Thursday, August 30, 2007

Let the Games Begin

The greatest time of the year is once again here as football Saturdays are about to begin. So Michigan is playing D-1AA Appalachian State this year from my neck of the woods. They are a great team for their level, but it should still be an easy win for the Wolverines.

The Mountaineers' coach had an interesting quote today in the Asheville newspaper: "We know Michigan is a great team, but we’re not treating them any different than if we were going to Furman or Georgia Southern,” said Moore. “I like the challenge of it. We don’t plan to take guys up there who won’t compete.”

Really? No different?

According to another article it's a $400,000 pay day for the small school and a nice chance for them to be on TV (insert Big Ten Network joke here).

The Detroit Free Press chimes in with a phenomenal article on Michigan Mike Hart and what has helped shape him into the man he is today.

I'm too lazy to do a detailed preview for Appalachian State, but I can't see this being closer than 21 points with plenty of garbage time.


Monday, August 20, 2007


It's a horrible cliche, but they certainly are made to be broken. Last year guys like Leon Hall and LaMarr Woodley made runs at longstanding Michigan football records. In 2007, more records will be broken. Here's a look at some of the big ones with range of current Michigan players.

Career Rushing Attempts - 924 by Anthony Thomas

Mike Hart currently has 750 career rushing attempts including 600 in his 2 healthy seasons. He is only 174 attempts behind Thomas at this point and figures to be a lock to break the record if he can stay healthy.

Career Rushing Yards - 4,472 by Anthony Thomas

Much like the attempts record, Mike Hart is zooming right in on the record for career rushing yards also held by Anthony Thomas. With over 3,000 yards in his 2 healthy seasons, Hart once again figures to be a lock for this record if he can stay healthy needing only 793 yards to tie the A-Train.

Career Rushing Touchdowns - 55 by Anthony Thomas

This record belonging to Anthony Thomas figures to be a little safer from Mike Hart. Hart only has 27 career rushing TDs entering his senior season. He can, however, make a strong push for #3 on the all time list which is currently held by Chris Perry at 39 while #2 belongs to Tyrone Wheatley at 47.

Most Career 100 Yard Rushing Games - 22 by Anthony Thomas

Mike Hart currently has 19 career 100 yard rushing efforts and only needs 3 more to tie the record. This should be a gimmie if he stays healthy.

Most Career 150 Yard Rushing Games - 9 by Anthony Thomas

Another record of the A-Train that is likely going down as Mike Hart already has 8 career 150 yard rushing games.

Most Career Pass Attempts - 1,366 by John Navarre

Chad Henne currently has 1,109 career pass attempts and only needs another 257 for the all time record. If he stays healthy, the record is his.

Most Career Pass Completions - 765 by John Navarre

Chad Henne currently has 666 career completions and only needs 99 for the all time record. Another gimmie if he stays healthy.

Most Career Passing Yards - 9,254 by John Navarre

Chad Henne currently has 7,777 passing yards and sits a mere 1,477 for the all time record. Should be a gimmie if he stays healthy.

Career Completion Percentage - 64.3% by Todd Collins

This record is a little farther out of Chad Henne's reach. He currently has a career completion percentage of 60.1%. Assuming 300 pass attempts on the season, he would need to complete about 240 for the all time career record. If he happened to throw the ball 400 times this year, he'd need to complete 304. I can't see it happening, although he could conceivably make a run at Elvis Grbac with 62.5% for #2 all time.

Most Career Touchdown Passes - 72 by John Navarre

This is the record most likely to be broken in Game 1 because Chad Henne already has 70 career TD passes including three of the five highest single season totals in team history.

Career Total Offense - 8,995 yards by John Navarre

Chad Henne currently has 7,582 career yards of total offense and only needs 1,413 to pass Navarre. It should be easy if he stays healthy.

Career Yards From Scrimmage - 5,273 by Anthony Thomas

Mike Hart currently has 4,213 career yards from scrimmage which places him only 1,060 behind Anthony Thomas. Like many of these other records, if he is healthy the record is his.

Career All Purpose Yards - 6,201 by Jamie Morris

Mike Hart doesn't have the kick return yardage of any of the players ahead of him on the career list, but he's already at 4,213 all purpose yards which puts him 1,988 behind Morris. This one really requires a big year by Hart, but it isn't out of the question. He's much more likely, however, to end up at #2 or #3 on the career list.


2007 Michigan Preview: The Schedule

So much goes into determining how many games a team will win or lose in any given year, but it seems to me that many people forget to look at the schedule they will face. Scheduling certainly isn't forgotten at the end of the year, however, when people try to analyze bowl matchups based on who played who.

Unlike 2006 where Michigan had road trips to Columbus, South Bend, and Happy Valley, the 2007 Michigan Wolverines will have a lot of home cooking against their top opponents. This should help a young defense establish a rhythm. Game by game...

APPALACHIAN STATE - In 2006, App State went 12-1 and won the "formerly known as D-1AA" Championship Subdivision National Title. They gave a bad NC State team a slight scare in Raleigh before falling 23-10. This year, they get to serve as roadkill for Michigan's home opener. It can be a little hard to peg just how good the Mountaineers are. For one thing, they are the best of the best in D-1AA. But really, that's just like being the tallest midget if you ask me. Expect Michigan to win handily just like if they were playing a directional school from the MAC.

Michigan's chances of winning? 98%

OREGON - In 2006, the Ducks lost their last 4 games of the season to finish 7-6. They have playmakers on offense including TB Jonathan Stewart and QB Dennis Dixon and WR Jaison Williams. On defense, however, they might have trouble stopping Michigan's potent ground game as they ranked 78th nationally in rushing defense in 2006. If you are so inclined, you can also tune in to see former all everything recruit Cam Colvin who is still just a reserve WR for the Ducks. This might turn into a high scoring affair, but Michigan is the more well rounded team and playing at home.

Michigan's chances of winning? 80%

NOTRE DAME - The Fighting Irish had an interesting season in 2006. They played three top 10 opponents and got blown off the field in dominant fashion by all three of them (LSU, USC, Michigan) surrendering 41+ points to each. They were, however, able to win every other game on the schedule. In 2007, they lose most of their great offense and will be replacing their QB, RB, WRs, and some of the OL amongst others. It's hard to know what to expect in this game. Notre Dame and Michigan usually play tight games and you know they will be trying to get some revenge for the ass kicking last year. However, Michigan has a better offense and a more talented defense and is playing at home. You cannot expect Notre Dame to win this game.

Michigan's chances of winning? 85%

PENN STATE - The Nittany Lions were decent in 2006 and quite similar to Notre Dame. They played four good teams in the regular season and were beaten by all four and won the rest of their games before ekeing out a win over Tennessee in the Citrus Bowl. This year, however, they replace a some of their best players from last year including Tony Hunt and Paul Pozluszny and they are still straddled with Anthony Morelli at the helm. It's hard to believe he's already a senior having accomplished so little thus far in his career, but this is his last go 'round the conference. The last time Michigan lost to Penn State as 1996 and that was a very long time ago. You know the streak will end at some point, but not this year.

Michigan's chances of winning? 85%

@ Northwestern - In 2006, Northwestern finished 4-8 on the season with only conference wins over Iowa and Illinois. They return the talented TB Tyrell Sutton, but honestly there isn't much talent in Evanston. Michigan traditionally has a nice group of Chicago alums show up to support the team against Northwestern and their is little reason to expect a loss this year.

Michigan's chances of winning? 93%

EASTERN MICHIGAN - The Eagles were brutal in 2006, finishing 1-11 on the season. The Battle of Washtenaw County will once again be a lopsided affair in 2007 with loads of garbage time. The timing of this game is kind of nice after the tough three game stretch with Oregon, Notre Dame, and Penn State as it should allow some key players to rest up and be healthy for the rest of the schedule.

Michigan's chances of winning? 99%

PURDUE - The Boilermakers return to the schedule after 2 years off and fresh off an up and down 8-6 season. They have a dangerous offense with QB Curtis Painter passing to some very talented WRs including Dorien Bryant and Selwyn Lymon (who could give Manningham and Arrington a battle for best duo in the conference). On defense, however, there is a lot of work to be done for a unit that ranked 114th nationally in rushing defense in 2006.

Michigan's chances of winning? 90%

@ Illinois - The Fighting Illini only went 2-10 last year, however they did give a scare to both Wisconsin and Ohio State. This will be Ron Zook's 2nd year at the helm and Juice Williams will now be a sophomore at QB. With the supremely talented Arrelious Benn arriving at WR and Rashard Mendenhall at TB there is lots of talent on offense. J Leman leads the defense from MLB, but there isn't much talent around him. So while the Illini offense could give Michigan fits for a while, their D has little chance at slowing down the Michigan attack.

Michigan's chances of winning? 90%

MINNESOTA - The Gophers had another mediocre 2006 finishing 6-7 and finally firing Glen Mason. It's hard to know what to expect from first year HC Tim Brewster, but he does have a little talent to work with. TB Amir Pinnix and WR Ernie Wheelwright both have big play ability. It's hard to expect much out of the Gophers in 2007, though, and the Battle for the Little Brown Jug figures to be one sided.

Michigan's chances of winning? 95%

@ Michigan State - Much like the Gophers, the Spartans stunk in 2006 and fired their coach. It's a shame, really, because John L Smith had such wonderful press conferences. It was always fun to watch him slap himself. And if that wasn't amusing enough you could just watch his team implode every week. I'm sure Mark D'Antonio will be a good coach. It's always a little tough in the first year, however, to completely change the style of play of a team. He wants a more disciplined team that runs a 2 back set and a more traditional offense. With MSU's personnel, that is going to take a little time to get going. Don't expect too much out of the Spartans in 2007.

Michigan's chances of winning? 90%

@ Wisconsin - Now we move on to the super tough portion of the schedule. Wisconsin went 12-1 a season ago and finished in the top 5. Michigan was fortunate enough to hand them their only loss on the season. In 2007, the Badgers replace their leader John Stocco which will be a big loss. However, they do return most of their starters on offense and defense and will surely provide a big test. With a new QB and less than perfect WRs it remains to be seen how well they can test Michigan's biggest weakness in the secondary. TE Travis Beckum is perhaps the best in the land and will be a tough matchup. On defense, Wisconsin will have their hands full with a pair of new safeties matched up against a 4th year senior QB looking to pick them apart with talented weapons all around.

Michigan's chances of winning? 55%

OHIO STATE - The Buckeyes rolled to a 12-0 regular season and the undisputed #1 ranking in all the land before getting steamrolled by a fired up Florida team in the BCS title game. Now they face life without Troy Smith and Tedd Ginn and Anthony Gonzalez and Antonio Pittman and Quinn Pitcock amongst others. Their offense figures to be much more ground oriented in 2007 with Chris Wells leading the way. Defensively, the lose a little off the DL but return most everybody else and should be very good. Tressel will look to get back to teh formula that worked so well for him in 2004 with defense and special teams leading the way. Fortunately for Michigan, they moved the ball up and down the field in Columbus against this same defense and should be able to do the same at home with the same players in 2007. The defense, however, is probably thanking their lucky stars that Wolverine-killer Troy Smith is finally gone.

Michigan's chances of winning? 65%

So what does that look like for the entire season? It comes out to about a 12.9% chance of going undefeated in the regular season. That's a pretty good chance compared to recent seasons, at least in my book. It also works out to an average record of approximately 10.25-1.75, so somewhere around 10-2 or 11-1 looks to be the most likely record. It helps to have a senior QB and it helps to have most of your tough games at home. I'd classify Oregon, Notre Dame, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State as Michigan's toughest opponents on the season and they get four of the five in Ann Arbor.


Monday, August 13, 2007

2007 Michigan Preview: The Defense

My, oh my, what a turnaround the Michigan defense made in 2006. They were lambasted in 2005 after allowing multiple late scoring drives to lose close games. In 2006, they became the best unit in the country the first 11 games of the year before struggling mightily against the spread formations of Ohio State and Southern Cal. The rushing defense was particularly special allowing only 1.9 yards per carry and 5 TDs for the entire 13 game season and was the best rushing defense in the NCAA in decades at only 43 yards per game allowed. David Harris, LaMarr Woodley, Alan Branch, and Leon Hall all headed off to the NFL and Rondell Biggs graduated as well. That's a lot of talent to lose from one side of the ball. On the plus side, however, a lot of talent returns.

Defensive Line

Tim Jamison, DE (RS Junior)

Contributed 13 tackles and 5 sacks as a part timer in 2006 when he split PT with Rondell Biggs. He's not a big guy on the end, but has a phenomenal first step and great instincts rushing the passer. His biggest weakness would seem to be holding up at the point of attack at only 266 pounds, but he has shown a knack for shedding blockers and making plays. I expect big things out of him in 2007.

Terrance Taylor, NT (Junior)

Terrance was the fireplug in the middle of the nation's best rushing defense last year. He contributed 23 tackles, 5 TFL, 1 sack, and 1 fumble recovery. A former state heavyweight wrestling and powerlifting champion, he is nearly impossible to move from the point of attack and requires a double team on every rushing play. Look for more notice this year as he steps out from behind the shadow of Alan Branch and becomes the best nose tackle in the Big Ten.

Will Johnson, DT (RS Junior)

Will Johnson spelled relief for Alan Branch and Terrance Taylor last year seeing action in all 13 games and contributing 7.5 tackles and 2.5 TFL and 1 sack. He has good size and strength and will help form one of the better duos in the middle with Terrance Taylor.

Brandon Graham, DE (Sophomore)

Brandon Graham was last seen making waves as a true freshman earning PT on the best DL in the country. He was a LB in HS and has a motor that won't quit. Finishing with 3 tackles, 1 FF, and 0.5 sacks as a frosh he'll be looking to make waves replacing LaMarr Woodley in 2007. With his combination of speed and strength, few OTs in the country will be able to handle him one on one and the only thing standing between him and greatness is experience.

Other players in the mix for PT along the defensive line include Marques Slocum (RS Freshman), Adam Patterson (Sophomore), Greg Banks (RS Freshman), Jason Kates (RS Freshman), John Ferrera (RS Freshman), and Ryan Van Bergen (Freshman).


Shawn Crable, OLB (RS Senior)

2nd team All Big Ten in 2006, he was a terror making plays all over the field finishing with 37 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 3 PBUs, 2 FFs, and 1 FR. He's tall at 6'5" with long arms and great speed off the edge and is a great blitzer. He'll have more freedom to make plays in 2007 and I suspect Ron English will move him all around the field to confuse the offense.

Chris Graham, OLB (Senior)

Graham has good wheels and hits like a mack truck, but has had trouble consistently making plays thus far in his career. If he can read the flow of the play better this year, he could be a very good OLB in 2007. He started 4 games in 2006 and made 25 tackles and 1 TFL. This year, he'll be fighting for PT and might be in danger of losing the starting spot if he doesn't produce.

John Thompson, MLB (RS Junior)

The man with first crack at replacing the outstanding play of departed David Harris is likely to be John Thompson. His legacy at Michigan thus far has basically consisted of one legendary 8 tackle, 3 TFL performance in 2005 in an overtime victory in Iowa City. He's isn't an outstanding physical talent, but he does have good instincts. He will be pushed hard by Juco transfer Austin Panter.

Other candidates for serious PT at linebacker include Austin Panter (Junior), Jonas Mouton (RS Freshman), Brandon Logan (Junior), and Obi Ezeh (RS Freshman).

Defensive Backs

Morgan Trent, CB (RS Junior)

Trent is a returning starter at CB in 2007, although he is probably best remembered for getting beaten repeatedly by Ohio State and USC in the final 2 games struggling mightily against Dwayne Jarrett. This year, he can't hide behind Leon Hall and will be tested to make plays and prove his worth over the entire schedule. He's got the blazing speed and good size to allow him to match up with anybody. What he needs to work on is his reads and footwork. I expect a solid season out of Trent this year, although he will not quite be an all conference caliber performer.

Jamar Adams, Strong Safety (Senior)

A returning 2nd team all conference performer in 2006, Adams will be counted on to lead the secondary in 2007. He racked up 47 tackles, 1 INT, 7 PBUs, 1 sack, and 1 FF on the season. He's got good size and is better against the run than playing deep in coverage.

Steve Brown, Free Safety (Sophomore)

Brown was a special teams whiz as a true freshman making plays all over the place and racking up 14 tackles on the season. He's got good size and speed and it will be up to him to prove he can make plays on the ball in the air as the deep man in Michigan's cover scheme.

Johnny Sears, CB (RS Sophomore)

He's big and fast and oozing with potential, but thus far hasn't done much at Michigan. Now there is a starting spot wide open and Johnny Sears has to figure as the favorite to grab it, or at least until super freshman Donovan Warren makes his name known nationally. Hopefully this season he will make himself known more for his play on the field than for his resemblance to Lil Jon off the field.

Other kids in the mix for PT in the secondary include Donovan Warren (Freshman), Charles Stewart (RS Junior), Anton Campbell (RS Senior), Brandon Harrison (Junior), Michael Williams (Freshman), Artis Chambers (Freshman), and Doug Dutch(RS Junior).

All in all, it's an interesting unit. There are some stars (Crable, Taylor, etc) and some major question marks (CBs and a few LBs). If Ron English is going to live up to his billing as one of the best DCs in the country, I expect him to do good things with this group. They might not be a top 10 defense nationally again, but I expect they can be top 30 or 40. If they can find a way to hold opponents to 20 points or less, Michigan will have a very good shot at winning each and every game.


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Cameron Maybin

I've been a little slowed down by some side projects the last few weeks, but I have noticed that Cameron Maybin got the callup to AA Erie this week. And my, oh my, what a debut. In his first 2 games, he is 2/6 with 2 HRs and 2 walks against 2 strikeouts and 4 runs scored and 2 RBI.

I'm guessing he starts next season at Erie and if he tears it up, he'll likely be up to Toledo soon thereafter while knocking on the door in Detroit. Not bad for a kid that just turned 20 a few months ago. I'll return to some Michigan blogging this week if time allows.