Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Hoop This

We interrupt your previously scheduled Michigan football blogging to pass along a reminder. It's The Return of The Wonk! Big Ten Wonk is back in action on Wednesday. He'll have an opening day Festivus (for the rest of us) followed by Alphabetically Sensitive Preseason Walk Arounds (ASPWAs) for each team. You guessed it, they are in alphabetical order. Michigan is due to hit the bookstands on November 7th so stay tuned.

But seriously, the dude knows hoops. He has been more than doing his part to shed light on tempo-free stats and the like. If you think rebounds per game is a great stat to measure rebounding prowess by, please read up on Wonk and get your act together! Unfortunately, Michigan has sucked during his reign. I refuse to do much of a preview on Michigan basketball this year, but I'll get into those reasons in a month or so with my "not a preview" preview. Until then, please get your fill from Wonk.

I'd also be remiss to mention that I'll have some thoughts on the World Series and the Tigers offseason in a few weeks. It's just that they played like such crap it isn't worth my time right now and I'm thankfully far more interested in college football right now with Michigan's fantabulous season. But fear not, I will get to it.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

This is Way Too Good to Miss

In the spirit of TOO EARLY Ohio State stuff, check out this preview of The Game. It is one hell of a nice read done in a position by position matchup style preview. Sure there are some parts here or there that I would disagree with, but it is funny as hell. Some snippets...

Defensive line: Whirling vortex of horror vs. rampaging hordes of unholy might. Both groups are quite, quite good. Michigan, however, has the clear edge here. They average something absurd like 7'3" and 545 pounds across the line (slight exaggerations) and knocked 2 of Penn State's innocent QBs out of the game with a blitzkrieg of sacks and flattenings that made Poland shudder. Smith's mobility at QB will probably help mitigate UM's bloodlust, but it will be tough to run against them. Edge: Michigan.

Carr, on the other hand, is your run-of-the-mill crotchety grandpa type, the one who keeps all the balls you hit over his fence in a big garbage bag labeled "Jason's toys he'll never ever get back ever even after I die so help me God won't someone teach these kids some respect, consarn it?" Tressel is suspected by many detractors and non-Buckeye partisans of cheating or using unholy magic, basically because he's really good at the two things Ohio State is notoriously bad at: beating Michigan and winning bowl games. I dismiss the notion that Tressel is "in Carr's head", however. Both men have, in all likelihood, killed men with their bare hands and enjoyed it.

Great writing even though most of his stuff appears to have almost nothing to do with sports. Perusing his site it looks like he is from Cleveland which would explain the fascination with The Game. At least he had the good sense to get out of Ohio.


College Football Thoughts and Musings

Quite a weekend of college football, though Michigan didn't have much to write about. The Trojans were denied by the Beavers, West Virginia and Louisville are looking ahead to Thursday night's showdown, Ohio State rolled on. Some thoughts...

  • West Virginia - yes, I get it. You are now up to number 3 in the BCS with USC's long regular season winning streak snapped. You are playing Louisville in a battle of unbeatens that very well might be a national semifinal of sorts along with the Michigan-Ohio State game. But please, spare me the no respect card. West Virginia just hasn't proven anything this year. They are 7-0 against simply putrid competition. What kind of a non conference schedule is this? Marshall, Eastern Washington, Maryland, Eastern Carolina, and Mississippi State? Yes, Steve Slaton is a phenomenal talent and Pat White can make plays. Do not, however, try to tell me that West Virginia would put up numbers against a team that can stop the run. But what about the Sugar Bowl against Georgia? Yeah, I saw it. I saw WVU get up 28-0 in a hurry and then hang on for dear life only scoring 10 points in the last 44 minutes and 10 seconds of the game against the crappy 52nd ranked rushing defense of Georgia. The Bulldogs rushing D was bad last year and they had a horrible matchup with West Virginia. The Mountaineers exploited it and got a big lead and held on for the W. Congrats. However, that was last year. And as relatively unimpressed as I am, it still counts for squat this year. West Virginia very well could be one of the top five teams in the country. However, they have done nothing that 35 other teams in the country couldn't do against their schedule so far. I'm praying that Michigan meets West Virginia in a bowl game.
  • Michigan - That was one ugly 17-3 win over Northwestern. Do you think Lloyd liked it? Check out this quote from his press conference today: "I love that kind of game Saturday. I love that environment. I think you find out a lot about your team. I'm not concerned in terms of margins, point spreads. In most cases I don't even know them." I swear he's happier playing a close low scoring game against a bad team than he is if they would've won 42-0. And the playcalling shows it when Michigan runs the same play over and over and over and refuses to test the other team deep. Is it that they are saving something for OSU, or do Carr/DeBord just prefer to win a game by running it on nearly every play? I'll bet on the latter.
  • Mike DeBord - hmmm, is he really the brains behind Lloyd Carr's operation? He was offensive coordinator for 1997 to 1999 during which time Michigan went 12-0, 10-3, and 10-2. Now he's back calling the plays this year and Michigan is 9-0 and counting. Some people say he is the beneficiary of having great defenses backing him up (I'm looking at you Brian), but I say no way. Michigan's defense gave up more points in 1999 than they did in 2005, yet Michigan managed to go 10-2 in 1999 compared to 7-5 in 2005. 1998's defense wasn't spectacular either. Michigan with DeBord calling the plays managed to go 20-5 over 1998 and 1999 which is the best two year stretch since the mid 1980s not counting the 1997 season. Doesn't he deserve at least a little credit? I mean his offense is a defense's best friend (not to mention Lloyd's best friend). He emphasizes rushing the football, minimizing turnovers, and time of possession. He makes it easy on a defense by not putting them behind the eight ball. It says something that Michigan is 38-0 when the defense holds the opponent under 30 points with DeBord calling the plays. Any takers on whether Ohio State will be over or under 30 this year? I tend to disagree with some of the boring, predictable methods of DeBord's offense. However, he has shown a willingness to open up the gameplan in big games and is not afraid to do so on the road. Think about it. Over the last decade of Michigan football, which big road games did the offensive gameplan make you go WOW and which ones made you cringe. 1997 Penn State? 1999 Penn State? 2000 Orange Bowl against Alabama? 2006 Notre Dame? Not too shabby in those games. Now how about 2000 Purdue? 2002 or 2004 Notre Dame? 2003 Iowa or Oregon? The more you look at it IMHO, the more DeBord looks like a genius when it comes to winning games. Is he the reason Michigan is 9-0 this year and went 12-0 in 1997? No. But he's a part of it. His offense helps the defense out. And the fact that Michigan had successful seasons in 1998 and 1999 despite defenses that were as bad as anything from 2000-2005 shows me that it isn't just the defense.

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

9-0 v 9-0

We have now officially moved up to the TOO EARLY Ohio State segments of blogging.

Quite a contrast in styles yesterday. Michigan beat Northwestern 17-3 in cold (<> 50 mph gusts) conditions in a game that can best be described as ugly. Ohio State had a little better conditions and hammered Minnesota in every facet of the game winning 44-0. Style points awarded to Ohio State.

But does it matter? Did Michigan even try on offense? I'll argue that they didn't. They played without Mario Manningham, Tyler Ecker, Rueben Riley, Mike Massey, and Adrian Arrington sat on the sidelines for most of the game. The conditions were brutal and all they tried to do was run. Northwestern knew this but still couldn't stop it, merely slowing them enough to hold them to 202 yards on the ground. That's the third time in the last 5 games they've topped 200 on the ground for those keeping track at home. Northwestern played an 8 man front the entire game and Michigan plunged right into it. Henne was 10/20 on the day, but was betrayed by Steve Breaston's hands at least once or twice.

Ohio State was brutally efficient yesterday. They scored in every quarter. They ran the ball for 266 yards, threw for 218 yards, and flat out beat up Minnesota's offense holding them to 182 yards on the day. If you care to peruse the Buckeye's numbers this year, you might notice that Penn State is the only Big Ten team to hold them under 38 points this year (28 for that game), though you might remember that 14 points in that game were off late "pick 6s" by the Buckeye defense. But they have been shredding Big Ten opponents this year. 38 points at Iowa, 38 at MSU, 44 points against Indiana, 44 against Minnesota. Michigan's defense will certainly have their work cut out for them against a Buckeye offense that is rolling.

We are now less than 3 weeks away from perhaps the Biggest Regular Season Game in the History of College Football.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Mmmmmmm, Northwestern

Those wildcats are a tasty cupcake lined up for Michigan this week. Gotta wonder, though, exactly which Northwestern team will show up. Will it be the team that thundered out to a 38-3 lead on Michigan State? Or will it be the group that staggered and fell allowing Michigan State to score 38 unanswered points in the 2nd half? Or will it be some combination thereof?

What is certain is that Northwestern sucks this year. They got a nice 21-3 win at Miami (OH) to start the season on the emotion of Randy Walker's death and a return to his former school. Since then? Just 1-6 with some bad losses. Their only win since the first week was a nailbiter over Eastern Michigan. Their offense sucks (94th in total offense, 103rd in scoring offense). Their defense sucks (93rd in total defense, 90th in scoring defense).

It seems like the only drama surrounding this game is off the field. When will Mario Manningham be back? What's going on with Adrian Arrington? How crazy are the cops in Columbus as it relates to Prescott Burgess? How much longer until the Ohio State game?

Is there any doubt about the outcome of this week's game? Not really. I wish I could get fired up about it, but I can't. Northwestern's offense is in for a world of hurt and their defense is just overmatched.


Impossible to say. Carr will definitely call off the dogs early, but will it even matter? The only way Northwestern keeps it close is if they stack the line and tackle well because Michigan is going heavy on the ground this game. Kevin Grady, Brandon Minor, and Jerome Jackson will get a workout as they seek to avoid overworking Mike Hart again. I'll say Michigan 38, Northwestern 10.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

How Ohio State got to 8-0 (AKA How Stella Got Her Groove Back)

The Buckeyes are 8-0 and nearly unanimous (except for 2 dorks in California - Scott Wolf I'm talking to you) at number 1. How'd they do it? Well, let's leave out last year's thrashing of Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl that gave them some preseason love this year.

Ohio State has outscored their opponents 34.9-8.3 so far this year. They rank #20 in total offense, #11 in scoring offense, #15 in total defense, and #1 in scoring defense nationally. Why are their scoring numbers so much better than their total numbers (on both sides)? Probably because they are #4 nationally in turover margin.

Who have they beaten? Here's a rundown of their opponents along with that opponents national ranks in total o, scoring o, total d, and scoring d...

Northern Illinois - 18, 24, 100, 71
@Texas - 27, 4, 14, 15
Cincinnati - 85, 100, 55, 54
Penn State - 53, 59, 39, 40
@Iowa - 28, 45, 57, 38
Bowling Green - 54, 87, 54, 99
@Michigan State - 26, 29, 81, 93
Indiana - 93, 68, 107, 105

As you can see, Texas is far and away the best team they have played this year. Iowa is probably the 2nd toughest (they played both of those on the road). Other than that? Probably Penn State next and then not much else (aside from Michigan State's offense). Indiana, BGSU, and Cincinnati are all brutal. Northern Illinois isn't exactly good considering the competition they play.

What does it all mean? Nothing. Just that it's never too early for WAY TOO EARLY looks at Ohio State. I mean what the hell other game should I be worried about at this point?


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

2006 BTPR, week 8

Well, last week's rankings worked out pretty good with the higher ranked team winning every game. Let's keep it the same this week.

1) Ohio State
2) Michigan - it's lonely at the top for these 2

3) Wisconsin - still the king of the midgets as the drop from #3 to #4 is large

4) Penn State - not too impressive over Illinois, but a win is a win
5) Iowa - hung tough for a little while as expected in Ann Arbor
6) Purdue - nothing special against the Badgers

7) Minnesota
8) Indiana
9) Michigan State - largest comeback win of all time that begs the question, how the hell can you fall behind by 35 points to Northwestern?

10) Illinois
11) Northwestern - soon to be cupcake #1 on the Wolverines road to Columbus

We'll see if it can hold true for another week. Tomorrow we will return to some gratuitous WAY TOO EARLY Ohio State related preview type stuff.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Rushing Defense, what does it mean?

Michigan has a great rushing defense this year. Yeah, yeah, we all know they rank 1st nationally against the rush. What's the average at now? Something like 33 yards per game allowed? Yowza. But what does that mean? Here's a little table going back a few years detailing the national leaders in rushing defense and the rank of the national champions that year in rushing defense.

2000: #1 Memphis - 73 ypg, 2.3 ypc; #23 Oklahoma - 108 ypg, 3.2 ypc
2001: #1 UAB - 57 ypg, 1.9 ypc; #40 Miami - 133 ypg, 3.1 ypc
2002: #1 TCU - 65 ypg, 2.0 ypc; #3 Ohio State - 78 ypg, 2.6 ypc
2003: #1 USC - 60 ypg, 1.8 ypc; #3 LSU - 67 ypg, 2.4 ypc (USC and LSU split title)
2004: #1 USC - 79 ypg, 2.6 ypc; #1 USC
2005: #1 Ohio State - 73 ypg, 2.4 ypc; #33 Texas - 131 ypg, 3.7 ypc

As you can see, 3 of the last 4 national titles have been won by teams ranking in the top 3 nationally in rushing defense.

How does Michigan stack up this year so far? 33.6 yards per game allowed and 1.4 yards per carry allowed. Both would be the best by far this century in college football. I'd be interested in going back decades and seeing how that number would stack up (if it holds up).


Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Mission

Your mission, Ron, should you choose to accept it: Contain the most dynamic and dangerous player in the country.

I expect you will spend the next 4 weeks preparing your defense to follow your mantra of Playing Hard and Playing Fast.

Sense a pattern here?


Breath a Deep Sigh of Relief

It's over. That whole stretch of games where people said, get back to me after the Iowa game, is done with. Michigan ran through 6 straight losable games and won all of them to get to 8-0. All that is left is Northwestern, Ball State, and Indiana before heading to Columbus. You could not have hoped for more as a Michigan fan with only 1 game this year being decided by less than 14 points. Raise your hand if you think Michigan is pretty damn good...

This week, I'll officially move to WAY TOO EARLY Ohio State previews. This will be followed by TOO EARLY and EARLY Ohio State previews as The Game draws near.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Game 1

After a week of partying and celebrating the Tiger's first pennant in 22 years, it's back to business tonight as two of the most storied franchises in baseball history square off for the third time in the World Series. St. Louis will be looking for revenge from 1968 when the Tigers took an epic game 7 by beating Bob Gibson in his prime. They will also be looking for revenge from earlier this year when Detroit swept St. Louis over a 3 game series in Detroit (10-6, 7-6, and 4-1).

Check out The Detroit Tiger Weblog for the best Tiger blogging around.

Or head to Deadspin for the most popular sports blog that happens to be written by a Cardinals fan.

Tonight we will get a chance to see if the Tigers are rusty with not having played since 1 week ago. We'll also get our first crack at the AL vs NL thing since the Junior Circuit spanked the Senior Circuit all over the field in Interleague play this year. Detroit was one of those teams that dominated the NL (along with the Twins, White Sox, and Red Sox) going 15-3 against the NL Central this year. Who won the NL Central? The Cardinals. Yep, Detroit dominated the Cards division this year.

I'm not into making predictions and it is nice to see all the love the Tigers are getting from national pundits this week, but I'm not buying the hype. These are the same people that said the Yankees would steamroll Detroit so let's just see how it plays out on the field. I'm just hoping to get at least one peek this week at Albert Pujols vs Joel Zumaya.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Thoughts on Iowa

(preseason)Iowa will be a very tough game. They always play us tough. They have a great quarterback. Their D will be solid. They have a great coach. (/preseason)

Yikes, what the hell happened to the Hawkeyes? Sure, injuries hurt. But they just lost to freakin' Indiana! They got steamrolled at home by Ohio State and while Ohio State is the best team in the country, they aren't that good.

I'm truly torn looking at this game. Part of me sees the Iowa that has played Michigan very tough under Ferentz. Hell, that same part remembers the epic battles between Bo and Hayden Frye in the 1980s. Then again, Michigan is rolling right now. The game is at home. Iowa is reeling. There is little objective evidence this year that Iowa can keep it close in Ann Arbor.

So what to expect? Drew Tate will have a good game and will frustrate the defense. He can move around the pocket and can keep the play alive giving his receivers way too much time to get open. But he'll also make some mistakes giving Michigan field position. Michigan's offense should be able to establish a pretty solid ground game against Iowa and Henne will have open targets if the OL gives him time. This game might be similar to the Wisconsin game where it is close for a little while before Michigan pulls away in the 2nd half.

I'll guess Michigan wins 31-13 and guys like Kevin Grady and Brandon Minor get some nice work at TB.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

2006 BTPR, week 7

1) Ohio State - another boring week atop the college football world for the Buckeyes
2) Michigan - convincing win in a tough environment have cemented Michigan as the number 1 challenger to the Ohio State coronation

3) Wisconsin - and then there was one. Losses by Iowa and Penn State leave Wisconsin as king of the munchkins behind the Big 2

4) Penn State - well, they've lost to #1 Ohio State, #2 Michigan, and #8/10 Notre Dame. Other than that they have beaten lesser opponents.
5) Iowa - Indiana? Yikes. If they don't have a good game in Ann Arbor they are dropping
6) Purdue - missing Michigan and Ohio State on the schedule helps their record

7) Minnesota - the Gophers have started their 2nd half slide into mediocrity a little early this year
8) Indiana - Nice victory over the Hawkeyes propels them above MSU for this week
9) Michigan State - pucker, pucker, pucker

10) Illinois - Ohio? Man, they suck.
11) Northwestern - putting them behind Illinois tells you how bad they are

Big 2 and Little 9, huh? Looks like a home game for Michigan this week against a reeling Iowa Hawkeye team is all that stands between a November showdown of undefeated Big Ten behemoths in Columbus. It's been over 30 years since these 2 powers sat so far ahead of the rest of the conference (and ahead of the country).


Tuesday, October 17, 2006


The Shot Heard Round Detroit launched the Tigers into the World Series and set off an epic night of partying in Motown. Can it get any better than this? Well, barring any more rain outs in the NLCS we'll get a look at the World Series.

It's time to party like it's 1984!


Monday, October 16, 2006

Fallout from Michigan win over Penn State

In my post Tigers victory party, hungover next morning, viewing of the Michigan game I noticed a few things.

1) The defense is really good. Yeah, it's getting to be redundant. But when you hold Penn State to their lowest rushing total of the Paterno era that is saying something because that dude has been around for decades. And in what is getting to be a mildly annoying trend, the defense once again surrendered some points in garbage time to make the final score closer than you'd think from watching the game. As it stands, I can live with 5 minutes of mortalness in exchange for 55 minutes of fire breathing domination.

2) Chad Henne is really good. Not spectacular, but the kid did exactly what he needed to do to win on the road in front of fans that would rather see him castrated.

3) Mike Hart is really, really good. Pencil him in for 100+ yards and a big 4th quarter every week when Michigan puts the game away.

4) Iowa lost to Indiana? Not from the Michigan game, but what the hell was that??? Will the Kirk Ferentz worship take a pause after this season?

5) Adrian Arrington is a big time receiver. It's almost a shame that he spent most of the year playing in Mario Manningham's shadow because this kid is a star in the making. He's big and fast and knows how to catch the ball. Did I mention that like Manningham, he still has 2 more years of eligibility? I can't remember the last time Michigan had 2 sophomore receivers this good.

6) Alan Branch and LaMarr Woodley are bad, bad men.

7) Ron English for President.

8) Zoltan Mesko for Space Emporer (of Space). Don't deny that you saw Mike Hart flashing the Z for Zoltan handsign after his touchdown and you thought it was cool as hell.


Friday, October 13, 2006


Just 30 minutes away from the first pitch in Detroit as the Tigers have 3 games in a row at home already up 2-0 in the ALCS. Today it is the ageless wonder Kenny Rogers against the still recovering Rich Harden. Tomorrow pits Jeremy Bonderman against Danny Haren.

I have no idea what is in the water in Detroit right now, but Jim Leyland is pushing all the right buttons. Let's hope it continues.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Penn State Preview

Yeah, yeah, it's almost Christmas Eve on Blue and White Illustrated and the few loony PSU fans that ruin the perfectly good reputation of Penn State fans (cough, cough, MarshCreekEagle, cough, cough). You know, that time of year when they can really step up the conspiracy theories and hope that their team doesn't drop a deuce against Michigan again. What's it been now? 10 years since the last Penn State victory over Michigan? Man, that's a long time. You know at some point Penn State will overcome it to win, but is this really the year? Michigan has better coaches and more talent. The game is at Penn State, but playing on the road hasn't slowed down this Michigan team yet going to South Bend and Minneapolis for easy wins.

Did I say road games at Notre Dame and Minnesota? Yep, those are the only 2 common opponents between Penn State and Michigan and the results couldn't be more different. Notre Dame - Michigan smoked 'em and Penn State bent over and took it from the Irish. Minnesota - Michigan coasted to an easy victory while the Nittany Lions needed a generous PI call on 4th down in OT to avoid losing.

How do the teams stack up statistically?

Michigan ground game
The Wolverines rank #1 in the Big Ten and #17 nationally in rushing offense at 196 yards per game and 4.4 per carry. A lot of this has come in garbage time when Michigan is running out the clock by just pounding it into 8 man fronts. Penn State is #14 nationally in rushing defense surrendering only 80 yards per game and 2.5 yards per carry. Expect Michigan to go for somewhere around 150 as a team and 4 per carry as Michigan might focus more on rushing earlier in the game instead of just waiting until the game is out of hand.

Michigan passing game
Mario Manningham will not be playing. That's the bad news. The good news? Michigan currently ranks #13 nationally in pass efficiency and Chad Henne has been throwing strikes all over the field. Adrian Arrington and Steve Breaston will be relied upon heavily to carry the load at WR. Greg Mathews and Carl Tabb will vie for PT at the #3 WR spot. Look for a big game from the TEs, though. Tyler Ecker might be back and Massey and Carson Butler are more than capable of exploiting a Penn State LB crew that struggles to cover the deep middle of the field. Penn State only ranks #47 nationally in pass efficiency defense and just got torched by Brian Cupito last week to the tune of nearly 350 yards passing. Read that again. Brian Cupito. If Manningham was playing, you'd expect this to get ugly. As it stands, Michigan will move the chains regularly via the pass. Look for a big game from Chad Henne.

Penn State ground game
Penn State has been solid on the ground this year ranking #20 nationally at 191 yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry. Lots of damage against some pretty bad opponents, though. Tony Hunt is the ultimate solid but not spectacular back. Michigan still ranks #1 nationally in rushing defense surrounding a mere 40 yards per game and 1.7 yards per carry. If Penn State thought they had a solid rushing D, Michigan is flat out nasty and has played better competition (did you see what they did to PJ Hill?). Expect Penn State to struggle to run the ball. I'll be surprised if they get 100 as a team for the game and they'll be under 3 yards per carry.

Penn State passing game
Anthony Morelli has lead his team to the #83 ranking nationally in passing efficiency this year. Yikes. That's not good for a junior. How in the heck are he and Chad Henne in the same class? Do they teach quarterbacking in State College? Did he honestly pass up a chance to go to Pitt to play in this offense? Michigan has been solid against the pass this year ranking 25th nationally in passing effiency defense. Morelli will struggle if Michigan can bring the heat with their pass rush.

Special teams
Neither team has been great in special teams this year. Gotta give a slight edge to Michigan, though. Zoltan Mesko is really starting to flash his cannon leg at punter and Garrett Rivas is ugly but effective with his FGs. Then you've got the record setting Steve Breaston as a returner. He hasn't broken one yet this year, so look out.

Predictions? Geez, this is hard. I want to say this is going to be a very difficult game for Michigan. I mean those Penn State fans will be out for blood against the team that has owned them for a decade. It's at night. etc. Whatever. The left side of my brain looks at this completely differently. Fact: Michigan has a better rushing attack. Fact: Michigan has a better passing game. Fact: Michigan has a better rushing defense. Fact: Michigan has a better passing defense.

Penn State is really going to have to play above their heads to win this one. Either that or come up big in the turnover margin. Did I mention that Michigan is 6th nationally in turnover margin and Penn State is 73rd? Ouch!

I'll give Penn State a little benefit of the doubt for hanging close with the Buckeyes in a rainstorm in Columbus.

Michigan 27, Penn State 17


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

2006 BTPR, week 6

1) Ohio State - ho hum as they keep rolling
2) Michigan - rolled past Michigan State, but might be without Manningham for a while

3) Wisconsin - dominating crappy teams like they should, but still no good wins
4) Penn State - needed OT against Minnesota and still no good victories
5) Iowa - nice bounce back W over Purdue

6) Purdue - they have a nice passing game
7) Minnesota - they have a nice all around offense
8) Michigan State - they have a funny coach

9) Indiana - with a win over Illinois, they are the tallest midget this week
10) Illinois - a fall from grace after their win over MSU 2 weeks ago
11) Northwestern - Randy Walker must have been a miracle worker


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Rant

I didn't want to do it. I was saving this up for the offseason. The time, however, has arrived. Baseball is the ultimate game of statistics. It's a series of individual matchups between pitcher and catcher that can be nearly completely explained in numbers. Hits, walks, doubles, homers, GIDPs, HBPs, RBI, runs, wild pitches, strikes, balls, pop ups, line drives, errors, etc. It's all out there and somebody is keeping track of it.

When I was growing up, the measure of a hitter boiled down to a few things that were easy to measure and easy to understand. Batting average. It didn't get much simpler than that. The best hitters had the highest batting averages. Number of hits divided by number of at bats. Simple math for even a kid to figure out and it looked great on the back of a baseball card. Home runs. Those were the power hitters. 50 was a magic number back then. RBI. The clutch hitters. They didn't necessarily need the home runs or the high batting average, they got the job done when it mattered. They were the guys you wanted up with the game on the line. These were the numbers that stood the test of time and were cited as evidence of greatness for decades. Pitchers had similar numbers. Wins and losses. Those were the guys that knew how to get the job done. They might give up some runs here or there, but when it mattered they could buckle down and get the win. ERA. These guys didn't even let you score. The best pitchers always had the best record and the best ERA. Hall of Fame credentials? 3000 hits. 500 Home runs. 300 wins. Everybody knew.

Those are the numbers I grew up with. Those were the things I kept track of on baseball cards.

And then a funny thing happened. Some really smart people started looking at numbers. Bill James is widely considered the godfather of it, but he wasn't the first. It started in the 1920s and 1930s, but remained on the fringe. They started coming up with new ways of quantifying a players contribution to his team. Terms like On Base Percentage (OBP), Slugging Percentage (SLG), Strikeout rate (K/9 IP), Walk rate (BB/9 IP), and a whole host of others started getting tossed around. They used math and computers to analyze teams and see what made them good, bad, or in between. They started tracking statistics to see which ones predicted future performance and which ones seemed to be random from year to year. They made hypotheses and tested them. They turned the analysis of baseball into a science.

The backlash. You're telling me a bunch of number crunching geeks no more about baseball than legends that have been part of the game for decades? Not necessarily. It's just that the human mind is easily fooled by perceptions and habits. Teams won championships and lost heartbreakers and made comebacks and folded under pressure for a long, long time. Clutch hitters came and went. Managers made the same decisions with the same rationale for a century. .300 hitters are great. A pitcher with 20 wins was great. That's the way it was and that's the way it was going to be.

Change is hard. It's difficult to admit to yourself that the way that you used to see things just isn't right. I was wrong? Yep. But I've listened to some of the smartest men in baseball tell me that, they can't all be wrong can they? I think a little quote from the Matrix is apt here. "You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes."

So how far exactly does this rabbit hole go? Let's start with hitters. Batting average has probably been the most widely cited statistic in the past 100 years. But why? It's supposed to tell you how good somebody is at getting hits. What's so special about a hit? It gets you on base. It moves the runners along. Wouldn't it be interesting to look at On Base Percentage as being more meaningful? I mean a walk is almost as good as a hit right? Well, not exactly. Sometimes hits go for extra bases. Sometimes hits drive in a runner from 2nd base. I hear you, but let's leave the extra base hits for later. Back to batting average. Why doesn't it matter? Well, let's go back to that .300 hitter. He's been lauded for years. But what has he really done? Is getting a single 3 times out of 10 at bats really a great performance? I'm going to say no. Not when there are other players that can get a "hit" slightly less frequently but make a much, much bigger impact on the offense. Rationally I think we can all agree that a single, double, triple, and home run are not equally valuable. So why should we treat them equally? On Base Percentage simply takes the number of times a player reaches base (Hits + Walks + Hit By Pitch) and divides it by the number of times a player came up to the plate (At Bats + Walks + Hit By Pitch + Sac Flies) and it simply gives a measure of how frequently a player was successful in reaching base, or in more important terms how often he avoids making an out.

Yeah, yeah, OBP is important. But so what? It still doesn't take into account lots of what hitters do. Well, if they don't just get on base, what do they do? They hit the ball hard or soft. This brings us to Slugging Percentage. What is it? Simply put it's the number of total bases a player gets divided by number of at bats. That's (Singles + 2xDoubles + 3xTriples + 4xHomers) divided by At Bats. It is basically a measure of what a player does when he gets a hit, with the understanding that not all hits are created equal. Not unsurprisingly it favors players that hit the ball hard.

OK, I get the point. But what about things like RBI? The run producers. The guys that win games. Let's start with a basic premise I think everybody can agree on. When a run is scored (aside from a home run), credit goes to 2 players. One player got on base and the other knocked him home. The relative credit for any run depends on the situation. Driving in a runner from 3rd with nobody out is just a tad easier than driving in a runner from 1st with 2 outs, correct? Another thing to keep in mind is that different hitters will have a different number of RBI opportunities over a season. Alex Rodriguez hit cleanup for the best lineup in the majors this past season. He had guys on base all time time. In fact, in the span of 572 at bats this year he lead the majors with 534 runners on base. ARod managed to drive in those runners 86 times. He also knocked himself in 35 times on HRs. Curtis Granderson? He didn't have quite the same luxury as ARod. He got to bat leadoff for the free swinging Tigers. How many RBI chances did he have? Curtis managed to have 596 at abats this year and only came to the plate with 338 runners on base. He managed to knock them in 49 times (plus himself 19 times on HRs). Alex Rodriguez finished the season with nearly twice as many RBI as Curtis Granderson, yet they were nearly identical in terms of knocking in the runners that were on base for them. Interesting, wouldn't you say?

Let's take a look at some examples of players over 600 plate appearances. Player A will be the .315 hitter with a little bit of power. Player B will be more in the .275 range with his batting average, but draws some walks and hits for some power.

Player A (in 600 plate appearances)
570 at bats
30 walks
144 singles
18 home runs
18 doubles

Player B (in 600 plate appearances)
530 at bats
70 walks
85 singles
24 home runs
36 doubles

Player A hit .316 with a little bit of pop. Player B hit .274 with more walks and somewhat more power. But let's take a look at what they look like in terms of on base percentage and slugging percentage.

Player A: OBP - .350, SLG - .442
Player B: OBP - .358, SLG - .477

Interesting, huh? Player A is a much better hitter based on batting average. Player B has a little bit more power and draws a few more walks, but it more than makes up for the batting average difference in both OBP and SLG. But what does that mean? Who cares? The ultimate goal of finding new statistics to analyze baseball performance is to better understand a player's contribution to his team. When it comes to hitting, how many more runs does he help his team score than somebody else would?

Let's step back to team statistics for a moment, shall we? Wouldn't it be interesting to see a comparison of Team Batting Average and compare it to Team On Base Percentage and see how it relates to how many runs teams score? What follow is a list of the top 5 and bottom 5 teams in MLB in runs scored this year along with their team ranks in OBP and BA.

Rank in Runs Scored - TEAM -----Rank in BA - Rank in OBP
1) Yankees - 1st - 2nd
2) Indians - 3rd - 4th
3) White Sox - 8th - 5th
4) Phillies - 6th - 18th
5) Braves - 15th - 13th
26) Padres - 20th - 23rd
27) Brewers - 25th - 27th
28) Cubs - 29th - 17th
29) Pirates - 26th - 22nd
30) Devil Rays - 30th - 30th

Pretty close correlation, but not perfect. Most teams have an OBP and BA that are pretty close. The only outliers were the Cubs that were an average team in BA, but 2nd to last in OBP. And they ended up with the 3rd worst offense in the league. The Phillies were the other way. Their batting average was worse than the Cubs, but their OBP was 6th best in the league and helped power them to the 4th best offense in the majors. But OBP can't be the be all and end all can it? Funny you ask. OBP and SLG measure diametrically opposed parts of offensive production. Why not just combine them? That's where we get OPS (On Base Percentage Plus Slugging Percentage). Simply add the 2 together to get a more complete picture of a player's offensive production. Let's do the same exercise as last time, except compare team rank in runs scored with team rank in OPS.

Rank in Runs Scored - TEAM --Rank in OPS
1) Yankees - 1st
2) Indians - 4th
3) White Sox - 3rd
4) Phillies - 5th
5) Braves - 6th
26) Padres - 23rd
27) Brewers - 24th
28) Cubs - 27th
29) Pirates - 30th
30) Devil Rays - 29th

Pretty cool, huh? The top 5 offenses in the majors all finished in the top 6 in OPS. The bottom 5 offenses in the majors all finished in the bottom 8 in OPS. It's actually a phenomenal correlation and it holds up year after year. In 2006, only 1 team scored more than 900 runs (Yankees) and they finished #1 in OPS. Another 12 teams scored at least 800 runs on the season and they all ranked from #2-13 in OPS. Another 15 teams scored at least 700 runs and they ranked from #14-28 in OPS. Only 2 teams failed to score 700 runs and they ranked #29 and #30 in the league in OPS. There isn't a single outlier from that. Did you know that only one offense scored more than 900 runs last year? Yep, the Red Sox finished #1 in the majors in OPS and runs in 2005.

Enough about offense for now. There are far, far, far more things you can get in to. Turns out that a better measure than OPS is to take OBP and raise it to a power of something like 1.20 and then add that to SLG because it turns out that OBP is a little more important than SLG. But it's all semantics once you accept that the things you used to think were important aren't any more. For example, you could take things like OPS and compare it to the home park a player plays in and adjust for a "park factor" that accounts for the difference between pre-humidor Coors Field and Comerica Park. Things like "Runs Created" or "Equivalent Average" are all variations of the same theme of taking into account every result of a player's at bats and quantifying them into how much they help his team.

Pitching you ask? What more could I need to know than wins, losses, ERA, saves, and strikeouts? That's how pitchers have gotten into the Hall of Fame since it was invented. That's how announcers have told me who the great ones were and that's how they got voted into the All Star game.

Let's start with Wins and Losses. I think it's pretty easy to accept the idea that a good deal of a pitcher's record can be accounted for by the team he plays on. If he's getting 9 runs a game in run support, he's going to win a lot of games. If he plays for the Pirates and his team is getting shut out all the time, it might be hard to win a game. It's also important to remember there is a huge variation within a team. Justin Verlander ranked #2 in the majors in run support this year at 6.8 runs per game while his teammate Nate Robertson ranked #67 in the majors at 4.5 runs per game. Small wonder that Verlander went 17-9 and Robertson was 13-13 despite nearly identical ERAs.

ERAs? What's wrong with them? Not much. It's a good stat for measuring how effectively a pitcher prevented runs from scoring. But it brings me to another major point about statistics. There are 2 kind of stats in my eyes. The first kind quantify what happened. The second kind are more of an indicator of an inate talent and they predict future performance better than the first kind. How does this relate to ERA? Well, the ultimate goal is to prevent runs from scoring right? How do you do that? Preventing hitters from reaching base would be a good start. There is a simple measure of how many batters a pitcher allows to reach base that is referred to as WHIP and it simply means (Walks + Hits)/(Innings Pitched). Would you believe that WHIP is a better predictor of a pitcher's future ERA than his ERA itself is? Yep. As you could imagine, there are lots of little bits of luck here and there over the course of a season that can impact ERA. WHIP is less impacted by luck and more indicative of a skill. I actually think ERA is a pretty good stat, but it's not the best that is out there and needs to be taken into context.

If you really want to start looking at pitching stats, take a wander into the land of DIPS. That's Defense Indepedent Pitching Stats. It operates under the assumption that to rate a pitcher you should only credit him for things he can control. For example, did the pitcher make a good pitch if the hitter hits a rocket line drive right at the 3rd baseman who happens to catch it? There is fairly good evidence that the only things a pitcher can control are his Strikeout Rate, Walk Rate, and HR allowed Rate. There is little to no ability to influence the opponents batting average on balls in play (BABIP). In other words, the pitcher controls what happens when the defense isn't involved on K's, BB's, and HR's. But all pitchers are the same on every other result from pop up to line drive to grounder and the only influence is a combination of luck and the skill of the fielders behind the pitcher. Now don't get me wrong, it isn't quite perfect. But it's damn close. And it really opens a can of worms when you look at traditional baseball thinking.

I could go on about things like clutch hitters and why that is an antiquated notion, but I'll save that for another day. You can take the blue pill and go back to believing whatever you want or you can take the red pill and see how far the rabbit hole goes. The choice is yours. It took me a while to come around on this myself.


Monday, October 09, 2006

ALCS Baby!

Pardon the relative paucity of Michigan football content this week as I'll probably be just a tad involved in the ALCS, especially since I've got tickets to Game 3 and Game 4. Don't worry, though, I will get around to a few Michigan posts this week. But come on, how can you not be pumped about this?

How can you not love that celebration? I'm not sure if the players or the fans were having more fun. I don't think Little Leaguers have had the much fun at a pizza party after a game. Everybody in that stadium knew that the Tigers weren't supposed to make the playoffs. When they did everybody knew they were supposed to roll over for the mighty Yankees. All 19 of ESPN's "experts" picked the Tigers to lose in round 1 and they didn't even need 5 games. I'm of the belief that when it comes to watching a team win a championship, the journey is the fun part. You know what, I've had more fun watching the Tigers this year than any team I have ever rooted for. 1996 Packers? 3 Stanley Cup Champion Red Wings teams? 1997 Michigan football? 1996 and 1998 Michigan hockey? None of them compares to what this team has done this year. I don't care where they ride ends, it's been a thrill.

Up next? They head to Oakland for Game 1 of the ALCS. Detroit took the season series 5-4 but the stats were heavily in favor of Detroit mostly based on 2 blowouts. Want to get ready for the game? Here you go:

Cubs fans will be hard pressed to top that if/when the Cubs ever win the World Series again. And the fun part? It was the divisional series. It meant almost nothing, but at the same time it meant everything. The Tigers haven't won anything in the standings, but they won the respect of everybody. That series validated their entire magical season and the direction the franchise is heading. The Detroit Tigers are here and they are going to make some noise.

Game on!


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Hey Drew!

Congrats on a fine career against Michigan!


Pucker, Pucker, Pucker

Yeah, if that was the least surprising game of the college football weekend I'm not sure what you've been watching the last few years. Michigan strolled past the Spartans 31-13. Let's recap, shall we?

Michigan State's stupid penalties? Check. They came through in fine form again yesterday. What was the final total? 11? I particularly liked some of the dumber ones, but it's hard to choose a favorite. Was it the late hit out of bounds on 3rd down about 3 seconds after an incomplete pass? Maybe it was the 3 or 4 times they jumped offsides when Henne backed out to call an audible. It's like asking who your favorite child is when discussing boneheaded MSU penalties.

Michigan State's "special" teams Check. Do they ride the short bus to school every day? The missed field goal was nice, but not quite as nice as when they decided to return the kickoff from the endzone after thinking about it for 3 or 4 seconds. I'll give them a free pass on the running into the punter penalty since it allowed us to watch Zoltan the Destroyer unleash a 64 yard bomb.

John L. Smith's "coaching" Check. Nice use of a challenge on Michigan's first touchdown. Your mastery of the system is something to be worshipped. Then again the way his defense play it wouldn't have mattered anyway.

Drew Stanton as the loveable loser Check. The kid who proclaimed that he was born to beat Michigan and it was the University of Puke etc. was once again left hanging his head in despair having finished his career 0-5 against the Wolverines.

Jehuu Caulcrick as Stanton's sidekick in stupidity Check. This kid decided he'd proclaim that Michigan's rushing defense wasn't that tough and it wouldn't be much of a challenge was held to 29 yards on 14 carries. Here's some news for you J-Who?: Michigan is still #1 in the nation in rushing defense after throttling you.

Do I even need to recap Michigan's offense? It's really the exact same thing they have done for weeks. Come out gunning in the first half with a dynamic balance of rushing and passing while opening a big lead. Then they ease up in the 2nd half and just run the ball while coasting to a victory. Mike Hart got 122 yards on 22 carries. Chad Henne was 11/17 for 130 yards and 3 TDs and 0 INTs. Mario Manningham scored on 2 long touchdowns (again).

Anybody with a pulse in Michigan spent the 2nd half of the football game watching the Tigers dismantle the Yankees.

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Tigers and Yankees, Game 3 Tonight

Yep, I'm just a little bit excited for this one. First playoff game in Detroit in 19 years. They just split the first pair in New York and now they get a chance to tee off against the weakest part of the Yankees roster, Randy Johnson and Jaret Wright. It's going to be electric in Comerica tonight. Detroit has always been a baseball town and the city has been starved for a winner. If I'm in charge of the PA system, I'm turning on "Welcome to the Jungle" and cranking up the volume when the teams take the field before the game. It's going to be very loud tonight when we get a pair of geezers on the mound as Randy Johnson squares off against Kenny Rogers. Johnson has a poor career record in the postseason and struggled for most of this year. Kenny Rogers has been even worse in the postseason, but he has pitched very well the last 6 weeks of the season. New York has the better lineup, Detroit the better bullpen.

Look for Detroit to stack the lineup with right handed bats tonight and I wish we had Shelton on the roster to get even one more instead of Sean Casey. I wish I could be there in person, but I'll be there in spirit.

UPDATE: WOO HOO! The Gambler was dominant tonight. He'll probably rate this right up there with his perfect game as the best game of his life. His curveball was just filthy and I've never seen the Yankees swing and miss at so many pitches. Jeremy Bonderman gets the ball tomorrow as the Tigers try to clinch the series.


What a Saturday afternoon

Michigan-Michigan State at the Big House and the Tigers and Yankees in Comerica. The only bad thing is they both start at the same time. Very brief thoughts on the football game:

  • Drew Stanton is an idiot. In case you missed it, he mouthed off this week noting that he "hates Michigan, the University of Puke as it is known in my house". Thanks, Drew. You'd hate to have Michigan overlook your free falling team. No need to punch them in the face and get their attention.
  • Michigan State's defense is bad and Michigan's offense is red hot.
  • Michigan State's offensive line is banged up.
  • Drew Stanton got injured by LaMarr Woodley last time he played in Michigan Stadium and it might not be the last time Woodley injures him in Michigan Stadium.
  • If Drew Stanton is an idiot, what does that make John L Smith?
Predictions? I'm going with 40-21 in favor of Michigan. The Spartans have just enough big play ability on offense to score a few TDs. But their QBs are going to get knocked around all day and MSU's defense has no chance against Michigan. Mike Hart will be pushing 200 yards again and Chad Henne will have a big game.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

2006 BTPR, week 5

Once again, by tiers:

1) Ohio State - they are really good and they smacked Iowa around in Iowa City
2) Michigan - probably the 2nd best team in the country right now

3) Penn State - no great wins, but only 2 losses were to top 10 teams
4) Wisconsin - same as above, except only 1 loss to top 10 team
5) Iowa - is OSU just that good? Maybe

6) Purdue - great passing offense, crappy defense
7) Minnesota - they can still run the ball and Cupito is underrated
8) Michigan State - LOL

9) Illinois - is Michigan State just that bad?
10) Northwestern - thud
11) Indiana - double thud


Who Does #2 Work For?

This is the first time in a long time that I can remember such a clear cut choice at #1 nationally and such a huge group of teams all with sizeable support for the #2 spot in the polls. Ohio State is #1. I can live with that. They had a great team last year and are off to a fantastic start. They've got a good coach and a great quarterback who is a Heisman favorite. What I'd like to do is break down the race for #2 as it stands right now. Who's in the discussion? Five teams by my count: Auburn, Florida, Michigan, USC, West Virginia. Others like LSU and Texas and Louisville are on the outside looking in at this point. So, in alphabetical order:

2005 record and ranking: 9-3, #14 in polls, lost to Wisconsin in Citrus Bowl
2006 record: 5-0
Best win: 7-3 at home against #9/10 LSU
Worst performance: 24-17 nailbiter over unranked South Carolina at home
Gestalt: They've got a great D, a great running back, and a decent passing game. Signature win over LSU is hard to quantify. LSU is a very good team, but that was not a great performance and it was at home.

2005 record and ranking: 9-3, #12/16 in polls, beat Iowa in Outback Bowl
2006 record: 5-0
Best win: 21-20 win at #13/14 Tennessee
Worst performance: 26-7 against Kentucky at home
Gestalt: Very good defense and an up and down offense. Very difficult schedule coming up, so they will prove on the field where they belong. Nothing spectacular yet.

2005 record and ranking: 7-5, unranked, lost to Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl
2006 record: 5-0
Best win: 47-21 blowout at #12 Notre Dame
Worst performance: 27-7 win at home against Vanderbilt
Gestalt: Take your pick of Ohio State or Michigan as the most impressive team in the nation thus far. Their dominance in South Bend is the best performance of any team in the nation thus far and they've had a 3 score lead midway through the 4th quarter in every game this year meaning they haven't broken a sweat.

2005 record and ranking: 12-1, #2, lost to Texas in the Rose Bowl
2006 record: 4-0
Best win: 28-10 over #22 Nebraska at home
Worst performance: Toss up between 20-3 at Arizona or 28-22 at Washington State. LSU beat Arizona by 6 TDs and Auburn beat Wash State by 26.
Gestalt: No Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, or LenDale White, but there is plenty of talent to go around for Pete Carroll. Not terribly impressive thus far, but would you bet against them? Lack of experience might come back to to bite them at some point.

West Virginia
2005 record and ranking: 11-1, #5/6, beat Georgia in the Sugar Bowl
2006 record: 4-0
Best win: 45-24 over Maryland at home
Worst performance: 27-10 win at East Carolina
Gestalt: They play a horrendous schedule this year and might not play a team that ends up above .500 until November. The one and only reason they are ranked this high is because of the Sugar Bowl last year.

So how do I rank it? I think it's obvious that Michigan has the best resume thus far but is handicapped by their horrible 2005 season and lower start in the polls this year. I'd put Auburn and Florida just behind because they each have a quality win. USC is on a great run, but their best win is at home against an overrated Nebraska squad that just needed OT to beat Kansas at home. West Virginia? Get back to me when you play a team with a pulse.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I Love College Bands

The marching variety, not the Dave Matthews variety. Although there is always a place for Dave when you are drunk out of your mind on somebody's couch at 1 AM. I really love college football and nothing sets the mood like a bunch of kids that used to get beat up in high school dressed up in nice uniforms and playing the same music they've been playing for years. It's tradition. I kid, though, because I actually do love listening to college marching bands play on a fall Saturday.

Why did this come up now? I actually like Michigan State's band. They've got some catchy tunes in their repetoire and it's a shame they will only get to play them before the game and at half time on Saturday because ain't no way in hell they will have anything to celebrate during the game.

I went digging around and found some of my absolute favorites. I'm sure rivals of these teams can hate some of these from hearing them over and over, but I don't play favorites. You'll find some Michigan State, Ohio State, and Notre Dame in here because they are part of what makes college football great. When I hear one of these, it instantly lets me know that college football is being played and their team just did something good. We'll go by conference with some of the stuff I like.

Big Ten

Only the greatest fight song of all time
What you won't be hearing much of on Saturday
I've got some great lyrics for this one
Catchy jingle
Drinking music


Give 'em the Chop
This one has a nice beat
Poor imitation of the Michigan hockey band, but you get the point

Big Twelve

This still makes me chuckle

Not much from the Big Twelve bands get me going.

Big East

Not a real football conference.

Pac Ten

Repeat over and over. It's still good, though
You know you want to make a V and nod your head
Just picture hot women in minimal clothing that aren't interested in the game


All this ditty is missing is a big F-U
Roll Tide
Go Tigers
Lord Vader
Upbeat stuff
Get out of the water
Too bad their offense sucks
Pretty song for a pretty place to watch crappy football
Duhhhhhhhh, duhhhhhhhhh, duhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
The only song they know
Space, bitches, space


Classic college football

Who said that the game was the only reason to show up? I love listening to college marching bands. "Ladies and Gentleman, presenting the 235 member Michigan Marching Band...Band, take the Field"


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

That Thing Got a Henne?

In the case of Michigan's offense, that thing does have a Henne. For anybody that missed the Minnesota game, Chad Henne put on a show. It was easily the finest passing performance of his career. He put the ball on the money with every type of throw in the book and all over the field. Money. The fun part about it, though, is that it wasn't just one game. It's years of practice and hard work that are now coming together into the total package at QB. The kid looked off safeties like an NFL vet. He repeatedly audibled into the correct play over and over and over. It was a beautiful sight to behold and should scare the living bejezus out of future opponents.

Let's recap a bit.

Chad's last 3 games (@ND, Wis, @Min): 48/71, 67.6%, 715 yards, 8 TDs, 4 INTs. That's 10 yards per pass attempt and an insane 15 yards per completion. 4 INTs? Well, one was a pop fly quasi hail mary against Wisconsin and another was off a deflection that should've been caught. He is flat out dealing right now.

Henne didn't do much of anything in the first 2 games this year, but that was more because Michigan didn't even try. He totalled 248 yards passing through 2 games while the running backs AVERAGED 250 yards per game.

But wait a second, this didn't come out of nowhere. Don't forget Henne had a very good finish to last year including a phenomenal game against the Buckeyes. Check out his numberes from the last 8 games he has played (including OSU, Neb, ND, Wisc, etc):

132/215, 61.4%, 1630 yards, 17 TDs, 5 INTs.

Yikes, that's starting to get scary good for a kid that has a year and a half left to improve at Michigan. As a freshman, people said all he did was chuck it deep to Braylon. As a sophomore, he didn't get much credit either. What the hell can his critics say now? Wisconsin has one of the best passing defenses in the NCAA right now and he lit them up. Now he gets to set his sights on the porous Michigan State secondary.

What exactly are opposing defensive coordinators supposed to do other than cry themselves to sleep at night? It's called pick your poison. Would you like to get beaten by the most productive quarterback in the history of Michigan football? Or would you rather get gashed by the most productive running back in the history of Miichigan football? Quite the deadly combination as both Henne and Hart will likely leave Ann Arbor with every record in the books.

Mario Manningham is getting all the national attention from Michigan's passing game right now, but Chad Henne is the engine that makes it go. And yes, it's got a Henne.

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Monday, October 02, 2006

The 2006 Revenge Tour continues

2005 was such a painful year for Michigan football. It's hard to even count the ways. 5 losses, numerous painful moments, a horrible bowl loss, etc. Heading into 2006, the Michigan football team had a lot of goals to make up for last year. They wanted to beat the teams they lost to last year, they wanted to drop some pounds and be fresher in the 4th quarter, etc.

Well, they've just rolled off 3 straight wins over teams that defeated them last year. But I think I found another measure whereby they are atoning for last year. My Sanity! Any Michigan fan that thinks back to last year cannot help but remember the number of nailbiters that the Wolverines played. It seemed like every game came down to the final minutes. This year? Not so much. The final minutes of every game have been pleasantly uneventful. Just to compare...

Northern Illinois: 33-17 (Win) - this would be considered one of the easiest wins of the year
Notre Dame: 10-17 (Loss) - close loss to what would turn out to be a good team
Eastern Michigan: 55-0 (Win) - nice boring blowout
Wisconsin: 20-23 (Loss) - Stocco's run with 24 seconds left won it
Michigan St: 34-31 (Win) - OT thriller

Five of Michigan's next 7 games would be decided by 4 points or less including 3 losses.

How about 2006?
Vanderbilt: 27-7 (Win) - it wasn't this close
Central Michigan: 41-17 (Win) - boring
Notre Dame: 47-21 (Win) - amazingly and completely boring in the 2nd half
Wisconsin: 27-13 (Win) - tight in the first half, one sided in the 2nd half
Minnesota: 28-14 (Win) - the Gophers tried to make it close but failed

It has been a joy to watch so many football games that didn't involve me being on the edge of my seat in the last minute. Last year, Michigan had a total of 2 games decided by more than 16 points (Indiana and EMU) and a total of 2 games decided by 16 points (Northwestern and Northern Illinois). Every other game was 4 points or less. This year? Nobody has been closer than 2 touchdowns.

So while Michigan cannot get revenge on a team that they lost to in 2005 again until the Ohio State game, they can continue to prove that they do not need to go down to the wire every week.

What else can I find time to talk about this week? Maybe a little bit about the growth of Chad Henne as a quarterback who had perhaps his finest passing performance of his career against Minnesota. I'll probably also find just a little time to touch on Michigan State and the rivalry. I might even find my way to looking at the resumes of the teams chasing Ohio State for #2 in the polls.

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Fun at Press Conferences

Draw your own conclusions.


Ho Hum

Just another boring victory by 14 points on the road against a team that beat us last year. Pretty bland actually. The final score may have said 28-14, but Michigan dominated for most of the game before Minnesota threatened to make it interesting at the end. The players were all business after the game reclaiming what is rightfully theirs (see pic)...

Before I get straight into discussing MSU, some thoughts on the Minnesota game.

Chad Henne - kid was dealing last night. 17/24 for nearly 300 yards and 3 TDs. Most of his incompletions were when he threw it away or were dropped by the receivers. He was on fire and threw several strikes deep downfield. After the 2 game warmup against Vandy and Central, he has completed 68% of his passes in the last 3 games and two of those were on the road. This is the best he has ever played in his career and he is in the midst of a monster season.

Mike Hart - He must really be hating Lloyd right now. 91 yards last week before getting rested for half of the 4th quarter. Now he goes out and racks up 195 yards only to see Lloyd pull him before he can hit 200. It's a rough life being the leading rusher in the Big Ten. I kid, I kid. He was dynamite yesterday repeatedly gashing the Gophers for 5-10 yards at a time. On the first drive alone he almost singlehandedly broke their will.

Adrian Arrington - 2nd straight good game in a row and he is developing into the Robin to Manningham's Batman. Had 2 very nice routes on his touchdown catches and it's always nice to see a tall receiver that can get open downfield.

Mario Manningham - considering the kid hardly saw any action come his way against Vanderbilt and Central Michigan, his stats the last 3 weeks are amazing. Three straight 100 yard performances with 6 TDs. He is 9th nationally in total receiving yards and tied for 1st with 7 TDs. The last time a Michigan receiver hit for three in a row was Braylon Edwards who had 4 straight 100 yard games to finish the 2003 season and then started 2004 with 4 straight in games 2-5 (that was 8 times in 9 games?!?!?!?! and the game he didn't he went for 91 yards and the game after the streak he went for 98).

The Defense - hats off to Minnesota. They not only cracked 100 yards rushing, they kept the pass rush at bay the entire game. But still a solid effort all around for the defense. Minnesota had a risky strategy on the rushing game using some quick hitters and misdirections. In the first half, this resulted in 1 of 2 things. Either Michigan hit them behind the line when they got penetration or the DL took themselves out of the play trying to get penetration. There were lots of runs for 1 yard or less and lots of runs for 8 yards or more. In the 2nd half, the DL stopped getting upfield so quickly and the ground game for Minnesota dried up. As for the passrush, Minnesota relied on a very quick passing game with mostly 3 and 5 step drops. And I hate to even mention it, but the Gopher OL got away with holding the DEs repeatedly. Biggs, Jamison, and Woodley could not get free even after they beat their man. And Charles Stewart? Not too bad as it took some brilliant throws by Cupito to beat him, but he got beat. Let's hope Morgan Trent heals up quickly.

Enough about Minnesota, though, it's Spartan Time! I haven't linked it yet and it's been linked everywhere already, but I'll be listening to Mike Valenti's meltdown last week repeatedly this week. It's just that good. I'm assuming he won't be nearly as good this week because he won't have much else to say. I mean they lost to Illinois. I'd assume he just walks in and says "F*ck it, seasons over". The only problem is that this is UM-MSU week and the game will be the topic of discussion all week long.

I should say that I actually feel sorry for Spartan fans. It has got to be beyond painful to root for that program with all the crap they've gone through the last 20 years. The best thing for everybody involved might be for Michigan to blow them off the field next week and assure John L. Smith's firing. Remember Bobby Williams and his embarrasment at Michigan State? Yep, it all came to a close when Michigan bombed them 49-3 in Ann Arbor.

Game On Spartans

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