Monday, August 28, 2006

Some statistical fun

This post is a whole lot of nothing from combing stats.

  • When Mike Hart rushes for 100 yards, Michigan is 9-1
  • Mike Hart is a hell of a 2nd half player with 155 career carries for 1178 yards for a gaudy 7.6 yards per carry average
  • Chad Henne only needs 3985 yards to reach #1 all time at Michigan
  • Chad Henne only needs 24 TDs to reach #1 all time at Michigan
  • Mike Hart only needs 2355 yards to reach #1 all time at Michigan
  • LaMarr Woodley needs 12 TFLs to reach #2 all time at Michigan
  • Leon Hall needs 15 pass breakups to reach #1 all time at Michigan
  • Garrett Rivas needs 16 field goals to reach #1 all time at Michigan
  • Steve Breaston needs 80 punt return yards to reach #1 all time in the Big Ten
  • Vanderbilt's defense allowed 4.93 yards/carry in the 1st half last year
  • Vanderbilt's defense allowed 5.54 yards/carry on 1st down last year
  • Vanderbilt's average undergrad has an SAT of 1380
  • Vanderbilt last played in a bowl game in 1982
  • Vanderbilt has never won a conference title
  • Vanderbilt's QB will have zero career starts coming into Saturday's opener
  • Michigan's record since 2001 when scoring at least 30 points? 31-1
  • Vanderbilt's record since 2001 when scoring less than 30 points? 7-38
  • Vanderbilt's leading returning passer had 1 completion for 13 yards in 2005
I'm sure I'll find some more fun stuff before game day.


Finally, it's Game Week!

The last time we saw Michigan football, Tyler Ecker was running out of bounds instead of pitching to Steve Breaston to conclude one of the craziest plays in the history of college football and cap off a horribly disappointing 7-5 season for the Maize and Blue. It's been a LONG offseason.

But that is now officially in the past. Summer is almost gone and college football season is here. It's now t-minus 5 days and counting until the Vanderbilt game. Thank God. And since it's game week, you can catch the best part of which is their weekly game notes. Where else can you find the following?
  • up to date depth chart (Ruben Riley at RT and Alex Mitchell at RG?)
  • the history of Michigan vs Vanderbilt and the rest of the SEC (can you say 21-5-1?)
  • best performances in Michigan history in openers (Chris Perry 232 yds rushing, Scott Dreisbach 372 yds passing, Jack Clancy 197 yds receiving, etc)
  • how to pronounce Olesnavage (0-less-NAV-ich)
  • every Michigan player on a preseason award watch list (Mark Bihl, Alan Branch, Steve Breaston, Tyler Ecker, Leon Hall, David Harris, Mike Hart, Chad Henne, Jake Long, Garrett Rivas, LaMarr Woodley)
  • every tidbit you ever wanted to know about Lloyd Carr (best record of any Michigan coach at home - 62-9; one of 11 active NCAA coaches with a national title; first coach in Michigan athletic department history to endow a scholarship, etc)
  • the seven former Wolverines in the NFL hall of fame
I really think it is the best preview you can find on the internet of a Michigan football game. It doesn't break down the Xs and Os of the matchup, but it gives you all the background info you could ever hope for.

Since Vanderbilt doesn't really offer much of a football team this year, how about a little rundown on the University and how it stacks up to Michigan?

Location: Nashville vs Ann Arbor
Type of University: Private vs Public
Student body size: 11,000 vs 40,000
US News Ranking: 18th vs 24th
Nickname: Commodores (nickname given to Cornelius Vanderbilt) vs Wolverines (a feisty animal)
Famous Alums: Al Gore and Amy Grant vs Darth Vader and Lucy Liu

Is it even close? Besides, can you really trust any school with this guy as chancellor? He's a former Buckeye for crying out loud.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A man after my own heart

This blog might be relating to Penn State, but anybody that can wax eloquently about how to get drunk before a football game is OK by me.

I look forward to reading more thoughts on how to properly tailgate before the greatest sport of all.


An old crazy thought revisited

from last August...

Heismanpundit asks a seemingly interesting question, "The question is, when will the MSM see the bigger picture, which is how these new trends are going to affect the balance of power in college football?" in regards to the change in offensive styles across the CFB landscape.

Well, I thought it was a bad idea then. And guess what? I still think it's a bad idea. The balance of power in college football? Let's take a peek at last year's final poll results:

1) Texas
2) USC
3) Penn State
4) Ohio State
5t) LSU
5t) West Virginia

Hmmm, not a lot of changing of the guard there when the top 4 teams are all among the 10 greatest programs in college football history.

But let's check out this year's preseason polls shall we?

1) Ohio State
2) Notre Dame
3) Texas
4) Auburn
5) West Virginia

1) Ohio State
2) Texas
3) USC
4) Notre Dame
5) Oklahoma

Wow, look at that changing of the guard. This new fangled team from Ohio State is rearranging the college football landscape!

Somebody get back to me when Central Florida is in the BCS title game....


2006 Season Preview

Well, now that I've gone through the positions on the field, I'd like to share my thoughts on the team as a whole and what I think we can expect to see on the field. I'll just start out by saying that last year was a disaster. 7-5 does not cut it on any level at Michigan and some of the performances were downright ugly.

So what exactly has changed to make me more optimistic this year? 2 big things. For one, Lloyd Carr has really shaken up the coaching staff in a big way. We've got a new offensive coordinator, a new defensive coordinator, a new linebacker coach, and a new cornerback coach. There are lots of new ideas floating around the staff now and I think that's a good thing for a program that might have grown a little stagnant. The early word on the offense is that Michigan will not be so predictable any more in the playcalling. The rushing plays will have a little more variation and the passing playbook will be opened wider. On the defensive side of the ball, Ron English has been handed the reins by Lloyd Carr and he is promising a more aggressive approach on the field. I look forward to seeing what he can get the kids to do considering some of the enormous individual talents he has to work with (Branch, Woodley, Hall, etc).

Why else am I excited about Michigan's chances this year? Health. Last year was the biggest rash of injuries to ever hit Michigan. The OL was decimated, Mike Hart was banged up, and the defense lost players all over the field for stretches of time. Well, aside from a small number of injuries in camp this fall, Michigan is healthy and ready to roll this year. Guys like Jake Long, Mike Hart, Ryan Mundy, and LaMarr Woodley are all hoping for a chance at being impact players in every game.

So the team should be better, right? Yes, but that still leaves the little matter of who is on the schedule.

Home games
  • Vanderbilt - no more Jay Cutler means Michigan is going to roll in this game. I'll save the more detailed analysis for next week, but does it need to get more in depth than that?
  • Central Michigan - the traditional MAC warmup for the Notre Dame game
  • Wisconsin - they lose a lot from last year including their MVP Brian Calhoun. Michigan lost a heartbreaker in Madison last year after outplaying the Badgers on both sides of the ball but failing to stop them late. This year, the game is in Ann Arbor where Wisconsin is 1-15 since 1962 with the lone win coming in 1994. Wisconsin isn't the easiest team to play, but Michigan has a decided advantage on both sides of the ball and I expect them to win rather handily.
  • Michigan State - a traditional JLS Spartan team that has a very good offense and a very bad defense. I expect similar results to prior editions as they will likely beat Notre Dame, lose to Michigan, and then mail it in the rest of the year.
  • Iowa - Michigan and Iowa have had some very good games recently since the Hawkeyes pummeled Michigan at home in 2002. I expect another good matchup this year. Drew Tate can keep his team in the game against anybody and Albert Young is an excellent runner. They do lose Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge, however, that had been the heart and soul of their defense for years. It will be an upset if Iowa wins.
  • Northwestern - I feel horrible for their kids after Randy Walker's death and plan to root for them in many games this year. This will not be one of those games.
  • Ball State - we'll just call this what it is: a filler game to rest up for Ohio State (Indiana technically as well).

Road games
  • Notre Dame - ahh, the road opener. Michigan's traditional house of horrors is scheduled for South Bend this year. The streak is getting so long that I can't even remember when we last won a road opener. Was it 7 years ago? 8? Who cares, it's been too long. Last year, Michigan held Notre Dame's vaunted offense to a mere 17 points. 7 of those came on a pass that should have been intercepted, except a 2nd Michigan defender managed to deflect the pass safely into the hands of an Irish receiver in the endzone. Yeah, it was ugly. Now the Maize and Blue get to go straight into the Lions Den of Charlie Weis hype and take on Notre Dame. I have no idea why, but I am quietly optimistic about our chances.
  • Minnesota - the Gophers had the gall to steal the Jug on a horrible last minute long run when they were trying to run out the clock last year. For the first time in decades, Michigan will have revenge on their minds when they meet Minnesota and see the Little Brown Jug on the other sideline. This one shouldn't be close.
  • Penn State - the Wolverine's decade long dominance of the Nittany Lions will be put to the test in a prime time showdown in Happy Valley. The Lion faithful would love nothing more than to send native sons Chad Henne and Steve Breaston back to Ann Arbor with a loss, but Michigan will bring a talented and battle tested group of players to play. Too early to pick a favorite in this game because Penn State has a lot of questions on offense (new QB) and defense (new DL and DBs) that need to be answered one way or the other.
  • Indiana - following the Ball State home rest game, this can be considered the road rest game in preparation for Ohio State
  • Ohio State - following 4 losses in 5 seasons, something seems amiss in the college football universe when Michigan isn't beating Ohio State. Let's hope the CFB world order gets restored this fall.

So what will Michigan's record be this year? I'd think 10-2 is the most likely outcome and 8-4 is about the worst possible outcome. Chances on running the table? Get back to me after the Penn State game. While coming off a disastrous 2005 campaign, the 2006 edition of the Wolverines do have all the necessary ingredients to make a run at the BCS crown this year. They've got a veteran QB that has played lots of big games and been successful in crunch time. They've got a workhorse tailback that is as good as anybody in the college game. They've got talented playmakers on the outside. And on D they have a potentially dominant defensive line to go along with depth and speed throughout. Throw in a coach that has won it all before and one of the most dangerous return men in recent years and anything is possible.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

2006 Season Preview: The DBs

Who are they?

Leon Hall (Senior) - 2 year returning starter and one of the premiere CBs in the nation. He's got the ideal size and speed for the position and is plenty fast to run with the burners. I'll take him as Michigan's best CB since Charles Woodson because his cover skills are ahead of Marlin Jackson.

Ryan Mundy (RS Junior) - missed virtually all of last year after starting the entire 2004 season at FS. He's a good QB of the defense and excels in coverage. You may have last seen him taking horrible angles in the 2005 Rose Bowl against Vince Young.

Willis Barringer (RS Senior) - filled in for Mundy at FS last year and played pretty well. Not great in any one area, but a solid player all around.

Brandon Harrison (Sophomore) - recruited as a CB, he played his way into the starting SS spot for a few games last year. He's small, but has good speed and isn't afraid to hit anybody. Given the depth returning at safety this year, it's likely that he'll shift back to CB to battle for the #2 spot opposite Leon Hall.

Jamar Adams (Junior) - a big hard hitter at SS, he ended up the starter by the end of the year. Probably the most physically gifted safety on the roster, big things are expected this year.

Morgan Trent (RS Sophomore) - a track star at CB that was the nickel back for most of last season. He's got good instincts and blazing speed and will certainly see PT at CB this year.

Johnny Sears (RS Freshman) - recruited as a raw but talented cover corner out of California, he spent last year learning how to play the position in college. If he puts it together, he might be the most talented CB on the team. He's big and fast and should be a star someday.

Charles Stewart (RS Sophomore) - a big, physical corner that excels supporting the run and jamming receivers at the line. Not the fastest and he can struggle downfield at times.

Chris Richards (RS Freshman) - see Johnny Sears. A big, fast, raw CB from California that spent last year on the bench.

What to expect?

Leon Hall is the only lock for a starter spot. He's a legit player for the Thorpe Award this year and he'll get a chance to show off against elite QBs like Brady Quinn, Drew Stanton, and Troy Smith. The other corner spot is still up in the air. You have to figure that Morgan Trent, Charles Stewart, and Brandon Harrison have the edge, but don't completely count out Johnny Sears or Chris Richards. Suffice to say, there is plenty of talent here so whoever earns the other spot will have to earn it.

At Safety, Mundy is the big question mark. Is he fully back physically? If so, he has the most experience at FS and could be a big help in organizing the new defensive schemes this year. Jamar Adams will probably get the first shot at starting at SS. Willis Barringer can play either spot and will step in if anybody falters. Freshman Jonas Mouton and Steve Brown are very talented, but will be hard pressed to see a ton of PT in 2006 with the depth ahead of them.


Friday, August 11, 2006

2006 Season Preview: The LBs

Who are they?

David Harris (RS Senior) - he came out of nowhere last year to lead the team in tackles (88) and provide the best play at linebacker Michigan has seen in years. He showed good instincts and made a lot of plays (7 TFL, 1 sack, 2 FF, 1 FR).

Prescott Burgess (Senior) - Last year he was big and not terribly fast, but started on the outside in every game and racked up 81 tackles.

Chris Graham (Junior) - Showed good speed and athletic abililty as a part time starter last year, but an inconsistent performer (which is a common theme for this group).

Shawn Crable (RS Junior) - He's freakish combo of size (6'5") and speed (he's fast) make him a dynamic rusher off the edge. Has struggled with playing in space and shedding blockers throughout his career.

John Thompson (RS Sophomore) - Saw limited action last year, but did make a splash in the Iowa game with 8 stops including 3 TFLs.

Brandon Logan (Sophomore) - Actually got some PT as a true freshman last year, though mostly on special teams.

What to expect?

David Harris - I think you can pencil him in at MLB as the only certainty on the team. His consistent play last year was a breath of fresh air at a position that had been performing horribly for years. He's got a good combination of size and speed and, after shaking off injuries that nagged the first few years of his career, is showing a great ability to read and react to the ball. I think he is one of the best LBs in the Big Ten this year.

Shawn Crable - If they were handing out a prize for physical talent amongst the LBs, he'd win it. He came on strong at the end of the year with 6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, and 1 pass break up in the final 2 games against Ohio State and Nebraska. When he rushes the passer, his size and wing span have to be a very intimidating sight for the quarterback as he can bat down almost any pass and has the speed to close in a hurry. To be a consistent contributor at OLB, though, he must get better at shedding blockers and covering receivers in the open field. In the past, he has become a nonfactor when teams run right at him. I think this year he will finally make strides towards living up to his huge potential.

Prescott Burgess - For a guy that was a safety in high school, he sure looked pretty slow as an outside linebacker last year. He's a solid tackler, but I'm hoping his offseason weight loss will help make him a little more nimble on his feet. I think he holds on to a starting spot this year, but he will really be pushed by some of the more inexperienced guys.

Chris Graham - Looks like a little ball of fire in the mold of Ian Gold when he's out there, but last year he ran himself out of the play way too many times. If he can learn to play a little more under control, he could have a big season. I'd like to see him get some looks in nickel situations this year.

Guys like John Thompson and Brandon Logan will likely get some snaps this year. I do not think, however, that they will be major contributors. Next up I'll take a look at the DBs.


Sweet 8 lb, 6 oz Baby Jesus

Thanks to the boys at Every Day Should Be Saturday for taking time out from the humor and pointing out the holy grail of college football stat websites. I can assure you that I will be frequenting throughout the season as it really breaks down the numbers for every D1A team.

As an example of the stupendousness of their stats, did you know?

In 2005, Michigan's opponents had 22 rushing attempts on 3rd down and 1-3 yards to go and picked up 82 yards and 17 first downs? In comparison, Ohio State's opponents had 30 rushes in that same situation and only picked up 57 yards and 16 first downs. Hmm, one defense that cannot stop the rush on 3rd and short and another that can. But then again, we all probably knew that anyway.

How about Michigan's offense in 3rd and short situations last year? They had 55 plays, 43 rushes and 12 passes (gee, who knew?). The rushes went for 240 yards and 31 first downs. The passes were 4/12 for 32 yards and only 3 first downs. Huh? How the hell did we only get 3 first downs passing all season in 3rd and short situations. Then again, how did we average nearly 6 yards a pop in rushing on 3rd and short?

The possibilities are endless with this website and I highly recommend it.

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Detroit Tigers - Do You Believe In Miracles?

I haven't been blogging much on the Tigers lately because frankly, I'm just too amazed. I mean how do you describe a team going from 71-91 to the best team in the majors with only minimal roster changes? Everything has come together just right and they are rolling. While the pitching has cooled off since the All Star break, the bats are just heatting up and guys like Craig Monroe and Brandon Inge are just knocking the cover off the ball.

Here's a bunch of random tidbits describing their dominant performance thus far

  • Their 73-36 record puts them 7.5 games up on the Yankees for the best record in the majors and 8 games ahead of the White Sox in the AL Central.
  • Their +142 run differential is light years ahead of anybody else with the Yankees (+97), White Sox (+89), and Mets (+87) coming in way behind.
  • Their 3.73 ERA? Yep, first in the bigs with 4.09 of the Mets and Angels next closest. Their pitchers also lead the league in saves (39) and shutouts (12).
  • If it weren't for Francisco Liriano's brilliance, Justin Verlander might be leading the chase for both the Cy Young and rookie of the year. He's 14-4 with a 2.79 ERA. The wins tie him with Curt Schilling for most in the majors and the ERA is #2 in the American League
  • Craig Monroe? Where the hell did you come from?
    Monroe has hit nine homers this season in the seventh inning or later with the difference in the game two runs or fewer. That ties him with Boston's David Ortiz for the most such homers by any player in the majors, according to research by homer historian and analyst David Vincent.
  • The Tigers just inked their #1 draft pick Andrew Miller. He was the consensus best talent in the draft and somehow fell into their laps at #6. There is actually a possibility that the Tigs snagged the best player in 3 consecutive drafts with Justin Verlander, Cameron Maybin, and Andrew Miller. He's a 6'6" lefty that throws in the mid 90s and has a nearly unhittable slider. It's not often you hear tales of right handed batters striking out against a lefty on pitches that hit them in the thigh, but he's done it. Lefties have almost no chance against his slider that starts out behind them before bending over the plate. Click here and scroll down a bit for some video of Miller pitching.
  • Baseball Prospectus currently pegs the Tigs with a 97.6% chance of making the playoffs in their Playoff Odds Report. Check it out, it's free.
  • The Tigers have been consistently winning games all year. It's not like one hot streak and a bunch of .500 ball. Check out their record by month: April 16-9; May 19-9; June 20-7; July 15-10; August 3-1 (and counting). Yep, their worst month thus far was playing .600 ball in July. For the record, the Yankees (.613) and the Red Sox (.602) are the only teams with season long winning percentages higher than the Tigers worst month.
  • And here's a bunch of pics of the Tigers having fun and winning games (and these are just from the last week or two):

I only have vague and fuzzy memories of 1984 and 1987, so it is safe to say this is the most fun I have ever had watching the Detroit Tigers. What a summer. Here's hoping for one hell of a fall!


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

New Format

So I'm trying to go with a color scheme that is a little easier on the eyes. I realized the white text on blue background made me strain, so we'll try something different and see how that goes.


2006 Season Preview: The DL

Who are they?

LaMarr Woodley (Senior) - former mega-recruit and occasional superstar is looking to come into his own this year. Well, not really come into his own so much as stay healthy enough to consistently dominate.

Alan Branch (Junior) - he's big and nimble and split time between DE and DT last year. Looks to replace Gabe Watson as the main man in the middle this year.

Rondell Biggs (RS Senior) - occasional starter at end over the past few years has good size and strength, but not the fastest.

Tim Jamison (RS Sophomore) - in contrast to Biggs, he is the undersized speedster at end that excels at rushing the passer. Has been banged up quite a bit during his career at Michigan.

Terrance Taylor (Sophomore) - former state powerlifting champ is looking to get some play on the interior this year and he will push for a starting spot.

Will Johnson (RS Sophomore) - a big guy with good strength who will be in the mix at DT this year. Not much experience yet in his career.

Jeremy Van Alstyne (RS Senior) - I don't know how on earth his career has gone by so fast. Maybe it's the repeated injury problems that have kept him off the field for huge stretches. But he has a motor that never quits and can really rush the passer off the edge.

What to expect?

Well, I think it's easiest to break this down into DEs and DTs.

Defensive End - LaMarr Woodley is the man outside. He has 32 career tackles for loss and 11 career sacks despite battling injuries. When he's healthy, there is not an OT in the nation that can handle him one on one. He's got a great burst and good strength and really knows how to get into the backfield. He's only 16 TFLs for moving into 2nd place on Michigan's career list behind Mark Messner. But who else will play opposite Woodley? Depends. Rondell Biggs is probably the front runner in rushing situations. He's big and strong and can hold the point of attack. But Tim Jamison and Jeremy Van Alstyne are much better pass rushers and I expect to see them get quite a bit of PT this year as Ron English tries to employ a more attacking scheme on D.

Defensive Tackle - much like Woodley on the outside, Alan Branch has 1 spot sewn up on the interior. He is a huge man that is surprisingly nimble and can play both inside and out. With Gabe Watson and Pat Massey both gone from last year, he is now the man at DT. Branch's strength is his pass rush and ability to get up field. I look for a big year out of Branch. Terrance Taylor and Will Johnson will likely fight for the spot next to Branch, and both are more in the Rob Renes/Josh Williams run stuffing tackle mold. At least with Pat Massey (God bless him) no longer around we probably won't have to watch our DTs get pushed off the ball nearly as much. This group should help free up the LBs to make some plays this year.

As a whole, this DL group is easily one of the most talented Michigan has seen in perhaps decades. Woodley and Branch are both dominant talents and game changers. I'm just hoping they can both stay healthy and keep working hard. But beyond them, Jamison and Van Alstyne are excellent pass rushers and Taylor and Johnson have good DT skills. Should be a fun group to watch this year.

Next up? The linebackers, a much maligned group in the recent past that is looking for big things this year.