in re: is GRIII on a tear
Thank god this season is over. It has been a long season and very disappointing for those of us who have become spoiled by the 9-3 seasons we took for granted. I'm sure some are still angry about the game and the season, but just like the team and the coaches, we as fans need to put it behind us and start asking the questions about what is going to happen as this program moves forward.
For those who like to blame the coaches for everything under the sun, I really think they were frustrated all year as well. They could never take advantage of their system because the QBs did not offfer a true running threat and when they were called upon to pass, they were less than effective even on the simplest of routes. Multiply that problem with the number of true freshman playing (and fumbling) on offense and it's not hard to see why we were 3-9 this year and it's not that the coaches are idiots and can't teach guys not to fumble or to teach guys not to chuck the ball to tacopants. There were instances were the coaches made tactical errors (3-3-5 against Purdue) but ultimately the games were always won or lost on execution of the plays being called.
Going forward, we'll need to address the problems of this years season through recruiting and coaching. Unless we have a rash of injuries, Mr. Sheridan has seen his last snaps at QB for Michigan and that's not being negative, but the truth is that the kid does not possess the physical tools to be an effective Div 1 QB. I would bet that Threet gets some more snaps, but he'll be on a very short leash if either of the true freshman can show the coaches they can handle the job and make the reads and make the throws. The hardest part for a freshman or young QB is the ability to make good decisions quickly in the pass game. I think we've got a couple new tackles on the O-line next year and more depth to do something at the LG spot. The RBs are fine; even if we lose one or two in the offseason, we'll still have enough depth there. The receivers are not the focal point of this offense and as long as we can have some guys that can offer a vertical threat and guys that can be good blokers on the perimeter, we'll be fine there too.
On defense, we've got a lot of work to do. We lose MFT, Harrison, TT, WJ, Jamo, and Charles Stewart from starting positions and maybe BG if he leaves early, which I hope he does not happen as he has been the best player on this team at any position. The defense has been suprisingly porous this year and part of it is because they lacked confidence in each other and did not operate as a cohesive unit. You have great individual efforts at times, but then the unit would have a breakdown and they'd give up a big play. The schemes and play-calling was sound most of the time, but the poor tackling and poor play of the LBs and the DBs really has me concerned. I think, as a coach, you cannot put in any sophisticated packages or blitzes until you can tackle effectively and that is one area we never improved upon over the course of the year. The safeties have gotten a ton of blame this year; some they earned and some they did not; but they will need to be better next year. I think Micheal Williams and Brandon Smith see a large amount of time next year. Cissoko is going to be better next year and he'll make a nice compliment to Donovan Warren who had a rough Sophmore campaign. The defensive line is going to be a major question mark even if BG stays. We have seen good things from some of the backups this year, but they weill need to be able to perform on a consistent basis. If Campbell commits to Moichigan, expect him to get significant playing time along side Mike Martin. The Lbs need to be better next year. Mouton has shown that he is a playmaker on defense. Ezeh has shown that he's got a lot of work to do to get better IMO. I think Ezeh reacts too slowly and let himself get blocked too easily. I would like to see Fitzgerald or even Demens push for some starting time next year. The problem is that we need a true Middle LB and righ now, Ezeh is that guy.
I never think that a true freshman will have a huge impact on your team in a positive manner, but next year we'll need one of these two freshman to really make an impact on this team. I think it is going to be Forcier just because he's the more polished passer at this time, but Beaver has some intagibles that you can't coach when it comes to having a dual threat QB. For next year, I think the reasonable expectation for the team is going to be somewhere around .500; maybe plus or minus a game. You're almost in year 1.5 of the transition insomuch as the coaches have to start over again in teaching the system to true freshman and the freshman who played this year are going to be sophmores.
I think the offseason is going to be interesting insomuch as we'll lose some guys we didn't anticipate losing, but I think we'll gain a few guys that weren't on the radar. I think we might get a little shuffle in the coaches, but nothing major. I think RR will understand the Big Ten a little better and he'll have an entire off season to work on this team, his offense, and his staff. I think that means we're more competitve in 09, but we're really looking at '10 or '11 before we can talk about being at the top of the big ten.
If you thought last year's offseason was intersting, I think this year's offseason will be just as interesting insomuch as the program is at an interesting crossroads. Either we get this issues resolved with personnel and we move towards becoming a top 10 team, or we move towards becoming Northwestern. History has old us that year one of RR is ugly, but that year 2 is respectable, but year 3+ is something special. So for those of you who are writing diaries or posting on message boards comdemning the coaching staff please start working on your retractions for the next few seasons.
I started off this season with high, possibly overly optimistic hopes for this team and this season. This is my freshman year as a student, and I remember my dad fondly telling me that I was beginning my tenure as a student at the beginning of the Rich Rodriguez era. My parents, both alumni, had raised me as a Wolverine from birth, but this year was going to be special. I was a student; it’s a totally different feeling, as if I was now officially a part of something so much bigger than myself.
I was there to start the season against Utah. I was apprehensive. The only game my family attended the previous year was Appalachian State. The parallels were there with quarterback and halfback; the glaring difference was that Utah was a higher-caliber team. We lost. I stayed until I saw those zeros at the end of the fourth. It hurt. I moved on.
Miami came and went. There was a win. I cheered wildly throughout. It was nerve-racking, but we triumphed.
Then there was Notre Dame. I cursed the fumbles and the rain. I remember telling my friend, wearing a #3 jersey for a past player, to take it off after I informed him it was Stevie Brown’s number. I lamented the comfort that I had taken for granted with four years of Hart taking care of the football. The pain was deep after tearing apart senior Brady Quinn two years previous and then, last year, a freshman Jimmy Clausen.
Wisconsin. That was special. I stayed, of course. My roommate’s friends dragged him off to North Campus around halftime. I remember the fear I felt at Travis Beckum’s 2 pt. conversion. How could that happen?! And then that yellow flag…that magical flag. Fists white with fear, I awaited the verdict. Ineligible receiver! We survived, and I remember cheering in the stands while I watched the most beautiful kneels that I have ever witnessed in person. My dad texted me at the end, I think the first I ever received from him - “How’s that first conference win feel?” We were on top of the world. We were Michigan.
Then…devastation. I watched until the end as Illinois’ Juice Williams dismantled us. I shouted angrily as pass after pass was thrown out of the endzone at the end of the Toledo game, as feared the horrible flashbacks of the Appalachian State blocked field goal, and lo and behold, my worst fears were realized. Penn State gave me false hope in the beginning, as I remembered the last-second win against Penn State that a friend took me to. But they pulled away. Penn State ripped us apart and made us pay for years of domination.
Michigan State. I stayed until the end. I actually went to the Purdue game, surely expecting a win. I saw Odoms kick return and a lead disappear quickly. I went crazy when Stonum knocked down that defender, fighting for that touchdown as if he was the next Michael Crabtree. But we lost. I felt as though the trick-plays stabbed me in the heart. My friend who hosted me made sure to rub in the loss. I remember asking him who his coach was going to be next year, the coach Purdue has already decided on, and he had no clue. Why did he deserve that win when he knew so little about his own team? Was that fair?
Northwestern. It happened so recently, there’s no need to recap. I almost died. Half of the people I was sitting with left at halftime. Do I blame them? No…it was freezing. But I stayed. I almost sacrificed my toes. I was half-running down the ramp after the game ended and I felt as if they were breaking off.
Ohio State. God, I had hope. I really did. But that hope was dashed. I’m still numb as I write this. I feel emotionless. I’m not even angry now…just depressed, hopelessly depressed.
I’ve had my share of disappointment this season. We all have. I’ve cursed my own players, totally disregarding the fact that they are my age, and that I’ve never put so much effort into something as they have into football. There is no way that I can feel as those players feel. The seniors? As they have bravely said, someone had to be the start of the new era. They sacrificed so much more than any of us ever could for Michigan. They deserve so much more than what they were given, and I feel ashamed at my own pain and sorrow when I think of theirs.
Am I still optimistic for next season? I have to be, and I am. It will be a new year next year, and I will still be in those stands, until the end, cursing our failures and cheering our successes. I’ll continue the tradition of staying until the end, not to be self-fulfilling, but because our players deserve it. They deserve better fans than some of us, myself included, have been, as this season has shown some of us who we really are.
This season had been more difficult than any before. I never expected the start of my freshman year to be like this, but I’ll endure, because I can and I must. I won’t give up. I’ll uphold the tradition. I’ll be strong. I’ll remember the good times past and look forward to the future successes that await us. I’ll be back. We’ll all be back. You know why? Because we are champions, and we won’t let a single season define us. I might not be able to win games for Michigan as player, but I’ll be there as a fan cheering wildly and doing all that I can do to support our team.
Let’s remember who we really are. We are Michigan. We are Wolverines. We’ll be back. I know it. And when we do, for those standing in our way, by God, be ready. Because we are, and always will be, the leaders and the best. Never forget.
I attended my first Michigan game during the 1979 season. Bo was exactly half way through his tenure as coach in Ann Arbor. Anthony Carter was a freshmen. Michigan had beaten OSU three straight times, but were facing the reality of replacing the all-world Rick Leach at quarterback. Bob Ufer painted Maize and Blue scenes for all of us.
My first game was against Northwestern. While my memories of the game and who did what are fuzzy, I do know the Wolverines flat out destroyed the Cats, 49-0. It could have been 56-0, but a late score by Michigan was nullified by a penalty. The scoreboard operator had already put the TD on the board, but I still remember by grandfather telling me they would erase the score from the board. At that point, I got this image of a giant eraser coming from the sky to do the work. Even now, when points are taken off the board, I flashback to this scene. Maybe its because I am sitting in the seats, all these years later.
The other notable occurence from that game were the amazing 100-year anniversary special yearbooks they sold. It proved to be my Michigan History Book for years to come as I embraced and voraciously ate up whatever knowledge I could on the program. Everything was in there to fire up the imagination of a kid who was drunk on Maize and Blue Kool Aid.
I was so excited that in school the following week, I made it my show and tell for class. Decked out in a UM sweatshirt, I talked about my first game, the tradition and attempted to pass on the UM gospel. I'll never forget the pair of kids in the middle of the room, though, quietly heckling me. They were Ohio State fans. Throughout my time in front of the room, they were miming thumbs down and mouthing Go Bucks, Michigan Sucks.
My love for Michigan and disdain for Ohio Stae got cemented in that week long cycle when I as 7 years old. I feel like I've been battling these scarlet and gray fools my entire life. And now, another chapter in the series that defines way too many of us on both sides of the aisle, has arrived.
Michigan comes in at its weakest point in most of our lifetimes. Everyone knows the deal. I wont rehash it. OSU is favored by over 20 points. Everyone keeps harping on the fact its the biggest line in series history. That may be true, but seeing a heavy favorite in this game is not new territory. Both teams have been double digit favorites at least a couple of times within the last 20 years.
In 1996, Ohio State was a 17.5 point home favorite, which is not a whole lot more of a mismatch than a 20.5 point line we're seeing today. On that day 12 years ago, the gap between the teams seemed as far as ever. Yet, Michigan won that day.
The next year they won the National Championship.
The sports world changes fast. Stay patient guys. Our time will come.
Alright, on to, sadly, the final installment of Big 10 Picks. We've had a nice run since we debuted on 9/27, logging a 29-22-1 record. Today we have big rivalries and a ton of bowl positioning on the line. And, most importantly, I look forward to one last day of CIL/Open Thread discussion with my mgofriends.
Michigan at Ohio State. Lines, OSU -20.5, O/U 44
As Brian pointed out in his own preview, its hard to construct a scenario in which Michigan pulls out a win today. I think they have to land the game's first few punches and stake out to a lead in order to have a chance. But, then again, it does not matter as far as this column goes if they win or not. Its about covering the spread. In retrospect, the worst part about this season has not be the Wolverine's ineptitude on the field, but the fact I haven't made any money of their woes, despite seeing it all unfold up close. I actually picked UM seven times in this weekly piece and gone 2-5. I should have learned from that. I have not. I'm going down swinging with my boys today. I think they make us proud with their fight today.
The Pick: Michigan +20.5......do you know the last time someone was even winning during the course of a game by more than 20 points in this rivalry? That would be 1991, UM 31-3. Michigan was up 24-3 at half. Desmond puncuated the game with his historic punt return in the second half. For a modern day Michigan fan, doesn't that have to be one of the top-5 moments in the history of this series? I was somehow sitting in the OSU section of Michigan Stadium that afternoon and thats the end zone he struck his lasting Heisman pose in. Folks, now that moment was priceless.
Indiana at Purdue. Lines, Purdue -11.5, O/U 52
The Battle for the Old Oaken Bucket has been one sided the entire Joe Tiller era. Its hard to imagine he's going to let this baby slip away in his final appearence at Ross Ade Stadium. I expect the Boilers to be about as effective offensively in his game as they were against Michigan (gulp). I also faith in the Hoosier offense. I am always a sucker for taking the underdog in both rivalry games and in games between sub par teams this late in the season. Dont forget, Indiana comes into this game with pretty good QB play and they should be able to score points along with the Boilers. Weather might be snowy, or I would take a lilte bite of the Over.
The Pick: IU +11.5......Picking against Purdue has worked for this column, going 4-2. Meanwhile, its been an inconsistent season calling IU games, but still a winning 6-5 record has emerged when calling bets on the side of total involving Hoosier game.
Michigan St and Penn St. Lines, PSU -14.5, O/U 47.5
Everyone seems to be calling for a Penn State blowout in this one. Indeed, its easy to see that happening, given the egg Sparty laid when OSU was across the field from them. And, that was at home. Today will be a tougher challenge than that. I actually think MSU is going to hang around in this one. They've had a week off and I think that will give them a strategic advantage early on. I expect the Spartans to show us some different looks today to get an early edge. Of course, Penn St will be just as aggressive in their last home game. I think we're also going to see a whole mess of points. I think Ringer will star in his last game and find the end zone a couple of times. Derrick Williams for PSU? Ditto. This has been traditionally one of the highest scoring series in the Big 10. In the 15 times these clubs have played since the Lions joined the league, only twice has the combined total score not reached 50. I'll be riding that history today.
The Pick: MSU +14.5, Over 47.5.......lets be honest. That hook on the 14 looms big. I can see a 35-21 type final score. I might think a bit differently about the final outcome had the line been 13.5 as PSU could pull away with a great closing kick in front of its home fans.
Illinois at Northwestern. Lines, Illini -2.5 (-118), O/U 53
Did you know teams that played Michigan this year are only 2-7-1 ATS the following week? Uh oh, Northwestern. I guess that means other teams are absolutely leaving it all on the field in their quest to notch a rare win for their program against the Maize and Blue. Yeah, thats the ticket. Nevertheless, in this matchup between two teams that have crossed me up all season, i'll lean on that phenomena to make a call. I was so smart about the Illini back in August when I said they would enter November with a .500 record. I was less smart about the Illini back on the final Saturday of October when I said they would win out the rest of their slate. Oops. They've gone 1-3 since that proclamation. I probably should get off them, but I wont. Illini, I just cant quit you. You should have too much offensive talent in this game. All the firepower that teams like Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan lacked the day they played Northwestern wont come into play today. I think Illinois has the potential to win this one going away.
The Pick: Illini -2.5.....hey, if they win they'll get the Motor City Bowl Bid. Who wouldn't play their asses off with a trip to Windsor, er, I mean, Detroit on the line. Illinois wins this 27-21.
Iowa at Minnesota. Lines, Iowa -6, O/U 42.
No game on the board is pulling me in different directions as this one. On one hand, back in my Bowl Projection Diary back in August, I predicted the Gophers rise this year, saying they would notch a bowl win and beat Iowa in the finale to get that bid. On the other hand, I've been a huge Iowa and Shon Green backer for over a month now to some profitable results. Minnesota is a home dog in name only as half the fans tonight will have trucked up from Iowa to support the Hawks. Iowa fans have always joked that the Hump Dome is Kinnick Stadium North. Another reason this game has me twisting is the fact that these are the two teams I have been most successful with gambling this season. In Gopher games, I am 7-3 taking the side or total, including 3-1 when biting on Minny themselves. Iowa? Try 7-2-1. Basically, this column has been successful because for whatever reason I am locked into the pulse of these two teams.
So where does that leave us tonight? I think Minnesota matches up well with Iowa. I like Weber to have a good game. Mobile QBs can hurt Iowa. They have a great front on D, but struggle actually getting to the QB. Weber will be one step ahead of them a lot today, and really hurt Iowa with his legs. WR Decker is back and Iowa has no DBs who can cover him. Expect at least 10 catches and a TD. I also think Iowa still is turnover prone and the Gophers remain one of the more opportunistic teams in the country. I've seen enough of these teams play this season and if I could play a longshot prop bet it would be the Minny D putting up a score of their own. Of course, Shon Green wont be stopped. He'll pop for close to 200 yards and find the end zone twice. Stanzi will make a big play or two and the Iowa D will also create turnovers. This is going to be a great game. It'll go back and forth. In the end, some sort of Pig statue will be won. The Hawks have owned this series of late, but lost the time they played in Minny in 2006 and won by just 2 on the road in 2004. This game goes down to the wire and will be every bit as exciting--and high scoring--as last week's Gopher/Badger game.
The Pick: Minnesota +6, Over 42.....Some of my favorite players from this year's Big 10 season will be on the field. Ought to be fun. Shon Green seals his Big 10 MVP candidacy with a huge final drive and score as the Hawks pull it out, 30-27, in the closing minute.
There you go. The final Big 10 Picks of the season. We're seven games clear of .500, so hopefully we can cap off the season with a winning week and add to it. Have fun watching the games today.
Go Blue.....and Boo on the Bucks.
A Michigan football historical parallel I found interesting:
Fielding H. Yost died in 1946. The 1947 Michigan team won a New Year's Day bowl. After 1947, Fritz Crisler handed the reigns to 42-year-old Benny Oosterbaan, who Crisler described as "the best offensive mind in college football." Oosterbaan proceeded to thumb his nose at Michigan tradition by retiring Ron Kramer's #87 while he was still on the team. While Crisler had never had a season worse than 7-3 or finished worse than tied for 4th in the Big Ten, Oosterbaan had two losing seasons in his 11 years at the helm, as well as 6th and 8th place finishes to cap his tenure before handing off to Bump Elliott.
Glenn E. Schembechler died in 2006. The 2007 Michigan team won a New Year's Day bowl. After 2007, Lloyd Carr handed the reigns to 44-year-old Rich Rodriguez, who many described as "the best offensive mind in college football." Rodriguez proceeded to thumb his nose at Michigan tradition by ending the tradition of having season-long captains. While Carr had never had a season worse than 7-5 or finished worse than tied for 5th in the Big Ten, Rodriguez set the Michigan record for losses in his first season and then ...
Obviously the comparison is ridiculous (Oosterbaan did win a national title and 3 Big Ten titles; Crisler was the outside hire and Oosterbaan was a Michigan guy, whereas Lloyd was inside and RichRod was not), but here's hoping we're not heading for the 1950s and 1960s of Michigan Football (which included a span of 17 years with one Big Ten title from 1952-1968). I guess the bright side is that even if we are, history would indicate that this won't last forever, and that the next Bo is coming around...in 2028 or so?
First "Game" vs. Buckeyes:
Fielding H. Yost, 1901: W, 21-0
George Little, 1924: W, 16-6
Tad Wieman, 1927: W, 21-0
Harry Kipke, 1929: L, 0-7
Fritz Crisler, 1938: W, 18-0
Bennie Oosterbaan, 1948: W, 13-3
Bump Elliott, 1959: W, 23-14
Bo Schembechler, 1969: W, 24-12
Gary Moeller, 1990: W, 16-13
Lloyd Carr, 1995: W, 31-23
Rich Rodriguez, 2008: ________
Go Blue, Beat OSU!
I awoke early this morning. I had to sit up in bed and quickly hold my torso to stop the turning going on inside. I felt like throwing up, I felt like punching my guy, I felt like peeing on a stick to explain this sudden morning sickness. No, it's not some sort of Schwarzenegger type scenario in which I am going to comically go through pregnancy. It's the same feeling that I wake up with at least one Saturday every November. It's the flames of passion and hatred that storm through my belly and out my urinal tract (which strangely reminds me of Spring Break). Today is the day gentlemen (and possibly a presumably sexy female), today is the day that "the horror" ends. And when the dust settles from the plane crash in the mountains, it is today when we find out either we are all dead and that this was the worst thing to happen to our college football lives, or whether we all have survived this nightmare. Except for the co-pilot of course, but he's anti-semetic.
It has always been said that the importance of the Michigan-ohio state game is so great, that if one team were to lose all their games, but win "The Game", that the season would be a good one. Today is the closest we have ever come to that statement, so we get to try it out.
This game is the one where I, and many others, pull out all the stops to ensure that nothing interrupts this game. I have already ordered and refrigerated my pizza for today's game so that I can just pull it out at halftime, I will turn my cellphone off, I will unplug the internet, I will lock the door to my bedroom, and I will watch this game on the edge of my seat with every ounce of emotion I have in my sumo-wrestler-like physique poured into my 27" standard definition TV. Why, because this is the way it's been done since I was 13.
This year has a new coach, and new system, new logo on the jersey, a bunch of guys I hadn't heard of before the Utah game, and of course, a never before seen record. Yet somethings remain the same. Michigan travels to Columbus, they will be booed, they will be taunted, they will face the gapped toothed faces of so many cousin fuckers it's unimaginable to the normal human being. And when it is all over, I will either celebrate like hell, or I will hide under the blankets and replay every disastrous moment from the game in my head over and over, until I get hungry and have to get more pizza.
Go Blue! And remember, no matter what: It's Great To Be A Michigan Wolverine!
Okay, once and for all...anyone see tonight's ESPN tag after we lost to DUKE? And I quote, "Duke DRUBS UM to win 2K Classic".
First of all, we lost. Were we DRUBBED? We were down at halftime 39-31. We are a "surprise" by their own naming, and then we were DRUBBED? I've had it. Once and for all, I will NO longer watch ESPN, bookmark their fucking .Com, or support that effing channel. Every single motherfucker over there LOVES to pile on when we Michigan loses. I put up with it during "the horror", because, ultimately NO publicity is bad publicity, and even if we were over-rated going into last season, we shouldn't have lost to App. State. Yeah, I get it. I get it again. Seeing the blocked kick 2,467 times all last season, YEAH I GET IT ASSHOLES. Mark May and Lou Holtz? Chris Spielman and Kirk Herbstreit? One thing after another, these fuckers HATE U of M, and do everything in their power except come right out and SAY it. I'm done. Let Griese, Tirico, or Desmond cover Michigan from now on, but otherwise leave us alone, and let us turn the volume down on the idiots at the Big Ten network.
Fuck you ESPN. You go to hell. You go to hell and YOU DIE.
(in addition, what is "UM"?? U-Maryland? U-Missouri? U-Motherfuckers? We are the U "OF" M. We are MICHIGAN. We are not some bastardized UM initials.
Fuck you ESPN.
E_nd. S_cene. P_huck.(that)N_etwork.