Thursday, August 31, 2006

Alcohol, You Do Me Wrong

I was supposed to get home last night and bang out a Michigan preview following my last day of work at my old job. Instead, the partners took me out and half a bottle of Makers Mark later I was in no condition to drive, much less pen a literate preview of Michigan's season. I got up this morning and attempted to put something together, but the fates, and my own verboseness, conspired against me.

I'll be on a trip with Mrs. Brew celebrating our 1st aniversary for the next few days, returning to the keyboard officially on Monday. If there's internet access I'll post some updates. However, rest assured the game will be watched and comments will follow.

If you're looking to Preview Vandy, here you go. Stadium and Main has an insane amount of pre-game info links for your parusal.

I only managed to get through the Coaches, QB, and RBs. Sorry. Making matters matters worse, blogger ate my write on Lloyd Carr. But something is better than nothing. I'll be back in full force come monday.

Until then,



Because the college football season starts today (8 hours and counting at the time of this writing) and because my usual superfulous background will largely be ignored by my preview hungry readers I'll get right to the nitty-gritty.


Good news: Our Offensive Coordinator has publicly acknowledged that this team will have to score points to win ball games (what a concept!). If this includes, and I think it will, downfield passes and use of a TE, I'm all for it. DeBord has promised to simplify the game plan, revamp our blocking schemes, and restart this offensive Hemi that sputtered all of last year. I've got faith he can do that.

Defensively, wholesale changes were made. Gone is Jim Herrmann and his soft zone. In is new DC Ron English. The former secondary coach has installed a similar yet far more aggressive defense for this year. As the DC he relinquished his hold of the CB's but maintained control over the safeties. The CB's are now coached by former Wisconsin DB's coach Ron Lee. Steve Strippling remains on as the Defensive Line coach, and with some changes in the athletes he gets to use should show why he managed to have Michigan State ranked first in the Big Ten and 5th nationally with 45 sacks in 2003. Finally, and critically, long time NFL linebackers coach Steve Szabo takes over the headless horsemen of the Michigan Linebacking corps. An unmittigated disaster last year, Szabo has plenty of talent to work with, but the question will be be he repair the damage that's already been done?

Michigan should expect to see the benefits of these changes come September 16, 2006. Because if Michigan's play hasn't improved by then, its going to be a long season. However, for the record, this is a very good coaching staff. The two main coordinators appear to have been given the green light in terms of aggressiveness. We'll have to see how long Lloyd stays on board with that.


Returning Starters: QB Chad Henne; RB Mike Hart; WR Steve Breaston; WR Mario Manningham; LT Jake Long; LG Adam Kraus; RT Rueben Riley; K Garrett Rivas


Third year quarterback Chad Henne has started every game under center for the Wolverines over the last two years. His first year was off the charts: 25 TD, 12 INTs, a 60% completion percentage, only one game where he threw below 50%, and over 2700 yards. He capped his year throwing 4 TD's and No INTs in the Rose Bowl.

Last year didn't go as planned. There was no running game. The Offensive Line couldn't stop a group of third graders on their way to lunch. The offensive schemes were so well known by the defenses that they were calling them out as soon as Michigan did. Henne got hammered by opposing defenses, officially getting slammed 24 times. He didn't post a single 300 yard passing game in 2005. Early in the season his passes were high, low, all over the damn place. He couldn't hold onto the ball on a 1 yard QB sneak. He was miserable in the loss to Wisconsin.

Statistically, Henne had a good year. He threw 23 TDs and only 8 INTs, an almost 3/1 ratio. Even though his passing yards were down, he did throw for over 2500 yards. This is a very good quarterback. While Brian correctly points out he throw a lot of wide receiver screens, those aren't his calls. Until the emergence of Manningham as a legit deep threat, Michigan was slow (but with sure hands). Everyone knew Steve Breaston wasn't capable of being that threat so they ganged up on Avant.

In Henne's defense I will say the following: 1) There weren't a lot of options for him to throw to early. It was either Avant, or, well, lessee, Avant. Breaston has not shown the ability to date to catch anything other than a punt or wide receiver screen. Limited options, limited results. 2) The play calling was horrendous. There was no creativity or originality in the offense last year. Hell, there wasn't much execution either. An offense cannot survive on screens alone. 3) Injuries. This goes along with 4) No running game. The line was decimated. Hart had one leg. Defenses tend to pick up on the fact that you've got one good receiver, a banged up running back, and no line.

In support of Henne, look at his last two games against quality opponents, OSU and Nebraska. 1 INT. 4 TDS. 493 passing yards. He controlled the offense. He was poised. He got rid of the ball when he should have. He argued with Carr on the sidelines, and won. In those games, if the refs open their eyes to see BLATANT PASS INTERFERENCE CALLS, or Carr lets him go for it against OSU, Michigan wins both. Henne was hitting his receivers where he should and looking off defensive backs. He was a winner at the end of the year regardless of the outcome.

What's most important to recognize from last year is Henne's prgression. He went from crap to outstanding as the year went on. He learned. He took more responsibility. He stopped depending on a single target the way he did in 2004. If the Line holds this year Henne will own the Big Ten. He is the best pure passer in the conference. Yes that means I think he's better than Drew Tate. Better game plans, healthy line, healthy running back = good things for all of us. Further, Henne stayed at school this summer to learn the offense, practice with his receivers, and even drop a little weight himself. He seems far more poised than he did a year ago and both coaches and teammates are raving about him. Look for big things from Chad this year.

You have to. Because after Chad there's no one else. Much like Notre Dame, Michigan is a one trick pony at QB. Jason Focier, a redshirt QB, has earned the nod as Henne's backup over true frosh David Cone. Forcier didn't see a snap last year and will likely not see anything other than mop up time this year. In short. hold your breath.


Mike Hart will determine how the year goes. Hart spent most of last year injured, banged up,and generally being a shell of himself. After coming in as a freshman and racking up almost 1500 yards in 8 starts as a freshman, Hart managed only 682 yards and 4 TDs last year. Kevin Grady, a heavyset freshman, was slow to adjust to the speed of the college game yet quick to take to th diet. Rumbling in at 245, he wa a step to slow for the big time and coughed the ball up on more than one noteable occassion. Uber-athlete Antonio Bass was thought to maybe-sorta-coulda do something last year but got the majority of his touches on goofy end-arounds or wide receiver handoffs. Jerome Jackson got 54 attempts and actually made the most of it with 3 TDs and 230 yards.

In short. The running game sucked last year. Blame the RBs. Blame the Line. Blame the coordinator. Blame whoevere you want. It wasn't good.

Chiefly responsible for the drop off was Mike Hart's ankle and hamstring. Now (hopefully) fully recovered, Hart looks to dominate the Big Ten this year. He's quick enough to make you look stupid. He's strong enough to run you over if he wants to. He's also Michigan's best pass protector behind the line. If he's healthy, he's the best back in the Big Ten. As he goes, so will our season.

Serving to spell Hart during game time will be the primary responsibility of Kevin Grady. Much has been made of his off season paunch reduction program, running the golf course, and intense study of the offense. Grady's dropped fifteen pounds, picked up the schemes, and is apparently running better than any time in his young Michigan career. Grady is a between the tackles type runner with the ability to turn the corner when called upon.

Backing him up will be two freshman, much hyped Carlos Brown and not-so-hyped Brandon Minor. Brown has been written up in this space before. He's got worlds of potential and Mercury's legs (the roman god Mercury, not Mercury Hayes' legs). Brandon Minor is a much less hyped, but very impressive looking tailback that Carr has crossed-his-heart-hope-to-die told us will see time. Even Craig Herbstreit's pimping him.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Wednesday's Hearsay and Conjecture

Sorry for the lack of content yesterday. I'm in the process of switching jobs and I needed to concentrate on getting some work done prior to my departure later today. I've still got plenty to do, but your insatiable need for information must be fed.

Brian is Moving to AOL

If you read this site, you probably stumbled on it through Mgoblog. The proprietor, Brian Cook, otherwise known as the Blogfather has graciously been providing his Michigan football and athletics insight for free, for quite some time. Now, finally, someone has taken a paying interest in his talents and he is moving up to help direct/post/whatever America On Line's new College Football page in the AOL Fanhouse.

Much like in Old School, the Blogfather moves on. However, he doesn't leave us for good. His picture will hang over the Michigan Blogosphere's communal fireplace. Making things easier on all of us, he has promised to continue updating Mgoblog. The Fanhouse is a free service which will launch September 5th. Make sure you drop by and add it to your daily reads.

Michigan Season Previews

1. Mgoblog - Dear god that's a lot of info. I disagree with his assessment of Henne. I'll tell you why tomorrow when my Michigan preview is up.

2. Fox Sports - They nailed it:
The season will be a success if ... Michigan wins 11 games and beats Ohio State. The schedule has too many problems to go unbeaten but this team is good enough to be in the hunt for the Big Ten title, beat Ohio State, and win a bowl game. Anything less will be seen as a major disappointment for a program with some of the highest expectations of anyone.

Also, no OMG-Carr's-on-the-hot-seat in the preview.

3. The Chicago Tribune - Hops on the Hot Seat band wagon for no reason:
This season will be a success if … Michigan saves Carr's job. To do that the Wolverines might have to beat Ohio State and win nine games. Carr is 1-4 against Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel and winless in his last three bowl trips. Though Carr has won or shared five Big Ten titles in 11 years, the natives are beyond restless.


4. Sports Illustrated - Henne will be fine and Michigan will improve. They don't make predictions, but its a read. Stewart Mandel has Michigan at #10 in his power rankings. They've also picked the Michigan v. Ohio State game as the fourth biggest game of the year and the Michigan v. Notre Dame game as ninth biggest game.

5. Detroit Free Press - Consensus second place in the Big Ten. Drew Sharp is still an asshole. Michael Rosenberg, however, is dead on the money.
If Lloyd Carr is an idiot, what makes Charlie Weis a genius? Last year Weis guided Notre Dame to a 9-3 record, with a Bowl Championship Series loss to a top-five team. In 2004, Michigan finished 9-3 with a Bowl Championship Series loss to a top-five team.

They did that in 2003, too. Rosenberg properly points out the following:
a. Lloyd is not on the hot-seat, you knobs.
b. The personnel changes that needed to be made were
c. The emphasis on quickness and stamina, long shunned by the football program, have been adopted whole heartedly by the program.
d. This is a team fully capable of running the table, despite their brutal schedule.

Rosenberg's analysis is probably the best overall look I've seen this preseason.

6. ABC's Ed Cunningham - Michigan is the team to beat in the Big Ten.

New Recruits

Commitments #13 and #14 are SC WR Junior Hemmingway and CA RB Avery Horn. I know little about Horn, however others know more. Hemmingway is known by all.

You're Kidding Right?

OSU now has its own cereal. Seriously. If you go to Kroger in Ohio you can now purchase Buckeye "O"s. The name of the cereal I'm assuming is something related to OSU, but its not listed. I have a few suggestions.

1. Crimin-O's
2. Change the O's to Vest shaped cereal. Call it BestVests Cereal with marshmellow assault weapons and machettes inside.
3. Change the cereal from O's to cereal hands giving eaters the middle finger, how better to capture the state motto of "F*ck Michigan"
4. Make it a number cereal, but include more 8's and 4's to properly respresent the Buckeye's record at the end of this year.

Just some thoughts.

General Fun Football Nonsense
  • Some of Brian's new peers over at the Fanhouse don't like Charles Woodson as a new Green Bay Packer. Probably OSU or MSU grads. They probably saw him do this to their college team.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

And on the Sixth Day...

The Lord Said,

Let There Be Football!

And Lo....

It was done.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Re-Mascoting the Big Ten

Nathan over at Golden Tornado has put together a terrific set of Mascot Rankings based on his own "suck-o-meter" rating scale. Michigan got an incomplete, as no one has had the balls to put a live wolverine on the sidelines in over 50 years. This is not a bad thing.

However, since we can't have a live mascot on the field, is it really a good mascot to have? LSU puts a live bengal tiger out for everyone to see. Colorado runs out a live 900 lbs buffalo every game. Baylor, despite sucking, has a live man-eating bear. No team in The Big Ten sports a mascot as cool or deadly as any of those on-field mascots. Even worse, there isn't a live mascot in the conference. Shouldn't the mascot match the team?

In the case of LSU, the tiger fits. More often than not, the Bayou Bengals stalk and devour their competition (as Miami learned last year). Ralphie, much like the team he represents, spends most of the season leaving steaming piles of crap on the field come game time. The question becomes are the Big Ten mascots representative of the school and the football program they represent? Are there better mascots that would infer the true feeling of the football program, and if so, shouldn't we adopt those mascots?

The more I thought about it the answers were yes, there are, and yes, we should. After 15 seconds' thought, I came up with Michigan's new mascot. Then, with a surplus of time on my hands, I devised new mascots for all the Big Ten's members. In doing so I followed some simple rules:

1. The mascot had to be representative of the school/football team. I didn't take anything else into consideration. If the school was a top five microbiology and womens' crew school, I don't care. These recommendations only provide new mascots for the schools' football programs.

2. No Pederasts! A simple enough rule in life and one that should be applied to mascots.

Therefore, with those simple rules I give you:

The New Big Ten Mascots

University of Michigan
Traditional Mascot: Wolverines

Do not try to pet this animal

Vicious. Scary. It's kind of like a rabid grizzly bear except the size of carry-on luggage. An adult wolverine consists mostly of teeth, claws, stomach and hair. The teeth and claws make up 90% of its body weight. If you get too close, your right leg will make up the other 10%. Wolverines are well known meat eaters with a reputation of taking on significantly larger animals, beating them and eating them. The tenacity and ferocity of the animal makes it a popular nickname for high school football teams and youth groups rising up against Communist invaders.


Though a great name for a team, the Wolverine has been extinct in Michigan for well over a century. Following a 8-5 season where Michigan showed as much ferocity as Michael Dukakis, a Wolverine no longer seems like an appropriate mascot. Hence, a new team name is in order.

Modern Team Mascot: The Ford Explorers

Overpriced. Overhyped. Situated in the heart of Michigan, it guzzles down more than your expectations. The Explorer takes three tanks to get from one end of the field to the other. It will let you down in new, never before fathomed ways. Tends to crap out during the end of the winter or the end of the fourth quarter. Once the crown jewel of college football/auto world, a series of setbacks have shown all of its flaws. Poor design work was exposed in a number of fourth quarter collapses and product recalls. You're never really going to be sure what's wrong with it until the warranty runs out or it hits the third game of the season. At this point your University of Michigan Ford Explorer could be one of two things: 1) A big ass behemoth capable of running over everything in its path; or, sadly, 2) a behemoth that is just as likely to blow a tire/engine/transmission, flip over, and kill everyone inside, taking your hopes, dreams, and football program along with it.

Go Blue!

University of Iowa
Traditional Mascot: The Hawkeyes

While the traditional team name is a homage to Donald Sutherland's greatest role in the movie M*A*S*H, it is also a superhero, several TV show characters, and an AWACS plane for the U.S. Military. Dammit it can't be all of those. The University's adaption of "Hawkeye" is kind of a saying, kind of an indian chief's name, kind of confusing. Being "Hawkeyed" implies great vision, something that a 3rd place tie in the Big Ten seems to preclude. If you're hawkeyed, you should be able to see the safety cheating before you throw the ball, Drew. While the Hawkeyes always manage to "look past" a team they shouldn't, the mascot itself doesn't instill awe or confer the true nature of the school. Besides, it kinda looks like a rooster. To wit, I have come up with a more appropriate mascot.

Modern Team Mascot: Corn

The great state of Iowa is rich in farming tradition. It is also ass deep in popcorn crude, Des Moines gold, Iowa City Tee. Ethanol that is. I can't think of a more fitting mascot. Every year we hear how Corn will be the savior, freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil, only to find out it doesn't work out quite as advertised. Yeah, it works, but you've gotta buy a whole new car/truck/thresher to "reap" (har har) the benefits, and even then you're still kinda screwed because you still need real gas to make it work. We buy into Iowa every year, only to end up going back to Michigan or Ohio State when we find out Corn ain't enough. Every year we hear that this year is the breakout for Iowa, every year the kernel pops on us when the heat turns up. It's bland, it's boring, it's supposed to be the end all be all of the Big Ten, it's the Iowa Corn!

University of Wisconsin
Traditional Mascot: The Badgers

This is a tough one because Bucky is one of my favorite mascots in all of college athletics. Even so the badger is basically a big weasel, and no one wants to cheer on an oversized ferret. Badgers are strange creatures that either live in solitude or survive in large badger co-ops, selling their pelts for lake front property in the north woods or running casinos. By nature they are docile creatures which is quite contrary to every experience I've had in Madison. No, to truly represent Madison you must have something that can level an opponent, be loud and offensive, yet still be a damn good time, hence:

Modern Team Mascot: The Limburger Wheel

Much like football in Wisconsin, Limburger only exists in one place in the Cheese State. Well known for its "knock-a-buzzard-off-a-shit-wagon" odor, Limburger can bring the powerful to their knees with a single whiff. This is not meant to imply Madison stinks, is smelly, or that it's students are gassy. No, instead it makes a "powerful" statement about taking this football team lightly. Since Barry Alvarez came to town the wax coating has been peeled off the wheel and the strength of the Wisconsin program has been inhaled by all (especially Auburn). Despite its pungent aroma, be advised that both Limburger and Wisconsin football, when prepared properly are very, very good. All you have to do is look at the succulent creaminess of Wisconsin's three Rose Bowl wins and other bowl game victories. However, when either are done badly, such as Wisconsin's 5-7 2001 season, well, they stink.

Other Mascots Under Consideration: This Guy

Michigan State University
Traditional Mascot: The Spartans

In all honesty, a pretty cool mascot. The Spartans were tough as nails back in the B.C. They knew how to fight, farm, sail, and kick your ass. On the downside, despite being a kick ass military power, the Spartans molested a lot of people. There is a moratorium on naming your football team after pederasts, so the "Spartan" nickname has to go.

[Insert Joke Here]

However, even without that disqualification Michigan State could hardly be described as a military/football power over the last twenty years. The last ten have been abysmal. New coaches. New schemes. Plenty of talent, no follow through. MSU is always trying to impress that other state school with their accomplishments, yet somehow they always manage to trip over their shoelaces before they can.

Modern Team Mascot: The Little Brothers

Look at me! Don't Ignore Me! I'm big enough to beat you! I swear I will. Our friends to the North are the consumate little brother of college football. Almost every year they have the gumption and the ability to beat their big brother. Almost every year their well laid plans blow up in their face. Usually MSU will pound Michigan pretty well early, then lose their nerve somewhere near the fourth quarter and end up flat on its back wondering what the hell just happened. As in all familial chains there are similarities. A good offense, suspect defense, rabid fanbases, etc. Like all little brothers they somehow manage to do something their older sibling can't, like beat Notre Dame. However, being the younger child of Michigan state schools, MSU is far louder, crass, and attention starved than its older sibbling. It can't understand why it has to stay home after the season ends and Michigan gets to stay up late, go to parties, gets all those conference championship trophies, and gets to play in bowl games. Its not fair Dammit!

Northwestern University
Traditional Mascot: The Wildcats

There is nothing remotely "wild" or ferral about Evanston or Northwestern. With it's manicured lawns, gothic architecture, and pampered student body, the "Poodles" would have been a better animal name. The student body consists of grad students, dorks at the top end of their high school classes, pampered rich kids who wanted to live in Chicago (but not really in Chicago, because, like, it's just not safe there, you know, with all the poor people), and students who accepted without knowing what the hell they were getting themselves into. The Greek system has been all but outlawed, tailgating involves quadratic equations, and the students chant about their future jobs at football games. Despite that, this is a scary football program on the rise. Even with Randy Walker's untimely passing, Northwestern was and is on its way back to a mid-1990's type run. Given the social ineptitude of the student body, and the hidden power of the football program, a better mascot is needed, therefore I give you:

Modern Team Mascot: WOPR

How about a nice game of chess?

Not only can Northwestern play board games, if you don't teach it how to play tic-tac-toe it will destroy the world. The WOPR may lull you into a sense of safety, as it's only a computer or school full of nerds, but it will bombard you with death from above in the form a MX missle barrage or potent passing game. Normally a docile adding machine, Northwestern has laid waste to unsuspecting hackers/defenses who wander into their Tron-like lightcycle of an offense.

Northwestern seen here getting the better of Iowa

Over the last ten years you've needed some kind of adding machine to keep up with Northwestern's record setting offense and their depthfinding defense. More often than not Northwestern's football team outscores its basketball team. Usually so do Northwestern's opponents. It's the college version of the arena league. If you like lots of one play drives, then Northwestern is for you. Always keep in mind with Northwestern, even when they seem down like this year, "the only winning move is NOT TO PLAY"

Ohio State University
Traditional Mascot: The Buckeyes

A nut. Woop-de-friggin-do. While "nuts" is a good descriptor of our friends to the South, it really doesn't do them or their football team justice. "F*cking crazy" is more like it. Columbus is one of, if not the, most hostile place to play a college football game in the country. On game days, especially against rival teams, it degenerates into a scene from "Escape from LA" or "Lord of the Flies." Styrofoam coolers are filled with vomit or feces at game time. "F*ck [your team/state here]" is the state motto on game day. The team itself is much like its fans. Powerful. Nasty. Liquored up. Successful. More than happy to stick a shiv in your side or kick you in the jewels in order to steal your wallet. This ominous group is headed by Jim Tressel, a man who no one can connect to a single innapropriate action, yet despite that, you look at him the same way you would look at Michael Corleone. You know he can kill you with his own two hands, get away with it, and not give it any more thought than he gives to what color socks to wear. He, and his program, are made of Tephlon. Much like the Corleone family, they are the powerful haves of the Big Ten right now, and will be until they get caught.

Modern Team Mascot: Al Capone

What are you lookin at?

The powerful, unflinching mafia of the Big Ten. Doug at Hey Jenny Slater put it best, "Thugs. They may wear nice outfits, but they're still thugs."

Other Mascots under consideration: The Escalades; The Inmates; The Grey Geese; Skeete Skeete Skeete!
Up on 20 inch Dubs biatch!

Indiana University
Traditional Mascot: The Hoosiers

Generally used as a term to describe people from Indiana, Hoosier is used as a slang term for Redneck in other parts of the country. It's also the name of one of the worst basketball movies ever made. That's right. I said it. Hoosiers sucked. Gene Hackman's half-ass line about how he got fired from his previous coaching job, "I hit a boy," is utter crap. Open your eyes people. He was a Pederast! You can't name a team after a movie about a Pederast, even if it is in Indiana. No, if we're naming a football team that accurately their on field accomplishments and the character of their program it must be something far less suspect and far more appropriate.

Modern Team Mascot: The Desperate Ex's

While Indiana's basketball team has enjoyed unparalleled sucess in the Big Ten and can call itself whatever the hell it wants, the football team has not and can not. Like every desperate "ex" you've had they are happy to welcome you into their home, give you free run of their endzone, and make you a cake before you leave. They do so knowing full well it's going to be thrown into the trash with the words "you whore" shortly following. Desperate for attention they play games at strange times, dress up their best despite the mess they live in, and say things like "we're getting better," "we had a great recruiting class," "we were in the mix with some top schools." Usually, they just get kicked in the teeth and suffer through it. However, hell hath no fury like Indiana scorned. Just look back to 2001 when they set Wisconsin's house on fire (scored 63 points on UW in Madison!) and stabbed Northwestern (beating them by 35). Last year they threw all of Illinois' clothes in the woodchipper before getting walked all over by their new flings in the Big Ten. If you date/play them, be careful, one day they might go all Tawny Kitaen on your ass.

Purdue University
Traditional Mascot: The Boilermaker Special V

Surprisingly, Purdue's official mascot isn't the scary, giant-headed, freakshow candidate, Purdue Pete, who roams the sidelines on game day. No, Purdue's mascot is Boilermaker Special V, a pseudo locomotive that drives around the stadium and gives the engineering students something to do with their spare time other than play Warcraft.

I think I can! I think I can! I think I can!

The second member of the Big Ten from the state of Indiana, Purdue definitely has the conference's most unique mascot. While very cool, having a locomotive for a mascot implies power, speed, and ingenuity. These are things the football team has lacked the last few years. The last bowl game Purdue went to and won was the Sun Bowl in 2002. More troubling is the fact that a team named after a locomotive has only made the transcontinental trip to Pasadena twice in over 100 years of football. That kind of travel history means the monkier just doesn't fit. (As a side note, Purdue Pete scares the hell out of me.)

I'll see you in your deams tonight! Muuuuhahahahaha!

Modern Team Mascot: The Hobbits

Friendly. Cute. Comfortable. Heavy drinking. Short. Large feet. They really don't stray from the Shire/West Lafayette very often. While you certainly wouldn't want to pick a fight with them, you know that if you did, you'd win. They'll kick you in the shins from time to time, but unless there's a quest of great importance they're happy working in the fields or the computer labs. They'll leave the battles and real bowl games to others.

University of Minnesota
Traditional Mascot: The Golden Gophers


Clever, funny looking, capable of destroying a golf course in a matter of hours, Gophers are a wily animal to call your mascot. Minnesota might actually have the perfect mascot to define their football program. Gophers are cute, small and non-threatening, much like the Minnesota defense. They're not the lowest form of varmit, but they're not going to knock over a bear or a wolverine very often either. They're capable of buroughing large holes underground or through opposing defensive lines. Defensively, they protect themselves with large cartoonish teeth and cartoonish defensive efforts. They're cute enough to get you to stop and look at them, but after the fifth game of the season you've gotten over the cuteness and have gone back to ignoring them for better animals/teams. Let's face it, eventually Spackler's gonna catch him. Lop off the Golden part of the mascot and you're set, because, face it, being Golden implies success. Something Minnesota hasn't had on the gridiron since the 1940's.

Modern Team Mascot: The Gophers

They nailed it. Wouldn't change a thing. Every now and then they'll level a golf course or ruin someone's season, but otherwise they're happy living below ground or near the bottom of the Big Ten.

University of Illinois
Traditional Mascot: The Fightin' Illini and Chief Illiniwek

With Myles Brand looking to eliminate every cool mascot in the NCAA, Illinois is already up a creek regarding their current mascot, Chief Illiniwek. My help couldn't come at a better time. While the political correctness movement will eventually rob us one of the better mascots in college athletics, until it does let it be known that Chief Illiniwek rocks. Dignified. Respected. It is the epitome of how a Native American tradition should be handled and represented in college athletics. Unfortunately, the Chief is the only one holding up his end of the bargain when it comes to respectability on the football field. Illini football has sullied the Chief's good name in every way possible. Two winning seasons in the last ten years. Three conference championships in the last forty years. And finally, going 1-11 in 2003, 2-9 in 2005 and 0-11 in 1997 is enough to make you cry. If I were the Chief I'd be trying to get myself banned in order to get out of going to the games. It brings a tear to my eye to think of the damage Illini football is doing to the reputation of this once proud symbol.

You knew this was coming

Modern Team Mascot: The Doormats
The perfect mascot for Illinois football. Just like their defense and offensive line, you're welcome to walk all over them. The Illini invite you to call their endzones and backfields your home as well. The new team motto is "mi casa, su casa."

Penn State University
Traditional Mascot: The Nittany Lion

Worst Mascot Ever

No one will ever convince me that this is a mascot you can be proud of. Is it a bear, a cat, a rabid monkey? Who knows. The Penn State mascot is the stupidest looking mascot in the Big Ten, and possibly all of college sports. I have nothing against Penn State, their team, their students, but their team mascot, to borrow from Nathan, absolutely sucks. On top of that, being a lion would imply having teeth. Including last year, Penn State has posted just two winning seasons in their last six years. Much like Michigan's steady decline to the rest of the pack, several recent losing seasons make it safe to say no one fears Penn State the way they used to. While the magic isn't entirely back, Penn State showed some fangs rallying to last year's 12-1 record. So long as Paterno has a fresh set of human brains to consume before sunrise every day this will be a competitive team. Still, the luster has faded to the point where a lion just doesn't fit the bill anymore.

PSU was a tough team to re-mascot because all the Grandpa Simpson and zombie joke have already been used. You can compare PSU to United Airlines, Cadillac, and Cigarettes pretty easily as all are American icons of a bygone era that will never go away, but certainly aren't as cool as they used to be. What do you call a program steeped in tradition but a gradually fading image and prognosis? I'll tell you what you call it:

Modern Team Mascot: Buford T. Justice

Madder than hell. Older than dirt. Living in a world that passed him by. Once the King, now forced to chase punks in their fancy horseless carriages or the rest of the Big Ten. Ever since joining the Big Ten, it seems like PSU's always chasing the Bandit or everyone else to the top of the Conference. Invariably, when they finally catch the Bandit something goes wrong and he, or their season, gets away. It doesn't matter, he'll stay west bound and down and tail grabbin your ass as long as there's a pulse beating under his badge.

Well. That's it. Administration officials, you are welcome to adopt any of these suggestions as your new mascot. If you've got some better mascots, I'd love to hear them.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Eric Moneypenny is a Moron Person Who Does Inadequate Research

One of the reasons I put Fox Sports on my bloglines RSS feed is that they consistently provide information faster than ESPN. They also provide it out without the pop-ups, wav files, and assorted other coca-cola based crap getting in the way of the information.

Every now and again they have an interesting piece to read, and their 119 teams in 119 days has been nothing short of spectacular reading.

However, like any media conglomerate, they have a need to pump out content.

Reporters seen submitting articles to

So when I saw the Five Coaches on The Hot Seat article by Eric Moneypenny, somehow I knew Carr's name would be in there. I figured at 4 or 5. Listed, but in that, "yeah, a few more seasons like last year and he could be in trouble" kind of way.

Yes, Mr. Bond, I believe Lloyd is on the "hawt-seat."

Wrong. According to Moneypenny, Lloyd is the No. 1 coach, in all of college football, who is on the hot seat. Let's throw that out to the sports nation shall we. Lloyd is close to getting fired according to the writers at Fox Sports. There is of course a disclaimer at the top which says the following:

"(NOTE: These seat-sitters are strictly my choices. I'm not a biased fan of any of these schools, nor am I their athletic directors, privy to contract information about how expensive it would be to buy them out, etc.)"

He left out the following: "However, I feel confident enough that these people are close enough to being fired to throw it out there for everyone to chew on. I haven't talked to anyone, these are just my wild guesses looking at last year's results."

Great work All-Star.

Here's the "information" he uses to support his contention:

"Carr's hot-seat status is up for intense debate in Ann Arbor, and just about anywhere else that cares. After all, this is Michigan, and if you can't exactly be Bo, then you'd better beat Ohio State and not lose 3-5 games in a season. With every loss to Wisconsin, Minnesota, and even the Buckeyes, Jeremy Piven on HBO's Entourage isn't the only one around that can be frantically screaming "LLOYD!!!".

Talented offensive skill players, and im-pressive upperclassmen on defense should put Michigan near the top of the Big Ten in 2006. If not, the future doesn't look bright for the last coach that led the Wolverines to their last National Championship."

He gets paid for this. This is the ND Nation chat board equivalent of OMG LLLLLoyd! in a media professional.

Brian covered all of this a couple of weeks ago (and again today), yet here we go again. The only person screaming for Lloyd's head is Joey. What galls me the most is the fact that this guy did no research. We've lost to Minnesota once in the last 15 or so years. We hold a 7-3 record over Wisconsin, a team that has 3 Rose Bowl wins during that time. We've lost a few to Ohio State, but prior to Tressel we'd won a few. He implies we're losing constantly to these teams to set up a horrendous "Entourage" joke? What. A. Friggin. Tool.

I write for Fox!

Calling a coach out for not getting the most out of his players is nothing new in Ann Arbor, Tallahasse, Happy Valley, or Austin. But do your damn research and realize Michigan went to two straight Rose Bowls before last year. Realize one bad year doesn't destroy a legacy. And more importantly, realize the only people debating Carr's future in public are you morons.

Making things even funnier are the people he puts on the watch list rather than "hot-seat". If Rich Brooks hasn't been fired by now, he's never leaving. Bill Callahan? He even admits that he's not in trouble, but throws his name out anyway. If you can read this without laughing/crying/throwingup you're a better person than me:

"Not to suggest that Callahan's seat is getting too heated, but I don't remember any national championships during his first two years, and he's trying to please the same rowdy crowd that got rid of a reasonably successful Frank Solich. But, thanks to an improving West Coast offense that features a few handfuls of talented young freshmen and sophomores, the future looks bright in Lincoln. However, if Callahan doesn't win the Big 12 North this season or go 13-1, it's not even close to time to start getting sweaty over his tenure."

The bolded sections are my doing. First, no one wins National Championships in their first two years. Second, Frank Solich? This guy? Are you serious? Third, your last sentence makes no sense. It's so bad it could be considered a crime against nature. Are you saying if he doesn't win the Big 12 North he's safe, or that if he fails to win 13 games he's safe? Did you proof read this thing before you posted it?

Me, I've got an excuse. It's not my job. Him? Not so much.

Moral of the story: Ignore this man.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Those Last Vile Days

This is killing me.


Blood Pressure Up. I'm easily agitated. I'm eating everything in sight. When I wake up, I vomit. Then I cry uncontrollably. I lash out at those closest to me. I beat a man unconscious with his own cellphone for cutting me in line at Dunkin Donuts yesterday.

I simply can't take it anymore.

Nine days stand between me and the start of the Michigan football season. Nine days of suffering before we are all released from this purgatory.

Others are losing it too. They need help as much as I do. Rivals has run out of content and is now looking at the best No. 2 receivers (Manningham checks in as the No.1 No.2, wait... what?). Orson, inbetween bouts of binge drinking, is talking about the University of Buffalo. The Free Press and Detroit News don't have a single thing to talk about today. It's so bad I actually care that Northwestern will start red-shirt QB Mike Kafka this year following an injury to C.J. Bacher.

Hell, the pressure's getting to the coaches and players. You're the QB. No, you are. Screw you I'm transferring. Honest players can't even receive piles of money from sketchy car dealership owning boosters work at car dealerships anymore. Players are so tense their bones are breaking (leg bones, and only in East Lansing. Hope he gets better soon). East Coast Playas are turning into West Coast Playas(West Los Angeles College that is).

Mira, Kemo! Aren't you proud? I'm the first one here.
What's cal-Ku-lus?

Scout's completely out of things to talk about. They're running a story on the top 50 basketball players for 2008! (Just so you know, Michigan isn't listed on a single Center in the class. Damn you Amaker.)

The Ann Arbor News does have some non-fluff related material that I didn't get to yesterday. Thank God.

At this point Michigan is still looking for a #3 receiver to step up and take the position. Pre-season bets were on Arrington, but the fact that he hasn't taken it by force tells me one of two things: 1) There is just too much competition and Greg Matthews has become and OGM stud overnight (which I hope is true); or 2) No one's impressed enough to get the nod (which is most likely true).

It looks like the Offensive Line is set. The big question mark at Right Tackle/Guard may have been answered by Kolodziej injury. Because Rueben Riley played tackle last year he's been handed the tackle position and red-shirt sophomore Alex Mitchell gets the nod at right guard. Mitchell is a BIG kid at 311. Supposedly one of the targets in the "get trim" campaign, if he's moving better than last year he should be more than serviceable at the guard spot. Count on some center help from time to time till he's comfortable. Riley's played Tackle before so he's no stranger to the position. Still he's a more natural guard and may have some troubles with quicker DEs. We're still waiting on word regarding Kolodziej's injury.

There are rumblings over who will be the third string running-back, but at this point with Hart and Grady, anyone else is gravy.

At Safety Jamar Adams put in the down payment, signed the contracts, and now owns the Free Safety spot. Go near him at your peril. At free safety the competition has boiled down to Brandent Englemon and Ryan Mundy. Having sat with Mundy's father at the 2002 Notre Dame game (totally randomly), I'm pulling for him. Plus, I think he's better than he played two years ago.

Zoltan may take over the punting duties. Brian is ecstatic. He's made shirts.

Finally, the most recent Boll Poll Roundtable Roundup has been posted at The House Rock Built. There is some really funny stuff in there. Go there and read it. It will make you less sad that football season is still nine days away.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

That Rose Don't Bloom in January

A few weeks ago Bo Schembechler loudly declared Michigan should stop playing Notre Dame. He said that the rivalry wasn't really there. He said it wasn't special anymore. That playing Notre Dame was like playing another conference team. He said Notre Dame was just clogging up the schedule when we could be playing someone like Texas or Georgia (actually, he didn't say Georgia, but I wish he did). He said we should be playing top teams instead. I disagree with him.

I realize going against Bo is somewhat taboo, as Bo is, well, Bo. He is a larger than life figure in Michigan athletics. He vanquished the armies to the south more often than not, and led us to the promised land (Pasadena) ten times. From 1969-1979 Bo's Wolverines had the third highest winning percentage in the country, trailing only Oklahoma and Alabama. He left Michigan as the school's winningest coach, surpassing the great Fielding Yost, with 195 wins. He captured or shared 13 Big Ten Titles in 20 years. Fittingly, his last game as Michigan head coach was in the Rose Bowl against Southern Cal. Today he's still a vocal supporter of all things Michigan. He was responsible for Gary Moeller's hiring and to a large extent for Lloyd taking over when Gary "left".

Despite all this Bo's statement came off, for some reason, as sour grapes. At the time of his statement, I had no clue how Bo performed against Notre Dame. I didn't know what his reasons were for the statement. However, it didn't seem right to call for another opponent in place of Notre Dame. Wasn't Notre Dame a top school again? Didn't we want to get back on the winning side of the equation before moving on? Why say Notre Dame needs the game more than we do, when in reality, neither team "needs" the other at all?

The last thing Michigan should do is call off a rivalry game when we've lost 3 of the last four in that rivalry. (That's something Notre Dame does. Boston College anyone?) The last four years we've played Notre Dame with more talent on our side of the ball, and thrice we've walked away with our tails between our legs. If you're going to walk away from a series, walk away with your head held high. Not when you've gone from a dominating record against to a merely mediocre one. It struck me as odd that Bo of all people would call for that. Hell, I've got a Bo bobble-head over my TV at home (drives my wife crazy). 4 yards and a cloud of dust. Grind it out and win. Never quit. However, his call for a new opponent didn't sound that way. It made me feel like he wanted us to walk away from unfinished business. And that's not how I remember him.

Because it struck me as odd, I did a little delving into the record book to get a better impression of the man that arguably shaped Michigan's football tradition during the latter half of the twentieth century.

Bo's Early Years at Michigan

When Bo took over at Michigan in 1969, the Wolverines had won ONE Big Ten title since 1950 (the longest drought in school history). The program was in shambles following 10 mediocre years under Bump Elliott. Mediocre doesn't cover it. Horrible. Michigan had five losing records during Elliott's tenure as head coach. Making matters worse, Michigan posted a 3-7 record against Ohio State during that time.

Despite all that, it didn't take Bo long to adjust to the Big Ten. In his first year Schembechler led Michigan to an 8-3 record and a conference co-championship. At that point Michigan had lost the last two meetings against OSU and Hayes was trying to repeat as National Champions. Michigan wouldn't oblige, thumping OSU 24-12. Bo's victory over OSU was the first win over OSU since 1966. The win ruined OSU's 22 game winning streak and ended their quest for a repeat National Championship. Woody Hayes later admitted that squad was his best football team ever. Michigan's season ended in Pasadena, with Michigan dropping the Rose Bowl to USC 10-3.

This was the start of something special at Michigan. In one season, Michigan was back. Two years removed from a 4-6 season, the Wolverines were back on the top of the Midwest football world.

In 1970 Bo piloted the Wolverines to a 9-1 record, including two lopsided blow-outs of Illinois and Iowa, yet dropping their season finale and national championship run in a 9-20 loss to OSU in Columbus. In 1971, Michigan avenged their loss, topping OSU 10-7 in Ann Arbor, capping a perfect regular season 10-0 and returning to Pasadena to play Stanford. Michigan dropped a heartbreaker to the Cardinal, 12-13, again ending Michigan's National Championship dreams the last game of the year.

Hayes spent the next few years ruining Michigan seasons. It wouldn't be until 1976 that Michigan would return to the Rose Bowl, or beat OSU. In 1972, 1973, and 1974 Michigan would be perfect heading into the regular season finale against OSU only to lose or tie the buckeyes. Michigan lost two of those games by a combined 5 points. As a result, Michigan stayed home for the holidays while someone else took their place in Pasadena. 1975 was rough on Michigan too. Two early season ties to Stanford and Baylor (in Ann Arbor) and losses to OSU and Oklahoma (Orange Bowl) soured Michigan's season.

1976 was a different story. Michigan cruised through the regular season, save a car wreck against Purdue. Michigan strode into Columbus 9-1, and demolished OSU 22-0, returning to the Rose Bowl to face Southern Cal. Again Michigan lost to Southern Cal, putting up only 6 points in Pasadena.

The next two years ran the same course as 1976. Dominating wins, a close loss to someone unexpected, followed by a whupping of OSU, and a Rose Bowl loss. In 1978, Michigan walked into South Bend and handled the Irish 28-14 on their way to a Conference Co-Championship.

Closing out his first decade as head coach at Michigan, Bo's Wolverines had a rough year. Michigan lost to Notre Dame in Ann Arbor, and dropped games to Purdue and OSU, before losing to North Carolina in the Gator Bowl.

At the end of his first decade Bo had amassed 96 wins in 115 games. Even with three ties, his winning percentage was .835. Michigan had its only "undefeated" season under Bo in 1973, going 10-0-1 with the tie coming against OSU. Michigan captured 2 outright Big Ten Titles and shared 6 more. During seven of those seasons Michigan had 10 or more wins. In five of those seasons Michigan had one loss or less. Michigan was a 5-5-1 against OSU from 1969-1979, a substantial improvement over the previous 3-7 record. Michigan was 1-1 against Notre Dame and only dropped a single game to MSU. Bo had 13 consensus All-Americans during that time.

Unfortunately, Michigan never won the last game of its season. Even during Michigan's amazing run from 1972-1974, Michigan could not get over the top against OSU to secure a Rose Bowl Bid and possible National Championship shot. During Michigan's first 5 Rose Bowls under Bo the Maize and Blue scored 51 points total. Michigan's highest point outputs were 20 (v. Washington 1978), 12 (v. Stanford 1972) and 10 (v. Southern Cal 1979). Michigan failed to win a post season game despite going to 7 bowl games during that time.

During that time the Big Ten truly was a two team conference. Michigan or Ohio State owned outright or shared the Big Ten title with one another ten of Bo's first eleven years. The only exception was in 1978 when Michigan and Michigan State split the Big Ten title.

The Second Decade

The 1980's got off to a somewhat precarious start when Michigan dropped games to Notre Dame and South Carolina, leaving it at 1-2 to start the season. However, the Maize and Blue rattled off 9 straight wins, including a 9-3 barnburner in Columbus, before finally capturing that elusive Rose Bowl crown against Washington (23-6). You may remember that Michigan team had some guy named Anthony Carter. He was good. This was Michigan's first Rose Bowl win since 1965.

The next four years were frustrating for Michigan fans. In 1981 Michigan finished 3rd in the Big Ten, and lost the regular season finale to OSU in Ann Arbor. However, Michigan beat Notre Dame and closed out the season with a win over UCLA in the Bluebonnet Bowl (yes, that was actually its name). In 1982 Michigan dropped games to Notre Dame, Ohio State, and UCLA (twice, regular and Rose Bowl). So despite winning the conference championship outright, the year ended sour. 1983, Michigan beat OSU but finished 9-3, losing to Washington, Illinois, and Auburn in the Sugar Bowl.

1984, Michigan had its worst season under Schembechler's care going 6-6 with losses to Washington, MSU, Iowa (shutout), Purdue, OSU, and BYU (in the Holiday Bowl).

Such a middling season didn't sit well in Ann Arbor and Bo quickly righted the ship. Going 10-1-1 in 1985, Michigan beat OSU, Notre Dame, and Nebraska in the New Year's Day Fiesta Bowl. In 1986, Michigan was cruising through the regular season before dropping a stunner to Minnesota in the Big House. Even so Michigan topped OSU and ND that year, and finished the season 11-2 following a 7 point Rose Bowl loss to Arizona State.

Over Bo's last three years at the helm he was 2-1 against OSU, winning his last two games against the Buckeyes including a 28-18 send off in Ann Arbor. However, Bo would never beat Notre Dame again. In 1987, 1988, and 1989 Michigan started off 0-1 after losses to the Irish. Michigan finished 1987 8-4, with losses to ND, MSU, OSU, Indiana, yet closing the season with a win against Alabama in the Hall of Fame Bowl.

Bo did go out in style. He captured outright Conference crowns in 1988 and 1989, both years leading Michigan to the Rose Bowl. Bo won his second Rose Bowl ring in 1988, and capped his career in Pasadena with a 10-17 heartbreaker to USC.

During Bo's last ten years he captured two Rose Bowl Rings, a Fiesta Bowl win, a Holiday Bowl win, and a Bluebonnet Bowl win. Michigan never missed the post season during the 80's. Michigan went 6-4 over the Buckeyes. Michigan won four outright Big Ten titles and shared a fifth. Ohio State claimed only one outright conference championship during that time and split two more. Michigan went undefeated in Conference play twice, 1980 and 1989. Eleven consensus All-American's dotted Michigan's roster during that time. Bo left the Michigan sideline with 195 wins under his belt and a program restored to national prominence.

On the other side, Michigan lost more Rose Bowls than they won going 2-3. During that time Michigan's winning percentage slipped to (a still remarkable) .750. Finally, Bo finished with a losing record to Notre Dame during the 80's going 3-5 against them.

What It All Means (To Me)

It is nearly impossible to criticize Schembechler for his accomplishments at Michigan. He took a struggling, former national power and returned it to glory. 13 Big Ten titles and 10 Rose Bowl appearances speak to that. He built a program based on openness and integrity which remains strong to this day.

If there are questions regarding Bo's tenure, they revolve around his Rose Bowl record 2-8, his postseason record of 5-12, his style of offensive coaching, and his performance against top ten teams. During his tenure Bo went 7-27-1 against top ten teams. Bo also never won that elusive National Championship. Michigan wandered into Columbus undefeated four times only to leave with a loss or a tie. When Michigan made it out of Ohio unscathed it dropped the Rose Bowl and their National Championship hopes to Stanford in 1971/1972.

During Bo's 21 year tenure, Michigan came close but never captured a National Championship. However, Southern California who Michigan played in the Rose Bowl several times captured 3. Perennial foe Notre Dame took 3 National Championships home. During that time not a single Big Ten team won a NC. This either speaks to the Conference's toughness in that no one could escape unscathed, or that the conference was not as strong as we'd like to believe. During the 80's I would argue the former, however during the 70's I would argue the later. Even so, with Michigan's dominance of the Big Ten during Bo's tenure, one would expect at least a single National Championship to be delivered. Unfortunately, it was not to be.

Arguably, despite the superior won/loss record of the 1970's, Bo's work in the 1980's was his best work. Michigan finished its season on a winning note five times, winning five bowl games. His record against OSU was 6-4. The Big Ten was expanding into the super conference we know it as today, yet Michigan was its most dominant member.

Bo is a larger than life figure in Michigan history. He seems above criticism. Where we roast Lloyd for a 7-5 season, his success is comparable to Bo's last ten years. Not once during Carr's tenure at Michigan has there been an investigation of wrong doing by boosters or players. Under Carr Michigan has a National Championship and two outright Big Ten Titles and three shared titles. Just like with Bo in the later years Carr struggles to get his team ready for that first road game. In the 80's Michigan was 4-6 in road openers (though Bo was 10-1 in road openers from '69-'79). As we saw in the 80's, College football changed for the better and became more competitive. Today it is even more so, and Carr's .750 winning percentage is something to be admired.

Before I looked at the record books and re-read some of the Schembechler lore I really didn't know why Bo was so important to Michigan history. He just "was". But a closer look truly drives home how crucial he was in building Michigan into the power it is today.

The Notre Dame Rivalry

Despite all he means to Michigan, here I think Bo is wrong to call for an end to the rivalry. I think Michigan should play Notre Dame every year. I think the two most storied football programs in college football history should meet every year. I think the early path to the National Championship should be determined by the outcome of our game in either Ann Arbor or South Bend each year.

Am I debasing the Ohio State matchup? Not at all. The UM/OSU match up determines who wins the Big Ten. More often than not it determines who has the opportunity to win a national title or who let one slip away. Look at how many times OSU came in undefeated and left empty handed. Look at Michigan's records in the early 70's or 2004. If you emerge with a victory, you're playing for a National Championship. If you lose, your rival spoiled your shot.

Because of Notre Dame's media and fan base cache, even with a two loss record they will always be in the Championship hunt. However, if one of those losses is to Michigan you can take the Irish our of that equation. If they beat us fine, they may have to play us again in the title game. If we lose to them and OSU, fine, let OSU or Notre Dame wear the crown. I want to know we played the best teams every year.

I want to beat both schools each year. I want to circle the ND game and the OSU game with the same amount of venom in my heart. If Bo wants a another tough non-conf, make it a Texas, Georgia or Oregon in place of CMU or Ball State. Let Michigan play and beat the best. If Notre Dame couldn't find its ass with a map, both hands, and a chair, I'd say fine, let them go. That's not the case. They are considered among the country's elite and its up to us to beat them.

I understand now, far better than before, how important Bo is to Michigan. But that doesn't make him right on this point.

Monday, August 21, 2006

A Busy Monday Hearsay and Conjecture

Due to several deadlines and an angry judge I'm not going to have as much time as I would like to expand upon MSU, who hates Michigan today, the fact that Drew Sharp still sucks, and other fun topics.

In lieu of actual content enjoy Woodson's 1997 one handed INT versus MSU.

It was after this interception that I began yelling over the top of Spartan Stadium "Come Back, we're not done kicking your ass yet!" to exiting Spartan fans.

Please also note in the background of Woodson's interception that the MSU receiver got pile driven into the turf the second Woodson's had touched the ball. Gotta love rivalry games.

Also of Note:

Sean over at Michigan Sports Center has an outstanding interview with Jim Carty. He takes it to Carty on his "gutless" and "donut" comments. Excellent work.

Johnny says thanks, but no thanks to the idea of Leon Hall returning kicks. Allow me to LOUDLY second that motion.

Michigan is ranked 14 in the AP and 15 in the Coaches. The Esteemed BlogPoll has Michigan 14th. That's what we do at the BlogPoll. We take chances and go against the norm.

Michigan picked up another commitment. Say hello to Marquis Maze. iBlogforCookies, MGoBlog, and RBUAS have all your details.

Sunday Morning Quarterback has challenged Kyle to a debate regarding Bowls versus Playoffs. Oh, it's on. And for the record, SMQ is wrong. Playoffs, when 119 teams are involved, are not the answer. Bowls 4-ev-ah, baby.

The boys over at MZone have seconded my pronouncement that West Virginia is the most overrated member of the current polls. Should they be crowned national champion this year, a couch will burn in Chicago.

If you haven't been reading this, you should. Blah Me To Death has been doing a position by position breakdown of this year's Michigan squad. Today, the corners. High quality stuff, definitely worth a read.

Finally, there is a new Ohio State/Cleveland sports blog for all your Buckeye state info needs, Pfef's Sports Blog. He also fills us in on some interesting QB happenings in Columbus. Apparently back-up Justin Zwick left friday's scrimage with some sort of shoulder injury. If he's out for any extended period of time that's BAD news for the Buckeyes. Going from a starter and an experienced backup to only a starter is cause for much consternation. Check out his site when you get a chance.

Blog Polling The Square Table

The Blog Poll is here. Yea! As you've probably seen, Ohio State checks in at the top spot. Along with the release of the Blog Poll comes the first Blog Poll Roundtable which is presented by arguably my favorite ND blogger, House Rock Built. A couple of days ago he put together a NCAA Presidential Decision Maker which had me laughing for about a half an hour. This time he's posed some great questions which I will endeavour to answer. Several people have provided some informative answers: Dawg Sports, Sunday Morning Quarterback, Burnt Orange Nation, The Cover Two, and others.

Here are mine.

1. What's the biggest ripoff in this preseason poll? Either pick a team that's offensively over or underrated, or you can rag on a particular voter's bad pick (hey, we're all adults here, we can handle it).

West Virginia. The only reason this team is in the top ten in the Coaches and AP is their high school/nursing home schedule. 5th in the AP and 7th in the Coaches? Their schedule is a joke. Playing the entire "eastern block", East Carolina and Eastern Washington, should not be rewarded by the voters. Yes their offense is back nearly intact, but it racked up its yards against some suspect defenses. Additionally, I simply think Louisville is a better team in that conference and there's only room for 1 Big East team in the top ten. Not because of my mid-west bias, but because its not a good conference.

I also don't buy the "Look what WV did to Georgia" line of reasoning. If Georgia doesn't take a giant dump on the first quarter, they win that game. During the game, despite playing three quarters, Georgia racked up 501 total yards of offense, including well over 200 on the ground. Its important to note WV had trouble against thegood teams they faced. Remember the Mountaineers got doubled-up by Virginia Tech.

Like last year, the biggest problem for WV will be defense. While a majority of the DLine returns they're replacing almost all of their defensive backfield. While I think this is a good team, its second best in the weakest BCS conference. WV will win 10 or 11 games, but the voters shouldn't reward success against a terrible schedule.

As a result of this post I have hidden every couch I own and the couches of everyone I care about.

2. What should a preseason poll measure? Specifically, should it be a predictor of end-of-season standing (meaning that a team's schedule should be taken into account when determining a ranking), or should it merely be a barometer of talent/hype/expectations?

The preseason polls drive me nuts. In the end they are highly irrelevant and based on pure speculation. Armed only with preseason magazines and last year's film, everyone attempts to predict the unpredicable. The biggest problem with the AP and Coaches Polls is they reward teams based on reputation rather than their potential results. This tends to skew the year end rankings. Michigan's #3 ranking last year was a perfect example.

Another problem is very good teams, like the Oregon's of the world, tend to be completely disadvantaged because they start unranked and have to battle against their presupposed reputations regardless of their performance. Big name potential two loss teams remain in the top 10 when smaller name (but major conference schools) with no or one loss potential sit below them despite tougher schedules.

In my humble opinion the preseason polls should judge where the voters believe those teams will finish at the end of the year.

I'd propose the following measure for preseason polling:

(Overall talent/coaching/etc.) + (surrounding hype) +/- (schedule*) = School's Rank
*[if a hard schedule they can win its a plus/if a hard schedule they can lose its a minus/if a easy schedule they can win its a minus)

I think you should be evaluated on your chances of success against a quality schedule, not how good you look in a uniform. If you've got a buttload of talent but a killer schedule, somewhere in the teens so you can sort it all out. If you're a Major Program with a joke of a schedule it should count heavily against you. Once everyone's on the same playing field the polls can go back to talent and expectations alone. Until then I believe that a team's schedule should count against them in that equation.

Examples: Michigan plays ND/MSU/PSU/Iowa/OSU but also CMU and Ball State. Against what is arguably a good schedule they should go between 9-3 and 11-1. So somewhere between 8-14 is an appropriate ranking. West Virginia, as discussed above should go between 10-2 and 12-0, but plays only two good teams all year. With schedule counting against them, they should rank similarly to Michigan. USC and Texas, teams with difficult OOC schedules and tougher in conference schedules, who legitimately can run the table get higher rankings. Between 1 and 7.

By penalizing schedule padding like this we encourage teams to play difficult opponents but also allow them the flexibility of a cream puff or two. The idea is to keep it at two crappy non-confs a year, and if you're in a crappy league to schedule harder non-conf opponents. My reasoning is flawed. I admit. But its a thought on preseason rankings.

3. What is your biggest stretch in your preseason ballot? That is to say, which team has the best chance of making you look like an idiot for overrating them?

Two possibilities. #6 Miami and #14 Tennessee.

Miami is suspect on the O-line and is breaking in new coaches all over the board. Coaches in transition combined with a shakey O-line is not a good way to start a season. Nor is it a good way to start a season when two starters and two backups get suspended for the FSU game. Throw in the Willie Williams mess and you've got yourself a problem under the surface. It's possible this team could implode.

Tennesse also could come back to bite me in the ass. The Vols were terrible last year. Add in the fact that they're replacing six of their front seven on defense and the majority of their offensive line and this could be another long season for Rocky Top. Last year's defense wasn't that good and the guys replacing them couldn't get on the field last year. Anytime you're replacing linemen, well, that's bad. I still think they'll be fine and finish in the top 25, but if there's a stretch with the potential to make me cry, its them.

4. What do you see as the biggest flaw in the polling system (both wire service and blogpolling)? Is polling an integral part of the great game of college football, or is it an outdated system that needs to be replaced? If you say the latter, enlighten us with your new plan.

My biggest problem with polling in general is that everyone plays by their own rules. There is no uniform standard by which to evaluate teams, seasons, and on-field results. This results endless arguments over who got screwed when USC faced OU and who should've gone to the Citrus Bowl rather than the Alamo Bowl. All of these arguments are valid, totally irrelevant, and a load of fun.

Despite its flaws I think the poll system is the best method we have for determining a champion. Beside Auburn fans, does anyone really think they would've beaten USC? The system as it exists allows for infinite debate between friends, rivals, media, and schools. It lets us keep the conversation going well past the end of the season and long before the next one begins. How many of you almost wet yourselves with giddiness when the first polls were released just so you could critize them?

The system is set up in such a way that it engenders a certain excitement that is far more palpable than the opening of the NFL preseason. Debate begins because there is something to debate. Judgments have been made and it is up to us, the individual fans, to tell everyone in earshot how right or wrong those judgments are. Frankly, it's a hell of a lot of fun. Because of the interaction, the debate, and the anticipation we get every week when the polls come out, I think they are an irreplaceable part of college football that. While they're in need of a tweaking, they help to make college football what it is.

Regarding a possible replacement, no one has come up with a better methods to accurately judge the on field accomplishments of college football players. The BCS is as close as we've come, but it has its well documented problems. There are plenty of people calling for a playoff as a fool proof means of crowning a champion, but even that has its flaws. How do the seeds work? Who gets in? What if you have two identical teams at the bottom, who gets screwed and gets in? How do the payouts work? What happens to those mid level teams that count count on a small bowl payout, but a payout none the less?

Like Kyle, I deplore the idea of a college football playoff. There are too many teams for a fair playoff system to ever be devised. I like the bowl system. I like having college football games that are the final game to their players. I like the idea of rewarding the kids for a positive season, no matter what their alumni think.

One of the best things about College Football, is the orgy of football that takes place leading up to the new year with it culimating with Football equivalent of "Boogey Nights" on New Year's Day. Its awesome. Every channel has a game on. You can flip between games during commercials and never run out of football. Compared to the NFL playoffs which peter out within two weeks and then give us a meaningless build up to a single game. (Which unfortunately what we have now in college football with the post season spanning over a week after New Years). Still, we get a full month of "last games" between college teams, with each new game building toward the eventual championship game. To me that's pretty special.

Finally, I think the Blog Poll does what it sets out to do. Look at the records. Look at the talent. Judge the teams as if they were in the Kumate, single elimination, who's still standing. I like it for what it is. The layman's view of college football. It makes for endless debate and amusing crossfire. No matter how hard we try, even within our little cabal people will adjudge things differently than the rules dictate and the results might be somewhat skewed. That's what makes it fun.

5. You're Scott Bakula, and you have the opportunity to "Quantum Leap" back in time and change any single moment in your team's history. It can be a play on the field, a hiring decision, or your school's founders deciding to build the campus in Northern Indiana, of all godforsaken places. What do you do?

I would go back in time and prevent the hiring of Mike Gittleson. Here is why.