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Stadium and Main: June 2007

Friday, June 29, 2007

Random stuff you might know / should know / forgot about

- If you can make it in Flint (or out of Flint), you can make it anywhere! WJRT Channel 12 alum Rece Davis will host College Football Live on ESPN, a weekdaily (new word?!) 30-minute college counterpart to NFL Live, and it starts airing in less than a month - sweet! Details as follows:
"Looking to capitalize on college football's growing popularity, ESPN plans to launch this summer a weekday series, College Football Live. The 30-minute show will kick off July 23 and run through bowl season in January, says David Berson, ESPN senior vice president of programming.

Modeled after the network's daily NFL Live, the new show will be hosted mostly by Rece Davis and feature breaking news, features and analysis. Davis will be joined by a rotating mix of ESPN's college football talent, including Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit from College GameDay, Lou Holtz, Mark May, Bob Griese, Doug Flutie, Todd Blackledge, Craig James and Ed Cunningham.

The show will come on at 3:30 p.m. ET Monday-Friday on ESPN. When Monday Night Football starts, the Monday edition will shift to 2 p.m. on ESPN2. To make room for the new show, the first half of ESPN's afternoon programming block, including Outside the Lines First Report, 1st and 10 and Best of Mike and Mike, will start 30 minutes earlier."
- Did you know?... “On September 2, 2006, Mobile ESPN streamed the first live sporting event ever delivered to a mobile phone in the United States. Fans watched live coverage from Ann Arbor as Michigan defeated Vanderbilt, 27-7.” We’re in the history books, baby!

- This was discussed over the past few months, but here are the “officially official” rule changes for next year, and the “logic” behind them. In short, we’re going back to normal – no more weird clock rules. Also, we’re going to have to deal with this in 2008, so store it somewhere in the back of your brain:
“[S]tarting in 2008 the committee approved a 40-second/25-second play clock combination. The committee, reviewing strong support for a 40-second/25-second play from coaches, officials and administrators, approved this move to achieve a more uniform pace of play.”
Based on some limited Google searching and common sense, it seems as if the play clock will start at 40 seconds at the conclusion of a play, as opposed to starting at 25 seconds after the Referee marks the ball “ready for play.” Unless I’m missing other details, this play clock (not the game clock) will be identical to how the NFL play clock works. A key question, though, will be whether the “game clock stops upon earning a 1st Down” rule will remain in effect. Nothing has been mentioned regarding that. I guess the two clocks (play and game) are separate issues, but this might create the type of confusion and inconsistency that the NCAA is allegedly trying to avoid, where the play clock is continually running but the game clock is still subject to the Referee marking the ball ready for play.

- All-American, 1997 National Champion, and generally awesome (former) Defensive End Glen Steele is on the Michigan coaching staff this year as a Defensive Graduate Assistant (“after working in the weight room last year”). And ladies… he’s single!!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

No Sparties Allowed in the 15th Congressional District

You know it's the middle of the summer when there are 17 Michigan bloggers all posting about a cable TV channel. Representative John Dingell apparently doesn't want to be left out. And at first glance, I thought he kinda snubbed MSU in this passage:
"I have been approached by numerous constituents, all of whom share the same complaint," Dingell says in the letter. "They are concerned about the local availability of University of Michigan football games since none of the Michigan cable systems carry the Big Ten Network (BTN). While I understand the motivation on the part of the Big Ten Conference and its member schools to create a new all-Big Ten cable channel, I am increasingly concerned about the migration of previously free, over the air content to a pay television tier."
But, really, the 15th District is Wolverine country, so props to Dingell (can you say his name without chuckling?) for representing his constituents. This whole fiasco is better than a soap opera, but just as pointless. 2 more months...

Monday, June 18, 2007

BTN: Good news, bad news

This New York Times article is even more mainstream corroboration that the battle between the Big Ten Network and Comcast (along with other cable operators) is ON. As I began to read the article this morning, my heart started to sink, as I envisioned the money-grubbing CEOs depriving me of my inalienable right to watch Michigan Football. But then I saw this:
As for carrying the network in non-Big Ten markets at 10 cents a subscriber, [a Comcast executive] said Comcast would most likely make it available as a subscription service like Major League Baseball’s Extra Innings out-of-market package.

“They have a right to do as they wish,” [Big Ten Network President Mark] Silverman said.
Sounds fair to me. In fact, if the Big Ten Network is a virtual Pay-Per-View package (like ESPN GamePlan), I couldn't really complain. A la carte television is ideal for me. Let me purchase access to the channels I want, and then I won't have to pay for channels like SOAPnet (nevermind, they show re-runs of The O.C.). But you get the point.

So now the bad news... Despite that glimmer of light, Comcast is throwing down the proverbial gauntlet. In past articles, Comcast execs have tip-toed around the subject of adding the BTN. Mostly a bunch of "no comment" stuff. Now, they're saying things like "I have no doubt that the Big Ten will try to rile up their fans and alumni to say that big bad Comcast is denying their content to Big Ten fans and alumni." So, umm, that doesn't sound like they're expecting warm and fuzzy negotiations. Moreover, the Comcast crew pushes it back in the BTN's face, saying the Big Ten is "going against the consuming public."

As usual, this isn't going to be pretty. For a non-Midwesterner like me, that "non-Big Ten market" tidbit is a sign of hope. But there is still a long way to go, for all Big Ten fans.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

1988 Hall of Fame Bowl: Michigan vs. Alabama

When most younger fans hear the words “Michigan” and “Alabama” together in the same sentence, they probably recall the classic 35-34 Overtime victory by the Wolverines over the Crimson Tide in the 2000 Orange Bowl, also known as Tom Brady’s last (and best?) game. However, 12 years earlier, two of college football’s greatest programs played for the first time, in what was arguably a better game (because, seriously, winning on a missed extra point is kind of weird (don’t get me wrong, I’ll take the “W”)).

On January 2nd, 1988, Michigan played Alabama in the 2nd Hall of Fame Bowl (now known as the Outback Bowl) in Tampa, Florida. The game was broadcast on NBC, with Bob Costas, Ahmad Rashad, and Paul Maguire as the announcers. [That’s not a joke – those three actually called the game together, and people lived to tell about it.]

Both teams entered the game unranked, with Michigan’s 1987 season being a bit of a transition year (thanks primarily to the graduation of QB Jim Harbaugh). The Wolverines finished 4th in the Big Ten (5-3 record), opening the regular season with a 26-7 loss to Notre Dame and ending it with a 23-20 loss to Ohio State, both at Michigan Stadium. Losses at Michigan State and Indiana (not your usual Indiana team - they were ranked 15th) made up the 4 losses for the season. Before continuing with the Hall of Fame Bowl recap, you might want to refresh your memory by looking at the Alphabetical or Numerical rosters from that season. There are some pretty classic names on there.

Michigan coach Bo Schembechler missed the Hall of Fame Bowl while recuperating from his second open-heart (bypass) surgery. Defensive Coordinator (and future Head Coach) Gary Moeller stepped in to coach the Wolverines while Bo watched the game on TV back in Michigan. Things seemed to be going swimmingly, as Michigan jumped out to a 21-3 lead behind three Jamie Morris TD runs. Maybe the most memorable of Morris’ runs came on a 3rd and long at the Bama 14-yard line, with less than a minute left in the 1st Half. Michigan called its patented Sprint Draw, and Morris made it through the first level of defenders. Between him and the endzone stood Alabama Safety Mike Smith, in great position to make the tackle. Morris just ran him over. Granted, when you watch the highlights (see below), you’ll notice the defender’s horrible positioning – he’s leaning back and putting his head down?? But seeing it in real time, it looked like the baddest thing ever.

With Michigan up 18 in the 3rd Quarter after Morris’ 77-yard TD run (his speed was way underrated), all was right with the world. But Bama had a back of their own. In the 2nd Half, the Tide’s Bobby Humphrey scored 2 TDs, including the one that gave Alabama a 24-21 lead with less than 5 minutes left. Humphrey finished with 149 yards on 27 carries.

So that set the table for what is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated Michigan Football moments. After getting the ball back and driving to the Alabama 20-yard line, Michigan stalled out and faced a 4th-and-3 with approximately one minute left. With QB Demetrius Brown having a shaky day (and that’s being kind), many Michigan fans were expecting Moeller to put the game in the hands of Jamie Morris, who had racked up 234 yards on 23 carries. That’s what Bo would have called for, right? Instead, Brown dropped back and sent a pass to the far left sideline in the end zone, where he connected with John Kolesar for a touchdown. Michigan took the lead, 28-24, and Alabama’s attempt at a miraculous comeback was ended when Michigan DB David Arnold intercepted a pass and ran out the clock.

Michigan finished the season ranked #19 in the AP Poll. Not a great season, but beating a big time program in the last minute, seeing Morris run wild, and (most importantly) keeping Bo happy and healthy all make this game a memorable one.

The Video Highlights

Michigan’s video highlights from the 1988 Hall of Fame Bowl, compiled by YouTube Michigan legend dynoguy88.

Other Notes:

- QB Demetrius Brown didn’t start the game. He replaced Michael Taylor, but didn’t fare much better. The QBs rotated throughout the game, but Brown took over in the 2nd Half. On the day, Michigan QBs completed only 6 of 17 passes. Taylor and Brown would continue to play musical chairs in the 1988 season, after which Brown graduated and Elvis Grbac came in to compete with Taylor in 1989.

- Alabama was coached by current ESPN College Football analyst Bill Curry.

- Michigan and Alabama met again in the 1997 Outback Bowl, a 17-14 Alabama victory highlighted by a 4th Quarter 88-yard interception return for a touchdown by Alabama’s Dwayne Rudd.

- Michigan and Alabama met for the 3rd and (currently) final time in the 2000 Orange Bowl, a 35-34 Michigan Overtime victory, highlighted by David Terrell’s MVP performance and Michigan’s 2nd Half comeback. Video highlights here.

- Official game recap from the Outback Bowl site.

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