Sunday, December 31, 2006

Rose Bowl Preview

The Series

  • Record: 4-5-0 (USC leads)
  • Since '69: 1-5-0
  • First Meeting: 49-0, Michigan, 1/1/1948, Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA
  • Last Meeting: 14-28, USC, 1/1/2004, Rose Bowl
  • USC
    • Most Points: 14-28, USC, 1/1/2004, Rose Bowl
    • Since '69: Same
    • Biggest Margin of Victory: Same
    • Since '69: Same
    • Biggest Shutout: N/A
    • Since '69: N/A
  • Michigan
    • Most Points: 49-0, Michigan, 1/1/1948, Rose Bowl
    • Since '69: 22-14, Michigan, 1/2/1989, Rose Bowl
    • Biggest Margin of Victory: 49-0, Michigan, 1/1/1948, Rose Bowl
    • Since '69: 22-14, Michigan, 1/2/1989, Rose Bowl
    • Biggest Shutout: 49-0, Michigan, 1/1/1948, Rose Bowl
    • Since '69: N/A

I'm sitting in a hotel room in Los Angeles, trying to tease out some semblance of a preview from just looking at the statistics of these two teams, and I don't think there's enough of a difference to make a convincing case.  USC's offense scores 30.3 ppg; ours does 30.2.  Their defense gives up 14.9 ppg; ours yields 14.6.  The numbers on offense and defense are also comparable, and I don't think you can say that this year the Pac-10 was significantly weaker than the Big Ten.  Factor in the non-conference competition they faced, and you can see why a 1-loss USC team seemed to have paved the road to Glendale in Trojans.

Look at the numbers for USC and compare them to Michigan's.  They're shockingly similar in a lot of ways when you look at the per-play numbers.  Our rush defense, like usual, stands out like a beacon, but that's about it.

It looks like this'll be a game that comes down to individual match-ups, preparation, and coaching ("Name three things I suck at previewing...").  

Michigan's rush D is OMG!SHIRTLESS.  It can stand up and be counted on.  OSU hurt it most by taking away support at the second level.  Unless USC comes out 5-wide and starts really punishing the secondary, we should be able to avoid the sort of crippling long runs OSU made against us.  Chauncey Washington looks to be the sort of grinding back that Michigan's been able to contain all year.  CJ Gable and Emmanuel Moody have more speed, but they probably won't be carrying the bulk of the load.

John David Booty doesn't like to get hit.  Also, the sky is blue, Earth orbits the sun, and fire is hot.  There aren't a lot of quarterbacks out there who want to stand in the pocket and get pounded, so they tend to get rattled when pressure gets there consistently.  Unlike Troy Smith, Booty isn't a mobile quarterback.  Among quarterbacks Michigan has seen this year, he's probably most like Brady Quinn, honestly.  The good thing for him is that he has an offensive line.  The bad news is that they haven't seen anything like Michigan's front seven.  Thanks to Brian's remarkable breakdown, you can see that UCLA's speed-rushing around the tackles got them that pressure, at least early in the game.  That sounds like Crable and Woodley to me.

If Booty doesn't get rattled, he can be a terrific quarterback, and he has a deep receiving corps to work with.  None of them are burners like Ted Ginn, Jr., but they're good athletes with size and hands.  Steve Smith leads the team in receptions and yards, and the thinks he'll be able to have a good day against Morgan Trent.  Leon Hall will likely draw Dwayne Jarrett, who bears a resemblance to the towering James Hardy of Indiana.  Jarrett's missed some time due to injury, otherwise he'd likely lead the team.  This is where USC probably has their biggest advantage.  We can help ourselves out here by doing that pass-rush thing.  Willis Barringer and Prescott Burgess are both healthy again, so that should also improve our chances.

On the other end of the ball, Michigan should open up the playbook like they did for Notre Dame and OSU.  None of the run-it-into-the-ground stubbornness from the games against lesser competition.  USC is a solid defensive team in both the run game and the secondary.  Hart should find some room to run, and should find a bit more if Henne can deliver the ball effectively.  USC likes to play a lot of zone, apparently, so there should be some holes in there for Breaston, Arrington, and Ecker.  USC simply doesn't give up long touchdowns through the air, but they haven't seen Manningham (with an extra month and a half to heal that knee, I might add).  

This game could get down to a field-position battle.  Neither team punts or kicks off particularly well.  USC's kicker, Mario Danelo, has been excellent.  He's 13/14 with a long of 44 yards.  Rivas has been solid as well, with a long of 48 yards on 16/19.  Two of his misses are from more than 40 yards out.  Gable's kick returns average a bit longer than Breaston's have been, but Steve has a 64-yard one that CJ can't match.

So, after all that? I have no idea how this one will play out.  It's Michigan in the Rose Bowl against USC, so I'm inherently pessimistic.  But this team has wildly exceeded my expectations all year long, only falling short to the #1 team in the country by three points on the road in the most hostile stadium in America.  24-21, Michigan.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Another Michigan Man passes: Gerald R. Ford -- 1913-2006

Ford, wearing #48
We at the Hoover Street Rag would be remiss if we did not mention the passing of Gerald R. Ford, America's 38th President, Michigan Class of 1935, and all-Big Ten center for the Michigan football team in his senior season.
The University's tribute to Ford can be found here...

USC vs. Michigan: Rose Bowl Alumni Showdown

Since GZ has his thing down cold, I need mine, so here it is, the alumni showdown for the Rose Bowl. I had intended to do one to prove to the BCS that Michigan was more worthy than USC to be in the national championship game, but USC sort of took care of that for themselves. Because it's the Granddaddy of them All, we're going to expand our usual effort.

The "rule" is basically that we find some major alumni from the opposition university and try to find a Michigan analog, and then face them off head to head. Some are straight-forward, others require more effort. As this is for entertainment purposes only, please, no wagering.

Just missing the cut for the Trojans:
John Ritter
Conflicted here, because he's a USC alum, but on Eight Simple Rules, he played a rabid Michigan football fan (to the point of referring to the Ohio State game as "football Easter", which I kind of liked.)

Anthony Edwards
Gooooooose! Actually, I learned from an episode of Cheap Seats, hosted by Michigan's own Randy and Jason Sklar, that Edwards left USC during his senior year to film Fast Times at Ridgemont High, so he's not technically an alum.

Frank Gehry
"Hey, Frank Gehry. Design curvilinear forms much?"

The Matchups
Neil Armstrong vs. The Crew of Apollo 15
Neil Armstrong
The Crew of Apollo 15

Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon. Or as Jim Lovell says in Apollo 13:"Christopher Columbus, Charles Lindbergh, and Neil Armstrong. Ha, ha, ha. Neil Armstrong!" Meanwhile, most of you know quite well of my abiding affection for the crew of Apollo 15.

Advantage: Push. When you think about it, it's goofy, but the lunar rover is pretty cool. Plus, there were three of them to Neil's one.

Andrew Viterbi vs. Claude Shannon
Andrew Viterbi
Claude Shannon
For our matchup on information theorists, we turn to HSR correspondent Dave...

Claude Shannon: Invented information theory in seminal papers such as "The Mathematical Theory of Communication" (1948).  Defined fundamental concepts like entropy, the information capacity of a channel, and the sampling theorem.  Honored with a statue outside the EECS building at Michigan.

Andrew Viterbi:Made information theory profitable.  His namesake algorithm is an error-correction scheme for noisy communication channels that's the basis for much of modern wireless communication.  He founded Qualcomm and has an estimated worth of $640 million.  Honored by USC who named their engineering school for him.

Advantage: USC.  Shannon's contributions were more intellectually fundamental, but Viterbi's made more money.  What do you think the BCS would consider more important?

George Lucas vs. Lawrence Kasdan
George Lucas Lawrence Kasdan
It's simple. If we were to use the BCS theorem, Lucas would win in a walk. In addition to being the Tournament of Roses Grand Marshall this year, he's directed five major films (Episodes I-IV and American Graffiti) and THX 1138, basically created ILM and the THX sound system, and has basically been responsible for one of the most significant cultural phenomena of the latter half of the 20th Century. Kasdan is responsible for writing one best picture nominee (The Accidental Tourist), one boomer classic (The Big Chill), and the overlong version of the Wyatt Earp story (Wyatt Earp)...but...

Advantage: Michigan. Lucas' writing killed the prequels. If this were 1998, Lucas would win in a walk, but it's clear that the only well-written episode of the six Star Wars films is Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, written by...Lawrence Kasdan.

Will Ferrell vs. Gilda Radner
Will Ferrell Gilda Radner
Will Ferrell, for many years in the late 1990s, was one of the few, if only reasons, to watch Saturday Night Live. His President Bush impression gave us "strategery", his Harry Caray impression asked if the moon was made of ribs, would you eat it?, his Janet Reno hosted many a memorable dance party, and his Alex Trebek, well, the day was Connery's. Film roles have included Mustafa in Austin Powers (I know it's minor, but it cracks me up every time I see it.), Frank the Tank in Old School, Buddy the Elf in Elf, and Ron Burgundy in Anchorman.

Gilda Radner was one of the original Not Ready for Prime Time Players on SNL. She created, among other characters Roseanne Roseannadanna and Emily Litella, and parodied Barbara Walters in a way that is still used to poke fun today. Tragically, her career was cut short by ovarian cancer, but her fight did significantly raise awareness about the disease and fund raising to fight it.

Advantage: USC. I think this one is both gender biased as generational. But It's close, really close.

(That said, I found this quote while looking for any advantage to give to Ms. Radner, and I kind of liked it, because I think it works on any number of levels:
"Some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.")
Andrés Cantor vs. Bert Randolph Sugar
GOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Bert Sugar
Each has a trademark. For Mr. Cantor, it's simply ¡GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLL!" while for Mr. Sugar, it's the cigar and fedora. Now, I learned neat things about both while looking them up. With Cantor, it's that he has a signature line for halftime" El árbitro dice que no hay tiempo para mas" while for Sugar, it's that Red Auerbach was his great uncle.

Advantage: Michigan. This one is all about my own biases. I love soccer, so Cantor is just an additional bonus, even if I don't speak Spanish. I don't like boxing, but I will listen to Bert Sugar talk about the history of boxing because he's such a good storyteller. Plus, he earned a JD and an MBA at the same time from Michigan, which he claims nearly killed him.
John Wayne vs. James Earl Jones
John Wayne James Earl Jones
Two of the most iconic actors in American pop culture history. On the one hand, you have "The Duke", a former USC running back who pretty much tamed the American West and won World War II single-handedly. On the other hand, you have one of the great voices of American cinema, Darth Vader, Mufasa, CNN, Verizon, Bleeding Gums Murphy...Plus, he's Admiral Greer, which is pretty cool as well.

: USC. I'm going to give this one to the guy who has the airport named after him. Though if they want to rename the airport in Ann Arbor after James Earl Jones, I'd be totally be cool with that.
Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf vs. Gen. Benjamin D. Pritchard
Stormin' Norman Benjamin Pritchard
Stormin' Norman: The leader of Coalition Forces during Operation: Desert Storm. Benjamin D. Pritchard, the leader of the cavalry regiment which captured Confederate President Jefferson Davis in the days after the close of the Civil War. Yep, finding the former CSA President in drag...100 hour ground war vs. capturing the second most hated man in America, circa April 1865. Pritchard does get extra points for founding America's first savings bank.

Advantage: Push. On the one hand, 100 hour ground war. On the other hand, capturing Jefferson Davis. They're both winners in my book.
Judge Joseph Wapner vs. Justice Frank Murphy
Time for Wapner Frank Murphy
Sadly, Judge Wapner may be America's most famous jurist, but he was never on the Supreme Court, he never served as Mayor of Detroit, he never served as Governor of Michigan, he never served as Governor General of the Philippines, he never served as Attorney General of the United States, never penned a famous dissent, such as Murphy's in the case of Korematsu v. United States.  Then again, Justice Murphy never worked with Rusty the Bailiff .

Advantage: Michigan. If Justice Murphy had Doug Llewelyn doing press for him, we'd be more likely to remember him today.

So there you have it, when it's all said and done, it's Michigan 3, USC 3, Push 2. The game is a pick 'em, so why shouldn't the alumni matchup be as well?

That's all I have for today. Once more, GZ should be around with a real preview, you know, actual football content, sometime soon.
I'll be monitoring the situation from the basement while GZ will be handling things from the Arroyo Seco. (As always, a thanks to Wikipedia for making this a very fast effort, if not always wholly accurate.)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Alumni Free Association

Two Michigan football alums have been in the news this past week for non-Michigan football endeavors. Since it's a slow week, I thought I would examine both of them (with a major tip of the hat to Deadspin for being all over both of them.)

To be fair, I think it would be a more interesting game...

So, over the last couple of days, Deadspin has been all over Desmond Howard's analytical faux pas...(initial story here, follow up here.)

Here's the thing, normally this kind of thing would have my dander up, because, I mean, if I start breaking down Michigan State vs. Cincinnati in the International Bowl, you'd just look at me in a very confused manner. And really, who would blame you? But I have a hard time getting upset about it, in part because I am willing to forgive Desmond Howard a lot of things because he's probably my favorite Michigan player of all-time. Plus, he's one of the few Lions to be elected to the Pro Bowl in the last 15 years.

But back to the story at hand. Really, at this point, as friend of HSR Greg once posited, all Desmond Howard did was create fan fiction. It's just that he got his significantly more attention by stating during a national television broadcast. That said, it's still not the most egregious fake thing that ESPN did all year. (That would be the fake hot stove press conferences with Steve Phillips as the "GM" of five different MLB teams. That was horrifying.) And he apologized for it...

But here's what confuses me, in my mind, the apology is a little over the top for what happened. I applaud that he's manning up and saying "my bad", even if it was not just his fault. But, the apology is also off. As was pointed out by one of the Deadspin commenters, this wasn't, as Desmond says, a verbal slip of the tongue. If he had just said Texas but talked about Steven McGee, that would be a verbal slip and no one would be wiser, or even thrown. Even the graphics disagree with him, and yet, no one stops him. No one says "Des, you mean A&M, right? The Aggies?" Desmond could have laughed it off, but now this is a continuing story. It's a mistake, it's a goof, but it's not a verbal slip of the tongue. I'm just saying. By the way, I still love that Desmond's Heisman Trophy portrait will always feature him with "the fade".

On the plus side, Teddy Roosevelt would be proud

Jim Harbaugh has parlayed his back to back 11-1 seasons at San Diego, (which is this school, not this school (coached by Chuck Long) or this school,) into the head coaching gig up at the Farm. Now, Palo Alto is an upgrade, it's a BCS conference program, and honestly, could he be any worse than Walt Harris was the last couple of years?

Some quick background: Wearing #4, Harbaugh was 21-3-1 during his last two years as starting quarterback at Michigan and lead the Maize and Blue to a #2 ranking in 1985 when they won the Fiesta Bowl and to a Rose Bowl berth in his senior year (in which he finished third in Heisman voting, but behind a guy from Temple!). That 1986 Rose Bowl loss holds special meaning to many Wolverine fans, as it was a classic case of losing the battle but winning the war (short version: the story goes that Ohio State saw John Cooper's victory over Michigan in Pasadena as a "sign" and made him head coach of the Scarlet and Grey. And well, we all know what happened next.) Harbaugh was "Captain Comeback" with the Colts, and as someone noted, tongue in cheek, he's still the best Bears quarterback since the end of WWII, and now he's the coach of the Cardinal.

I have two minor quibbles with Harbaugh's press conference:

"I dedicate my life's work to building the foundation here at Stanford, the foundation that will lead to great success, continue the tradition and restore the legacy that Stanford has in college football. I vow that I will attack this endeavor with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind."

1). Stanford's football heritage does have some high points: back-to-back Rose Bowl wins in the early 1970s, the legend of Ernie Nevers, Jim Plunkett, and John Elway. But when I think of Stanford football, the following things pop into my head: "The Band is Out on the Field!", John Elway losing that game, a heritage of coaches which includes Bill Walsh, Jack Elway, Dennis Green, Bill Walsh again, and Ty Willingham, but not a lot of legendary players. So if Harbaugh is set on "restoring the legacy", isn't he setting the bar a little low?

2). "I vow that I will attack this endeavor with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind." As much as I love college football, this would be a quote I'd rather see from a doctor researching a cure for cancer or Alzheimer's, or the head of NASA, or well, most other things. But, you know what, if that's how Jim Harbaugh feels, more power to him. If he wants to stay at Stanford for the "10, 15, 20 years" it takes to build the Cardinal into a legendary program, more power to him. But sadly, because Stanford is a private institution, we can't FOIA his contract to know whether he has a Michigan out clause, like Les Miles does at LSU. Only time will tell. Godspeed Jim Harbaugh!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Live-Blog: Basketball vs. NIU

NIU has lost to such luminaries as Georgia Southern and Troy. They should be another MACrifice (TM Joe), but who knows with such an untested team we're fielding. Here we go...

Shockingly, NIU almost makes the first turnover of the game, but save it.

A Michigan miss on the other end gives the Huskies an easy, easy 2-on-1 to make it 0-4

Sims misses the dunk, NIU can't convert their second break. Michigan puts themselves on the board quickly, making it 2-4, feeding Sims again for a jump-hook two.

Eesh. Sims seems to have a finger problem. This could be bad. Despite NIU picking up two fouls, M comes away with no points. Amaker yanks all the starters.

Reed Baker's on the floor, and the ESPN+ crew like his pressure defense, which yields a turnover. 4-4.

Another block from Udoh, who eventually gets it back to make it 6-4, Michigan.

NIU has three fouls within the first five minutes.

Someone throws up a prayer from three, NIU comes back the other way.

NIU's getting nothing inside. Another strip ends with bodies everywhere. Possession arrow favors NIU. It does them no good, as they pick up an offensive foul.

DeShawn Sims has acres to himself and knocks down a long two. 8-4.

NIU gets two down on the block. 8-6. Michigan three, 11-6.

Udoh SMASH. Nice shot block, but it comes back to NIU. Michigan comes back to put a pair up. 13-8. They really want to push the tempo. NIU's getting back, but a little work with the half-court offense keeps finding an open man.

Starters come back in, yet somehow look way too spread out. 24 can't get low, and a bounce pass goes right by him to hit an open forward, yielding an automatic foul. 15-11.

Abram turnaround. 15-11.

NIU guard does that stupid illegal turn-your-hand-over dribble and gets called for it. TV time-out.

Abram seems to have done a little to recover his touch. 17-11.

Husky airball. Dion Harris has yet to take a shot until now, but a dying shot clock makes him loft a three off the front of the iron.

Fourth shot block, then fifth by Michigan. Wild three on the other end. NIU recovers, pushes the ball up, gets one near the edge of the free-throw line. Courtney Sims comes back the other way and airballs a wide-open three from the top of the arc. Confusingly, it's Petway who sits down on the substitution.

NIU does nothing, ball goes out on the rebound. Michigan comes back. Turnover, as a guard jumps the route. NIU obliges by turning it right back over out of bounds. Again, ball goes out of bounds, but M keeps it. Still 17-13.

Do you think there are cameramen out there who make their entire living by collecting stock footage of fat people walking around? It looks like there's a market for that stuff. News programs, commercials... Tons of fat people video.

Two stupid passes lead to one stupid turnover, but again NIU can't actually corral it. M still can't score, as Reed Baker's three isn't close.

Another steal. Here we go... The crew points out that we're 1/13 on our last 14 shots from the floor, as we miss another. NIU isn't exactly playing clean ball themselves, as they travel under the rim.

Man. Baker gets completely blocked and falls over as he goes up close to the rim. Ball's loose, and Smith finally sinks one. NIU goes right back down the court and sinks a jumper to make it 19-15. It's a battle of who wants it less so far, with 5:00 to go in the first half.

Good thing Petway can jump, as a shot goes straight up off the iron. Air Georgia skies like crazy, catches the rebound, jumps right back up and makes the short shot. 21-15.

ANOTHER block, but we can't get the rebound. 21-17.

Yikes. Baker should've been whistled for a walk, as he hopped with the ball stopped, but he gets away with it and gets it low. I think it's Courtney Sims who gets the bucket. He'll shoot the foul shot when we're done talking about enchiphobia. My enchiphobia has more to do with E. Coli than runny sauce.

We hit the +1. 24-17.

Short NIU possession. On the other end, Petway picks up the foul. This should be interesting. A little loud on the first one, as it rattles out with AUTHORITA. He hits the second. 25-17.

Turnover-fest '06 continues on both ends. Dion Harris rifles one out of bounds as C. Sims looks confused. NIU makes the most of it, hitting a three. M goes right back down and Sims throws it down to make it 27-20.

Turnover by NIU after a foul on the floor. Harris throws the alley-oop, basically, and Air Georgia does what he do. Awesome. 29-20.

Block! by C. Sims, goes back to NIU. Abram picks up another foul on the floor. 7 blocks by M, 4 by NIU. Shot won't go. Harris pushes it down the floor and draws the foul. Hits the two freebies for his first points of the night. 31-20.

Long three for NIU. Defense looked decent, but sometimes those just go down. 31-23.

On the other end, Sims scores to make it a 33-23 lead again. NIU misses, giving Michigan just enough time to try a reasonable three by Reed Baker, who misses. Halftime: 33-23.

Samantha Findlay just told her Big Ten story, about hitting that 10th-inning home run to win the Women's College World Series last year. Other than maybe this year's BEAT DOWN, that's got to be the best Michigan sports moment in some years. I don't care how you feel about softball, that was frickin' awesome.

We're hammering them on the boards. NIU is -12 in rebounds in the first half alone.

NIU brings it up the floor. We're tight on defense, getting good pressure on the ball. C. Sims gets called for a push. NIU is hemmed in down low and walks with it on the block.

Harris makes a nice pass to Petway, who just misses what should've been an easier bucket. Sims takes the rebound and some terrible force keeps it from falling. NIU finally gets the rebound and, as they start to go upcourt, Sims takes an unnecessary foul and sits down on the bench. Further up the floor, NIU draws a shooting foul. 33-25.

Open three doesn't go down. Coleman (I think) gets a late break on the rebound, saves it to NIU. Dion Harris, foul on the floor on he other end. No one can pull in a rebound. Harris takes another foul, again on the floor, his third. NIU's Hughes makes it 33-27.

Abram makes a cut, puts it down for a 35-27 lead. NIU miss. Nice feed from Harris to a loping Abram. Back to a ten-point lead.

NIU does nothing. Petway gets it low, but too low and too far from the basket. The ball comes back past the top of the arc. Petway follows it to commit the offensive foul with a bad screen.

Udoh creates the turnover, but Abram's sorta toughish layup (yeah) doesn't go down. Somehow he saves it and draws a foul. TV timeout.

Abram hits both. 39-27. They who in the what? Why did we foul on that three attempt? Oh, elsewhere on the floor. NIU's guard McKinney misses the front half of the one-and-one.

Sims draws a foul on the other end and hits both. 41-27. He almost has a double-double, but it's been kind of an ugly one. 15:19 remaining, as NIU gives it away again with a walk under the hoop. Michigan keeps feeding Sims, and he keeps drawing fouls. Misses both, ugly-like.

Defense a little slack inside, and McKinney makes us pay when he finishes. 41-29.

NIU keeps trying to get the ball inside, but Sims is holding up and forcing walks. Amaker wants a time-out when we come back down the court.

Quick basket by Dion Harris after the break, so I guess the timeout was worth it.

Scramble at the other end, Michigan yoinks the rebound. They feed Sims to make it 45-29. He's starting to go to town, just maybe. The crew wants to see Greg Oden vs. Courtney Sims. I do not.

You know NIU gets the ball sometimes watching this game, but it's just a prelude to Sims getting the ball back with a short shot to make. 47-29.

Variation: Harris pulls down the rebound, comes back the other way. A three does not go down. They exchange possessions again, another M shot won't go; Petway can't control a rebound. NIU comes up the court and Jerret Smith goes diving over a table after it gets poked away. TV time-out.

NIU white guy runs around and makes it 47-31. We don't do anything with the ball on the other end, but NIU commits their 17th turnover. Harris comes up-court, bounces it off an NIU leg. Rand hits a jumper, 47-33. Udoh gets it low, draws the foul and gets the bucket. 49-33, after the +1 misses.

THe defense is a little looser and they make it 49-35. Udoh demolishes his man on the block, backing him down with a WHOMP. We get the finish; 51-35.

Foul on the shot, they hit both. On the other end, Sims jam, 53-37.

They try a Rip Hamilton Special from the foul line, but it's an airball. A quick shot on the other half misses for the maize and blue. They draw the foul on an arcing jumper they make. 53-40.

We're playing like this game is over, but it's only a 13-point lead. We turn the ball over, looking lackadaisical, but NIU carries the ball AGAIN. TV time-out.

NIU's starting point guard has missed four games with an unknown/undisclosed illness. "Almost mono-like symptoms". Best of wishes to Ryan Paradise on his recovery.

After a pair of offensive rebounds, C. Sims just knocks over his man to give himself the open shot, but he's called for the offensive foul. A Michigan steal lets D. Sims give Jevohn Shepherd a pretty-looking alley-oop that he converts, Petway-style. Nice. 55-40.

D. Sims is getting involved down low on the defense, swiping a pass out of bounds. Baseline, Petway is late shifting over and can't get a hand on the shot. 55-42. Exchange of steals. NIU throws it down the court, but they miss the layup. Back down the court under the basket to D. Sims, who finds Abram coming in for a lay-up. He misses the first attempt, but collects his own miss. 57-42.

Foul on the other end, they hit 1/2. Baker and Coleman are back in. Kicked ball by Pancratz. Baker doesn't get the benefit of the doubt when he goes up through traffic and misses. McKinney on the other end gets blanketed under the basket and is called for three seconds. Sims skies and makes it look easy. 59-43.

McKinney can't get it to go, and Michigan sets up the half-court. Petway is on the block, hits the shot, and draws the foul.

Air Georgia hits, making it 62-43. NIU misses the shot and goes out of bounds trying to collect the rebound. Our three-point shooting has been unfailingly ugly, and the Huskies turn it into a quick two with a runner off the glass on the other end.

Why we're not trying to bleed clock is beyond me, but a quick shot turns into a quick two and it's 62-47 with 1:54 left. NOW we slow it up, letting the shot clock tick down to nothing, even though we come away with nothing. The rebound comes back long, so the Huskies push it up and knock down a nice three. 62-50.

The crew mentions how our FG % defense is magnificent, but it takes a while to get to the TERRIBLE COMPETITION we've played. The students are singing "The Victors". Reed Baker hits a nice, wide-open three as the shot clock draws to nothing. 65-50.

Michigan gets the ball back quickly. With 18.7 seconds left, the Huskies foul Lester Abram, who hits both from the charity stripe. NIU hits a long, meaningless two to make the final 67-52.

The ESPN crew is painting a rosy picture for Michigan this season, but I'm not as convinced just yet. The start of the game was ugly, ugly, ugly until the subs came in. That might be a result of the level of competition we were playing, but we didn't blow them off the court. NIU isn't tournament-level competition, and they were able to hang around for a long time. Without the absolute gifts we received in the turnover column, it could've been bad. On the plus side, Abram seemed to have a better touch with the ball, and Courtney Sims got going pretty well in the second half. DeShawn Sims and Ekpe Udoh both looked like they'll be real building blocks for the future and they can give us quality minutes today. We'll know what kind of a team we really have when they go to UCLA next weekend.

UPDATE:   Holy bejeebus. OSU is just absolutely taking Cincy behind the woodshed. 42-14 at the half? Remember when the Bearcats were contenders for the NCAA title and the Buckeyes just kind of sucked? Yeah. Good times.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Hockey vs. Notre Dame

Well... That happened.

Michigan was buried 7-3 on Friday night by Notre Dame. Billy Sauer couldn't stop anything, Steve Jakiel didn't look much better, and the offense was off just enough to never make a game of it.

Yikes. There's not much to say about Sauer's performance. The first goal was an Osgood Special – the Irish cycled the puck back to the blue line, there was a shooting lane, and Sauer just whiffed. Terrible goal. Rebounds plagued him all night and were the proximal cause of two Notre Dame goals. The Irish got another off of a deflection and one off of a blocked shot that came back to a Notre Dame player.

After Sauer was lifted at the start of the third, Steve Jakiel came in and let a pair of goals go by, and they weren't particularly good ones. One was a deflection that beat him five-hole, and another was a backhand that went over his shoulder.

For the Irish, David Brown wasn't having a shut-down evening, but he was playing well. He stopped several quality chances for Michigan in the first period and was bailed out just as frequently by our own players missing opportunities or being just out of position to capitalize on mistakes. And any time we managed to get a goal, we gave it right back on the other side of the ice.

You can't blame the defense too much when the goalie gives up 5 on only 16 shots, but I wasn't impressed. Notre Dame is a much larger team than we are, and they were working our guys down low just about every time I cared to look. With Johnson out of the lineup (and Dest, even), we didn't have the size to match up with the Irish effectively. We made some nice hits, but those don't directly translate into physical play.

On Sunday, we went over to South Bend and turned in a better performance, but let a 3-2 lead slip away with two goals in the third. Now the team has three weeks to think about this sweep before the GLI.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Michigan Difference...It's all about space

As a historian, I like anniversaries, and I want to celebrate a small but significant one in Michigan football of the greatest moments ever...I present to you

"Space, bitches. Space."

I loved this ad before. It was different from most university PSAs that run during college football games and I loved the use of the fight song. Then HSR correspondent Dave pointed us to this link, and well, it made it all the better. It also lead us to the glory that is Every Day Should Be Saturday, one of the single best college football blogs out there and living proof that we do not hate Florida fans!

Orson, Stranko, we thank you for giving our cadre of Michigan fans a catchphrase to know, use, and love, and for providing us with an exceptional read from an outsider.

Just one question: Can you make it into a shirt? And if not you guys, can we do it?

(P.S.: In looking back, learning that the command module is orbiting the earth the wrong way is a bit of a downer.)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Three small things

1). We'd like to thank Brian to linking to us. Praise from Caesar, as it were. (Seriously, we're really hyped about this. Oh and Brian, we're former MAC to your E3W, so we shared the same parent org back in the day.)

We'd also like to congratulate MGoBlog on the article mention on Deadspin. Even if not casting us as Michigan fans in the most positive light, I do think some of Brian's funniest writing of the year was highlighted and led to the creation of the "knifey" tag.

2). One of two mailbag items from the comments, since they were posed as questions-ish:

Jeff M. said...

I think if the Big Ten would man up and have a conference championship, we would not be having any of these discussions. The simple fact that UF played one more additional opponent who happened to be in the top 10 added to the allure.

OK, I have two problems with this statement:
a). "Man up?" Really? I've always thought of the conference championship games as money grabs by the conferences and networks. I'm sure that alluring showdown in the ACC Title Game was a great showcase for the ACC. It was even noted friend of HSR Joe as we were talking this weekend, ABC wasn't even telling you the teams and being more than a bit threatening to you if you asked.

ABC: "Live from Alltell Stadium, it's the ACC Title Game"

Us: "Who's playing?"

ABC: "It's not important!"

Us: "No, really, I don't even know, who's playing?"

ABC: "Never you mind, just watch!"

I'd also point out that while this year worked out very well for Florida, it could have just as easily sunk their season. Yes, they beat Arkansas, but if the Razorbacks and their 18 quarterbacks win that game, Florida's out and well...

b). Maybe I am alone in this, but I have done the math from every angle, so I'll throw it out to the masses.

The only way that the Big Ten could have a title game (which, I presume would be rotated among Lucas Oil Stadium, Paul Brown Stadium, Ford Field, Heinz Field, and Soldier Field, and maybe Lambeau.) is that it needs 12 teams. Now, we all know that the dream of Notre Dame is very very very very unlikely to come true, leaving very few viable and appropriate candidates, as far as I can tell, including, but not limited to Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and my favored idea, Miami University.

Come up with a logical and workable divisional setup for the Big Ten that preserves as many traditional rivalries as possible, minimizes travel for non-revenue sports, and does not overload one division.

On the plus side, almost any setup I can see involves Ohio State having to play Wisconsin this season, which would have been interesting.

3). Brad said...

I don't remember any Manning campaigning for Nebraska in Jan 1998.... are you sure you aren't thinking of Scott Frost and his "who would you rather play?" nonsense?

No, I do remember the Scott Frost thing, but I swear that Manning, in his post-game press conference started out with something along the lines of "If that isn't the best team in the country, I don't know what is..." and continued just the praise of the Huskers for a while after that. I double checked the emails I have from 1998 about this and it does seem like it was the case. I have been wrong before though, so...If anyone can point me one way or another on this one, I'd appreciate it.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Michigan: Still #1 Among States That Shouldn't Be Expelled From The

A Special Report from our Pacific Northwest Correspondent.

Michigan: Still #1 Among States That Shouldn't Be Expelled From The Union For Gross Electoral Incompetence

Watching USC-UCLA and Florida-Arkansas last Saturday led me to understand a little better the range of emotions that a Plano East fan must have gone through in the epic 1994 game against John Tyler. It's not quite the same - I didn't done wet my britches - but it makes for a startlingly close comparison.

Start of the day, Michigan is way behind. UCLA takes a 7-0 lead, Plano East scores a TD. Dang gum it! UCLA kicks a field goal, goes up 10-9, Plano East recovers an onside kick. Eric McNeal makes that brilliant pick of John David Booty, Plano scores again. Aaron Perez delivers the clutchest punt eva, oh my God we've recovered another onside kick. Yee haw! USC goes down, we're back in this thing.

Switch over to Florida-Arkansas. Chris Leak throws an interception, another touchdown for Plano East. Arkansas scores, making it 17-14, Plano recovers yet another onside kick. Holy f--k yes, a shovel pass picked off and returned for a m-----f--kin' touchdown? Holy c--p, Plano East's done it! They've come from behind. Break out those celebratory Oreos, somehow we pulled this one out.

And then...

No, no, NO, NO, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Reggie Fish, no! I can't believe this, I cannot believe this! No no no no no....

Then the Plano East-John Tyler game ends, and somewhere an announcer says "We now return to our regularly scheduled programming, currently in progress." Following the football, it's the Rush Limbaugh Show. Oh c--p! Where's the remote? I CAN'T FIND IT! So for a hour we're stuck with inane, unsupported, ramblings passing for analysis.

Everything's going great in Iraq! The SEC is the best conference in America! Democrats don't represent real Americans! "Michigan is a second place team." Nobody wants to see a rematch! Nobody could have imagined the Shi'ites and Sunnis would start fighting each other!

And on and on like that Rush would go for hours, just like Gary Danielson did.

If only we'd had video of Gary Danielson mocking Parkinson's patients or clips of Lee Corso calling someone "m-c-c-," maybe we could have politicked things in our favor. (To be honest, I'm surprised Lee Corso's never accidentally said m-c-c- when trying to say Michigan.)

Right now, it looks like the Gators are headed for the same fate as Rush Limbaugh and the GOP in the midterm elections. If the analogy holds, they'll be saying that even though they were utterly destroyed, they only lost because Ohio State was playing SEC-style football. And next fall it'll be more of the same, both in football and politics - important questions being decided not based on what's best, but on who can yell the loudest.

Taking One for the Team

I have learned two things in the past 24 hours:
1). I'm really OK with Michigan not being in the title game. I do not blame Florida fans for this, just, well, you can see Geoff's list below. Florida fans, seriously, we're not mad at you. We're mad at the system and we're mad at the forces who would seek to exploit that system. We're not mad at you, but please understand we're just not rooting with you.
2). Perhaps, yes, maybe some good can come out of this.

In a discussion Sunday, our mutual friend Mike raised an interesting point, one which I saw backed up in a comment on Braves and Birds. To wit, what if Michigan getting "screwed" is the straw that breaks the camel's back? It wouldn't be unprecedented (as far as I can tell on some of the older ones):

1). Michigan's 6-4 loss in the vote of the athletic director's for the 1973 championship after the repeal of the "no repeat rule" lead to the implementation of a series of tie-breaker rules for the Big Ten standings.
2). Michigan's 30-2-1 record without going to a bowl between 1972-1974 helps lead to a change in the Big Ten's rules about non-Rose Bowl bids.
3). Michigan State's victory in 2001 due, in no small measure, to a Michigan State employee keeping time for the game leads the Big Ten to not only change the manner in which time is officially kept for the game, but also lead to a discussion of instituting and implementing replay in the Big Ten.
4). The Sun Belt officials' general lack of competence in last year's Alamo Bowl, forcing Lloyd to use two time outs to give video replay a chance to work led, in part, to the implementation of the coach's challenge system (stolen from the Mountain West) across Division I-A this year.

Now, the key difference is that this is a large scale issue, one which has a lot of money riding on it and one which has been broken for many years. If Auburn, another tradition rich program, can be so deeply worked over (oh and by the way, they are clearly the biggest victims of the trava-sham-mockery that is the BCS thus far), then why should Michigan be any different? Perhaps Notre Dame needs to be screwed over in order to get people to listen (actually, wait, Fox doesn't care what happens to NBC's team)? Hmm, we'll need a much beloved team to get worked over in order for this to happen. In a balkanized college football landscape, it's hard to find one team that has a national following and whom isn't also equally hated. Perhaps Navy or Army fit the bill? I mean, who, save Notre Dame, doesn't have an affinity for our service academies, especially in a time of war? Maybe if they were being left out, we could get Congress to act! Yeah, because Congress makes everything better!

We're stuck with it. We're stuck complaining about it. And, I do believe, that's actually what the powers that be want.

Monday, December 04, 2006


I want to start by acknowledging my own bias here. I cannot be objective about this subject, even as much as I would like to be and even as much as I will try to be, it's just not going to happen. The difference here, I hope, is that in acknowledging my bias and being up front about it, you'll be able to understand where I'm coming from in this discussion. Too much of what has been said in the last 72 hours about this gives absolutely no acknowledgment of bias.

I don't know if Michigan's better than Florida, and honestly, I don't know that anyone can know that. I have maintained this since the end of the Ohio State game, that Michigan was as good as any one loss team in the nation, but we had no way of knowing which one was, in fact, the best of them. Many favored USC, only to see the Trojans implode in the Rose Bowl for the second time in as many games there (which, as a side note, I would hope would bode well for Michigan, but by the same token, you know what they say, third time lucky.) That basically left two teams in the argument, Michigan and Florida. So, let's look at what the computers say…The computers say it's a statistical dead heat! So that leaves it in the hands of the voters, and voters are biased. Voters are easily swayed. Voters are susceptible to "what-have-you-done-for-me-lately-itis". But the voters are still given major sway over who would be #2 in the final poll.

The worst part was this: they let themselves be swayed.

Now, perhaps this stems from the fact that they genuinely felt that Florida was the second best team in the country at the moment. Certainly that case can be made they are a fine team: they won the SEC, they only have one loss to a good Auburn team in a game on the Plains, they have an interesting quarterback platoon system that seems to be working for them. They may even give tOSU a game in Glendale. These are all facts, and they are indisputable.

However, a large part of me suspects that because Urban Meyer spent the last two weeks so openly "campaigning" for Florida to get a shot, the voters allowed themselves to be swayed. The worst part about this is, in my mind, is that Urban Meyer basically spent the last two weeks whining and he got his way, he got his team into the national championship. Lloyd Carr, for his part, generally stayed above the fray, refusing to take potshots at Florida, refusing to campaign for Michigan's benefit, save to point to what Michigan had done on the field this season and to note that he was not thrilled with some of the assertions made about Michigan by Coach Meyer. In the end, which was rewarded? The "campaigning". What kind of lesson is this for the youth of America? If you "campaign", eventually you'll get your way, and if you stay above the fray, you'll be penalized for looking aloof and disinterested, lacking passion and fire. This just seems very wrong to me.

(As a quick aside, this is at least the second time in the last decade where a prominent college football figure's campaigning on behalf of another team has screwed Michigan. I remember very distinctly "an urgent plea from Peyton Manning" after the 1998 Orange Bowl which, I am convinced, help sway the coaches poll voters to give their #1 to Nebraska. I'm sorry, that still bugs me. Even though he is the funniest athlete right now in terms of his commercial appearances, that still bugs me.)

I also really hate the whole notion that has come out of this that the Southeastern Conference is the greatest football conference ever and no other discussion about this topic can be broached. The SEC is tradition rich (as is the Big Ten.). The SEC has many great teams (and some lesser ones, just like the Big Ten.). The SEC teams are battle tested (as are the Big Ten teams.). College football has many things that are right about it, but this parochial and provincial attitude that only "my" conference plays real football really needs to be rethought (by all of us. I have a Big Ten bias, but I recognize it.)

The simplest argument here is that Michigan should have beaten tOhio State if they wanted to be in Glendale and their failure to do so is completely on them. On the most basic level, I agree with that. That said, it's clearly Michigan's fault that they didn't win their conference, even if they play in the conference that has the #1 team in the country among its members. I mean, how horrified would we be if a basketball team, let's say, I don't know, Florida, won the NCAA Tournament despite not winning its conference during the regular season? Oh, that's right, that's what happened last year, Florida didn't even win the SEC East and while they did win the SEC tournament, they were a #3 seed going into the tournament, below Tennessee, who had the best record in the SEC in the regular season. So, to be clear, you must win your conference championship in order to play in the national championship game? In that case, Florida, if you could be so kind as to please return your 2006 NCAA basketball title and we'll be all good. OK, you're not, well, we'll just have to move on then, won't we? (I know, apples and oranges, but I don't like the idea that it's OK over here, but not OK over there. Just like Florida argued for no rematch in the national title game, and yet won their national title because of…wait for it...a rematch in the national title game)

The end of the whole thing is that Florida has forced me to root for Ohio State to win 55-0 and I hate that they are making me do that. There are those that even say I shouldn't do that, as tOhio State is our mostest hated rival. But, I think most Michigan fans are smart enough to realize that we're not pulling for the Buckeyes as much as we're rooting against politics. tOhio State earned its right to be in Glendale. tOhio State played a tremendous season and came through unscathed. Florida had a great season and then "campaigned" its way into the national championship. The latter is so bile inducing, it makes rooting for tOhio State a bit easier. But it still won't feel right, just like it didn't feel right rooting for Notre Dame eight days ago.

So let's focus instead on what is…Michigan should be a great match-up with USC in the Arroyo Seco. It should be a tremendous game and means that in the last four years, only three teams have played in the Rose Bowl, Michigan, USC, and Texas. I find that somewhat humorous. I'll have more on that as we go forward, after all, we have a few weeks to fill.


Like everyone knows, Florida slipped past Michigan in the human polls this weekend to steal the #2 slot in the BCS championship game.  My response was predictable.  First came the yelling, then the throwing things, then the kicking things, and then back to the throwing, before finally tiring myself out.  How did this happen? Who's to blame?
  1. Urban Meyer
    He goes right on the "Dead To Me" list for his relentless, shameless lobbying and politicking.  He's spent the last three weeks crying that his team might not get their shot in the title game.  All he had going for him was the blind assertion that SEC football is the best in the country.  Outside of their conference, they didn't beat anybody other than the worst Florida State team of my lifetime, coached by a man worried about the eBay, and they lost to an Auburn team that forgot to bring an offense.  But, by golly, his Gators just had to get a chance, or their little hearts would break!

    The flip side here, of course, would be to blame Lloyd Carr, who was conpicuously absent from college football media this past week.  He didn't lobby anyone for votes and it may have cost us in the end.  But that's Lloyd, he's not going to change, and I like him better this way.  Coaches just shouldn't have to do that.  Jim Brandstatter was talking to him on Michigan Replay on Sunday morning, and he was this close to calling Urban Meyer bush league; not for his lobbying on behalf of Florida, but for what he's said about Michigan.  For Lloyd, everything's about his kids, never about taking anyone else down, like Meyer's content to do.

  2. Poll Voters
    In the space of a weekend, the question switched from "USC or Michigan?" to "Florida or Michigan?".  Poll voters were running around screaming, getting an attack of rematch terror, and giving in to the fallacy that Michigan had their chance.  Poll voters have goldfish-like brains.  They have this instinctual knowledge that the SEC is the toughest conference, the Pac-10 can't play defense, and the pre-season Top 25 poll is just a matter of shuffling the deck chairs from last season's final ballot.  Beyond that, they only remember what's happened in the last seven seconds.  Last-second miracle block to avoid losing to South Carolina? Gone! Six-point victory over Vanderbilt? Sayonara! SEC football is awesome! + No rematch, arghh!! = Vote for Florida.

  3. Gary Danielson
    The hope for Michigan fans was that the goldfish/poll voters would actually watch the SEC championship game to see whether Florida really deserved a #2 bid.  The Gators' win over Arkansas wasn't some sort of epic beatdown.  They won by 11, based on a gift 14 points off of two errors in the kicking game by an Arkansas team seemingly determined to throw away a game they could've won.  However, Gary Danielson's advocacy for Florida and the SEC was relentless.  During the game, I texted Craig, asking if Danielson was taking money under the table from Gator boosters.  Gary didn't even give token respect to a Michigan program he covered for a lot of years on ABC Sports.  His comparison chart was a joke, as was his assertion that you shouldn't give style points for wins.  Then he asked if you could get style points for defense, implying that would somehow go to Florida.  Admittedly, the OSU game blew a lot of Michigan's numbers to pieces, but the out and out idiocy of implying that the Florida defense is markedly superior to Michigan's didn't seem to register with Danielson's companion in the booth.

  4. Notre Dame
    Notre Dame is such a disappointment to Michigan fans.  They were overrated to start the season, let a not-that-good Georgia Tech team hang around on them all night long, tore apart a Penn State team hell-bent on giving Brady Quinn all the time in the world to throw, and were then exposed in The Great BEAT DOWN of '06.  They flirted with disaster against UCLA, but remained insensibly relevant to BCS discussion all season.  They had a chance to step up against a USC team that had shown themselves to be vulnerable, but the Irish made them look like world-beaters.  If Notre Dame could've found a defense and a way to not drop all their passes, they could've been the ones to beat the Trojans.  That would've put Michigan in the driver's seat, giving our win over ND a little more shine and bumping up the strength of schedule numbers.  Instead, they crawl off to the Sugar Bowl, sure to get taken apart by vicious tigers.

  5. Arkansas.
    See #3.  Two horrible miscues on special teams gave the game away.  The inexplicable attempted punt return, muffed by Fish on the goal line, was by far the worst play of the game, maybe of the year.  Florida's made 5 punt (kick?) blocks this year, according to the CBS crew, so the punt block wasn't some insane, freak accident, but it's an outlier, to be sure.  Without those two plays, the Gators lose.  Also, if the Razorbacks could've found a quarterback who wasn't entirely incompetent, well, that would've been nice too.  Hope you like the Citrus Capital One Bowl, guys.

  6. The Big Ten Conference (Administrative division)
    In their infinite wisdom, the Big Ten has mandated that all teams cease play on the weekend before Thanksgiving, unless you go to Hawaii.  There are solid reasons for their decision, of course.  November football in the Midwest is dicey enough, but a homegame in Madison in December is Russian roulette with Mother Nature.  However, it means that the rest of the country has two extra weeks to continue making their case on the football field.  We won't have a conference championship game unless a twelfth team joins (Notre Dame's fault, AGAIN), but there has to be some way to make it work so that Big Ten teams play on the last day of the season.

  7. The Big Ten Conference (Athletic division)
    If the rest of the conference comes up to scratch, it makes Michigan look that much better.  Iowa is the first among equals here.  The Hawkeyes struggled without Drew Tate, lost at Indiana to nosedive out of the top 25, then just gave up the ghost after the Michigan game.  Penn State's boneheaded playcalling handed Notre Dame a blowout victory.  The bottom of the conference went around losing to 1-AA teams and UConn.  1-AA teams! If the rest of the conference can take care of their own business, the conference schedule looks like a better test.  Note: OSU and Wiconsin are exempted here.  Pre-season polls kept the Badgers out of the top ranks until way too late to do Michigan any good, and OSU for obvious reasons.

  8. The Computers
    You know, I really thought we had a good thing going with the computers for most of the season.  Heading into the OSU game, they had us in the #1 spot.  Naturally, we dropped down after losing, but it was still OK.  Then somehow we ended up deadlocked with Florida in the computer polls after this weekend.  Brian already ripped into the Billingsley poll last week, so I'll leave that screed to him.  But I'll add this: Florida somehow received positive points in the computer polls for beating 1-AA Western Carolina, a team with a 2-9 record.

  9. The BCS
    This one was so obvious that it slipped by me in my first draft, but a suggestion from Craig brought it to my attention.  To paraphrase my good friend Chuck D, the BCS is a joke.  Intended to put the best two teams in the country into the national title game, it's ended in controversy in half the years of its existence and it keeps tweaking its "formula" because of it.  The S stands for "series", but there's nothing serial about it.  It's one game between two teams that may or may not be the #1 and #2.  I don't want a March Madness-style playoff.  Even a two-round, four-team playoff should cover just about any scenario, and an eight-team format definitely would include any team with real title ambitions.  But the BCS is worried about money, so a playoff system will just sit on the shelf.  If they'd put the cash up, FOX could probably have demanded it, but we're stuck for a few more years.

  10. Jerry Falwell
    Somehow, in time, I'm going to figure out a way to blame this on Jerry Falwell.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


Last time we looked at the hockey team, they had just beaten the fifth-ranked Michigan State Spartans to a pulp, making up for their own three-goal loss the night before. After that, the team rattled off seven straight wins, including another victory over the Spartans, before bookending November with another loss, this time to top-ranked Minnesota.

There's a lot of good stuff to see from this November. The only two losses we took were to top-5 teams, while beating a #5 team and a #6 team. Granted, both of those ranked teams were MSU, but they've had our number for a while. I'm really happy about the 2-1 win from a couple weeks ago. That's the kind of score Sauer hadn't given us until then. If we'd scored less than three, we'd always lost.

Almost as nice is seeing the Wolverines take care of business when it comes to teams they should beat. We always seem to give one away up in Big Rapids to an overmatched Ferris State, but we came home on the right side of a 3-2 score this year and with the sweep.

Earning a split (aka "Not getting swept") in the College Hockey Showcase is another thing to be proud of. Wisconsin had them down 3-2 going into the third, but Rohlfs and Cogliano scored and got the victory. Wiconsin's been on a skid as of late, but playing at Anchorage and against Denver and Minnesota in successive weekends will do that to you, so this was a good win to get in Madison. However, the team got absolutely de-pantsed by yet another Gopher squad. I mean obliterated, 8-2, with a 5-goal third period making it into a rout. That just makes you ill when you see it.

We've got Western up this weekend, bottom-feeding again in the CCHA, so it's time to take care of a little business there. The Black Hole is a tough building to play in, but we should be able to managae. The weekend after, we have another home-and-home, this time against a Notre Dame team having a shockingly good season, floating just above the maize and blue in the polls. Their success looks to be built on not letting anyone into the net. In fact, it looks like there's not a lot of shooting going on, period, in their games. Are they running the trap? Anyway, I think I'm going to make it to the home half of that series, so I'd better find a way to get some student section tickets.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Spinning Our Wheels

It's a strange time of year around here at the HSR, as we're still in the thick of the college football season's endgame, but Michigan's been done for about ten days now, so I'm watching these other games and just trying to make sense of it all. And I have come to one strong conclusion:

No one has no way of knowing who is more deserving of being in the BCS Championship Game to face Ohio State.

People may claim they know, people can make strong arguments for one team, or another, or a third, and you can listen to the evidence and say, "Yeah, that makes sense!" Then someone counterpoints it and you go "Wait, that makes sense too!"

(For a beautiful example of this, please see The Whole Picture entry at MGoBlog. Seriously, we appreciate Brian et al for all of the efforts. It scares us, but still, we love it.)

I have heard the following compelling arguments either in writing or on the air: 

USC played the hardest schedule in the country...
...but USC's loss was not to SEC West winner Arkansas or Big XII North champion Nebraska, but to 8-4 Oregon State, who was smoked by Boise State 42-14.

Michigan has the "Best Loss", by three points to #1 Ohio State, at Ohio State, in the dark, wearing sunglasses...
...but Michigan nearly lost to Ball State at home and that three point loss to tOSU was not a close three point loss.
(Real quick on this, I don't buy the "almost lost to Ball State" argument. Michigan didn't win pretty in that one, but you know, they did win by eight and all.)

Florida (provided they beat Arkansas in the SEC title game) played in the hardest conference in football and deserves their shot for that...
...but not for the fact that they scheduled Division I-AA Western Carolina, and UCF (which I believe is a show on Spike). I will not go after Florida for Florida State being down this year, that's a weak argument.
(Florida is hurt by the "style points" notion, in that they have a pair of one point wins at Neyland and at home in "Return of the Spurrier", but there is a difference between winning and escaping.)
There are dozens of points like this and I could go on and on, but well, honestly, I have neither the time nor the inclination to do so...

When you set everything aside, I'll go back to Brian's point at the end:

"USC's tiebreaker is Arkansas and Nebraska versus our Vanderbilt, Central Michigan, and Ball State. They took on two above-average BCS teams. We took on the worst team in the SEC and two MAC teams, though one of them happens to be okay this year. Set aside the Michigan fandom and look at the big picture: if USC has this season and does not make the NC game, no one will ever schedule anyone again. It's time to take the bullet."

This is ironic, but this is where Michigan Stadium hurts Michigan. Because of the scope of Michigan's gate receipts, it is unlikely that Michigan will make a larger reach than our traditional MACrifices (TM University of Pittsburgh) and occasional random Rice/Vanderbilt/etc. I have believe that Michigan should aim for a Georgia Tech, a Missouri, or head back out to the coast (which, OK, we're playing Oregon next year, but we're also playing Eastern Michigan as "Opponent as Yet to Be Named")

But there's one other thing I have said from the start:
"This may surprise some, but I am not in favor of a rematch between Michigan and Ohio State, largely because something would feel incomplete about Michigan getting to call itself national champion because it beat Ohio State last. Granted, it would be a neutral site game, but if the roles were reversed and Michigan had won by a small margin at home, I would be upset if tOSU got to claim the crystal ball because they won last."

At the end of the whole conversation, it comes back to one critical thing:

No one has no way of knowing who is more deserving of being in the BCS Championship Game to face Ohio State. They may think they know, they may believe they know, but they cannot actually know, because there is no way to make that case in a compelling fashion that is absolutely certain.

To close, I turn to the wisdom of Michigan alumnus, Dr. Gregory House:

"I'm sure this goes against everything you've been taught, but right and wrong do exist. Just because you don't know what the right answer is - maybe there's even no way you could know what the right answer is - doesn't make your answer right or even okay. It's much simpler than that. It's just plain wrong."
(P.S.: As I mentioned on Deadspin yesterday:
"I won't push for a title game rematch between Michigan and Ohio State as long as the Rose Bowl people don't give us a Michigan/Notre Dame rematch in Pasadena. Playing Notre Dame three times in 53 weeks would get my bile up in an uncomfortable spot in my throat. Michigan/LSU could be intriguing, but who knows???")

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Echoing Conflict

From my personal blog from September 14, 2006:
I know what I am about to say is almost heresy for a Michigan fan, but here goes: I hate Notre Dame more than I do Ohio State. Don't get me wrong, I hate Ohio State, but I also pity them, because Buckeyes tend to make the news wires for some of the dumbest crimes possible (not that Michigan is saintly in this regard, but Maurice Clarett alone, I mean, come on...) But Notre Dame, there's so much to hate, and I think it simply comes down to this: No school is more arrogant than Notre Dame, not even Michigan. Michigan fans live with (and on some level, thrive on) the knowledge that most people non-maize and blue faithful in the state of Michigan hate them because Michigan folk are considered to be arrogant and that we look down our collective noses at the "hoi polloi." There's even a Facebook group called "I Go to Michigan and am therefore better than you."

But Notre Dame has that holier than thou attitude, that top to bottom belief that they are the Chosen Team, that they are doing the Lord's work on the gridiron and how dare anyone question that! You couple that with the fact that in many years, Michigan season has been over in September because they couldn't beat the Irish and well, you start getting the South Bend-haterade in the big industrial sized bottles.

So, let the boys go before Touchdown Jesus and pay the only appropriate respects that Division I's winningest college football program could pay, showing the Irish who's boss. After all, they'd be more than happy to do the same for Michigan, and one good turn deserves another.

(Note, in the comments of said entry, one of the friends of HSR pointed out the following: "Notre Dame only out-arrogants Michigan for five months a year. Outside of football season, it's all Maize 'n' You." We're still not sure he's right, I mean, he did work for MSU.)

So now it's come to this: I am forced by circumstances to Cheer Cheer for Old Notre Dame this weekend. And it's kind of making me sick. I have spent an entire lifetime hating them, and now, I have to hope that they win by a small to medium margin in the L.A. Coliseum in order for Michigan to still have maybe a potential possible shot at playing in the National Championship game? This is going to be tough to swallow. And yet, "what we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly, 'tis dearness that gives all things value."

Game on...and Go Irish (this week only!)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Celebration of a Life

You can see some wonderful photos from today's Memorial Service for Bo at the Big House over at

They also have free video of the ceremonies linked at the site, but it requires registration.

I only got to hear part of it in the car, but what struck me in what I heard is that while there is sadness in the passing and the void that will be there, there's also a joy that comes from remembering what we love, respect, admire about a person and about what we will miss because they will no longer be with us. The part of me that believes that laughter is as important in grief as tears appreciated that others feel that was as well.

We will miss you Bo, but your spirit remains with us.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Well, It Wasn't Quite 2002

There are no riots in Columbus!

Despite the insistence of OSU president Karen Holbrook, not all was calm and peaceful in Columbus on Saturday night. Some 40 fires were set and 38 arrested, the Detroit News reports. The Akron Beacon-Journal runs a headline of "Buckeye Fans On Good Behavior" despite it. The Columbus Dispatch ignores the fires entirely. We here have come up with a handy way to compare three Big Ten universities' proclivities toward rioting with just a little of the old JavaScript.

*For our purposes, a riot is any large public disturbance that results in the destruction of property.

The last Ann Arbor riot was following the 1989 NCAA basketball tournament victory, which resulted in broken windows and tear gas on South University. The last MSU riot was following their Final Four loss in 2005. The last Columbus riot was Saturday night. Car flipped == riot.

Two answers

I've been staring at the blinking cursor for 10 minutes now, trying to think of what to say, trying to think of how to say it.

None of the arguments I've had in my head make sense. On the one hand, Ohio State looked like an amazing team during the course of the first half of the game and my worry was that Ohio State was going to go all 1968 on Michigan. On the other hand, they committed three turnovers in the second half and if Michigan is able to get a touchdown instead of a field goal or nothing off one of them, well, it's a whole new ball game. On the one hand, Michigan's defense got torched by big plays. (By the way, I hate to heap praise on the enemy here, but I will, the play calling by Tressel et al on both of those big plays was genius, in part because the plays worked. It was a shake your head moment, because you're like, "Damn, that was clever.") On the one hand, it was a three point game, on the other hand, it wasn't a close game (as MGoBlog points out, any time the final critical play of a game is an onside kick, it's not that close.) I genuinely don't know what to think. It's a great season, but it's not. It's an excellent turnaround, but it's not complete. It would have been perfect, if it weren't for those meddling kids in Columbus...

Which leads us to questions of a rematch in Glendale...

(Brief interlude: At the Michigan/Harvard basketball game, friend of the Hoover Street Rag and current Michigan 3L Joe asked me why "WOLVERINES" a la Red Dawn never became a thing at Michigan. I don't know, but I did posit it's probably because Michigan fans saw the title and were worried it was an OSU related documentary.)

On the one hand, I want a rematch, because Michigan may be the second best team in the country. On the other hand, I don't want a rematch because Michigan had a shot at #1 and lost. On the one hand, I do think if you gave Michigan another shot at OSU, they could beat them, especially on a neutral field (and, as HSR correspondent Dave pointed out, maybe just an actual field. OSU should be ashamed of the condition that the Ohio Stadium field was in for that game.), on the other hand, it would feel wrong, because Michigan would only be the national champion because they won last.

So, what did I learn from this weekend? Not a whole lot, save that even when things are finally over, a whole new set of questions begin....

Friday, November 17, 2006

Bo: 1929-2006

We're sure you've hear by now. Bo Schembechler passed away today at the age of 77. The Free Press has the story here. We'll be back later with a proper tribute, but it's a sad day for the Michigan family.

Bo Schembechler: 1929-2006

Glenn E. "Bo" Schembechler died today. In 1969, he took over a once-proud Michigan program that had been scuffling through its past decade and turned it back into a national powerhouse. In his 22 seasons at the helm, he compiled a 194-48-5 record, good for a 0.794 winning percentage and the most victories of any coach in Wolverine football history. He led his team to ten Rose Bowls, winning two of them. His 1971 Wolverines came within seconds of securing a national championship and his 1973 squad was unbeaten, going 10-0-1, but were kept out of the Rose Bowl by a vote of the Big Ten athletic directors. After retiring from coaching, Bo never really left the University of Michigan family. He kept a desk in Schembechler Hall, he showed up on air at Michigan football games. On the eve of this clash of titans, one of the all-time great Michigan men is with us no more. We offer our condolences to all in Michigan football whose lives he touched and to Bo's own family.

GDZ: I was only 8 years old when Bo stepped down, but I remember it and his last two Rose Bowls. I remember beating USC and then losing to them in successive years. Bo's voice has always been in my ears when it comes to Michigan football, listening to him provide commentary on those WJR broadcasts. The first book I remember my dad buying is BO. He's a legend.

In 1999, I entered the University of Michigan and joined the marching band. During Band Week, we were loaded up morning, noon, and night with marching and music rehearsals. One evening, things went differently. Instead of Elbel Field, we went over to Michigan Stadium. It was the first time I'd ever been inside the Big House at night and I didn't know what to expect next. We were to have a speaker, introduced as a man who needed no introduction. It was Bo. The Man himself had come here to give us his time. I was in awe of him; I couldn't believe he was really there. Much of his talk was lost to me because of this, but I remember him talking about what makes a Michigan man, about what Michigan stands for, about perseverance ("Those Who Stay Will Be Champions"), and about preparation. I was proud to play my own small part in all of this and proud that Bo considered us important enough to address us. The next weekend, the football team won a comeback victory over Notre Dame and we wiped the floor with their band.

CDB: He's left us, and while we can't say it comes as a major surprise, given his recent health issues (or even the fact that he had two quadruple bypass operations), it does not lessen the sadness that comes with the knowledge that we have lost Bo Schembechler, who passed away in Southfield today at the age of 77.

It seems kind of silly, sometimes, when you hear people say things like "I feel like we have lost a member of the family" when talking about people they aren't related to, but in this case, I do truly feel like we've lost a member of the family, for we have lost the spiritual father of the Michigan football family, and for many Michigan faithful, that means we've lost something akin to losing the winged helmet or the color maize. Bo's influence upon the program is second only to Fielding Yost, and Yost wins out only by virtue of the fact that he was here first.

Bo saved Michigan football in many ways. He brought a proud program back from mediocrity and made it something to be proud of once more. He made the games with Ohio State into the Ten Year War and he won five of them. He never had a losing season in 27 seasons as a head coach. He's probably not the coach you'd want in a bowl game, but the fact that he lost so many of them in an era before "everybody goes to a bowl" tells you just how good his Michigan teams were in that they were even in a bowl game. He taught the football team the importance of singing "The Victors" by bringing in a professor from the School of Music at the beginning of each year. He gave Michigan 194 wins over just 48 losses and five ties in his 21 years as the boss. He taught us the idea of "Those who stay will be champions." He only lost a total of ten Big Ten games while at Michigan. He gave us Rob Lytle, Rick Leach, Anthony Carter, John Wangler, Butch Woolfolk, Jim Harbaugh, Jumbo Eliott, Mike Gillette, Jamie Morris, Mark Messner, and Tripp Wellborne and countless others. He gave us 13 Big Ten championships, the most of any Michigan coach. He was the believer in "A Michigan Man", leading him to give the keys to Steve Fisher on the eve of the 1989 NCAA Tournament. He was all of these things and more.

Are there black marks? Sure, the lack of a National Championship might be seen by some as a black mark, but I disagree. The firing of Ernie Harwell when he was Tigers' president, well, that was a mistake, but that was also when he was well out of his element.

Just like when he retired in 1989, it's hard to believe, once again, this time for good. But the memories remain, the traditions remain, the threads that weave him into the tapestry continue to today. After all, who hired Coach Carr in 1980 after stints at Eastern Michigan and Illinois? He's from Bo's tree.

Some might say that they could think of no more fitting tribute to Bo than a win tomorrow over tOhio State. That's the obvious answer and would be wonderful. But Bo's legacy transcends a single game, and the tribute will be to keep the spirit of what Bo brought to Michigan in the hearts of Michigan fans. That's the tribute.

(We'll have more later...however, the best tribute I have yet seen is at MGoBlog. If you weren't weepy before, you will be soon.)

Bits and Pieces

Thanks to all the nice people who've been linking to us this week, including MGoBlog, The M Zone, and Deadspin. You guys rock.

Nerds Unite!

Tipster Dave sends us this item, verbatim:

"Even Caltech, known for its mockeries of college athletics, has big game fever. Signs all over campus say the following:

#1 The Ohio State Univeristy Buckeyes (sic) vs. #2 University of Michigan Wolverines

Come see the game that ESPN has called the best rivalry in all of college sports.

North Catalina Reading Room
Kickoff is at 12:30 pm

Since it's Caltech, the misspelling of Univeristy may be a subtle mockery of the academic standards of Ohio State. Or maybe science nerds can't speelcheck."

Big Ten Broadcasters Are a Little Dim

The Chicago Sun Times surveyed 11 Big Ten broadcasters about their favorite cities, traditions, coaches, etc. Two of the questions related to the Big Ten's bands. First, the broadcasters' favorite tradition was dotting the "i" in Script Ohio. One commentator answered thusly:
No one leaves at halftime, and when the 'i' is dotted, it becomes emotional for most of the 100,000-plus. Even if you're not a Buckeye, you can't help but admire and respect the tradition.

I can get behind that sentiment. Script Ohio is as fine a band tradition as you'll find, and one of the few truly unique ones. Except, Mr. Big Ten Broadcaster, it happens in PRE-GAME. You know, before they kick the football-thingy?

In the direct question about which Big Ten band was their favorite, Wisconsin and Ohio State tied for top honors, with Michigan among those also receiving votes. I don't have a problem with OSU's band tied for the top spot in the Big Ten; I have a problem with Wisconsin being the other half of the pair. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: They're overrated. Wisconsin's band is all show with a marginal sound at best, but I guess the tin-eared broadcasters don't notice that. I mean, it's a pretty good show, but there's not a lot of musicianship behind it.

Hoover Street Rag Stat of the Day

When Michigan scores more than 21 points on Ohio State, we're 25-0.

Ohio State Football Preview

The Series

  • Record: 57-39-6 (Michigan leads)
  • Since '69: 20-15-2
  • First Meeting: 34-0, Michigan, 10/16/1897, Regents Field, Ann Arbor
  • Last Meeting: 25-21, Ohio State, 11/19/2005, Michigan Stadium
  • Ohio State
    • Most Points: 50-14, 11/23/1968, Michigan Stadium and 50-20, 11/25/1961, Ohio Stadium
    • Since '69: 37-21, 11/20/2004, Ohio Stadium
    • Biggest Margin of Victory: 38-0, 11/23/1935, Ohio Stadium
    • Since '69: 22-6, 11/19/1994, Ohio Stadium and 37-21, 11/20/2004, Ohio Stadium
    • Biggest Shutout: 38-0, 11/23/1935, Ohio Stadium
    • Since '69: N/A
  • Michigan
    • Most Points: 86-0, 10/25/1902, Regents Field
    • Since '69: 38-26, 11/11/2000, Ohio Stadium
    • Biggest Margin of Victory: 86-0, 10/25/1902, Regents Field
    • Since '69: 28-0, 11/20/1993, Michigan Stadium
    • Biggest Shutout: 86-0, 10/25/1902, Regents Field
    • Since '69: 28-0, 11/20/1993, Michigan Stadium

One last game for the right to appear in the BCS National Championship game.  #1 vs. #2, right here, right now, for the first time ever in this rivalry.  Each program undefeated and untied at the end of the season for the third time ever, the first occurence since 1973.  It's been endlessly dissected elsewhere and far be it for me not to jump right in. The quick version: Michigan is a bit better at running the football.  Ohio State has the advantage in the air.  Michigan's run defense is sickening.  Ohio State's D just doesn't allow anyone to score.  Anyone who predicts a blowout in this game is an idiot.

The Long Version

Troy Smith is the key to the Ohio State offense, and he's having a great year.  He's completing 66.4% of his passes with 8.6 ypa / 12.9 ypc with only four interceptions, and don't expect that to go up on Saturday.  Smith's leading receivers, far and away, have been Ted Ginn, Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez, well-known names around these parts, with a big fall-off in yards to Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline.  Ginn has ridiculous speed, but Morgan Trent did once beat him in a footrace.  Last year, Gonzalez lit up the Michigan secondary and I fully support MGoBlog's Hall-Gonzalez/Trent-Ginn coverage scheme.  Don't count him as a "possession receiver", but he's the most reliable target when you need the yards for a drive-sustaining first down.  Gonzalez makes the medium yardage grabs that Ginn eschews for either the short stuff or long bombs.  I haven't seen much of Robiskie, but I saw one touchdown of his where OSU was on MSU's doorstep and he just ran a crossing route through the endzone that torched whoever was covering him for the Spartans.  Rory Nicol is a guy with a disproportionate TD/yds ratio; I'd watch for him near the goal line.

Michigan's pass defense keys are going to be the guys who aren't Leon Hall.  Morgan Trent has been excellent in deep coverage all year, but he hasn't had to guard Ted Ginn.  The revolving cast of Harrison, Englemon, Barringer, Mundy, and Adams will need to seriously step it up.  It was encouraging last week to see Willis Barringer right in the middle of a lot of pass plays, so I have high hopes for him.

Troy Smith has been getting the glory, but the ground game has accounted for 60% of OSU's plays this season.  Antonio Pittman has been getting the lion's share of the carries, 214 of the 428 attempts, with Chris Wells accounting for another 97.  Between the two of them, they're averaging 4.8 and 5.3 ypc, respectively.  Pittman again will get most of the carries on Saturday, especially with Wells's reputation for losing the football.

Ohio State's offense is symbiotic.  You can't sell out against the run, because Troy Smith is going to torch you.  If you commit to stopping the pass, you've opened up room for Pittman & Wells (who really should open up a law firm).  Ted Ginn can run you off and keep you safety deep while everyone else gets open underneath.  The key to solving the riddle is in Michigan's front seven.  They need to stop the run and get to Troy Smith.  He will kill you to death and stomp on your face if you give him the time (or a second chance) to throw.  Ohio State's receivers are far too talented for us to expect decent coverage for more than four seconds after the snap.  And if, by some miracle, his receivers are all covered, Smith can take off and run.  In fact, I'd expect to see more designed runs for him against Michigan.  Not a ton (David Harris could take his head off), but on 3rd and 4 it might be worth it to take a few chances.  But anyway: Giving Troy Smith an extra chance to make something out of a broken play is my nightmare.  When we have the chance, we need to put him in the ground.

Ohio State's defense has spent much of the year as an undervalued commodity.  Replacing 9 starters from last year's exceptional squad, it was assumed that the ofense would have to put up big numbers to make up for defensive lapses.  The offense has produced, but most of the time it hasn't really been needed, as the Bucks have only been allowing 7.8 ppg from their opposition.

Reading the tea leaves on the Buckeyes' run defense is difficult.  They're giving up only a paltry 90.2 yards per game on the ground, but teams have so often found themselves buried by the offense that they're forced to go to the air.  Let's try to compare OSU's run defense to Michigan's.  Teams have run on Michigan on only 38.2% of plays from scrimmage.  Despite often being down a more substantial margin to the Bucks, teams have run on them on 47.6% of the time, so it suggests a little more faith that their run defense can be solved.  Michigan's 1.3 ypc allowed looks much better than OSU's 3.3 ypc, but does it stand up? Is it inflated (deflated?) by sack yardage? Let's take out the sack yardage and compare.  Michigan has 41 sacks for 320 yards.  OSU has 33 for 238.  Taking out those rush attempts and the yards they lost, Michigan yields 3.1 ypc and Ohio State 4.3.  So there's reason to expect that Michigan's running backs will be able to find some room, even if they don't get any gaping holes, but a Tshimangaesque performance is decidedly unlikely.

Mike Hart's been hitting eight-man fronts all year for 4.8 ypc, so I wouldn't expect a massive drop-off in his production.  I don't expect OSU to be able to count on Michigan running on 65% of its downs from the get-go, so they should be limited to 7 in the box most of the time.  Even with their superior personnel, I don't think you can take Hart out of the game without 8.  The key is to keep the game at least close enough that running the ball is a viable option.  Penn State's Tony Hunt (who we bottled up on the ground all day) took them for over 120 yds in one of the few games where Ohio State hadn't jumped out to a massive lead by halftime.  Anecdotal evidence nurtures the tiny flame of hope here.

OSU's pass defense has been turning in a solid performance all year long, and they've posted some gaudy interception numbers (21 for the season).  The pass rush has been brutal enough to make 33 sacks.  The question here, though, is what they'll do when they see a team with a quality passer with good targets who's been given permission to use his ability.  I think Henne will get some room to work with, especially if the defense can keep the score down.  The OSU defense has been allowing a 56.9% completion rate, so they aren't impenetrable.

Special teams are a net edge for OSU.  They put a ton of kickoffs in the endzone for touchbacks, so that can take Breaston out of the picture, while Garrett Rivas doesn't have the leg for us to neutralize Ginn in that way.  Punt return yardage yielded and made is a push, but OSU has a slight edge in net punting (37.0 vs. 33.9).  Out-kicking the coverage here would be an easy way to die, so Zoltan probably won't be unleashing the hounds.  I still have nightmares about previous Ginn returns.

For the first time in a while, OSU isn't automatic with their field goal kicking.  This may really be the result, however, of the fact that they ask Aaron Pettrey to make a lot more 50-yard attempts than Rivas gets.  And, by the way, his long this year is 52 yards.  Probably a push here.

In the end, these are both terrific, well-matched football teams who richly deserve to be ranked #1 and #2.  No one will be able to persuade me that this shouldn't be the real national championship game.  It'll come down to execution on both sides of the ball.  The defensive line has to keep contain and get pressure on Troy Smith while the coverage holds up downfield.  The offensive line needs to give Chad Henne time and Mike Hart room.  Henne needs to be accurate and not let that one bad read he seems to make each game turn into a big interception.  The receivers need to hang onto the damn ball.  The coverage team has to tackle Ted Ginn before the 40.  If they jump out to a 14-0 lead, we're dead.  It's a huge order to ask of anyone, especially the part about Troy Smith.  Michigan has a much smaller margin for error than OSU.  Any lapse can turn into 7 points in the blink of an eye, and we've seen those lapses before.  Final score: 21-17 and pick 'em.