There's a new Michigan blog to bring to your attention: Michigan Football Saturdays. Check out MFS blow-by-blow account of the annual Michigan Car Wash. Alan Branch is in grave danger due to suds, but comes through dancing. Uplifting!
Chances of regaining the Jug: steadily rising. Projected Gopher starter Gary Russell's academic problems have become terminal. The Gophers have a seemingly endless supply of intimidating running backs with roman numerals in their names, but losing both Maroney and Russell in one offseason is pretty harsh. Junior Amir Pinnix steps into the starting lineup.
Gopher safety Brandon Owens will also miss the '06 season with nerve damage in his shoulder -- the exact same injury that kept Michigan safety Ryan Mundy out for all of '05.
In other opponent news: Irish's Samardzija signs with Cubs. I assume this isn't going to affect his football eligiblity since BGS hasn't posted something at least mildly panicky.
The Wolverine has much, much more on Michigan's new hockey commitments via Research On Ice's Paul Shaheen:
"He really developed into one of our league's elite goaltenders by the end of the year," says Lincoln head coach/GM Steve Johnson, who helped introduce us to Hogan back in March (Hogan's Hero, ROI March 23, 2006). "As the year went on, he understood the pace better, he got stronger, more confident, and we relied on him very heavily. He did an outstanding job."
For now, Hogan's commitment is for the fall of '07, but he may defer until 2008.
Langlais is a confirmed commit now and sounds, well, only slightly like Eric Werner:
Though not dominant offensively, Langlais can help in that regard, all the while making defense his top priority.
Which is nice -- defense is good from a defenseman coughRICHMONDcough -- but I still miss the little buccaneer and would thoroughly enjoy a totally-insane-but-effective replacement.
Aaaaaaargh? Kevin Allen's latest USA Today column goes into some detail about a potential 'Canes-Penguins trade involving one Jack Johnson and the Penguins' first round pick. I have no idea whether that would make him more or less likely to flee before the season, but we aren't out of the woods yet. Hockey Night In Canada's Satellite Hotstove made ominous noises about the Canes making a further push to sign Johnson in any case, as every 'Canes defenseman is ancient, a free agent, both, or Mike Commodore.
Enjoy some fried ice cream, Brian McBride.
Feliz Cumpleanos a BRIAN MCBRIDE!!! ...says the man on Univision at halftime of the Saudi Arabia-Ukrainski game. Photo used: the one from the Italy game where McBride looks like he's twenty minutes into a cage match, natch. McBride has just turned 800. Many thanks to Kanu for turning me on to the Univision coverage of the World Cup, which is much more fun than the ESPN/ABC coverage despite -- perhaps because of -- my inability to understand much aside from "GOOOOOOOOOOOOOL".
Etc.: EDSBS reveals the top 25 madlibs sportswriters undertake every year. NC State blogpoller and 'Canes fan Steven from Section Six has a freakin' ticket to freakin' game freakin' seven. I am intensely jealous. Braves & Birds has done something I considered doing myself by lifting Victors poster AdamantiumBlue's thoughts on soccer for a post of his own. Everything you wanted to know about USA-Italy.
6/17/2006 - USA
2 1-1 Italy Floppy Bitches - I'm Saying There's A Chance
Damn damn damn damn.
For ten seconds we had those floppy-haired, floppy-legged cheating bastards. An American counter-attack found the ball at ex-talisman, now-substitute DeMarcus Beasley's feet. His shot blew through the outstretched arms of gambling flopping Italian cheater goalie Buffon and into the net. Incomprehensible whoops, awkward white-boy high fives, and small prayers to Beasley shrines were all the rage for a regrettably brief moment in time. A checkered flag raised into the sky changed all that.
God, what a moment that was, a moment the team richly deserved. Down to nine men to Italy's ten, having dominated a flatly disgraceful Italian team whose one goal came off an illicitly-gained free kick after one of their six dozen dives in the first half alone, after that Czech disaster and the Beasley-Arena bitching that followed... damn. Goddammit. The worst part of it all is that the call was the only one the gibbering, retarded, probably Italian-Uruguayan referee got right all day. To have it ripped away was the height of cruelty. Doesn't soccer know how Rocky ends? THERE'S NO OFFSIDES IN ROCKY.
Damn. This is how this thing started, you know, this whole World Cup business. It was games like this, where fate conspired against all that is good and right in the world, that caused entire nations to stop when any measure of long-cold revenge could be gained. I now despise two nations because of one game. Attention, George Bush: I have extremely reliable information that indicates that Osama Bin Laden is currently hiding in referee Jorge Larrionda's testicles. Suggested course of action: total destruction thereof.
If the World Cup is the apex of sport-induced jingoism worldwide -- and it is -- count me in. I can't continue any further without breaking down into yet more torrents of shameful, shameful profanity, but goddamn that was stirring. Redcoats at Fort Saratoga? Bring 'em on. Hitler? Let's roll. Italy? Eye of the tiger, baby.
If only we had an answer for Uruguay. I've got mine: bomb it into the stone age.
Okay. Okay. This is even less sane, sober, and edited than normal, I realize. But we beat Ghana and the dastardly Italians beat the Czechs and we get Apollo Creed in round two. Let's get it on.
Wooo! Pavel Nedved is microns offside. This nullifies his header and Ghana maintains a 1-0 lead that would greatly benefit the US if it was to hold up. Obviously this is all moot unless the US decides to not suck balls today.
Meanwhile, ABC reports that Clint Dempsey is likely to start in place of Beasley and Alexi Lalas' annoying habit of talking directly to the US players continues: "Kasey Keller, I called you the best keeper in the world, you have to make one world-class save," he says as if it was somehow Keller's fault that Alexi Lalas said something stupid. No word on whether or not Eddie Johnson and John O'Brien will find their way into the lineup.
One... two... three... don't suck balls! Donnnnnn't...... suck balls!
This one can be found over at Bruce Ciskie's blog.
Which preseason college football magazine is your favorite?
This will likely result in castigation and exile from the CFB blogosphere, but I have never read, let alone bought, Lindy's, Athlon, Steele, or any other of the midsummer bricks full of... er... stuff, I assume. Presumably the pages are not blank, but that's only a projection.
Is this an inexplicable omission or a rare moment of sanity in my life? This depends on your opinion of college football, I guess, but I've never really found the idea of paying for something produced by the same people who voluntarily publish Matt Hayes to be a good one. So The Sporting News is out. Lindy's, Athlon, and their ilk all seem to be like the Sporting News except more vapid, from what I've seen on the Internet. It's all the same thing: X is coming back, Y is leaving, the game against Z is on the road, oh my. This is just my perception, but it seems that the content of the preview mags is on essentially the same level as CFN's thorough-but-utterly-devoid- of-intelligence-or-use previews.
I will admit that EDSBS's constant pimping of Phil Steele's wackronyms, heavy breathing, and copious esoteric statistics has piqued my interest. If I run across it, I may purchase it.
What team is being supremely overrated in the preseason rankings?
For the last fifteen years you could have said "Notre Dame" and been absolutely correct twelve or thirteen times, but I've already covered that opinion before and others have already beat the ND sux drum, so I'll take a pass.
I have a general theory that serves as a heuristic when looking for overrated/underrated teams: find the extremes at either end of turnover margin. Since turnovers are both critical and relatively rare, teams that enjoyed hugely positive turnover margins a year ago are probably overrated and vice versa. The hand of chance has favored them and the likely reversion to the mean will catch any starry-eyed fans a nasty slap across the cheek. There are a couple of factors that can either mitigate or inflate the effect: quarterback experience and quarterback pressure, the two things that I think make a contribution to turnover margin that is something more than chance.
For example: USC was a staggering +21 a year ago. There's no way they even reach the Rose Bowl if Arizona State doesn't gift them five interceptions or Fresno State four. This year they lose third-year starter and sorta-good Matt Leniart; into his place walks a totally inexperienced freshman. A bunch of offensive linemen are also gone. I'd expect their turnover margin to plummet this year and their performance along with it. Now, there's a long way to plummet from THE BEST ONE LOSS TEAM IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL HISTORY(!!!) to 10-3 or 9-4, but I'd put that as their baseline this year. They's overrated.
Also on the ominous-turnover-margin chopping block:
- TCU. I can't be bothered to look up who they return -- it's only SMQB's existence and USM affiliation that causes me to even acknowledge the existence of non-BCS teams after the Alamo Bowl -- but they led the nation with USC at +21 and did it in one fewer game.
- West Virginia, just for those of you looking for more anti-'Eer ammo. They were +14.
- Georgia. Plus 11 a year ago, now minus Shockley and possibly starting true freshman Matt Stafford. Yikes.
- Notre Dame was +10 a year ago and only lost 14 turnovers total. Just six fumbles lost is well below average.
- Not Florida. They were third but the return of longtime ladyback Chris Leak and most of a slavering, inhumane defense means they could well replicate their peformance or at least come near it. Ditto Wisconsin, with senior John Stocco returning along with eight defensive starters.
Turn the tables. Who is underrated?
Um. Argentina? Wrong football? Okay. I just want to point out that they did score a touchdown against Serbia & Montenegro, though they did miss the extra point.
All of a sudden I hate the turnover heuristic, since the team it points to most strongly as underrated is Ohio State. Damn damn damn. The only explanation that I can offer for the fact that OSU's badass defense only acquired twelve turnovers a year ago is that opposing offenses generally only got three chances each drive to give it away. There's no explanation for the sixteen fumbles lost, though, and since Troy Smith returns the chances of coming close to last year's paltry five interceptions are good. Of course, it's hard to be underrated when people are putting you in the top five without exception.
Despite that, I do think OSU is overrated, since they lost not only nine defensive starters but two first round picks on the other side of the ball. The heavily hyped OSU offense had the dual benefits of playing opposite that badass defense, which got the offense tons of opportunities in favorable field position, and playing out much of the season against crippled retard defenses. Michigan's eminently mediocre unit from a year ago was by far the best defense OSU saw after PSU. I would be surprised if Ginn & Co did not disappoint.
So that's not really an "underrated" pick, and I ain't saying Michigan. Must find someone... how about Wisconsin? They did obliterate Auburn a year ago, holding Kenny Irons and the rest of the high-powered Auburn offense to 236 yards. Eight starters from that young defense that performed very well against the run a year ago return, including monster defensive tackles Nick Hayden and Justin Ostrowski. Plus John Stocco went from loser to lethal a year ago, finishing in the top ten in passer efficiency. His blindside is protected by Joe Thomas, a projected top-five NFL draft pick.
There is the matter of repairing the putrid secondary and replacing... er... every offensive starter aside from Stocco and the two tackles. But an experienced quarterback and what should be a vicious front seven is a good start.
Which conference will be the best in 2006?
The Big Ten or the SEC or the ACC. Or the Big Twelve.
Which "non-BCS" conference will be the best in 2006?
Anybody but the goddamned Sun Belt.
Which non-BCS conference team will have the best season?
Well, we've discussed the improbable turnover margin of TCU, so not them. Can I say Illinois?
Let's get your first read on this one...who will win the H*i*m*n? Oh, by the way, players whose last names begin with the letter "Q" are ineligible.
Mike Hart. Because Mike Hart is awesome.
As noted, yesterday's Insider(!) post was guaranteed to be 75% true, probably. Unionfutura was kind enough to email some clarifications and corrections to the assertions made in it, as some of them were dated. As follows:
- Camp commits for Hemingway and Allen are unlikely but decisions will probably come by the end of the summer.
- He does expect Washington and CA CB Michael Williams to commit at camp.
- On IL DT Josh Brent:
I think I'm wrong right now about Brent. All I know he really was happy to get a Michigan offer, plus I wouldn't worry about ND in this recruitment. I think the toughest battle will be with Illinois believe it or not.
Thanks to UF for the email.
A caution: there's a tendency to discount a source when it's wrong even once despite an excellent track record. Try to keep in mind that a 100% strike rate with this stuff is impossible, as situations change all the time.
Update: GBW is also claiming that Taurian Washington's commitment is imminent:
Note: In GBW's opinion, Taurian is the most like [sic] candidate for U-M's seventh-and-next verbal commitment ... keep him in mind during camp week.
That would be Ohio resident and inexplicable 'Canes fan Tony from Have You Met Tony?
6/14/2006 - Edmonton 4-3 Carolina - Carolina leads 3-2
This happened last night:
(Favorite bits of that thing, which I have committed to memory: the desperate roar from the crowd once Pisani gets in, the expression on the newly-liberated face of Staois, and Craig MacTavish making some sort of offensive gesture -- possibly six fingers for game six -- to a 'Canes fan in the stands, hopefully the child on the verge of tears. HT: Offwing. Also: "Pisani Scores: the Celebration").
And thus the Stanley Cup is cruelly ripped -- at least temporarily -- from the grasp of the only arena in the country in which the players have more teeth than the fans. The Stanley Cup Finals return to the league's northermost outpost, where 18,000-some banshees await the Hurricanes. Covered In Oil, as always, says it best: Suddenly, I'm Glad to Be Alive.
Hockey! AAAAAH!!!!!! HOCKEY!!!!! When Pisani intercepted that pass and was clearly in alone, I did something I cannot recall doing before: I leapt from my chair, fist-pump at the ready, awaiting the moment of truth. When the puck hit the twine the fist pumped, I leapt into the air, and unleashed a shameful torrent of overjoyed profanity directed at the wonderful Oilers, the shameful refs, the dastardly 'Canes, and ... ahem, swearing ... "you motherfucking NASCAR motherfuckers." I do apologize for the shameless regional stereotyping. Nonetheless, it was a good time.
Yesterday was validation time for the whole tantric sports idea, with Germany bashing shots off the bar or the keeper seemingly every six seconds against Poland until the frenzied crowd was ready to keel over from the shock of it all; Oliver Neuville's stoppage time winner set off the largest collective orgasm in Germany since David Hasselhoff was invented. That was preceded by Tunisia and Saudi Arabia's ridiculous 2-2 tie and followed by the Pisani shortie from heaven. At some point one has to shrug and say there's no accounting for taste: if yesterday didn't do it for you, nothing ever will.
No doubt various Southern readers will ruefully smile at my strange obsession with this weird Canadian game, but I'm telling you: watch game six. Try to find the bar in town that proudly advertises Labatt Blue or better still Kokanee*, find the CBC feed, and watch it from top to bottom.
*(In terms of "likelihood of having a bunch of mounties talkin' aboot boots and watchin' the game, eh," not in terms of flavor. All Canadian beers taste exactly like Budweiser.)