Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Game of Games

Game Time

The Rose Bowl Michigan v. USC 5PM EST on ABC

It's here. Finally. Our long wait for meaningful football is over.

Small Absence

My apologies for the lack of posting leading up to today. However, as I'm currently typing this on a 3 dollar internet cardin Mexico, I'm sure you'll understand when I say there has been a whole lot of time to post. However, I've got Thirty minutes and a goofy Mexican keyboard to get you up to speed, so lets get to it. Forgive any spelling errors, I've gotta be quick.

Previewing the Big Game

Ivan Maisel take a hard look at the teams, what they've got, and what they've got to prove.
Brian breaks it down to the bone. Seriously. Everything.
Excellent stuff from Stadium and Main.
Johnny's ready.
The Free Press Previews the Game.
Rosenberg takes a look at the subplots.
The Detroit News takes a long look too.
Go Blue Wolverine picks Michigan.
CSTV's experts pick a winner.

Battle of the Blogs II

CSTV was kind enough to invite me back to give a preview of the Michigan USC game. Specifically the offense. My last preview was, well, wrong. However, I'm fairly confident this one is a little more on point.

USC employs a very different front seven alignment than Michigan has seen all year. Specifically, they run a 3-4 defense with random and repeated blitzes from their very large, very fast linebacker quartet. From time to time USC will line up in a more tradititional 4-3 alignment with one of their faster LBs lining up outside as a DE.

The Michigan offense and USC defense match up pretty evenly. The x-factor, as it always is, is Steve Breaston, whom I expect to have his best game as a Wolverine. Anyway, below is a small preview of the matchup.

Michigan’s Offense v. USC’s Defense

If you’re lazy, let me save you the trouble of reading the rest of this column. Michigan’s Offense should score a heap of points on USC’s defense. I know this will come as a shocker, but I’ve got Michigan in the win column come the end of New Years Day.

For those of you thirsting for a little more football insight, allow me to elaborate.

Michigan’s Offensive Line v. USC’s Defensive Line

Both units are coming off somewhat sub-par showings in their rivalry games. Michigan’s O-Line allowed an uncharacteristic four sacks versus a talented and fast OSU defensive front. The majority of the pressure came from the place you least want it, straight up the middle. On the otherside, USC recorded three sacks against UCLA, but none of them came from their D-Line. Making matters worse, though USC held UCLA’s tailback to 55 yards they allowed their QB to rush for 72 and failed to pick him off a single time.

On Defense, USC brings its pressure with its Linebackers. Even so, don’t sleep on large scary man Lawrence Jackson who leads the Defensive line in sacks with 3.5. Unfortunately for USC he’s the only real presence over the football. The Trojan’s don’t possess a sun-blocking DT (e.g., One Mr. Quinton Peacock) capable of single handedly destroying Michigan’s game plan. Michigan’s interior line matches up well with USC and at the corners of the line, Jake Long is All-American caliber and Reuben Riley has been more than sufficient. While USC employs a different defensive scheme than Michigan has seen this year, Mike Hart is one of the best QB protectors in the college game and Michigan’s Line has proven it can handle the fast and furious as well as the gigantic and angry.

Despite USC’s speed and skill, Michigan’s Offensive line is the better unit. Against OSU, a very similar defensive unit in terms of skill and speed, Michigan ran for 165, threw for 267 yards, and racked up 39 points. USC is giving up close to 100 yards on the ground per game. Expect Michigan to exceed that number, and rack up 150+ on the ground between Hart, Minor, and Jackson. USC should get to Henne once or twice, but Michigan will control the line of scrimmage.
Michigan’s Running Attack v. USC’s Run Defense

This loosely translates into Mike Hart v. USC’s Line Backing corps. If there is a better power running back in the country than Hart, I haven’t seen him. Hart routinely turns two yard losses into five yard gains. Though he doesn’t have the break away speed of a Reggie Bush or a Chris Wells, Hart continually racks up hard runs of 15-25 yards. With that type of running Michigan’s offense eats up both yardage and time while keeping their opponent’s offense off the field. Further adding to already substantial Mike Hart lore is the fact that Hart has fumbled once in three years. Once. Hart ranks 7th in rushing yards nationally and has added 14 TD’s to his 1500 plus yards on the ground.

Waiting for him will be a cadre of talented, fast USC Linebackers. USC’s three top tacklers are their starting Linebacking corps. Rey Maualuga, Keith Rivers, and (porn name alert!) Dallas Sartz are all over 65 tackles on the year. Sartz leads the team in sacks with 6 and his compatriots have 2 a piece. Their most impressive effort this year was holding star running back and Mario Kart aficionado Marshawn Lynch to 91 yards on the ground on no TDs.

The unfortunate thing for USC is none of the offenses USC faced had either the Offensive line or the versatility of Michigan. Michigan’s possession of two legitimate deep threats, a stable of talented tight ends who can block, and freak of nature Steve Breaston, generally forces offenses to pick their poison. Michigan will run right at USC regardless of whether there is immediate success. If Michigan gains heavy yards early, especially behind OT Long and OG Kraus, they will pound those plays into the ground until they are stopped. If Michigan doesn’t have immediate success, they’ll run those plays anyway in order to set up the pass. Michigan’s size advantage at the line, the athleticism of their key blockers, and Mike Hart make stopping the Wolverine running game a tall order for anyone.

I expect Hart to have a banner day, around 150 yards and 2 TDs. Edge Michigan.

Michigan’s Passing Offense v. USC’s Pass Defense

This is where USC may have the advantage. One of the hardest things to keep sharp during a long layoff is a QB’s timing with his receivers at game speeds. Making that harder will be Thomas Terrell and the USC pass defense. Terrell is a bad, bad man. Starting all 12 games he leads the Trojans with 12 pass break ups, in addition to racking up 46 tackles and 2 interceptions. As USC’s top cover corner he’ll match up against Mario Manningham and attempt to keep the sophomore under wraps. This may be the best match up of the game when they pair off. This will leave Harris Carry matched up against Adrian Arrington. Where I rate the Manningham/Terrell match up as a push, Michigan has the advantage here. Arrington proved to be a top receiver during Manningham’s absence and his ability to make the tough catch over the DB has been a staple this year.

Safeties Taylor Mays and Kevin Ellison will patrol the back of the field and are sure tacklers with some ball hawking instincts. Mays leads the team with 3 INTs and Ellison has one to his credit.

The game will likely turn on Michigan’s short passing game. In looking at USC’s schedule, Chad Henne is the best QB USC will have faced this year. Further, despite his occasional stumble against lesser teams, Henne is the very definition of a big game QB. As a freshman against Texas in the Rose Bowl, Henne threw for 227 and 4 TDs. Against OSU he’s only thrown 2 INTs (both his freshman year) in three games. Henne is at his best when the pressure is on. The same can not be said for any of the QB’s USC has faced.

Tyler Ecker, thought to be Michigan’s best Tight End going into the season, is finally back from injuries and should play significant minutes. Backing him up is pass catching/notsomuchblocking sophomore sensation Carson Butler. Both Tight Ends have smooth hands and incredible wheels for guys over 6-3. Butler is the better pass catcher and can outrun most LBs. The LB/TE match up goes to Michigan, but barely.

The key to the game will be Steve Breaston. Playing in his third Rose Bowl, Breaston has seen nothing but heartache in his previous two. Dogged by a sensational freshman year he was unable to live up to, Breaston scampered through the 2004 Rose Bowl with a cast on his hand and tender hamstrings. This year he’s been both healthy and productive. Second only to Mike Hart in all purpose yards, Breaston led the Wolverines in receptions with 51 and total receiving yards. Of Breaston’s catches 51 catches, 33 went for first downs or touchdowns. Michigan has the advantage in the passing game, but only because of Breaston.

This is Steve’s Rose Bowl.

Michigan wins.


Friday, December 29, 2006

Meet The New Face Of Michigan Basketball

He'll Be Blocking Your Shots For The Next Three Years

Epke Udoh. Provide him with meats and cheeses. He is your new king.

Despite a name that sounds like it belongs to a Bond villian, Epke does not possess their inherent knack for not killing his prey. To the contrary. If Epke had a role in Thunderbolt or Goldfinger the world would be under S.P.E.C.T.E.R.'s control and Sean Connery would be in little pieces slowly dissolving on the ocean floor. He has that certain Idon't know what about him. A hunger to play and an anger that people are stupid enough to try to post him up. He's something special Michigan fans. Savior it. There's a big man on campus who can play both ends of the court that Ed Martin didn't pay for. This is a big deal.

Udoh threw a block party for the Crisler arena crowd, stoning 9 Army shots in 29 minutes.

No. A Block Party.

On top of that he contributed 8 points on 4-9 shooting, dished an assist and swiped two steals. earlier this year Lester Abram predicted Udoh would have an impact on the team, I just don't think anyone thought his impact would be this significant. He's become Amaker's first choice off the bench in any situation and has proven in a very short time that he can contribute not only with his defense but by pouring in some points as well.

Michigan has been hampered by insufficient efforts out of its starters when faced with decent competition. The UCLA and NC State games were exhibits 1A and 1B. Dion Harris has been a disaster as a combo shooting/point guard. Harris has played as though he is unaware that missing more shots than your teammates are taking is a bad thing. Sims has been decent but inconsistent and lacking any real fire. Abram and Petway might as well not be playing at this point, as Abram has played like he is afraid to shoot or touch anyone and Petway's offense is limited to the area five feet above the rim. Tired of this lack of fire and productivity Amaker benched his whole starting line up. The result was a 62-50 Michigan win over Army.

In what can only be described as (I can't believe I'm writing this) a smart coaching decision, Thomas Amaker started Reed Baker, Jerret Smith, Deshawn Sims, Epke Udoh, and Jevohn Shepherd. Following Michigan's embarrassing blowout loss to UCLA, Amaker sent a message, loud and clear to his starters "put in the effort or ride the pine."

In an attempt to salvage a season, and no I do not think it is premature to say that, Amaker benched his underperforming upperclassment and started a bunch of unknown underclassmen. A bold move considering if it didn't pay off and Michigan lost to a less than mediocre Army team while benching its starters, it's safe to say Amaker would have lost his only disciplinary weapon/motivational device over the team. Instead of his decision blowing up in Michigan's face, it looks as though it will pay huge dividends forthe Maize & Blue as the season goes on.

In his first start as a Wolverine Reed Baker showed why Amaker took a flyer on him, despite never seeing him live. Pouring in a game high 19 points on 5-5 3 point shooting and being perfect from the free throw line, Baker set the offensive tone for Michigan. In 29 minutes of action Baker committed only a single turnover and pulled down 4 boards. Not bad for a kid whose scholarship travels and travails are well documented. Following his performance it is safe to say he is Michigan's best outside shooter (not that there is much competition).

The Follow Through of a Pure Shooter

Much maligned PG Jarret Smith also flashed some promise. Despite sinking a single 3 pointer on 6 field goal attempts, Smith dished 4 assists while turning the ball over only twice. More importantly he went to the basket, getting six shots from the charity stripe and hitting 4 of them. Smith also grabbed 5 boards, and collect a block and a steal. Maybe all he really need was playing time, we'll have to see, but he still has to learn how to shoot from the floor.

Finally, DeShawn Sims shone bright as well. Scoring 13 points and pulling down 8 rebounds Sims was a force around the basket. Recruited for both his obvious offensive skills and his defense, Sims played mad as all players of his position do. Even in still shots you can see something in his eyes. This is a young man we will all be excited to watch develop over the next few years.

This is not to suggest that everything was fixed in a night. No. To the contrary. Dion Harris was still bad. Despite playing only 22 minutes he still took, and missed, more shots than the other reserves and Jevohn Shepherd combined. At this point, when Harris is on the floor anyone seated around the basket should be afraid because the ball isn't going anywhere near the rim. Petway can't hold onto the ball or deliver it to players on his own team as evidenced by his 4 turnovers and one assist in 11 minutes of play. Of those coming off the bench, thankfully, Lester Abram was the most productive. He seems to have gotten the message that more is expected out of him. Lester grabbed 7 boards and contributed 6 points (1-1 from the floor) in only 12 minutes of play. Instead of standing around waiting open shots he attempt to create something and was rewarded with 5 shots from the free throw line. We're going to need much more of this from him.

Michigan showed us yesterday that there are more weapons in their quiver than the warped arrows they've used so far this year.

I know its only Army, but I'll take it as a good sign.

Nice job Amaker. Keep it up.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Thursday's Hearsay and Conjecture: Unfinished Business

Hart and Crable to Return

ESPN is reporting that Mike Hart has made it official, he's coming back. Hart cited Chad Henne's decision to return as a major factor in his decision. The nucleus of a great offense is now set in stone and we have one more year to marvel at the young man who embodies the heart, courage and spirit of the University we love so much.

Shawn Crable also made it official today, he's coming back. Just 14 credits shy of completing his degree Crable announced today that he will return to Michigan for his senior season. The Detroit News broke the story today.

The GLI Faces Off Tonight

With Michigan State, Michigan Tech and Harvard to match up against, Michigan comes into tonight's opening round of the Great Lakes Invitational flat as cutting board. To put it mildly, Billy Sauer has not been good. Over his last four starts he's given up 22 goals and lost all four games. Despite being third in the country in scoring Michigan ranks 48th in defense (allowing 3.7 goals a game). Despite scoring over four goals a game, the margin for error with this year's team is razor thin.

Michigan State and Harvard face off at 4:30 EST with Michigan and Michigan Tech facing off at 8pm. Michigan Tech will not be a push over for the Wolverines. Tech is coming off a two game sweep of North Dakota and sport a red hot goalie in Rob Nolan, whose GAA of 2.13 is more than a full goal less than Sauer's.

Michigan Basketball Hosts Army Tonight

It's Army. Woo.

Coming off an embarrassing loss to UCLA Michigan will hopefully come out storming and take it right to the cadets. Note to Amaker: Pick and rolls. Work on them. Note to Harris: Drive the firggin' lane already!

Nice article on Epke Udoh. Interesting piece on Jevohn Shepherd.

Maize n Brew Nominated For Cool Stuff

It's gratifying that people visit this site in the first place. But to have people whom you have the uptmost respect for saying kind things about your work makes you feel pretty good.

Johnny over at RBUAS nominated Maize n Brew for Best New Blog and was kind enough to say the following:

Maize n Brew - Dave’s writing is often profound, often funny, always insightful; conveys all of the emotional investment a fan needs to make sports worthwhile.

Peter at Burnt Orange Nation also nominated Maize n Brew for Best New Blog

Maize n Brew - Dave's just a good writer that manages to be yet another relevant and important voice in a sea of Michigan bloggers.

As a huge fan of both their writing and sites, such nominations are greatly appreciated.

In addition, Matt Glaude of Syracuse 44 Orange gave Maize n Brew a nod as a one of three nominees for best Big Ten blog. Again, praise from those you respect is appreciated and flattering.

I'm Not The Only Person Who Doesn't Like Amaker

Johnny doesn't either. He just writes it better. Nathan Fenno wasn't too thrilled by Saturday either.

Every Date You've Had Since College

Read. Laugh. Cry.

My Problem With Amaker

In the wake of the UCLA loss this past weekend I was pretty critical of Thomas Amaker and the entire Michigan team.

This team is disorganized, inept, and incapable of passing the ball to their teammates. Talent, honestly, isn't the issue. There is talent in Maize and Blue. The issue is coaching. Coaching tells a player how to break the press. Coaching changes gameplans when the first doesn't work. Coaching doesn't go to Zone when you're down 20. Coaching finds a way to break a 12-4 run early in the second when there is still a hope of a comeback. Coaching finds a way to may even the flattest games respectable. Coaching focuses on a team's weakness and makes them stronger. Coaching prepares teams for big games before national TV audiences

This was not the first time, nor the last, that I have wagged a finger at Thomas Amaker for ill-preparing his players for a critical game. However, a couple astute readers asked me why I'm jumping on the negativity band wagon so early in the season. This is my attempt to answer their inquiry and get your thoughts on how Thomas Amaker is doing.

In Amaker's defense there are several banner victories to hang a season on, a 13 game winning streak in 2002-3, and an NIT banner to talk about. Last season is a perfect example of the reasons to love or hate Amaker as Michigan's head basketball coach. It provides fodder on both sides to either call for patience or call for his head. Banner victories, humiliating losses.

With that in mind, looking at last year, Michigan roared out of the gates to an eventual top 25 national ranking. Getting there Michigan looked good. Victories over MSU and Wisconsin marked their early season triumphs. Michigan was standing tall after pounding Penn State, a team Northwestern routinely dismantles as well. Then the wheels came off. Michigan dropped three straight after being ranked for the first time in 5 years. They lost 7 of their last 9 games to miss the NCAA tournament. The only bright spot during that dismal run was Daniel Horton single handedly willing Michigan to victory over a flat Illini team. Despite all he did, Michigan dropped its next three game including an unbelievable Big Ten tournament loss to a Minnesota team Michigan had whupped by 22 points five games earlier. Instead of the NCAAs Michigan went to the NIT where they eventually lost to South Carolina (a team that swept the national champion Gators).

On the plus, Michigan made the NIT finals, beat ranked opponents in MSU, Wisconsin and Illinois, and put on a show for all of us to care about. On the minus, Michigan dropped 7 of 9 to close its season, blew an easy win against Minnesota when it was widely speculated/known that a win would get them into the NCAA tournament, played absolutely horrible defense all year long, and had to rely on a single player for almost all of its offense.

In looking back over my notes and columns during that time the thing that consistently jumps out at me is the fact that if Daniel Horton had a quiet game, Michigan was guaranteed to lose. Last year's success appeared to be more the result of Horton's stubbornness than Amaker's coaching. Michigan consistently allowed decent teams to shoot ridiculously high field goal percentages and out rebound them. Defensively Michigan was always slow to rotate, late box out, and totally incapable of defending a pick and roll. On offense Michigan was in just as clueless. Re-watch any game last year and you will notice that there was no game plan. It was simply "give the ball to Horton and pray." Michigan was constantly out assisted. Dion Harris couldn't shoot well last year either. Courtney Sims was ineffective then too (although he has come to play this year). Turnovers were far more common than assists. Even in Michigan's victories they would often out-turnover their opponents.

Look at the UM/ND NIT game. The last play that Michigan spent a full timeout to design was, at best, a total disaster. Horton had no idea where he was going, was quickly double teamed, and somehow managed to find Harris alone on a night when he was 2-8 from the arc prior to his shot. Horton was supposed to take the shot. Everyone knew that. Yet none of Michigan's players could set a pick or a screen to get him loose. Instead of a set shot, it ended up a desperation three with time expiring.

Since 2001-2 Michigan is staggeringly bad 8-27 against ranked opponents. Four of those victories have come against teams ranked #17 or below. The highs? Illinois at 8, Wisconsin at 10, MSU at 11, and Iowa at 14. That's it. A 23% winning percentage against the top #25 over 6 years.

Simply put, my irritation with Michigan's head basketball coach does not stem from a single game, nor am I judging him solely on that performance. To the contrary, I am holding him accountable for the body of work he has compiled with players he's recruited. With those players Michigan has been consistently mediocre. And that's not good enough. Mediocre means NITs rather than NCAAs.

The final conference statistics from 2003, 2004, and 2005 tell the story. In 2003 Michigan has incredibly mediocre, ranking 6th in the conference in just about every category. With one anomaly, Michigan was 9th in the conference in the assist to turnover ratio. 2004 saw a steep decline as Michigan ranked around 8th in most defensive categories, but was dead last in assist to turnover ratio and second to last in assist, turnover margin, and that slightly important category scoring offense.

Last year Michigan returned to mediocrity offensively, but continued to have trouble stopping anyone from scoring. Michigan was again second to last in field goal percentage defense and three point defense. Again, Michigan was second to last in both turnover margin and assist to turnover ratio. Only Purdue, who beat Michigan last year, averaged more turnovers a game than Michigan.

Over the course of Amaker's tenure Michigan turns the ball over more times than it assists on a basket, it cannot stop anyone from scoring either in front of or behind the 3-point arc, and with the exception of Daniel Horton's 2005 season can't score enough to make up for its mistakes.

This year, many of the same problems are coming to the forefront. None of Michigan's guards can shoot. And instead of creating off the dribble and driving the lane, they are content to loft contested long range shots over outstretched arms. No one knows how to set a screen. No one knows how to rotate offensively to beat a double team down low. No one knows how to make a friggin bounce pass into the post. The turnover problem continues to haunt Michigan. Despite how early it is in this season and Michigan's 11-2 record it still ranks near the bottom of the Big Ten in turnover margin and assist to turnover ratio. Michigan's defense also leaves plenty to be desired. The fact that it is eeking by teams like NIU or Miami scares the hell out of me come Big Ten time. Michigan's victory over NIU is tempered in my mind by the number of missed open jumpers that the Huskies lofted. When left alone like that, good teams will bury you. Those teams are coming up on the schedule very, very shortly. For the record, Michigan is dead last in the conference in 3-point defense.

These numbers are all indicia, at least in my opinion, of a coaching problem. Amaker is famous for strange coaching decisions at inopportune times. On every broadcast game I saw last year, if Michigan was down by a margin larger than 10 Amaker would switch to a zone defense. Why in God's name would you do that when you're down big in the second half? You need the ball back. Zone allows a team to keep the ball around the perimeter and run time off the clock, and if they're a good shooting team find an open man when Michigan's suspect rotation never materialized. What made it even funnier/sadder was listening to the announcers question his decisions on the air!

All the things that irk me about Amaker were on display against UCLA. Lack of proper adjustments. Poor use of timeouts. Inability to design plays that went to Michigan's strengths. Poor substitutions. Confusion at a pressure defense. And his famous look of helplessness as the game wore on.

Coaching gets kids to respond to new challenges. If there's a change in the game plan you use one of the fifty or so tv timeouts to adjust. Michigan never does that. They occasionally pull out a victory when an opponent stupidly plays down to their level and doesn't dictate the flow of the game. However, if an opponent presses it's will on Michigan, they usually fold. That is an issue that irritates me no end.

Tom Amaker is a nice guy. He's a decent recruiter who seems to be getting better. He's an excellent representative of the school and seemingly an excellent role model for his players. I'm not calling into question his integrity or intelligence.

I'm saying he's a bad basketball coach. I'm saying he hasn't shown me otherwise. If he does, I'm more than happy to say I'm wrong. But he's gotta prove he can coach before I will.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Defense Rests

Michigan Blown Out By UCLA On National Television

A lot of firsts occurred on December 23, 2006 when Michigan played UCLA.

1. It was the first time UCLA had scored more than 90 points this year.
2. It was the first time UCLA had beaten an opponent by more than 35 points this year.
3. It was the first time Michigan failed to score at least 60 points this year.
4. It was the first time Michigan has turned the ball over more than 20 times in a game this year.
5. It was Michigan's first nationally televised, prime-time Saturday game on CBS.

The unfortunate thing about December 23, 2006 was that this was not the first time Tommy's teams have embarrassed themselves and their school before a national television audience.

In the opening 20 minutes of the game Michigan turned the ball over 15 times. Not surprisingly Michigan was down 36-23 at the half. With the game all but decided at the start of the second half, Courtney Sims at least tried to make it respectable. Routinely fighting off double and triple teams Sims tried to keep the Wolverines close. Unfortunately no one else did. Only Sims and Lester Abram managed to record double figures, while four Bruin starters matched or bettered their outputs.

It's hard to say where to begin breaking down this debacle. Michigan was out manned. Michigan was out coached. Michigan was out hustled. Michigan was basically out everythinged. It's easy to point to the Bruin's perfect record and say, "That's what supposed to happen. Michigan was unranked and UCLA was/is No. 1." But you really can't say that with a straight face. BYU, Chaminade (where the eff is Chaminade?), Long Beach State, and Sam Houston State all outscored Michigan and held UCLA to a lower point total. No. This was a special day. This was a day Michigan was on national television. And this was the day they provided wouldbe recruits and future opponents with their most polished Washington Generals impersonation.

What happened on Saturday was an embarrassment to the program. Michigan showed no pulse and no heart. They were even more disorganized than usual. No one cut to the basket. Simple pressure applied by UCLA's guards turned into the majority of Michigan's turnovers as Harris, Coleman and Smith appeared clueless as to how to deal with it. Passes were lazily lobbed into the paint with a big "STEAL ME!" sign attached to them. No one rotated to help Sims or Petway in the blocks. Once Sims was double teamed in the paint, the ball usually went the other way. No one can hit a shot outside of ten feet. Michigan hit 1 three pointer. Michigan had only 9 assists compared to 23 turnovers. As usual, Michigan shot half as many free throws as its opponent.

Defensively Michigan was an absolute joke. UCLA shot 50% in the first half and 66.7% in the second. They were also 55% from behind the line. Amaker's team was puzzled, nay, totally blown away by UCLA's new fangled drive-the-lane-and-pass offense. Unable to adapt to a team that didn't shoot the ball from a set position with both hands, Michigan stood around in amazement as UCLA's quicker, younger players drove the lane for easy layups or easy kick out passes. It is apparent from watching Michigan play that the word "Rotation" has no place in the play book and is only loosely associated with car tires by this Wolverine team. Michigan has no idea how to deal with a pick. Michigan can't fight through a screen. They play defense like it's time for a nap. All this is the result of coaching from a man who was once the defensive player of the year in college basketball. If that is not a screaming indictment of his ability as a head basketball coach, I don't know what is.

After Saturday it is more than obvious to anyone watching that Courtney Sims is the only reliable offensive threat Michigan possesses, and that is stretching the word "reliable" to its logical and legal extreme. This is especially troubling when you consider that in order to win games, Michigan must outshoot its opponents to have any prayer of winning based on its paper towel like defense. Once Sims was taken away, Michigan collapsed. The only bright spots have been DeShawn Sims and Epke Udoh who are seeing increased playing time as Michigan starters continue to struggle.

I still have no idea where to start. This team is disorganized, inept, and incapable of passing the ball to members their teammates. Talent, honestly, isn't the issue. There is talent in Maize and Blue. The issue is coaching. Coaching tells a player how to break the press. Coaching changes gameplans when the first doesn't work. Coaching doesn't go to Zone when you're down 20. Coaching finds a way to break a 12-4 run early in the second when there is still a hope of a comeback. Coaching finds a way to may even the flattest games respectable. Coaching focuses on a team's weakness and makes them stronger. Coaching prepares teams for big games before national TV audiences.

I have never seen that out of Amaker's teams. Never.

If I do it'll be another first for this year.

* photo courtesy Mark Avery/AP

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

President Ford Dead at 93

Former President and Michigan Alumni Gerald Ford Passes Away

The University of Michigan, New York Times, and several other news source have reported that former President Gerald Ford has passed away at the age of 93.

Ford was a star center for Michigan's 1932 and 1933 undefeated National Championship teams. Ford was a three year letterman at Michigan, who along with his two national championship trophies was also named MVP of Michigan's 1934 football squad. An astounding athlete, Ford was actively recruited the Green Bay Packers to join the fledgeling NFL. Instead, Ford chose to go to Yale as an assistant football coach in hopes of being admitted to Yale's law school. Ford was admitted in 1938 and completed law school prior to WWII. During WWII Ford served with distinction in the US Navy. After returning from the war, Ford became involved in politics and was eventually elected to the House of Representatives wear he would serve until 1973.

Gerald R. Ford, Jr. on the field of Michigan Stadium

Ford spent 25 years in Congress and rose to House Minority Leader prior to being appointed Vice President by Richard Nixon in 1973. Ford's reputation as a fair and honest represenative earned him a measure of respect during his time in Washington, and his appointment to the Vice Presidency was met with little fanfare.

Soon after his appointment news of the Watergate scandal broke, and turmoil prevailed in the highest offices of the U.S. government. Nixon's subsequent resignation on August 9, 1974, made Ford the President of the United States, an office he never campaigned for nor has ever elected to.

Upon his succession to the Oval Office he said the following:

I have not sought this enormous responsibility, but I will not shirk it. Those
who nominated and confirmed me as Vice President were my friends and are my
friends. They were of both parties, elected by all the people and acting under
the Constitution in their name. It is only fitting then that I should pledge to
them and to you that I will be the President of all the people.—Gerald R. Ford, August 9, 1974 (quotation courtesy of Wikipedia).

On that day Ford became our 38th President. As President, Ford lead the country during some of its most trying times, including America's withdrawal from Vietnam, the Watergate scandal, and a stagnant economy coupled with rampant inflation. Under Ford's watch Congress inacted several measures to curb inflation and took steps to bolster the nation's health care. Ford also maintained America's presence abroad, visiting China and continuing the U.S.'s ongoing détente with the Soviet Union.

The former President is survived by his wife Betty, their children, grand children and great grandchildren. My deepest sympathies to the Ford family on their loss.

Final Maize n' Nominations For the 2006 College Football Blogger Awards

You can find nominations Part 1 meyah, and Part Deux meyah.

The final piece of the nomination puzzle for this year's awards is for every blogger to list their three favorite pieces from the year. That's it. Out of the hundreds of things you've done, pick three, and make sure they don't suck.

Tough task. Tougher to get it out on time. Hence, my belated nominations for my own work.

However, there are a few things I've written this year that have stuck with me, and I'm greatful for the chance to share them with you one more time.

1. When All That's Left... - I wrote this piece in somewhat of a daze. I originally intended it to be a short lead in to my eventual Blogpoll Ballot, but it grew into a lot more than that. There's something about sport, not just football but any sport, that engenders a sense of optimism and hope that cannot be replicated in other facets of life. As it typed away I began to realize that one of college football's greatest gifts is the hope that it gives its followers. It's a sort of hope that makes no sense. Hope that exists against all odds. Hope that prevails over reality. You may know what will happen during the game, before the polls are released, or going into the season, yet you still cling to the Hope that things will be better than logic and your senses tell you they will. Sport gives hope in the darkest of places. Not just to fans in wealthy countries, but to those in places of great strife and famine. Sport gives us many things, but most importantly it gives hope.

2. Those That Vanish Before Our Eyes - Johnny's exquisite piece on Tony Boles sparked more questions than I had answers to. I initially penned a response to his piece, yet more things kept coming to mind. Most importantly, why is it football players like Boles simply disappear? This was my attempt to answer that question.

3. Tie: The Columbus Travel Advisory and Re-Mascoting The Big Ten - Just for fun.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

2006 College Football Blogger Awards: Maize n' Nominations Part Two

You can find Part 1 of my nominations here.

One thing I forgot to mention during my last post was that nominations for the 2006 College Football Blogger Awards can be made by anyone. Bloggers. Readers. Mom. Dad. Lassie. All you have to do is visit the nominations page that Joel and Brian have set up. Vote early. Your vote counts (except in Florida). It's the American way.

On to the nominations Part Deux.

The Tyrone Prothro And His Amazing Catch Award
FOR: The finest individual post of the college football year.
CRITERIA: Best post for whatever reason.

1. Requiem by RBUAS. If you can read that without feeling a tightness in your chest, goosebumps on your arms, or a tear welling in your eye then you have no soul.

2. Marvel by RBUAS.

3. Eleven Swans by Mgoblog.

If I missed something special, please let me know. But these three stuck in my head.

The Chris Berman Antimatter Award
FOR: The best contribution to the lingo of our little interniche, be it a nickname, neologism, or catchy phrase used with frequency.
CRITERIA: Spread is important. The ideal candidate has been universally adopted by anyone with cause to use the term.



The Old Faithful Award
FOR: The best recurring feature of the year.
CRITERIA: The feature should be posted weekly and be generally good and stuff.

1. UFR - Mgoblog
2. Don't Bet On It - Dawg Sports
3. Blogtoberfest - Every Day Should Be Saturday
4. Pickin on the Big Ten - The Bemusement Park
5. Maxwell Pundit - Rakes of Mallow

The That's Not Really Real Award
FOR: The best photoshop or other counterfeit gag of the year.
CRITERIA: Could be a photoshop, a Motivational Poster, an On Notice Board, or something similar, as long as it elicited more than a mere smile.

1. MZone - War Eagle
Hands down the funniest Photoshop of the Year. It still makes me laugh

2. MZone - The USC Cheerleader

3. Brains! - House Rock Built

4. Happy Kittens - EDSBS

The You Talkin' To Me Award
FOR: The best back and forth between rival blogs the week before a rivalry game.
CRITERIA: Must be bi-directional, and both blogs must score points against each other. A unilateral beat-down will not suffice. Should be more in the spirit of fun than wildly abusive.

No idea...

The I'm Just Like You But I Have a Podcast Award
FOR: The best podcast or podcaster of the year.
CRITERIA: Uh, must be audio. And about college football, you know. Note that this is "podcast" in a really broad sense. Parody songs, incoherent ravings about Tyrone Willingham, and whatever else you've got are nominate-able. One restriction: it has to be self-generated.

1. MSU Radio Host Melts Fucking Down on the Air - House Rock Built
2. The Michael Lewis Interview - EDSBS
3. Friday Night Lites - House Rock Built

The Blogger Championship Series

ACC: Ramblin Wreck (nod Eagle in Atlanta)
Big 10: MGoBlog (nods to Black Shoe Diaries, Bruce Ciskie, and MZone)
Big 12: Burnt Orange Nation (nods to Double Extra Point and Off Tackle)
Big East and ND: Blue Gray Sky (nods to House Rock Built, Card Chronicle, Orange 44, The Mountainlair)
Pac-10: Bruins Nation (nod to Addicted to Quack and Conquest Chronicles)
SEC: Every Day Should Be Saturday (nods to Dawg Sports and Roll Bama Roll)
Non-BCS: Pitch Right
Generalists: Sunday Morning Quarterback

And The Blogger Championship Throphy.....

Honestly can't decide. It's kind of a toss up between EDSBS and Mgoblog.

But my gut is with Mgoblog, as it was the first site I regularly visited and the site that helped convince me to launch my own.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Wednesday's Hearsay and Conjecture: Extra Crispy

Tommy Amaker = Matt Millen

I'm a big Michael Rosenbloom fan. The articles he pens for the Free Press almost make up for the paper employing a jackass like Drew Sharp. But the "Amaker is Millen" analogy is just perfect. Did you realize both men have been around for 6 years? Of course you didn't. You've been trying to fantasize that neither man really exists and that it's all just a horrible nightmare that you'll wake up from soon. Or is that just me?

In his most recent editorial Rosenbloom took aim at Tommy Amaker, criticizing Michigan's head basketball coach for the hollow praise from this young season that continually emanates from the Coach's mouth. Exhibit 1: "We're 11-1 right now," Michigan coach Tommy Amaker pointed out. "I feel like sometimes I'm still having to answer for things. I don't know what else we could do -- be 12-0?"

As I pointed out yesterday (and Rosenbloom points out today), Michigan's schedule to date has been less than stellar. No. That's not true. It's been terrible. Michigan has played three teams with winning records: NC State (7-2), Harvard (7-4!?), and Davidson (9-3). That's it. The won/lost record for this season's schedule is 51-74, and most of these schools are MAC or Southern League schools.

As much as Tommy tells us the schedule is the answer, we've played three NCAA tourney teams from last year with two (UCLA and G-Town) upcoming, it sounds more like a punchline. Michigan is 1-1 against last year's Tourney teams with a winning record (W Davidson, L NCST). However, no one will mistake Davison for an ACC top-middle program. The other team, Milwaukee-Wisconsin is 2-10 on the year.

Rosenbloom correctly points out that Michigan has the opportunity to prove it is a NCAA tournament worthy team if it can pull off the upset at UCLA. Fat chance. Rosenbloom also points out that Michigan is 17-37 on the road under Amaker. That's a bad, bad statistic. No one expects a team to be perfect away from home. Far from it. But people do expect competence on the road. Go .500. We're cool with that. But when your team loses more than two-thirds of its games on the road, you've got a problem. What makes it worse is the following:

Michigan's 17 road wins include five over Penn State, which fields a team only for tax purposes. And another two over Northwestern, which never has made the NCAA tournament. And then there were the road wins that only look good with parenthetical assistance: over (South) Florida and Boston (University, not College). And one over a Minnesota team that finished 10th in the Big Ten. And one over Butler.

The W/L stats are not in Michigan's favor. The way Michigan is playing right now doesn't inspire confidence either. MGoBlog "live blogged" the NCST game and went to the NIU game and Hoover Street Rag live blogged the NIU game as well. Bring kleenex to wipe your eyes. This is not a team that is playing well heading into its biggest game of the year to date.

At point Dion Harris has been serviceable. He's far and away taken the most shots on the team with 131. He's also missed more shots than all but three of his teammates have taken. On the plus side, he averaging around 5.5 assists a game and running the "offense" decently. I love his 63 assists, but I hate his 31 turnovers. Better shot selection and a few more drives to the paint would greatly help Harris' season. Jarret Smith has been useless, shooting at a mind numbing 37% clip while averaging 19 minutes a game. Just a thought, isn't a PG supposed to be able to drive the lane and create some opportunities? Instead he's standing at the top of the key waiting for other people do the work for him. Shooting 4 (four, quatro, catre) free throws in 12 games also tells me you suck right now.

At forward Brent Petway and Lester Abram have been meh. Petway has been a defensive stud, leading the team in blocks (24) and boards (92) but still hasn't managed to put it together consistently on the offensive end of the floor. It's generally thought that if you can keep Petway away from the rim, he's not going to hurt you. So far that's been true. Petway's gotten himself into trouble with turnovers, and when he's gotten to the basket and been fouled, his 68% free throw shooting doesn't scare anyone. If given space he can knock down a jumper. But he's more apt to force a bad jumper than set up a good one.

Abram's quietly been very disappointing this year. He's third on the team in shots, but like Harris, they're not going in. Against NIU he scored a season high 14 points on 5-11 shooting. He's hovering around 40% for the year but hopefully is showing signs of heating up. When shooting 10 times or more he's around a 45% hit rate, but he's not shooting enough. At this point he's only launching 7 shots a game. That's not enough out of him. Especially when his defense is akin to using a tampon to stop a tsumani.

The pleasant surprise of this season so far has been Epke Udoh. Despite the fact he's only play 18 minutes a game he's second on the team with 23 blocks, pulling down 4.5 boards, and taking care of the ball. Despite his youth and lack of playing time he's reached double digits twice and has a 9/11 assist to turnover ratio. I can't wait to see what he does over the course of his career.

Finally there's dear Courtney Sims. God love him, he's my favorite 7 foot toothpick. Stat wise Courtney's having a great start to the year. Matched up against another 7 footer against NIU he poured in 21 points and grabbed 13 boards, his third double-double of the year. But as Hoover Street Rag points out, they've been ugly. The one thing I haven't been able to figure out at this point (as Michigan games aren't broadcast often in Chicago) is whether Sims is being properly utilized. The thing that bugs me the most is that during the NCST game Sims had 7 shots when Harris had 20.

As I figure it, Sims has touched the ball a minimum of 176 times during the season. I got the 176 by adding assists (6), turnovers (30 [sheesh]), FGA (110), and free throw attempts divided by 2 (61/2=30.5). Not exactly scientific, but reasonable enough for the purposes of the conversation. 176 offensive possessions by Sims and 187 points, roughly a point everytime they feed him the ball at 1.06 points per "possession". If you want to get technical add 12 point to the total for his assists, but it doesn't change the outcome too much, giving him 1.13 points per "possession."

Harris is a similar story. Harris has 241 "possessions" so far this year (131 shots, 27 FTs/2, 63 assists, and 31 turnovers. He's scored 164 points on 241 "possessions" comes out to .68 points per possession, but with assists factored in he comes out to 290 points so 1.2 points per "possession." So, statistically they're equal threats, right?

Wrong. When your point guard, who's shooting ten shots or more per game, is only churning out that type of limited offensive numbers you've got a problem. Sims is Michigan's best offensive threat and the fact that he's got 20 fewer shots than Harris despite shooting 20% better than his point guard is cause for alarm.

But it's tough to blame Sims and Harris for the team's troubles when no one else is really contributing on the offensive end. Michigan has looked disorganized and disinterested during the games I've seen. The standard play is either stand around a loft a long range jumper with the clock winding down or to feed the ball to Sims. Unfortunately the former is more popular than the latter.

That issue boils down to coaching. Michigan should be burying the teams its played so far this season rather than eeking out wins. Sims should be seeing the ball more. Abram should be shooting it more and Harris should not. And someone, someone for pete's sake needs to step up besides Udoh. A drive to the basket or two would be nice as well.

What is boils down to is Michigan's game against UCLA is more than a early season sign post for where the team is going, but a clear opportunity for Amaker to show Michigan belongs in the NCAA tournament. Because is you can't win on the road, by definition, you can't win in the tournament.

Jim Harbaugh Named Stanford's New Head Coach

Sweet. I can't wait to see him punch the tree. Anyone else remember when he punched Jim Kelly in the grill for Kelly accusing him of being a "baby"? Awesome.


Pat Forde must like Michigan. I think somewhere in his heart "The Victors" plays slowly and often. For the record, Forde is picking Michigan over turnover and sack prone USC. But the best part of his little Bowl write up was this:

The useless information: Twenty-seven years later, it was still a fumble when Charles White went over the pile for the "winning" touchdown against the Wolverines in the '79 Rose Bowl.

Slight Oversights

I managed to leave two things out of my first set of the 2006 College Football Blogger Awards nominations yesterday. My apologies.

First, in the Best New Blog category I neglected to mention Stadium and Main, a recent addition to the Michigan blogosphere which consistently produces excellent game previews, write-ups, and "where are they now" pieces on former Michigan Michigan players.

Second, astute reader Andrew pointed out, in mentioning Hey Jenny Slater as one of the Funniest Blogs that I neglected to mention Doug's Interplanetary Social Chat #45089 which is one of the funniest things written in the 'sphere since I've been reading it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

College Football Blogger Awards: Maize n' Nominations Part I

During my absence MGoBlog and Rocky Top Talk Finalized the plans for TEH SUXORZ! awards. The awards have been dubbed The 2006 College Football Blogger Awards! As RTT pointed out, we're doing this to draw attention to ourselves, not to further insulate our little world. Therefore, unfortunately, my proposed TEH SUXORZ! name was not chosen. Damn shame. Would've been great because we could've handed out this as the trophy:

Significant credit must be given to RTT and MGoBlog for sifting through all the suggestions and piecing together a set of categories that actually reflect the work that the "blogging community" does over the course of the year.

With that, here are the categories and my nominations/cuddlings:

The Dr. Z Award
FOR: Cogent, interesting analysis.
CRITERIA: Emphasis placed on statistical manipulation, well researched pieces that reveal something new, and/or solid argumentative pieces that function as the authoritative last word on a subject.

Maize n' Nominations:
1. MGoBlog - Brian's piece on third down efficiency was one of the coolest things I've ever seen statistics applied to. MGoBlog consistently goes above and beyond the call of duty in researching some of the most important and most interesting aspects of college football, offers insightful opinions in flowing prose, then supports them with Fields Medal worthy statistical data. He gets nod number one.

2. iBlog For Cookies - Vijay simply opperates at a higher level than the rest of us. A perusal of his index will indicate why.

3. Sunday Morning QB - Speaks for itself.

4. Burnt Orange Nation - Peter's seemingly endless supply of enthusiasm and information never ceases to come in handy (e.g., his UM/OSU stat breakdown).

The Trev Alberts Quits To Do Construction Award
FOR: comic relief; overall hilarity.
CRITERIA: The funniest college football blog.

Maize n' Nominations:
1A. House Rock Built - Everything from the Andy French Cup to the Myles Brand Decision Maker to make you laugh. Other Brian (I know he'll hate that) is one of the funniest writers I read on a daily basis who consistently makes me almost spit coffee on my screen.

1B. Every Day Should Be Saturday - I can't and won't nominate the same guys for everything, I promise, but Orson and Stranko are the gold standard. The Subcommandante Wayne string of posts was/is some of the funniest writing on the web.

2. Hey Jenny Slater - Doug has a gift. He can't write a withering essay on the state of international relations one morning then craft a hysterical response to his team's dismal season the next.

3. Tressel's World - Funniest thing ever. So wrong. Yet so right. I know the Coach isn't a member of the Poll, but damn, I've laughed till I cried on that site almost as often as any of the above. Credit where credit is due.

4 & 5. MGoBlog and Dawg Sports - The way Brian and Kyle and pull references out of the Ether and somehow make them fit into college football stil frightens and amazes me. It's also why I read them first everyday.

The Sports Fans Don't Cry Award
FOR: The blog that has suffered through its chosen team's dismal season with the most dignity.
CRITERIA: Continued engagement in the face of crippling, misery-inducing defeat. A stiff-upper lip and sane reaction to everything crumbling to dust.

Maize n' Nominations: (sheesh, where to start?)
1. Bruins Nation - Deep down I think Nestor knew it was going to be a tough season, but he weathered it as well as could be expected. He has shown a Joey-like disdain for his head football coach, but even in the darkest of times has had his true faith in his team show through.

2. Roll Bama Roll - I'm a huge fan of Nico's work at RBR. To go through the tough season on the field and then weather the shit-storm after it deserves recognition.

3. The Bemusement Park - Pickin' on the Big Ten was one of my favorite parts of the football season, but I'm sure Iowa's collapse had to wear on Mark. He didn't show it. His words were still as crisp as ever even following a pasting by hapless Minnesota in the season finale.

The Keith Jackson Circa 1995 Award
FOR: The blog with the most consistently expressive and excellent writing.
CRITERIA: Mechanical competency, yes, but the ability to turn a devastatingly funny phrase or write something compelling is probably more important. This isn't an award for copy editing; it's an award for kickin' prose.

Maize n' Nominations:
1A. Ronald Bellamy's Underacheiving All-Stars - Hands down the best written site I've ever read. I would pay good money to read Johnny's work. Johnny has leveled Max Emfinger with his pen ("What's that? No, Max, of course no one thinks you've ever had sex with an underaged Asian prostitute and still had enough change from your 20 to buy a dozen White Castles and a Sugar-free Red Bull") and moved me to tears when writing about former UM Tailback Tony Boles. Orson is probably the funniest writer among us, but Johnny's the best.

1B. Dawg Sports - As a fellow attorney, I have no idea how Kyle is able to devote so much time to his beloved Bulldogs. None. The fact that he is able to churn out an average of three posts a day, which are well researched, funny, and insightful is utterly beyond me. I have toruble seplling ym name write from time to time, but Kyle always manages to spell and grammar check without losing his edge, his audience or his sense of humor.

2 & 3 & 4. Every Day Should Be Saturday, MGoBlog, Blue-Gray Sky

Honorable Mention: Rakes of Mallow, Black Shoe Diaries, Hey Jenny Slater, Sexy Results.

Everyone of these sites are excellent, and there are a slew that I haven't recognized for their excellent work, but the two at the top stand out in my mind.

The Brady Quinn Award
FOR: The prettiest blog, the best layout and design.
CRITERIA: An aesthetic appeal, whether from a stylish banner, a pleasing layout, or an eye-catching incorporation of blog technology.

Not really sure what to do with this one so I'll nominate in no particular order.

Maize n' Nominations:
Bevo Sports - Looks like a football field.
Boi From Troy - His banner is one of the best there is.
Orange 44 - For some reason Matt's site has always been one of the more historic looking blogs.
Men of the Scarlet and Gray - Clean Cut. Just like Coach Tressel.
Any of the Sports Blogs Nation Sites - Ramblin' Racket for example.
House Rock Built - Face it, whether you like Quinn, Samarjawhatever, or not, his banner is friggin' cool.

The New Blog on the Block Award
FOR: The best new college football blog.
CRITERIA: Must have launched sometime after last year's national championship game. Transitioning to a new blog or affiliating with a network mid-stream doesn't count.

This is where I show my Big Ten bias. I'm sure there are several excellent new sites that launched after last year's national championship game (including mine, which launched in February), but I haven't had as much time to see them as I'd like. So here, again, in no particular order are some of my favorites.

Maize n' Nominations:
The-614 - Sean's keeping it real in Sweatervestville
Michigan Sports Center - Another Sean, but this one covers Michigan with a thoroughness that's tough to match.
The Card Chronicle - Mike's got a great site for you Big East maniacs. BTW Mike, your team broke my heart. Rutgers for Pete's sake....
Addicted to Quack - Best name in the Blogosphere.
The Hoover Street Rag - Gotta throw out a nod to the MMB.

Please let me know if there are others I've missed.

The LOL, MSM Award
FOR: The blog best keeping tabs on the man and calling out all of the injustices in the college football world.
CRITERIA: Consistently ahead-of-the-curve on controversial issues in college football.

Maize n' Nominations:
1. Sunday Morning QB
2. Everyday Should be Saturday
3. MGoBlog

The Best Community Interaction Award
FOR: The blog with the best community interaction.
CRITERIA: A regular solicitation of input from readers and utilization of reader-produced content.

1. Everyday Should Be Saturday - Simply cannot be matched
2. MGoBlog
3. M Zone
4. Blue Grey Sky

Well that's it for now. More soon.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Tuesday Hearsay and Conjecture: Basketball Update

It's been a little while since I put out a basketball update of any kind. In fact, I still owe you my 2006-2007 season preview.

It's a little late for a preview, but I'll get you some fun stuff prior to the Opening of the Big Ten Season. As it stands, Michigan is 11-1 early in the season. Unfortunately, that 11-1 mark is deceiving. Michigan hasn't beaten a single team with anything remotely resembling a pulse. The "marquee" win so far this season was a 66-59 win over the the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, one of last year's NCAA tournament teams. The Panthers aren't exactly tearing it up this year. They're 2-10 on the season.

Michigan's flunked its first true test, falling to North Carolina State 67-74, in a game where Michigan trailed by 21 eight minutes into the second half. Unfortunately, life does not get easier for the Wolverines. Following their UCLA trip, they play host to 2006 Sweet 16 member Georgetown who is currently 7-3. Though G-Town hasn't played the toughest schedule in the world, they have bumped heads with Oregon and Duke already this year. Following that, Michigan opens its Big Ten Season at home against Illinois on January 3rd.

The schedule was designed to give Michigan some casual observer points in building toward a NCAA tournament berth. For the non-observant, 11-1 looks great. However, so did 10-1 last year. Michigan's lack of a true test, and their failure to even guess at an answer during their warm up against NC State does not instill confidence.

Hopefully we'll have a better guage on this team on Saturday. Don't get your hopes up.

Dammit! K'Len Morris to Miss the Rest of the Season

Well, you knew it was going too well for Tommy's bunch. Currently 11-1 and unranked, a small hole was poked in the Wolverines bubble when it was announced today that 4* freshman K'Len Morris will have left shoulder surgery and miss the rest of the year. Details on the injury are sketchy, but as Morris has missed the last four games it appears to be an ongoing problem.

The silver lining, at least for Morris, is with only 37 minutes under his belt this season it's likely the NCAA will grant him a medical redshirt.

Up next is No. 1 UCLA in Berkley on Saturday the 23rd. The wake for the season is scheduled immediately after the game. At this point, Brian is not impressed.

About Effing Time: Crisler Plans Being Reviewed

After years of twidling its fingers, the University of Michigan is actually beginning to do something about the state of Cristler Arena. The Free Press is reporting that the Athletic department is reviewing 5 architectural firms plans to repair and renovate Crisler Arena. The goal is not only to upgrade the facility, but to provide practice facilities for the the men's basketball team and wrestling program.

Here are the details courtesy of the Free Press:
• The proposed basketball practice facility would be built on the east side of Crisler. The modern facility would help with recruiting and ease the space burden at Crisler, where three teams practice regularly. Rough cost estimate: $25 million-$30 million.

• Update Crisler's infrastructure - improved lighting and examining of the roof to sure up the arena's structural needs. Rough cost estimate: $20 million.

• An independent wrestling facility would be built. The wrestling team has a workout facility at the end of a Crisler hallway now. Rough cost estimate: $5 million-$6 million.

• Club Seating Baby! - It'll eat up some seats, but bring in the money when the basketball is firmly back among the elite. Other possible improvements include improved concourse lighting, a new scoreboard, updated seats and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Rough cost estimate: $20 million.

Remember Patrick Beverly? He was last seen here scoring 19 points as a freshman for Arkansas.

One of the reasons Michigan lost out on his services was the state of its practice and game day facilities. Hopefully losing out on a top 50 recruit like Beverly help spur the drive a tad.

Even if it did, it'll be a while before any type of ground breaking occurs. The architectural firm still needs to be chosen, plans need to be finalized, plans need to be approved, and money needs to be raised. In all seriousness, it should be awesome for the 2010 class.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Gone Skiing

That's right fuckers. While you're toiling in your office, trying to keep the boss peering over your shoulder from the top of your cubicle, I'll be chest deep in freshies.

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See you in a week.

Go Blue!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What The Hell Do You Name Awards For Bloggers?

I'm not really sure. Some thoughts:

1. The Bloggies;
2. The Pwned Awards;
3. The Work Hasn't Found Out About This Awards;

and my favorite:

4. TEH SUXORZ! (Shamelessly stolen from EDSBS)

Mgoblog and Rocky Top Talk got together for one of the final roundtables and posed an interesting proposition: Lets give notice where notice is due. Lets provide some recognition for the best work of the football season and in the Blogosphere. An awards show/string of posts for the best of the 'Sphere. Except without the money, women, drugs, booze, or glamour. Because with those things, well, it wouldn't be the malcontent-bring-down-the-establishment-and-everything-else-along-with-it animal that we all love.

I like it. There are so many excellent sites I check regularly and so many writers I would actually pay to read. This gives all of us the chance not only to recognize many bloggers ongoing excellence, but to say thank you to those who provide it.

Part of the idea behind TEH SUXORZ! is to recognize the guys that aren't the Mgoblog, EDSBS, BON, and SMQ's of the blogosphere, but to recognize the guys and girls that provide their own share of laughs, insights, and information to interested readers on a slightly smaller scale. The problem, as several people have pointed out, is how do you have an awards banquet/show/posting that the big boys of the 'Sphere don't sweep?

To wit, I have a proposal.

Why not simply recognize the best for who they are? The aforementioned sites are the pre-imminent blogs in our little world. Determine an award appropriate for those sites similar to a lifetime achievement award, though "lifetime" may not be the best monkier for such an award.

For example, for EDSBS I propose the "Blog Most Likely To Get You Fired For Reading And Laughing Out Loud" SUXOR! or for Mgoblog, the "Master Control" SUXOR!.

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Brian Accepting His Award

That's about as far as I've gotten with the ideas for the big boys. However, there are plenty of ideas for the rest of the 'sphere. Let's eliminate the big guys from the lesser awards so, as is the stated purpose of the celebration, we can recognize the littler guys.

Mike over at Black Shoe Diaries put together a great list to kick things off. Here are a few extras to add to the debate:

1. Best Blog Name Not Named "We Must Ignite This Couch" SUXOR!
2. Best Banner SUXOR!
3. Best Analysis SUXOR!
4. Best Post of the Season SUXOR!
5. Best Tear Jerker SUXOR! - For those posts that truly come from the soul of the writer.
6. Best Game Recaps SUXOR!
7. Best Command of Pop Culture SUXOR!
8. Most Consistent Blog in the 'Sphere SUXOR! - For the blog that consistently turns out best high quality and quantity posts in the 'Sphere.
9. Most Creative Blog SUXOR!- For the blog that finds the best uses of technology and all the internets have to provide in the vacuum tubes to deliver us something fun.
10. Best Rivalry Coverage SUXOR!

Just some thoughts. If you've got your own ideas or proposals, let me know.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Maize n Ballot, Last of 2006 Edition

Now we wait.

Take a look and tell me where I'm wrong.

1 Ohio State 25
2 Michigan 24
3 Florida 23
4 Wisconsin 22
5 Louisville 21
6 LSU 20
7 Southern Cal 19
8 Oklahoma 18
9 Auburn 17
10 Wake Forest 16
11 West Virginia 15
12 Virginia Tech 14
13 Rutgers 13
14 Boise State 12
15 Notre Dame 11
16 Arkansas 10
17 Tennessee 9
18 California 8
19 Brigham Young 7
20 Texas A&M 6
21 Texas 5
22 Penn State 4
23 Navy 3
24 UCLA 2
25 TCU 1

Dropped Out:

I know the first thing you'll tell me is LSU should be higher. That's fine. But two losses in conference are two losses. They're the best two loss team out there. To be honest I think they'd have their hands full with either Louisville or Wisconsin. It's 50% 50% to me who wins those games, so the better record wins out. Don't chaulk this up as hateration for the SEC. To the contrary. I like LSU a lot and ranked them very high early in the year. However, they are a Jekyl and Hyde team. I never sure which JaMarcus Russell will show up and I'm never sure that they'll consistently score more than ten points against good opponents. The teams ahead of them are consistent and I know what to expect. LSU, not so much.

When All That's Left...

All the games have been played. People whose careers center around the phrase "Jim in Tuscaloooosa, You're on the air with Jimbo and Opie, tell us why the Big Ten sucks," for some reason were chosen as qualified, impartial experts on college football. As should have been predicted, their biases provided us with the National Championship matchup that no one save SEC fans wanted to see. The result of this arbitrary shit flinging contest was to leave Michigan, my Michigan, out of the Championship Game.

The rationales don't matter anymore. Decisions were made and nothing can be done about them. We still complain, piss and moan about the fairness, rationality or voracity of those choices. But deep down we know there's nothing that will change.

Nothing is left for us now but bowl games and irrational hope. Hope that OSU and Florida play in such a horrendous turnover filled disaster that it scorches the retinas of anyone watching. Hope that Florida, despite all it does to donate the game to charity or bury itself in it's own endzone, somehow wins by a point or two. Hope that Michigan blows out USC in the Rose Bowl in convincing, dominating fashion. Hope that despite Florida being awarded the crystal BCS trophy, the AP rewards Michigan with its National title. Hope that in some strange way, justice will finally be served to two University of Michigan football teams, the 2006 squad and its elder brother 1997, nearly a decade later.

I love irrational hope. It drives us in such creative ways as to defy imagination. Irrational hope had me belive UCLA could beat USC. Irrational hope had Gator fans believe they would end up in the National Championship game if they won the SEC. All those things came true.

This kind of hope has its cost. When UCLA won, and despite that Florida was awarded the spot in the National Championship game, I knew what it must feel like to have made a deal with the Devil. If you'll grant me this one wish, all will be right in my life. Please, grant me this one wish and I'll give anything. The wish is granted yet nothing changes. You are still left empty, with only a shadow where your soul once was as evidence of your bargain. That one wish was granted, but what you desire is still a whisper away from your grasp.

Looking at the polls, that is all that can be said. 3 points separate Michigan and Florida for second place. Michigan trails Florida by a scant 26 points in the Coaches Poll. Of course there is controversy which leads you to believe something is wrong, that you were cheated, that this can't be right. Yet, nothing changes despite your pleas. And you are left with the deal you made, delivered what you asked for but not what you wanted.

I will cling to irrational hope nevertheless. It got me to 11-1. It delivered me a season of redemption when all that laid before it was disappointment. It gave me a quarterback when all that existed before was a scared young man. It gave me a monster, a bone devouring defense that shed its former self to become a force once more. It gave me a healthy Mike Hart and the redemption of Steve Breaston.

Why hold on to it so desperately? It builds you up only to disappoint you. You had it all and it was taken away so easily. You should know better.

I do. But I also know my faith, hope and love have been rewarded. So much that was wrong is now right. Perhaps my irrational hope is not so irrational. It doesn't rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.*

My hope has brought me this far. It rejoices in the truth that there is a chance for victory. It endures, despite the hurdles before it.

If all that is left is hope, I will cling to it. And win or lose, it is rewarding in its own right.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Roses and Screw Jobs

Michigan gets the Rose Bowl. I should be happy with that. It's THE Rose Bowl. We're playing Southern Cal. Big Ten Pac Ten. The way it should be. This is where Michigan should be on the first day of the New Year.

I little while back I wrote that USC (pre-loss to UCLA) should have the opportunity to play Ohio State on the basis that they were the best team out there that hadn't lost to Ohio State. I also said that should USC lose, Michigan should be in the National Championship game.

Well. As you're well aware, that didn't come to pass.

In what can only be described as a "make-up" for leaving undefeated Auburn out of the national championship game a few years back, the AP and Coaches Polls ensured that the SEC finally got to play in the big game. As Brian said: "Congratulations to Urban Meyer, the Florida Gators, [on] their 66-10 loss to Ohio State."

How 71% of the coaches who voted on this thing lost their {bleep}ing minds in the span of 24 hours utterly baffles me. Yes Florida played 13 games. Yes they only lost once and won their conference championship. Fine, the streets of Gainesville are lined with gold and Urban Myer pees a stream of diamonds that smell like sunshine. I'll give you all of that.

However, here are the facts:

The SEC is Overrated This year. Toughest conference my ass. Watching SEC football this year was like watching a horror movie. SEC Champion Florida was 73rd in the nation in turnovers with 24. Tennessee turned it over 17 times, Auburn 18, LSU 19, Georgia 20, Arkansas 23. For the record, Michigan had 10 turnovers all year. The point of this is, no one in the SEC could hold onto the friggin football. Games were constantly flip-flopping on sloppy play. Watching Chris Leak play against a competent defense was worse than SAW 3. The LSU Florida game was a perfect example. LSU outgained Florida, and held Leak to 155 yards no TDs and 1 INT, yet lost because they turned the ball over 5 times including three JaMarcus Russell INTs.

With those types of turnover numbers you'd expect the defenses to be pretty good. To the contrary, 7 teams averaged more than 25 points a game (with Georgia[!] averaging 24.7 a game despite not being able to find it's ass with both hands for the majority of the year). Basically you have a conference that can't hold onto the football and can't stop you from scoring.

"Yeah, but Florida, LSU and Auburn are all ranked ahead of Michigan in Scoring Defense!" Whup-de-do. Florida's average is skewed by shutouts of a 1-AA team and Central Florida. Same goes for LSU and Auburn, artificially inflated numbers. Take out the pansy non-conference games and watch the numbers skyrocket.

But what about their records? The SEC's got great numbers! Propped up by shoddy scheduling. Looking at Florida's Schedule as an example, when 1-AA Western Carolina (2-9) and Central Florida both appear on a schedule you can't brag to me about how though the schedules are. The SEC was notorious for scheduling 1-AA teams. And it's not like it was the bottom feeders in the conference doing it (e.g. Northwestern in the Big Ten), it was Georgia, Arkansas, and Florida. Hell, when the SEC ran out of 1-AA teams to schedule they rode the Sun Belt like a rented mule. Louisiana Lafayette, FIU, Louisiana Monroe, Middle Tennessee State, and Arkansas State all played SEC teams this year.

Here's my point. I'm tired of the half-ass rationales for Florida jumping Michigan.

The SEC is overrated. Don't give me this toughest conference America crap as a justification for putting Florida in the MNC game. Don't tell me Florida had the toughest schedule when they schedule 1-AA teams. Don't tell me Florida's body of work was better than Michigan's when they should've lost to South Carolina and Tennessee when the only team Michigan should've lost to was Ohio State. Don't tell me they won their conference and should get to go because Louisville has a real good argument then too. Don't tell me Michigan got worse because their conference doesn't play past Thanksgiving. Finally, don't tell me Florida's a better team. It's not.
Just tell me Michigan got jobbed. Just tell me you screwed us because Auburn got screwed a few years ago. Just tell me you did it because you don't want a rematch.

Just don't tell me Florida's better. Because then you've got a fight on your hands.

Michigan got screwed. As the worst part about it is I'm angry that someone just gave me Roses.