Monday, October 31, 2005

New Top25

I admit that being in Evanston for the Northwestern game really limited what I saw this weekend, so take these rankings with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, here goes:

1. Texas
2. Virginia Tech
3. USC
4. Alabama
6. Penn State
7. Louisiana State
8. Miami
9. Ohio State
10. Florida
11. Notre Dame
12. Georgia
13. Florida State
14. Boston College
15. West Virginia
16. Wisconsin

17. Oregon
18. Auburn
19. Texas Tech
20. Fresno State
21. Michigan
22. TCU
23. California
24. Colorado
25. Rutgers

Friday, October 28, 2005

Michigan/Northwestern Prediction

Game Prediction
I have to admit that I'm not particularly excited about this game, despite the fact that I'm leaving for it in about an hour. Last week Iowa lost the game far more than Michigan won it and Northwestern looked pretty good up in East Lansing. Drew Tate proved that Michigan struggles mightily to take away the intermediate passing game, something that Northwestern excels at. Northwestern also likes to run the counter sprints and spread running game that almost doomed the Wolverines against the Spartans a year ago. The good news is that Michigan will most likely have to open up the gameplan after they trail early, so expect a high scoring affair. This game will come down to adjustments, something that Michigan has only been so-so at this season. Make it Northwestern 38, Michigan 35.

Stat Projections
Chad Henne 25-35, 315 yards, 3 TDs, 2 Ints
Michael Hart 105 yards, 2 TDs
Mario Manningham 75 yards, TD
Jason Avant 120 yards, TD
Tyler Ecker 40 yards, TD

Brett Basanez 22-30, 250 yards, 2 TDs, 1 Int
Tyrell Sutton 175 yards, 3 TDs

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Rankings and Predictions

I'm headed to Evanston tomorrow afternoon, so I'll get prediction/preview up sometime tonight or tomorrow morning for the Michigan/Northwestern game. In the meantime, VT plays BC tonight, so its high time I get some rankings up and some predictions for the games pitting top 25 opponents. Here goes:

1. Texas
2. Virginia Tech
3. USC
4. Georgia
5. Alabama
6. Louisiana State
8. Penn State
9. Miami
10. Notre Dame
11. Ohio State
12. Florida
13. Florida State
14. Boston College
15. West Virginia
16. Oregon

17. Auburn
18. Texas Tech
19. Tennessee
20. Fresno State
21. Wisconsin
22. Northwestern
23. Texas Christian
24. Toledo
25. Michigan

Some Predictions
Florida 28, Georgia 24
Virginia Tech 38, Boston College 21

Last Week: 2-2 Season: 14-17

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

And the game ball goes to...Jake Long?

Well, that was fun. I'm really glad that I made the trip out, even if I had to pay a buttload for a ticket. I don't have much to say about detailed analysis, as I didn't take notes, but perhaps after I watch the tape later in the week I'll have a little more to chip in. Some preliminary thoughts though:

-Jake Long was huge. Its no coincidence that the game winning run in OT went off tackle to the right.

-The Michigan Defense, porous though it was, only gave up 3 points in the second half.

-Iowa lost this game far more than Michigan won it. They had a ton of key penalties and dropped way to many balls.

-Jason Avant never ceases to amaze me. He had several amazing catches in key situations.

That's all I've got for now about the game on the field. I know that I'm supposed to go into opposing stadiums and hate the fans and all, but in this case I have to give a ton of credit to Iowa, who had the best fans that I've ever met. If the Michigan Old Farts were even half as loud as the Iowa Old Farts, the Big House would have the best atmosphere of any stadium in the country. All throughout the game, I had meaningful discussions with the fans around me and after the game there were handshakes all around on a great game played, even though Iowa had lost. I'm willing say that Iowa has, in general, the classiest, most spirited fan base in the Big Ten. Of course the same cannot be said about the Iowa student section. They lost any respect I had for them when they threw stuff at the refs as they exited for half.

Finally, on the way home, we passed the Michigan equipment truck and got him to give us a victory honk. Overall, it was a great experience and I'm definitely looking forward to heading over to Evanston this weekend.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Some belated rankings

So I suppose that it would be good form to post some rankings before the coming weeks games begin (and as it currently in the 2nd quarter of the VT-Maryland game, I had better get a move on, eh?). To make a long story short, I'm having a hard time finding 25 teams worthy of mention, so this week is going to be sans comments. I'm leaving at 10 AM tomorrow for Peoria to meet up with a friend...from there we are heading over to Iowa City for the game. In other words, don't expect much from me in the way of game commentary until Sunday, but I will do my best to take some decent pictures and report in just as soon as I am back. On to the Rankings:

1. Texas
2. Virginia Tech
3. Georgia
4. USC
5. Alabama
6. Louisiana State
7. Miami
9. Penn State
10. Notre Dame
11. Ohio State
12. Florida
13. Florida State
14. Auburn
15. Boston College
16. West Virginia

17. Oregon
18. Texas Tech
19. Tennessee
20. Michigan State
21. Fresno State
22. Wisconsin
23. Northwestern
24. Iowa
25. Texas Christian

Game Prediction
I don't have great faith in Michigan's consistency right now, and this was the game that I circled before the season as our most difficult. With nothing more to say than that, make it Iowa 24, Michigan 20.

Other Game Predictions
Texas 35, Texas Tech 21
Alabama 17, Tennessee 10
Auburn 28, LSU 24

Last week: 2-4 Season: 12-15

Sunday, October 16, 2005

And the game ball goes to...Mario Manningham!

Today's victory over Penn State was a big win for Michigan, but lets not forget that many hailed the win over Michigan State as season saving and we all saw how far that went. I can't say as I'm really surprised that Michigan won today (even though I predicted a loss) but I was very surprised with the way that they won. When Leon Hall intercepted Michael Robinson late in the game, I'll admit, I thought that it was over. Of course Michigan gave the ball right back and allowed Penn State to march right down the field and take the lead on another(!) QB draw. At this point I knew that the game was over because Michigan has never been a team to move the ball quickly down the field for a game winning score. Perhaps it was the sheer futility of the situation that got Chad Henne straightened out, but either way it was the finest drive that Michigan has executed in the last five years. Mario Manningham added another impressive performance to his growing list, but lets not forget that he was so invisible in the first three quarters that I actually found myself watching for him to enter the game, just to make sure that he wasn't injured or something. LaMarr Woodley was also a first half no-show, but everyone on the defense seemed to do their job for a change and as a unit they put the offense in position to win the game, something that they have done every week (although I'll grant that this week was a much tighter position than we have seen thus far).

I was amazed with the ignorance of the announcers with regards to Prescott Burgess who was absolutely retched in the first quarter, made some alright plays in the second and third and was almost solely responsible for allowing Robinson to score the go-ahead TD with less than a minute left. Somehow this added up to a "Chevy Player of the Game Award" despite outstanding efforts from David Harris and Mike Hart. Speaking of the QB draws, Michigan really, really, really needs to get that squared away in practice this week. They should have known that when John Stocco (a running QB to end all running QB's) exposed the weakness of the goalline defense, any team with a decently mobile QB would try to exploit that. The oversight almost cost Michigan the game today, and certainly won't get any better against Troy Smith and company. Iowa is on the schedule this coming week and that was the game that I circled as being Michigan's most sure loss. Can this team show some consistency and whip the resurgent Hawkeyes in Iowa City? Well, that is a question for next week, so for the time being, on to the game thoughts:

-How invisible was Manningham early today? Other than touchdown catches of 33 and 10 yards, he had one catch for 6 yards. Good thing Avant was his usual solid self (8 catches for 75 yards) and Tyler Ecker seems to have remembered how to catch the ball (3 catches for 29 yards).

-Rueben Riley was infinitely better this week at RT. I don't know if it was all him or if Terry Malone finally found him some help, but he was much better and it showed all throughout the second half.

-A big part of the defense shutting out Penn State in the first half was their ability to get pressure on Robinson. I don't recall a single sack, but he was knocked down almost every time he threw it. A lot of this pressure came from Alan Branch.

-Kevin Grady did well as a change of pace back (5 for 25 yards). Now Michigan needs to get Max Martin involved as well.

-There was a long Penn State run featuring missed tackles by David Harris, Alan Branch and Brandon Harrison. Michigan still needs serious work in the tackling department, as on several occasions Penn State was able to make nice plays out of runs that should have been bottled up near the line.

-The Penn State 61 yard run was a direct result of a loss of gap responsibility (although I don't know who). I was sort of happy to see Burgess keep outside contain on this play, but somebody has to fill the gap. Chalk this one down to faulty technique as well.

-Finally, as I mentioned above, Michigan desperately needs to figure out how to stop a QB draw inside the 10 yard line. If nothing else, throw Antonio Bass in as the scout team QB and run it at full speed until they prove that they can make the tackle consistently. Everybody in the stadium knows that the draw is coming, and there is no excuse for being unable to stop a play when you know the call.

Overall I'm ecstatic about the win. I've decided to head down to Chicago to see the Northwestern game in person. If anybody is interested in riding along, let me know. Go Blue.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Penn State/Michigan Preview

Game Prediction
This week, Michigan takes on a team with the following characteristics:
  1. A very good defense
  2. A young, mobile quarterback with a questionable arm
  3. A playmaking freshman cornerback who almost picked Michigan and is used on offense too
  4. An emerging stud WR
  5. A decent but not spectacular rushing game

I could be talking about Ohio State last season, but of course Michigan plays Penn State this week. In my opinion, the similarities are uncanny. The big difference is that Michigan is at home in a must win game instead of down in the pit of hell. Still, I can't in good conscience pick Michigan as Penn State is a much better football team. Chad Henne will be pressured early and often and Mike Hart will struggle to find running room. Michigan should get the ball back late with an opportunity to win, but they will ultimately fall short in heartbreaking fashion. Make it Penn State 17, Michigan 9.

Stat Projections
Chad Henne 15-29, 175 yards
Michael Hart 25 carries, 75 yards
Garrett Rivas 3-4 FG

Michael Robinson 10-17, 95 yards, Int

Other game predictions
Notre Dame 35, USC 31
Texas 38, Colorado 21
Michigan State 27, Ohio State 17
LSU 24, Florida 21
Minnesota 17, Wisconsin 14

Last Week: 1-5 (ouch) Season: 10-11 (maybe I should stop posting my record)

Friday, October 14, 2005

College Football at Midseason

First off, my apologies to Brian at mgoblog for beating him to the punch on a discussion of why Michigan has been a disappointment. I hope that he still writes one though, as we all know that he could do it with far more clarity and humor than I am capable of. With that, on to the All-American Team and this weeks rankings.

Mid-Season All American Team
QB Drew Stanton, Michigan State
RB LenDale White, Southern Cal
RB Justin Forsett, Cal
RB Brian Calhoun, Wisconsin
FB David Kirtman, Southern Cal
WR Tyrone Prothro, Alabama
WR Derek Hagan, Arizona State
WR Jeff Samardzija, Notre Dame
TE Greg Olson, Miami
OL Southern California
OL Minnesota
OL Michigan State
OL California
OL Texas

DL Elvis Dumervil, Louisville
DL Mathias Kiwanuka, Boston College
DL Chris Mineo, UTEP
DL LaMarr Woodley, Michigan
LB AJ Hawk, Ohio State University
LB Brandon Hoyte, Notre Dame
LB AJ Nicholson, Florida State
DB Dion Byrum, Ohio
DB Jimmy Williams, Virginia Tech
DB Daymeion Hughes, California
DB Nick Graham, Tulsa

Special Teams
KR Reggie Bush, USC
PR Maurice Drew, UCLA
K Jad Dean, Clemson
P Danny Baugher, Arizona

Power 16
1. Texas (Jamaal Charles is the bomb)
2. Virginia Tech (best defense/special teams in the country)
3. Georgia (looking legitimate all of a sudden)
4. USC (getting sloppy)
5. Florida State (potential showdown with VT in the ACC title game is awfully appealing)
6. Alabama (last 6 games include Tennessee, LSU and Auburn...ouch)
7. Penn State (Big Test at the Big House this week)
8. Notre Dame (biggest game of the season this week against USC)
9. Michigan State (looking to prove to Ohio State that Michigan was a fluke)
10. Miami (following up Duke with Temple, they should be well rested for stretch run)
11. Louisiana State (I have no idea what to say about this team)
12. Florida (back to back games against LSU and Georgia)
13. UCLA (could roll across town on Dec. 3rd undefeated)
14. Ohio State (I HATE Ohio State)
15. Auburn (sleeper team in the SEC)
16. Boston College (better not get caught looking past Wake Forest to VT)

17. California (tough loss, but could still challenge USC)
18. Oregon (Cal at home is only ranked team left on schedule)
19. Tennessee (glad that Michigan has fallen farther, else they would be most over-preseason-hyped team)
20. Texas Tech (still outscoring people, but lucky to escape Nebraska game)
21. Louisville (at least they will probably get into a BCS bowl)
22. Minnesota (I want my jug back)
23. Fresno State (only loss is to Oregon)
24. Colorado (had to put somebody here)
25. West Virginia (and here too)

New BCS Prediction
ACC: Virginia Tech (Rose Bowl)
Big East: Louisville (has to be somebody)
Big 10: Michigan State (at 6-2 in conference)
Big 12: Texas (Rose Bowl)
Pac-10: USC (despite losses to ND and Cal)
SEC: Georgia (right now Mark Richt is my Coach of the Year)
At Large: Notre Dame (after they beat USC)
At Large: Alabama (well, you won't get a second team out of the B10, B12 or BE, so might as well be the SEC)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Michigan Midseason Report

Why is Michigan 3-3? What needs to be done to salvage the season? 6 key answers below:

1. Poor quarterback play
Against Minnesota, Chad Henne played one of his worst games as a collegiate QB. The only rivals to this are his performances against Notre Dame and Wisconsin. Some of Henne's struggles can be attributed to injuries, poor playcalling and misuse of the wide receivers, but those will all be addressed later so for now let's concentrate on what has gone wrong with Henne himself this season. Watching the game, Henne just seems to lack confidence right now. SuperChad came out in the Michigan State game, but that appears to be the exception rather than the rule right now. If Michigan is to have any chance of beating the good defenses left on the schedule (Penn State, Iowa, Ohio State) they need Henne's confidence level at 100%. This means better playcalling to build him up early in games with short passes and achievable goals. No more bombs downfield unless they can be adequately set up as a play action pass. The Michigan receiving corps is too good to not get open, so there is really no excuse for Henne being unable to find open receivers. He needs to take the time to look off his primary option and work on his touch on the deep ball. It's obvious that Henne has the physical ability, now he just needs to conquer the mental side of the game. If Henne can't do this, Michigan needs to be willing to get Gutierrez some playing time sooner rather than later. I absolutely abhor quarterback controversies, but now may be the time.

2. Reuben Riley replacing Jake Long at RT
Injuries are part of the game, so you can't blame Jake Long's injury for ruining Michigan's season, but through 6 games, its obvious that Reuben Riley is a natural guard that is severely overmatched at the tackle position. Riley just isn't quick enough to pass block against good Big Ten DE's. Last week against Minnesota he looked like a matador as he waved his red flag at the end as he took the corner and bore down on Henne in the pocket. I am willing to assume that given the fact Riley is still playing, Michigan doesn't have a young tackle ready to step in and play, but that doesn't mean that they can't do anything to strengthen the right side of the line. If Tim Massaquoi can't catch with the cast (and he can't) why not move him in to tackle? He has far quicker feet than Riley and must have picked up some blocking technique in the last four years. Even if Riley is the best choice at tackle, why not line a TE up next to him on obvious passing down and have the TE chip the DE on his way downfield? This would take away the quicker first step of the DE and leave Riley in a far better position to passblock. Just because Riley is an inferior tackle, it doesn't mean that Michigan (Terry Malone, I mean you) has to leave him out on an island to get owned every play.

3. Misuse of the WRs
It really pains me to see how Terry Malone has used the Michigan WR's this season. Neither Jason Avant or Steve Breaston are particularly viable deep threats. I have a hard time believing that this didn't become somewhat apparent during practice time, before it became known to the whole world in the Notre Dame (Breaston) and Minnesota (Avant) games. Jason Avant is at his best when he is able to run off the cornerback and sit down underneath the zone coverage, picking up yards 10-15 at a time. Steve Breaston is a classic Z-receiver in the West Coast Offense mold. He needs to be moved around the field and used in the slot to take advantage of slower linebackers and safeties to get the ball in space where he can use his feet to make a play after he has the ball. In order for Avant and Breaston to have room to make these plays, Michigan needs a classic number 1 WR to stretch defenses (remember Braylon?) and I thought that they had found one in Mario Manningham. He was virtually invisible against Minnesota, but I still have confidence that he has the natural speed and route-running ability to be effective down the stretch. Hopefully as Doug Dutch and Adrian Arrington get healthy they can give defenses more to think about and take pressure off of Manningham as this team's only deep threat.

4. Michael Hart's Hamstring
I stand by my conviction that with a healthy Michael Hart, Michigan would have won the Notre Dame game. The offense gets much better in the redzone with him in the game. In the Wisconsin and Minnesota games, Michigan needed to get points on the board and take the star running backs (Brian Calhoun and Laurence Maroney, respectively) out of the game. I also think that a healthy Mike Hart keeps Chad Henne's overall confidence higher and forces the defense to respect the play action pass. If Hart injures himself again down the stretch, Michigan could be in real danger of a losing record.

5. Poor Offensive playcalling
If you asked me over the summer to describe the effect of losing Braylon Edwards, I would have used the mythical story of the Hydra. I genuinely thought that Braylon's graduation would leave the Michigan offense without a focal point for defenses to concentrate on, making them even more dangerous. In retrospect, I couldn't have been more wrong. For whatever reason, Terry Malone and staff seem to be squandering the most talented offense in Michigan history. Max Martin and Kevin Grady join Michael Hart to give Michigan a tremendous opportunity to change pace on offense at will, but for whatever reason they aren't being used. As I talked about earlier, the riches at WR have been wasted. It seems that everyone wants to pile it on Jim Herrmann, but the defense has played above expectations. Terry Malone is the one that should be answering the hard questions right now. If this team has a shot in the second half, it is critical that they gameplan better and begin taking advantage of the innate talent on this team.

6. Poor Tackling on Defense
The only fault that I can find with the defense is the obvious lack of tackling ability. David Harris and Bradent Englemon seem to be the only Wolverines that excel in this part of the game. To clarify, I'm defining tackling here as also including pursuit angle, an area that Michigan has been downright terrible at for several years. Outside contain has been just bad in every game except maybe Michigan State. To be honest, I don't know that there is a midseason fix for this. You learn how to tackle in high school and if the Michigan defense hasn't figured it out yet, they probably won't. The only hope at this point is to keep playing hard and hoping that the offense can outscore people.

College Football Midseason Report

Well sportsfans, midseason is upon us. I think that you would have been hard-pressed to find a sane person who would have predicted Michigan being at 3-3 and Alabama/UCLA being undefeated. I've decided to do this in two parts. First I'll take a look at Michigan and try to figure the key occurrences thus far and analyze where they have to go from here to salvage a respectable (7-4) season. The second part will consist of this week's rankings and a look at the national scene complete with a mid-season All-American Team and some new predictions as far as who will end up in the four BCS bowls. So, with no further ado, on to the Michigan Mid-Season Report...

Sunday, October 09, 2005

NHL Update

Tonight I watched most of the Bruins-Penguins game and was not disappointed. In my last NHL post, I described Sidney Crosby as a solid player and a deft passer. I was wrong, just flat out wrong. He's not just a deft passer, he is the next Adam Oates, RIGHT NOW. The upside on Crosby is incredible. I don't know if he will be the next Gretzky, but if you were to throw all the players in the NHL into a hat, I bet that he would be a top-10 pick. Just sick tonight with his first goal and two more assists.

Really, without putting too much thought into it, I kind of expected this game to be a clunker, but I was pleasantly surprised with a 7-6 Bruins win in OT. Brian Leetch and Mario Lemeiux are both locks for the HOF and Joe Thornton, John LeClair, Patrice Bergeron and yes, Sidney Crosby all stand a pretty good chance to get there someday. Throw in a great game all around from Brooks Orpik and some emerging stars like Ryan Malone and some old standbys like Sergei Gonchar and Glen Murray and you've got yourself a heckuva game. Most definitely a pleasant diversion for my football fried mind.

On another note, Michigan beat Quinnipiac tonight to move to 2-0. Apparently Matt Hunwick logged a hat trick and Jack Johnson had his first career goal. Next weekend Boston College comes to town and that should be a pretty good litmus test for where this team is.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Minnesota Game Thoughts

I can't put into words how disappointed I am right now, so I won't even try. This is easily the most heart-wrenching Michigan loss since I became a Michigan fan about 5 years ago. We were in the drivers seat with Minnesota playing for OT and the ugly tackling monster reared his head again. To boil this thing down, Michigan lost for 3 reasons.

  1. Poor tackling
  2. Rivas missing field goals
  3. Henne was inaccurate all day long

Maybe not in that order, but there it is.

USCHO CCHA Preview Finally Posted

So, over at USCHO, the CCHA preview is finally up. Naturally they were the last league, although the extra time Paula Weston took to write this one doesn't actually equal added quality. As a disclaimer, I should point out that I'm usually a Weston fan. She takes a lot of flak on the USCHO boards, and I think that most of it is unwarranted, but in this case she really dropped the ball. I mean, Michigan at #1??? Ohio State is going to be so far ahead by Christmas that it doesn't matter how well the freshman gel, Michigan is at best looking at a #2 finish. Perhaps someone wants to explain to me how you can write a preview in which your top team loses it's best player, unexpectedly no less, and you don't even mention it, much less justify your pick? Maybe she was on vacation and missed the fact that Jeff Tambellini and Al Montoya both jumped ship. I hate to criticize and not put forward my own preview, but in this case I think that Paula really missed and I hope that she is back to her regular form soon.

So, if you click on the school names in the preview, you get an individual preview of each team. So perhaps I was a little hasty in criticizing the depth of the preview. But still, Michigan at #1??? Either way, I'm changing my opinion of the preview from "idiotic" to "blindly bold."

Ovid-Elsie in the playoffs?

Off Tackle would like to extend the deepest congratulations to the Ovid-Elsie Marauders football team who beat Central Montcalm tonight to run their record to 6-1 on the year. This virtually guarantees a playoff spot for the first time since the early 90's. I can't be more proud of my alma mater right now.

Some More NHL Thoughts

I tuned in to the 'Canes-Penguins game tonight to watch some more of Sidney Crosby. So, is he as good as advertised? Maybe. Through two games he appears to be a pretty solid all-around player, albeit a deft passer. Both of his assists this season have come on sick passes where he has made the goalie think he's shooting and instead has found a wide open teammate on the back door. I keep having to remind myself that he is only 18. Predictions of a 100 point rookie season are premature, but this kid is going to be good. Really, really good. All this talk about Crosby though overshadows the fact that he wasn't even the best rookie in the game tonight. That title goes to Cam Ward who was incredible down the stretch and stopped both Crosby and Mario Lemeiux point blank in the shootout. This is very good news for a Hurricanes team that is expecting Danny Richmond to develop into a good defenseman. In short, they are going to need a superb goaltender.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Minnesota/Michigan Preview

As I watched snippets of the Minnesota/Penn State game last week, I have to admit that I couldn't help but think of Wisconsin. Great running back, very good tight end, good receivers, shaky quarterback, etc. These are the observations that cause me to wake in a cold sweat. Both Michigan and Minnesota are desperately in need of a win this week to get their respective Big Ten Title hopes back on track.

Game Prediction
The Michigan gameplan should be what it should have been against Wisconsin--put points on the board early to make sure that the opposition's star running back is not a factor in the 4th quarter. Chad Henne had a very good game a week ago and the confidence should be good for him this week. The emergence of Mario Manningham as an honest-to-god deep threat also bodes well for the long term success of this Michigan offense. With Manningham stretching the Minnesota pass defense, the underneath routes will be open for Jason Avant and company. I don't know if Steve Breaston will be ready to go or not, but frankly it shouldn't matter much. A combination of a good game from Michael Hart, solid contributions from the tight ends and an accurate Chad Henne will be too much for an overmatch Minnesota defense that was clearly inferior to a questionable Penn State offense last week. Look for Michigan to put up at least 28 points in the first half.

On the other side of the ball, it is critical for Michigan to not surrender the long runs to Laurence Maroney that almost doomed them last season. Fortunately for Michigan fans this is a better defense than the one that took the field a year ago. I think that Maroney will be able to rush for 4-5 yards consistently in the first three quarters, but he will be invisible in the 4th, as Minnesota is forced to play from behind and abandon the run. Bryan Cupito make a valiant effort, but Michigan is just too talented in this one. Make it Michigan 35, Minnesota 17.

Stat Projections
Chad Henne 25-35, 280 yards, 2 TDs
Michael Hart 25 carries, 135 yards, 3 TDs
Mario Manningham 6 catches, 85 yards, TD
Jason Avant 10 catches, 110 yards, TD

Laurence Maroney 30 carries, 145 yards, 2 TDs
Bryan Cupito 14-30 170 yards, 2 Ints

Other Predictions
Georgia 24, Tennessee 10
Arizona State 42, Oregon 28
Cal 27, UCLA 17
Ohio State 10, Penn State 7
Nebraska 31, Texas Tech 28

Last Week: 4-2 Season: 9-6

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Why I Love DirecTV

So, as I was watching the Red Wings game tonight, I found out that DirecTV is giving its viewers the NHL CenterIce package free for the first week of the season. This is the best news I've gotten all week. I was looking forward to seeing the new look Wings and maybe a little bit of the Flyers-Rangers game. Instead I got to channel surf during stoppages and catch Zach Parise's first goal, Sidney Crosby's first point, the first real shootout in NHL history and Wayne Gretzky's coaching debut. Life is good.

On the Wings:

-Lebda is going to be ok as a replacement for Kronwall. I'm wondering how I was never aware of this kid at Notre Dame because he is pretty good for a rookie.

-The Red Wings have an excessive number of Swedes all of a sudden (Franzen, Holmstrom, Zetterberg, Samuelsson, Lidstrom, Lilja and Kronwall). And more are on the way if this year's draft was any indication. How long until they throw together a "Swedish 5" in honor of the old Russian 5, what with Larionov (the final member) now gone?

-Datsyuk is great and this team went from good to great with his return. Robert Lang is also a superior player that too many analysts forget about.

-Daniel Cleary is a nice addition to this team. He really tore up St. Louis tonight in the neutral zone with his speed.

-On an unrelated note, TSN just announced that people shouldn't write Washington off because they won tonight. Isn't it a little early to start extrapolating good things out of a 3-2 win at home against an unproven Columbus team?

Just some thoughts. Keep your stick on the ice.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Week 6 Power16 and Next9

The blatant, unabashed homerism continues in week 6 as I move Michigan back into the Power16 at #16. I also think that Auburn has been getting a rough treatment, so they show up at #15. There are probably way too many Big Ten teams here, but I'm working with regional coverage so it is what it is. This week I watched all or part of UofM/MSU, ND/Purdue, Florida/Alabama, Minnesota/PSU and USC/ASU. Here goes:

1. USC (I hate that these guys made me wrong)
2. Texas (here comes Oklahoma!)
3. Virginia Tech (these guys are really good)
4. Georgia (moving up in a bye week)
5. Florida State (my new pick to play VT in the conference championship game)
6. Alabama (WOW, but can they keep it up without Prothro?)
7. Ohio State (big game coming up against Penn State before an angry Sparty comes to town)
8. Tennessee (so this is the week they play Georgia?)
9. Louisiana State (Vandy could be trap game...or not)
10. California (first big game this week at UCLA)
11. Notre Dame (took Purdue out to the woodshed this week, now two weeks to prepare for USC)
12. Arizona State (best two-loss team in the country)
13. Miami (get to take next two weeks off with games against Duke and Temple)
14. Florida (how will Urban respond to his first loss since '03?)
15. Auburn (still flying under the radar)
16. Michigan (so I put them too high, its my blog and my alma mater)
17. Texas Tech (welcome to Division 1A)
18. Boston College (hanging around)
19. Michigan State (get a week off to prepare for OSU...better believe they'll be ornery)
20. UCLA (survived Washington's upset bid at home)
21. Louisville (FAU picked a bad week to be a smallish Florida school playing Louisville)
22. Wisconsin (probably should be higher, but I'm still bitter)
23. Penn State (good defense, hot offense...could be dangerous in fairly open Big Ten race)
24. Nebraska (undefeated is good this late in season, no matter the opposition)
25. Idaho (oh, this isn't the Harris Poll? Oh, well then...)
25. Minnesota (was PSU a random loss or the beginning of the annual slide?)

Michigan/Michigan State Game Thoughts

Wow, what a great win for a scuffling Michigan team. The offense finally looked good and in my opinion, the defense played their best game of the year. Now if we can just convince Henne to be superhuman in the second half too. On to the game thoughts:

-Michael Hart might have played the best game of his career today. He not only had the longest run of his career, but the second longest as well. He was also better than Kevin Grady at picking up blitzes and almost came back to make the tackle on the Damato Peko TD. Just a great day for Hart all around.
-Mario Manningham is going to be a special WR. He is playing well enough to warrant All-Big Ten consideration RIGHT NOW. I can't wait to see how good he is in a couple of years.
-Lloyd Carr was far less conservative than usual and it really paid off today. If this doesn't end the grumbling from some Michigan fans, I don't know what will.
-Pierre Woods was a solid contributor today. This bodes well for the rest of the season. Tim Jamison also looked good today and LaMarr Woodley and Alan Branch were their usual selves.
-Despite what I just said, Michigan didn't get enough pressure on Stanton, especially when the receivers were well covered (which was often). Stanton frequently had all day to throw.
-It looked to me that Drew Stanton was playing scared. He was very hesitant to tuck it and run and seemed to avoid contact downfield.
-Michigan lucked out on the roughing the kicker call. At most it should have been running into the kicker and maybe not even that. Of course running into the kicker would have given them 5 yards and that would have been a first down, so no big deal, but still... weak call.
-I'm glad that I wasn't in the replay booth on the Henne fumble replay. His arm was moving forward, but no way he was trying to throw that ball. Tough call and I'm glad that it didn't cost us the game.
-Carr's clock management was strange again before the half, but it worked out alright so I won't complain too much.
-Carl Tabb was very sure-handed today. He might a nice alternative in must-have situations when Avant was covered.
-Finally, Michigan didn't adjust well after the half AGAIN today. It seems that they always lose in the second half because the other team comes out with some changes and Michigan just keeps on keeping on.

In summary, Michael Hart was the difference today. If he is healthy for the rest of the year, there is no reason that this team cannot contend for a Big Ten title, especially if Manningham continues to improve and Henne regains some confidence after this win. Michigan State is no pushover and this was a huge win, the kind of win that has the potential to turn the season around.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Some Predictions

Game Prediction
I think that this game will come down to if Michael Hart plays and if he does, is he effective? Two years ago, Michigan used Chris Perry and his 51 carries to prove that a ball control offense can beat a spread one. This game should come down to that too. The more Michigan controls the ball, the less chances Drew Stanton and company will have to beat them. In particular, I think that the Michigan defense will have a chance to make some plays should they stay well rested throughout the game. As soon as Michigan State is able to turn this into a shootout though, its over. All this said, I'm going to take the unusual step of making two predictions. First if Hart starts, make it Michigan 28, Michigan State 24. If he doesn't play, it'll be ugly. Like Michigan State 45, Michigan 21 ugly.

Stat Projections
Not knowing the status of Hart, I've decided not to do any stat projections this week. Well, that and I've been consistently terrible.

Other Predictions
Arizona State 42, USC 35
Virginia Tech 35, West Virginia 31
Notre Dame 24, Purdue 21
Penn State 28, Minnesota 17
Florida 35, Alabama 24

Last Week: 3-3 Season: 5-4