"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
[Ed: you know what? I'm just going to bump this instead of linking it again.]
[Quick JCB plug: We’ve got you covered on all the weekend action, including a great preview on the stellar prime time schedule tomorrow night from SteveY and a breakdown of the Evil Empire vs Little Brother match tomorrow afternoon. More to come later today including a deeper look at the Nebraska-Wisconsin showdown and, of course, my weekend card of picks, so bookmark us already!]
October is hours away. And so is the start of the 2011 Big 10 conference season. Out of conference games are more or less over and we're about to begin an historic Big 10 season, one with Nebraska in it, two divisional races and a winner-take-all championship in, of all months, December. This will be season to remember, but will Michigan be a factor? The numbers from September are in, and the early math points to the Wolverine's showdown with Nebraska in November being for the division title.
But we've all been here before with Michigan looking good on the verge on the conference campaign only to see the September numbers wither with the changing seasons. I have a feeling this year will be different, but that doesn't mean the Wolverines will run the table or boss their division. My prediction for the division has always been its pretty mediocre and that we'll see three teams tied atop at 5-3. Michigan has as good a chance as anyone to hit that 5-3 mark. My other prediction was if they beat ND, they would be one game better through ten games than a year ago, so that's 8-2 heading into the nasty double date at the end of November with the Huskers and Ohio State coming to town.
There are plenty of storylines to be had in tomorrow's league opener for Michigan against Minnesota. The Little Brown Jug is on the line, fer gawd's sake!! We get another data point in the evolution of the new offense. How does Minnesota look with the whole Jerry Kill situation? Can these young, new playmakers on the Michigan defense continue their progression. And, of course, in my world, can Michigan cover the point spread. Generally speaking, I don't consider covering the line or not a true storyline for the masses. But in Michigan's case this season, I do. Don't forget, the Wolverines didn't cover a single point spread in Big 10 play a year ago. That's only the fifth time in the last decade that any FBS school didn't cover against the closing game in all their league games.
The paranoid ninny in me is naturally not happy that Michigan is the biggest chalk on the Big 10 board in the wake of last year's 0-8 ATS mark and 4-20 ATS mark the last three years against the Big 10. Obviously part of that is Minnesota's serious sucktitude so far this season. But some of it is indeed a changing mindset towards Michigan within the gambling community. Back in the summer, not only was nobody betting on Michigan, but everybody and their pet cats was betting against the Maize and Blue. However, a month into the season, Michigan has showcased some defensive competency, they still have Denard Robinson and, well, the rest of the Big 10 just looks terrible. The result? A major shifting of the odds in favor of Michigan. The Wolverines used to be 8th in line on the board with Big 10 Championship odds, checking in at +1600. But with the shifting Big 10 odds, today they are third in line at +800, behind Wisco and Nebraska. And when books re-released lines for future games on Monday, Michigan, which had been an underdog in almost every Big 10 game available, is now the favorite in almost all those games.
[ed: specifics after the jump. Thanks for being terrible, Big Ten.]
So what did everybody do tonight? I know what I am not doing. I am not sleeping, that's what. It's too tough to sleep when you cant stop laughing.
Other than, you know, winning did Michigan do anything well tonight? To quote Bob Ufer, 'who gives a damn'
The Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry. Where 14-0 leads go to die. And where Underdogs happen.
Hey, Elno. I quoted Raised On Robbery in my MGoDiary. I think that was appropriate in retrospect. CAW
You know what that was? I'll tell you what that was right now: IT WAS THE MOTHERFUCKING LLOYD CARR GAME MANAGEMENT PLAN THAT RICH RODRIGUEZ NEVER READ BECAUSE KIRK FERENTZ STOLE IT TO BOSS THE BIG 10 FOR A COUPLE YEARS UNTIL BRADY HOKE WON IT BACK DURING THE COACHES WRESTLING TOURNAMENT AT THE BIG 10 MEETINGS THIS SUMMER
Apparently, it still works like a charm. Even the Les Miles section was dusted off.
Ferentz, I guess, is already in trouble without it
Actually, wait a sec, do those points MICH scored in the fourth quarter really count. I mean, they were down 17, I thought we learned a year ago that at that point whatever happens isnt relevant to form. So, Notre Dame won, right? HALOL
The Cubs were World Series Champs last time MICH beat Notre Dame three years in a row. I was not alive then. Fuck The Irish
Denard Robinson is Spanish for 30 seconds is too much time to leave on the clock
Somebody tweet something about Jeremy Gallon right quick
Vincent Smith. Its funny how internet posters hate him, but coaches love him.
OT: The Tigers Magic Number is in single digits
I really dont have anything smart to say. This all just an excuse to create a party diary. The stadium was beautiful tonight. The players fought their asses off. Somehow they won. Go Blue.
Let The Good Times Roll
(Diarist Note: We're setting up a tailgate all day tomorrow at the Fingerle Lumber Yard (Fifth/Hill) with the family truckster, otherwise known as Wild Rover II, a mid-1990s model Fleetwood Destiny mobile home. There will be a lot of people coming and going during what's going to be the longest tailgate day in our program's history. Everyone is invited to swing on by and chill if you're in the 'Hood. If you cant figure out which ones we are, just start yelling my name as you walk by the rows of RVs. If you don't look too much like a gomer, then I'll speak up. I'll be up there by noon, drink in hand, watching and talking football. Also: Go to the JCB, play the Pick-4 and, well, don't you think its about time you bookmark us or something on make us a regular read? )
Oh boy. It's here. Michigan/Notre Dame Week. NIGHT GAME WOO!!!! It is always one of the more tense weeks for me on the football calendar. As a 30-plus year vet of Michigan Stadium, I can state there aren't too many other times the Big House is more tense and on edge then when its invaded by 15,000 loud, obnoxious and drunk Leprechauns. Add in the historic night game aspect, and I have been antsy about this game for months now. Thankfully, we'll be tailgating a stone's throw away from a liquor store.
I was born in the early 1970s and raised not only on robbery, but also on 1980s college football. That means I have a healthy--or is it unhealthy--dose of dislike, disdain and distrust of Notre Dame football. To this day, I get rankled more about their team and most of their fan base, more than even Ohio State. Who am I kidding? I don't even have a problem (most of the time) with OSU fans. They're all great employees. Heck, I am even kinda, sorta dating one of them right now. What can I say? She has HAWT tattoos. But, they are all my neighbors, after all. There's a respect and a kinship to a certain degree when it comes to me and OSU fans.
But Notre Dame? That's a whole different ball of wax. Maybe it's all those losses highly ranked Wolverine squads suffered at the hands of the Irish when I was an impressionable lad. Maybe it's that douchebag Rocket Ishmail. Maybe it's that silly looking Oom Pa Loompa turned hero Reggie Ho. Maybe it was the cackling of my friends dad--a Toledo grad who adores Notre Dame because of his arch Catholicism--as Gillette's field goal swerved too far to the right in 1988. Maybe it's their liberal use of index cards to determine first downs. Maybe it's Paul Hornung winning the Heisman Trophy on a team with a losing record while some guy named Jim Brown got the shaft. Maybe it's their belief that God actually gives two shits about their stupid football team. Maybe it's because the Grotto is filled with piss water funneled in from Gary. Maybe it's because Rudy was offside. And a serial exaggerator. Maybe it's all the annoying Irish fans that decked themselves out in 49ers gear during the 1980s because OHMYGODJOEMONTANAISTHEBEST. Maybe it's because of that insufferable imp Lou Holtz. Maybe it's the ND blogosphere meltdown because they were playing a bowl game on Christmas Eve. Maybe it's because one on my favorite non MICH games ever was Miami 55, ND 7. And BC 41, ND 39. It's a toss up. I could go on and on, but I fear I have already ruined the sweet, laid back image I have cultivated here on these blog pages over the years by letting some of this hate spill.
But, I love Michigan-Notre Dame games. Yes, the programs are on hard times. Yes, this is no longer the 1980s or early 1990s when these games annually were early season National Championship Semifinal contests. But the games remain special. The pageantry remains everything that is good about college football. And, have you seen their games recently? They provide us with crackerjack contests that go down to wire, that could be retold by epic poetry worthy of gridiron heroics. And, its the easiest game to bet on every single year. Take the points with the underdog. Don't think about it. Don't do any of those silly head to head positional breakdowns. Don't even try to measure the intangibles. Just book the underdog and save all the analysis for the postgame. Since the modern series resumed in 1978, the underdog is a dominating 22-5 ATS. The underdog has won this game more often straight up than the favorite. And routinely the underdog--really the winner of this game period--plays their best game of the season. Did the 1994, 2006, 2009 or 2010 Wolverines play a better game all season than their 'upset' wins over the Irish? How about the Irish? Did their 2004, 2005 and 2008 clubs perform better and win than they did when they upset the Wolverines those Septembers. The last time the Irish covered as a favorite in this series was 1982, coincidentally the first ever night game in Notre Dame Stadium. That's just the kind of symmetry that scares the pants off me when the stinkin' Irish are involved.
Regardless, Michigan is the underdog tomorrow, and, like the last two seasons, that is where my money will be come kickoff. Its the first of seven games already on the betting board for 2011 where Michigan is not only the underdog, but faces buckets of money being bet against them in the wake of the dismal Rodriguez years. We'll find out tomorrow if all that dough that poured in on Notre Dame back in June to drive the initial line of Michigan -2 all the way to Notre Dame -4.5 in the span of a few hours was a good investment or not for all the Brian Kelly slappies in Wise Guy Land. Kelly is pissed at his QB? Wait until Rocko and Moe lose another game on your boys, coach. Then, you'll see anger. And 'For Sale' signs. We bet against the Irish last week at the JCB and won. We're already on MSU +7 next week. And we're on Michigan tomorrow. Let the Fade Notre Dame Tour Of 2011 continue. I'd ask God for help, but he's got bigger things to deal with than football. Like trying to figure out how to cave all the Irish posters on His new blog. Even He thinks they're annoying.
While I promote the fact that no analysis is needed for this game from a capping standpoint, that doesn't mean we cant chat about the keys to the game through our own make believe prop board. So, without further adieu, here we go. Don't forget to play the Pick-4 at the JCB. And, for sure, swing by the Fingerle Lumber Yard tomorrow for some rooting, tooting good times.
Michigan vs Notre Dame, Second Quarter Score: Irish -3.5
This prop covers the second quarter score only. It is also one of the four Pick-4 props for the week at the JCB. If you aren’t playing the Pick-4, then what the hell are you doing with your time anyway? You're not that far behind after one week, so join in and play now while the season is still young. Getting back to this key to the game, why the second quarter? For me, its the true litmus test on the new coaching staff in Ann Arbor. Not how they use Denard, not can they cobble together a serviceable defense, not can they teach anybody on campus to kick the ball. Nope. I am judging the new sheriffs in town by how Michigan does in the second quarter. A year ago? It was a fucking disaster. The Wolverines were thumped to the tune of 194-83 in the second quarters of their games last season. As a result, they rarely got to halftime in any important game in legit range of their foe. Can the new coaches change this? Can they make enough improvement on the field and hold games together better in the early going so that perhaps their talented Shoelace in the hole has a chance to win games in the fourth quarter. That's something that college football fans were robbed of last October and November: The chance to see Denard play with the game on the line in the fourth quarter. Michigan outscored their opponents in every other quarter a year ago, but by being drubbed by almost a 2.5 to 1 margin in the second 15 minutes torpedoed the whole season. Seven times they were outscored by at least 10 points in the second stanza. Michigan was able to tie UMass 10-10 in the second quarter, but the only team they beat a year ago in the second quarter was, guess who? The Notre Dame Fighting Irish. But, they needed an historic and magnificent 87-yard TD run by Denard to make that happen. A week ago? Michigan won the second quarter 20-3. A turnaround or just a fluke from playing a MAC team? In the first legit showdown of the season, I am as intrigued by how the second quarter goes down as anything else. Maybe its just an early round of Maize and Blue Kool Aid in advance of the weekend, but In Hoke I Trust. Let's win this second quarter MICH. From there, the game will be ours, I say.
Cierre Wood -15.5 rushing yards over Fitzgerald Toussaint
Fitzgerald Toussaint featured prominently in our mock props a week ago, when we asked readers to determine whether or not he would surpass his career rushing totals in the opener. He needed 88 yards against Western, but ended with only 80. Certainly this would have gone Over had, you know, a fourth quarter actually been played. Let's involve Fitz again, this time matching Good 'Ol #28 head to head with another tailback recruit from the 2009 class. Fitzgerald Toussaint vs Cierre Wood. Toussaint was a Rivals 4-star recruit, the #8 ranked all-purpose back in the country coming out of high school. Wood was also a 4-star recruit per Rivals in the 2009 class, but their gurus placed Wood in the 'running back' category as opposed to 'all-purpose back' as they did for Toussaint. Everybody wanted a piece of Wood as he held scholarship offers from USC, Auburn, Florida and Nebraska as a high school senior. It took a while for his career in South Bend to take off, but he found a groove in Brian Kelly's offense a year ago and it was his hard running, along with the GRITTY QB play of Tommy Rees, that sparked the Irish charge late last season that had everyone excited about this year's prospects. He didn't carry the football more than 7 times in any of Notre Dame's first six games of the 2010 season, but he pretty much evolved into their feature back down the backstretch, toting for double digit carries in six of their final seven games, rushing for more than 81 yards four times. The Irish may have whiffed last week against USF, but not because of Wood, who surpassed the century mark for the first time in his career. The junior rushed for 104 yards and added 44 yards of receiving for good measure. He and Michael Floyd ought to give the Irish a tailback/receiver combo as productive as just about anybody else in the country. In this battle of the stats, we have the 8th ranked all purpose back in the 2009, the 14th best player in Ohio that year in Toussaint going up against wood, the the 8th ranked tailback in the 2009 class, the 8th best player in California that season. Whichever emerging Redshirt Sophomore playmaker shines the most tomorrow night might tip the balance of this game.
Roy Roundtree O/U 6.5 catches.
We know a few things about Royland Roundtree. He does a great Donald Duck, wakes up HONGRY, turnovers follow any pass he drops, he holds the Michigan single game record for receiving yards and is a great bounce back player. And that's what we're focusing on here. Every since he became a regular in Michigan's lineup during the final third of his redshirt freshmen season in 2009, he's rarely has back-to-back sucky games. A week ago, he wasn't much of a factor against Western Michigan, hauling in just two passes for 17 years. The four previous times in his career since becoming a regular that he caught three or less passes, he pretty much turned around and blew up the following week. After his less than stellar outings, he's bounced back to average 7.25 catches and 143 yards per game. This includes his eight catch effort, highlighted by the huge third down conversion, in last year's Notre Dame win as well the record setting performance in the Illinois win. Their wasn't really any pass catching stars for Michigan last week, but it was a game where that wasn't really needed. Somebody will have to step up this week, though, just because its a bigger game. Given his bounce back efforts, my money is on Roundtree.
Michigan -1.5 over Air Force
I know what you are thinking. Is JamieMac that much of a connected degenerate that he already has a line for next season's home opener against Air Force? No, really, I am not that connected. Degenerate? 50/50. But this is an actual prop offered tomorrow by sportsbook.com. They have a whole board of fantasy matchups pitting a pair of teams from different games against each other. San Diego State is -3 over Notre Dame. Can Hoke beat the Irish with both his new and old team? Talk about a chance at history, Brady! So, in the hypothetical matchup between the Wolverines and Fly Boys, Michigan is short 1.5-point chalk, which is ironic because Michigan isn't chalk right now in any actual game listed on the same book's future board. But they are favored in a game that they're not even technically playing. I blame Rodriguez. FIRE RICH ROD! I am reluctant to play props like these. I have never done so, but man it sure seems like a fun thing to track. Air Force is playing TCU in the middle of the day on Versus. Well, unless Versus shows a replay of last week's Notre Dame instead. Other fantasy props of this ilk include Iowa -2.5 over Missouri, Penn State -1.5 over Boston College and Alabama -0.5 over TCU. Notre Dame isn't anywhere on this board, perhaps a testament to how scared books are at releasing too many lines that involve the major question mark that remains the Michigan defense.
That's all I got. Its going to be a fun day and night in Ann Arbor. Please, everybody be safe and defer to the side of good, clean fun. There will be a lot of the latter going on at the Lumber Yard, so if you're hanging around the 'hood, stop on by.
Go Blue. Fuck The Irish.
(A little season preview from a sports handicapping perspective on our Maize and Blue….plus a Pick-4 style preview of tomorrow’s opener. Speaking of Pick-4, ramble on over to the JCB at get in on the game. Do that first, then come back and read, yo! I’ll also have a full card of picks later today at the JCB, but I am already on the side of two, plucky double digit underdogs tomorrow)
Michigan enters the season not only trying to rebuild the mass wreckage that is their defense, but they're also trying to rally after a historically poor mark against the point spread. To be sure, the three-year Rodriguez run made Michigan among the most prime cut 'bet against' teams in the land as their 10-26 ATS overall mark the last three seasons attests. But 2010 hit a unique low for the Wolverines against the number as Michigan did not cover a single spread in conference play. Yuck. 0-8 ATS vs. the Big 10. And, before you ask: No, Michigan did not cover that Purdue game, they closed as a –12.5 road favorite in an eventual 11-point victory over the Boilers. Michigan did nothing but lose money to the league, a feat that probably would get most coaches down south not just fired, but tarred, feather and burned at the stake.
How rare was Michigan's shooting the moon, burn your wallet trick a year ago? In the previous decade, only four FBS programs lost every conference game against the spread in a single season. Those were some pretty famous clubs. How could anyone forget the 2003 Illinois squad that did not beat a single FBS team straight up that season? Or the 2002 Iowa State Cyclones and the 2003 Baylor Bears giving the Big 12 easy money, bet against teams in consecutive seasons? Or the 2008 Washington machine that did not win any games straight up and their only cover overall on the year was the controversial 1-point loss to BYU after the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Jake Locker forced a longer than usual PAT after what could have been the tying touchdown. Michigan joining the company of the Iowa States and Baylors of the world? That is so Michigan during the Rodriguez regime. FIRE RICH ROD!
At least we can say this. Those previous four clubs went a combined 6-42 straight up. Michigan at least managed to cobble together a winning straight up record despite equaling those other clubs’ pathetic ATS feat. Their seven wins was more than than those prior four clubs combined. And they went to a bowl game, right? This qualifies as a progress in the three year vacuum of 2008-10. Of course, Michigan also added a bowl whipping and no cover to their 0-8 league mark. And, in the end, is achieving something that puts you in the conversation with the Ron Turners and Ty Willinghams of the world really something to crow about? Probably not, but make no mistake there are plenty of people sad to see their personal Rodriguez punching bag and subsequent money train gone. Coaching change or not, last year left such a negative impression of Michigan against the number that people are already lined up and ready to bet against them again this season.
But those people still bullish on betting against Michigan should beware and take a little notice at what happened in the follow-up year with those previous conference money burners. They all rebounded to at least a break even conference mark ATS the following season. Three had winning league ATS marks. From a straight up standpoint, they had a combined 12 more wins between them the following season. None of those teams won more than three games the previous season. So if Michigan has similar looking gains as their four profit killing predecessors, given they already were a winning team to begin with, they could end up rolling out a nifty season. Michigan has more returning starters than any of those four teams had, have more material on hand to work with and Denard Robinson. All those teams were big underdogs in most of their league games the following year, by an average of more than 10 points per game. Those teams were catching points in all but four combined league games during the follow-up season. Like those teams, Michigan is an underdog, catching points in all six Big 10 games listed on the various online futures boards. But, the most points they're getting in any of those games is the +5 listed for November's Nebraska game. Given where the lines are right now for Michigan, if they break even ATS in Big 10 play, they're going to seriously flirt with a winning straight up Big 10 mark for the first time since 2007. They also could be doing nothing but losing, albeit covering the spread, in close, fourth quarter games.
Anyway, that’s one Michigan centric storyline the blog's degenerate line junkie is looking at from the dark side of the sports wagering world. Another one is assessing their win total. Oddsmakers have set the bar at 7 wins. I have a hard time endorsing a call either way. From a betting perspective, I'm not comfortable projecting more than 7 wins, at least not comfy enough to suggest, you know, actually putting your hard earned money on it. Can they really beat ND three times in a row? Northwestern, as the first road game of the season, nestled in between rivalry games against Minnesota and Michigan State, is the definition of a trap game. I don’t see the Wolverines breaking their MSU or OSU losing streaks. If I maintain a realistic approach, I cant see better than 4-4 in league play, with a loss to ND in non-conference likely. That's seven wins. Now, if I put my optimistic, partisan fan hat on, I come back to the Notre Dame game as the first big swing game of the season. If Michigan can tuck that game away, I feel that will prove they are good enough to be one game better through 10 games than they were a year ago. That would be 8-2 heading into the massive 1-2 punch of Nebraska and Ohio State. At least those games are at home, and we'll see if Michigan is any closer in those showdowns than they were against the Wisco/OSU closing duo during each of the last two years. So, I suggest staying away from Michigan on a win total standpoint, although I can see an optimistically visualize a road map to eight or nine wins.
PICK-4 Stylish Previewy Type Substance Of The Opener
But, I do not suggest staying away from playing our Pick-4 over at the JCB. It's fun, its free and its a great way to stay interested in some of the other games spread across the country. Check it out and play. Here are my formal Pick-4 picks for Week One. As far as Michigan's opener tomorrow against Western Michigan, how about I give my own preview, Pick-4 style. We'll keep track of these in the comments section.
Longest Touchdown Of The Game, O/U 57.5 Yards
This is not only a Pick-4 play, but an actual prop bet offered by an assortment of online books. As bad a play against the spread Michigan was a year ago, taking the Over for longest touchdown in its game was as great. At this number, you would have cashed a winner in 10 of 13 Michigan games in 2010. All tickets still would have been winners at 60.5 yards, which is where these props were listed by the end of the year in Michigan contests. This was a regular prop offered on the Wolverines a year ago, and I enjoyed the windfall most of the time. There was the Koger touchdown against Penn State, a silver lining in an otherwise painful night. There was the bizarre sight of the Michigan defense cashing this ticket against Purdue. There was the James White home run bomb right before half for the Badgers and the kick off return touchdown for the Bucks, both the equivalent of taking daggers to the heart for profit. Winning this prop before I was even in my seats for the Illinois was spectacular. And, then, of course there is the famous Denard run in South Bend. I swear by the time I tell this story to my grandkids, I will have won like five grand or something on the breeze of this play. How do I know? Because I didnt have this prop that day, but I am still listing it among the roster of actual winners. I just love that play so much. But, there was also the Gator Bowl, when James Rodgers torpedoed the bet with a shoestring tackle at the 7-yard line keeping LaDarius Perkins out of the end zone after an 81-yard catch and run. The game was already way out of reach. Damn you and your Charlie Hustle, Mr Pride Of MadBama!! Anyway, we're back and in line for more this year. As long as Denard Robinson and the Michigan defense are involved, I'm buying this. As mentioned, its an actual prop in the real world, so we're not only taking the over in the Pick-4, but the only piece of actual wagering on my card for Michigan's opening game is this over 57.5 yards action.
Will Fitzgerald Toussaint Surpass His Career Rushing Totals In This Single Game? O/U 87.5 Yards
First, the basic numbers. Toussaint has to net 88 yards on the ground against Western for this prop to go Over the total. Toussaint hasn't had much of an impact yet on the field, but he appears to be in line for a lot of carries in 2011. He might not be the 1A back right now, but from everything we've been hearing so far, he's no worse than 1B heading into the opener. And its expected to be the type of game where being 1B still puts you in line for a big time game. Brian labeled Toussaint a wildcard and I agree. His chance for a lot of carries and how he performs with those touches intrigues me. I had one longtime Ohio scout tell me point blank during an interview for a HTTV piece that Toussaint was not a Big 10 tailback. And, his tenor gave off a sense of offense that Michigan thought it could find its future tailback within his game, nor did he represent the quality of talent Michigan needed to be mining out of Ohio. On the other hand, Rivals lauded him as a 4-star, the #8 all-purpose back in the country and as a member of their top-250 overall, just getting in at #239. But, on the other, other hand, perhaps feeling the same thing said scout was thinking, Big 1o schools weren't clamoring for the Youngstown native as only Illinois and assortment of Big East contenders offered him a scholarship along with Michigan. Injuries have held him back so far and his biggest impact might be for being the inspiration behind the leader in the clubhouse for funniest line of September when Brian noted he was china in a bull shop in the afore linked position preview he posted yesterday. He has three seasons left to add to his resume. And, its not like he's behind his classmates. Only Theo Riddick, who ranked 10th in that Rivals top-10 all purpose backs list from 2009, has made in roads on the field. He's doing it at wideout and had a solid 39-catch season last year. Michigan will see him next when the Irish come to town. This contest with Western wont prove that Doubting Thomas scout right or wrong. But for Toussaint, its pretty important to prove, regardless of foe, that he can not only handle a decent share of touches, but also survive to handle the same workload seven days later.
Will Junior Hemingway Score A Touchdown? Yes/No
Junior Hemingway is on his third head coach at Michigan. That just sounds wrong. He verbally committed to the program more than five years ago. Rivals only tagged him as a 3-star coming out of high school, but the South Carolina native was pursued by some heavy hitters with offers from Ohio State, Notre Dame, Florida State and Miami also in hand. He finally began showing us last year why he was such a coveted commodity. He came dangerously close to putting up the most underrated season for a Michigan flanker this side of Marcus Knight's 1999 efforts. He was still averaging over 20 yards per catch well into November, a stat that would have put in in the top-8 for a single season all time in program history. How does Michigan win games over Indiana and Illinois without his heroics? Of course, his production waned down the stretch as the whole team crumbled against a tough as nails closing stretch. And, he missed three games on account of injury, a bug that's dogged him his whole college career. Regardless, if his career ended today, he would rank in the top-10 for career per catch average of all program players with at least 50 catches. I think he's primed for a nice year and at least 50 catches. But we all know he loves opening day. He's got a little Tufty Rhoades in him. The one and only Threet to Hemingway TD was scored in the second half of the Utah opener in 2008. And he and Tate Forcier looked like a dominant tandem two years against this same Bronco program as Hemingway went off for 103 yards and two scores. If he can catch a scoring pass from Denard (or Devin Gardner), he will have caught scores in season openers from three different quarterbacks. That sounds as weird as having played for three different head coaches at Michigan. But it also sounds a whole lot cooler.
Jake Ryan/Nathan Brink Combined Tackles, O/U 5.5
I figured we needed at least one defensive prop. So, how about we combine the basic tackling stats for the two leading Practice Camp Legends who emerged from that side of the ball this spring and summer. Ryan and Brink fit that bill, especially Brink, a player many of us hadn't even heard of before, but by mid-August was being projected as a starter on account of his play in practice. It was exciting to hear about an unknown player emerging until the reality set in that it probably wasn't the greatest thing for the program if somebody that this obsessed fan had never heard of before was going to suddenly play a major role in the defense. Eventually, the positive side won out because this unit was so bad last year, new faces are a good thing in spots. We'll see about both of these players. Both have multiple years of eligibility remaining and had enough preseason ink devoted to their practice play that if reality and legend matchup, then Michigan gets surprisingly stronger along two units on the team lacking in depth. We're all watching the defense, looking to see the Mattison Difference. But for me a secondary storyline tomorrow is just exactly how much run Ryan and Brink get and what they do with their time on the field.
As far as the game side and total, I am sticking with one mantra I had a year ago. Until further notice and proof of an improved stop unit, Michigan doesn’t have the defense to hold up as chalk. Its not worth playing them, even if I feel like they could cover this once the offense gets this rolling tomorrow. As for the total, two out of every three games in the Rodriguez Era went over the total. Will that continue? We’ll begin finding out some answers tomorrow. My prediction? A lot of fun, two Michigan players gaining 100 yards on the ground, Denard accounting for his first touchdown within the first 5:30 minutes of the game, at least one TD of more than 57.5 yards and a comfy 38-21 Michigan win.
It's the last day of February. Selection Sunday is 13 days away. While I constantly keep tabs on the Bracket Matrix throughout the winter, doing so now carries even more excitement because who is in the Matrix now might finally resemble who actually makes the field [Ed-M: and Michigan's in it!].
Mock brackets throughout most of January and February are so fluid that it's hard to put a ton of stock in them, other than to guage where exactly certain teams are on the pecking order at that moment in time. Now grabbing a spot in the Matrix means you could be a win or two away from netting an actual bid. As far as interest from the mock crowd goes, this is the time to be peaking. And while our Michigan Wolverines still have some work to do to get into the actual tournament they and their profile are grabbing people's attention at the right time. Let's take a look.
Right now, Michigan sits with 12 of 75 votes among the mock bracketology crowd. That number obviously is a low one but it represents major progress on two fronts. One, it's the most mock votes the Wolverines have had at any time this season. At the beginning of each of the last two weeks they had peaked with seven votes. For the first time on the campaign, Michigan has been elevated into the Matrix's final eight cut group, albeit in the eighth spot. The numbers may look bleak and small, but at least the Wolverines are trending in the right direction at the right time. The question is will there be enough season left and can Michigan win enough games and others lose enough during that point to make a major move?
A look deeper into the Matrix numbers reveals that Michigan may be a lot closer to the actual bracket than their measly 12-vote haul indicates. Let's break it down by the most recent straw poll. All told, there are 75 bracketologists that participate. However, only 28 of them have cast their ballots since the close of Saturday's action. Let's focus on those 28 ballots. The Wolverines grab 10 of their votes from those early voters, so they are running at about 35-percent support when it comes to the most recent exit poll. Should Michigan maintain that level of support with the remaining four dozen or so ballots, they would rise to about 27 votes. In the current Matrix, that high of a vote total would be good for third-from-last cut.
Even better, Michigan is really maxing out with more support among the early voters than a lot of the other teams ahead of them in the Final Eight Cut list. For example, currently Cleveland State, Colorado State and Wichita State are the first, second and third to last teams cut from the comprehensive Matrix. But they're still relying on support from mocks that have not updated to prop up their position in the pecking order. Of the 28 early voters this week, Cleveland State and Wichita have six votes apiece while Colorado State, fresh off one of the worst bubble losses of the weekend to Air Force, has just one vote. If the early voting is any indication, Michigan has passed all three of those teams. They're also faring better than Southern Miss, fifth-to-last cut, who had six votes from the early mocks and UTEP, sixth-to-last cut, who had just one. If voting form holds--a big IF obviously -- when the Matrix updates again (usually around dinner time every Monday night) expect Michigan to at least be a couple spots closer to the field than their current eight-from-last-cut Matrix position.
The only two teams within that Final Eight Cut group trending better than Michigan are Clemson--a team Michigan beat on the road three months ago, who netted 13 of 28 early votes and have a total of 22 votes altogether and Colorado, who like Michigan, has 12 total votes with almost all of them coming from the early voters. In that demographic, the Buffs grabbed 11 votes, one more than the Wolverines. The Tigers have a huge game at Duke this week, then close the season at home against Virginia Tech. I think an argument can be made on either side of the coin as to whether or not we should be cheering for or pulling against Clemson. As for Colorado, their surge comes on the heels of their electric second half Saturday night when they took down Texas, one of the marquee wins of the weekend. They travel to Iowa State on Wednesday and close at home over the weekend against Nebraska. They can't afford to lose either game. We are decidedly Cyclone and Cornhusker fans this week.
Outside of the final eight cut, there are a couple teams to look out for, which are trending at upwardly support but just a smidge beneath Michigan. Penn State received eight of their 11 total votes from the 28 early ballots and Baylor grabbed seven of their 10 from that same crowd. Both have major showdowns this week where wins could skyrocket them up the charts. The Nittany Lions--a team Michigan swept in two games this season--play host to Ohio State and travel to Minnesota. A 2-0 week would be a major statement and put them in position for an actual bid heading into the Big 10 Tournament. As for Baylor, they continued their inconsistent season over the weekend with a win over Texas A&M. They travel to Oklahoma State and host Texas to close the season. They need a 2-0 week as well, and if they pull that off, a bid might be back in their grasp when their league sectional begins. So, we should keep an eye on both PSU and Baylor and cheer against both this week. So, uh, Go Buc....eh, I cant say it, even if I mean it.
As for the teams currently perched inside the Matrix, there are a couple really shaky at large bids right now. Michigan is trending equally or better than both based on the early returns. One, of course, is Minnesota which Michigan defeated in glorious fashion on Saturday. The Gophers still have 45 total votes, good for a spot on the 11-line. But only six of 28 early voters have them in their field. That's four less than the Wolverines pulled in the early straw poll. They might tumble out of the Matrix during its next comprehensive update. So too might the Alabama Crimson Tide. They suffered a bad road loss to Ole Miss over the weekend, something akin to losing on the road to Iowa to make a Big 10 comparable. Like the Gophers, they're seeing their support hemmorage. They are on the 12-line with 42 votes, but they received the exact amount of support--10 votes--as Michigan in the early voting this go around.
What does all this mean? Well, not much. The Selection Committee doesnt really care what mock bracketologists have to say. But these folks put a ton of effort into it and, in the end, they're competing with one another to produce the most accurate facsimile of the eventual field. And among that crowd, Michigan right now is rising. When the Matrix does its next comprehensive update, depending on how many fresh votes it entails, don't be surprised to see Alabama and Minnesota fall out, Clemson and Colorado jump in to take their place and Michigan elevate as high as one of the final two teams cut from the Matrix. It might not be the best position to be in, but at least a clear path exists between and the field of 68.
One last note on the mock bracket crowd. Much has been made in the forums over the weekend about Lunardi finally putting us in his field. Since he hasnt formally published a new bracket at ESPN.com, his vote has not been updated in the Matrix. So, we can assume Michigan will at least pick up one more vote there. But, what I want to mention is something I've brought up numerous times. He is not the best bracketologist, just the most famous. The best, IMHE, is Bracketology 101. Not only have they proven more accurate than Joey Brackets in recent years, but they just put a lot more thought and foresight into their projections. And I swear Joey Brackets' updates throughout the winter are geared a little bit to put an extra highlight on upcoming televised games on the WWL. Just an observation I've made over time. B101 has no such biases. Anyway, Michigan has been one of their final four teams cut for two weeks running and they've mentioned several times that the Wolverines have been one of their most debated teams during the back half of February. It's worth pointing out the Michigan has been elevated into their field for the first time this season, projected as a 12-seed to play fellow 12-seed Colorado in one of the play-in games. Is it a good thing that the most accurate bracketologist has the Wolverines in their field with just 13 days to go until Selection Sunday? Yes, it is. Here is what they said about the Wolverines:
With no bid-stealers available, we had to pick from a group of teams with a lot of warts and a lot of work left to do. . . . . . Michigan made the cut, despite their loss at home to Wisconsin on Wednesday, because we think they have a decent chance to beat Michigan State at home this weekend and then win their first Big Ten tourney game.
So there you go. The best in the biz saying that Michigan might be just two wins away from the bid and they have a decent enough shot of pulling that off that they made their field. It's not the most ringing endorsement, but given the expectations we had when the season began, we'll take it. It should be a fun weeklong building up to the State game on Saturday and, of course, scoreboard watching in the interim.
(For the first time in the three years we've done Bowl Chronicles, the Michigan Wolverines make an appearance. That deserves its own BC post. You know where to find the rest of the Bowl Chronicle series.)
Was you New Year's resolution to live more dangerously and take more chances? Betting Michigan today in the Gator Bowl would certainly qualify. What else could you call backing a team that went winless against the spread in conference play. Yep, that's right. Michigan went 0-8 ATS in the Big 10, failing to cover as chalk in its three straight up wins and, for the most part, getting gashed so badly on defense that no head start as an underdog was enough to cash a ticket. Make no mistake this has as much to do with Rich Rodriguez job status as anything else. Fans have a tendency to be quieter while you're rebuilding if you prove a feisty underdog and keep things closer than the experts think. How much would the noise be adjusted in Rodriguez's favor had he only covered the last two games, say taking Wisco down to the wire, but losing a classic in the home finale, and a single digit loss to OSU in a game that’s in doubt into the fourth quarter? There would still be plenty of grumbling, but there might equally loud voices of progress. Those opinions would have a lot more legitimacy to the average fan than they do now. At least Rich isn’t coaching in the south. A winless ATS season in league play is a capital offense in some of those states.
So, just how 'historic' is Michigan's ATS goose egg in league play? In the last dozen seasons, its only happened twice in the Big 10. The 1999 Iowa Hawkeyes, Kirk Ferentz first season in Iowa City, didn’t cash a single Big 10 ticket. Three seasons later they were in a BCS bowl. The 2003 Illini were two seasons removed from a BCS bid when they went 0-8 ATS. After one more season, they finally kicked Ron Turner to the curb and hired the Zooker. Those teams were abysmal. They went 2-9 and 1-11 straight up. At least Michigan had a winning record and qualified for a bowl game during their ATS winless season.
After that downer of a graph, how about some positives. Rodriguez is 7-1 ATS in his last eight out of conference games!!! Not helping? How about the Bulldogs being 18-22 as chalk, albeit they were 5-2 in that role this season. Still not helping, am I? Tell you what, lets just enjoy the highlights of Michigan's last appearance in the Gator Bowl and call it even. This was against Ole Miss, the Bulldogs rival, so in honor of them we'll call them Ole Piss, amirite! Anyway, it was a total mismatch. Michigan's entire offensive line was named game MVP. It was Gary Moeller's first season at the helm, a year before Desmondpalooza hit campus.
I wont bore you with too much X's and O's breakdown. As Brian blogged yesterday, Mississippi State is now the most scouted team across the Internet. And it was really great stuff. It was good to see people excited enough that Michigan is back in the postsesaon that they were motivated to put pen to paper on the actual game itself. Everyone who took part on their own blog or in the diaries here should be really commended. And it offered more proof that the Michigan fanbase has the most talented corps of bloggers. In quality and quantity.
The Michigan key Michigan players in this one will be Kenny Demens and Craig Roh. The MSU running attack puts a lot of stress on the defense. This is a lot like the Illinois attack with Vic Ballard and LaDarious Perkins serving as the lethal 1-2 punch we saw with Leshoure and Ford. QB Chris Relf is a dual threat like Scheelhaase, but maybe just a bit better at this point in their careers. Michigan has been worked by the Illinois running attack three years running, no reason to think the Bulldogs wont gash the Wolverines. In fact, you're probably going to want to get in on a little Vic Ballard Over
95.5 104.5 rushing yards. Just a tip. But back to Demems. In that Illinois game he made a handful of plays, stops that Ezeh could not make, that really helped prevent the game from getting out of control in Illinois flavor. He will need to step up and make plays like that in this one to help this defense get off the field. I mention Roh because somebody on this team is going to have to make a drive changing play on Relf as he escapes the pocket. He's a talented player upfield and he can kill a drive all on his own if he gets the chance to swallow up Relf as he breaks pocket contain. Unless of course the coaches line him up at safety. In that case, forget I said anything. Besides, I'll be in the corner drinking anyway. Kidding aside, if those two players make enough plays to convince us they could be all conference contenders during their upperclassmen years, then this Michigan defense might just do enough to allow the offense to win the game.
I think team health is an edge for Michigan. Mike Martin at full strength on the defensive line gives them somebody we knows is a game changer, rather than just hope he can do so. He's Michigan only legit pro prospect right now on the defensive 11. Yes, his return to 100 percent will be important. His play alone could make it easier for Roh and Demens to make the plays they will need to make. He was putting together a defensive MVP caliber season until the injuries slowed him down. Beyond Martin, however, there's Denard Robinson, who everyone is claiming is feeling his best ever on the season. Denard, better than ever? Just the thought puts a shit-eating grin on my face. I have to supress my cackles. On the other side of the field, the Bulldogs come in without some key parts. Chad Bumphis is one of the best receivers in the SEC. He's out. That's one game changer taken care of that Michigan had no chance of checking themselves. Want another? How about Leon Berry. He's only one of the best kick returners in the country. That's one less issue for our maligned special teams unit to deal with, not to mention he's the team's third most prolific wideout.
Another question mark is motivation. It's always an issue this time of year. To be a good handicapper during the college football postseason, you have to be a quality shrink as well. You have to know that Nebraska wont give a shit playing Washington again in the middle tier bowl game they played in a year ago. You have to know that Miami will fold if any single part of the condition of play isnt perfect. You have to know that the Maryland players consider Freidgen their father and are prepared to go through brick wall after brick wall for their dissed leader. I always say bowl games are like NBA regular season games: every team makes a run, they dont really mean all that much as glorified exhibitions of sport and the teams motivational state widely varying and can be tricky to judge. When judging this Michigan team, you have to take into account their mental state with the coaching situation swirling around. We've seen West Virginia and Miami look like they'd rather be a million other places than playing with their coaching situation. But we've also seen Maryland rally around their deposed coach and play lights out. We also saw Oklahoma State send off their offensive coordinator Holgerson with a great effort, despite him splitting a lot of time between places in the bowl run-up, because the players were genuinely happy for him. None of the Michigan players know who is coaching them next year. But, they know who is coaching them this year. It's Rodriguez. As a fan, I'm proud at how the coaches have handled this situation. That will carry over to their players. I think the Wolverines will play hard for this coaching staff. This will be a lot more like the Maryland effort and nothing like we was with the Canes and 'Neers. At least that's what I keep telling myself.
Before making a formal pick, let's take a look at the prop board. I havent been shy taking props during this Bowl Chronicle run, and I actually hit enough winners early on that it keep me afloat while the underdogs finally got their bearings. I think there's some interesting stuff to chew for the Gator Bowl. And with a couple hours yet to kick, we can still play one or two. In fact, expect it.
Denard Robinson Rushing Yards O/U 110.5........this is the line at Sportsbook.com. However the bar is higher at BoDog where players have to judge Shoelace at 124.5 yards. Wow. What a big difference! The betting on props must vary wildly from book to book to have differences like that. From looking through college prop boards throughout the bowl season, I can tell you that its not uncommon to see such disparate totals. They always say to make sure to shop around for the best line available. This is true even more if you're going to be a fulltime prop player. Anyway, as for this line. Can Michigan win if Denard doesnt go Over this total? I dont think so. Denard has only exceeded this mark six times year. But in the six times he didnt, he wasnt that far off the pace, averaging a bit more than 88 yards a contest. And in three of those games he basically didnt play the second half due to injury. Basically you're betting on what type of injury will he have today. Just his breath knocked out and he misses a play or two, something we saw almost every week? Take the Over. Will the finger and shoulder injury crop back up, driving him out of the game for good? Take the Under. And start drinking heavily.
Chris Relf, total completions, O/U 9.5......I laughed at this. Seriously? I just cant imagine a QB having less than double digit completions against this defense. I know the style of offense MSU runs lends itself to that. But, come on. It's the 111th ranked pass defense. Completions are its job and business was good this fall. Scheelhaase had 14 completions for Illinois against Michigan and even Purdue's crappy QB in a rain soaked game found a way to complete 12 passes. Michigan's defense allows a bit more than 20 completions per game. Now you need them to reduce that by 50 percent to win on the Under? Of course, Relf has only completed 10 or more passed four times year and one was against Alcorn State. Michigan has a better D than Alcorn State, right? Please tell me I'm right. Actually, dont answer the question at all. Forget I asked.
Vic Ballard total rushing yards, O/U 1o4.5 yards.....Holy hell. Somebody was busy gambling overnight instead of celebrating the new year. This was 95.5 when I checked last night. I thought it was easy money at that number. I'm still thinking that way. Nine different tailbacks have gone over this number against Michigan this season. It happened seven times in Big 10 play, thanks to Wisconsin having two backs going over it. Only nuetered Purdue in the rain and Indiana, who was too busy throwing it 100 times, failed to have a back go over 104.5 yards. I dont know what's stopping us here.
Roy Roundtree Receiving Yards, Over 70.5....what happens when Roy finds some consistency in his game? He was so close to a 75-plus catch, 1,000-yard season that would be comparable to many of the great WR seasons we've seen here. But, maaaaaaaan, did he have a lot of goose egg days. Six times he had 48 or less yards and seven times he would have failed to go over this number. Michigan has a lot of options, so its hard to put big numbers every week, but if Roundtree shows a bit more consistency in his week-to-week production, he could threaten single season records. He vanished from the gameplan in the three game run against MSU, Iowa and PSU. Barely played against UConn after an injury forced him out of the game. And we all know about his drop issues that cropped up in spades in the Ohio State game. When Roundtree is on, everything is working for this offense.
Dayrl Stonun O/U 3.5 catches....Another tricky one to factor because of the different options the Michigan offense has. Stonum went over this number six times this season. In the other six games, he only had 9 total catches. He did go over this total against top competition like Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa. And he went Over in the team's biggest wins of the season vs UConn, Notre Dame and Illinois. As a Michigan homer, I like the Over in both these WR props, but just cant pull the trigger. If I do, you can bet that Hemingway--who doesnt have a single prop to his name--goes off for nine catches and 135 yards. I'd be fine with that, but probably poorer.
Longest TD Of The Game, O/U 57.5 Yards......I talked about this one heading into the Penn State game. And, how the standard numbers for this prop in most games is 50.5 or 51.5. We took a stab at that number for the PSU game since we'd seen a TD of that length five times in the first seven games. Sure enough Kevin Koger of all people ripped off a catch and run to get us the cash. Come bowl season, the oddsmakers are requiring a longer TD than usual to have a winning Over ticket. I dont know if it matters, though. We've seen at least one TD on offense from longer than 57.5 yards out in eight of Michigan's 12 games. If you include defensive and special teams scores--and the book is suspiciously quiet on whether those count, but I'm assuming they do--then the total is up to 10 out of 12 games. The only games where there wasnt a score of any variety long than this were the UConn and Iowa games.
So, do I like any of those props? I'm taking the Ballard one. That way I can pretend to hear cash register jingles instead of just wanting to beat me head against the wall every time he gashes the Michigan stop troops. And, of course, I'm taking the Over 110.5 rushing yards for Denard. I wish they put out a total offense number. Or even a passing prop (at books I dont have an account at I did find O/U 207.5 passing yards). I think both he and Ballard go over their rushing hurdles in their sleep today. I'm feeling bullish on the Wolverine offense. Total pointsfor the Wolverines is set at Over/Under 27.5. They've gone over that 9 times this season, including against five bowl teams. Book It. And, why not, this could be the last game of the Rodriguez Era which at the least has left us breathless with all sorts of emotions after long touchdown scores. I'll bite on the Over 57.5 for longest score of the game, despite that hurdle being set higher than usual. Four props. All for what we're playing every prop here and at the JCB for a quarter unit. We're just having fun with these. I should probably come up with a fifth to make this battle a true best of five. If any other inspiration comes my way, Ill send it out via the JCB Twitter.
As for the game itself, the last time our Wolverines were in a bowl game, I had no problem taking all those points against Florida. Neither the Wolverines, nor their foe today are as talented as either of those teams. I really do think Mississippi State resembles Illinois a lot. Michigan struggled all day against that offense. But, they had zero problems dealing with their defense. I dont know if MSU is as talented on that side of the ball as the Illini. Unlike the Illini, they have a true defensive weakness going up against the pass. And I dont think they have a guy like Marquez Wilson who made several bigtime plays, giving the Michigan fits. Translation: Michigan wont stop them. They wont stop Michigan. I thought the Baylor matchup for Illinois was a lot like the Michigan game, except they would come out on top. I was correct. I think this matchup for Michigan is a lot like the Illinois game. They wont that shootout. They might not win this shootout, but, I did resolve to take more chances this year, so I will take the head start. And since two out of every three games in the Rodriguez Era has gone Over the total--including 8 out of 12 this season--lets make one last Over stand before its too late.
The Picks: Michigan +5, x 1/2 Unit; Over 59.5 x 1/2 Unit. That's six plays alone in the Gator Bowl. Am I pumped for Michigan back in the postseason or what?