chance of bowl: 13.6%
Big game tonight.....well, they are all big as the program tries to navigate the league schedule and cobble enough wins to get into the NCAAs.
This is a game they must win. IU might win 2 league games this year and a loss--even on the road--to this year's Hoosier outfit might just cancel out one of Michigan's prime wins on it resume.
According to Vegas, UM is a 7-point road favorite.
IU is going through a similar situation to what Michigan football did this fall. They are completely rebuilding. Michigan football had the largest proportion of yards gained by freshmen in all of CFB because of the attrition that followed 2007. IU is in the same boat. Their top returning player scored a total of 28 points last year. Their second most experienced returning player logged a grand total of 11 minutes all of last season. Among all D-1 schools, IU ranks second in both points per game and minutes played by freshmen.
Tom Crean has done a great job of recruiting. He has a top-10 class ready to set foot on the Bloomington campus for next season. This season? He has a nice core of freshmen and first time contributors, most of whom, however, would only be solid role players on your typical IU basketball team. Doesn't that all sound familiar?
The results on the court have been similar too. UM trudged to its worst season in years in the first year of this transition. Indiana comes in at 5-8 and this longtime Big 10 hoops observer wonders just who exactly this club going to beat in league play. The program is headed towards an historically unprecedented awful record. IU was the last Big 10 team to go undefeated in league play. They may be the first team ever to go 0-18 in league play. So, IU is also channeling their inner Detroit Lions.
And, like the UM fanbase, Hoosier fans have found themselves arguing over what is the worst, more embarrassing loss in program history. While UM fans debate Appy St vs. Toledo, IU fans have their own compelling back and forth relative to terrible losses. The contenders? In this corner, there is a 14-point loss to Northeastern (you may recall UM whipping NE by 20 or so to open the season) in which the Hoosiers tallied their feweat points ever at Assembly Hall. In the other corner, is a wire to wire lose, albeit closer, to mighty, mighty Lipscomb. I don’t know, I guess I would go with Lipscomb as the worse loss. NE is in the notable Colonial Conference and may be a contender in that league. Lipscomb is an also ran in the Big South. Actually, I don’t think there is a right answer on this one. Both losses are shameful to the IU faithful.
Typically Indiana fans are discussing the quest for the Big 10 title and seeding prospects for the tournament. This winter, they’re debating moral victoriesand the likelihood of an 0-18 record. My favorite is the guy who considers Saturday’s Iowa game a win because the Hoosiers covered the 14-point spread. I think he’s my long lost brother.
In addition to the Michigan game, there are two other intriguing games going on tonight. The best part about UM's rise this year back into the basketball discussion is that it makes the whole landscape of college hoops relevant again to our fanbase. Each night this winter, there will be games that will impact the bubble, seedings and regional placement for the NCAA field. Instead of that world being foreign to us, now those games directly impact our program progress. Its way to early to talk bubble and seeding, but that does not mean things are not in focus enough to give us an indication of which scores elsewhere in the country impact Michigan.
Tonight, ESPN has a great doubleheader. Davidson plays at Duke at 7 pm. The Stephon Curry show performs at venerable Cameron Indoor Stadium. That is must see viewing. Davidson is a 13-point dog tonight, but they have covered the spread virtually every time when catching points the last two seasons when matched up with a BCS school. I think they keep it close.
The other contest is Gonzaga at Tennessee. These schools have already played, with Gonzaga winning in the Old Spice Classic over Thanksgiving Weekend. The Zags are in a free fall, having lost four of five and dropped out of the national polls. The Vols are 3-point favorites. I expect the Vols to keep Gonzaga’s tumble going. The upshot of the Zags troubles for Michigan is simple. The WCC earned three bids last year, but with none of those schools looking good right now, I don’t think any of them are certain to get an at large. The more bids available, the better for a program like Michigan trying to get back into the dance after a decade long absence.
With a lot of the focus on the All American games, Michigan's newest quarterback has quietly made his way to Michigan. Tate Forcier arrived in Michigan today, and we spoke about what the future holds, and how he plans on getting himself, and the team on a winning track.
TOM: What are you most excited for on your way to Michigan?
TATE: Just getting started, it’s kind of hard because it’s different from San Diego. This is my new home, a new experience. I’m just going to have fun.
TOM: What’s the first thing Coach Rodriguez wants you to do football wise?
TATE: I’m supposed to meet with him tomorrow. I’m assuming he’s going to get me with Mike Barwis. I’ll be hurting the next day, but it will be good pain.
TOM: Have your brothers given you any advice on how to adjust, both to college life and to the speed of the game?
TATE: Both of them said it’s going to be different, but the first few days you’re going to think these guys are all amazing players. After a few practices it will start to slow down and you’ll learn what you can do and what you can’t do. They told me not to try to do too much, just take it one day at a time. Stay busy, and don’t ever catch yourself doing nothing.
TOM: Realistically, where do you want to be for spring ball? As far as knowing the playbook, weight training, and chemistry with the offense?
TATE: I want to satisfy the coaches. I want to be where they want me to be. I’m not sure the exact plans yet, but they’re not going to throw everything on me all at once. I’m just not going to rush it, that’s why I came out early, and just try to learn and have fun.
TOM: I read in another interview, you said you want to be like Colt McCoy. After that being said, is that who you would compare yourself to? Who do you think you see yourself really being like as a collegiate quarterback?
TATE: He’s nearly the same size as me; they don’t run a complete spread, but they run close to what Michigan does. When I watch all the college quarterbacks, he’s who I would describe myself as. He makes big plays, and he can run. I’m almost exactly like him.
TOM: Have you talked to any of the other offensive players yet, either current players or commits?
TATE: I have been talking to Willie Haulstead, and I’ve been trying to get him to commit. I’ve talked to him several times, it seems like it’s between Michigan and Florida State. What I’ve been saying to everyone is this is not any other school, this is Michigan. People ask me why I chose Michigan, and the first thing I say is because it’s Michigan. You can’t really ask for anything more than what’s here, it’s the best of everything.
TOM: Your teammate, Brennan Clay, is a Michigan target for next year. Is there anything you’ve said to him about joining you, or is there anything you’ll do in the future?
TATE: I’ve been working on him since day one. He’s getting a lot of attention, he just got offered by USC last week. I want what’s best for him, but I have a good feeling if he was going to come back east, this would be a school he could choose. He’s going to come out for spring ball, so hopefully I can convince him. I know he loves Coach Smith and Rodriguez, and he likes Michigan. Talking with those guys is like extended family, they’re just really cool guys, which helps.
TOM: I know everyone is expecting a lot out of you in your first year, how do you deal with the expectations and pressure that comes along with this experience?
TATE: I’ve watched a lot of freshman play, and Coach Smith talked to me about this. I’m not going to try to do too much. I’m going to manage the team, rather than try to make the big play and taking a sack. The seniors and juniors make the plays, and I’ll just keep moving the chains. Take it one week at a time.
TOM: You’re going to get every chance to compete for the starting job, but it’s not going to be handed to you, what are you going to do to ensure you are the starting quarterback?
TATE: I can’t even answer that, there’s so much I have to do. I don’t care who you are, you have to earn it. I need to learn the playbook; work with the receivers, there’s so much. I can’t answer that until maybe spring ball, because I don’t know how to answer it.
TOM: What were your thoughts and initial feelings when you heard that Shavodrick Beaver had changed his commitment to Tulsa?
TATE: Shavodrick, I told Coach Smith I knew it was going to come. I almost felt like he was just trying to wait me out, to see what I would do. I think sometimes kids make their choice for the wrong reasons, and then this ends up happening. Decommitting happens though, but this is Michigan, we should have no problem filling those spots, and we haven’t. As much as we would like to have those guys, we have found great replacements for them that are as good, if not better.
TOM: Have the coaches said anything to you about anything new they want to try, or anything on the offensive side that will change this year?
TATE: Coach Rodriguez says he’s going to be able to open up his offense more with me. With Threet and Sheridan you can’t really run the option with pro style quarterbacks. It’s hard to run the true spread without a dual threat quarterback. He’s going to have me running a lot. I just have to listen and learn.
TOM: Throughout college there’s going to be a lot of adversity. With not being selected to the All American games, and the star rankings you experienced a little already. How do you use that to your advantage?
TATE: That makes me want to prove myself, and nothing against the recruiting services, but the star system is just opinion, it’s not fact. I have a lot to prove, and I’m not sure why I wasn’t rated higher than I am just based on stats. But, I don’t really care what the recruiting services say; I care what the coaches say. I was recruited by Michigan, so that’s proof enough for me. I just want to show everyone a freshman can do it.
TOM: I know you’re not there yet, but what are the keys to success for Michigan this year? Is there anything the coaches have been emphasizing?
TATE: For the team, I need to get more involved to answer that. For myself, it all comes on me, no one’s going to do it for me. I need to study, get all the guys together for drills. I have to go to them, they can’t come to me. Understanding why the coaches have the plays built the way they do is huge.
TOM: So, let’s put a hypothetical out there, or a look into the possible future. Tate Forcier is the starting quarterback, and the Wolverines are about to take the field. Everyone looks to you as the leader, what’s the message you give? How do you command your offense?
TATE: Show confidence. I’m going to have the same swagger as I always have. The quarterback is the leader for a reason. Michigan saw something special in me, and I’ll project that to the team. I want to be the same confident kid that I’ve always been.
I never thought I would actually write one of these diaries, but I thought I would get some perspective from some fellow Michigan fans, and better yet some fans that ultimately like to see the Big Ten as a whole succeed. After this bowl season I have finally realized how naive of a Big Ten fan I really am. I can't count how many times I have been in heated discussions with SEC, Big 12, etc. fans in arguing over which conference is better. After this bowl season, I decided to do a little research. I have taken all 6 major BCS conferences and have added up their bowl records and came up with the following (updated through OSU vs TEXAS)
College Football Bowl Records (Through January 6, 2009)
SEC W/L: 1995 2-4, 1996 5-0, 1997 5-1, 1998 4-4, 1999 4-4, 2000 4-5, 2001 5-3, 2002 3-4, 2003 5-2, 2004 3-3, 2005 3-3, 2006 6-3, 2007 7-2, 2008 5-2 TOTALS 61-40 60% Winning Percentage
BIG EAST: 1995 1-0, 1996 2-1, 1997 1-4, 1998 1-3, 1999 2-2, 2000 4-3, 2001 5-2, 2002 3-3, 2003 0-3, 2004 4-4, 2005 2-2, 2006 4-1, 2007 5-1, 2008 4-2 TOTALS 38-31 55%
BIG 12: 1995 6-1, 1996 2-3, 1997 2-3, 1998 3-4, 1999 3-3, 2000 4-3, 2001 3-5, 2002 5-3, 2003 2-6, 2004 4-3, 2005 5-3, 2006 3-5, 2007 5-3, 2008 4-2 TOTALS 51-47 52%
ACC: 1995 4-1, 1996 2-4, 1997 3-2, 1998 4-3, 1999 3-4, 2000 5-3, 2001 5-3, 2002 5-4, 2003 7-2, 2004 3-4, 2005 4-3, 2006 3-4, 2007 1-6, 2008 4-6 TOTALS 51-49 51%
PAC-10: 1995 1-4, 1996 1-4, 1997 5-1, 1998 1-4, 1999 1-4, 2000 3-2, 2001 2-3, 2002 2-4, 2003 4-2, 2004 3-2, 2005 3-2, 2006 2-3, 2007 4-2, 2008 5-0 TOTALS 37-37 50%
BIG TEN: 1995 2-4, 1996 4-3, 1997 2-5, 1998 5-0, 1999 5-2, 2000 2-3, 2001 2-4, 2002 5-2, 2003 3-5, 2004 3-3, 2005 3-4, 2006 2-5, 2007 3-5, 2008 1-6 TOTALS 42-51 45%
Are we the worst conference these days? I like to think that we are atleast fourth, but the gap in my opinion between the top 3(SEC, Big 12, Pac 10) and fourth best conference is substantial. I feel the playing style in the Big Ten is ancient these days. I am tired of hearing the reason we never do good in bowl games is because we have too long of a break before our bowl games or we are such a physical conference that we just beat up on each other, so by the time we get to our bowl games we are too exhausted. What are we doing wrong? Why are we not only the conference with the lowest winning percentage in bowl games since 1995, but also the only conference with a losing record since then, and Michigan has been a large contributor of that losing record in the past 5+ years. Who cares anymore about 20, 30, 40+ years ago when the Big Ten was a powerhouse. What do we need to do to succeed right now? I have been told to not worry about it because it is all cyclical anyways, but the only way it can be cyclical is if changes occur. I thought about what would have happened this year if we had a playoff system. What teams out of the 8 would OSU and Penn State been able to beat? The naive Big Ten fan part of me wanted to say they could have at least beat Utah and maybe Alabama, but the reality is we would have probably gotten beat by every single team.
I am a die hard Michigan fan and feel Michigan is actually moving in the right direction. They have taken a chance on hiring Rich Rodriguez, but it is a chance I feel will pay off in the future.
What does the Big Ten need to do? Why are we consistently losing big games out of conference? What will it take to get our conference and the University of Michigan back on top?
Thanks in advance for your input.
I was fortunate enough to be on the field at the Fiesta Bowl which allowed me to get close enough to the action to understand the game inside the game and to hear the players talking. Here is the critical 3rd quarter TD drive by Texas interspersed with the play by play.
McCoy: Come on girls let’s get moving. Move move. Just go over there and bend over.
Texas OL 1: ?
McCoy: I’ll tell you the play at the line. Just go.
Colt McCoy pass complete to James Kirkendoll for 9 yards to the Texas 31 for a 1ST down.
OSU DL 1: What the hell is going on?
OSU DL 2: no idea.
Chris Ogbonnaya rush for 9 yards to the Texas 40.
McCoy: Keep moving girls. Daddy’s watching!
OSU DL 1: Are we really being beat by that guy?
OSU DL 2: He’s not doing the thing where they group together…
OSU DL 1: Huddle?
OSU DL 2: Yeah, is that legal.
Texas penalty 10 yard holding accepted.
OSU DL 1: guess not.
Colt McCoy pass incomplete to Peter Ullman, broken up by Anderson Russell.
Ohio St penalty 15 yard pass interference accepted.
OSU DB 1: WTF, I’m tired. I’m not even sure if I’m supposed to be in on this play. Ima get paid either way.
Little Animal: You guys want to meet my Dad after the game.
OSU DL 1: Why don’t you put on those stupid, spiky shoulder pads and shut up.
Little Animal: Coach said they weren’t legal. They were just for the pictures.
Foswhitt Whittaker rush for a loss of 3 yards to the Texas 42.
Colt McCoy rush for 12 yards to the OhSt 46.
McCoy: I’m so pretty! Look at me!
Texas: Dude they just showed your girlfriend on TV. Now she’s hot!
McCoy: Girlfriend? Oh yeah, my girlfriend… She has such beautiful hair. Keep moving ladies! Daddy never loved me!
Cody Johnson rush for a loss of 1 yard to the OhSt 47.
Rashad Bobino rush for 2 yards to the OhSt 45 for a 1ST down.
OSU DL 1: weren’t they supposed to punt a second ago?
OSU DL 2: Dude, who has any idea what’s going on?
Colt McCoy pass complete to Chris Ogbonnaya for 5 yards to the OhSt 40.
Chris Ogbonnaya rush for 2 yards to the OhSt 38.
Colt McCoy pass complete to Jordan Shipley for 2 yards to the OhSt 36.
OSU DB 1: I think the line of scrimmage is way back there. And you guys have been off sides for like 3 plays.
OSU DL 1: Fuck off. You see that San Diego game where the DB was all "Reggie Wayne what?" I think that is about to happen to you.
OSU DB 1: Why, did they put in Peyton Manning?
Cody Johnson rush for 2 yards to the OhSt 34 for a 1ST down.
OSU DL 1: Peyton’s no Tom Brady but I’m pretty sure we’re still getting beat by the dude named after a baby horse.
Heacock: Soft zone, soft zone. Works every time.
OSU DB 1: Aren’t they close enough to kick a FG yet?
OSU DL 1: Maybe their kicker guy isn’t any good?
OSU DB 1: They can borrow ours because I’m fucking tired. Is there any way to slow that dude down? Make them do that huddle thing?
Shawn Crable: You could try hitting him the head.
Colt McCoy pass complete to Chris Ogbonnaya for 8 yards to the OhSt 34, Ohio St penalty 12 yard personal foul accepted for a 1ST down.
OSU DL 1: Nope that didn’t work. Weird because it always does on Beanie.
Bike Hart: Beanie and I are bike buddies!
OSU DL 1: Ol’ Man Boeckman told me about this other way to score maybe he’s trying to do that.
OSU DL2: You talk to Ol’Man Boeckman?
OSU DL2: Dude he’s majoring in Molecular Genetics. He’s smart.
OSU DL1: I’m pretty sure that was Mr. Krenzel.
Colt McCoy rush for 14 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.
McCoy: Look at me! I’m the belle of the ball! Do like how my skirt flares when I twirl? I’m prancing just like a little pony!
OSU DL1: The fuck is that dude twirling for?
OSU DL2: They got 6 points for that shit. How many FGs we gonna have to kick to win now?
Tressel: Did you see that young man prance and twirl just like a beautiful little girl? I used to have a pony that pranced. I liked to put a pink bow in her hair and call her my pretty little pony.
dex: Did it look like a unicorn because, boy howdy, I sure like unicorns!
OSU punter: Is it time to punt yet coach?
Heacock: Yeah, Jim, I’m sure that was nice.
Tressel: I miss that pony.
Cool thing about hockey? Far more straight-forward than basketball. So, here's the deal: after winning the GLI, we're still #11 in the USA Today poll. However, the USCHO poll was nice enough to tie us with Colorado College for #10, so, that's good (polls listed below in that order). And, since all but one team we're concerned with plays a series this weekend, I'm doing the "Teams You Want to Lose" and "Schedule" in one place.
But, to start, our schedule.
#11/#10 Michigan has one of the most important series of its entire season this weekend at Yost, against #8/#6 Miami. In hockey, it's totally that Miami. Which is to say, Miami of Ohio may be the team to beat in the CCHA this year. They're a point behind Notre Dame, but, they will certainly make noise at the Joe in March. This game is interesting because Miami would have been on the list below if we weren't playing them, making it even more important. A split here would go a long way in getting us a CCHA-tourney first round bye and NCAA tourney bid, a sweep would be incredible. Games on Friday at 7:35 on FSN Plus, and Saturday at 7:35 on Comcast 900. Also, its at Yost, so, if you're lucky enough to go, BE LOUD.
Teams You Want to Lose, And Schedule
Note: Unless otherwise noted, assume everyone has a Friday/Saturday series in one place with their stated opponent.
Nebraska-Omaha: Ok, so, they're #18 in the USCHO poll and the USA Today doesn't even go that far, but, this is about the CCHA. They play Northern all weekend, and losses from them get us closer to being in a position to get a CCHA tournament first-round bye, and home ice for the second round.
#12/#10 Colorado College: It'd be helpful, as we're tied with them in one poll, but, they're playing Minnesota State at home, and MSU's only .500. I'd bet on CC wins, but, hockey's hockey.
#10/#12 Vermont OR #9 Boston College: They play each other! Whoever loses, it's helpful to us, slightly more so with a BC loss, which is reasonable at Vermont. I'm not entirely sure what a split would do, it would probably only be significant if we swept or it was a really good split.
#6/#8 Cornell: They play Niagara. Probably are safe, maybe a split.
#7/#5 Denver: They're against a shattered Michigan Tech, who's trying to recover from a GLI blowout. Hehe. We'll see how that goes. I automatically root in-state (usually, never for State unless it somehow helps us, always for Northern unless it somehow hurts us) anyways.
#5/#7 Princeton: The one exception to the "playing in series" rule. They get 9-8-1 (2-4-0) Union on Friday at home, then .184 Rensselaer on Saturday afternoon, still on home ice.
So, we'll see how it goes. See you Thursday or Friday with a basketball update.
I know all of us have discussed ad nauseam how Michigan's last couple of years have been, whether here, or with your friends, or at the local crack spot. There were several things that have happened over the last few years that were rationalized at the time but in hindsight were indicators of the decline of the program (e.g. Ball State 2006).
During this barren bowl season I decided to take an objective look at our bitter rival to see if there were any similarities. Please make no mistake, I'm not guaranteeing OSU's imminent demise any more than I guarantee Michigan's next National Championship (while I, of course, hope for both). I assure you the point of this post is not to dissect Michigan's recent shortcomings but to draw some parallels to Ohio State's current state of affairs.
The first similarity is predictable play calling with little to no adjustments. A perfect Michigan example is the 2006 Rose bowl which saw Michigan and USC go into the half tied at 3. USC proceeded to come out throwing and put up 29 points while Michigan continued it's zone left runs until it was too late. On to OSU. While there are enough examples in recent years the thing that sticks out most to me are other teams' postgame comments. Just this year Rey Maualuga and Colt McCoy both gave indications that either a) OSU did exactly what they did on film (Maualuga) or b) their coverage was predictable enough for the WR to call a play (McCoy).
Another similarity is when a great team wins a close one to a lesser opponent they are expected to roll on. Michigan's example is Ball State 2006, which everyone treated as a trap game after the fact and woke up to Appy State the next year. This year OSU played a close game against the vaunted Ohio University Bobcats that they barely escaped at home.
We all know the diluted argument (which will never be settled) that it's better to get to a BCS game and lose than not get there at all. To which I say: bullshit. First of all, as a fan, I would take a victory over Florida in the Capital One Bowl over a BCS beatdown any day. Secondly, ALL of us have to remember how frustrating the annual "showdowns" in Pasadena were getting. Maybe getting to one and getting beat is a moral victory; 3 in a row is just pathetically uncompetitive.
The last example (unless anyone wants to chime in) is the fact that Tressel was hired because of his "big game" experience and abilities. He held up his end of the bargain for the first couple of years, but in recent memory hasn't shown up. The most telling stat is OSU's record against opponents ranked in the Top 10 since "The Game" in 2006, which is 0-5. In the same span Michigan's record against Top 10 opponents is, get this, 3-4. (If you count the 2006 season the records go OSU [2-5] and Michigan [4-5]. Remember one of OSU's wins and one of M's losses were The Game FWIW).
To summarize, in my humble opinion, I honestly believe that as Michigan goes the Big Ten goes (for the most part). Michigan has been sliding for years, but it wasn't truly evident until the Buckeyes were getting exposed. Imagine being in Columbus thinking "How can we beat Michigan every year but not win a bowl game?" (On the other hand how can we beat Florida while they run laps around OSU...?) The truth is Michigan hasn't been very good, plain and simple. And the only time they were was when they were, yep, unpredictable. You know Urban Meyer had the same reaction all of us did when Michigan lined up 5-wide on the first play from scrimmage, which was: WTF?!
This is purely for discussion's sake only. No predictions, merely observations. Please don't get me wrong; I am not insisting or assuming that Tressel is out or doomed, I'm just trying to look at some gradual trends that we didn't notice on Michigan's behalf over the last few years. But I'm also realizing that without Michigan on top, the Big 10 simply cannot support itself. The balance of power has to be restored.