at least it's not just us?
No, its not the rallying cry for the Michigan basketball team's march to the final four this Spring. Instead, its all about the exciting chase over the final month of the season to notch a berth in the Motor City Bowl. The annual Detroit gridiron clash pits the MAC champion against the last bowl qualifier from the Big 10.
November will prove exciting as the to bids for this bowl get ironed out. As many as 17 teams still have legitimate sights set on ending the season in Ford Field and beautiful down Detroit.
In the MAC, nothing has been decided yet and only a hanful of teams no longer remain eligible to win the title. In the West, a four team race for the division's top spot is being waged. While Central Michigan and Ball State look to be in the driver's seat, dont count out Western Michigan and Nortern Illinois just yet as they still games against the aforementioned division leaders. They could end up in first place by winning out and getting the right kind of tie break help. Despite that, the game of the year in this division will be a Wednesday night afair between CMU and BSU on November 19.
In the East, there is no such thing as an also ran. Each time remains alive headed into the final month of they year. Any team that gets on a run and wins out will be hard pressed to be topped. Sorting this division out will test the boundaries of the league's tiebreaking systems. How goofy is it in the East? There is only one game today between MAC foes, pitting a 2-6 Kent team against a 3-4 BG team. Despite neither having a winning record, the winner will take a big step in controlling its own destiny in this race.
The best part about the MAC chase for the Motor City (well, other than the division winners will get to spend two stays in Detroit, one for the league finals, the other for the bowl game) is that every game carries implication and most of the contests will be broadcast live on ESPN in midweek affairs. From here on out, expect your Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night football fixes to come from this killer MAC tilts along the road to Destination Detroit. The investment opportunities will be plentiful. I am salivating just thinking about it. While most will be glued to their TV next Tueday night watching election results rolls in, I will be focused on the ESPN network as a huge East battle between Miami and Buffalo plays out.
My prediction for the MAC finals: Central Michigan over Buffalo. Yes, Ball State has had a nice season, but I favor the Chips because their game later this month is in Mount Pleasant. As for the East, I expect Buffalo to shock people and in the division. In Drew Wiley, they have the best QB in the division and they have a great 1-2 punch at the running back slot to help move the chains. They'll lose the finals to the Chips, but they might bet an International Bowl bid, or something, but just an appearance in the finals will be a huge step for this typically morbid program.
How will the Big 10 shake out? Seven teams still remain with their eyes on Detroit. Only four clubs--Penn St, Ohio St, Michigan St, and Minnesota--have played themselves out of contention. Fools, all of them. Among the seven teams still on the board, some need a big time rally and must in the rest of the games. Others, just need to take care of business and make sure to add a couple more wins on their resume to possibly be Detroit bound. So, with that in mind, here are this week's Big 10 Picks and how it will affect Destination Detroit.
Central Michigan at Indiana. Lines, IU -2, O/U 58. Can you say Motor City Bowl preview? Perhaps, but a lot would have to happen beyond Central just taking care of business in league play. IU comes in at 3-5 and can only affford one more loss before falling out of contention for Detroit. Considering they have a trip to Happy Valley coming up in two weeks, that makes this game a must win for the Hoosiers. Their win over Northwestern last week was their first win over a FBS school all season and they needed a lot of self destruction on the part of the Wildcats to get it. Earlier in the year, Ball State from the MAC trounced IU on this very same field. No reason to think Central cant do the same thing. Emotionally, "Getting a Win over a Big 10 School" carries more on field intensity thant "Destination Detroit." CMU is winning games this year even if they're playing their backup QBs and RBs for key stretches of the season. This game will be fun, and if IU's offense had been clicking more throughout the season, I might be tempted to go with the Cream and Crimson and even the Over. But, two months into the season, we've seen enough. CMU would win this one on nuetral field and its not like they're heading into a hornet's nest by going to Bloomington.
The Pick: CMU +2
Wisconsin at Michigan St. Lines, MSU -5.5, O/U 48. The big question is how will the Spartans fare after the long awaited break through win over the Wolverines? They could be just a little flat for this noon kick. I think they'll play out of it, but by not being sharp in the opening minutes will give the still talented Badgers enough gas to stay in this one the whole ay through. In the wake of a four game losing streak, the Badgers ended up giving their offense a face lift. They're playing with a new QB , becnhing Everidge in favor of Sherer; Clay has all but taken over for Hill at RB; and stud TE Beckhum is out for the season with an injury. I actually like these changes. Everidge was not getting it done, Clay is a favorite of mine and gives Wisco a big time home run threat. The Beckhum injury sucks for them, but trying to get a oft injured player into the lienup sometimes hinders the process. Besides, Graham is an all league caliber TE taking over. This game gets decided by a field goal in the end with Clay rushing for more yards than Ringer. With games at IU and at home versus Caly Poly, the Badgers are a win today away from putting themselves on the outside looking in as far as Destination Detroit is concerned. A win over Sparty could vault them to the Insight or Champs Sports Bowl worlds, but a loss will keep the Badgers firmly in the mix for Detroit.
The Pick: Wisco +5.5
Northwestern at Minnesota: Lines, Minny -6, O/U 46. Considering these teams played to a 46-45 game last year, seeing the total that low made me dizzy at first. But, Northwesen has been real spotty moving the football most of the season. And, now they go up against one the best points per game defense in the land with the Gophers. And, they come in without Bacher at QB and Sutton at RB out with injuries. I sense these teams are going in opposite directions with the Gophers primes for a 10-win season while Northwestern could might be looking at a bad late season slide with a hard slate down the stretch. But, hey, Wildcat fans a losing streak is just what you need to get back into the Motor City Bowl mix. They were my preseason Motor City Bowl pick, and i foresa back then a November where wins would be hard to come by for the Wildcats. Try and catch a little of the Gophers today. Watch a second year QB who was brutal last year continue to lead his team to January. Watch as the D that was the worst in the land next year, flies over the field making stop after stop. Watch as a team that gave games away every week with the giveaway, takes games with takeaways. Watch that and find hope for last year. Gophers foce three turnovers, score a defensive TD and win this game by more than 2 touchdowns.
The Pick: Minny -6
Michigan at Purdue. Lines, Purdue +2, O/U 46. This is exciting. An elimination game for Destination Detroit. Both teams are 2-6 and the loser can longer qualify for the Motor City Bowl My fellow Michigan fans may bristle at the hyperbolic notion of an elimination game for that bowl, but they better get used to it if they're going to watch the game today. That is the storyline the Big 10 Network's broadcast team will be hammering from West Lafeyette this afternoon. So, might as well play along. Would the MCB be all that bad? I say no. We can all meet up in Detroit and have a little fun. Its a short car ride for most of us and we can share good times partying at the casinos. I can see it now, a group of us jamming over the roulette wheel putting our chips on Sam, Tay, Dual Threet and Minor Rage. We do that high fivings, chugging drinks and chanting Tempation, only to see our enthusiasm fade as the wheel keeps landing on'3'. Time and time again. With an occasional '14.' Oh yeah, that would be fun. From a gambling standpoint, this game sucks. Neither team has covered spreads all year. Purdue perennially stinks wwhen the challenge is bigger than them, but does this year's Maize and Blue really qualify as a challenge? The Overs have hit every game for Michigan in their non MAC games, but I just dont like that today. I dont think Purdue can take advantage of anything with Siller playing QB. He's mincemeat for Brandon Graham today. Prediction: Michigan wins the turnover battle today.
The Pick: Michigan +2...........an underdog against a 2-6 team? This is probably a big trap, but, eff it! The Detroit Dream lives on!!
Iowa at Illinois. Lines, Illlinois -2.5, O/U, 50. Huge game for Destination Detroit. Win or lose, either squad remains a possibility, but the loser sees a lot of its options go away, making Detroit even liklier. Is Detroit ready for the barrage of Hawwkeye fans that would hit the city? Classic good offense meets goods defense in this matchup with Iowa's 20th ranked D going up against the Illini's 12th ranked O. Expecyt each side to land blows in that battle. What I dont see is Illinois going bonkers against the Hawkeye stop troops. Nobody has scored more than 22 points against them. But, I really like Iowa's O against Illini's D. They can pound all day with Greene, who will come close to 200 yards, and they have an efficient passing game with Stanzi. The Illini have given up more 17 in each game this year. Iowa pulls this one out with a key defensive stop and Shon Green's ability to keep the chains moving.
The Pick: Iowa +2.5..........what does it say that this key Destination Detroit battle is the game of the day in the Big 10, at least according to the networks? Actually, it will be a fun one, and there's something about this Iowa team that I just dig right now. Win or lose, next week's home game against Penn State will be interesting.
After back to the back 3-2 weeks, hopefully the ball stays on the positive side with these five. Enjoy the games today and Go Blue!
First of all, a random stat: we actually have a better passing yards per game average than the Buckeyes. WTF?!?
Anyway, I was sitting at work today thinking about Michigan's offensive ineptitude and a thought hit me:
I bet that Zoltan has more yards than our entire offense combined this year. So I endeavored to do some research and this is everything I came up with based on the box scores from the mgoblue.com statistics archive and the NCAA's statistics archive.
First of all, I'll just give you the gross numbers:
-net punting yards: 2366 - note the stats archives show more if you just look at punting because there was 1 "team" punt and 1 punt from Sheridan...which was probably intercepted
- # of punts - 53
(as a side note, only 2 have been touchbacks, 20 have been of 50+ - a Michigan single season record, and 18 have been pinned down inside the 20...all great numbers, and he holds the career records for both)
- average punting yards per game: 295.75 (1st)
- total yards: 2292
- total possessions - 120 - this number could be off...I counted 121 but came up with 120 when I categorized them...more on this later
- average total yards per game: 286.5 (111th)
So, the short side of it is this: Zoltan has outpunted our entire offense on the year. Now, a lot of people jumped at this when I discussed it with them saying that punters get a better shot at yardage since they (in this case, we use Zoltan's numbers) averages 44.6 yards per punt.
I looked into this. First of all, if Zoltan was an offense, he would be ranked 102nd in the country. He has Michigan at #1 in net punting and yet he would be ranked 102 out of 119 teams in the country if his numbers were total offense numbers. Obviously, that means there are x number of punters below him that wouldn't even get above 119. So that theory is debunked right away.
I took it a step further, though, and counted - yes, I literally had to count them - all of Michigan's drives this year. Aside: in all of the box scores that are kept, not a one of them keeps number of possessions so far as i can see. The results are below.
- 11 rushing TDs
- 8 passing TDs
- 13 fumbles (yikes, this is only the offense)
- 11 interceptions
- 3 failed 4th downs
- 8 attempted FGs
- 10 drives ended with time expring in the half
- 53 Mesko punts
- 1 team punt
- 1 Sheridan punt
Obviously that adds up to 120 possesions. When I counted all of the possesions in the game box scores, though, I came up with 121. Since I didn't feel like counting through all 8 games again...whatever, we stick with 120.
Michigan's offense has had 120 drives and Zoltan has punted 53 times. That means he comes on to punt in less than half of the drives (0.44 to be exact-ish). The offense, then, gets over twice as many chances as he does to get yards. Below, I have the breakdown of the number of possessions/punts/ratio of punts-to-possession for each game, FWIW.
Utah - 18/8 = .44
Miami - 13/7 = .53
Notre Dame - 15/5 = .33
Wisconsin - 18/8 = .44
Illinois - 15/8 = .53
Toledo - 12/4 = .33
Penn State - 14/7 = .50
Michigan State - 16/8 = .50
So what does it all mean?
Zoltan averages 295 yards per game in net punting. So to even keep up with their punter (again, no other team in the country has this problem), the Michigan offense would need to average that as well.
The offense is averaging 15.125 drives per game. That means that they have to average a measly 19.5 yards per drive to keep up with him. 19.5 yards per drive!
Let that sink in for a while. That means that if they have 1, ONE, scoring drive of 80 yards they can afford another 3 three-and-outs and still be on target to outgain him. Two 80-yard scoring drives and they can now take three-and-outs (and we're talking about the kind where they don't even gain a single yard) on SIX(!!!) possesions and they'll still have, on average, 7.125 possessions to get 135 yards.
We can't even manage to do that. At first I thought, "Hmm...19.5 yards per possession...that seems kinda tough." Then I realized that 101 out of 119 FBS teams have managed to do it. So it can't be that tough.
All of that to say...our offense really really REALLY sucks. Of course, we already knew that. But I bet you hadn't thought that we would be outgained by our punter - no matter how awesome or Space Emperor-ish he may be.
(As a side note, if he doesn't win the Ray Guy award after outgaining an entire team...I don't know what they want from the winner.)
A few more thoughts before you go: if Zoltan stays on the pace he's on (and he should have a good Buckeye team to help his cause), he will punt for more yards in a season than any Michigan QB has thrown. Also, Michigan's entire offense is in danger of being outgained by 2003 John Navarre. Chew on those two possibilities for a while...
*throws up in mouth*
All of the stats I found came from these fine websites:
Commenter Gene brought up a salient point:
101 teams may not be getting 19.5 yards per possession, because the number of possessions will differ, and I bet Michigan has a bunch due to an offense that quickly surrenders the ball (3 and outs, turnovers) and the defense giving up big plays, both of which make for quick possessions.
A good point and one I should've addressed. Part of that was that I was unable to sort the stats in the NCAA archive any way other than by whichever stat I was viewing at the time and total plays wasn't one of the options. I figured out another way to do it, though. So I did the research.
FWIW, Michigan ranks 67th in the country in total plays run with TCU leading the way at 690 and UCF bringing in the rear at 393. Michigan has run 513.
I did the math (actually, Excel did the math) and the mean is 526.88, the median is 524, and one standard deviation is 54.76. So, if I did my math right (and I'm sure I didn't), that would put them at the 60th percentile. In other words, they're pretty average as far as the number of plays run, actually, and on the lower end of the midpoint for the country.
So yes, it gets worse. :(
|Year||Team||Passing Yd/ Game||Passing TD||3rd down %||Pts Per Game|
|Passing Yd / Game||Passing TD||3rd down %||Pts Per Game|
|2004 - 2007 AVG.||250||18||37%||27|
|2008 (8 games)||251||11||39%||29|
I understand that most of you probably knew this information already and I'm probably a day late and a dollar short but I'm new so cut me some slack. Some people may think the defense is under achieving and giving up big plays on 3rd down and missing tackles but it looks like a typical Scott Shafer defense.
I spoke with Travis Hawkins last night, and got him to tell me it was down to Penn State, Oregon, and Maryland. Further looks say it was really down to Oregon and Maryland. He chose to stay home. If you read my interview, he said his Mom really wanted him to stay home, and he listened. He also said he wants Jason Ankrah to go where he does, so keep an eye on him as well. In my opinion, I think the distance was the ultimate factor. He really seems to be attached to his family and community, and in the end, that might have been the deciding factor. Although he said he wanted to set up a visit to Penn State, it never happened. I'm still not sure if Jason Ankrah will end up there either, because I think it would've already happened. With his teammate now heading to Maryland, it could be a possibility that they land him. Either way, I think Michigan is out of the picture for him as well. With the addition of the "book end" defensive ends we already have, I'm not too worried. If we've all learned anything through out this, it's that anything can happen. We'll find out more as the day goes on, and I will keep you updated.
Tom VanHaaren interviews FL S Vlad Emilien, who visited last weekend.
We're starting to get down to crunch time with the recruiting process, and Michigan has a need at safety. Vlad Emilien is a hard hitting safety from, you guessed it, Florida. There's been a lot of hype about the 6' 1" safety despite a torn his ACL. The injury might have sidelined him for this season, but it hasn't changed his goal of playing for a big time college program.
TOM:How was your trip to Michigan this weekend?
VLAD: It was pretty good, I really enjoyed it. Everybody asked how I compared it to Wisconsin, and I like Wisconsin and Michigan the same. I try to put pros and cons about each of them, and there’s no leader yet. Both schools have strong coach to player relationships, which is what I really like.
TOM:Who was your player host? Did you get along with him?
VLAD:Brandon Smith and Kenny Demens. They’re good freshman, we got along real well. They’re young, and they were telling me how competitive it really is. Everybody gets a chance to play, no matter how old.
TOM:Do you have a top 3?
VLAD:If I had to name a leader today it’s Wisconsin and Michigan.
TOM:What do you think will be the deciding factor?
VLAD:Just how the school is academic wise, and atmosphere wise. How I feel around the team and players. I like the little details of the schools. I’m trying to look at the things that would be beneficial after 4 years.
TOM: I read that you have a 3.8 GPA, so academics must be important to you. How will that play in?
VLAD: Yea I’ve been weighing the pros and cons again. Michigan has a very good business school, and Wisconsin has a good school too. Those schools ranked very high in the country. It hasn’t been hard in that aspect, because either way I’ll have a good degree from a good school.
TOM:On your visit, did the coaches talk about early playing time? Is that important to you?
VLAD:It’s very important. I’m always going to have to battle, I love competition. But I like that there’s a better opportunity to play early and battle out freshman rather than juniors or seniors at Michigan. I’m going to be pretty smart about the depth charts and deciding.
TOM:How many more visits are you planning?
VLAD:I plan to visit Stanford November 16th, and I’m still scheduling the Ohio State vs. Michigan Game, I still haven’t officially done it yet.
TOM:What happened with Ohio State? Does it bother you?
VLAD:They just started talking to me the last couple months. There was a misunderstanding with the recruiting. They were trying to take in two safeties, because of a mishap with one of their safeties. I’m very interested. I felt kind of like I was the second choice, but business is business. I would love a chance to go that school. It just didn’t happen the way I wanted to happen, I just have to move on from that.
TOM:When do you think you’ll make your decision public?
VLAD:I’m going to make it public November 23rd. I’m not sure where yet.
TOM:Wherever you go, do you plan on graduating early?
VLAD:Yes I do. I want to get to college as soon as possible.
TOM:You missed this year with a torn ACL, are you excited to get back out there? Have any of the schools shown concern about the injury?
VLAD:I’m just training right now. It’s very exciting, the thought of getting back out there. I didn’t have a chance to prove to these colleges and recruiting sites that I should have been an all American. They’re not concerned, because I’m going to play spring ball, and I’m very anxious to get out there.
TOM:So what are your strengths, and what are your weaknesses?
VLAD:My personality is a strength. I am like an extra coach on the field, very vocal, and try to be a leader.One of my weaknesses is I’ve been working on my tackling, and getting my technique better. I want to be more of a dynamic player. I still have a lot to learn. When I learn what’s needed for college, I’ll be an explosive player. I want to learn as much as I can right away.
TOM:Have you analyzed what defense you think you would fit into the best?
VLAD:I focus on everything; I like a two back safety type of defense. I can play anything as long as they let me roam, and just make plays.
TOM:Was there a dream school growing up that you always wanted to go to?
VLAD:University of Miami. As I got older I realized that’s not going to be the right place. I didn’t even really have a dream school that much; I just focused on doing the best I can, so everybody considered me the best.
TOM:Now that you’ve had the chance to see all these schools recruiting you, how do you make sure you make the right decision?
VLAD:I feel like I’m going to follow my gut. This is a very important decision, it’s my future. I’m looking at what school will help me be the kind of person I want to be. A lot of the schools offer the same thing, so I’m trying to weigh the options.
TOM:Was there one thing about any school that has really stuck out to you? Something that you still think about?
VLAD:There are a lot of similarities, both Michigan and Wisconsin coaches treat their players like their sons. I think that’s what stuck out the most, I really like that.
Few sports fans would argue that we needed yet another book about
the "Ten Year War" - the intense rivalry between the University of
Michigan and Ohio State football teams and their iconic coaches Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler. The subject has been covered voluminously in books, magazines, newspapers, and videos (I have reviewed a few myself).
So I have to credit Michael Rosenberg for coming up with a new angle to approach this classic subject. His book, War As They Knew It: Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, and America in a Time of Unrest,
uses the backdrop of the protest movement in the era of Vietnam and
Watergate to situate this sports rivalry within the culture and history
of the time.
This allows him to portray the players and coaches as human beings
with opinions and emotions beyond the football field while reminding
the reader that the university, and the surrounding community,
obviously had to deal with a lot more than just the success of the
But while this background is interesting - the different levels of
political agitation on the Ohio State versus Michigan campus for
example - what really makes the book shine is Rosenberg's portrait of
By placing Hayes in this historical context and by connecting his
work as a coach with his unique personality and background - his
inspirations, dreams and deep seated beliefs - Rosenberg captures Hayes
as a multidimensional person rather than simply as an icon or
Rosenberg highlights two figures, among others, who made an impact on Hayes life: General George S. Patton and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
And at key moments in the story we see how these influences made Hayes
the man he was. Military history and tactics were never far from
Woody's mind and he regularly used the language of war to describe
football. This is interesting but not shocking or hard to understand.
But Rosenberg's use of Emerson quotes to flush out why Hayes might
have acted the way he did or had the attitude he did jump out at the
reader. It is hard to believe that a Transcendentalist poet/essayist
would best capture the mindset of the famous coach but Rosenberg makes
a strong case that this is one of the most effective windows into
understanding Hayes' life.
Rosenberg also helps show how Hayes was a traditionalist in an age
of upheaval and conflict. He frequently visited the troops in Vietnam
and supported the war until the bitter end. He became friends with
Richard Nixon and was upset when the president resigned; l seeing that
act as cowardice in the face of your enemies.
Of course Hayes is most known for his temper on and off the football
field. Rosenberg discusses the theatrical nature of his temper when
trying to reach his team - and how this seemed to decrease in
usefulness over time. He also makes note of the role diabetes may have
played in his temper; including the actions that led to his being fired.
Hayes, however, always saw himself as a teacher. He was deeply read
in history (particularly military history) and was engaged with
politics and current events. Even in the era of student protests and
anti-war demonstrations he continued to reach out to young people and
he was always ready to decry what he saw as an assault on the
traditional values that made America great. Hayes may have been
increasingly at odds with the spirit of his age but he never stopped
wrestling with it and attempting to make an impact. His competitive
drive and energy drove him to never quit trying.
Hayes was clearly an incredibly unique individual who burst onto the
college football scene and left an indelible imprint. But he was also
a product of his time and time eventually passed him by; or caught up
with him depending on your perspective. There seem to be some
parallels with his friend Richard Nixon in this. Both men built
impressive careers before being brought down by poor judgment. And
both men attempted to live out the remainder of their lives so as to
not be defined by those infamous acts; with mixed success.
Rosenberg covers the other side of the field as well, but Bo
Schembechler doesn't stand out quite like Hayes. The iconic Bo really
develops after this "Ten Year War" period. Sure, the personality is
there but it doesn't quite blossom until after Hayes recedes. But this
history is a neccesary foundation for understanding the events that
were to come.
The other character who stands out in the book is Michigan athletic
director Dan Canham. Canham was a critical figure in the development
of modern college sports and in many ways made Michigan football the
marketing giant that it is. It seems off that this influential figure
is not better known outside of sports historians.
War As They Knew It is much more than a sports book. Sure,
it is a fascinating story about one of college football's greatest
rivalries and the coaches who put it on the map. But it is also a
valuable look into the time period through the lens of college
athletics. You don't have to be a fan of Michigan or Ohio state
football to enjoy the story because the characters and events involved
Of course, if you are a fan of either program and their legendary
coaches this is a must read. And really anyone interested in the
history and development of college football would do well to check it
out. You will come away with a better understanding of how the schools
became the dominant programs in the conference and even the nation at
times. And you will understand better the men behind these programs as
they faced each other in intense competition on the field and dealt
with the tumultuous times outside the stadium and practice field