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Stadium and Main: August 2006

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Vanderbilt game linkfest

For those going, watching, or listening:

Vanderbilt @ #14 Michigan
Game Time: 12:00 Noon, Eastern
Television Coverage: Nationwide on ESPN (and in HD on ESPNHD)
Weather Forecast: Cloudy and cooler than most season openers in recent memory.
Local Radio Coverage: WOMC-FM (104.3), CKLW-AM (800), WTKA-AM (1050)
Satellite Radio Coverage: Sirius Satellite Radio (Channel 123)
Other Radio Affiliates: Click here
Line: Michigan by 25 1/2
Michigan Stadium Parking and Traffic Info
Michigan Stadium Map/Guide
Michigan Stadium – Prohibited Items
Michigan’s ID Policy for those with Student Tickets

Read up on stuff: Michigan’s season opener “Game Notes,” including Depth Chart (PDF)

Motown Sports Revival’s Michigan Preview

mgoblog's Michigan Preview: Offense

mgoblog’s Michigan Preview: Defense

Maize n Brew’s extra-thorough Vanderbilt Preview Vandy Defense Vandy Special Teams Vandy Offense Vandy Historical Info

Detroit News: 2-minute drill – U-M vs. Vanderbilt Audio: Michigan’s most memorable opener

Detroit News: Story on new DC Ron English

Detroit News: Scouting U-M

Detroit News: Three to watch on U-M defense

Detroit Free Press: Hart and Soul

Detroit Free Press: U-M has great potential

Detroit Free Press: Three players you’ll get to know at Michigan this season

Detroit Free Press: Three talking points for U-M’s upcoming season

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

If you can dodge a wrench...

Kate: Do you realize that you have not collected membership fees in 13 months? I'm curious, is it really apathy or do you not have a goal in life?

Peter: I found that if you have a goal, that you might not reach it. But if you do not have one you are never disappointed. And I gotta tell you, it feels phenomenal!
That quote pretty much sums it up. I won’t go as far as my friend Jake has, and claim that I “don’t care” anymore. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I wish I could care less – it’s just not in my genocode to do so. The gods mock me.

However, after enough heartbreaking disappointments to keep ESPN Classic in business for the next three decades, I have stopped getting my hopes up. I am Peter La Fleur. I might predict wins, but I don’t necessarily expect them (unless we're playing Ball State, that is). While many of you spent the Summer at the beach, I spent it anticipatorily moving through the various stages of grief for the impending three to four losses this season. That way, if/when we lose at Notre Dame, I can still enjoy my dinner and watch some quality night games. I did this last year, and it made my weekends much nicer. I’ve come a long way since “the pinnacle of craziness” – the 2001 MSU game (which included, among other things, a full 7-minute “explanation” (read: rant) to some dude on the street who just saw my Michigan t-shirt and wanted to know who won).

There are more important things in life than Michigan Football. Not many, but there are some. So if you find yourself abnormally upset by our team this year, please heed my advice: Expect failure, and you will delight in success. Accept loss, and you shall bask in the glow of victory. It does feel phenomenal.

Feast, famine, freak out!

I know we’re all supposed to hate the mainstream media, but I can’t help but enjoy most of the stuff that Bob Wojnowski (a.k.a. Wojo) puts out. Maybe it’s because he just seems like a fairly normal dude that you’d want to have a beer with, or maybe it’s because he bears at least some resemblance to GULAGER! Enjoy Wojo’s foray into Michigan Football 2006 here.

It’s T-minus 3 days until pre-game warm-ups as I write this, and it’s All Quiet on the Western Front. For the optimists out there – no news is good news. For the pessimists out there – 4 days prior to the 2004 season, the team knew that QB Matt Gutierrez was injured and Chad Henne would start, but we didn’t. So no news is bad news. Aaahhh... Freak out!!

Monday, August 28, 2006

It's on

It’s game week. See the weather forecast for the game here.

Check out some photos from Saturday’s “Fan Day” (P.S. – Looks like the partial bleacher renovation is done, and that Maize paint is pretty bright)

This short blurb in the Free Press quotes Mike Kolodziej as saying that he is “good to go.” This is probably good for OL depth purposes, especially at Right Tackle, but I’m not sold on him seeing significant playing time yet. Since Lloyd is so secretive about injuries, I never know what to believe. He should be a press agent when he retires – he’s that good.

The officially official Depth Chart is out, which doesn’t mean too much (again, Lloyd Carr, “Tom Cruise’s next press agent”). But, pretending that it is meaningful… Things of note:

- Charles Stewart appears to have won the “other CB” spot.

- Obi Oluigbo is officially the starter at Fullback, having surpassed Will Paul.

- Mike Kolodziej is not on the 2-deep, which is probably not a good sign, regardless of what was said in the article linked above.

- Confusion at the LB slots: Chris Graham starting at MIKE?! It was supposed to be David Harris at MIKE, so this could just be a typo sorta thing. But also note that Prescott Burgess is not listed as a starter, which is possibly a motivational tactic.

- Will Johnson getting some love. Terrance Taylor “or” Will Johnson starting at DT – it will likely be Taylor getting most snaps, though.

- Punter could be tag-team style.

- As expected, Alex Mitchell at Right Guard, Rueben Riley at Right Tackle, for now.

The Athletic Department wants you to wear Maize to all of the games, which is fine with me, seeing that I just bought some of that bright yellow cotton to match my pale Swedish skin. Jaundice love.

Ask the player. Keep it clean, folks.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Worse than nicotine

Last week, after one-time Michigan “lock” CB Dionte Allen abruptly committed to Florida State, and rumored Michigan “lean” WR Taurian Washington committed to Ohio State, it made me question whether putting any time and energy into recruiting (i.e. the decisions of 17-year-olds) was worth it. The events of yesterday made me realize that, for me, it is. While most Michigan “recruitniks” have known about WR Kenneth (a.k.a. “Junior” a.k.a. “J.R.”) Hemingway for more than a year, I first heard about him a bit earlier, from a random, well-connected dude at The Pour House. This guy starts telling me about Hemingway – how he’s gonna be the man, how the coaches love him and the feeling is mutual, etc. In my mind, Hemingway was already a Wolverine, and it turned out that he is the kind of kid that we want on our team. So I was happy yesterday when he chose Michigan.

I was even more excited for Marques Slocum yesterday. News broke that he will be attending Michigan in the Fall, but will likely still have to “earn” his eligibility this school year. As Brian from mgoblog put it,
“I've never seen a recruit this tenaciously determined to go to school here. Anybody else would be in their second year at a JUCO or receiving a PhD from Michigan State by now.”
Well said. I’ve been rooting for Slocum since Day 1, and to see that there might be a light at the end of the tunnel makes me admire the kid for staying the course.

You see, in my crazy head, it’s all about the back-stories. It’s about watching “The Run” by Mike Hart, hearing most fans say that he would never play a meaningful down at RB, and then watching him explode onto the scene as a True Freshman. It’s about hearing that when Maurice Clarett took an “official visit” to Ann Arbor for the 2001 Michigan-OSU game, he spent most of his time on the OSU sideline, making me hate the guy long before the Ohio Police Department did. It’s about former Miami LB Willie Williams loving lobster (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, well... it’s a long story).

Growing up, my only recruiting information came from the once-a-year Detroit News “articles” telling me the names, weights, and heights of the incoming class, with (maybe, if I was lucky) a profile of one of the “best” recruits. In the early 1990s, I remember hearing about former Michigan RB Tim Biakabatuka’s recruitment – how he was a “diamond in the rough” from Canada – and I remember thinking, “people actually know who Michigan is recruiting, and how good they are?” Thanks to Al Gore (or not), that question seems pretty stupid today, but everything was different a mere 15 years ago. Today, recruiting is a business, and I’m not just talking about SEC shadiness. Kids are certainly given too much attention, and “adults” care far too much about their decisions.

I love Michigan Football, and I admit that I have been disappointed when a certain recruit “snubs” us. But I don’t let it affect my life, let alone my day. Following recruiting might seem like a weird hobby, but there are more pointless things that I could be “into.” So, I’m sticking with it, although I probably couldn’t give it up if I tried. Give me 5-stars, or give me death!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

You can only pick one...

Possibly the most-debated Michigan message board topic this Summer was something to the effect of “Which game is more of a ‘must-win,’ at Notre Dame or at Ohio State?” While I don’t think there is a “right” or “wrong” answer here, my answer is the OSU game, but by a narrow margin. My thoughts...

A win at Notre Dame:

- Stops the media love affair with all things Notre Dame, at least for 11 minutes or so.

- Gives Michigan a win in its first road game of the season for the first time since 1999 (at Syracuse).

- Prevents 3 losses in a row to ND.

- Puts Michigan firmly in the Top 10, and possibly higher (for the moment), making a National Championship run a possibility due to the lack of clear-cut favorites this season.

- Gives Lloyd his first win in South Bend.

- Slows ND’s recruiting momentum, and swings the recruiting pendulum back in Michigan’s favor.

- Gives Michigan an emotional boost heading into a tough early Big Ten schedule.

- Sets Michigan up for 2 straight over ND, with ND coming to Ann Arbor next year with a new QB (possibly a True Freshman) and some other key losses on Offense.

A win at Ohio State:

- Stops the “Tressel owns Lloyd” talk.

- Gives Michigan its first win in Columbus since 2000 (not an eternity, but long enough when you realize that we used to own Columbus).

- Prevents 3 losses in a row to OSU.

- Likely puts Michigan in a BCS bowl, and possibly gives Michigan a Big Ten Title. Iowa might win the Big Ten somehow, but I expect Michigan and Ohio State to win the vast majority of their Big Ten games. Thus, this could become a de facto elimination game for a BCS bid. A win over ND would be great, but wouldn’t impact our bowl slot as much. A win in your last game of the regular season is generally more helpful.

- Likely gives Michigan a legitimate shot at a Top 10 (or better) finish.

- Gives Michigan an emotional boost heading into its bowl game.

- Sets up Michigan for 2 straight over OSU, with OSU coming to Ann Arbor next year with a new QB.

These lists seem fairly equal, but the timing of the OSU game (end of regular season) and the fact that they’re our #1 rival make “The Game” just a bit more important to me virtually every season. Some of my feelings about which game is more important have changed over the past few weeks, and will definitely change once the season starts. If ND loses at least one of its first two games and still beats Michigan (as I’m predicting), it will be ten times worse than it was in 2004, when they lost to BYU(?!) and still took us out. But, if Ohio State beats Texas (which I’m predicting, although I’m not sure why), and can survive a tough night game at Iowa, a victory over the Buckeyes to close the regular season will be indescribably sweet. So I’ll stick with my “must win at OSU” stance, for now. But both games are obviously incredibly important, for the reasons listed above, and many more.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Hopes, Expectations, and Things I Wanna See (Pt. 2)

A few things before I get into it: (1) Michigan Replay starts this Sunday, and can be seen nationwide at various times on Fox Sports Detroit, Fox College Sports Atlantic, and CSTV (if you have any of those channels), and (2) ESPN College Gameday starts at 10 a.m. Eastern this year, a half-hour earlier than in previous seasons. More college football = good. More of "that old man that looks like an owl" (credit: my girlfriend) = bad.

Anyhow, this is the second of a few posts where I list some arbitrary hopes, expectations, and things I wanna see this season...

- I hope Chad Henne has improved his “touch.” If we are going to be throwing to the TEs more, he will need to loft a few passes over the LBs, because his usual bullets will be picked off.

- I expect Kevin Grady to be significantly better, though I also expect that we might not notice it if Mike Hart gets the vast majority of the carries, as is the general consensus.

- I wanna see Zoltan Mesko win the punting job. 38 yard punts with no returns are fine, but if the Legend of Zoltan is true, he can change field position in a matter of seconds, which is something Michigan has sorely lacked in recent years.

- Speaking of kickers, I hope Ross Ryan’s deep kickoffs aren’t affected too much by the new shorter tees, although I’m sure they will be.

- I expect Obi Oluigbo to be the starting FB, and I expect him to be called for a false start at least once. I’ve watched his few appearances at FB multiple times, and he always seems to get a head start towards the line of scrimmage. He’s gonna get flagged one of these times, and Lloyd is gonna freak.

- I wanna see Michigan double the gunners on punt coverage. How frustrating is it when Breaston can’t even get going because the gunners are already on top of him? Double the gunners, and Breaston can at least attempt to do the rest.

- I hope the D-line plays to its potential. The Northwestern and Nebraska games give me hope, but that was against weak OLs.

- I expect plenty of rotation amongst the Safeties. While Jamar Adams and Ryan Mundy will probably start most games, Brandent Englemon and Willis Barringer have tons of experience and will see plenty of snaps. Note that True Sophomore Brandon Harrison has moved to CB, so the four-man rotation at Safety is comprised of Juniors and Seniors. What they lack in speed they make up for in experience.

- I wanna see the Michigan-Ohio State game in HD. Shame on ABC for not having this game in HD yet (and it looks like they don’t plan on changing that this year, either).

Monday, August 21, 2006

One more "empty Saturday," folks!

I like to refer to Saturdays without College Football as "empty Saturdays." No matter how great the day is, there's just always something missing. So it gives me great pleasure to state the obvious: There is only one more empty Saturday before College Football season!! I encourage you to use this day to contact loved ones, go out to dinner with your significant other, run some errands, take a shower, or do some volunteer work. Because if you're reading this blog, you know you won't be doing any of that stuff this Fall, including the shower. Now, on to stuff...

Jake Long and LaMarr Woodley were named the Captains of this year’s football team, and they had some bland thing to say about it. Some fans are disappointed that Lloyd didn’t “break” the “rule” which says that only players with 4 years or more in the program can be Captains at Michigan. So, while both Hart and Long have Junior eligibility, only Long can be a Captain (because he redshirted). People on message boards are (surprise!) getting a bit out of hand with this stuff. Leaders don’t need a title. People aren’t going to stop listening to Mike Hart in the huddle just because he isn’t a Captain. He wasn’t a Captain last year, and look at the impact he had – the Offense clicked when he was healthy, and it struggled when he wasn’t. I don’t want to sound too much like Bob Davie or, even worse, Tim Brant, but it is clear that the team has a different level of confidence when Hart is in the game. No title or designation is going to change that.

While this story is only related to Michigan in a "Ferris Bueller at 31 Flavors" kind of way, I figured I’d let you know about it in case you missed it. For background, Sam Keller is the son of Mike Keller, a former Michigan player. Sam originally committed to Michigan, but chose Arizona State after a change of heart [coincidental side note – Michigan’s backup QB, Jason Forcier, originally committed to Arizona State, but later signed with Michigan]. Keller was named the starting QB at ASU on Friday, but in ye olde “shocking turn of events,” he was named the backup less than 2 days later. I don’t think anybody knows what really happened here. Many are assuming the players want “the other guy” (Rudy Carpenter) at QB, and protested coach Dirk Koetter’s decision. If so, Koetter is clearly disconnected from the pulse of his team. If not, Koetter is an idiot for flip-flopping over the weekend. Talk about messing with your players’ heads. For all of the grief that I give Lloyd, this kind of stuff makes me glad that we at least have a coach that knows how to handle his team. And, FYI, I doubt Keller would transfer to Michigan. Our depth chart is not favorable to a guy in his position.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

ESPN Gameplan and the OL take some hits

This Free Press article gives us some info on 2 injuries on the Offensive Line (and a fairly unflattering picture of Justin Boren). Boren would not be too big of a loss, since he’s just a True Freshman. And it doesn’t sound too serious. But Mike Kolodziej has an injury that “might compromise his career,” according to his mom. Most (but not all) people thought Kolodziej would start at Right Tackle, so this would be a big loss, leaving Michigan with even less depth and potentially playing various Freshmen and Sophomores. I totally put the jinx on him last week. Sorry.

This dude named Matt has a short but thought-provoking post (to freaks like me, anyway) about the potential downfall of ESPN Gameplan. Matt runs this super-duper awesome College Football TV Schedule site, which is way thorough. Anyway, back to Gameplan. As Matt mentions, with the addition of ESPNU, the “loss” of Conference USA and the Mountain West, and the continued lack of Big 12 and Pac-10 games, Gameplan isn’t looking so hot anymore. Couple this with the fact that starting soon (next season? This?), “[a]ll regional afternoon football games aired on ABC will be aired by ESPN/ESPN2 in outer-markets, making these games nationally available,” and the ever-increasing price (from $89 to $109 for the “early bird special” over the past few years) of Gameplan might not be worth it to many fans.

Other factors to consider:

Will Gameplan carry games that are on the Big Ten Channel (which starts a year from now) and/or ESPNU? It did carry a few ESPNU games last year (including EMU at Michigan), but I’m expecting more hardball this year. Keeping ESPNU games off of Gameplan pressures cable companies like Comcast to add the channel. Fans will get mad that they can’t see their team(s), and something will have to give sooner or later. But as far as the Big Ten Channel is concerned, I would think/hope that coverage on Gameplan was something that ESPN was smart enough to demand in the newly-signed Big Ten deal with ABC/ESPN. I would also expect that Fox (the “owner” of the Big Ten Channel) was smart enough to deny them said coverage. So there’s a pot/kettle parallel here – Since ESPN owns ESPNU, it wants to keep those games off of Gameplan to force cable companies to add ESPNU. Since ESPN doesn’t own the Big Ten Channel, ESPN will want to show those games on Gameplan to make its Pay-Per-View package more attractive, and to keep viewers away from a “rival” station. Regardless of the outcome, rich dudes win and we lose – as usual.

More goods:

Will the Bootleg be back? Brian Griese!! Jerame (why do some people call me “Jerome?”) Tuman!!

Michigan’s Fan Day is scheduled for Saturday the 26th. Middle-aged dudes asking for autographs for their kids, when they don’t have kids… that ain’t right. That just ain’t right.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Something about Glen Mason and the horse he rode in on

This “thing” is a few weeks old, but it just popped into my head for no apparent reason:
“At least one of his Big Ten peers, Minnesota's Glen Mason, says he's never seen Carr so stressed out.”
Now, there’s no direct quote there, but apparently Glen Mason said something to the effect of “I’ve never seen Lloyd so stressed.” For some reason I find this wrong on many levels. It’s just classless. Why is a fellow coach (a Big Ten coach, no less), commenting on the mental/psychological state of Michigan’s Head Coach? Additionally, why would he be stupid enough to make this comment “on the record?” I’m probably making too big of a deal out of this, and similar things might have been said when Joe Pa was really struggling a few years ago – but I can’t recall another coach ever saying “Joe Pa doesn’t look good” or “homeboy is stressed out!” And if they did, shame on them. It’s one thing for Stewart Mandel to talk about coaches on the “hot seat,” but unless your name is Steve Spurrier, if you’re a coach – keep your big mouth shut when it comes to stuff like this. Just give the media a cookie-cutter comment about how he seems fine to you, or do the "no comment / next question" thing if you must.

I find this especially annoying due to the well-publicized “health rumors” surrounding Carr, which got so bad in recent years that he actually denounced them at a press conference prior to last season (if I remember correctly). So why does Mason feel the need to make any sort of comment that could even possibly be construed to add fuel to these rumors? I guess we should expect nothing less from the turd that let his players plant their flag in the middle of Michigan Stadium after their first victory over the Wolverines since 1986.

Screw Glen Mason, “screw Blockbusters, screw Bob Holness, and screw your gold run.”

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

College Rules, the NFL Drools has a huge theme going on today – the debate between College Football and the NFL. A few things that I want to mention regarding this topic:

- Parity is a bad thing. I like knowing that Michigan will always beat certain teams. I also like seeing a team like Vanderbilt beat a team like Tennessee every once in a blue moon [Although I won’t enjoy it if a team like Vanderbilt beats a team like Michigan on September 2nd]. Yes, college games can be predictable, but it makes those random upsets even that much more awesome. Parity is hurting the NFL. Sure, the Patriots have had a nice run, but the league is overflowing with a bunch of 8-8 nonsense. Very few teams stand out, and the ones that do often flop the next year (coughPhiladelphiaEaglescough). There is hope for every team, but I’m not sold on this being a good thing. Vandy fans were going absolutely nuts when they won at Tennessee last season. Do you think Cardinals fans were doing the same thing when Arizona won at San Francisco a few weeks later? Nope. And for two main reasons: (1) Parity has made the 49ers into a piece of garbage, and (2)…

- There is little, if any, emotional investment in NFL teams. Many (if not most) college fans have a deep connection with “their school.” When bad things happen to Michigan, it effects me. I have invested (way too much) time, money, and energy into that school. The University of Michigan is a product. I’m a graduate, and I am forever linked with that product. And I’m not saying that non-alums can’t have that sort of connection. What I’m saying is that when a Cincinnati Bengal gets arrested for something stupid, their fans can laugh it off. When an Ohio State Buckeye gets arrested for something stupid, Ohio State fans and alums take more of a hit. Their school is corrupt… filled with criminals… a bunch of cheaters. I’m not trying to defend OSU, I’m just saying that stuff like this happens, and for college fans, it hits us on a much more personal level. I know, I know… Steelers fans are nuts, Eagles fans are nuts and rude, whatever. I'm sure that fans of many NFL teams are happy when their team wins, and ecstatic when their team wins the Super Bowl. But in college, every school has fans that care passionately about every game – from Alabama to Amherst. 4-8 can be an amazing season for many schools, provided the 4 wins come against the "right" teams. 5-11 is never a good season in Dallas, even if 2 of those wins are over Washington and another 2 are over New York.

There's just no comparison.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Hopes, Expectations, and Things I Wanna See (Pt. 1)

This will be the first of a few posts where I list some arbitrary hopes, expectations, and things I wanna see this season. With only 3 weeks until the season opener, it’s time to rock ‘n’ roll. And, yes, I realize that “wanna” is not a word. [P.S. For the 17 of you that visit this site semi-regularly, my next post will be on Tuesday. Long weekend in Beantown, y’all.]

And away we go...

- I hope we have better luck with injuries (or lack thereof) this season. We have to, right?

- I expect the Defense to be better. If it isn’t, I will be severely disappointed.

- I wanna see Mike Hart break a screen pass for a huge gain. This is one of the few things that Hart hasn’t been able to do yet, possibly due to our predictable play-calling. With an alleged change in Offensive philosophy, and a new (yet old) Offensive Coordinator, maybe the screen won’t be as obvious this year.

- I hope our Linebackers improve their play. I really, really hope so.

- Speaking of LBs, I expect Shawn Crable to have more than a handful of batted passes (with those crazy-lanky arms).

- I wanna see Adrian Arrington catching jump balls for TDs. If our Offense is gonna be successful, we need someone with that Braylon-like mid-air adjustment ability. Henne was “raised” on that his Freshman year, and clearly missed it last season. No offense to Breaston or Manningham, but we need that tall, athletic WR.

- I hope Mike Kolodziej has a healthy and productive year at Right Tackle. Last year was a bit scary for the Offensive Line, but weird and really scary for Kolodziej.

- I expect True Freshman RB Carlos Brown to fumble a punt or kick return, primarily because Lloyd will have him so afraid to do so.

- Despite that, I wanna see Carlos Brown returning punts and/or kicks, primarily because having All-America CB Leon Hall do so is just asking for trouble. And, no offense Leon, but you’re not that good at it (returns for TDs against Indiana don’t count).

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

If you only read one thing this week...

Read this.

A great recap of the Michigan Football Fantasy Experience from mgoblog, provided by a camper named Jon Chait. The most important stuff comes near the end, where Jon explains in detail what the coaches are like, how they think, and what we can expect this year (and/or beyond). I find this recap so intriguing because it matches the things I have been told by a friend of mine who also attended. My friend, who can only be described as an optimist (annoying!), told me to expect changes. In addition, my buddy can definitely be considered an “insider,” so I trust his info. But because he is so close to the program, I often doubt his critiques or expectations. However, it appears that Mr. Chait is more on my level:
"Carr... has a maddening tendency to sit on leads..."

"[O]ur formations tipped off when we would run and where..."

"When Carr talks, he just conveys terror of things going wrong."
These are things many people close to the program just don’t see, or, rather, refuse to see. Thus, it was very refreshing to hear somebody "outside of the bubble" provide some encouraging news about some changes to the same-old, same-old. Now let’s just hope that we don’t scrap said changes if (when?) we lose at Notre Dame.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

So Trev Alberts, Chris Rix, and The Coach walk into a bar...

I’m strolling along, looking for college football info, and what do I see? CSTV has announced the broadcast team of WWE announcer Jonathan Coachman (a.k.a. “The Coach”) and... Chris Rix?! Ummm, wuh? This has to be a joke, right? It isn’t.

And to make things even more ludicrous, note (in the same article) that Trev Alberts is back. But feel free to laugh when he is calling Mountain West games to a viewing audience of 2,648 - all located in Utah. Justice.

Media Day Linkfest

Monday, August 07, 2006

Thanks for nothing, Georgia

College football fans, I’d like to introduce you to this year’s version of “a pretty good team from a pretty crappy conference that everybody is worried is gonna sneak into the BCS Championship Game:” West Virginia. Saturday, September 2nd isn’t just the first full day of college football, it is also the first day on which many “intense” fans will be rooting against West Virginia. And this is why:

2006 West Virginia Mountaineers Football Schedule:

Sat.   Sep. 2    Marshall
Sat.   Sep. 9    Eastern Washington
Thu.   Sep. 14   Maryland
Sat.   Sep. 23   at East Carolina
Sat.   Oct. 7    at Mississippi State
Sat.   Oct. 14   Syracuse
Fri.   Oct. 20   at Connecticut
Thu.   Nov. 2   at Louisville
Sat.   Nov. 11   Cincinnati
Thu.   Nov. 16   at Pitt
Sat.   Nov. 25   USF
Sat.   Dec. 2    Rutgers

West Virginia is a good team – I’m not saying they shouldn’t be ranked in the Top 25. But are they a Top 5 team? Are they a Top 2 team? They might be at the end of the season, thanks to that stinker of a schedule. And thanks to one other thing – a victory over Georgia in last season’s Sugar Bowl. After the 2004-05 ACC-Big East shuffle, which saw Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College head for greener pastures, the Big East was effectively reduced to a glorified Conference USA. Everything was going as planned (meaning nobody gave a second thought to the Big East). After the 2004 season, Pitt got trounced by Utah(!), 35-7, in the Fiesta Bowl. Over the past 2 seasons, the Big East has finished dead last in pretty much every meaningful “power” ranking (record vs. other BCS conferences, quality non-conference wins, etc.) They have been abysmal. And they are abysmal. But… but!… West Virginia beat Georgia. This gave the Big East a bit of credibility, while making West Virginia a trendy pick for the 2006 National Title, due to the fact that they return the vast majority of their team… oh, and they don’t play anybody!

So instead of being somewhere around #15, West Virginia opens the season ranked #7 in the Coaches’ Poll. In a season where there is no clear-cut favorite at the outset (6 different teams received first-place votes), and where the 6 teams ranked in front of WVU all have fairly challenging schedules to contend with, West Virginia has a very good chance to go undefeated, move up the polls (by default?) and make it to the BCS Championship Game. Would/could the same thing have happened if they had started at #15? Maybe. But by starting out at #7, they might move into the Top 5 within the first few weeks if teams like Notre Dame or Oklahoma lose (possible), and because Texas or Ohio State will lose (since they play each other). And in a year in which many “experts” are predicting a handful of one-loss teams, a team ranked Top-5 by the end of September that goes undefeated the entire season has to be in the BCS Championship Game… doesn’t it?

Set your TiVo – Texas vs. West Virginia, January 8, 2007, 8 p.m. Eastern on ABC. It’s gonna be one for the ages!

Friday, August 04, 2006

HD CFB coverage is making progress

"For the first time, ESPN HD and ESPN2 HD will provide high definition telecasts of every college football game throughout the season." Nice. The first game on ESPN HD on the first Saturday of the season? Vanderbilt at Michigan. Sign me up!

Still not much HD from ABC - just the new Saturday night games at 8 p.m. Eastern. CBS will have at least one game in HD each Saturday, but we don't really care about SEC football, do we? The teams are slow and it's really boring. And Notre Dame's home games are in HD on NBC, but the real videophiles out there are still upset that it is in 1080i. Not necessarily because 720p is the "best" for watching sports, but rather because 1080i will give us more detail of Charlie Weis' body (if that's what you want to call it).

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The NCAA continues to top its own idiocy

With the start of a new college football season comes some “rule tinkering.” This year, the money-hungry NCAA (likely with some encouragement from its corporate sponsors) seems to be attempting to make each game shorter. But don’t believe their rhetoric about “the safety of the student-athletes” – it’s all about the almighty dollar. Think about this: How many times have you been waiting for a “Noon game” to get over so you could see the start of a “3:30 game,” only to have to wait an additional 4 minutes after the conclusion of the Noon game just so the TV station could get in its allotment of commercials? That’s what this is all about – shortening games so they finish on time, which allows TV networks more flexibility and prevents us consumers from swearing off certain products for life just because they’re keeping us from seeing the kickoff of “our game.” You know those “Lexus Post-Game Shows (time permitting)”? You don’t see those very often, do you? Well now time will “permit,” and Lexus will get its advertising dollars worth. This certainly isn’t the worst thing ever, it’s just more shadiness from an organization that cares more about the bottom line than its fans.

So here are the most important rule changes, in my opinion, in laymen’s terms:

- Kickoff tees will be shortened from 2 inches to 1 inch, with the desired effect to have fewer touchbacks. On a related note, the game clock will start when the ball is kicked rather than when it is caught (for both kickoffs and “free kicks” after a safety). As a Michigan fan, this is OK with me – More Steve Breaston returns this year, but probably fewer Ross Ryan touchbacks. I guess I’ll take that trade.

- Maybe the most bizarre rule change is that the game clock will start running after a change of possession as soon as “the ball is ready for play,” not when it is snapped. This is horrible. End-of-game and end-of-half turnovers are going to be a mess now. Teams will have to have their units ready to go out onto the field ASAP in order to save precious time. Think you can line up and spike the ball in 3 seconds? Think again, Ryan Leaf! From the standpoint of a Michigan fan, while this rule just doesn’t make sense and doesn’t seem fair, I think we will do OK with it. If Lloyd’s teams are good at anything, it is organization – rarely do you see an utterly confused Michigan team out there. Also, I can’t wait to see John L. Smith blow a gasket when MSU inevitably messes up one (or ten) of these situations this year.

As the head Duck puts it:
"As a coach, I am appalled at the rule changes," said Oregon’s Mike Bellotti, dean of Pac-10 coaches. "They are major and very severe, in my mind, and are going to change the game as we know it — especially starting the game clock at the ready signal after change of possession… That changes a lot of strategy, a lot of opportunities at the end of a game. And I’m disappointed because I can’t find anybody who says they were in favor of that."
- I would describe this next rule change as “close but no cigar:” Coaches will be allowed one, and only one, instant replay “challenge” per game, as long as they have a time out available for use. This is how it will work: The coach will call timeout (no red flag, nothing fancy), and then go ask the ref for an instant replay review up in “the booth.” As long as he actually had a timeout when he called it, he will be granted the review (provided that it is a “reviewable” thing (penalties are not reviewable, for instance)). If he did not have a timeout, his team will be penalized 15 yards for Delay of Game, regardless of the merit of his “review argument.” Note that a coach will only get one “challenge” per game, regardless of the outcome! Most fans think this is dumb. If you have timeouts, shouldn’t you be allowed to continue challenging? That seems to work for the NFL, doesn’t it? Or, alternatively, if you get your challenge “right,” shouldn’t you be able to challenge again later on? As mentioned above, this is another result of the NCAA’s attempts to shorten games, and really makes no sense to me.

So here’s where I see it getting interesting:
(1) Coach calls a timeout, team doesn’t have one. Team is penalized 15 yards. But play is stopped during this time, and review booth has plenty of time to review the play. Do they review it anyway? Are they allowed to? Are they prohibited from reviewing the play in this situation because the coach intentionally “stalled” the game? I haven’t seen any answers to these questions, so I predict… drama!

(2) When to use your challenge? It’s gonna be a crapshoot. Since you only get “one bite at the apple,” you have to figure out when you want to use your challenge. I’m sure the idiot announcers are gonna have a field day with this one, without ever mentioning that college should just go to the NFL system and everybody would be happy (except the greedy corporate suits).
- Not a new rule, but the wording was changed to make it clear that a team scoring with no time left is not required to attempt an extra point.

- Helmet Visors (“shields”) are no longer allowed. They used to be allowed with a doctor’s note or something dumb, but now they’ve been eliminated altogether.

- The somewhat controversial (in Penn State fans’ minds, at least) “crowd noise” penalty has been officially removed from the books. You can’t “draw” a penalty on the home team just because you can’t hear yourself think. This rule was used a few times in the mid-90s, but had been effectively eliminated in practice in recent years.

- The teams can agree to shorten or lengthen the normal 20 minute halftime. Again, the NCAA has mentioned this rule over the past few months in press releases, but has only referred to shortening the intermission, while the text of the rule says shorten or lengthen halftime. It’s clear what the NCAA prefers.

A few more important quotes to consider:
Bellotti and [Washington Head Coach Tyrone] Willingham said they haven’t heard from fans complaining that games are too long. "It’s an event. It’s an all-day event," Bellotti said. "People tailgate before and after. I don’t think cutting five or 10 or 15 minutes out of a game is really going to make any difference (to fans)." For less-talented teams, fewer plays could act as an equalizer, another way to shorten the game against teams with more highly skilled players.
NCAA, you are dumb.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Updated Football Roster

That rush of wind you just felt was not a cool (or, these days, HOT) summer breeze, but rather a collective sigh of relief from Michigan fans. The Football Roster has been updated (Numerically and Alphabetically). Everybody that we expected to be on there is on there. Talented DL recruit Marques Slocum has not qualified yet, but there is still a (faint) glimmer of hope for him. So, all in all, I'll give it my stamp of approval. [Knock on wood]

Notes: I love that Steve Brown is called "Stevie Brown." 4th-string(?) RB Jerome Jackson, of "derogatory rap song aimed at female Michigan student" fame is back on the team after spending the Spring in Lloyd's doghouse. Also, heights and weights are always wrong, especially for Freshmen, who haven't even been to an official Michigan Football practice/meeting/whatever yet. Maybe they were weighed at Orientation, right after the Cottage Inn Pizza Party? Doubtful.

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