First off I want to rant ... There should be a law banning weddings on football Saturday. I had to go to a wedding this Saturday and I have a wedding on the Saturday of the MSU game. UNREAL!!!!
I caught the tail end of the game at the bar while we were waiting for the reception to start. I started thinking to myself a couple things. First off, the need for a different breed of player doesn't just apply to the offense. The defense has long needed an overhaul from the traditional 6-2 250 lb linebackers that run a 4.6 40 and the corners that can't stop a double move. Secondly, I started thinking back to giant reformations of quarterbacks and how they went and how long it took for that team to come back to dominance.j
I remembered USC started 2-5 in Carroll's first year, with that 5th loss being a sheer domination at the hands of an awful Notre Dame team. I remember watching that game and thinking USC might never be good again, and of course the next year they were a BCS team and the year after they started their incredible run of success.
I also remember thinking Michigan would never lose to Ohio State more than a couple times every 10 years. They always seemed "soft", and then of course they knocked John Navarre in the mouth and I don't really care to recall the rest. But that first Tressel team lost a lot of early games including a game to Illinois, I think, dont quote me on that.
I also think that this team will get better each and every game, and back at the beginning of the season I thought "Michigan will need some luck to start 3-2" and to be honest if their was a reset button Michigan could have just as easily won those games against Notre Dame and Utah. I also think that Threet will probably be next year's starter as well, so its important to rally behind him, and in a wierd way he kind of reminds me of a young Tom Brady (maybe I am being way to glass half full, but that's how I see it)
Sorry for the rambling ... more just venting ... the best is yet to come and Michigan will be dominant once again! GO BLUE
There's been a little chatter on here about Michigan needing to mixup their first down plays a little more (as if this is a new complaint - haven't Michigan fans bitched about this since the dawn of Lloyd?). Anyways, I watched the tape!
I watched every 1st down play all the way through the 3rd quarter. By the end of the 3rd Michigan was down 31-14 and obviously they were getting into hurry up mode, so they were definately moving away from their offensive game plan by then. The last offense play of the 3rd was the Shaw fumble. Someone suggested earlier that that ended the game......you might be onto something there. That particular drive was looking good. At that point Michigan was only down 24-14.
First Down Runs:
- Michigan ran on first down 17 times out of the 23 first downs in the first 3 quarters. They gained 41 yards on those runs which is 2.41 yards per attempt. Ouch. On a good note, McGuffie scored a TD on a first down run, but on a bad note the Shaw fumble was a first down run.
First Down Passes:
- To flip that coin Michigan passed on 6 out of their first 23 first downs with 4 completions. On those plays they gained 64 yards which is 10.67 per attempt. Much nicer. However, two of those plays were to Odoms for 27 yards and 24 yards each. That kind of skews the numbers. The other two were for 7 and 6 yards.
It's hard to give a definite answer on this age-old Michigan fan bitch. The fact that Michigan ran on 74% of those first downs tells you many things:
- Pehaps they were more successful passing those few times BECAUSEof all of the 1st down runs? Illinois defense was ready for the zone-read and were selling out to stop it. Those 6 passes caught them out of position and made it easier to complete a pass.
- Is it better to gain, on average, 2.41 yards on first down than to risk an incompletion, which gives you 2nd and 10 instead of 2nd and 7 or 8?
- Not only that, Threet has been wildly inaccurate thus far (under 50% competion) and at times he likes to throw the ball at A) Tacopants or B) guys wearing the other jersey. What is the risk/reward here? Obviously the coaching staff feels it is more risky to put the ball in Threet's hands on first down then to give it to McGuffie (thou shalt not fumble).
- The O-Line. As we know they are green and it shows. You're risking getting Threet killed the more you drop him back to pass. Not only that, you're looking at fumbles and sacks, too, further handicapping yourself.
- Keep in mind that Stonum and Hemingway were out yesterday. Those are your 2nd and 3rd outside receivers, by a wide margin, I think. When you are trying to stick Savoy (horrible dropped pass in the first half, BTW) and Zion Babb into Stonum and Hemingway's shoes you are asking for trouble. Imagine Chad Henne without Matthews and Arrington last year?? Not good. And he's Chad Henne for F sake!!
- Rodriguez's offense has historically been run-first, so, hey guess what? They are running first! I don't think you can blame him, he's got some good talent in McGuffie, Shaw, Minor and Grady, they just need more help from the O-Line.
Michigan's lineup has fluctuated throughout the year, and I expect that it will continue to change until Michigan plays with more consistency - which may not happen until 2009. Note: Only players who have a viable backup will be chosen to lose their jobs. For example, Threet likely will not be chosen because Sheridan has been a complete disaster.
OFFENSIVE STARTER WHO SHOULD KEEP HIS JOB
Martavious Odoms, WR/KR. Odoms was Michigan's best player on Saturday, with the exception of a late fumble on a kickoff return. Odoms had 7 catches for 129 yards (18 yard average) and 7 kick returns for 183 yards (26 yard average). He has shown the best ability to get open repeatedly, and he creates yards after the catch. He breaks a lot of tackles and runs very hard for being only 5'9" and 171 lbs. In his first action this year as a kickoff returner, he showed better acceleration and decisiveness than any other returners have shown this year.
OFFENSIVE STARTER WHO SHOULD LOSE HIS JOB
David Molk, C. This might be a little harsh, because Molk has a lot of good qualities. He is quick and strong, and he's a redshirt freshman, so there's plenty of time to improve. But Michigan's offense started to stall when Illinois started to blitz and blitz and blitz and then blitz some more. The center is the quarterback of the offensive line and needs to make the line calls, and the offensive line just didn't get the job done. Illinois hit Threet early, and you could see that he felt rushed and a little tentative later in the game. Threet actually played pretty tough and didn't get as rattled as a lot of young quarterbacks would, but any quarterback is going to get a little gun shy when he gets hit frequently. Perhaps Molk should move to guard and allow David Moosman, a redshirt junior who has been around a little longer, to slide over to the center position.
DEFENSIVE STARTER WHO SHOULD KEEP HIS JOB
Obi Ezeh, MLB. After giving up 45 points and 500+ yards in total offense, it's hard to say any defensive player should keep his job. Defensive backs blew coverages, the linebackers couldn't tackle, and the defensive linemen failed to record a single sack. Statistically, Ezeh was the biggest bright spot with 15 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss. He did miss a few tackles, but he's still young and looks like a heat seeking missile at times. Out of the current crop of linebackers, I actually think Ezeh would be a better fit at SAM with Thompson moving to MIKE. Thompson is practically useless as a blitzer because of his stiffness. Ezeh is quicker and more agile coming off the edge. Either way, Ezeh has been the most consistent defensive player this year.
DEFENSIVE STARTER WHO SHOULD LOSE HIS JOB
Steve Brown, FS. This category is tough, because very few players played well on Saturday. And instead of just picking on a player, I feel it's necessary to offer a viable solution. It's time for Steve Brown to lose his job. With the exception of the Wisconsin game, he has been consistently beaten in the passing game. The last straw was when Illinois running back Jason Ford beat Brown on a go route down the sideline; fortunately for Michigan fans, Juice Williams made a slightly inaccurate throw and Ford made a poor adjustment and dropped the ball. Brown consistently gets caught looking in the backfield and reacts too slowly. He has tremendous physical skills (witness him chasing down Juice Williams from behind on what looked to be a sure touchdown), but his recognition skills are poor. Charles Stewart made a poor effort on the 77-yard TD pass, but that's the first time this year that Stewart has looked bad. Redshirt freshman Michael Williams has played well on special teams. One of those guys deserves a shot at the FS position, and instead of bringing in a third safety in nickel and dime situations, Boubacar Cissoko and/or Troy Woolfolk should enter the game. Odoms got removed from the KR job for Avery Horn after the former fumbled, but Brown continues to play after allowing big play after big play. Those standards seem inconsistent.
I think last week's debut of the column did fairly well. Its not that often you sweep the board, but last week these picks went 7-0. Someone asked if it was luck or routine for me. The answer: Both. I feel I am savvy enough where I can make several awesome plays a weekend based on my capping skills, but to sweep a card of seven picks involves some luck. Like having a team overcome a 19-point deficit. Or, a team punching in two worthless TDs late in the game to nab an Over. My goal in continuing this column is not to find another undefeated card, as much as it to exceed the number of games right now that I am over .500. A 7-0 start puts a lot of cash in the pocket. My goal is to not lose that cash and maybe add a little more to it before the season is done. Lets just string some winning weeks toghether and ride it out until the end.
Today's Big 10 card does not excite me. Nothing really screams out as an obvious play, but after looking at the contests, I have found sides in all five games and two totals. I hope you like playng underdogs.
Indiana at Minnesota. Line: Minnesota -7, O/U 59.5 A key game in the drive for the Motor City Bowl takes place this afternoon when the Hoosiers and Gophers play in downtown Minneapolis. Here's a stat: In these teams last eight matchups, the winner has avaerged 41.36 points per game. In six of those games, the combined total points scored exceeded 60. Indiana has given up 40 points in consecutive games heading into this contest and has allowed over 225 yards rushing and passing in both of those games. The Gophers, meanwhile, have allowed an average of 32.65 ppg in their last 25 Big 10 games. Those numbers are trending upward with Minnesota's D giving up over 36 ppg in the last nine league tilts. It's safe to say that I expect a lot of points to be scored in this one. QBs Kellen Lewis and Adam Weber will be stat sheet stuffers today. Indiana catching points intrigues me as well. I dont think a whole lot spearates these teams. Last season, the Hoosiers were laying 14 points and won by 20. I doubt the fortunes of these teams have changed all that much where we will see a 28-point swing in the outcome. I can see either team winning, but I cant see either team stopping the other.
The Pick: Indiana +7, Over 59.5
Penn State at Purdue. Lines, Penn State -13.5, O/U 59. I hate this game. There is nothing I like about it. On one hand, you have Purdue who has a worse resume than Matt Millen. They have a senior QB who can play, but they haven't shown up for a big game it seems since Drew Brees was in town. On the other hand, you have a Penn State team that is flat out rolling and getting a lot of national love. However, The Nits are in a classic sandwich game today. They're on the road between primetime national TV showdowns. That sounds like a hard motivational chore to overcome. Its also their frst true road game in front of a hostile crowd (I dont count their trip to the Carrier Dome vs the Orange considering how bad they are and that there were more PSU fans in the building that day). I think that adds up to some trouble for Joe Pa's crew and Purdue QB Painter will make them pay for showing up flat footed. Here's a theory: Once you get to around mid season, it becomes real profitable to bet on double digit home underdogs. The problem is you find yourself betting on bad teams, so its a lot like driving on ice and never makes for comfortable gambling. I'll leave it to you if you want to play that theory blindly this season. But, I am game in this spot. Is Purdue appreciably worse than Illinois, a team that covered 14.5 last week on the road vs PSU? I say no and this large number will be hard for Penn State to hurdle. Eventually Penn State will notch the win, but they'll get a little bit of a scare from the Boilers, who are 34-26-2 ATS at home in the Tiller era.
The Pick: Purdue +13.5......and holding my nose the whole way.
Iowa at Michigan State. Line, MSU -7, O/U 46.5. Do you want another gambling theory of mine? Whenever you say, hear or read the following phrase, "Hey, if the Spartans win this one, it sets up a pretty big showdown next week," contact your local bookie and bet against Michigan State. Do whatever you have to do, but get that bet down. Stop reading this if you must. We'll wait. Sparty has this habit of not so much losing the big game, but losing the game the week before and thus tarnishing the luster of the future showdown. The question is, does a win over Iowa today, set up a huge game next week at Northwestern? In this year's Big 10, that answer is yes. I think D'Antonio will have his team focused enough to notch the win, but I dont like their chances laying points in any possible look-ahead situation. Besides, this is a tough matchup. Iowa's defensive front is active, aggressive and will hem in the powerful Ringer enough times to make Hoyer beat them. And, he wont do it enough to let the Spartans run away and hide in this one. Iowa's D is pretty good at getting sacks and MSU's receiving corps has problems with drops, so if they contain Ringer like I expect, I dont see MSU loosening things up with their aerial attack. Say what you will about Iowa's team inconsistency, but on defense they have the 20th ranked overall defense, 28th against the run and 4th in scoring. Stanzi, their QB, has actually put up better numbers than Hoyer this year and in Shonn Greene, the Hawks have a power back of their own. This will be a fun contest to watch for the battle between Ringer and the Iowa front. Iowa has a strong shot of pulling off the mild upset. And, if Sparty proves me wrong here, dont think for a second I wont chase my theory hard next week. After all, with a victory over Northwestern, a huge showdown looms the following week against Ohio State.
The Pick: Iowa +7, Under 46.5.....hey, I have won three weeks in a row taking the Under in Iowa's games. I wont get off this bandwagon until it crashes.
Illinois at Michigan. Lines, UM -2.5 O/U 49.5. Michigan beat Illinois last season in front of hostile crowd under the lights. The big key will be how will Michigan overcome the graduation of Carlos Brown who churned out over 100 critical yards last year against the Illini. Wait, whats that you say? Carlos is still on Michigan's team!?!? Hmmm. Interesting. I did not know that. So, with Carlos in tow, the suddenly smooth sailing UM offense will just march up and down the field, right? Alright, enough with the lame jokes, lets make a pick here. I have to go with Michigan. I dont get the feeling the team is resting at all on their laurels in the wake of last week's comeback. Besides, this defense wont rest until it murders someone. I love the matchup of UM's D-Line vs Illinois O-Line. Juice Williams will be under a lot more seige than he saw when he raced up and down the field against Missou and PSU earlier in the season. Michigan struggles againt the spread, but they bottled up Illinois quite well last season and defensively, they are stronger and faster now. Expect Shaffer's Okie Defense to come out firing immediately in this one to set the tone. On the other side of the ball, well, lets hope the Wolverins can extend the current 2 quarter, turnover free streak they're on. If so, I think they'll be ok in the end.
The Pick: Michigan, to win on the Moneyline, -124.......my preseason bowl projections have Michigan in the Outback. A win here was originally projected, so I wont back down on that. Its a cheap moneyline, so I'll do that rather than deal with the number. Typically, you have to wager $110 to win $100 and this is just $124 to win $100, not a big difference and worth the extra juice. Now Michigan just needs to win. I have a good feeling about this club. Maybe its the Bailey's I poured liberally in my morning coffee. Rodriguez ought to outcoach the Zooker, right!?!?
Ohio State at Wisconsin. Line, OSU -1, O/U 44. When the Big 2, Little 8 began cracking in the 1980s and parity slowly found the Big 10, each of the traditional Big 10 powers, Michigan and Ohio State, found foils in certain leagues foes that continue to this day. For the Blue, it was Hayden Fry's Iowa teams. The Bucks' foil was the Wisconsin Badgers. Since 1980, OSU is only 13-10-1 straight up against Wisco. In that time, the Bucks actually have a losing record in Madison. Dave McClain owned Earle Bruce springing famous upsets in 1981, 82 and 85, all of which kept OSU out of the Rose Bowl and the latter coming a week after the Bukcs had toppled top ranked Iowa. Cooper's teams struggled as well, losing in 1992, tying in 1993 and giving up 42 straight points at home in a 1999 drubbing. The Badgers played those powerful 1995 and 96 Buckeye teams better than anyone else (well, almost better than anyone else) en route to covers. Surely Tressel has turned the series around, right? Um, no. The Vest is 2-3 versus Bucky. The last time these teams played on this field was in 2003. It was a primetime game and OSU was the defending national champs. The Badgers won a slugfest 17-10 and OSU LB Robert Reynolds commited felonious assault. My gut tells me Wisconsin cant wait to get n the field to make amends for last week. OSU looks better with Pryor, but I think the confident/cocky kid is in for a rude Big 10 welcome tonight. I am still not sold on this year's OSU defense. Something is not right back there and thay have yet to meld into the dominant force that was expected. We're getting far enough into the season where maybe thats just the reality. Very intriguing to see how they play tonight.
The Pick: Wisco +1.......for months, I have said OSU will not run the table in Big 10 play and have circled this game as a likely loss. Tonight, I'll be sticking my money where my mouth is. Also, various books on the web are still offering lines, with steeper juice of course, showing Wisco +3. I'll probably be on one of those, but for this exercise will use the line local books are likley to use. There's no negotiating with those folks like there is on line.
So, that's my Big 10 card for the day. Three underdogs kick off at noon, so lets hope for some afternoon dramatics. No game stands out as a better bet, unlike last week where three of seven jumped out at me. If I have time before I leave for Ann Arbor, I will update this with some of my picks in other games across the country. Overall, I am on a 17-6 run in college picks since last Friday night, so hopefully I will stay hot. Good luck with whatever you play today. And, as always, Go Blue!!
I have been reading this blog for about 3 years. I appreciate everything that Brian has done for the community, and in a way, he is an important part of this community's fandom. Brian's hard work is never taken for granted by myself and many others on a daily basis.
I am writing this because last week on the way to my tailgate I saw a tent selling knock-off MGoBlog shirts. I've attached a picture so you can see. This was on Hoover on the south end of Elbel Field. Please check it out.
Brian puts his heart and soul into this site. Someone, who's obviously been to the site, is ripping off his ideas and profiting off of them. If you are this person, or know this person, please do the right thing. Also, spread the word about this to anyone who needs a new shirt. Don't let them buy a knock-off from these fools. Brian's income is earned, well deserved I might add, from T-Shirt sales, book sales, and ad revenue from this site. These folks are stealing Brian's ideas and taking money out of his pocket. Let them know this is not acceptable.
Brian does a lot for us, lets repay the favor.
Also, I don't think e would appreciate one of his ideas hanging next to a "Buck the Fuckeyes" shirt. Never in a million years.
Here is a look at Illinois's past performance, using the same methodology as in the Wisconsin post game look, except opponent strength is now factored in. This would be why some of the numbers would appear to be higher than expected. Missouri and Penn State have crushed some people so in comparison, Illinois's performance in losses were much better than either team had seen previously. Only FBS games are included so the Eastern Illinois game does not factor in any way.
v Penn State: +7
v Missouri: +1
v UL Lafayette: -8
v Penn State: +8
v Penn State: +13
v Penn State: +2
Field Position: 102nd (losing 7.9 yards per possession)
Punt: 85th, 33.2 net
Punt Return: 29th, 32.2 net
Kickoff: 115th, 37 average start
KO Return: 74th, 26 average start
Juice Williams is currently rated the #10 QB in the country, with a +7 average, +13 vs Mizzou ,+11 vs Penn and an embarassing -2 vs La Lafayette
Daniel Dufrene has been a middle of the road back, ranking #68 and being a flat +0 for the season.
None of the receivers have been spectacular with the cumbersomely named Michael Hoomanawanui being the top ranked at #56.
Overall, Illinois appears to have been solid but not spectacular against 2 very good teams and the offense was dreadful against ULL. The Illini appear to have serious issues with the "little things." Special Teams, penalties, field position etc have all been very poor for Illinois.
I will post a post game update, hopefully by Sunday. I am also trying to add content for all FBS teams on my blog. Let me know if there is anything you would like to see either on here, Michigan related or overall on my site and I will do my best to get it posted quickly.
Thanks for the positive feedback on the Wisconsin breakdown and let me know what else you would like to see.