I think you will get your wish.
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.
If you make it to the end, you will know why I picked the title (a bit long). Before I go into this tale, I want to level set. Like many of you, I have an unhealthy relationship with this football team. I am the guy that wears a Michigan sweatshirt to the Iowa/Wisconsin game (give me a break, I live in IC), I am the guy that contracts laryngitis at the UM/MSU game this year (code word for drinking too much and screaming too long) and I am the guy that actually has trouble sleeping during the entire week of The Game. I am that guy.
I am not normally one to post up on MGo, but I have this nagging feeling. It is like when you lose something you just had in your hands a few minutes ago. You know that feeling where that thing was just here, where in the hell did it go!?! You scramble and search, only to stomp off in frustration. I am there permanently right now. Constant state of frustration.
I realized what I had lost when reading Terrance Taylor’s comments about becoming a Michigan Man. When you invest as a fan or an alumni, you get to join the same club. You get participate in the mythology and (let’s be honest) arrogance of Big Blue which is rightly deserved. Bo made an institution, not to diminish what others before him did, but he brought that swagger, excellence, strap-on-your-chinstrap, the team-I-don’t-want-to-play persona into “modern” football. With that came wins and rankings and expectations and jealousy and always having the other team “play up” during the Michigan game. That gave us our attitude, that gave us the ability to say “fuck you” to every asshole that would jump in your face after a Michigan stumble. We point to the winged helmets, total wins and bowl streak. Just reading that last statement would make an OSU or MSU fan vomit in their mouth, but it was true. Bo built it, players lived it and bled it and we all carried it forward. Michigan commanded respect.
Even with the most maize and blue tinted glasses, our reputation was a bit bigger than our results. Half-wits like Stewart Mandel loved to post pre-season vs end of season ranking variance over a ten year span which was not always favorable to us. But hey, we were given the respect and the benefit of doubt. Yeah, we went through a mediocre run of 8-4 seasons, we were completely stumped by any quarterback, any year running the option only to give way to being completely helpless against any quarterback, any year running the spread. However, we dropped in a NC, we pulled out a win against ‘Bama in the Orange Bowl, we had the “redemption tour” where we were undefeated coming to OSU and (barring some wildly uncharacteristic fumbles) could have really rolled Florida at a bowl game in Florida. Those things seemed to set it right, at least make it better.
The problem became the issue of unfulfilled promise (look at Woods-just had a monster game and Breaston- more catches than Braylon in the NFL as examples). I also got tired of getting punched in the face by a lesser team and screaming in futility, praying from some original play calling. The breaking point came when we started to get embarrassed. You don’t fuck with what Bo built, you don’t embarrass the family. I was tired of assholes getting their picture taken with our scoreboard in the background in the Big House (e.g. App State, Oregon). We needed a change, I prayed for a change, I fully wanted change. The issue is that I feel I received a false choice. I wanted a change from getting sucker punched and ending up with a bloody nose. I figured change may involve, for instance, into a punch to the gut and then eventually stop getting punched altogether. However, the change given to me this year was more like getting kicked in the balls and then having them set on fire, that’s not change I could believe in (sorry, I couldn’t help myself so close to the election season).
I mean, it didn’t stop there. They burned the mother fucker straight to the ground. From the three ring circus coaching search to a MAC team loss (who has since fired their coach for under achieving as unbelievable as that sounds) to the missed tackles of the Purdue game to setting every bad record that would never want to set at Michigan to completely deflating The Game. It is deftly described as “the goddamned plane just crashed into the mountain”. Going back to the Purdue game, I had to stab myself in the ear with the spoon from the dip bowl to stop the bleeding when the announcer kept talking about how Purdue “runs such a limited playbook, but executes so well”. My God, what a novel idea for this team. Fast forwarding to this week, I am not even nervous about Ohio State. Normally, I’m neurotic leading up The Game and do nothing but scour the internet numerous times a day for any new morsel of new information to fuel my obsession, now I’m blogging! (Sorry Brian)
Didn’t Nehlen sit down with RR and tell him “not to fuck this up”? Couldn’t the offense have adapted the blocking schemes while running more pro sets or a spread passing game? Couldn’t this mess have evolved into his spread n’ shread? I love Desmond, but God damn it, don’t tell me now you were worried about the bowl streak back in the spring. Thanks a lot for the iceberg warning Captain Edward J. Smith, but the fucking Titanic has already sunk! Wasn’t Stevie Brown a 4 star safety? How in the hell does Chambers never see the field? How can a 4 star QB not be able to pass? How could you honestly think Mr. I-like-to-roll-out-and-throw-across-my-body-like-Brett-Farve-with-much-worse-results could be your starting QB when the season started? To steal a line from BHGP, Jesus Fucking Rusty Tromboning Christ, does Tony Gibson have a pulse? Note to RR, this is the big time. You don’t need high school coaches who are “used to doing everything themselves”, you need an expert. We can afford to pay someone to coach the secondary that knows something about cover schemes! Fuck! Head Assplode!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And so it ends. Multiple trips to the fridge to finish this rant, finish another beer and remove this burden. It does not fix anything, it does not repair the season of a cat with a slice of cheese on its head (Fail!), it only shares the pain. Please God find it in your kindness to bless the Wolverine Nation with a victory over the inbred, 3 toed heathens to the south. Go Blue.
3 quarters of PSU and 2 of Illinois, here it goes.
They run multiple sets. They can go from an I-from to 5-wide gun. They seem to like to start from power sets and work into the spread formations. They like to run a formation where they have a TE, a wing, and another TE to the same side. They will run to strengh out of this formations, but will also motion the wing to the weak side, and run towards motion. They only ran play action once out of this formation. They like to run iso, trap, belly and counters out of their standard I-formations. Pretty basic stuff. Out of their spread formations, they like to throw more than they like to run. They like to run the read option in the gun with double tights. I never saw them throw out of this formation. I also saw the speed option a couple times out of the spread formation. Their passing game consists of a lot of little option routes. The wide receivers just run to space between defenders and Pryor hits them on a three step drop. Illinois actually did a better job defending this than PSU. They ran smash routes a couple times against Illinois where there is a guy short in the flat, and a second receiver running a corner route behind the corner and in front of the safety. I expect to see this route several times tomorrow agasint our cover 2 scheme. Against PSU they ran double posts once, and also ran a 2 vertical route against one side of a cover two. They got a big gain out of it. They also like to run short underneath crossing routes. They ran one reverse with Robiskie against Illinois, but other than that they don't try to fool anybody.
Their O-line is good, but they are not by any means a dominate unit. They had a lot of trouble against PSU getting to the second level. Most of the time, LBs were able to get to the ball carrier and bring him down. They were better against Illinois, but stil had some trouble. If we had great linebackers this would be a good matchup. They will open some holes occasionally, but I think we can do a decent job of containing their power running game. #70, their right tackle is a liability in pass protection. Graham needs to have a big game against that guy. PSU was able to drive that guy backwards all day. He was better against Illinois, but still not that impressive.
Their receivers are good but not spectacular. It seems like Robiskie is their go to guy. He has great hands and can get open, but he is not the gamebreaker type. I see problems with these guys running short routes between linebackers. They find space very well and don't drop many balls. This could lead to a lot of third and 6 conversions. The safeties also have to be ready for the smash route.
Their big play guys are Wells and Pryor in the backfield, obviously. Wells will break every arm tackle. We really need to get a shoulder pad on this guy to bring him down. Pryor is most dangerous when he breaks contain. Not only is he a running threat, but is also very good during scramble drill. He will find the open reciever on the run. However, he is only average when he stays in the pocket. If his first read isn't there, he struggles. We really need to get pressure on him, and try not to let him break contain. That probably sounds like a broken record.
This is really just an ok offens in my opinion. I think the D can hold up ok against them if they don't repeatedly get put in bad positions.
They run multiple fronts. They will run both a 3 and 4 man front. Out of their three man front, they usually blitz at least one. If its 3rd and long with a 4 or 5 wide receiver set, they will drop 8 into a 3 deep coverage. They started blitzing more out of both fronts in the second quarter of the Illinois game. Out of the 3 man front, they will bring a guy off the edge and roll the strong safety down into the box while playing a 3 deep coverage behind it. If they bring more than one guy out of the 3 man front, they usually play man behind it. Other blitzes they like out of the 3 man front are a guy coming off both edges, two LBs up the middle, and they also showed a corner blitz a few times. Out of the 4 man front against Illinois, they put Freeman up on the line inside of the DE. They will run cover 2, 3, and man.
Their Dline is solid. Heyward is a very good player, but they don't have a dominant pass rusher like Gholston from last year. They held their own against PSU, but nobody really stood out. Illinois had a lot of success with their outside zone play early in the game. They were able to get these guys sealed, so there may be some hope we can run the ball. I only saw them stunt once or twice, and they did slant some to the strong side.
Their linebackers are also pretty good. I think Freeman is the best of the goup. He looks pretty athletic. Both him and Laurinites are good tackers. As I said before, Illinois had success with their outside zone and were able to get the linebackers to over pursue. When PSU or Illinois got lineman to them, they were able to drive them back for the most part. They did get off some blocks, but I think that if we can get lineman too them, we will be able to sustain blocks downfield. They seem to be pretty good in space against the pass, but I did not see them challenged much over the middle.
The secondary is also very good. I think this is the worst matchup for us. The corners are physical and do a good job of jamming guys off the line. We have not been good this year with getting releases off the line of scrimmage, and we don't beat man coverage consitently enough. I think they will be sitting on our slants and hitches, and it could be tough for the passing game. They generally play a man over every receiver. Against Illinois, they only had a safety over #2 on the weakside, so that could be a situation where we have an advantage on the bubble by alignment. Outside of that, we are going to need great blocking on those plays. Also, if they are blitzing and playin a lot of man, we could get a good mismatch with Odoms on a safety. I think we will see a lot of the formation where we have twins on both sides bunched together. PSU ran this formation a few times, and OSU put their corners and OLBs way out to the twins. That left only 5 in the box with a safety creeping down. We have to be able to run out of that formation against that front. If they have to pull those OLB's back in a little, that could lead to some other things.
Overall, they have a good defense, and an ok offense. We are obviously going to have to play our best game to win. But we have a shot, thats why they play the game.