I did not make this headline up
If you are placing a bet on who you will think will win the Big Ten, you might want to avoid betting on Northwestern or Minnesota. If someone offers you the under-over on wins, take the under. Is it because of who they lose off of the 2-deep? Is it because of coaching or talent? No.
Why then? It is because they don't play Michigan this year. Now, you might think that not playing Michigan is usually good for your record, but for some reason, history demonstrates the opposite. Michigan has an uncanny knack for playing Big Ten teams when they are good, and avoiding them when they are really really bad. It's almost as if the schedule is made up by somebody who has magical foresight and then purposely rotates the bad teams off of Michigan's schedule. Michigan already has a tough draw by facing Ohio State every year. In addition, our game with Penn State is like a de facto protected rivalry. Because of all of these factors, we have one of the toughest intra-conference schedules on a yearly basis.
Since the Big Ten expanded in 1993, there have been 16 seasons, and 2 teams rotate off of the schedule each season. Do the math, and that means that there have been 32 Big 10 teams that have rotated off of our schedule. Want to take a guess as to how many of those teams have ever won or shared a conference title? The answer -- none. 16 years, and not once has a team won or shared a title in a year where they did not play Michigan. Even though we frequently rotate off the doormats of the league like Indiana, wouldn't you think that just once out of all those times, somebody would have stepped up and won or shared a championship? Nobody has ever won 7 conference games, and only four times has somebody won 6 conference games (1996 Iowa, 1997&1998 Purdue, and 2004 Wisconsin). Since 1993, we are sporting an impressive .727 Big 10 winning percentage, but nobody has ever take advantage of not playing us to go to a BCS Bowl. Nobody has ever even made it to the Citrus Bowl! Only two teams have made it as high as the Outback Bowl (Wisconsin '04, Iowa '08).
Let's compare winning percentages for various programs when they play Michigan against their winning percentages when they don't play Michigan. For this analysis, I am only using Big 10 winning percentage, since non-conference scheduling has so much variation that it can distort the results. For the "did play Michigan" years, the head-to-head game against Michigan is removed from the analysis so that these years can be validly compared to the "did not play Michigan" years.
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .500
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .643
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .354
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .214
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .094
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .440
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .188
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .745
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .458
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .586
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .563
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .316
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .625
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .429
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .156
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .536
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .371
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .494
There are a few teams that slightly buck the trend, but that trend is overwhelming. Now I'm not an expert statistician, but a difference in winning percentages of .123 with a huge sample of 8 teams over 16 seasons has to be very significant. Remember in 2003 when we thought we were finally getting a break by having Penn State rotate off of our schedule for 2 years? They went 3-13 in those two years. Ouch. Joe Paterno has never had a losing conference record except for when he has avoided playing Michigan. The differences for Illinois and Northwestern are drastic too. Illinois' conference record when they avoid us is a futile 3-29. Northwestern's is 5-27. We have played all of Kirk Frerentz's great teams from 2002-2004, and other than 2004, we played all of Barry Alvarez's best teams too.
What's the point of all this? None, I guess, except that for some reason, Michigan usually misses teams when they are down and plays them when they are up. Since we don't play Northwestern and Minnesota this year, look for those teams to inexplicably suck.
Their schedule looks like this:
WMU and CMU
FCS Team - Montana State (7-5)
Ohio State (1)
Their OOC schedule is nearly identical to ours. Change CMU to EMU and sub in a slightly worse FCS team and you have our OOC schedule. Their Big Ten schedule is ridiculously in favor of them this year. They don't play OSU and they have PSU, Iowa, and Northwestern at home. Those 4 and MSU were the top 5 teams in the Big Ten last year.
QB: 2 sophs competing for starts
RB: 2 sophs and a senior competing for starts
FB: 2 seniors competing
WR: 3 returning, including Mark Dell and Blair White
OL: Return the Left side and center, A junior and sophomore take over on the right
TE: Return their junior starter
DE: 1 returning starter, 1 junior
DT: soph takes over
NT: returning starter
LB: returning Sam and Mike, 2 seniors competing for Will
CB: 2 returning starters
FS: returning starter
SS: junior taking over
Basically, look at it this way. Their offense is like ours in 2004. Young QB with a ton of good WR to throw to. New running back to fill a workhorse's shoes (ours was Chris Perry).
Their defense is returning 7 starters and filling the other spots with a sophomore, 2 juniors, and a senior. Mark Dantonio was the DC for OSU when they won their NC (only after McGahee blew out his knee). He is going to ride his defense this year for his record.
So, how does this affect Michigan? I think what will happen is Michigan will beat ND. MSU travels to ND the next week and I think they lose a close game. After that, MSU goes to Wisconsin, demolishes them, and then we travel to East Lansing.
(4-0) Michigan @ (3-1) MSU
Michigan on Offense
Our offense should be clicking at this point. However, this will be Tate's first away game and he will probably struggle against a staunch defense especially with 3 of 4 returning DBs. We will need to utilize a lot of quick slants and bubble screens in order to keep Tate from making mistakes. Brandon Minor is going to have to carry this team through this game.With half the DL being replaced, he should be able to get a pretty good YPC going, but I wouldn't expect too many long runs with the extremely experienced LBs.
MSU on Offense
By this point we will know if their offense will go the way of Michigan 2004 or Sparty <Insert Year here>. I think they will be competent enough to put 20 points up each game, but not really blow anyone out of the water. The other unknown here is obviously our defense. Our line is almost completely rebuilt, we still don't know if our LBs will improve from last year, we have two safeties with no starting experience, and we have our third defensive coordinator and scheme in three years. Luckily, we start two 5 star recruits starting as our CBs and a former SS playing as our Sam. That should help us match up against their receivers and force them to take their chances running.
MSU 20 - Michigan 14
Originally, I thought we would win here. I think we still have a chance here (obviously, but i mean a decent one), but I think their defense will overpower us. Tate will have his worst game of the season going 1 TD - 2 INT, and Brandon Minor will have 100 yards with a TD.
MSU Season Prediction
Well, I have already stated I think they lose to ND and then go on a rampage, taking down most of the Big Ten. After us, they travel to Illinois, where I think they come down from their high from beating 2 years in a row for the first time in over 40 years, and Illinois destroys them. MSU the rest of their games except PSU. PSU wins a close game in East Lansing. If MSU doesn't win 3 games in every one of those categories above, I will be shocked at first, but then remember it is Sparty we are talking about.
Summary of Predictions for MSU
6-2 Big Ten
Losses @ND, @Illinois, vs. PSU
MSU 20 - Michigan 14
UPDATE: Voting has closed for this round. Stay tuned for the Championships.
We're getting close to the end. Just four uniforms are left, each a survivor of four rounds. But only one can be a champion. And only one gets to be the team that loses to what I think we've pretty much already decided is the champion.
We're done now with brackets. From the Final Four, you get to pick two. Or three. Or one. Or all four. The two with the most votes at the end will move on to the Finals. Fair enough?
Of course, no Final Four of any tournament would be complete without an over-the-top, hype-generating recap of the entire tournament, with highlights...and explosions.
[Stuff blows up like whoah after the jump.]
Over-the-Top, Hype-Generating Recap of the Entire Tournament, With Highlights...and Explosions
In Round 1 (men's, women's), we discovered that Misopogon doesn't know the difference between cheerleaders and dancers. And that embedding polls is tough. And that 64 uniforms is a lot to research. And that people like the 'Yay!' girl. And that the volleyball uniforms are awesome. We also had one decision between two white hockey sweaters come down to a last-minute vote by Misopogal.
In Round 2 (men's, women's), the contenders separated themselves from the pretenders. The dance team exited as quick as they entered. And tempers kind of got lukewarmish over a battle in the Men's Standing Out from the Crowd Region between the awesomerest basketball unis and the awesomecoolsuperrad lacrosse duds, with the cagers' jerseys narrowly winning out. Also, OP favorite, the throwback icers' jerseys, those that the ice hockey team like had a ridiculously winning record in, those that barely survived last round to one Block M uni, fell to another. Apparently, MGoBlog readers like a "big honkin' obnoxious emblem on the front" (reader myrtlebeachmaizenblue).
In the Sweet 16 (men's, women's), we decided the regional champions. We learned what "cagers" means (thank you reader afscott4). We lost the last of the football away unis, and the last representative of Adidas' awesome soccer unis. And we lost every last surviving hoops uni. We learned how the gymnastics team chooses their uniforms, and how the MGoBlogosphere chooses which gymnastics uniform they want to vote for.
The Elite 8 (men's, women's) introduced the remaining uniforms (if you missed it, the histories, etc., will be re-posted below), providing each remaining contender a "Use," "How They Got Here," "First Worn," and "Claim to Fame." We also finally forced the readers to pick between two almost identical cheer outfits.
Thus we find ourselves down to four. Your champions, below.
Vote at the bottom.
Use: Worn for home games and occasionally bowl games.
How They Got Here: Trounced 8th seed Gymnastics, Obliterated 5th seed Soccer - blues, Alan-Branch-on-Anthony-Morelli'ed 2nd seed Basketball - blue, and more of the same against the hockey maizes.
First Worn: The blue jerseys originated in the 19th century, and the maize leggins' joined in the 1910s, but this uniform wasn't complete until Coach Herbert O. "Fritz" Crisler brought the iconic helmet design in 1938.
Wings Factor: It all started here, from a practice Fritz carried over from Princeton - 3/3.
Claim to Fame: ESPN named it the Best Uniform in All of Sports. New York Daily News agreed. Also: About. Longhorns blog "40 Acres" puts it second to the Longhorns. Etc.
Use: Worn in 2008-'09 season as the team's primary uniform (18 of 40 games last year).
How They Got Here: Handily upset 2nd seed '89 Hoops Throwbacks, upset the OP by taking out the 3rd seed Ice Hockey '60s throwbacks, rolled over the last remaining football away uniform (the '05-'07s), and skated by the baseball whites.
First Worn: Blue sweaters with big maize block M's were not a new invention. But the current affairs appeared after the 1997-'98 National Championship Season. After the team hardly wore their old blue alternates that year, the Icers switched the blue alts to a similar design as their whites.The look was refined in 2000-'01, experiencing some minor changes (like added white stripes) since.
Wings Factor: The icers were the second team among Michigan athletics to adopt the winged helmet, when Red Berenson handed them out before the 1989 CCHA Playoffs - 2/3.
Claim to Fame: When the hockey team went with three different looks last year, the Block M blues (11-7), got more wear than the whites (12-3), and maizes (6-2).
Use: One of four basic kits, the lesser worn white version (the girls have a pullover with no piping that gets more use).
How They Got Here: Outhustled 6th seed Lacrosse, took out 7th seed Soccer, bested 1st seed and Misopofavorite Volleyball by one vote, and had a somewhat easier time upending Gymnastics.
First Worn: The basic whites for much of softball history are the pullovers. It seems, though I would love a doublecheck on this, that these classy whites didn't appear until this year (replacing white alts that were barely different from plainer version still worn with blue pants), although the blue button-down alts were around in the Nike age.
Wings Factor: Like baseball, the softball gals have the wings and stripes worked into their catching helmets, which works better with the hockey-style masks they use nowadays - 1/3.
Claim to Fame: Who cares what you're wearing on Main Street or in Tuscaloose -- it's what you wear from ear to ear, and not from head to toe that matters, as evidenced by the fact that the first major uniform change since 1978 didn't at all change the stormin' success of Michigan's cheery diamond gals.
Use: One of four different looks for the cheer team -- the others are a tank version of this one, a blue uni and a white one, those last two redesigned recently.
How They Got Here: Sleeves out 'Yay'ed 8th seed Cheerleading - blues, out-smiled 4th seed Softball - blue, out-awesomed 3rd seed Soccer - blue, and out-maize-with-blue-skirt-and-blue-block-M-on-the-chest-ed the aforementioned tank-tops.
First Worn: It seems these pre-date Adidas: sorely missed M blogger Autumn Thunder's eyes were opened on Sept. 23, 2007. HT. RIP. TYVM.
Wings Factor: I don't think the stripe counts. 0/3
Claim to Fame: As mentioned earlier, they are no longer this, and the new look is reminiscent of these guys (click for youtubage):
Which makes them awesome.
Unfortunately, the cheer team is in the midst of re-doing its website, so I don't have the same wealth of info to draw on from the athletic site. That being said, I have an e-mail in with the Cheer Coach, so if I get some more info, I'll update.
You've seen the competition. Who belongs in the Finals? I dunno -- you pick.
“HARMON OF MICHIGAN.”
This is the fifth entry of the 2009 MGoShirt Alert, a design project that will enable MgoBlog readers to vote for upcoming designs in the brand spankin’ new MGoBlogStore.
Tom Harmon. Ol' 98. 1940 Heisman Trophy winner. 2-time All-American. 2,134 yards rushing, 100 passes for 1,304 yards, 16 touchdowns, and scored 237 points. Played both sides of the field for the entire game 8 times during his Michigan career. Also 2 years varsity basketball player. Phi Delta Theta. Even received a standing ovation... in Columbus.
But that's not all... he spurned the NFL for the AFL. Became a movie star to take the leading role in-- "Tom Harmon of Michigan." He went to war as a pilot and was shot down. Twice. On one of those occasions he spent four days alone in the South American jungle before hacking his way back to civilization.
Later he was awarded both the Silver Star and Purple Heart, upon which he came home and lived out the American dream of marrying a Hollywood starlet and became a radio football announcer. And perhaps his greatest legacy is his family, including "Summer School" legend Mark Harmon and the twin stars of 80's hair wreck Nelson, who according to an acquaintance were last seen performing as part of the entertainment crew of the Carnival cruise line.
So I went with tradition today-- Elno, you asked for this yesterday, you got it. Of course, we've now automatically alienated at least a dozen other readers who want this shirt to be about insider Blog content. Probably the biggest obstacle here is the fact that not all of you want the same thing, so as some get what they want, others get... well, pissed. SO TELL ME: What do you guys want on yer shirt??? Insider MGoBlog humor that us and only us will get, or do you want the shirts to have mass appeal for the general Michigan audience? If there's a general consensus, it will definitely help in delivering what the MGoCommunity wants.
So, time to vote! What do you guys think?
|pollcode.com free polls|
|What do you think of MgoShirt #5?|
|Five Stars Four Stars Three Stars Two Stars One Star|
***** Five Stars: Heisman!
**** Four Stars: All-American
*** Three Stars: All-Conference
** Two Stars: Starter
* One Star: Mildly liked while riding the bench?
For the weekend, I thought we'd try something a little different. For all those witty critics out there, I'd like to give you a chance to be a part of this, and to contribute to one of the designs for next week. It's no secret that perhaps the biggest star of MGoBlog is our good friend Tacopants, and sure enough I have a design paying homage to the legend himself, not unlike member Zero's (no relation) design on Blazefire'page.
But, Tacopants probably means a lot of things to a lot of people... So tell me, WHAT SHOULD THE TACOPANTS SHIRT SAY??? Who's got a killer idea for a Tacopants shirt?? I'll let you guys come up with a few ideas, hopefully one or two of them will gather up a lot of support, and I'll knock out a design maybe Sunday and put it up early next week.
So enough is enough...place your votes, discuss as you must, and remember-- a.) Insider MGoBlog shirts or general Michigan gear? and b.) What can you come up with for Tacopants? Have a great weekend...
A sure sign that I'm having way too much summer fun is that point spreads for dozens of college football games have been on the Vegas Board for more than a month, and I have yet to break down those spots in a TL;DR MGoDiary. Well, fellow MGoBloggers, here it is, with the season beginning three weeks from tonight, lets take a look at how the oddsmakers have factored the Wolverines' chances in some of their more important games of the season. I know there has been a handful of threads briefly discussing this topic, so I doubt I'm breaking much news with these spreads, but I still felt a more in depth look into these spots was warranted.
Oddsmakers put out lines for six of Michigan's 12 games. What those numbers reveal is just how unconvinced the public remains on a Wolverine turnaround in 2009 and the challenges the Books face in enticing Michigan money to flow through the betting windows. Michigan is an underdog in all six games. Regardless of foe, be it as powerful as Penn State or Ohio State, or maligned as Notre Dame or Wisconsin, the Wolverines are catching points on the early line of every game of that's been released.
Even though that development was not entirely unexpected, it still deserves a sticker shock double take of sorts. Before last season, Michigan had only been catching points in seven regular season games this decade. In last year's disastrous season, Michigan was installed as a dog five times. Before the first ball is even kicked off for the 2009 season, Michigan looks to be the underdog already in at least six games. The only way Vegas can get people to bet on Michigan in any of these games is to give them anywhere between a field goal and a touchdown head start.
None of this should be construed as any real dour news. Well, other than the transfers that will certainly ensue with the further publication of these lines. But seriously, Michigan has historically been a great play when catching points. Even in bowl games. Since 1985, Michigan is 30-17 ATS as an underdog. If you remove any games against Ohio State--a rivalry that tilts to the home team against the spread and during which the Wolverines are a pedestrian 5-5 ATS as a dog during this run--Michigan's record when catching points improves by a few percentage points with a 25-12 record.
History says Michigan will cover more of these games than not. We'll see if Rodriguez's young charges are up to the burden of history this year and whether or not any of the possible underdog covers net upset wins. Without further adieu, lets take a look at the games on the Big Board.
Western Michigan at Michigan, 9/5
Line: Michigan -12
A clarification: This line has only been released within the last few days and not part of the Book Community's Games of Year Board that came out several weeks ago. In those games, the Wolverines are catching points in everyone. But, most online books have updated to include the entire Week One slate and here are the Wolverines laying serious chalk against a team that, unlike the Maize and Blue, played in a bowl game last season.
Of course, the Broncos were absolutley obliterated by Rice last season in that bowl game and my concerns for this game had really subsided for most of the off season. Now that the drum beat of the approaching season is louder and closer, the worry wort fan in me has begun to envision Tim Hiller channeling his inner John Elway and slinging the ball all over the place against the young, retooling Michigan defense.
I still think Michigan has a significant edge in the trenches in this game. As bad as last year was, Michigan still rushed for almost 5 yards a carry against their two MAC foes last season. And, Brandon Minor had a total of one combined carry in the contests. With the Broncos completely rebuilding on defense, Michigan's offensive line expected to make the leap and something in the ballpark of 20 carries out of Minor and I dont think the Wolverines will have problem moving up and down the field.
The question is will that be enough to score points? Last year's offense bogged down in those MAC games and struggled to turn an efficient offense in between the 30 yard lines into points. I believe Forcier will be a difference in those spots. However, he is a true freshmen and could throw a killer pick-6 like Threet did last year against Toledo. Michigan will have enough to finally win an opening game, but can anybody not drunk on Maize and Blue Koolaid (and, trust me, that shit tastes good) really feel comfortable laying 12 points with them right now? I cant. Besides, there are much better investment chances on opening weekend.
Notre Dame at Michigan, 9/12
Line: ND -3.5
There has already been quite a bit of activity surrounding this line. When the Golden Nugget in Vegas released their lines in June, it was reported that the Irish were indeed 3.5 point chalk. However when the army on onlines formally released lines several weeks later, the Irish had been moved down to 2.5 points. It was quickly bet up to 3 and tagged with a higher taxed juice at -120. The extra vig has not stopped the momentum in favor of the chalk and, as of today, the line has been bumped back up to 3.5.
All the seemingly one-sided action the public is placing with the off shores on the Irish flies in the face of the history of this series. The underdog is 20-5 ATS since the modern rivalry resumed in 1978 and has won this game outright as often as the favorite. I've talked about it many times. It is the series identity. It trumps whatever matchup breakdown you can throw out there.
I could go on and list all the times a chalk Wolverines squad got chopped at the knees by the Irish. But that would bring up way too many scars. Besides, short of a Michigan romp over WMU combined with a Nevada upset over the Irish opening week nothing will flip MIchigan into the favorite role. So lets talk about them as dogs in this series.
Notre Dame has only covered once in this series as a favorite. In 1982. I was in the fifth grade. That was a long time ago.
Notre Dame has been favored only once in the Big House and that was back in 1985. Michigan unveiled a dominant defense, crisp offense and let the football world know that day that it was back after a disatrous 6-loss campaign the year before in a 20-12 upset win. I could go for a parallel outcome next month, whadya say Fielding Yost up there in Football Vahalla?
The last two times Michigan has been catching points in this series, Remy Hamilton knocked home a game winning field goal and Yakety Sax 2006 happened.
What intrgiues me about this series is how often the winner ends up playing aruguably their best game of the season. Name me a better win by the 1998, 2002, 2004, 2005 or 2008 Irish team? How about a more clutch game than played by the 2006, 1999, or 1994 Wolverines. The thread in most of those games is the underdog springing the upset or, at the very least, keeping the final score closer than the experts thought.
I'll blindly throw a buck or two down based on the series history alone and wont lose any sleep over doing so.
Michigan at Michigan State, 10/3
Line: MSU -4
It's hard to get past a pair of technical edges when looking at this year's Michigan-Michigan State game. Neither lines up well for the Wolverines.
Michigan will be playing its first road game after four straight home contests to begin the season. Underdogs in that spot are just 12-15 ATS since 1998. That tilts away from the Wolverine's side, but only slightly and not hardly enough to stand alone as a serviceable handicapping angle.
The fact it's MIchigan's first road game is damning enough, however, to make a pick. The Wolverines first road trip of the year has been a nightmare for Michigan boosters with the program checking in with a 9-21 ATS record in their first game of the year in the other guy's stadium.
This dates back to 1979, making it a Michigan tradition as old as great flankers wearing the #1 jersey.
The Wolverines traveled to Cal that season as heavy 9-point chalk. But, Michigan played a sloppy first half, puncuated by a block punt that set the Bears up on short field for an easy touchdown. Trailing 10-0 to start the second half, Michigan finally kicked it in gear. A hit by defensive tackle Paul Girgash gave Michigan the turnover they needed to get it started. Two plays later a Stan Edwards run put the Wolverines on the board. Later in the quarter, a BJ Dickey pass to Doug Marshfield provided the go ahead score. Despite dominating the game statisically (Michigan had nine sacks and nearly twice as many yards), the Wolverines never threatened to score the spread busting points.
After listening to the game on the radio, a young Jamie Mac, while happy his team won, walked down the block to pay off the quarter bet he had made with some loudmoth Buckeye neighbor that Michigan would roll by at least double digits. His main bone of contention: Schembechler burying the cant miss, 5-star waterbug recruit Anthony Carter on the bench as AC rarely saw the field that day. From that point forward, Michigan's misery in their first road game only grew. Here are some lowlights:
- In 1981, preseason #1 MIchigan lost their season opener, on the road, to lowly Wisconsin thanks to a gazillion interceptions thrown by Steve Smith. Later that day, an infant Brian Cook helped his family paint their home pink and collect injured stray kittens from around the neighborhood.
- In 1987, Demetrious Brown tossed two gazzilon interceptions as MSU and Lorenzo White powered past MIchigan 17-11. Somewhere in southern MIchigan, toddler Dex begins chain smoking and swinging whiffle ball bats at whomever mocked his Wolverines. The seeds of an Army were sown.
- In 1993, the Spartans again stymied the heavily favored Wolverines, bottling up Tyrone Wheatley the way no other Big 10 could ever replicate and mandhanled MIchigan in a 17-7 win. This result so enraged Other Brian that he declared, on sight, a war on everything green and started by torching the grass in his parent's front yard. He has been protecting us from the Green Menace ever since.
- In 1998, the defending national champs got smoked in the second half in South Bend as touchdown chalk en route to a 38-20 loss. Magnus pink slipped quarterback Tom Brady for engineering an offense that failed in the red zone, settling for too many field goal attempts and missing a chance to blow the Irish out during the game's first 30 minutes. The quarterback who should keep his job was Drew Henson. Or Jason Kaspner.
- In 2003 Varsity Blu-er, I mean MGoTim consoled himself after the loss at Oregon by pouring over highlight films of a rising junior who was sure to be the steal of the eventual 2005 recruiting class: Johnny Sears.
I mean I could go on and on and on here. There is a plethora of epic, heartbreaking fail here.
But, no. I wont. Instead, I come bearing news of a loophole that could lead us around this historical landmine. Like most of the games in this diary, the Wolverines are an underdog. That's important when looking deeper into these otherwise woeful numbers. When catching points in their first road game of the year, Michigan is 7-2 against the spread, with four "upset" wins and a tie straight up.
Think about that for a second. In all games, Michigan's historic success rate in the role of first road game is less than 33 percent. However, in this specific role as a dog, their success rate shoots up to 87 percent. I'd say those are intrguing numbers.
Penn State at Michigan, 10/24
Line: Penn State -5
The winner of this game has also covered the spread in 12 of the 14 all-time meetings between these teams since the Nittany Lions joined the Big 10. Sometimes its as easy as picking the winner. No problem, right?
The only two times the winning team also failed to get the cash also provided a pair of memorable Michigan Stadium moments: Michigan's overtime win by 3 in 2002 as four point favorites and the inimitable Manningham catch puncuating the 2005 27-25 win. Hard to believe, but the Wolverines were field goal chalk against the unbeaten Lions that afternoon.
I'd like to think Michigan can win this game. We'll know by October if our dreams of an improved season are materializing and whether or not Michigan has the chops to compete here. One thing I will say is that I am not 100 percent sold on Penn State. They are very talented in spots. But they have some holes that also raise eyebrows. They're rebuilding their entire secondary. They're replacing a lot of talent of the offensive line. Daryl Clark still has not made a big throw in a moment of truth spot. I'm not that sold on Clark as a great QB, and with all his targets gone from last year he will see more of the passing game burden fall on his ability to deliver the right ball. Yeah, they can be exposed by good teams. But is Michigan a good team?
Real quickly about those receivers: I generally dont get too swayed on a team's chances based on skill players returning or leaving. But, I cant shake that this will be a big problem for Penn State. They're replacing a trio of wideouts who have finished 1-2-3 in receiving stats for the team all four years they were on the team. That's going to hard to replace this season merely by dipping down on the depth chart.
The biggest blow is Derek Williams, who caught, ran and passed the ball out of multitude of formations. He was as important to PSU's run last year as Michael Robinson was in 2005 and we all saw how inconsistent the Lions were for a couple of seasons without him. The Spread HD was all the rave last season with Clark at QB instead of Anthony Morelli, but I dont think Jay Pa and Galen Hall will know how to call plays as effectively without Williams to lean on. Just epinion.
Michigan at Illinois, 10/31
Line: Illinois -7
A year after Illinois stabbed dagger-in-the-heart play into our hearts one after the other and thumped Michigan to the tune of 45 points, its probably hard to conjure up images of a Michigan win here. But was last year really that much of a blowout?
What happens if Threet and Odoms connect on a wide open pass over the middle in the closing minute of the first half? That's a touchdown and Michigan lead of three going into the half. Instead the connection achingly was off target with another. Or, after Illinois had forged a 10-point lead in the second half, a deep sideline pass to Savoy had connected? Michigan always could connect on those when the chips are on the table. But, on that play, Savoy was so overmatched against Vontae Davis he had no chance to catch the ball, which was thrown so poorly it probably would not have helped had Savoy even been able to get open.
What does all this excuse making mean? If Michigan's offense takes the steps forward many readers of this blog expect, then the Wolverines should be able to do damage against the Illini. They came sneakingly close to going point for point with them in last season's otherwise decisive Illini win. The question is can they keep up all four quarters? Can the defense get enough stops to help the cause? With a lot of fireworks expected in this one, a touchdown head start could come in handy.
Michigan at Wisconsin, 11/14
Line: Wisco -3.5
The home team has won five straight games in this series. That's bad news for Michigan. The underdog has covered at a 6-1-1 clip with five meetings decided by five or less points. That's good news for Michigan.
What's better news for Michigan? Brett Bielema remains the coach for the Badgers.
If Michigan needs the Badgers to forget who their best tailback weapon is, Bielema will be there for them. If Michigan needs the Badgers to fail on third and short by getting too cute with the playcalling, Bielema will be there for them. If Michigan needs extra prep for a field goal at the end of the clock, Bielema will be there to call timeout. If Michigan needs the running game to start working, Bielema will be there with ridiculously wide gapped defensive fronts.
He will be All In for Michigan.
The problem may be the calendar. This game is in early November. That should give Bielema enough time to figure out that Curt Philips is his best bet at QB. Not to mention enough time for Jonathon Clay to become enough of a star that Bielema wont be able to lose him on the bench like he did last year.
Nevertheless, this has become one of the more dramatic series in the Big 10 this decade with three games decided in the final minute, two others by less than five and a sixth by just a touchdown. No reason the trend of tight games with the Badgers will stop. The more points the better in games like that.
Ohio State at Michigan, 11/21
Line: OSU -7
Ah, the big one. After spending the better part of TWENTY YEARS owning this series, Michigan has seen the roles reversed in this rivalry and have been the nail since 2004 with five losses in a row. I refuse to insult you with a pep talk about how we are Michigan and never count us out, especially in a big rivalry. That's rah-rah stuff and wont mean a hill of beans if the 2009 Wolverines dont take the steps forward many are counting on.
Instead, I will repeat the same type of expectations I have for this game as I did last year. If you recall, last summer Michigan opened up as a 14-point underdog. All I had hoped for is that Michigan play well enough during the season to see that line decrease and maybe shrink to single digits by game week. Of course, the complete oppositie happened. The season did not go well. D'uh. By game week, the Bucks were laying three touchdowns instead of just two.
I have the same hopes and feelings here. Hopefully Michigan will play well enough in the upcoming months to see this line get shaved a point or two down. Or how about a little wishful thinking and get it down to just a field goal. What would make that happen? Well, a Michigan team entering the contest with 7-9 wins might do it. I guess so to would a Buckeye team with four losses or so. I wont lie, both those outcomes I would accept. The latter would quiet a lot of locals around my scarlet and gray neighborhood here behind enemy lines.
So, rather than breaking down what might be a matchup mismatch on paper, I'll just lean on the hopes that Michigan improves enough this year to make this spot smaller. Michgian Football 2009: Where We Hope To Play Well Enough To Get Better Oddsmaker Respect By November. Can you feel the excitement? Alright maybe its not as thirlling as 'All In' but its what I'm sticking to.
We'll see what happens. Until then, enjoy the games.
Diarist Note: For more insights on all things college football and hoops related with some NFL thrown in, make sure to visit my new e-blog: justcoverblog.com. I've been sporadic at posting this summer at the start, but will be revving up with daily posts in the next few days. There will loads of content and a few gambling rants once the season begins.