Thanksgiving

There is a Big Ten Bloggers roundtable post sitting my outbox. Off The Tracks, a Purdue Boilermaker's blog brings us 4 questions that basically just ask you how the season went, how the Big Ten fared, and how in the hell is your team going to beat Penn State next year. While usually I am ripe for a roundtable, this week is different. My apologies to OTT.

Five straight losses to your biggest rival will do that to you.

It's not that I am lazy or anything like that. I just feel different. I am not going into this off-season with the attitude that the world is ending, like maybe I thought I should have. Let's face it, 9 losses, 6 of which were in the Big Ten has done something to me. Maybe I'm just getting older. Losses don't kill me the way they used to. It's not that I care any less, I just know it's not the end of the world.

But I'm okay with that.

I really was hopeful that the Ohio State game would go very differently. If for no other reason that maybe I thought this team was owed it somehow. But it most certainly doesn't work that way. Sports sucks like that sometimes. Not every team that tries, wins. Not everyone goes home with a trophy. And for some, it's just the opposite.

Thanksgiving is tomorrow. What a time for reflection.

Any hope that somehow we would right the ship in Columbus was just absurd. And unfortunately for me, it took a 42-7 pounding to fully understand that. The things that are holding this team back have nothing to do with will-power and effort. It was proven in more than a couple games this year that Michigan simply lacks the skill and experience.

And I'm okay with that, too.

Why? Because it will change.

I am a perpetual Michigan optimist. We could be heading into Columbus 0-11 and I'd still find at least 3 keys to victory. I'd manage to siphon some bleak advantage that Michigan has, and turn it into a 14 point swing. God help me.

But for some reason, I'm even okay with that.

It's what makes me realize that everything is the way it's supposed to be. I've been devoting way too much time to this football program over the past 15 years that it's just sick. Anyone who's as devoted to something that shows absolutely no devotion in return, has something wrong with them. The amount of time/money/calories burned for really no good reason is foolish. Yet I keep doing it. I go to games. I watch on television. I blog about it incessantly.

And I'm okay with that.

So, maybe as this week will have a slightly deeper meaning to it than I first thought it would. I hate to think that nothing has been learned from this season of struggles. But I've been a football player on a bad team. And to my credit, I've also been a football player on a good team. So it surely seems that, like they all say, you learn more about yourself in times of hurt and than it times of glory. If that's the case, by the time Michigan takes the field next season, they'll know everything about themselves that they ever wanted to know.

I could sit here and write every day for the next 9 months about how much better next year will be. But if that's what it takes for me to make it until then...then I'm okay with that.

Because that's what I do.

And that, is what I'm thankful for, right now.

Sideline Brawl

Well, I remember only bits of this year's game against tOSU. I've tried as hard as I can to block most of it from my memory. But one part that stands out is the scuffle that ensued in the first quarter on the Michigan sideline.

Let me set the scene. It is stil 0-0, 1st quarter. Michigan had already intercepted Pryor, but missed the subsequent field goal try. As Michigan went on defense, there was confusion as to who should be on the field.

Michigan calls a timeout to figure it out. As the team trots over to the sideline, there is a visible altercation between S Charles Stewart and what looks to be a Michigan coach.

As it turns out, and aside from what the ABC commentators (see: ass clowns) were telling you, it is not a Michigan coach, per se. The man who was grabbing the facemask of Stewart and pushing him was some low-level strength and conditioning coach, who for some reason needed to be on the sideline. He was in a Michigan coaching Adidas jacket, and had a visible sideline pass, so I can see the assumption that it was a coach of some sort.

I could go into great amazing detail on this, but someone has already done that for me. Not only does Spawn of MZone give a detailed description of the event, but they back it up with audio/visual representation. Have a look see.

Who's Leaving, Who's Staying, Who's Coming

Well, usually we do that after the bowl season, but since there is no bowl season...we'll do it now. Let's take a good look at who's going to be leaving due to graduation, NFL, or attrition.

Leaving Offense:

QB - 0
RB - 0
FB - 0
WR - Z. Babb
TE - M. Massey
OL - C. Zirbel

As you can see, not much action on offense. Maybe one of the first times the board has looked this bare in years. For a program on the mend, this is a welcome sight. Mike Massey is done because he's a 5th-year senior. Cory Zirbel is going to miss his senior year due to a knee injury he sustained in the pre-season this year. His injury was at first suspected to be a season-long injury, but as it turns out, it will likely end his career. He has agreed to come back next season as a student-coach.

Leaving Defense:

DT - W. Johnson, T. Taylor, J. Kates
DE - T. Jamison
LB - J. Thompson, B. Logan, A. Panter, A. Chambers
S - S. Edwards, C. Stewart, B. Harrison
CB - D. Dutch, M. Trent

We lose starters at almost every position. The defensive front takes the biggest hit with most guys leaving. The good news is that the only underclassman worth NFL consideration, DE Brandon Graham, has told Rodriguez that he'll be back next year.

Also taking a hit is the defensive backfield. Now, most might consider losing our safeties and Morgan Trent a very good thing. And I can see where they're coming from. Although I think it was a combination of the coverage package along with the lack of talent that crippled our secondary this year. We ran way too much zone. But either way, we're rebuilding in those two key areas.

Leaving Special Teams:

K - J. Gingell, K.C. Lopata
P - 0
LS - S. Griffin

Losing two kickers is never a good thing, even if they're not standouts.

So, who's left you might ask? Here's the members of the offense who saw action this season that will likely start/play considerable time next year.

Returning Offense:

QB - HA!
RB - B. Minor, C. Brown, S. McGuffie, M. Shaw
FB - M. Moundros
WR - L. Savoy, G. Matthews, T. Clemons, M. Odoms, D. Stunum
TE - K. Koger
OL - D. Moosman, M. Ortmann, S. Shilling, P. Dorrestein, J. Ferrara, D. Molk

Obviously, our QB situation is totally up for grabs. One thing I am sure of, Nick Sheridan will never leave the sideline, and Steven Threet will only be used in event of an apocalypse.

The RB situation is in good shape with what's coming back. As is the FBs and TEs. I'd like to see a little more movement in the WR corps, we have bodies in there...but we need some play makers to emerge. And of course everyone up front comes back, hopefully bigger, stronger and faster.

Returning Defense:

DT - R. Sagesse, M. Martin
DE - C. Butler, B. Graham
LB - O. Ezeh, J. Mouton, B. Herron
S - S. Brown
CB - D. Warren, T. Woolfolk

Hmm. Defense is a mystery to me. I really think we can get back to where we were at this year with the defensive front within a year or two. I like Martin a lot. Segesse saw some action this year as well which should bode well for his future role up front.

Carson Butler's move to DE was actually a pretty decent move. He saw some action late in the season, and looked OK. With Brandon Graham coming back, that is a huge lift for this position.

Linebacker is not going to change too much. The core unit will return.

And like we said before, the backfield gets hardest hit. I think Donovan Warren can be three times the CB that Morgan Trent was. Troy Woolfolk saw some action at CB, and hopefully will get better in the off-season. And Stevie Brown, while kind of small, plays a decent safety spot.

Returning Special Teams:

K - B. Wright
P - Z. Mesko
LS - G. Morales

Pretty obvious that Mesko is the MVP of this unit. Wright is the only kicker with experience we have coming back. And while I don't think Morales saw action this year in the long-snapper position, he's listed in the depth chart behind senior Sean Griffin...so I put him on here.

So, the next obvious question is...who's coming in?

Good question. It's a bit of a slippery slope, because I really don't know how good any of these guys really are. I know how good people say they are, but I've never watched them. All I can go by is Rivals rankings and star values. This is a mix of both current freshman who haven't played much this year/at all this year, and incoming freshman for the class of 09 that could make an impact next season.

Incoming Offense:

QB - S. Beaver, T. Forcier
RB - J. Gallon, F. Toussaint
FB - 0
WR - J. Feagin, R. Roundtree, D. Peace
TE - 0
OL - R. Barnum, D. O'Neill, M. Schofield

Good news Michigan fans, two new QBs are on the way for the 09 season...and they are both good. How good? Well, Rivals has them ranked both in the top 10 of 2009 dual-threat QBs list. I watched a high school highlight video yesterday of Forcier...and he's got both speed and a good arm.

Toussaint is a highly touted RB from Youngstown, OH. He's the #9 ranked all-purpose back in the nation. He and Gallon provide yet even more good depth at the already loaded RB position.

WR is a spot where there is potential for huge gains. Like I said, we have bodies, but no play makers. Hopefully with the addition of Feagin in the slot position, and Peace and Roundtree, Michigan can get better at the wideout spots with Matthews and Stonum.

OL is a place where we can only get better. The 08 edition of the line was very suspect. We had huge losses in personnel last off-season, and it showed. Couple that with bad injuries this year and you have the perfect storm. Hopefully the addition of O'Neill and Schofield can add some depth to an already young starting 5.

Incoming Defense:

DT - P. Graves
DE - A. LaLota, C. Roh
LB - M. Evans
S - I. Bell, V. Emilien, J. Turner
CB - B. Cissoko, J. Floyd

Defense will need to get good, fast. We have some real potential play makers on this crew. Guys like Graves, and all of the defensive backs may be counted on early to make an immediate impact. I think the incoming freshman, Cissoko and Floyd can improve our ability to defend the pass. Hopefully we won't skip a beat with the loss of most of our DBs from this year.

Incoming Special Teams:

K - B. Gibbons
P - 0

The one and only kicker on the way in is Brendan Gibbons. He's a two-star kicker from West Palm Beach, FL. He will likely be counted on right away to handle the kicking duties.

So there you have it. Is this the definitive list of who's who among leaving/returning/incoming Michigan players...not even close. But this is the best I can come up with right now. Odds are many many many things will change between now and September 5, 2009. But this should give you a better idea of where things stand.

Incoming: Vladimir Emilien

That's right. Just off the heals over a disappointing loss to tOSU, we get the off-season off on the right foot with a big commitment for the 2009 class.

Vladimir Emilien (6-1, 186), a four-star defensive back from Lauderhill, FL has made Michigan his selection. Michigan beats out such schools as tOSU, Minnesota, Tennessee, Stanford, Florida and Wisconsin.

Welcome Vladimir!

And Then...Depression Set In

Fire Rodriguez!

Fire Scott Shafer!

Is this really what this has come to?

Since when have Michigan fans been replaced with Detroit Lion fans? Are things really that bad? I'm more embarrassed by the fans right now than I am with the performance of the football team.

Look, we all know Michigan is not a very good team this year. It may be worse than most thought it would be. But where are all the people who said they'd give this coaching staff at least 2 years? I get that 3-9 is awful. It's the worst record Michigan has ever had. Yet...we've been very close (within one score) in the 2nd half in every game we've played this year, aside from ND. For a team that is basically full of freshman playing an offense that is totally foreign to them, that ain't all bad.

Although I can see where these idiot Michigan fans are coming from, I do not see how you can just call for the immediate firing of whatever coach you feel is most responsible. When Michigan wins, they win as a team. And when they lose, it's as a team. I don't care what year it is or what their record is. You don't just fire a coach because he lost to your biggest rival. That's ridiculous.

I could launch into a whole dissertation about Rodriguez and how successful he will be here at Michigan in the next few years, but I just don't have the energy to do so. I've been writing that all year long.

All I will say is, Rodriguez + Shafer + Barwis + time = Total domination.

The only thing that will keep me sane this off-season is the fact that I know Michigan is really just a few steps away from making it work. We just need to get better. And it will happen in the off-season. We'll get that QB we so desperately need. Our receivers will get bigger, faster, stronger. Our line will get better. We won't lose anyone on offense to graduation or the draft. We may lose a couple guys who no longer want to be here, but I don't see any potential returning starters leaving.

It sucks big time right now. But it will be better. Next year will be better. But right now we turn our attention to recruiting. And right now, Rodriguez has maybe a better incoming class that Lloyd ever did. In the infancy of a coaching staff and a program that is trying to turn it around, recruiting is the best gauge of how well things are going. Right now Michigan is turning in a top 10 recruiting class. And that with 19 total commitments. With the expected attrition and players graduating, that will open up even more spots. Hopefully we can land William Campbell back on the list to get that illusive 5-star player...which could lead to more signings.

Posts will be a little fewer and far more in between now that the season is over. But just like last year, the off-season will be full of big news, both good and bad. So keep checking back for the latest news.

The Law of the Jungle



Now this is the Law of the Jungle -- as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back --
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

- Rudyard Kipling

Ohio State Preview

It's been a while since I've previewed a team. I think it just got old preparing for game I knew we'd lose. But, since this is my last chance to do a full preview post for the next 9 months, we better take this opportunity.

Basics
Who: Michigan @ Ohio State
When: November 22, 2008, 12:00 PM EST
Where:
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH
TV
: ABC-National
Radio
: Michigan Sports Network
Series:
Michigan Leads 57-41-6
Last Meeting: tOSU 14, Michigan 3
Rankings: Michigan - NR / tOSU - 10

Program Background

Conference: Big Ten Conference
Head Coach: Sir Teflon
Off. Coordinator: Jim Bollman
Off. Scheme: Multiple
Def. Coordinator: Jim Heacock
Def. Scheme: 4-3
2008 Record: 9-2 (6-1)
Last Game: Won @ Illinois 30-20

Just as in almost every Michigan-tOSU game, the team that can run the ball better is the team that usually wins the game.

I'll admit that Beanie Wells is a great running back. But he is at a disadvantage because his offensive line is not as great as he is. Couple that with a very good defensive front for Michigan, it could be a long day for the Buckeye back. But odds are he will be able to get loose at least a time or two. The key will be the play of the linebackers. Michigan should line up in it's usual 4-3. We experimented with the 3-3-5 against Purdue, and we all know how well that worked.

I actually give the rushing advantage to Michigan in this game. But that all depends on the health of our backfield. If Minor is close to 100%, and Carlos Brown is as good as he showed last week...we should be fine. And if guys like McGuffie and Shaw can come in a provide good yards on option/read plays, tOSU might have a difficult time stopping us.

Now, this all could change if right tackle Stephen Shilling is not in the lineup, or plays hurt. That could have a huge impact on the offense as a whole. The OL will have their hands full with tOSU's front 7. They run a 4-3 very similar to ours. They blitz like crazy too. Guys that will have the biggest impact on this game will be guys like FB Mark Moundros. It will be up to the line, and lead-blockers in the backfield to keep running lanes clear.

Ohio State does a few things very well. First of all, they can control the line of scrimmage. They are experienced and tough on defense. They don't turn the ball over, and rarely put themselves into bad situations. They have a turnover margin of +1.27, 2nd best in the Big Ten.

But a few things that Michigan has going for it. We've been much better in the last 2 weeks of moving the ball and keeping the defense off the field. Our time of possession has been much better. Another big plus is that it looks like the playing conditions will be dry. Michigan has struggled in bad conditions. tOSU finally has an artificial field, same as Michigan plays on. So no more of the field coming up in huge chunks like it did in 2006.

In tOSU's 2 losses this year, their offense looked awful. Against USC and Penn State, tOSU has only 3 field goals, and no touchdowns. Now, USC and Penn State are far superior to Michigan this season. But, it is interesting to note that, in losses this season, tOSU averages 4.5 points, while Michigan averages 20.5. In total offense in losses, tOSU averages 247 yards/gm, while Michigan averages 288.4. And, tOSU's turnover margin in losses this year...-2.0.

Moral of the story is, when tOSU struggles, they struggle big time. It all comes down to moving the ball on the ground. They do not have a great passing game. Actually they're ranked last in the conference in passing offense. Their phenom QB Terrelle Pryor is a capable passer and a capable runner. So far, he hasn't done anything that has truly impressed me yet. He'll get there, but I'm still surprised he got the starting nod earlier in the year over QB Todd Boeckman. The senior has a much better arm, but they liked Pryor's size and running ability. So the buck literally starts and stops, with the running game.

I don't care what the records are, there is no clear reason that tOSU should be a 21 point favorite. I don't see where those points are coming from. At least not against this Michigan defense.

Those words could come back to kill me if Michigan gets murdered in C-Bus this weekend. But I don't care. I'm done going through the season with the glass half-empty. This season has weeded out the weak among us. Michigan fans left standing after this season will one day wear the 2008 season as a badge of honor. It will be this season that will make future successes so great.

Michigan can win this game tomorrow. And to do so, we must do three things.

• Win the rushing battle. We must move the ball better on the ground then tOSU does. The winner of this game typically runs the ball better.

• Win the turnover battle. Not an easy task against an experienced squad like this. And Michigan has struggled with turnovers all year.

• No 3rd quarter let down. We've struggled to move the ball, get first downs, and score points in the 3rd quarter. In all of our losses this year, it's been the 3rd quarter were most of our games are lost.

If we can do those things, and do the little things right like tackle well, complete short passes, etc...we'll be right in this game in the 4th quarter...which may be the best we can ask for.

So, call it as you see it. Fundamentals are the key for any team that is struggling. Against Minnesota, we did all the little things right. We were also able to pass the ball well...which did huge things for the running game.

We will see Justin Feagin in this game. Sheridan will start, but Feagin will play...which I think is a good thing. Just please limit those direct to the RB snaps...those never work.

Aside from what the media is telling you, Rich Rodriguez is hyped to be playing tOSU. This whole, "DickRod doesn't understand the tradition of this rivalry," is just crap. He's been coaching college football since 1985. Everyone in the sport knows about Michigan and tOSU.

This coaching staff, this team, this program knows exactly what this game means and how important it is. Trust me, Rodriguez knows that the past 7 Michigan head coaches have beaten tOSU in their first attempt. tOSU knows that too.

And tomorrow, we'll get to see just who wants it more.

It will be tough. It will be hard-hitting and brutal. And maybe, just maybe, it will be one of biggest wins in Michigan football history.

I am not one for giving predictions, but what the hell. I'll say Michigan 24, tOSU 17.

GO BLUE!!!!

McGuffie Back, Will Play

Via The Detroit News, and found on MSC.

It appears Freshman RB Sam McGuffie is back from Texas. He practiced with the team yesterday, and will attend classes this morning before getting on the bus headed for Columbus.

This comes after much speculation, by yours truly, that McGuffie was set to transfer to another school. Certainly there is a much larger story here, and much of it we don't know about. As of Tuesday, Michigan blogger mgoblog, who is usually correct about presumptions such as this, was certain a McGuffie transfer was in the works. And who knows, it still may be. But for now, he will be in uniform, and most likely on the field Saturday.

Michigan assistant head coach Tony Gibson:
He had a great practice, Sam's doing fine, and he's ready to go to Ohio State.

I don't know where the rumors start, who starts it, and why they start. He's back and doing well. He'll be in classes in the morning (Friday) and on the bus heading down to Columbus.

Michigan Basketball Beats UCLA 55-52

The Michigan basketball team got a huge win last night when they knocked off the #4 ranked UCLA Bruins 55-52. No matter how it happened, or whether or not UCLA was overrated, it doesn't matter. This has to be the biggest win for Michigan in years.

But there is no time to celebrate. Michigan gets Duke tonight in the 2K Sports Classic Championship game tonight at 7PM. Duke is also scheduled to come to A2 on Dec. 6. So we'll see them again in a couple weeks.

Either way, it's a great win and big congrats to Beilein and the boys. I don't make it a routine to cover other sports on here, but a win like this is noteworthy. To check out what other blogs, much more invested in basketball, have to say...check out here, here and here.

And, Michigan Sports Center has a video of the final minute of regulation.



Go Blue!

Keep Hope Alive

EDSBS is now officially in my good graces, for no other reason than their post from today that reads the following...
...we had a dream last night, and it did not involve Nigella Lawson covered in Nutella. No, in this dream, Michigan actually beat Ohio State on Saturday.

This won’t happen, as our dreams have an atrocious record at predicting the future. (Still waiting on the hang gliders for dogs we saw in a dream a few years ago, and we haven’t been crushed in an elevator accident…yet.) Remember, though: someone’s getting their head kicked in on Saturday. It’s probably you, but sometimes, people are wrong about those foot-to-head roles.

Keep! Hope! Alive!

Holy Hell, there is actually someone out there who's kind of, half-heartily, in a back-handed compliment sort of way supporting Michigan. Also in their post was a YouTube video...which got me to thinking.

tOSU fans have not seemed this certain about the outcome of a football game since...



This game, of course is not a BCS championship game. Far from it. But it is Michigan's last game of the season. It is our bowl game.

Look, I'm not going into this game thinking we will win. I am curious about how it might feel should we pull off an upset as a 21 point underdog. Crazier things have occurred. But what it really boils down to is giving this program, and it's fans, something to cling to for the off season.

But deep down, even within the blackest of black Buckeye hearts, they know this game is scary. Sure, they may put up the typical confident front, but don't be fooled. The day tOSU fans stop fearing Michigan, is the day Michigan stops playing football.

Almost every Buckeye blog is writing this game off as a win. I'm not counting on it...but how great will it be to rub a huge upset in their faces?

44 hours and counting.

Beat the Bucks! Beat the Bucks! Beat the Bucks!

BTB Weekly Pick'Em: Week 13

While we scored an impressive 12 points last week in the Big Ten Bloggers weekly pick'em league, we could've had 15 if Michigan didn't get screwed out of Donovan Warren's pick 6 in the 3rd quarter.

However, its the final week of the regular season, so we must be on our A-game. This week's pics are:

Indiana @ Purdue, 12:00 PM, ESPN2
Finally! The last game of Joe Tiller's career. And I pick him to win it. He will be at home, his team will be playing with passion. And best of all, they're playing Indiana.

Michigan State @ Penn State, 3:30 PM, ABC
The Big Ten comes down to this. We finally get a conference championship (type) game. I predicted in the pre-season this game would decide the conference title. I think this will be a great game. It will be low scoring, it will be brutally tough. But it should be close. And I like Penn State.

Cal Poly @ Wisconsin, 3:30 PM, BTN
Hmm. Don't know a damn thing about Cal Poly, other than that's where Tom Cruise got a scholarship to play and where Craig T. Nelson was hired to coach in the movie All The Right Moves in 1983. And for that reason alone, I'm picking Wisconsin to win...and win huge.

Illinois @ Northwestern, 3:30 PM, BTN
Maybe one of more interesting matchups that no one really cares about. This could be a very good game. But, no one will be watching. I'll take NW in a coin flip.

Iowa @ Minnesota, 7:00 PM, BTN
I hate Iowa. I think Minnesota will win. That is all.

Oh How I Hate Ohio State

Throw away record books.

Toss out those previous 11 meaningless games.

Forget wins and losses.

Who cares about stats.

It's Ohio State week. And we have some hatin' to do!










Forgive me, but I had to delve into the MBN archives to dig out some of these gems. The Buckstache is obviously a homage paid to the late great MZone, one of the best Michigan blogs ever. They perfected the buckstache, and used it liberally during previous tOSU weeks. It is my duty to continue it's usage however possible.

A couple things I also posted back in the day were some particular YouTube videos of note that I thought were very inspirational. So without further adieu, my YouTube marathon...

Enjoy! And Go Blue!









And the greatest hate-flash ever caught on tape...




Thursday Personnel Update

Lots of news coming out of AA. On the personnel side, #93 DT Jason Kates is no longer with the team. He decided to leave on his own. Unlike the situation with Zion Babb, who was more or less kicked off the squad for consistently breaking team rules. Word is he was caught a number of times texting during team walk throughs. Way to go Babb...way to throw that free education away.

The loss of Kates is unfortunate. If for no other reason that he was 6-2, 339. But I'm

The good is, Michigan landed another recruit. Pearlie Graves (6-3, 260), a defensive lineman from Oklahoma has verbally committed. I don't know too much about him, other than he's a 4-star (Rivals) DL. And if Michigan can reel back in Campbell (5-star DL from Detroit), our issues up front on defense will take a substantial step in the right direction. And not to mention, we love his name!

MSC reports that #38 S Artis Chambers is no longer a Wolverine. This is according to his Facebook status which proclaimed "I am no longer a Wolverine". So there you have it.

On the injury front, some news. Starting right tackle Stephen Shilling sprained a knee at practice Tuesday and is questionable for tOSU this weekend. If he can't go, Perry Dorrestein will start.

QB Steven Threet is most like a scratch for this weekend. Odds are Sheridan will start, but expect to see Justin Feagin get some time. He's been getting a lot of reps at practice this week.

Brandon Minor is "Good to go" according to Rodriguez. He will start, and I assume Carlos Brown who looked pretty good last week will be the backup. Sam McGuffie, who we all thought was done at Michigan is supposed to have returned from Texas yesterday, where he attended a funeral for a family member. Rdoriguez made no comment about rumors that McGuffie might be done...but did say that even if he only gets one day of practice this week, he will be able to play against tOSU. Also, he will handle kick return duties. So take that however you like.

More to come today. Including a Big Ten weekend picks preview, and the much rumored YouTube marathon.

Go Blue!

Michigan - tOSU Statistical Breakdown

All of this McGuffie talk has got to end somewhere. And here it is. We all know he's not going to be on the sidelines this weekend no matter what his future is with the program. He had a family member pass away, and family comes first. If he decides to leave or stay after the season, that is his business. We'll surely keep you informed of what we hear, but for now, it's water under the bridge.

We have a game to play this weekend, and it just happens to be The Game. Everything that Michigan can hang their hat on, so to speak, for the long impending off-season, rests on this game.

Let's just rip the bandage off right away and look at a statistical breakdown of where Michigan and tOSU rank in the Ben Ten. All these stats are game averages of course.



As you can see, tOSU is going to be a heavy favorite. How heavy? How about 21 points? No, seriously. But as we all know, record books and statistics are nice, but rarely do they have an impact in this game. This game is all about emotion. Who wants it more?

More to come soon, including a breakdown of this weeks Big Ten games, and some great YouTube fun to get you pumped for this weekend.

Go Blue.

Okay...Now PANIC! McGuffie is Gone.

Panic seems to be the word now that more and more sources are reporting that McGuffie is no longer with the program. mgoblog is citing 4 more sources.

So...what now? Well, panic if you want to, but we still have a game to play this weekend. And as far as this blogger can tell, no one was expecting McGuffie to play anyway. But with Minor, Brown and Shaw all banged up...it's not looking good at RB.

However, is anyone concerned about Chambers? mgoblog is. Why? Because we're razor thin at LB and S. He may have not had a ton of experience, or any great success in those rolls, but losing a scholarship athlete is never a good thing.

Oh, and FWIW...Criswell, Savoy and Butler are all put on watch. Criswell and Savoy may not be invited back, and it seems Butler's move to another thin position, DE, could be his saving grace as we need bodies in that position right now.

So, nothing but good news coming out of Schembechler Hall. More news at 11.

Exodus?

And...it begins.

Via to Rivals, and of course mgoblog...

According to The Daily, Sophomore WR Zion Babb is no longer with the team. So far that is the only "confirmed" player said to be leaving.

Also rumored to be on the outs...wait for it...

Freshman RB Sam McGuffie, as well as Sophomore LB/S Artis Chambers. How good is this information? According to mgoblog, it's very good. And when Brian says its good, it is.

I Have No Excuse...

...I was out of line. There must be something in the Michigan blogging water, so to speak. Michigan bloggers, at least a few of us have come to the realization that this season has been awful, and blogging about it has sucked. But, my tirade yesterday was very off the cuff and unpremeditated. I just had a moment where I felt very strongly about how this season has gone, and how it has affected me.

There is something to be said about having just everything you know taken away from you. It sucks so bad having to deal with this transition. This season has gone a long way in testing the fortitude of even the most die hard fans. Never has my devotion to this team come into question, but this season has really made me take a step back and realize how much it matters to me. The Michigan fan base is vast. Many have written this year off as a transitional year. Which is fine, they'll come back. And when they do, Michigan fans can go back to having the arrogant stereotype put back on us that we spent so many years perfecting.

I laughed so hard at Notre Dame last year when they went 3-9, as did many other Michigan fans. And now, everyone is laughing at us. Maybe it just goes to show that carma is a bitch. While I don't think the college football Gods have it out for us, there is something to be said for bad gugu. I really didn't see Michigan going 3-9...ever. But fate has a funny way of sneaking up on you.

But, as much as I would like it to be, I am not the story.

This Michigan team is finding itself. It's a longer road than most of us thought it would be, and it's a road lined with brutal truths.

Instead of getting pissed off, like I did yesterday, instead today we are going to get back up and put one foot in front of the other. There is no time for that behavior this week. There is work to do. We are Michigan. We are the proudest and most successful college football team in the country.

This game against tOSU is Michigan's season. There is no comfy January bowl game, or even a "Capital One Bowl Week on ESPN" December bowl game. There is nothing. For the first time in 33 years, Ohio State marks the end of the road.

For some Michigan fans, its been a road that we all knew had to be taken. We knew the shadow of Schembechler needed to be put to rest. Bo is very much, and will always be a integral part of the what it means to coach and play for the University of Michigan. His legacy will live on forever. But change was needed. Even if the change means going 3-9 this year and having to live through a long and brutal off-season. But better things are in-store for our beloved Maize & Blue. And who knows, we just might get to see some of that bright future this weekend.

Also, if I happen to have spoken out of line about Sam McGuffie's reasoning for not playing last week against Northwestern, I sincerely apologize for that. I was not aware he had suffered a loss in his family. Here's to getting him back, however we can, as soon as possible.

Go Blue.

This Sucks

I don't know really where to start this post, so I guess we'll pick it up somewhere between the loss to Toledo and the loss to Northwestern.

Somewhere within that stretch of games, I grew to stop caring about this Michigan team.

When I was 15 or so years old, Michigan football was everything. I would live and die with each and every game. I remember being in Oxford, OH for a parents weekend thing when my older brother was going to Miami of Ohio. I was probably 14 or 15 at the time. It was a cold and miserable weekend, much like this past weekend.

While my brother and my parents were out doing some random college parent weekend thing, I stayed at the hotel to watch Michigan host Purdue. It was a very rainy/snowy sloppy game. Michigan won 3-2. It was one of the most difficult games I've ever watched. But we won, and I was happy. The weekend could be enjoyable now.

Maybe I'm just getting older and wiser, or maybe I've been numbed by experiences like losing 4 times in a row to tOSU, or losing to Appy State. I can't believe the staleness of my love and devotion to this team.

I took for granted the looks of downright frustration on Lloyd Carr's face after a loss. It was like he just wanted to take the microphone and toss it across the room at whatever reporter just asked the last stupid question. I took comfort in the fact that I knew Lloyd was just as pissed off as I was...but could never say it.

His weekly TV show with Jim Brandstater was an exercise in futility. After a loss, I didn't know who to feel more sorry for. Jim, for having to try and sneak a question past the stonewall defensive glare of Carr, or Lloyd for having to go through with this "dog and pony show" in the first place. Under the bright studio lights is the last place Lloyd ever felt comfortable.

But, goddamn...the man could coach a football team.

The Rodriguez era has gotten off to a terrible start. Every worthwhile streak we've been able to cling to over the past 5 years of ineptitude (aside from 2006, sort of), has been totally washed away. Michigan is 3-8. And I can't believe I am saying this, but I could really care less if we lose to tOSU or not.

Why? Because I really am starting to question whether or not Rodriguez and his staff are as pissed off as the fans are? Or, at least want them to be.

My senior year in high school, our football team went 2-8. And we had a first year coach. But we payed dearly for those losses. We ran sprints until we couldn't see straight. Our coaches were honestly mad as hell. They hated our effort, they hated our attitudes...they hated us. And we knew it. But they killed us every week. And in the last game of the season, we won.

I don't know what the feeling is like around the Michigan program right now. I can only hope that it is bad. I really do. I want every player to hate playing for a losing team. I want the coaches to hate the way they have coached these players this year. I want there to be so much animosity between the coaches and players that blood is starting to boil.

I want players to fight at practice.

I want coaches to rip face masks off helmets.

I want Rodriguez to use every fucking bad word he knows.

I want there to be 50,000 empty seats in the Big House.

If McGuffie wants to quit the team, I want him to run off the field with tears in his eyes, crying for mommy, with Rodriguez laughing at him.

It is then, and only then, that this team will get it. Because right now, I do not see one ounce of passion or fight in this team. We spent too much time ooo-ing and ahh-ing over Rodriguez chest-bumping his players in the off-season. Until we walk off the field with a crystal football in our hands, I don't ever want to see Rodriguez chest-bump a player. This isn't camp, this is football.

Until I see ANY sense of fight in this team, I will continue to feel the way I do.

Milano Faces Charges, Will Turn Himself in Today

Via the Daily. They are reporting that former Michigan RB Mike Milano has been charged with two counts of assault, and will turn himself into authorities today. This comes just a few weeks after it was alleged that he was responsible for the beating of Michigan LSA junior and hockey player Steve Kampfer.

The first charge, assault with intent to do great bodily harm, carries with it a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The second charge, misdemeanor aggravated assault, has a maximum 1 year and $1,000 fine.

Somehow, according to Milano's attorney, John Shea...he will turn himself in today, but plead not guilty to these charges.

Milano was suspended indefinitely from the football team last month after word of the incident got out. More on this soap opera as facts come out.

Michigan Gets Screwed, Loses to Northwestern

I don't care who you are, if you watched the Michigan v. Northwestern game on Saturday, you bore witness to maybe the worst officiating calls to affect the outcome of a Michigan game so far this year.

The game was pretty much playing out better than most games have for Michigan this year. The first half was pretty decent. We played within ourselves. Limited turnovers, at least as much as we could on a rain/snow soaked field. The playing conditions were miserable. But we were able to capitalize with a blocked punt by Michael Williams that resulted in a touchdown when the ball was picked up and ran in from the 1 yard line by Ricky Reyes in the second quarter.

But it was the typical 3rd quarter meltdown that put the Wolverines behind. The offense was incapable of moving the football. We started the 2nd half with 3 straight 3-and-outs, and were not able to stop NW as they moved the ball quickly, scoring 2 touchdowns in less than 3 minutes. The second TD was a wide open pass from Bacher to Eric Peterman up the middle for a 53-yard TD that just sucked whatever air was left right out of the stadium.

But the defense stepped up in the 4th quarter. And CB Donovan Warren made one of his best plays at the corner position in the 2 years he's been here. What's unfortunate, is that the refs did not see it that way.

He intercepted Bacher and took off down the sideline. He was untouched all the way to the endzone. But the refs decided to blow the play dead at the 44 yard line, claiming he stepped out. Anyone who saw the replay knew this was a premature whistle. Now, I'll admit he was close, but it was clear his foot never touched the white sideline. ESPN has the perfect angle from the scoreboard cam to show his footing as he took off down the sideline. The ref blew that call. But unfortunately, you can't challenge a ref's whistle. When a play is blown dead, it's over.

The result of the ensuing drive by Michigan was a Threet interception in the endzone that pretty much killed any momentum gained by the Warren interception.

So, as Pam Ward so eloquently pointed out about 3 dozen times on the broadcast on Saturday...Michigan loses it's 8th game of the year, the most losses ever by a Michigan team in one season. Seriously, does anyone suck at commentating more than Pam Ward?

But now, this season comes down to one final game. After the loss to Michigan State, we knew there was only one game left worth playing for. The book has pretty much been written on the 2008 Michigan football team. But the last thing we can do is finish the final chapter with a huge upset win over the Buckeye's in Columbus.

While tOSU is favored to win by 19, it should be noted that a first year Michigan coach has never lost to tOSU. Never. Of course, Rodriguez has had a routine of breaking bad records at Michigan this year.

There are a lot of things to talk about this week. What's up with Sam McGuffie? Who's going to be our starting QB? How will we defend Pryor? These questions, and so much more will be talked about until our faces turn blue this week. Which actually could be a good thing.

BTB Roundtable Roundup - Erin Andrews Edition

We had the distinct pleasure of hosting this week's Big Ten Bloggers Roundtable. For those of you not clear about who the BTBs are, or what the significance of their being an association, please allow me to digress.

I joined the BTBs sometime in the spring of this year. If you take a look at the Big Ten Bloggers logo to the right of this post, there you will find a news feed of the the latest headlines of posts from members of the BTBs.

The significance of this group is to drive up traffic to each other's blogs by not only using this feed, but creating a group atmosphere that will, in turn, help all of us out. That is also why we do these roundtable's each week (almost each week)...to get perspectives of college football from every team's fans perspective.

I took the route of asking questions about broad CFB topics. I think there is a lot of hot-button issues out there in our beloved sport, and I wanted my fellow bloggers' perspective on these topics.

So without further adieu, let's round-up this week's answers.

1) With two weeks left in the season, it's safe to say that most schools have reached the point where the year has been a success or a disappointment. How has your school fared this year in your opinion? Or, is the jury still out?

Michigan bloggers Varsity Blue is most understandably disappointed, and Beauford at Maize n' Brew is so eloquently experiencing the 5 stages of loss.

Sparty blogs ES and G0EL are almost giddy with glee over MSU's sudden success, as is NW blogger Lake the Posts. While Penn State blogger Zombie Nation is not ready to crown his beloved Lions just yet. I think expectations were a tad higher in Happy Valley than in East Lansing this year.

The BBC is both happy and disappointed, but is still confident (shall I say over-confident) that a 4th straight B10 title is inevitable.

And Off the Tracks is not going to lie, Purdue is an unmitigated failure.

2) Is your school heading to a bowl? If so, which one? And if not, WTF?

Easy question for these seasoned bloggers. Michigan, Purdue and Indiana blogs obviously know that next week is the end of the season for them. Zombie Nation is smelling Roses, and still holding out for the backdoor into the BCS title game. Which would really make the BBC happy, because they're smelling roses too, but only with the help of MSU next week.

And let's not kid ourselves, Sparty is going to a new year's day bowl, and that alone is enough to make them happy. With a win in Happy Valley next week...it could be a Big Ten title and a trip to Pasadena, with some help from Big Brother of course.

3) The Big Ten has recently had a hard time getting respect among the national media as a top conference. Has the Big Ten taken a step forward or a step backward in this debate this season?

Easily one of the hot button issues for most BTBs. We want respect. Most blogs agree that the B10 took a step backwards this year. Zombie Nation pretty much nailed it when they said the B10's landmark non-conf win was when they beat Oregon State.

Upper level teams in the Big Ten have no big wins over non-conf foes. And the lesser teams of the Big Ten gauge their success on how they play against the better conference teams. NW is not going to schedule an upper SEC opponent or lucrative deal with USC anytime soon, so Lake the Posts says they need to gauge their own success against teams like tOSU...which makes sense.

Off the Tracks went into painful detail about how in 2007, the B10 had 10 bowl eligible teams, and this year only 7. Thanks in large part to playing a tougher non-conf schedule, and failing miserably.

Many bloggers were quick to point out Michigan/Indiana/Illinois stumbles against MAC teams this year. And while that is true, most blogs agree that this bowl season will be the truest test.

4) Would the Big Ten benefit from adding another school to create two divisions like the SEC, Big 12, ACC and MAC? And if so, which school should be added? Or, should we drop one school?

Interesting thoughts on this one.

While most bloggers felt that adding a team from the Big East (such as Pitt) would be the best option, Varsity Blue is actually in favor of dropping a school (sorry NW), and going to a PAC-10 style round-robin schedule. The ES wants a round-robin, but with 11 Big Ten teams thus, teams would have only 2 chances to suck against non-conf opponents. MnB was in favor of the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" approach, thus the Big Ten would not have to consider this option if they started playing better.

No question adding a team to the Big Ten would create two divisions and a conference title game, that would add the threat of losing another game, thus further hindering the conference.

But I was most surprised by G0EL who thought adding the Redhawks of Miami of Ohio to the conference would be a good idea. Thus reiterating my assumption that there is something in the water in East Lansing.

5) Do you agree with President-elect Obama that college football should have an 8 school post-season playoff?

Most of the responses to this were in agreement. You'd be crazy to think that our current system is just fine. I think we can all agree something needs to be done.

The Hoosier Report likes the idea, but thinks the bowls need to remain intact. Which is the sentiment of pretty much everyone. College football is special, and a big part of that is because of the bowls. Off the Tracks wants 16 teams. And LtP says it can work, just as long as other schools that don't qualify for the playoff, but still have winning seasons, don't just get sent home, but yet to go to a bowl game too.

Varsity Blue was in favor of a 6 team playoff with the top two schools getting a bye the first week. I, personally, like this idea the best.

6a) Who is your favorite network television play-by-play announcer/ color commentator/sideline reporter?

Varsity Blue like the Nessler/Greise duo (without Maguire of course). G0EL, LtP and Off the Tracks like Musburger for some ungodly reason. Zombie Nation likes Nessler, but wants to pair him with Herbie. Hoosier Report went with my personal fav, Ron Franklin. MnB went the obvious route and listed Keith Jackson.

6b) If you listed Erin Andrews, please provide a photo/video to back up your pick.

Ahh yes, the obligatory Erin Andrews mention. Got some goodies from this one.

The BBC:

Zombie Nation:


And finally, Varsity Blue shares an ABSOLUTELY TRUE story about her from EDSBS.

Thanks to those blogs who participated!

Michigan Gets Their Kicker

Hey, what do you know...we're actually adding a someone to the 09 commitment list rather than taking one off.

With Michigan's place kickers both getting a little long in the tooth, Rodriguez needed a kicker somewhere in this year's recruiting class. Well, he just got one.

Brendan Gibbons, from West Palm Beach, FL has signed with Michigan (verbally of course), to come up to the Big House and be a kicker next year.

I don't know anything about him other than he's a 2 star kicker with a Rivals ranking of 5.4. We've updated the board to reflect the changes. More info to come.

BTB Weekly Pick'Em: Week 12

I don't know how I fare in the standings of the Big Ten Bloggers weekly pick'em league. But I'd guess I'm somewhere in the middle of the pack. Either way, pretty much no shot of me winning. But that won't stop me from my weekly preview.

Indiana @ Penn State, 12:00 PM, BTN
Not a sexy game for Penn State, nor will it be a commanding victory, no matter how much they win by. They will win of course. And that's about all that matters for them right now. Wake me up next week when they play Sparty.

tOSU @ Illinois, 12:oo PM, ESPN
Interesting game here. I'm going to take tOSU here, but all I can visualize is Juice Williams having his way with the tOSU defense like he did last year along with former teammate Rashard Mendenhal. This game is a potential trap game for tOSU, as they could be looking past Illinois (again) to their showdown with Michigan next week.

Northwestern @ Michigan, 12:00 PM, ESPN2
I will try and get more of a full-fledged preview up about this game in the next two days, but for now, this will suffice. I can say that I really think Michigan can and should win this game. If they play like last week, and can get the crowd into the game early...NW might not be able to get anything going. Just as long as Michigan focuses on the basics and tries to do the little things right...we should be fine.

Purdue @ Iowa, 12:00 PM, BTN
Another "who cares" B10 game. I'll take Iowa because they beat Penn State. That is all.

Minnesota @ Wisconsin, 3:30 PM, ABC
Ahh, rivalries. The backbone of college football. This game gets B10 top billing this week in the afternoon slot on ABC. Congrats you two. Now do something with it and give us a good game to watch! I'll take Wisconsin in a shootout.

Why WVU Fans are Awesome!

I'm not going to hide my absolute hatred from all things West Virginia. It's only natural to feel a certain way about a school's fan base which is comprised of gun-toting rednecks who like to use death threats to punish any coach who leaves their program for a better school.

The only two good things to ever come out of your horrible state are Fielding Yost and Rich Rodriguez.

Just when I thought I was done thinking about Mountaineer fans and how retarded they are, some jackass posts this video to YouTube and pulls me right back in!



Via MVictors.com.

Dear future potential WVU head coach: If you come here and even consider leaving to coach at a better school, this is what you'll have to endure.

Good luck WVU...bunch of assholes.

Mid-Week Update

We're updating the depth-chart to reveal that QB Steven Threet is highly questionable this week against NW. Also not practicing this week is RB Brandon Minor who was hurt last week.

We're assuming Sheridan will again get the starting nod. While he did play well last week in a 72 degree dome with no wind, that's not to say he might not back up that performance in what can only be considered less than desirable conditions this week in the Big House.

Forecasts are rain, snow, sleet, wind, and maybe even a whispering of plague.

RBs Sam McGuffie and Michael Shaw will see the bulk of the carries this weekend. And, more interestingly, QB Justin Feagin...who showed that he could at least run with the ball last week, should see some more playing time. Possibly with a similar two QB system that we ran last week.

Other than that, we're relatively healthy.

Also, just as we suspected, mgoblog has released his weekly recruiting post. Nothing too drastic to add here. But we brought it up yesterday so I thought I'd link to it.

We didn't have the link to Rodriguez's weekly presser yesterday, so today we'll one-up it and post the video right here. Good things.



And, for all of those interested, Michigan basketball will grace the airwaves on ESPNU tonight at 8PM. UM will host Northeastern tonight at Crisler. Head on over to prolific Michigan hoops blogger UMHoops.com for the full scoop.

And finally, the word on the street is that ABC/ESPN (Disney) is making a strong bid for all of the BCS bowl games to appear on their network. If you recall, Fox (News Corp) currently has the contract with the BCS (except for the Rose Bowl), so this could be a billionaire mogul fight to the death. Rupert Murdoch vs. Robert Iger. Ding Ding!

Tuesday Link-a-Thon

We're just 4 days away from the final home game of the year against the Wildcats of Northwestern. And, I think more importantly, 10 days away from a visit to our favorite B10 foe, the Buckeye's of tOSU. With all that's going on in the world of Michigan football, here's the best of what's out there today.

Michigan Sports Center always impresses us with their rundown of news, a little something they call "Quick Hits"...either way, it's always a good source of info.

This week's game will air on ESPN2 at noon. And for those looking ahead to next week, that game will also air at noon, and will be nationally televised (I assume) on ABC. However, following our embarrassment of tOSU, Penn State will host Sparty at Beaver Stadium at 3:30.

Michigan place kicker K.C. Lopata was named the Big Ten special teams player of the week. His 5 field goals against Minnesota were enough to award him this prestigious honor.

Prolific Michigan football YouTube superstar Wolverine Historian has already posted the video of highlights against Minnesota last week. This guy does a great job, and us Michigan bloggers are all better off for having this guy out there.

Speaking of video, Varsity Blue posted one that clearly shows Obi Ezeh recovered the fumble last week against 'Sota that was eventually ruled to be recovered by a Gopher. Bad call by the refs, one which I'm sure the B10 had a closer look at.

Varsity Blue posted a recruiting update with very little new information about the Maize & Blue. Expect mgoblog to post one within a couple days detailing pretty much the same.

Dave from MnB was live in Austin last weekend for the Texas-Baylor game. As a Michigan fan who married into a Texas family, I fully hope to one day make my way down to Austin for a game. However, Longhorn fans didn't get the memo that this game was at home. Sure, the kickoff was at 11AM local time, and you're playing the Big 12 equivalent of Indiana, but that's no excuse to not fill your stadium. You're a top 5 team for crying out loud. Michigan could kickoff at 8AM and 110,000 people would cram into the Big House. We'd all be drunk from bloody marys and mimosas...but we'd be there!

We have the pleasure of hosting the Big Ten Blogger's Roundtable this week. Folks from all other Big Ten blogs are posting their answers on their sites all this week. We will have a roundtable roundup post up and ready hopefully by Thursday afternoon or Friday morning depending on how many posts are up by then.

HHH Metrodome

OWNED!!!!!

Minnesota started playing in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in 1982. And in that time, playing at home against Michigan, they went 0-12.

So, as much as I hated watching any sporting event hosted at this facility, I can look back and wax poetic about Michigan's dominance here. Much like John Cooper in Columbus in 2000...I'll be sad to see it go.

'Round the Big Ten

It was a tough week for a couple Big Ten teams in-particular.

First and most obvious was Penn State. I was able to catch the 2nd half of this game. And from what I saw, Penn State was not able to contain their poise late in the game that they seemed to have for the first 9 games of the season. Iowa was able to capitalize on the late interception, and drive down the field to get well into field goal range.

Last week I said Penn State would win, but this game had all the marking of a traditional "trap" game. And that's exactly what happened.

The other team that had a woeful loss was Illinois. WTF??? Lose to Western Michigan? Not only is that just as bad as Michigan losing to Toledo, but they did it at Ford Field in Detroit?! How in the world did this game even come to pass? Why would a mid-level Big Ten team even schedule a game like this? MAC games should be played within the safe confines of your home field. Never should a B10 school have to travel anywhere to play a MAC school. Never.

The only good thing for Illinois is that this game was not televised. ESPN didn't cover it, and the Big Ten Network couldn't touch it because the game wasn't hosted at a Big Ten stadium...an odd bit of information that I learned last week.

Other than that (and Michigan's win over the Gophers), no big surprises around the league. Michigan State rolled just like they should have, Wisconsin won just like they should have, and tOSU ran all over NW, just like they should have. No surprises there.

So for Penn State fans...I poured out a shot for you on Saturday night (one for my homies), and said farewell to your BCS dreams. I also said farewell to tOSU's Rose Bowl dreams...sorry Buckeye's...not this year.

So in the spirit of speculation, let's do a little Big Ten bowl rundown. Now, these are simply my predictions...based solely on nothing.

Penn State - Rose Bowl
Michigan State - Fiesta Bowl
tOSU - Capital One Bowl
Iowa - Outback Bowl
Northwestern - Alamo Bowl
Minnesota - Champs Bowl
Wisconsin - Insight Bowl
Illinois - Motor City

Or...maybe Iowa losses to Purdue and Minnesota and falls to 6-6 and goes to the Insight or Motor City bowl. Very possible. And that would bump every one else up.

So all-in-all, I think we're all in a whirlwind final two weeks to the season. And if anyone is wondering why I pick Michigan State for the Fiesta Bowl and not tOSU...that has all to do with a certain game in Columbus in two weeks. Plus I think Michigan State - Penn State will be a huge game in Happy Valley...one that Penn State will win, but an effort by Michigan State to keep it close that will impress pollsters enough to grant Sparty a BCS bowl.

Of course, what do I know.

It's a Start

I think most Michigan faithful were very pleased just to be able to experience something other than a loss on Saturday. For me, it was a experience that I can only describe as shocking. Not only did I pick Minnesota to win, with Sheridan playing, I didn't even think it would be close. Much to my dismay, not only did Sheridan not look bad...he looked good. Good enough for me to want him to start next week just so I can be reassured that this game was a fluke.

I do have to say that I think this game was a product of two factors. First of all, Minnesota was expecting to win. They were way overconfident and were not expecting Michigan to be able to pass as well as they did. And the other factor is Michigan, for maybe the first time all year, controlled the line of scrimmage. And not just for 1 half.

Last week I said Michigan needed to do 3 things in order to win. The first was no bad turnovers. While we did put the ball on the turf once, it only ended up costing us 3 points. And we actually got a pick by Morgan Trent to offset the turnover ratio. The second thing we did right was time of possession. Coming into the game Michigan and Minnesota were ranked last and first respectfully in the B10 in this category. In this game however, Michigan kept the ball for just over 34 minutes, and Minnesota just a bleak 25:47. Normally, those stats are opposite in past Michigan games.

But the biggest key to victory was controlling the line of scrimmage...both offensively and defensively. Michigan outgained 'sota 435 to 188. A dominating performance, in any season. We were able to run the ball for over 200 yards, while holding the Gophers to just 83 yards.

But maybe the most surprising performance of the day was the defense. Gone was the 3-3-5 scheme from last week. Shafer went back to a 4-3 scheme to defend this spread attack, and it worked perfectly. Our DBs were constantly making it hard for Weber to find a receiver. And when it came time to run the ball, our D line was able to make penetration into the backfield to throw off Weber's ability to get into open space, or get his RBs room to move.

One player who's performance might be overlooked in this shocking win is that of Michigan kicker K.C. Lopata. He made kicks from 34, 44, 26, 48 and 23. When Michigan offense ran out of steam in the redzone or in shallow Gopher territory, he was able to give Michigan some much needed points, and keep Minnesota from gaining any field position...especially early in the game.

And how sexy was that last drive of the game were we bled over 5 minutes off the clock and put the game away with a Mark Moundros TD dive...that was a thing of beauty!

Reaction from my fellow Michigan bloggers has been interesting...

mgoblog just needed anything to celebrate this year. Maize n' Brew doesn't want you to rain on his parade. MVictors promised himself he wasn't going to cry. Michigan Sports Center was proven dead wrong by Nick Sheridan. And finally, Varsity Blue is feeling good again.

I'll take those reactions and second them. I too am blown away by Nick Sheridan. Never in a million years did I think I would ever type that. And while we're still 3-7 with no bowl possible, it still feels good to win again. There is still a ton of work to do, but if we can build on this with an inspired win this week against a wounded Northwestern team, I think we can go into Columbus and sneak a win away from the Buckeye's. That's not just hot air, I really believe that.

Minnesota To-Do List

In the spirit of the ever-growing chore list around my house lately, I decided that Michigan needs a list to better help speed things along during this transition period.

There are a few things that I think Michigan can do to win this weekend against Minnesota. Call them "keys to victory" or whatever, either way...they are imperative to a Michigan win.

No Turnovers
Or at least no bad turnovers. Like a pick 6 or a fumble deep in our own zone. I can't believe that we've lost 25 turnovers this year. If you could look at all of the stats that tell a story about this year, turnovers has to be the biggest. We're 25 lost and 16 gain for a margin of -9. Tied for last in the B10 with Purdue for margin. And they have, for the most part, been stupid turnovers deep in our own zone, often on special teams.

Time of Possession
The other stat that has been a killer for this team is time of possession. We are dead last in the B10 and 117 out of 120 nationally in ToP. We average just over 26 minutes per game. Minnesota, by comparison leads the B10 and is 18th nationally with just over 32 minutes per game. Chalk it up to lack of balance on offense or, again, turnovers...but this is maybe the hardest stat to overcome. When nothing is working offensively, ToP will suffer.

Control the Line of Scrimmage
Michigan is last in all major offensive categories in the B10 except rushing yards, where Minnesota is last. For Michigan to win this game, we must keep our offense on the field as long as possible. And the only way that will happen, especially if Sherridan starts...is if we can run the ball. Minnesota has a competent rushing D, so they will obviously stack up against the run since they know thats what Michigan will try and establish. Sherridan can throw, in theory, but the last thing we want to have to depend on is his arm.

I think there is a misconception that Michigan's defense is not very good. And while giving up 48 points to a bad Purdue team is not a good sign...I still disagree. I think they are very capable. The reason for their struggles, I think, is the lack of offense that Michigan has this year. How can a defense be expected to stop anyone when they spend 34+ minutes on the field every game?

I think there is a definite fatigue issue involved. I know we're probably in better shape then we were last last year...so maybe it's mental fatigue. When the offense shuts down in the 2nd half (usually), that's when Michigan's D is most vulnerable. That's also typically when you see so many missed tackles and blown coverages. And that's also why Shafer runs so much zone. If we ran man-to-man for 73 plays each game...we'd have no DBs left.

I think it's the ultimate catch-22. Good offense leads to good defense, and vice-versa. There is no magic wand for this team, just getting better fundamentally is the key to winning. And when those fundamentals have changed so drastically like they did this off-season, there will be a long gestation period. There is a reason the spread is so hard to defend, because it is equally, if not harder to run.

Week of Stuff

I'm not really one to throw everything into a pile and throw it all up on one huge post, but I'll do it anyway this week. Mainly because I just haven't had the time to post all of my thoughts in separate posts. Time has been scarce this week, and to that I must apologize. I aim to get back to my "post a day" routine ASAP.

I'll start off with maybe the most important note of the week. It has been reported that QB Steven Threet will not start this due to a concussion sustained last week at Purdue. Word is he did not practice this week and had lingering headaches.

So that leaves us with Nick Sherridan, who we all know is just not very good. And Justin Feagin, who has yet to sniff the QB position in a real game. At this point, I don't really think it matters who gets the nod. I'd like to see Feagin and what he can do, but it's probably all the same since next year Serridan will basically be a QB coach and Feagin will slide into a slot receiver role...something Michigan needs right now. Either guy will probably have similar but separate struggles.

And that bring me to my short and sweet prediction for this week. Given a healthy Threet, I'd still consider Michigan a underdog in this matchup. But with him out, and how much Michigan has looked downright awful without him, I'm going to comfortably pick Minnesota. They have very talented playmakers on offense, and a defense that can probably at least contain Michigan enough to force us into making stupid mistakes and committing turnovers...something we've had trouble doing so far this year.

Sure, it's tough to watch this team struggle so much. I'd like to think that Rodriguez is trying his best to win each game with the players he's got, but I think it is obvious that he's trying to groom these players into the system he wants to run, and not playing to these player's strengths.

Prime example was last week when Scott Shafer switched the defense from a 4-3 zone, to a 3-3-5 scheme. This defense, at least personnel-wise is not at all set up to run that scheme. Sure, it's a good defense to run, especially since we see so many spread offenses now...but it's tough when you're installing it for the first time. I expect it will look better this week...and hopefully we won't give up another 48 points.

So, as you can see, expectations for the next 3 games are pretty much at an all-time low. But don't confuse that with expectations of seasons to come. While I am down in this year's squad, I have full faith (don't ask me why) that next year will be better and 2010 could be an amazing season.

Okay, so without further adieu, here's my picks for the B10 bloggers pick'em for week 11.

Purdue @ Michigan State, 12:00PM, BTN
This has the markings of a good game, and I do think it will be close. Odds are it will not be ideal football weather (cold and wet), so that could impact Purdue's ability to throw, and could favor Michigan State which has a better ground game. I like Sparty in this one.

Wisconsin @ Indiana, 12:00PM, BTN
Indiana has been my Achilles heel this year. Just when I have enough confidence to pick them over a B10 team, they go out and blow it. They beat a ranked NW team a few weeks ago but other than that they've been just mediocre. Wisconsin has been the epitome of a bust this season, but they should get the win in Bloomington this weekend.

Michigan @ Minnesota, 12:00PM, ESPN
I'm putting my preview of Michigan in with the rest of the B10 because I just don't care enough to dedicate a whole post to it. Is that bad? Okay, Threet is unlikely to play...thus I am taking the Gophers in this one. I'd probably take them anyway...but this just reaffirms my predictions. Michigan has lost 5 straight for the first time since the Jefferson administration...and things show no signs of getting any better. I'll miss the Jug...but it'll be nice to let the Gophers have it one last time before the Rodriguez train gets up to full-speed.

tOSU @ Northwestern, 12:00PM, ESPN2
HA! Two ranked B10 teams get bumped to the deuce for Michigan @ Minnesota! I love it. Take that Buckeye fans! Okay, I digress. tOSU wins easily.

Illinois @ W. Michigan, 12:00PM, ???
Not on TV? WTF Big Ten Network??? Everyone I know will want to tune in to watch this awesome matchup. I mean, whats not interesting about this game? Illinois should win...but we all know what Illinois does when they should win. I'll pick them anyway.

Penn State @ Iowa, 3:30PM, ABC
Okay, all the markings of a trap game. At Iowa in front of a big TV audience. But I doubt the fighting JoPa's will have much trouble with the Hawkeyes. Unless Iowa plays absolutely out of their shoes, which is possible I guess, then Penn State will role. And even if Iowa plays their best game in 4 years, that may still not be enough to slow down this offense.

Well, there you have it. I'll try and post some more stuff later today, but I feel much better knowing I got at least this post out in the AM.

Go Blue!

And the Award Goes To...

Just in case there was any question who the biggest douche-bag of the year award goes to for 2008, Justin Boren just sealed up the vote.

Daddy's boy, with a very bright look on his face...dressed as Rich Rodriguez for Halloween this year.

Photo via Michigan Sports Center.

Time to Vote


Do your civic duty today and go out and vote. Why? Free food, thats why!

Seriously, no matter who you vote for, just make sure you get out to your polling place and make your voice heard. Need some unbiased information about the candidates? Check out this site.

If you're a Buckeye or Sparty fan, find the nearest grown-up and ask them for help.

McGuffie to Transfer?!

Bad news travels fast.

Bo Schemblogger is reporting that there are rumors floating around campus that RB Sam McGuffie might transfer. Citing the reason that he feels he is too small for the Big Ten, and would flourish somewhere else such as Grand Valley State, which is in a smaller conference.

Um, please allow me to throw up now.

McGuffie, along with Minor have been two of the very bright spots for this team so far this year. Of course you're going to get your bell rung from time to time. Sam has every ability to flourish in the Big Ten. He's small for a typical Big Ten RB, but so was Mike Hart...how did that turn out?

Okay, sure, but transfer to a lesser division? No way. He's a game-breaker. Let Barwis get his hands on him this off-season and he'll be a beast by next year.

More on this to come as more sources come to light.

Update: Spelling error. "citing", not "siting". Also, this story seems pretty much unsubstantiated on the web so far. I have no idea where Bo Schemblogger got this story...perhaps via a message board. Either way, it seems fairly odd that he would transfer to a Div. II program...but Boren transferred to tOSU earlier this year, so who knows.

Patience

Another week, another loss. This makes 5 in a row and 7 total for this season. But this one signals the end of the longest consecutive bowl streak in the nation. Maybe we all somehow thought we could at least make it to a bowl this year, but no one...NO ONE saw a season like this coming.

It's funny because Purdue is a far lesser team than Michigan is. You can blame coaching or play calling or lack of execution or whatever for this loss, but the basic fact is: This team has forgotten how to win.

Let's face it, guys come to Michigan to be the best. To compete on the highest level. For probably every player on this team, this may be the first time any of them have had a losing record this far into a season...college or high school. It's a spiral effect that mentally kills you. You just find that you can't stop losing.

Is it bad coaching? Who's to know? I personally think it all stems from the idea that Rich Rodriguez wants to build his program and run his system...his way. And that means doing away with this idea that players are just entitled to winning. He wants to instill the idea that you have to earn what you achieve. It's not just inherited from years of success.

I'm not naive enough to believe that Michigan was going to be successful forever. I liked Lloyd Carr a lot as a man and a coach, but there was a sense that change was needed. We got lazy over time. Our players were good enough to execute basically the same offense that Bo started running in 1969. Of course it was a recipe that worked very well for Michigan for 39 years. It made Michigan great again. It put us back on the map, so to speak.

But the game has changed radically in just the past 10 years. 12 years ago when Joe Tiller brought the spread to the Big Ten, no one thought it would work. But if you tuned in last week, you saw Justin Siller run the spread better than almost anyone in the country, you know why Michigan has been struggling with Threet. Siller made Pryor look like a high school kid. He is a very talented QB. He's a perfect example of why the spread is so powerful...and I'm so happy that Michigan is adopting this offense.

I know it sucks, but this season is a wash. Boil it down to basically 2 more warm ups and our "bowl game" in Columbus in 3 weeks. It's all about the future now. And in case you don't believe me, why did we start running the 3-3-5 defense last week? That will be the defense that we will run for the rest of the time Rodriguez is head coach. He's running it now because he wants to get game day experience running it, and not just on a drawing board in the off-season. That right there is a prime example of how this season is a pure transitional year.

Cry all you want about Scott Shafer and how bad the defense looked. It doesn't matter. Games like this happen every once in a while. It turns into an offensive shootout. I'm just happy we scored 42 points! For the first time this year it was actually nice to see the offense on the field. Threet did enough to not screw up too bad, Minor looked good, the line looked good, and our receivers actually made some plays. And of course special teams looked awesome when Odoms ran back the punt return in the first quarter.

The point is, for the first time this year, we saw tangible improvement on the field. Not on defense of course, but we will. It will come. The bright spot is that we have so many freshman making improvement and turning into play makers. The negative is that we will have to replace our QB again next year with another freshman...but if Beaver or Forcier can be anything like Siller...we're in for quite a year next year.

Oh, and by the way...its 18 days and counting until tOSU.