Note: This may be a bit short to start. I've got an chat with BigTenNetwork President Mark Silverman in a little over an hour and I'm trying to get prepared for that. Also, if you haven't given a listen to the podcast with Coach Rosen, do it.
- Friday 1pm vs. Marquette
- Friday 7:30pm vs. Dayton
- Saturday 3:30pm vs Oregon State (@ Crisler)
As previously stated, this is a big weekend for #6 Michigan. Michigan is hosting the Michigan/Adidas Invitational featuring games against undefeated Dayton, 9-2 Marquette, and Oregon State (at Crisler Arena). This will be the last big gut check before we head into BigTen play. All three of these games will be tough.
- Friday 1pm Women's Spartan Invitational @ MSU
The women will be sending 11 to Michigan State's Forest Akers East Golf Course in East Lansing for a 6 km race. Jenny Morgan and Danielle Tauro are your projected Michigan leaders. From Coach McGuire:
This race is kind of a building block. Michigan State is in the same boat as us -- they're young, but they have a good quality of depth. So, it will be a good benchmark for where we stand against them and likewise where they are compared to us.
With all of the stuff that's been happening, I sadly couldn't keep up with individual team previews. The men's tennis team is in Napa Valley, St. Helena, CA to be more specific, this weekend. They will be competing in a non-scoring match against Cal-Berkeley, Harvard, and Ole Miss. One of these schools is not like the others.
If you're that interested, the tournament is available at http://www.radiotennis.com/.
The rowing team kicks off their season tomorrow against Michigan State in Belleville, MI. I know nothing more than this.
- Saturday 2pm vs #7 Syracuse @ Louisville, KY
- Sunday 1pm @ #16 Louisville
Michigan is 2-4 this season, but their strength of schedule has to be in the top 3 in the nation. Michigan has played a #1, #2, #4, and #5, accounting for all 4 losses on the season. Michigan will look to gain it's first win over a ranked opponent in Louisville this weekend.
Syracuse will be tough. The Orange has already defeated two top 10 opponents, Old Dominion and Michigan State. They are 5-1 and have a wide array of potential goal scorers.
Louisville is definitely a better chance for the W as Louisville hasn't been tested this season. While they are ranked in the top 20, they are only 9 positions ahead of Michigan. I think this game could be very winnable for Michigan. I'm looking to see Bryn Bain continue her 4 game goal streak with a big outburst here.
- Saturday 2pm @Western Michigan
The men have one game this weekend against the Broncos. Western is winless on the season, so Michigan should be able to handle them easily.
- Sunday 2pm vs Miami (FL)
The women have their last tune up before the BigTen conference slate starts against that Miami. The Hurricanes do have a win over a ranked opponent in then #22 Washington, but that hasn't gotten Miami on the rankings others receiving votes. A couple of really bad losses have kept them out of contention. This should be a really good game between a pair of evenly matched teams.
I'll be updating things throughout the weekend, so check back occasionally.
Update I (Friday 9:30pm):
At the women's cross country meet, Michigan's Danielle Tauro placed second with a time of 21 minutes 19 seconds. Kaitlyn Peale (21:47) and Kaitlyn Patterson (21:56) also finished in the top 10 at 7th and 9th respectively. This was a non-scoring match, so there were no team scores.
On the volleyball court, Michigan won a pair of matches, one on cruise control and one in the most exciting 3 set match ever. In the early game, Michigan faced Marquette and just rolled past the Tigers by scores 25-16, 25-19, and 25-. The team was lead by Alex Hunt's record breaking 9(!) service aces on the match. The 9 broke the previous record set in 2004 by Katie Bruzdzindski and matched by Juliana Paz 6 days ago. (Hunt pictured to right by Mogblue.com)
Also notable in this match was Veronica Rood with a team leading 9 kills. Coach Rosen appears to be making the point to get Vern more looks this weekend. Halfway through the 2nd set, Rosen called a time out to reinforce the Rood option with setter Lexi Zimmerman. Rood went on to score 2 of the next three points easily.
Also notable was the defense. Marquette hit only .027. That's bad. The Tigers had only 21 kills on 73 attempts (only 19 errors). Bower and Hunt had a great set of games with 8 digs a piece. Both also had a solo block, Bower adding three block assists.
In the night cap, Michigan faced their closest game since the AVCA challenge. The undefeated Dayton Flyers brought their A-game and kept the pressure on Michigan the entire match. The first set, Michigan jumped out to an 11-5 lead, only to see it evaporate into a 18-19 deficit. Down 22-24 and facing set point, Michigan rallied with a couple kills from Juliana Paz and an Alex Hunt service ace. Michigan would secure the 28-26 first set lead with a Paz ace.
In set two, Michigan would fall behind early. They were down as many as 5 at 5-10. But the team fought back, eventually tying the game at 19. They would have to rally again to tie the game at 23. The next point would be Michigan's first lead of the set. Michigan would capitalize on a Rood kill and a combined Rood/Zimmerman block to take set two 26-24.
The final set was just as intense. It featured 11 ties, 5 lead changes, and more extra points. In the closing points, Michigan held a 23-21 lead. Then things got fun. With Dayton attacking, a ball hit the top of the net and looked to be falling back for a Michigan point. All of a sudden, the net snaps and the ball falls to Michigan's side. Megan Bower made her case, earning a yellow card, that it was caused by a net violation by Dayton. Both coaches were getting on the refs, and both ended the game with yellow cards. Michigan would lose the lead, going down 24-23.
Down 25-26, Lexi (pictured right by MGoBlue.com) made an attack on two (instead of setting) to give Michigan a tie. Juliana Paz gave the Wolverines the go ahead kill, and Lexi Zimmerman made the attack on two again for the win.
Paz was your kill leader with 18 in the late game at a .448 hitting percentage, but Rood also hit .583. Michigan tied their season high with 9 blocks (the other came in a 4 set game). Most importantly, Michigan showed in this game that they have the mental toughness to stay in when down against a good team.
One of the biggest influences today was the Zone. The Zone got into both opponents' heads this game, as shown by the Marquette coach spiking a ball at them in frustration. That's big. Even if the marketing department and Blue Ice are helping out, it's you fans that show up that make a huge impact.
Make sure you make it to Crisler following the football game. Let's fill the place up. Beat the Beavers.
Updated II (Sunday 11am):
Women's rowing doesn't make that much sense to me. I haven't learned the lingo yet. So here's how it went by my understanding. Michigan scrimmaged Michigan State and Eastern Michigan. Michigan fielded two boats in the 8-woman competition and two boats in the 4-woman competition. Michigan State swept the 5 races in the 8's, while Michigan had teams place 2&4, 2&4, 2&4, 2&3, and 2&4 (those are places out of 6, UM had 2 boats per race).
Michigan fared better in the 4-woman teams, finishing 1&2, 1&2, 1&3, 1&3, and 1&3 (out of 3). If that made any sense to you, more power to you. Perhaps by the time their real season comes about, I'll be able to tell you more about it.
Men's soccer posted a 5-1 win over Western Michigan last night to 6-1-0 on the season. Michigan got a goal from Adam Keller, Cam Cameron, Alex Wood, Justin Meram, and Alex Klein. Meram, Wood, Cameron, Hamoody Saad (2), Chase Tennant, Jeff Quijano, and Daniel Gray all registered an assist.
Also worth noting, Michigan has outscored opponents 16-6 in the second half this season. This game saw Michigan outscore Western 3-1 in the second.
Coach Burns "Man of the Match" was Adam Keller. From MGoBlue.com:
Adam Keller played a really strong game. He started out a center back and kind of felt his way into the game where he could contribute offensively. Then we pushed him forward into a more defensive role. I thought he did a great job of winning balls and winning that part of the space and getting forward in the attack.
In field hockey, the field hockey team made a valiant effort against #7 Syracuse. Falling behind 1-0 at the 15 minute mark, Michigan put on the pressure in the offensive end and tied the score 10 minutes later on Vanessa Sekhon's first goal of the season. This 1-1 tie would last through regulation, until in the 84th minute, Syracuse netted the game-winner for their 5th overtime win of the year.
This game was an oddly quiet one for both Meredith Way and Bryn Bain. Way didn't even register a shot and Bain had only 2 shots, neither on goal. Alicia Mayer was the shot leader with 4, 3 on goal. Mayer also had the assist on Skehon's goal.
Also worth noting that Paige Pickett went the full game in the net, allowing just the two goals. That's a good showing for any net keeper. I think it's also a testament to the defense for allowing only 6 shots on goal. As a comparison, Michigan took 13 shots. Great play by the defense.
Volleyball…sigh. They'll get their own post in a few minutes. I'll update this with that link after I get it out. Mini-update: Volleyball Swept By Oregon State.
Update III (Sunday 5pm):
The women's soccer team posted a 1-0 shut out of Miami (FL) in a game that saw the Wolverines outshot by a margin of 21-6. Holly Hein put in the lone goal by heading in a Jackie Carron free kick in the 44th minute. The header kicked off the top cross bar of the net and into the goal. Haley Kopemeyer was in goal for the full 90 minutes, posting 6 saves. This is a solid win for Michigan heading into BigTen play.
Field hockey went to overtime again against Louisville in the second game of the weekend, and yet again, they came out on the losing side – 2-3 this time in 77 minutes. Michigan gave up a quick goal in the third minute, but netted goals by Alex Zeringue and Meredith Way to take a 2-1 lead. Both goals came off penalty corners, including Zeringue's which was a rebound from the initial shot.
In overtime, Louisville set up a pass from the center of the circle to their player posted right on the goalie. The Cardinals spun the ball around and flipped it into the net.
Despite losing both games this weekend, Michigan took a pair of ranked opponents to sudden death overtime. This is encouraging as the team appears to be playing better as they move along.
Men's tennis is still yet to report back from the final day of the Napa Valley invitational. Freshman Evan King was due to play in the championship of the singles tournament at 2:15pm ET today.
That's going to be blocked
The picture above (and all others in this post are by MGoBlue.com) has to summarize the match better than I can. Here we see Megan Bower going for a kill. On the other side of the net is Goliath, also known as a 6'5" Australian by the name of Rourke. This giant registered 25 kills and 5 service aces. To put that in perspective, her closest teammate had 7 kills.
Adding insult to injury, this picture is just one of 12 blocks by Oregon State. Oregon State's Ashley Eneliko had 6 block assists. Five different Beavers had a solo block. We just weren't on hitting the ball in this game.
Lexi is good but can do only so much on poor passes
Michigan ended up with three players in double digit kills on the game in Veronica Rood, Alex Hunt, and Juliana Paz, but it just wasn't enough. Hunt never seemed to get going in this match. Her hitting percentage was hovering around .065 until very late in the third set. That's not going to win games. She also had an off night at the service line. One game after setting the Michigan record for aces in a game, she came out and posted 0 aces and 3 service errors.
Paz even had a fairly off game. I don't know if it was the blocks, or if it was due to a calf injury (it was taped according to commenter Other Chris), but she just wasn't her normal dominating self. Very few times did she hit the ball with her usual authority. Suffice to say, when our top two hitters are off, Michigan is in for trouble.
One of the bright spots in this was the play of Veronica Rood. She placed 10 kills and offered a great change of pace when our outside hitters were struggling. It seemed like whenever Michigan came out of timeouts, Rood became the primary option, but then faded slowly out of the picture as Michigan tried to get their outside hitters in rhythm. As I said, that didn't really happen until the very end of the last set, far too late.
The most concerning thing going forward has little to do with attacking offense as it does communication on defense. Over the last two weeks, Michigan has become sloppy on defense, allowing at least 2-3 balls per game to just fall between three players, who sometimes are all running away from the ball.
I can't see these games, so I'm not entirely sure who to pin the blame on. Most of these seem to come off tipped blocks, which makes me suspect our back row play by our hitters is still really slow. As an example of this was when Alex Hunt was substituted for Michelle McMahon following one of these misplayed balls. Perhaps Hunt just hasn't become comfortable in the back row yet and is slow in reacting to tipped balls. See the picture above. That's a desperation dive, but most likely on a serve judging by the position of Sloane and Juliana.
Paz also had trouble in the back, but most of hers were on serves. Rourke's 5 aces came mainly at the expense of Juliana. Paz also was involved in some of the lost balls.
In the long run, this game came down to Michigan beating itself up just as much as Rourke's excellent play did. After Michigan blew a 12-2 lead in the first set, momentum went completely to the Beavers and Michigan looked lost. Michigan was begging for the refs to bail them out by calling nonexistent tips and kept making mental mistakes. Oregon State just kept attacking, and they had just enough luck on the balls rolling over the net. It seemed to demoralize Michigan.
This game really reminded me of Michigan's play over the last few years. We are a good team that just couldn't put it all together in any set. We kept it close on raw talent alone. We lost it on our own mental toughness. This whole game was a disappointment, especially with the crowd that showed up, supposedly 2,673. Most of those left before the second set was finished.
Michigan finished 2nd in the tournament, and placed three players on the All-Tournament team in Zimmerman, Paz, and Rood. In a more dubious fashion, Michigan also cemented Tournament MVP for Rourke.
Michigan opens BigTen play at Indiana on Friday. MGoBlue will have live stats and a CiL. More on that in next week's Michigan sports weekend.
This obviously makes typing inconvenient, what with this splint on my finger and all. But the show must go on.
Michigan left me a little worried leaving at half time. It was a relief indeed to see the score for the good guys climb with each pass of the ESPN bottom line ticker while waiting at the ER.
- Michigan looked shaky, yes, but in the end put the wood to their over-matched opponent. We are going to win a lot of games by simply outscoring our opponents and I am cool with that. It seems we have the ability to score on any play, from anywhere on the field. I don't think we have ever had a more loaded stable of running backs, a nice thing to have with a set of freshman QBs.
- D-Rob has a lot of raw ability but I don't see him ever becoming a pass first QB after this performance. With no completed passes and two picks, it might be time for us to realize that the fortunes of this team rest solely on the shoulders of Mr. Forcier. If forced to insert D-Rob as the starter, this offense will quickly resort to a Pat White run/pass ratio. This isn't the end of the world, but won't win us as many games IME. Those running touchdowns won't come as easily against B10 defenses, or if the offense becomes one-dimensional.
- There appears to be a rather large drop-off at linebacker behind Mouton. From what I saw, and remember that I missed the entire second half, Eastern ran right at where Mouton would have been with a great deal of success. Who was that guy that replaced him? I can't say that I had ever heard of him. Red rover, red rover, let the highly touted linebacker recruits come over.
- English impressed me with his game-plan and by keeping the score close in the first half. He is going to get Eastern some respect in coming years I think. While time of possession is an overrated statistic, a 2:1 ratio is eye-opening. I wish him all the best.
- This coaching staff again made great half time adjustments, or at least it seems so. Missing the second half of this one sucks, as I don't have any real idea of what kept Eastern off the scoreboard. Maybe someone can enlighten me?
As I said above, this is a team that can outscore most of it's opponents left on the schedule. Assuming a steady, if slow progression by the O-line and the continued health of Mr. Forcier, we may well keep our PPG above 30. I think we all should take a moment to savor just how different this year feels compared to last. As we enter the B10 slate, already having as many wins as last season, we should thank our lucky stars that RR landed in our laps. We have seen just how bare the cupboard actually was when Carr retired and I don't think that there are many coaches out there that could have turned the ship around this quickly.
At this point I am seeing 8-4 or 9-3 and maybe the Outback Bowl. That sure sounds nice. I think that we will almost undoubtedly defeat Indiana, Purdue, and Del. State. I see us taking 2-3 of Illinois, Sparty, Wisky, and Iowa. Then we have both Penn St and O$U at home so maybe a 25% chance of taking one of those. If we can win one of those two I think we make the Citrus Bowl.
I hope that everyone was able to enjoy this game and that everyone made it home safe and sound. Have a great week.
Edit: It appears that everybody want to concentrate on my #2 observations and opinions. So let me clarify:
- There is nothing wrong with a run-first QB and yes Pat White won many games.
- D-Rob may or may not be as good a QB as White, I have made the comparison but that doesn't mean D-Rob=Pat White.
- I merely think that D-Rob would not lead us to as many wins as Tate as a starter this season.
- Yes, I don't see D-Rob as the Michigan QB of the future. I agree it is too soon to tell. I just don't see anything yet that would make me think he is better suited to QB than RB or Slot Receiver.
- Please realize that these are just opinions from one fan (by no means expert) and try not to get too offended when they differ from your opinions (expert or I suspect mostly not).
Today's Focus: Rushing Stats (Rush YPG)(Full NCAA Rankings)
Players of note: Ralph Bolden, Purdue (1st, 178.5ypg); Jahvid Best, Cal (6th, 140.5ypg); Armando Allen, ND (23rd, 105.5ypg); Caulton Ray, MSU (99th, 61ypg)
Why It's Important:Because.. it tells you how many rushing yards a player has per game, on average. Pretty self-explanatory here. Generally the more yards a player rushes for per game, the better they are.
Why It's Flawed:It just measures yards. A big, bruising back that gets the ball on third and short situations or inside the ten yard line can be just as valuable as a quick running back who gets big yards but can't break tackles. What would you rather a running back's stat line be -- 6att, 25yds and 3 TDs or 30att, 200yds and no scores? One gets you points, the other gets you valuable field position that can turn into yards.
Also, it doesn't take into account the number of rushing attempts. YPC does this, but you'd have to look into two or three different stat lines to really see the effectiveness of a RB.
ALSO, it doesn't take into account fumbles. 200yds in a game is all well and good, but if all that field position is wasted because he fumbled 3-4 times, it doesn't help at all.
So any one stat for a RB will be leaving out a lot of the story.
Applying this to Current StatisticsRalph Bolden, Purdue: 178.5ypg (#1)
Definitely a great YPG average, good enough to be #1 in the nation after two games, but a look at his YPC tells a different story. Bolden averages 7.14ypc, still a respectable number, but not nearly #1 in the nation. In fact, second through sixth leading rushers in terms of YPG have a higher YPC average than Bolden. His 50 carries are the second highest in the top 10.
It's pretty obvious that between two equally talented rushers that have the same YPC average, whoever gets more carries per game will have the higher YPG average. Hence the flaw.
Robert Turbin, Utah St: 148.0ypg (#4)
Obviously an extremely small sample size here, as Turbin has only played one game so far (Utah), but he's listed here for another reason. That 148yds was garnered on only 13 carries, earning him a 11.38ypc average, the best of anyone in the Top 25 of YPG.
Reggie Arnold, Arkansas St: 104.5ypg (#25)
Arnold, while not dominant in either YPG or YPC (8.04), is extremely efficient in terms of points earned with his carries. He's had 26 carries thus far, and has scored 5 touchdowns. Almost 20% of the time this guy's had his hands on the ball out of the backfield he's been in the endzone.
So three different stat lines, all pretty damn good in their own way.
An AlternativeAlong the lines of my Quarterback Efficiency Rating, I've come up with a Rushing Efficiency Rating (RER). It's much more than YPC or YPG, it's a combination of the major aspects of a running back's game that is contributes to their overall efficiency.
Here's the first draft of the formula:
(Yards) + (Touchdowns x 10) + (Fumbles x -10)
So a big bruiser who might not rack up 8-9ypc but is solid with ball control and in the red zone who's usually good for a few scores:
10att, 40yds, 3 TDs (RER: 7.00)
Has an RER that's similar to a speed back who might rack up the yards, but is prone to a mistake here and there and might not always get the ball on the goal line:
28att, 170yds, 2 TDs, 1 Fumble (RER: 6.79)
Applying the RER to Last Season's Backs
|1||7||Donald Brown, Connecticut||JR||18||5.68||160.23||6.17||6
|2||5||Shonn Greene, Iowa||JR||20||6.03||142.31||6.68||5
|3||1||Jahvid Best, California||SO||15||8.14||131.67||8.92||1
|4||10||Javon Ringer, Michigan St.||SR||22||4.20||125.92||4.76||10
|5||8||MiQuale Lewis, Ball St.||JR||22||5.39||124.00||6.07||8
|6||6||Chris Wells, Ohio St.||JR||8||5.78||119.70||6.17||6
|7||2||Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma St.||SO||16||6.45||119.62||7.12||2
|8||3||Vai Taua, Nevada||SO||15||6.44||117.00||7.08||3
|9||4||Tyrell Fenroy, La.-Lafayette||SR||19||6.08||114.58||6.92||4
|10||9||LeSean McCoy, Pittsburgh||SO||21||4.83||114.46||5.51||9|
Quite the shakeup in the YPG rankings when the number of carries is taken into account, as well as the number of touchdowns. YPC numbers, on the other hand, are nearly identical. If the fumbles were taken into account, this would surely be a bit different, but until I can find those stats this is all we have to go by.
Thoughts? Comments? Fumble statistics? Let me know.
Behind the Numbers will be back soon with another look at a stat from the world of College Football. Any stats you want to be examined a little closer? Or even just a stat you've been interested in for a long time? Let me know in the comments and I'll do my best to get to it in the next few installments of BtN. Thanks for reading!
Below are some charts - yes, charts - showing how the defense stacks up after three games, both this year and last year. Please take these charts with a massive grain of salt, but I was still a little surprised by the findings. Also, I know that the defense last year was statistically one of the worst in UM's history, but I still think that was due more to the offense's inability to stay on the field than a complete implosion by the defense.
So not as bad as I thought. Points are just about equal (one of ND's 2008 touchdowns was on a fumble return, which I did not attribute to the defense). The passing yards are essentially the same, with the rushing defense clearly taking a step back. At least part of that rushing difference, though, can be attributed to the Herculean effort the defense put on Utah, holding them to 0.8 yards per carry on 43(!) attempts in the first game of 2008. Put their average from last year (157 yds/gm), and you have effectively the same defensive effort.
But what about the offenses faced? Were the offenses UM faced last year statistically better or worse than the ones they have faced so far? I wanted to find out, so I go again to my trusty excel chart.*
*Note, the national rankings for the 2009 opponents only includes the first 2 games (since today's games are not complete). Also, I included both the final and after-3-games totals for the 2008 offenses.
|Teams||Utah||Miami (NTM)||ND||AVERAGE RANKING|
|After 3 games|
2009 - after 2 games
So yeah, the defense is struggling a bit, but certainly not to the extent people first envisioned. While I will update the 2009 numbers when they are posted, both ND and WMU have/are putting a hurting on their most recent opponents, and EMU showed some competence against both UM and NW. As you can see, the rush defense might have been helped by the fact that both ND and Miami (NTM) trotted out some of the worst rushing offenses last year, and Utah was the first game of the year against a fresh defensive front. This year it is clear that the line is a work in progress, and the LBs need to tackle better, but those were trouble spots everyone expected. Not to harp on the Denny Green meme, but the front 7 are who we thought they were - incredibly shallow with some clear weaknesses. Still, the rush defense is ranked #43 (last year it finished #50), and my guess is that it will improve somewhat as the season progresses and some of the younger players get their feet under them and GERG's principles become more familiar.
As for the passing defenses, they are remarkably similar statistically. Sure, Cissoko has struggled mightily this year, but don't forget that last year Stevie was letting bombs soar over his head and receivers scoot by him virtually unmolested. Angry Secondary Michigan Hating God works in mysterious ways, but apparently the pox can never be eradicated; just moved to a different victim. It should be noted that they have faced two top-30 passing offenses so far this season, so perhaps we shouldn't read that heavily into the fact that the backfield has been exposed somewhat. Currently the defense is 87th in passing defense, but that happens when you face top-30 passing attacks. Last year they finished #79, and I would be amazed if the pass defense didn't finish in the 60's or even the 50's by the end of the season.
So I guess my conclusion is that while the defense has struggled somewhat this year, let's not forget that it wasn't some juggernaut last year. For all of Cissoko's recent failings and the struggles of the front 7 against the run, the team is not that far away from last year's numbers, and should probably exceed them once the sample size increases. Yes, PSU and OSU will likely run all over the D, but that should surprise nobody. Those are top-notch offenses with dynamic playmakers in the backfield. But I like what I'm seeing so far under GERG - tackling alone seems light-years ahead of last year, the players seem to get the scheme, the young guys, especially Roh, look legit, and Warren and Graham have been revelations. I'm not saying this defense will approach 1997 or 2006, but I do think it will grade out better than people expect.
I would love to hear what people who know far more about football, especially on the defensive side, think of this defense and how it should look going forward.
EDIT: I have updated the rankings for this year's offenses after 3 games. Overall, they match up quite similarly to last year's offenses after 3 games, when the defense was touted as one of the best. My take is that while the defense certainly has to improve, I think that it will certainly be better than last year's because the offense should protect it via sustained drives and, hopefully, less turnovers resulting in bad field position.
2009 - after 3 games
There will be no formal Big 10 Picks edition this week. Next week, with a full slate of league games, we'll pick this feature back up. Doing it on non conference weekends is fun, but forces my hand to call way too many games. There is no way I could duplicate last week's success over the course of another 10 games, so we're taking a pass on the full schedule.
Instead, let me indulge in a few thoughts before I fire the car up for the short drive up to Ann Arbor to see the Wolverines quiet the Caw.
Can we please layoff Boubacar Cissoko. Do we throw players under the bus 120 minutes into their career as a starter? Is that really what we want the Michigan fanbase to be all about? Some of the hate surrounding Cissoko in the wake of the Notre Dame game makes me to a double take to make sure I didnt step into a taping of Buckeye Roundtable.
Please remember that this team is still young, will make plenty of mistakes and go through bouts where its play is whatever the opposite of last week's magic is. I hope when that happens that I dont check into this blog and read all sorts of threads denigrating the players. Last week, we had folks crying that Stonum, a sophomore after spending his first year as second string, was a disappointment. Now we're pilloring Cissoko. Keep in mind that this team, nay Rodriguez's whole program, remains a work in progress. In the end, its going to be a fine wine. Vintage. Just stop and smell the bouquet before you chug the whole thing down. Try to enjoy the harvesting.
Getting back to Cissoko, what is there to really say? He got worked all last Saturday. But, he was going toe to toe with a future first round draft pick and somebody who I think is one of the favorites for the Biletnekoff Award. It was a mistmach. I'd love to know the thought process behind planning that matchup, but also sticking with it as it became obvious that Cissoko had more than his hands full with Floyd. Is Rodriguez pushing him, throwing him out there on that island to better his game?
This is like a swimming coach taking a prize pupil who can race sprints well in alll four strokes and trying to mold him into a distance individual medley racer. That first race might end with a sixth place dud, but if the kid has talent, seeing first hand how to handle that competition in that forum is invaluable. The next race should be better. Cissoko just went up against the best and saw where it is his game was defecient. Can we at least wait and see how he takes that experience and how he builds from it before we cast him aside and start comparing him to past whipping boys. Please?
Dont forget, he had a good opening day, that included a game changing opening quarter pick. Yes, I said game changing. Two players later, the Denard Robinson run happened. After that, the rout was on. Despite being abused against the Irish, he had another pick on his hands, but just could not close the deal. He is one play away from all of us celebrating him, instead we fans light him up all week. The difference in sporting results is sometimes a fine line.
Alright, my moralizing is done. Be your own fan. But, expect some fighting words like a scorned Bandie if I think player a critique is a bit over the top.
Enough of that. More randon, less pious thoughts:
*****Today is a huge day for the mid majors with Utah traveling to Oregon and BYU hosting Florida State. If the upsarts (can you really call BYU, a 7-point favorite, an upstart?) pull off wins and TCU beats Clemson next week, the Moutain West suddenly has a round robin slate that will have BCS Title game implications. Is there any way we can quickly drop Boise State into the MWC? This league is one more high end team away from being better than half of the BCS leagues. Just E-pinion.
******The Florida-Tennesse line has grown from -24 to -30 during the last two weeks. The public demands Urban Meyer runs up the score. Their pocketbooks are at stake.
*******Are you excited by the possible return of BOOM MALLET'ED? Tonight the Ryan Mallett era at Arkansas gets underway in earnest when the Hogs host UGA. The Dawgs have already played two high end foes, while this is the Razorbacks first real sweat of the year. Are the Hogs this year's Ole Miss, an SEC West team that makes a leap and pulls off at least one stunning upset? Be very quiet about any expectations, but I give a Arky-UM Outback Bowl about a 25 percent chance of happening right now. That said, whats the Over/Under on botched snaps tonight?
******* There are two Big 10/Pac Challenges today with Cal and Arizona playing at Minnesota and Iowa. The Bears are close to two touchdown chalk on the road. Big 10 boosters better hope Kinnick Stadium magic is out in full force because they will need a Hawkeyes win to help the league save some face. That said, a Minnesota win might be as important to the league as a Buckeye win might have been last week. It would be the eighth best team in one league beating the second best in another. People would certainly re-evaluate the depth of the league.
******* We're all getting our popcorn ready for the Tailspin Bowl in South Bend aren't we? Is history and program identity finally starting to catchup with Mark Dantonio? Is there a coach not named Lane Kiffin more in a pressure cooker today than Charlie Weis? Winner rights the ship and has a lot of their preseason goals still in front of them. The Loser? Well, their hometown will certainly be a special place this week, won't it?
I dont have a full card of Big 10 games, but I will offer up some Big 10 Picks and count them in the record. Check out my blog for a full acount of my thoughts on today's games and where else I'm putting my money where my mouth is.
Iowa -4 over Arizona. The Hawks win 21-9, scoring a touchdown, four field goals and a safety. Iowa is 35-19-1 ATS at home.
Indiana +3.5 over Akron. The Hoosiers have matched up well with the MAC, despite how bad things are down in Bloomington for the football team. They did lose to Ball State and Central last season, but those were some special teams. Indiana is better this year and Akron is no version of CMU or BSU. I felt IU would be 3-0 heading into the Michigan game. I'll take these 3.5 points.
MSU +11 over Notre Dame. We are all versed in the series history that trends to Sparty here. But, let me throw something else out there. The Spartans are road dogs today after losing outright at home as double digit favorites. Teams in that role are 90-55-3 ATS the last 13 years. We're rolling with that system today.
There you go, an abbreviated version of Big 10 picks. Enjoy the games today.