Nobody wants to play Michigan right now

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Published on : March 14, 2017

 

 

Michigan basketball is coming into the 2017 NCAA March Madness tournament absolutely on fire. With the exception of the OT win against Purdue, the Wolverines blew away the competition in the Big 10 Tournament. After a rough patch in early January, the team has become sneaky dangerous to anyone they might run into on a basketball court. They began to turn the corner in January after a team meeting brought on by an embarrassing 85-69 loss at Illinois. But it’s something that happened between the end of the regular season and the start of the conference tournament in Washington, D.C. that really shaped this team.

 

The plane in question.
                                                              The plane in question.

 

On Wednesday March 8, as the team was taking off from Willow Run Airport in Michigan, the airplane was forced to abort takeoff due to high winds. The plane skidded for the length of four football fields and stopped just short of a ravine. No one was seriously injured but the team was shaken up to the point that they almost decided to forfeit their matchup against Illinois in round one of the conference tournament. They had come scarily close to death and no one would blame them for sitting out the tourney. It’s just a game after all, and they might have chosen to be with their families after a near death experience. Or maybe they would be just too horrified at the idea of getting on another plane so soon.

 

The team had a meeting and everyone was allowed to speak. Some people were apprehensive about boarding a plane after the incident but they put it to a group vote and let the majority decide. Instead of hiding from the reality of what had happened, they made the choice to face it head on. And in turn, they lit a fire within themselves. They let their flirtation with death galvanize them as a team. Now they are one of the hottest squads going into March Madness and no one should want to face them.

 

 With their game jerseys stuck on the plane, Michigan was forced to wear their practice uniforms in round one of the Big Ten Tournament.

 

The Wolverines owned the Big 10 tournament. They played great basketball and everyone was getting in on the action. A month ago they were being talked about as a bubble team and now people are talking like they should have been ranked even higher than their 7-seed for the tourney. Should they win their first round game against Oklahoma State (which I think they will) they could be looking at a rematch of the 2013 NCAA title game against Rick Pitino and the Louisville Cardinals. Michigan’s perimeter scoring vs Louisville’s staunch defense could make for another Pitino/Beilein classic. And if Michigan can somehow pull that win out then the sky is the limit for them.

 

This team is peaking at the right time. They have a new found appreciation for life and they are going to use that to make the most of this tourney run. If they should come out in round one playing with the type of fire that they showed in the Big 10 tournament then watch out because they might just be the team of destiny in this year’s March Madness.

 

 


This loss stings

Written by :
Published on : November 29, 2016

 

 

This one still stings. It’s going to sting for a while. Probably until next November.

 

It’s now been three days since The Game, and I’ve barely been able to bring myself to leave the house ever since. The sick feeling in my stomach is eerily reminiscent of feeling I had on a certain Tuesday night earlier this month. It’s like if you ate some really bad food and you were about to be sick, and just at the moment you were about to spew that grocery store sushi all over whoever might be unlucky enough to be within your blast radius, Mike Tyson came up and punched you in the stomach, then you got hit by a city bus. You could say I’m a little salty.

 

 There was some rage on the sideline.

 

Before I dig into the reasons for my unremitting saltiness, let me get one thing clear. In the end, the only thing that matters is the final score. Ohio State won. Michigan lost. For the better part of The Game, the Michigan Wolverines were the better team. Anybody watching could plainly see that for three-plus quarters, Michigan’s top-ranked defense had the Buckeyes figured out. Then it all came undone. In the end, the loss is on Michigan and no one else. Two interceptions and a fumble by QB Wilton Speight on the OSU 1-yard line showed that the Wolverines signal caller was still affected by a shoulder injury that kept him out of the Indiana game, but that doesn’t make it acceptable. The Wolverines had every chance to win, and they didn’t. The only thing history will truly remember is the final score. 30-27 OSU in 2OT

 

That doesn’t mean that Michigan, their coach, their players or their fans don’t have ample reason to be angry after the game.

 

In his post-game press conference, Michigan’s head coach, Jim Harbaugh, relentlessly attacked the officiating. The Big Ten has since reprimanded him and fined the school $10,000. I’m sure the athletic department will be crippled by such an extreme penalty. Who cares, the conference had to do something about the post-game rant I suppose. What they didn’t do was own up to the fact that the officiating in this game was aggressively skewed in Ohio’s favor at worst and very suspect at best. Michigan finished the game with 7 penalties for 59 yards, a seemingly reasonable total for an emotion filled matchup against a hated rival. Ohio State finished the game with 2 penalties for 6 yards. That’s ridiculous. In a game featuring two of the best teams in the entire country, there’s no way the penalty count should be that lopsided.

 

Does that face look impartial?
                                                                    Does that face look impartial?

 

The Big Ten should be ashamed for refusing to even comment on the officiating and for making a situation like this possible in the first place. The crew that was chosen to call this game have suspicion, ineptitude and conflict of interest written all over them. One of the zebras, Dan Capron, was disciplined by the Big Ten back in 2002 and not allowed to ref another game the rest of that season. Why is that guy on the field for the biggest game of the year? The other two officials, Kevin Schwarzel and Bobby Sagers Jr, both reside in Ohio. That doesn’t seem like a bad idea to the Big Ten? Hell, Schwarzel was barred from calling The Game in 2006 because of the question of his Ohio residency. It makes no sense to risk the integrity of the conference’s most important game into question. And that is exactly what has happened now.

 

I’m not saying that the game was rigged, but it looks suspicious enough that it warrants a closer look. Especially when the calls were so one-sided. Michigan had every chance to take this game out of the refs hands, and they didn’t. That can’t be denied. But why does it seem like officials always seem to have such an impact on the final scores of football games. From college, all the way to the NFL, referees, the supposed stewards of the game, always seem to be at the center of some controversy. It’s time that the governing bodies at all levels of football start to take this problem seriously. If all of the technological tools available were employed, there would never be a question of where the ball was on the 4th-down play. Michigan lost to Ohio State, but when there are these clouds of uncertainty surrounding the outcomes of games of this magnitude, we all lose.

 

 


Dark Days Ahead for Michigan State

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Published on : November 1, 2016

 

 

Don’t let the final score fool you. The game may have been a bit closer than many people, including the oddsmakers in Vegas, had thought it would be. But for most of last Saturday’s matchup between Michigan and Michigan State, the Wolverines were in control. And now they are back in the top spot in the state when it comes to college football, leaving a somewhat uncertain path ahead for the program in East Lansing.

 

With the Wolverines back on top in the Big 10, you can’t help but wonder if the Spartans will be headed back to the hated role of “little brother.” It doesn’t look good for them, as Michigan and Ohio State are clearly the class of the conference, with Wisconsin, Nebraska and Penn State also trending upward. U of M is a once again a powerhouse program with as much visibility as any school in the country. For the traditionally less successful school in the state, how do you compete?

 

 “Make it stop.”

 

The addition of Air Jordan to the brand of Michigan is going to make recruiting, both in-state and out of state, even more difficult for Sparty. It was already an uphill battle competing for recruits with Michigan, even when they weren’t very good. But with the way Michigan is winning games this season, and the very legitimate chance of them heading to the college football playoff, things may get even worse. As if the allure and mystique of Michigan needed a boost.

 

There’s also the brutal fact that MSU shares a division with not only the Wolverines, but also the Buckeyes. There’s a good chance that those two will alternate the top spot, not only in their division or conference, but in all of college football for years to come. Mark Dantonio has always gotten by with his good coaching and he will keep them competitive at times. But his style is going to have a hard time producing positive results against teams like UM and OSU on a consistent basis. The ground and pound game that MSU has found success with is just going to have trouble keeping up with other teams that have quality QBs and tough defenses. And that’s exactly what they face with their two biggest foes.

 

 Is frustration the new normal?

 

Though some former Spartans QBs have had success at the NFL level, no one would ever accuse the school of having a prolific air attack. And that has to be a large part of your game in order to be in the postseason consistently. There will certainly be some seasons when MSU is top-tier but another decade long hot streak seems unlikely. Now that the big dog in the mitten is back on its feet, it will be harder to stay on top of them for such long periods.

 

The Spartans may have a difficult time recovering from the disaster that is the 2016 season. The old order is being restored and that is going to mean a lot of broken hearts in East Lansing. With the establishment of Jim Harbaugh as heir apparent to the college football throne, the sun may be setting on this bright and prosperous period at MSU.

 

More and more, there will be seasons when the Spartans are looking up at the their most hated rivals. It’s inevitable. The sky is darkening and there’s a storm rolling into the state of Michigan. It is centered in Ann Arbor and might spell doom for the Michigan State Spartans. This year is surely lost, but there might be more like it and for us Wolverines fans, it doesn’t get much sweeter than that.

 

 


How the mighty have fallen: The sad story of the 2016 Michigan State Spartans

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Published on : October 17, 2016

 

What is happening in East Lansing? The Michigan State Spartans, a powerhouse in the Big Ten and contender for the national championship in recent years, are in shambles. The team sits on the cusp of missing a bowl game, less than one year after winning a Big Ten title with a 12-2 record and an appearance in the college football playoff. How the mighty have fallen. After owning the State of Michigan for the better part of the 21st century they are back at the bottom, looking up at their “big brother” the University of Michigan.

 

The Michigan State Spartans were handed their fourth straight defeat on Saturday, at the hands of the Northwestern Wildcats. Three of those four losses have been at home and it’s clear that the wheels have completely fallen off for Mark Dantonio and his once dominant football team. The Spartans lost 54-40 this past weekend. I’ll let that sink in. 54 points allowed to Northwestern. At home. The team trotted out a new quarterback, redshirt freshmen, Brian Lewerke. No luck. They brought back in much-maligned fifth-year senior, Tyler O’Connor, in the third quarter and he brought the team to within two points after completing two long touchdown passes. Then the Spartans allowed a 95-yard kickoff return touchdown. The cries of agony could be heard clear across the state in Ann Arbor.

 

 Spartans fans everywhere will need to lean on each other the rest of this season.

 

With the coaching that this team has and the holdovers from last year’s playoff squad, it’s hard to imagine that they could possibly be this bad. But they are. Mark Dantonio needs to take a long look at this roster and start giving his next generation of players more time on the field to gain experience for next season. Because 2016 is over. The Spartans are looking at 6 wins if they are lucky and with the sub-par opponents they’ve lost to, their chances of making a bowl are not great. The time to use the rest of this season as a springboard into the 2017 season has come.

 

As a Michigan fan who has had to sit by as this program pummeled my beloved Wolverines for the better part of the last decade, I wish I could take joy in this. And to be honest, for the first couple losses of the Spartans’ losing streak I was pretty happy. Now it’s just getting ugly and they are making the whole conference look bad. I never had a doubt that my Wolverines would win against MSU this year but what fun is it when one of your most hated rivals isn’t even good? The Wolverines could probably go out and win by 60-points on October 29 in East Lansing, but against an obviously inferior opponent, what’s the point? As a fan I would much rather my team go out and throttle a worthy opponent. Not whatever the Spartans are putting on the field these days.

 

 Coach is not amused.

 

I feel your pain, Sparty. The Wolverines have had a few bad years recently. We know what you’re going through, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Much worse actually, because in two weeks the Michigan Wolverines head your way. With how these two teams are trending in opposite directions, it’s not going to be pretty. So crack open another beer and think back to the good times. Because they might not come back again for quite a while.

 

 


Michigan Wolverines are storming towards OSU and the College Football Playoff

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Published on : October 10, 2016

 

If you didn’t watch the University of Michigan Wolverines road win over the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers then you missed one of the more lopsided games in the modern history of college football. I say modern history because if you count the entirety of college football history then you get things like coach John Heisman’s (they named a trophy after him) Georgia Tech team beating up Cumberland by a score of 222-0 in 1916. That’s an insane score in which Georgia tech racked up 978 rushing yards and 32 rushing TDs while not bothering to pass the ball a single time. You know, cuz it was 100 years ago and people didn’t do crazy things like pass the ball or allow black folks to play.

 

Now that we are done with that little history lesson, let’s get back to this century and talk about just how good the Michigan Wolverines are this season. After a tight 14-7 win last week against #8 Wisconsin that wasn’t fully decided until a late interception by All American CB Jourdan Lewis, the Wolverines left Ann Arbor for the first time this season to play Rutgers. The Wolverines came into the game as 30 point favorites, which seemed pretty fair considering Rutgers had just gotten their asses handed to them by #2 Ohio State to the tune of 58-0 in The Horseshoe. What unfolded in New Jersey on Saturday was even more brutal than anything the oddsmakers in Vegas could have dreamed up.

 

 The boys are killing everyone in their path.

 

When all was said and done, the Michigan Wolverines had beaten the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 78-0, their largest margin of victory since they beat the Chicago Maroons 85-0 in 1939. There was not a single position or group on the Wolverine roster that failed to get in on the action and it seemed like they were playing their 5th stringers by the time the Scarlet Knights gained their first of two total 1st downs late in the 4th quarter. It was Rutgers worst defeat since the year 1888, and it has to have them second-guessing moving to the Big Ten from the AAC three years ago. They are now the official punching bag of the conference with a 1-10 record and it’s becoming increasingly obvious they don’t belong.

 

The Scarlet Knights will be seeing Jabrill Peppers their nightmares after gaining just 39 total yards against him and the dominant defense that he leads. It was like nothing I’ve ever witnessed. The offense chipped in 9 rushing touchdowns including 2 from Peppers, who was playing QB in the wildcat formation. He has now lined up at 12 different positions so far this season and his coach Jim Harbaugh, seems to think he is the best candidate for the Heisman Trophy. He had another amazing punt return touchdown that was taken off the board for a block in the back penalty. With 74 total rush yards, 2 tackles, 0.5 tackle for loss, and a QB hurry, I’m beginning to think coach Harbaugh is right about his Heisman chances. But more importantly, he could have a legitimate chance to lead the Michigan Wolverines to a win in Columbus and a trip to the College Football Playoff.

 


Not to overlook some of Michigan’s upcoming opponents, such as Iowa and Michigan State, but the Wolverines have already seen their toughest test until OSU with Wisconsin last week. And it seems to have been proven so far this season that this Jim Harbaugh coached Michigan Wolverines football team comes ready to play every single Saturday. They do what they are supposed to do and they dominate the teams they are supposed to dominate. There’s still a lot of football to be played but it looks an awful lot like Michigan and Ohio State are destined to be undefeated and playing for a spot in the playoff when they meet at noon on November 26th.

 

For the first time in a long time, it looks like the Wolverines will go on the road and give the Buckeyes a run for their money. I’m not saying they will win, but they do have arguably the best defense in the country and the most versatile and electric playmaker in the country in Jabrill Peppers. When you have that, combined with a run game that can pound the rock and a quarterback who has shown improvement as the year progresses, anything is possible.

 

Things are back to the old order in the Big Ten, with Michigan and Ohio State a head above the rest. Both teams are looking for a playoff birth but with both residing in the east division of the Big Ten, only one will be headed to the conference championship game, which means in all likelihood, only one will be headed to the playoffs. Jim Harbaugh, Jabrill Peppers, and everyone else in Ann Arbor hope that they do enough against the Buckeyes to make sure that it’s the Wolverines making their first ever trip to the dance.

 

 


#7 feels about right for the Wolverines

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Published on : August 28, 2016

 

 

The AP released the first Top 25 poll of 2016 recently, signaling the beginning of college football. The preseason poll is all speculation, but it’s fun to see where the pundits put our favorite teams in relation to other teams around the country. It’s no surprise that the defending National Champion, Alabama, sits atop the poll and there are some other familiar faces in the top 1o. Teams like LSU, Oklahoma and Ohio State are no strangers to the preseason top 10 in the AP poll. They continually field the nation’s top football teams and their positions in the poll reflect that.

 

One team that is just making a return to the top 10 after some dark years is the University of Michigan Wolverines. Jim Harbaugh has quickly turned around the situation in Ann Arbor and after a successful first season with the Wolverines, he has brought the program back to the ranks of college football’s top dogs. There’s a ton of buzz around the team and with a chance to build on some very positive things from 2015, there’s a chance the hype may be well deserved. The team finished 2015 ranked #12 after going 10-3 and then dominating Florida in a 41-7 Citrus Bowl victory. This year, the Wolverines come in at #7 in the preseason. And to me that seems just about right. Here’s why…

 

The Defense

 Look for Taco (delicious!) and the defensive line to shine.

 

This is going to be where the Wolverines live and die this season. Last year, the Wolverines defense finished 4th in yards per game and 9th in points allowed. With the team returning a ton of starters on that side of the ball, there’s a chance to build on last year’s success in a big way. Jabrill Peppers has the chance to be the best player in the country and his shift to linebacker in Don Brown’s defense should pay large dividends from the get go. But he is far from the only stud on that squad. Senior cornerback Jourdan Lewis is being talked about as the best player at his position in the country. There’s even rumors that he might play both ways. That would make two defensive starters getting reps on offense, not to mention special teams where the two will be big factors.

 

So the maize and blue have (at least) one stud at the top two levels of the defense, but where this unit is really going to stand out is along the defensive line. Lewis and Peppers are going to be the guys who end up on the SportsCenter Top 10 more often, but it’s going to be because of the big guys up front that those guys shine. They have Chris Wormley and Ryan Glasgow (who was sorely missed after he went down with an injury late last season) coming back for their 5th year senior seasons. Along with those two, they have a defensive end with the most delicious name in football, Taco Charlton. Those three will provide a ton of leadership and big play ability in the trenches, but the real star might be Rashan Gary. The 5 star recruit was the #1 player in the country when he choose to attend Michigan. He is listed at 6’4″ 287 lbs and looks like he is a 25-year-old NFL player. Gary is a bonafide stud and has all of the skills to dominate immediately.

 

Look for him to get a ton of playing time early and be a big part of why the Wolverines have one of the top defenses in the nation. This is a defense that has a great mix of veteran leadership, fundamental skills, and eye-popping athleticism. It’s one of the big reasons that Michigan is being ranked in the top 10 in the preseason. And if the team should be lucky enough to finish the season in a similar position it will be because they lived up to the hype and shut down the opposition all year long.

 

The Running Game

 De’Veon’s going to eat.

 

For years and years, the running game was the hallmark of Wolverine football. Under Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke, it was not the same hit-you-in-the-mouth style of play that they were accustomed to in Ann Arbor. Along with Jim Harbaugh came Tim Drevno and the offensive line took big steps forward. In his quest to return Michigan to its former glory, making the running game as feared as it once was is just as important as fielding a world beating defense. With the team returning four of five starters along the offensive line this could be the year that it happens.

 

Look for the offensive line to bully opposing defenses this year. It probably helps that they get to practice against that stud defensive line that we talked about earlier. They might not face tougher competition all year than what they see in practice every day. That should leave them very well prepared for game day and allow them to open up huge holes for De’Veon Smith, who will see most of the action at running back. Look for him to rush for over 1,000 yards this season and carry the Wolverines offense.

 

7 is high, but not too high…

 Harbaugh will get the best out of whatever QB plays.

 

Some people may be surprised that the University of Michigan is ranked higher than Michigan State to start the season. Or that they are in the top 10 with such illustrious company. They might say that the team still has questions at quarterback. With unproven redshirt sophomore, Wilton Speight, seemingly in line to win the QB battle and start the season under center those people wouldn’t be wrong. But this is where the coaching comes in.

 

The college football community knows how good of a football coach Jim Harbaugh is. Casual sports fans have a pretty good idea of how good a coach Jim Harbaugh is. It’s because of him that the Wolverines will begin the season in the Top 10. But it’s also because of those questions regarding the quarterback that the team isn’t higher. The team is returning a ton of starters from last year, and that group ended last season on a high note (except for the OSU hangover) despite dealing with injuries to some important players. This team belongs in the top 10 but this is probably as high as I can justify putting them in the preseason, and that’s why #7 feels just right.

 


Is Jabrill Peppers the second coming?

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Published on : August 13, 2016

 

 

After just one season as head coach of the University of Michigan Wolverines, Jim Harbaugh has already achieved god-like status for fans of the team. That might be a little over the top but that’s just the way it seems in Ann Arbor and all across the maize and blue nation. The khaki-clad assassin changed the culture of the football program immediately by winning games and making the team a desirable destination for the nation’s top high school athletes.

 

So if Harbaugh, who is one of the most exciting coaches in all of football, is our new god, then what does that make the team’s most exciting and electrifying player? Is Jabrill Peppers the messiah? Is he the second coming? There may not be a new religion founded in his honor (or maybe there will), but this guy could blossom into the best player to wear maize and blue in decades. If he can stay healthy and continue to grow as a player, he could make what Charles Woodson did for the team look like child’s play.

 

 What’s the word for someone who is more than a triple-threat?

 

Stories out of Wolverines’ training camp are that Jabrill Peppers is ready to explode this coming season. The world already knows that this kid has tons of talent, but with the way people are talking he could be the most electrifying player in the country once games begin this fall. The 20-year-old redshirt sophomore has already shown what he could do last season when he was consistently the most dangerous player on the field, regardless of which position he was playing. For his efforts he won the Thompson-Randle El Freshman of the Year award in the Big 10.

 

You don’t have to watch the game tape for very long to realize what an impact Peppers has on every single snap of the game. As a safety/cornerback last season, it was evident that in addition to his freakish physical abilities, he had a high level of understanding of the game. His coverage skills are more than adequate, as shown by his 10 pass breakups in 2015. But his skills as a tackler are what make him such an asset to the Wolverines’ defense. Once he sets his sights on an opposing runner his ability to track and tackle are as good as it gets, and if he gets the chance to really tee off on an opposing offensive player he lays the lumber with the best of ’em in college football. I’m talking SportsCenter Top 10 style hits.

 

 

This year he has made the switch to more of a hybrid linebacker/safety type position in Don Brown’s defense. He will still spend time in coverage but will also have more of a chance to showcase his tackling skill as he plays closer to the line of scrimmage and strikes fear into the hearts of opposing offenses in the Big 10. With the rock solid defensive line that Michigan is sporting this season, look for Jabrill to have free reign up and down the line of scrimmage as the big boys up front occupy the other teams’ offensive lines. With that kind of freedom, watch him to rack up tackles for loss in 2016.

 

So Jabrill Peppers is a top notch defender, but everybody knows that defenders don’t win Heisman Trophies. You know who does, though? Guys who play both offense and defense, or even better, guys who play, offense, defense and return kicks. That’s right, just like the last defender to win the Heisman, Charles Woodson, Jabrill Peppers makes plays on all sides of the ball. And he makes it look good.

 

 If he shows up like we think he will, this Heisman race might be no-contest.

 

There really isn’t any reason that Jabrill Peppers shouldn’t be on the field for  every meaningful offensive snap this season. Even if he’s slightly gassed, you can throw him out there as decoy and defenses must account for his presence on the field. The Wolverines can you use him as a receiver, running back or wildcat QB, and he has the athleticism and speed to take it to the house on any given play. He clocked in at 4.34 seconds in a 40-yard dash that he ran in June. The fact that he is able to play so many different positions and be the best player on the field no matter where you put him is extraordinary.

 

It’s because of the fact that he is consistently the best player on the field, regardless of position, that coach Harbaugh said that they envision him to playing up to 100 plays per game. That’s bananas. Should he see that much time on the field every game then ESPN has rightly labeled him as the #9 player in the country, and we should expect his TD numbers to skyrocket. And if that happens we will be seeing his name in the Heisman discussion by the end of September. This kid might not be the second coming of Jesus Christ in cleats, but he might just be the next coming of the Heisman Trophy in Michigan, and maybe even the College Football Playoff and beyond.

 

 


Two Teams, One Mitten

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Published on : January 3, 2016

 

 

What a difference a couple of days can make. Michigan and Michigan State were both feeling pretty good about themselves heading into their bowl matchups on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, but the Spartans were riding a much bigger wave of confidence than the Wolverines. They were coming off of their second Big Ten Championship Game victory over Iowa and were playing for a chance to go to the National Title Game. The Wolverines, however, last played against Ohio State, and let’s just say that didn’t go exactly as planned. That’s putting lightly. The Maize and Blue got their asses kicked to the tune of 42-13.

 

It was a complete embarrassment. An embarrassment that capped off a season where the Wolverines vastly overachieved compared to what people thought they would do, but an embarrassment none the less. That game was U of M’s chance to play into the conference championship game (they needed some help from other teams too), and they totally shit the bed. Instead, hated in-state rival MSU got a trip Lucas Oil Field, where they beat Iowa for a chance to head to the second ever College Football Playoff. They were matched up against Alabama, and many people, including myself, actually gave them a fighter’s chance in the game. Man, did they fuck that up.

 

 Trevon Pendleton echoes the sentiment of Spartans fans everywhere after the Cotton Bowl.

 

The Spartans made a game of it for a quarter or so, and then it all fell apart. Alabama started slowly adding on points before their defense came alive and smothered the team known in some parts of Michigan as “Little Brother.” The Spartans went on to lose the game 38-0. That’s right, they didn’t score a single point. The Wolverines at least put up a couple of touchdowns in their 41-14 ass-kicking at the hands of the Crimson Tide, back in 2012. But I wouldn’t call the loss, as bad as it is, a setback for the program. Rather this game was a huge step in the right direction for the football team in East Lansing. It was the final sign that Mark Dantonio has brought this team to the upper echelon of College Football teams, but that won’t stop us Michigan fans from talking some serious shit until we play next fall. So let me just say, you guys sucked bad. Like real bad. So take that!

 

Now let’s talk about something I love even more than Michigan State losing, and that’s Michigan winning. And man, did they win big. 41-7 over the Florida Gators to be exact, and the outcome was never really in doubt. The Wolverines controlled every facet of the game and looked like a confident powerhouse of a program, much like they did before they choked away a win over MSU in the final seconds and then got pummeled by the Buckeyes.

 

 The Wolverines celebrate their big win over the Gators.

 

The Citrus Bowl win was the final stamp on Jim Harbaugh’s stellar first year coaching his alma mater. He has turned the program completely around in his first year and is boasting a top 5 recruiting class coming into the 2016 season. “Big Brother” is back, and that’s something that should make Spartans fans nervous. I mean, is The Mitten big enough to support two powerhouse college football programs?

 

Only time will tell if the two teams can coexist at the top of the game, but one has to feel like Michigan State benefited from the chaos that characterized the program in Ann Arbor for the past half of a decade. Now that the khaki-clad savior has resurrected the winningest football team ever from the ashes of the Rodriguez/Hoke era, things could start to shift back to the old paradigm. The one where Michigan is the top dog and Michigan State is constantly trying to catch them. And that’s just fine with me.

 

I’m not saying that Michigan and Michigan State are trending in opposite directions. I think that both of these programs are headed in the right direction, but Michigan is definitely back, and that could spell trouble for Michigan State, sooner rather than later.

 

 


For Michigan State, it’s College Football Playoff or Bust

Written by :
Published on : September 19, 2015

 

The college football world took a much anticipated trip to the great state of Michigan last weekend. ESPN decided to broadcast SportsCenter live from Ann Arbor for Jim Harbaugh’s home coaching debut at his alma mater. Since Harbaugh took the job this past winter, much of the attention in college football has been focused towards Michigan as they try to revitalize one of the most glorified programs in the history of college football. While most believe Harbaugh is the perfect coach to get the job done in Ann Arbor, Michigan no longer has the fortune of only having to look South to find their big competition. There is a potential bigger threat some 60 miles Northwest—yes the once thought “Little Brother” has grown up in East Lansing, and he goes by the name Sparty.

 

Sparty himself.

 

Following the SportsCenter broadcast last Saturday, ESPN’s College Gameday kicked off its show live from East Lansing, as Michigan State vs Oregon was the featured game of the week. Part two in a scheduled home-and-home series between these two teams was again expected to have College Football Playoff implications and both teams are expected to compete for a championship in their respective conferences. Last year in Eugene, Michigan State surprised many by hanging with, and in fact leading, Oregon through three quarters of the game. That was before eventual Heisman trophy winner Marcus Mariota and the high powered Duck offense began to dominate a tired Michigan State defense on their way to a 19-point victory.

 

Oregon would go on to lose in the NCAA Championship game vs Ohio State, while Michigan State would end their season with a Cotton Bowl victory over Baylor in one of the greatest games of the 2014 season. Heading into the 2014 season, Spartans coach, Mark Dantonio, certainly had his eyes on the inaugural playoff, and while there was no doubt some disappointment when they didn’t make it, it was far from a failed season. Especially when you consider that the only two losses the Spartans had were against the two teams competing for the National Championship.

 

The team celebrates the Cotton Bowl victory over Baylor to close out last season.

 

The bar has been raised in East Lansing significantly. Under Dantonio, Michigan State has won eleven or more games in four of the past five years. They have dominated the in-state rivalry against Michigan, winning six of the last seven. They’ve also appeared in two conference championship games (winning one), and have turned what used to be known as a “basketball school” into a strong, well-rounded athletic program.

 

Heading into this season, Michigan State came in ranked 5th in the nation, and again have their eyes on the playoff and some higher expectations, but first focused on some familiar faces that stand in their way. Having both Oregon and Ohio State on the schedule again, Michigan State knew a win against at least one of those opponents would be necessary if their dreams would eventually come to fruition. On Saturday, the Spartans helped their playoff chances by beating the Ducks and bumping themselves up one spot, to #4 in the polls. I think if Michigan State were to have finished the season 11-1 last season, they would have made the College Football Playoff, and that if they finish with that record this year, they will make the playoff.

 

They’ve already beaten the Ducks, but there’s work to be done yet.

 

Outside of Ohio State, there doesn’t seem to be any clear-cut favorite or obvious choices to win any of the Power 5 conferences like in past years. For that reason, I don’t expect many teams to finish undefeated, if any. In recent years, Alabama, Florida State, and Oregon all seemed like shoe-ins for their conference. This year, all three may not even get to their conference championship games because there seems to be a lot more parity, and I think it’s a good thing. I think Ohio State goes undefeated, and potentially a team like TCU or Baylor could as well, (they play each other at the end of November) but that could be it.

 

Ohio State is the only remaining ranked team the Spartans have to play as of right now. The Spartans do still have a couple potential trap games in Ann Arbor and at Nebraska but Michigan State should be undefeated (10-0) heading into Columbus on November 21st. Provided Michigan State can keep that game reasonably close, say within a couple of touchdowns, the “little brother” from East Lansing could be punching a ticket to the Playoff for the first time. With Oregon already out of the way, I think Michigan State needs to be playing in college football’s Final Four on New Year’s Day.

 

The prize that the Spartans have their eyes on.

 

The past few years, Dantonio and company haven’t gotten the attention and respect they probably deserve up in East Lansing. Often taking the backseat to Ohio State and hated rival Michigan, the Spartans always seem to fly a little bit under the radar but Dantonio pushes on, getting them closer to the pinnacle, slightly raising the bar each year while ensuring that the brand is strong. Conference champions, they’ve been there and done that. A Rose Bowl victory, been there too. New Year’s Six? Yup, did that last year. There’s one big step left, and the Spartans control their own destiny the rest of the way. It’s a funny thing about expectations, when you have them, it means your team is pretty good, but when you exceed them, it means you’ve done something great. The College Football Playoff, it’s all Michigan State has left, everything else Spartan fans have already seen.

 

 

 


2015 College Football Predictions

Written by :
Published on : September 2, 2015

 

 

The 2015 college football season gets underway this week, headlined by some marquee matchups right off the bat. Last year’s football season was one of the all time best, helped by a new college football playoff system that removed a lot of the headaches created by the former BCS system. This year, I expect another action packed, hard hitting season that won’t disappoint. Here’s a quick look at how I expect the Power 5 Conferences to unfold and what teams/players may be lifting some hardware come January.

 

ACC

Paul Johnson and his triple option could surprise some people in the ACC this season.

 

The ACC has belonged to Florida State the last couple years, who lost just one game over the past two seasons. However, with Jameis Winston now in the NFL, the conference is up for grabs. Former Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson has been named the starter in Tallahassee. He is very talented and brings valuable experience, he also is very turnover prone. I think Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson is the best QB in the conference, and I look for him to lead Clemson over visiting Florida State in a pivotal game that will ultimately decide the Atlantic Division. In the Coastal Division, Georgia Tech looks to be a step above the rest of the competition again. Paul Johnson’s success with the triple option has surprised many after he showcased it for six years at Navy. I think Johnson and the Yellow Jackets get over the hump this year, winning the ACC for the first time during his tenure.

 

Atlantic Division Winner:  Clemson

Coastal Division Winner: Georgia Tech

Conference Champ: Georgia Tech

 

BIG 12

Look for Trevone Boykin to lead TCU to the conference title.

 

Baylor or TCU. Might as well flip a coin in the Big 12 again this year. Baylor has won the Big 12 the last two seasons, but comes in ranked below TCU heading into this year. I think the conference champion will be decided when these two meet on the gridiron in late November. Last year, Baylor erased a 21-point deficit to stun TCU on the road, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of the Horned Frogs. This year, I think revenge will be served as Heisman hopeful Trevone Boykin leads TCU to a win vs the Bears and ultimately, a conference title.

 

Conference Champ: TCU

 

BIG 10

As long as they stay focused, Ohio State should roll through the BIG 10.

 

Last year, Ohio State wasn’t given much of a chance after news broke that Braxton Miller would miss the entire season due to a shoulder injury. We all know what happened after that, as the Buckeyes surprised everyone (multiple times) along the way to a national title. This season, Ohio State again looks unbeatable. By returning all three quarterbacks (though Braxton Miller has switched to wide receiver) and running back Ezekiel Elliott, they have Big 10 defenses getting ready to wave the white flag. It will be very interesting to see how Ohio State handles the pressure. Last year, while they of course won the national title, they did it without really ever having the target on their backs. This year, much like Kentucky in basketball, every team will be gunning for them. Ohio State will have to be mindful of that and make sure not to overlook anyone. The other big news in the conference is Michigan hiring Jim Harbaugh as head coach. This was the biggest hire of the year without a doubt. Harbaugh will surely bring the glory days back to Michigan, but with both of the Wolverines rivals (Ohio State and Michigan State) having some of the more successful years in their programs history it won’t be easy. In the West division, (formerly the Leaders division) Wisconsin has enjoyed a lot of recent success, making it to three of the four conference championship games thus far. Melvin Gordon heading to the NFL is a huge loss though, and road trips to Nebraska and Minnesota this season will prove to be too much. I see the Golden Gophers, led by Jerry Kill, getting the upset and winning the division this year.

 

East Division Winner: Ohio State

West Division Winner: Minnesota

Conference Champ: Ohio State

 

PAC 12

The Ducks will remain on the top of the PAC 12 this year.

 

The PAC 12 was the hardest conference to predict for me, and I feel the conference is wide open. In the North, I see it as a two team race with Oregon and Stanford, but the South has as many as four teams vying for a place in the Conference Championship game. At Oregon, Marcus Mariota finally left after an incredible career, but the cupboard is anything but bare in Eugene. Eastern Washington transfer Vernon Adams Jr takes over at quarterback, and the Ducks are loaded as usual with speed and athleticism at running back and wide receiver. Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan returns for his fourth season, and as always, a stingy defense gives the Cardinals a fighting chance in the division. On the other side of the conference, USC, Arizona St, UCLA and Arizona all will be contending for the division. I think quarterback play will be the difference, and USC’s Cody Kessler has the most experience of the group. Last year, Kessler threw for 39 touchdowns and wasn’t really talked about too much. This year I think he becomes a household name, leading the Trojans to the Conference Championship game.

 

North Division Winner: Oregon

South Division Winner: USC

Conference Champ: Oregon

 

SEC

Saban and Co aren’t headed anywhere just yet.

 

After winning the National Championship seven straight times, the SEC has now gone two consecutive years without a National Title. Last year, the SEC West showcased some of the most talented teams in all of football, giving us multiple top-25 matchups every week. This year, the division should again be strong, but not as talented top to bottom. I think the battle for the Iron Bowl will be a pivotal game again in Alabama, as the Crimson Tide visit the Auburn Tigers late in November. For both Alabama and Auburn, replacing their starting quarterback, leading wide receiver and arguably top running back all in the same season seems a bit overwhelming. Yet both teams, and the Crimson Tide especially, always seem to have an All-American waiting in the wings. I give the slight edge to Alabama. In the SEC East, Georgia lost Todd Gurley to the NFL but I love what I see in his replacement Nick Chubb. After an outstanding breakout campaign as a Freshman, Chubb has the backfield to himself and has a realistic chance at 2,000+ yards and getting the Bulldogs to the SEC Championship game.

 

SEC East Winner: Georgia

SEC West Winner: Alabama

Conference Champ: Alabama

 

 

Heisman Trophy Candidates

Keep an eye on Deshaun Watson as he challenges for the Heisman this year.
  1. Any Ohio State Quarterback
  2. Ezekiel Elliott- RB- Ohio State
  3. Trevone Boykin- QB- TCU
  4. Cody Kessler- QB- USC
  5. Deshaun Watson- QB- Clemson

Playoff Teams

  1. Ohio State
  2. TCU
  3. Oregon
  4. Alabama

 

Heisman Trophy Winner

Ezekial Elliott will end up hoisting the greatest trophy in college football this year.

Ezekiel Elliott

 

National Champion

Much to the ire of their northern neighbors, the Buckeyes will repeat as champs this season.

 

Ohio State Buckeyes

 

 


Power Ranking the Power 5: Preseason Edition

Written by :
Published on : August 10, 2015

 

 

Now that we are into the month of August, it’s time to start getting serious about college football, the most hallowed of American traditions. With the preseason USA Today Amway Coaches Poll having been released, we can finally dig in and start dissecting where the country’s biggest and baddest programs stand heading into the 2015 season. We look at which powerhouses are pretenders and which underdogs are sure to set the world on fire this autumn.

 

The following is my ranking of each of the Power 5 Conferences in college football. Not only will I rank each conference against each other, but I will also include a power ranking of all the teams within each individual conference. Sure there are a couple teams in the preseason ranking that live outside of the world of the Power 5, but they are anomalies. In order to be the best in college football, you need to be the best amongst these teams within these conferences.

 

#1. The SEC

 

This should surprise no one. With eight teams in the preseason coaches top 25, and another two knocking on the door, the SEC is still the cream of the crop in college football. Having produced seven of the last ten national championship teams, this conference is truly a league of it’s own. The Southeastern Conference is still the gold standard, and despite being two years removed from the conference’s last national championship, it’s hard to imagine that changing, even if the title alludes them again this year.

Alabama (3), Auburn (7) and Georgia (9) lead the conference as the three teams in the top 10 coming into the season, but this conference is so loaded with good teams that it’s hard to see these rankings remaining static for very long. Most of these teams will play each other throughout the season, and with Alabama looking slightly less godlike than in recent years, the door is open for some of these other teams to make their mark. One team will rise from the ashes after they have all beaten the hell out of each other, and I would look for Auburn to make some serious noise this year, winning the conference and punching a ticket to the second ever college football playoff.

*indicates team’s ranking in coaches poll

  1. Alabama (3)*
  2. Auburn (7)
  3. Georgia (9)
  4. LSU (13)
  5. Ole Miss (15)
  6. Arkansas (20)
  7. Missouri (23)
  8. Tennessee (25)
  9. Mississippi State
  10. Texas A&M
  11. South Carolina
  12. Florida
  13. Kentucky
  14. Vanderbilt

 

#2. The Pac-12

 

The Pac-12 comes in behind the SEC and boasts a very formidable six teams in the preseason coaches top 25. Oregon (5) and USC (10) are the lone top 10 teams in the conference, though I have to say that I feel like USC is ranked a bit too high. They played some bad football at times last year and a lot is going to rest on a defense that flat-out blew it in some critical situations last year. That said, this conference is pretty loaded and the top seven teams can contend this year.

Oregon is the obvious choice to represent the Pac-12  in the playoffs, and they will remain on top of the conference until someone knocks them off. Replacing Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota will be no easy task and if they stumble in their quest to find a viable replacement, the door could be left open for USC or UCLA to make a run at the conference championship. Like Oregon, UCLA also has some questions at quarterback, and will need to find one quickly in order to remain relevant in the conference.

 

  1. Oregon (5)
  2. USC (10)
  3. UCLA (14)
  4. Arizona State (16)
  5. Stanford (21)
  6. Arizona (22)
  7. Utah
  8. Cal
  9. Washington State
  10. Colorado
  11. Washington
  12. Oregon State

 

#3. The Big Ten

 

Coming into the 2015 college football season, the Big Ten has the honor of being home to the #1 team in the nation, Ohio State. They hold the current title of national champion and winner of the first ever college football playoff. The Buckeyes are returning all three quarterbacks and Braxton Miller is making the switch to wide receiver. Miller was 28-8 as a quarterback and started as a true freshmen in 2011, but will now be catching balls from either JT Barrett or Cardale Jones, the latter of which won the national championship game.

After Ohio State there is a very strong Michigan State (6) team joining them in the top 10, and the only other team in the top 25 is Wisconsin (18). There may only be three teams in the top 25, but there are a few others on the fringe that could easily sneak into mix during the first few weeks of the season. Look for Nebraska, Penn State and Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan team to make some waves and even upset a few people, but until further notice this thing belongs to the Buckeyes.

 

  1. Ohio State (1)
  2. Michigan State (6)
  3. Wisconsin (18)
  4. Nebraska
  5. Michigan
  6. Penn State
  7. Minnesota
  8. Iowa
  9. Maryland
  10. Rutgers
  11. Northwestern
  12. Indiana
  13. Illinois
  14. Purdue

 

#4. The Big 12

 

The Big 12 actually only has ten teams, but since that name is already taken it looks like they are going to ride this thing out. We joke, but the fact that is  they lack those two teams necessary for a conference championship game.  TCU (2), Baylor (4) and Oklahoma (19) are the three teams representing the Big 12 in the preseason coaches poll and they are all deserving of their places on the totem poll. The only other team with a real argument for being included is Oklahoma State.

 

TCU has a pretty cake season up until the last two weeks when they travel to Oklahoma and then come home to face Baylor. If they stay undefeated, then there’s a pretty good chance they win. It’ll take an undefeated season for the Horned Frogs, capped by two big wins, in order for the team to overcome the lack of a conference championship and earn a trip to the playoffs.

 

  1. TCU (2)
  2. Baylor (4)
  3. Oklahoma (19)
  4. Oklahoma State
  5. Kansas State
  6. Texas
  7. West Virginia
  8. Texas Tech
  9. Iowa State
  10. Kansas

 

#5. The ACC

 

Like the last two conferences we discussed, the ACC has three teams in the coaches top 25. Florida State (8), Clemson (12) and Georgia Tech (17), and the only other team that currently threatens to join them is Louisville. There are a lot of questions surrounding these teams and none of them look all that scary. Especially when you consider the fact that Florida State and Clemson will beat up on each other and Georgia Tech has the hardest schedule among the three.

Florida State has a lot of talent all over the field, but much of it is untested and unproven. The loss of Jameis Winston, might be too much for the Seminoles to overcome. Look for Clemson to win the conference if, and only if, Deshaun Watson can stay healthy. Either way, I think everyone in this conference is going to beat up on each other so badly that if the winner of the Big 12 wins out,  the ACC will be left on the outside of the playoff looking in.

 

  1. Florida State (8)
  2. Clemson (12)
  3. Georgia Tech (17)
  4. Louisville
  5. Virginia Tech
  6. Miami
  7. Pitt
  8. North Carolina State
  9. North Carolina
  10. Duke
  11. Virginia
  12. Boston College

 


 

That’s it for Power Ranking the Power 5: Preseason Edition.

Check in with us each week during the college football regular season for updated power rankings, and to see who shows up and who stinks up the place.

 

 


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