Saturday, September 30, 2006

Game Day!, Game Night!!

I really hate it when Michigan plays night games. The day just takes way, way too long. I mean I love watching college football, but it just takes forever to get to 8:00 PM when you are awake at 7 AM. It's much easier watching a noon or 3:30 kickoff.

Whatever. It's Jug Time. Since the prediction thing worked out so well last week, I'll go out on some limbs again this week including yardage predictions.

Michigan rushing offense - 175 yards
Michigan passing offense - 215 yards
Minnesota rushing offense - 88 yards
Minnesota passing offense - 180 yards

Michigan 30, Minnesota 14

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Friday, September 29, 2006

The Final Countdown


Three. That's it. That's the Detroit Tigers magic number. That's how many games they have left in the season (all against Kansas City at home). That's how many games the Minnesota Twins have left in the season (all against the White Sox at home). It's on. A sprint to the finish in the marathon 162 game season. If the Tigers can string together a sweep of Kansas City, they are the 2006 American League Central Division Champions.

It's the first time in over a decade that baseball has mattered in Detroit in September. It's going to be fun.

UPDATE: The magic number is down to 2 after both Minnesota and Detroit lose on Friday night.

UPDATE #2: The magic numbers is down to 1 after the Twins lost again. Tigers can clinch the division with a win in either of their last 2 games or a Minnesota loss tomorrow.

UPDATE #3: The Tigers managed to pull off the trifecta by getting swept at home by the Royals when any win would've given them the division title. As it stands, they are off to New York to face the Yankees.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

2006 BTPR, week 4

Divided into tiers

1) Ohio State - struggled in sloppy weather with Penn State at home before pulling away late to remain undefeated and ranked #1 in the nation.
2) Michigan - let Wisconsin hang tight in the first half before slamming the door in the 2nd half with some dominant defense and another heaping helping of Mario Manningham. They are quickly saddling up next to Ohio State as one of the top 3 or 4 teams in the nation.

3) Iowa - uninspiring win over Illinois, but still undefeated. We'll see what they are made of this week when the Buckeyes roll into town

4) Michigan State - a dangerous team that is capable of blowing any lead. For reasons I can't even understand I will not drop them precipitously until they screw up again. They looked damn good for almost 3/4 of the Notre Dame game.
5) Penn State - what we know: they are nowhere near as good as Ohio State or Notre Dame. Other than that, they handled their two patsies.
6) Wisconsin - probably nip and tuck with PSU and MSU after hanging tight in Ann Arbor for the first half. Still not a good win on their resume, however.
7) Purdue - they don't play Michigan or Ohio State and they beat Minnesota at home. I'm still not convinced they are even a top 25 team, however.
8) Minnesota - lost to Purdue on the road and will try to defend the Jug this week. Looks like a typical Sun Bowl bound Gopher squad.

9) Northwestern - blah
10) Illinois - blah
11) Indiana - blah

Some key questions: who will knock off Michigan or Ohio State? Will anybody lose to Northwestern, Illinois, or Indiana?


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Thoughts on Wisconsin

as well as a little look ahead at Minnesota.

I guess the game can really be thought of as 2 distinct halves that didn't resemble each other in the least. In the first half, Michigan shot itself in the foot too much on offense and missed a few assignments on defense. The Badgers took advantage and got to halftime with the score tied at 10. Then what happened? I'm guessing Lloyd Carr said something impressive to the team. The defense came out sky high and obliterated the Wisconsin offense for the rest of the game. There were less than 5 minutes left in the game when the Badgers avoided a 3 and out for the first time in the 2nd half. They literally went 1-2-3-punt for 25 minutes. Punt? Did you say punt? Yeah, Steve Breaston got a workout and racked up a career high with 116 punt return yards giving Michigan great field position over and over. The offense was a little better in the 2nd half putting together 2 nice TD drives and then a FG to make it 27-10. Then they put in some backups on defense and switched to a prevent and the Badgers drove down the field for a field goal and the final tally of a 27-13 game. And who predicted 27-13? Yep, I'm the man.

There were some other little meaningless "controversies" such as Brett Bielema calling a TO with less than a minute left. Lloyd Carr responded by having Henne chuck it deep on 3rd and 8 against a defense stacked to stop the run they knew was coming. It ended up getting picked off and UW tried to get into scoring position as time ran out. There also was the little matter of a Badger on the punt cover team taking a real cheap shot at Steve Breaston by grabbing ankle and giving it a big twist well after the play was over in plain sight of the ESPN camera. I'm not losing sleep over any of these things that essentially turned out meaningless. I mean who really cares?

So what did I like from the game?
  • Umm, the defense? Have I mentioned that they are pretty damn good? They entered as the nation's #1 D against the rush allowing only 21 yards per game. Yeah, well Wisconsin helped the cause by only managing 12 yards for the game on the ground. Alan Branch was an absolute beast and his partners on the DL weren't far behind. I'm a little hesitant to go overboard with my praise for Ron English and the defense just yet, but it's obvious that they are good. I'll refrain from comparing them to any particular defense from Michigan's until a little later in the season (let's hope it isn't the 2000 defense).
  • Chad Henne. Sure he threw 3 picks. I'd call 1 of them his fault. The last was absolutely meaningless and would've been a great pooch punt if Manningham could tackle. I tell ya, that Manningham kid really needs to improve. But back to Henne, he was 18/25 for 211 yards and 2 TDs. This is the 2nd game in a row he has been phenomenally accurate with his passes. If he keeps throwing lasers, this offense will be very good.
  • Mike Hart. Just another boring Mike Hart game. What was it, 92 yards and a TD against a great rushing defense? Would've been over 100 if Lloyd didn't give him the last 8 minutes off. He hardly ever loses yardage and is always going forward. Plus he's a sure bet to make at least 1 or 2 defenders a game look silly as he cuts on a dime.
  • Special teams. Phenomenal turn around by the kick coverage unit that entered the game ranked 99th in the nation. They repeatedly stuffed Wisconsin inside the 20 and laid some big hits. Also got 2/2 on field goals and some great punt returning by Breaston.
  • Super Mario Manningham. No, he can't tackle. But this poor tackling wide receiver did manage to rack up his 2nd straight offensive player of the week award in the Big Ten. 113 yards and 2 TDs isn't a bad day at the office. First Michigan player since Big Play Bray to hit consecutive 100 yard receiving games (I'm looking at you Avant). He is now tied for the national lead in TD catches with 6 including 5 in the last 2 weeks.

4-0, 1-0 in conference and off to the Gopher Dome looking to regain the Little Brown Jug and finish off September undefeated. I can't bring myself to recap last year's disappointment when our defense just collapsed on Minnesota's final drive as they tried to run out the clock. It's Jug Time!

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Your 2006 Detroit Tigers are PLAYOFF BOUND

Your damn right we're talking playoffs Jim. With their 11-4 pasting of the Royals (and 3 game sweep), the Tigers have clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 1987. They are closing in on the AL Central title. They currently have a 1/2 game lead on both New York teams for the best record in the majors and homefield throughout the AL playoffs.

Consider the 500 lb gorilla officially removed from the back of the Detroit Tigers organization.


Ron English watch continues

The defense is 4/4 in terms of dominating performances this year. Latest? 12 yards rushing for Wisconsin. He's still a bad, bad man and his defense is going to bruise a lot of egos this year.

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Random CFB musings from this week

Before I recap the victory over Wisconsin, here's a few other things I have noticed this weekend.

West Virginia - they are not a top 10 team. I don't care what anybody tells you. I don't care if they are top 5 in the polls. They are a 1 trick pony (pretty damn good trick) and their schedule was created by Little Debbie. I mean we like to talk about how weak the Big East is, but has anybody actually looked at their schedule? It's fairly likely that they will only play a total of 3 D1A teams that finish the season at or above .500 (Louisville, Pitt, Rutgers) and the first of those games is in November. As best I can tell, they are ranked in the top 5 because of a 3 point win in a bowl game over Georgia LAST YEAR. Yep a 3 point victory in a bowl game last year. For crying out loud, the Wisconsin Badgers beat Auburn by more than that in their bowl game last year and I don't see Wisconsin in the top 25. I'll almost be shocked if West Virginia wins at Louisville this year and Louisville isn't a top 10 team either. How exactly are they ranked above a Michigan team that pummeled Notre Dame in South Bend and took care of business against a decent Wisconsin squad?

Georgia - nothing against the Dawgs, but holy shnikes they got taken to the wire by a horrible Colorado Buffaloes team AT HOME. It's one thing to play scared on the road, but when your boys are getting it taken to them by a really bad team at home I don't know what to say.

Pac Ten football - why on earth would a good defensive player want to play for a Pac Ten school? Outside of USC, the defenses look lost and disinterested. I watched a bit of Cal and ASU yesterday and it looked like neither defense was even trying. I realize there are some good passing attacks out west, but come on. Show a little heart and toughness and lay the wood to somebody once in a while.

Michigan State vs Notre Dame - 2 thumbs down to both teams. Michigan State for once again showing us that nobody can blow a big lead like the Spartans. Countdown to their season collapse begins in 5, 4, 3,... And Notre Dame? Yikes, they were getting handled for the 2nd week in a row. Good job by showing some heart and coming back, but if you weren't playing a team with the mental fortitude of an earthworm it wouldn't been a loss.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Ron English for President

He's a bad, bad man. He coaches a bad, bad defense. That is all.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Wisconsin Preview

Fresh off a 47-21 pasting of the Fighting Irish, the 2006 Michigan Football Revenge Tour returns home to Ann Arbor to face off with the Wisconsin Badgers. You might remember last year's game with such manhood-challenging moments as Michigan's failure to get it in on 4th and goal in the first quarter and one of many opponents drives to victory in the final minutes. And that is precisely why Michigan will be sky high for this game and facing no letdown after last week's win.

How can you have a letdown against a team that physically beat you last year and was one of the main inspirations for your entire offseason conditioning program? If Notre Dame thinks they saw some speed and hitting from Michigan's defense, just wait until the Badgers find out how angry the Wolverines are.

Michigan's ground game vs Wisconsin's front seven

Mike Hart is 8th nationally in rushing yards despite being the focal point of every single team they face. Notre Dame played with 8 and 9 guys in the box all day and he still cranked out 124 yards on 4 yards per carry. If that didn't stop him, nothing will. Wisconsin has a good and fast front 7, but they are undersized. Look for Michigan to pound the ball north/south and not stretch it out wide. This means big backs Kevin Grady and Brandon Minor might get a few more carries this week as Michigan looks to wear them down for 4 quarters.

Michigan's passing game vs Wisconsin's DBs,

Wisconsin better get a good pass rush, or it will be a long day for their DBs as Chad Henne is really coming into his own (12 TDs vs 2 INTs in his last 6 games). Mario Manningham is the big play man (9 of 10 career TDs over 20 yards), but Steve Breaston is the dangerous underneath receiver. If Breaston starts catching everything instead of only 65% of the passes thrown his way, he will be even more dangerous. If Wisconsin plays a little 2 deep zone, watch for the TEs to get more involved this week.

Wisconsin's ground game vs Michigan's front 7

UW back PJ Hill leads the Big Ten in rushing after playing 3 patsies. Now he gets to face the best rushing defense in the nation. Unstoppable force, meat immovable object. My money is on the immovable object. But don't doubt the UW ground game too much. They've got some power up front and it wouldn't surprise me to see Hill crank out 70 or 80 yards on 25 carries.

Wisconsin's passing game vs Michigan's DBs

Michigan just got done blanketing Notre Dame's all american wide recievers and pummeling Brady Quinn. Wisconsin presents much less of a challenge in this department. Expect to see a lot of 4 and 5 man rushes and tight man coverage from the corners. Leon Hall is playing like a Thorpe candidate and Morgan Trent really played well last week. Charles Stewart is the big banger at CB and might see a little more action this week against the run-oriented Badgers.

Special teams

Both squads are pretty strong in this area. Slight edge to the Badgers kickers, big edge to Steve Breaston returning the kicks.


Wisconsin got the win last year, Michigan has all the momentum and motivation this year. The game is in the Big House where Carr is something like 27-2 in his last 29 conference games.

Prediction? Michigan 27, Wisconsin 13


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

2006 BTPR

It's time for the Big Ten to get down to business in conference play. And the conference is showing some life with the two biggest wins in the country thus far this year (Ohio State rolling then #2 Texas in Austin and Michigan destroying then #2 Notre Dame in South Bend). So how do they stack up as they head into conference play?

1) Ohio State - what's not to like? Their offense is humming and they sit atop the polls at #1 in the nation. The only chink in the armor might be on D this year.

2) Michigan - the Wolverines solidified their #2 spot with a throttling of Notre Dame. They've got the best defense in the conference and an offense with big play ability.

3) Iowa - if Drew Tate is playing, they've got a chance in every game. Not enough talent around him to rank them any higher at this point.

4) Penn State - I have a feeling they will be up and down this year. Morelli isn't good enough to take full advantage of their skill position talent and their D has some holes.

5) Michigan State - Once again, the Spartans are starting to get some hopes up in September. Will it last? Hopefully for at least one more week against the Irish.

6) Wisconsin - 3 games, 3 wins, 3 horrible opponents. We'll see what they are made of in Ann Arbor this week.

7a) Purdue - middle of the pack type of team.
7b) Minnesota - see 7a

9) Northwestern - they've at least got some talent.

10) Indiana - which is more than I can say about the Hoosiers.

11) Illinois - u.g.l.y. Syracuse?!?!?!?!?!


Monday, September 18, 2006

How Sweet It Is

What is there to say? Complete and Total Domination. I would say that Michigan blew them off the field from the first snap of the game, but there was that little "here we go again" moment when Chad Henne's first pass of the game was gift wrapped to the Notre Dame safety allowing them to regain momentum and tie the game at 7-7. But by halfway through the 2nd quarter, it was 34-7 and Michigan had held Notre Dame to 1 first down. The rout was on.

Notre Dame finished with 4 yards rushing (and Michigan now ranks #1 nationally in rush D)

Brady Quinn completed only 50% of his passes and turned the ball over 4 times (2 for touchdowns).

Notre Dame's OL and DL got owned by their Michigan counterparts.

Mario Manningham toasted their DBs to the tune of 3 TDs in the first half.

Michigan rung up 47 points in the Little House which is the 2nd most ever by a Notre Dame opponent.

Remember back in January when I compared the debut season of Charlie Weis to the debut season of Ty Willingham?

Wasn't one of the big criticisms of Ty Willingham not that his teams lost some games, but that they got blown out? 2003 Michigan game, 2003 FSU game, etc. Well? 2006 Fiesta Bowl wasn't such a close game. 2006 Michigan game wasn't such a close game. Ty Willingham's record through 15 career games at Notre Dame: 11-4. That's the exact same record as Charlie Weis. Game 15 for both was a blowout loss to Michigan with the Spartans looming next week.

I'm not saying Notre Dame is going 5-7 this year, but it's still way too early to anoint St. Charlie as the savior of the Notre Dame football program.


Friday, September 15, 2006

Off like a prom dress

Tomorrow's the big game, I've got tickets in hand, and I'm on a flight tonight. I anticipate being gloriously hammered in South Bend tomorrow night or in a drunken haze of rage. Only time will tell which will happen.

My best (optimistic) guess at the score? Michigan 27, Notre Dame 21.

Ron English for Emperor!


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Big Ten Power Rankings

I decided to let the teams get some games under their belt this year before even attempting to rank them relative to each other. Without further ado.

1) Ohio State - Troy Smith is da bomb. He makes their team offense hum. Ted Ginn is phenomenal in the open field and Anthony Gonzalez is always open and Antonio Pittman is a solid back, but it all comes down to Smith. He's playing like the Heisman favorite. Their D will be up and down this year, but their offense is enough to put them ahead of anybody else in the conference right now. They will struggle at times this year with power rushing attacks, though.

2) Michigan - Defense: check. Rushing attack: check. Passing attack: umm, not so much. Well find out a lot about what Michigan is made of when they face Notre Dame in South Bend. But Wolverine fans everywhere can probably rest assured that the defense is for real this season which alone is enough to get them back up near the top of the conference.

3) Iowa with Drew Tate - without Tate, they fall off big time. But their offense can put points on the board when Tate and Young are both clicking.

4) Penn State - enough talent to keep them from falling too far, but not nearly as good as last year

5) Wisconsin - the talent in the conference really starts to fall off here.

6) Minnesota - who else deserves it?

7) Michigan State - at least their offense is fun to watch

8) Purdue - I believe the phrase God awful can be applied to their defense

9) Indiana - I'm really reaching here

10) Illinois - they got smoked 33-0 by Rutgers

11) Northwestern - and they lost to a 1-AA team

Man, the Big Ten is looking BAD right now. Ohio State is a legit top 5 team. Michigan is a legit top 10 team. Iowa is probably a top 15 or 20 team. Penn State might be top 25. Wisconsin could be top 25 if things come together quickly. That's about it. Minnesota and Michigan State and Purdue have major holes in their team. Indiana, Illinois, and Northwestern are atrocious. Might we only get 5 bowl teams this year? I'm not sure if it's mathematically possible, but I think it will be hard to find 6 deserving bowl teams.


Reason for hope against Notre Dame

The reason I write this is that there is a lot of talk about how Notre Dame is going to steamroll Michigan on Saturday. The Irish are fresh off a 41-17 pasting of Penn State that was 41-3 until very late. Michigan has only played Vanderbilt and Central Michigan. Throw in the fact that Michigan has lost every road opener since 1999 and the game is in South Bend and it would seem that all signs point to Notre Dame winning hands down.

But I'm going to suggest that Michigan has a chance. In fact, Michigan has more than a chance, they've got a good chance at sneaking out of South Bend with a victory. Why do I think this? A couple reasons. For one thing, Michigan is better in the trenches on both sides. Check these numbers out:

Notre Dame played Georgia Tech and Penn State.

Georgia Tech vs Notre Dame: 119 yds rushing, 4.2 yds per carry
Georgia Tech vs Samford: 177 yds rushing, 4.7 yds per carry

Penn State vs Notre Dame: 158 yds rushing, 4.8 yds per carry
Penn State vs Akron: 76 yds rushing, 2.8 yds per carry

Georgia Tech vs Notre Dame: 138 yds rushing allowed, 3.4 yds per carry
Georgia Tech vs Samford: 11 yds rushing allowed, 0.7 yds per carry

Penn State vs Notre Dame: 110 yds rushing allowed, 3.1 yds per carry
Penn State vs Akron: 33 yds rushing allowed, 1.0 yds per carry

Michigan played Central Michigan and Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt vs Michigan: 42 yds rushing, 1.6 yds per carry
Vanderbilt vs Alabama: 80 yds rushing, 3.5 yds per carry

Central Michigan vs Michigan: 16 yds rushing, 0.8 yds per carry
Central Michigan vs Boston College: 123 yds rushing, 4.6 yds per carry

Vanderbilt vs Michigan: 246 yds rushing allowed, 4.8 yds per carry
Vanderbilt vs Alabama: 134 yds rushing allowed, 3.4 yds per carry

Central Michigan vs Michigan: 252 yds rushing allowed, 5.0 yds per carry
Central Michigan vs Boston College: 85 yds rushing allowed, 2.7 yds per carry

Interesting huh? Allow me to try to provide a little bit of a summary. Notre Dame has played Georgia Tech and Penn State who are both solid opponents. Michigan has played Central Michigan and Vanderbilt who aren't quite as solid. However, CMU and Vandy have each played 2 good teams whereas GT and PSU have each played a patsy and Notre Dame. First off, let's compare Michigan's performances to Alabama and Boston College who also played against Vandy and CMU.

Michigan vs Vanderbilt - Michigan hammered Vandy on the ground for 246 yards and 4.8 yards per carry. This same Vanderbilt defense held Alabama to 134 yards rushing and only 3.4 yards per carry. Interesting. Also note that Michigan held Vanderbilt to only 1.6 yards per carry compared to the 3.5 yards per carry they cranked out against Alabama. Basically, Michigan dominated both sides of the ground game in this one, especially relative to what Vanderbilt was able to do against Alabama.

Michigan vs Central Michigan - the Wolverines cranked out 3x the rushing yardage at twice the yards per carry against the Chips that Boston College was able to muster. On the other side, Michigan held CMU to 0.8 yards per carry compared to the very good 4.6 yards per carry they got against Boston College. Michigan really dominated both sides of the rushing attack in this one and was light years ahead of what Boston College did to CMU.

So yeah, Michigan's ground game has been very good and the run D? In a word, dominant.

How about Notre Dame?

Notre Dame vs Georgia Tech - Notre Dame's D "held" Georgia Tech to 4.2 yards per carry which is almost the same as Samford held them to (4.7). On the other side, Notre Dame did muster 3.4 yards per carry against a D that held Samford to 0.7 yards per carry. Notre Dame's run D was roughly the same as Samford, but their rushing attack was much better (as it should be!).

Notre Dame vs Penn State - Penn State got twice as many rushing yards and nearly twice as many yards per carry against Notre Dame then they got against Akron. On the other side, Notre Dame cranked out 110 yards and 3.1 yards per carry compared to the 1.0 yards per carry PSU allowed to Akron. Notre Dame's run D performed far worse than Akron, though their running attack managed to be almost respectable which is a lot more than Akron could say.

As you can see, Notre Dame's rushing D has been porous to say the least considering they have had a worse aggregate performance against their opponents than Akron and Samford did. Their rushing offense has been far better than Samford or Akron, but is that really saying much considering they still only cranked out less than 4 yards per carry in each game?

So what do I take from all this? Notre Dame likely won't be able to muster much of a rushing attack against Michigan and it's reasonable to expect them to get somewhere around 2.5-3.0 yards per carry. As for the matchup? Michigan could go for 200-300 yards on the ground they way both teams have been playing. Penn State does not have much of a ground attack and they still put up 158 yards and 4.8 per carry against Notre Dame. Michigan has a better offensive line and a lot more talent at tailback.

Interesting, no? Might be a little bit closer game than some are expecting if Michigan dominates the trenches. Speaking of dominating the trenches, here are some other nice numbers.

1 - LaMarr Woodley's national rank in sacks (4)
4 - Michigan's national rank in rushing defense (29 yards per game)
5 - LaMarr Woodley and Rondell Biggs' national rank in tackles for loss
6 - Rondell Biggs' national rank in sacks (3)
6 - Michigan's national rank in total defense
10 - Michigan's national rank in rushing offense
19 - the age of Notre Dame's starting right tackle
71 - Notre Dame's national rank in rushing offense
73 - Notre Dame's national rank in rushing defense

Personally, I can't wait to watch LaMarr Woodley take his usual spot at left DE and matchup with Notre Dame's true freshman left tackle Sam Young. Woodley is one of the most dominant and disruptive defensive players in the nation and can be absolutely unblockable at times. If Notre Dame has to give Young help (they will), it will open up the middle for Terrance Taylor and Alan Branch to get some clean runs at Quinn.

What do I think Michigan has to do to win? Well, they need to run the ball on offense. Notre Dame has a poor rush defense and they absolutely must take advantage. To that end, they also need to stretch the D a couple times and let Henne take some shots. On defense, the front four have to get nasty again. They need to be living in the backfield and throwing off Notre Dame's timing to avoid giving Quinn time to find receivers because he is darn accurate when throwing in rhythm.

I'm not doing the prediction thing yet, but Michigan has a chance.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

On Deck: Central Michigan

The Chippewas. What the hell am I supposed to come up with about CMU? If you are a Michigan fan or live in Michigan, I'm sure you know way more than you need to about Central Michigan University. If you are a Spartan fan, you remember way too well what CMU did to Michigan State twice in the 90s.

But come on, let's be serious. I don't care if they took Boston College to the wire last week. That was a middle of the road ACC team playing in Mt. Pleasant and they needed some nice bounces to even get close. On Saturday, it's in Ann Arbor. I cannot remember the last time Michigan lost to a team from the MAC (if ever). Michigan's D came to play against Vandy and if they bring it again, this will not be close.

The best thing about Central? It's proximity to the fabulous Soaring Eagle casino.

Here's a prediction: Michigan 41, CMU 10

Next week will mark the return of the Big Ten power rankings. I'm too lazy to do it after only 1 game for each team. Gotta at least get a little bit of a sample size.


Monday, September 04, 2006

Video Evidence of Domination

Some snippets from the Vanderbilt game...


And on to the Defense against Vanderbilt

Ron English made his debut as defensive coordinator on Saturday. There was lots of talk about how things would change and the defense would play "fast and aggressive" and on and on and on. But sometimes you just have to sit back and see for yourself. Well, we all got to see it, and OH MY GOD! The attack dogs have been unleashed. If you are like me you used to wonder why Ohio State could year after year stuff the run and pressure the quarterback with regularity and we were relegated to getting gashed by tailbacks and mobile quarterbacks.

Consider those days over. Michigan was mean and nasty and played exactly like everybody was hoping they would play. They just obliterated any hope of a rushing attack for Vanderbilt and then the DL pinned their ears back and dominated the Vanderbilt offensive line. Yes, it's Vandy, but it's also one of the best blocking units in the SEC and they got lit up. LaMarr Woodley just teed off against 2 of the best OTs in the SEC and wrecked havoc in the backfield for 3 TFLs and 2 sacks. And that was with Vanderbilt trying their best to go away from him. So what happened? The rest of the DL cleaned up and Michigan finished with 6 sacks and numerous QB knockdowns. And this was against a very mobile QB that is a hard target to bring down. Position by position...

Defensive Line

Rondell Biggs got the start at end opposite Woodley, although Tim Jamison was listed as starter and sat out the whole game. I'm thinking it was probably a little disciplinary action. Alan Branch and Terrance Taylor got the nod at tackle, though Will Johnson frequently rotated in as well. Jeremy Van Alstyne and mega-recruit Brandon Graham also got some looks at end.

How can I analyze their performance? It was basically dominant from start to finish. They stuffed the run and had the QB running for his life. English rarely had to blitz to get pressure. LaMarr Woodley played like a serious candidate for the Lombardi award and should be in the running for Big Ten DPOY if he stays healthy. Rondell Biggs ended up having the game of his life with 4 TFLs and 2 sacks.

Overall grade: A+. The best performance I have seen from a Michigan defensive line in recent memory. It was absolutely everything you could have hoped for. If they are this good the rest of the year, Michigan is going to have a top 5 national defense.


Shawn Crable, David Harris, and Chris Graham got the nod, though Graham tweaked a hammy and Prescott Burgess saw a lot of action. All in all, they were very solid. Very good tackling and they took good angles. Pretty good in coverage as well. They were not spectacular, but the DL was taking all the glory any way. Burgess definitely shed a few pounds and moved well in the open field. Crable is still at his best when blitzing the QB. Harris just roams the middle and puts TBs on the ground when he gets near them.

Overall grade: B+. A very solid showing.

Defensive Backs

Leon Hall and Charles Stewart started at CB, Jamar Adams was at SS, and Brandent Engelmon got the nod at FS. Leon Hall was very good. He recovered a fumble and Vanderbilt generally avoided throwing at him like the plague. Charles Stewart was so-so in his first start. He got toasted on the trick play when he came up to support the run and let his man get wide open in the endzone. He also was generally a step off the receiver in man coverage. He did tackle well, though, and in general kept the play in front of him. Jamar Adams delivered lots of big hits but was a step late on several occasions in coverage over the middle. He also got knocked for a PI on 3rd down. Good showing, though, as he frequently got in to the play and made his presence felt physically. Brandent Engelmon was quietly effective for the most part. He was pretty solid in coverage and managed to rip a fumble loose from the QB. Ryan Mundy and Morgan Trent saw some action in nickel packages and both stayed off the highlight reel (good or bad).

Overall grade: B. A little dissappointed in Charles Stewart's coverage, but there was only 1 glaring mistake. Leon Hall was very good but never got tested. The safeties were solid.

Defensive Coaching

If this is how Ron English is going to have them play, he will be up for some national recognition later this year. Their logo for the year should just be "The Fast and The Furious" because they were out for blood. His first real test will come in 2 weeks when he gets to match wits with Charlie Weis and Heisman boy wonder Brady Quinn. The early results are as good as it gets, though.

Overall grade: A+.


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Commentary on the Vanderbilt Game (Offense)

I have thus far avoided reading any recaps or reactions to yesterday's beatdown of the Commodores so that I could give my unbiased and honest summary of what went down. We'll start with the offense first.


Chad Henne v 3.0 was unveiled yesterday. The results? 10/22, 135 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs. But good lord did his receivers drop the easy catches. If they would've caught all the balls that hit them squarely in 2 hands, his stats would be closer to 16/22 and 195 yards. He only made one bad throw all day long and I'm convinced he just didn't see the LB closing in front of his receiver on the sideline. But Carson Butler, Steve Breaston, Mike Massey, and Mario Manningham all dropped great throws from Henne. Despite his bland stat line, Henne had a very good day. He faced quite a bit of pressure from the Vandy D and did not make mental mistakes. I am noticing a definite career trend for Henne, however, that I've been watching since his freshman year. It's his pocket presence and what he does under pressure. As a freshman, he just stood there and got sacked (frequently) showing almost zero pocket awareness. It was his one major weakness his freshman year. Last year as a sophomore, he started to feel the rush and was willing and able to throw the ball away when the heat was on. Then towards the end of last year and what looks to be growing this year, when the heat is on he is showing a knack for tucking the ball down and running with it to make a play. This is a good thing, because he's probably our 2nd most athletic QB in the Lloyd Carr era behind Drew Henson. But where am I going with this? I think he's on the verge of making a quantum leap in quarterback-hood. I don't know if it will be this year, but I'd be shocked if it doesn't happen by next year. At some point he is going to feel the rush, run to avoid it, and keep his head up looking to make a pass downfield from outside the pocket. Watching him take off 7 times yesterday just reaffirmed this for me. He would feel the rush, tuck the ball, and take off. Not once did he scan downfield after tucking the ball. But you know what? He's going to. And when he does, he will become a very dangerous playmaker. I just hope it starts clicking this year and we don't have to wait until next year.

Overall grade for yesterday? B+. Didn't make any mistakes and was really hurt by his receivers drops. All in all a solid effort, though, as most of his passes were on the money.

Running Backs

Was that a healthy Mike Hart we saw yesterday? You're damn right it was. And he was back in full effect juking the hell out of people and breaking tackles left and right to the tune of 31 carries for 146 yards. There really isn't much to say, because it was simply a classic Mike Hart game. He hardly ever breaks a long run, but just repeatedly gouges the D with 5 and 10 yard runs that move the chains. He also made several defenders look silly yesterday leaving them in the dust when they had a clean shot at him in the backfield. It's been a long time since I've seen a back make people completely whiff so frequently.

Who else got action? Kevin Grady was definitely slimmer and faster and looked great on his 19 yd TD run on the opening drive. Then he did got himself in the doghouse by losing a fumble. Based on the amount of talent at the position, he better not make that a habit if he wants to see the field. Carlos Brown popped the cherry on his freshman season by inserting himself into Antonio Bass role from last year going 4 yards behind the right side of the line from the shotgun. And then there was Brandon Minor. Rivals rated him as a fullback coming out of high school. Most people (including me) assumed he'd redshirt with all the depth. But word on the street was that he was putting on a show in fall practice. And oh good lord did he make a statement yesterday. 3 carries, 30 yards, and a spectacular show of speed and vision. I can't figure out who his running style reminds me of. Maybe an Anthony Thomas with more speed? Yeah, it's only 3 carries and some fall hype, but he looks like the real deal. In total, Michigan ripped off 51 carries for 246 yards and generally exerted their will against Vanderbilt's overmatched defense. Obi Oluigbo wasn't dominant, but made some solid blocks at fullback.

Overall grade: A. Could not have asked anything more from the running backs yesterday.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Steve Breaston did his thing on offense with 4 catches for 68 yards (including one classic across the field jaunt) and 1 end around for 13 yards. Mario Manningham was solid with 3 catches for 44 yards although he really should have had 4 for about 60 some if you credit him with what the replay official incorrectly took away. Everyone else was generally nonexistant. Tyler Ecker had a nice TD grab in the back of the endzone but that was his only catch. Carson Butler might be a physical freak, but he dropped 2 easy catches. Mike Massey was wide open on what would've been about a 30 yd TD pass but it just fell off his fingertips at the 5 yard line. Adrian Arrington had one catch and some decent blocking. Carl Tabb didn't do much of anything except take a stupid false start penalty. And then there was Greg Mathews out there ahead of LaTerryal Savoy burning his redshirt. Kid certainly passes the look test and if he's earned PT in game 1 as a freshman at WR you know he has a bright future.

Overall grade: C+. Breaston was good on the underneath stuff, but still doesn't do much downfield. Manningham had a solid but unspectacular game. Way, way, way too many dropped passes though. That needs to be straightened out ASAP because the Notre Dame game is not far away.

Offensive Line

Michigan officially unveiled their new zone blocking scheme yesterday. Got off to a nice start on the opening 81 yard drive where they just blew Vanderbilt's front seven off the ball. Up and down the rest of the way with several missed assignments leading to untouched passrushers, though Henne bailed them out by avoiding the rush and only taking a single sack. I guess it's about what you'd expect with the first game action for a new blocking scheme. Get the kinks worked out and they could be very good.

Overall grade: B. It's hard to fault a group that paves the way for nearly 250 yards on the ground against an SEC opponent. Too many free passrushers, though.

Special teams

I don't feel like doing an entire post dedicated to the special teams, so I'll just throw them in here. Garrett Rivas was in midseason form yesterday going 2/3 on field goals and 3/3 on extra points. The one missed field goal was blocked and it was clearly his fault for getting off one of his low linedrives. He did make a career long 48 yarder, though. He also made all 3 extra points, though, 1 almost missed. As for punting, Zoltan Mesko made his Michigan debut by booting 3 times for a 41.7 yd average that was aided by some friendly bounces. His 3rd punt, however, was a towering 45 yard effort. Ross Ryan got 1 punt for 37 yards. The return game yesterday was awful. Breaston only had 1 clean shot at a return and he bobbled it.

Overall grade: B-. The return game stunk. The punting was decent. The kicking was the same as it has always been as the final results were pretty good but it sure looked ugly.

Offensive coaching

Mike DeBord made his return to OC duties at Michigan. What did we see? A little bit more running out of spread formations than we've seen in the past. Some actual misdirection plays that went against what used to be Michigan's stonecold predictability. I mean did anyone else notice the FB shuffling in motion to the right only to watch the play go back to the left side yesterday? In the 4th quarter, however, DeBord showed some classic Lloyd-ball by steadfastly pounding Mike Hart behind the left side of the line against a stacked defense when we had a double digit lead. I'm willing to cut DeBord a little slack in this game. It was the first game of the season and Michigan basically dominated everywhere but the scoreboard thanks to some dropped passes, penalties, and a blocked field goal.

Overall grade: B-. It would get more of a C if it wasn't the first game, but I'm assuming/hoping DeBord didn't want to show anything. Our running attack did like mighty nasty, however, and I really think we could get back to punishing some teams on the ground this year like we haven't done in years.

Later today I'll get to the defense. Here's a preview of my thoughts: Me Likey! Here's a preview of opposing QBs thoughts after games this year: Ouch!


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Things that will make me happy today

I can't really post any keys to victory today, because it's Vanderbilt for crying out loud. Show up and stay healthy are the only 2 keys to victory needed. But there are somethings I would like to see that could bode well for the rest of the season

On offense:
  • a healthy Mike Hart breaking tackles and energizing the crowd
  • some big holes opened up by the OL against a D that is not very strong
  • Steve Breaston catching some passes downfield instead of just screens
  • Chad Henne passing accurately and making the proper audibles
On defense:
  • the DL dominating with a pass rush and by clogging rushing lanes
  • sure tackling by the LBs
  • no blown coverages downfield
On special teams:
  • Garrett Rivas not missing a kick
  • good kickoff coverage with the new lower tees
  • Steve Breaston doing his thing
I guess I'll throw out a 38-13 prediction as Michigan should roll.