BTB Weekly Pick'Em: Week 10

Standings as of Week 9:

1 Gopher Nation 95
2 Ground Zero East Lansing 91
3 Happy Hour Valley 88
4 Eleven Warriors 87
4 Lake the Posts 87
4 Black Shoes Diary 87
4 Paint the Town Orange 87
8 Maize'n Brew 86
8 Michigan SportsCenter 86
10 Zombie Nation 84
11 Enlightened Spartan 83
11 Off the Tracks ™ 83
13 Hoosier Report 82
13 Varsity Blue 82
15 The Buckeye Blog 80
16 Maize & Blue Nation 78
17 Boiled Sports 76
18 Buckeye Battle Cry 75
19 The Only Game That Matters 74
20 Sparty MSU 73
21 Hawkeye Sports News 72
22 BHGP (HS) 61
23 The Nittany Line 60
24 Nittany White Out 35

We got a boost from a missed week (week 5) that was finally counted last week, giving us 12 more points to get us up to 78. While it helps, we're still way out of it. So for the rest of the season, we must go for broke.

Northwestern @ Minnesota, 12:00PM, ESPN2
Well, the Wildcats let me downs last week after 8 weeks straight of being right on the money. Let's get back on the horse with a big loss at Minnesota. Minnesota is all of the sudden, a good team, and I think they get the win against Northwestern here. NW is coming off of a 2 point loss in Bloomington last week, and I think will still be down.

Wisconsin @ Michigan State, 12:00PM, ESPN
If I were leading the BTB race this year, I'd go with MSU in this one, but I'm not...so I must pick against my intuition (which may be a good thing) and go with Bielema and the Badgers. While I really think Michigan State will win this game, this is purely a risky points pick.

Central Michigan @ Indiana, 12:00PM, BTN
Although only worst 1 point (B10 games are worth 3), I am going with Indiana...but, like the game above, my gut is telling me C. Mich is going to knock off the Hoosiers, I think I can steal a point if Indiana shows up. They're riding high from their upset of NW last week. And since everyone else is going with the Chips, I'll go the other way.

Iowa @ Illinois, 3:30PM, ABC
But even I have to draw the line somewhere...and here it is. I simply can't pick Iowa to win in Champagne this weekend. Illinois has the potential to be a good team...it's just usually about every other week they actually show it. Last week they lost to Wisconsin by 10, so hopefully they can get it together and play like they did two weeks ago at Indiana when they won 55-13. We'll see.

A Merger of Sorts

It's always a sad day when a fellow Michigan blogger...or heavily skewed B10 blogger in this case, decides to shut down operations. The blog The Only Game That Matters, hosted and ran by a talented wordsmith who goes by the clever pen name of Beauford Bixel.

However, fortunately for those of us who follow that blog, he is not going away entirely, he's joining forces with Dave over at Maize N' Brew, the colorful Michigan blog who had a direct impact on me and my inspiration of starting this humble blog no more than 16 months ago.

While I will miss Beauford and his writing compadre "Champ" on their own hosted blogger site, I will continue to keep an eye on MnB for all of their content.

When a merger of these sorts occurs, I think it makes all of us blogger-types sit back and wax with a certain sense of nostalgia at our own cyber existence.

When I think of Michigan blogs, the usual suspects come to mind. Mgoblog, MZone (deceased), MnB, RBUAS, Varsity Blue, Michigan Sports Center...among other of course. These are the fellas that led me to start this humble site. I never thought for a second that I could do it any better then those guys, but I just had a feeling that it would be fun to have my voice out there.

When I started, I was right, it was fun...and it still is. At first, I didn't even track my visitors. I knew I didn't have any. But when I did start to, probably around the time of the Lloyd departure and the bowl game last year, I was hitting maybe 25 hits a day...mostly me of course.

But I started to market myself a little bit. The B10 bloggers were a huge, huge, huge step forward for me. Getting my link up on sites like BHGP, 11W, BSD and Zombie Nation, and then eventually the Michigan blogs listed above...things took off. My sites visitors shot up by a factor of 10. I joined YardBarker and Ballhype, got a couple sites to advertise with me...and we're off to the races. Mgoblog alone was accountable for easily half of my traffic.

But it was never about readership, that helps of course, but for those of us who do this on a daily basis...its a labor of love. I love blogging about Michigan football. It's easily one of the most fun things I do. I never thought I'd enjoy it so much.

Sure, it's tough. It's not easy to find good stuff to write about. Michigan football is covered extraordinarily well on the bloggosphere. A lot of what you can read about here can be found on multiple other sites. But I'm okay with that. There's clearly a market for good writing, and that's really all it comes down to. I've grown so much as a writer in the last 16 months.

I had no idea it would get to this point. My Ballhype college football blog ranking was up to 24 a couple weeks ago. That's just insane. I planned on maybe blogging until the end of last season...never in a million years did I think I could make it through the off-season.

So I guess I'll wrap this up by saying that it's been a pleasure doing this so far, I have no plans to stop anytime soon. I insist, if you enjoy reading this blog, please visit any one of the Michigan or B10 blogs linked to on the right hand column...there is some great content being posted by these guys...hundreds of posts a day. And to Beauford, best of luck under the new roof!

Back At It

It's been a slow week here at MBN, thanks mostly to life just not allowing me to post at my usual rate. However, the rest of the week is opening up, so posts should be fast a furious for the next couple days. I say "should", but who knows. Right now we'll start with some news and notes from this week in Michigan football leading up to Purdue.

Michigan RB Sam McGuffie and CB Michael Williams are doubtful this week after both sustained concussions last week against MSU.

Purdue QB Curtis Painter is also doubtful this week, as is his backup Joey Elliot who are both out with shoulder injuries. That leaves 3rd string QB Justin Siller, a potential RB at the beginning of the season, according to Tiller, to lead the Boilermakers this week.

The good folks over at Varsity Blue have posted a breakdown of a pass play early from the MSU game last week in a feature entitled "Inside the Play". It looks at a 3rd down play from MSU's first drive of the game last week, 3rd and 5 from their own 39 yard line. Very good breakdown.

All of the MBN links to the right have been updated this week, MBN Top 10, Depth Chart, B10 Standings and Schedule/Results.

And finally, just when you thought he was gone, Jim Carty finds his way back onto the web. This time, via an interview with MVictors. Of course we all know Jim Carty from his days with AA News, and now he comes back to talk with a fellow Michigan blogger about everything from law school to politics to the newspaper business. He comes off sounding a little bitter about his whole departure from the paper...which makes me wonder if his decision to leave was his or someone else's. Either way, I think Carty did more to drive people away from Michigan football than bring people together. He was a pundit and made his views clear, for better or worse. I'll just stop there so I don't get carried away.

More news coming later today, including a B10 weekly preview and closer look at this week's game.

The Rodriguez Contract

Just in case anyone was feeling sour about Rodriguez and his struggles this season (I know...I know), rest assured, once you read the details of his newly signed contract with Michigan, it will put your mind at ease.

The good folks over at Michigan Sports Center have gathered the details of said contract, and have outlined them for us.
  • The contract lasts six years.
  • A normal contract year begins on January 1 and ends on December 31. The first contract year goes from December 19 of last year to December 31, 2008.
  • Rodriguez's base salary for the first contract year is $300,000.
  • "Additional compensation" will be paid annually to Rodriguez in the amount of $1,650,000.
  • If Michigan goes to a non-New Year's Day bowl game, Rodriguez will receive a $50,000 bonus. If Michigan goes to a New Year's Day non-BCS bowl, Rodriguez will get $100,000. Finally, if Michigan goes to a BCS game, Rodriguez will be paid a $200,000 bonus.
  • If Michigan wins the BCS National Championship Game, Rodriguez would receive an additional $300,000.
  • Michigan's $2.5 million payment to West Virginia for part of Rodriguez's buyout will be taxed. It doesn't appear that it has been determined if Michigan or Rodriguez will pay the taxes.
  • Rodriguez and his family get to use two cars as part of the athletic department's "dealer provided automobile program."
  • Michigan is responsible for paying Rodriguez's moving expenses.
  • Rodriguez will get $550,000 in deferred income each year. He will get that money when he is no longer the head coach.
  • Rodriguez will get a private viewing box in 2010 in the new press box area.
  • If Michigan were to terminate Rodriguez without cause in the first three years of his contract, he would receive $4 million. If he was fired in the fourth or fifth year of his contract, he would get $2.5 million. Finally, if he was fired in the sixth and final year of his contract, he would get $1.5 million.
  • If Rodriguez terminated his contract, he would be responsible for paying Michigan the same amounts listed above.
  • $1,950,000 can be used to pay nine assistant coaches and the strength and conditioning coach.
  • The assistant coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator will be offered only one-year contracts.
  • Rodriguez and Bill Martin have "joint responsibility" in scheduling games, though Martin has the final say.
  • Mary Sue Coleman, Bill Martin, and Rich Rodriguez all signed the contract.

Pylon-Gate

Not that it matters, the final score of the MSU game was 35-21. But what could get Sparty fans in a huge twist is the phantom TD scored by Brandon Minor on a pass from Steven Threet where Minor's foot came down on top of the pylon, and then out of bounds.

The play was first ruled to be an incomplete pass. But after a somewhat quiet review, the play was over-turned by the replay official in the booth. Apparently, according to Big Ten commish Jim Delaney, it was a mis-interpretation of the rule.
“The people in the replay booth made a mistake. It wasn’t a mistake of judgment; it was a mistake of an application of the rule. They applied the wrong rule and they applied it improperly.”
The rule is that when a player catches the ball in the air and his foot comes down on the pylon, he is out of bounds. So when you're in the air when you first posses the ball, the pylon is out. When you posses the ball in bounds, the pylon is considered the endzone.
“I expect more from them than that. You can understand a mistake of judgment on the field, and you can even understand possibly not getting the standard right because we want indisputable video evidence that a play is wrong. But to apply the wrong rule to a situation is not acceptable to me.”
There might be a ruling handed down...
“I haven’t decided yet, but we may. I doubt if we do anything publicly, but there has to be an understanding that we expect on the field and in the booth 100% knowledge of the rules, applying the right rule to the right situation. You might make a mistake in terms of judgment, but I expect our officials to know the rules and apply the right rule to the right situation. We didn’t do that, and that’s not acceptable.”
Not that it matters now, but interesting anyway.

Relax Comrades: A Michigan Football Introspective

Okay, I've been away all weekend, and while I was gone...the inmates have taken over the prison.

Two great winning streaks have fallen in two agonizing weeks. First, it was 9 years straight against Penn State, and now it's the 6 year run against little brother.

But I have to caution you. If you're one of the Rodriguez haters, and you find fault in everything he's done at Michigan, you're not going to agree with me, or like what I have to say.

Look, there is a bigger picture here. There is a greater-good. For a changing of the guard of this magnitude, things are need to be bad for a year or two. I know I'm starting to sound like a Rodriguez apologist, but it's the simple truth.

Now, I liked Lloyd Carr. I liked him a lot. He was a good coach who ran a clean program. But there was a sense that Michigan was on auto-pilot for a while. For Lloyd's coaching tenure, his 97 team was his greatest achievement. Everything else paled in comparison. Sure he had great players and big wins, but nothing came close to the 97 season.

I think a large part of that was the idea that wins were just expected at Michigan, and teams would bow down to the winged helmet.

I'm not saying anything is wrong with that. That's what years and years of great success and tradition offer you.

But you could sense the end was near for that Michigan is holier than thou mentality. From the near loss against Ball State in 06 to the loss to Appy State in 07, the signs were there. Michigan needed to adapt.

And...we did. Lloyd bid farewell and we brought in one of the best up-and-coming coaches in college football in Rich Rodriguez. Say what you will about him now, but when he was hired...he might have been the 2nd, or 3rd pick for Michigan, but he was a great hire. And for only the 4th time in history, Michigan hired an outsider to run it's football program. And just like Fielding Yost in 1901 who also came from West Virginia, Rodriguez was given everything he would need to make Michigan a contender again.

With him, he brings his entire coaching staff (sans his defensive coordinator). The same staff that took a mediocre West Virginia football team, and turned them into a consistently winning program that went to two BCS bowl games.

What I'm trying to say here is, we have the pieces in place for great things to happen. It sucks big time that the 08 season is a wash. It sucks for the seniors who have given everything they have on the field, for maybe one of the worst teams, statistically speaking, that Michigan has seen in generations.

It sucks for the fans who pay for season tickets, or tune in on a Saturday afternoon to watch this team struggle.

But...when it comes to being a Michigan fan, you really have 3 options.

• Bitch and moan about how bad we are, throw things at the TV and boo the team at the stadium.

• Adopt a "wait and see" approach to this staff and the program as a whole, and hope that the best is yet to come., but still support the team.

• Bury your head in the sand and not pay one bit of attention until this team reaches the ridiculously high standards arbitrarily set by you.

That's really all you can do. Which one is it?

I just think there is a certain percentage of fans out there who find joy and pleasure in the first option. Unless they have something to complain about, what's the point really? We like to call that the "Detroit Lions Effect". You know who you are!

I find myself in the 2nd group. Why? Because it'll be more fun to say in 2 years that I was hopeful that this system works. That I didn't jump off the ship as it was sinking.

Which ever group you find yourself in really doesn't matter. This team is just not good. We said it on here after the disaster against Illinois 4 weeks ago, and it has held true since then. I really like Rodriguez, but I think this season has been even tougher than he thought it would be. If you look at this season and this team with a discerning eye, it's easy to see that it's really the perfect storm, in terms of why they are struggling.

I wish there was a magic bullet to cure the problems that Michigan has...but I think it really comes down to basic issues:

• New system does not work with these players
• QB is a disaster
• OL is inexperienced
• WRs are inexperienced
• Defense stays on the field way too long

Don't get me wrong, I actually think this defense is one of the best in the Big Ten. But when your offense ranks 116 out of 120 in the FBS in terms of time of possession, you'd need an all-star defense to save your team.

They spend WAY too much time on the field. And there are two reasons for that:

• Offense can't get first downs
• Turnovers

And that leads to the defense being too fatigued to cover well, tackle well, and contain good running backs who get into open space.

Fundamentally, that's all there is to it. And when you can't do the small things right, that's a sign of just not having the right players to run the spread/option. Pure and simple.

So should we just abandon this new system and try and retro-fit the pro-style offense that we're used to?

No.

Because at this point, what do we have to gain? Why take 10 steps back so we can take 5 steps forward? We all know the spread works. Heck, even this Michigan team has shown flashes of brilliance with the spread...and that's with inferior players running it...so we know it can work. Just look at the first half of the Penn State game...or the 2nd half of the Wisconsin game. It works people...IT WORKS!!!!

Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

These coaches will get the personnel that they need to run this system. This is Michigan. We can get the recruits. They will come. It may take a year or two, but with all the things we have going for us right now...be patient. I swear it will pay off.

So in the meantime, watch...don't watch. But the last thing we should do is question whether we got the right man for the job. Rodriguez is a seasoned head coach with a track record of success everywhere he's been. His first year records as head coach have all been bad.

• 1988 - Salem: 2-8 (2-5)
• 1989 - Glenville State: 1-7-1 (1-5)
• 2001 - West Virginia: 3-8 (1-6)
• 2008 - Michigan: 2-6 (1-3) and counting

So, there you go. And by the way, his 2002 season at WVU was 9-4 overall and 6-1 in the Big East.

Not trying to convince you of anything, but just some food for thought.

The moral of the story is, you can either cry about it, fold your arms and bear it, or throw your hands up in the air and storm out of the room and not come back until the water gets warmer.

No matter what, we have to play Purdue this week. And from where I see it, we have nowhere to go but up.

Michigan State Preview

Basics
Who: Michigan vs Michigan State
When: October 25, 2008, 3:30 PM
Where:
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
TV
: ABC-Regional/ESPN 2
Radio
: Michigan Sports Network
Series:
UM Leads 68-28-5
Last Meeting: Michigan - 28, Michigan State - 24
Rankings: Michigan - NR, Penn State - NR

Program Background

Conference: Big Ten Conference
Head Coach: Mark Dantonio
Off. Coordinator: Don Treadwell
Def. Coordinator: Pat Narduzzi
2008 Record: 6-2 (3-1)
Last Game: Lost to tOSU 45-7

If Michigan needed a blueprint on how to beat Michigan State, look no further than last week's game against tOSU. Actually, just the first half will do fine. By the time Sparty had time to figure out what was going on, it was 28-0. I've watched tOSU all year and they had never looked better than against the Michigan Agricultural College.

It's usually about this time every year that Sparty takes off the rose colored glasses after a great start, and slips into the depths of struggling mediocrity that they are used to. A great start to the season, followed by a heartbreaking loss to usually Michigan or tOSU, and they never recover.

Now, that said, this year could be different. Dantonio could have this team believing that they can still contend. And let's be honest, if Sparty was going to knock off the Wolverines, this year is a good year to do it. They have the players to do it...they usually do. It just comes down to mental toughness and confidence...something that has been lacking in East Lansing in recent years. In other words, there is a reason they have been referred to as "little brother".

Howeva, we're a stat kind of blog, therefore we will take a look at Michigan State from a statistical perspective.

Javon Ringer is a great running back, and it shows. He leads the Big Ten in yards, carries, and TDs. But, it should be noted that Sparty ranks 7th in the Big Ten in rushing offense. Translation: Michigan State only goes as far as Ringer will take them. Evidence? He had 67 yards on 16 carries and no TDs against tOSU last week. And, in their loss to Cal in week 1, Ringer went for only 81 yards on 27 carries.

Stop Ringer...stop Sparty.

Passing is not a strong suit for Michigan State. They rank 8th in the Big Ten in passing offense. Although Hoyer is a relatively decent passer, he's no Juice Williams or Daryll Clark. Hoyer boasts a QB rating of 117, just 10 points higher than that of Michigan's Steven Threet at 107.

Its kind of a statistical anomaly that Michigan State, tOSU and Michigan are 9-10-11 at the bottom the Big Ten in terms of total offensive output so far this year.

In terms of defense, MSU gives up an average of 20.3 ppg. Right in the middle of the Big Ten at 6th. Run, pass and total defense are all middle of the pack. But one stat I think speaks volumes is time of possession. MSU ranks third in the Big Ten with a 31:37 per game average. Michigan, by comparison, is ranked last in the conference with 26:55 per game. Actually...nationally, Michigan ranks 116 out of 120 in the time of possession category. But, Missouri is ranked 119...so go figure?!

Michigan State does have one of the best defensive backs in the conference in Otis Wiley. The senior DB has 4 picks for 84 yards and one pick 6.

Their leader at linebacker is Greg Jones. He has 65 tackles this season, 38 solo and 8 for loss. Michigan State's sack leader is DL Trevor Anderson, who has 5 sacks this year.

Injury-wise, Michigan is not looking too bad. Last week saw the return of Brandon Minor (who looked good), and defensive players Brandon Graham and Donovan Warren. All 3 will be back this week, and word is QB Steven Threet, with two bum elbows, will start again. No major injuries to speak of this week. The line is looking stable and the defense should see all starters this week.

But what cannot be accounted for in stats or personnel, is the intangibles. This is an in-state rivalry game. Little brother versus big brother. Both of us got blown out last week by superior opponents. Michigan must win to stay bowl eligible. Sparty must win to save some face and make this rivalry worth something. Either way, it will be a good game, and I predict a Michigan win. I don't know why, but just something about playing little brother at home that gives me nice winning feeling.

And to whet you appetite for Saturday's game, lets have a look at some past UM-MSU games, via WolverineHistorian. We'll go all the way back to 2002, the beginning of the current streak of domination over Sparty.

2007, Michigan 28, MSU 24


2006, Michigan 31, MSU 13


2005, Michigan 34, MSU 31


EPIC!!!!! 2004, Michigan 45, MSU 37


2003, Michigan 27, MSU 20


2002, Michigan 49, MSU 3

Beaver Out for the Season

According to reports, 2009 Michigan QB prospect from Wichita Falls, TX Shavodrick Beaver has suffered a season-ending injury that could also impede his ability to take an official visit to Ann Arbor this weekend. No word what the injury is.

More on this to come, I'm sure.

BTB Weekly Pick'em: Week 9

Standings as of last week's games:

1 Gopher Nation 86
2 Ground Zero East Lansing 85
3 Eleven Warriors 81
4 Lake the Posts 81
5 Maize'n Brew 80
5 Happy Hour Valley 79
5 Black Shoes Diary 78
5 Paint the Town Orange 78
9 The Buckeye Blog 77
9 Enlightened Spartan 77
9 Michigan SportsCenter 77
12 Varsity Blue 76
12 Zombie Nation 75
12 Off the Tracks ™ 74
15 The Only Game That Matters 74
15 Hoosier Report 73
15 Hawkeye Sports News 72
18 Buckeye Battle Cry 69
18 Boiled Sports 67
18 Sparty MSU 64
21 BHGP (HS) 61
22 Maize & Blue Nation 60
23 The Nittany Line 60
24 Nittany White Out 35

Now, I know what you're saying. It's almost like I'm trying not to win. But honestly, it's been an up and down season for some Big Ten teams. And, after some calculations on my end, I noticed that my score should be 72, not 60. But as it turns out, due to an email snafu, Gopher Nation did not receive my week 5 picks, where I scored 12 points. Hopefully those will be added and I'll be right back in the mix.

Either way, it's a new week and a new chance to screw everything up again.

Northwestern @ Indiana, 12:00 PM, BTN
For as much as I think Indiana can actually win this game, I'm still going to take Northwestern. I've been perfect all year in predicting the Wildcats, and this week I am confident that they will keep my streak alive.

Minnesota @ Purdue, 12:00 PM, ESPN Classic
The Joe Tiller farewell fizzle-out continues when they host the Golden Gophers this week. Minnesota has come a long way this year in terms of respectability since their 1-11 performance last year, and I think they will win again this week. They've burned me in the last two weeks when I predicted them to be upset by Indiana and Illinois, but they beat them both...so I am on board with the Gophers until they let me down...which will probably be this week. 

Illinois @ Wisconsin, 12:00 PM, ESPN
Oh Wisconsin...what happened? You were looking past Michigan to night games at home against tOSU and Penn State...who knew you'd lose all 3, and then back it up with another loss to Iowa to mark 4 losses in a row? Bret Bielema went from Wisconsin savior to the biggest bust since Kirk Ferentz. And with that, I'll take Illinois over the Badgers.

Penn State @ tOSU, 8:00 PM, ABC
Is this game like a big deal or something? Two top 10 teams facing off? One of them is tOSU? The good news for the Buckeyes is, this top 5 team is not USC and not from SEC. The bad news is that it is Penn State, and they are as good as advertised. They have blown past everyone they've played this year with relative ease (Michigan being the only team that has given them a scare). 

However, this game will be truly epic. A night game, pretty much anywhere is fun to watch, but in Columbus, it's a recipe for disaster. That town will be completely drunk by end of breakfast. And they better be, because Penn State will be good. And this blogger thinks they will win. But damn, it will be close.

Anthony Fera De-commits

Via Varsity Blue. The only kicker on the 09 board has de-committed. Anthony Fera, the 3-star kicker from Houston, TX has decided to re-open his recruitment.

And if you're getting the feeling that more recruits are de-committing rather than committing, its because they are. It may only be a kicker, but still...not good news. 

Rivals seems to think Penn State is somehow in the mix. More to come on this.

Big Weekend for Michigan Recruits

While the Wolverines and Spartans are battling it out on the field this weekend at the Big House, a whole slew of recruits will be on the sidelines. This weekend will be the biggest recruiting weekend for Michigan (in Ann Arbor) this season.

Among them, recruits taking an official visit...

Committed
• Shavodrick Beaver, ****QB
• Anthony LaLota, ****DE
• Vincent Smith, ***RB
• Dewayne Peace, ***WR

Uncommitted
• Vladimir Emilien, ****S
• Josh Robinson, ****WR
• Travis Bond, ***OL
• Willie Haulstead, ****WR

Also, recruits taking an unofficial visit...

Committed
• Tate Forcier, ****QB
• Ricardo Miller, WR (Junior)
• Jeremy Jackson, WR (Junior)

Uncommitted
• Brennan Clay, RB (Junior)
• Marvin Robinson, S (Junior)
• Lo Wood, CB (Junior)

There will also be a few key in-state and midwest recruits among these guys who I was not able to find to list here. This list will continue to grow as the week progresses.

BTB Roundtable - Week 9

This week's BTB roundtable comes to us from Penn State blog Nittany White Out. I just have to add that while they kicked our butts last week for one half of football, I am fully prepared to cheer them on this week as they head to Columbus for the Big Ten game of the year.

Cheers to the Nittany Lions. Go kick some Buckeye ass!

1. We're approaching week 9 now, are you pleasantly surprised or already waiting for basketball season?

This is Michigan, what basketball season? Hockey season? YES! No seriously, I'm a little disappointed with what I've seen so far. Not disappointed to give up on this team though (Never!). They've made improvements in some areas, been getting worse in others. All-in-all though, I know brighter days are ahead for this program. It may take a year or two, but once the right players get in the right place, good things will happen. And when they do, all of those Michigan fans who jumped off the bandwagon this season will be back. No bowl for this team this year, but you know what they say about all good things?

2. Describe one specific play from this season you would alter for a different outcome if you had the chance to.

The pick 6 from the Toledo game really hurt. Take that back and Michigan wins, giving us 3 wins and that much more of a chance to at least make a crappy bowl. If Threet tucks it and takes a sack, we live to fight another down, and at worst a field goal. But realistically, it was a 14 point swing that shocked the Big House and both teams.

3. How could it (#2) possibly impact the way your season is going?

Well, we keep our undefeated streak against MAC schools alive and don't have to listen to Sparty or tOSU idiots tell us we suck because we lost to Toledo.

4. Big Ten player you just can't stand, why?

Juice Williams. Why? Because he's so damn inconsistent. He torched Michigan on the ground and the air. But against schools like Missouri, Louisiana-Lafayette, Penn State, Minnesota and Indiana he comes out flat and plays like just an average QB (at least on the ground). Part of me thinks his talents are just being wasted by a bad coaching staff in Illinois, and why can't Michigan get a guy like that. But then I tell myself that the only reason he's playing for Zook has less to do with football and more to do with Benjamin's. But you didn't hear that from me.

5. Boo'ing your own team (we've seen quite a lot of this across the Big Ten this season), your feelings on this.

Yes, I'm firmly against it. It's been a huge part of this bloggers quest to change one Michigan at a time. Every other Michigan blogger worth his (or her) salt is with me on this. We've heard a lot of booing in the Big House this year, as everyone just assumed greatness takes 6 months to create from scratch.

I'm not a season ticket holder, but the more games I go to this year (so far 3), the more I am happy that I have the option to watch the games from home (in stunning high definition) and not have to endure the morons at the Big House. Not all of them are morons, but I'd say 1 in 10 are the ones I'm referring to.

Bonus Round

1. Number of beers or alcoholic drinks consumed by week 8 (or a good estimate)

About the same number as fumbles and interceptions so far this year by Michigan's offense and special teams.

2. Most annoying commercial seen this season


And, as a bonus because it's such a great ad that I will never get tired of...


Okay, last one...this song always gets stuck in my head after watching this ad.


3. Your prediction for the next coaching change in the Big Ten (Joe Tiller exempt)

I'll say, and this is with about 10% confidence, Joe Paterno. Why? Well, this is his last year of his contract (as if that matters), and he seems to spend more time in the pressbox than on the sidelines. But I think this season is his best chance to go out on top, in case that's a big deal for JoPa. If not, then who knows. But the man is getting old. And speaking of ads...am I the only one creeped out at the end of the Big Ten Network ad when he grits his teeth and says "Come to Penn Staaaaaaate!"?


Bulletin Board Material for Sparty, Lou Holtz is an Old Crazy Man

Michigan DE Brandon Graham gave little brother some bulletin board material with his comments after the loss to Penn State. His exact words were, "I feel like we're not going to lose to State."

The question came from a reporter in the locker room after the game Saturday night. Whether he meant no harm by it or not, its not even close to the quote from Mike Hart which came last year,
"Sometimes you get your little brother excited when you're playing basketball and let him get the lead, then you just come back and take it back."
Maybe the single best quote about a rival in Michigan football history. And of course the best because he followed up on it and delivered a close win in East Lansing.

I have no idea if Graham's quote is a "guarantee" or not, but it is bulletin board material for sure...especially for Mark Dantonio, who's a bit touchy when it comes to harsh words from opposing players.

On a completely unrelated note, Lloyd Carr was spotted on the campus of Syracuse University. While most fans in the country are assuming that Carr is now somehow throwing his name into the hat, we Michigan fans know that Lloyd's coaching days are done. Word is, he's acting as a consultant for the replacement of head coach Greg Robinson, and not up for the job himself.

And finally, I did not hear about it until this morning, but I hear ESPN college football analyst and former Irish head coach Lou Holtz somehow compared Rich Rodriguez to Adolf Hitler. While taking a look over at MSC, they had the story.

When asked about Rich and his poor start at Michigan this season on College Football Live, his leadership abilities came into question, that's when Lou added this:
"Ya know, Hitler was a great leader too."
Safe to say, the little voice in your head that tells you not to say something was not functioning properly. Also safe to say, Lou might be taking a little vacation for a few weeks.

Bill Martin phoned the Worldwide Leader in Sports to get their take on it, and was quickly offered an apology from Holtz himself live on the network during halftime of the GT-Clemson game.
"Last night while trying to make a point about leadership, I made an unfortunate reference. It was a mistake, and I sincerely apologize. At the time, I tried to clarify my remarks. I'm not sure I adequately did so. I appreciate your understanding."
Story via Detroit News.

Is it just me, or did Rush Limbaugh get canned from ESPN over some bad comments about Eagles QB Donovan McNabb? I mean, race is one thing, but being compared to one of the worst people in the history of the world seems to be right up there as far as I'm concerned.

Update: As a friendly (obviously huge Michigan fan) commenter pointed out, the Hart comment from last year took place after the Michigan State beat down, not before. Sorry, all of our wins against Sparty tend to run together. Thanks Little Brother.

Penn State Review

The final score might have been 46-17. But for a while there, it was a game. The first half (especially the 1st quarter) was maybe one of the best halves offensively we've seen all year. It was only 17 points, but it was 17 convincing points, against a good team.

What happened after halftime was nothing more than just being outplayed and outcoached.

From the outset, I knew we'd lose the game. But what made it harder is the fact that we had the lead at halftime. Now I watched the Penn State - Wisconsin game last week, so I knew Penn State was explosive, and all they needed was to get started. They kind of did that on the last drive before halftime. I was hoping that the half would cool them off and Michigan would come out in the 2nd half and keep PSU on their toes. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.

There has to be something wrong with Threet's right elbow still. And in the 3rd quarter, he kind of limped off the field after their opening drive. When Sheridan came into the game, I knew the game was over. Not only did Sheridan not know left from right out there, the play calling when he was in the game is an obvious sign that he just doesn't know the offense the same way Threet does.

I think Sheridan can be a good QB at a smaller school, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him transfer after this season. He has a good arm and can run with the ball if he has to, but he just doesn't have the head to run an offense like this. Especially against superior talent.

It's easy to point out things that didn't go well when your team loses 46-17, but I will take the high road here and focus on the positive. Why? Because we're 2-5 and I'm sick and tired of blaming people.

What I really liked was Michigan's opening drive. 14 plays for 86 yards, the end result was a 5 yard TD run by Brandon Minor, who looked about as good as he ever has...especially behind an inexperienced offensive line.

The first three drives really looked awesome. 30 plays in total, accumulating 191 yards. That's 6.37 yards/play. Easily the best this offense has looked all year. Brandon Minor has been banged up this season, but if he can stay healthy, he will keep having success running the ball as long as the line keeps playing like they did.

Kevin Koger is becoming a better TE than Butler and Massey combined. Speaking of which, Carson Butler is no longer a TE, he's a DE, and he switched numbers again...back to 85.

There was also bright spots on defense. Of course, forcing the fumble on Penn State's first drive was a huge momentum shift. But clearly, I think we have issues with every facet of the defense. When you go up against a good mobile QB, it really takes your good DL out of the equation. No question Daryll Clark is a good QB who can run and throw very well. Couple that with our defense being on the field way too much, and that gives a good Penn State offense just that much more time to make plays.

If you look at stats alone, Penn State went 50% on third downs. They had 482 yards of total offense, and scored 5 TDs. No doubt a bad game for the Michigan defense.

I guess the only bright spot, position wise, was LBs. They had their hands full all day with Clark and Royster. But we looked absolutely AWFUL when it came to tackling. We missed so many tackles. I mean not just one here and there, but multiple missed tackles on almost every play. Our guys just seemed out of position about 75% of the time.

It just comes down to basics. Penn State didn't do any one thing great, they just did almost everything well. There really isn't that many weaknesses in their system. And it shows.

All-in-all, this game went pretty much as well as I thought it would. I didn't expect a halftime lead, but I did suspect Penn State would have their offense on the field the bulk of the second half, and that would lead to too many opportunities for them, and way too few for us.

But, like I said, there are things we can build on, and obviously things we must work on. But it's a new week and a new opponent. It's Sparty week! And when you play a rival, record books have almost no bearing. Usually, that's good for Sparty, but this year it's good for us. And if we need a good reference as how to beat them, look no further than last week's disaster against tOSU.

And now, for your enjoyment, the stats for the Penn State game.

Penn State Preview


Basics
Who: Michigan @ Penn State
When: October 18, 2008, 4:30 PM
Where:
Beaver Stadium, State College, PA
TV
: ESPN
Radio
: Michigan Sports Network
Series:
10-3
Last Meeting: Michigan 14, Penn State 9
Rankings: Michigan - NR, Penn State - 3

Program Background

Conference: Big Ten Conference
Head Coach: Joe Paterno
Off. Coordinator: Galen Hall
Def. Coordinator: Tom Bradley
2008 Record: 7-0 (3-0)
Last Game: Won @ Wisconsin 48-7

Basically, no mystery here. I did a Q&A with Penn State blogger Zombie Nation this week, and for my take on his carefully selected questions, check it out here.

But to sum it up for you, let me just say that I give Michigan about a 3-5% chance to win this game. ZN asked for a score prediction, and while I tend not to give score predictions out, I did so with relative confidence that Michigan would lose. I said Penn State 31-10.

I consider that a pretty safe pick. It gives the perception that Penn State won comfortably, but Michigan showed at least a little fight. And that's pretty much how I feel about this game.

But ZN's 3rd questions asked if there was any way that Michigan could win this game. I considered it sort of a back-handed question from a very over-confident PSU fan, but given the context of his other questions, and that I respect him for having the word "Nation" in the title of his blog (stand strong!), I gave him my honest opinion.

The ONLY way Michigan wins this game is if the following take place...

• Commit no turnovers
• No mistakes on special teams
• Limit penalties

Make Penn State win the game, don't just hand it over to them.

It would also help if Penn State was way over-confident, and totally looking past us to their trip to Columbus next week. Sadly, I don't think they are. Michigan is a huge game for any team, any year. And when you've gone 9 years without a win against the maize & blue, it makes it that much more important.

I would go through position by position and break down this game for you, but why? The spread is 25. 25! !@#$%^&*!!!!!!!!

If you saw any of the PSU-Wisconsin game last week, then you know what is coming. All I can say is, of course watch the game, but don't cancel those dinner reservations either. You may need some other plans by about 6:00 or so. It could get ugly.

However, like we've seen before, it could be glorious. Nick Sheridan and the rest of this offense could have the game of their lives. The defense could make smart plays and keep PSU from running all over the field. And who knows, by the 4th quarter, it could be a one score game.

Or, it could be the worst defeat in the history of Michigan football. Either way, I will be watching, and it will be memorable.

Go Blue!

Personnel Updates

Word on the street is that Steven Threet is questionable this week with an injury to his throwing elbow. Rodriguez said that if Threet is not totally 100%, he won't play. So, that probably means Nick Sheridan will start against PSU. But just coming down the wire is that true freshman Justin Feagin could see some time this week. (Rivals.com link, subscription required). Earlier this season, maybe even pre-season, I speculated that everyone would know who Justin Feagin was by the end of the year. Hopefully, that prediction will come true.

Feagin is a pure spread/option style QB. Previously, he was considered to maybe be a more effective slot receiver, but given the state of Michigan QBs right now, he might be better suited as a signal caller. He wasn't on the depth chart in pre-season because, and this is just what I heard, that he wasn't getting as up to speed with the new offense as Threet and Sheridan had. But now, after 6 games, maybe it turns out he's more ready than the coaches thought.

Also hurt, but probable is WR Martavious Odoms, who was held out of last week's game with a bum shoulder. Brandon Minor was also hurt last week on his long touchdown catch in the first quarter. Doctors are calling it a rib injury. Word is he spent the night in the hospital recovering. Translation: Doubtful for this week.

Also out last week with a leg injury, DE Brandon Graham. From what I hear, he ought to be back this week, as will CB Donovan Warren. Linebackers Austin Panter (shoulder) and Kevin Leach (ankle) are both hurt this week and will not play.

Updated depth chart here.

If you happen to have one of those fancy Rivals subscriptions, you might want to check out the article on Tate Forcier...who says he's ready to step up as a hopeful Michigan QB next season. Seriously, if someone out there wants to share or give me a Rivals subscription, I'd so take it.

Speaking of recruits, MN WR Bryce McNeal has de-commited from the Wolverines. This happened last week, but we never mentioned it, so here it is. Via the link, and from what I hear, it is likely that he will give the Gophers a hard look. While he is still listing Michigan in his top 5, I doubt we'll see him back on the commitment list.

And finally, we have just put the finishing touches on our newest addition, our very own Eligibility Chart. Now you'll be able to track each class's members, and how much eligibility each player has left. Woot!

Kampfer Recovering, Milano Suspended

You can read about this many places, but we cited yesterday that it wouldn't be the last time we brought it up. So...

As reported by multiple sources, Michigan icer Steve Kampfer is recovering at his family's home in Jackson, MI. He is wearing a full neck brace for the next 12 weeks and will most likely miss the remainder of the hockey season. The good news is, he will make a full recovery and be back on the ice again. The bad news, at least for Michigan fans is that it will likely not be for the Wolverines, but for the Anaheim Ducks, whom Kampfer was drafted by in 2007. He will take a medical redshirt this season and probably go right to Anaheim for the 2009-2010 season.

As for Mike Milano, the senior walk-on running back who is the alleged perpetrator of the incident. He has be suspended indefinitely from the football team. Word is he attacked Kampfer from behind with little or no warning, and not an honest fight that it was first reported to be. If that is the case, not only does that make this whole thing worse for Milano, but it makes him a coward. If it were up this blogger, he'd never see the field again. This is a despicable act, and surely this guy is not worthy of wearing the maize & blue.

We hope for nothing but a speedy recovery for Steve Kampfer, and that he get's back on the ice as soon as possible.

Rebuking the Fall of the Blue Empire

First of all, I love that Michigan gets referred to as the "Blue Empire". I would've liked to have worked that into my blog's title back in the day, had I come up with it.

Our Penn State colleague from "Nittany White Out" has posted an article basically kicking the proverbial "dead horse". Each week we get to play a school who's fans and bloggers will most certainly take a easy jab at Michigan. Let's face it, Michigan is a big target for jealous pundits who wished their teams were held in such high regard year-in and year-out as the maize & blue.

Yeah, I just said that.

Penn State blogs, obviously, are no different.

In his article, NWO points to Michigan as the cause of all of the criticism that the Big Ten has endured for the past two years for not being considered a top conference. Citing such losses as Appy State and....um, well...er...just Appy State I guess. Anyway, his argument is that Ohio State's losses to SEC opponents in BCS Title games is nothing compared to the loss Michigan suffered on Sept. 1, 2007.

So sure Ohio State’s loss to Florida in 2006 was humiliating, but not conference damaging. What exactly led to the backlash the Big Ten is receiving right now?

That team up north.

The 2006 title game came and passed. Ohio State was considered to be in a rebuilding year, never in a million years did anyone foresee them making it to a second consecutive national title appearance, but it was Michigan who everyone considered a championship front runner ranked as high as #5 to start their season who the Big Ten has to blame.

How any top 5 team in the nation loses to a Div-IAA is beyond me, but why did that team have to come from the Big Ten? Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled beyond imagination for the upset (in addition to everyone else out there), but the ramifications were devastating for the conference.

Ok, ok.

It's clear Charlie is not exactly playing with a full deck. tOSU's losses to Florida/LSU was not conference damaging? Really? Did you not read a blog or pick up a newspaper after those games?

But of course I won't, and can't disregard Michigan's loss to Appy State or Toledo as anything less than a huge black eye for the B10. No one will argue that. And yes, it is great fodder for opponents to use that to bash our great program.

But I just find it funny how selective memories seem to get over time.

But I digress, Michigan is the reason the Big Ten is suffering the backlash we experience today. From newspaper columns, to blogs to angry threads across this nation, the Big Ten conference has been unfairly judged based on a program that has a rich tradition of pompous behavior and overconfidence which ended up biting them in the ass.

Ohio State provided the debate for critics of the Big Ten (basically fans of any other conference), but Michigan provided all the ammunition. Their consistent failures in the Rose Bowl doesn’t help either.

I look forward to ending the reign of Michigan this Saturday once and for all. It is finally time to put the Wolverine program where it rightfully belongs, at the bottom of the Big Ten pack. For years they have rested on their accolades and history, willing them to undeserved victories and even greater holier than thou attitudes.

We have a "holier than thou" attitude, because when it comes to Penn State, we ARE holier than thou. Sorry Charlie, but it's true. And that's not arrogance, its an 8 game winning streak and a 10-3 all-time record. Pompous you say? Fine, I'll take pompous.

And yes, I totally see your point how losing a couple Rose Bowl games really kills the rest of the conference. Nevermind that it is Penn State, and other 10 teams of the Big Ten that get an even share of the 8 million dollars or so that Michigan got for going to each of those Rose Bowls. That extra financial boost for the programs of the B10 are really a bitch!

However, all sarcasm aside, my personal allegiances to fellow B10 teams, and how I feel they are received by the national media are well documented. I am not naive enough to believe that any one team can dictate an entire conference's public image.

College football is a zero-sum game. When one wins, someone loses. Unfortunately for Michigan, their demise comes at a time when there are plenty of contenders for their spot and they will soon realize after this season that getting back to the top is not as easy as it looks.

Welcome to Big Ten football Rich Rod. If you thought the Big East was tough, you’re in for a world of hurt this Saturday. 12 years of frustration with Lloyd Carr will be unfairly thrown in your face. Its about time someone in the Big Ten gave you a proper thank you for dragging our conference through the mud these past 2 years. Word of advice, bring extra lube.

Demise, I love it. Our third potential losing season since 1967 and its the "demise". And of course, NWO makes it sound like the rest of the Big Ten is just frothing at the mouth for Michigan's vaunted righteousness. However, from where I stand, I don't see any Big Ten teams giving Michigan or Ohio State a run for their money when it comes to perennial conference leadership.

Is it Iowa? No.

Is it Wisconsin? No.

Is it Penn State? Prior to 1993, everyone thought it would be, but since then, lesser almost every year.

Is it Purdue or Michigan State or Illinois? No. No. No.

To further iterate my point, let me ask you a question. What do you think is honestly the bigger story right now...Penn State being good? Or Michigan being bad?

Steve Kampfer's Head Bashed in by Mike Milano

In what can only be described as a "major altercation", Michigan hockey player Steve Kampfer got into it with Michigan football RB Mike Milano early Sunday morning. Apparently, the two began fighting and Milano body-slammed and smashed Kampfer's head into the sidewalk.

Police say Milano was accompanied by two other men.

The end result, from what I hear, is a cracked skull. Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson said that Kampfer would be out for quite a while.

The Ann Arbor police have not released any specific details and athletic department has yet to comment.

I'm sure this is not the last we'll hear of this.

Big Ten Weekly Pick-em: Week 8

Last week I was sideswiped by a couple losses. Most notably, the debacle in Ann Arbor, but also by Illinois losing to Minnesota. Why is Illinois so bad every week and then they look amazing again my beloved maize & blue?

Rhetorical, don't answer that.

Anyway, I have no idea where I rank, but assume it's towards the bottom of the BTB Pick'em standings. Hey, what can I say, when I see a team perform well one week, I assume they'd perform well the next. Call me crazy!

So, lets have a look at this week's B10 games.

Purdue @ Northwestern, 12:00 PM, ESPN2
I'm going with the Wildcats here. Purdue is ripe for a big win against a good team. And they are getting NW at the perfect time, right after a big loss at home. But all things the same, I'm going with NW because I think they have better coaching and better athletes. Plus they'll have the home team advantage. And Purdue is really bad. NW wins by a couple scores.

Wisconsin @ Iowa, 12:00 PM, BTN
Oh my how Wisconsin has fallen. They've fallen apart faster than Iowa did a couple years ago. 3 straight losses, one to Michigan on the road and two to big teams at home have left this team reeling. But they will save some face this week by beating a bad Iowa team. It should be a good close game though.

Ohio State @ Michigan State, 3:30PM, ABC
The game of the week fo sho! This will be a good one. Like I've been saying, tOSU is not that great, and Michigan State has every chance to get a big win here. The East Lansing faithful will be out in force. This one will be great fun to watch. I like Sparty in this game, purely based on the fact that they're at home, and I hate tOSU. Hopefully MSU wins a close one.

Indiana @ Illinois, 8:00 PM, BTN
A rare night game for the Big Ten Network. However, no chance this will be as close as I think it will. Illinois just can't play as bad as last week with the players that have...especially Juice Williams. Indiana is not good at all, so Illinois should have their way with them. But now that I've said that, it will probably go the other way. But I'll still take the Illini, comfortably.

Michael Rosenberg: FAIL

Detroit Free Press columnist Michael Rosenberg's latest piece of crap entitled "Rich Rodriguez has failed so far at U-M", is yet just another glimpse into why he and so many other sports writers are going the low road when it comes to writing about Michigan football.

Rich Rodriguez may yet restore Michigan to Big Ten supremacy. He might win a national title and justify athletic director Bill Martin’s decision to hire him.

In the meantime, this needs to be said:

Rodriguez has done an awful coaching job this season. Michigan is 2-4 and just lost to Toledo, which should never happen.
I'm all for scrutinizing, and I'm even all for being downright judgmental, but when it comes to bombarding a first year football coach implementing a new system with a team that has mostly freshman at offensive skill positions, let's give the guy at least a year before we throw him under the bus.

And...where does it say that Michigan should never lose to a school like Toledo? We lost to Appy State last year, we barely escaped Ball State in 06, stop pretending that Michigan is "holier than thow" when it comes to playing lesser opponents. It's that same attitude that leads to epic collapses in the first place!
Rodriguez talks about “building” the program. But literally no college football program in history was built as solidly as the one he inherited. U-M has been to 33 consecutive bowls, and that number would be 40 if the Big Ten could have sent more than one team to a bowl before 1975. Since 1968, Michigan had lost more than four games in a season only twice: in injury-ravaged campaigns in 1984 and 2005.
Please Michael, don't go back to the record book to argue the greatness of a program. When Michigan plays someone, they don't play the game with record books. This isn't Notre Dame. It's a loose argument to begin with, even for Michigan who holds so many records. Using that argument makes you sound uninformed and like a old crazy coot.

The Michigan program is built solidly, that is why this rebuilding process will happen so quickly.

Look, I get it, Michigan fans are pissed to new levels right now, and Michael is not as stupid as he seems. He knows that it any article calling the coach a failure and new system a joke will get the clicks and drive the newspaper's readership. Have to cater to the reader, right? Forget about moral objectivity...leave that to schmucks like me who don't care about page views or income.

Michael Rosenberg, you're a terrible writer. And to illustrate that point, your final paragraph of the article...
Rodriguez might win big. He is six games into his Michigan tenure, and it would be foolish to give up on him after six games. He might win championships when he gets “his guys” into “his system.” But the guys who are already here should have a much better record, and that falls on the head coach.
You wrap up the article basically on the other side of the arguments you spent the whole article trying to make. You harp on how many upperclassmen left the program, even though that argument was getting old by last June. You compare him to Lloyd Carr who spent 27 years at Michigan and didn't change a thing the whole time he was there.

But as soon as Rodriguez comes in and starts the biggest change in Michigan football history and losses 4 of his first 6 games, you call him out as a failure in your headline, and then wrap up the article by saying how foolish it would be to give up on him after only 6 games.

Which is it Mike?

Threet vs. Pryor

Sometimes, stats have a way of making you scratch your head.

As of Oct. 4, Michigan has played Steven Threet in 5 games so far this year. Terrelle Pryor has seen action in 6 games. And based on stats up until 10/4/08, Steve Threet has ranked higher in total offense than Maurice Clarrett 2.0.

Steven Threet
Games Played In: 5
Rush Yards: 99
Pass Yards: 653
Plays: 156
Total Yards: 752
Yards/Play: 4.8
Yards/Gm: 150.4

Terrelle Pryor
Games Played In: 6
Rush Yards: 312
Pass Yards: 440
Plays: 127
Total Yards: 752
Yards/Play: 5.9
Yards/Gm: 125.3

Not shocking numbers, and of course Pryor has less plays with the same number of total yards, but Threet has played in one less game, so I consider it a wash. But Michigan has been awful this year with the #109 ranked offense in the country. How is it that a transfer from Georgia Tech at a struggling school can have the same offensive output as the greatest recruit of all-time?

These stats are as of 10/4/08.
Source: cfbstats.com

Stats for Game 6: Toledo

Dear Fair-Weather Fans: Bye!

We lost to Toledo.

No matter whether I said we would cover the spread, or win comfortably, the fact is that we lost to Toledo. Similar to Appalachian State a year ago, this loss hurts, bad. It hurts because we lost the game ourselves. Again, just as in the past 3 games, turnovers were the killer. And that's not an excuse. We turned the ball over on dumb bonehead plays.

A loss like this is not just the result of one mistake or one key element not functioning they way it should. Losses like this are the culmination of a number of things.

Here, we will take a look at what I believe is the 3 keys to the loss.

Play Calling
I know Rodriguez get's a pass for now because he's a new coach, and has a ton of new players. But that doesn't mean the play calling has to be terrible. Way too many times we ran plays that just made zero sense. Like running an option up the middle on a 3rd and long. If that play had been working all day, then maybe it would make sense. But Toledo had that figured out from the first series (a 3 and out). It wasn't working no matter how many times we ran it.

We didn't make passes down field, at least not until we had to at the end of the game. Steven Threet didn't have his favorite target with Martavious Odoms out, but he did have Stonum and Matthews. Needless to say, when Sherridan came into the game, his biggest pass was to Sam McGuffie.

I know we don't have the best QBs in the nation, but at least take a shot down field. The worse than can happen is a pic, but that happened anyway. What it can do is open up the running game and screen pass game. Toledo blitzed all day, which really screwed us up. We had no ability to block for our QB or RBs because Toledo knew we'd only run up the middle or throw out to the flats. Their safeties were basically linebackers.

Defense
I know the defense didn't give up a touchdown, which is great. But they kept Toledo's offense on the field all day. Toledo threw the ball 50 times in this game. And they did so because we played a soft zone against their WRs on 1st and 2nd down, and finally on third down, we'd switch over to a man-to-man which typically worked, but not always well enough to stop them short of the first down line. They were 8 for 18 on third down, compared to our 3 for 13. That's what happens when a team faces 3rd and short situation instead of 3rd and long like Michigan did all day.

Everyone in the stadium knew their QB would roll out right and throw an out pass to Nick Moore. Michigan had a better yards-per-completion, which is good, but we had 18 less completions.

Offensive Line
No question, with more time, Steven Threet of Nick Sherridan would be able to better execute this offense (okay, maybe Threet might). I don't question the effort. But I think it just comes down to ability to gel and gain experience playing together. Let's face it, we know the OL doesn't have experience, and the lineup has been juggled every game due to injuries. Those aren't excuses, it's just the way it is.

Look, I know there are many Michigan fans out there who are cursing this team and saying that they're the worst team in the last 40 years. So what? Maybe they are. But the fact is this is the team we have now, and crying about it won't make it any better.

I am getting so sick and tired of the fair-weather Michigan fans base. I remember last year being at the Appy State game and witnessing the shock and then fallout of that mess. But a week later, against Oregon, the fans booed the team and started leaving at halftime. Back then, I just assumed people were pissed because they knew that Michigan was capable of so much more, but just didn't perform.

Now, we're not capable of so much more. We're an offense of freshman and a first year coaching staff. It makes me sick to be at the games and hear people constantly booing. But the nice thing is, when the game finally ends, the people left in the stadium are the real fans. They didn't walk out in the third quarter.

If you have somewhere better to be, then go. Don't waste your time. Michigan, and their real fans don't not want you there anyway. But what really pisses me off, is when this team gets it together, you'll be right back on that bandwagon pretending that you've been there the whole time.

And for those of us who stayed to see KC Lopata miss that field goal wide left, rest assured, there will be better days.

It's so easy to be a critic right now and point out all of the things that Michigan did wrong. It's so easy to say that Rodriguez should be fired. It's so easy to say that this is the worst Michigan team in 40 years...

But what is not easy is getting back up and starting the hardest part of your schedule. But that is what the Michigan players and coaches have to do. Whether we like it or not, it doesn't get any tougher than this week at Penn State.

If you're one of those fans that only likes Michigan when they win, don't bother to watch. They won't win. But if you believe in this team and want to be able to say in two years when things are better, that you stuck with this team through the tough times, than throw on that maize t-shirt and at 4:30 on Saturday, cheer for Michigan. Because, as we all know, it's not going to get any easier.

The only thing I can say to you today is...be a fan. There is no time in the past 40 years of Michigan football more than now, that Michigan needs its fans.

I have no poetic way to wrap this up with my humble words. Instead I leave you with a quote from Thomas Paine, one of the founding fathers of this nation, as he described the Revolutionary War in a collection of articles entitled "The Crisis". This quote is from his first article.
These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.

Toledo Preview

Basics
Who: Michigan v. Toledo
When: October 11, 2008, 12:00 PM
Where:
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
TV
: Big Ten Network
Radio
: Michigan Sports Network
Series:
0-0
Last Meeting: First Meeting Ever
Rankings: Michigan - NR / Toledo - NR

Program Background

Conference: Mid-American Conference
Head Coach: Tom Amstutz
Off. Coordinator: Chris Hedden
Off. Scheme:
Def. Coordinator: Tim Rose
Def. Scheme:
2008 Record: 1-4 (1-1)
Last Game: Lost to Ball State 31-0

With all due respect to the celler-dwellers from the Mid-American Conference, this isn't exactly an exciting match up. Toledo comes into this game with a 1-4 record, and while you can argue that they've played some good teams so far (Arizona, Fresno State, FIU, Ball State), it still doesn't make up for the fact that this Toledo team just isn't that good.

But that's not to say that there aren't good teams in the MAC. Let me be honest, I would not want to play Ball State or Western Michigan right now.

The last I saw, Michigan was favored by 13. For a Michigan team that also is not very good, a double digit spread is saying something.

Rich Rodriguez, at the post-game presser last week talked a lot about how dissapointed he was in himself and his teams executiuon. On Monday, after watching the game tape, he called his team soft. Defensive coordinator Scott Shafer said that he was out-coached by the Illinois staff.

There is no way Michigan will come out flat in this game. Call it a warm-up game if you want, but what I think it is, is a chance for Michigan to prove to itself that it can still play for a conference title. That they really aren't as bad as they looked last week.

On paper, this game looks like it will be close.

Total Yards
Michigan - 299.8 (109th)
Toledo - 335.4 (95th)

Passing Yards
Michigan - 177 (100th)
Toledo - 193 (93rd)

Rushing Yards
Michigan - 122.8 (88th)
Toledo - 142.4 (66th)

Points Scored
Michigan - 20.6 (98th)
Toledo - 25.4 (40th)

If anything, it looks like Toledo has the edge.

But that's on paper. In reality, Toledo is not a very good football team. They had a pretty bad scandal in the off-season in a point-shaving incident. And that left the team with a pretty bad taste in their mouths. Their head coach, Tom Amstutz, who probably pushes 400+ pounds, is lucky to have a job...and most likely won't after this season is over.

This will be the first ever trip for the Rockets into the Big House. And while they may play with a renewed sense of ambition, they are not anywhere near the same level of fit and condition as Michigan is. There is just no way they can play with the same sense of urgency that Michigan will. Rodriguez, McGee and Shafer will not be out-coached two weeks in a row, especially by a corrupt staff from a mediocre MAC school.

I expect this game to go very well for Michigan, especially on defense. They have something to prove this week after letting Juice Williams tear them up last week.

Toledo QB, Junior #11 Aaron Opelt will be under fire all day long. While he comes into this game with 2 years of playing experience, it is likely he has never played a defense this veteran before.

Opelt's favorite target is Junior WR Stephen Williams. He has 35 catches for 339 yds and 5 TDs.

The Rockets are led by Junior RB DaJuane Collins. He has 371 yds on just 50 carries and has 4 TDs.

So, statistically speaking, Toledo has some playmakers. But it is on defense that everything falls apart.

Scoring defense alone is almost enough to tell the tale. They give up a rediculous 35.8 ppg (111th). 171.4 yds on the ground (90th) and better on defense with 200.2 yds per game through the air (55th), with a total defense giving up 371.6 total yards (77th).

While there will be some that will predict a loss for Michigan simply based on principal, or the performance last week against Illinois, I personally feel that Michigan will come out on fire in this game and blow past Toledo.

I can't explain it, but it's just a feeling. Michigan needs, and deserves a big win, and hopefully this will be it. Because frankly, it may be the last chance we have this year to do so.

Thursday Link-a-thon

Just a few quick links for your Thursday morning.

• MBN is now on Facebook! That's right kids, head on over to our custom page on Facebook and become a fan of Maize & Blue Nation!

• Freshman TE Kevin Koger is as surprised as anyone to find himself in the starting role now, has been given the nickname "Greg Oden" by his teammates. Find out why.

• RB Carlos Brown and WR Junior Hemingway are still out for this week.

• Freshman WR Martavious Odoms is drawing some huge praise from Rich Rodriguez for his hard work a toughness...although he fumbled a kickoff and suffered a sprained shoulder against Illinois and is questionable for this week. He practiced yesterday, but wore a green no-contact uniform.

• The line is getting closer to what Rodriguez believes to be the starting 5. The line has been shuffled feverishly in the first 5 games, mostly because of injuries, but also because we're still trying to figure out who is good enough to start. Right now Rodriguez feels that Perry Dorrestein, Mark Ortmann, David Molk, David Moosman and Steve Schilling are the starters he's going to try and stick with for the rest of the season.

• DE Brandon Graham (leg infection) and LB Austin Panter (shoulder) are both out this week.

• What can only be a good sign leading up to the Toledo game..."We had one of our better Tuesday practices of the season," Rodriguez said. "A little more aggressive, a little more physical. I really liked the intensity." Tuesday's are typically a full-pads, full-contact practice.

A MAC Grad in a Big Ten Border Town

I won't hide it, I was born and raised in the state of Ohio. I grew up in a small quaint suburb of Toledo. I went to college at Bowling Green State University. It wasn't bad really. We had a decent football team while I was there. We had Urban Meyer, before he sucked. We had Josh Harris. We beat Missouri a couple times, we beat Northwestern a couple times. Went to a couple bowl games. We were even ranked for a while. There we lots of newspaper headlines that read "Un-Falcon-Believable!". It was great.

But I never grew up wanting to be a BGSU fan. Don't get me wrong, MAC schools are great, but they lack the feeling that you can only get with a powerhouse school like Michigan or Ohio State.

I grew up in a house divided. Half of my family was die-hard Buckeye fans with tickets to every game, and the other half of my family was Michigan fans, with tickets to every game. It was conflicting to say the least.

But Toledo is a rarity in Ohio. It's a pure border town. And as much as people don't realize it, there are just as many Michigan fans in Toledo as there are tOSU fans. But my proximity to Ann Arbor eventually won me over, and I became a Michigan fan for life.

Toledo is a odd place. There are so many ways you can go, sporting-wise. You can be a Michigan fan, Ohio State fan, Toledo or BGSU fan. You can like the Tigers, Indians or Reds. You can like the Lions, the Browns or the Bengals. You can cheer for the Pistons or the Cavs. And recently, you now have a choice of either the Red Wings or Blue Jackets. The only pro sports you have in Toledo itself are the Mud Hens minor league baseball or the Storm (now the Walleye), a minor league hockey organization.

So for me, I took to the sports teams up north. Which was a good move because now I live in Michigan. But for me, Ohio sports just seemed lame. And that's probably not the case, but to me at the time, it just seemed that way.

But when the Toledo Rockets take on the Michigan Wolverines this weekend at the Big House, it will be the first ever meeting between the schools who are separated by about 50 miles. That makes this game very special, for both teams. I think in the 20s the Rockets played Michigan's B-Team though.

Either way, it's only fitting that I am attending this game with my family. And also attending this game will be Toledo mayor Carty Finkbeiner. Yes, the same guy who became famous years ago when he proposed that the city should move all of the deaf people to live out near the airport. He's an odd bird, but regardless..Carty is a huge Michigan fan and has been a season ticket holder for many years. He's also a good friend of Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez.

So who's he cheering for? It's a tie.

Look, I know that a year or two from now no one will remember this game (unless Michigan plays as bad as they did last week), but for a kid who grew up in Toledo and was a huge Michigan fan, this game will be pretty neat. I hope Michigan wins of course, but at the end of the day, I hope the people of Toledo and fans of the Rockets enjoy the experience all the same.