Thursday, September 28, 2006

Simulated Gambling Week Five

At this point, if you‘re still betting on my picks you’re either a) related to me, b) insane, or c) not fond of money. I’m sure there are a few people out there in each category but the vast majority of you don’t fall into any of the three categories and thus should not bet on my picks. That said; I’m making a vow to my readers that I will finish above .500 on the season. Stick with me if not with your money, at least with your hearts and souls. While I’ve wound up on the bad side of .500 the last two weeks with my picks, the games I picked were picks I would make every time. Things haven’t worked out but I have a feeling they will this week and beyond.  So, here’s another chance for my relatives, my insane friends, and my ludicrously rich readers to make some money.

Season record to date: 25-23

(Home team in CAPS; My pick in Bold)


With Kenny Irons returning to the backfield, Auburn should regain its dominating form. South Carolina will have a difficult time putting up points against Auburn’s “D” while Auburn will probably not have a hard time putting up points against SC.

MICHIGAN STATE -26.5 Illinois     

After gift-wrapping a victory for Notre Dame and destroying any chance of a UM/MSU Battle of the Unbeaten Showdown, MSU can go one of two directions. 1) MSU can take out its frustrations against an awful Illinois team or 2) implode as they always do. Going with option one might be a bit risky but Illinois is just too bad to not pick this game.

SYRACUSE -6 Wyoming     

I don’t know where the sudden respect for Syracuse came from but this line shocked me. Wyoming is not Boise State but Syracuse is no Cincinnati. I’ll take Wyoming to keep this close. In fact, I’d be surprised if it lost this game.

ARMY -11 Rice     

Why is Army ever favored by 11 points? Army is one of the worst five teams in D-1. Rice is just as bad but how does that merit +11?

Idaho -2.0 UTAH STATE

Idaho is a bad team. But, I’m confident that Utah State is even worse. Utah State has scored seven points in four games. I mean, that has to be at typo, right? Utah State hasn’t scored a single point in three games. They’ll have to double their season point total just to have a shot at winning this game. Stranger things have happened but I have to go Idaho on this one.

California -8.5 OREGON STATE

Any time California is involved in a Pac-10 shootout with a team not named USC or Oregon, it should be a shoe-in to win by at least ten. Arizona State is a much better team that Oregon State and Cal blew out ASU last week.

LOUISIANA STATE -31.5 Mississippi State     

This game makes me a little nervous but Mississippi State is really bad. It will have to play much better than it has all season to cover the spread. LSU could play an average game and cover. So, I guess I’m hoping MSU doesn’t find itself this week.

VIRGINIA TECH -9.5 Georgia Tech     

I was surprised to see Virginia Tech favored by this much over a good Georgia Tech team considering Virginia Tech’s average offense and last week’s struggle against a weak Cincinnati team.

Michigan -9 MINNESOTA

If Michigan keeps running Mike Hart into stacked lines, then we’ll likely see more close battles like last week’s game against Wisconsin. If, however, Michigan makes defenses pay through the passing game, Michigan should easily beat Minnesota by nine points. I hope the U of M coaching staff learned a lesson last week.

Tennessee -12.5 MEMPHIS

No matter the opponent, Tennessee is never a sure bet to blow out the opposition. Memphis is about as bad as Tennessee’s opponents get. This game makes me a little nervous. Remember, the Vols barely beat Air Force at home 31-30. I’m picking Tennessee’s “D” to dominate Memphis.


This is another Army/Rice spread. What has Lafayette done to deserve a touchdown spread against EMU? Both of these teams are bad. This should be a close one.


Arizona State embarked on its annual meltdown last week against California. Arizona State loves to pound bad teams early in the year before getting beat down by the Pac-10 elite. Oregon is just as good as California which does not bode well for ASU.

UTAH -4 Boise State     

Since when was it common knowledge that Utah is better than Boise State? I mean, if two teams are equal, the spread usually goes -3 to the home team. A -4 spread makes me think that Vegas thinks Utah is a better team. I disagree.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Top 18 (chances of going undefeated) Week Five

At one point on Saturday, it looked like both Georgia and Virginia Tech would suffer monumental upsets. In fact, I still don’t know how Georgia managed to pull out the win over Colorado. It had zero points for virtually the entire game. Virginia Tech put the game away with some authority late but Cincinnati certainly gave the Hokies a scare. The overall odds of producing undefeated teams have steadily risen over the last four weeks. When the season started, the odds were 65%. Now, the odds are nearly 110% and most likely rising. Don’t look for things to change this week because we’re in for another weak college football slate. Things will start to pick up on October 7 with Michigan/MSU, LSU/Florida, Tennessee/Georgia, and Oregon/California. Until then, we can hope for some big-time upsets.

I changed game odds for Michigan to reflect their actual value since it is considerably higher than what it appeared to be in the pre-season.

Wake Forest is undefeated but as I see it, it has less than a .01% chance of going undefeated. If Wake beats Clemson in two weeks, they will appear on the list. Since I’m only using two decimal places, Wake registers at a zero percent right now. So I won’t waste your time.

Big games this week that have National Championship implications:

Ohio State @ Iowa
Georgia Tech @ Virginia Tech
Auburn @ South Carolina

Top 18
(chances of going undefeated)

1 Ohio St.----------18.18%
2 W. Virginia-----16.88%
3 USC--------------15.88%
4 Louisville-------14.92%
5 TCU---------------9.45%
6 Boise St.----------8.31%
7 Michigan---------7.39%
8 Va. Tech---------4.07%
9 Georgia----------3.66%
10 Auburn---------3.45%
11 Iowa-------------2.98%
12 Florida----------1.32%
13 Houston--------0.78%
14 Oregon---------0.63%
15 Purdue----------0.57%
16 Rutgers---------0.23%
17 Texas A&M-----0.09%
18 Missouri--------0.02%

Teams that dropped from last week’s list (along with pre-season rank in terms of odds): #20 Alabama and #24 Arizona St.

Biggest Jump (percentage): Michigan + 4.79%, Ohio St. + 4.71%, Louisville +2.68%

Current overall chance of undefeated team(s) (100%=1 undefeated team, 200%=2 undefeated teams etc.): 109.35%

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Tigers are in the playoffs!

The Tigers have officially made the playoffs and I have proof! Much like this article on McDonald’s Earth-shattering decision to serve breakfast all day long, I just could not pass on the opportunity to write about this subject. In fact, for the first time in this planet's history, Tigers fans can eat Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Biscuits while watching a Tigers home game in October. If I'm dreaming, please don't wake me up!

I was at the last Tigers playoff victory. For those of you that don’t remember when that was, it was October 10, 1987 at Tiger Stadium. It was so long ago that I don’t remember a single thing about that day other than the Tigers won.

For those of you that believed and put faith in this team as I did, your investment has paid off. There is no high like the high that results from the Tigers making the playoffs. There is a whole generation of Detroiters that has no idea what it feels like to see the Tigers play baseball in October. Words can’t describe how stoked I am about this. The Tigers made the playoffs! Holy Cow! Un-frickin-believable!

The Detroit Tigers are in the playoffs!

AL and NL MVP Race Heats Up

This season, more so than any other season, there seems to be no clear-cut favorite for Major League Baseball’s MVP awards in either league. The AL has a plethora of candidates that includes among others; David Ortiz, Derek Jeter, Jermaine Dye, Frank Thomas, Justin Morneau and Johan Santana. The NL race is pretty much down to Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols. I’ve always had some difficulty defining the parameters of the MVP award. Is it just a “best player in the league” award that was poorly named? Is it supposed to go to the best player on the best team? Considering pitchers already have the Cy Young Award, should a pitcher ever win the MVP? Your choice for MVP likely depends on your answers to these questions.

American League MVP

I’ll start with the AL. A recent ESPN user poll showed Derek Jeter as the “people’s choice” for AL MVP by a healthy margin. In my opinion, had David Ortiz not missed a few games with his heart condition, he would’ve walked away with the award rather easily. His absence did three things to thwart his MVP chances. 1) His stats were sabotaged at least in terms of what they would’ve been had he not gone on the DL. 2) The Red Sox promptly disappeared from the playoff race. 3) People stopped talking about how great Ortiz’ season had been and started talking about his health. I think all three are the reasons why Ortiz will not win the award this year. Ortiz’ momentum for the MVP screeched to an abrupt halt. Ortiz knew it too which is why he recently made public comments about his candidacy for the MVP. His stats are still ridiculous. He set the all-time single season home run record for the Red Sox this season. He was big late in games as usual. However, a player who doesn’t play defense or play for a playoff team will never win the MVP award. If Ortiz somehow wins it, I’ll eat crow but I’m not holding my breath.

I don’t think it’s possible for Jeter to actually be the MVP. He may very well win the award but it’s almost a fact that he has not been the MVP of the AL this year. Jeter plays for quite possibly the best offensive lineup in MLB history. Johnny Damon, Alex Rodriguez, and Robinson Cano have put up big-time numbers this year. Jeter has probably been the best of the bunch but it isn’t by a lot. Damon and Arod compare pretty well to what Jeter has done. Arod has a higher .OPS, more RBI’s, and more extra base hits. I’m not saying that Arod has had a better season than Jeter but it is pretty close. Jeter has a significant advantage in batting average but when it comes down to it, the stats that matter the most are RBI’s, Runs and OPS. Baseball is about production. All of the other numbers are nice but guys like Ortiz, Thomas, Morneau and even Dye all have the best RBI’s, Runs and OPS numbers on their respective teams.

Jeter has been very good, but the MVP he has not been. There are many players in the AL with better offensive numbers. There are many players in the AL that are better defensively. Jeter might not even be the best player on his own team. Without Jeter, the Yankees would’ve still had a prolific offense. Without Jeter, the Yankees would’ve still made the playoffs. The same cannot be said, however, for some of the other candidates. I have a hard time believing that the A’s would’ve been able to hold off the Angels without Frank Thomas’ resurgent season. The Twins would’ve struggled offensively without Morneau’s surprise season. The same can be said for Santana.

The other contenders have had good seasons but are nowhere near the AL MVP. The Chicago White Sox aren’t even going to make the playoffs. Considering that Jim Thome had just as big of a season as Jermaine Dye offensively, and Joe Crede may have been just as important with his offense/defense combination, Dye would be a weak candidate at best. Frank Thomas has had a nice season but his numbers don’t compare to what Ortiz has put up. That leaves Morneau and Santana. I don’t think there’s any doubt as to who was more valuable for the Twins. With Francisco Liriano out for the majority of the second half, Johan Santana has been nothing short of brilliant. If it’s kosher for a pitcher to win the MVP award, Santana has clearly been the MVP.

Among non-Santana candidates, the race is clearly between Ortiz and Jeter. Without David Ortiz, the Red Sox would’ve been terrible. Ortiz has 18 more home runs than the next best Red Sox player. He has 31 more RBI’s. His numbers are so much better than the rest of the team that it’s hard to imagine how the Red Sox front office thought Boston could compete this year. Ortiz doesn’t play defense like Jeter but I would be willing to bet a hefty sum that the drop off in wins for the Red Sox without David Ortiz would be significantly greater than the drop off in wins for the Yankees without Jeter. Additionally, I don’t think there’s any doubt as to who you’d want hitting in a tight game. Since Ortiz’ numbers dwarf Jeter’s, the only way Jeter beats out Ortiz is based on “value” to the team. Ortiz has to be more valuable than Jeter considering their supporting casts. As I see it, Ortiz is the best non-pitching candidate in the AL. Put another way, if Ortiz was on the Yankees, and Jeter was on the Red Sox, Boston would’ve been nowhere near as prolific offensively this season.

I think the MVP award should be given to the best player in the league as judged by the combination of overall statistics and importance to the team’s success. Santana has Jeter beat in both of those categories. He has Dye beat in both categories. In fact, he has every player in the AL beat in both categories. Santana is probably going to win the pitching Triple Crown. The Twins would be a .500 team at best without him. Until the “parameters” of the MVP gets changed to “best non-pitcher” or “best player on the best team”, Santana is the clear-cut MVP of the AL. I don’t think he’s going to be rewarded with the award. The hardware is going to Jeter.

My Top Five for AL MVP:

1). Johan Santana
2). David Ortiz
3). Derek Jeter
4). Frank Thomas
5). Justin Morneau

A Couple Stats to Think About:

Minnesota’s starting rotation


Johan Santana--18-6---------2.79
Carlos Silva----------10-14-------5.95
Scott Baker----------5-8----------6.33
Boof Bonser----------6-5---------4.36
Matt Garza----------2-5----------5.44

Ortiz or Jeter?

David Ortiz-------1.041----.286-----53------134----110-------111
Derek Jeter---------.891----.338-----14-------95-----110-------66

New York Yankees Lineup


1). Johnny Damon-----------------------------.852
2). Derek Jeter-------------------------------.891
3). Bobby Abreu-------------------------------.914
4). Alex Rodriguez----------------------------.897
5). Jason Giambi-------------------------------.964
6). Gary Sheffield/Melky Cabrera----------.786/760
7). Robinson Cano-----------------------------.876
8). Hideki Matsui/Bernie Williams---------.839/.767
9). Jorge Posada--------------------------------.851

Boston Red Sox Lineup

1). Kevin Youkilis------------------------------.809
2). Mark Loretta-------------------------------.715
3). David Ortiz--------------------------------1.047
4). Manny Ramirez----------------------------1.049
5). Trot Nixon----------------------------------.793
6). Mike Lowell--------------------------------.810
7). Coco Crisp----------------------------------.702
8). Doug Mirabelli/Jason Varitek----------.617/.747
9). Alex Gonzalez------------------------------.690

Most valuable White Sox?

Jermaine Dye------1.012----.317----43------119------.385
Jim Thome---------1.013----.288----42------103------.415

National League MVP

The NL race seems to be closer than the AL race but I don’t see how it’s close at all. Albert Pujols will likely go down as the best player of his generation. There is no doubt that his numbers are absurd. However, Ryan Howard is clearly the MVP of the NL. On July 25, Philadelphia was 44-53. On July 30, Philadelphia seemingly gave up on its season by trading its best player (Abreu).

Then, Ryan Howard took over. Less than two months and a whole lot of Howard home runs later, Philadelphia is 81-73 and in line to make the playoffs. Howard has played in 16 more games than Pujols which amounts to 10% of an entire season. The Cardinals have been on a “nose-dive” since they were a season high 16 games over .500 on July 26. Since that time, the Cardinals have gone 22-31 which is in stark contrast from what Philadelphia has managed to accomplish over that time. The numbers are pretty close but the “intangibles” are not close. As I mentioned, Howard has played in 10% more games. His team has played very well in the second half. Had Pujols not missed 15+ games due to injury, this debate would be much closer.

Howard has been the reason for Philadelphia’s second half resurgence. If Philadelphia didn’t have Howard, they would be nowhere near the playoffs right now. The Cardinals have Pujols, yet, they have only managed to play .423 baseball over the last two months. It could be argued that Pujols is the reason why the Cardinals haven’t fallen off completely but the Cardinals would still be one of the better teams in a weak NL without Pujols. If anything, Chris Carpenter is the reason the Cardinals haven’t totally blown the season. The Cardinals are seven games over .500 for the season. Carpenter himself is eight games over .500.

A Couple Stats to Think About:

St. Louis’ starting rotation


Chris Carpenter----15-7----------2.93
Jason Marquis---------14-15--------5.95
Jeff Suppan-------------12-7---------4.07
Jeff Weaver-------------4-4----------5.27
Anthony Reyes----------4-7-----------4.92

Howard’s End (of season)

When Ryan Howard doesn’t strike out this season, he’s hitting .453
Howard has 61 RBI’s in Philadelphia’s last 59 games
Since August 1, Howard has driven in 21% of Philadelphia’s runs

Friday, September 22, 2006

Simulated Gambling Week Four

Last week was my worst week by far. I came very close in quite a few games but that doesn’t do any good when a spread is involved. The bummer of it is that I looked over my picks again and I’d probably make the same picks next week. You can only pour so much knowledge into these picks because the rest is up to “luck”. That’s why this is “Simulated Gambling” and not “Gambling”.

I’ll leave up to you, the reader, to choose which direction you’re going to go after my 3-7 effort last week. You can A) jump ship and stop reading or B) stay the course and cite my 21-17 record thus far as reason to stick with me. I won’t blame you either way. In fact, I would choose “A” if I were you. But, for those of you that have more confidence in me than I do and chose “B”, here are my picks for the week….

Season record to date: 21-17

(Home teams in CAPS; My picks in Bold.)

Louisville -13.5 KANSAS STATE

Granted, the spread for this game would be closer to 25 if Michael Bush and Brian Brohm weren’t MIA. However, Louisville has plenty of talent to win by two touchdowns.

NAVY -4.5 Tulsa

The question about this game is whether Tulsa knows how to stop Navy’s offense. If a team doesn’t know how to play Navy defensively, Navy kills them. Just ask Stanford. We’ll find out on Saturday if Tulsa looked at enough film.


UCLA has about a 10% chance of beating USC this year. However, I think they have about a 75% chance of beating Washington by at least three.

Central Michigan -4 EASTERN MICHIGAN

Central Michigan left an impression on me with a close loss to BC and a somewhat-close loss to Michigan. Eastern Michigan's strength is the gimmick play. That’s not a good sign.

WYOMING -1 Air Force

While everyone else has played three games, Air Force has played one. That lone game was a one-point loss (and easily could have been a win) at Tennessee. Something tells me Wyoming would’ve lost to Tennessee by double digits. I’m going with Air Force.

West Virginia -21 EAST CAROLINA

Watching Maryland try to stop West Virginia’s offense was brutal. Pat White and Steve Slaton would score thirty on any team. Remember, that dominating Georgia bulldog defense that has only surrendered 12 points in three games this season gave up 38 points to WVU in the Sugar Bowl just nine months ago.


LSU destroyed Arizona. USC usually dominates teams in a way that LSU could only dream of. If USC gets lazy, Arizona will cover. So, I guess this is a vote for USC not being lazy.

BOISE STATE -14 Hawaii

The last two times Hawaii has played at Boise State, it lost 69-3 and 58-31. The last time Boise State played at home, it beat Oregon State mercilessly. So, I’m going with history.

Oklahoma State PK HOUSTON

I will be having nightmares of Kevin Kolb when I go to sleep on Friday night. Houston has had weak wins this year but there’s something about Kolb that makes Houston a little scary. Oklahoma State should have the better athletes and should win. I’m just hoping I don’t have nightmares of Kolb on Saturday night too. That would mean I lost.


Michigan State has won seven of nine against Notre Dame. That fact has gotten thrown around in the media lately but I don’t think people understand how unbelievable that is. Seven out of nine!? Michigan has won four of nine against Notre Dame. This game will be a shootout but I think there’s a good chance it’ll be decided by three points or less which would mean I win no matter what.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Top 25 (chances of going undefeated) Week Four

Last week was a great week for fans of teams that are still undefeated. No less than fifteen teams dropped out of the list of undefeateds including some big-time programs. Unfortunately, Texas Tech and Miami (FL) let down the entire college football world by missing out on the best opportunity to hand TCU and Louisville a loss this season. Now, it’s looking more and more like the winner of the Louisville/West Virginia game will finish the season undefeated unless Pittsburgh or Rutgers has a miracle up its sleeve. That obviously eliminates one of the two spots in the National Championship game unless the voters punish Louisville and West Virginia in the polls for a weak schedule. I can’t see this happening since Louisville will have beaten Miami (FL), West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Kansas St.

Michigan did everyone a favor by beating Notre Dame. The Irish looked to be one victory over USC away from a possible undefeated regular season. The bad news for college football fans is that the overall odds for an undefeated team increased as a result of the action from last Saturday. TCU, Boise State, Louisville/West Virginia and Ohio State have increasingly good chances of going undefeated. Michigan is the only current undefeated team that benefits from playing one of those teams. As a result, Michigan’s National Championship aspirations are in its own hands whereas other undefeated teams have to hope that teams lose.

I’ve only listed the top 24 teams this week because the 25th team has less than a .01% chance of going undefeated. If Oklahoma State, Houston, and/or Kansas State win this weekend, they may appear on next week’s list assuming their chances are above .01%

Note: USC's odds were changed as a result of a significant difference in how I viewed USC coming into the season (and most other people as well) and how good USC actually is. Throughout the year, if the situation merits it, I will change individual game odds. In this particular instance, four of USC's game odds needed to be changed to reflect how good USC is this season.

Top 25
(chances of going undefeated)

1 USC-----------------15.48%
2 West Virginia-----13.70%
3 Ohio State---------13.47%
4 Louisville----------12.24%
5 TCU-----------------9.45%
6 Boise State---------6.65%
7 Iowa-----------------3.91%
8 Va. Tech------------3.66%
9 Auburn--------------3.41%
10 Georgia------------2.92%
11 Michigan-----------2.60%
12 Florida-------------1.26%
13 Alabama-----------0.74%
14 Arizona State-----0.69%
15 Oregon-------------0.63%
16 Purdue-------------0.43%
17 Rutgers------------0.23%
18 Wisconsin---------0.22%
19 BC------------------0.13%
20 S. Florida---------0.12%
21 Texas A&M--------0.08%
22 Michigan St.------0.08%
23 UCLA---------------0.01%
24 Missouri-----------0.01%

Teams that dropped from last week’s list (along with pre-season rank in terms of odds): #4 Notre Dame, #6 Oklahoma, #8 Florida State, #15 LSU, #22 Tennessee, #28 Nebraska, #29 Texas Tech, #33 Pittsburgh

Biggest Jump (percentage): Louisville (+8.20%), TCU (+7.09%), West Virginia (+ 3.42%),

Current overall chance of undefeated team(s) (100%=1 undefeated team, 200%=2 undefeated teams etc.): 92.12%

Monday, September 18, 2006

"That never happens!"

Lloydball plus Risks

I’ve often use the term “Lloydball” in my posts here but I have rarely, if ever, used that term in a positive light. The truth is that Lloydball is not a good thing in its most rudimentary form. Just about every loss Michigan has suffered in the post National Championship era has been a result of the imperfections of Lloydball. Whether it’s sitting on leads or being afraid to make mistakes, Michigan has let many games slip away due to a lack of innovation. There are many characteristics/features of Lloydball. In fact, there’s too many to list them all. Lloydball is a hybrid term that dually defines Lloyd Carr’s coaching philosophy and everything that his tenure has yielded. For instance, Carr’s refusal to change Defensive Coordinators for eight years after the National Championship is an often overlooked characteristic of Lloydball.

The irony of Lloydball is that without it, Michigan would not have won the National Championship in 1997. Without it, Michigan may not have beaten Notre Dame on Saturday. Lloydball is essential for Michigan to have success. However, it is only one element of the equation necessary for success. The other element is risk. Lloydball alone is a recipe for heartbreak and disaster. Lloydball plus risks is what yielded a National Championship and what set up Michigan’s dominating win in South Bend. Michigan repeatedly went deep after Notre Dame committed to stopping the run early. Michigan’s game-plan was to establish the run. That is, and always will be, the main objective of Lloydball. The problem comes when Michigan refuses to attempt big plays downfield in the face of a stacked line. When faced with a stacked line the correct line of action then becomes to unleash the passing game. That constitutes a “risk”. Michigan was destroyed by Tennessee in the 2001 Citrus Bowl because Lloyd Carr used Lloydball with no risks. Tennessee had the premiere defensive line in college football. John Navarre was a young, inexperienced quarterback. Carr was afraid that Navarre would make mistakes in the passing game. So, Carr proceeded to run the ball at the immovable object that was the Vols defensive line. I’m not saying that Michigan would’ve won the game if it took risks. Clearly, it would have not. But, in its most rudimentary form, Lloydball is only good enough to beat bad teams. It will never be good enough to beat a good team on the road which is why Michigan hadn’t entered the Big Ten season without a loss in six years.

The biggest disadvantage of Lloydball without risks is that it inhibits Michigan’s talent advantage. Michigan has had superior talent negated in big games against Washington, Oregon, Notre Dame, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Nebraska and UCLA in recent years. What good does it do to recruit a blazing fast wide receiver with an NFL frame if that player gets put on the back burner in big games? This past week against Notre Dame, Lloyd Carr managed to use his players in the best way possible while employing his tried and partly true strategy of Lloydball. Mario Manningham used the athleticism that made him a coveted high school recruit. Chad Henne unleashed the throws that made him one of the top high school quarterbacks in the country. In the off-season, Carr emphasized a shift in OL conditioning as well as a shift in blocking schemes. He fired Jim Herrmann and brought in a young and innovative defensive coordinator in Ron English. Each of these elements represents a “risk” as Carr sees it. Allowing a quarterback to drop back too many times on the road is a “risk”. Firing a coach/friend is a “risk”. Changing blocking schemes is a “risk”.

Granted, the players had a heck of a lot to do with the win on Saturday. Henne, Hart, Manningham, the OL, the defensive line and the linebackers all played significantly better than last year. While Carr deserves a good amount of credit for adjusting and taking “risks”, if the players played the same way last year against Notre Dame as they did this past Saturday, Michigan would’ve won. That said, the game-plan was brilliant. Michigan rushed Brady Quinn constantly from the first snap to the last. The coaching staff’s emphasis in the off-season on better tackling and being in position was on display. Michigan made sure tackle after sure tackle to prevent the much dreaded YAC (yards after catch). Carr and Mike DeBord even made adjustments after their initial plan to run left was thwarted by Notre Dame’s desire to stack the left side. The zone blocking schemes allow for Hart to have selectivity as to which holes he chooses. Hart is good enough to switch gears if a play is over pursued by the defense. The blocking scheme fits perfectly with Hart’s superior vision and it showed on Saturday.

While the risks resulted in points and defensive stands for U of M, Lloydball was brilliantly milking the clock. I loved every run in the second half. Whether it resulted in a one yard gain or ten, I was fully satisfied with Carr’s approach to the second half. Notre Dame could not stop the run. Hart was good for a minimum of three and four yards every carry. If it weren’t for the risks, Michigan would’ve been running that same offense without the lead and all hell would’ve broken loose among the fan-base once again. The difference between a brilliant game-plan and a terrible game-plan in this instance is actually quite small. If Carr doesn’t take risks, Michigan’s game-plan is as bad as it gets and Carr is interfering with Michigan’s chances of success. When Michigan takes risks, Carr can use his belief system of run the ball and control the clock the way it was meant to be used. There is still a place for that game-plan in college football today. It just has to be accompanied by a desire to use superior athletes to score. Running an offensive entirely based on protecting a lead does absolutely no good if there is no lead. The “risks” get the lead. Lloydball take care of the lead. If Lloydball is employed first, then Michigan will continue to disappoint. If Michigan attacks, then Lloydball will be the lead protector it was meant to be. In 1997, fans got to see Lloydball plus risks. In the nine years since, (with the exception of 1999 and 2003) fans have seen an unhealthy dose of Lloydball sans risk. Even though Wisconsin and Minnesota might be a bit down this year, these next two games will go a long way in determining whether Carr has figured it out or if Saturday was just the case of “luck” finally going against the Irish.

First Hand Account of Michigan’s Glorious Victory

My experience in South Bend was unbelievable. I feel for my two cousins, Andy and Todd, who are big Notre Dame fans. They woke up early and drove to South Bend with me to experience what they thought would surely end in a Notre Dame victory. It couldn’t have been fun for them to watch but I appreciated their company. Although, Andy’s company only lasted a little over a quarter before he was so enraged that he left his seat for two hours. Big props to my dawg from I had the pleasure of meeting him on Saturday. He sat behind me at the game and it was enjoyable to have someone as passionate as I am to share in the joy of Michigan’s monumental victory. He also whippped out a king kong sized version of one of mgoblog's shirts appropriately titled, "Notre Dame: Returning to Glory Since 1993". Also, I’d like to shout out to Nick from Stadium and Main for writing some good stuff in the aftermath of Saturday’s victory.

As for the game itself, the Michigan section was alive and well. It felt like our section was louder than the rest of the stadium combined but I know that it didn’t translate on television from talking with people who watched the game at home. Prescott Burgess’ interception return on the second play of the game threw the Michigan fans into a frenzy. It was unbelievable. I kept yelling, “that never happens!” over and over again. In fact, that was the theme of the day. I found myself saying, “that never happens!” after seemingly every play. There were so many things that happened on Saturday that haven’t happened in ages. Michigan punished Brady Quinn. Michigan completed long touchdown passes. It was unbelievable. It almost seemed like the team was possessed for sixty minutes. Obviously, I’m hoping there was no possession and it was just a reflection of this year’s talent and coaching.

Halftime was such an interesting experience. I left like I had just taken one of two final exams. I was part relieved and part concerned. Notre Dame’s touchdown drive at the end of the first half was far too easy. I had visions of that happening for the entire thirty minutes of the second half. A UM fan come up to me in line in the bathroom and said, “YOU CAN’T GIVE UP THAT LAST DRIVE”. He was so pissed. He knew (or at least he thought he knew) that Notre Dame’s offense would eventually wake up. I must have passed 100 Michigan fans at halftime and I didn’t see one fan smiling. It was all business. Michigan fans have been through so much disappointment that you will never see premature celebration or overconfidence except for the drunk dude that was making fun of Charlie Weis, calling for the double reverse, and proclaiming victory in the second quarter at the ire of all Michigan fans in the section. I will say that those apprehensions disappeared in a hurry as the Michigan team that came out of the tunnel in the second half was the exact same team that came to start the game. That is a good sign for things to come. Michigan was excellent all day long. That decreases the likelihood that Saturday was a fluke. Time will tell, but once again, “it’s great to be a Michigan Wolverine!”

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Top 25 (chances of going undefeated) Week Three

The rash of big games early in the non-conference schedule helps diminish the list of undefeated teams by the end of September. If your team is still on this list, then the Texas/Ohio State, Florida State/Miami (FL), California/Tennessee, Notre Dame/Penn State and Oregon/Fresno State games helped you out in some way. But, if you thought the first two weeks featured big-time match-ups, wait until you see this lineup:

Michigan @ Notre Dame
Clemson @ Florida State
Miami (FL) @ Louisville
LSU @ Auburn
Florida @ Tennessee
Texas Tech @ TCU
Oklahoma @ Oregon

There might not even be 25 undefeated teams next week if all goes right. Any major conference team that goes undefeated this season will not have a problem making the BCS Championship game. In a sense, every team controls its own destiny. Win every game and you’re in. This probably holds true for West Virginia and Louisville as well. If Fresno State doesn't beat Boise State later this season, then Boise State may end up being the only undefeated team at the end of the year. That would cause havoc.

Top 25 (chances of going undefeated)

1 Ohio State-------12.79%
2 W. Virginia-----10.28%
3 Notre Dame------9.38%
4 USC----------------8.14%
5 Florida State-----5.79%
6 Boise State-------4.99%
7 Oklahoma--------4.51%
8 Louisville---------4.08%
9 Va. Tech----------3.30%
10 Iowa-------------2.93%
11 Georgia----------2.89%
12 TCU--------------2.36%
13 LSU---------------1.79%
14 Auburn-----------1.71%
15 Tennessee-------0.88%
16 Michigan--------0.87%
17 Alabama---------0.70%
18 Florida-----------0.63%
19 Arizona State---0.41%
20 Purdue----------0.40%
21 Oregon----------0.25%
22 Nebraska-------0.21%
23 Rutgers---------0.21%
24 Texas Tech-----0.19%
25 (tie) Pittsburgh-0.18%
25 (tie) Wisconsin--0.18%

Teams that dropped from last week’s list (along with pre-season rank in terms of odds): #5 Texas, #17 Penn State, #23 Fresno State, and #27 Clemson

Biggest Jump (position and percentage): Oregon +8 (+.1%), Boise State +5 (+2.50%), Ohio State +2 (+6.39%), and Notre Dame No Change (+3.13%)

Current overall chance of undefeated team(s) (100%=1 undefeated team, 200%=2 undefeated teams etc.): 80.35%

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Simulated Gambling Week 3

Week two didn’t go nearly as well as week one. I did finish 8-7 but I should have done better. I picked games that I shouldn’t have picked. I need to learn to differentiate between games that I “think” might go a certain way and games that I’m almost positive will go a certain way. Last week, I failed to make this distinction and my results suffered. This week, my total number of picks are down which should mean my success will be up.

Also, I noticed that “bad” lines usually get corrected a bit over the week so the best time to make picks is before the corrections occur. Thus, I’ll be making my picks on Monday or Tuesday from now on. I encourage anybody who puts “real” money on games to follow my lead by picking early in the week. For instance, Louisville was a 38 point favorite on Monday of last week. By Friday, it was a 40.5 favorite. Two points can be the difference between making money and losing money. I understand that things can happen during the week like Drew Tate unexpectedly getting hurt. However, I’m guessing that might happen once or twice over an entire season.

Season record to date: 18-10

(Home teams in CAPS; My picks in Bold)

Boise State -8 WYOMING

I know I mentioned in this same spot last week that Boise St. isn’t as good this season as past seasons. However, I thing I was wrong. They went down 14-0 early to Oregon State and still managed to blast the Beavers. Boise State was so good that I was left thinking that the Beavers have the worst defense in D-1 football. I guess it’s possible that they do but I’m going to give the credit to Boise State’s “O” until it’s proven otherwise.


Washington State is a high scoring team. Baylor is not a high scoring team and doesn’t have a good defense. That should mean a Wazzou victory by more than two touchdowns.

NOTRE DAME -7 Michigan

I picked Penn State +7.5 last week against Notre Dame because of my respect for Penn State and not because I didn’t respect Notre Dame. In hindsight, Penn St. just isn’t that good. Plainly put, Penn State is no Michigan. I find myself looking at a similar line but I will not be deterred because Michigan is a good football team.


I love Louisville. I love how they pound weaker opponents. I love how they throw the ball because it works. I hope Louisville makes the jump to “major” status at some point. However, I don’t think I’m making a bold statement by saying that every player on Miami was a better recruit than every player on Louisville. This game will be close just like last season but if Louisville wins, it shouldn’t be by more than five.

Fresno State -4 WASHINGTON

I must admit that I’m a little surprised by this line. I think the oddsmakers are hoping that average Joe football fan sees “Fresno” and “Washington” and thinks in historical terms. However, I think the average fan knows better. Washington hasn’t been good for a while now. Fresno plays every team tough whether it’s USC, Oregon, or another top-tier team. If Fresno plays to it potential, it will win by at least a touchdown.

Texas -28 RICE

It looks to me like Rice is getting some respect here. I was shocked to see the line lower than -30. Texas will not be happy coming off a season-derailing loss to Ohio St. Rice will pay the price.

Arizona State -9 COLORADO

Colorado is a little better than people probably think after losing to Montana State and Colorado State to start the season. However, the Buffs do not match up with ASU’s high-powered offense. I mean, Colorado scored ten points against Montana State!!! ASU will put up points. Unless Dan Hawkins can somehow get the turf painted gold, Colorado is in big trouble.

USC -18.5 Nebraska

Nebraska is the poor team’s USC. The Huskers have good players and a pass-happy offensive philosophy. Unfortunately, the difference between USC and a poor team’s USC is at least three touchdowns. If there’s ever a time for Nebraska to make a statement, it’s this week. I might be tempted to take Nebraska if this game was in Lincoln but it’s not.

Texas A&M -27 Army

I can’t say I know for certain how good Texas A&M is but I do know that Army is terrible. I also know that I took the Aggies in a big spread last week and they came through. This is not for you, Bobby Ross!

Missouri -12.5 NEW MEXICO

Missouri blasted Mississippi last week. I think Mississippi is slightly better than New Mexico. That alone should be enough for Mizzou to cover. However, I think Mizzou is actually a little better than people think.

Monday, September 11, 2006

#11 Michigan at #2 Notre Dame

Michigan’s victory over Central Michigan didn’t provide much insight into what to expect next week against Notre Dame. Once again, Michigan handed a weak opponent a healthy dose of the running game and pass rush. Once again, Michigan looked like a team from the mid-90’s rather than what we’ve seen over the last few years. Central Michigan and Vanderbilt won’t be confused with elite teams but both teams are probably better than people realize. Vanderbilt should’ve beaten Alabama this week and Central gave Boston College a run for its money. That doesn’t say a whole lot for the Notre Dame game but the fact that Michigan was able to overpower both teams with the run game and consistently pressure the quarterback is a good sign.

Notre Dame blasted Penn St. on Saturday which definitely came as a surprise to me. I thought ND was going to win but to dominate a good Penn St. team like that was something I wasn’t expecting. Penn St. shot itself in the foot with first half turnovers and mistakes in execution. Penn St. was able to move the ball early but didn’t have any points to show for it. Those that were labeling ND as overrated because they barely beat a good Ga. Tech team on the road should probably be biting their tongues at this point. ND is for real. Their offense is unstoppable when Brady Quinn is on. Unfortunately for the rest of the college football world, the Ga. Tech game could be the last game this season when Quinn won’t be on his game.

Michigan will have to play in the same mid-90’s fashion to beat Notre Dame next week. Michigan will have to pressure and punish Quinn from the first snap to the last. Jake Long and Adam Kraus will have to continue their surge on the left side of the line. Lloyd Carr will almost certainly stick to his conservative approach which isn’t necessarily a bad thing against a high scoring team. I don’t think Michigan can win a shootout against the Irish. Chad Henne would have his hands full trying to put that many points on the board. Remember, Henne hasn’t been a consistent thrower since Braylon Edwards graduated. Michigan’s best shot on Saturday is to run effectively behind Long and Kraus and mix in the passing game when Notre Dame starts cheating to stop the run.

I have been extremely critical in the past with regards to Carr’s stubbornness in game-planning. His refusal to adapt to his roster has cost Michigan many games in the past. However, Carr doesn’t need to change his normal game-plan to adapt to this year’s strengths. This version of the Michigan Wolverines fits perfectly into Carr’s run first, run second and play tough defense philosophy. For the first time in recent memory, a player in the post-game interviews said something meaningful. Steve Breaston said that next week’s game will come down to execution. That is exactly what will decide the game for Michigan. If Long and Kraus are good, and Woodley, Branch, Biggs and Co. are pressuring Quinn, Michigan will be in the game. Without a consistent pass rush, Leon Hall, Morgan Trent, Brandent Englemon, Ryan Mundy and Jamar Adams will be exposed. Michigan will then have to unleash the passing game which will in turn force Michigan to abandon its game-plan. Michigan isn’t a terrible passing team. The passing game has a chance to be extremely effective when it’s predicated on the run.

If there’s ever a time for Carr to be stubborn, it’s this week. There is nothing from last season or the first two games of this season that indicates Henne can put up big numbers in the passing game. He is a better decision-maker than ever before, but his long ball is below average and the Michigan coaching staff hasn’t allowed him to get comfortable throwing downfield this year. If Jim Herrmann were still the Defensive Coordinator this season, Michigan would have no chance of beating Notre Dame. Quinn would pick Michigan apart with precision. The departure of Herrmann has meant the return of the pass rush. Michigan has its best chance of winning at Notre Dame in Carr’s tenure. Notre Dame will enter the game ranked #2. Michigan hasn’t beaten a team in the top two since 1996. A win here will propel Michigan in the polls as well as in the public eye. A win would also show that Michigan should be good enough to run the table to the season finale against Ohio St. A loss would set the Wolverines up for another 3-4 loss season. This is the most important Michigan football game in 9 years. This is a crossroads game for the Michigan program. The high from victory or the low from defeat will likely be as amplified as any game this decade.

I am making the trek to South Bend to cheer on Michigan. I am hopeful that this experience will go down as one of the greatest experiences of my lifetime. The last college football game I was able to attend before this season was Michigan’s road victory over Ohio St. in 2000 led by Drew Henson. The last road game other than the 2000 Ohio St. game that I was able to attend was the Michigan victory over Penn St. in 1999 led by Tom Brady. Those two games, along with the entire 1997 season, make up the vast majority of my most cherished sports experiences. I would love to add this game to the list. For the first time possibly ever, I will be imploring Carr to stick with the “Michigan way”. I don’t advocate that philosophy over the long hall, but clearly, this year’s team is a run and play defense unit. Go Blue!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Simulated Gambling Week 2

Last week, I began an experiment to see if I could successfully pick select college football games against the spread (ATS). The results were pretty good. I went 10-3. I am going to pass on picking NFL games for the time being. The phrase “any given Sunday” isn’t “any given Saturday” for a reason. The NFL is too unpredictable even when you’ve seen all the teams play. It’s almost impossible to get a feel to start a season. So, this week I’ll be making only college picks again. I liked my picks a lot more last week than I do this week. Some of the lines earlier in the week were much nicer than they are today. Nonetheless, these are games that I would bet on if I were a gambler:

Season record to date: 10-3

BOISE ST. -8 Oregon St. (Thursday Night)

Boise St. plays better at home but it lost to an average Oregon St. team on the road last year by three. As far as I know, Boise St. was better last year and Oregon St. was worse last year. Boise St. should not win this game by more than eight, if at all.

Pittsburgh -8 CINCINATTI (Friday Night)

Nobody knows for sure how good Pittsburgh is. It handled Virginia last week in a surprise. Tyler Palko is now a veteran quarterback which can sometimes be all the difference. I guess you can file me under the “Pittsburgh is for real this year” crowd.

Louisville -40.5 TEMPLE

I’m starting to think I should make my picks earlier in the week. This line started out at -38. Now it’s at a less desirable -40.5. Still, Temple is really bad and Louisville loves to punish bad teams.


Road games in big-time conferences like the SEC AND Big Ten can be trap games even against below average teams. However, in the past few years since Auburn’s resurgence began, it has blasted bad teams. Mississippi St. will be forced to start a redshirt freshman at QB. I’ll stick with the trend and take Auburn.

MICHIGAN STATE -25.5 Eastern Michigan

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again. Michigan State laid an egg against Idaho last week in terms of the point spread. I’m going to chalk that up to first game rust and go with the Spartan offense picking it up this week.

Iowa -18.5 SYRACUSE

Syracuse currently has a ten-game losing streak. Iowa generally pounds bad teams. It is my hope that Syracuse doesn’t pick this week to buck that trend. Iowa was a bit shaky against Montana last week but there were a lot of shaky performances and Montana is a good D-2 program.

NOTRE DAME -8 Penn State

I was a bit surprised at how little press Penn St. has received coming into the season. Granted, it lost some key players but this is a team with talent all over the place. South Bend is usually not the kind of place a young quarterback wants to make his road debut at so things could be tough early. However, Penn St. will fight hard.

LSU -15.5 Arizona

I thought Arizona was going to be a little better this year with Willie T. at QB but last week’s unimpressive win over BYU has me thinking other things. Willie T. will score big-time points in the Pac-10 but I’m guessing LSU puts the stop on him in Baton Rouge.

Indiana -3.5 BALL ST.

I’m going with the hot hand. The Hoosiers stepped up for me last week and covered the spread. I like them to do it again.

TENNESSEE -20 Air Force

This line reeks of respect for Air Force. There is no reason for Air Force to be anywhere near -20 especially after Tennessee proved last week that they’re out for blood. I could be wrong as always but Tennessee should cruise.

TEXAS -2.5 Ohio State

In a game like this, I look at the QB position. Texas has a new guy who has only faced North Texas. Ohio St. has Troy Smith who has faced everyone. The Buckeyes should score touchdowns this year whereas they settled for field goals last year. This is going to be a helluva game.

Texas Tech -7 UTEP

This line is out of respect for Mike Price. Texas Tech runs up the score against weaker teams. Price has rejuvenated the UTEP program but I have to think over a full game, the Red Raiders are good for seven more points at least.

TEXAS A&M -21 Louisiana Lafayette

I’m starting to wonder if Dennis Franchione will get the A&M program to the next level. It was supposed to happen already. Nonetheless, Louisiana Lafayette is not good. A&M should cover.

SOUTH FLORIDA -20 Florida International

South Florida is good. I’m hoping that nobody else knows this. It crushed Louisville last year. This should be a blow out. I’m a little nervous about this one.

MICHIGAN -28.5 Central Michigan

I’m surprised that CMU’s showing against BC didn’t earn them a more generous line. CMU is the kind of team that comes at you all game. That means it’ll likely score meaningless fourth quarter points. Nothing ruins more bets than meaningless fourth quarter points.

Top 25 (chances of going undefeated) Week Two

Before the season started, I calculated and posted the odds of going undefeated for each college football team. Each week, I’ll update the list to keep a running count. Very soon this list will be less than 25 teams long and it’s entirely possible that it will disappear all together before the end of the season. However, midway through the season, I’ll start another list that calculates the odds that each one loss team will finish with one loss. Here is how things stand after one week of the 2006 college football season:

Top 25 Chances of going Undefeated

1) W. Virginia------------10.18%
2) USC----------------------8.14%
3) Ohio St.-----------------6.40%
4) Notre Dame------------6.25%
5) Florida St.--------------5.74%
6) Texas--------------------4.62%
7) Oklahoma--------------4.06%
8) Louisville---------------3.88%
9) Va. Tech----------------2.75%
10) Iowa-------------------2.56%
11) Boise St.---------------2.49%
12) TCU--------------------2.34%
13) Georgia----------------1.93%
14) LSU--------------------1.61%
15) Auburn----------------1.54%
16) Penn St.---------------1.09%
17) Michigan--------------0.86%
18) Tennessee-------------0.79%
19) Alabama--------------0.63%
20) Florida----------------0.60%
21) Fresno St.-------------0.49%
22) Arizona St.-----------0.37%
23) Purdue----------------0.35%
24) Clemson--------------0.21%
25) Nebraska-------------0.21%

Teams that dropped from last week's list (along with pre-season rank in terms of odds): #10 Miami (Fl), #19 California

Biggest jump: Tennessee +4, Florida St. +3

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The "D" is Back in Ann Arbor

Entering the Vanderbilt game last Saturday, the Michigan offense and defense had the same amount of uncertainty. If you look at the offense and defense in terms of value from 0-100 they were both about 75 out of 100 entering the season. Each unit had talented players who hadn’t fulfilled their potential for one reason or another in their respective careers. Each unit had the potential to be good or below average this season. After one game, one unit is way up (the D) and the other unit is slightly down (the O). The “D” is back in Ann Arbor and it has everything to do with the departure of former Defensive Coordinator/sabotage artist Jim Herrmann. If the “D’s” value was 75 entering Saturday, it’s about an 88 right now. Only so much can be gained from a game against Vanderbilt but Michigan looked about as good as a defense can look in an opener. Saturday was the first Michigan game I have been able to attend in six years thanks to my dawg Nick. Michigan doesn’t play any home or away games in Germany so I’ve had to sit by patiently until this day arrived. Watching LaMarr Woodley and Rondell Biggs terrorize Vandy’s QB was like 1997 revisited for me. It got to the point where I was anticipating a sack or a hurry on every play. It has been years since I’ve had that feeling. In fact, I was hoping that the offense would punt so the defense could get back on the field. I haven’t felt like that in a long, long time. It was awesome to watch.

On the other hand, the offense was not awesome to watch. If it entered Saturday with a value of 75, it ended Saturday with a value closer to 73 and that has very little to do with the players. Michigan went into the tunnel at halftime surrounded by a chatter of boos from the UM faithful. While some people take issue with this, I have no problem with it. While some players (Steve Breaston, Mike Massey etc.) dropped catch-able balls, the boos were sent towards the direction of the offensive play calling. Michigan could’ve/should’ve scored 30 points in the first half against a weary Vandy defense. Instead of an array of horizontal passes and lame play calls, Michigan fans were begging for downfield passes and some semblance of creativity. Unfortunately, Chad Henne was blamed for a lot of what went down on Saturday. Henne is a quarterback. His job is to be good at throwing the football. Other than the waggle, Henne was rarely allowed to throw the ball downfield. He had a pass dropped by Massey that would’ve been good for a touchdown. I was in the corner of the end zone where the drop occurred and the ball was a 9 out of 10 at least in terms of accuracy. The drop was on Massey. Henne also had a pass on third and long dropped by Mario Manningham that would’ve been good for a first and goal. When Henne was allowed to do what he’s supposed to do, he did his job. Unfortunately, new/old Offensive Coordinator Mike DeBord handcuffed Michigan’s passing game all afternoon.

In contrast to how the rest of the game unfolded offensively, the first quarter was a clinic on how to run the ball effectively against a weak defense. Mike Hart is the best UM running back I have ever seen. He is so good it’s hard to describe. He never, ever goes down on the first hit. The only thing keeping Hart from being the best running back I’ve ever seen period is his average speed. The rest of the country has no idea how good Hart is. The Offensive Line seemed to do well with zone blocking schemes in the first half but it is hard to tell how much better Hart made them look than they actually were. Regardless, the results were encouraging. The play that worked so well for Michigan’s 1997 National Championship is back and as effective as ever. In the same way Brian Griese repeatedly found Jerame Tuman on the waggle, Henne found Tyler Ecker. The best part about that play is that while everyone is screaming for the quarterback to throw the ball to a wide open receiver, everyone is not screaming the same name. There are three wide receivers open on that play almost every time. It’s fun to watch because a good pass usually means a big play.

While the waggle was effective, Michigan’s horizontal passing game was abysmal. It could be argued that Michigan was trying to avoid letting Notre Dame see too much of the game plan but there are a few reasons why I do not believe this to be the case. 1). The Notre Dame game isn’t for two weeks. If Michigan were really trying to keep Notre Dame from seeing too much in terms of game-plan, Michigan would have to sit on its true game-plan for two full games. Also, that would mean that they would be “opening” the playbook in front of tens of thousands of screaming fans in South Bend. 2). This theory has been suggested in years past and it never happens. Every year, the Notre Dame game arrives and Michigan does the same old stuff. 3). Lloyd Carr would not allow Michigan to avoid specific areas just because of one game. The bottom line is that what you saw on Saturday is what Michigan is all about. DeBord didn’t throw downfield all that often in 1997 either. Michigan fans are just going to have to get used to it.

It’s frustrating to watch USC and Louisville because they spread the defense by throwing downfield. It doesn’t take a prolific passer to do it either. It only takes a desire by the coaching staff. John David Booty thrived in his first game just like Matt Leinart thrived in his first game. The USC coaching staff attacks weak secondaries. The Michigan coaching staff lets weak secondaries off the hook. When run correctly, athletic wide receivers (which Michigan always has) can get open on every play with precise route running. I still remember how great David Terrell and Plaxico Burress were at running routes when they were in college. They were unstoppable. Michigan receivers don’t run routes like Terrell used to run anymore. Even Braylon Edwards was forced to catch his fair share of one yard patterns and wide receiver screens. Each of those plays is designed for the receiver to gain yards after the catch. Considering how inefficient these plays have been for Michigan over the past fives years, one would think that Carr would abandon that plan. Unfortunately, I think Carr is so petrified of Henne (or anyone else) throwing an interception that he just abandons the passing game all together so nothing, good or bad, can happen. That’s also why Michigan is so good at coming back from large deficits. Large deficits force Michigan to throw the ball downfield which they are inherently good at in the same way that USC, Louisville, Ohio St. and any other big time college football program are good at it. It’s almost as if Michigan has to be losing before Carr allows Michigan to play its best football.

I wish Carr would watch film of teams that throw the ball downfield. It works. The NFL would snicker at Michigan’s passing game. Almost every pass in the NFL (other than a screen) is downfield. Michigan’s passing game is so dated that I can’t name another major college or pro team that avoids throwing downfield as much as Michigan does. It’s maddening as a fan and debilitating to the team as a philosophy.

Luckily for Michigan fans, the defense appears to be motivated beyond words. They were ready to go on Saturday and I think that’ll carry over from week to week. It’s always better to have a great defense with an average offense than a great offense and an average defense. Michigan has lost three and four games a year over the last decade because of the latter. Conversely they won the National Championship because of the former. This year, the defense should be very good. If Carr and DeBord (the anti-pass-mites) keep limiting the offense as much as they did on Saturday, Michigan will have a hard time beating Notre Dame and Ohio St. The talent is there. Henne can throw. Manningham can catch. If the staff let’s this happen, Michigan could be dynamite this season.

The only question mark that remains on the defense is the secondary. The DB’s get a grade of incomplete because Vandy simply didn’t throw the ball enough to adequately grade the pass defense. It remains to be seen what will happen when Michigan plays against an offensive line that buys its quarterback more time. If the DL can put as much pressure on every team as they did against Vandy, then it won’t matter how good the DB’s are. However, every secondary is tested at some point or another. If the Michigan DB’s aren’t better than in previous years, they will cost their team at least one game. Central Michigan will give a better indication on how good the DB’s are since they run a crazy hurry up offense. Even though CMU isn’t that great, if Michigan holds Central to 200 yards passing or less, then you’ll know the DB’s are for real.


The changes for running the clock made by the NCAA will have a “domino” effect on college football. Statistics before 2006 will not be comparable to statistics after 2006. The playing time lost to the rule changes amounts to something near a full game over a 12 game schedule. Clearly, this will give the advantage to college athletes from the past. MLB didn’t change records or hand out asterisks when it moved to a 162 game schedule (from a 154 game schedule). Likewise, college football will not create new standards to acknowledge the reduction in playing time. This is good news for current record holders and bad news for current players. It might not sound like a big deal, but a four year running back that averages 125 yards per game will lose out on 500 yards over his career. Breaking the all-time rushing record is hard enough but doing it with a 500 yard handicap is almost impossible.

Another byproduct of the new “clock” rules should be a reduction in point spreads. With close to 10% less plays, even the best offenses will suffer on the scoreboards. I didn’t notice much of a difference after the first week but isn’t it logical to think that a 10% reduction in plays would equate to a reduction in points as well? The argument could be made that both teams are affected by the rule change so the point spread wouldn’t change but good teams stand to lose a lot more in terms of points than bad teams. Bad teams don’t score all that many points against good teams anyway so there might not be much of a difference in terms of how many points bad teams score. I guess we’ll see how things unfold soon enough.

Lastly, the new rules will cripple the amount of fourth quarter comebacks over the course of the year. In tight games, the rule changes won’t make as much of a difference. However, in games with bigger deficits, it will be hard for teams to make up those deficits with a 10% reduction in game time.

The NCAA made these rule changes to make the games more “watchable”. Apparently they were concerned that they were boring fans with 3h:30m of the most exciting sport in the world. I can’t name one person; a coach, a player, or a fan, that has ever complained about the length of a college football game.

At the very least, the 10% reduction in playing time should help the pro-playoff crowd get what they want. Presidents and Athletic Directors can no longer complain about the 12-game schedule when the time reduction basically renders the season an 11-game schedule. I even heard Lloyd Carr say at his press conference on Labor Day that the reduction in time should aid in getting a playoff because a 12-game slate can no longer be used as an excuse since it’s really an 11-game slate in disguise.

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