Saturday, September 30, 2006

Michigan Minnesota Open Thread

Oh it's on.

There's a sign behind Corso on Game Day that says "Corso Show Us Your Tates".

God I love football.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Jack Johnson's Rights Traded To Hated LA Kings

Um...

Not happy about this. (HT: MB)

Why is it that every hot Michigan player or prospect is somehow involved with the LA Kings? Carolina apparently traded him for some defensive help when Johnson said "Screw you, I'm staying at Michigan another year."

Don't get me wrong, I'm really excited Jack likes Ann Arbor as much as I did. But it's the Kings. They're still on my list for stealing Trevor Lewis earlier this summer.

Assholes.

Friday's Hearsay and Conjecture: Please Make This Hangover Go Away

Sometimes business requires you to entertain. Other times it requires team building. And every now and then it requires just getting shnockered with your office mates.

Last night was one of those occasions.

Understandably, blogging will be light today. However, in an effort to get you caught up for UM Minnesota tomorrow night I thought I'd provide a little link fest for the game in addition to rounding up the best stuff from around the 'sphere.

Random Hockey News:

Michigan and Michigan State are picked as the really-pre-season favorites in the CCHA. The Coaches picked MSU and the media picked Michigan.

Jim Carty wants to get rid of the C-Ya! chant at Michigan hockey games. Michigan hockey fans now want to get rid of Jim Carty.

Fun Stuff:

Jay of Blue Gray Sky has returned from East Lansing and delivered one of the best narratives you find anywhere on the web about Notre Dame's come back win over Michigan State. An absolute must read.

Getting prepped for the Bama Florida game, Orson and Nico did a a pair of Q&A sessions. When reading through them I saw this little nugget that had to be shared.
"Being from Alabama, my only knowledge of and experience with the gay lifestyle comes from Will and Grace and Cinemax softcore lesbian porn."

Mark Hasty's Pickin' On The Big Ten is up and always entertaining. Spoiler alert - He's taking OSU over his beloved Hawkeyes.

Johnny's got a sweet new banner over at RBUAS. On top of his seething hatred of Notre Dame, he does a great breakdown of the top 25.

IBFC has more game film and breakdowns on the Wisconsin game. Damn its good to have Vijay back.

Joe Pa gets knocked down. But he gets up again.

The 614 has your Ohio State Freshman survival guide posted. Flame and poo repellent coolers aren't mentioned, but an excellent read none the less. If only I knew then what I know now...

Michigan Minnesota Link Fest

The MZone gives you more background than you ever wanted on Minnesota

MGoBlog has an actual team breakdown on Minnesota.

Go Blue Wolverine previews Minnesota's Offense and Defense. Their "Edge" goes to Michigan.

Rivals makes their game day predictions as well.

Awesome Detroit News articles on Arrington and Jamison. They also give their keys to the game.

More pub for Alan Branch in the Free Press.

The University of Michigan's official pregame notes can be found here.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Quick Preview of the Minnesota Golden Gophers

Another busy Thursday. Work will prohibit me from spending too much time online today, but I did want to make sure we've all done our research on the Gophers this year.

To date Minnesota is 2-2 and 0-1 in conference, with losses to Cal (3-1) and Purdue (4-0, 1-0).

Minnesota's last game was a heartbreaker to Purdue. Still, Minnesota has possession of the Little Brown Jug right now. I want it back dammit. Branch, Taylor, Hall! I command you!

Just to bring you up to speed, I took a quick look at Minnesota's games and numbers. My original preview from August is below, but I did a quick overview of what the Gophers have been doing.

Minnesota's defense simply doesn't have the size to stop anyone that's not Temple or Kent State. They gave up 44 to Cal and 27 to Purdue. In all honesty, the game hinges on our defense versus their offense. If we shut down the Gopher passing game, well, it should be quick and painless. If we don't, could be a long evening. So time to bring you up to speed. The Gopher's Offensive Leaders can be found here. On to the preivew:

QB

The long and short of the Gopher Offense is Bryan Cupito. So far this year he's posted a 7TD/3INT ratio and has passed for 742 yards. Those stats can be somewhat deceiving. Cupito was serviceable against a mediocre Cal defense. While he passed for over 200 yards he got himself picked twice and failed to throw a TD. He did show improvement against Purdue, throwing two TD's and getting picked once. But the bulk of his stat padding came in a clubbing and skinning of baby-seal Temple. Even so, it is important to note that he completed over 60% of his passes in that game. His accuracy seems to be pretty constant, good defense or bad. Making sure he doesn't have time to throw will be the critical part of the equation.

Cupito's got a strong arm, but hasn't had the change to display it until this season. The presence of Minnesota's twin terrors that last few years made Cupito's arm an add-on to the Gopher attack. This year, with the lack of a real running game the burden of generating any offense has fallen squarely on Cupito's shoulders. He seems to have responded well so far, but his only performance against a quasi-real defense resulted in two picks, no TDs, and a Gopher loss.

Big news for Michigan: He's not a runner. Drop back passer and Navarre-esque in terms of mobility. His funeral is scheduled to be held immediately following the game.

RB

Tiny Amir Pinnix has taken over as the lead back in the offense. Shifty is the best way to describe him. He's also got some wheels. For the first time this season Pinnix was unleashed upon unsuspecting Purdue. On 28 carries he racked up 178 yards. This completely dispells any notion that he's too small to be a feature back. Running behind Minnesota's standard sumo-sized line he should have a pretty good season.

Up to this point converted LB Alex Daniels has been the featured workhorse for the Gopher running game. I had Daniels slotted as the Middle Line Backer earlier this year. Guess I was wrong. He's only a sophmore and damn is he large for a RB. 6-3, 255. He must break you. 155 yards and 3 TD's against Kent State and 78 againt Cal and a TD, speak to the fact he's for real. You'll see him in goal line situations against Michigan. Crable, Harris, and Burgess are on notice they have to bring down a guy their size.

Also worth mentioning is the fact that Minnesota's RBs haven't coughed up the ball yet. That will have to change.

TE/WR

Surprisingly deep. Always athletic, but no one thought Logan Payne and Matt Spaeth were going to set the world on fire. Big and white, Payne looks like a TE. Wrong. He's a WR. Payne's 5 TD catches are cool until you realize he had four against Big Brow Baby Seal Eyes. Still, he's had 6 catches a game for the last three games. I'm fairly sure he wears a "Possession Receiver" t-shirt under his jersey. Bullseye now brightly painted on his chest.

Big and white, Spaeth looks like a TE, and actually plays the position. He's currently second on the team in receptions and receiving yards. He is also the premeir TE in the conference. Big, nasty, hard to bring down. He can block like a tackle and catch like Ecker. Dane. Ger. Ous. Gotta keep a guy on him at all times. All-American last year, likely will be again this year.

Finally, the missing player in all this is burner/giraffe hybrid Ernie Wheelright. He missed the Temple game and returned to action at half speed versus Purdue. At 6'5" he's a giant pain in the ass. Big and fast. If he's at full speed, Hall could have his hands full. The idea is basically to lob deep jump balls (heh heh) at him and watching him tower over DBs for the catch. If Cupito can find ways to get him the ball, it could make this game a lot closer than it looks on paper.

The O-Line

It's Minnesota. Good not great. Lost a couple of players, but will be good again. Say what you want about Mason, the man knows O-Linemen.

Defense

Pretty much unchanged from my earlier predictions below. Undersized. Potential NFL DE in Steve Davis. Fast, fast, fast, fast, fast. But small. Should give Riley fits.

An Error Prone & Excessively Verbose Overview of:
The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers

The Game
University of Michigan v. University of Minnesota
Location: Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Date: September 30, 2006
Game Time: 7:00pm CST
Game #: 5
TV: TBA (likely ESPN)
Radio: WOMC-FM and CKLW-AM

The Opposition
University: University of Minnesota
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Team Name: The Golden Gophers
Team Mascot: Goldy Gopher
Facility: Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (Cap. 63,669)
Conference: Big Ten
Number of Conference Championships: 17 (1900, 1903, 1904, 1906, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1915, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1940, 1941, 1960, 1967)
Number of National Championships: 6 (1934, 1935, 1936, 1940, 1941, 1960)
First Season of Football: 1882 (1-1-0)
Last Season: 2005 (7-5)
All Time Record: 620-432-44
Head Coach: Glen Mason (9th year)
Versus Michigan All-Time: 24-67-3 (Michigan leads)
Last Meeting Versus Michigan: 2005 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, beat Michigan 23-20.

A Brief History of The University of Minnesota:

The third largest University system in the United States, The (da) "U" as locals call it, was founded in 1851 as a preparatory school in Minneapolis before Minnesota was even a state. Closing down during the civil war, Minneapolis entrepreneur John Sargent Pillsbury reopened the U in1867 through the Morrill Land-Grant Act, designating it as Minnesota's land-grant university. Today, the U is located on both sides of the Mississippi River and has grown into one of the countries premier public institutions. The heart of the system is the University's Twin Cities campus which contains a large undergraduate population and the medical, law and other graduate programs.

Americans like Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page, Walter Mondale, and U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger all call the U their alma mater. As does my grandfather, who was a long time economics Ph.d. student there. So, as you can tell, the U has a special place in my heart.

Athletically the Gophers excel at winter sports. The Men's and Women's ice hockey teams recently have captured back-to-back national championships (Men 2002, 2003; Women 2004, 2005). The Wrestling team took back-to-back national championships in 2001 and 2002 as well. Finally, the men's and women's basketball teams are routinely some of the best in the Big Ten, though the men's program has recently fallen on hard times.

Football History

In case you didn't notice, Minnesota has 6 National Championships (1934, 1935, 1936, 1940, 1941, 1960) under its belt. In fact between 1934 and 1936 the Gophers only lost one game. During their back-to-back National Championships in the 40's, Minnesota went 16-0 over two seasons.

However, since 1967 when the Gophers captured a share of the Big Ten crown, its been all down hill. From 1970-1999 the Gophers managed just 10 winning seasons. Since Glen Mason took over the program in 1997 the Gophers have had only 3 losing seasons. They've also managed to go to a bowl 6 of the last 7 years.

Unfortunately for both the fans and the coaching staff, none of those bowls have been New Year's Bowls.

Last Year: 2005 (7-5)

Minnesota opened with four straight wins, including a victory over Purdue, before getting pummeled by PSU. Then they beat Michigan. Toads fell from the sky, the seas boiled, the moon turned as blood. Lost on cloud nine Minnesota proceeded to drop close ones to Wisconsin and Ohio State before righting the ship against Indiana. Amir Pinnix ran wild over a depleted MSU squad and the Gophers prepared for their year end showdown with Iowa. They got absolutely destroyed (52-28). Despite this, the Gophers went to the Music City Bowl where they dropped a heartbreaker to Virginia by 3 points.

What Went Right:

They beat Michigan for the first time in 13 tries. That's big. They also managed to get to a bowl for the fourth straight year. Minnesota also became one of the few schools to feature two 1,000 yard running backs as Laurence Maroney and Gary Russell both topped the 1,000 yard mark.

Bryan Cupito emerged from the running game's shadow and had a solid year for the Gophers. Another positive was the All-American performance of junior TE Matt Spaeth.

What Went Wrong:

This was not a good defense. In fact it was horrible. Giving up 29 points a game does not earn you praise.

In addition, the Gophers dropped too many games they had a chance to win. With the exception of the gift Michigan win the Gophers were in a position to win games against Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Virginia, but did not.

Oh yeah. Maroney bolted for the NFL and Russell forgot that there was a grade requirement to play football. Both are gone.

What To Look For This Year:

Overhyped expectations. This is not a great football team. At best it is average. The team's strengths lie in its Offensive Line, QB and Receivers. Because of the loss of its feature backs, Minnesota will lean heavily on the passing game this year for success. While the new RBs will be serviceable, there's no way they replace the production that left.

With changes in offensive philosophy, a shaky defense, and a QB taking over a system as his own for the first time, it could be a rough year in Minneapolis.

Returning Starters Offense: 6
Returning Starters Defense: 6

Coaching:

Glen Mason has led the Gophers to 6 bowl games in the last 7 years. Even so, the Gophers have never played in a New Year's Day Bowl under his tenure. While Minnesota has always had some talent on the offensive side of the ball the defense tends to leave something to be desired. When I was in Minnesota last year before the season, people as far north as Ely were beginning to call for his head because the Gophers had yet to return to prominence. When your team has six national championships in its trophy case, but the last time you won even a Big Ten title was 1967, the natives get restless.

Mason is a good offensive coach but hasn't figured out how to put together a decent defense or coach a team to a victory it shouldn't win. (Anyone pointing to the Michigan game should realize that Minnesota's victory was more the function of Michigan's total inneptitude rather than good coaching. Minnesota tried to give that game away too. Michigan just wanted to give it away more.) Nice guy. One of the longest tenured coaches in the Big Ten. But if wins don't start piling up and a new years day bowl isn't in the picture, Mason's gone in two years.

Offense

QB:

Last year's starter Bryan Cupito is back for his senior season. Cupito has started at QB for da Gophers in 2004, donchaknow. Since starting the season as a sophomore, Cupito has only relinquished the starting job once, due to an injury versus Michigan last year. While that should mean its because he's awesome, sadly it does not. Cupito is both good and bad in the same sentence. In 2004 Cupito was marginal at best. In 2005 he was much better. Cupito passed for over 2,500 yards, 19 TDs and 9 INTs in 2005. He actually finished 5th overall in the Big Ten passing stats.

Despite seemingly solid numbers, the numbers are a tad deceiving. While Cupito does have strong arm, over the last few years Cupito has benefited from Minnesota's seemingly endless supply of 1,000 plus running backs. Last year Minnesota had two backs break the 1,000 yard mark. The offense is geared specifically for the running game. When called upon to throw the ball, Cupito has never managed to pull out the big game against good teams despite the fact that eight man fronts are stacked at the line. Cupito did have big games last year against Ohio State (396) and Iowa (315), but Minnesota dropped both games, getting blown out against Iowa.

This year without a star studded running game the weight of the offense rests entirely on his shoulders. How he does when teams are stacked up to stop him is a question that will quickly be answered this fall. Cupito's okay, however he does have some very talented wideouts to throw to. Expect his TD and INT numbers to rise, but for him to have a solid season. Maybe sneak into the draft as a late, late pick.

Sophomore Tony Mortensen will back up Cupito this year and likely take over the starting job next year. Mortensen's claim to fame is he handed the ball off to Gary Russell on that 3rd and long against Michigan that induced a string of expletives from Michigan fans that hasn't finished reverberating around the planet. Mortensen is game tested, getting the start against Wisconsin (a game da Gophers won) and plenty of mop up time. If Cupito goes down Mortensen has the tools to be a solid backup. He won't supplant Cupito, but he's not an inexperienced, wet-behind the ears kid who's only held a clip board. He can play at a decent level.

RBs:

This year, for the first time in several years, the running game won't be the star in Minneapolis. Here's why: Russell was supposed to be back but grades got in the way. He had 1,100+ yards last year. Maroney was supposed to be back but money got in the way. He had 1,500+ yards last year.

Who's left? Shifty Junior Amir Pinnix will be the workhorse this year. He tallied over 450 yards last year without catching a pass as the number three back in a two back rotation. Unlike the bludgeoning power that Maroney and Russell brought to the table Pinnix is small, quick, and shifty as a mouse in a caffeine study. When given the ball he can do some special things. Ask MSU. Pinnix' one start last year was against the Spartans, he responded by rushing 32 times for 206 yards. He's not the biggest back in the world so keeping him healthy may be the Gopher's biggest question mark at RB.

Backing up Pinnix will be juco transfer junior Brylee Callender. More in the mold of a speedy power back, Callender will bring the between the tackles pop for Minnesota. The 2003 Mr. Football in Minnesota, Callender can move and will see plenty of playing time. Paving the way for Pinnix and Challender will be fullback Justin Valentine. Built like a Hummer, Valentine could see some goalline carries if Challender doesn't grab that job outright. Valentine is a solid blocker and has good hands out of the backfield. With a single running back on the field at any time, Valentine should see some carries and be more involved in the offense this year.

After Pinnix and Callender there isn't a lot of depth. With Maroney and Russell clogging up the depth chart hot RB prospects have (pardon the pun) run away from Minnesota. Next year help could be on the way, but an injury to either of them would be bad, bad news for the Gopher offense. Expect 1,000+ out of Pinnix and 600+ out of Callender. A pop warner back could probably manage 500+ with the Minnesota line. Do not expect Minnesota's running game to come close to last year's production.

UPDATE: More bad news for Minnesota. Callender has been suspended for violating team rules. This makes an already thin group thinner and seriously hurts Minnesota's chances of successfully running the ball should Pinnix get hurt or tired. Bad, bad news.

WR/TE:

There is some skill here. Seriously. If Cupito can match his passing yards this year his TD numbers should skyrocket. The starting talent is excellent. After them there is a significant fall off.

Looking at the numbers, none of the returning wideouts had a breakthrough year. However, they're back, a year older, and hopefully better. 6'5" junior Ernie Wheelwright is Minnesota's biggest threat. His size combined with truly surprising speed will make him a coverage nightmare this year. Even though he ony managed 37 catches for 568 yards and 5 TDs last year, the offense was not designed to exploit his talents. This year it'll be a different story. Expect Minnesota to go with jump balls and long bombs early and often when Wheelwright is in single coverage.

Opposite Wheelwright will be Senior Logan Payne. Payne took over the No. 2 receiver slot mid way through last year. While not the fastest guy in the world, his hands are made of glue. Good body position and good routes will make him a possession target for Cupito as the year goes on.

Filling out the starting receiving group will be First Team All Big Ten TE, Senior Matt Spaeth. Gigantic at 6'7", 270. A premier run/pass blocker on the ends and exceedingly good hands off the line. Forgotten early in the year when the focus was on Minnesota's twin terrors, Spaeth caught the majority of his passes during the Big Ten season. He picked up 4 TD's last year, a number that could double this year. Will make lots of money at season's end.

After the starters, Minnesota's in trouble. Piles of redshirt, 2* freshman await in the wings. Minnesota's only other burner is redshirt frosh Mike Chambers, but he's certainly not going to beat (Michigan DB) Morgan Trent in a footrace. The passing game will be key to Minnesota's success this year. To be successful one of the redshirts will have to step up and be that tweener receiver that has good enough hands to play tight and enough speed to make the safeties lay back. I like what this group can do without one, but a tweener will make this a dangerous offense to play against. They'll be good. Not great.

OL:

If a day comes when Minnesota doesn't have a mountain moving offensive line, well, I don't want to be around to see that day. There must be something in the wild rice, lakes and corn that grows Minnesota boys into either 1) Volkwagen sized linemen or 2) or hockey players no one likes. Last year Minnesota gave up three sacks. Three. They also paved the way for over 2,500 yards passing and 3,200 yards rushing. Despite the fact that Minnesota lost two of its best linemen to graduation/NFL, this group looks to be as strong and dominant as ever.

Starting at Left Tackle will be massive Junior Steve Shidell. Shidell started every game at left tackle and was outstanding. Opposite him will be Joe Ainsile, the line's Senior leader and reigning behemoth. Ainsile got hurt early last year when he was supposed to start at left tackle. As a result of the injury he didn't play much. In response, Shidell slid over into the left tackle spot and made it his own. Now healthy, Ainsile is back. Shidell's emergence will enable the staff to use Ainsile as a battering ram on the right side. At 6'7", 310, Ainsile will envelop defensive ends and tiny linebackers. Don't be fooled by his size, Ainsile is quick on his feet and should be a decent pro prospect by year's end. After the big two at Tackle, the remaining Tackles are a little undersized in the 270-280 range and short on experience. But a few months of eating in the Minnesota cafeteria and hitting the weights should help to fix that issue. Still, there is a lack of size/talent problem should either go down.

The Line's interior will be strong again this year, but will also have a question mark. First the question mark. One of the guard spots will be up for grabs between two redshirt freshmen. Otis Hudson seems to be getting the nod over fellow frosh Ryan Ruckdashel. Hudson definitely has the size advantage, checking in at 290 (down from 315). However, Ruckdashel is the quicker, faster of the two. It will be a battle all fall to see who gets the nod for playing time. Whoever gets that nod will get plenty of help from the rest of the interior line. The center slot will be handled by Junior Tony Brinkhaus. Another maroon elephant at 6'4" 300, Brinkhaus can play either guard slot and took over the center position this spring with positive results. Next to him will be another prospective center in Guard Tyson Swaggert. Swaggert is a senior who saw playing time in every game last year. With the line's departures he now steps into the starting slot.

The line should be solid as usual for Minnesota. While I seriously doubt they'll be as dominant as last year's group, they will pave the way for another 1,000 yard back and should give Cupito plenty of time to throw the ball. On the other hand this will be the first year in a while that Defenses can pin their ears back and bum rush the QB knowing someone like Maroney isn't going to blow past them if they do. With Cupito the focal point of the offense it'll be up to the line to keep him upright. Expect more sacks, lower yardage, and an interior mistake or two. But also expect these guys to be very, very good.

Defense

DL:

They're small. They're undersized. But they go all out every play and they're quick. Big offensive lines crushed this group last year and will do so again this year. Still, there are some glimmers of hope. Just not enough for this unit to propell the Gophers to anything more than a December Bowl.

The DL's interior averages 265. Most of that weight is heart. Defensive Tackles Todd Meisel (Jr.) and Eric Clark (Sr.) will man the middle. Giving up between 30 and 40 pounds to Big Ten Offensive Lines is going to play hell with them this year. Clark is a career backup who will finally have a shot at starting this year. He's a motor-never-stops kinda player who will make teams pay for taking him lightly. Maisel has the tools to be an excellent DT, just not the size. Both players will get penetration but shouldn't be counted on to stop good running teams. I expect by mid season one of them will have lost their starting job to larger Neel Allen who at 290 will bring desperately needed size and run stopping to the defense. 290 lbs Sophomore Nhemie Theodore will also see plenty of time in the rotation.

On the outside there is some hope for the Gophers. Sophomore Steve Davis is a pass rushing fool. At 6'2" 230 he racked up 37 tackles, 9 TFL, and 6 sacks as a true freshman. With a full year under his belt and a little more growing time Davis is poised to become an outside force over the next two years. What Davis lacks in size he makes up for in pure speed and quickness. The only catch this year is that teams will be ready for him and he'll see a lot of double teams if he starts causing trouble. At the other DE slot will be Willie VanDeSteeg. VanDeSteeg is another sophomore who had some starting time last year and wowed the coaches with his motor. A little bigger than Davis but a little lower on the skill level, VanDeSteeg will not quit on a play. That will either bring him accolades or wear him out in his first season as a starter. The Gopher's defense won't hinge on his ability to get to the quarterback, the hinge is on the inside line, but it will certainly make them a more viable unit if he has some success. After the starters, there's not a lot of depth. Several redshirt or true freshman make up the backup list.

LBs:

Again, mostly no-so-good news mixed with a glimmer or two of hope.

It doesn't say much when you return your entire LB rotation and you're not expected to be much better than last year. The best of the group, in terms of numbers, is Junior John Shevlin. Shevlin played well last year notching over 70 tackles, including 9 for loss and adding an INT. Shevlin appears best suited on the outside which allows him to run free and take advantage of his speed. In the middle will likely be Junior Mike Sherels or Sophomore Alex Daniels. Sherels was consistently average. Not the best athlete in the world, but played hard and made the plays he was supposed to. A "smart" player with little speed. This has left the door open for Alex Daniels to claim the MLB position. Daniels saw some time last year and will see plenty of action come kickoff. One of the LB corps' better athletes, he's still young and learning the MLB position so don't expect much till mid-season.

The other OLB will likely be converted DE Senior Mario Reese. Reese loves finding his way into the backfield and is a natural at smashing people. He notched 48 tackles last year, but with his athleticism should have done much better. The glimmers of hope I refer to comes in the form of freshman Tommy Becker and converted TE UMass transfer James Tindall. Becker won't start, but with the lack of depth at LB its safe to assume he'll see some playing time barring a redshirt.

The LB's won't get a lot of help from their DL this year and are likely to see a lot of very large men coming at them at high speed. If last year's numbers are indicative of what to expect from the LBs this year, things are going to be tough for the Gophers. Unfortunately, I don't see enough talent or coaching that can turn an average group of athletes into something more.

DB/S:

Further illustrating the frustration at LB is the fact that the Gopher secondary makes of 3 of the top 4 returning tacklers. Minnesota's defensive backfield can hit and tackle, but they are lacking shut down speed.

Both starting safeties from last year return. Sophomore Dominic Jones spent most of last year trying to kill people with his shoulders. Jones returns as the Gopher's starting SS, and simply loves to put a hurt on. The problem. He's 5'9, 180. While he can play CB and FS, he'll spend his time covering the run and marking territory mid field for hits. At FS Senior Trumaine Banks is likely to get the nod. Last year Banks broke up 13 passes and notched 57 tackles. Banks played corner the last three years, but his range makes him valuable at FS. Battling Banks will be Junior Dominique Barber, who at 6'1" 200 has excellent wheels and a penchant for big hits. However, he is a former RB/special teamer with limited experience at safety.

At corner Minnesota has high hopes for redshirt freshman Keith Massey. Massey is another 6'1" 200 pounder with some wheels. He's a former wideout with little to no experience at corner. Minnesota's pass defense will hinge on the play of Junior CB Jamal Harris. Harris was third on the team in tackles last year and was Minnesota's top cover corner. His weakness is speed. While he's physical enough to pound you at the line or over the middle, burners can give him problems. Over the course of the season, depending on Barber's play, you'll likely see Banks move back to CB until Massey grows into the position. Also offering some assistance will be redshirt freshman Desi Steib. Steib is big, but slow (corner back slow). Look for him in nickle packages.

This group will be decent, but not great. If the line is as bad as I think it is, they're going to see a lot of work this fall.

K/ST:

The FG and PK duties will be decided in a kick-off between sophomores Jason Giannini and Joel Monroe. Monroe probably has the better leg, but Giannini got the nod last year and went 13-19 with one miss coming from over 50 yards out. Monroe added 9 extra points, so its up in the air who gets the nod. Punting will be sophomore Justin Kucek. What can you really say about him, other than he's a decent punter who needs to up his kick height and length.

The return duties will be handled by Dominic Jones on kick offs and Logan Payne punts. They'll be decent.

The Schedule:

8/31 at Kent State
9/9 at California
9/16 Temple
9/23 at Purdue
9/30 Michigan
10/7 Penn State
10/14 at Wisconsin
10/21 North Dakota State
10/28 at Ohio State
11/4 Indiana
11/11 at Michigan State
11/18 Iowa

Best Case Scenario: 9-3

9 wins. Minnesota should walk away with 7 wins based on its schedule. The gimmies are Kent State, Temple, and D1-AA North Dakota State. Indiana should be a win. That's four. Where are the other five coming from? That will depend on the development of the Defense. If the defensive line can stop the run and get some pressure on the QB it will give their linebackers a lot more room to breath and develop. If the LBs can show some athleticism and make some tackles they didn't make last year, Minnesota could surprise. I honestly think the DB's will play well this year.

On offense Pinnix turns out to be an everydown back and shows promise no only to the outside but between the tackles. If that's the case wins over Purdue, Wisconsin and Michigan State aren't out of the question. If Iowa falls apart that's 8 wins. The 9th win would have to come from Penn State. Penn State would also have to be bitten by the same injury bug that bit Michigan last year, and even then its questionable. There's not a chance in hell of it happening, but Minnesota's got a better shot against PSU than Cal, OSU or Michigan. Again this is a best case, and I don't see it happening.

Worst Case Scenario: 4-8

4 wins. The wheels come off. Cupito implodes. The Defense is worse than expected and Minnesota's only Big Ten win comes against Indiana.

Most Likely: 6-6 5-7

6 wins. I'm a hair away from picking them to go 5-7. The hair fell out. This isn't a good enough team to do any real damage in the Big Ten this year. The Defense is just too small and too full of holes. The question marks at running back make it anyone's guess how Cupito will respond to teams geared to stop him. Callender's suspension makes it even more doubtfull that Minnesota will have any form of a potent running game.

I'll pick them to win against Kent State, Temple, and D1-AA North Dakota State, Indiana, and toss up between Purdue and MSU.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Blog Poll Roundtable 2.3 Round Up

Finally. Its done. The Blogpoll Roundtable wrap-up post. Bloggers. Don't let anyone fool you. This is way too much work. However, it does make for entertaining reading.

Thanks to all the blog poll members who filled out their questions and passed them to the front of the class.

1. Its only the third week of the season and we've already seen some highly ranked favorites drop out of national championship contention. Preseason favorite Cal dropped to #21 after a loss and a pair of underwhelming victories. Who's your pick as the next NC contender to take a fall?

This one had it's fair share of divergent answers. Anyone in the SEC seemed to be fair game. However, the winner of the soon to be loser trophy was split between Florida and Michigan. Florida tied Michigan on a controversial double pick, thus splitting the Mythical Soon to be Loser Trophy. Yet another championship Michigan has to share due to voting irregularities.

Michigan

Paul Westerdawg, Corn From a Jar, Texas A&M and Baseball, Cross Cyed, Rakes of Mallow and... um... Schembechler Hall decided to anger the host by picking Michigan. Hellfire and brimstone will rain down upon them.

However Rakes went a step further and explained his pick. It will be obvious why his explanation makes me smile.
"So Michigan waltzes into South Bend and demolishes a team that could have easily lost three of it's last four - Stanford had us on the ropes, Ohio State did the damn thing, Georgia Tech was a play or two away, Penn State still sucks - and now they're talking 1997. But doesn't that just confirm that ND was probably overrated?"

Ohio State
The Crimin-O-s got five nods. Every Day Should Be Saturday, Off Tackle, Dawg Sports, Cover Two, and Double Extra Point took aim at Ohio State.

Louisville
Kinnik North went with Louisville. - "The offense is based on rhythm and timing. This is easily lost when you lose your top QB and running back. They still have some weapons and an easy schedule, but the inexperience will bite them in the ass."
House Rock Built seconded that emotion as did Trojan Wire.

There were a handful of blanket SEC entries, but for the most part people picked a single school.

Auburn

Black Shoe Diaries was direct picking Auburn, but Have You Met Tony pegged Auburn with the caveat that "Lloyd’s boys could easily be a two-loss team before the frost is on the pumpkin."

Florida
MGoBlog, Badger Sports, Westside Rider, Roll Bama Roll and Blog Poll Rountable newcomer Hurricane Radio Sports went with Florida.

Monty Python references deserve a special mention. Trojan Wire picked Florida and Louisville with it, so he gets a repreave on the double pick. His pickof Florida made for the magic 6 points that ties Florida with Michigan for the title of "Next to Fall".

Notre Dame
The boys at MZone leaned into one last kick in the jewels and picked Notre Dame - "Yes, they’re still very much alive despite the beat down from the Wolverines. Hell, ND probably has to lose three to not be considered for the BCS title game."

USC
A little cross town rivalry came out of Bruins Nation when they picked USC. But they brought a solid argument in support.

2. By that same token there are several schools hanging around without a loss that all of a sudden look like surprise contenders. There are also a few one loss teams with a legit shot at getting back into it. Looking at the rankings who’s the team no one’s talking about with the best shot at crashing the party ?

Louisville! Despite losing both Brohm and Bush to injuries Louisville is Blog Land's pick to screw up the the BCS party, from the inside this time. I tallied the votes below for your parusal. Noteable comments were linked. Congrats to Louisville, now go out there and prove us wrong!

Louisville - 5.5
TCU - 5 (bonus points for squirting blood out of eyes)
Virginia Tech - 4
Oregon - 4 ("Oregon has supplanted Cal as 'the other PAC-10 team' to look out for." - Corn From a Jar. Awesome.)
Texas - 1 (Really?)
LSU - 1
Navy - 1 (Not so much)
Georgia - 1 (Rocky Top Talk's pick, sighting the "easiest" schedule of the remaining contenders, which is akin to saying you have the least painful terminal disease.)
Michigan - 1 (Cover Two, your complimentary cheese plate is on it's way.)
West Virgina - .5

3. Every team has their quicksand away game. You know. That place you should win but somehow find ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory or at least scare the &*%^ out of you every year. Did you know that over the last 21 years Kentucky wasn’t won once in Knoxville? Where is your team’s yearly sand trap?

Alabama - Arkansas
Bowling Green - Kent State
Florida - Florida State
Georgia - The Cocktail party (It ain't even close)
Iowa - Iowa State
Iowa State - Kansas State
Michigan - Notre Dame (possibly Spartan Stadium)
Nebraska - Missouri
Notre Dame - Michigan State or any location associated with the word "Bowl"
Penn State - Iowa or Minnesota
Southern California - Berkeley, Eugene and South Bend (all in one answer no less)
Tennesse - the Georgia Dome & Arkansas
Texas A&M - Lubbock, Texas home of the Red Raiders
UCLA - Washington (and man is it pretty there)
West Virginia - Pitt
Wisconsin - Michigan? (You're not supposed to win there!)

4. Now that you’ve looked into the darkest place in your football soul, free Escalades aside, turn and look into your crystal ball. Conference play is either just starting or a single game in. Based on what you’ve seen so far, give the order of finish in your conference, and if you’ve got a Conference Championship game tell us who the winner will be. Independents must predict the remainder of their schedule. The results your predictions will be held against you at the end of the season.

Big Ten
Kinnik North - Michigan
Westside Rider - Michigan ties Ohio State
MGoBlog - Michigan
MZone - Ohio State
Schembechler Hall - Ohio State
Badger Sports - Ohio State
Black Shoe Diaries - Ohio State

SEC
Georgia Sports Blog - Auburn tops Florida
Dawg Sports - Auburn over Florida
Corn From a Jar - Auburn over Tennessee (and a 3 way tie in the SEC East)
Roll Bama Roll - Auburn over Florida
Rocky Top Talk - Auburn over Georgia
Cover Two - Auburn over Florida
Hurricane Radio Sports - Georgia over Auburn
EDSBS - Florida and Auburn in a fight to the death.

ACC
Officially kicked out of BCS for failure to respond.

Big XII
Off Tackle - Nebraska over texas.
Texas A&M and Baseball - OU over Nebraska
Cross Cyed - Texas and Nebraska (no winner picked)
Double Extra Point - Texas over Nebraska

PAC 10
Trojan Wire - Shameless plug
Bruins Nation - USC

Big East
Mountain Lair - West Virginia

MAC
Have You Met Tony - WMU over BGSU

5. In keeping with the spirit of Maize n Brew, name your beverage of choice on game days and why. It need not be alcoholic, as there are some of us who choose not to imbibe on game day. Further, it need not be limited to a single brand/type/category. If you enjoy drinking PBR and Kraft Turkey Gravy at the same time (which I have personally witnessed), please, elaborate. Finally, if you should feel so inclined, and this is not a requirement, add an anecdote involving said beverage choice.

Best Answer of the Roundtable
Rocky Top Talk - "Why, Mountain Dew, of course. Some have forgotten that moonshine was, back in the day, sometimes euphemistically referred to as "mountain dew." In Knoxville, Tennessee, sometime during the 1940's, a lemon-lime whiskey mixer was invented and sold as "Mountain Dew." The flavor as we now know it was only perfected several years later, after a franchise was granted to Tri-Cities Beverage in Johnson City, Tennessee. Tri-Cities Beverage packaged the soft drink in green bottles with red and white labels depicting cartoon character Willy the Hillbilly 'shooting at a revenuer fleeing an outhouse with a pig sitting in the corner.'"
- Informative. Different. Involves "rev-nuers" and pigs. We have a winner.

One thing that surprised me about the roundtable answers on this question was how many people abstain from the sweet nectar of hoppy goodness prior to a football game. With several people on record as foregoing the pre-game adult beverage I included the option of listing a non-alcoholic option.

In response, I found out that far more bloggers sip bottled water and sweet tea prior to a game than anything else. Being from the Midwest I find this intolerable. Everyone knows the midwestern economy is based on Miller and Budweiser products being sold. You hydraters are ruining our economy and way of life. Imbibe damn you! Imbibe!

It was also surprising to me that the baseline fanatic, you know, the person who spends more time in front of their computer typing on their favorite school than at church or work, doesn't get "fired-up" using artifical means. I guess your zeal for king and country keeps you warm on an autumn afternoon. Zeal or not, it's friggin cold in Michigan around November, and an alcoholic beverage warms me up.

When tailgating a brat, burger, hot dog, etc. always goes down nice with a beer or beverage. I don't condone drinking in excess, but dammit, football and beer are interlocked in my mind like Romeo and Juliet, Ike and Tina, Steve and Tawney Finley, OJ and Nic... wait a second... never mind.

On to the Final Roundup

That Man Needs a Beverage

Tasty Drinks

Georgia Sports Blog went with Makers Mark and Ginger. That is a tasty beverage.

A Vodka Tonic is EDSBS official tailgatin' drink. On the other hand no bourbon is allowed: "Brown liquor is commonly known in our household as “felony fuel.” It is not consumed." - best line of the roundtable - ed.

Trojan Wire got fancy - "Stone IPA 10th Anniversary. This goes beyond being a 'liquid poem to the glory of the hop.' When trying this Northern San Diego brew, it not only feels good (thanks to a 10% alcohol volume), it sings Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D minor to your mouth." - I remember trying to convince an old girlfriend to do something using those exact words - ed.

Finally, a football answer from Joey I can get behind - "Yuengling, a Pennsylvania lager that has a fine taste and was introduced to me in a sporting context, so it will forever have a football connotation, deserved or otherwise."

I knew I could count on Badger Sports to pick a good beer - "Spotted Cow from the New Glarus Brewing Company. This cloudy ale is a delight for the tastebuds."

Nestor needs him some Magic Hat's Blind Faith to get him through the Bruins football season.

The Simpler Pleasures

When tailgating Have You Met Tony enjoys a cool can o' Bud Light. Don't worry ladies, there's more than enough to go around, he brought the 30 pack.

Double Extra point was a Bud Light man but has since toned it down a tad. "After five football seasons as a student at Nebraska and three years of Florida State student tickets, I allowed my liver to decide on my doctoral program. It chose the University of Houston over Texas Woman’s University and cirrhosis." I feel your pain.

A cold Coors beer is enough for Hurricane Radio Sports.

Things that make you go ugggghhh
Mountain Lair enjoys a crisp cool Miller Lite, with a Wild Turkey chaser... shutter....

This mini throw-up is brought to you
by Moutain Lair

House Rock Built doesn't fool around. Miller Lite and Anejo Tequila and Johnny Walker Blue. I've also seen him Solo cup enough Vanilla Stoli and Coke to make Nick Cage in Leaving Las Vegas cringe.

"Perfect for beer pong, flip cup or shotgunning, Natural Light is the only correct answer to this question." - Rakes of Mallow.
- Must. Fight. Back. Vomit. Forcing. Way. Through. Chest....


Black Shoe Diaries missed the 1997 OSU/PSU game on account of Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum mixed with Coca-Cola, and he doesn't regret it one bit, thank you very much.

No Thanks, I'm Casual
Cross Cyed cracks open a cool Royal Crown Cola. For those who don't know, you'd betta recognize.

Kinnik North stays hydrated when tailgating with a little H2O.

Texas A&M and Baseball - Water and lots of Gatorade

Westside Rider - Water and/or Diet Coke

Brian doesn't drink anything. Absolutely nothing. Dry as a desert. He will however imbibe after the game

MZone goes fluid rich as well.

Kyle is a well know proponent of staying sober come game time. He instead prefers to feast on the flesh of his enemies for his pre-game buzz.

Corn From a Jar does not in fact injest ethanol on game days, as the name would suggest, instead he goes with Sun-Drop a beverage best described as "if Mountain Dew is Clark Griswold, then Sun-Drop is Cousin Eddie."

Roll Bama Rolls with ice cold agua until the game is over.

Cover Two sips/drinks/guzzles southern sweet tea. It's a southern thing. And no. I don't understand.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Blog Poll Ballot Week 5!

At some point I will have mastered this new job system and be able to dedicate more time to my beloved blogging responsibilities, and you, the readers. Until then, I will do my best to keep things up to their normal standards of quality. But I ain't promising anything.

Regardless of my time and energy constrainst there is a ballot to get to, so here goes:

RankTeamDelta
1 Ohio State --
2 Southern Cal --
3 Auburn --
4 Michigan --
5 Florida --
6 Louisville 2
7 West Virginia --
8 Texas 2
9 Louisiana State --
10 Georgia 4
11 Virginia Tech 1
12 Iowa 1
13 Oregon 1
14 Tennessee 10
15 Oklahoma 4
16 Notre Dame 5
17 Cal 4
18 TCU 5
19 Purdue 7
20 Clemson 4
21 Florida State 5
22 Washington 4
23 Wisconsin 3
24 Missouri 2
25 Rutgers 1

Dropped Out: Boston College (#15), UCLA (#17), Arizona State (#18), Michigan State (#20), Alabama (#22), Penn State (#25).


1. As you can see, not a lot of movement at the top. That is to say there was none. I was temped to drop OSU a peg or two following two lackluster showings, but then reality hit. No one has shown me they're a more complete team at this point. Still, they're hanging on by virtue of their win over Texas. If Texas drops saturday's game to OU, I may be forced to rethink.

2. I put a minor hammer down on Georgia and Notre Dame. Before I do let me say this. MSU should have beaten Michigan in 2004. If not for some colossal screw-ups on MSU's part, Michign loses. With that said, Norte Dame and Georgia, but for the grace of God, lost both of those games. ND more than Georgia, but the size differential between the two dumps both teams left on the field is minimal. I wanted to drop them more, but a win is a win is a win. And, honestly, looking at the teams under them, there's no way head to head they'd beat them. Whether Cal would beat ND is the one I'm not sure of, so Cal stays below.

3. Tennessee jumps back in because they won they're a pretty good team.

4. Missouri and Rutgers are both undefeated so they get a nod.

5. Speaking of which, has anyone noticed that Purdue is undefeated? Quietest 4-0 team in the country. They're balanced on offense, they've got a good somewhat improving but mostly crappy defense, and they play ND next week. Lucky bastards also miss out on OSU and Michigan this year. The defense is meh, but will improve. They could, conceiveably, go undefeated and WIN the Big Ten outright. While its a longshot, it is worth mentioning. Killer games with ND and Iowa back to back.

6. More Big Ten love. Wisconsin impressed me. They are one-dimensional on offense but their defense is goooooooooood. They're better than a couple of the teams I have ahead of them, but I'm not sure they're offense would show up.

7. Washington is Back Biatch! Well. Maybe not. But Ty Willingham is pulling Washington out of the cellar in a hurry. Ty was the wrong fit for a number of reasons at ND: 1) He had no contacts for midwest recruiting [they were all out west]; 2) He was too laid back for the the psychotic fan bases of the mid west; 3) The alumni base will never let up on a coach up for a second at ND. None of those things are problems at UW. Ty's connections are providing decent recruiting classes. He's competing in a watered down Pac 10. He's got all the time in the world to build a winner at UW as opposed to crafting a supposed National Champion from duct tape, poo, scissors, and what ever other crap Davie and Ten-Second-O'Leary left him at ND. And finally, his laid back calm demeanor fits well in birkenstock and causal friday Sea-Town. Kudos to him.

8. Oh its on this weekend. Texas-Oklahoma. Somebody moves up, somebody moves out. Bad blood rocks.

9. No Soup For You! Boston College, UCLA, Arizona State, Michigan State, Alabama, and Penn State all drop out of the rankings. Please collect your personal items and the security guards will escort you to the door. Remember. We're watching you on your way out.

Alrighty folks. There are the rankings. Let me know what you think.

P.S. The Blog Poll round up will be up tomorrow! Hilarity will ensue.

Thumbin' Through Wisconsin v. Michigan

For the second straight week I decided to track the Michigan game with my PDA. Due to the ungodly lines to get to our seats my buddy and I didn't even see the field of play until after Wisconsin had already put 7 on the board. Thankfully the concession stands still have TV's and I was able to track most of the first two series on their 1965 Zeniths. However, from that point on, I tracked damn near everything.

Start of the Game

Bad first series. Bad second.
Good pnt zltn
Hill is sfty
Why is crable cvr wr?
Gd prsr by burgess. Didn't wrap up tho

Bad kick. Good bounce for uw.

Grt thr ctch arrng over rt mod
Hart pound middl for 10
Hrt mid 4 4
Rvrs for 4 by breaston
Hrt for 3
4 & 1
Henne snk. Close looks short. It is. No push by oline. Getting beat up front
Trn ovr on dns

Branch flattens hill loss of 3
End 1st
Oline looks like shit. Need to pound middle. To many zn block bt long kraus gtting beat. They're stacking that side.

Srt 2nd qrt

Lw thrw socco lft. Too mny lb on wr. 3rd dn
Burgess almost picks another. 4 dn

Gd rtn. blck in bk.hrssht lt cll.they pick it up! Mich @ 36

Hrt lft for 8
Hrt lft stuffed cut bk for 4. 1dn
New math bitches! Rt side td manham! Prfct pass catch.

Exclnt kcoff.

hill lft tckl harris
Grt cvrg eqls inc on rlout
Sck woodley! Killd socco

Agn tantalizingly cls to bkng 1 breaston brought down @ 49

Lft sd rn hrt fr 1. Why r we only gng lft?
Brstn fks someone out of jk. 4 yrd gn. Shldve been nthng
Hnne slammed to turf on sk. Cvrg sack.

Ryan pnts a duck. Smhw rolls to 12. He's messing up zltns heisman campaign by being luckier than him dammit

Rn lft by hill. Crbl brgs loss of one
Ps lt Missed tckl on hill lft rslts 1dn for 16
Easy pass drpd. Hall too fr off.
Trnt brnd for 1dn. 90 gets prsnl foul. Dumass
Dbz too far off.
Stuff rn up midl.
Zn cvrg? Wtf!? Wht is english calling
1 dn
Hill drvs for 5
Hrs buries hill in midl. shed his blk well. 3dn
TO wisc
Socco inc to hill. Evry ply to lft.
Fg try, gd. 10 to 7
Niethr offns doin anythng

Tb on kckoff

Manham slammed on 5 yrd rt thr
Hrt rn rt fr 3
Btlg rt, wisc rd it frcd thr away.
Doh!
Zltn booms it! Fmbl! 1dn mich @ 18
hrt for 1 middl.
Massey crossing rt lt rt for 3.
Hrrbl thr rt sd. 4th dn. Rvs kick gd
10 10
Wisc looks liek theyre changing dfns all the time, hnne looks lost.
Teams have picked up on the fade

Hill midl buried.
Sm thng. TO mich agn
Pss to beckham. Nailed like spice by englmn. 4 dn
Drv only used 10 secs.

Gd kick, bd support. Brst nowhr @ 28

Deflction riley catches it? Wtf!
Hnne to arrngtn for 3
Hnne lckin in on rcvr. Hrribl possession. All thrws to recv shrt of first.

1 min lft. Ryan to pnt
32 to the 33. Bad kick.

Crss rt ltf rt for 15.
Misq on lft sd pass. Inc.
Scco to hill buried on pass. Hrrs burgess. WIsc TO. 3 & 3
17 sec
Inc. englm on cov. Wr brk rt.
Almost grt play to prevent tb.
End first

D needs to gt pnetrat. Offense nds to diversify.

Strt 2nd half

Inc rt. Wdly hld no cll
Hill midl. Taylor burgess on stp
Grt cv. Nowhr to pass. Inc.

Brst deep.

Lat hit on wis aftr fcatch mich @ 45

Hrt rt for two, uw waiting
Henne hits brst in hands and he almost flubs it into an int. Perfect thr

Bd thrw to eckr took him oobs 4 yrds shrt.

anthr bd ryan kick. Wisc at 30.

Brst is useless as a rcvr. Manham is gtting crap beat out of him.

Bltz. Middl rn for 6. Big hits
Hill for 0 rt.
hill lft for 3. Good stp d!
Uw think abt gng fr it. Now pnt
Delay gm of re-kick

Brst rtn to 34
Hrt picks way for 5.
No grady so far
Manhm for 1dn to lt. Wisc cb is tuff
hrt trpd up in bkfld no gn.
Scrn pass to hrt for 20
Hrt lft for 1 on strch ply
Eckr wide open. Henne ignrs him. thrw into dbl cov gts pkd off in enzn. Manham fking bls it. Has to play db on that. Cant let it gt pckd. Bad play by both. Brst blew it too. Lks like ran wrng rout into manham sid of fld. Reslt in dbl cov. Cant emphasize how wo eckr was.

Hill lft for 2
Inc rt. Dbs stll too fr off.
Pass tppd almost int by biggs. Gd psh by d line

Brst bk

Turns nthng into 20 yrds. Awsm
Manham mks shoe strng catch. 1dn. Tlks sht aft catch
Nkd btlg to massey for 3
I like that they went back to manham.
5 tlking sht to home crwd. Refs miss clr facmsk. Crd goes nuts aftr replay
TO mich.
Some one needs to hurt 5.
3 & 4
Henne manham td! Rt in frnt of me! Perfect thr. Manham brnd cb BAAAAAAAD on juke.
Beautiful ball. Rvs gd.

kckoff
Oh snap! S brown 30 just PLANTS rtn man @ 13

Hill lft. Slips tckls, trnt hlds him up for harrs, no gn
Inc & a hld on wisc.
Socco to none. Woodley trying sizer cosea socoo

Brst bk

Uw uses 2nd to. Dumb.

Crable is 9 ft tall. Sriously. Gigantic.

Brst rtn for a cpl but flg on um.mich now @27

Hrt rumbls lft cln for 15 and fcmsk for 5.
Hrt midl rt for 5
Rt sd rn eaten up. Nada. One yrd
brst useless agn. Pass lft.
Zltn in
Obv blk in bk not called results in tb.
Socco to beckham for 1.
2 & 69 accrding to scrbd
Brnch buries socco for sack. Loss of 8
Pass up middle for 3 killd by hrrs

Brst bk
Brst turns crnr to 33! Dmn hes fast.

Hrt to lft nothing into somthing again. Stutter step for 7.
Arrngtn pass to six. Sweet he is the tru no. 2 on this team.
Hrt to rt for 1
Eckr and massy in on lft side
Hrt pick way bhnd massey eckr lng kraus for td
Rvs gd. Maybe i don' ht him

111,058 at game. Wow.

Kck off
Anthr kick into end zn. Ryan keeps getting better at this

Hill rt meets burgess and mundy for 3
Shld been complete in frnt of mundy but dprd
jmison sacks socco with prjudice. Bring the pain baby bring thepain

Brts deep
Brst is made out of tephlon. Mich strts on wisc side of fld agn at 41.
He cant catch but damn is he something special on rtns

Btw its the 3rd at UGA how th f is colorado winning?

rvrs for manham gts nthng
Grady goes rt midl for 3. Follows blks well. No cut bk ln
Qk cross in zn for 1d to manham lft
Grady fights for 6. Strt ahead runr.
Minor is fing big! Goes for four 1d
Grdy rns lft for 4 gain.
Minor lft for 2 or 3. Has happy feet. Quick. Will devlop into exclnt bk
Play fk with intnt to thr. Cvrd wll. Henne rns oobs. Rv fg try. Gd.

Rivas deservs sloppy kiss for his jihad bt th uprights

savoy ezclnt tckl on rtn. 15 yrd ln
Pass lft to swan. Harrison tckls aft 5 yrd gn
Inc lft.
Gd cll. Scrn play middl for 20.
Pass to hrs comp, gang tckl aft 8 yrd gan.
Using size on our dbs for gans
1d lft oob to fb
Blitz scrmbl comp lft at 20
Dbs too far off
Now bnch up
Hill pass midl. Hill molested.
Socco pas lft jump ball to bckm at 10 oobs.
Prvs ply undr rv

Chrldrs r cute this yr. Uh huh huh hey baby.

Play now comp at 10.
Inc rt sd endzn to bckm
drw rt. Ng.

Qb scrmbl. 4 d.
Hill is fat and hurt.

Fg try. Good. 27 to 13. Here come onsides kik

Wisconsin flag waver is going really bald. He looks forty.
You could crush bowling balls bt the lgs of the uw female cheerldrs btw.

Onsds kick is bd. Mich rcvrs by booting it oobs.

2.14 left.

Minor rt mid for nthn

UW fans chnting "lets play hockey!"
Love UW fans. Aways hvng fun.

Grdy lft for nthn. Wisc TO

Henne to manham deep. Int by jack whtevrhisnameis. Wtf was that?
Int henne on pass to manham.
Why was henne still in gm? Dont like that call @ all.

Pass midl to andrsn 20 yrds
Pass lft for 7 oobs
Inc ht fb in hands and he drpd it.

Dump pass to rb for 1d.

Deep pass lft inc.

Rain strtng

1 sec left.

Lst ply inc englmn kills rcvr jst 4 kicks

Monday, September 25, 2006

You May Almost Begin To Believe

In ’94 I felt pretty confident. Michigan had beaten BC in comeback fashion. Michigan had traveled to Notre Dame and returned triumphant. Unfortunately, our elation quickly turned to disgust. My confidence to sadness. Colorado came to town the following week, and in an instant the season that should’ve been turned into the season that was. So, naturally, you can understand why this past weekend concerned me.

Inevitably, Michigan seems to have that let down game. A game they either have well in hand or a game they never quite show up for. Both usually end in disappointment and both usually follow a big win. In fairy tale parlance, Michigan would always be just far enough ahead to oversleep and watch the tortoise cross the finish line before them. Success bred complacency. Assumed destiny replaced execution. And for the fans, annoyance and resignation took the place of happiness and expectancy.

That is part of the Michigan I know and love

Then there is this Michigan team. The one that defeated Wisconsin 27 to 13 on Saturday. I’m still not quite sure what to make of them.

They make me want to believe with every 50 yard TD pass and sack. Yet they scare me with every turnover and every opponent they leave in a game. Will they revert to the Michigan ways of old? Or are they a new Michigan team that will win the race then turn the tortoise into soup?

On one side, there is an anger in this defense I have never seen before. It is almost as if the mere presence of the other team is an affront to every player’s dignity and family. They swarm ball carriers like sharks after chum. They don't simply want to stop you, they want to make you bleed for trying. They hit with bad intentions. On more than one occasion I saw Wisconsin a player gingerly returning to the huddle. Towards the end of the game Wisconsin’s talented running back PJ Hill slowly lifted himself off the field turf, glanced at the scoreboard, then slowly, sadly limped back towards his teammates. Hill had the body language of a man three hours into a root canal. Beaten, resigned, and waiting for it to be over.

While there were hits by Wisconsin, especially by Jack Whoseewhatsis, 98% of the hits that made mothers cry were delivered by Michigan players. On sacks, Stocco's head was used to drill for oil. On run plays it looked like a contest to see which player could stuff Hill's entire body into his helmet first. Wide receivers were treated like piñatas filled with candy. The safeties and corners seemed to believe that if they hit them hard enough, jolly ranchers would fill the stadium carpet. A defense like that does not come around very often.

The offense again played admirably. When Wisconsin stuffed the line of scrimmage, Michigan went up top. Adrian Arrington continued to emerge from Steve Breaston’s shadow and is quickly securing his grasp on the No. 2 receiver position. Manningham was his usual speedy self as well. Two touchdown bombs down the sidelines, including one I felt I could reach out and touch just before it slid into Manningham’s arms, and he into the corner of the endzone. Steve Breaston was electric on punt returns. Every time he touched the ball on a punt you felt he was an arm away from breaking it open. When Wisconsin punted, Breaston ensured Michigan got it in good field position. At moments it was poetry.

The majority of the game however was a workman like performance by Mike Hart and the offensive line. Michigan pounded the ball behind Long and Kraus the entire day. Wisconsin had 7 to 8 men in the box waiting for them, but Michigan forged ahead anyway. Wisconsin was ready. Zone gaps were quickly filled by linebackers and the occasional safety. Wisconsin linemen continually prevented holes from opening. Hart would get hit before his first move on several occasions. Even so, Hart always seemed to gain 3 or 4 yards a carry. Sometimes Hart got 8, others he got two, but he continued to move the chains. Regardless of what Wisconsin wished to dictate at the line of scrimmage, Michigan wasn’t listening. They simply bulldozed down the field and the clock.

Occasionally, however, there were miscues that made me think twice about fully giving over my heart to this team. Drops again hurt the Michigan offense. Surprisingly, the most egregious errors in the passing game came from Mario Manningham. On Michigan’s first offensive possession Manningham bobbled a sure completion into an interception. On the ensuing Wisconsin drive, they marched down a shortened field for a quick score. It wasn't until the second quarter that Michigan got on the board with a Henne to Manningham on a 24 yard right side post.

Henne would pass for 2TDs and 211 yards while going 18 of 25. However, three of those balls were interceptions. For the first time this year Mike Hart did not go over 100 yards. Michigan was routinely in zone coverage against Wisconsin, allowing far too many dink and dunk completions. Tight End screens, if anyone else can master them, will give Michigan trouble. Steve Breaston continues to be incapable of catching anything other than a punt or a screen. For the first time I thought Manningham was shaken in the middle quarters. Wisconsin pounded on him the entire game. He dropped balls he normally would catch and played two passes into interceptions. The third interception was Henne's fault all the way.

That being said, sometimes it is better to be flawed than perfect. Perfection makes you complacent. Michigan was anything but on Sunday. Despite being hounded and shivved all day, Manningham responded with big catches, trash talk, and two touchdowns. Henne managed the game efficiently and made the throws he was supposed to make. While hart didn't go over 100, he never lost a yard and managed to rack up 91 yards, a touchdown and a 4.0 ypc. The Offensive line allowed only two sacks, both of which were coverage sacks, and only two tackles for loss. Michigan scored 27 points on what was the best defense they've faced all year.

Make no mistake about it, Wisconsin's defense is very, very good. They play with swagger, even when they're getting beat. If not for Hart's elusiveness the result of the game would have been much much different. Wisconsin got consistent pressure on the ball carrier. Hart had no cut back lanes save two occasions. Receivers were absolutely punished for catching the ball. At one point Manningham was reverse-body-slammed to the turf following a completion. Still Michigan rolled up 322 total yards.

Michigan's defense, however, is better. Michigan allowed only a single field goal in the second half. Despite dealing with 3 turnovers, and not forcing a turnover of their own, the defense yielded a single touchdown. PJ Hill left town with only 54 yards on the ground. With the four sacks factored in, Wisconsin only gained 12 yards on the ground. With the exception of a 29 yard screen pass, Wisconsin's longest reception was 17 yards on a zone coverage. On that completion I am fairly certain I saw a watermelon jolly rancher fly by me following the hit that brought him down. Wisconsin left the field limping while our defense looked fresh, and more importantly still angry that they wanted to keep playing.

Something is different this year. Win or lose, this is a different type of Wolverine team. This is no longer a team that expects things. This is a team that earns them. Swagger is not the right word to describe them. Anger is. That's the way they play. That's the way the talk. At what I do not know. But I do know the tortoise is nervous.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Michigan Wisconsin Open Thread

I understand these open threads are all the rage with the kids these days.

Work's a little crazy, but I promise a full wrap up from the Big House once I return from Ann Arbor.

Can't wait for the game. First home game in two years. Gooood times.....

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Try It Again Thursday

Due to simply insane amounts of work today I won't be able to post anything indepth. So, for the first time, I give you a recycled, yet timely, Badger preview.

Please bear in mind this was done prior to the season, but after 3 mind numbing victories, it appears pretty on point.

It's Big Ten opener time. This year Michigan opens at home against Wisconsin.

An Error Prone & Excessively Verbose Overview of:
The University of Wisconsin Badgers

The Game
University of Michigan v. University of Wisconsin
Location: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Date: September 23, 2006
Game Time: TBA
Game #: 4
TV: TBA (likely ESPN)
Radio: WOMC-FM and CKLW-AM

The Opposition
University: University of Wisconsin
Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Team Name: Badgers
Facility: Camp Randal Stadium (Cap. 83,069)
Conference: Big Ten
Number of Conference Championships: 11 (1896, 1897, 1901, 1906, 1912, 1952, 1959, 1962, 1993, 1998, 1999)
Number of National Championships: 0
First Season of Football: 1889 (0-2-0)
Last Season: 2005 (10-3)
All Time Record: 575-451-53
Head Coach: Bret Bielema (1st year)
Versus Michigan All-Time: 11-47-1 (Michigan leads)
Last Meeting Versus Michigan: 2005 in Madison, Wisconsin lost 20-23.

A Brief History of The University of Wisconsin:

Seated in scenic Madison, Wisconsin, the state's charter University was founded in 1849. Unlike private universities, the University of Wisconsin was actually established by the state constitution. Though it started with only 17 students taking a single math class in 1849, today the University of Wisconsin has over 41,000 students. So despite what you might initially think, there are more than cows in Madison.

An elite public university, the University of Wisconsin is was added to the list of "public Ivies" in 2001 (along with the rest of the Big Ten apparently) by Greens Guides (2001). UW's law school, med school, and other graduate centers routinely rank in the top 25 in the country, and the undergraduate program is routinely in the top 50 of all universities. Oh. And they party. Good Lord do they party.

Athletically, the Badgers are to be feared. Last year Badger teams brought home 4 national championship throphies. FOUR. Men's and Women's hockey, men's cross-country, and women's lightweight crew. The Badger fans are to be feared too. But in a good way. Always informed and always friendly. But they're friggin' crazy. I have seen it. I have proof. Plus, once their fight song "On Wisconsin" gets in your head you're gonna need a drill, a hammer, and a shop vac to get it out.

Football History

They've been around a LONG time. However, 11 throphies in over 100 years of Big Ten competition doesn't speak to dominance. 5 of the Badger's 11 Big Ten titles came before WWI. They captured two in 1952 and 1959 respectively, and one in 1962.

However, during the 60's and 70's far more pressing matters were occurring on campus. Riots. Protests. Bombings. It wasn't untill Barry Alvarez showed up on Campus that Wisconsin became, well, Wisconsin at football. Arriving in 1990, Alvarez and the Badgers captured 3 Rose Bowl rings (Michigan is 1-2 in Rose Bowls during that time). Since 1994 Wisconsin has only missed the post season twice. Even so UW was 3-7 against Michigan under Alvarez. Today Barry is gone and new head coach Bret Bielema has stepped into his shoes.

Last Season: 2005 (10-3)

Wisconsin maintained what should have been a great year, and delivered. Despite the fact that their out of conference scrimages included Bowling Green, Temple (winless Temple), UNC, and Hawaii, the Badgers were on the brink of a top ten ranking before their 5-0 bubble burst against Northwestern. Dropping a game to NU is nothing to be ashamed of last year. Their pinball like offense gave plenty of good teams trouble. Proof of decent coaching is beating the teams you're supposed to. Wisconsin did that. The games they dropped after that were against a better PSU squad and to an Iowa team that decided to live up to its billing in their last game. Despite dropping their last two Big 11 Ten games, UW rolled Hawaii on their little atoll and thundered into the Citrus Bowl. Then the Badgers just sloberknocked Auburn, allowing just 99 yards rushing and just 137 in the air, posting a 24-10 victory.

What Went Right

1) They beat Michigan. Period. Full stop. With the possible exception of the Bowl win, that was the biggest win of the year. Usually, a loss to Michigan sends the Badgers into a tailspin that lands them in a half-ass bowl game. Big hopes. Big flop. Not this past year. 0-7 in their last seven games against Michigan, Wisconsin righted the ship. Stocco ran the ball in with :24 left on the clock, breaking my heart and the beer bottle I threw to the ground in disgust.

2) They missed Ohio State on the schedule. Self explanatory.

3) The Badgers pasted the Auburn Tigers in the Citrus Bowl. The outgained Auburn by over 300 yards and sent Barry Alvarez out a winner.

What Went Wrong

Sitting at 8-1 and ranked 14th in the country, Wisconsin dropped two straight to 10th ranked Penn State and unranked Iowa. The most demoralizing of the two games was the woodshed beating the Badgers offense took from the PSU defense. The Badger running attack was held to -11 yards. Against Iowa, even though Stocco had a decent day, the running game took a ferocious pounding for the second straight week. The Badgers only managed 19 yards on 31 carries! While the score separated the teams by ten points, it was Tate's screw-ups and John Stocco that kept the Badgers in the game. After the first quarter the game was all Iowa and the Badgers managed just 72 yards until the last drive of the game, with the outcome already decided.

Injuries played a big part too. The Badgers lost a host of players against Penn State on both sides of the ball. The offensive line gave up 15 sacks in the PSU and Iowa games combined.

Finally, the loss to Northwestern. The 'Cats were a good team last year, but not good enough to knock off a top 20 team. Even so the 'Cats punched in 4 rushing TD's and 3 TD in the air. This was supposed to be a good defensive team. That type of let down isn't good enough. Neither was their inability to score at will against NU's tissue like defense.

What To Look For in 2006

Uncertainty. The Badgers were hard hit by the NFL bug. Five Badgers went in the NFL draft. RB Brian Calhoun, WR Brandon Williams, TE Owen Daniels, TE Jason Pociask and WR Jonathan Orr were all taken. They'll also be bitten by the departure of long-time coach Barry Alvarez. Barry moved up from the sidelines into the AD's office following the Citrus Bowl.

Replacing him is an unknown in Bret Bielema. Also an unknown is the Badger Offense. Wisconsin returns only three starters from last year's squad: QB Stocco, LT Joe Thomas, and RG Kraig Urbik. That's it. Everyone else? Gone.

Better known is the defense. However, if you get past the defensive line, some question marks abound. The Schedule is light, and snacky. Well, that's not fair. Wisconsin's out of conference schedule is a f---ing joke. Bowling Green, Western Illinois, San Diego State, and BUFFALO! For the second straight year Wisconsin misses Ohio State. BUT, they visit Michigan and Iowa.

Returning Starters on Offense: 3
Returning Starters on Defense: 8

Coaching:

Since 1990 Barry Alvarez has patroled the Badger sidelines. No more. Replacing him will Bret Bielema, Wisconsin's Defensive Coordinator for the past two years. His pedigree is respectable. Bielema has worked and coached with Bill Snyder (Kansas State), Hayden Fry (Iowa), Kirk Ferentz (Iowa), and Barry Alvarez. Prior to coming to Wisconsin, Bielema was the defensive co-cordinator at KSU and worked for nine years at Iowa. Bielema's 2004 defense was one of the best in Wisconsin history, allowing only 15 points a game.

Defensively, he's got the chops. But he doesn't have to run the offense, that job has been handed to Paul Chryst. Chryst was the co-OC last year. To his credit Wisconsin averaged 34 points a game. This year he's going to have his hands full this year with three starters back and none of the same wideouts and running backs. So when things go wrong (you knew this was coming), yelling "Oh Chryst!" will be directly on point.

The Offense

Who the Hell are these guys? Seriously? This guy here is dead!

QBs:

Senior John Stocco is the returning starter. This will be Stocco's third year as a starter at Wisconsin. Behind the wheel of the Wisconsin offense he's guided the Badgers to a 19-6 record. He's got wheels. He's got a strong arm. He lead Wisconsin to a come from behind victory over Michigan last year. However, with the noteable exception of the Auburn bowl game, when Stocco was called on to throw the ball he was good for at least two picks.

Stocco was always at his best when there was a good running game. Anthony Davis and Calhoun racked up yards and were the focal points of the offense. This year, well, I'm not counting on that kind of support. A new line, a new running back, and new WR trying to block downfield? Not so much.

Stocco is a talented QB. He's quick on his feet. In the past he's been too quick to run at first opportunity. In 2005 he managed to reign himself in a honestly made some good decisions. A 21-9 TD/INT ratio doesn't quite emphasize that, however throwing for almost 3,000 yards does. The offense is his and his alone. He'll have to rack up the passing and rushing yards on his own for the offense to have a chance.

And he's gotta stay healthy. So far its be an epidemic of 1 starter or your dead teams. ND, UM, UW all fall into these catagories. If Stocco goes down, his backup Junior Tyler Donovan will take over. Donovan threw only 6 passes last year, completing half of them and throwing a TD. He's got 8 games under his belt, but has never started.

RBs:

Hello. My name is _______.

UW's top returning rusher had 96 yards last year, as a Junior. Calhoun is gone. Booker Stanley was kicked off the team. What's left is anyone's guess. The top returner is Junior Jamil Walker. After him are two redshirt freshman PJ Hill and Dion Foster. Of the two Foster was the higher rated recruit, but Hill won the starting job in spring practice. Also joining the mix will be speed merchant freshman Lance Smith.

During spring practice Hill, a big dude at 235, won over the coaching staff by running where he was supposed to and running between the tackles. He should some quickness behind the line but isn't going to "wow" anyone with jukes or speed. No one at the top of the Badger pecking order has half the speed of Calhoun (Smith excepted). Injuries could play a role for Hill too as he's coming off a broken leg and took some bumps during spring practice as well. The biggest problem won't just be replacing Calhoun's 1,500+ yards, it'll be replacing his 50+ catches last year. You know, like the ones that burned Michigan late in the game. None of the RB's has shown great hands out of the backfield yet.

Oddly, the Fullback position looks to be a strength. Mike Alstot type strength. Junior Chris Pressley checks in a a whopping 268 and has shown the wheels (for a big dude) to eat up some yards after first contact. He won't run away from anyone, but undersized linebackers and biltzing safeties will feel his wrath all year. If no one steps up, he could conceivible be the feature back in this offense for a while.

With a relatively new line, no receivers, and a focus at the line of scrimage this group will be no where near as productive as last year. Expect big games against the snackycakes and really bad ones against the good defenses.

WR/TEs:

Hello. My name is ______. Part II.

All the starters are gone. All the depth is gone. Wisconsin lost its top SEVEN receivers at the end of last year. Granted two of those receivers were running backs, but the returning wideouts tonly caught 3 passes last year. Combined.

Still the pundits like this group to develop into a top tier receiving corps once they've got some experience under their belts. Part of the reason for that is their pure speed. Junior Paul Hubbard is 6'4" and was 2nd Team All Big Ten TRACK. One of UW's fastest players, he is also an outstanding high jumper. He scares the bejeezus out of me on paper. Still, he was a sophomore with this talent and only caught 1 ball last year. If he learns how to catch and run a route the Big Ten is in trouble because Stocco can and will get him the ball.

Opposite him will be Antwaan Randle El's little brother Marcus.

No. Not Him. But I like Your Thinking. (via Deadspin)

But close. Marcus has had his share of off the field problems and has further ruined the name "Marcus" for anyone who ever though of using it on their child. He's got crazy skills and hands. Of the two he's the more polished route runner. The hang up? He's 5'10. Steve Breaston anyone? Randle El handles the kick return duties with flare and gusto, but hasn't turned it into solid receiving numbers. Luke Swan and Jarvis Minton (both juniors) will be the backups. Both have speed and ability, but seem to have health and performance issues.

The Tight End position is a bit of a puzzle too. UW lost three TE's to graduation. Now, former QB 6'7" Sean Lewis will take the starting position at TE. Great hands, good wheels. No clue what he's doing. Can't block yet and needs to add more weight. Keep him on the right side boys or Stocco's going to end up in the hospital. But get him into the flats and he's dangerous. So is the trade off. He'll be backed up by former LB Andy Crooks.

It's a group long on potential and short on experience and performance. Again I'm pegging this group to come up well short of last year's squad.

OL:

The Tackles are strong. I'd say strong to quite strong. The line will be led by All-American candidate Senior Joe Thomas at Left Tackle. He's big, he's all-planet. He's also coming off an ACL tear. Even with one leg he's one of the best Tackles in College football. If he recovers Stocco's blind side will be safe as a T-Bone at a veegan convention. Opposite him is mosterous Sophmore Eric Vanden Heuvel. If that's not a Wisconsin name, I don't know what is. Vanden Heuvel is 6'7" 326 and still filling out. He backed up Joe Thomas last year but saw plenty of action. Vanden Heuvel is vulenerable. He's coming off a heel injury last year and as a youngster will make his share of mistakes. But he did beat out juniors Danny Kaye and Andre Weininger for the spot.

At Guard there is a lot of talent, but not a lot of experience. Two sophmores will start at interior line, Andy Kemp and Kraig Urbik. Urbik is seen as another destined for the pros prospect. He is the next link in Wisconsin's seemingly unending chain of gigantic sun blocking offensive linemen. Both top 320 and both saw action last year at both guard spots. Again, they are young and inexperiened. Between them will be junior Marcus Coleman who is transitioning to Center after playing everywhere the last two years. Spring ball was not kind to Coleman and he made his share of mistakes. Unfortunately there is no one after him. He'll either have to get it in gear during the fall or woe will befall the badger offense.

The new starting group is basically a majority of last year's backups. This year will be that weird transition year for the Badgers were there isn't a lot of depth (which is true) but next year and the year after the line will been sickeningly good. If the three sophmores on the line mature quickly this team will be successful. But injuries and mistakes could make this line a major sore spot for the season. Thomas and Urbik are very, very good. But they can't be everywhere.

The Defense

Oh mama, that line looks good. Scary good. Quarterbacks should be very afraid. Linebackers are mostly new. Hmmm. Oh, the entire secondary returned. Is that good or bad?

DL :

Scaaaaaaaary. You can't talk about the Badger's Defense without talking about Junior DT Nick Hayden. Hayden is huge and fast. He routinely beat center guard combos and found his way into the backfield posting 9 tfl and 5.5 sacks. He's a great run stuffer at 31o lbs. Also at DT will be oft injured sophmore Jason Chapman. Chapman checks in at 280-290, but as a freshman posted 20+ tackles and 1.5 sacks. He's fast but undersized. If he hits the weights and the 'Bell he could turn into something special. Former all-world recruit Justin Ostrowski who has been injured even more than Chapman will be the primary backup. If healthy he could steal the starting job back. Undersized but rediculously quick Mike Newkirk will also see plenty of playing time. He racked up 3 sacks in limited playing time on quickness alone. This interior rotation will make running against this line nearly impossible up the middle. To top it off they'll be able to collapse the middle of the offensive line too. Be afraid. Very afraid.

Outside there is ability too. The penciled in starters are Senior Joe Monty and Sophmore Matthew Shaughnessy. Shaughnessy is the gem outside. 6'6" in the mid 200s. Wheels to burn, but is coming off a torn ACL. A bit undersized, but is growing into his frame. A pure pass rusher. Monty is another quick guy with a motor that never quits. Juniors Jamal Cooper and Kurt Ware are the main backups. Ware has see plenty of playing time and Cooper is fast but small at 200 lbs (torn ACL last year). Everyone listed has significant playing time from last year. An excellent pass rushing group, but won't be as strong against the run as their interior counterparts.

Inside, teams are in trouble. Outside, they've got a chance. But it's hard to run outside when you've gotta pull in four guys to block the DL's middle two.

LBs:

Like Notre Dame, UW lost their top two linebackers last year, one of whom was UW's top tackler. But they still have all-name team MLB Mark Zalewski. While he bears no relation to the Auto Parts King who tried to shut down Callahan Automotive, he is a solid All-Big Ten candidate. Checks in at 235, posted 83 tackles last year, and hits like Ike Turner. Expect him to run wild with the DL in front of him. Joining him will be sophmores DeAndre Levy and Jonathan Casillas. Casillas is a converted saftey and Levy has had all kinds of injury issues including yanking his groin in spring practice. All three have speed, but again, depth is an issue.

Backing them up will be Senior Paul Joran and redshirt freshman Elijah Hodge. Joran is not bad, not great. Solid without being a standout. Hodge is a pure run stuffer. Loves to hit but needs to work on his coverage skills and not biting on the play fakes. They're competent backups, but you'd like to see more help at this position. At this point none is one the way. A quick look at UW's recruiting class for 2006 doesn't have a single LB commit.

Eventually, this should be a decent group. Not great. One star in the middle and a set of decent players. Inexperience and size will be a problem. Big TE's will love getting into the flats against this group. But, running against them will be a problem. Unless teams can exploit the pass coverage deficiencies, this will be a much more successful group than their paper stats would allow.

S/CB:

Phil Steele summed this group up the best. This is not a group with NFL level talent. Wisconsin's safeties are solid, but the Badger's young corners got torched from time to time last year. While they occasionally gave up the big one, they pulled in their fair share as well. Every one of the returning starters has at least two interceptions last year. Free Safety Roderick Rogers and CB Jack Ikegwuonu each had three. That ain't bad.

The heart and soul of the backfield is senior Joe Stellmacher. Stellmacher notched 90 tackles last year at SS. While not the fleetest of feet, he seems to always be in position. In addition he's 222 lbs and moves incredibly well for a guy his size. He's turning into a play maker and could see some pro time at LB. He is vulnerable over the top, due to his lack of top-end speed. At FS will be Roderick Rogers. Rogers spent the second half of the season turning heads by running all over the field tracking down poorly thrown balls and trying to stuff receivers' heads into the field turf. Fast and hits angry. Is however prone to being out of position, and while fast, didn't display that extra gear that could compensate for those errors. There is safety depth, Shane Carter and Johnny White will push for playing time and are solid fill ins if something goes down.

The corners are a cause for some consternation among the Badger faithful. The likely starters are a pair of sophomores Jack Ikegwuonu and Allen Langford. Langford is the known quality of the two. He's good/not great. At 5'11" he's not big enough to stack up with the giants or keep up with the freakishly fast. But he is good. You can put him on the No. 2 guy and expect a decent job. The player UW is crossing their fingers over is Ikegwuonu. 6'1", at nearly 200lbs. Though he isn't straight line fast, he does have that extra boost CB's need. Quick and physical. If he can jam WR's at the line, he'll own them. If not, speed can kill him. Both guys are young. Both guys have some skills. After them there is little to nothing. The main CB fill-in will be Senior Zach Hampton who didn't crack the starting line up last year. There is talent, but mistake prone talent. The size issue with Langford is also a concern.

However, with the DL these guys have you may see a more than respectable performance out of them. Pressure will help their cause. So will their performances in their last few games. This is a unit on the rise. However two questions remain, 1) how quickly will they realize their potential and 2) what happens if/when someone goes down. If either answer is unfavorable, the CB position could cost UW some games.

K/ST:

This will be a true strength this year. On returns, Randle El is extremely dangerous. Punter Ken DeBauche is one of, if not the best punter in the nation. PK and K Taylor Mehlhoff, had 35 TB's last year and went 14 of 20 for FGs. Mediocre until you consider 3 of his misses were from over 50 yards.

Field position is a big deal in football. The legs the Badgers' have on special teams are very very good and very very consistent. If games boil down to field position games, bet on the Badgers with this group.

The Outlook:

Good defense. Bad Offense. All the points ride on Stocco's shoulders. He's going to have to do it with a young line and totally inexperienced skill positions. Wisconsin will nail the patsies like it should. But there isn't enough on the offensive side of the ball to challenge for the Big 11 Ten title. I'm thinking December bowl game.

Worst Case: 7-5

Like I said earlier, this schedule is example 1A of how not to schedule a season. Bowling Green, Western Illinois, San Diego State, and Buffalo for your out of conference in inexcusable in the Big Ten. There isn't a single major conference team in there and that's reprehensible.

Now off my soapbox.

There's no way they don't win at least 7 games. The four above are guarantees. Then throw in Northwestern, Indiana and Illinois as victories. Minnesota and Purdue win close ones and Penn State, Iowa and Michigan throttle them. That's the worst case.

Best Case: 10-2

Everything clicks right, ten wins. Throw in victories over Minnesota, Purdue and Iowa. I don't think Wisconsin's got the horses to challenge PSU and UM this year. I'll just put that on the table. But, if the OL jells and a wideout steps up, they can win ten.

Most Likely: 9-3

The schedule's just too easy. I think the Badgers will beat Minnesota and sneak out a win versus Purdue or Iowa. With their schedule, I hope their not rewarded with a good bowl, but its possible. I'm thinking Alamo Bowl for the Badgers. Say "hi" to the Sun Belt for us.