Tressel and Miller to Michigan? – Imagine the Possibilities of the Wolverines Ultimate Revenge Fantasy

A divisive hire? Sure. But Jim Tressel was a damn good football coach.

So as I was perusing the twitter-verse this morning. I stumbled upon Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer’s press conference notes, and a tweet from @LostLettermen caught my eye

After J.T Barrett carved up Michigan State on Saturday, it’s vehemently clear that he will in all likelihood be Ohio State’s starter next season, which will in turn make injured Redshirt Junior QB Braxton Miller transfer to another school for a 5th year. Miller can gain immediate eligibility by enrolling in a grad program that Ohio State doesn’t offer. This is similar to what Russell Wilson did when he left NC State for Wisconsin. I could think of a school in Ann Arbor that could use a QB like Braxton Miller next season. With Devin Gardner leaving and Shane Morris/Russell Bellomy not having shown the mettle or competent skills to be a starting QB for the Wolverines, there is a microscopic possibility Braxton could go all Steve Smith and want to stick it to the team that he helped lead to so many heights, only to have them dump him to the bench. To catalyze this effect, it would involve Michigan hiring former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel. Now some people may want to burn me at the stake for even suggesting this, but flat out – Jim Tressel was a winner. He took Ohio State from irrelevance under John Cooper to Woody Hayes-ian levels of prominence, winning a national title in his second year and making plenty of BCS Bowl games. His record was 94-22 in Columbus (.810) and had double digit wins every year but 2001 and 2004 (the worst he ever did was 7-5 in his inaugural campaign.) Now yes, people will be quick to point out the 2010 scandal with the free tattoos, cars, etc. But four years later – the NCAA is being roasted over an open fire for the hypocritical way it treats players regarding these ‘freebies’. Tressel wouldn’t exactly be welcomed with open arms, but he is a proven coach that could bring Michigan back to relevance – much like he did in Columbus. What ties together the two Buckeyes is the fact that Tressel recruited Miller to Columbus.

Braxton Miller in a Michigan uniform in 2015? BRUHHH

While Tressel did not get to actually coach Miller, as he left the program before Miller saw the field, the two are inextricably linked by that alone. Now if Michigan were to hire Jim Tressel, Braxton Miller joining the Maize and Blue becomes FAR more likely. It’s the coach who recruited them, and the two of them could execute the ultimate revenge fantasy against Ohio State to close out the 2015 season at the Big House. Not only that, but with Miller’s experience, Tressel’s coaching scheme and a young Michigan team getting older, 9-3 would be very possible. That would certainly speed up the rebuild that is going to be required with Shane Morris or Alex Malzone under center. This almost feels like something that the WWE writers would come up with, but sometimes reality is stranger than fiction. I for one would embrace the two former enemies with open arms – as Tressel is a proven commditiy who brings a sparkling CV to the table, and Miller is the dual threat QB that Michigan fans wish Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner could have been. Maybe I’m just drunk on revenge fantasy kool-aid, but hey, it’s college football, anything can happen.

To paraphrase John Lennon, “Imagine all the touchdowns, Michigan would score every Saturday. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day these two join us, and the Maize and Blue will be ranked number one”

1 Week AD: After David. Where does Michigan go from here?

For the rest of 2014: It’s about the team. Not #FireBrandon, Not #FireHoke. It’s about these young men playing for the pride a wounded fan base so severely desires.

Your fun fact of the day: Michigan football is 2-0 in the Jim Hackett/Post DB era. During the Indiana game, it seemed like Brady Hoke was able to lead his team to a competent win. Saturday was the toilet bowl brought to you by M00N. Northwestern managed to be less competent than Michigan, and therefore, the Wolverines sit at 5-5.

I feel like a broken record considering much of my writing this fall has consisted of discussing the idea that Bo’s ideals and coaching philosophies, still so widely revered around Michigan Football, need to be put rest in the history books where they belong. Since Bo passed, we’ve seen 3 AD’s. 3 coaches, and with another coaching search on the horizon, the MM term has to go. Dave Brandon’s resignation has seemingly lifted a dark cloud off the shoulders of the football team, but with Brady Hoke still around and 2014 being a lost cause, it’s high time to look ahead to 2015. Now one magical moment happened when the 49ers played the Rams November 2nd. Colin Kaepernick fumbled the snap at the 1, and the Niners lost. The Niners most likely won’t make the playoffs glancing at their injury problems, the schedule, and the fact that everyone in San Francisco wants head coach Jim Harbaugh to hit the bricks. With DB having left Weidenbach Hall, the Harbaugh to Michigan rumors are flying like overthrown passes from Devin Gardner. Of course, it would be helpful if Michigan hired their new athletic director first.

The Hoke-Hackett Combination won’t last long.

U of M President Dr. Mark Schlissel greets interim AD Jim Hackett on Friday, October 31. Schlissel granted Hackett full power to evaluate the Football program at the end of the season.

It’s very doubtful that Jim Hackett will be AD for an extended period of time. With a search well under way, Mark Schlissel wants to get the most qualified, hand picked candidate into office to begin searching for Brady Hoke’s successor. Now some people have wondered if under Hackett, Hoke could get one more season. With the overall regression of the team every year, a declining season ticket holder base, and the comical mishandling of the Shane Morris concussion issue, Hoke is a lame duck, even if Michigan magically wins out (including beating Ohio State in Columbus for the first time in 14 years) and wins their Bowl game – Hoke’s kool-aid is poisonous, and Michigan should wash their hands of the situation and start fresh under a new athletic administration.

Now comes the issue of Hackett hiring a new head coach. In big time college football, the coach and the AD who hired him are tied together by on field results and off the field politics. We all know that Hoke and Brandon were tied together as a sinking ship once the team began it’s precipitous decline. If Hackett hires a new coach, and is in turn replaced by another AD, the vicious cycle restarts itself and Michigan could be treading water for another half decade.

Brad Bates and his hair may be Ann Arbor bound soon enough.

When it comes to looking for a new AD, the ideal candidate I see is Brad Bates of Boston College. He has Michigan ties, has been successful at BC, and could easily step in and take over one of the premier athletic departments in the nation. Now while Bates played under Bo and has worked at Michigan before, he won’t be paraded as a “Michigan Man” coming to save the world. That is a GOOD thing. Now with Bates presumptively in his position, the head coaching search can begin. Before we get there though, let’s nail down a list of what AD Bates must do in order to not make the words Athletic Director a spiteful term among Michigan fans. Now, while I cannot predict the future 100% correctly, the rest of this article will be written as if Bates is coming in and taking over.

1. Retire the Legacy Jersey program (at least for the time being)

Worst. Idea. Ever.

Readers of this blog know my feelings about Michigan’s legacy jerseys. Some worked out great, like Jeremy Gallon wearing Desmond Howard’s 21 and Jake Ryan wearing Bennie Oosterbaan’s 47. Others have turned into the comical desecration of a retired number (Devin Gardner wearing Tom Harmon’s 98, Brandon Moore wearing Ron Kramer’s 87, Courtney Avery wearing the Wistert Bros’ 11) I hope AD Bates would realize that the burden of expectations placed upon these young men when saddled with these numbers and the history behind them is no worth it just to sell more jerseys at the M-Den. Social media is abuzz every time Devin Gardner turns the ball over, reminding Michigan that Gardner’s performance has nosedived ever since he left his number 12 jersey. The smart thing to do is shelve the program and change the protocols that go into giving the jersey to a player. It should be based upon accomplishments as opposed to potential and expectations.

2. Re-appropriation of funds

Would it be the end of the world if the new AD only spent $250 Million on the new athletic campus as opposed to $333 Million?

If it’s one place that Dave Brandon succeeded, it was in terms of cold hard cash. This would be his wrestling entrance music.  He helped raise plenty of money for his new athletic campus vision (started by Bill Martin) and even provided the non-revenue sports with brand new, million dollar facilities. There is a slight fallacy in that. While I think it is ridiculous that a national championship gymnastics team and the women’s field hockey team work out in a building that is over 100 years old (yeah, the Coliseum was erected originally in 1909) – there is no justification for men’s and women’s lacrosse receiving a multimillion dollar facility when the new soccer facility (opened 2010) can easily be re-purposed for lacrosse. Hopefully Bates recognizes some of the funds Brandon has spread around and appropriates them into keeping the athletic department running in the black. Brandon managed to have the department always operate in a budget surplus, and reevaluating some of the non-revenue projects could ensure this while Michigan recovers it’s season ticket base for football. I think all varsity athletes deserve the best facilities to compete at the highest level, but capitalism and business practices have to factor in at some point.

3. Win back the trust of students, alums and the fan base, then maintain a fruitful relationship

The Football general admission fiasco was the beginning of the end for Brandon.

Brandon put the first nail in his coffin when he re-did the student football and basketball season ticket policies with no student input whatsoever. Rule #1 in consumer based business: DON’T ANGER THE CUSTOMER WHO PAYS FOR YOUR PRODUCT. Especially when they make up your future alumni base. This obviously came to bite Michigan in the rear end this year with absolutely comical student attendance for the worst home slate Michigan has had in years. This also spread to the alumni and casual fans with rising costs in season tickets and personal seat licenses as well as the “dynamic ticket pricing” of single game tickets.These are measures that, when taken with a winning football team, no one thinks twice about, but one as mediocre as Michigan has been for nearly ten years, it’s magnified. Therefore it’s Bates’ job to make the right decisions to earn back the trust of all those scorned by Brandon’s callous attitude and terrible email etiquette.

4. Destroy the commercialism attitude

I mean I do love Kraft Mac N Cheese, but NO.

I personally don’t know Hunter Lochmann, but I’ve got beef with him. He is the Chief Marketing Officer for Michigan athletics and was the first person brought on to the athletic administrative staff by Dave Brandon. In reality, a college athletics program, even one as large as Michigan, doesn’t require a CMO that makes a six figure salary: This isn’t a Fortune 500 company. Lochmann also was the first hire in what became the “Pizzafication” of Michigan athletics. It all became about dollars and cents, which is obviously what led to fans, alums, and even former varsity lettermen, turning on Brandon late in his tenure. Look at the picture below and tell me what you see wrong

I like to keep my football separate from my yogurt thank you.

While I’m sure Chobani and their middling yogurt pay handsomely to have their name on Michigan’s advertisements, it’s something that wasn’t seen a few years ago. Call me old fashioned, but there are better ways to involve sponsors than a constant reminder to get your fill of subpar Greek Yogurt (Yoplait tastes better and is cheaper) with your Michigan football quotes. What is interesting is if you scour the pictures on the Michigan twitter account, there is only one sponsored picture – the standard “On The Road” graphic presented by Cadillac since Brandon left. To me, that makes sense that a car company sponsors the road trip, so I’m not bothered by it. Re-doing this commercialization into a way that is less intrusive but earns the department money is the line that Bates will have to walk in order to break the stigma that Michigan Athletics became a corporation under DB.

The next leader of Michigan Football will be…

Who will follow the players under the banner on September 12 vs Oregon State?

Hopefully by the time I return to visit Ann Arbor in two months, the new head coach of Michigan football will be someone everyone can agree upon from the start. Rodriguez was doomed by the “Michigan Man” concept. Hoke was the 4th choice on a seemingly endless candidate list. Jim Hackett/Brad Bates knows he holds the future of Michigan football in his decision. Therefore, I present the final, cohesive list of “home run” candidates. Ones who can come in with a proven track record and try to right the ship at Michigan while helping the program evolve into a national power once again.

I Harbaugh, you Harbaugh, He, She, Me HARBAUGH. – (age 50)

Nothing has changed from my prior writings of what makes Jim Harbaugh one of the most qualified candidates for the Michigan job. Luckily the Niners falling off a cliff has helped expedite his expected departure from San Francisco. This would be the best move for all parties involved – a proven coach at the college level who still possess the “rah rah collegiate attitude.” He is a ‘Michigan Man’ but unlike Brady Hoke, he is a callous a**hole who is more interested in keeping his players in line than being the cool uncle who is alright when they break the rules. Harbaugh’s drill sergeant mentality, as well as the fact that he would be firmly in control of the football team, gives him the chance to succeed. Some question if he would bolt back to the NFL, but I think his experience in San Francisco would turn off some teams unless they are willing to offer Harbaugh a GM/Head Coach position similar to what Bill Belichick has in New England. I think Brad Bates knows the first person to call is Jim Harbaugh. Since it’s not an NFL job, it is not tampering to contact Harbaugh while he is still under contract in San Francisco, and I’m sure behind closed doors, administrators are plotting how to bring Captain Comeback hoMe.

Stoop kid isn’t afraid to leave his Stoop – Bob Stoops (54)

If you take this photo with no context, Bob is pointing at Ann Arbor saying he wants to coach at Michigan.

Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel published an interesting read of why Michigan should pick up the phone and dial Bob Stoops’ number. ESPN also published one questioning if it’s time for a change of scenery. Armchair and Sunday Morning Quarterbacks have thrown this out as nonsense. I personally won’t. Stoops is a legend at Oklahoma and has a legacy few could duplicate. He won a National Championship and has had his team play in two others. However, Sooner fans may be growing tired after so many years removed from a Championship. College Football toes a fine line between “what have you done for me lately” vs “you’re legacy is untouchable and you have a handshake lifetime contract.” Stoops is squarely in the middle. He earned good graces by taking Oklahoma to Switzer-ian levels during the early and mid 2000’s. However, Oklahoma has fallen off recently. They have played in BCS bowls, but fans at Oklahoma expect national championships, something Stoops hasn’t provided in over a decade. Stoops also won 75 of his first 77 games in Norman, he is a very human 14-5 since then, including Saturday’s 48-14 manhandling by Baylor. Oklahoma can’t keep pace with TCU, Baylor and K-State right now. It might be advantageous for Stoop and Oklahoma to start fresh. We all know he dislikes the SEC, so I doubt he would take the Florida job. If he wants a new challenge, Ann Arbor could provide one. All while he builds Michigan in his own image. The fact he is only 54 helps. Stoops could easily coach at Michigan for 10 years without running out of steam like an older candidate might.

The Devil Himself – Desert Beelzebub and Britney Spears microphone enthusiast Todd Graham (49)

Alright so it’s not a regular headset, but it’s a step up from no headset.

Todd Graham is a name that has been mentioned in the Michigan coaching search before. Arizona State’s game vs Notre Dame rubber stamps his appeal as a candidate. Graham built Tulsa from an average group of 5 team into a C-USA power. He made a quick stop in Pittsburgh before making his way to the desert where he has the Sun Devils in the thick of the Pac 12 title picture as well as the CoFoPo rankings. One could wonder why Graham would leave ASU when he has them at the top of the Pac 12. It’s simple, Arizona State has a ceiling. While Michigan may not be the elite job that an Auburn, Alabama or Oregon may offer, it has brand new facilities, name recognition, and a clean slate for a coach to build his dynasty upon. Graham could play 10 men on punts, but if Michigan goes 11-1 doing so, he would be a genius. Todd Graham also has a unique ability to not meddle with his coaches. Unlike Alabama, where it’s clear whatever Lane Kiffin does goes through Saban – Graham hired Gus Malzahn at Tulsa and Malzahn built their offense into a machine without Graham’s interference. He did the same with Chad Morris in bringing him on as an OC before Morris landed his gig at Clemson. Now I best advise y’all to do some rooting against the Sun Devils, because if they make the CoFoPo – grabbing Graham would be very difficult with ASU playing at a higher level than they have in the last fifteen years. However, if Graham can be pried from sunshine of Tempe to the gray skies of Ann Arbor, consider it a home run hire. If it did come down to Graham vs Stoops though, Give Me Stoops.

No. Just No. – The rumored candidates who I don’t want Michigan touching with a 10 foot pole

More like ShaNAHan – Former Broncos/Redskins HC Mike Shanahan (62)

Shanny’s success came primarily with a Hall of Fame QB under center.

This article from SB Nation discussed how Mike Shanahan claims he has interest in the Michigan and Florida jobs. There are a few faults in bringing him to Michigan.

1. He hasn’t had to recruit in 30 years (his last college job was in 1983 as Florida’s OC) and was never a head coach at the college level. He’s also 62 – how long could he really stay and coach at the highest level?

2. While he has two Super Bowl rings, those were with the help of one of the GOATs at QB, John Elway. Post-Elway, the Broncos never achieved the same levels of consistent success (oh how I wish Brian Griese/Jake Plummer had led them to another Super Bowl…)

3. His Washington tenure surrounding the RG3 situation makes me nervous about how he handles injuries. Considering the Morris situation was already bungled by the current administration, I’ll pass.

Sing us a song SCHIANO MAN – Former Rutgers/Tampa Bay Buccaneers Greg Schiano (48)

Well, Greg Schiano isn’t the a***ole of a coach Michigan deserves, but could be the one they need?

He was called before Michigan hired Hoke, but chose not to leave Rutgers. His reputation was soiled in Tampa last year as the organization imploded. He also puts taco seasoning on his eggs and cooks bacon in a pile. I can’t trust a man who messes with breakfast foods like that with my football team. One thing is his autocratic style of coaching, which works at the college level, but not the pros. Perhaps it could work? But I’m in no mood for risk taking.  The only plus would be after every win, MGoBlue DJ can blast Piano Man by Billy Joel as the crowd belts out “SING US A SONG, SCHIANO MAN!” Billy Joel karaoke aside, I don’t see him as an ideal candidate, but he very well may get an interview because of his resume he built while at Rutgers.

There you have it boys and girls. The season has 2, maybe 3 games left – if Michigan beats Maryland and makes some asinine bowl game. Personally, I hope they lose the next two, the last thing this team needs is to play in a meaningless exhibition extending Hoke’s tenure as head coach. Also, for those of you who thought maybe, just maybe Michigan could beat Ohio State in Columbus? Watch the tape from last night’s steamrolling of Michigan State, even the most optimistic of fans knows Michigan barely stands a chance. Some of you would reference last year, but this game isn’t at home, it’s a vicious environment in the ‘shoe. Regardless, Brandon having left is step one in Michigan football’s long climb up College Football’s ladder, but if the team can grab Brad Bates, and hire Harbaugh/Stoops/Graham, we could be looking at a Michigan team with true optimism for the first time in a decade. At least on the bright side, basketball season tips off on Saturday. #GoBlue #GoBeilein

Veteran’s Day

Tuesday is Veteran’s Day, a day I find very important. I wanted to post a video that brings up all the feels every time I view it. Those close to me know I am an ardent supporter of our armed services and donor to the Wounded Warrior Project. Our servicemen and women are some of the people I hold in the highest regard for keeping the public safe home and abroad. I present this package that ESPN originally aired for Independence Day in 2013. enjoy.

Song of the Week

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QlqqhzLVFo

Dear Lions: Is This The Year?

The Detroit Lions success up through this bye week has been a joy for me to watch as Detroit-area native. Even as someone who slanders the team through every loss and cheers them for every win, I will openly admit I am staring down the barrel at the last 8 games of the season with a cautious optimism. One reason for this could be the Lions failed upwards in winning the Atlanta game last week, but it took moxie to come back from being down 21-0 to even get a chance at that game winning field goal (hooray for Atlanta’s implosion). However, growing up watching the Lions win (yet mostly lose) on Sundays for the last decade plus has taught me to appreciate the team’s successes. This year has been no different. The team has been hot almost the entire year, spearheaded by their vicious defense, and an efficient, mistake free offense. Matthew Stafford has unlocked himself from Calvin Johnson due to injuries and has found a new target in free agent acquisition Golden Tate (Staffod has completed 69% of his 80 throws towards Tate). Things seem great for the Lions, they are at the bye with a winning record and at the top of the division. However, this could keep going, or it could completely unhinge. According to Five Thirty Eight, the Lions have a 77% shot at making the playoffs in a diluted NFC, and a 56% shot of winning the division. Now I was never too good at the maths, but that seems like good odds, however, this team has caused me to lose sleep at night before. Here is the no holds barred pro and con list for the rest of the season.

Pro: The Caldwell Effect

Many of you may know Jim Caldwell’s prior stops before taking over his second head coaching job in Detroit. He joined mentor Tony Dungy’s staff in 2001 in Tampa Bay as the QB coach and followed suit with him to Indianapolis, helping tutor Peyton Manning from golden child into one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time alongside longtime offensive genius Tom Moore. Caldwell won a

Caldwell was very successful when handed the keys to Peyton Manning, and predictably, sunk when Manning was injured.

Super Bowl ring as an assistant with the Colts in 2006. He took over the reins in 2009 from Dungy, leading the Colts to a 14-2 record, and a loss in Super Bowl XLIV to the Saints. He led the team to a division crown again in 2010, bowing out to the New York Jets in a wild card round home loss. In 2011, the wheels came off, without Manning, the Colts were a rudderless ship  with the three headed monster of Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky and Kerry Collins attempting to steer. Bottoming out at 2-14, Caldwell was fired, and brought in to Baltimore by head coach John Harbaugh, once he took over as offensive coordinator in late 2012 after the firing of Cam Cameron. Caldwell helped Joe Flacco take his QB play up to near Manning like levels of efficiency. In the Ravens miraculous 2012-13 Super Bowl run, Flacco was 73 for 126 (57.9 percent) passing for 1,140 yards, 11 TDs, 0 picks and a passer rating of 117.2. It is due to Caldwell that Flacco earned his albatross of a contract with the Ravens.

 While the Ravens’ offense wasn’t as spectacular in 2013, Caldwell has proven that with stellar QB play, he can be a good head coach. So far this has had mixed results on the stat sheet with Stafford, but fantastically in the W-L column.

Con: The Run Game

In 2013, Joique Bell and Reggie Bush became the first pair of NFL running backs to record seasons of 500+ rushing yards and 500+ receiving yards within the same season. The pair was near interchangeable and brought a thunder and lightning punch the Lions

They play running back but there hasn’t been a ton of running for the Lions this year.

had not seen at tailback in years. Both caught at least 50 passes and Reggie Bush was able to crack 1,000 yards rushing, the first Lions running back to do so since Kevin Jones had 1,133 his rookie season in 2004. The Lions rush attack sat at about middle of the league. This year, due to injuries on the offensive line and to Bush, the running game has been atrocious; the team ranks 31st in the league with a pitiful 79.6 yards per game. That number places them ahead of only the Raiders, who may join the 2008 Lions as the only team to ever go 0-16 in the regular season. I’m not sure what the remedy is for the Lions run game. When Bush was healthy, he has carried the ball more than ten times in only 2 of the 5 games he played. He has no games with over 100 total yards yet. It’s confusing how his efficiency could decline so quickly, but Joique Bell and Theo Riddick have both held their own during Bush’s prolonged absence. What Jim Caldwell and the offensive staff need to figure out is how to ground and pound more. 3 of the 4 remaining road games are in cold weather climates – when the Lions play games at New England, Chicago and Green Bay, it’s going to be difficult for Stafford to throw for 300 yards in wind, rain or snow. Now oddly enough, Caldwell’s Colts teams had pedantic rush attacks as well. The 2009 Colts were 32nd in rushing and still made their way to the Super Bowl, so that is something to keep an eye on.

Pro: Stafford Unchained

MAFFORD!

We’ve seen Matthew Stafford play like a Top 5 QB (2011) we’ve also seen him play like the second coming of old Jon Kitna (2012). This year, he is paired with new OC Joe Lombardi, formerly Drew Brees’ QB coach with the Saints. Now while I like the idea of Lombardi, and Jim Caldwell tutoring Matthew Stafford, Stafford faces the same problem he always has. He can complete absolute bombs (causing me to scream MAFFORD at the top of my lungs every time one is caught.) Yet the short and intermediate passing game is still a struggle for the 6th year veteran. Look at the Falcons game from week 8: He was able to complete his 59 yard deep throw on 3rd and 25 to Golden Tate to get Detroit back in the game, yet so many of his throws 10 yards and under were well above his receivers heads. Stafford is a gunslinger, similar to how Brett Favre was earlier in his career. He is lacking the accuracy, but has a missile launcher attached to his right shoulder. While he still sometimes makes mind boggling throws, Stafford has done enough (read: has either done it himself or been bailed out by his teammates) to help get Detroit to a reasonable place. In the NFL, wins and losses talk more than any other statistic. Hopefully, the Stafford – Lombardi – Caldwell connection will pay off in the second half of the year in terms of stats, but Lions fans will take wins as an acceptable form of currency.

Con: His stats are awful

The flipside to the above argument is that the Lions passing attack has been good in a sense of yardage (259.5 YPG good for 9th in the league) but overall, he has been meh: 11 TDs, 7 INT, 61% completions. They are very pedestrian numbers for a player who has thrown for 41 and 29 TDs in 2 of the last 3 years. His 7 picks have also been bad. Some have been good reads by the defense; others were thrown far past intended targets and turned into gimme’s for the defense. His QB rating sits at 86.5 which could be written off for a

Me reading Stafford’s stats while I wrote this.

lack of Calvin Johnson, but should be higher with the weapons surrounding him. Now behind Johnson, Tate, Bell, Bush, Pettigrew and Ebron (when those last 3 are healthy) are players that should be on practice squads (Jeremy Ross, Corey Fuller) but both have played up to expectations while filling in for Megatron. Stafford needs to pick it up in the 2nd half if the Lions are going to succeed and make the playoffs, but he also needs the aforementioned run game to shoulder more of the load so he doesn’t feel the need to play hero.

Pro: The Defense

I don’t know how much Teryl Austin is making as the Lions defensive coordinator, but give that man a raise. He has made chicken salad from chicken $#!+. The Lions defense starts Rashean Mathis at corner. Mathis is a 12th year vet whose speed abandoned him in about 2010. Opposite Mathis has been Cassius Vaughn, filling in for an ineffective Darius Slay. The outside linebackers are Tahir Whitehead and Ashlee Palmer, and with Nick Fairley’s up and down performance, 5th rounder Caruan Reid has been bookending

“What do you mean my defense is ranked 1st in the NFL?”

Ndamukong Suh on the defensive interior. These aren’t names you associate with the best defense in the NFL, but that is the team first approach that Austin brings as coordinator, it’s next man up. That is a strategy that Bill Belichick utilized for years in New England, and Austin is making work in Detroit. The best players are making plays. Both Vaughn and Mathis had big momentum shifting plays in Week 8. Mathis had a pick 6 called back due to a penalty, but it galvanized the defense. Vaughn had the interception that led to the Lions cutting the deficit to 21-17 late in the third quarter. Austin has this group playing above what most expected, and it needs to continue the rest of the year if the Lions want to make the postseason. The real test of their mettle will be games against players like Tom Brady, Matt Forte and an in form Aaron Rodgers.

 Con: The Injury List

No words.

While it’s just dandy that the Lions are playing at such a high level and next man up seems to be working, the injury list could populate their own wing of Henry Ford Hospital. Stephen Tulloch was lost for the season because he celebrated a sack, Joe Fauria busted his ankle trying to stop his puppy from doing it’s business in the house. The list of weird Lions injuries keeps building ever since Nate Burleson hurt himself last year trying to keep his pizza from falling off the front seat of his Tahoe. Eric Ebron has a problematic hamstring, and Brandon Pettigrew hurt his foot. The Lions went from having a three headed monster at Tight End to starting free agent pick up Kellen Davis in London. Again, this has yet to have a negative effect on the team as a whole, but if they don’t get healthy and fast, the second half of the schedule could eat them alive.

Pro: The ability to win games, no matter how

Thanks to Mike Smith’s incompetence, Matt Prater didn’t get left in London after the Falcons game.

Let’s be honest for a second, the Lions have had 3 swing games that could have had them as bad as 3-5, or as good as 7-1. The only comprehensive loss on their resume was the goose egg they laid in Charlotte to the Panthers in week 2. Jim Caldwell’s motto has been “just win” and the players are buying into that. Whether it has been the defense swarming and creating turnovers vs. the Saints or the offense coming back to life against Atlanta, Detroit is winning games that they would not have won in the past. This is promising except for one little divisional problem…

Con: The Packers


When the Lions dispatched of the Packers in week 3, cheesehead nation went bezerk. Ever sicne Aaron Rodgers channeled his inner Matthew McConaughey and told everyone to R-E-L-A-X. The Packers are 4-1, with their only loss coming in New Orleans during week 8. Scarily, the Packers have 5 of their remaining 8 games at Lambeau field (vs Bears, Eagles, Patriots, Falcons and Lions.) Their three road games should be cake walks as they play at Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Atlanta. Barring Aaron Rodgers turning into Scott Tolzien, the Packers can finish 7-1 and are looking like a team that could win the Super Bowl, so it is up to the Lions to show their mettle and keep pace with the team that has owned the NFC North for the past five years.

Con: The Arizona Curse?

Fear these birds.

November 16 at Arizona - I cannot emphasize how scared I am of this game. Not because Arizona is the best team in the NFC as of now, but because the Lions have a history of going to the desert, pooping the bed, and it drags down the rest of the season.

There has been an eerie coincidence that has happened twice in the last 15 years and could happen a third time. Look at the stats below of how the Lions played before their game at Arizona, and after it.

Gus Frerotte was the Lions QB that year…

1999:

Start 6-2

Lose at Arizona 23-19

Finish 2-6 (lost their last 4 headed into the playoffs)

Outcome: Made playoffs, lost at Washington in Wild Card Round

 

2007:

Start 6-2

Larry Fitzgerald had two touchdowns to deal the Lions their 3rd loss of 2007.

Lose at Arizona 31-21

Finish 1-7 (they wouldn’t win another game from Dec 24, 2007 until September 26, 2009)

 

 

2014:

Start 7-2/6-3

at Arizona

Finish ???

It feels like I’m writing something from the twilight zone but if this occurs a third time, then there may be a Cardinal curse on the Lions.

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 11.29.16 PMThe Schedule

Detroit faces a moderate schedule down the stretch, there are winnable games, and there are incredibly difficult games. Coming into the season, The Lions had the 16th rated strength of schedule, with their opponents 2013 win percentage slotting in at 0.492. Now this has changed halfway through the 2014 campaign, with their current strength of the remaining schedule at 53%, the 8th hardest schedule in the league. Time to play prognosticator and see how these games shake up:

Week 10 Vs Miami – Win: 

Former Lion QB Joey Harrington lit up Detroit when the Dolphins last came to town on Thanksgiving 2006

Sure, Ryan Tannehill lit up San Diego in week 9, but he has yet to have consistent, back to back big games. He also is facing a Detroit defense that can destroy opposing quarterbacks with their pass rush. Miami’s biggest asset is their rush defense, but with how poor the Lions run game has been, it’s a null point. Detroit overpowers Miami at home. Lions: 7-2

Week 11 @ Arizona - Loss.

What seemed like a meeting between the two most snake bitten franchises of the last 60 years has morphed into one of the biggest games of the season. I had some mild doubts about Arizona, but they manhandled Dallas in week 9, proving they are the NFC’s elite team. This game is in the desert, and Detroit has a history of not playing well at Arizona, I have to say the Cardinals win Lions: 7-3

Week 12 @ New England: Have you seen Tom Brady as of late? AND it’s in Foxborough?

Lions: 7-4

Week 13 vs Chicago

Coming off the road on short rest for Thanksgiving will be a tall order, but look at the above picture of Jay Cutler and tell me the Lions won’t win at home for the 2nd Thanksgiving in a row. Lions 8-4

Week 14 vs Tampa:

A week and a half’s rest against the lowly Bucs at home? I don’t see a repeat of last year’s November Tampa debacle. Lions 9-4

Week 15 vs Minnesota: 

See Tampa game above: at home, late in season, charged up fans, should be an easy W. Lions 10-4

Week 16 @ Chicago:

SWEEP THAT LEG!

Win. It’ll be the Lions first outdoor game in a month, and it’s in the unfriendly confines of Soldier Field in December, but I think the Bears will be out of the playoff hunt by then, therefore giving Detroit another reason to buckle down and take care of business. Lions 11-4

Week 17 @ Green Bay:

The Box Score from when Green Bay and Detroit last met with playoff implications on the line.

The Box Score from when Green Bay and Detroit last met with playoff implications on the line.

Toss up. This very well could be a game that is for the division crown, giving sendoff game significance for the first time in years. Now with my projections, The Lions are 11-4 coming into this game (like they were in 2011) and the Packers are also 11-4. It would be an epic one for the ages. I can’t call a winner until I see how injuries, play and other things shake out, all I know is it will be a close one. Winner takes the NFC North, loser is the Wildcard team

No matter how this season finishes, it will be like every other football season – there will be ups, there will be downs. There will be times where you want to throw a remote through your television, and others where you want to name your first born son Calvin or Matthew. Regardless, it’s the Lions, the team we all inexplicably keep coming back to. Hopefully this is the year that that unrelenting love and hope for the Honolulu Blue and Silver ends in a long awaited division title. Sing it Gridiron!

Song of the Week:

 

 

Brian and The Boz: A Primer for ESPN’s next 30 for 30

In honor of ESPN’s latest 30 for 30: Brian and The Boz airing Tuesday night, I wanted to share one of my favorite pieces I wrote during college. While enrolled in professor John U Bacon’s History of Intercollegiate Athletics during the Fall of 2013 – we were tasked with writing a term paper that involved History, and, surprise, intercollegiate athletics. I wrote about the parallels between the controversial college careers of Brian Bosworth during the 1980′s and Johnny Manziel nearly 30 years later. I performed my own research as well as interviewing long time college football writer, Ivan Maisel of ESPN.com. I hope you enjoy it, and strongly recommend you watch the 30 for 30. if you didn’t know about the Boz, he was the forerunner for the current climate change of paying college football players. He was a force on the field and a firework off of it.

This was originally submitted on November 25, 2013, therefore, some information has changed since the time of writing.

Brian Bosworth and Johnny Manziel are two of the biggest celebrities college football has ever seen. Noted by the media as outlaws with their cavalier attitudes, both were at the top of their game during their college careers However, their off field activities have led to much scrutiny of both young men during their college days. Bosworth set the standard in the 1980’s, under no-nonsense coach Barry Switzer at Oklahoma “The Boz,” as he nicknamed himself, built his celebrity on outlandish statements and publicly supported the idea that college football players should be paid. Manziel, on the other hand, had a legend constructed by the twenty-four hour media cycle, but like Bosworth, Manziel embraced the criticism and naysayers by backing up his larger-than-life persona with results on the playing field. Manziel also caused a rift with the NCAA when it was discovered that he was paid to sign autographs, a violation of NCAA amateurism rules. These two men used their athletic performances to back their outlandish attitudes. With legends constructed in two different ways thirty years apart, both serve as models for the type player that has the ability to seriously impact the NCAA and force changes in the rules that would enable college athletes to be paid.

Brian Keith Bosworth was born on March 9, 1965 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He grew to be a gifted high school football player in Irving, Texas. Bosworth was courted by a number of high profile college football programs, including Texas, Texas Tech, SMU and Oklahoma. It was during this recruiting process that the separation of Brian and his media-fueled alter ego ‘The Boz’ began. During Bosworth’s recruiting process, he alleges in his autobiography, that the University of Texas began to attack him for turning down a chance to play college football at UT under coach Fred Akers. Once he was at Oklahoma, before the Red River rivalry game in 1984, he said, “I didn’t go to Texas because I don’t like Texas, I don’t like Fred Akers. I don’t like the city of Austin. And I don’t like their color of orange. It reminds me of puke” (Bosworth, 93). This was quoted in many newspapers in the following days. He backed up his words as during the two Red River Rivalry games in which Bosworth played, Oklahoma won by a combined score of 61-19. Bosworth finally made a name for himself as ‘The Boz’ or ‘Bulletin Board Bosworth’ as he was crowned in Oklahoma. This was just the beginning of Bosworth becoming a force in college football both on and off the field.

 

Similar to ‘The Boz,” Johnny Manziel is not a player short on opinions. However, ‘Johnny Football,’ as he has been nicknamed, prefers to let his actions speak louder than his words. After some stellar performances his freshman year, media and fans alike were curious about this redshirt freshman from Kerrville, Texas. At the start of his first season, Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin instituted a no

Halloween 2012 launched Johnny Manziel’s “Johnny Effing Football” persona real fast.

freshman policy with the media so his precocious young quarterback was protected from the 24-hour media cycle (Mandel). However, this changed dramatically on Halloween night in 2012. Manziel decided to spend his Halloween gallivanting around College Station dressed as Scooby Doo, and after a few racy photos with some scantily clad coeds appeared, the Johnny Football legend reached a boiling point (“Scooby Doo”, Travis). Manziel’s national fame grew when he beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa two weeks later, and then he won the Heisman Trophy one month later. As soon as he won the Heisman, the media ban was lifted, and Johnny Manziel was open season for the media.

There is an age-old debate in psychology described as nature vs. nurture. The idea that children are either born to be who they are or it is the parental nurturing they receive while growing up that determines who they become (Rockoff). This is most relevant for Bosworth and Manziel, as they had different relationships with their fathers. Brian Bosworth grew up in Texas under a dad who was hard to impress according to Bosworth himself. After winning the National Championship in 1985, Bosworth believed he had finally appeased his father’s sky high expectations “Dad did everything for me growing up, but he was a hard guy to satisfy, second was never good enough for him. Come to think of it, sometimes first wasn’t good enough either. But this first was good enough. I could tell that in his face” (Bosworth, 15) Bosworth’s father helped him turn into one of the greatest linebackers in college football history through an insatiable appetite for success as well as steadfast devotion to raising him well.

Manziel’s father, Paul, is the grandson of a Texas oil magnate and has been able to raise his family in the lap of luxury. However, whenever Johnny seeks refuge at home in Tyler, away from the spotlight and the media and the fans, he cannot do so, as his parents almost always have items for him to autograph (Thompson). The perils of being one of the most famous twenty year olds in America weighs heavily on young Manziel’s shoulders.  Do his parents see it as a favor to them? Or is it them succumbing to the celebrity of their son? (Maisel). The key difference here is that even when Bosworth took over America as “The Boz,” Bosworth’s father still saw him as Brian, his only son, and wanted nothing but the best for him. Paul Manziel, unfortunately, saw Johnny as his son, Jonathan, but also as Johnny Football, the Heisman Trophy winner.

Football is a team sport first and foremost, but the individuality and impact of Bosworth and Manziel make them unique. Bosworth and Manziel were the most important players on the field due to the impact plays they made and had the biggest profiles off the field. Brian Bosworth played with a rough, gritty hard-hitting style that had him fighting players on many plays as well as losing chunks of skin from his hands (Bosworth, 3). Johnny Manziel has a flair for the dramatic, being able to create plays from nothing, including his famous touchdown to Ryan Swope at Alabama that spawned from a fumbled snap (“World Gone Wild,” Travis).

Manziel Mania began on November 10, 2012 against Alabama.

Off the field, both men had their fair share of antics. Besides his bulletin-board quotes, Bosworth was most known for his wild hairstyle (Bosworth, 18). ‘The Boz,’ as it became nicknamed, was so quintessentially Bosworth. He spoke fondly of it. “More than anything, it’s a way to express my individuality. It’s a way to show that I don’t buy the established way of doing things – conformity” (Bosworth, 20).

The Heisman was a blessing and a curse for the then 20-year old Manziel.

Manziel is a non-conformist in his own special way. Once Manziel began being transformed by fans and the press from young Johnny Manziel, a fresh faced 19 year old, into the fire breathing, beer swilling, bar fighting Johnny Football, he began to embrace it. As previously mentioned, Manziel said nothing about himself until he won the Heisman; people were projecting their own ideas onto Manziel. However, after Manziel won the Heisman, he was seen partying with celebrities, other college football stars, and travelling all over the country with social media tracking his every move (“Scrutinized Athlete,” Travis). When he went on spring break with AJ McCarron, Instagram had the evidence. When he went to meet rapper Drake in Toronto, Twitter had it covered from all sides. ESPN writer Ivan Maisel believes that part of the vitriol surrounding Manziel is that he is jetting around the country partaking in lavish activities, something the regular student-athlete and even regular college students do not do (Maisel). Manziel underwent scrutiny from other players, coaches, fans and the media, and it all came to a head one month before the 2013 season. Allegations were released in August 2013 that Manziel received money from an autograph broker for a signing at the 2013 BCS National Championship game in Miami (Kotloff). This was the first thing he had done that blatantly violated NCAA rules. His punishment was sitting out the first half of the season opener vs. Rice (Fornelli). Manziel decided to make light of the entire situation in the second half of the game. After scoring a touchdown, Manziel threw up his fingers and rubbed them together, implying a “money sign,” a celebration he was derided for even though Tajh Boyd, the Clemson quarterback, made the same gesture, and no one looked twice (Fox Sports). These two cowboys were going to do what they wanted, critics be damned, as long as they could keep their eligibility.

In their individuality, Bosworth and Manziel both harnessed great power, and they both recognized the fallacy of college football. Coaches, athletic departments, schools and TV networks all make millions from 115 players at each school, who don’t see a dime of income. It is defended by the idea of amateurism, and a free education along with other benefits serving as each player’s compensation (Bacon). However, Bosworth played in an era when SMU was blatantly compensating its players with cars, clothes, and other luxuries. Bosworth admitted he was not one to say no, claiming he was treated like a king during his playing days in Norman (Bosworth, 70). Bosworth realized his coach chose to ignore NCAA rules (Maisel), and more so, he recognized the farce of college football. A player of his stature fed the machine, and if Switzer took him off the field, that would dissatisfy the customers who paid to see Bosworth.

Just like Bosworth and Switzer, Manziel and his coach Kevin Sumlin had a unique relationship. Sumlin wisely danced around questions about handling his quarterback, “I think he (Sumlin) has attempted to be an authority figure and probably has had more success than has been made public,” Maisel told me.

Kevin Sumlin and Johnny Manziel will forever be linked for the dawn of Texas A&M in the SEC.

However, what happens behind closed doors and what the public perceives are two very different things. Sumlin knew that without Manziel, he would be nowhere near as safe as he is now in terms of job security. When asked before the 2013 season about handling his star, Sumlin replied, “you bet it’s a challenge” (Hairopoulos). Bosworth and Manziel, while living out their larger than life fantasies, took control from their coaches by playing outside the rules off the field while still keeping eligibility. They knew their coaches needed the players, more than ‘The Boz’ and Johnny Football needed their coaches.

The Boz’s infamous T-shirt at the 1987 Orange Bowl.

Bosworth and Manziel also had unique relationships with the NCAA as a governing body. Bosworth made one final gesture that was responsible for ending his college career. During the 1987 Orange Bowl, a game from which he was suspended due to alleged steroid use. In his book, Bosworth contends it was a botched drug test after food poisoning. Bosworth stood on the sidelines with his team, and once the game became 28-0 Oklahoma, he committed the cardinal sin. He slipped on a t-shirt that said “National Communists Against Athletes” as a final shot at the NCAA. The TV cameras found him and the fans and the media went berserk (Bosworth, 184). He was planning on going to the NFL anyway, but if he had been kicked off his team, he feared it would destroy his draft stock. Switzer had no choice and would not be made a fool by his star linebacker; he threw Bosworth off the team in the spring of 1987 (Bosworth, 186). The lasting impression that Bosworth left was one of dominance on the field and defiance off the field. (Maisel).

Manziel went through his own issues with the NCAA regarding his autograph signing activities, but the key difference is that the NCAA had more control during the Bosworth era. SMU was busted in 1987 for their illegal activities and the NCAA killed the program. SMU football is still recovering from that penalty twenty-six years later. In today’s era, when college football is a billion dollar business thanks to TV contracts, Manziel is nearly untouchable as a player. The NCAA has been found with its tail between its legs a few too many times lately in terms of individual player discipline. This includes stripping Reggie Bush of his 2005 Heisman Trophy after it was discovered that he took improper benefits at USC (Rosenthal). Through this, and the fact that more and more players have been admitting to receiving improper benefits while they were in school such as Arian Foster at Tennessee (Ganguli) and DJ Fluker at Alabama (Getlin and Robinson). These facts support that the players are beginning to recognize as long as they do not get caught, they can receive money under the table while playing college football. The biggest issue is the NCAA never catches these infractions while the players are in college, and they find themselves stripping players of awards and sanctioning current players at the program instead of punishing players while they are in school. To a successful college football player like Reggie Bush, sanctioning USC now doesn’t hurt his NFL career, but it hurts the current crop of USC players. Plain and simple, illegal benefits have been around and will continue to surround college athletics because boosters and others want their program to win, no matter the cost or legality of it (Maisel).

Many people will point out that college football is at a major crossroads right now. What used to focus on the pageantry and tradition of fans and young men coming together on Saturdays for three hours of America’s favorite game has turned into a sport surrounded by billion dollar businesses and corruption.

This logo represents a billion dollar partnership to cover amateur athletics…

Through all this, Johnny Manziel appears in his black Mercedes, following the path that Brian Bosworth paved for him a quarter century earlier. Bosworth was the first player to receive unprecedented media attention for speaking out against the NCAA for not paying college football players. Manziel is a unique player in that he lives lavishly, plays well on the field, and he can potentially start pay for play in the process. He is proof the NCAA is losing power over individuals because like Bosworth, Manziel is too valuable for the NCAA to suspend. In an industry now run by advertising dollars and TV ratings, Texas A&M is in a prominent position in the most powerful conference in college football. If Manziel were suspended for 2013, that would make Kevin Sumlin look bad, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive would look bad, and most importantly, ESPN and CBS, the SEC’s TV partners, would be broadcasting games of less significance. There is a perception now that amateurism is no longer the hallmark of college football, and that money is. As long as Manziel plays at a Heisman-like level (he is on pace for his second Heisman trophy) and does not commit any infractions, he will continue to play college football, and cash in when he enters the NFL draft.

Brian Bosworth and Johnny Manziel are inextricably linked through extraordinary circumstances. Two players, two different schools, twenty-five years and monumental changes in college football separate them, but their cavalier attitudes and ability to play outside the rules make them a nightmare for the NCAA. Considering only twenty-three college athletic departments operated in the black in 2012 (Brown), it would be difficult to see pay for play being instituted AND being successful. The NCAA may alter the rules, which would allow schools to find other ways to compensate football players. These may include upping their per diems or using a capitalist type system that allows them to profit off their likeness independent of the school. College football is changing, and players like Brian Bosworth and Johnny Manziel are leading the charge to make those changes happen.

If you ain’t talking money, he don’t wanna talk!

Epilogue

Having now seen Johnny Football drafted into the NFL by the Browns, and seeing how the NCAA has been forced to change it’s stance on paying players, it will be interesting to see who is the next player that fills this Boz/Johnny Football cowboy role. It certainly isn’t Jameis Winston, as he has been scrutinized every step of the way even while being one of the best players in the sport, it may be someone still in the pipeline. On the other hand, so far, Johnny Manziel has had the unceremonious start to his pro career that Bosworth had in Seattle. Like that famous image of Bo Jackson blowing up Bosworth, the lasting image we have of Manziel’s rookie year is his 39 yard catch on a trick play being called back for a penalty. As a Johnny Football fan, I do hope things turn around for him, but Brian Hoyer certainly is playing the role of roadblock in Cleveland. It’s rare to see players like Bosworth and Manziel cause as much ruckus as they did, and until the NCAA firmly changes it’s hypocritical policies (making billions of players who cannot earn a cent) it’s possible we’ll see the next player in the lineage of college cowboys very soon.

Song of the Week

 

The Magic of Saturday’s Past: How leaving Ann Arbor recommited me to Michigan Football

Dennis Norfleet’s dancing will give Michigan fans something to smile about no matter how the rest of the season goes.

I’m not going to bother rehashing what you have read on sites like MLive, MGoBlog, The Michigan Daily and ESPN.com. We all already know the football team isn’t meeting expectations, Brady Hoke is probably going to be fired at the end of the year, and most Michigan fans want to parade a burning effigy of Dave Brandon around the Diag until he is no longer Athletic Director. However, something funny happened to me last Saturday: for the first time in eleven years and 82 home games. I wasn’t in Michigan stadium for a football saturday. Of course, this is due to me moving out of state for my new job. I knew this would happen, and I actually adjusted

Even the home loss to Nebraska in 2013, the first in 3 years, couldn’t ruin the joy of Sports with friends on Football Saturday

to it pretty well at first, but then the nostalgia kicked in. While I was at work, listening to the Brandy Man and Dan Dierdorf call the Penn State game online; I thought of all the things I missed that day. Waking up and eating a monstrous breakfast, buying incredulous amounts of beer to take to tailgates while dancing to music with no lyrics and making memories with friends. The inevitable long walk to the stadium to watch the Maize and Blue (or Blue and Blue last week) touch the banner, and the sheer unadulterated joy of a Michigan win (Michigan was 61-21 during my 82 games, .743 win %). Michigan channeled the magic of night games past to rally past Penn State and earn a much needed win going into the bye week. Sitting at 3-4, a bowl game is still not a guarantee (and even if they make one, it’ll be some mid-level bowl before New Year’s day.)

Most importantly though, I hate the fact that how I left Michigan Stadium was in the worst of circumstances. On September 27, 2014, while Michigan was getting clobbered by Minnesota, I actually had left the game before the Shane Morris incident even occurred. In dire need of an adult beverage considering it was my last day in Ann Arbor for the foreseeable future, I left before the 4th to go to a tailgate at Pioneer to drink away the sorrows of another loss. 82 games and almost half my life, and it had to end with Michigan being surrounded by a national discourse of mishandling a concussed player. A lot of people talk about how they live and die by Michigan football, and I am no different. All the Saturday’s I spent over a decade, all the terrible popped maize I consumed (that stuff is easily popped on Monday and sold on Saturday), all the friends I made before and at games during my five years of college, it all was part of the experience. Then 2014 happened, and Minnesota, my final game for the foreseeable future, left a sour aftertaste in my mouth. I thought going into that tailgate, that game, and that day, there would be tears shed as I left my Saturday home. Instead, I left salty, cynical and cursing the name of the program I grew up with.

Oompa, Loompa, Doompity, Do, what the f**k just happened to Blue? – Every Michigan fan during my last home game.

Now, many of us have complained about how since the Brandon/Hoke tandem came to power, the game day experience changed, and as a longtime ticket holder, it has. The Marching Band isn’t heard as much as they should be, instead I get to hear Cherry Pie by Warrant (The Gentleman’s Club anthem since 1990) and Seven Nation Army countless times. I’m bombarded with ads on the giant new video boards telling me to spend more money on Michigan stuff, and of course, courtesy of television, I spend a good amount of time waiting for a man in a red cap to get off the field so ESPN can promote whatever their advertisers want them to shill. I’d also be remiss to mention the team has trended downwards in terms of on-field performance since that fluke of a Sugar Bowl season.

Michigan Football can defy the laws of physics when at the top of their game.

Now I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, but it’s simple, all those things don’t matter when Michigan wins the Michigan way – using grit, determination, blood, sweat and tears to get that W for the largest crowd watching a game in America. That’s what made Penn State so special, it gave every Michigan fan a chance to stop complaining on the MGoBoards briefly, it took away the chants of ‘Fire Brandon’ for a split second. It reminded us, that this indeed is Michigan, and they can beat any team on any given Saturday.

On a Saturday, there’s no place I’d rather be.

Since I’ve become a journalist, it has somewhat removed me from the absolute fanaticism that some people have. When Michigan wins, I look for the flaws to pick them apart, when Michigan loses – I don’t go into a catatonic shock and stop watching football for an entire weekend like I would circa 2003-2007 (although perhaps the 8-16 record of 2008-2009 showed me that football is a silly, silly game sometimes.) Now that I have left Ann Arbor, it all comes back to me: wins or losses, the sunny days, and the miserable weather. The great OT games like Michigan State 2004 and Northwestern 2012. Games like Illinois 2012 and Indiana 2013 where I abandoned the game in the first quarter to watch it on my couch. Through all this, I’ve realized that a huge chapter of my life – my ability to see Michigan football every single home Saturday, is over, and I don’t know if I will ever have it again… While I am thrilled to be starting a new career in a new place (you try living in Ann Arbor for 19 years including all of primary school, high school and college,) losing my ability to support Michigan in person is a big adjustment.

Keep Calm and #BEATSTATE

There’s only two more home games left this year, Homecoming vs Indiana, and the final home game vs Maryland. In a complete 180 from how I felt after Rutgers, and as a plea from transplanted Michigan fans everywhere, even if your chanting “Hoke Sucks” or “Fire Brandon,” go to those games, support the players, and cheer on the Block M that every Michigan student and alumni, past, present and future, is proud to represent for the rest of our lives. While this may be a dark period, Michigan will eventually return to the Leaders and Best on the football field, but until then, treasure every moment you get to spend watching that team and going to that stadium, because while you can always return to Ann Arbor, you’ll see that once you miss a game and don’t know the next time you’ll return to The Big House. It gives you a greater appreciation for everything that Michigan stands for, and you truly realize, that it’s great, to be, a Michigan Wolverine. Go Blue. Beat State.

Song of the Week:

New Site!

cropped-sark-bark-full-e1413739795570.jpg

 

Well everybody I know I’ve been M.I.A in terms of rant driven blogging about the state of Michigan football since I moved out of state, and that is with good reason – work has been keeping me plenty busy. I’ve now been out here almost a month and decided it’s time to get back to my original calling – sports writing (especially since I don’t have a permanent on-air presence yet). I hope y’all like the new website, and look forward to more of my tried and true blog posts in our new format! – Sark

Malaize N’ Blue: grab a chair, it’s going to be a long season

Does Brady Hoke feel his seat heating? I just don’t know anymore

Saturday did nothing to quell my concerns. It’s rare that a win at Michigan stadium could cause me to be so snarky and terrified for what lies ahead. The last time Miami of Ohio won a game was October of 2012. Denard Robinson was still quarterback at Michigan, Barack Obama was still in his first term, and some people were still claiming the world was going to end that December. One thing that we do know is true was that Michigan had already begun their decline into this state of mediocrity and malaise while Miami went on to lose 19 games in a row. One girl sitting behind me in the student section quickly grew weary of my scathing remarks all game, but as I frankly explained, watching this program in person slide from Big Ten Championship contender to Big Ten also ran had hurt me as a fan. It took away my sense of wonderment while watching Michigan football. As I enjoyed my tailgating before the game, attending the games now almost feels like more of a chore. I always go to say I had attended and to keep my streak alive, but this season, I may stop going. Not out of lack of spirit, but out of protest. It doesn’t help that lifers like myself are being accused for our criticism – Brady Hoke last week spoke about how “the true fans” will stick by the program through thick and thin. We as fans cannot be expected to stay if the results will stay the same. The microcosm of the game in total was the drive at the end of the second half when Michigan launched a 4 minute drill with no urgency or care to try and score. That drive was capped off by not one, but TWO delay of game penalties, including one coming out of a timeout…Which led to a punt, which led to the team getting booed off the field at home. Turnovers were also the undoing of the team as Miami’s two scoring drives were both under 30 yards. Devin Gardner again put his defense in an awful position and they had to break at some point. One fumble off a kickoff return was because Wyatt Shallman ran into teammate Justice Hayes, jarring the ball loose and giving Miami possession. After Gardner took his seat on the bench, Shane Morris seemed more focused on throwing balls through his receivers as opposed to tossing them catch-able balls. The few highlights included the defense playing stingy and strong (note, Miami of Ohio may as well be an FCS school), Derrick Green looked like a true 5 star recruit power tailback should, and Jake Butt’s full return yielded decent results (3 catches for 59 yards). As MGoBlog pointed out, the box score makes Michigan seem like they are fine, but the team passed no one’s eye test. With Utah coming to town next weekend, a team that has put up 115 points through two games, Michigan’s defense will be tested even harder than it was against Notre Dame. This is by no means a call from me to blow up the season, but if the coaching staff doesn’t start trying some new, more innovative plays, packages, whatever, the boos will continue to rain down and the program will continue as a rudderless ship with an aimless captain. Try Devin Gardner at wide out in a package (no way he’s going to the NFL as a QB), throw in Shane Morris or Wilton Speight at the end of games more often. Something has to happen to try and find new ways to win games, because what the team is trying right now is forcing a square peg into a round hole. Gardner is more fundamentally stable than Denard Robinson was, but Michigan hasn’t had a QB that I have fully trusted since Chad Henne graduated in 2007.  As I said last week, this year (while still mathematically possible though) is not about winning the Big Ten. It’s about Michigan attempting to reclaim an identity that has escaped them. What I saw yesterday and have seen so far this year is not a team that is hungry, but one simply going through the motions. To paraphrase Brady Hoke when he was hired: This isn’t Michigan, this is sh*t fergodsakes.

Devin Gardner is the latest cog in Michigan’s uneven QB play, and he still can’t seem to “figure it out”

Let’s take a quick peek down the rest of the schedule just to estimate how my pick last week of 7-5 would shake out.

9/20 vs Utah: Loss (2-2)

As I wrote above, Michigan is facing a buzzsaw in Utah’s offense. Thankfully the defense has played well in all three games (scoreline aside, they fared decently vs Notre Dame, holding them to under 300 total yards, it was the field position that destroyed them). I think this is one of those trap games for Michigan that no one is really expecting, but right now I fear Utah more than I fear an empty refrigerator (what? I like to eat.) I say Utah’s offense will be too much and if Gardner’s turnover problem continues, it’ll be too much for the defense to hold them.

9/27 vs Minnesota Win (3-2)

Even in years when Minnesota has been better than Michigan (read: 2008, 2009.) The Wolverines ALWAYS seem to have the Golden Gophers’ number, and I say that continues – the Little Brown Jug will stay in Ann Arbor for the 7th straight year.

10/4 at Rutgers Win (4-2)

Did you see what Penn State’s defense did to Gary Nova Saturday night? He threw five interceptions, if Michigan’s defense keeps playing at a high level, things could get ugly in Piscataway for Kyle Flood’s boys. Combine that with the amount of Michigan fans in the metro New York area coming to bring some road support, and I smell a low scoring Michigan win.

If Michigan loses under the lights at home for the first time, some fans will have a 90 dollar reminder of it in their closets

10/11 vs Penn State Win (5-2)

Like with Minnesota, Michigan really cranks it up once they are under the lights. Now granted, both games were vs Notre Dame and the stakes were a bit higher, but Penn State under James Franklin’s leadership is looking like a fairly complete team. I also think Michigan takes the win as they are eager to avenge the 43-40 4OT debacle in Happy Valley last year. Now this is one of those games I cannot guarantee as a win, Christian Hackenburg could come in and carve Michigan’s pass defense up like a pumpkin, but I’m hoping for the best.

Shilique Calhoun and his Michigan State defense will look to extend their dominance of Michigan trying to win 6 of their last 7 vs the Maize and Blue

10/25 at Michigan State Loss (5-3)

If you think Michigan has any shot of winning this game in East Lansing, please consult your doctor immediately.

11/1 vs Indiana Win (6-3)

It won’t come with the same fireworks as last year’s 63-47 thriller, but Michigan will win on Homecoming.

11/8 at Northwestern Win (7-3)

I was at last year’s Northwestern game, Welsh-Ryan field leaves a lot to be desired compared to the Big House, and the weather in early November is absolutely brutal, but Michigan owns the Wildcats in Evanston, having not lost in Evanston since the 54-51 shootout back in 2000 (if you catch that game when it occasionally airs on BTN, it really is a fun one to watch despite the loss.)

11/22 vs Maryland Loss (7-4)

Like Penn State, this is a toss up game, I think Michigan has the juice to beat one of the pair of Penn State/Maryland, but they cannot complete the season sweep. This is a Maryland team that was down 28-6 to West Virginia on Saturday and came all the way back to only lose by 3. The talk of Maryland as a sleeper is very real, Randy Edsall’s boys want to show they can compete in the Big Ten, and I think by the time the frustration of the year, paired with injuries, fatigue and looking towards Ohio State, Maryland can sneak out of Ann Arbor with a win.

11/29 at Ohio State Loss (7-5)

The whole “No Braxton Miller” thing originally gave me hope, but down at Ohio State, they ain’t come to play school. Despite their loss to Virginia Tech, OSU did to Kent State what Michigan was supposed to do to Miami – blow them into the next county. They did so winning 66-0. Urban Meyer’s squad isn’t strong enough to take down big dog Michigan State for the East division crowd, but they certainly have enough to pull of a win in the former greatest rivalry in college football. Last year’s thriller aside, I sadly don’t think this game will be as close, but more like the 2012 edition – Michigan will give them a fight, but it won’t be enough.

Bowl Game: I’ll just ride with SBNation’s bowl projections since so many things can change and bowl invites outside of the playoff can be very random – I’ll say the Pinstripe Bowl vs an ACC team in New York City at Yankee Stadium – win (8-5)

Is this middling bowl game what awaits Michigan this year?

If Michigan DOES play in the pinstripe bowl, it will be their second non-new years day (or later) bowl game since the 2005 season (last year’s BWW Bowl being the most recent), when Lloyd Carr’s squad lost to Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl on December 28, 2005.

 

That leads Michigan to an 8-5 record, like I predicted - they can beat the teams they are supposed to and lose to the ones they are supposed to. It’s a very vanilla way to watch the rest of the season, but I left that game with a knot in my stomach (no, it wasn’t the stadium chicken tender basket) knowing that it is going to be a long season. The Rich Rod years were painful, but culminated in success with the Sugar Bowl win in 2011. Right now, I cannot say that these struggles are leading towards anything, other than Michigan Football becoming the number one pizza chain in America. Cheers to football, prove me wrong. Go Blue kids, Go Blue.