they are so worn down they can't go when they need to, and Carr said he was pleased with everyone's effort after viewing the BSU film. I believe him. He's not one to hold back if he thinks guys are not getting after it. Moverover, if there are effort problems (which are the tell-tale signs of fatigue), they may not be publicly declared, but info usually trickles out. We're hearing nothing of the sort.

In sum, I think it is likely these guys are tired. That certainly does not make them unique at this time of year. It would have been nice to have the originally scheduled bye week, but I'm sure OSU feels the same way. But I think there is reason to believe there is probably a lot more in the tank, if called upon. I think the coaches will implore this team, and this d-line unit to so demonstrate this weekend. Indiana is playing for their bowl lives and should not be understimated. Yes, they lost by 37 to Minnesota, but they also gained 501 yards of offense in that contest. I think (hope) our guys understand that they need to come out and take it to Indiana early. At which time, we'll have two choices - keep the defensive 1's in the game, or run the risk of repeating what happened last week. Personally, I'll take a repeat of last week, so long as it means winning. Comfortably winning is not worth the risk of injury or additional fatigue heading into OSU.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Latest: Recruiting

Sources indicating Ventura, California DB Michael Williams (Scout ****, Rivals ****, US Army All-American selectee) enjoyed his official visit to Ann Arbor this past Saturday. Reportedly down to Michigan and Notre Dame, latest word is that we'll be happy come signing day, and may even hear something in the next few days.

Verbal commitment ATH Marquise Maze of Birmingham, Alabama somewhat surprisingly made an official visit to Tennessee this past weekend. No word yet on whether he enjoyed the Tennessee loss or the arrests afterward.

The pressing needs remain OT and securing the services of Top 25 nationally ranked Ronald Johnson of Muskegon, Michigan.

Speaking of Focus, Who Will Be the Hero When We Beat OSU?

Good question. I'll be pondering this over the next 2 weeks. Today, I will start with the short list, which includes the worthless one, who is overdue, the dimunitive one, who is the heart and soul, or the beast, who can single handidly change this game with one well timed blow to a certain cheating QB. The likely Hero index goes from 1 to 10, with 10 being a 1997 Charles Woodson-like performance.

Breaston. Kirk Herbstreit tried to make it so by flapping his gums. But we all know, flapping gums rarely lead to extraordinary performances (unlesss, of course, when the guy doing the flapping is David Boston, and the guy doing the extraoridinary performing is Chuck Woodson). But then again, if you looked up the word "due" in the great sports dictionary, you'd see Steve Breaston scoring against a decent opponent when we really, really needed it. Nothing would make me happier than to see the senior break it off in the butts of his greatest crtics - the OSU faithful. Still, I need to see some clouds before I can predict lightning. Hero Index - 6.5.

Hart. Everyone who follows Michigan football knows two things for certain: (1) OSU sucks; and (2) Mike Hart will squeeze every bit of blood out of a rock. On one hand, the latter always makes Hart a candidate to be a hero in any given game. He will keep pushing, prodding and lunging for yards, and they will almost invariably pile up over the course of the game as he moves the chains and keeps the defense rested. On the other hand, with few exceptions, teams with pound it out attacks rarely make a living running the ball at OSU. Hero Index - 8.0.

Why is it that every time I see Lamar Woodley line up on the end, I can envision a QB being helped off the field? I don't expect him to get there every time, but when he does, I expect him to lay the wood. And lay the wood he does. Is there any question that Lamar can crush QB's? No. Is there any question OSU cannot win without Troy Smith? Probably not. Hero Index - 8.0.

Pressing Questions: Indiana

Can This Club Play Focused with OSU Looming?

Yes, there's no question this team can play with focus. See e.g., UM v. ND. However, they seem to be a little bit too enamored with themselves these days for my liking. Let's be honest - close wins over Iowa, PSU and Northwestern were not nearly as close as they might have seemed. Did anyone at any time during those contests ever feel like we were in danger of losing them? Nope. Rest assured, these guys probably never felt like they could lose those games either. They knew they were beating some ass on the field physically, and could continue to beat some ass as necessary. Under such circumstances, it is virtually impossible for players to work up an appetite for the likes of Ball State (goes for fans too - see prior post).

I guess the worrisome part is that, again, did Ball State really threaten to win that game? Probably not. So why would this team gain any focus heading into Indiana when they seemingly have been unable to do so before you ask? Two reasons. First, LC and company will absolutely demand it. Those not going 100% in prep this week are likely to be picking splinters out of their asses on Saturday. These guys lost the right to cruise through in last week's second half. Second, the Ball State performance caught the national attention. There's something once again to prove this week. And let's face it - this team is a better team when it's pissed and has something to prove. If people would have not made such a big deal about it, Indiana probably could have slipped past, possibly creating a "scare" of their own and the Buckeye showdown looms. Not now.

Can Indiana Win This Game?

No. Next Question.

Ok, alright. I lost my my right to cruise through as well. Indiana has discovered that it has some offensive weapons, particularly in Hardy. The guy has been off the hook lately, and is probably licking his chops watching film of Johnny Sears and Charles Stewart et al. chase shadows. But don't forget about the "1s." Hall and Trent, as a pair have been better than solid - Hall on his own has been outstanding, while Trent has certainly been better than I had expected. Then there's the issue of the pass rush. We can flat out get after it when needed, and guys without "All-American" following their names in the program will have a hard time stopping us. My guess is that any use of the word "All-American" in the Indiana program is probably some sort of cross-reference to the upcoming basketball season.

Assuming Indiana can score some points on this defense. How are they going to stop the Michigan offense? Put simply, they can't - not over 60 minutes. While Michigan hasn't been anywhere near the top of the conference in offense, few doubt the range, velocity and accuracy of Michigan's big guns when called upon. We'll score as many as we need to in this one.

What's the Injury Situation?

Actually, pretty good. People like to bitch about injuries (myself included), but we have been as fortunate this year as I can remember being in a while. Riley was back at OT last week, which was huge. [Note: Put this on the list of things I never thought I would say.] One or both of Massey should be able to play Saturday. Manningham will be that much closer to 100%. Grady is apparently nursing a shoulder, but let's face it, has become even LESS of a factor with the emergence of Minor. I'm not giving up on Grady, but the fact is we can afford to be hurt at the RB position more than any other spot on the team.

Aside from nagging bruises, there appears to be only one injury we need to watch over the next 10-12 days - Prescott Burgess. He was in street clothes in the second half Saturday with a sprained ankle. My guess is that he'll dress but won't play, or play sparingly in Bloomington.

Ball State!?!? (Sorry, my bad) ...

There are a number of things that one can say about last Saturday's near-disaster vs. Ball state, the least of should probably be that it wasn't quite the near-disaster that ESPN and the rest of the college football world made it out to be. I read a number of articles today discussing our near loss, none of which seem to recognize that being Ball State, being first and goal, down eight, with the clock winding down, is still a long, long way from actually beating Michigan. You still must score, convert a 2, stop the Michigan offense and score some more in OT to actually win that game. The odds of all of that happening - against the ones - are staggering.

Still, there was plenty of reason to be shaking your head if you were wearing maize on blue on Saturday. Normally, I would break down the film, and carefully, though apologetically and in an encouraging fashion, identify the various culprits. This time, however, I'm putting this one squarely on myself.

Over the past ten years, I have watched or attended every UM football game, save one, where an immovable flight plan forced me to leave the television early and board a plane during a non-conference tune up game several years ago. Call it hubris, stupidity, temporary insanity, ESPN-U inconvenience, whatever - for some reason, this past week I made a last minute decision NOT to watch the Ball State game. In fact, I decided to take a bye on my entire Saturday routine, not watching a single pre-game show or game throughout the afternoon. In reality, I saw it as a great chance to remind my wife, who has seen me do nothing other than work and watch football the past three months, that I am not a complete jackass. Back in the spring, I had counted on this Saturday (previously a bye week) to make up some marital ground lost during the recent guantlet run.

So, instead of watching the scrubs play against Ball State, I decided to take my wife to a movie. A so-so, overrated movie (The Prestige) at that. I went into the theater having read a few "YES!" text messages (sent by a great friend who knew I was feigning not to be miserable as I escorted my wife to brunch and then the theater). As I sat down with my $8 diet coke to watch what seemed like 2 hours of previews, I felt comfortable with the recent text knowledge that we were pulling away and dominating with the rushing game. I turned off my phone, and settled in, hoping to be at least somewhat distracted by the big screen.

As we left the theater, debating whether we should have seen another film, I turned on my phone. I was greeted by a barrage of beeps and bells, indicators that something had gone terribly wrong. Afterall, this is Ball State. Surely, no one is sending me messages to congratulate us on victory. I flipped open my Razr to see that I had 16 text messages, 5 missed calls, and 2 voicemails. I looked at my wife and I could see the panic in her eyes. She, who would have a hard time distinguishing a football from a frisbee, immediately knew something was wrong. "They didn't lose," she said sternly, knowing what was running through my mind. We stopped on the sidewalk as the post-film crowd rushed by, stuck in time as I went through each text message in order, unable to just jump to the back and see how the story ends.

"Sears gets smoked on a long TD"
"Stewart gets beat deep"
"This is getting embarrassing"
"They have the ball first and goal, down 8. I'm genuinely embarrassed."
"Jamison sack! Yes!"
"Fuck. Facemask."

Then silence. Dead, cellular silence. My heart was pounding. I could feel it in my ears. I wanted to throw up, but there was no time. I was dragging my wife accross the parking lot, needing to get to my car and the XM radio to find out how it ended.

The radio gods were kind. The first words I heard after turning over the ignition were "Michigan survives a scare in Ann Arbor." I exhaled, my wife grabbed my arm, and we sat there for what seemed like 5 minutes as I thought about what I had almost done. She sat patiently, understanding her subtle, yet equally guilty role. We are in the midst of a run for the ages, and I nearly blown it. We could have waited two more weeks to catch a Saturday matinee, and she knew it.

Sorry. I won't do that again.

EPILOGUE: After watching the highlights and reading several trusted accounts, I have concluded that things are not as bad as they might first have seemed. There were lots of guys getting beat in the second half that are normally covering kicks and not recievers. Don't get me wrong, there are lots of things to be concerned about, but then again, I could say that about every team I've seen play this year at one point or another.

In the end, it's a W. I don't need style points. I need W's.

Better Late Than Never

When you follow all things Michigan as fervently as I do, it shouldn't take you this long to start blogging. Oh well, here I am. Let's quit wasting time and get to it.