Big Ten Weekly Pick-em: Week 6

Last week, we predicted some things. Michigan would keep it close but ultimately lose. I was very happily surprised by that eventual outcome. We also predicted Purdue would take it to the Irish in South Bend...an eventual outcome that I was not too pleased with.

However, those two snafoos cost me 6 valuable points in the leaderboard of the Big Ten Bloggers Weekly Pick'em. If you head over to the Daily Gopher, scroll down the right-side column, you'll find the standings. You will notice, this blogger finds himself next to last place.

So it's time we redeem ourselves in week 6. So here you have them...

Iowa @ Michigan State, 12:00PM, ESPN2
Well, last week I said that until Iowa fired Kirk Ferentz I'd keep picking against them...and that holds true this week. But even if I didn't despise Ferentz, I'd still go with Sparty. The wheels on the Sparty bus keep going round round round...and until they fall off (which they just might), I'm going with the Big Green Machine. Also, it should be noted that a neighbor of mine painted a giant block "S" in his front lawn this week. That should a sure sign that doom is right around the corner.

Indiana @ Minnesota, 12:00PM, Big Ten Network
Hmm...this is a tough one. Indiana burned me two weeks ago when they blew it against Ball State. However, they showed some toughness against Michigan State last week. Given that Minnesota was pretty much awful against the Buckeyes, I'll go with Indiana. But I should say that I am not comfortable with this pick.

Penn St @ Purdue, 12:00PM, ESPN
No doubt Penn State is starting to pull away from the rest of the league. In almost any given year I'd say playing at Purdue sucks, but this year's Purdue team looked not good against the Irish last week. Granted, they were on the road, and they do typically play better at home. If this game were at night I'd say "maybe". But it's a noon kick...and Penn State will roll.

Ohio St @ Wisconsin, 8:00PM, ABC
Well, my hat's off to the Buckeyes for attempting this one. It's going to be ugly. Wisconsin just lost a heartbreaker to Michigan. They're only hope for redemption is to beat tOSU. They play in Madison...at night. Oh dear.

You can have all the SEC stadiums in the world, nothing compares to Camp Randall, especially at night. Wisconsin will redeem themselves this week and they will do so in style...by taking it to tOSU.

So there you have it. Book it. These are the MBN rock-solid picks of the week!

News and Notes, Stats and Links

Rich Rodriguez held his weekly presser today. Some notes...

• The turnovers in the past two games are still something that need to be worked on...obviously.
• Michael Shaw is close to being back at full-strength and will play against Illinois.
• Carlos Brown sprained his foot and will be day-to-day.
• Perry Dorrestein is back for this week and should see some time.
• Your guess is as good as RR as far as who should return kicks, since everyone we put back there just catches the ball and freezes in their tracks. (But hey, at least they caught the ball this week)
• Kevin Koger has earned a starting nod over Carson Butler at TE this week.

We've updated the depth chart to reflect some of the changes/injuries. We also added a 3-deep column now!

Also making news is the latest recruit to give a verbal to the Wolverines. Detroit Cass Tech stud Thomas Gordon. The 3-star athlete brings both experience at QB and DB to this year's class. While most think he will likely see playing time as a DB at Michigan, it's a nice addition to the 09 class. It will also hopefully grease the rails for fellow classmate and former verbal William Campbell to re-sign with the maize & blue.

Some more updates for you, my weekly MBN Top-10 has been updated to reflect the weekend full of upsets. I may delve more into my top-10 later this week, but for now, just read it and weep.

Here are the game stats for the Wisconsin game. They're pretty ugly. Obviously, if I could've just posted the 2nd half for Michigan, I'd have done so. But, here they are anyway...



Also updated is the Big Ten Standings and Schedule/Results from the link list on the top middle column of the page.

And for those interested in why it was a no-brainer for Michigan to go for 2 after John Thompson's interception return for a touchdown, Brian at mgoblog has a very detailed reason.

Wisconsin Wrap-Up

Well, if you were tough enough to stick around until the 2nd half of the 3rd quarter, you were in for quite a treat!

For as bad as Michigan looked offensively for about 2 1/2 quarters of the game, they looked downright impressive for the rest.

And luckily, we had a defense that was good enough to keep us in the game until our offense had enough time to figure out that this is a football game, and you score points by getting the ball into the endzone.

But, for as long as Rich Rodriguez is the head coach at Michigan, this will forever be his biggest 1st win. And hey, not a bad one at that. It's an in-conference win over a top-10 ranked opponent.

But I'm not going to go all Mitch Albom and claim the new leaf has been turned over. Lest we forget, it's a long season, we still have an all-freshman team with new coaches and a new system. We're not going to win-out and go to the Rose Bowl. However, we did grow up a lot on Saturday. In about 15 minutes, Michigan players and fans, for maybe the first time, got a glimpse of why Roch Rodriguez was so worth the $4M pricetag. Both he and his stud S&C coach Mike Barwis.

In the 2nd half, Wisconsin was gassed. And when Michigan players decided to stop turning the ball over, Wisconsin suddenly found out that they had no offense. Their 6-6 315-pound offensive linemen might as well have had concrete shoes on...they were worthless down the stretch. And Wisconsin's vaunted defense was sucking air right about the time Michigan's offense was hitting their stride.

There is no doubt in my mind that this year's Michigan team is by far the most conditioned yet.

But for the 2nd game in a row, turnovers were the thorn in Michigan's side. If they could've held on to the ball, the final score might have been more like 27-9. Wisconsin scored 16 points off Michigan turnovers.

I wasn't in the stadium, but you didn't have to be to hear the barrage of "Boooo's" coming from the fans as the players left for the locker rooms at halftime. My only hope is that all of those booing left the game and went home, so they couldn't be there to witness the awesome comeback. Michigan fans like that not only make me sick, but I believe they are everything that is wrong with sports.

Boo from home. Don't pay for a ticket and take the seat of an honest fan who has to watch on TV.

Either way, what was witnessed in the 4th quarter by those who stayed was nothing short of wonderful.

When John Thompson took that interception for a touchdown, the euphoria in the stadium was palpable. You even felt it watching at home. There was something weird happening. For the first time, you felt that this team was changing right before your eyes.

What a wonderful game, and an awesome experience for Michigan fans.

From my perspective, I am very glad to see the Rodriguez stuck with Threet in the second half. While at the time, I was ready for David Cone to step in, it was refreshing to see that he stuck with his guy even though he struggled early.

Threet can make plays, but I think in the 1st half, he was hamstrung by poor play-calling. Michigan was never able to run the ball until they started making passes downfield. Once they started doing that, the middle of the field opened up.

That, coupled with the suddenly better blocking by the OL in the 2nd half, made for a much better attack. Word has it that John Ferrera was not working out so well at guard in the 1st half, so he was benched in the 2nd. Maybe that had something to do with it.

But when Michigan found it's ground game, it found it just at the right time, as Brandon Minor took an option hand-off up the middle and broke it for a 37-yard touchdown run that suddenly made everyone at the game and at home think that this could actually happen.

3 seconds later (literally), John Thompson nabbed a tipped pass, and rode a train of 6 Michigan blue jersey's into the endzone. It may have been only 6 blockers in front of him, but he was being pushed by 95 Michigan players on the sideline and 100,000 screaming fans in the stands. There was no way he wasn't going to score.

On Michigan's next drive, Steven Threet made one of his best plays yet as QB. He faked a handoff to Brandon Minor (who got drilled), and tucked the ball back into his arms, and ran straight down the field for 58 yards, setting up a redzone score by Sam McGuffie. No one saw that play coming from Threet. I think I could actually hear the collective scream by the fans in the stadium yelling "Don't Fumble!!!".

But Wisconsin made it close. Michigan fell back into a safe-zone that let Wisconsin basically throw the ball down the field. The fumble by Wiscy's QB, recovered by Terrance Taylor bought Michigan some time. If for nothing else, made Wisconsin burn all 3 of their timeouts. But Michigan fell 2 yards short of a first down, and punted away.

Again, Michigan went into a soft-zone, and even throws into double coverage were completed. When they scored, it made me think "Well, seems about right." But the penalty on the conversion was obvious. Even Wisconsin didn't argue it.

A few moments later, the onside kick flew out of bounds.

The rest was glorious. A Gatorade bath for Rodriguez, and an awesome sight for the fans. The greatest comeback in Michigan Stadium history.

Photos copyright Detroit Free Press.

Big Ten Weekly Pick-em: Week 5

Well, last week I did pretty well with my picks, the only teams I had wrong were Indiana losing to Ball State and Minnesota blowing out FAU. Not at all bad, really.

So as we head into week 5, we head into the first weekend of Big Ten season. Every team except Purdue is matched up with a B10 opponent, Purdue is @ ND.

Michigan State @ Indiana, 12:00PM, ESPN
After having seen what Indiana did against Ball State and seeing how Michigan State pretty much handled ND, I think everyone will take MSU in this game. Javon Ringer will get about 350 carries for 1200 yards. Michigan State rolls.

Minnesota @ tOSU, 12:00PM, BTN
Here's the thing. tOSU is not as good as people thought they'd be. Well, ok, I knew they were overrated, I called it back in July or June. I also said MSU and Penn State would be the B10 darlings by season's end, and I'll stand by that. And judging by how awful tOSU has looked in the past 3 weeks, this blogger would not be surprised to see Minnesota take down the Buckeyes in Columbus this weekend. But, I'll take tOSU in this game because even I am still not convinced that tOSU is as bad as they've shown recently.

Northwestern @ Iowa, 12:00PM, ESPN Classic
I'm going to take NW in this one. Even though Iowa is at home, Northwestern is coming into this game 4-0 and very confident. Iowa just lost to Pitt. Kirk Ferentz has gone from genius 4 years ago to laughing stock of the B10. And until the nimrods at Iowa realize that and fire him, I'll just keep picking their opponent each week.

Illinois @ Penn State, 8:00PM, ABC
Easily the best matchup in the B10 this weekend. On paper, this should be a good game. Aside from how Oregon State played last night, this is still Penn State's first true test of the year. They steamrolled through their non-conf schedule just like they should have...thus I will pick PSU over Illinois. Not that I am totally confident with that pick, but on paper, Penn State should win. And until they stop winning games they should win, I'll keep going with them.

Purdue at Notre Dame, 3:30PM, NBC
I am going with Purdue here. This is a very big game for the Boilermakers. And just like last week, I'm picking them because this is Joe Tiller's last year and he needs to beat ND one last time. ND is at home, but that shouldn't matter. We found out last week that ND is still the crappy team from 07. And let's face it, Purdue is not half bad either.

USC Loses to Oregon State, 27-21

Yes, I saw the whole game.

Yes, I think Oregon State played way beyond their talent level.

Yes, I think USC overlooked them and came into this game too overconfident.

Yes, I think USC lost this game rather than Oregon State won it.

No, I don't think this was the same Oregon State team that got blown out by Penn State 3 weeks ago.

No, I don't think Penn State deserves to be ranked in the top 5 because of this game.

Yes, I think this only makes tOSU look that much worse.

No, this will not be the last time a #1 team loses this year.

Wisconsin Up-Close

Basics
Who: Michigan v. Wisconsin
When: September 27, 2008, 3:30PM EDT
Where:
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
TV
: ABC Regional ((Coverage Map)), ESPN in other markets
Radio
: Michigan Sports Network
Series:
UM 48-12-1
Last Meeting: 2007, @ Wisconsin 37-21
Rankings: Michigan - HA! / Wisconsin - #9

Program Background

Conference: Big Ten
Head Coach: Bret Bielema
Off. Coordinator: Paul Chryst
Off. Scheme: Hand off to PJ Hill
Def. Coordinator: Mike Hankwitz
Def. Scheme: 4-3
2008 Record: 3-0
Last Game: Beat Fresno State 13-10

Wisconsin On Paper
I remember thinking that if we lost to them last year with the talent we had (although it was injured talent), that this year would be 10 times worse. Wisconsin was pretty young last year. But they did have some playmakers. PJ Hill is the man to watch out for. His rushing ability is second probably only to Javon Ringer in the Big Ten right now. Wisconsin comes into this game with the #13 ranked running game in the nation. But, Michigan has the #12 ranked run defense.

This is something of a landmark game for the Maize & Blue. This is Michigan's 500th home game (and a Maize Out). Michigan has won 22 straight Big Ten home openers, and has beaten Wisconsin at the Big House every time for the last 14 years.

You could argue, this has all the markings of an epic collapse.

But I am certainly much happier to play them at home than to go on the road to Camp Randall...easily one of the toughest places to play in the whole country.

Wisconsin on Offense
Like we said, Wisconsin has a very good running attack. PJ Hill will be running all over the field this Saturday. Wisconsin lives and dies with their running game. They have a big and experienced OL and they are good.

However, they rank #96 in the country in passing yardage per game. Their QB Allan Evridge has a decent arm, but this is his first year seeing action since his freshman year in 05. He has thrown 3 TDs this year, one in each game so far. And all of those have been to WR Garrett Graham. The junior wideout is easily the favorite target for Evridge.

They struggled at Fresno State in their last game before the bye week. That game, which was the biggest home game in Fresno State history basically boiled down to 3 missed FSU field goals that could have won the game. Of course a week later, FSU struggled to beat a Toledo team that is supposed to be a pushover, so it's tough to use FSU as a good gauge for Wisconsin.

I truly believe that Wisconsin is better than their Fresno State appearance.

Wisconsin on Defense
Wisconsin does two things very well. They run the ball, and they play tough defense. They kind of remind me of Michigan's 1997 title team. They have a good RB, less than great QB, but a defense that is not only imposing, but backs it up with talent. If they end up making a BCS game or even a title run, it will be because of the defense.

The Fresno State game is a good gauge.. Fresno State showed against Toledo that they can score a ton of points (55-54). And for Wisconsin to hold them to 10 at home is a huge feat. It was the lowest point total for FSU at home in 20 years.

Rich Rodriguez on Wisconsin's D:
"I've been watching more of their defense, a very physical, active defense. Their front is outstanding. Their safeties make plays, their linebackers are active. There's no question they're one of the better teams in the country."

Wisconsin's D is led by LB DeAndre Levy. The senior from Milwaukee is the best tackler on the team. Against Fresno State he had 9 tackles, 4 for loss, and an interception. He's a defensive freak who will be asked to shadow McGuffie and Shaw all day long. Michigan's OL has been better than most predicted this year, so they will be charged with keeping a very physical DL away from Threet and the RBs.

Prediction
Well, it shouldn't be raining, which is a great sign for Michigan. We showed against the Irish that while our spread is starting to show some life, it doesn't really work on a wet field with a wet ball.

I fully expect Michigan to be able to move the ball this week. Wisconsin is tough on defense, but we do have some speed and some playmakers starting to emerge. We are healthy, rested, and I hope motivated to come out strong and make some plays.

Wisconsin will run, run, run. Which is a good thing because probably our biggest strength on defense is the run D. Just as long as they don't throw the ball downfield against Morgan Trent, we should be able to stop the big play. PJ Hill is a good back and will break a couple long runs. But that's pretty much the only thing Morgan Trent is good at is running down RBs from behind.

Michigan will play better this week. No doubt. Wisconsin is good though. This should be a good game. I predict that Wisconsin will win...sending Michigan fans into a twirling dark hole of 1-3 misery.

Go Blue!

BTB Roundtable - Week 5

This week's BTB roundtable (or squaretable as they like to call it), is being hosted by Boiled Sports. Certainly 4 of the more entertaining questions so far...and probably the most long-winded as well.

1) We're all car guys here at BS. So your task is to assign your own program a vehicle. Is Purdue an all-terrain vehicle like a Jeep or a Hummer? Something befitting a brawny Boilermaker? Is Ohio State a slow, conversion van being passed by Corvettes with USC markings? Is IU a John Deere tractor with a hillbilly riding on it? Get creative and let us know both what your school is if it's a car as well as assigning a vehicle to as many of the other Big Ten schools as you like. (I'd require you to do them all but I know attention spans are short and counting to 11 is hard.)

Michigan used to be a Cadillac Deville. It wasn't the flashy, but it was solid and dependable. Every once and a while it would jump off the line and surprise someone, but it was heavy and used a ton of gas.

Now, we are retooling our old assembly plant to stop making guzzler's and start making hyrids.

It's cliche, but it's true. We got to the point where everyone else was a sportscar and we were a lumbering old luxury car. They key for Michigan is to keep the standard of luxury that we're all used to, but to transform into a more nimble and efficient machine.

So I will say we are (or will become) a Cadillac CTS Hybrid.

I won't post for the whole league, but I will say that Penn State is a Corvette. They are amazing up against the beater Volvo's they've been playing against, but they have awful gas mileage, and could run out before the season is over.

tOSU is a Land Rover. From the outside, it looks great. It's supposed to have a ton of power and speed. It can clear large objects and traverse almost any terrain. But as soon as you get it home, something breaks and you get about 3 recall notices in the mail, and it spends the whole season going in and out of the shop. And by the end of the year, all that is left is a heap of rusted worn out metal.

Michigan State is a dump truck rolling down a steep hill. The problem is, once you hit the bottom of the hill, you have to push down on the gas. Sometimes the driver can find it, sometimes the driver slams into a wall. Usually the bottom of the hill is right about the time they play Michigan. I think they might have a better driver this year, but we'll see if he can find that gas pedal.

2) In Week 1 in the NFL, the New England Patriots learned how precious things can be when Tom Brady had his knee blown out by a former Boilermaker. Let's say your team wins out from here to the end and is in a BCS bowl game with a chance to do the school and conference proud – what ONE player on your squad would you most likely cry about having his knee blown out in the first quarter? That is, who is truly indispensable?

Hmm. There are no superheros on this team yet. The only somewhat of a showstopper that I can think of is Sam McGuffie. He wowed everyone last year with his YouTube highlights, and he is wowing folks now with his speed and agility. But if we lost him to injury, we still have 4 more RBs that can at least fill in, and one (Michael Shaw) who is as fast and agile as McGuffie.

Michigan fans are a little unsure about how to handle this new offensive scheme. But one thing is sure, Sam McGuffie is making it more fun for all of us to watch.

3) Purdue plays Notre Dame this week and, well, we detest Notre Dame like probably no other program. Let's say I have the power to force you (maybe you lost a bet to me) to wear another Big Ten school's colors to an away game for that team. That is, you're wearing OSU colors to a game being played at Michigan, or something like that. And I'm talking, dorky, head-to-toe… goofy-ass sweatshirts and flat-brimmed, ridiculous-looking hats. If you have to choose, which program would you be able to stomach wearing? (Remember, you're going to an away game, so people won't like you and accept you and you'll be taking this abuse for a school you're not even affiliated with.) And by the same token, what program could you absolutely not EVER stomach wearing, under any circumstances?

There is no way I'd be caught dead in tOSU garb. No way, no how.

I'd have to say Penn State. Their colors were the colors of my high school and its tough to go wrong with navy and white.

But...don't misconstrue this for me thinking that Penn State fans are tolerable. They are most certainly not. If you see one, or a pack of them, walk away or try to ignore them. They are not like your Sparty or Buckeye fans who, at least for the most part, have only one brain cell floating around and are very easy to confront and out-wit. Penn State fans are from Pennsylvania. Do you know what else there is to do in Pennsylvania besides watch, live, breathe, eat, drink football? Exactly.

4) I like big butts and I can not lie. Share your embarrassing guilty pleasure music selection that you know other people might laugh at. Bonus points if you can send a YouTube video of an awful music video with it. Many/most of us grew up and/or went to college in the '80s and '90s so I know you've all got some Nelson After The Rain on the iPod.

I hit my proverbial musical stride just as MTV and VH1 were switching over from music videos to crappy reality shows, but I do remember a few good ones. One of my favorites was Guns 'n' Roses' "November Rain". For it's time, it was a groundbreaking video. It's GnR's long-winded love ballad, and it rules!



Like Michigan's offense, we'll be making it rain this November!

Ok, that was lame.

So When Does Rich Rodriguez Get His Apology?

Rich Rodriguez, during the off-season, generally went the high road when he was asked about the AD at WVU or Bill Stewart, his successor as head coach. He avoided comment or usually just faked the praise he heaped on them.

Stewart Mandel, writer for SI.com opened up his mailbag, and in it was a couple emails from folks in West Virginia criticizing the way WVU has played this year...and how bad things really are for the Mountaineers now that Rodriguez has left. Here are the questions, followed by Stewart's responses:

I must admit you were right about your forecasting of the West Virginia football demise. I sent you previous e-mails, in essence, stating you would be proven wrong and how much you irritated me. I was wrong and you were right -- unfortunately.

-- Ronald McKenzie, Jr., Charles Town, W.Va.


Normally, I enjoy getting these rare "you were right, I was wrong" e-mails, but not these. I may root for my game predictions to be right, or some preseason sleeper pick to come true, but trust me, I do not "root" for a coach to fail. If anything, I was cringing like the rest of the country watching Bill Stewart's clock-management debacle play out at Colorado last week, which was only magnified by Erin Andrews' description of "mass confusion" on the sideline.

But I can't say I didn't see this coming, which is why I criticized the hiring in the first place. Say what you want about the way Rich Rodriguez handled his departure, the ill will he generated in that state, etc., the fact is, he was a great coach. You don't win 11 games three straight years by accident.

Among the many anti-RichRod e-mails I received over the offseason, one common theme was that "Pat White made RichRod." Anyone who's watched White this season can see that wasn't the case. He's still a phenomenal athlete, and I don't blame him for West Virginia's struggles in the slightest. I blame the coaching staff that decided to try and reinvent what had been one of the nation's most explosive offenses. You watch the Mountaineers now, it's like they're playing in slow motion, and White is the guy caught in the middle. Is he supposed to pass more? Run more? I don't think even the coaches know.

Also...

After all Pat White has done for WVU, I hate that his career is going to end like this. I hate even more that you were right about Bill Stewart. My question is, doesn't AD Ed Pastilong deserve some criticism regarding his handling of this situation?
-- Scott, Morgantown, W. Va.

Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes. That's what I've been trying to tell you guys since January (Scroll to: "But have you ever stopped to consider that your anger is being directed at the wrong party?") Amidst the massive backlash caused by Rodriguez's departure, West Virginia fans got duped into believing the hiring of a career assistant based off one bowl game was in the best interest of the program. As I said then and I'll say again now, it was one of the most short-sighted, irresponsible decisions I've ever seen an administration make.

While it's clear that Gov. Joe Manchin turned himself into the de facto athletic director, the buck ultimately stops with Pastilong, who, in another stroke of genius that was revealed this week, signed off on a six-year contract that requires the school to pay Stewart as much as $4.125 million if it fires him. We're only three games into Stewart's tenure, so it's way too early to even start speculating about such things. The Mountaineers could still produce a decent season, and even if they don't, it would only cause the program more instability to change coaches again so quickly.

But remember that $4 million the school collected from Rodriguez? Might want to put that way for a rainy day.

Interesting. If for no other reason that Stewart Mandel is now one of a small list of sportswriters who predicted a collapse at WVU, and would be screwed by Rodriguez leaving.

Look, Pat White is a great player, but great players only stay great when they play under great systems. Rodriguez has a system that works. You can imitate it, copy it, whatever...but it only works if you have all of the right pieces in place...which obviously WVU does not (and now Michigan does).

We've spent a ton of time on this blog discussing Rich Rodriguez's departure from WVU. Nothing more needs to be said. But I thought it would be fun to look at this situation now that some football has been played...and Michigan fans (and WVU fans) can see just how important Rodriguez is...and why it was worth Michigan dishing out 2.5M for him, and why it was so necessary for West Virginia to go the full 12 rounds.

Wednesday Recruiting Update

So there will be a couple 5-star recruits attending this weekend's Wisconsin game at Michigan Stadium. MLive article.

They are Louisiana WR Rueben Randle. He is the nations 5th-ranked WR in the 09 senior class and is a teammate of Michigan DT commit DeQuinta Jones. The other is Wheaton, Maryland linebacker Jelani Jenkins, who is the #9 overall recruit in the country.

Defensive coordinator Scott Shafer spent part of his bye-week attending a HS game in Maryland to see the 6-foot-1, 212-pound linebacker in action. And it sounds like Shafer got his attention.
“A lot of things stand out,” Jenkins said. “They have a great tradition and obviously a good football team. They have a new coach that has a lot of prestige.”
It sounds like Michigan has at least a decent shot at both prospects. At least with Randle, he has a current tie to Michigan with his teammate already committed. That could turn out to be a determining factor in where he goes.
“I want to see what it is like up there,” Randle told TigerBait.com, a site that covers LSU football. “That is pretty much the only one that I have set right now. I don't know the date yet, but I would like to make a trip up to Ann Arbor."
Like I said, whenever you have two 5-star recruits on your sideline for a marquee match up on network TV, that's a great sign.

Adding to the list of commitments, is DE Craig Roh. The 6-5, 230 pound 4-star hails from Scottsdale, AZ. He is the 3rd DE to commit to Michigan in this class.

Also mentioned in the first article above, it seems that Michigan has a pretty good shot at re-landing Detroit Cass Tech DT William Campbell. He de-committed earlier in September because he felt he wanted to re-evaluate his options in order to make a more informed decision. But he definitely did not rule out Michigan in any way.

Back To It

After a brief off-week from full-bore posting, I return from my weekend of not watching even one second of college football. I don't mean just any games, I mean any college football at all...highlights and everything.

Don't get me wrong, when it comes to our beloved sport, I would go toe to toe with even the most die-hard aficionados. But even I know that when the college football Gods give you a chance to take a break in the middle of the season, you better do so.

I spent my weekend on the road, visiting with friends. Cooking out, drinking Dos Equis, and doing things to a french baguette that just shouldn't be done. And if anyone needs a one-stop-shop to get wedding invitations, vitamins and have something notarized in Fort Wayne, IN, let me know. I hook you up.

But now we're back. It's Big Ten week. Time to put away those pesky non-conference foes and tighten the chin-strap a little bit more. First on the B10 schedule for the Maize & Blue is Wisconsin.

Last year, we travelled up to Madison the week before tOSU, only to get pretty much handled 37-21. The score does not even indicate how bad we played. I remember thinking at the time that Wisconsin looked pretty good, but that 2008 would be a better year for them. So far, I've been right. We'll dive deeper into Wisconsin later this week.

But for now, some news and notes.

The depth chart has been updated for this week. Welcome back Mark Ortmann. Hope the elbow is recovered from the Miami game injury. With all due respect, the OL has actually performed better than expected. We're not so big and not so experienced, but things have gone ok. Chalk it up to the style of the spread that keeps the DL and LBs spread out to cover the whole field. Whatever it is, if we had this line last year, Mike Hart would be tackled 3 yards in the backfield on every play.

Mark Huyge is practicing again. His ankle injury against Utah has kept him out of 2 games so far this year. He should be back for next week.

Also making great strides on the off-week (injury-wise) was Michael Shaw and Perry Dorrestein. Both are full-strength and will play this week.

Zoltan Mesko has found his way onto the Lou Groza Award watch list. Good work Zoltan!

This week's game is a "Maize Out" game...which means if you're going to the game, you best wear your yellow t-shirt. If you need one, visit your local MDen, or order the official t-shirt online.

Michigan Sports Center wants you to "Boo" when Wisconsin's band takes the field, assuming they make the trip. Why? Click on over for the full explanation.

More wonderful Maize & Blue goodness to come later this week.

Big Ten Weekly Pick-em: Week 4

This week we have 8 games to pick from. Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois are bye this week.

Ohio @ NU
I like Northwestern in this game. OU showed they can compete with the big boys at tOSU two weeks ago, but I don't see them having another outing like that again. Northwestern is pretty good, at least at home. Look for OU to make it close, but Northwestern wins this one.

FAU @ Minn
There will be a lot of points scored in this contest. Minnesota isn't as bad as last year, but they're not as good as FAU. FAU wins in a shootout.

Temple @ PSU
Penn State, with multiple players out because of suspension, are on a roll. Temple is as bad as bad can be. Penn State wins 600-0.

Iowa @ Pitt
For some reason I'm not convinced about Iowa, even after they beat ISU last week. Pitt lost early in the year to BGSU, so they have something to prove...and a Big Ten match up is a good place to do it. They get Iowa at home, and they will get the win.

CMich @ Pur
I think CMU is the best team in the MAC this year. And I really want to take them in this game. But seeing as this is Tiller's last season, I see Purdue pulling out all the stops. It will be a good game, but I have a feeling the Boilers pull it out.

Troy @ OSU
tOSU will win. They have to win. If they lose, Columbus will burn and Tressel will be run out of town.

Notre Dame @ MSU
Michigan State is better than people think. Notre Dame is worse then Michigan made them look last week. MSU wins.

Ball St @ Ind
Indiana is the Big Ten's version of the little train that could. I want them to do well because I really like their coach. I'm pulling for them this weekend!

Brent Musburger Day

As we roll along in this bye-week, today we will pass some time with this entire post dedicated to everyone's favorite and least-favorite play-by-play announcer, Brent Musberger.

Somewhere down the line, when Keith Jackson, the Obi-won of college football announcers decided to call it quits, someone at ABC made the decision to make Brent Musburger the next voice of the weekly marquee match up.

I think it's a safe bet to assume everyone who reads this blog at least has a mild, to moderate disdain for Brent Musburger. There might have been a time, some while back, when he wasn't so annoying. But it seems to me that he not only is getting worse, but he's everywhere.

And to make things worse, his butt-buddy side-kick is Kirk Herbstreit.

I like the ABC game-of-the-week in prime time each Saturday night. Not only do you get two good teams playing each other, but it usually turns out to be a great game...unless the Buckeye's are playing of course.

But these two guys in the booth calling the game makes it almost un-watchable.

However, I digress. Brent is famous for his overuse of lines such as..."Dandy", "Pardner", "Folks", and "FUMBLE!!!!". So much so that he even has his own drinking game. So at least you can get blitzed while you have to endure such quotes as "It's a footrace!" and calling a touchdown before it is actually scored...drinking game rule #9:

Rule #9: Calling a touchdown before the player actually scores. For example, during an interception return, Brent says "It's a touchdown!" before the player actually scores. In this case, everyone must start drinking and continue to drink until the player actually does score. If by some odd event, the player does NOT score, everyone must finish their drink.
That one is a "Dandy!".

So in the spirit of everything we stand for, we now offer a YouTube clip of some of what makes Brent everything we love to hate about football announcers.

Brent vs. Tree Sitters at Cal


And Brent discusses his feelings about YouTube...during a Michigan basketball game no less.

BTB Roundtable - Week 4

This week's BTB roundtable comes to us via Lake the Posts, everyone's favorite (and only) Northwestern football blog.

1)The national media is using the Big Ten Conference as a punching bag in 2008 ranking us somewhere between the Big East and the MAC. Based on Ohio State's no-show, Purdue's "APPLE!!!" and Michigan's debacle, it is redemption week in Big Ten Country. However, several teams have very respectable, yet no-name teams (ie. Troy, Central Michigan, Ball State). Tell us how the Big Ten will respond this week in the final week before conference play.


I will argue that the MSM has been using the Big Ten as their punching bag since tOSU lost to Florida in Jan 07.

Also, Michigan is sort of "exempt" from the whole argument. We're in a rebuilding year with a new coach and a ton of freshman. Don't loop us in with how the rest of the Big Ten is laying down.

So how will teams respond this week? No idea. But no matter what, it won't be impressive enough to sway anyone's opinions about the strength of the conference. Maybe if the Big Ten had more than one OOC marquee matchup per year, and it wasn't an over-matched tOSU team, that would be a good start.

2)The conference standings look like someone took the 2007 results and flipped it upside down. Which of the undefeated teams are contenders and which are pretenders (another way of saying which teams have put lipstick on a pig)? Recalibrate your preseason rankings and tell us who the conference favorites are now.

I said it before the season started and I'll say it again. Penn State and Michigan State are the teams to beat this year in the Big Ten. When those two teams meet at the end of the year, that game will bump the UM-OSU game to ESPN2. Wisconsin is a strong team, but not strong enough to make a run this year. Next year they will be something to watch. Minnesota, NW, Iowa, Indiana are all just waiting fall. Things will even out and get somewhere back to "normal" once the Big Ten schedule starts.

3)Javon Ringer has emerged as the early season best-bet Heisman hopeful from the Big Ten. Real deal or non-conference smoke screen? Does anyone from the Big Ten have a prayer for the Heisman, or is it too late?

As soon as Well's went down against Youngstown St., so did the Big Ten's hopes of a Heisman contender.

Could Ringer be a contender? Maybe, but everything always looks rosy in East Lansing in early September. Give it a few weeks (or just until the Michigan game) and we'll see where he is then.

4)After three weeks it is time to give your team a new slogan. What is it and why is it what it is?

"Freshman galore!"

No explanation needed.

5)By now, you've likely adopted a favorite non Big Ten team to watch. Flex your football worldliness by convincing your fellow Big Ten kool-aid drinkers to watch your "other" team.

I really haven't.

I guess I would go with USC just because I thoroughly enjoyed watching them dismantle tOSU last weekend. If put in the right division, they could make a good run against some pro teams in the NFL. They are a great team to watch if you like to watch a college football team do just about everything right.

Other than that, pretty much every other school pales in comparison.

Bye-Week Blues

So I've been pretty bad about keeping all of you up to date of my performance in our Big Ten Bloggers weekly pick'em. So far, I find myself in the middle of the pack with 27 points. Not bad all things considered.

Gopher Nation keeps the books on our standings, as well as hosts the weekly league. Head on over and have a look see.

A couple quick notes on this bye-week...

Rodriguez held his weekly presser yesterday. Steven Threet has been named the starter indefinitely...which is great news.

Anyone who watched the ND game last weekend saw that TE Carson Butler was not a very nice boy. He took a huge swing at an Irish player with his arm after a play had ended. He was flagged immediately and ejected immediately as well. Rodriguez says he will not be suspended for his actions. MSC thinks Rodriguez might be a little aloof at what exactly happened. I think so as well.

The Wiscy game on Sept. 27th is set to kickoff @ 3:30 and will air regionally (I assume) on ABC.

Mark Huyge is getting closer to being back at full-strength, and should be ready to go for next week. A huge lift for this depleted offensive line. But John Ferrera is going to get some work at LG. No word yet on Mark Ortmann and his elbow which he hurt against Miami.

Sam McGuffie is still the man.

No clear idea right now what is going to happen in the return game. We'll know more by next week when the official depth-chart is released.

Marcus Witherspoon Transferes to Rutgers

Well, just what the title says. The freshman LB will attend classes tomorrow and will be able to play right away at Rutgers. He was never cleared by the NCAA clearinghouse to play at Michigan, thus was sent home in August.

According to reports, he took a class to become eligible (unknown where he took this class). According to Rodriguez, when he showed up in Ann Arbor this summer, he was ineligible and would not be cleared by the NCAA, thus would never play at Michigan. His high school coach, Bill Walsh (not that Bill Walsh), said the issue was recently investigated by the NCAA and they found him now eligible to play. Witherspoon told the press he has no idea what happened at Michigan.

Notre Dame Wrap-Up

Well, that sucked.

We just handed the game to the Irish. 4 fumbles and 2 picks will do it every time. In a game like this, in bad weather, it really comes down to special teams and turnovers. When you turn the ball over on special teams, it's even worse. But that much we all know. It's easy to pick out things you didn't like yesterday. But the real challenge going forward, is seeing what we did right, and how to continue doing those things.

And for this Michigan fan, it starts with keeping Steven Threet as the starter. He showed good leadership yesterday, and he started to get those passes completed that were sailing 5 yards high in weeks 1 and 2. He showed that we can check off, move with the ball, and make good decisions in a tough situation. Sherridan showed how easy it was to throw interceptions in game like that. Which made Threet's performance that much more impressive.

Also, who can complain or find anything wrong with Sam McGuffie? He's proving that he can make plays happen. He was the one and only spark that Michigan could find when they got down 21-0 in the first quarter. His TD run was an odd combination of "Why aren't they tackling him?" to "Do they even know he has the ball?". Yeah, it was something special. It's easy to see why Fred Jackson, RB coach, is so high on him and fellow freshman RB Michael Shaw.

Aside from 2 real scoring drives , the defense really didn't do too bad. They were put in terrible positions early after 2 UM fumbles deep in their own territory. The DL was not able to get to Clausen, which can be attributed to a slick field, and a much improved ND offensive line. The DBs did a pretty good job covering NDs receivers. I still can't tell if I like Morgan Trent or not. Every time he does something wrong, he comes back and makes a great play. He has a reputation of getting burned in his career.

But, I will say that at halftime, I was pretty confident that Michigan would come out and score at least two more times. Of course, the rain took care of that. But that is a good sign looking ahead to the Big Ten schedule. I think this young team grew up a little bit against Notre Dame. It helps to go into some tough environments and play good teams. Michigan showed that they could come back and that they had some fight in them. This game, and what the players learned about themselves, will pay off down the road.

I will agree with some of my fellow Michigan bloggers, the refs sucked. They handed ND some pretty flaky PI calls. Especially a couple that occurred on 3rd downs. And they also screwed Michigan out of their first touchdown when Threet his Matthews in the first quarter on a long fade route. Matthews had his hand under the ball and had control of it. I don't care what the terrible Notre Dame commentators say. Those guys were awful! Thank God we don't have to listen to those guys for two more years. I didn't know anyone could suck harder than Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit. But Tom Hammond and Pat Haden take the cake! I mean WOW, they are the worst! Way to go NBC!

Stats for Game 3: @ Notre Dame

They Played Like...

...a bunch of freshman playing for the first time on the road in the rain.

Oh wait.

Much more about this game to come. But this game was over when Michigan dug their 0-14 hole early. You just can't turn the ball over 6 times and have much success. But holy sh*t McGuffie is good!

The Onion Weighs in on Michigan/Notre Dame

Maize N Brew has this posted, and I think its pretty good. So we shall post it here as well. The Onion, our favorite famous fake news website...of all places!

Link to The Onion image.

Notre Dame Up-Close

Basics
Who: Michigan @ Notre Dame
When: September 13, 2008, 3:30PM EDT
Where:
Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, IN
TV
: NBC
Radio
: Michigan Sports Network
Series:
UM 20-14-1
Last Meeting: 2007, Michigan 38-0

Program Background

Conference: Independent
Head Coach: Charlie Weis
Off. Coordinator: Michael Haywood
Off. Scheme: Pro-Style
Def. Coordinator: Corwin Brown
Def. Scheme: 3-4
2008 Record: 1-0

Notre Dame On Paper
Well, I was thinking the 2008 edition of Notre Dame football was going to be much better than the 2007 edition. After watching them limp past San Diego State last weekend, I'm thinking otherwise.

Are they better? Well, let me ask you this...how could they not be? I think San Diego State is a terrible barometer. On paper, Notre Dame's stats are just a little better than Michigan's offensively. However, they will have home field advantage. Something that really helped Michigan cruise to a 38-0 win last year.

Notre Dame on Offense
It all starts with Jimmy Clausen. He's now in his second year at ND. They run a pro-style offense that features a heavy reliance on the pass. In my opinion, Clausen is just not good enough to be able to spread the ball around the field yet. Last week he was 21 of 34 for 237 yards and 3 TDs...and also 2 picks. Not bad, but that's against San Diego State's swiss cheese coverage.

Michigan brings in a pretty experienced defense (especially against a pro-style offense). We should do very well containing Clausen and covering their WRs. We really need to protect against the big play...which ND will surely try to get early on in the contest. The DL also should have great success containing ND's running attack. Armondo Allen was their leading rusher last week with 17 carries and 59 yards. Also getting 16 carries was Robert Hughes, who ran for 54 yards. ND's line is big and experienced. They average well over 300 lbs across the line. You'd think they'd have better success moving the ball on the ground. But they don't. Odd. Maybe the play calling is so obvious.

My expectation: Notre Dame will move the ball early. Mostly through the air. Over the course of the game, they will fatigue and start to slow down. They will try and pound up the middle with the run, but Michigan's DL and LBs will keep them contained.

The most glaring stat from their first game was the 1 for 5 performance in the red zone. Simply unacceptable.

Notre Dame on Defense
Okay, we need to stop this 2-QB shuffle. Steven Threet is going to start this game, and I think he should stay in. Unless he starts throwing INTs left and right, we need to pick a QB and stick with him. Great teams don't juggle QBs and have success.

Notre Dame's defense is led by Sr. SS Kyle McCarthy who had 14 tackles last week. Good to have 14 tackles, bad that you are a strong safety. You'd like your LBs to have the most tackles. In fact, the top 4 tacklers for ND are all DBs. Linebacker Maurice Crum is 5th with 6. Crum is a Jr. and the leader of the linebacking corps. He will have a full day of chasing Sam McGuffie around the field. But ND is experienced and the linebackers are good.

In 2007, Notre Dame was 2nd in the nation in pass defense. Slightly scewed because they didn't play many teams with great passing games. But what they had in pass defense, they lacked in run defense. They do blitz more this year, thanks to new defensive assistant Jon Tenuta and his improvised schemes. That should improve a lackluster pass rush.

Michigan will struggle to move the ball. Our running game is starting to show some life, but just enough to beat a middle-of-the-road MAC school, not Notre Dame on the road. We struggled against 07's #1 pass defense against Utah, and we will continue to struggle against the #2 team.

Prediction
This game will be tough for Michigan fans to watch. Notre Dame sucks. And we might just suck more right now. Unless we get a huge break like a turnover deep in Notre Dame territory, or make a great play on special teams, I don't see us getting many scoring chances. What will really be tough this week is how long the defense is on the field. The first 2 games have shown that Michigan's defense is good, but not good enough to be on the field for over 35 minutes of the game.

This game will be low scoring and very hard to watch. I think Notre Dame wins this one based on the fact that they will be at home. It will be close though, probably less than a 7 point difference.

Notre Dame Primer

Working on a full-fledged preview of the Irish for later this week. But for now, some YouTube highlights courtesy of WolverineHistorian. This year's game will not be as kind to us as these three beauties...but maybe we can keep it close.

2003: Michigan - 38, Notre Dame - 0


2006: Michigan - 47, Notre Dame - 21


2007: Michigan - 38, Notre Dame - 0


And just for fun...

Is the Big Ten Really Down?

To reiterate my point that the meat of the conference (the middle pack) is way more important to the public perception than the top schools of a league, lets break it down conference by conference. We'll focus on the biggies again...the Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, Pac-10 and ACC. How well have each conference's top 2 teams and mid-level teams (3 thru 9) fared against out-of-conference opponents from the other major leagues (& ND) since 2003?

I based my rankings on record against said opponents since '03.

Big Ten (Top 2)
Ohio State: 8-3
Wisconsin: 6-3
Total: 14-6, .700

Big Ten (3 thru 9)
Illinois: 0-8
Iowa: 6-5
Michigan: 4-8
Michigan State: 3-5
Penn State: 5-4
Purdue: 6-5
Minnesota: 2-3
Total: 26-38, .406

Big 12 (Top 2)
Missouri: 7-2
Texas: 6-3
Total: 13-5, .722

Big 12 (3 thru 9)
Colorado: 2-10
Iowa State: 2-3
Kansas: 1-3
Nebraska: 5-3
Oklahoma: 5-4
Oklahoma State: 4-3
Texas A&M: 1-6
Total: 20-43, .317

SEC (Top 2)
Georgia: 9-0
LSU: 9-1
Total: 18-1, .947

SEC (3 thru 9)
Alabama: 3-3
Arkansas: 2-5
Auburn: 6-4
Florida: 8-5
Kentucky: 4-1
South Carolina: 4-5
Tennessee: 4-6
Total: 31-29, .516

Pac-10 (Top 2)
California: 7-3
USC: 16-1
Total: 23-4, .851

Pac-10 (3 thru 9)
Arizona: 0-4
Arizona St: 6-3
Oregon: 4-4
Oregon St: 3-2
UCLA: 5-4
Washington: 1-5
Washington St: 3-5
Total: 22-27, .448

ACC (Top 2)
Boston College: 6-0
Florida St: 6-6
Total: 12-6, .666

ACC (3 thru 9)
Clemson: 4-5
Georgia Tech: 3-6
Miami: 4-4
North Carolina St: 2-3
Wake Forest: 3-4
Virginia: 1-2
Virginia Tech: 1-6
Total: 18-30, .375

So as you can see, the Big Ten ranks #4 in top 2 and #3 in three thru nine.

The Big 12, given these numbers, is definitely over-rated. I don't see how the "experts" call this the 2nd best conference in the country? Their three thru nine teams are simply awful out-of-conference. They're worse overall than the ACC, and the ACC is pretty bad.

The Pac-10 gets a huge boost from USC. And their other teams do surprisingly well OOC...even though we do realize that Pac-10 teams only typically play 3 OOC games each, per year.

And of course, the SEC...which, even I have to admit is pretty frickin good. They rank #1 in both categories. And what makes it even more impressive is that they also have to beat up on each other all year...and then go OOC to beat up on other teams.

So I have to ask, is the Big Ten really down?

You could make the argument (and I will), that USC, LSU and Georgia are skewing the numbers. Those 3 teams make up for the bulk of OOC wins for their conferences. It's not even close. They have a combined record of 34-2 against quality OOC teams since 2003!

If anything, take away those 3 teams, and every conference is all pretty much the same. The Big Ten is not down. There is just 3 dominant teams, and a ton of parity.

It's time to get past this idea of just the top teams being important to the overall perception of a conference. If you want to cheer for tOSU this weekend to beat USC, go ahead. But will it really change the perception if Iowa blows another one to Iowa State, or if Purdue gets lit up by Oregon, or if Michigan stubs their toe against the Irish? This blogger doesn't think so.

I'm Cheering for USC...and So Should You

There is huge myth that in order for the Big Ten to be considered a great conference, Ohio State needs to win this weekend. Most people I talk to tell me that I need to root for them against USC, or else I am not worthy of being considered a Big Ten fan.

Now its not a secret that in the top 25, the Big Ten is vastly under-represented. Part of that is honest-to-goodness objective opinions of the media and coaches. Big Ten teams, by-in-large are just not as good as their counterparts from other conferences head-to-head. The rest of it is the misconception that the Big Ten is just inferior by default. Which I whole-heartily disagree with.

Now, this weekend, when tOSU lines up to play against USC, I will most certainly be cheering for the Trojans. Why? Because who wins this game does nothing for the Big Ten argument. I have no allegiances to other Big Ten schools. The rest of them could lose every out-of-conference game. I don't care. I'm a Michigan fan, not a Big Ten fan.

But for the Big Ten to really start to be taken seriously as a top-tier conference again, they need all 11 schools to be better. Not just the top 3 or 4.

From top to bottom, the Big Ten is pretty weak. At the top...Michigan, tOSU, Penn State and Wisconsin can typically hold their own against out-of-conference teams. Win or lose, most people on the national level will still have respect for those schools. But it's the meat of the conference that really holds the Big Ten back.

Schools like Iowa, Michigan State, Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota are the ones not really doing the Big Ten any favors. Once in a while, one of those schools will do something great, but for the most part, they just constantly stub their toes on a national level against other big-conference opponents. Let's take a look back to 2003 for each school at high-profile OOC games.

This includes games against opponents from the Big 12, Pac-10, SEC, ACC and Notre Dame

Michigan State
2008
@ California, L 31-38
2007
@ Notre Dame, W 31-14
Bowl- Boston College, L 21-24
2006
Notre Dame, L 37-40
2005
@ Notre Dame, W 44-41
2004
Notre Dame, L 21-34
2003
@ Notre Dame, W 22-16
Bowl- Nebraska, L 3-17

Total: 3-5

Iowa
2007
@ Iowa State, L 13-15
2006
Iowa State, W 21-17
Bowl- Texas, L 24-26
2005
@ Iowa State, L 3-23
Bowl- Florida, L 24-31
2004
Iowa State, W 17-10
@Arizona State, L 7-44
Bowl- LSU, W 30-25
2003
@ Iowa State, W 40-21
Arizona State, W 21-2
Bowl- Florida, W 31-17

Total: 6-5

Illinois
2008
@ Missouri, L 42-52
2007
Missouri, L 34-40
Bowl- USC, L 17-49
2005
@ California, L 20-35
2004
UCLA, L 17-35
2003
@ Missouri, L 15-22
@ UCLA, L 3-6
California, L 24-31

Total: 0-8


Purdue
2007
Notre Dame, W 33-19
2006
@ Notre Dame, L 21-35
Bowl- Maryland, L 7-24
2005
@ Arizona, W 49-24
Notre Dame, L 28-49
2004
@ Notre Dame, W 41-16
Bowl- Arizona State, L 23-27
2003
@ Wake Forest, W 16-10
Arizona, W 59-7
Notre Dame, W 23-10
Bowl- Georgia, L 27-34

Total: 6-5

Minnesota
2006
@ California, L 17-42
Bowl- Texas Tech, L 41-44
2005
Bowl- Virginia, L 31-34
2004
Bowl- Alabama, W 20-16
2003
Bowl- Oregon, W 31-30

Total: 2-3

Thats a combined total of 17-26, a 0.40 winning percentage. Interestingly enough, the top 4 teams of the Big Ten (Michigan, tOSU, Wisconsin and Penn State) have played almost the same number of OOC games against those same top four conferences...41 since 2003. Among the top Big Ten teams, they are 23-18, a 0.56 winning percentage.

It's not a glorious %, but it is food for thought. Of course that takes into account bowl games. And you can argue that the top Big Ten teams tend to schedule better OOC opponents...on average.

Either way, it is clear to me that the middle of the Big Ten needs to step it up. So this weekend when you get the urge to cheer for tOSU, don't. They'll be fine. Their reputation is intact. Instead, cheer for Purdue vs Oregon, or Iowa vs Iowa State. Those games, if enough of them start to pile up, will do much more for the reputation of the Big Ten than a tOSU win over USC.

Although, a Michigan win over the Irish does everybody good! Go Blue!

Correction: A commenter (Ground Zero East Lansing) pointed out my oversight. Little brother was one of the 9 teams that took the Irish out to the woodshed in 2007. Still doesn't change my argument, but thanks for pointing it out.

Week 3 Injuries and Recruiting Update

During Rodriguez's presser yesterday, he addressed some injury question marks. Among them, the injury to OL Mark Ortmann's elbow. It looks like a dislocation, and he could be out for at least a couple weeks. In his stead, sophomore Brian Nowicki will step in. He impressed coaches last week, and has earned the start against ND. He saw limited action last year in blowout wins.

WR Greg Matthews will be back in the lineup this weekend after rehabbing a leg injury. Also back for the first time since last year is RB Carlos Brown. McGuffie and Shaw are still listed 1 & 2 on the depth chart, but expect to see those 3 plus Grady and Minor all in the backfield this weekend.

For the latest lineup, check out our depth chart.

On the recruiting end...bad news. Highly touted Detroit Cass Tech senior, 5-star recruit Will Campbell has de-committed from the Maize & Blue. He says he still has Michigan on his list, but he felt that he should keep his options open.

If you want a ton more recruiting info...check out mgoblog. Brian's gotcha covered. Our recruiting board is also constantly updated.

BTB Roundtable - Week 3: Rivalry Edition

Dave from Maize & Brew has posted the following questions for the Big Ten Bloggers weekly poll questionnaire:

1. We're two weeks in and everyone in the Big Ten, minus the two Michigan schools and Illinois, are 2-0. This week marks the end of your early "tune-up" or serious OOC play. Are you satisfied with the way your team has played against the cupcakes on your schedule, or happy with the way they've competed against serious competition?

Satisfied?! Are you serious??? All I can say is, at least the plane hasn't crashed into the side of the mountain!

Okay, last year we were 0-2 at this point. So...I should be happy, right? We're 1-1 in a rebuilding year. I'm no Debbie-Downer, so I am going to at least pretend the glass is half-full.

We played like total crap against Utah and lost by 2. Then, we played a little less like crap and beat Miami of Ohio by 10. I'll take both of those games as good tuners for Notre Dame. I'm not totally comfortable going into South Bend. But since when have Michigan fans felt totally comfortable.

2. You knew this was coming. This week's OMG Game of teh Century!!!!1!!1!! until next week's OMG Game of teh Century!!!!1!!1!! is Ohio State versus Southern Cal. Who are you pulling for and why? Further, if you're pulling for one particular team tell me why they'll win, or won't. If you're like me and will be attempting to cure a sunburn from over exposure to the sun during the Michigan Notre Dame game by drinking large quantities of whiskey instead of watching the game, state your excuse.

I am pulling for a massive earthquake to hit right under the middle of the field, crack open the ground, and suck both teams down into the depths of the earth, to never be heard from again.

Just think about it...Jim Tressel, Pete Carroll, both of their teams, both of their bands, Musburger and Herbstreit...all would be gone. Oh the humanity!

3. Besides the above mentioned Game of the Century, there are actually some decent match ups this week in the Big Ten. Purdue v. Oregon; Wisconsin v. Fresno State; Michigan v. Notre Dame; Michigan State v. Florida Atlantic; or Iowa v. Iowa State. I said decent. I didn't say they were all good. Pick the best game from that group, pick the worst game from that group, and Minnesota and Illinois bloggers must post an apology for scheduling Montana State and Louisiana Lafayette respectively.

Well, of course I must take Michigan/ND. Always a big deal no matter the rankings or records.

The worst of that group would surely be Wisconsin/Fresno State. Not only will Wisconsin win, Fresno State will just stop playing football all-together and shut down the program. Okay...maybe not.

4. Out of Conference scheduling is always something that draws the ire of journalists and bloggers alike. You all know how weak your OOC really is. Admit it. You're sad. So fix it. Pick two teams out of conference you really wish your school would schedule. Nursing colleges and the Center for Veterinary Sciences are verboten. Pick two major conference middle to heavy weights or two heavy weight non-BCS conference programs to add to the schedule. (Please note you get to keep your two patsies per season).

I would make the arguement that in-conference scheduling and lack of quality conference opponents gets just as much press...especially in the B10.

If I were Bill Martin, I would try and get a home/home with LSU. Get them up to AA, make it a night game, and make Les Miles really second-guess his decision to stay in Baton Rouge. Plus it would give us another chance to rough up an SEC team whom tOSU lost to in a BCS championship game.

Another one or two teams team that I would love to play would be Nebraska or Texas. Both are B12 powerhouses and worthy of a home and home. I might be more into playing Texas because of family I have down there. But we may seem a little too much like we're following in tOSU's footsteps after their home/home from a few years ago.

5. All college football fans love to tailgate. Even you, you mothers' basement dwelling bloggers, you. Name your beverage of choice on game days. Alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage, your readers need to these things about you, to judge you. Confirm all their suspicions.

I pretty much always end up drinking Labbatt Blue. I can usually only deal with beer during pre-game, especially if it is a noon kickoff. Beer just makes it easier to control your buzz. Plus, it goes better with the standard tailgate fare...burgers, brats, dogs, etc.

Bonus Question!

6. Rivalry games dot the schedule this week. If your team is playing in a rivalry game, say something nasty about your opponent then predict a lopsided score to infuriate the opposing fanbase. If you're not playing a rival, then start a rivalry by saying something nasty about your opponent and then predict a lopsided score to infuriate the opposing fanbase. Or just give me a non-offensive prediction and a reason to watch.

Rudy Sucks. Michigan 35-10.

To Hell With Michigan?!

Oh, I could delve into a 1000 word post about how dare Charlie Weis disrespect Michigan in such a way with his choice words last spring. I remember when it happened and I didn't think it was the end of the world. It's totally locker room material, but that's about it. Weis was at a booster luncheon surrounded by Notre Damers...so he was kind of preaching to the choir - so to speak. It's not like it was a presser or something.

So instead, I think it would be more appropriate to share with you as we inch closer to Saturday, some of the images that come to mind then I think of Notre Dame, Charlie Weis, and his favorite boy-toy...Jimmy Clausen.

We may very well win this weekend, but if we don't...it will be because we lost the game ourselves, not because they beat us. That much I can guarantee.









Seriously, who is telling Jimmy Clausen that looks good.

Stats for Game 2: MIAMI OH

A Win is a Win

Even if it wasn't pretty, which it wasn't. A win is a win. And this is a big win, as it is the first win of the Rodriguez era...and my first game in-attendance this season.

Now, I'm not going to sugar-coat it, this was a game that most past Michigan teams would've won handily. There were many things that made me worry when I saw them on Saturday. Most worrisome was the lack of ability to throw the ball downfield. I have to think that we have the receivers to be able to run the routes and get open. And I also have to think that Threet has the arm to get the ball to them in space at least 10-15 yards downfield.

The real problem is the lack of experience and success of the offensive line. There's no way to up-play this. They're just not good. Run blocking was not bad, pass blocking was not bad...as long as Threet or Sherridan took a 3-step-drop and got rid of the ball quickly. Anything more than that, it's a crap-shoot.

And while we're on topic, who do I like more...Threet or Sherridan?

I like Steven Threet more right now. I think it was a good idea starting him this weekend, and I also think he did pretty well given what he had to work with. Our leading returning receiver, Greg Matthews was out this week with a leg injury. He should be back soon, which will be good because he adds a bit of depth and experience to our receiving corps. With him in the lineup, I think Steven Threet is the right guy for the job.

Threet didn't do anything to lose the job either. He didn't make many mistakes, no INTs or fumbles. He showed he can run the play-option well and move with the ball. But he also has the size and arm of a guy like Tim Tebow. While Sherridan did go 4 for 5 and was in the game for the 4th quarter TD that cemented the game for Michigan, I think it was more the success of better play-calling than Sherridan running the offense.

And speaking of play-calling, I liked to see that Sam McGuffie was a play-maker this weekend. The coaches obviously saw great potential in him this summer and now all of the fans are seeing it as well. Two things I think make him a great feature back (aside from his speed and quickness)...he always makes the first guy miss, something we got used to with Mike Hart. And he always leaps or dives forward as he gets tackled to get the extra 2-3 yards. He did that very well against Miami when they would run him on a toss-sweep around the outside. He was able to get to and turn the corner, and get the extra 5-10 yards that most former Michigan backs could never do, because they lacked the speed.

Simply put: McGuffie will make plays, he will make guys miss and get into open space. And when he does, he's gone. Hart could do all of that, except the last part.

Michigan looked better this week. And that's really all you could ask coming off the Utah loss. The defense was on the field a little too long again. But they did a great job keeping Miami out of the endzone.

Michigan fans, by-in-large, are not happy with this win. They think Miami is a crappy team that we should've beat 50-0. Let me explain something though.

Michigan fans get used to idea that Michigan is a huge traditionally powerful team. Most teams, especially from smaller conferences, when they come to the Big House, are playing in front of more people in one game, than probably the rest of the season combined.

When you play a team like Miami, or Utah or Eastern Michigan, you're getting their best game. Those players go to those schools for games like this. This was Miami's Super Bowl. Whether Michigan is ready or not, they are going to get every teams best game. This explains why Michigan State falls apart every year after losing to Michigan. After that game, what else does Sparty have to play for?

The fact that we beat Miami by 10 points should not worry anyone. We will play better. Playing better teams makes you play better. That's why we beat Florida last year and lost to Appalachian State.

I'm not going to predict anything, but I guarantee that tOSU will play better against USC than they did against Ohio. That's just the way it goes. It's a hard idea to explain. And unless you've played competitive sports on a high level, you just don't get it. Guys who call in to radio shows and cry about how if we can't blow out Miami, how the hell are we going to win against anyone else?

Because guys don't come to Michigan to play against Miami. They come here to play against Notre Dame, Michigan State and tOSU. Big players make big plays in big games. Nobody gets excited to host Miami of Ohio.

Well, more to come, including game stats, injury update and a recruiting update.

Go Blue!

Miami Up-Close

Basics
Who: Michigan v. Miami (Ohio)
When: 12:00PM September 6, 2008
Where:
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
TV
: ESPN2
Radio
: Michigan Sports Network
Series:
UM 4-0
Last Meeting: 2004, Michigan 43 - 10

Program Background

Conference: Mid-American - East
Head Coach: Shane Montgomery
Off. Coordinator: Shame Montgomery
Off. Scheme: Multiple
Def. Coordinator: Jay Hood
Def. Scheme: 4-3
Last year: 6-7 (5-2)

Miami On Paper
Well, they're not Utah. And unlike last year after our first loss against Appy State, they're not Oregon either. The good news is, I really think we can, and should win.

The MAC is a typical mid-major conference. From top to bottom, not very vast...talent-wise. They're not very top heavy with great teams. Central Michigan, and suddenly BGSU are the jewels of the conference...but if falls off about 2 or 3 teams down. Miami finds themselves in the lower tier of the conference this year. CBS SportsLine has them currently ranked #75 among FBS teams.

Although, the argument could be made that most players at Miami probably committed because of games like this. It's not everyday you get to play in front of 108,000 people on ESPN. So they will be pumped. It's their super bowl. As most mid-major conference teams that enter the Big House now, they will have visions of Appy State in their minds. Or to a lesser extent, Utah.

You can't discount that.

Miami On Offense
There was a time when Miami was a team to be worried about. In 2004 when Michigan won 43-10, those were the days of the typical Miami offense that could score points and give the MAC a scare. But now, not the case.

Miami amassed 340 yards of total offense against Vandy in their season opener. While on paper, thats not bad. 244 of that was through the air. They seem to rely pretty heavily on their QB Daniel Raudabaugh who went 19 of 41 with 3 picks. Of the 244 yards, he was able to spread it around pretty well among his receiver corps with 8 players with catches, none over 100 yards total.

Running back Thomas Merriweather had 10 rushes for 59 yards as he led Miami's less than impressive rushing attack.

While they did keep the game close at least into the second quarter with a doormat SEC opponent, the speed and talent of Vandy's defense was able to slow down and manipulate Miami into making mistakes...most importantly in the passing game.

Chalk it up to first game gitters, but I really don't see Miami passing well, or running well for that matter against what I believe, is a much more disciplined Michigan defense. If we can come out in the first half and play like we did in the 2nd half of the Utah game, this will surely be a good win for Michigan.

Miami On Defense
I'd go into great depth and detail about Miami's defense, but why? They gave 360 yards against Vandy, 269 of it on the ground. It is safe to say that pretty much nothing went right for Miami in their opener, especially in terms of stopping the Vandy running game. If Michigan wants to try and tighten the screws on their running game, this may be the game to do it.

Without going too much into predictions, I really see Michigan starting to put the pieces of their offense together in this game. I hope to see more McGuffie and Shaw on the ground. It will take time for Threat to settle into the QB role, and it will be up to the rushing game to ease his transition. Of course moving the ball down the field would be nice. Long sustained drives and getting into the red-zone would be great too.

Prediction
Long story short, this post barely lives up to what it was initially intended to do. It's a somewhat distant look at Miami. Again, should we win? Yeah, sure. Will we win? I think so. Will it be close? If they play like last week's 1st half...yes. If they play like last week's 2nd half, no. If we can find some kind of running game, that would help. Hey, did ya hear? Kevin Grady is going to play! Great...a 230 pound fullback! That's all we need.

As of right now, Miami is barely on the radar when it comes to contenders in the MAC East. If I were less of a Michigan fan or if I was a half-glass-empty kind of guy, I'd still take Michigan this week...and the points. Go Blue!

tOSU Fans: When Do You Start to Worry?

...when you're head coach starts deflecting questions about his Heisman Trophy running back's ankle injury, and tells you to worry more about the weather.

When asked by a reporter about the condition of Chris "Beanie" Wells' ankle, and if tOSU faithful should be worried, Sir Teflon said, "Tell them to worry more about Gustav and Rita, and those kinds of things."

Rita was 3 years ago. I think he meant Hanna.

As questions about Wells came from every angle...Sir Teflon defected them like NCAA rules committee investigators...
"Beanie's going to be fine,"

Fine enough to practice this week? Wells did not practice yesterday or Monday.
Fine enough to play against Ohio University on Saturday?

"We wouldn't play him if he doesn't get some work," Tressel said.

Is the injury a sprain?

"Don't know."

Describe the injury - do you know anything about it?

"I really don't."

Who will replace Beanie if he is out?

"Don't know."
via ToledoBlade.com

Well then. Now we can move on to more pressing issues.

I'm no doctor, but it sounds to me like a high-ankle sprain. Which we all know sucks big-time. Simply put, he's out for Ohio this week, likely will dress for USC, but will play springy if at all. If he was fine like Teflon says, he'd be practicing this week.

Sorry tOSU fans. Goodbye Heisman.

Update (9-4-08 AM): The AP is reporting on ESPN.com that tOSU's RB coach Dick Tressel confirmed that Wells injured his right big toe. He is still not practicing or putting any pressure on it. But they are still holding out hope for playing this weekend.

Dick Tressel added, "We've got a long way to go, we're counting on playing a lot of football this fall. We're going to be smart with his rehab."
Update (9-4-08 PM): Teflon anounced today that Wells will not play against Ohio this weekend. Not to sound too much like "I told you so!", but at least I'm not the only one thinking that way.