Friday, September 30, 2005
Michigan comes into this game as the clear underdog. The Wolverines were fortunate to come away with a victory over MSU last season due, in large part, to Lamar Woodley’s timely hit on Drew Stanton. I have no problem admitting that a healthy Stanton would’ve meant a glorious day for Sparty. The only difference between this season and last season is that Michigan doesn’t have Superman. Since Sparty dominated Michigan in the first half last year with Superman, I would fully expect Sparty to dominate Michigan without Superman. Michigan St. is Michigan’s biggest nightmare. With Lloyd Carr’s bland schemes and suspect game preparation, any team that opens up the offense and exposes defensive weaknesses will be successful against Michigan. Michigan St. is just that kind of team. Plus, when was the last time Michigan won a game that they were supposed to lose? My guess is the Ohio St. game in 1996. If you don’t believe me, check the schedules. Michigan surely loses a landslide of games that they are supposed to win, but they hardly ever win games that they are supposed to lose. Michigan is supposed to lose on Saturday which means Michigan St. will more than likely win and possibly win big.
-----------------Hits Runs RBI’s BA OBP Slugging % OPS SB
Big Papi ------- 174--115--144--.296--.392--.600--.993--1
There’s no question that Big Papi has had an amazing season with the bat. He’s hitting near .300 and has 144 RBI’s. Boston’s success is due, in large part, to Ortiz’s brilliant season. A-rod has also had an impressive season with the bat. In fact, he beats Ortiz across the board with the exception of RBI’s. I would say that most people would concur that A-rod has had an even better offensive season than Ortiz. The numbers above would surely indicate that. However, even if you claim that A-rod and Big Papi are in a deadlock as far as offensive contributions, it makes no difference. Why? Because, Ortiz doesn’t play defense.
ESPN has been asking the question lately, should a DH win the MVP award? It depends. If the player in question is far and away the best offensive player in the league, then I would have no problem giving that player the MVP award. For instance, let’s say that A-rod suffered a season ending injury in April and everything else remained the same. Ortiz would probably have the best offensive season in the American League. Mark Teixeira, Manny Ramirez, Vladimir Guerrero and Gary Sheffield have all put up numbers that are very close to what Ortiz has done. I would have no issue with Ortiz getting the MVP award over Teixeira, Ramirez, Guerrero and Sheffield because their defensive contributions are marginal at best with the exception of Guerrero. Ortiz’s offensive numbers are considerably better than Vlad’s so I would have no problems with Ortiz winning over Vlad.. Ramirez and Sheffield aren’t known as great outfielders and Teixeira plays first base which is probably the least important defensive position.
On the other hand, A-rod not only plays defense, but does it very well. He’s one of the premier third basemen in MLB which just happens to be the most difficult defensive position. Even if you conclude that A-rod and Big Papi are a wash offensively, there’s no way for Big Papi to offset the above average defensive contributions that A-rod makes for an entire season. A-rod should win the AL MVP award easily. In fact, I can’t see anyone giving a logical reason to pick Ortiz over A-rod given how much A-rod contributes offensively and defensively. I fully expect Boston fans to back Ortiz (like the Sports Guy) but that’s no surprise. Outside of Boston, I can’t see anyone valuing Ortiz’s season over A-rod’s. I understand the argument that Ortiz has been “clutch” this season. Ortiz has surely come up big for the Red Sox. However, the season is 162 games long. A-rod outperformed Ortiz on the offensive side and blew him away on the defensive side. Big Papi has been fantastic, but there wasn’t a more complete player in the AL this season than A-rod.
Thursday, September 29, 2005
NE -5.5 sd
I think New England will win this game since they seem to have gotten back on track after last week's impressive win in Pittsburgh. However, San Diego can score with anyone so giving 5.5 points to San Diego is a lot. I think the Chargers will keep it close enough to cover the spread.
JAX -4 den
I'm surprised by this line. Denver looked horrendous against Miami in week one but two impressive wins over San Diego and Kansas City have put the Broncos in line for a good season. The imported Cleveland Browns defensive line has been better than anyone expected. Jacksonville is inept on offense at best. This should be a defensive battle. I would be surprised if Denver lost by more than four. I'm going with the Broncos. Although, Jake Plummer can do mean things to you if you bet on him on the road.
Cincy -10 hou
This is a difficult game to predict (as are all games judging from my abysmal season record). On one hand, you have the Bengals who have become an offensive machine under the rapid maturation of Carson Palmer. On the other hand, you have a Texan team that can't do anything right. Normally, I'd think Cincy would cover here but I'm starting to think that the "any given Sunday" rule might apply for this game. Remember, I went with SF as a 14 point underdog at Philly and lost. Then I went with Indy as a 15 point favorite at home against Cleveland and lost that one too! Which way do I go? I have to pick someone so I'm reluctantly picking Cincinnati to cover.
indy -7 TENN
Tennessee proved something last week in their loss at St. Louis. That could've been a blow out but the Titans fought back every time St. Louis extended the lead. I think Tennessee might be a gambler's nightmare because they won't win many games but they'll stay close with Norm Chow and Steve McNair in charge of the offense. Manning has been marginal at best this season but this game reminds me a little of the Indianapolis/Green Bay game last season. It is not wise to get in a score-fest with the Colts when you don't have a defense. I'm taking Indy.
KC -2.5 philly
I think KC clearly has the edge in this game in terms of motivation. They were humiliated at Denver on Monday night and now have a chance to make amends in front of their home crowd. Philly might be in trouble if they can't meet KC's intensity. I think this game is about 50/50 so I'll take Philly with 2.5 points.
TB -6.5 det
Joey Harrington on the road against the league's top defense. Tampa Bay covers.
NYG -3.0 stl
In all honesty, I think the Rams would be better off if Marc Bulger was their head coach. The Giants got blown out against the Chargers last week. It seems like the odds makers are still holding St. Louis' opening day loss to SF against them. I think that the Rams are better than the Giants so I'm taking St. Louis on the road. I will regret making this pick.
NO PK buff
J.P. Losman stinks and so do the Saints. Minnesota broke out in a big way last week against the Saints. One of these weeks the Saints will break out too. I think this could be the week. I'm going with the Saints.
WASH -2 sea
Washington has a very good defense. Shaun Alexander could have a tough time finding running room on Sunday. However, the Redskins are terrible on offense. This will be excruciating to watch. I would think that the Seahawks will pull this one out since they are the better team. I'll take Seattle.
BALT -7 nyj
Brooks Bollinger on the road against a humiliated Ravens defense? I have to take Baltimore.
ATL -6 minn
Apparently the odds makers think that Minnesota's offensive outburst against the Saints last week was a fluke. I think they might be right. However, Vick was noticeably hobbled last week which should stifle Atlanta's already average offense. I expect Atlanta to win but Minnesota should keep it close. I'll take the Vikings to cover.
OAK -3 dallas
Oakland was impressive in their loss at Philly last week. In fact, they've been impressive in pretty much every game they've played (all losses by the way
). Dallas struggled against San Francisco and lost to Washington. Those are two below average teams. I'll take Oakland at home.
ARI -2.5 sf
Anquan Boldin said that, sometime soon, the Cardinals would break out in a big way on offense. The good news for the Cardinals is that they still have 13 games left. I fear going with the Cardinals over anyone but they have more talent than San Francisco so they should win. I'm taking the Cardinals. (Did I just say that?)
CAR -7.5 gb
Green Bay stinks right now but are they really going to get blown out on Monday Night Football to the Panthers? Favre and co. hung tough with a very good Tampa Bay team last week. I would be shocked if Green Bay got blown out. I think Carolina will take the game but only by a touchdown or less.
As a result of the first two weeks, I am convinced that every game I pick will be wrong. I have Chad Henne confidence right now. I feel like the Michigan defense against Michigan St. in the first half last year. Every play call they made was the wrong one. They were so mixed up that they had no idea what to do. I feel the same way. I don't know left from right anymore. Just like any self respecting athlete who's in a major slump, my only recourse is to keep picking games and hope better days are ahead. So, I will. I can only hope I fare better than Chuck Knoblauch did.
Coin Flip picks:
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Monday, September 26, 2005
Just about every pro-Lloyd fan utters the following phrase at some point or another; “I hate it when people automatically blame the coach after a loss.” How about after ten years of mediocrity (mediocrity in terms of Michigan’s standards)? Is that reason enough to blame a coach? Carr is responsible for the state of the program. A player can make a mistake on the field that costs Michigan a win. That’s OK. I don’t think there’s a knowledgeable person on the planet that would hold that against Lloyd. What can be held against Lloyd is the fact that Michigan has underachieved in 80% of the seasons since Lloyd has been coach. Michigan hasn’t beaten a ranked Notre Dame team since 1991. Michigan has only finished with less than three losses in two out of eleven seasons. Michigan has lost six straight road openers. The fact of the matter is that Michigan only plays a handful of games that they could actually lose based on the talent differential. Michigan loses way too many of those games. That’s what Lloyd is responsible for. Nobody is going to bust Lloyd’s chops for an isolated incident on the field. However, consistently underachieving over ten years is entirely on Lloyd.
I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen the argument, “Lloyd Carr takes Michigan to bowl games and wins 9/10 games per year. What more do you want?” Well, I’ll show you what I want. I will compare Michigan’s success under Lloyd Carr to a mystery program. I’ll reveal the identity of this mystery program after I compare them with Michigan’s success under Lloyd.
Michigan under Lloyd Carr
As you can see, the Mystery program finished with less than three losses in 14 out of 20 years. Lloyd Carr has finished with less than three losses in 2 out of 11 years (I’m counting this year as three + losses since there’s about a 99.999% chance that will happen). Does anyone want to guess who the Mystery Program is? It’s not Florida St. or Nebraska. It’s not Miami or Florida. It’s…..Michigan. In the two decades before Lloyd took over, Michigan was a good bet to finish with two losses or less. Under Bo, Michigan managed two losses or less in 70% of the seasons. Under Lloyd, Michigan has finished with two losses or less in 18% of the seasons. No amount of spin can change that. I know there are a lot of people out there that think that Michigan is an elite football program because of the streak of bowl game appearances and winning seasons. Michigan is almost guaranteed a winning season every year because of the schedule. Two MAC teams + Northwestern + Indiana + Illinois + a few other average Big Ten teams = winning season. It’s so easy to make a bowl game under the current bowl system that half of all teams in college football make a bowl game. Each year that Michigan underachieves, the standards that fans use to proclaim Michigan’s elite status lowers. Here is a list of teams that have fared better than Michigan in terms of two losses or less seasons since Lloyd took over:
Florida St. 8
Kansas St. 6
Va. Tech 4
Ohio St. 6
Penn St. 3
There are a number of programs that have also had two seasons of less than three losses like Michigan. There are seventeen programs that have fared better. Most of these schools have double or triple the amount of such seasons. Michigan has not performed on an elite level as most people believe. They have been remarkable in their mediocrity. In fact, it’s obvious from looking at the Mystery Program above that Michigan’s success has tailed off significantly. Here is a list of ranked opponents (I will be using the final AP poll) Michigan has beaten since 2000:
2000: #23 Wisconsin
2001: #12 Illinois
2002: #16 Penn St.
2003: # 20 Minnesota, #19 Purdue, #4 Ohio St.
2004: #8 Iowa
In the last five years, Michigan has only beaten seven ranked opponents. In four of the last five years, Michigan has only beaten one ranked opponent. Since Lloyd Carr became head coach in 1995, Michigan has beaten 21 ranked opponents. In the last ten years, Michigan has only beaten 17 teams with less than four losses. 84% of all Michigan wins in the last ten years have come against teams with four losses or more. The reason that this is relevant is because many Michigan fans will have you believe that Lloyd is performing up to standards because of the number of Michigan wins since his arrival. Of Carr’s 97 victories since 1995, only 21 of them have been against ranked opponents. 78% of all Michigan wins have come against opponents ranked out of the top 25. That means that if Michigan only beat the teams ranked out of the top 25, Michigan would have a winning percentage of 78% which would be one of the top three in college football. Cleary a team won’t beat every unranked opponent. That’s not my point. My point is that Michigan plays so many average to poor teams that it hardly matters who the coach is. It would almost be impossible for Michigan to NOT win as much as they’ve won under Lloyd Carr.
I’ve come to know the way Michigan fans think pretty well. Many of them have an excuse for anything. I know many Michigan fans would say, what makes three losses a poor season, or Lloyd Carr’s winning percentage is one of the best in Michigan’s history, or Lloyd goes to New Year’s Day bowl games every year. The reality of the situation is that I (yes, me) could be the coach of the University of Michigan football program and I seriously doubt there would be any drop off whatsoever from the Lloyd Carr era. What do I know about coaching a football team? Absolutely nothing. Michigan is one of the premier academic/athletic institutions in the world. They have a built in advantage that only a few other schools can rival. Elite high school athletes will come to Michigan no matter who the coach is. Lloyd Carr couldn’t ruin that even if he tried. Lloyd gets a ton of credit for being a great recruiter. Does anyone think that the University and the groundwork that Bo Schembechler laid have anything to do with that? Michigan recruits itself. It’s simple but true. If you don’t believe me, just ask yourself, what qualified Lloyd to get the coaching job in the first place? He was a long time assistant coach when Gary Moeller decided to get drunk and throw a chair in a restaurant. Michigan needed a coach to finish out the season and they chose Lloyd because, well, he was Lloyd. He was (and is) a good man and a safe bet to keep things on the up and up to finish out the season. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that Michigan would actually name him as the permanent coach of the Michigan football team. What business did Lloyd have being a head coach? I am all but certain that virtually anyone could’ve been named the UM football coach in 1995 and had the same success as Carr. The 1997 National Championship? Well, it’s certainly true that Michigan won the National Championship. However, Michigan was favored in every game. They simply did what they should’ve done in half of the seasons since then. Also, Michigan was aided by arguably the best defensive player in college football history. Lloyd couldn’t have screwed that season up if he tried. Plus, Gary Moeller was responsible for bringing Woodson to Michigan. So, Lloyd takes a team, led by a Moeller recruit, wins every game that they’re supposed to win against an extremely overrated schedule, and has a free pass for life? Give me a break.
Lloyd Carr won’t be fired. There’s a 0% chance of that happening. Carr is a man of character. He runs a clean program. Michigan fans are in the unenviable position of having to wait until Lloyd decides it’s time to retire. To be honest, I don’t care how long Lloyd stays around because there’s really nothing I can do about it. Bill Martin trusts Lloyd so it really does no good to put up the fire Lloyd websites. What I do care about however is whether or not the Michigan fan base keeps making excuses for obvious underachievement. There are some very smart people out there that firmly believe that Lloyd Carr is the man for the job. I understand that it’s hard for people to look past their own bias especially when it’s their favorite sports team, but part of the ability to think critically involves being honest. I’m not shocked at the amount of people that defend Lloyd given his strong character as a human being. However, it’s extremely disappointing that Michigan’s football program is regressing (and has been regressing) right in front of everyone’s eyes, and there is only a small percentage of people that are even seeing it.
Friday, September 23, 2005
NYJ -2.5 jax
Jets games are notoriously tough to predict. I’m a little nervous going against them on the road but I don’t think the Jets are that good. Pennington’s poor velocity and Curtis Martin’s injury will be exposed against a very good Jaguar defense. My confidence level here is pretty low but if I have to choose, I’ll go with Jacksonville.
STL. -6.5 tenn
These two teams are almost mirror images. They both have offensive firepower and they both have terrible defenses. St. Louis plays like a different team at home but I will surely have nightmares picking a team coached by Mike Martz. I don’t know what to do. Tennessee was impressive beating Baltimore last week. Nonetheless, I have to go with the Rams at home.
PHILLY -8 oak
I was thinking about going with Oakland here but then a siren went off in my head accompanied by the phrase, “Kerry Collins on the road” over and over again. Thus, I’m going with Philly.
cincy -3 CHI
I might be naïve here but there are a lot of NFL fans in America that think the Bears are good. As a Lion fan, I know the real deal. Cincy wins by a lot.
MINNY -4 no
These two teams are the exact same. They both play in domes. They both turn the ball over as much as Joey Harrington. They both have big issues. I think this game will be close so I have to take New Orleans.
car -3 MIAMI
Going against Nick Saban at home could prove to be a huge mistake but then again going with Gus Frerotte against Carolina’s defense could be an even bigger mistake. I like the Panthers.
INDY -13.5 clev
I learned a lesson last week in the philly/sf game. The lesson was basically that a really good offensive team can score a lot of points against a really bad defensive team in 60 minutes, especially at home.
BUFF -2.5 atl
This was a tough game to call which is probably why Vegas had this game “called off” for most of the week. I think these teams are very similar so it comes down to Michael Vick vs. J.P. Losman. Count this as a vote against Losman. I’m going with Atlanta.
tb -3.5 GB
I remember how much trouble Tampa Bay has had in cold weather in Green Bay. However, the Lions beat the Packers 17-3 and the Lions are, well, the Lions. Plus, it probably won't be that cold in Green Bay this early in the season. Tampa Bay is playing well on both sides of the ball. I can’t go with Green Bay.
SEA -6 arizona
There are two glaring reasons why I’m going with Seattle; 1). Shuan Alexander against Arizona’s defense and 2). Kurt Warner on the road.
PITTS -3 ne
Pittsburgh smoked New England at home in the regular season last year. The Steelers have been the best team in the NFL over the first two weeks. New England has been in a funk. I can’t go against the Steelers at home.
dall -6.5 SF
I don’t necessarily like picking Dallas in a big spread game because they aren’t very good on offense and Parcells is a pretty conservative coach. The fact that this game is in San Francisco makes me even more nervous but San Francisco is terrible. This is a tough one. Drew Bledsoe on the road makes me nervous. I would think that Dallas would bounce back after the big let down against Washington on Monday night. I guess the bottom line is, do I think Dallas is a touchdown better than San Francisco? And, the answer is yes.
SD -5.5 nyg
As I predicted, the Giants have started off the season strong. However, they will fade faster than the Tigers in June. San Diego should score a lot of points. Eli Manning on the road could be a recipe for disaster.
DEN -3 kc
Kansas City has had problems winning in Denver. I am very weary about Trent Green possibly turning in a Joey Harrington type performance on the road in Denver. However, the Chiefs have such a good running game and a formidable defense. Denver hasn’t looked too good yet. I’ll stick with the Chiefs.
Coin Flip picks:
Once again, the Coin Flip has me cornered by picking the same pick in eight out of 14 games. If I get smoked again this week, then I will make my picks next week and then just go with the opposite on every game. I’m nervous.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
1. Millen and brilliant friends could start a different quarterback every week. The deal would be if you win, you play the next week. You’re the Detroit Lions quarterback until you lose. That would be infinitely more fun to watch than the dreadfully boring and miserable game against the Bears last week. The Lions are the same old Lions. It’s time they spice things up a bit.
2. They could bring back every former Lion quarterback since Chuck Long and have a royal rumble, winner takes all. The participants would be Chuck Long, Eric Hipple, Rusty Hilger, Bob Gagliano, Rodney Peete, Andre Ware, Erik Kramer, Dave Kreig, Don “The Magic Man” Majkowski, Kent Graham, Frank Reich, Scott Mitchell, Gus Frerotte, Stoney Case, Charlie Batch, Ty Detmer, Mike McMahon, and Joey Harrington. Put these guys in a wrestling ring and the last man standing gets the job. Mike McMahon is a pretty tough hombre but if these guys don’t team up to put Scott Mitchell over the ropes, we’ll be looking at era #2 of Scott “I think I just ate the football” Mitchell.
3. Bring back Mouse Davis to run the Silver Stretch offense. The Lions need to go no-huddle, shotgun all game. Why should we have to sit through a “nails on the chalkboard” Sunday NFL experience when we can watch an infinitely more fun and significantly more effective offense than the “3 and out” version run by Moses’ best friend Ted Tollner? Was Moses even alive yet when Tollner was born?
It just occurred to me that if the Lions ever managed to get Trent Green on the team, he would immediately become the best Lions quarterback of the last forty years. That sends chills down my spine.
Would it be possible to just combine the Tigers and Lions? Is it really necessary to have both of these teams? I feel it’s redundant for Detroit fans to have to sit through two separate seasons of the same thing. I feel that it makes sense to consolidate these two underachieving, irrelevant franchises into one underachieving, irrelevant franchise. We could call them the Detroit Ligers. It could be a roster made up of a few Lions and a few Tigers and they would be the baseball/football team. This team would play baseball every other season and football every other season. That way, we only have to put up with this garbage once per year. As an added bonus, if any team finishes above .500, they get to play that sport the next season. If they don’t, they have to wait two seasons. I honestly think this would make a lot of people in Detroit happy.
As for week one, I finished a pathetic 5-10-1. The coin flip played the Bears to my Lions with a 7-8-1 record. I took some heat for some of my picks but all I can say is that this is the first time that I’ve picked NFL games against the spread (ATS). Just like anything else, it takes some time to get used to trends and what not. I now see how ridiculous it was to take San Francisco +13 at Philly. Likewise, I now see how ridiculous it was to even come up with this absurd challenge anyway since I’m unjustifiably horrible at picking ATS. But, I made my bed, so I have to sleep in it. Maybe I can stop making my bed or better yet, maybe my bed will mysteriously disappear. Anyhow, I predict great and wonderful things for week two. The coin better watch out because I’m on to his/her strategy.
Monday, September 19, 2005
On a day when Daunte Culpepper was clearly taking the reigns as worst performance of the week with five interceptions, Joey Harrington apparently felt that Culpepper should not stand alone in that distinction. Harrington equaled Culpepper’s five interceptions and raised him a loss to the Kyle Orton-led Chicago Bears. I’ll be the first to admit that I thought Steve Mariucci would bring some legitimacy to the Lions franchise. I thought the mistakes and miscues would subside allowing the Lions to win or lose based on talent and nothing else. Even with an overwhelmingly untalented cast, Mariucci hasn’t really done anything positive in his two plus years in Detroit. The quality of play hasn’t improved. His offensive philosophy hasn’t put points on the board. He had a chance to bring in Norm Chow (or at least contact Chow) as the offensive coordinator but instead he brought in Ted Tollner whom might be the only active NFL coach in the centenarian club. The Lions were wildly under prepared against the Bears. I understand that Harrington’s five interceptions made it almost impossible to maintain any form of offensive fluidity but there are two sides of the ball. The Lions should’ve dominated the Bears putrid offense.
Instead, the Bears put up 38 points. How is that possible? The Lions should’ve blitzed Orton all over the field. Harrington is the four year veteran and Orton is the rookie running a bad offense. Incomprehensibly, the roles were reversed once the game started. Orton sat back in the pocket with no pressure while Harrington looked like a rookie with no knowledge of the play book. The Lions defense should’ve given the Lions a chance no matter how bad the offense was going. The whole team flopped in one of the teams most important games in years. A bad performance by a player is on the player but a bad performance by the whole team is on the coach. Joey proved once and for all that he’s not good enough to lead an NFL franchise but a lot of us already suspected that. Mooch proved that he’s virtually ineffective as Lions head coach. 38-6? Bring back Wayne.
Like I said, I won’t fault the team for playing Eastern, but I’m tired of hearing how much the team has improved in one week because they crushed one of the worst teams in D-1 football. Lloyd Carr had nine months to prepare his team for the Notre Dame game and failed miserably. I doubt that they miraculously improved considerably in one week after the Notre Dame game. I suppose you could take the angle that it does no good to rehash the Notre Dame loss. I would agree with you if the Notre Dame loss was an isolated incident. The fact of the matter is that the leadership of Michigan football needs to be dealt with. The only constant over the last ten years has been the coaching staff. Michigan coaches might try to spin it. The media might try to spin it (although some of them are finally catching on). Some fans will surely try to spin it. But, the fact remains that Michigan underachieving is not a one time deal.
I guess what I’m saying is that it doesn’t matter if Michigan wins this week or next week. It doesn’t matter if they bounce back to finish 9-3 (which stinks in my book). You can’t fix a weed problem by cutting the weeds. You have to pull them out by the root. By falsely proclaiming “problem solved” after every bounce-back win over Eastern Michigan and Northwestern, the weeds are simply being cut halfway down. It’s possible to avoid the “bounce-back victory” all together if the roots were pulled. I go through this same process every year. I watch everyone jump back on the ship after a string of expected victories only to be disappointed again and again. It’s a cycle. There are a lot of people that don’t see it because they don’t want to see it.
Michigan should win 90% (which is why they’re favored in close to 90% of their games) of their games based on talent differential alone. Yet, when they beat an average team, somehow that proves Michigan’s place in the college football world. Michigan will likely go into a hostile environment in Madison, Wisconsin this week and beat a Wisconsin team that they’ve beaten six times in a row. The Michigan “National Championship with one loss” hype train will get some steam and the Notre Dame debacle will be forgotten forever. That’s just how it goes. But, at least Michigan beat Eastern Michigan 55-0.
That has become the accepted status quo with the coaching staff, athletic department, 25% of the fan-base and pretty much anyone else who’s in a position of importance. The only recourse someone in my (and maybe yours) shoes has is validation through such occurrences as Michigan St. annually beating Notre Dame. I have to admit that there are times when I think I’m crazy. There are times where I feel like I’m on the “Truman Show” and everyone is just pretending for the sake of making me insane that everything is A-OK with the Michigan football program. However, I can always count on MSU to make me realize that I’m not insane at all. Thanks MSU. Maybe you can do me another favor in two weeks.
Friday, September 16, 2005
There are many occurrences in the sports world that seem to catch sports fans off guard. Many of these occurrences seem random on the surface but when looked at more closely, they aren’t so random at all. Take the 2001 New England Patriots for example. The Patriots seemed like a Cinderella football team whose luck preceded its talent. Even after getting to the Super Bowl, the Patriots were a double digit underdog to the Rams. The Patriots beat the Rams and still had to face the excuse that the Rams just played poorly. Having five years of history on our side now, it seems silly to suggest that the Patriots had no business making the Super Bowl. Nobody would’ve predicted the Patriots in the Super Bowl at the beginning of the 2001 season but looking back, all of the signs were there.
There have been many times where a team or a program makes the “leap” without any warning. In hindsight, the warnings signs are usually there however small they may be. It’s just a matter of picking up on the signs. I have a sneaking suspicion that the next program to sneak up on people and become a contender is the Michigan State football program. It’s important to understand that I’m not saying that MSU will become a national championship contender, nor am I saying that the legitimacy of the program will take place this season or next. I’m not suggesting that the Spartans will be good this year or next year. I’m suggesting that the program is undergoing a reformation that will make MSU good every season.
The “warning signs” that foretell Michigan St.’s future success aren’t that subtle to me but may be for anyone who might have a bias against MSU. I believe that 25% (at least) of Ohio St., Notre Dame, and Michigan St.’s success comes as a result of the Michigan football program. Over the last 13 years, Notre Dame has been just a shadow of a once great national power. In an attempt to “right the ship”, Notre Dame has been through a long list of coaches. Each coach brought an inferior Notre Dame team into the Michigan game only to come away with a victory. A victory over Michigan for a struggling team is generally rejuvenation for any program, let alone a struggling program. This happened four times in eight years. I firmly believe that, if Michigan would’ve beaten Notre Dame in those years, the Notre Dame program would’ve continued on the decline. Each Notre Dame win gave legitimacy to their football program and aspirations of regaining national prominence. Michigan left the door open for Notre Dame to rebound. Bob Davie couldn’t complete the job. Tyrone Willingham couldn’t either. Sooner or later (could be this year), Notre Dame will get the talent to beat everyone and not just Michigan. If Michigan couldn’t beat Notre Dame when the Notre Dame program was down, how are they going to beat them when the program is running on all cylinders? We got a taste of this in the late 80’s/early 90’s.
Michigan Didn't Capitalize
Since 1998, Michigan has lost 3+ games in six out of seven seasons. That would be troubling for any college football program that considers itself among the elite, but it is even more troubling considering that Michigan’s three primary rivals (Ohio St., Notre Dame, and Michigan St.) were nowhere near Michigan in terms of on-field success and recruiting. Ohio St. was certainly better in 1998 but even Ohio St. fans will admit that the three-year stretch that produced 15 losses and a missed bowl game was a down cycle for the Buckeye program. On the flip-side, Nebraska’s main rivals (Oklahoma and even Texas to some extent) were down during the mid/late 90’s and the Cornhuskers responded with three national championships. Since then, Oklahoma and Texas have become elite programs. Even if Nebraska hadn’t experienced a drop-off in talent from the Frank Solich years, they would still have a hard time duplicating their success in the 90’s. Nebraska’s rivals/primary competition improved which stifled Nebraska’s ability to dominate. A college football program cannot count on its rivals to remain dormant. Sooner (no pun intended) or later, those schools will rebound and rebuild and you will have to contend with them.
Michigan wasn’t able to do what Nebraska did when Oklahoma was down and that will help MSU. That leads me to one of the most telling warning signs of MSU’s impending success. Michigan has a tremendous advantage over Michigan St. in recruiting. Michigan’s football program is possibly the most historic and most successful program in college football history. Michigan Stadium seats 111,000+. Success breeds success. Michigan has had it. Michigan St. hasn’t. Just a few seasons ago, Michigan and Michigan St. were in a recruiting battle for LaMarr Woodley and Jerome Jackson. They were both from Saginaw which has been a Michigan St. breeding ground for football and basketball. If the Michigan and Michigan St programs were equal, I suspect that Woodley and Jackson would’ve gone to E. Lansing. However, Woodley and Jackson saw Michigan as the place that would lead them to success in college as well as a chance at the NFL. Thus, they both headed to Ann Arbor. The Saginaw high school football community watched Woodley and Jackson head to Michigan to do bigger and better things. It was akin to a high school student picking a school far from home because it offered more opportunities.
The exact same thing happened with two recruits from Ohio. Prescott Burgess and Shawn Crable were in a hotly contested recruiting battled between Michigan and Ohio St. Some Ohio kids grow up disliking Ohio St. Mario Manningham comes to mind. For those kids, the success of the programs really doesn’t make the difference. I suspect Manningham had his mind made up long ago. However, Burgess and Crable were obviously interested in both programs. For an elite high school football player from Ohio to consider going someplace other than Ohio St., the school in consideration must offer something that Ohio St. can’t. There is no question that when Burgess and Crable were making their decisions, the Michigan football program was in better shape than the Ohio St. football program. Ohio St. just hired a new coach. They had just come off of back to back losses to S. Carolina in bowl games and missed going to a bowl game in 2000. Burgess and Crable chose the more stable and successful UM program. Woodley, Jackson, Burgess and Crable all chose to go to UM over a school closer to home. I can only guess that these decisions were made because the reward seemed to be higher at Michigan. Now the question that I have is; what have these four players gotten from Michigan that they wouldn’t have gotten at Ohio St. or Michigan St.? The supposed reward of going to Michigan never really materialized for any of these players. Woodley is very good but he would’ve been good no matter where he played. I even think that Woodley may have been more successful at MSU in terms of individual success. He would’ve been far and away the most talented player on the MSU defense for four seasons.
None of these players has ever finished in the top five in the polls. None of these players has a winning record against Ohio St. or Notre Dame. None of these players have been on the field for a win in a bowl game. I think that the reward that Michigan offers over other programs is at its greatest when the other programs are downtrodden. Michigan had free reign over Midwest-recruits with ND, OSU, and MSU all experiencing down years. Not only did Michigan not seize the opportunity with a string of elite seasons, but they actually managed to drop off from an average of two losses per year under Bo Schembechler to an average of three losses per year under Gary Moeller/Lloyd Carr. A drop-off in performance when your competition is down is a recipe for disaster. Michigan could’ve taken the “bull by the horns” and dominated but instead they mostly remained the same.
The more I talk about this, the more obvious MSU’s future success becomes. Why would Saginaw kids go to Michigan? Why would Ohio kids go to Michigan? Michigan is the safe pick when OSU and MSU are down. OSU isn’t down anymore partially because Michigan didn’t keep them down. I fear the same thing will happen with MSU. Michigan still loses to MSU too often. Going to Michigan hasn’t paid off for Woodley or Jackson. In fact, I am all but certain that Woodley and Jackson would’ve been better off at MSU. All it takes is a glimmer of hope at a school like OSU, MSU or Notre Dame for elite high school football players to pick those schools. OSU and ND were both down in talent just a few years ago. OSU is now one of the elite programs in college football. ND is lining up top 100 recruits like they’re USC. They were sleeping giants. Michigan helped wake them up. Nobody will confuse Michigan St. with Ohio St. or Notre Dame in terms of notoriety and success but look what happened to the Michigan St. basketball program when Michigan disappeared into probation oblivion. MSU took off and became a top five basketball program. Don’t underestimate the selling power of Michigan St. MSU has a better college football history than Iowa and look at Iowa. I believe that kids from Saginaw and Flint will stop seeing Michigan as the end-all for college football and start going back to Michigan St. I think Michigan St.’s talent level will increase incrementally for the next few years until it’s a legitimate top 20 threat year in and year out.
Michigan St. Has Something to Do With It
What I’ve mentioned so far has little/nothing to do with Michigan St. I’ve simply listed the impact that I think Michigan’s blasé performances will have on MSU much like the impact that those performances have had on Ohio St. and Notre Dame. The fact of the matter is that the most obvious sign of Michigan St’s impending success is John L. Smith. Nobody will mistake Smith for a defensive genius unless of course you’re related to Jim Herrmann. However, Smith’s offensive schemes and philosophy have already given Michigan troubles. It took an injury to MSU’s quarterback to even give Michigan a chance to win last season. Smith had Michigan dazed and confused with an enormous talent disadvantage. I think even Michigan St. fans would admit that Michigan’s backups would overwhelmingly be starters at MSU. Michigan fans like to rip on John L. Smith but the bottom line is that he’s an offensive wizard. MSU will always be a threat on offense because Smith maximizes production with the scheme and not with the players. If he gets talented players, it’ll just make the offense that much better. Smith is good enough for MSU to compete now, not to mention when the recruits start coming.
As most Michigan fans can attest to from the 2000 and 2004 seasons, having an offensive juggernaut does not guarantee great things. MSU found that out last season. However, to think that Smith will just sit back and allow MSU to be poor on the defensive side of the ball for the next 20 years would be extremely naïve. Going to a school with such a potent offense as MSU would be a defensive coordinator’s dream. Once MSU starts finishing in the top 25, defensive coordinators will be lining up to coach at MSU. With an offense that good, the pressure on the defensive coaches isn’t as great. Now, imagine MSU with John L. Smith coaching the offense and a top defensive coordinator coaching the defense. It doesn’t look pretty for Michigan. I understand that there are a lot of people out there that think Michigan is the end-all of the college football world. I know that most people think that Michigan’s success is a given. However, Michigan had free-reign over its main rivals and one by one, those rivals are coming back to the national spotlight.
Notre Dame and Ohio St. are now just as potent in recruiting as Michigan. Michigan will no longer have the talent advantage over those two schools. Even with the talent advantage, UM’s success was marginal at best. Michigan will still get Ohio players but the overwhelming majority of Ohio’s best players will go to Ohio St. Flint and Saginaw have enough talent to give MSU a boost in the arm. Michigan St. doesn’t have to recruit like Michigan. They showed that last season in the Big House. In my opinion, if Ohio St., Notre Dame and Michigan St. are all rolling, Michigan’s success will either remain the same or taper off. If three and four loss seasons are good for the fan-base, then remaining the same might not be that bad. I think we will find out very soon that Weiss, Smith, and Tressell do not suck. There are a few Michigan fans among the base that are happy with back to back Big Ten Championships. That’s enough for Northwestern but Michigan generally has higher expectations. Most Michigan players talk about winning the National Championship before every season.
I want to address two points that I think will help clear up some of my statements. First, when I say that Ohio St., Notre Dame, and Michigan St.’s success is “25% (or more)” dependent on Michigan; I don’t mean to take anything away from those schools. Those schools are more than capable of winning on their own. I’m basically talking about recruiting. I simply mean that when those schools are/were down (like they have/had been) Michigan can hurt their ability to rebuild with tremendous success. It is common sense that recruits will overwhelmingly choose a strong program over a struggling program. If Michigan was going 11-1 and 10-2 every year during this stretch, I don’t think you would’ve seen Ohio St. rebound as fast and as boldly as they did. For instance, almost as soon as Tressell was named head coach, he predicted that Ohio St. would beat Michigan the next season. Sure enough, Ohio St. came in and beat Michigan. That speaks volumes to recruits. A Michigan win would’ve slowed down Ohio St.’s comeback. The same can be said for Notre Dame. A perfect example of this is the struggling Michigan basketball program. MSU took off in basketball once Michigan got into trouble with the NCAA. They won the National Championship. They made four final fours. They became the dominant team in the Big Ten. There was no way that Michigan was going to rebuild with Michigan St. dominating. Michigan St.'s success kept Michigan from any semblance of a successful recruiting class. Just in the last few years, Michigan St. has tailed off a bit and that has led to a minor resurgence in Michigan's recruiting. Michigan St. essentially held down the Michigan program for six years by seizing the opportunity. If MSU didn't improve one bit after the UM sanctions, then Michigan would've had an easy path back to prominence. Michigan St. took control of the situation and made sure Michigan couldn't come back. That's how you capitalize on an opponent's down cycle. Michigan St. did it in basketball. Michigan didn't do it in football. That's why you're seeing Ohio St.'s program flourishing and Notre Dame becoming a big factor in recruiting despite a decade of lackluster succes. If Michigan beat Notre Dame in every year that they had more talent, then I don’t think there would be much more than a glimmer of hope for Notre Dame. Michigan’s underachievement gave Notre Dame hope. Ohio St. might be a little different because they had a very good program in the mid 90’s but, again, if Michigan would’ve taken off as an elite program with Ohio St. down in the late 90’s/early 2000, I think it would’ve been more difficult for Ohio St. to come back. That’s all I’m saying. I’m not saying that any success those schools have can be attributed to Michigan or that those schools can only be good if Michigan struggles.
The second point is that I’m not so full of Michigan-bias that I think Michigan is the center of the college football world. It may seem that way because I stated that Michigan has a direct impact on the success of ND, OSU, and MSU. As I mentioned, I’m only speaking of recruiting. For instance, Iowa has rebuilt their program into a National Power and Michigan has had really nothing to do with that. Iowa does not recruit the same players as Michigan. Michigan’s success has little to no impact on Iowa’s recruiting. However, Michigan’s success does have an impact on Notre Dame, Ohio St. and Michigan St.’s recruiting especially when those programs are down. Michigan relies on three main areas for recruiting success; 1) In-state, 2) Ohio, and 3) Midwest. When Notre Dame, Ohio St. and Michigan St. were all down, Michigan took who they wanted from those three areas. Michigan underachieved while having “free reign” which brought the other schools back into the picture. This is how those areas stand today; 1). In-State will likely become more of a fight with MSU especially with offensive recruits 2). Ohio is now a fight with Ohio St., and 3) is now a fight with Notre Dame. Michigan will no longer have the pick of the litter. They were granted somewhat of a reprieve the last few years because Pennsylvania sent over a few talented high school stars but that won’t be a given every year. Michigan now has a fight on its hands in every recruiting area. This will take a toll on the talent level. I’m not predicting the decline of the Michigan program or impending doom. I’m only saying that things will not get better for Michigan. The three and four loss seasons will be a staple for future Michigan teams. I mentioned this in a post earlier this week; Pandora’s Box for Ohio St., Notre Dame and Michigan St. has been opened.
Sparty is NEXT
I wanted to write this before the Michigan St.-Notre Dame game tomorrow. I figured that, if I wrote this after the game, I would be accused of jumping on the bandwagon if Michigan St. were to win. I also figured that I would be accused of jumping on the Notre Dame bandwagon if Notre Dame wins. The reality is that this year really has nothing to do with how I feel. I’m talking about continued success in the future. I’m talking about the legitimacy of the MSU program. Michigan St. will no longer only be a factor every three years. The warning signs are there. It’s only a matter of whether or not you choose to ignore them or brace for the likelihood that MSU is on the verge of success. Michigan left the door open for these schools. Ohio St. smashed down the door. Notre Dame is smashing down the door right before our eyes. It would be extremely naïve to think that MSU won’t be lining up to break through the door next.
Balt. -3.5 TENN
Pitts. -6 HOU
INDY -9 Jax
Det. -2 CHI
CINCY. -3 Minn.
PHILLY -13 SF
TB -2.5 Buff
NE -3 CAR
SEA. -1 Atl
ARI. -1 Stl.
NYJ -6 Miami
GB -6.5 Cle
DEN -3 SD
KC -1.5 OAK
DALLAS -6 Wash
NYG -3 NO
Coin Flip McGee's Picks:
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
The offense was poor. There were times when Green Bay couldn’t handle the Lions big, athletic receivers. There were also times when the Lions looked terrible. Joey Harrington is sub par at best in the pocket. He’s bad at avoiding the rush and rarely makes a good decision when the pocket collapses. That happened too many times on Sunday which is why so many Lions drives stalled. I think the offense will improve with time but I really don’t think Harrington’s efficiency and decision making will improve. Expect to see more Chad Henne- throw-3-yards on 3rd and 4 type passes. Those are frustrating but they’re here to stay. As long as the Lions don’t play against a defense that constantly puts pressure on the QB, the offense should be OK. Luckily, most NFL defenses fall somewhere closer to Green Bay than Baltimore.
Before Sunday, it seemed like the Lions best bet to make the playoffs would surely be the Wild Card. However, Minnesota doesn’t look nearly as good as their roster would indicate. Plus, Tampa Bay, Atlanta and New Orleans started off the season with upset wins while Dallas stole a game from San Diego. The Wild Card spots in the NFC will be very hotly contested. The Lions would do themselves a favor by taking control of the NFC North. Next week is a big game. The Lions have a chance to go 2-0 in the division. A loss to Chicago would be horrific. Must-win games are usually saved for later in the season but let’s just say that if the Lions want to make the playoffs, they have to beat teams like Chicago. The good news is that the Lions are probably better than the Redskins on offense, defense and special teams and the ‘Skins beat Chicago 9-7. The Lions have notoriously lost games like this. Next week is a big week.
- The Lions are in sole possession of first place in the NFC North. I can’t remember the last time that happened but let’s just say that Bob Sagat was a factor in the television ratings.
- Before Sunday, the Packers hadn’t failed to score at least six points in a game since 1992.
- Chad Pennington had six fumbles.
- Here is how the rookie running backs fared:
C. Benson 3 carries for 10 yards
R. Brown 22 carries for 57 yards
C. Williams 27 carries for 148 yards (Williams had 26 carries for 77 yards before breaking a 71 yard touchdown with :22 left in the game)
J.J. Arrington 8 carries for 5 yards
- The Pittsburgh Steelers threw the ball 11 times and won 34-7. Their running backs are W. Parker and V. Haynes. The St. Louis Rams threw the ball 56 times and lost 28-24 to San Francisco. Their running backs are Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson. Martz is the man.
- I hope the San Diego Chargers are pleased with their “hard” stance on Antonio Gates. The Chargers gave Gates a deadline to sign by or he would be suspended. Gates signed two days after the deadline to a long term deal. In all probability, that suspension cost San Diego a loss to Dallas. If San Diego thought Gates was so wrong for holding out for a long term deal, then why did they reward him with a long term deal? Doesn’t that vindicate Gates’ holdout? Isn’t that in some way saying that Gates had a point? If Gates had a point, why was he suspended? That just makes no sense. It cost the Chargers a game they should’ve won and that will very likely be the difference between making the playoffs and not.
- Remember when Javon Walker held out for a long term contract? Walker was due to make a little over $500,000 this year. He’s one of the top WR’s in the NFL. Since NFL contracts aren’t guaranteed, underpaid superstars are left with little recourse other than to hold out when they’re severely underpaid compared to their on-field performance. A severe injury could end a career or significantly decrease a player’s market value. Anyhow, Brett Favre publicly scolded Walker for holding out and told him that he was just being selfish. The Green Bay press jumped on board and before you knew it, a Javon Walker-bash fest was in full effect. The pressure mounted and Walker ended his holdout. Walker tore his ACL on Sunday and will miss the entire season. I hope Brett Favre is happy. Walker should’ve stuck to his guns. He was right to hold out. Favre stuck his nose in Walker’s business and now Walker is paying the price.
- I got a chance to watch the Kansas City Chiefs/New York Jets game. Larry Johnson might be the best running back in the league. The Chiefs are going to be difficult to beat because their running game is so effective. I like Priest Holmes but I honestly think Johnson is better. To have a 1-2 punch at running back like that is such a luxury. Like I mentioned in the preview, the Chiefs will go as far as Trent Green takes them. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, that won’t be to the Super Bowl.
- For fantasy football owners, this could be the year of the tight end. It’s no longer Tony G., Antonio Gates, and nobody else. Tampa Bay rookie Alex Smith had two touchdown catches. I doubt he’s still in available in many leagues but he gives Tampa Bay a legitimate threat on offense. Heath Miller caught a touchdown for the Steelers. He only had one catch for three yards but Miller will be a red zone option for the Steelers. Ben Troupe could be the primary benefactor of Norm Chow’s arrival in Tennessee. He had four catches for 28 yards and a touchdown.
- Just as an FYI—I retired from fantasy sports because I could no longer enjoy watching the games. I was too concerned with how many field goals Ryan Longwell made or how many interceptions Trent Green threw. As a result, I have all of this fantasy football knowledge without any use for it. If anyone wants fantasy advice or needs help making a decision, feel free to email me. If I get enough questions, I’ll even answer them on the site.
- I picked St. Louis to make the playoffs because they should have four guaranteed wins over Arizona and San Francisco. Well, St. Louis lost to San Francisco on Sunday so obviously that negates my reasoning for picking them for the Wild Card. Don't be surprised if Tampa Bay makes the playoffs. The NFC Wild Card race is going to be ridiculous with Philly, Dallas, Minnesota, Detroit, Green Bay, Carolina, Atlanta, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Seattle and St. Louis all with legitimate chances at a playoff birth.
- I'm going to put a "chances of making the playoffs" display in the same spot that the "Bonderman countdown to 20 wins" display used to be. I refuse to believe that I jinxed Bonderman. I'm just one out of millions of Tiger fans. I'm going to look fate in the face and stare him/her down. Thus, the Detroit Lions chances of making the playoffs goes up. I won't be scientifically calculating the chances, rather I'll just pick the number based on how I feel about the Lions chances each week. It will start out at 50% after the win over the Pakcers.
Monday, September 12, 2005
The following is a memorable scene from the much underrated and vastly superior film, Groundhog Day:
Phil Connor (Bill Murray) walks away from Ned Ryerson and immediately steps into a knee-deep puddle of ice-cold water. Ned then says, “Watch out for that first step, it’s a doozy.” This wouldn’t be all that memorable but because Phil is living the same day over and over again, he keeps stepping into the puddle of water prompting Ned to keep saying, “watch out for that first step, it’s a doozy.”
It’s a bit comical at first but then it just gets downright maddening to watch. After stepping into the knee-deep puddle of ice cold water a few dozen times, Phil eventually makes the necessary adjustments to avoid said puddle. Now, if he wanted to, he could keep walking into the puddle but that would bring into question Phil’s sanity. Phil is not insane—and neither am I. Thus, I will no longer step in the giant puddle of ice water every Michigan football season. I had no feeling at any point during the game. I felt like Michael Myers. I was lack of any and all emotion.
Here is Dr. Loomis’ memorable summation of Michael Myers in the even more superior film Halloween:
"I was told there was nothing left. No reason, no conscience, no understanding and even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, of good or evil, right or wrong. I met this six year old child with this blind, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes, the devil's eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy's eyes was purely and simply evil...He's been here once tonight. I think he'll come back. I'm gonna wait for him. "
That’s how I felt on Saturday. Maybe I’m not six years old and maybe I’m not a serial killer but that’s “spilled milk.” For three hours, I wore a soul-less face.
I may have looked like this on Saturday.
Normally, I would be screaming at the television when a UM quarterback throws the ball out of bounds on 4th and goal. I would normally be equally distraught over a UM quarterback throwing the ball five yards to a covered receiver on 4th and 15. For the previous 18 seasons, an early season loss to an average Notre Dame team crushed my soul. Those days are gone. I don’t care. I will no longer invest my emotions in an organization that’s too full of itself to change for the better. Since 75% of all of my shirts have the Michigan logo on them and 75% of all of my birthday presents have something to do with Michigan football, this will not be easy. I’ve watched every televised UM football game since 1987. However, the time has come. This needs to be done. I’m renouncing my emotional investment in UM football.
Lloyd Carr and friends have single handedly opened Pandora’s Box for both the Notre Dame and Ohio St. football programs. In the late 90’s/early 2000’s, Notre Dame, Ohio St., and Michigan St. were all experiencing some of the worst stretches in their respective histories. One would think that with all three of Michigan’s chief rivals in down cycles, UM would capitalize with dominating performances. However, UM didn’t improve one iota during this stretch. It didn’t matter if it was Bob Davie, Tyrone Willingham, or Charlie Weiss. Time and time again, Michigan allowed a struggling Notre Dame program a glimmer of hope by embarrassingly losing to inferior Irish teams. Michigan is 1-3 in its last four games against Notre Dame. Michigan is 1-3 in its last four games against Ohio St. Michigan has lost three or more games in 10 of the last 12 seasons. The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter how good or bad Michigan’s opponents are. It doesn’t matter how good UM’s recruiting classes are. It doesn’t matter who’s on the team. Nothing matters. Michigan will blow three or four games per season. Any organization in the real world would “grab the bull by the horns” and crush the competition when given the opportunity. Instead, UM remains it’s remarkably consistent self. If you need a more convincing argument, you can read Anatomy of a Michigan Loss and Anatomy of a Michigan Loss: The Sequel. I knew when I wrote those articles in July that Michigan was going to lose to Notre Dame. I think I knew back then that this was going to be the season that I stop letting UM football affect my happiness.
I don’t give up on teams. I’ve been a Lion and Tiger fan my whole life. There haven’t been two worse organizations in those sports over the last 15 years. But, I can say that the Lions and Tigers have not consistently underachieved. They lose because they’re supposed to lose. They lose because they aren’t as good. They lose because they don’t have good enough talent. Michigan loses because they refuse to change what they’ve done for 40 years. There is NO legitimate reason for me to know more than the UM coaching staff about what they’re doing wrong. There is NO reason for the head coach to proclaim his satisfaction for UM's defensive performance against N. Illinois only to change his mind the next day. There is NO reason why I should know more about their opponent than the UM coaches. Sadly, I do. There is NO reason for Jason Avant to be ignored for the first 20 minutes of the game. There is NO reason for Michigan to consistently lose to lower ranked teams. There is NO reason for Michigan to consistently lose to Notre Dame when Notre Dame has had one of its worst decades in school history. There is NO reason for Michigan to lose three and four times per season almost exclusively.
I will root for Michigan. I will claim them as my team. However, I no longer care if they win or lose, partly because I already know when they’re going to win or lose before it happens but, mostly because it’s not worth it. I am not unreasonable. I don’t demand national championships every season. However, I do demand competency and competitiveness from a program with a talent advantage over 99% of its opponents. If ESPN or some other organization put together a list of the top five football programs of the last 15 years, and Michigan was not included on this list, Michigan fans would scream “bloody murder”. The fact of the matter is that Michigan is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things not because they can’t be but because they refuse to be. They rarely finish ranked in the top 10. They almost never compete for a National Championship. They consistently get beat by lesser teams. Yet, if there was a ranking of the best aggregate recruiting classes over the last 15 years, I would bet that Michigan would be in the top five. For anyone who’s still fighting the good (or maybe the bad) fight of defending the UM program, check out the other teams that compare similarly to UM in the recruiting rankings. Then, look at how they’ve fared over the past 15 years.
Remember the old saying, “If you burn me once, shame on you. If you burn me twice, shame on me?” Well, my revised version is “If you burn me once, shame on you. If you burn me for more than 18 years, shame on me.” The Michigan football program is exactly where it was ten years ago. Nobody with a pinch of talent fears Michigan. Michigan’s recent legacy has come from beating up on MAC and low-level Big Ten teams. The lack of quality wins over the last decade is alarming.
I’m not intent on starting a revolution or putting up http://www.firesoandso.com. I’m not trying to convince anyone to join me. I simply value my own sanity too much to keep going through the same motions year after year. For all of you that have no issues with the UM program, I envy you. For all of you that feel as I do, I feel your pain. I realized this weekend that it’s OK to not care. Just don’t care.
3. Ohio St.
5. Va. Tech
9. Arizona St.
10. Florida St.
12. Boston College
15. Notre Dame
17. Ga. Tech
21. Michigan St.
Next five: Texas Tech, Iowa St., Texas A & M, Fresno St., Auburn,
I know a lot of us have been taught by the pollsters that a team with one loss has to drop a minimum of 5-10 spots. The pollsters who think that are confused. A top 25 ballot should be how the pollster views the top 25 teams in football. If Ohio St. is four and Texas is two and Ohio St. loses but outplays Texas, how much sense does it make to drop Ohio St. to 9th? If the pollsters thought Ohio St. could beat Texas, they wouldn’t have been ranked lower than Texas coming into the game. So, Ohio St. loses as the pollsters expected and they drop? How much sense does that make? If a team is ranked 9th because it lost to the 2nd team by three points, then the pollsters obviously think that the #3, #4 and #5 teams would lose by less than one point! The logic behind the polls is ridiculous which is why there needs to be a playoff. Don’t get me wrong. Just because a team loses to another team doesn’t mean it should be ranked lower than that team. However, a team that loses to a higher ranked team should never drop five spots. Having said that, my top 25 will be how I view the top 25 teams and not how I “should” view them based on how the polls work.
I’m starting to think that Ohio St. could beat USC in much the same way they beat Miami in the Fiesta Bowl for the National Championship in 2002. Miami was considered one of the best teams in college football history. Ohio St. was a huge underdog. Defense wins championships and Ohio St. certainly has it this year. I guarantee you that the offense will improve as the season moves forward. Vince Young is a one man show. There isn’t a team in college football that he couldn’t beat by himself. Could any team really play Texas defensively any better than OSU did? I really don’t think so. I don’t see Texas losing from here on out. I would say there’s a 75% chance of a USC-Texas Rose Bowl as it stands right now.
The SEC teams are all pretty similar. They look good but they’re all unproven. I think the difference will be coaching. With Urban Meyer being the best of the bunch, I think Florida has the upper hand in the SEC. If LSU is a top five team then Arizona St. is a top ten team.
Va. Tech looks good. Granted, it was against Duke but Markus Vick has the offense rolling pretty well. Va. Tech will always be good on defense and special teams. The missing component is usually a high-powered offense. It looks like they might have one. I think they’re the best team in the ACC. Florida St. and Miami are pretty much the same team. They should be ranked next to each other for the rest of the season.
A lot was made about the Big Ten having a rough week but to be honest, the Big Ten is much stronger than anyone could have predicted. I think there are seven teams that are in the top 25 but only one in the top 10. Iowa was vastly overrated at #8 but they’re still a top 25 team. I think if they played Iowa St. ten times, they'd probably win six of them. Michigan St., Wisconsin, and Minnesota all look very impressive. I don’t see any reason to keep them out of the top 25. I honestly think that all three of those teams could beat anyone outside the top 15.
Oklahoma might be in for a rough season. Not only did they lose to TCU, but they struggled against Tulsa for the majority of their game. However, with Adrian Peterson apparently part of their game plan again, Oklahoma has enough talent to be in the top 25.
Also, Ohio St. had quite a few mental gaffe's at the end of the game. They would've been much better off letting Texas score with 2:00 to go. Instead, they let the clock run down to :29 seconds and got the ball at the one yard line. The chances of moving the ball 70 yards from the one yard line in 29 seconds are almost impossible. Additionally, they should've intentionally taken a safety at the end of the game. Instead, Troy Smith accidently took a safety. Ohio St. didn't have much of a chance after Zwick's fumble but they had even less of a chance after their clock strategy.
The OSU linebackers received a lot of pre-season publicity. I can honestly say that no amount of publicity could do them justice. For anyone who didn’t watch the game, I don’t think you’ll be able to understand just how dominating these players were. A.J. Hawk was simply unstoppable. He had sacks and interceptions and fumble recoveries in a video game type performance. Bobby Carpenter was not too far behind. Carpenter chased Young all over the field. Anthony Schlegel doesn’t get the same opportunities at middle linebacker but he was a force all game long. I don’t see Ohio St. losing again.
Vince Young is a mix between Daunte Culpepper and Michael Vick. Donte Whitner had Vince Young cradled for a sack but Young just stood there with Whitner on his back as he checked off to his 2nd, 3rd and 4th receivers. Apparently, Young had no idea that Whitner was even on his back! This looked amazingly similar to the Discovery channel videos of a lion trying to kill a buffalo. I got up at 2am to watch this game and it was well worth it. Although the ending was anti-climactic, the game featured college football at its highest level. I am convinced that these are two of the top three teams in college football.
Friday, September 09, 2005
“Sycho Sid” originally came to the WWF in 1991 under the name “Sid Justice”. He was one of the most imposing wrestlers in WWF history. He stood 6’9” and weighed over 300 lbs. He was ripped from head to toe and had the intensity to match. He eventually won the WWF World Championship in 1996. He was a main event wrestler who had all the talent in the world. Sid sabotaged his career by continually abandoning his wrestling responsibilities to participate in a local softball league. He later stabbed Arn Anderson in the chest and stomache in a real life altercation. So to recap, here was Sid's list of priorities; 1). Softball, 2). Stab Arn Anderson, 3). Wrestle. Sid was a talented athlete who never reached his potential. He played a crazy character and he was truly crazy in real life.
I’m sure you’ve all figured out by now that I’m inferring a connection to Mike Martz. I can’t stand Martz. He’s the most pompous coach I’ve ever seen. I don’t mind the questionable play calling so much as I mind the way he responds to legitimate questions from the media. He has sabotaged his team’s chances of winning games on more than one occasion. He’s never taken responsibility for his often stupid decisions. I don’t dislike too many people in the NFL but Martz is definitely one of them. I don’t ever root for the Rams. For anyone who needs an introduction, or a refresher, in Mark Martz's brilliance, here you go.
The Rams used to have a loaded roster. They made the crucial mistake of thinking that nobody would ever get old. Remember the Cleveland Cavaliers when they had Mark Price, Larry Nance and Brad Dougherty? The Cavs were a strong team. The problem the Cavs ran into is they kept the same team until it got old and they were left with nothing. You have to keep upgrading your team each year or you’re going to be stuck with an old, crappy roster like the Lions had in 2001. The Rams are well on their way to duplicating the errors of the Cavs and Lions.
The offense will score points. There’s no question that Mark Bulger throwing to Tory Holt and Issac Bruce will yield big numbers on the offensive side. Steven Jackson was a very good draft pick in 2004. He was so effective in his first year that Marshall Faulk has been pushed aside to allow Jackson the starting position.
The defense could be deplorable. Grant Wistrom is gone. Leonard Little is a very good defensive end. The Rams signed Chris Claiborne and Dexter Coakley but I don’t think that will help a whole lot since neither is enough to overcome the terrible depth on defense. Plus, remember my rule about former Lion players. If the Lions choose not to resign you, then you probably aren't very good. The secondary that used to feature Dre Bly and Aeneas Williams now features Terry Fair. Terry Fair might have the most accurate last name in NFL history. The Rams didn’t upgrade the defense in anyway and that’s a problem since they were terrible last year.
Mike Martz eats poop.....err I mean he's a Genius.
I hate to say it but the Rams are fortunate enough to play in the NFC West. That should yield four wins against Arizona and San Francisco. I think 9-7 will easily be enough to get an NFC team into a wild card spot. I’m all but certain that Seattle and St. Louis will make the playoffs because of the huge discrepancy in schedule strength in the NFC. The Rams get Tennesee, NY Giants, Washington and Houston which should give them a chance at three more wins. That puts them at seven wins with games against Seattle (2), Indy, New Orleans, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Philly, and Dallas. I think the Rams could easily win three games against the latter teams but I’ll be safe and say they go 2-6. That would get them in the playoffs. Rats!
Predicted record: 9-7
The Ultimate Warrior probably had as much potential and offensive firepower as anybody in pro wrestling. He crushed The Honky Tonk Man in 10 seconds to win the Intercontinental title. He defeated everyone from Andre “The Giant” and Randy “Macho Man” Savage to the immortal Hulk Hogan. The Warrior will forever be remembered for what he could’ve been rather than for what he actually was. He left the WWF three different times over contract disputes and never really made it as an icon in wrestling.
The Indianapolis Colts are dead-ringers for The Warrior. They demolish pretty much every team in the league aside from New England. They’re consistently picked in the pre-season to make the Super Bowl. Peyton Manning set every single season passing record last season. The Colts have two problems that are essentially the same problem. 1). They can’t beat New England on the road. 2). They can’t get homefield advantage.
The offensive is probably the most explosive in NFL history. Last season, Manning threw for 49 touchdowns and had a 121.1 passer rating. Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Brandon Stokely did their best Sanders-Monk-Clark imitation by gaining 1,000 yards and at least ten touchdowns each. Edgerrin James seems to be close to 100% after tearing up his knee. Dallas Clark is so respected in Indy that the Colts booted Marcus Pollard. There will be no issues on offense so I’ll end it here.
The Colts take a lot of criticism for their defense. I don’t think it’s that bad. In fact, it’s certainly not the reason why they haven’t won a Super Bowl. Over the last three years in the playoffs, the Colts have either lost on the road or to the Patriots and most of the time it’s been both. In those three losses, they’ve scored a grand total of 17 points. In the two losses to the Patriots in the last two years in the playoffs, the Colts have given up 20 and 24 points respectively. The defense is not the problem. I’m not saying it’s on par with the Ravens or Eagles but it’s far from the worst unit in the league. The Colts aren’t very big on the defensive line so they are susceptible to a power running game. Corey Simon was a very important signing. He should make the Colts D-Line as good as it's been in recent memory. Dwight Freeney is one of the top pass rushers in the league. The linebackers and defensive backs are very talented. Rob Morris and Cato June are very good linebackers. Mike Doss and Bob Sanders are hard hitting safeties. They drafted Marlin Jackson in the first round who should immediately upgrade their pass defense.
I can’t stand Manning. He rolled over in his bowl game against Nebraska in 1997. His family all but cried when Charles Woodson won the Heisman. He lambasted his kicker (Mike Vanderjagt) when Vanderjagt actually had the guts to call out Manning and the offense for disappearing in big games. Manning threw for 137 yards and two interceptions in a playoff loss to the Jets and followed that up the next year with 237 yards and four interceptions against the Patriots. Manning has choked in big games and has never taken responsibility for it. I’m sick of Manning. But, the fact of the matter is that in the RCA dome, he’s pretty much unbeatable. He’s one of the better quarterbacks in NFL history and he’ll probably break many of Dan Marino’s All-Time records.
This guy looks familiar. Alice Cooper maybe?
The schedule is weak. I would be surprised if the Colts lost more than three games this year. They play at Baltimore, at New England and a home game against Pittsburgh. I don’t think the Colts will lose all of those games. In fact, it’s more likely that they’ll go 2-1. The rest of the schedule features such overpowering opponents as Cleveland, Tennessee (2), San Francisco, Houston (2), Cincinnati, and Arizona. The Colts will get homefield advantage in the playoffs this year because they have the easiest schedule of all contenders. I think that will give them the edge over New England in the playoffs. I think Indianapolis will make the Super Bowl and promptly roll over against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Predicted record: 14-2
Minnesota 12-4/ Lex Luger
Green Bay 8-8/ Arn Anderson
Detroit 8-8 / The Blue Blazer
Chicago 5-11 / The Repo Man
Philadelphia 14-2/Ric Flair
Dallas 8-8/The Texas Tornado Kerry Von Erich
NY Giants 5-11/ The Brooklyn Brawler
Washington 5-11 /Doink The Clown
Carolina 9-7 / Chris Jericho
Atlanta 8-8 / The One Man Gang
Tampa Bay 8-8 / Harley Race
New Orleans 7-9 / Jake "The Snake" Roberts
Seattle 9-7 / The Honky Tonk Man
St. Louis 9-7 / Sycho Sid
Arizona 5-11 / Duane Gil
San Francicso 2-14 / Jim Powers
Pittsburgh 13-3 / Andre "The Giant"
Baltimore 10-6 / Chris Benoit
Cincinnati 8-8 / Rick "The Model" Martel
Cleveland 1-15 / Duke "The Dumpster" Droese
New England 11-5 / Hulk Hogan
NY Jets 8-8 / Mick Foley
Buffalo 6-10 / The Warlord
Miami 3-13 / Bob Backlund
Indianapolis 14-2 / The Ultimate Warrior
Jacksonville 8-8 / The Barbarian
Tennessee 6-10 / Paul Roma
Houston 6-10 / 1-2-3 Kid
Kansas City 11-5 / Shawn Michaels
San Diego 9-7 / Mr. Perfect
Denver 8-8 / DDP
Oakland 7-9 / The Oddities
* If you add up all of my predicted records, I come up five wins short of a .500 record. So, you can spread these wins out in whatever way you choose. My initial thought is that San Francisco and Cleveland may each win one more game than I gave them credit for. That would leave three wins. I also think that some of the 8-8 teams in the NFC will likely be better. I would probably say Carolina could finish 10-6 and Atlanta and Dallas could finish 9-7. That's how I'd dispurse the five wins. I also think that Oakland could do better than 7-9 but that would mean that some other team in the AFC West would do worse.
* This is how I see the NFL teams from best to worst regardless of schedule strength and playoff predictions.
1). New England
7). Kansas City
8). San Diego
10). NY Jets
15). St. Louis
17). Green Bay
18). Tampa Bay
22). New Orleans
27). NY Giants
32). San Francisco
St. Louis * I don't have much respect for St. Louis as you can see by my NFL rankings but I do respect getting to play Arizona and San Francisco two games a piece.
Dallas * I'm not a huge Dallas believer but there are two very big things going for them 1). Bill Parcells + Good running game has historically equaled Super Bowl contender. 2). NY Giants and Washington each appear twice on the schedule.
NFC Title game:
Philadelphia over Carolina or Ric Flair over Chris Jericho
AFC Title game:
Indianapolis over New England or The Ultimate Warrior over Hulk Hogan a la Wrestlemania VI. * This prediction is reliant on Indianapolis having home-field advantage. I think Indianapolis has a much easier regular season schedule than New England thus I think they'll have home-field advantage. For what it's worth, I do believe that New England is the better team.
* If I only used the wrestler identities to pick my playoff teams, I would end up with the same teams. The only possible exception would be Kerry Von Erich over Arn Anderson but remember, I'm using "old man" Arn Anderson to compare to the Packers so Kerry Von Erich wins out. You could also make a case for Mick Foley over Mr. Perfect but Mr. Perfect in 1991 was better than Mick Foley in his prime. So I think this worked out pretty good.
Philadelphia over Indianapolis or Ric Flair over The Ultimate Warrior