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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Now that the dust has settled...

The Bowl thing

So the Big Ten had the worst bowl season of any BCS team in the BCS era. I’m sure we won’t hear anything about that from the national media. I kid. But seriously, I am consistently amazed at how the media continually overlooks the strength of the Big Ten’s bowl schedule.

Yes, the Big Ten was down this year. But over the long haul, they really should be losing the majority of their bowl games given the circumstances/schedule. If there ever comes a time when the Big Ten is winning 75% of its bowl games over a 5 year period, then that means they’re dominating college football. The Big Ten consistently plays more of the best teams from the best BCS conferences (read: not the ACC or Big East) than any other conference, and plays many of them in de facto road games.

I have to laugh at some conferences’ bowl schedules. Lets see… the Big East’s 2nd place team (Pitt) got to play Oregon State. Our 2nd place team (Ohio State) got to play Texas. If you tell me those two games are equivalent, you’re insane. And it’s the same thing, year in and year out with the Big Ten – all the way down the schedule. But nobody ever takes the time to look at the schedules, they just see the wins and losses. Think about this: the Big Ten played USC, Georgia, and Missouri, all of which were TOP FIVE teams in many polls to start the season. And that doesn’t include Texas, which was Top 10 (and has a legitimate argument, like USC, that it deserves a share of the National Title). That’s nuts. I know that some of those teams didn’t live up to expectations, but they are all very good teams. Think about the experienced NFL-level talent on those 4 teams I just listed, especially at the skill postions – it’s impressive. No wonder the Big Ten lost those games.

The depth of the Big Ten’s bowl schedule is always crazy. This year, we had 7 bowl teams. We played 3 Big 12 teams (Texas, Mizzou, Kansas), 2 SEC teams (Georgia, South Carolina), 1 Pac-10 team (USC) and 1 ACC team (FSU). There are no patsies there; there are no Nevadas or Navys or Buffalos or Louisiana Techs. And some of those games were essentially on the road. I can’t understand how people continually overlook this. Yes I can, it’s because people are stupid.


No, Terrelle Pryor is not very accurate, but he’s already pretty good. He’s going to be very good, primarily because of his athleticism. His effortless scrambling is Vince Young-esque. He’s going to drive the Big Ten crazy for at least 2 more years. One thing that bothers me, as a football “purist,” is how he often runs out of bounds without regard to the first down marker. If I remember correctly, he ran out of bounds 2 yards short of the first down on a 2nd and long play in the first half vs. Texas, when he seemingly could have maintained balance and reached the marker, or even dove for the first down. He did this a few other times when extra yards were there for the taking. That sort of nonchalant mentality isn’t necessarily frustrating because it seems like Pryor isn’t giving full effort; it’s mainly frustrating because it seems as if it doesn’t matter. As in, it doesn’t matter if he stops short on one play because he’s probably going to burn you on the next one. I might be giving the guy too much credit too soon, but he has that rare ability to gain 15 yards with his legs whenever he darn well pleases. Those who think he has no future as an accurate passer should compare his first-year stats to those of Vince Young and Troy Smith. Those guys stunk even worse, but improved. That’s not a guarantee of success, but it’s also not good sign for non-OSU fans.

A word on in-state recruiting

Bottom line: If Michigan State ends up with a class that the websites say is about 20th, on average, and Michigan ends up with a class that is about 10th, then MSU can “own” the state of Michigan in recruiting for all I care. Michigan is going to get most of the guys it wants in-state, and MSU can “lock down” the rest. When you’re MSU, you need those guys from Saginaw or Kalamazoo or wherever – guys who are solid Big Ten players but maybe not superstars. When you’re Michigan, and you are beating Florida and Miami for some of the best recruits in the Sunshine State, you can afford to be a bit more selective, and you can even afford to lose a few 4-star types to your in-state rival. Looking at it from another angle, if there ever comes a time when Michigan has more in-state players on its roster than MSU, we’re in trouble. The state produces decent talent, but in general, better talent can be had elsewhere. Michigan can usually get that talent, Michigan State usually can’t. So while the Detroit media buys into MSU’s spin that the Spartans signing more Michiganders is bad news for Michigan, here’s the deal: It really isn’t.

Other Things

- The college football off-season is the longest in recent memory this coming year, thanks to a calendar quirk. Whereas the season usually starts in late August or the first few days of September, we’ll have to wait until September 5, 2009 for the first full Saturday of games. Just a few extra days for the media to write glowing, factually-sound articles about Rich Rodriguez, right?

- Tulane is the real national champion.

- The Michigan Stadium Renovation site has a nifty map that allows you to view a few web cams monitoring the construction. Click on the red text on the map to see the progress. 3 of the 5 are pointed at the Stadium.

- I strongly urge you to attend the Spring Game at Michigan Stadium on Saturday, April 11th. Check out the construction progress, see new QB Tate Forcier and the other early enrollees, and support the team. Go Blue!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Enough Already

I haven’t posted much this season, which is probably a good thing. But after reading and hearing some of the things that were said after the Toledo loss, I had to chime in with my two cents: Everybody chill out.

If you’re nervous about the Rodriguez regime, frustrated by our lackluster performance thus far, or simply mad that we lost to a MAC team, please take some time to read this. Then bookmark it and re-read it after our next loss. Then go outside and enjoy some nice fall weather.

Relax. We are going to be fine.

The Bowl Streak

Michigan’s nation-leading consecutive bowl game streak will likely end this season, and that stinks. But it isn’t the worst thing in the world. Let me list some teams that recently missed bowl games, and the years they have missed them (since 1990):

USC – 2000, 1999, 1997, 1996, and 1991
Ohio State – 1999
Oklahoma – 1998, 1997, 1996, and 1995
Georgia – 1996, 1994, 1993, and 1990
Alabama – 2003, 2002, 2000, 1997, and 1995
LSU – 1999, 1998, 1994, 1993, 1992, 1991, and 1990
Texas – 1997, 1993, 1992, and 1991
Penn State – 2004, 2003, 2001, and 2000

A few obvious observations:

(a) The most dominant program in college football this decade, USC, missed a bowl game in 2000 and missed four in the 1990s.
(b) Penn State, currently ranked 3rd in the country, has missed four bowl games since 2000. They’re probably the most Jekyll/Hyde college team this decade, but their program didn’t dissolve just because they stunk for a few years and they have a decent shot at the BCS Championship Game this season. And in case you forgot: during one of those down years, PSU lost to… Toledo. At home.
(c) LSU missed seven bowl games in the 1990s but has won 2 BCS National Championships since. They essentially stunk for a decade, but do you think that’s bothering them now?
(d) Georgia’s crappy run in the mid-90s didn’t hurt them in the late-90s and early-00s, when they recruited what would be the foundation of a Sugar Bowl and SEC Championship team (2002).

On a related note: Isn’t it clear what happened with a majority of these programs? Most of them underachieved for a few years, hired a good coach, and rose back to their rightful place amongst college football’s elite. USC, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas, and LSU – these are teams that didn’t do much in the 1990s (or even the 1980s, with the exception of the Sooners), yet they’re arguably the five most dominant programs of this decade. Each has at least one national championship to its name since 2000. I’m not saying that Michigan is guaranteed a place amongst this “current elite” in the coming years – I’m saying that the path we’re following has resulted in abundant success for a few of our traditional peers, and there’s no reason why Michigan can’t achieve the same results.

Every single college football power has suffered through a tough time. We are the most consistent and most successful program to do so, and we’re the last of the bunch. So maybe that’s why it stings so much. But I’m confident that Michigan will be back on top sooner rather than later, because I think Rich Rodriguez is a great coach and I know he’s a relentless recruiter. If you think he stinks and you don’t like him for one reason or another, then fine, keep tearing your hair out about the bowl streak, the loss to a MAC team, and all of these other fairly meaningless statistics (or “traditions”) that you think are so important. In the grand scheme of things, I assure you they aren’t. Alabama fans aren’t pining over that missed bowl game in 2003, and Alabama recruits probably don’t even know it happened. They’re all too busy smiling about the fact that they're program is ready to blow up (in a good way).

First Year at a New School: Who Am I?

Let’s play a game! Some names and numbers to ponder:

- I went 6-6 in my first year, including a loss to Utah. I was ridiculed as a poor hire. Here’s what they said about me at first: "After setting out to hire a proven winner but being turned down or ignored by high-profile candidates, [Team X] finally settled on [Coach Y] as its new football coach … despite strong objections from boosters, alumni and fans." Here’s what happened shortly thereafter: I went 2-5 in my first 7 games (ouch!), then 67-7 over my next 74 (whoa!), winning two national titles and bringing my team back to prominence. Who am I? I am Pete Carroll, head coach of the USC Trojans.

- I went 2-9 and 2-10 in my first two seasons, trying to adapt a traditional pro-style offense to a spread that incorporates Rich Rodriguez’s zone read scheme. Contrary to popular belief, my current quarterback was not a dual-threat QB in high school, but he is very athletic. He struggled mightily his freshman year, somehow “managing” to complete less than 40%(!) of his passes. In my third season, we beat Ohio State and went to the Rose Bowl. Now my experienced QB understands the offense and is racking up 300 yards a game like it’s no big deal, including passing for more than 450 yards twice this season (already). My team is currently 10th in the nation in total offense. My offense stunk at first, but now it gives my team a chance to win every game. Who am I? I am Ron Zook, head coach of the Illinois Fighting Illini.

- I went 5-6 in my first year at one of the biggest powers in college football history. In my second year, I went 8-4, and in my third I won a national championship. In the 10 seasons following my sub-par first year, I went 95-24-2. Who am I? I am Lou Holtz, former Notre Dame head coach.

- I went 1-11 in my first year, trying to convert a zone power running game into a spread offense. I even lost to Florida Atlantic and North Dakota State, but I stayed the course and recruited players to fit my system. I kept teaching the system to my fairly young team, and it paid off. This season, my second, I’m 6-1 and my team is going to a bowl game. Who am I? I am Tim Brewster, head coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

- I went 7-6 in my first year and lost to Louisana-Monroe (at home, obvs). My team is currently ranked 2nd in the country. Rita Rodriguez knows who I am. Do you? I am Nick Saban, head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide

- I went 3-8 in my first year, struggling to install the spread offense. I managed 9 wins in year 2, which started a run of six straight bowl games, including two BCS bowl wins. Nobody knew anything about me early on in this decade, but I dominated the Big East and now everybody seems to be copying my offense. Rita Rodriguez also knows who I am. I am Rich Rodriguez, former head coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers and current head coach of the Michigan Wolverines.

Do I really need to hammer home the points here? I don’t think so. Some might argue that while the coaches of the “traditional power” teams listed above (Carroll, Holtz, and Saban) didn’t have much success their first year, (a) none of them looked as bad as Michigan’s team does now, and (b) many of them (not to mention coaches like Stoops and Tressel, who weren’t part of the crew above) made HUGE improvements in their second years. These folks would say, and rightfully so, that such an improvement seems unlikely at Michigan in 2009. But there is a big difference between those coaches' situations and Rich Rodriguez’s. Carroll inherited Heisman-type talent at USC and let Norm Chow put the finishing touches on an experienced Carson Palmer. Tressel inherited great linemen and a roster designed to execute his philosophy. Stoops had an efficient JUCO QB (Josh Heupel) who was perfect for his system (and a Heisman runner-up). And so on. Rodriguez has virtually nothing, especially on offense. So let’s talk about that…

Why Does the Offense Stink?

You probably already know this stuff, but please forward this along to Outraged 52-Year-Old Guy in Section 20 (or 3, or 39, or wherever), because he apparently can’t understand why we’re not undefeated. After all, we’re Michigan! Right?! Anyway, on to why the offense is horrible:

Lack of experience

As mentioned multiple times by many others, we have one senior on the entire three-deep (TE Mike Massey). We lost more offensive talent than anybody in the country. Take a look at the list:

QB Chad Henne
QB Ryan Mallett
OL Jake Long
OL Justin Boren
OL Alex Mitchell
OL Adam Kraus
WR Mario Manningham
WR Adrian Arrington
RB Mike Hart

That’s a lot of talent. Other players can and will replace them, but not yet. Not when they’re currently freshmen and sophomores in a new offensive system.

Lack of dual-threat QB (or even a semi-productive QB)

News flash: There was a reason that the first person Rich Rodriguez called after accepting the Michigan job was Terrelle Pryor. Actually, there were 4 reasons: (1) Ryan Mallett, (2) Steven Threet, (3) Nick Sheridan, and (4) David Cone. Rodriguez knew that he had nobody on the Michigan roster that could run the spread offense. [And if you fault Rich for not “adapting his offense to his talent,” please see the “Some Words from the Wise” section below] Yes, Mallett had a strong arm – but how quickly people forget his fumble and attitude problems. Yes, Threet was an Elite 11 QB – but he’s only a redshirt freshman playing in a brand new system, and maybe he (like Mallett) was a bit overrated in high school? Rounding out the QB group were a walk-on who’s probably on the team only because his dad used to coach here (Sheridan) and a lanky, immobile passer (Cone).

Rodriguez knew he needed help… immediately. With only about 6 weeks left before Signing Day, he did the best he could. QB recruit B.J. Daniels, who ended up at South Florida, was apparently headed to Michigan when it became clear that something fishy was going on with his recruitment (and since USF coach is such a jerk, I’ll state the obvious: various folks claimed that he wanted to get P.A.I.D.). So when Rodriguez had to drop Daniels and was unable to lure another QB (such as Alabama commit Star Jackson or Minnesota commit MarQueis Gray) at the 11th hour, Justin Feagin was the only one Michigan was able to snag. And here’s a telling quote from Feagin’s profile: “[Feagin] starts at quarterback and safety but projects as a safety in college.” So that’s where we stand. Unfortunately for Rich, and for Michigan fans, help won’t be arriving until 2009. But to hold the poor QB play against Rodriguez this season is ridiculous. We just don’t have a productive QB on our roster right now, let alone a productive spread-option QB.

Lack of quality OL

Brian’s got this one.

Injuries, Suspensions, and other Junk

Nobody likes these types of excuses, but this season they’re quite valid. Each of these offensive players has missed at least one game:

OL Cory Zirbel (most experienced OL, out for the season before a game was played)
OL Perry Dorrestein (current starter)
OL Mark Ortmann (current starter)
RB Brandon Minor (projected starter, key backup)
RB Carlos Brown (key backup)
RB Kevin Grady (1-game suspension, key backup)
WR Greg Mathews (current starter)
WR Daryl Stonum (1-game suspension, current starter)
WR Junior Hemingway (one-time starter, currently out with Mono)
Slot WR Terrence Robinson (projected contributor, hasn’t played in a game due to injury)
Slot WR Martavious Odoms (current starter, sorely missed in the Toledo loss)

Also recall that TE Carson Butler (general boneheadedness) and QB Steven Threet (Entire 2nd Half vs. Toledo, part of 2nd Half at Notre Dame) have missed various parts of games this year. We’ve been flat-out unlucky: We have virtually no experience on offense, and some key players that we can’t do without have already missed a significant amount of time.

Some Words from the Wise

Brian gets it right:
No, this offense would not be any better if it was lining up under center every play and running isos. Banish this from your mind. When you have freshmen at quarterback and most of the skill positions and a line with something like 6 even quasi-reasonable options and the lone senior on the two-deep is the third-string tight end, you are going to be awful no matter what offensive philosophy you adopt. There are like two and a half good players on offense.

And what would that buy Michigan? A Motor City Bowl invite? I'd like to keep the bowl streak—not going to happen—but if the choice is between a crappy December bowl and some increased chance Michigan is great in 2010, I'll take the latter.
Jake gets it right:
Informed football fans understand why Michigan is struggling. You cannot have success running the spread if you have a QB who can’t run or throw. Truth be told, you can’t have success running any offense with a QB like that but it is especially true with the spread. Michigan is bad for one reason and that’s because of the QB play. If RR had merely an average spread QB, or even just an accurate passer, Michigan would likely be 4-2. Instead, Michigan is 2-4 and looks even worse than that. There are many things this team could improve on but there is only one thing making this team bad. I’ll once again cite my favorite example when discussing Michigan and the spread: Georgia Tech. Paul Johnson literally hit the ground running at Georgia Tech with his triple option attack. With far less talent than Michigan, he had the Yellow Jackets wreckin’ house at a rate of 412 total yards per game. Why? Because he inherited two above average dual-threat QBs. That’s it. That’s the difference. Michigan is a disaster because of one position. Need evidence? Both of Georgia Tech’s QB’s were out this past weekend against Gardner-Webb. Gardner-Webb is a I-AA team and a mediocre I-AA team at that. Without its two dual-threat QBs—and with a Threet-esque QB—Georgia Tech won 10-7 and put up 199 total yards. Sound familiar? Michigan isn’t perfect, but it is literally one position away from being a 10-win bowl team. Don’t forget that when you’re making your “Fire RR” signs.
And he doesn’t stop there:
Remember when Bill Martin hired RR? There was a huge group of fans who were still complaining about not getting Les Miles. I believe those are the people who are already giving up on Rodriguez. Only an ignorant fan would already give up on Rodriguez six games into his career. I think the people who supported RR from the beginning are still behind him. It’s just too bad that we can’t expel moronic fans who are jumping ship six games into RR’s career. They will come back and cheer just like the rest of us with no consequences. There was an idiot who called into Sam Webb’s show on Monday morning who said, “If Michigan would’ve hired Brady Hoke, we’d be undefeated.” There wasn’t a person in the universe who wanted Michigan to hire Brady Hoke (Hoke relatives not included). In fact, Hoke represented the worst possible scenario. People were having nightmares about the possibility of Hoke running the program. I can’t believe there is a guy out there, living and breathing, who could actually bring himself to mutter the sentence, “Martin blew it by not hiring Brady Hoke.”
Finally, Stewart Mandel gets it right:
Stewart, as an extremely concerned Michigan fan I have one simple question: Rich Rodriquez = Bill Callahan?
-- Jamie DeFrank, Washington D.C.

Wow -- you're really going there already? I figured Michigan fans would be panicking this week, but Callahan was arguably the most disastrous coaching hire this decade. You don't happen to be the kind of person who runs to the doctor's office at the first sight of a pimple?

I'm guessing you're making the parallel because Callahan, like Rodriguez, tried to overhaul a previously successful program's offensive system. And, like Callahan, he's an outsider. But at the end of the day, Callahan didn't fail at Nebraska because of his offense. On the contrary, the Huskers were quite powerful offensively by the end of his tenure. He failed because he was an NFL-bred coach trying to run a college program like an NFL franchise and, in the process, he managed to alienate almost everyone connected to that program.

Rodriguez, on the other hand, is a proven college coach. If you haven't noticed, West Virginia hasn't been the same without him. Tommy Bowden just resigned in part because he could never replicate the success he had with Rodriguez as his offensive coordinator. The guy knows what he's doing; unfortunately, his players can't yet say the same.
In Closing

Allow me to repeat what I said a few weeks ago, because it applied then, it applies now, and it will apply 6 months from now (so re-read it, if and when necessary):
What’s very frustrating for me is that Charlie Weis went 3-9 in his third year, and there was virtually no talk of firing him. But I guarantee you that if Rodriguez misses a bowl game this season, his first year, you will hear a LOT more talk about how he’s not the right guy for the job, etc. Never mind the fact that we don’t have a proper QB for his system yet – the most important part of Michigan’s team from here on out. Additionally, Rodriguez is working with about 5 of “his own” recruits. In his 3rd year, Weis was working with, what, 50(?) of his own recruits (two full recruiting classes, plus a few guys he pulled in after Willingham was fired). Pretty much all of his offensive players in year 3 fit his offensive system (pro style). And if you want to say that Weis struggled because his 3rd-year team was loaded with inexperienced players... umm, have you looked at Michigan’s roster lately? The entire THREE-deep on offense has just one senior (TE Mike Massey), and we’re starting freshmen at QB, RB, OL, and WR!

I’m already annoyed at the media because I can see this coming from a mile away. Rich Rodriguez is a very good coach. We need to give him time, and we need to stop any crap from the media before it starts.
But “we” didn’t preemptively stop the crap from the media, did we? No, “we” embraced it. And by “we” I’m talking about Outraged 52-Year-Old Guy in Section 20, who I mentioned earlier. I swear, Michigan must have the most self-abusive fan base in the country. Show that guy a hint of negativity, a bit of adversity, or an “unacceptable” result, and he’ll run with it until he’s blue in the face and our coach is showing up on “hot seat” lists across the internet.

So here’s my humble plea to those folks: Stop complaining. Stop booing. Stop playing the “what if” game. Stop using the word “fire” (unless you’re talking about the element). Michigan is young, inexperienced, and lacking talent at many key positions. But we are going to be very good in a few years. In the meantime, for the sake of the rest of us and for the betterment of Michigan football, please deal with yourselves. Go Blue!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Back from the Bye Week Break

They have a team of monkeys working around the clock on this stuff

Want another example of the U of M “marketing” team doing a great job? How about the commemorative t-shirt for this weekend’s game against Wisconsin – the 500th in Michigan Stadium history. The game is a Maize Out, and the t-shirt is white. Way to go!

Weis Year 3 vs. Rodriguez Year 1

This has nothing to do with the ND game, but it’s somewhat related. What’s very frustrating for me is that Charlie Weis went 3-9 in his third year, and there was virtually no talk of firing him. But I guarantee you that if Rodriguez misses a bowl game this season, his first year, you will hear a LOT more talk about how he’s not the right guy for the job, etc. Never mind the fact that we don’t have a proper QB for his system yet – the most important part of Michigan’s team from here on out. Additionally, Rodriguez is working with about 5 of “his own” recruits. In his 3rd year, Weis was working with, what, 50(?) of his own recruits (two full recruiting classes, plus a few guys he pulled in after Willingham was fired). Pretty much all of his offensive players in year 3 fit his offensive system (pro style). And if you want to say that Weis struggled because his 3rd-year team was loaded with inexperienced players... umm, have you looked at Michigan’s roster lately? The entire THREE-deep on offense has just one senior (TE Mike Massey), and we’re starting freshmen at QB, RB, OL, and WR!

I’m already annoyed at the media because I can see this coming from a mile away. Rich Rodriguez is a very good coach. We need to give him time, and we need to stop any crap from the media before it starts.

Know the Horse-Collar Rule: Some Horse-Collar Tackles are OK (seriously)

I looked this up because the “horse-collar” penalty that Michigan was called for on one of ND’s interception returns was a horrible call. And, yes, it was called (although NBC didn’t mention it very clearly and the replay was shown while the ref was making the call). The Michigan player (David Molk, I believe) grabbed the ND player’s collar area and pulled down/back for a split second, but the ND player remained on his feet and his momentum carried him forward. He lost his balance after the Michigan player had released him, and eventually fell down to his right without being touched at the time. Does that sound like it fits within the description of the penalty (Rule 9-1-2-p)?:
“All players are prohibited from grabbing the inside back collar of the shoulder pads or jersey, or the inside collar of the side of the shoulder pads or jersey, and immediately pulling the runner down. This does not apply to a runner who is inside the tackle box or to a quarterback who is in the pocket.” (emphasis mine)
There are two things to note here: (1) “Immediately pulling the runner down” definitely didn’t happen in the Michigan-ND game. Under any definition of the word, that wasn’t an “immediate” tackle by the Michigan player. And, for future reference, (2) The horse-collar tackle prohibition “does not apply to a runner who is inside the tackle box or to a quarterback who is in the pocket.” There is going to be a lot of confusion on this rule (there already is), because a QB will get sacked via a horse-collar tackle and either (a) the refs will call it a penalty, which it shouldn’t be, or (b) fans will riot because the penalty wasn’t called. Additionally, I think Michigan fans need to know this rule because I bet we’ll see a lot of horse-collar tackles within the tackle box in the future. McGuffie will take a handoff on a zone stretch play and get pulled down from behind by a crashing DE. Fans will want a penalty, but if he’s within the tackle box there shouldn’t be one.

Also note a further clarification by the NCAA that will probably be incorrectly called in the coming years: "If the ball carrier is grabbed by the shoulder or jersey and just ridden to the ground over a couple of yards, that's not going to be a foul." This jibes with the “immediate” standard that is listed in the rule, but I just see too much room for differing interpretations of this rule. Another annoying thing from that article: "We'll err on the side of safety. We'll defend the official who may be a little more strict, because that's a major point of emphasis." The whole “point of emphasis” thing is illogical on its face. So some rules are more important than others? The NCAA is starting to sound like the Notre Dame announcers on NBC, who stated that intentional grounding didn’t need to be called on Jimmy Clausen because he threw the ball “near” the line of scrimmage (the rule, as you know, is that the ball must at least reach the line of scrimmage). Every rule is important and every rule should be applied uniformly.

Looking at Wisconsin

The Badgers have a handful of nagging injuries, it seems. RB P.J. Hill has a leg bruise. TE Travis Beckum had a hamstring issue for the first few weeks of the season – those can linger. WLB Jonathan Casillas had a knee injury but played in Wisconsin’s last game (at Fresno State). CB Aaron Henry is recovering from a knee injury and might make the decision to play or redshirt this Saturday. Is it evil of me to hope that all of these guys play a lot but are very limited in their production/mobility? Maybe they’ll “tough it out” because it’s Michigan and they haven’t won in the Big House during their careers, but in doing so they might take valuable snaps away from healthy, productive players (like TE Garrett Graham, who has been Wisconsin’s leading receiving threat).

Here's a good take, from mgoblog’s diaries, on what to expect and what we need to do to win. Enjoy the game, and Go Blue!

Friday, September 12, 2008

If we lose, blame Adidas

And I’m not just talking about the inevitable complaints that will result from seeing our new road uniforms in action for the first time, I’m talking about the frustration that will result from seeing out team slipping and sliding all over the place. It’s going to be wet and a bit windy, and the grass will probably be longer than we’d prefer. Be prepared to flashbacks of the 2006 game at OSU, where our DL couldn’t seem to stay upright thanks to the slippery surface. I fully expect to hear horror stories about how Adidas only brought one set of cleats for Michigan. And then the conspiracy theories (which I will totally partake in) about how Adidas prefers Notre Dame to Michigan because ND has that one Adidas deodorant ad in all the sports magazines.

On a more serious note, here are some random things I expect to see in the ND game:

- A deep play-action pass out of the I-formation on 3rd and short. Kevin Grady will be in the game, and most will expect him to get the ball. He won’t. Whether it works or not is another story.

- Lots of dink and dunk passes from ND, including a variety of screens to RBs, WRs, and TEs. This has been discussed all week, since most people believe the Irish will attempt to neutralize Michigan’s DL with quick passes.

- A fluky special teams play. Most likely: the wet football is going to get dropped by a punter. And I think Michigan tries for at least one punt block (which shouldn’t really merit a mention, but it’s been so rare for Michigan to do so against ND that it will be nice to see them try it).

- More of Carlos Brown at QB than we’ve ever seen. He will get a handful of snaps, and he might even play QB on consecutive plays. And for the first time in my life, I think there’s a (small) chance that he’ll actually attempt a pass. I’d also expect a designed run to the strong side of the field which turns into a reverse when Brown hands off to Martavious Odoms.

Looking back at Miami (OH)

- As I was hoping, the blocking out in the flats improved, but there were still several missed blocks.

- 2 weeks in a row of terrible (as in, way worse than usual “bad”) announcers. They harped on Miami’s missed opportunities, but never mentioned Michigan’s: 2 or 3 dropped INTs, 2 or 3 missed wide open receivers – a few of those might have gone for TDs. I won’t even get into the stupid “the state of Michigan is crap” segment. Unbelievable.

- The defense wasn’t great, but I’m surprised at how many people were ripping it in the immediate aftermath of the game. After re-watching, and realizing that we held them to 6 points, I think people realized that we did a decent job. But, yes, Stevie Brown still has issues.

- For all of the talk about Sheridan being the better runner, Threet is the guy who appears to have made more correct reads on the zone-read handoffs this season. He made 2 very good reads vs. Miami, one resulting in the first TD. On a related note, I just feel more comfortable with Threet in there. For now.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Post-Utah thoughts

Had to digest the game a bit longer than most, obviously. And it never helps that September is the busiest month at work. Great timing, huh?


- It’s a bit disappointing to see how many people are ready to write this team and its coaching staff off. It was one game! Yes, there are various areas of concern, but some people need to get a grip. I always disagreed with the people who claimed that Michigan fans just liked to complain about anything, but after some of the things I’ve seen and read this week… maybe they’re on to something. This season will be tough, but Utah is a good team. What you saw was a good spread team with a veteran spread QB vs. a bad spread team with inexperienced “spread QBs” (and I obviously use that term loosely for Sheridan and Threet). We will get better over time, and we will get much better once we have a true spread QB. As much as it stinks to say it, Terrelle Pryor really set our program back a year or two by choosing to attend Ohio State.

- On the last play of the game, Threet threw high and incomplete to Stonum. Watching the replay, Minor appears to be open on a seam route down the middle. It would have been a 40-yard throw, but it also might have been a TD. I can’t knock Threet too much for not seeing it, since it clearly wasn’t his first read. But I’m hoping we see more of these seam routes from Minor, Shaw, Butler and the like. Utah certainly killed us (mainly in the first half) by lining up WRs and TEs against our LBs. If teams are willing to play us like that, we have to make them pay.

- That incomplete pass from Sheridan to Minor near the end of the first half was a heart-breaker. Same seam route (on the left side that time), same wide open receiver, but Sheridan couldn’t connect. I also had flashbacks to some of the practice video I’ve seen over the summer, and I distinctly recall Rich Rod yelling something like, “Brandon, don’t stab at it.” While this was off-camera, I’m pretty sure he was talking about putting one hand up to catch a pass when you really need two (or when you should be diving for the ball). And he might have been talking to Brandon Moore for all I know. Anyway, I understand that Sheridan threw a fairly bad pass there, but the old coaching axiom that “if you can get a hand on it, you should catch it” comes to mind. I can’t really fault Minor, since he’s not a WR by any means, but I wonder if his eyes got big when he saw all that open field. Maybe a leap and a two-handed grab for a mere first down would have been the better option? Would that have even been possible, considering how quickly the play developed? Just thinking out loud…

- Mesko was very lucky not to get his 4th quarter roll-out punt blocked. It seems he was told to look for open field and run for the first down, if possible. But there was a Utah player right there when he finally punted – I’m amazed he missed that punt block.

- Did Tony Gibson have some chewing tobacco in his mouth? They showed him on the sidelines on TV at least twice, and both times it looked like he did. If so, gross.

- The 4th quarter was really loud. Good job by the fans who were still there – quite a few had left. Probably the loudest I’ve ever heard it (although I’ve missed a few “loud” games like MSU 2004).

- Yes, the first half defense pretty much stunk. Marell Evans wasn’t that good, although I must admit watching from the stadium he looked like he was fast and active. Re-watching, he was clearly fast and unproductive. I think the coaches love his speed and athleticism – he’s just not ready yet. The second half performance was very good. I don’t buy the “Utah shut things down” argument. They might have been a little conservative in the 3rd quarter, but it wasn’t Lloydball by any means. Our DL was getting good pressure and the secondary was staying true to their assignments just long enough – something that couldn’t be said in the first half (Stevie Brown again taking a bad angle, Charles Stewart settling into weird/deep zones). The result was a lot of sacks, hurries, penalties, and a fumble recovery. The defense also looked fresh, so maybe all of that off-season conditioning is going to pay off. As many predicted, the LBs will be key. Jonas Mouton replacing Evans helped a bit, and John Thompson replacing Austin Panter in certain situations might make things better.

- I think we beat Miami (OH), 28-17, or something like that. I would love to see us block some of those screens a bit better. I won’t even ask the OL to block better, since that’s a work in progress and a much bigger problem. But Mike Massey, the WRs, and the RBs need to make their blocks if we’re going to have guys like Martavious Odoms do any damage in the flat. I think we break one or two of those this weekend, and that will end up being the difference.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Random Stuff. You Know the Drill...

Is Utah the most important game of the season?

With mere hours to go before the season starts, all of the season previews and predictions are popping up. I'll leave that stuff to the big boys - I just haven't had time for it this year (I apologize to my few (loyal!) readers). But I wanted to bring up a topic that has been popular on the message boards in the past few days. What is the most "important" game of the year?

Many fans feel that Utah is the most important game this season. I disagree. But I guess that depends on how you define “important” – something I’m not going to get into, because there are so many different takes. So the following few paragraphs don’t really have a point – I just wanted to discuss this (with myself).

A loss to Utah will be bad any way you slice it. The words "Appalachian State" will be uttered a few thousand more times. The complaints about Rodriguez's coaching ability will start, after enduring 8 months of ridiculous attacks on his character. The fear of losing the nation's longest bowl appearance streak will be the subject on talk radio. It won't be fun. And maybe that’s what Michigan fans are fearing: that the fun and excitement surrounding our new regime will be squashed (or at least tempered) immediately. They envision a loss to Utah that could precede a 1-4 start (with additional losses to Notre Dame, Wisconsin, and Illinois), making us look like the 2008 version of ND’s 2007 team. And that is definitely possible. We might end up turning the season around during the more manageable second half of the schedule, but a bad start isn’t unfathomable.

My take is that loss to Utah will stink, but it won't be the end of the world. How quickly people forget that we lost to Appalachian State last year, got destroyed by Oregon, but finished 2nd in the Big Ten and ended the season with a victory over media darling and defending national champion Florida. The program didn't dissolve, the season was played out, and we acquitted ourselves fairly well (all things considered). Considering this is our first game under a new staff implementing a new offensive system, I think it’s fair to think that we’ll improve a bit after Game 1.

Also, if we didn't open the season with Utah, would people be discussing this game as much? If we played Toledo on August 30th, and Utah on October 11th, would it be getting as much play? I highly doubt it. Yes, the game is more “important” because it is the season opener, and the way you start can set the tone for the entire season. But if we can finish the season with 8 wins, I don’t people will care too much if Utah was or wasn’t one of them. I don’t think you can say the same about a handful of other games on the schedule, and that’s why Utah isn’t as important to me.

Another way of looking at it: If we beat Utah, but lose to Ohio State, people won't be giving us much credit for that August 30th win. But if we lose to Utah and beat Ohio State, that victory will be the talk of the off-season. You can see the headlines now, can’t you?: "Rich Rod Reignites Michigan-Ohio State Rivalry". So I say Ohio State is the most important game, like most every season, even though we don’t have a good chance of winning. Michigan State and Notre Dame are also very important, for rivalry and recruiting purposes.

Don’t get me wrong – Utah is a very important game. But it seems clear to me that as the season progresses, whether we won or lost the Utah game will become less and less important.

3 tips to live by

Maize and Blue Nation and Varsity Blue have some fan “guidelines” that are worth checking out. I figured I’d add my take on what I feel are the 3 most important things:

1 - Make noise. Serious noise. The “key play” stuff with the jangling keys is so weak. Think about it this way: If you’re walking in a parking lot and you want to get the attention of someone 50 yards in front of you, what do you do? Jangle your keys at them? Clap at them? No, you YELL at them, because that’s the loudest sound you can make. Your voice is your loudest “noisemaker,” for lack of a better term. When Michigan is on defense, scream your lungs out. If your voice isn’t hoarse on Sunday, you haven’t done your part. It’s that simple.

2 - Wear maize. As Varsity Blue put it, “A maize shirt costs you a maximum of 16 dollars (and even that's only if you get the official T-shirt). Wear it.” Yep. It creates a better atmosphere and looks very impressive on TV and to recruits in the stadium. I can never understand all of those 275 pound dudes who rock their #18 Amani Toomer jerseys from Coolio’s “1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New)” video. Those things are just guaranteed heat, sweat, and stank. Wear a maize t-shirt. It’s made of cotton, it reflects the sun (blue attracts it), and it’s 100 times cooler (in both senses of the word).

3 - Enough with the “down in front” stuff. If people stand up in front of you, you can choose to stand up or stay seated. Either way, don’t whine about it. If you want to enjoy the game in comfort with a great view, guess what?... it’s available in beautiful high definition in the comfort of your living room! You’re not at a movie, you’re at a football game. People are going to get involved in the action, and standing up is a perfectly acceptable way of doing so. Yes, once in a while some idiot will stand up for no apparent reason. He’s probably drunk, and he’s the exception to the rule. But in general, Michigan fans are very knowledgeable, and if they stand up it’s for a reason.

And so it begins

I’ve seen some posts this week asking “when was the last time you were this excited for a season to start?” Sadly, most fans (if they’re responding truthfully) would have to say “last season – 2007.” Ouch. But I don’t think the fans asking this question are only inquiring about this season and its results, but rather the new era of Michigan football. Jake was right when he said: “Some have compared it to an upgrade. I compare it to a transplant. The body is the same but the substance is entirely new.” In my opinion, any fan who isn’t looking forward to this season (because we probably won’t be that good, or for any other reason) is insane. Would you rather go back to the days of dreading that first loss? Fearing those road trips out West? Knowing that we were “saving things” for Notre Dame? Sitting through an uninspired, lackluster effort against a team we were favored to beat by 28 points? Those are things that we dealt with far too often over the past decade. Lloyd Carr is a great man and he was a good coach. But we needed a change. We needed a transplant. And, yes, I understand that there will likely be a variety of things that I will dislike about Rich Rodriguez and his coaching staff sooner or later. But for now, I am downright giddy that I have no idea what to expect. That I’ll see a bunch of weird formations and random plays I never thought I’d see in Michigan Stadium. That no matter what happens this weekend, or this season, the future is bright.

The long-term prognosis for the Michigan football program is better than it has been in recent memory – arguably in my entire life. We have one of the best coaches in college football, unbelievable facilities upgrades in the works, and we’re getting amazing exposure thanks to the openness of the new coaching staff. If you can’t get excited about that, it’s time to find a new team. Or, rather, another sport. Because in college football, it doesn’t get any better than Michigan. Go Blue!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Comcast/BTN (the last word?) and Jersey Numbers

My last Comcast/BTN post... ever?!

I saw these two articles regarding all overflow BTN games being available in Philly and various parts of Pennsylvania. These were the first “official” overflow channel assignments that I had seen, and they were being distributed by an East Coast Comcast Rep named Jeff Alexander. I figured that gave me an excuse to email my Comcast contact and see if the overflow channels had been assigned in DC yet. Here’s what she said (important stuff in bold):
“Jeff Alexander is actually on my team and, yes, I can now confirm that the DC-area will use the same channels for "overflow" games - channels 801 through 804. [These channels will] only be “active” when they are in use for these “overflow” games, which is why you wouldn’t see them [on your Comcast TV Guide] yet. Unlike [the primary BTN channel], which will be 24/7, these channels will only be in use when there are actual overflow games, which is why you wouldn’t see anything yet. We are feeding information to the Guides as we have it, but given BTN schedules, potential changes, etc., I’d suggest you scan the channels on game day based on BTN air times and schedules.

Regarding BTN HD, we have no immediate plans to launch [in DC], but I can assure you we are always looking at new networks to add - especially in HD.

By the way, beginning on or about 8/28, you should also have access to some nice Video On Demand content BTN will be supplying, so be on the lookout on your VOD menu.”
Thanks to anybody in and around DC who called Comcast regarding the Big Ten Network. I'm glad they actually listened to us. Whether the same setup will occur in other locations probably depends on demand and (more importantly) free system space. The DC crew lucked out because Comcast has a decent amount of space available here. We'll see what happens in NYC, South Florida, California and other areas with plenty of alumni but (likely) more system space constraints.

This is odd

In a year in which most people are predicting a single-digit win total for Michigan, maybe it’s appropriate that we’ll have more “important” players with single-digit jersey numbers than… ever?
2 – RB Sam McGuffie (Fr.)
3 – QB Justin Feagin (Fr.)
3 – S Stevie Brown (Jr.)
4 – RB Brandon Minor (Jr.)
4 – LB Marcus Witherspoon (Fr.)
5 – TE Carson Butler (R. Jr.)
5 – S Charles Stewart (5th Sr.)
6 – CB Donovan Warren (So.)
7 – WR Terrance Robinson (Fr.)
8 – LB Jonas Mouton (R. So.)
8 – QB Nick Sheridan (R. So.)
9 – LB Marell Evans (So.)
9 – WR Martavious Odoms (Fr.)
All that without a #1, either. Of the players listed above, only Witherspoon is almost certain to redshirt this season (due to an academic snafu). The rest should play, and it is possible that Brown, Minor, Butler, Stewart, Warren, Sheridan, Evans, and one of Robinson/Odoms are all opening-game starters. McGuffie, Feagin, and Mouton will definitely see the field, and even if Odoms edges out Robinson for more snaps at the Slot-WR position (which seems to be the word on the street this week), both players will likely get a shot at punt and/or kick returns. That’s a lot of action from the single-digit guys. And since some people are complaining that the numbers on the new adidas jerseys are too small, it might be wise to familiarize yourself with the numerical roster so you can know who’s who. Note: Two players with the same jersey number can’t be on the field at the same time.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Update: Comcast and BTN Outside the Midwest

If true, this would be awesome (for people in DC, mind you). Yesterday I received an email from a higher-up PR person from Comcast’s East Coast regional office. This is a different person than the one who contacted me before, for what it’s worth:

“[Nick] - I wanted to share some good news, which is that I can now confirm that we will make the “overflow” BTN feeds available to our customers throughout DC. I do not yet have the specific channel locations, but I know you were anxious for updates so wanted to let you know that they will be available.”

I remain skeptical for three reasons: (1) She’s a PR person, and seeing that Comcast was having its Customer Service Reps tell callers that they were going to add the BTN prior to last season, maybe this is just an attempt to keep me from switching to another provider (for the time being, at least). (2) Two separate impeccable “sources,” one of which works for Comcast, told me as late as 2 days ago that the temporary plan was to have just one overflow feed. (3) I’m a pessimist.

I’ll try to be optimistic about this, though, because I’ve dealt with this lady before and she seems honest, and both of my “sources” did indicate that no final decision regarding overflow feeds had been made. Plus, the email pasted above is the most recent and most “official” communication I’ve received, and it's from a high-level employee. Fingers crossed…

And to clarify – BTN is definitely being added to the Sports Tier in DC, as evidenced by the recent message that popped up on my cable box: “August 15, 2008 Comcast of the District, LLC is adding the following channels to the Sports & Entertainment Package: Big Ten Network on 257, HRTV on 259, and TV Games on 260.”

So we might find out the overflow details in 2 weeks, or we might have to wait until August 30th (the first day of games) to see what the real deal is. I urge all fans, even those in DC, to continue to call Comcast (1-800-COMCAST) to find out the setup in your area. If Comcast doesn’t know that there is demand for the overflow feeds, they certainly won’t add them.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

6 Weeks Left

The Truth is Out There

Did LSU schedule Appalachian State to “get back” at Michigan for the Les Miles fiasco? The game was announced in early February, and there wasn't much talk about it, maybe partially because LSU and Appalachian State have played once before (2005), so it didn't seem too fishy. But maybe there's more to the story that we don't know? I was recently looking at some TV listing for the upcoming season, and noticed that the game is on ESPN. I know that in the recent past, ESPN has contacted schools and said “we can put you on TV if you play Team X on Date Y.” Seeing that this game involves the three-ring circus of Les Miles, Appalachian State, and Michigan (all intertwined in history, in a transitive way), I figured that ESPN’s marketing team made the first call and set up the match-up. But in the NOLA article linked above, and in this ESPN release, there is no mention of the game being on ESPN (or any ESPN network). According to this article, the LSU folks initially expected the game to go untelevised, until ESPN came in later and asked to televise it, moving it from a night game to a late afternoon start. Considering that all major programs want exposure, exposure, exposure(!), one could speculate that LSU was willing to open its season untelevised just to rub it in the face of the Wolverines. Or maybe there just weren't any other opponents available. Either way, somebody call Mulder.

Final Image?

If you have a copy of The Wolverine’s 2008 Football Preview, turn to page 237. See that shirtless white dude in the far background… away from the team, at his locker, turning to look back while everybody celebrates with Lloyd? Is that Ryan Mallett? I think it is. If so, it’s a fitting image, and resembles what a lot of insiders said about Mallett: quite the character on the field (he was celebrating with Lloyd and animated on the sidelines during the bowl game), but maybe not the most liked or respected guy in the locker room. If that isn't him, then somebody needs to figure out who Mr. Lonely is.

Process of Elimination: MSU at 3:30

The MSU game seems as close to a lock for a 3:30 start as possible, because the other Big Ten kickoff times for that date have been announced:

Illinois @ Wisconsin: Noon – BTN, ESPN or ESPN2
Northwestern @ Indiana: Noon – BTN, ESPN or ESPN2
Minnesota @ Purdue: Noon – BTN, ESPN or ESPN2
Penn State @ Ohio State: 8 p.m. – ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
Iowa: Bye
Michigan State @ Michigan: TBA

The most prominent slot missing? 3:30 on ABC, which is where one would expect Michigan-MSU to go. Ultra-intense speculation/breakdown follows:

Maybe there’s an super-small chance that if both Michigan and MSU absolutely stink, the game will be given a Noon start on BTN, ESPN, or ESPN2, but that would mean no Big Ten 3:30 game on ABC – and I don’t think that’s ever happened, or is even allowed to happen since it probably violates the Big Ten’s contract with ABC/ESPN. Additionally, I’m thinking that the MSU game won’t be on BTN, unless that’s one of the weeks that they have the second pick. And seeing that the BTN hasn’t announced that it has the rights to MSU @ Michigan or Illinois @ Wisconsin, I’m guessing that BTN has 3rd or 4th pick on October 25th. I’d assume the BTN would want to promote their ownership of a game like UM-MSU, and if they had “second pick” they could start doing so now since ABC/ESPN has already claimed ownership of PSU-OSU. Even though Comcast has a deal with the BTN now, the BTN would still want to put pressure on Charter and other Michigan cable companies, and that would be a great way to do it (remember the hysteria when it was thought that Michigan-MSU might be on BTN last season?).

The guess here is that ABC wants, and will televise, Michigan-MSU, and BTN is aware of this, but nothing can be officially announced until a later date due to some random contract clause (i.e. “ABC/ESPN may select and announce X number of games before July 31, each year, but cannot select or announce additional games until the 6 to 12 day window kicks in”). In short, ABC knows what it’s getting, they just (a) can’t announce it, and/or (b) have virtually no incentive to announce it.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Comcast and BTN - Out of Market Concerns

Most Comcast customers who follow Big Ten sports breathed a sigh of relief when it was finally announced that the nation's largest cable company would carry the Big Ten Network (BTN) this fall. Being an OCD "details type," I immediately wondered what the terms of the deal entailed. The press release was fairly vague, since (in my opinion) the most important thing about the BTN is having access to all of its "overflow" feeds, so you can see all of the games (without having to worry about whether you'll receive your team's game). This is especially important for me, since I live in Washington, DC. So if I only get one BTN channel, my "regional coverage" might be the BTN Game of the Week (which may or may not include Michigan), or worse yet, Penn State (since they're the closest geographically). This short blurb from the Baltimore Sun makes it sound like the BTN will be available on Comcast's Sports Entertainment Package in cities like Baltimore (stated), DC, NYC, etc. (inferred), which was expected. But what about those overflow feeds?!

So I tried to do the impossible: Get my issue on the books, and see if a Comcast employee in the Washington, DC area would actually respond to (and, more importantly, understand) my questions. It appears they did, since I didn't get a computer-generated response. But their response leaves more ambiguity than I was hoping for. Here it is, with names/numbers redacted. For what it's worth (nothing), it comes from a "higher up" employee who is responsible for the DC area:
Your e-mail was forwarded to me and I wanted to address your concerns as best as I could, now that we have announced our plans to carry the Big Ten Network. In terms of our carrying multiple games being played at the same time, I am told by our Marketing Department that --

"It is our understanding that each week, BTN will recommend a 'primary' game that will appear on BTN, and that game might vary by market. And you are correct; there may be one or more other games going on at the same time. We plan to review this situation week by week, and hope to bring our customers as many of these extra games as possible, based on level of interest and available channel capacity. BTN has told us that these details of this opportunity will not be available until August, and that they are quite subject to change, week to week, based on the game selections by ESPN, ABC and NBC."
A few thoughts:

- They don't come out and say they'll only have one feed, but judging by the email's tone, I'd be shocked if they plan on having all feeds. They specifically mention Comcast's "available channel capacity" (which is low, thanks to terrible planning and failure to implement new technology like Switched Digital Video). That's a bad sign, since that seems to be Comcast's second most common generic excuse when they don't want to carry a channel (lack of demand being the first, but we've already solved that one - kind of).

- About demand, or, "level of interest," as they put it. My most blunt response to this is that I can assure them that there will be 100 times more interest in Illinois @ Northwestern (which, admittedly, is a fairly lame game) than there will be in Lehigh @ Yale. Why does Lehigh-Yale matter in this discussion? Because that's the type of game that is often shown (on tape delay or replay, no less) on one of the three Fox College Sports (FCS) channels that Comcast has on its Sports Entertainment Package. How can they give us three channels of that rubbish, mixed in with a decent Big 12 or Pac-10 game now and then, and tell us that we only need one feed of the BTN? Seeing that the crappy FCS channels are owned by the BTN's partner (Fox), it would be painfully ironic if we were subjected to three channels of Stony Brook @ Hofstra, Southern Illinois @ Indiana State, and Youngstown State @ Northern Iowa while being left with only one BTN game every Saturday afternoon. I take that back - that would just be painful.

- Misinformation, as usual. The email makes it seem like BTN will have some say as to whether Comcast can show certain games (and when/where). But that's confusing the issue. The fact is that the BTN wants every feed to be available on every system in every home in America. They aren't going to dissuade Comcast from adding a 4th or 5th feed so fans can see every game, they're going to encourage that. But Comcast, as expected, isn't stating it that way. They write, "BTN has told us that these details of this opportunity will not be available until August," and they bring in irrelevant networks (ABC, ESPN, NBC) to blur the picture. Comcast, I'll save you the suspense and make things clear for you: You have the "opportunity" to add every BTN overflow channel so your customers can have access to every Big Ten Network game (just like DirecTV, Dish Network, and AT&T customers have)... do it! Thanks!

So in case you haven't realized it yet: If you're a Michigan fan with Comcast, living outside of Michigan, you might want to contact Comcast about their plans for the overflow feeds in your area. If you live in NYC or San Francisco, any and all overflows will likely be on the Sports Tier. If you live in Ohio, you might get an overflow or two on a Digital Tier. But call up and find out for yourself, and let Comcast know that demand exists for multiple feeds of the BTN. Sure, your requests and inquiries might not do any good, but considering the subscriber and stock hits they took last fall, it might get their attention. The BTN cost Comcast a fair amount of money last year, whether they want to admit it or not. Let's hope they're smart enough to realize that one BTN feed just won't cut it for out of market fans (or any Big Ten fan, for that matter).

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