Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hating on T.O. like it's their job (and it is!)

The problem with 24 hour news networks is that, often, there's simply not 24 hours worth of news to report. ESPN is no exception, and they prove it by doggedly "reporting" on the latest thing Terrell Owens has said, or how many situps he's done shirtless in his driveway or something. Heck, they even run what T.O. has said on the ESPN Bottom Line just in case you missed it on sportscenter or during an update. They freakin' love this guy.

With all this exhaustive coverage, you'd think they'd treat their cash cow with a little more decency since he provides so much "news" that attracts their viewers. But no, they tear the guy to shreads every time. What irks me the most is that they lambast him for his constant desire for attention and egocentric antics, then what do they do? They put him in center stage for every little thing he does! Not to say that T.O. hasn't been a cancer for every team he's been on, but sometimes I wonder that if he didn't have a microphone, would anybody hear him? I'd say that ESPN should ignore T.O. and his ilk, except by giving him so much attention they're simply investing for the future in sporting news. As long as there are players like T.O., ESPN won't be feeling the recession that badly.

I single out ESPN, but it's not to say their the only offenders in major mass media. I simply think they're the most egregious and frequent offenders. Meanwhile, they relegate relevant news and highlights like, say, the status of Tiger Woods's knee or (God forbit) anything that casts professional athletes in a positive light to The Ocho.

I suppose it doesn't lend any credence to my arguments, however, that I'm glued to ESPN 24/7. I can complain til the cows come home, but at the end of the day I'm still watching Sportscenter like everybody else. Still sucking at teet of ESPN. I can't help it, I love sports! Thanks goodness for ESPN-U. No matter what T.O. does, I'll still give him some love since I see how important he is to the success of my favorite broadcasting network.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Defense: Hats off from last week. Looking toward UI.

Last weekend was a huge boost for the Michigan football program. The general sentiment has swung toward optimism, for both this season and future seasons, as Rich Rodriguez lead this Michigan football team towards a stunning upset victory over the number 9 ranked team.

Big hats off to the Michigan defense, who, despite 5 turnovers, consistently bad field positions and anemic play by the offense (and special teams) in the first half held Wisconsin to only 19 points. The second half was even more impressive with continued pressure, sacks and a John Thompson interception for a TD. Always great when your defense can put points on the board (the Bears have survived on that for years). Kudos to Brandon Graham, Tim Jamison and John Thompson who turned out spectacular performances. Keep an eye out for freshman DT Mike Martin, as he's been making some major contributions in his limited playing time. He's going to be good.

Thanks to an inexperienced QB, dropped balls by receivers and a lack of any semblance of a passing game by UW, Michigan's pass defense actually looked good. I believe that Michigan's defense's greatest weakness is the intermediate and deep passing game. Utah's Brian Johnson took advantage of poor drops into coverage by our linebackers and picked apart our intermediate coverage. ND's Jimmah Clausen had no trouble exploiting our deep coverage early for several large gains and two big touchdowns.

Thanks to some advice from coach Eroc and BT Wolverine at gobluemichiganwolverine, here are some key things to look for from our defense against Illinois.

UI Offensive Summary: Though RB Dufrene isn't Rashard Mendenhall, he is still an excellent rusher and can hurt you right up the gut. Arrelious Benn is a dangerous wide receiver who they'll often rush as well either out of the backfield or in motion. The rest of their receivers are meh. Juice Williams is a much improved passer from last year, and he is still a very dangerous runner.

1) Expect Juice to test our unproven pass defense and shoddy linebacker coverage early by showering the Michigan D with short and intermediate passes. Expect him to go deep a few times early as well and throughout the game. Our ability to cover the short and deep pass will likely be the key to this game.

2) The performance from the secondary depends largely on the pressure our D-line can get on Juice. When Juice doesn't have time to sit back and throw, this is when he's at his most inconsistent. Illinois's O-line is rumored to be worse than Wisconsin's, and our D-line looked very good last week, so this should be an interesting matchup. The D-line needs to live up to their 2nd in the Big Ten in rushing defense (behind Penn State, 14th nationally!), and keep stopping the run as well.

3) Lastly, CONTAIN CONTAIN CONTAIN. This is huge. The D-ends need to keep outside leverage and turn all running plays to the inside. This was a weakness of ours early on, but we looked improved in this area against Wisconsin. If we can't contain Juice or Dufrene, it's going to be a long day. Look for Brandon Graham to have another big game, as he'll be critical to our success in containing the rush.

Those are your things to look for against Illinois. If our offense can come out firing (and minimize turnovers, damnit!), I think we have a decent shot to win. This is our biggest test yet. Go Blue!!

Hot Links: mgoblog scouting report

Friday, September 26, 2008

Beavers!! What it means for the Wolverines.

Last night, the USC Trojans marched into Corvalis ranked number one. Some touted it as the best squad USC has ever fielded, some were saying it was the best team ever. They left Reser Stadium, however, embarrassed, frustrated and the at the receiving end of one of the greatest upsets in college football history for the second year in a row. They seem to be getting very good at choking in one of the softest conferences in the BCS since they do it with such regularity. This thrilling upset sent more than a ripple through the NCAA, it was a tidal wave. The national title race is completely up for grabs for whomever wants to take it. This is why college football is so exciting.

Right from the get go, the Beavers dominated the vaunted USC defense. On the ground, no less! Speedy little guys (Jacquizz Rogers, all "5'7" of him), decisive recognition of stunts and blitzes by both the QB Moevao and the offensive line. No turnovers. No deep balls from the offense and nothing fancy. Simple, well executed football here knocked USC right off their pedestal. The bigger, faster, stronger USC was continually stifled on both sides of the ball. Give a big hand to Oregon State head coach Mike Riley and staff for great preparation for whatever USC was going to throw at them. The defense shut down the USC offensive machine by managing the flare passes and the screens, and getting great penetration on runs and passes. The DB's only gave up two deep balls. The game was a pleasure to watch.

When asked after the game why he was so successful, Jacquizz Rodgers said "I'm a little dude, they couldn't find me." Little, speedy. Remind you of anybody? Whereas size and brute strength used to be paramount in college football, especially in the heyday of the Wolverines, the trend is now shifting to favor speed overall. With the advent and the popularity of the spread offense which emphasizes finding empty grass and creating favorable matchups in space, all you need is speed, speed, speed. And the way Rich Rodriguez has been recruiting he's been on top of it. The influx of "electron" (as they're referred to on mgoblog) type, speedy slot guys only goes to show that RR is building a smurf army! Teric Jones, our running back commit out of Cass Tech had the fastest 40 time at the Junior All American combine. All 5'8 of Jeremy Gallon of Apopka, FL has speed in spades. 5'10 Fitzgerald Toussaint out of Youngstown, OH is averaging some ridiculous number like 18 yards per carry.

The damage that Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers inflicted on the USC defense is a great sign for the Wolverine faithful. With the added dimension of a solid passing game in the coming years, you're going to see the slow, powerful, plodding Ohio State teams have a lot more trouble with the new-look Wolverines. I guarantee it.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

General concerns of the new regime

The change in the football regime at U of M has brought with it many positives: it's ousted a dusty outdated philosophy and consistently underproductive scheme, enhanced its strength and conditioning (eee...), and has brought with it a general change in attitude that will be in line with Michigan's winning tradition. To help bolster these changes, Michigan has also invested much dinero in brand spanking new (read: recruit-pulling) facilities: stadium renovations, new practice facilities, blank check to Barwis-ize the weight room, etc... These changes, hopefully, will produce stronger, faster more disciplined and motivated teams who can compete for a national championship (and beat Ohio State) annually. I, for one, am a believer and I'm extremely excited to see the new face of Michigan football.

A few concerns, however, with the New Michigan:

1) Uh... defense?

Michigan has long been known, especially during the Bo era, for its punishing defenses. Bringing in the offensive wizard (hat and snake oil) has done wonders for our offensive recruiting (8 of 12 recruits so far are offensive players). However there has been little noise at the position widely considered to be the heart of the defense: linebacker/DE. Good linebackers/DE's are a necessity against run-heavy teams of which there are a plethora in the Big Ten (Ohio State, Wisconsin). The only linebacker/defensive end the RR era has recruited is one undersized three star guy named Jordan Barnes. What gives Rich? Where are the Lamarr Woodley's and the David Harris's? Are we going to try and simply out-offense your opponents the way you did at WVU? I don't recall your teams being particularly strong on D. Who is Scott Shafer? Why aren't we focused on recruiting these EXTREMELY important positions of ILB, OLB and DE? Being a defensive-minded guy myself, I'm disappointed not to see more urgency on that recruiting front from the U of M coaching staff.

2) Character Issues

Another pivotal facet of Lloyd-era teams that the RR teams in past seem to lack is the emphasis on character and personal integrity. Like Bo, Grandpa Lloyd's overarching goal was to turn boys into men; to use football to teach the lessons of life. Let's take a look at two famous West Virginia NFLers who were under RR as of late: Pacman Jones and Chris Henry. Not to say that Lloyd's teams didn't have their problems, but at least he reacted, even if he let guys like Manningham (marijuana... 2x), Adrian Arrington (girlfriend choker), and Carson Butler (freshman puncher extraordinaire) back on the team. Coach Rod's emphasis on character building... doesn't really seem to exist. With coaches like Randy Shannon taking steps to clean up dirty programs, are we sacrificing our integrity to win? Are we becoming on the level with programs like (gulp) Ohio State? This is my greatest fear, that Michigan's tradition of winning with integrity will be replaced with simply winning.

3) Weather

Michigan is cold. Michigan is wet. What is the first thing to go in the snow/rain? Speed. What usually wins in the rain? Power. What is RR's offense predicated on? Speed. Uh oh.

These are my concerns with our new hillbilly coach's program. Let's just hope none of them come to fruition.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The inaugural blog!

Greetings, friends.

I would like this inaugural blog to serve as a statement of purpose. It is actually quite simple, really: I love sports. I have many opinions about sports, and what better way to share them than to release them into the vast blogosphere. This blog will not only serve as a sounding board for random spouting of self-righteous, completely partisan, sometimes incorrect and often incoherent ramblings about the world of sports, but hopefully as a venue for discussion. I invite both my close circle of sports savvy friends to read and participate, as well as everyone else with the slightest inkling of sports interest to feel free to caustically shoot down or cheerfully agree with anything I post.

From the very beginning, let me make a few things perfectly clear.

1) I am a rampant Michigan fan, and an equally rampant Chicago Bears fan.
2) I am also often wrong, and when I recognize it I will admit it without reservation. But I'm also often right, and when I am, I'll rub it in everybody's face.
3) Though sports will be the major focus of this blog, I will often post about things not related to sports. I am assuming that the majority of my readership (that's assuming there is a readership, which is a big if) are my friends who I may want to update. This is the exception, not the rule.
4) This blog is an ongoing project.

I'm not assuming that anybody cares about what I have to say, but this blog will exist regardless. I urge all readers to actively comment and participate in discussion. Thanks for reading!