Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Rising From the Grave

Michigan's NCAA Tourney hopes attempt to rise from the grave

Just when I think I'm out they suck me back in. In my last post I put Michigan's NCAA Tournament hopes in the grave. Then the go and blow out Minnesota on the road and beat a hot Michigan State team, and somehow a slight ray of hope has come into the bleak world that is Wolverine hoops.

Granted this optimism could be crushed with a loss Saturday to Ohio State and an early exit from the Big Ten tournament, but last night's win over Michigan State achieved two things. First it kept Sparty from getting that season sweep, which always brings a smile to my face, and it gave hope to a fanbase that had pretty much lost it. Whether we're going to be rewarded with an improbable NCAA tourney bid or a swift kick to the groin remains to be seen.

Can Michigan pull off the miracle Saturday against Ohio State? Sure they could. They are playing at home where they've only lost twice all season. Ohio State hasn't exactly been lighting the world on fire either, and following that emotion of last weekend's game with Wisconsin, they could be looking past Michigan and towards the Big Ten tournament. If everything falls into place (which is very iffy with an Amaker coached Michigan team) the Maize and Blue could finally get a signature win that could help propel them back into the NCAA tourney for the first time since 1998.

Personally I feel like this team is rearing back the leg to give me a nice swift kick to groin on Saturday, but then again I've watched this team for the past few years and they usually don't put on their best effort until they are in the NIT. Hopefully I'm pleasantly surprised and celebrating a HUGE victory Saturday night. We shall see....

Thursday, February 22, 2007

R.I.P. Michigan's NCAA Tournament Hopes

Courtney Sims trying to stop a return trip to the NIT...but fails

Well at least that's something off my mind. After FINALLY beating Indiana and bringing a pulse to the corpse that is the Michigan NCAA Tournament hopes, the Wolverines did what they do best on Wednesday and that's play shitty on the road. Last night's 54-42 loss to the Illini sent Michigan's tournament hopes up to heaven to party with Barbaro. Are you excited for the NIT Wolverine fans? No?

I think the worst part of all this is that Tommy Amaker will probably end up keeping his job. How is this possible? This team isn't mentally tough at all and has never shown any mental toughness in Amaker's years at the helm. To be honest the only time this team plays consistently well is in the NIT where they've won a title and made it to the championship game under Amaker. The reason for that is probably because Michigan can play at home in the first few rounds before having to go to New York for the Final Four. The Wolverines have been a good home team under Amaker but they have been HORRIBLE on the road. You know when the last road win for Michigan was this year? January 6th against Northwestern. Does this sound like a senior lead team that was supposed to be ready to turn the corner?

Generally speaking I'm not a big reactionary fan who calls for coach's heads after every loss (I still stand behind Lloyd Carr even though he makes me want to bash my head up against a table at least twice a year) but this is getting a bit ridiculous. If this were the football team they'd be burning Amaker in effigy and riding him out on a rail. Instead it looks like Tommy will stick around for another year so that his "stud" recruiting class can come in and hopefully turn things around. Personally I'm skeptical Amaker is the man to lead Michigan back to national prominence, but hopefully he proves me wrong.

For now, though, barring an improbable run through the Big Ten tournament, it looks like Michigan fans can look forward to another run in that "other" tournament in March. Has spring football practice started yet?

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Trying to Wash the Sleaze Off After Signing Day

The wolves are at Ol' Gil's door! I need a five-star recruit!

What is it about signing day that makes me feel sleazy? The whole recruiting process is easily the ugly side of college football. Coaches falling all over each other to try and get a recruit by any means necessary. Talking down rival schools, sending text messages over and over, and of course I'm sure there's some school out there sliding some money a recruit's way. Then you have the whole "verbal commitment" crap where a recruit says he's going somewhere and then de-commits and goes somewhere else at the last minute. The whole thing just makes me feel dirty.

The worst part is as college football has gotten bigger, recruiting has followed right behind. These kids are now holding big press conferences to announce their decisions, and already have an entourage and the ego to go with it before even setting foot on campus. It probably doesn't help that you have websites following these kids all season saying they are the "OMG BeST ReCrUiT EVAR~!" It all becomes crystal clear at how ridiculous recruiting has become when Jimmy Claussen (Uber-QB recruit who is going to Notre Dame) announced his decision at the College Football Hall of Fame after arriving in a limo. By the way, does anyone else remember the last Notre Dame QB that was hyped this much before coming on campus? Those who guessed Ron Powlus would be correct. He turned out to be great too, or not. The point I'm trying to make is that these are high school kids who are about to make a rather large step up in terms of competition and these expectations are a bit out of control.

I would go down the list of Michigan's recruits but I think Brian over at Mgoblog is doing a great job of breaking that down. This looks like a decent class for Michigan after a slow start, but we'll see how that translates on the field.

Oh, and Ryan Mallett is going to OWN Jimmy Claussen, just sayin.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

That Went Pretty Much Like I Thought it Would

They really TRIED to stop Greg Oden

I think the best way I can sum up last night's Michigan game is by comparing it to a trip to the dentist. It's something you dread and it's usually a bit painful, but in the end it wasn't as bad as you thought it would be. Michigan didn't get blown off the floor, UCLA style, against the Buckeyes, but they did manage to lose by double digits.

The Wolverines played well early and went into halftime only down by four points. Unfortunately this got my hopes up that perhaps they were going to do the unthinkable and pull an upset here, and then, like clockwork, they came out in the second half and kicked my optimism square in the groin. Michigan had the ball, down four, with 8:52 left in the game. This was the big moment to keep themselves in the game and possibly put the Buckeyes on their heels. What followed?

  • Lester Abram misses from three (I swear loudly)
  • DeShawn Sims gets the offensive rebound (I'm happy)
  • Sims misses the put back, but Michigan gets the rebound again (Still optimistic)
  • Dion Harris misses a jumper (Time to start drinking....)

After this sequence Michigan was outscored 20-11 and never had another chance. It's moments like these that separate NIT teams from NCAA teams. Michigan had three shots to cut the lead to one or two, on the road against a top five opponent, and blew the opportunity. Ohio State then took the opportunity and ran with it and secured a double digit win on their home floor. The Wolverines played well, but didn't capitalize on the chances they had (which seems to be a common theme during the Amaker Era) and left empty handed once again.

I don't know if I can blame this on coaching, but it seems like none of these players have gotten much better since coming to Ann Arbor. Courtney Sims still disappears when facing elite competition. Dion Harris and Lester Abrams are still streak shooters who have difficulty handling the ball, and the team still has difficulty competing down the stretch when you need to match the opposition shot for shot.

In the end this game was ultimately disappointing. Michigan put themselves in a position to pull an upset on the road, but faded down the stretch...again. Makes you wonder if Amaker is the coach to take Michigan to the next level.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Michigan Fans....Avert Your Gaze!

This "19 year old" is on a path of up...Michigan...

For the past nine years Michigan basketball season has been a trying time for yours truly. Following the NCAA sanctions, Michigan's once good basketball program was left in ruin and has yet to really come out of it. Every time the Wolverines seem to be turning a corner they slide back. They haven't made the NCAA tournament since 1998 and this year doesn't look to be the one where they break through, and tonight will probably seal the deal.

Tonight the Wolverines head down to Columbus for a meeting with the Buckeyes and "19 year old" phenom Greg Oden. First off there is no way that kid is 19. Did you look at that picture? He has wrinkles! The man looks like he could be LeBron James' uncle. I really need timestamped pictures and a notarized birth certificate here. Beyond the fact that he's obviously older, he's going to eat Michigan alive tonight. Courtney Simms never plays well against a dominate center and Oden is just that. Add this to the fact that the Wolverines can't play on the road (2-5 this season with the wins coming at Northwestern and Miami (OH), neither is a "powerhouse") but they also tend to get blown out when facing good competition as their 38 point loss to UCLA demonstrated. Actually Michigan just tends to lose big period. Of their seven losses this season, five have come by double digits. The sad part is Michigan is starting a team full of Seniors that supposedly had learned from its past of wilting down the stretch. This is a group that has gone to two NIT Finals and was supposed to be ready to take the next step with trip to the NCAA tournament. Apparently that's not the case.

Having lost their last three games and without a "signature" win, the Wolverines are probably playing for their NCAA bid tonight against the Buckeyes. Pulling off a road victory against the #4 team in the country would go a long way to catapulting Michigan towards that coveted NCAA invite, but forgive me if I don't have much confidence in that happening. What I'm expecting is another lopsided road loss that has become a trademark of the Tommy Amaker Era, followed closely by the columnists in Detroit NOT calling for his head. I understand that Amaker is a good guy and he cleaned up the program, but he's had a lot of time and the results just haven't been there. Another nationally televised (ESPN, 7 PM) road blow out should be the final nail in Amaker's coffin, unless Michigan pulls the upset.

Will Michigan pull it off? Probably not. I see Oden going off and Simms disappearing like he normally does. In the end though I'll be sitting and watching and hoping. Hoping that something will click in the Wolverines and they'll finally do something remarkable to get me excited again.

If they don't though at least tomorrow's signing day. That's something right?

Monday, February 5, 2007

Time to Start the NFL Draft Talk! Lions are Undefeated in 2007!

The next quarterback of the Detroit Lions...great

Let's save all the discussion about what went down last night. It was a terrible game with terrible commercials and unfortunately I can't get that time in my life back. Not only did I dislike both teams in this game but then they had to go and play a horrible game. Probably the worst Super Bowl since the Giants/Ravens debacle. Also some guy named Brett Favre announced that he's coming back for another year. Somewhere John Madden and Tony Kornheiser are sharing a beer and debating how best to give a verbal hand job to Brett next season. Great....

The good news though is that with that pesky Super Bowl out of the way we can officially start the offseason and start talking NFL Draft! What's that you say? The Pro Bowl is next weekend? While some may enjoy watching the best players in the NFL (and Tony Romo) play basically a glorified flag football game, it's really just not for me. The season is over and the offseason starts now damnit. So without further ado here's my first (of many) NFL mock draft, and since it's before the combine I'm only going top 5, after that I'll start to venture to a top 10.

Before I start this let me say that I'm 4 time defending champ of my annual NFL draft pool and have picked the top 15 picks with 98% accuracy over that span. Beyond that I'm about as good as anyone else, which is to say that I'm hit and miss, but over the first 15 I've been lights out. So there you go....

1. Oakland Raiders: JaMarcus Russell, QB LSU

It almost seems like Russell has been built just to please Al Davis. He's a big quarterback with a cannon for an arm that will fit rather well in the "vertical" offense Davis loves. Plus the Raiders currently employ Aaron Brooks and Andrew Walter at the QB position so this is probably an area where they could use some improvement. If you don't want shitty QB play that is. Russell should thrive in Oakland where he could possibly ride Randy Moss to All-Pro status like Daunte Culpepper did in Minnesota.

2. Detroit Lions: Brady Qinn, QB Notre Dame

I'm not excited about this pick at all. First of all did you see the picture I used for this post?!?! Does that inspire you to think he's going to be a great pro quarterback? Didn't think so. Having watched Quinn closely since he plays for Notre Dame and they are always on TV, I'm not sold on him being a great pro QB at all. While he does a great job tearing up the service academies and the Stanfords of the world, he hasn't played well against elite competition at all. He may have beat Michigan two years in a row but it was more due to Michigan miscues than his savvy QB play. Best example I can give of this is when he threw the touchdown pass to Samardzija that was deflected off a Michigan defender's hand. Horrible throw, lucky break. Then this year during his "Heisman" campaign he was exposed by Michigan and USC. Hate to say it but I think the defenses in the NFL are better than Michigan and USC. Quinn tends to get happy feet in the face of a decent pass rush and last I checked the Lions O-line was rather terrible. Brady may need a few more band-aids if he becomes a Lion. Kiper has the Lions taking Thomas here in his first mock draft. I really can't see Matt Millen using this high of a pick on an O-lineman. Plus that seems to be a position of depth in this draft so I'm sure Millen will look to make a splash with this pick and then go O-line in the second round. Quinn fills the "splash" quotient here while making it exceedingly possible that Millen blows another high pick. Looks like a match to me! The Lions making this pick pretty much ruins the draft for me right after it begins....

3*. Cleveland Browns: Alan Branch, DT Michigan

*Number 3 pick is a tie between Cleveland and Tampa TBD by coin flip at end of this month

The coin flip won't affect either pick unless someone trades down or something. Browns need some defense and help up the middle and Branch should help fill that need. After a lackluster Sophomore year, (though the argument could be made that EVERYONE at Michigan had a lackluster year during the...ugh...7-5 2005 campaign...let's not speak of that again shall we?) Branch helped a revitalized Michigan defense rise back to prominence before that slide at the end of the season (another thing I don't want to discuss) and showed the ability to pass rush the QB and stop the run, something Cleveland needs. Michigan defensive players have a pretty good track record in the NFL (two played last night...Cato June and Marlin Jackson) so this should be a pretty good pick up for Cleveland.

3*. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Calvin Johnson, WR Georgia Tech

I really wish Matt Millen had the stones to take Johnson. He is easily the most talented player in this draft and Tampa is going to get a steal at number four. Bear in mind that Johnson was great in college and he had REGGIE BALL throwing to him! Can you imagine how great he would have been if he had a decent QB throwing to him? Tampa's "deep threat" is an ever aging Joey Galloway, and Michael Clayton hasn't delivered on the great rookie campaign of two years ago (just ask my fantasy team...) so getting Johnson here will be a great pick up for the Bucs and will be a nice addition to a team that really wasn't as bad as their record last year.

5. Arizona Cardinals: Joe Thomas, OT Wisconsin

I don't know how I feel about Joe Thomas. On the one hand he dominated his competition this year, but on the other hand Wisconsin didn't play anybody except Michigan, and he was alright in that game. I must admit, Big Ten tackles scare the hell out of me in the NFL. I've been burned by them a couple of times as a Lions fan. Aaron Gibson was supposed to be a big lineman with quick feet out of Wisconsin, but instead turned out to be just a slow fat guy who was a bust from the moment he squeezed into his XXXXXXXL jersey. Jeff Backus was also supposed to be a stud out of Michigan but has been decent at best. The only reason the Lions gave him that big extension is because there aren't that many great tackles out in free agency so you have to hold on to what you have. Pains me to say that about a Michigan player but Backus hasn't panned out like most thought he would. That brings us back to Thomas who is getting the kind of hype Robert Gallery got two years ago out of Iowa, and you can ask the Raiders how well that is panning out. Thomas seems to have the total package of size, agility, and quickness to be able to handle the speed of an NFL outside pass rush, but as always drafting an O-lineman this high is tough. Arizona desperately needs the help though so this is a no brainer pick here. Their O-line is terrible and if their offense is ever going to realize it's potential, that's a problem they need to fix.

There you have it. My first look at the top 5 of the 2007 NFL Draft. We are only a couple of months away from the festivities so let the draft talk begin! WOOOO!!!!

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Can We Just Play this Damn Game Already?!?

This pretty much depicts me over the past two weeks....

The wait is almost over folks. The event we've all been waiting for is almost here. Can't you taste it yet? It's right there. We're a little more then 24 hours away from being able to talk about the NFL Draft! What's that you say? There's a game too? Really? They should probably publicize that a bit more or no one's going to know about it.

It's been a rough two weeks. I've managed to make it thus far without watching a second of pre-game analysis therefore allowing me to keep my sanity instead of listening to people like Sean Salisbury wax poetic for two weeks on the same crap. Here's what's amazing about the whole situation. I haven't watched a second of analysis on this game and yet I still feel relatively informed as to how these teams are going to play AND the major storylines going into the game. How was I able to ascertain this knowledge without two weeks of incessant babbling about it? Um, I'm guessing it's from watching 20 weeks of freaking football already! Seriously what have we learned in the past two weeks that we didn't already know? Here are the major storylines going into the Super Bowl, and remember I didn't watch ANY pre-game coverage....

  1. Peyton Manning shits the bed in big games: He did it at Tennessee, he's done it with the Colts and now he has a chance to get that monkey off his back so he won't end up being the next Dan Marino. Though someday I'd love to see Peyton arguing with a guy like Trent Dilfer on a pre-game show and every time he mentions something about Super Bowls, Trent flashes his ring in his face. That would be AWESOME!
  2. Apparently Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith are black: Don't know if you've been made aware of this, but it's kind of a big deal.
  3. Tank Johnson is a idiot with lots of weapons: I think Jay Mariotti has probably written about 3,000 columns on this so I think we've got it covered.
  4. Rex Grossman is a shitty quarterback: Yep, it's really that simple. Dude threw about four good passes in the NFC Title game and yet the Bears won. He could become the worst QB ever to win a Super Bowl.
There you go. Four major storylines leading into this Sunday's game. I'm sure these have been beaten into your head over and over and over, but just thought I'd remind you. Are those exciting stories? I totally think this warrants SIX HOURS of pregame. I do think they may need an extra bag of oats to get Shannon Sharpe through the broadcast, and just as a precaution someone should probably check him for Laminitis...don't want another Barbaro on our hands.

To be honest this is probably the least excited I've been for a Super Bowl. On one hand you have the Colts and Peyton Manning (who I intensely dislike) and then you have the Bears and their horrible fans. So either Peyton finally gets his big win which will start an onslaught of announcer love the likes we have never seen, or some of the worst fans in the NFL will get an opportunity to celebrate a championship and then talk about this team for the next 20 freaking years like the last time they won the Super Bowl. Can we just not play this game and start next season right now? Please?

So I suppose you're wondering who I'm taking in this game (or not, either way). Well it's a pretty simple thing to figure out. Peyton can't beat Florida. They pantsed him all of his years in college and he's never really gotten over it. Where did Rex Grossman go to school? Florida. There you go folks. It's pretty simple when you get down to it right? In the biggest ironic twist EVER~! (and that's what we'll be hearing ad nauseum after this game) Rex Grossman will outplay Peyton Manning and win the Super Bowl. Take it to the bank. But if, for some reason, the Colts actually win this game, may God have mercy on us all, because the amount of announcer blustering may reach apocalyptic levels if Peyton wins the big one. Be sure to go out and buy plenty of can food and bottled water. You've been warned.....

Bears 31 Colts 24

Now about that draft....