Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Favorite Things: Purdue

After having a few days to put the Purdue game in the review mirror, I finally feel like I am ready to look back at it.  There isn't much you can take from a game like that.  The conditions were awful, Purdue has one of the most depleted and ineffective offenses in the country, and Michigan shifted into vanilla play calling once it became clear that the only way the Wolverines would lose would be if Michigan beat itself.

Plays like this certainly weren't setting the world on fire for the Boilermakers:

Fumbles.  Story of the day.
However, there were some solid performances delivered on both sides of the ball.  Lets take a quick look back at my favorite things so we can put this game behind us and move on to (hopefully) greener pastures in the form of two upset bids.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A New Look

Over the past couple weeks I grew tired of the old layout of the blog.  It wasn't easy to see all the side bars, and the general look was too sloppy for my taste.

Say goodbye to the old look


...and say hello to a newer and hopefully easier layout to the site.  If there are any problems, or you feel this new look is ugly, by all means let me know so I can take care of things.  There may be a few tweaks here and there in the coming weeks, but I expect to stay true to this general theme.

More posts should start flowing in, but be sure to check Maize n' Brew regularly, as I am posting there three times a week.

Big Ten Power Poll

Jesus, it's been a while, hasn't it.  For the five people who stop by here on a regular basis, I did not forget this blog existed.  I was just um, busy, you know?

Anyway, that isn't an excuse for my absence.  No more ignoring the old site, and hopefully I will find time to get a couple posts up a week.  Also I am toying around with a new design for the site, but when the decision comes down to writing or screwing around on Photoshop I will usually go with writing.  Usually.

Hopefully the new layout happens this week, but don't hold your breath.

On to the Big Ten power poll:

Thursday, November 4, 2010

New Posts

Things have been slow around here lately.  First the bye week, then a week of utter despair after the Penn State loss have really given me little to nothing to write about.  Look for new content next week after the Illinois game (You know, barring an epic collapse like last year or blowout loss.  In that case I will probably just crawl in a hole and die a little until next August.)

Stay tuned.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Football as Art

I have seen the light.


It is the spread and shred offense, and is shines brightly from Eugene Oregon casting it's divine beauty across the college football world.

It is the middle of the fourth quarter, and Chip Kelly's squad is winding down the latest clubbing, this time of UCLA.  Now this isn't a huge accomplishment (unless you're Texas.  ZING.) because UCLA really isn't a good team.  They have little to no pass offense   118th in the nation at 95 yards per game   and rely on runs out of the pistol formation for the majority of their offense.  Hell, even their defense is decidedly worse than average.

Yet, the beauty of the Oregon attack is independent of the opponent because Oregon's offense operates at such a high level that the other eleven players on the field hardly matter.  They move up and down the field like ghosts.  Never a play for loss, never a bad read, and rarely a dropped pass.  They simply execute on a level that seems almost above what humanity is capable of.  Their current drive chart features eleven drives that read like this:  TD, TD, TD, TD, FG, TD, turnover on downs, TD, TD, punt, TD.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

We Surf the Inter-webs, So You Don't Have To

Who wants some links?  Sweet, sweet manna of blogfrica.  I'm bored, so I figured I would throw out some links to things you should read to pass time in this, the worst week of the season: the dreaded bye week.  Enjoy.

First, if you aren't reading EDSBS on a daily basis, you are missing out.  This week I would recommend two things.  First, Gentle New-Testament God and Crazy Old-Testament God discuss the fates of the remaining unbeatens.  Orson is his best when impersonating vindictive deities.  Also, check in for Howard Schnellenberger's semi-regular Top 25.  Big surprise this week as suspenders fall from the top spot.

Dr. Saturday examines Les Miles plan for stopping Cam Newton this week.  It's Les Miles, so it is just crazy enough to work.

BHGP sums up last weeks Iowa/Michigan game in twelve pictures.  Quick, to the point, and as much as it pains me to say it extremely accurate.

Now that the Tim Brewster Error (amirite?) is over, it is time to endlessly speculate who will replace him.  No, Tony Dungy isn't interested, but Mike Leach might be!  No word yet on whether he will have to supply his own windowless shed for "concussion therepy" or if the University will supply a janitorial closet.

SBN provides its normal one two punch of greatness with The Alphabetical and an absolutely exceptional edition of This Week In Schadenfreude.

In news from mgoblog, Brian is starting halfway evaluations starting with....the secondary.  Who's excited?  I don't want to spoil too much, but it's bad.  Also Brian looks at games from the next three opponents in The Road Ahead.  Three winnable games, but I won't be comfortable with any of them until they are over.  What can I say, the last two years have jaded me.

Lastly, if you haven't been over to Maize n' Brew this week, I have a piece up on Denard Robinson's struggles the last two weeks.

I leave you with something unrelated to college football, but dripping with awesomeness:



"Oh shit, Darren Sharper" indeed.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

(I should have a column on Denard Robinson up at Maize n Brew tomorrow, but for now, here are my postgame thoughts.  Enjoy.)

Best backup QB in the country?
I couldn't quite put my finger on what was different about yesterday afternoon.  In the hours leading up to the game I watched Illinois drop opportunity after opportunity in their upset bid against MSU (who is week in and week out executing and not breaking down mentally.  It's a brave new world for Sparty it seems), and I threw on an episode of Breaking Bad at halftime.  As the FSU vs. BC game finished and the coverage shifted to Ann Arbor I settled into my seat with a beer at my side and the computer tuned to scores across the nation.

The strange thing was, I wasn't nervous.  The last six games have all began with me nervously pacing around the apartment and yelling at the TV until I settled in somewhere near the end of the 1st quarter.  I sent a text message to my old roommate asking why I was so calm.  His response was simple, "I'm calm too.  I think it's because the pressure is off."  The pressure wasn't really off, but the difference from the previous weeks was palpable.  UConn and Notre Dame would set the course for the season and UMass and Bowling Green were opportunities for a gigantic regression that was worrisome until the game was in hand (making UMass one of the most nerve wracking wins since Ball State in 2006).  Indiana posed a huge threat to our defense, and the prospect of losing to Michigan State a third year in a row was maddening.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Putting the Past Behind Them

(Back so soon?  Yes, yes I am.  Sometimes you need to get all emotional without crowding the front page of a widely read blog.  This seems like as good a place as any to do that.)

The beginning of the end.
I couldn't think of any other picture to sum up the collapse of 2009 better than this.  There isn't a picture out there that would evoke as strong a memory as this one.  I almost want to look away.  Nothing could possibly hurt more than watching Roundtree tracked down from behind just like the Wolverine's bowl hopes.  The moment the 2009 season died.

God knows there were struggles before this moment.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Taking My Talents to SBN

It has been one helluva first month and a half here at Dreaded Judgement.  What started as a way for me to pass time while I searched for jobs and read obsessively about Michigan Football has turned into a pretty good blog that got much more exposure than I ever would have imagined.

Exciting news, isn't it Mike?
That's why it is bittersweet to announce that the Michigan football content you have all grown to love from DJ will now have a new home.  One of my biggest supporters, Maize n Brew Dave, over at MnB has decided to sweep me up from the dregs of blogspot.com and into the glamorous world of Sports Blog Nation.  (I am sure that fame and fortune are soon to follow.)  I will now be posting regularly at Maize and Brew which will allow me to reach a much wider audience than Dreaded Judgement provides.

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten the people that got me to where I am.  Dreaded Judgement will not die, but rather change focus.  Outside of being an obsessive UM football fan, I am also a big fan of the NBA, NFL, and a wide range of other amateur and professional sports, and I hope to find time to post more wide ranging content about all sports and sports media while still keeping some of my Michigan edge.  So if you have liked what you've read here in the past, please continue to stop by.

Once again, thank you for everyone who has read my work here or passed on a link to a friend.  This has been a great month and a half, and I look forward to sharing my love for the Wolverines with Michigan football's great fan community from my new digs at Maize and Brew.

Go Blue!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Coast to Coast: Les Miles, Dumb Luck, and Insane Girlfriends

(Things have been slow to develop around here over the past two weeks because of various obligations, travel time, and anxiety about the MSU game.  I will try to produce more regular posts this week and beyond.)


Tell me he isn't crazy.  Crazy like a fox.
We've all been there.  You are just starting to get over a bad breakup and you meet a girl and everything clicks.  She seems perfect.  She's cute and talkative and she busts your balls just enough to get you riled up but has a really sweet side that only comes out when the two of you are alone.  You're into it and have to pinch yourself because things are going so great, all the while in the back of your head you worry just a bit that the other shoe is going to drop.  Could she be this great?

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Wake Up Call

Rude awakening.
I have been putting this off for over a day now.

I first sat down with the intention of writing my postgame thoughts Saturday night after the seven Michigan State fans I spent most of the weekend with left for the bar, leaving me alone with a glass of whiskey and the hum of Florida vs. LSU in the background.  I typed maybe five or six different openings but wasn't happy with what came out, and on top of it I was only half interested in writing anything.  I clicked back and forth between other open tabs on Chrome and felt myself pulled further and further into Les Miles world of madness.  Finally I pushed the computer away.  Sometimes you just need a little time to let things sink in.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Time to Believe


I've been over all the numbers.  I have watched every second of Michigan's season and the better part of three games that Michigan State has played.  I have read no less than a half dozen full fledge game previews and listened to the predictions of friends on both sides of the rivalry.  I am now at data overload.

And what do I know after all of this?  Nothing, really.  But that's why they play the game.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Rabble Rabble Rabble

This:

...is an outrage.  Thanks to the ESPN overlords, I am forced to watch this weekend's football game in standard definition so that the denizens of the Hampton Roads area can enjoy ESPNEWS is all its high definition glory.

Bravo gentlemen, bravo.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Rewind: Indiana




Excellent play from the receiver position has taken this offense to the next level.
I watched the first half of this weekend's game in a loud sports bar surrounded by about 12 friends, and I listened to the second half on my car's radio.  Needless to say I didn't get a chance to focus on much.  Here are a few observations I had when re-watching the game today.



Monday, October 4, 2010

Another One for the Win Column

The legend grows.
A friend of mine got married Saturday, which put me in the uncomfortable position of leaving the house to watch the game.  After the early wedding ceremony I drove to four different bars within the immediate vicinity of the reception in hopes of finding one that had the game.  Two of the bars were permanently closed, and a third had two TV's and no ESPNU.  Needless to say I was getting very annoyed that the city of Wixom   and its inability to support a decent sports bar   might cost me a chance to watch the game.  I switched on the radio as I drove to the fourth bar and caught the tail end of Indiana's first touchdown drive.  As I pulled in to the parking lot a commercial came on just after the extra point.  I was barely inside the door before Denard Robinson broke free for his first touchdown.  That quick strike touchdown set the tone for the whole day.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dreaded Judgement's One Month Birthday

(Note: there won't be anything new up here for a few days.  I will be traveling back to Michigan by car tomorrow for a wedding on Saturday   seriously, what is the deal with fall weddings?  I will try to have my post game piece up late Sunday or early Monday, then jump back into regular posting (hopefully bringing back Midwest Madness and Coast to Coast now that we have more competitive games).  Enjoy your weekend everybody.)

((Let's celebrate!
At the end of August I decided that I would start a blog to find a positive output for all the time I spent reading and thinking about Michigan football.  Drawing inspiration from the header at mgoblog "hope is a many dreaded thing" and the movie Judge Dread for my title, I started writing, hoping that I could find an interesting and unique take on the team, players, and games.  Now, one month later, this site has just climbed over 10,000 page views on 35 total posts.  The feedback from friends, family, and commenters has been incredibly supportive.  I am thrilled and humbled to have this much success this early.

I owe this success in large part to the wide community of Michigan fans online.  First and foremost, Brian at mgoblog, who has provided me with a much larger audience than I could have ever gained on my own.  Dave at Maize and Brew has also liked my work enough to spread the word, as well as the guys at The Wolverine Blog and  MVictors for providing a link to my site.  I can't forget the guys at the WLA for getting me through a rough 2007 offseason and introducing me to the wide community of Michigan fans online with links to Varsity Blue and mgoblog.

Most of all, I want to thank everyone who has taken time to read something over here at Dreaded Judgement.  I hope you have all enjoyed reading this stuff as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

Thank you, everyone.

And most importantly:  Go Blue!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Match Up Rundown: Indiana

Runaway success was not something Indiana
saw a lot of last year.
While I was doing a bit of research for this weekend's game, two things became abundantly clear:

  1. Indiana will have success passing the ball against Michigan's inexperienced secondary.
  2. The most intriguing match up will be between the two rush offenses.
We have all seen this secondary bleed yardage against Notre Dame and UMass.  It is safe to say that the same would have happened against UConn if the quarterback and receivers would have executed at all, and against Bowling Green had the starting quarterback not been injured.  The fact of the matter is that this Michigan defense can only hope to slow down Ben Chappell and his talented group of receivers.  However, the game won't be won in the air.  It will be won in classic Big Ten fashion.  On the ground.

Can Indiana find a way to slow down the dynamic Michigan rushing offense, and can Indiana find a way to establish a run game against the Michigan defense.  The answer to these two questions will most likely decide who walks off the field victorious on Saturday.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Grades from the First Third: Offense Part II

(Find Part I of the offensive grade here.  Find the defensive grades here.  On with the show.)


The star of the show.


Grades from the First Third: Offense Part I

Let's look back on the offense so far, shall we gentlemen?
Yesterday I tackled the defensive side of the ball and came away impressed, but still not entirely comfortable moving forward.  Now we shift things to the other side of the ball and examine the offense.  Same rules apply.  I will be grading each unit based on my best and worst case ideas from this off season's preview   links to the original articles will be provided.  Lets not waste any more time.

The Offense.  (One more reminder for those of you who missed yesterday's piece, my analysis relies on the UFR's done over at mgoblog.  If you aren't familiar with these, I would suggest spending the rest of your afternoon at mgoblog.  You can thank me afterward.)


Monday, September 27, 2010

Grades from the First Third: Defense

Before the season began, when this blog was still in its infancy, I decided the best way to jump in to my Michigan football blogging career short of doing a full season preview would be to look at the best and worst case scenarios for each position group.  I called this series "Half full/Half empty" and I used it to lay out what I thought this season might have in store.

Don't get too comfortable with this defense yet,
lest something like this happen again.
Now that we have made it through the first third of the season, it is time to offer some initial reactions.  Since I have already used the gimmick of "Half full/Half empty" I am just going to stay with it   dance with the one that brought you and all.  I will provide links to the original posts in case you feel like reading them for a little background.

Naturally, disclaimers abound.  This is only my estimation of how each position group has done compared to my preseason hopes and fears.  While we have some answers, a lot more will become clear the further this team gets into the Big Ten season.  (Offense Part I, and Part II found here).

Let's start with the defense.

(One note for those unfamiliar with UFRs, I will rely heavily on this performance based recap of the game done at mgoblog.  Any discussion of player performance is incomplete without taking into account Brian's UFR data.)

My Favorite Things: Bowling Green

Some weeks this postgame recap almost writes itself.  In fact, the Wolverines pitched such a perfect game on Saturday that I am having a hard time limiting myself to just three favorite things.

Mike Hart/Chris Perry but fast, is that what you said Fred?  I'm not buying it.
The offense was on another plain of existence Saturday, only failing to score on two drives.  One of those drives ended with an unfortunate fumble by Stephen Hopkins.  The other drive was a turnover on downs that was preceded by not one but two beautiful touchdown passes   the "I can't believe I'm this open" drop by Junior Hemingway, and the great catch and run by Kelvin Grady on the seam route that was called back after a personal foul.  The defense also had a largely productive day, only allowing two sustained touchdown drives and a total of 283 yards while stifling the Falcon's rushing offense to a measly 1.2 ypc.  The 251 yards passing is a bit of a red flag, but take away the long tunnel screen touchdown (77 yards) that was aided by a hold on James Rogers, and the numbers are even more impressive, especially for a team that makes its living passing the ball.

This was the kind of game that most felt should have happened the previous week against UMass, and while that game still leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth, it is great to see the Wolverines play vintage dominating football.  This Bowling Green team might not be great, but they are not the level of the baby seal that was clubbed last year for nearly the same ridiculous stats.  If there is anything to be concerned about from Saturday, it is that Denard Robinson doesn't need to take bone crushing hits to risk injury, but we all knew that already, even if we didn't want to admit it.  So lets jump right in to my favorite things.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fanaticism and Football

I was bouncing back and forth on mgoblog yesterday for about the thousandth time in the past week when I came across Zone Left's belated response to Brian's conclusion of his 2010 team preview.  The final piece of the preview dealt with an email that had been floating around his inbox for months from a wayward philosophy student at Trinity College who was trying to come to terms with his love of Notre Dame football in relation to "urrybody else."  Both Zone Left and Brian go over the great pains that their fandom has put them through, and ultimately come to admittedly insufficient conclusions about why this team means as much to them as it does.

Probably the first player I ever really remember.
I feel compelled then to take a stab at this question as well, if only to in some way justify to myself the inordinate amount of time I spend thinking or reading about Michigan football to the detriment of almost everything else in my life.  It is either that or I shrug it off, mutter "fuck it", and go back to worrying that Bowling Green's backup quarterback will be an effective replacement on Saturday, Ezeh will play passive at MLB, and Mouton will continue his regression to 2009 levels of linebacker play.  I would like to think asking myself why I would spend all day worrying about this is more productive than simply worrying about it.

--

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Favorite Things: UMass

While there wasn't much to celebrate between the special teams gaffes and the defensive struggles on Saturday, this weeks edition of My Favorite Things still has plenty to choose from on the offensive side of the ball.

1. Denard Robinson
Get used to this.  This blog is quickly turning from a place for me to share my thoughts on Michigan football to a place for me to fawn over Denard Robinson.  Whle the numbers from Saturday aren't as eye popping as they were when Robinson decided to single-handedly dismantle the ND defense, they are still a sight to behold.  Of the 14 passes Robinson threw, 10 were completed for a total of 241 yards.  He thew two touchdowns as well as his first interception of the season.  Not only are these numbers impressive on their own, they have shown us a few things about Robinson that we did not see the first two weeks.

The first pass Robinson threw looked like it was taken straight from the 2009 season.  With Roy Roundtree beating his defender deep, Robinson threw a bullet that was tipped by a (edit: safety) underneath and then caught by the corner back.  Robinson tried too hard to force the ball in with a Navarre like bullet pass, and probably misread the safety as well.

How did Denard respond to his first bit of adversity?  He completed over 75% of his passes from then on out and ended the day with 17.2 ypa.  More importantly he didn't shy away from the deep ball.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Looking for a Silver Lining: UMass


A superior Michigan team took the field early on Saturday against an outmatched opponent.  Most figured the game was simply a tune up for more important games in the future.  A chance to rest starters and give younger back ups a few game time reps.  Michigan doesn't lose games like this.

The underdogs had other plans.  They shocked the favored Wolverines early, forcing turnovers and stealing an early lead.  Like a prizefighter who comes in complacent the home team was knocked on its heels, but soon stormed back to reclaim the halftime lead.  The Wolverines kept the foot on the gas pedal in the third, but a funny thing happened in the final quarter of play:  the underdogs wouldn't go away.  Capitalizing on defensive mistakes and a shift in momentum the game closed in to within one score late, and it looked like the unthinkable might happen.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Preview Central: Remember, Remember the First of September

I remember back to the 2007 season.  I was in my final semester at UM, and was staying in my temporarily vacant apartment on the kindness of my landlord who allowed me to crash on an air mattress until I found somewhere else to live.  I had no access to TV or internet, most of my friends had graduated and moved out in the last month, and the only bright spot I had staring down this final semester was one more round of season tickets.

Being without internet in my empty apartment, I wandered down to the Michigan Union the Saturday of the first game.  I knew of a few iMacs tucked away in an alcove on the 4th floor because I worked in an office around the corner (obligatory SORC shout out).  I went up there mostly to pass time, but also to see what nuggets of information ESPN might have for me.  I read about the team, and about the game, but I wasn't really interested.

The game was largely an afterthought.  "Appalachian who?" I smugly thought.  Teams from Div. I-AA are just warm ups.  I had seem enough early season cupcake games in my last four years of in the student section to feel I knew the script.  UM scores a couple early touchdowns   the old Big House two touchdown advantage coaches used to talk about   and the game is in the bag by halftime.

--

Nobody writes off I-AA teams anymore, at least nobody but Houston Nutt.  Some of these small programs have built themselves into powerhouses of the FCS division on great coaching, schemes, and players who fall through the cracks at the highest levels but can be very productive in the right system.  Then the big dogs from the FBS come calling for an easy win with a big paycheck in hand.  Four I-AA teams beat I-A teams last week.  The week before Jacksonville St. beat Ole Miss with two of the most exciting final plays I have ever seen, a 4th and 15 pass to the back of the end zone for a touchdown, then a miraculous scramble and shovel pass for the go ahead 2-pt conversion in the second overtime.  So much for easy wins.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My (Least) Favorite Things: Notre Dame

Things have been slow to develop around Dreaded Judgement over the last day or so.  A link from Brian at mgoblog on Monday that directed people to my post game reaction has run traffic around here to much higher levels than I ever could have imagined when I started out a few weeks ago.  On top of that, my postgame thoughts inspired a response from Dave over at Maize and Brew (a response that I understand better after this blog got some notoriety outside my close circle of friends).


I think the sum total of things I have written in my life haven't been read by this many people, so I have spent the last day or so in awe.  It feels great to get positive feedback and support from the Michigan football online community, not to mention blogging idols of mine like Brian and Dave.  But there is no time to rest on my laurels.  football season stops for no man.  Back to regularly scheduled programming.

--

When it came to this post I was initially unsure how to proceed.  I set out in this series to highlight the positives of each week's performance.  However, the positives from last Saturday's game would have unfolded like this.
  1. Denard Robinson
  2. Denard Freaking Robinson
  3. Denard Freaking Robinson ripping Notre Dame's heart out in the last three minutes of another nail biter.
Pretty boring list, eh?  Besides, I think I have already summed up my feelings on Denard Robinson enough this week.  When it comes down to it we will learn much more from examining a few of the underwhelming aspects of Saturday's performance.  So without further ado, I present:  My (Least) Favorite Things.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Midwest Madness: Week Two

After a week of uninspiring match ups to begin the season we finally got some solid action in Big Ten country this week.  It is still too early to tell what this year's Big Ten season has in store, but its not too early to make wildly inaccurate predictions and revel in a bit of schadenfreude.  On with the show.

Michigan St. 30 - FAU 17
Home away from home.
Michigan St. wanted so badly to test themselves on the road early in the season they paid FAU to come play them in Detroit as the home team (insert obligatory MSU/geography joke).  If you would have told me before the season that in the first two game Kirk Cousins would pass for less than 200 yards and one touchdown in each, I would have laughed at you and then immediately put money on both WMU and FAU.  Cousins came in this year as probably the best pure passer in the Big Ten with all but one of his receivers back (and the one they lost was only a walk-on, so really, it couldn't be that big a loss, right?)  Now after two games it seems like Mark Dantonio has the power running team that he desires.  Edwin Baker put up 183 yards on 15 carries for a Denard-like 12.2 ypc, while last weeks breakout freshman Le'Veon Bell added 49 yards on 10 carries.  Both rushed for touchdowns.

The bigger story is that despite being heavily favored, MSU failed to put FAU out of it's misery.  At one point in the 3rd quarter the game was within two scores.  This probably has to do with an anemic conversion rate for the Spartans (1/7) on offense.  Also, allowing FAU to convert 7 of the 16 third downs and both fourth down tries is a bad omen going forward for the defense.  Next week the Spartans face Notre Dame at home.  Do you think Brian Kelly wants to lose to both Michigan schools to start his tenure in South Bend?

Hangovers, Notre Dame, and Denard Robinson Making Me Love Football Like A Child Again


"I need a drink."

As Dayne Crist's last second pass to the end zone sailed high above the outstretched hands of everyone and into the third row, I slumped over against the wall and started repeating that phrase.  My nerves were wrecked.  I needed something to calm myself.  Whiskey would have to do.

--

I had spent the last three and a half hours nervously watching the game, pacing around the apartment, and yelling so loud at the TV that my roommate gave up sleeping in the next room and decided to join me in the livingroom.  All the better to watch the spectacle of a college football fan driven mad by the frustration of playing Notre Dame at Notre Dame, where anything could go wrong at any time.  I worried aloud during the first half as the offense failed to capitalize on the mistakes of Crist's replacements.  I sent frantic text messages to friends who were also watching the game, and followed the box score online looking for any signs of hope in the numbers.  I found very little encouragement not preceded by the name:  Robinson.  When Crist came back in the second half I lost all hope and optimism.  A blown coverage on his second play back was all I needed to sink deep into my chair and wish for a quick end.  I am hopelessly fatalistic when it comes to Michigan football, and I hate myself for it.

Yet the team hung around.  The defense made enough plays to hold Notre Dame off.  It looked like we might escape South Bend after all.  Then all hell broke loose.  Crist connected with Rudolph on a deep seam route that was horribly misread by Cam Gordon.  And I collapsed again.  Isn't this how it always happens against Notre Dame?

The rest, they say, is history.  Denard Robinson picked the team up off the mat and put together the first scoring drive in almost thirty minutes of game time.  He was quick, efficient, and focused as the team slowly marched forward for the kill shot.  Once he hit Roundtree between the numbers on 3rd and 5 I knew it was all over.  Denard wasn't going to let this team lose.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Preview Central: Notre Dame vs. Michigan




Let this get you in the mood for the game.


After one week of football, there are only three things we know going into this game:


  1. Denard Robinson is for real.  Really, really, real.
  2. Michael Floyd is going to have his pimp hand nice and ready for Michigan's secondary.
  3. Everyone else in the country is rooting for some way that both teams can lose this game.
Is UConn the Big East contender that everyone proclaimed them to be in August?  (Bonus question, does that even say anything positive about them when Rutgers takes a half of football to get warmed up against Norfolk St., Pitt is still coached by the Wannstache, and Cincinnati looks downright pedestrian under Butch "Sloppy Seconds" Jones?)  Was Michigan's defense that effective in stopping an experienced UConn offense, or did they stop themselves?  What about the UConn defense that spent all of last Saturday taking worse pursuit angles than a squad put together by a high school for the blind?

On the other side of the fence, what about Purdue?  Did Allen and Wood terrorize a competent defense, or is this unit the same 94th ranked rushing D from last year?  Was Purdue's back seven responsible for neutralizing Michael Floyd, or does that honor go to Dayne Crist?  Does anyone think Robert Marve can be a productive quarterback outside of Robert Marve?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Match Up Rundown: Notre Dame

Let up begin looking forward to this week's game against the Fightin' Irish.  Today I will explore some key matchups that will play a big role in this weeks game.  One matchup will favor the Wolverines, the other will favor the Irish.  Whatever team has the most success winning these key battles will most likely win the game.

Conventional wisdom?  No thanks.
When you watch as much ESPN as I do on a daily basis you are either 1) unemployed or 2) masochistic.  Sportscenter is still great for a rundown of scores and highlights, and I'll never change the channel when PTI comes on, but overall the so called "experts" on the different ESPN shows tend to hang on cliches and hyperbole.  So I wasn't surprised today when Mel Kiper and Todd McShay decided to weigh in on players to watch during the Michigan vs. Notre Dame game this week.  I had already decided on writing this piece and figured that these two might have something interesting to add.

Then Mel Kiper made me reevaluate everything I was going to write.  His key player was Michael Floyd.

Here, I had spent the whole morning planning a piece on just how much damage Michael Floyd could do to this thin Michigan secondary.  He is unquestionably a first round caliber draft pick when he leaves school.  He absolutely toyed with sophomore Boubacar "Toast" Cissoko last year, hauling in seven receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown.

But, isn't that the point?  Floyd will have a productive day on the outside against a green secondary unit just like he did last year.  However, the soft coverage schemes and Dayne Crist's inability to be Jimmy Clausen should keep the production at around the same level as last year.  That kind of production I can live with.  After all, the outside receivers had a field day last year and Michigan still pulled out the win.  Which brings me to my first key matchup, the receiver we really need to be worried about this Saturday.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My Favorite Things: UConn

I am trying to work out a number of regular features during the season, such as Coast to Coast, Midwest Madness, Key Possessions, and this post My Favorite things.  Having ideas of what to write will help me produce content.  If something is working well, or not working at all, please let me know.  With that said, on with the show.






I am a big fan of jazz music, so when it came for inspiration for this next piece of post-game retrospective, I turned to John Coltrane for inspiration.

There are a lot of positives to take away from this game.  Each week I'll try to pick my favorite three things from a win (and maybe my three least favorite things from a loss, that will depend on my mood).  Lets get to the list.

Key Possessions: UConn

One of the big keys to success this year is gaining momentum early in the game.  Against UConn on Saturday, the first possession by each team was dominated by Michigan.  This set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.  Let's take a look at just what happened:

  • 14:55 - If there was ever a defensive play I was excited to see, it was this.  Three players all around the ball for the tackle and no gain on the pass out to the flat, added to the fact that Cam Gordon got sideline contain.  Follow this up with a TFL by Mouton on the next play, then a false start penalty, and finally heavy pressure on Frazer's third and long throw, and you have exactly the kind of stop the defense needed to make.  This more than anything set the tone for the game.  The UM defense that was supposed to come out and get pushed around by an experienced offensive unit played fast and aggressive.  They might make mistakes this year, but if they play with this much fire things should be just fine.
  • 13:30 - Who is this team again?  The first two offensive plays are out of the I-form.  Who let Lloyd in the booth?  Both the run by Shaw and the hitch pass to Stonum look like vintage Carr plays.
  • 12:31 - Denard takes the snap, fakes the handoff, and steps into a quick throwing stance, freezing the linebacker and opening a huge running lane.  Who else is excited to see the kind of openings in the defense that pump fakes will open up for Denard Robinson this year?
  • 12:22 - And coming in for the only penalty of the day, Patrick Omameh, with an inexcusable late hit.  I like the enthusiasm, but Omameh has to be aware not only that the whistle was blown, but that Robinson was already down in front of him.  For this offense to be successful, linemen will have to constantly block down the field, and this team can't afford to have drives stalled by 15 yard penalties.
  • 12:22 - The next play is perfect.  As diagrammed at Burgeoning Wolverine Star, this play is a 100% improvement in execution from last year, and one block away from six points.
  • 11:17 - This play goes for positive yards, but looks to be improvised after blocking breaks down on the right side.  Shaw comes across the backfield, but then does a 180 and runs off Schilling's left hip.  My guess is that Dorrestein did not kick the DE out far enough and Shaw got cold feet.  It could be a designed counter (I'll wait for the offensive UFR at MGoBlog), but the cutback develops too slow to imagine this being very effective against solid linebackers.  However, if it is a broken play, it is nice to see a five yard gain, something we didn't see much of last year when the blocking broke down.
  • 10:13 - 3rd and short.  Michael Shaw up the gut?  Excuse me while I flash back to Illinois '09.  Isn't this what we brought Stephen Hopkins in for?  No matter, as this is another 1st down.
  • 9:21 - First, this is an excellent misdirection with the play action.  All the action goes left except for Robinson, Schilling, and Koger.  The LB's don't bite, but are caught watching long enough to give Robinson a head start.  The only man who can pick up the sack is the DE, and Schilling makes short work of him.  Koger finds an open spot below the safety and Robinson throws a strike.  This should be an offensive staple all year.
  • 9:00 - This no gain is probably on Omameh.  He gets stood up by the DT who is able to keep his shoulders square to the play.  By the rest of the blocking   and the backside LB who eventually makes the tackle   I'll guess this run is supposed to go in the G/T gap.  If Omameh turns the DT inside it would seal off the LB coming in from the backside and allow Shaw to get to the second level.  After getting blown off the ball early on this drive and committing a penalty, the day hasn't started well for Omameh.
  • 7:40 - This TD is all Vincent Smith.  UConn sends four players right to the spot on the line that Smith is trying to run through.  Schilling does a good job of staying between his man and the runner even after getting knocked down and turned around.  Smith then goes to work making people miss.  I don't think there is another running back on the team capable of turning this from a no gain to a TD.  Also, credit must be given to both Stonum and Roundtree (or was it Grady?), who neutralize the only players in the secondary capable of getting the stop after Smith makes it through the line.
So the first drive of the day for UConn goes for -9 yards.  Despite a booming punt that pushes Michigan back to its own four yard line, the offense rattles off a 14 play, 96 yard drive.  Denard Robinson completes two passes and runs for three 1st downs himself.  Even with a handful of mistakes this offense is still able to move the ball, only once losing yards (a one yard loss on the run by Shaw).  

All in all it was a great day for the offense.  Two scoring drives went for 96 yards, one went for 77 yards, one for 75, and the offense even capitalized on the shanked punt by taking the ball 38 yards for a TD.  To top it off, UConn was only given two meaningful possessions in the second half, and the defense did its job on both forcing a fumble and a turnover on downs.

Make no mistake though, the game turned ugly for UConn because of execution by both the offense and defense early.  A three and out for the defense followed by a long touchdown drive, and now the home team has all the momentum and confidence.  If this team can make a statement early in games this year it will go a long way toward making things easier on the defense while allowing the offense to worry about ball control and clock management rather than playing catch-up.

There are still quite a few questions swirling around this team, but we can all rest easier after Saturday knowing that the team is capable of establishing itself early.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Midwest Madness: Week One

My attempt to wrap up the week's games in the Big Ten


Excitement was hard to come by if you surveyed the Big Ten schedule for week one, but such is life in the non-conference schedule weeks.  Props to Michigan and Purdue for playing team's with a pulse   and I suppose props to Illinois for even showing up at all.  So the Ron Zook death march begins.

Instead of full wrap ups from each game, I am just going to pull one interesting stat or fact from each game.  You'll get more when the games start to matter.  If most of the conference isn't going to try this week, why should I?

Ohio State 45 - Marshall 7
17 for 25, 247 yards, 3TD's - Terrelle Pryor's stat line   looks like a real quarterback's, doesn't it.  However, 8 rushes for 17 yards is very unlike the fleet footed Pryor.  As I said earlier today, Pryor will have a good opportunity to prove he has taken the next step against a good Miami (FL) team this week.  The development of everybody's favorite Heisman candidate will be an interesting storyline all season.

Indiana 51 - Towson 17
392 to 360 - That is Towson's 32 yard edge in total yardage in a game that wasn't even close.  The three Towson INT's help tell part of this story, but for the life of me I can't figure out where Indiana managed to find 51 points while being out gained on offense by an FCS team.  Word of caution, Indiana will sneak up on someone this year, mark that down.  Let's just hope it isn't Michigan.

Tim Brewster: finding ways to torture the
Minnesota fan base since 2007.
Minnesota 24 - MTSU 17
10 - That is the number of points Minnesota scored in the 4th quarter (compared to 0 for MTSU) to avoid losing to a Sun Belt team.  Tim Brewster doesn't like to do anything easy, does he?

Michigan State 38 - Western Michigan 14
8.0 - The YPC average for a Michigan State team that came into the season with serious questions on the offensive line after losing three starters from last years middle of the road unit, as well as three underclassmen running backs.  Is WMU's defense that bad or MSU's running game that good?  Stay tuned.

Penn State 44 - Youngstown St. 14
40 - The total rushing yards gained by Evan Royster.  When looked at in comparison to the game above, this number seems downright scary for Penn State moving forward   I think it's safe to say WMU's defense > Youngstown St.'s defense.  With a true freshman under center and questions marks all over the offensive line, Royster is going to be depended on heavily this year to produce without much help.  Penn State fans, worry now.  I think the team PSU plays next week knows a little bit about stopping the run.

Iowa 37 - Eastern Illinois 7
70,585 - The number of hearts that stopped when Ricki Stanzi went down awkwardly on his ankle in the second quarter.  Bonus stat:  0 - The number of "Rick Sixes"* thrown.

* Rick Six has now replaced Stanziball as the preferred name for any Ricky Stanzi interception that is returned for a touchdown.  Keep an eye out for the Rick Six watch, coming shortly.


What do Ron Zook and the teacup ride have in common?
They both make Illinois fan's queasy.
Missouri 23 - Illinois 13
11 - Games until Ron Zook is run out of town.  That is all.

Notre Dame 23 - Purdue 12
15 - Yards assessed on the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called on Robert Marve as he dove into the endzone on the only Purdue touchdown.  This stat could also have been 0/2, Marve's touchdown to interception ratio.  Keep it classy Purdue.

Northwestern 23 - Vanderbilt 21
304 - Yards of offense that Dan Persa produced by himself (222 of them on 19 of 21 passing).  Apparently Pat Fitzgerald has focused some of that massive NU endowment on building an underground lab somewhere on campus where scientists produce ridiculously accurate spread quarterbacks in an attempt to torment Iowa fans everywhere.

Wisconsin 41 - UNLV 21
8 - The number of people who actually paid attention to Wisconsin's easy win over UNLV at 11pm on a Saturday night.  The fine people of Wisconsin don't give up Saturday beer and cheese nights for anything, not even their beloved Badgers.

Nebraska 49 - Western Kentucky 10
49 - Seriously?  Nebraska scored 49 points?  I mean, I know it is just WKU, but some things just have to be seen to be truly believed.  This offense was terrible last year.  However, true to form the Cornhuskers turned the ball over twice.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Join us next week as the Big Ten faces off against perennial powers such as Florida Atlantic, South Dakota, Southern Illinois, and, uh, some team from Alabama.

Thanks

Support makes all the difference.
A blog is only as successful as its readers make it, and I would like to thank all of you for the support so far.  As I check the stats I can see the hit count slowly rising.  Also, I have gotten encouraging words from some of you which helps my confidence and motivation immensely.  Nothing makes a writer more excited about his craft than the knowledge that he is producing something that his readers truly enjoy reading.

It has been a good week of posting, and I am getting more and more comfortable with what I am doing here.  I doubt that I will have as much content to post as I did last week with my series of preview-ish pieces on the team (if you haven't checked out the Half Full/Half Empty series yet, I encourage you to do so soon, before the predictions become obsolete by, you know, actual game performance).  However, I will try to have something new up every day, and hopefully a few weekly series-type pieces.

If you like what you see, please spread the word.  And by all means, feel free to comment and tell me when I say something dumb.  I hope this blog becomes more of a forum for conversation than a simple mouthpiece for me to rant about football.

You keep reading and I'll keep writing.

Go Blue!

-Zach

Coast to Coast: Week One

Hopefully the first of a series of weekly round-ups from other games around the country, depending on how much alcohol I consume on a given Saturday, and what that does to my viewing schedule.


It's not who you are, it's who you beat.


Boise State has officially arrived.  Well, kind of arrived.  I mean, they've been here for, uh, well.  You know, right?

If it seems like I have a hard time expressing my feelings on the "Boise State situation", I'm not the only one.  It is the same story this year as it has been for the last few, a fiesty upstart from the WAC gets an impressive non-conference win, wanders through a weak conference season to an undefeated record, and then wants a seat at the table with the big boys.  We've all seen this movie before.  The college football world has always had an easy time pushing aside the Broncos in favor of more "deserving" teams, only to be reminded during bowl week that this Boise State team is for real.  Problem is, no one has been able to really come to terms with just what Boise State's place in the college football landscape should entitle it to.  Luckily that has never been a problem...until now.

This year, Boise has given us no choice but to come up with an answer.  With an impressive win over perennially good   but equally prone to big game choke jobs   Virginia Tech, Boise State has staked an impressive claim to its current position in the polls.  Coming in to the season under loads of preseason hype, returning 20 of 22 starters from an undefeated 2009 team that had wins against Oregon and TCU, Boise State has delivered on its end.  Beating Virginia Tech should leave no doubt that this program is for real, but that isn't the fundamental question that will keep Boise out of the MNC hunt.

Monday, September 6, 2010

This Must Be the Place: UConn

My continuing effort to frame the 2010 football season within the context of songs by the Talking Heads:




Home, is where I want to be.

I certainly felt at home Saturday afternoon.  That feeling has been a long time coming.  There was a certain comfort and security that hung over my Michigan fandom early in life.  I went into every season with the explicit expectation that the team would win the Big Ten and challenge for the national championship.  You can probably blame this on 1997 national championship, which happened just around the time I really started to understand the games I was watching in the greater context of seasons and programs and history.  Before the 1997 national championship I rooted for UM because my father did, and that meant by extension I did too.  After the national championship my love of Michigan football was now crystallized in the realization that the team I loved was the best, whether they really were or not.  The love grew from there until I finally joined in to that game day tradition as a student.  Blue was always the only way to go.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Ballad of Little Man Tate

Tate doesn't seem to have much to
dance about these days.
I think it's safe to say that in his short football career at the University of Michigan, Tate Forcier has just about seen all the highs and lows that college football has to offer.  The quarterback-from-birth went from savior to scapegoat over the course of the 2009 season.  After the shredding of UConn's defense yesterday by the new and improved Denard Robinson, followed by the shots of a dejected and embarrassed Forcier on the bench,  the young quarterback has now moved firmly into the category of "afterthought."  All the while Tate hasn't changed.  He is still the same quarterback full of grit and moxie with crazy accuracy and a coaching pedigree that most pro's can't claim.  The same quarterback who brought the team back from the dead in two games, and forced overtime in a third 4th quarter comeback.  No, Tate is the same quarterback we have always known he was.  We have just changed the way we see him, for better or worse.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Links? Links.

A few links to round up this glorious Friday afternoon as we settle in for the orgy of football that Saturday holds in store for us.  Am I excited?  You bet your sweet ass I am.

MGoBlog has wrapped up the series of totally awesome position previews for the upcoming season, as well as tackling five of the most pressing questions on both sides of the ball.

Meanwhile, Tim at MGoBlog has completed the preview of UConn for tomorrows game.  The prevailing opinion seems to be that this will be a question of what happens when two unstoppable forces meet two very moveable objects.  If you like lots of offense without those pesky defenders getting in the way, this game is for you.  If both teams don't score at least 30 points, I'll eat my computer.

Spencer Hall at EDSBS once again reminds me that he is one of my favorite college football bloggers out there with an amazing piece looking ahead to the football season and back to memories of his grandfather.

Short day today.  Football tomorrow, so rest up and stock up on beer and meat.  It's gonna be a helluva season.

Born Under Punches: 2010 and Beyond

The final installment of my 2010 preview of the upcoming season as a whole.  More than just the team itself, we need to understand the state of the program, and what this year means going forward.  I'll let David Byrne take it away:




Take a look at these hands.

Take a look at these hands!

Last night I pulled this song up on Youtube and listened to it for what seems like the thousandth time this week.  I have been a big fan of the Talking Heads for a while, but only recently come around to what might be their greatest album: Remain in Light.  It is beautiful and frenetic and dripping with the kind of paranoid energy that comforts you and sets you on edge simultaneously when the song blasts over your speakers and you cruse down the highway at well over the speed limit, pushed to drive faster by the building tension.  I could have picked pretty much any song from the album to begin this post:  Cross-eyed and Painless, Once in a Lifetime ("This is not my beautiful Big House!"), or Houses in Motion.  They all seem to fit.  All of them are chaotic   Byrne and producer Brian Eno were heavily influenced by band leader, saxophonist, and African revolutionary Fela Kuti during the making of Remain in Light   and this would hardly be the first time anyone referenced revolution or chaos when discussing the Rich Rodriguez experiment.

It's been a long, strange trip and for better or worse, we will know more about the program come December.  I just don't know if we will like what we hear.






Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Storm is Brewing


Throughout the week the news has been spreading around Virginia Beach about the impending arrival of hurricane Earl.  I first heard about the storm from the friend who's couch I am currently residing on until I find a job and place of my own, daunting tasks both of them.  He arrived home Monday and asked me if I had heard anything about the hurricane that was predicted to strike at the end of the week.  I admitted I hadn't, as I was homebound though the day.

Since that moment I have been dutifully checking the size and projected path of Earl as it moves from the eastern rim of the Caribbean and makes its way up the Atlantic seaboard.  To be honest, I really don't know what to expect.  My only knowledge of hurricanes is what I have gleaned from years of news coverage and discovery channel specials.

Looking back at my time in Michigan I can't remember any truly severe weather striking.  My biggest brush with the wrath of mother nature came when I was still just a few years old and a tornado swept through a part of Flint, MI just a couple miles from my house.  It rained like hell, thunder crashed, and lightning lit up the sky like fireworks.  When it was all over the family went out into the yard, a mist still hanging over the air as the trees shook off the last of the rainwater in the breeze.  The sky was an unsettling shade of yellow.  Tree branches littered the yard and street, and a power line lay over the sidewalk.  Superficial damage, all of it.

Of course this is nothing compared to the power of a hurricane.  Even the thunderstorms down in Virginia Beach are more violent and powerful than those back in Michigan.  I've been caught in rain so bad that it seems like rain is being dumped from buckets rather than in drops.  So thick I couldn't drive faster than 5 mph, and I couldn't see anything at that speed.  I can't imagine what truly powerful storm could bring.

Being new to the area, I wonder how everyone else is preparing for the arrival of Earl late tonight.  I see most people going about their business and wonder if the air of nonchalance they exude is due to some deeper understanding of hurricanes that comes from growing up on the Atlantic coast.  Are they used to this?  Have they seen it all before and know what to expect?  "Earl?  Thats nothing. I remember when..."

Who really knows?  At the bar last night the TV's were tuned to the weather report, but nobody seemed to pay attention.  A few drinks will do that I guess.

I have a tendency to get caught up thinking that everyone else is somehow clued in to some deeper truth about the world around them while I flail away struggling to find meaning and make sense of the events transpiring around me.  Its probably more a symptom of how I deal with things than it is an overestimating everyone else.  Regardless, I sometimes feel lost, surrounded by a sea of people who've all got maps.

So far, writing this blog in the lead up to the 2010 season has mirrored my careful watch over hurricane Earl.  A lot of reading, theorizing, and rationalizing, but none of it will matter soon.  Earl will roll past Virginia Beach and do what hurricanes do, and kickoff to the 2010 Michigan football season will happen Saturday afternoon and do what it does   render my and everyone else's predictions obsolete.  Nobody really knows what the future has in store.  All we can do is try to take what we've learned in the past and make good guesses about what's coming down the road.

As I sit here now I have the channel guide up on the television.  Football is officially in the picture.  The long off-season is about to come to a close.  Now is the time to get answers from past recruiting classes.  The time to clash with rivals.  The time to learn what players are going to step into contributing roles, and who is going to make the leap from solid to superstar?

And just like the hurricane, football season will be gone before you know it.  Soon it'll be December, and we will have put another twelve games behind us.  Then bowl season will pass and we will be back to getting our football fix from off-season speculation and national signing day drama.

These fall Saturdays are sacred.  Every one of them.  So enjoy every minute of the season, because these moments are fleeting.  Soon it will be another long cold off-season spent dreaming about tailgates, touchdowns, and rivalry games.  Clinging to memories of seasons past.

The glorious victories.


And crushing defeats.


That is the beauty of this game that we love.  Anything can happen.  And when it does it will effect us deeply, burn into our memory, and then be gone again until the next fall.

So brace yourself for the storm.  

I know I will.

Half Full or Half Empty? Quarterback

The final entry in my series of best and worst case scenarios for the upcoming season.  I would do one on special teams, but its pretty simple.  Kicking and punting come down to freshman stepping up, and the return game, to paraphrase MGoBlog comes down do "HOLD ON TO THE DAMN BALL.  Let's now look at the biggest x factor for the coming season, the quarterback position.


The two-headed monster.  I still
have nightmares about 2008.
The story of the Michigan offense these last two years is largely a story of quarterback play   or lack thereof (amirite?).  2008 was the worst offensive year any of us have ever seen because the options at quarterback were a walk-on and a pro style passer unfit to run the spread and shred.  This is a reductive view that doesn't take in to account the worst offensive line of the last ten years, and two freshman running backs, but bare with me.  2009 was a year of promise and ultimately failure, on the backs of one quarterback who was tasked with too much pressure to carry an offense (losing your best option at RB and the heart of your offensive line at different points will do that), and another quarterback who had all of three weeks of formal training at the position before the season.  The quarterbacks did the best they could with the injuries and inexperience that surrounded the team last year.  Their best wasn't good enough.

This year is different.  The offense returns almost wholly intact and deeper than before.  The defense returns a lot of its contributors from last year and is finally nearing the point where there is a legitimate two deep at every position.  Questions abound for this team as we enter the season, but none of them seem to matter as much as who takes the first snap this Saturday.  This isn't a real question, since it is clear all three options at quarterback will play.  That doesn't really matter, because if there is one thing the media loves more than Brent Favre's annual retirement fiasco, it is a full fledged quarterback controversy.

So we return to the question that launched the discussion of running backs:  If you have two quarterbacks, do you indeed have none?

Half Full or Half Empty? Running Backs

There is a hurricane rolling in to Virginia Beach tonight, so posts will be coming hard and fast today and most likely not at all tomorrow.  Let's move on to the biggest unknown question in the running game.


The old adage goes, "if you have two quarterbacks, you have none."  What about two running backs?  What about three?  Four?

The running back position in the spread and shred offense seems to be overlooked sometimes.  When people look back on Rodriguez's tenure at West Virginia the first name that gets mentioned is always Pat White.  But the quarterback position will only account for somewhere around 40% of the rushing attempts in a given year.  The Pat Whites of the world may run the show, but it is the guys like Steve Slaton and Noel Divine that carry the bulk of the workload.

From fumble prone to MINOR RAGE!  Can this year's
running back corp take the next step?
The past two years, the running back position in Ann Arbor has been in a state of constant flux.  Sam McGuffie was thrust into playing time early in his true freshman year of '08 (probably costing him his health and driving him back to Texas), but neither he nor Michael Shaw found much success on the ground, paving the way for Brandon Minor to take a bigger role in the offense.  After a solid end to the '08 campaign, Minor and speedster Carlos Brown looked to be the one two punch that UM's breakout offense would need in '09.  However, injuries took a toll and turned the running back position into a game of musical chairs.

Going in to this season the oft injured Minor and the sporadic play maker Brown have both graduated and taken with them the last remnants of Lloyd Carr's stable of running backs.  Stepping in to fill the void are a number of running backs who have different levels of experience.  Shaw, a junior, and Vincent Smith, a freshman, are both back in the fold having a few starts a piece, but both have been inconsistent.  Joining them are three largely unknown newcomers.  Michael Cox the alleged super athlete saw garbage time last year.  Fitzgerald Toussaint is the owner of not only a fantastic name but an equally impressive load of hype generated by highlight tapes and scout team buzz from last year.  Last but not least is Stephen Hopkins, the early-enrolling freshman who has established himself as the battering ram of the bunch.

Can we get reasonable production out of a group of unproven running backs?