Sunday, October 28, 2007

Random Thoughts on Michigan Football

It's been a long journey back to respectability for the Michigan football team after a disatrous start to 2007. But, I think they might be back. The most recent incarnation of the BCS rankings puts them at #12 in the nation. I find that a little strange since they were #20 last week and it ties them with Georgia for the biggest jump since last week at 8 spots worth of improvement. Georgia had to beat Florida by 12 points to earn that, while Michigan merely needed to beat Minnesota. It's also nice to see the BCS math at work. Michigan ranks #15 and #14 in the polls and is #16 in computer average, so 15+14+16/3 = 12 in BCS land. It works out, though, because of some massive disparities between the computers and the polls for other teams. USC, for example, is #13 and #15 in the polls, but completely out of 4 of the BCS computer rankings which drops them to #19 in the BCS. Hawaii and Texas average out around #11 in the polls, but Texas is unranked by any computer and Hawaii is only ranked by 1 computer so they both get zero points from the computer rankings.

What does all this mean for the future? I hesitate to use my imagination, because I might find some slimmer of hope that Michigan doesn't deserve after the loss to Appalachian State and the beatdown by Oregon. I'll just stick to understanding that Michigan is 5-0 in the Big Ten and heading to East Lansing with the Rose Bowl firmly on their minds.

Speaking of Michigan State, the more things change (another new coach) the more they stay the same (another horrible loss, this time to Iowa). Is there a more schizophrenic program in the country? Michigan beat Minnesota without Chad Henne and without Mike Hart, but both figure to return for the game in East Lansing. You know the Spartan fans and defenders really don't want to see Mike Hart. In 3 career games against the instate rivals, Hart has rushed for 224 yards, 218 yards, and 124 yards. That's 91 carries for 564 yards and 2 TDs for those keeping score at home. In case you wondering, the previous Michigan record for rushing yards against a single opponent was held by Tyrone Wheatley against Iowa with 519 yards in three games.

Don't forget Mario Manningham. He just ripped off his 4th straight conference game with over 100 yards receiving and a TD when he torched Minnesota for a career high 162 yards. That gives him 32 catches for 541 yards and 6 TDs in his last 4 games. He joins Braylon Edwards as the only Wolverine to ever have 4 straight 100 yard games receiving and he is the first to do it in 4 straight Big Ten games.

Shawn Crable is having a monster year at LB. He ranks 2nd nationally with 22 tackles for loss and has thrown in 60 tackles and 7.5 sacks and 3 forced fubmles. He might be the best OLB in the nation right now.

All things considered, Michigan is playing pretty well right now. They've ripped off 7 straight wins against admittedly relatively weak competition, but they are starting to round into form. The defense has shored up against all sorts of formations and the offense is hitting on all cylinders with both backups and starters. What does this mean for the future? Two road games coming up with Michigan State and Wisconsin will both be tough but winnable. Then the biggie with the Buckeyes. I'm strangely confident about the OSU game this year. Maybe it's the comfort at Troy Smith being in the NFL. Maybe alcohol killed the rational brain cells I used to have. Who knows.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Bo's Lasting Lessons

So I've been incognito for a few weeks working way too many hours day after day and sometimes night after night. Well, thankfully that little bump in the road is mostly behind me so I can have some free time every now and then. The kind folks at Grand Central Publishing were nice enough to send along a copy of Bo's Lasting Lessons by Bo Schembechler and John U. Bacon for me to read and review. I have no particular talent at reviewing books and I'm sure they sent out as many copies to as many blogs as possible, but I feel compelled to share my thoughts.

It was a darn good read, especially for a lifelong fan of Michigan. I'm a little young (not even 30 yet) to remember most of Bo's tenure at Michigan. My first memories of him were the tail end of his career when he kept running the same offense and I kept wishing that we'd throw the ball more and have more aggressive play calling (I loved Gary Moeller's offense). Over the years, I've heard numerous 3rd and 4th hand stories about Bo and had a few brushes with him at sporting events in Ann Arbor. I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, but since I'm a sucker for Michigan football I gave it an honest read. Well, let me tell you that I was actually impressed. It's told from Bo's point of view and it gives a lot of his insights into some of the most important moments in Michigan football over the last 40 years, both good and bad.

It's not just a collection of coach speak, but personal tales from Bo himself. You get a glimpse into his fiery determination to win. You see that his primary concern was the personal lives of his players and coaches. You get a chance to see how he helped players after they were long gone from Michigan. Most of all, though, you get a chance to see the real Bo and not the vague character seen storming the sidelines on ESPN Classic.

Bo's Lasting Lessons is an excellent book that I highly recommend for fans of Michigan football, or just fans of fired up old school coaches. There was one or two parts that brought a tear to my eye and at least one or two parts that made me want to throw on some pads and hit somebody. It was a beautiful glimpse into the inner workings of Michigan football that extend into today.

This might sound like whoring for the man for a free book, but it's a damn good book and I hope other Michigan fans can pick up a copy for themselves.