Thursday, November 30, 2006

Six years of rebuilding is too long

I’ve seen enough of Tommy Amaker to know that he isn’t the kind of coach that will lead a program to consistently successful seasons over the long haul. I’ve given Amaker every excuse in the book for five years. He inherited a mess. The roster he was initially stuck with was riddled with lower-level talent. He had to deal with a reduction in scholarships per the probation that was handed down by the NCAA. He was put into a position where he had to try to sell the UM basketball program over the Michigan State basketball program with nothing but smoke and mirrors. He had heartbreakingly bad luck with the Al Horford and Joe Crawford decommitments. Every year that passed, I felt like Amaker was one step closer to bringing Michigan back to the elite of the Big Ten. But that hasn’t even come close to happening.

The problem with giving Amaker all of those excuses is that you can find yourself five or six years down the road cheering for a team with absolutely no identity. I give Amaker all of the credit in the world for sticking with this thing. It had to be maddening at times. He has brought in some decent talent. But, I have no clue what the Michigan basketball team is about. I don’t know if it is a high scoring team or a low scoring team. I don’t know if it is a post team or a three-point shooting team. I don’t know if it is a defensive-minded team or an offensive-minded team. What exactly is Tommy Amaker’s coaching style? It’s been five years and I have no idea. I know what his style supposedly is but I haven't seen anything that would indicate a particular style other than confusion and disorganization.

The NC State game on Monday was the breaking point for me. NC State had six scholarship players to start the game. Two of its best players did not suit up. A few minutes into the game, NC State’s starting point guard pulled a hamstring and was out for the game. As a result, NC State played nearly the whole game with just five scholarship players. From what I saw, there wasn’t a player on NC State that looked any better than an average role player. I don’t mean any disrespect to the Wolfpack but NC State suited up a bunch of scrubs. The Wolverines jumped out to a nice start by racing to a 12-2 lead. At that point, it looked like Michigan might win by thirty points or more. NC State looked terrible. I was convinced that I was watching the worst NC State team I had seen in my lifetime. Then how is it that Michigan proceeded to get embarrassed? The answer is that Michigan has no identity. Michigan never plays well. If it wins, it wins in an ugly game. Michigan never gets “hot” or exceeds expectations.

Michigan lost to NC State for the same reason that it lost to a terrible Minnesota team in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament last year which killed any shot at an NCAA Tournament bid. Michigan doesn’t pride itself on anything other than having a common interest in liking basketball. There are at least 20-30 coaches in college basketball that could take a team of the same talent level as Michigan, and turn it into a tournament team with quality coaching. Do you think George Mason would turn down the players on the UM roster? Heck, no! Bob Huggins will take over the Kansas State Wildcats basketball program (which has been a doormat in the Big XII for years) and within a year or two, that team will make the NCAA Tournament. And I would be willing to bet that within the first week of practice that team had an identity. Duke has an identity. Michigan State has an identity. Every top 25 program has an identity. And in every case, that identity comes from the coach. The Tom Osbourne-coached Nebraska teams of the ‘90s ran the option over and over again on their way to multiple National Championships. Osbourne’s teams were good at running the option and that’s what they did. They had an identity. Amaker’s teams aren’t good at anything. So when it comes down to crunch time or a match-up against a good team, Michigan crawls into a shell because it doesn’t have anything to fall back on. That is why Michigan needs to go into a different direction.

I like Tommy Amaker. He seems like an outstanding guy. I always hoped that he would be able to turn the Michigan program around. He agreed to come on board when the program was at its darkest point in the history of Michigan Basketball. I feel bad that the decision to come to Michigan will probably end as a red mark on his resume. He gave his heart and soul to the university and I am thankful for that. I just think that you can only stay stagnant for so long before you start to go backwards. Another missed Tournament is just another reason for big-time recruits to go to other schools. There really isn’t any more of a reason to go to Michigan now than there was five years ago. Even if Michigan can somehow manage to take advantage of a down year in the Big Ten and sneak into the Tournament, it will only act as a diversion of the truth. It doesn’t take a good coach six seasons to leave a stamp on a program. I truly believe that if Amaker had something to show, we would have seen something by now.

The problem with parting ways with Amaker is a) he has worked tirelessly for Michigan basketball and it’s extremely hard to punish a guy as upstanding and loyal as he has been and b) he is in on some big-time recruits including a pretty good recruiting class already in the fold for next season. It’s often the case that when a program changes gears, that year’s recruiting class takes a big hit. Michigan can hardly afford to come up empty on a recruiting class. But, I don’t see a future with Amaker. Even with a talented roster, I don’t see them having any semblance of cohesion. Even bad teams can show cohesion at times. Michigan has never had any in Amaker’s five years.

I don’t really care which direction the Athletic Department goes in if it does decide to bring in a new coach. It could go for a big name or try to pluck an up and comer from a mid-major. There have been so many programs that have reached a new stratosphere by bringing in an accomplished coach from a mid-major that it definitely seems worth looking into. Ohio State, much in the same way it attained the top football program in college football, brought in a relatively unknown coach to run the basketball program which has paid immediate dividends. There are solutions out there. It is up to Bill Martin and his staff to find those solutions. Unfortunately, the longer Amaker sticks round, the longer the fans have to watch him try to fit a square block into a round hole.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

2006 DIBS Awards

The Detroit Independent Baseball Scribes have issued the following press release:

DETROIT, Mich. — The Detroit Independent Baseball Scribes announced Tuesday (Nov. 28) the winners of the 2006 DIBS Awards. Shortstop Carlos Guillen was named the DIBS Player of the Year as voted on by DIBS members. Pitcher Kenny Rogers earned pitcher of the year honors with fellow starter Justin Verlander being recognized for his breakout season. In addition to the three regular season award winners, DIBS named Rogers its Postseason Performer.

Guillen earned the top honors after hitting .320 with 41 doubles while cracking the century mark in runs. The Tiger shortstop earned 13 first place votes and two second place votes.

Rogers posted a 17-8 record with a paltry 3.84 ERA, but that was the least of his contributions. His ability to teach and work with the young pitching staff proved equally as valuable to the Tigers run to a Wild Card. Rogers put an exclamation point on his season with three postseason wins, all shutouts while striking out 19 batters in 23.0 innings.

Verlander went 17-9 and a 3.63 ERA in his rookie campaign, tying Rogers for team lead in wins. He finished seventh in the American League in wins and ERA while earning Major League Baseball’s nod as Rookie of the Year.

Staff from 14 Tiger fan sites participated in the second annual award voting. Last year’s winners included Placido Polanco (Player), Jeremy Bonderman(Pitcher) and Chris Shelton (Breakout).

DIBS (Detroit Independent Baseball Scribes) are a collection of independent websites that cover the Detroit Tigers. Formed by Brian Borawski, Bill Ferris and Ryan Sosin in 2005 with the idea of uniting a community of fans and writers, DIBS is focused on improving and promoting the quality sports coverage taking place on the internet.

Player of the Year
(FP votes)
1. Carlos Gullen (14)
2. Magglio Ordonez (0)
3. Kenny Rogers (1)

Pitcher of the Year
(FP votes)
1. Kenny Rogers (9)
2. Justin Verlander (6)
3. Joel Zumaya (1)

Breakout Player of the Year
(FP votes)
1. Justin Verlander (9)
2. Joel Zumaya (5)
3. Curtis Granderson (2)

Postseason Performer
(FP votes)
1. Kenny Rogers (11)
2. Carlos Guillen (0)
3. Sean Casey (1)

The current members of DIBS:

Roar of the Tigers
Mack Avenue Tigers
Out of Bounds/Johnny Grubb
Sweatymen Endeavors
Wayne Fontes Experience
Beyond Boxscores
Daily Fungo
Detroit Tiger Tales
View From the Cheap Seats
Bless You Boys
Motown Sports Revival
Baseball by Paul
Mickey Tettleton Memorial Overpass
Leelanau Sports Guy
Detroit Tigers Weblog
Tigers Central

Here is how I voted:

Detroit Tigers Breakout Player of the Year

At the risk of being the only voter in the minority, I voted Joel Zumaya number one in this category. I guess that means that I think he should be the Rookie of the Year over Justin Verlander, too. Obviously that wasn’t going to happen. A starting pitcher always trumps a relief pitcher when it comes to head to head comparisons regardless of the merits of those comparisons. I don’t necessarily agree with that notion but that’s the way it is. My reasons for going with Zumaya are actually quite simple. I think he did his job significantly better than Justin Verlander did his job. I understand that starting pitchers throw more innings by a wide margin. I also understand that a starting pitcher has a much greater impact on a game than a relief pitcher. Every inning is as important as every other inning. If a starting pitcher throws six innings, he’ll have six times the impact on the game as a relief pitcher that throws one inning. However, nobody is going to say that Nate Robertson had a better season than Mariano Rivera in 2006. So, there is a point in which a relief pitcher, despite throwing less innings, can have a better season than a starting pitcher. The question is, at what point does that start? If you agree that Rivera had a better season than Robertson, then it doesn’t necessarily matter where it starts because the difference between Robertson and Rivera is almost exactly the same as the difference between Zumaya and Verlander. Check it out:


Nate Robertson----208.7------3.84------1.31------137----13-13
Mariano Rivera-----75.0------1.80--------.96--------55----5-5

Justin Verlander----186.0--------3.63------1.33------124-----17-9
Joel Zumaya----------83.3-------1.94-------1.18-------97------6-3

The belief that Verlander was the hands-down Rookie of the Year winner was widely held. I actually hadn’t heard any other candidates even discussed for the award after Jonathan Papelbon and Francisco Liriano were injured. Every time I’ve heard someone talk on TV about Verlander being the shoe-in for the ROY, I always wondered why nobody mentioned Zumaya. Zumaya did his job better than Verlander. Zumaya was more consistent while almost exclusively pitching in tight ball games. He held the Tigers bullpen together the entire season while Todd Jones and Fernando Rodney played “walk the leadoff man” as if it that was their job. For a rookie, Verlander had a great season. For an established major league pitcher, I think Verlander did his job slightly above average this season. He had a five-game stretch in June and July that really padded his season statistics. In those five starts, his ERA was .78 . That is remarkable. That was an important stretch for the Tigers no doubt. However, that accounted for only 1/6 of his starts this season. In his 25 other starts, his ERA was 4.27. Twenty-five starts have a heck of a lot more impact on a season than five starts. Zumaya’s ERA for the whole season was 1.94. It takes a tremendous level of consistency to pitch that well over 83 innings. As much as I enjoyed Verlander’s successful rookie season, I just think Zumaya did his job much better than Verlander did his. That’s why I have to give the Breakout Player of the Year award to Zoom-Zoom. I picked Marcus Thames over Granderson but either guy could really go there. I just thought phrase “break out” applied more to Thames since he had four seasons of anonymity before erupting for 26 home runs this season.

1) Joel Zumaya

2) Justin Verlander

3) Marcus Thames

Detroit Tigers Player of the Year

I made a post towards the end of the regular season lambasting Carlos Guillen for his porous defense. He really was awful defensively this year. His throws were frustratingly inaccurate. His fielding was marginal at best. I just had an uncomfortable feeling whenever the ball was hit to Guillen. I made the comment that people should not overlook his defense when considering him for Tiger of the Year. Unfortunately, there isn’t another contender even close to Guillen. He was more efficient and productive than any other Tiger by a long shot. Magglio Ordonez was the next most efficient and productive by a long shot. After that, it’s between Craig Monroe, Brandon Inge, Curtis Granderson, and Pudge Rodriguez. Placido Polanco was an important piece in 2006 but he missed close to 1/3 of the season. Despite a slow start, I have to go with Craig Monroe due to his run production and defense in left field. I could have gone with Kenny Rogers first but I only looked at batters for this category.

Here is how Guillen dominated the stat sheet:

Batting Average:

1 Carlos Guillen----.320
2 Pudge Rodriguez-.300
3 Magglio Ordonez-.298


1 Carlos Guillen----.920
2 Magglio Ordonez-.827
3 Craig Monroe-----.783


1 Carlos Guillen-----100
2 Curtis Granderson—90
3 Craig Monroe--------89


1 Carlos Guillen-----.400
2 Magglio Ordonez--.350
3 Curtis Granderson-.335


1 Carlos Guillen--------20
2 Curtis Granderson-----8
3 Pudge Rodriguez-----8

1) Carlos Guillen

2) Magglio Ordonez

3) Craig Monroe

Detroit Tigers Pitcher of the Year

This is by far the hardest category to judge. At some point in 2006, each Tigers starter was the best on the staff. Likewise, at some point in 2006, each Tigers starter was the worst on the staff. I have three spots for four deserving players. The four that I’m considering are Kenny Rogers, Joel Zumaya, Justin Verlander, and Jeremy Bonderman. Comparing Verlander and Bonderman yields some interesting results. Bonderman has Verlander beat in Games Started, WHIP, K’s, K/9, BB/9, Quality Starts, Home Runs allowed, Batting Average Against, and Losses. Verlander has Bonderman beat in Wins and ERA. I also think Verlander’s ERA is slightly misleading. His ERA over 25 of his 30 starts his season was 4.27. I understand that you can do the same thing for any pitcher to prove a point. But, in Verlander’s case, there really is something there. He was very good for part of the season but he was simply average for the vast majority of the season. The same can be said for Bonderman. I honestly have no idea who to choose out of those two. I have to go with Zumaya over both since I picked Zumaya over Verlander in the Breakout Player of the Year voting. I think I’ll cheat a bit and a give a tie for third place to Jeremy Bonderman and Justin Verlander. First and second place go to Kenny Rogers and Joel Zumaya although I’m not certain as to how the order should go. Rogers’ final ERA wasn’t that impressive at 3.84. But, he had the exact opposite five-game stretch that Verlander had. Over five games in June/July, Rogers posted an ERA of 11.14. In his 29 other starts, he posted a fantastic ERA of 3.00. Over his last ten starts of the regular season, Rogers posted an astounding 2.56 ERA. Rogers posted six wins after August 16. The Tigers as a team won only 16 games after August 16. Rogers was also the All-Star game starter. Other than that five-game stretch in June-July, Rogers truly had a remarkable season. I think Rogers had a bigger impact on 2006 than Joel Zumaya. So, I’m going with Kenny Rogers as the Tigers Pitcher of the Year (and that doesn’t even include the postseason!)

1) Kenny Rogers

2) Joel Zumaya

3) (tie) Jeremy Bonderman
3) (tie) Justin Verlander

Detroit Tigers Top Postseason Performer

This is the easiest category to rank. Kenny Rogers is easily the Playoff Performer of the Year. He turned in one of the finest playoff performances in MLB history. The second spot is a tough call between Jeremy Bonderman and Sean Casey. I have to give Casey the edge for his heroic performance in the World Series. “Bondo” was unbelievable in game four against the Yankees while his other two starts were pretty good. I don’t have much else to say about this except to thank Kenny Rogers and Sean Casey for showing up big-time in the World Series.

1) Kenny Rogers

2) Sean Casey

3) Jeremy Bonderman

Monday, November 27, 2006

Random Thoughts post-wholesome "Kramer" edition

  • Michigan State made an excellent hire by bringing in Mark Dantonio to coach the football team. He has Ohio roots which will help the Spartans tremendously on the recruiting scene. A lot had been made of the Spartans looking at Georgia Tech’s John Tenuta but Dantonio brings all of the things Tenuta would have brought and more.

  • I would rather watch Michigan play South Florida in the Rose Bowl than watch Michigan have to play Notre Dame again. How could it possibly be a good idea to set up a rematch between two teams when the road team won the first game by 26 points? Some reward for going 11-1 with a three point loss on the road against the number one team in the country.

  • The NBA MVP award is going to be won by Steve Nash for the third year in a row or LeBron James. My money is on LeBron.

  • I think the ACC is going to win the ACC/Big Ten challenge for the 8th year in a row. I think this will be the fifth time out of the eight years that the ACC will win by one game.

    ACC Wins:

    Maryland over Illinois
    Georgia Tech over Penn State
    Duke over Indiana
    Miami over Northwestern
    Virginia over Purdue
    Clemson over Minnesota

    Big Ten Wins:

    Michigan over NC State
    Wisconsin over Florida State
    Michigan State over Boston College
    Iowa over Virginia Tech
    Ohio State over North Carolina

  • The Houston Astros just pulled a “Ben Wallace” by handing $100 million over to Carlos Lee for six years. I still have the Chicago Bulls in the “who is going to be more disgusted with themselves in four years sweepstakes?” but the Astros are a close second. The most disturbing aspect of the signing was this comment by Lee, “I know this is a team where I have a good chance to win a championship.” If by “good chance” Lee means less than a 5% chance, then he is correct.

  • It looks like the Ford Clan is going to finally get rid of Matt Millen. I’m actually disappointed by this development. It looks like this will finally be the year that Millen achieved the coveted number one pick in the draft. That has been the envy of Lions fans for decades. I was hoping the Lions could go for the repeat next season but the dismissal of Millen will likely thwart those dreams.

  • I’m pretty sure the Super Bowl will include Indianapolis, San Diego, or Baltimore from the AFC and either Chicago, Dallas, or Carolina from the NFC. I don’t think New England can beat Indianapolis again until the Patriots find Tom Brady wide receivers that people have actually heard of. Carolina doesn’t look very strong right now but I think they’ll get things going in the last three weeks of the season. If I had to narrow it down right now, I’d go with either Indy or SD against Dallas. At least there will be some new blood this year.

  • If USC beats Ohio State in the BCS Championship game, then USC will be the preseason number one team next season. If USC loses to Ohio State, then I think Michigan will be the preseason number one team. As of right now, I expect the 2007 preseason top ten to look something like this:

    1) Michigan
    2) USC
    3) LSU
    4) Texas
    5) Louisville
    6) Florida
    7) West Virginia
    8) Arkansas
    9) Oklahoma
    10) Ohio State

  • I’m pretty sure the Miami Heat will win the NBA Championship again. I find it maddening that after a few weeks of basketball, just about every basketball analyst pulls out “the sky is falling” card for any good team that struggles early. There is no league in professional sports where the regular season means less than in the NBA. The Miami Heat couldn’t care less if it ends up the 8th seed or the 1st seed in the playoffs. Shaq is currently taking his annual mid-season vacation. All of his injuries will magically disappear come playoff time and the Heat will dominate a weak Eastern Conference. The Heat will either play San Antonio, Dallas, or Phoenix in the NBA Finals. My bet is on a Miami/San Antonio match-up with Miami repeating.

  • It has become cliché to say that a D-1 college football playoff will never happen. I guess if people hear things enough, they start to believe them. But, there will be a playoff. The SEC holds a lot of clout. Every year that the conference gets shafted by the BCS only exacerbates its anger towards the current system. As annoying as it is to hear Urban Meyer whine about Florida’s merits, coaches like him are the key to a playoff. If there is enough noise, the NCAA will have to move on it. The only question is how long it will take. I think there will be some form of a playoff (a minimum of a plus one system) within five years.

  • For the few of you out there (i.e. Billy Packer) that think the Missouri Valley Conference isn’t quickly becoming a “major” D-1 college basketball conference, wake up! The MVC deserved at least four teams in the NCAA Tournament last year and possibly more. It will get at least two bids for the eight straight season this year and probably more than the three bids that it got last season. It isn’t even December yet and the MVC has the following non-conference wins:

    Wichita St. 72 George Mason 66 @ George Mason
    Wichita St. 57 #6 LSU 53 @ LSU
    S. Illinois 69 Minnesota 53
    S. Illinois 69 Virginia Tech 64
    Creighton 58 George Mason 56
    Bradley 78 DePaul 58
    Bradley 101 Rutgers 72
    Missouri St. 66 #7 Wisconsin 64
    Illinois St. 78 St. John’s 65 @ St. John’s

  • I don’t mind an Ohio State/USC match-up in the BCS Championship game. What I do mind are the silly arguments that are floating around the media about USC deserving to be in the title game. First of all, Michigan didn’t “already have its chance” any more so than USC had its chance against Oregon State. Every other sports organization (NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL, D-1 basketball, D-II football, all high schools sports etc.) has a high likelihood of rematches. The idea that a regular season road game somehow constitutes a team’s “chance” is just a ridiculous excuse to support one’s belief that USC should be in the championship game. Someone said on TV that if Ohio State and Michigan play again and Michigan wins, Ohio State should go out and purchase championship rings because they will have gotten screwed. So I guess the Cincinnati Bengals should have made their own “Championship” rings because they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers last season in the NFL regular season but still had to play them again in the playoffs where they promptly lost the rematch. Or, maybe the 1989 Illinois Fighting Illini basketball team should have proclaimed itself the real National Champion because it beat Michigan twice during the regular season but lost in the tournament.

    Second, the fact that USC jumped Michigan in the polls is a bit ridiculous. Michigan already finished its season. Michigan already beat Notre Dame on the road by 26 points. USC beat Notre Dame by 20 points at home. If Michigan had any game against any caliber of team, USC probably wouldn’t have jumped Michigan in the polls. Perception and media fueled speculation are huge in college football. Just one week ago, Kirk Herbstreit was dead set on wanting to see a rematch. One week later, after USC beat Notre Dame in less dominating fashion than Michigan did, Herbstreit is leading the USC bandwagon. All of this despite Michigan not even playing this week. Had this happened during any other week of the season, USC would have stayed behind Michigan. Of course all of this just makes the fact that there is no playoff all the more absurd. Like I said, I don’t mind Michigan being left out. What I do mind are the vast amounts of illogical beliefs that seem to be mistaken for sound reasoning. Michigan would not beat Ohio State in a rematch. I don’t necessarily want to see a rematch. But, that doesn’t mean stupid arguments need to be masked as brilliant analysis.

  • Things change so much in just a matter of weeks in the sporting world. It was less than a month ago when the fellas on ESPN speculated that this season was going to mark a disastrous end to Bill Parcells’ coaching career. A Donovan McNabb season-ending injury and a couple Eli Manning meltdowns later, Dallas looks like a sure-bet to win the NFC East. The most interesting aspect of that whole scenario is the fact that Tony Romo is rapidly becoming a superstar. I’ve been hearing about this guy for three plus seasons in Dallas but never thought I’d actually get to see him play. Now it makes sense why Drew Henson didn’t last long in Dallas. Romo is going to be very good.

  • I’m going out on an unstable limb by saying this but I think the Big Ten will be the best basketball conference in America in two or three years. Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Indiana, and Purdue are all programs that have extremely bright futures. With Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa solid programs, the Big Ten just might become the premier conference in America again.

  • Somebody is going to get extremely lucky by drafting Troy Smith. He is not a college-only quarterback. There isn’t anything he isn’t above average at. I have heard projections that he will be no better than a second or third round selection. If I’m an NFL team in need of a quarterback, I don’t care if I have the first pick in the draft, I am taking Troy Smith.

  • Does anyone feel comfortable ranking Georgia Tech’s Calvin Johnson, USC’s Dwayne Jarrett, and Ohio State’s Ted Ginn in order? I don’t. Teams might literally have to split hairs to differentiate between those three come NFL draft day.

  • If Bobby Bowden steps down and the Florida State, Miami (FL) and Alabama coaching jobs are open a) would Steve Spurrier be crazy to turn all three down and b) if he did decide to leave South Carolina for one of those schools, which school should he pick? I have no clue where I’d begin on that one.

  • At first, I thought the NBA minimum age rule was going to hurt the “mid-majors” because that meant the majors were going to get an influx of supreme talent that would have otherwise gone to the NBA straight out of high school. However, the big-time schools that recruit the “one and done” players will always be stuck with young teams and more “rebuilding” teams than in years passed. That leaves the door open for senior-laden mid-majors to take advantage of their experience. One of the great things about college sports is seeing players start off as kids and maturing physically and emotionally. The minimum age rule does nothing to enhance that experience so I have to say that the rule does nothing to help the NCAA which is in stark contrast to how I felt when the rule was initially put into play.

  • The first team to wrap up a “lock” for the 2007 NCAA Tournament is none other than Butler. Here is what Butler has done in November en route to a 7-0 record while being ranked 8th by the RPI:

    Butler 71 Notre Dame 69 @ Notre Dame
    Butler 60 Indiana 55
    Butler 56 #21 Tennessee 44 @ Tennessee
    Butler 79 #23 Gonzaga 71
    Butler 83 Kent State 80

    That is by far the most remarkable non-conference run I have ever seen by a mid-major this early in a season. Though, no mid-major will ever equal George Mason’s run in the NCAA Tournament last year.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Simulated Gambling Week 13

Although I do have something to play for, these last couple weeks will have a hollow feel to them. Simply hoping to finish above .500 is the equivalent of Miami (FL) going all out this week to secure a bowl bid. I’m sure the Miami players couldn’t care less about playing in the Burger King Bowl or wherever they’ll end up if they beat BC this week. Likewise, I have no interest in trying to put a good face on finishing a couple games over .500. This season has been a disappointment. I don’t think there is any doubt that parity ruled in college football this season. That certainly is not a good development for gamblers. However, it is a fantastic development for schools like Wake Forest, Arizona, Missouri, Kentucky, and Oregon State among others. There will be a lot of unfamiliar names participating in the 2006 Bowl Season.

Season record to date: 88-85-6

(Home team in CAPS; My picks in Bold)

Boston College -4 MIAMI (FL)

I’ve been going with the “Miami still has sweet athletes to keep the games close” reasoning for the latter part of the season. That has gotten me nothing. So, I’ll try going against Miami. BC is a good team. My only concern is that Miami has a chance to make a bowl game if it wins. I can’t imagine the motivation to just “make any bowl game” is too high right now.

Ohio -4 MIAMI (OH)

I love seeing banished coaches pop up someplace obscure only to have success. You can file Frank Solich’s name under that category. Ohio has been the best team in the MAC this season. Miami (OH) is just uncharacteristically bad this year. But consider that Miami has lost games by 2, 3, 3, and 3 points this season. It hasn’t exactly been uncompetitive.

TEXAS -13 Texas A&M

Texas A&M has lost by 4, 1, and 1 this season. The Aggies are six points from entering the Texas game undefeated. Records aside, Texas should roll in this game.


I’ll take Arkansas straight up playing at home. This game should be close though.

Air Force -10 UNLV

Air Force has disappointed after narrowly losing at Tennessee to start the season. UNLV isn’t a good team though so I’ll go with AF putting up a lot of points.

MARYLAND -1 Wake Forest

I have to give credit to Ralph Friedgen for having the Terrapins ready to play this year. But, I think Wake is the better team.


For some inexplicable reason, Oklahoma gets zero respect from the odds-makers. I’ve made a killing off of Sooners games lately considering they are almost always favored by too little. This week is no different. The Sooners are 7-2 in their last nine games ATS (against the spread). I’m sticking with the hot hand.

New Mexico State -6 UTAH STATE

One thing I’ve been certain about all season is that Utah State is really bad. New Mexico State is just bad. The difference between really bad and bad should be at least six points.


FSU lost to Wake Forest 30-0. That might be the score of the year.

Brigham Young -11 UTAH

BYU has been killing teams too a la Oklahoma. BYU is 9-1-1 ATS this season. That has to be some sort of record. The Cougars should roll.

Cincinnati -4 CONNECTICUT

Only the Big East can have a team destroy the conference’s top team and then have that same team as mere four point favorites over Connecticut. I’ll take Cincinnati to not have a bad hangover from last week’s mauling of Rutgers.

Louisville -12 PITTSBURGH

If anyone has any doubts as to the merits of Pitt’s defense, re-watch the Backyard Brawl.

CLEMSON -5 South Carolina

Clemson kills bad teams and plays in tight games against any team with a pulse (with the exception of Ga. Tech). South Carolina has a pulse.

USC -7.5 Notre Dame

I love it how nobody remembers USC’s near losses to Arizona State, Washington State, and Washington. There is no question that USC is a good team but I would bet a substantial amount of money that Michigan would have its way with USC.

Boise State -3 NEVADA

Boise State has one more hurdle to finish undefeated and earn a bid to a BCS game. Winning at Nevada will be no small feat but I’m pretty sure it’s going to happen.

HAWAII -16 Purdue
When Hawaii is favored by 16 over Purdue, you know the Big Ten isn’t very deep. I just think a mid-tier Big Ten team should be able to hang within 16 points of Hawaii.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Rematch 101

Now that The Game of the Year/Decade/Century/Millennium (whichever you prefer) is in the books, the talk now turns to the topic of a rematch. That subject somewhat overshadowed the lead-up to the game but many people opted not to talk about the inevitable until after Saturday as not to take away from The Game I. Now, there is no avoiding the subject. Everybody has a viewpoint. You’re either for a rematch or against it. College football fans are divided almost straight down the middle. In an ESPN poll of over 250,000 voters, the breakdown is 51/49 against a rematch. However, ESPN has run a different poll asking readers to vote on which team Ohio State should play in the National Championship game. With over 320,000 respondents (wow!), Michigan is far and away the winner with 37% of the vote. Michigan had 32,000 more votes than the next closest team which is USC. I broached this subject back in October and concluded that the odds of a rematch were significantly higher than anyone was admitting. At the time, I suggested that the odds of a rematch were at the very least 25% with a good possibility of being higher. If you had listened to the talking heads on ESPN, you would have been convinced that a rematch was an impossibility. I think a lot of that had to do with people not wanting a rematch. There is no doubt in my mind that personal agendas fueled the underestimation. How fun can it be for a college football fan from the South to watch two Big Ten teams play a rematch for the BCS National Championship game?

Things became a whole lot more interesting when the post-Ohio State/Michigan game BCS Standings were released. To the shock of many, Michigan remained number two. I can understand people not wanting to watch a rematch of The Game but I can’t understand people not realizing that there is and was a strong possibility that there will be a rematch. School affiliation should not usurp facts and logic. That happened leading up to The Game and, in a way, it is happening now. Almost every college football analyst on TV (with the exception of Mark May) admits that Ohio State and Michigan are the top two teams in the country. Yet many, having admitted that, still don’t think there should be a rematch. The BCS Formula was put into place to identify the top two teams. It was not put into place to avoid rematches. If fans, analysts, and coaches don’t like what the BCS produces, then they should scream for a playoff. There are many playoff advocates out there but, shockingly, there are many analysts against a playoff. Bob Davie said during The Game, “If there was a playoff, then Michigan and Ohio State would be resting their starters in this game so be careful what you ask for.” That logic is absurd for anyone that has given the idea of a playoff more than three seconds of thought. 95% of the time, Ohio State and Michigan would be playing for a spot in the playoff. Even in a crazy year like this season when both teams would probably make the playoff, both teams would still have plenty to play for in home-field advantage which is huge in college football and the Big Ten Title which is such an enormous focus of both programs. It almost seems like anti-playoff-ites go out of their way to make up reasons against a playoff but that’s an issue for another day.

Back to the possibility of a rematch. In my opinion, the odds of a rematch are about 50%. Michigan’s razor thin advantage over USC would probably disappear if USC beats Notre Dame this week. A USC win would likely prompt a few extra votes to come USC’s way in the polls and a slight increase in the computer rankings which could easily be enough to overtake Michigan. I think the USC/Notre Dame game is a toss-up. Both teams are pretty similar skill-wise. Plus, Notre Dame still thinks it has a shot at the BCS Championship game (it has no shot) so it will be sufficiently motivated. If USC wins, then the Trojans are going to Tempe to play Ohio State. If Notre Dame wins, then I think the rematch is on. I have talked to some people that believe that Florida winning out (over Florida State and Arkansas) may be enough to overtake Michigan. Michigan has a pretty substantial lead right now over Florida. The Gators will not get much help by beating a bad Florida State team. A victory over Arkansas would be huge but the pollsters would have to jump Florida over Michigan which would be a tall order considering Michigan doesn’t play again and just lost to Ohio State on the road by three points. I have to admit, though, that there is a chance that Florida could jump Michigan in the BCS Standings. I just don’t think it’s a good chance. In my opinion, Arkansas is too far behind to jump Michigan. That is to say nothing about Arkansas’ ability and resume. Based solely on how far Arkansas is behind Michigan in the polls, computers rankings and BCS Standings, I think Arkansas is out.

I am not without reservations with regards to a rematch. But, those reservations have nothing to do with it not being fair to other teams. I couldn’t care less whether Florida, Notre Dame, USC, Arkansas and West Virginia don’t get a rematch. That has nothing to do with being callous either. If a team deserves to be there, then I want them there. The BCS is the current system used to crown the National Champion. The goal of the BCS is to pit the two best teams in the country against each other at the end of the season. However stupid the BSC is, that is the prevailing method presently in use. I don’t feel sorry for any team that lost to Oregon State or USC by 36 or Auburn or Louisville or any other team. There isn’t a team in the country that has a better loss than Michigan’s three point loss at Ohio State. That is why Michigan is number two in the standings. Urban Meyer can whine all he wants about it not being fair but what argument does he have? Michigan already had its chance? Well so did Florida. It lost to a decent Auburn team. It also barely squeaked by Tennessee, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt. Michigan didn’t “squeak by” anyone. Every team has had a chance to make the BCS Championship game this season. And every team has blown that chance. There are nine one-loss teams right now and any one of those teams that think it deserves to be in the BCS Championship game is not thinking clearly. Meyer obviously wants his team to be in the Championship game but it certainly doesn’t deserve to be there. Michigan probably doesn’t even deserve to be there. Michigan had a shot at Ohio State and didn’t take advantage of it. It just turns out that there isn’t another team more deserving than Michigan. That is why Michigan is currently number two in the BCS Standings. I can understand college football analysts, coaches and fans not wanting a rematch but that doesn’t mean all logic needs to be abandoned.

The reservations that I do have are all about Ohio State. If a rematch is unfair to anyone then it is unfair to Ohio State. If Ohio State and Michigan play again and Michigan wins, then that win would be worth the National Championship while Ohio State’s win would be worth nothing. Everyone knows that in a rematch there is such a tremendous advantage for the team that lost the first game. Granted, Ohio State had the luxury of home-field advantage and only beat Michigan by three. Home-field advantage in college football is equal to a little bit more than three points. Is it fair to Michigan that it had to play at Ohio State in a game of that magnitude? A regular season game played on the road is not the same as a Championship game played at a neutral site. So, while I do feel that a rematch would be unfair to Ohio State, I also think that judging Michigan’s performance against Ohio State on the road is also unfair. If I were Ohio State, I would be adamant against a rematch. If I were Michigan, I would be an advocate of a rematch. There are many compelling arguments on both sides. I just don’t think there are many compelling arguments for any other team.

An interesting subplot that may become extremely relevant down the road is the fact that the AP Poll has Michigan ranked number two while the BCS Polls (USA Today and Harris) have Michigan ranked number three (behind USC). What happens if Ohio State plays USC in the BCS Championship game? The number one and three teams in the AP Poll would be playing for the National Championship. If USC wins, then Michigan would be next in line in the AP Poll. We could be looking at a split National Championship between Michigan and USC. Wouldn’t that be crazy? That would be like 1993 all over again when Florida State won the National Championship despite losing to a one-loss Notre Dame. In this scenario, Michigan would win the National Championship (split NC) despite losing to a one-loss Ohio State team. This is the type of season that acts as a catalyst for a playoff. You can bet that a rematch would prompt at least five universities to demand a playoff. Slowly but surely, more schools jump aboard the pro-playoff platform. It’s only a matter of time.

Here’s a short guide to show what fans of certain teams need to root for.

Ohio State: You don’t need to root for anything. There isn’t a team in the country that can beat Ohio State as long as the Buckeyes bring at least their “B” game.

Michigan: Root for Notre Dame to beat USC. If that is against your religion, you can always root for UCLA to beat USC but I can tell you that’s not going to happen. You could always root against USC instead of for Notre Dame. You also need to root for Florida to lose to Arkansas or Florida State to all but guarantee Michigan’s place in the BCS Championship game. Although, I don’t think Florida makes it even if it wins both games.

USC: You need USC to beat Notre Dame somewhat convincingly (remember, Michigan clobbered Notre Dame so the pollsters may take a close win over Notre Dame as a negative) and just hope that is enough. I think it will be. Win and you’re probably in.

Florida: You need Notre Dame to beat USC and then you need Florida to clobber Florida State and destroy Arkansas. Narrow wins probably won’t get it done.

Arkansas: I’m sorry to say this but you need USC to lose to Notre Dame, Arkansas to beat LSU and Florida, and you need Michigan to be brought up on charges by the NCAA. All talk of fairness aside, Arkansas just won’t be able to make up the ground. I think that is an inevitability. Assuming Arkansas beats Florida and finishes 12-1, the Razorbacks become the 2006 posterchilds for a playoff.

Notre Dame: See results of 9-16 game against Michigan.

West Virginia: Sorry to burst your bubble but the Mountaineers are just too far behind.

Louisville: See West Virginia.

Rutgers: See Louisville.

One last thing…..There are four at-large selections for the BCS bowls. Three of those teams will likely be Michigan, Notre Dame, and Boise State. If Ohio State and USC play for the BCS Championship game, the Rose Bowl would get the first two selections since it would have lost both the Big Ten and Pac-10 Champions to the BCS Championship. The fourth BCS at-large selection would probably be the winner of the Florida/Arkansas game or West Virginia/Louisville. The Rose Bowl could very well decide to choose the two teams with the largest national following. That happens to be Michigan and Notre Dame. That is a rematch that would make me sick to my stomach. I’m not even sure I would watch that game. It looks like Michigan is going to play in a rematch in January. It’s either going to be against a team it lost to by three on the road, or against a team it beat by 26 on the road.

Lions come up big

Words cannot describe the enormity of the Lions loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. Had the Lions pulled out a win over the Cardinals, they would have been two games behind Arizona for the worst record in the NFL. Instead, the Lions pulled even and now have the inside track to finish dead last in the NFL standings.

Sunday was a huge day for the Lions aside from their important loss to the Cardinals. Miami, Tennessee, and Tampa Bay all lost leaving the Lions in a three-way tie for the worst record in the NFL with Oakland and Arizona. Since the tie-breaker for draft position is “Strength of Schedule”, the Lions are in fantastic position. They’ve done everything they’ve needed to do and then some to get the number one overall pick. Right now, the Lions’ “Strength of Schedule” (.473) is substantially lower than both the Cardinals (.500) and the Raiders (.516). The Lions are in the enviable position of not having to play four or six games against the AFC West which is a luxury that the Cardinals and Raiders don’t have.

As long as the Lions keep their focus on losing, they will have all the tiebreak advantages if a tiebreak scenario arises. The Cowboys proved yesterday with their win over the Colts that nothing is “written in stone” in the NFL. But, with a little intestinal fortitude and some untimely mental breakdowns, the Lions should easily waltz into the 2007 NFL Draft with the first overall pick. That hasn’t happened since the Lions took Billy Sims number one overall in the 1980 draft. It’s not like the Lions haven’t made good runs at the number once pick. They’ve just come up short time and time again. The Lions have had 13 top-10 draft picks since 1980 but none were the first overall.

Top Ten Overall Draft Picks since 1981 (by #)


The Lions have been just good enough to avoid getting the number one selection. I am confident that this is the year they are rewarded for their ineptness. Judging from the last 26 years, it seems as though William Clay Ford has been tirelessly trying to achieve the number one overall pick again. I think his persistence is going to finally pay off. The Lions have the luxury of playing their remaining six games against teams with a combined record of 34-26. The major obstacles are going to be at Green Bay where the Lions haven’t won since 1991 (0-15 in that timeframe), the Joey Harrington Bowl at Ford Field on Thanksgiving Day, and the Artose Pinner Bowl at Ford Field on December 10. Both Miami and Minnesota are 4-6 and have shown signs of incompetence this season. Miami has been on a roll lately having beaten Chicago, Kansas City and Minnesota in its last three games. Joey Quarterback should be sufficiently motivated on Turkey Day.

The Vikings scare me a bit. They have shown a strong affinity for the “L” by losing four games in a row. If they don’t “right the ship” by December 10, the Lions could be looking at an unexpected win which could dash their hopes for the number one pick. The rest of the schedule (New England, Chicago, and Dallas) should be “gimmes.” If all of this sounds familiar, you may remember this post from last season. Unfortunately, the Lions heartbreakingly pulled out an overtime win against the New Orleans Saints which moved them from the second overall pick to the ninth overall pick. I am extremely optimistic that the Lions can accomplish their equivalent of the Super Bowl this season. The number one pick has eluded them for so many years that this is bound to be the year. I can just feel it.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Goodbye, Bo.

The ultimate Michigan Man, Bo Schembechler, has left the building. I took for granted that Bo would be around forever. That is a mistake that I make too often. Each time it happens, I vow to do something about it but I keep ending up back at the same place. Bo was steering the Michigan football program when I was first introduced to it. He has been "The Godfather" of the Michigan coaching staff since 1969. The program may not have returned to greatness if it wasn't for his influence. His affect on Michigan football was everything Hayes was to Ohio State. Hayes has had the benefit of having legendary status over Bo but that is simply due to his untimely death in 1987. Had Schembechler died 20 years ago, he too would have been immortalized. It shouldn't take someone to die before they are remembered the way they should be. That is a vice of mine that I find rather embarassing. Goodbye, Bo and thanks for introducing me to Michigan football. Go Blue!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Game

There is a college football game coming up on Saturday that just might be the most hyped game, of any sport, in American sports history. The outcome of this game concerns every top ten college football team in the country. Coaches from Pete Carroll to Charlie Weiss have vested interest in the outcome. This game will have a substantial impact on the BCS National Championship game as well as the other BCS bowl games. It will also have an affect on virtually all national college football interests including but not limited to; the Heisman Trophy and the other major college football awards (i.e. Thorpe, O’Brien, Butkus, and Bear Bryant awards), the status of a college football playoff, the national recruiting scene, and the national recruiting scene. This game has a chance to unseat all previous “Game of the Century” occurrences in both pre-game buildup and the actual quality of the game. So, I encourage everyone to tune in for another classic match-up in the storied rivalry of USC vs. California.

Since my words will only fall embarrassingly short of capturing the enormity of the USC/Cal match-up this week, I’ll avoid any further hyperbole. The game is big. You know it. I know it. So let’s just leave it at that.

I would, however, like to talk about another big game this week that is flying “under the radar” so to speak. Ohio State and Michigan are playing once again in a late-season rivalry game. While most of the country will surely be focused on the USC/Cal game, I’ll be tuned in to the outcome of the battle of the Big Ten’s elite. Here are some random thoughts that I have about this game:

• While Troy Smith is a fantastic quarterback, he will not be the reason why Michigan loses if it, in fact, loses. Michigan must contain Ted Ginn from going deep and Anthony Gonzalez from breaking wide open over the middle on third and long. Those are the plays that make Ohio State unbeatable if not stopped. If Ohio State can’t throw early, it will have a problem. In my opinion, Ohio State's only chance to run effectively is to establish the pass early. So Michigan’s secondary will have to play well right off the bat or its entire defensive game-plan may unravel.

• Michigan will be able to run the ball better than in previous years against OSU but it won’t be anything like Timmy B. in 1995. Obviously, nothing will ever be like Timmy B. in ‘95 but Mike Hart will get a lot of five yard gains all afternoon. Hart will not gash the OSU defense for big gain after big gain. There is almost no chance of that happening. That means Michigan will face a lot of third downs in the red zone. Michigan must turn trips in the red zone into touchdowns. Field goals don’t win this game.

• Troy Smith will run. He has developed into more of a “pure” passer this year but that’s because he hasn’t needed to run. If Michigan does a good job of covering Ginn and Gonzalez, Smith will take off. If Michigan doesn’t have a plan for containment, Smith will have another big day on the ground.

• Michigan will not play as conservative as in past years against OSU. Lloyd Carr has seen over the last five years that Jim Tressel is the master of winning with a conservative game plan. Carr knows that playing close to the sweater-vest is a recipe for disaster against OSU. Michigan must score touchdowns through the passing game to win.

• If Chad Henne gets rattled early, it could be a long day for Michigan. When Henne has time to throw, he can be lethal. When he is hurried, he “freaks out” and abandons the play. If the Michigan O-Line can give him time, Henne will have a much better day than his last two meetings.

• Michigan must use the middle of the field. Ohio State is too talented on defense to run and throw short routes all day long. They will force Michigan to beat them over the middle. If Michigan doesn’t, Ohio State will stack the line and overplay the wide receivers. Ohio State will surely use the middle of the field. That’s how you beat a good defense. The team that does it most effectively will win.

• Michigan has to blitz often and do it differently throughout the game. Michigan’s front four has not shown it can get to the quarterback consistently on a four-man rush. If Michigan lets Troy Smith sit back in the pocket while only facing a four-man rush, Smith will find the open receiver or take off if the pocket breaks down. Michigan has to cautiously blitz Smith throughout the game. What I mean by “cautiously” is that it cannot let Smith break containment.

• Whether it’s Zoltan Mesko or Ross Ryan, Michigan’s punter has to either kick the ball out of bounds or kick it 50+ yards. This game could end on one bad change of possession. Obviously this makes it even more imperative for Michigan to avoid three and outs deep in its own zone but that’s important regardless of the opponent. Ohio State especially thrives on starting drives with excellent field position. Michigan does not have that same advantage. Punting will be huge.

• Against Ohio State’s fast defense, the slip screens and other parallel to the line of scrimmage passes won’t work. Michigan needs to throw the ball downfield. Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington are very good at getting open 8 to 10 yards down the field. Michigan must take advantage of that or it will lose.

• Lloyd Carr’s legacy does not ride on the outcome of this game. He is one of the few figures in sports that will end his/her career with dual legacies. To some, he kept the Michigan football program from reaching elite status by losing to inferior opponents far too often. To others, his National Championship and ability to keep the program competitive is a lifetime pass to greatness. Neither side will change based on the outcome of this game. There will be articles written before and after the game about how this game might seal Carr’s legacy etc. None of that is true. His legacies have been sealed for a few years now.

• This game will probably have as much impact on the recruiting scene as it does on the college football world—and that’s saying something. If Tressel can boast to potential recruits that Ohio State is 5-1 against Michigan, then that will be a significant advantage over Michigan in the recruitment of elite high school prospects. It is true that no one game plays a big-time factor in where a recruit decides to play. That is a notion that erroneously exists among novice followers of recruiting. However, wins and losses over the long haul do have a significant impact on where a kid chooses to play college football. Michigan can erase five years of inferiority to the Buckeyes and establish itself as the elite program in college football once again with a win, or it can fall further behind the other elite teams in the country in terms of national perception among high school recruits. This game is huge for Michigan’s ability to recruit in Ohio and Michigan. Although, the affects won’t be noticeable for at least a year or two.

I will avoid a prediction on this game like the plague. In fact, I haven’t even formed a prediction in my own mind. I will say that I have enjoyed the last week of anticipation. Soon, the game will be over and millions of people will be really happy and millions of people will be crushed. That’s why I think that the “build-up” is the most special part of this rivalry. At least for 48 more hours, everyone is happy (unless You Are Penn State). Too bad sports can’t just be one giant build-up. That would be like Heaven I guess.

Alright, in the last ten seconds I’ve changed my mind. In the interest of providing good, compelling material, I will make a prediction on this colossal match-up. I wanted to avoid ruining my enjoyment of the game but my competitive spirit got the best of me. Here goes nothing: USC 21 California 20

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Simulated Gambling Week 12

I feel good about my picks this week. I have absolutely no reason to feel that way. It's just an irrational belief that this is finally the week that I will break through. I went with a lot of large-spread favorites which is risky but I think that teams like BYU, Hawaii, Navy and Boise State (at home) can put up 50+ this week. I knew the Ohio State/Michigan game would be something like six or seven but it still surprises me to see it in print. I will avoid making predictions on that game to preserve my own enjoyment come Saturday but I do think there is a better than 50/50 chance that this game will not result in Michigan losing by more than seven points.

Season record to date: 83-79-3

(Home team in CAPS; My picks in Bold)

BYU -25 New Mexico

I don't know how BYU got to be so dominant but they destroy every team they play. I wouldn't mind seeing a BYU-Hawaii match-up in a bowl game.

Rutgers -6.5 CINCINNATI

Rutgers is undefeated, right?

Virginia Tech -1.5 WAKE FOREST

Despite how bad Florida State had been playing, I was still shocked to see Wake Forest win 30-0. This game could go either way but this is a vote against Wake Forest going 10-1. Is that even possible? I guess we'll find out soon enough.

Missouri -14 IOWA STATE

Who hasn't beaten Iowa State by 14 points lately?

NAVY -31 Temple

I bet Navy is absolutely giddy at the thought of playing Temple.


This spread is a little harder to gage because there is the whole "respect for the academies" thing that could play into this late in the game. You don't necessarily want to be the guy who runs up the score against a service academy. But, I think Charlie Weiss is the guy to do that.

BOISE STATE -36.5 Utah State

Ian Johnson or no Ian Johnson, Boise State should crush Utah State.

OHIO STATE -7 Michigan

Really? Michigan was 30 seconds from winning last year. This year's team is so much better in every conceivable way. I guess we'll see how much better Ohio State is than last year.

LSU -27 Mississippi

LSU's "D" should keep be enough to cover the spread.


I'm a little surprised at this line. Arkansas has been killing teams and Mississippi State is terrible.

Miami (FL) -2.5 VIRGINIA

Miami has been really bad but I don't think it's "lose to Virginia" bad.

BOSTON COLLEGE -7.5 Maryland

Maryland is no joke.

USC -6 California

Cal was obviously looking ahead to its showdown with USC. That may have cost the Bears a shot at the BCS Championship but that doesn't affect their chances against USC.

HAWAII -23.5 San Jose State

I'm on a role with these guys so I'm sticking with them until I lose.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Odds of going undefeated week 12

Louisville’s shocking loss to Rutgers leaves the Scarlet Knights as the only BCS Championship game candidate left in the Big East. Even if Rutgers beats West Virginia, there is virtually no chance that Rutgers will play for the National Championship. Combine that with losses by Auburn, Texas, and California and the chances of a rematch of The Game are probably hovering around 50% right now. Florida, Arkansas, and USC are probably the only three teams that can prevent that from happening. If Arkansas beats LSU and Florida, it would have a legitimate shot at passing the loser of The Game. If USC beats California and Notre Dame, it too would have a legitimate shot at passing the loser of The Game. Florida has the easiest road of the three with games against Florida State and Arkansas. Even if one of those teams wins out, there is no guarantee that it will jump the loser of The Game.

The quality of work (computer rankings, impressive wins etc.) by Ohio State and Michigan is so much better than the rest of the country that it would be hard to rationalize putting a one-loss team with a loss to Oregon State (USC) or a 36 point defeat (Arkansas) in the BCS Championship game. It could happen but pollsters will have the final say since they make up 66% of the equation. If they drop the loser of The Game below USC, Arkansas, or Florida, then a rematch is less likely but still very possible. Even if the loser of The Game does fall behind those teams, there is a good chance that all three will lose again. Don’t be surprised if the loser of The Game, assuming that it is not a blowout, shows up at number two.

Top 4
(Odds of going undefeated)

1 Boise State-----75.00%
2 Ohio State-----60.00%
3 Michigan-------40.00%
4 Rutgers---------27.78%

Teams that dropped from last week’s list (along with pre-season rank in terms of odds): #7 Louisville

Biggest Jump (percentage): Rutgers +16.67 %

Current overall chance of undefeated team(s) (100%=1 undefeated team, 200%=2 undefeated teams etc.): 202.78%

Odds that current one-loss teams will win out:

1 Louisville--------57.42%
2 Wisconsin------49.50%
3 Notre Dame----47.03%
4 W. Virginia-----39.38%
5 Florida----------33.00%
6 USC-------------20.83%
7 Arkansas--------18.75%
8 Wake Forest----12.50%

Three Most Likely BCS Championship Match-ups:

1) Michigan vs. Ohio State

2) Michigan/Ohio State winner vs. Arkansas/Florida winner (in SEC Championship game)

3) Michigan/Ohio State winner vs. USC

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Short Order Sheff

Isn’t it great that the Tigers are players in MLB now? Dave Dombrowski just made the first big move of free agency by acquiring Gary Sheffield. I’ve thought all along that Sheffield would be a perfect fit for the Tigers. His On Base Percentage (OBP) is very good and his power numbers are even better. Now the Tigers can throw together a Gary Sheffield-Magglio Ordonez-Carlos Guillen trifecta that will scare even the best pitching staffs. When I first heard the news on Friday afternoon, I was ecstatic. I was without internet and I caught the tail-end of a channel 4 news tease about the Tigers acquiring Gary Sheffield. I called everyone I knew to find out who the Tigers gave up but couldn’t get a hold of anyone. I had heard a rumor about Wil Ledezma for Sheffield straight up. I was hoping that was the deal (nothing against Ledezma). On the way to dinner, I heard the particulars of the trade on the radio and my jaw hit the floor. I was shocked. Sheffield is a 38-year old injury prone DH who just recently had is option picked up by the Yankees for the sole purpose of trading him. It would be hard for a team to have any less leverage in trade talks.

Yet, the Tigers coughed up Humberto Sanchez, Kevin Whelan, and Anthony Claggett before the off-season was two weeks old. Most of the Tigers fans that are overjoyed with this trade don’t know a whole lot about the three prospects. While Sanchez had to be shutdown due to some arm concerns this season, he was one of the top prospects in all of baseball which includes starting the Futures Game. All season long, he was the primary trade bait for the Tigers. He was supposed to be the key to bringing in a difference maker. I just always thought the difference maker would have more than two or three years max left as a major leaguer. Kevin Whelan would have made a perfect 8th inning guy to team with Joel Zumaya. Anthony Claggett is the least known of the three but he was stellar this season in the minors. I really think Whelan will end up being a great late-inning pitcher.

I wasn’t involved in the trade discussions. I don’t know how many offers the Yankees got for Sheffield. But, I can’t imagine teams were throwing anything close to what the Tigers were putting out there considering how little the Yankees had in leverage. It is certainly true that Dombrowski built up the farm system with pitching so he could make trades like this one. That has been the goal all along. I am just concerned with cashing in three very talented prospects for a two or three year player. General Mangers in MLB are forced to balance the “win-now” mentality with the “plan for the future” mantra. It is not an easy task by any means. The Tigers needed to improve their offensive firepower and discipline and there is no question that Sheffield will do that. My question isn’t whether the Tigers got better—there is no question that they did. I just hate knowing that three years from now, the Tigers will have nothing from the trade and the Yankees will have Humberto Sanchez, Kevin Whelan, and Anthony Claggett. This seems like a trade that would have been more than good enough for a young first baseman like Mark Teixeira.

Twenty-four hours after the trade, I was much more comfortable with the move not because of what the Tigers gave up but because Sheffield is going to hurt teams next season. He immediately improves the patience of the offense. The Tigers will be able to work the count better which will lead to scoring more runs. I’m giddy at the thought of seeing the Tigers dominating pitching rotation teamed with an elite offense. Too many times last season the Tigers offense was stymied by good and bad pitchers alike. The Tigers got better with this trade which is what is most important.

One of the encouraging byproducts of this trade (other than the fact that the Tigers now have Gary Sheffield) is that the Tigers probably aren’t done. This is pure speculation but I highly doubt that the Tiger would strike this early in the off-season with a deal and remain dormant for the next five months. I believe that the swiftness in which this trade was done means the Tigers are going to add another player. I would not be surprised if they made a run at Carlos Lee, Alfonso Soriano or someone else to make this an even more impressive off-season. I don’t think they’ll make another trade although I could be wrong. The next prospects/players in line for a trade are likely to be Jair Jurrjens, Jordan Tata, and possibly Nate Robertson and Craig Monroe. If the Tigers make another trade, they’ll have to part with some, if not all, of those players. I just don’t see them skimming off the top of the prospect list after giving up three very good pitching prospects last week. Plus, one more excellent minor league campaign from Jurrjens will put his trade value at an all-time high. I also don’t see the Tigers wanting to give up players like Robertson and Monroe who almost certainly would not bring back fair value in trade. That’s why I think they’ll go after someone hard in free agency.

I am not convinced, though, that the Tigers are specifically targeting a first baseman. As most of you know, I have been a big advocate of Sean Casey. I suggested the Tigers should make a trade for him earlier in the season and was subsequently thrilled when a trade occurred. His regular season numbers weren’t great but if you watched every game like I did, you saw that he rarely struck out and consistently hit the ball harder than anyone on the team. It seemed like whenever he really got a hold of a ball, it went right to an outfielder. There is no question it was frustrating to see his batting average tank but it was obvious that he was putting together good at-bats. His performance in the World Series was nothing short of amazing. Casey is somewhere in the middle of what he did in the regular season and that stellar World Series display. The Tigers should definitely consider re-signing Casey if he comes at a reasonable price. There are at least 10 players in MLB that I’d rather have at first base than Casey but if none of those guys are available it would be silly to let Casey go. He is patient and he is a lefty. That is a tough combination to come by in MLB. Don’t be surprised if the Tigers end up keeping Casey. It would not be such a bad thing. Plus, it would mean the Tigers could go after Soriano or Lee without sacrificing the first base position.

As surprised as I was about what the Tigers had to give up to acquire Sheffield, I am thrilled that he is a Tiger. He is going to make a huge difference next season assuming he stays healthy. Immediately after the Tigers lost in the World Series, I was looking forward to the off-season festivities. Those festivities have gotten off to a great start. I’m just waiting for Dombrowski’s next move because I know it is coming sooner or later. This team is one great bat away from being vastly improved which is saying quite a bit for a team that just played in the World Series.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Simulated Gambling Week 11

The ship is sinking fast. It’s amazing how much things can change in one week. I was dreaming of being 20 games over .500 just a few days ago. Now, I’m barely treading water. My best bet at finishing above .500 on the season is probably canceling this whole experiment yesterday. But that’s not going to happen because I have too much pride to go out like that. I’d rather finish below .500 than stop midway through just to preserve glory (if you want to call it that). Ty Cobb may be OK with pulling that stunt but I am not. Naturally, I’ll tackle this endeavor by picking a season-high 24 games. A lot can go wrong when you pick that many games so if you never see “Simulated Gambling” again, you’ll know what happened.

Season record to date: 70-68-3

(Home team in CAPS; My picks in Bold)


I’ve got no compelling reason to take Purdue other than I think Purdue “should” win.

Michigan -18.5 INDIANA

If Lloyd keeps his starters in, Indiana will struggle to keep this game close.

Louisville -5.5 RUTGERS

Regardless of the outcome of this game, Rutgers is a good team. I just think Louisville wins pretty big.

Georgia Tech -15 NORTH CAROLINA

I don’t think North Carolina will be able to contain Calvin Johnson.

FLORIDA STATE -8.5 Wake Forest

This line is on name alone. There is no reason, whatsoever, that Wake Forest should be 8.5 underdogs to FSU.

Navy -9 EMU

Navy in another blowout.

ARKANSAS -6 Tennessee

Arkansas is starting to get some respect. I think this will be a close game decided by a field goal.

AUBURN -14 Georgia

Auburn hasn’t played a good game in a while. The Tigers should have no problem winning this game but Georgia could keep it relatively close.

WASHINGTON -18.5 Stanford

I don’t particularly like picking Washington because I always lose when I go with the Huskies. But, Stanford is terrible.

LSU -18 Alabama

This is a vote of confidence for Alabama’s defense to keep them from getting killed.

FLORIDA -14 South Carolina
SC is good enough to stick around.

COLORADO -8.5 Iowa State

I have no faith in Iowa State but I don’t see any reason why Colorado should win this game by 8.5 or more.


Minnesota killed Indiana last week. Indiana killed MSU two weeks ago. By the power of Grayskull (and the transitive property), I take Minnesota.

Notre Dame -11 AIR FORCE

I just don’t think any service academy can stick with Notre Dame’s skill on offense.

California -13 ARIZONA

I’ve been taking Cal lately without anything to show for it. This should finally be the week.

Boise State -13 SAN JOSE STATE

I am going to keep taking Boise State on the road until it pays off. I’m beyond the point of no return.

NEVADA -28.5 Utah State

This is a vote against Utah State.

OKLAHOMA -9.5 Texas Tech

Oklahoma has impressed me a bit with victories over Missouri and Texas A&M. However, I don’t think the Sooners are good enough to blow out Texas Tech.

CLEMSON -17.5 NC State

I don’t know how the odds-makers came to this line. NC State has shown nothing this year to think that they’ll lose by at least 17.5 points.


I’m not impressed with Kansas State.

Oregon State PK UCLA
Oregon State and UCLA are clearly headed in different directions. OSU has all the momentum.

USC -8 Oregon

Oregon can stick with USC. The Trojans will probably pull it out but this will be fairly close.

HAWAII-35 Louisiana Tech

Hawaii destroys teams at home. This spread should be -50!

BYU -17.5 Wyoming

BYU is a hot team. I’ll try to get on board for a win or two.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Odds of Going Undefeated Week Eleven

Judging from the current BCS standings, it looks like Louisville is in the Championship game should it win out. The final big test for Louisville comes this Thursday at Rutgers. I know there’s a lot of hype for Rutgers right now but I don’t think it can keep up with Louisville’s offense. It kind of reminds me of when Air Force played BYU two weeks ago. Air Force had a potent ground game while BYU had a proficient aerial attack. The result was a blowout in favor of BYU. This game may not be as decisive as that but I expect Louisville to handle Rutgers. The Michigan/Ohio State rematch looks less likely now that there are a number of one-loss teams in the .800’s in the BCS standings. The good news for a Michigan/Ohio State rematch is that Texas is slowly creeping up in the standings. If the Michigan/Ohio State game is close, I’m guessing that the pollsters would rather see a Michigan/Ohio State rematch than a rematch of that one-sided Ohio State/Texas affair from earlier in the season.

Top 5
(Odds of going undefeated)

1 Boise State----67.50%
2 Ohio State----59.40%
3 Michigan------39.60%
4 Louisville------34.45%
5 Rutgers---------11.11%

Teams that dropped from last week’s list (along with pre-season rank in terms of odds): #1 West Virginia

Biggest Jump (percentage): Boise State +16.87 %

Current overall chance of undefeated team(s) (100%=1 undefeated team, 200%=2 undefeated teams etc.): 212.06%

Odds that current one-loss teams will win out:

(If Arkansas wins the SEC West, then Auburn’s odds of winning out double to roughly 50%.)

1 Texas-----------52.50%
2 Wisconsin-----49.50%
3 Notre Dame---47.03%
4 Cal--------------36.46%
5 W. Virginia----34.45%
6 Auburn---------25.00%
7 Florida----------24.75%
8 USC-------------16.67%
9 Arkansas--------2.08%
10 Wake Forest----1.48%

Three Most Likely BCS Championship Match-ups:

1) Michigan/Ohio State winner vs. Louisville

2) Michigan/Ohio State winner vs. Auburn/Florida winner (in SEC Championship game)

3) Michigan vs. Ohio State

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Can Tom Izzo coach football?

The John Lansing Smith experiment lasted four eventful (meltdowns, face slaps to self, flag planting, drug addictions, more meltdowns) and disastrous years. I have to admit that I am surprised at how little success Smith had at MSU. I really believe that Michigan State was close to exploding as a football program in the same way Iowa has done. I know that sounds ridiculous considering how inept MSU has been over the last 30+ years but everything was in place for a resurgence. Smith had a great offensive plan for a team that doesn’t get top recruits. MSU looked unstoppable at time even against Michigan. Even though those moments were few and far between, I don’t think Sparty knew how close it was to breaking loose. For a slew of reasons, Smith was never able to put everything together at once. The 2006 Notre Dame game was a metaphor for Smith’s entire tenure at State. Sparty had a brilliant first half in which it killed Notre Dame in every facet of the game only to follow that up by an equally inept second half. There was no rhyme or reason for State’s collapse; it just happened.

Now the search begins to find a coach that will finally bring MSU the football success that the fan-base feels it deserves. There is no denying the similarities between the Michigan State football program and the Detroit Lions. Expectations always trump the results. The MSU brass will say all the right things about, “taking this job search seriously in a way that no other has done at MSU” or “MSU deserves better and we’re going to give it better.” Will this search finally yield a different result? I can’t say. But, I’ll know immediately if MSU has really taken this search seriously by the candidates it is considering and the man that finally gets the job.

A lot of Michigan (UM) fans think that Steve Mariucci will end up getting the job. I can all but assure that won’t happen. At this point, it is almost impossible for “Mooch” to get the job. He doesn’t want the job. MSU fans don’t want him. Tom Izzo, his best friend, doesn’t want him to take the job. Plus, MSU needs a disciplinarian to come in and set a different tone for the program. “Mooch” is the furthest thing from a disciplinarian. It’s just not going to happen—which is good news for MSU fans. You don’t want “Mooch”.

The list of potential candidates will be ridiculously long at first. You’ll hear names from all over regardless of interest level or feasibility. Like most head coach searches, those names will be dwindled to about four or five during bowl season (if State makes a bowl game) or December (if State continues to be terrible) and then one coach will emerge as the favorite by January.

In my opinion, the candidates that MSU should be considering at this point need to have a nationally recognized name as far as recruiting goes, a disciplinarian approach to running a football team, and a desire to stay at MSU for the long haul. Some think that the next MSU coach must have an intimate understanding of the Michigan high school football scene. While I think that is somewhat important, Michigan is hardly a breeding ground for great football players. It is more important, in my opinion, for MSU to bring in a guy that can recruit in talent-rich areas. Michigan doesn’t even want most of the players MSU gets from the state. It’s hard to win with scraps.

Here are the candidates that MSU will likely consider (or at least should consider):

Norm Chow

According to a self-described “insider” who called 1270 AM, Chow would love the opportunity to coach at Michigan State. According to said “insider”, Chow feels that the perception that he only wants to coach on the West Coast is keeping him from getting job offers. Additionally, he apparently wants to take over a program that he can leave his “imprint” on. That is good news for MSU. Chow had considerable success at USC before taking the Offensive Coordinator position for the Tennessee Titans. Chow would be able to recruit the West Coast which is something Michigan State has never been able to do consistently. It would be a godsend for the MSU program to bring in a guy like Chow. The only question is whether the “insider” was drunk out of his mind or not. Time will tell.

Ron English

Some Michigan fans are more than a little worried about English leaving for East Lansing. Some even described an English departure to being akin to Bo Schembechler leaving Ohio State to bring Michigan to prominence once again. I don’t think there is anything to worry about. If Michigan State tries to pry English away, Lloyd Carr and Bill Martin will give English enough assurances that he’ll strongly be considered as the next head coach at the University of Michigan. Plus, with English’s smashing success in his first season as DC, there will undoubtedly be better job openings than a program that has experienced countless head coaching regimes and even more inner turmoil. English isn’t going to East Lansing. He has too much to lose in the name of better opportunities.

John Tenuta

Terry Foster might be “in love” with Georgia Tech’s DC, John Tenuta. Foster thinks that Tenuta’s experience as the Defensive Coordinator for Ohio State will open the door for MSU to get players from the state of Ohio. Foster also stated that Tenuta has a “pact” with former OSU recruiting coordinator Bill Conley. According to Foster, if Tenuta ever gets a coaching gig, Conley would become his recruiting coordinator. That would give MSU a great presence in the state of Ohio. With the talent that Ohio has to offer (supplies Ohio State with an entire football program and still manages to send top recruits to a number of other schools), MSU could take a giant leap in talent with these two men in charge of recruiting. Tenuta has had success at Georgia Tech with strong defenses. He certainly has the experience at big-time programs. From what I can tell, it is certainly worth it to Sparty to explore this option.

Butch Davis

Although I don’t think it is ever “hard” to rebuild the Miami (FL) football program, what Butch Davis did in Coral Gables in just a short amount of time was remarkable. After Dennis Erickson left the Miami (FL) program in disarray, the ‘Canes were doormats to Florida State—that was until Davis came along. He assembled some of the most talented football teams in college football history with the likes of Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Andre Johnson, Santana Moss, Dan Morgan, Jonathan Vilma, Vince Wilfork, Carlos Joseph, Bryant McKinnie, Reggie Wayne, William Joseph, and Ed Reed among others. Davis was a member of Jimmy Johnson’s coaching staff at Miami (FL) and with the Dallas Cowboy Super Bowl teams. This is a guy that would still be the head coach at Miami (FL) (and an “untouchable” to boot) had he not tested out his metal in the NFL. State would be getting a top 10 coach nationally at a tremendous discount. His presence in Florida would usurp any advantages that Tenuta would have in Ohio or Chow would have in California. Davis has about as much experience rebuilding a “loser” program as a coach could have. His first season with Johnson in Dallas ended in a 1-15 disaster. We all know how that turned out. The difference between the Miami program when he arrived compared to when he left is like the difference between the ’66 Spartan team and the ’06 Spartan team. This is a guy that Sparty should throw every conceivable resource into bringing to East Lansing before another school like North Carolina grabs him. The only drawback for MSU would be whether or not Davis wants to use another program as a stepping stone to the NFL. I’m guessing after the ridicule he took in Cleveland, his interest in the NFL is minimal. The only question is whether Davis has any interest in coaching the second best football program in the state of MICHIGAN. We all know Michigan isn’t Florida (weather etc.) So, yeah, please don’t hire Davis!

Dan Mullen

Mullen might be a little green to entrust to turn around the Green football program. He is a disciple of one of the top coaches in America in Urban Meyer. Meyer gets a lot of heat for being “overrated” but that criticism is unfounded. Meyer’s offenses have produced big-time point totals in previous coaching gigs at Utah and Bowling Green. That has caused some people to call him an “offensive” coach. But, his defense is why Florida is so good in the SEC. Meyer is a big-time disciplinarian who doesn’t settle for moral victories. He’s pissed when his team loses and he’s pissed when his team wins. If Mullen is anything like that, he sounds perfect for MSU. The problem is that assistant coaches aren’t always as good as their mentors. Just ask the Detroit Lions about Steve Mariucci or Marty Mornhinweg (both of whom coached under Mike Holmgren). If some of the other high profile candidates fall through, MSU should try to bring Mullen to East Lansing. He almost ended up there with Meyer before John L. Smith was hired.

Brian Kelly

Kelly did what Mike DeBord didn’t even come close to doing at Central Michigan. I’ve long suspected that the Michigan coaching style only works at a place where there is a talent advantage. DeBord didn’t do anything to dispel that belief. Kelly isn’t doing anything to dispel that belief either. Kelly led the Chippewas to a 6-5 record in just his second season. He also clinched a second consecutive .500 season this year which is something the Chippewa program hasn’t done since 1991. Kelly also had considerable success coaching D-II power Grand Valley State which he led to two National Championships the two years prior to taking over the CMU job. When Ohio State hired Jim Tressel to revive the Buckeye program, many wondered how a coach from a 1-AA program (Youngstown State) would fare at a big-time D-I school. I can assure you that Ohio State fans are not complaining with the results of that decision. Kelly could be a superstar in waiting.

Gene Chizik

Chizik is an excellent defensive coach. He led the 2005 Auburn Tigers to an undefeated season and a second rated defense national. It’s hard to do better than that—but Chizik actually improved on that by leading the Texas Longhorn defense to a National Championship in 2006. This is a guy that probably has bigger aspirations than the head coaching position at MSU. There are a lot of coordinators in the country like Chizik that would be a godsend for the Spartans if they had any interest. Chizik would also bring a recruiting presence in the south and in Texas.

Nick Saban

Forget about it. Saban left Sparty “high and dry” to go to a better situation at LSU. He’s not going to go back to Sparty which he probably considers two steps backwards. Plus, I’m sure people in E. Lansing haven’t forgotten Saban’s quick departure. If Saban’s tenure in Miami doesn’t work out, any major college football program that’s even sniffing a coaching change will be in touch with him. And when I say “major”, I’m talking about Miami (FL), Florida State, Penn State, etc.—NOT Michigan State.

Tom Izzo

Would he really do worse than anyone else has done? Plus, MSU loves the gimmick events so it could have a new claim to fame—the first major D-1 program to have the same head coach for basketball and football in the modern era.

Other candidates:

I’ve read a little about Pat Shurmur and Todd Grantham both of whom have ties to the MSU program. Shurmur is the quarterbacks coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, while Grantham is the Defensive Coordinator for the Cleveland Browns. How hard can it be to coach Donovan McNabb? I’m not saying Shurmur isn’t a good coach. I’m just saying there’s no way of knowing based on what he has done in Philly. McNabb would have success if I were his quarterback coach. He does have a Spartan connection but will he have any name recognition for potential recruits? That remains to be seen. Grantham is in the same boat. He’s the DC for the Browns but Romeo Crenell (Brown’s head coach) is a former DC. He undoubtedly controls the Browns defense. If Sparty wants to bring in a “Michigan State man” to do the job, then it may have to look into Shurmur and Grantham. I’m just not sure the MSU brass should be looking at a MSU guy to do the job. Thirty years of ineptitude usually means there hasn’t been anyone in the program who has what it takes to fix the program in the first place. Then again, maybe Sparty should hire a Sparty to do the job. Yeah, I like that idea.

This list can double (give or take a few names) as a UM coaching list too. I put together a list of Carr’s potential successors last year. UM’s list would feature more high profile names like Jeff Tedford and Kirk Ferentz. It’s almost a certainty that coaches with that much clout wouldn’t even consider the MSU job. I’ll probably come out with an updated UM list sometime down the road.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Simulated Gambling week 10

At one point on Saturday, I was 9-4 and then everything fell apart. I finished with a semi-respectable 10-8. As always, I have an unsubstantiated feeling that this is the week that I will finally break out. Those of you that have followed along all season know otherwise. There will never be a breakout week. Too many crazy and unpredictable things happen in college football to get a read on games this late in the season. I can’t say I feel good about any pick that I make anymore.  Nonetheless, I’ve picked an MSR record 20 games this week. Maybe I’ll go 20-0 and get national recognition. Or, maybe I’ll continue to be terrible.

Season record to date: 64-54-3

(Home team in CAPS; My picks in Bold)

LOUISVILLE -2 West Virginia

I made a rule that I would never pick a Thursday night game again. Every week, I break that rule and every week I get it wrong. Why mess with a good thing? West Virginia is just playing better football right now. It has taken Louisville a while to adjust since Brian Brohm came back. I don’t think they’ll be ready to beat WVU.

Air Force -6.5 ARMY     

This is my weekly pick against Army

Boston College -3.5 WAKE FOREST     

BC is clearly the class of the ACC. They are one extremely close loss against Clemson away from being undefeated.

Navy -9 DUKE     

Navy should run all over Duke


Ohio is good. Eastern Michigan is not.

Kent -13.5 BUFFALO

Kent is good. Buffalo is not.

Oklahoma -2 TEXAS A&M     

I’m surprised that Oklahoma’s drubbing of Missouri didn’t make this spread a little higher. The Sooners should have too much talent for the Aggies.

Hawaii -26 UTAH STATE     

Hawaii has been killing teams. They have to lead the country in most offensive categories. Utah State is in for a bad weekend.

TEXAS TECH -17.5 Baylor     

I was slightly impressed with how Baylor played Texas for a half. We’ll see how this turns out but I just expect some fight out of the Bears.

Louisiana State -3.5 TENNESSEE     

LSU is a good football team. I don’t think there’s a team in the country that outclasses them. But, Tennessee should win this game at home.

Arkansas -2 SOUTH CAROLINA     

Arkansas has been masquerading as an SEC elite. We’ll find out a little more about them this weekend in Columbia, SC.

Nevada -10 IDAHO

Idaho is susceptible to being blown out. Ten points isn’t a lot to ask for. Come on, Nevada!

I’m not sure that Wazzou is a team that blows people out. I guess I’ll know after Saturday. I do know that Wazzou is the third best team in the Pac-10.

Nebraska -7 MISSOURI     

Nebraska hasn’t earned a line this generous. This game is a toss-up straight-up.

TEXAS -20 Oklahoma State

OSU has been putting up big-time points. I just have a feeling they can stick around for a bit.

WISCONSIN -7.5 Penn State

I don’t even know if Wiscy is going to win this game. The Badgers haven’t beaten anyone. Penn State has played Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Michigan. Penn State won’t roll over.

MARSHALL -9 Tulane

Marshall shouldn’t be a nine-point favorite over anyone.


I feel like a fool for taking UCLA over WSU last week. Hopefully I can make amends this week.

AUBURN -29.5 Arkansas State

If Auburn can’t beat Arkansas State at home by more than 30, then Auburn really isn’t as good as I thought coming into the year. I’ve started to have my doubts about Auburn with all of their close wins over weak SEC competition.

Virginia Tech -3 MIAMI

I’m bound to get a Miami pick right sooner or later.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Herbie Doesn't get Michigan Football

Apparently Kirk Herbstreit doesn’t understand Michigan football as well as I thought he did. While I generally respect Herbstreit’s unbiased analysis, I think his standing as an Ohio State alumna got in the way of sound reasoning on his Columbus-based radio show this week. Herbstreit said of Michigan’s current chances of beating Ohio State, “If those two teams were to play right now, just the way they're playing, I don't even think it would be close. Ohio State not only wins that game the way they're playing right now, maybe by a few scores.”

Herbstreit has apparently missed out on one of the primary characteristics of highly talented, highly ranked, Lloyd Carr-coached Michigan teams. Whereas Ohio State goes for the jugular against any and all competition regardless of whether they’re already up by four touchdowns or not, Michigan just wants to win the game. Sure, Mario Manningham’s absence has affected Michigan’s offense but not nearly as much as it appears. Carr knew that he could beat Penn State, Iowa, and Northwestern by simply playing smash-mouth football. To take anything away from those games, other than frustration as fans for not going full throttle, would not only be misguided but a huge mistake. If Northwestern scored 30 points against Michigan last Saturday, the Michigan offense would’ve scored 50. Michigan didn’t need to throw, they didn’t want to throw, and they didn’t throw. Why they do this is beyond me. Ohio State doesn’t do it. USC doesn’t do it. Notre Dame doesn’t do it. Nobody (except Michigan) does it.

Against “weaker” competition, Michigan almost never attacks weaknesses unless those weaknesses just happen to be what Michigan’s game-plan already entails. Against highly rated teams (like Notre Dame earlier this year), Michigan almost always (not USC ’04 or Tennessee ’02) comes out on all cylinders. I don’t know why the Michigan offensive coaches feel the need to do this. It causes losses to weaker teams. It’s frustrating and the tradeoff of not running up the score compared to the amount of unnecessary losses to weaker teams is not even close to being worth it. One thing it isn’t, though, is an indicator of how Michigan will fare against a really good team. That’s where Herbstreit is mistaken. Michigan doesn’t respect Northwestern or Iowa or Penn State. That’s why Michigan doesn’t adjust its game-plan for those teams. As much lip service as Carr and Co. gives to the media about the greatness of Ball St’s punter, the reality is that if Michigan isn’t playing Ohio State or Notre Dame, or any other highly rated team, the coaches don’t even need to know who the opponent is. On the other hand, Carr “fears” Ohio State and Notre Dame because of how many losses he has suffered to them. That’s why they came out smokin’ against Notre Dame and that’s why they’ll show up with their “A” game for Ohio State.

I know a lot of Michigan fans are concerned because of how Michigan has played over the last month or so. It “looks” like they’re struggling in many areas. The truth is that they’re just waiting it out until the Ohio State game. They want everyone healthy for The Game. Lloyd Carr is the most conservative football coach I have ever seen. He is doing nothing right now to change my mind on that. His goal is to win, regardless of score, by expending as little effort as possible. Right or wrong, this is what we have to live with. Just don’t think that has any bearing on the outcome of The Game. I’m surprised Herbstreit missed the boat on this one.

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