Friday, September 30, 2005

Big Ten Power Rankings, Week 4

No analysis, but here's how I see them stacking up:

1) Ohio State
2) Michigan State
3) Minnesota

4) Wisconsin
5) Michigan
6) Purdue
7) Iowa

8) Penn State
9) Northwestern
10) Indiana
11) Illinois

Monday, September 26, 2005

Double Uhhh

Man, that loss to the Badgers was PAINFUL to watch. And not just because we lost. It's the way we lost. It's how bad we looked. It's the realization that our team is not anywhere close to good right now.

It's one thing to lose on the road to a good opponent. But Wisconsin didn't even play very well. They looked like the middle of the pack Big Ten team that every body thought they were. But Michigan? Oh man. They are looking ugly. Did you know that they are 2-4 in their last 6 games going back to last season and the only 2 wins are against MAC teams? What the f*&^? The last time they beat a BCS conference team was their November win against Northwestern. Since then it's been a bad road loss to Ohio State. A close loss in the Rose Bowl. A stinker at home against Notre Dame. And now a clunker on the road in Madison. And now we've got to go to East Lansing and play a red hot and fired up Spartan team? Oh man. You want to talk about a make or break game. This is it. MSU is going to be a solid favorite at home in this game. They are looking for payback for last year's epic collapse and we're on the ropes right now. What's going to happen? I'm not holding my breath.

So what's going on? Here's my thoughts:

1) Without Jake Long, our run blocking just isn't that good. And while Max Martin and Kevin Grady have some talent, they cannot make something out of nothing like Mike Hart. Without Hart we have zero consistent rushing attack right now. With him? I don't know, but I think things would be drastically better.

2) Chad Henne is playing poorly. This isn't about Braylon Edwards not being there. Henne is just making some bad decisions and poor throws that he didn't make last year. But you know what else? His receivers are not bailing him out right now. It doesn't do any good for the QBs confidence when he hits a wide open Jason Avant in the hands on 3rd and 8 only to have him drop the pass.

3) The defense isn't playing too bad. Wisconsin had some nice drives in the 4th quarter, but those drives were strung together by the skin of their teeth. How many times did they have 3rd and long only to convert by less than a yard? Unless that's how they draw up their plays that has an element of luck to it. Tip your cap because Wisconsin deserved a little luck against Michigan at some point after some of the heartbreak they've endured.

Where does the season stand? It stands in oh boy Lloyd Carr might actually be on the way out the door mode because this is bad. Best case scenario for Michigan: we've been here before. In 1998 and 2003, Michigan had 2 losses early in the year and rebounded to win the Big Ten both times. Worst case scenario: 6-5 regular season isn't exactly out of the realm of possibility right now.

What needs to happen? Mike Hart healthy. He's the difference between winning and losing right now. A healthy Mike Hart and Michigan is 4-0. No way around it. He's that good. The D has played well enough to win all 4 games. The O has imploded. Put a solid ground game out there and suddenly Henne looks a lot better.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Last minute pregame thoughts

Man, Iowa got their ass handed to them in Columbus this year. Are they going to do the same thing as last year? Then they got blitzed by ASU nonconference and then lost by 2 scores in Ann Arbor before running the table the rest of the way. Or will they struggle to win more than 4 or 5 conference games? Time will tell.

As for Michigan, this is going to be a very tough game, especially if Mike Hart can't go. I expect Wisconsin to try a little trickery as this is a very important game to them. Can't say I'm feeling terribly confident right now, but a win would be huge going into next week's showdown in East Lansing.

My gut prediction right now? Michigan 29, Wisconsin 27

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Big Ten Power Rankings, Week 3

1) Ohio State - I'm keeping them here at #1, but I still don't like it. They really did not impress me against SDSU. Their offense still stinks, but they still have a great D. This week will really settle who is number 1 for now.
2) Michigan - 55-0 is a good way to get some momentum back on your side, even if it's only Eastern Michigan. If the D can keep playing well, this will be a very dangerous team as the offense matures.
3) Iowa - won handily, but not terribly impressive over Northern Iowa. Winner of the OSU/Iowa game gets the number 1 spot next week.
4) Purdue - still don't know what to think about them.
5) Michigan State - their D still stinks, but their offense can put up a ton of points. They might make a little noise this year.
6) Minnesota - much like the Spartans, they are going to play some high scoring games this season.
7) Wisconsin - solid but unimpressive win down the road in Chapel Hill. Like the 2 teams directly ahead of them, expect some shootouts.
8) Penn State - nothing much to say here. Young team with a very good D and a little bit of talent on offense.
9) Northwestern - Tyrell Sutton sure does look like last year's Mr. Ohio in football. Tell me again why OSU didn't want him as a running back? He's already better than any back on their roster.
10) Indiana - since they are 3-0 I'll move them up from the cellar.
11) Illinois - actually hung tough with Cal. The bottom 3 teams really aren't that bad this year.

Big win for MSU this week in South Bend. Illinois hung tough with Cal. Most everybody else just took care of business. Iowa @ Ohio State is obviously the game of the week and whoever wins has the inside track to the conference title. Michigan has back to back tough road games coming up at Wisconsin and at Michigan State. Win those 2 and they are sitting pretty.

Whooo, Pavel's back

Looks like Pavel Datsyuk is going to give up all that crap about playing in Russia and will ink a 2 year, 7.6 million dollar contract to stay in Detroit. With the new emphasis on speed and playmaking ability, he should easily be the best player in Detroit this year. He and Henrik Zetterberg could form 2/3 of one of the better lines in the league. This is a big relief. The Red Wings were in trouble if he didn't come back. Now they at least have a chance.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Brett Favre

So long Brett Fav-ruh. You will go down as my favorite NFL player of all time. And I'm 99% certain you'll still be my favorite 60 years from now. I'm only posting this because it is rapidly becoming crystal clear that this is your last season in Green Bay. The Packers stink this year and are hampered by key injuries. Unlike the past, they are no longer good enough to overcome injuries. I hope you can gut it out and lead the team to at least an 8-8 record, because you do not deserve a losing record in any season. Here's a sampling of why you were such a great player.

  • First and only 3 time NFL MVP. Heck, you did it in 3 consecutive years.
  • 50,000 passing yards joining Marino and Elway in the record books and you are about to blow by Elway for #2 on the list
  • 379 career TD passes and you'll probably join Marino as the only QB with over 400
  • 207 (and counting) consecutive games started at QB. Now that is a hell of an endurance record.
  • Leading the Pack back to their first Super Bowl since Lombardi
  • Your 13 years in Green Bay = 1 8-8 record, 12 winning seasons: 13 years in Green Bay before your arrival = 7 losing seasons, 4 8-8 seasons, and 2 winning seasons (1 strike shortened)
And besides being such a great player, you probably garnered the most respect of any NFL player from your fellow competitors and fans across the league. I've still never seen another QB get sacked by Warren Sapp only to get up and give him a head butt. I've never seen somebody play with such passion and have so much fun on the field. Lots of players say they play for the love of the game, but you truly do. In short, you are the type of player that fans think they would be if they got a shot in the NFL. Just go out there, have fun, and win some games.

So as your career rides into the sunset I say so long Brett. I'm sure you'll have plenty of fun with whatever you decide to do next, which is probably just sitting on a riding mower enjoying the outdoors. Just don't be a stranger in Green Bay.

And from Green Bay's perspective, a crappy year this year is probably in their best interest long term. They'll clear a gigantic amount of salary off the books in the form of Brett Favre and Ahman Green and they'll get some higher draft picks. Although it'd be helpful if Mike Sherman doesn't have a say in who they pick. Plus, I think they'll can Sherman after this year and get some fresh blood.

Best Ever?

Apparently I missed perhaps the greatest halftime show in the history of college football at the Battle of Washtenaw County. All I can say is wow. You don't even have to be a fan of Monty Python to enjoy it.

Here's the first part

Here's the second part

Try not to laugh too hard when it gets to the part about asking Sir Sparty the Green about blowing a 17 point lead with 6 minutes to go.

Finally, on to Big Ten play

Nonconference play has been a frequent source of frustration for Michigan fans over the years. Seems we always find a way to blow at least 1 game with an awful performance. This year it was Notre Dame and the offense that let us down. But you know what, 55-0 against EMU is a good tonic for what ails you. Hopefully Mike Hart and the other injured players all got a little bit healthier, because it's now or never.

Week 1 we're heading to Madison to play a Badger team we have owned the last 10 years or so. Madison is never an easy environment, it's an evening kickoff, and Barry Alvarez has his last crack at Lloyd Carr who he has never beaten. Michigan has won 36 of their last 37 conference openers. The only loss was 14-21 in Madison in 1981. Let's hope we don't have a repeat of that performance this week. But Michigan has also lost 5 consecutive road openers with the last win being at Syracuse in 1999. Hopefully that streak will end.

Should be a good game. I'm not too impressed with the Badger defense thus far. I'm expecting/hoping Malone and co. will let Henne air it out a bit and not get into a predictable run-oriented attack (unless the ground game is really rolling). On D, gotta stop Brian Calhoun. I'm very impressed with him. Definitely looks like a better back than Anthony Davis. He has good vision and great speed. I'm less impressed by their QB John Stocco. He'll hurt you if you give him time, but he isn't exactly a playmaker.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


I'm just really not in a college football mood this weekend. That clunker against Notre Dame has still got me bumming. Throw in a laugher against EMU in the battle of Washtenaw County and I just can't muster much excitement.

I will pay attention to the Wisconsin-North Carolina game, if only because a Big Ten team is playing locally here. But otherwise, I'm taking a CFB siesta until Michigan's Big Ten opener in Madison next week. I hope we can find a way to get a lot healthier between now and then, but I'm not holding my breath.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Big Ten Power Rankings, Week 2

What can I say? The conference really took it on the chin this week. The first time in the history of the AP poll that 3 top 10 teams from one conference all lost on the same day.

1) Ohio State - I'm really uncomfortable putting them here. Their offense looked pathetic against Texas, despite having unbelievable field position time after time.
2) Michigan - the offense looked pathetic without Mike Hart and the right side of the line beat up. Oh yeah, Chad Henne had his worst game at Michigan. The good news is the defense really stepped up and dominated the vaunted Notre Dame offense.
3) Iowa - Yes, Drew Tate was out. But Iowa was playing like crap and losing before he was knocked silly trying to make a tackle after an INT.
4) Purdue - The top 3 lost, but does Purdue really inspire any sort of confidence? Not to me. I'll stick the top 4 teams here as pretty interchangeable and all around #10-15 nationally.
5) Minnesota - their offense could score a lot of points this year. Still not sold on the consistency of their QB or their defense.
6) Wisconsin - should have a big play offense, but their D will struggle.
7) Michigan State - all offense, no defense
8) Penn State - until they start playing some conference games, they stay way down here. I've seen their recent crappy teams easily handle patsies.
9) Northwestern - good offense, bad defense
10) Illinois - Zook is off to a 2-0 start. That's one more win than last year. Unfortunately, they won't win many more.
11) Indiana - cellar dwellar until proven otherwise.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Oh Carlos Pena, why must you do this again?

Since you returned from Toledo on August 19th, you have been on a tear. Actually, that's probably an understatement. You've started 15 games over that time span and have been the hottest hitter in the majors. Check these numbers out (along with MLB rank over that time frame):

.426 batting average (1st)
.508 on base percentage (1st)
.981 slugging percentage (1st)
9 home runs (1st)
19 RBI (8th, though all 7 players ahead have played at least 5 more games)

Why? Why? Why? Hell, did you know your current hot streak has more than made up for your horrid start? Look at your season averages now through 58 games played:

.254 BA, .366 OBP, .492 SLG, .858 OPS, 12 HRs, 33 RBI, 28 runs scored

That is the 4th consecutive year that your OBP is higher than it was the year before. It's also the 3rd consecutive year that your SLG percentage is higher than it was the year before. It's also the 3rd consecutive year that you have hit home runs at a higher clip than the year before.

Why? Are you going to work your way back on to the team next year only to tank for the month of April and May?

Heck, if you had enough at bats to qualify, your OPS is 10th best amongst MLB first baseman.

Why? Why? Why? Your OPS this year is now ahead of Chris Shelton, the man who's bat had to be in the lineup to replace you. That's right. You've hit better than him this year (albeit by a microscopically small .001 in OPS), but hey, that ain't bad.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

So Datsyuk might not be gone?

Interesting post over at the Blog That Yost Built talking about Pavel Datsyuk and the Red Wings. I thought he was gone, but apparently that deserved a "not so fast". Pavel hasn't come through in the playoffs, but he's a heck of a talent and the Wings really need him. Hopefully things work out for the best.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Damnit, it's time for the Notre Dame game

Charlie Weis is God. No, he's better than God! He made Tom Brady into a fantastic quarterback despite all the crappy coaching he received at Michigan. Lloyd Carr went 1-2 against Ty Willingham, just wait til he matches wits with Weis! Michigan's D got torched by Northern Illinois after getting lit up by Texas in the Rose Bowl after getting hammered by Ohio State after getting mauled by Michigan State...


Seriously, though. Has there ever been a more important game for this defensive coaching staff? They've surrendered over 400 yards in 5 consecutive games. They got shredded all offseason. They didn't answer any questions in the opener. They are now facing the golden child and his super-duper Notre Dame offense that just rolled Pittsburgh.

Can you imagine the statement they could make with a lights out performance? Can you imagine the unending criciticism if they get lit up again?

This game is basically it. Get hammered by Notre Dame on offense and I'm probably soured on most of the defensive staff forever, starting with the head man. Step it up and shut them down and I'm believing this could be a special season. I wish it didn't come to this, but the nightmares of last year are still fresh in my mind. I have a feeling I'm not alone amongst Michigan fans.

F*&^ Rocket Ismail
F*&^ Lou Holtz
F*&^ Charlie Weis
F*&^ Touchdown Jesus
F*&^ the Four Horseman
F*&^ Rudy
F*&^ Rick Mirer
F*&^ Carlyle Holiday and his phantom TD
F*&^ NBC

(apologies to the faint of heart or anybody associated with Notre Dame) It's on.

Week 1 College Football Thoughts

  • The Big Twelve isn't all it was cracked up to be. Oklahoma? What the hell was that? I realize they lost Jason White and Mark Clayton and their entire OL, but come on. Getting beat at home by TCU? Only eeking out 10 points with one of the best backs in the country on your side? Pa-thetic. And Texas A&M didn't do the conference any favors by getting taken out by perennial underacheiver Georgia Tech.
  • Speaking of weaker conferences, anybody catch that Miami-Florida State game? Wow, what a clunker. I was jacked to watch a great game between 2 powerhouse programs. What I ended up seeing was 2 good defenses and 2 all around not impressive teams. It looked like Jim Tressel took over the OC job for both teams this offseason. The ACC doesn't quite like as good as it did 2 months ago now that Miami and FSU both look to have major holes.
  • Notre Dame had a nice debut for Charlie Weis by smoking Pittsburgh. Which really gets me pumped for the Michigan-Notre Dame showdown this weekend. Michigan's D again looked like crap against Northern Illinois, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they come out blazing on Saturday. Call it a somewhat educated hunch. Then again, if they lay an egg against ND I'm not sure what Jim Hermann can do to have a job next year (if not next week).

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Big Ten Power Rankings, Week 1

These rankings are a combination of how good I think the team is and how good they have played thus far (with most recent games weighted more heavily as the season goes on).

1) Iowa - we all knew they were a good team and they came up smoking against a weak opponent. Which is more than I can say for the next 2 teams.
2) Michigan - the offense answered all the questions, but the D was simply putrid against a pretty good NIU offense.
3) Ohio State - similar performance to Michigan all around. The D was pretty good (against lesser competition), the O looked good at times but does this game really answer any questions about an offense that was putrid most of last year? Maybe, maybe not. I still say the first 3 are all top 10 quality nationally.
4) Purdue - has yet to play, but I still think top 20 nationally
5) Minnesota - Laurence Maroney is good. The Minnesota offense will score some points. Still not sold on them being much better than a borderline bowl team.
6) Wisconsin - Brian Calhoun looked like a Heisman candidate against Bowling Green. Unfortunately, the Wisconsin D looked like MAC caliber. Considering how heavily they relied on D last year, I don't think that is a good omen. Omar Jacobs is a great QB, but he torched them.
7) Penn State - their offense had a few big plays, but all in all it was a pretty unimpressive performance against poor competition.
8) Michigan State - their O rolled up some big numbers against Kent State. Tons of questions remain about their D.
9) Illinois - I was impressed by their resiliency in a 20 pt comeback against Rutgers.
10) Northwestern - big W over Ohio
11) Indiana - a close win over Central Michigan does not inspire much confidence

All in all, 10-0 for the Big Ten thus far which is pretty damn good considering the upset losses I watched from Oklahoma and Auburn.

Michigan 33, Northern Illinois 17

This isn't a recap of the game action, but a summary of my thoughts on the way the game played out for Michigan.


QB - so much for Chad Henne struggling without Braylon Edwards to bail him out. 20/31 for 227 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs is a pretty good debut to his sophomore campaign. Contrast that to 14/24 for 142 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT in his debut against Miami (OH) last year. He missed on a few throws and was behind guys a few times, but he looked immeasurably more comfortable in the pocket than he did last year. He also went through his progressions very quickly. Much better pocket presence as well and he wasn't afraid to move around. Matt Gutierrez also got a little much needed PT.

RB - Mike Hart was just his normal amazing self. 27 carries, 117 yards, 4 catches, 49 yards, and 2 TDs. Kevin Grady looked excellent in his Michigan debut, except for that bad fumble. Gotta wrap it up or he'll be riding pine behind Hart and Max Martin. Overall though, Grady showed some phenomenal talent. I'll say he's already one of the most talented backs in the Big Ten. His size and strength are obvious, but he looked to have very good vision and cutting ability on 2 of his longer runs.

WR - Jason Avant is Jason Avant. The man can can anything. Best hands I've ever seen on a Michigan receiver, and how about that onside recovery? Steve Breaston was MIA for most of the game which is a little disappointing, but that might have had more to do with Avant catching everything. And if Avant does keep catching everything, you know Henne will really look his way. He could have monster numbers this year (think 75+ catches 1000+ yards). Didn't get to see much of the younger guys like Arrington, Manningham, Bass, and Dutch. Arrington looked to sprain his ankle and got carted off. Hopefully he isn't out too long.

OL - Not terribly impressed here. The running game did get 4.3 yards per carry, but there just were not consistently big holes to run through which I expect against NIU. I'd give them a C overall. Not the best performance and they need to step up against Notre Dame.

DEFENSE (let me preface this by saying we ran the most boring scheme all day long. I'm assuming it was to avoid giving Notre Dame anything to plan for, but man it was bad. Base 4/3 D with 1 LB split wide on the slot receiver. We only had 6 guys in the box the whole game and I don't remember if we blitzed even once.)

DL - not impressed. Woodley had a nice play to get a sack, force a fumble, and recover the fumble but that's about it. Massey tipped a ball that was picked by Leon Hall. They got pushed around by the NIU OL all day. Also didn't get much pressure at all on the QB. Just a bad day.

LB - Chris Graham played pretty well, coming up with 9 tackles. But all in all, another bad performance. Too many missed tackles and bad angles.

DB - ugly day for the DBs. They were poor in run support and didn't really stick to closely in coverage. Just not good.


Well, getting an XP blocked is disturbingly familiar. Missing badly on a longer FG try was not what I expected, though, considering how consistent on FGs Rivas was last year. The return game never got much of a chance since our D couldn't make them punt.

All in all, not a pretty game. The offense could pretty much do what they wanted, but played it fairly close to the vest. The defense was the most bland I've ever seen and that HAS to be solely because Notre Dame is coming up. I mean even when Hermann has bad games, the D usually does some funky things like zone blitzes and CB blitzes and putting 8 or 9 guys up on the LOS. Absolutely none of that yesterday which was a little weird. That said, the D stunk.