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.

 

 


Showdown in Columbus

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Published on : November 22, 2016

 

 

It’s finally almost here. The moment everyone in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Columbus, Ohio have been waiting for. The moment college football fans across the country have waited for. The Game, the name given to the annual matchup of the University of Michigan Wolverines and the Ohio State Buckeyes, is just days away. Many people consider this the best rivalry in college football, if not all of sports. The first meeting of these two storied college football programs occurred on October 16, 1897 with Michigan winning by a score of 34-0. The teams have now met a total of 111 times and the Wolverines lead the series with a record of 58-47-6.

 

To fans of these teams, this game is all that matters. The entire season is a tune-up for The Game. Even when one team is not very good, this ends up being one of the toughest games on either’s schedule. But every now and then, the stakes get raised to epic proportions. And this is one of those times.

 

Ohio State is sitting at #2 in the College Football Playoff standings. Michigan is #3. Both teams have 10-1 records and have looked dominate for most of the season. While the Buckeyes struggled against the Michigan State Spartans last week, and Michigan had issues against Indiana, there is no doubt that both of these teams are among the best in the country. They have top defenses and their offenses have the ability to break a big play at any given moment. For the first time in a long time this game will have national championship implications. The winner will likely be headed to the Big Ten Championship and the College Football Playoff. Let’s take a look at some things to keep an eye out for in The Game.

 

Home-field Horseshoe Advantage

 The Buckeye crowd will be going wild.

 

This the game will be played in Columbus, Ohio at the Horseshoe. For Michigan, it will be their second big rivalry game of the season played on the road. But this one will be way bigger than when they met Michigan State in East Lansing last month. Mostly because the Ohio State Buckeyes are a far, far better team than this year’s Spartans are. The Horseshoe is an extremely hard place to win for teams not named the Buckeyes. In fact, Ohio State has lost just once on its home field in the last two years. That’s a big challenge for Michigan and it’s world-beating defense.

 

The crowd will be going crazy and that will make things very difficult for the Michigan offense. Especially when you consider that QB Wilton Speight may not yet be ready to return to the field after suffering a shoulder injury two weeks ago in the loss to Iowa. If Michigan is forced to roll out John O’Korn again, who struggled in his debut last week against Indiana, it could be a long day. Whoever starts at QB for the Michigan offense is going to need to have nerves of steel in order to shake off that loud and aggressive OSU Crowd at the Horseshoe.

 

Jabrill Peppers

 Jabrill is going to need to bring his A-game.

 

One of the most dynamic players in the country, Jabrill Peppers, does it all for the Wolverines. He has played 12 positions for Michigan this season and has seen the field with every unit on the team. He makes his living on defense as a linebacker but also happens to be perhaps the most dangerous kick returner in the country. He also routinely gets time with the offense as both a running back and wildcat quarterback. Last week at Indiana, Peppers didn’t play any offensive snaps until the game was already in hand, but you can bet that they were just resting him up for this week’s game against the Buckeyes.

 

Look for Jabrill Peppers to be on the field in his normal capacity as a sure-tackling, QB rushing linebacker, but also keep an eye out for some new and inventive ways that he might get involved on the offensive side of the ball. The coaches at Michigan are sure to have some tricks up their sleeve with Peppers this week. This is the game everyone has been looking forward to all year so there has to be some plays that they have been saving for this game specifically. Perhaps Jabrill will complete his first pass of the season, or perhaps he will catch a touchdown pass? Either way, look for one of the most exciting players in the country to go off, or die trying come Saturday.

 

Coaching Battle

 Battle of the titans.

 

When the University of Michigan hired Jim Harbaugh as the 20th head coach in the school’s history, we just knew that there would be some showdowns with Ohio State like this one. We just didn’t know we would get it so soon. In only his second year as head coach in Ann Arbor, Harbaugh has already turned the Wolverines around and pulled them out of the depths of despair that characterized the Rich Rodriguez/Brady Hoke era at Michigan. Along with Urban Meyer (and Mark Dantonio), Harbaugh represents the cream of the crop in college football coaching and coaching in the Big 10. So it’s safe to say that us fans are in for a big treat this weekend.

 

This matchup of football coaching titans is sure to produce some memorable moments. With proven QB JT Barrett running Urban Meyers’ offense and a Michigan defensive line that makes life miserable for QBs and routinely knocks them out of games altogether, this will be a hard fought battle. Contests like this are why Jim Harbaugh came to Michigan in the first place. To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best and that’s what Ohio State has been consistently since the turn of the century. Both teams have shown signs of weakness recently, but you better believe these two head coaches will have their guys ready to play. Get ready for the most exciting game of chess you’ve ever witnessed.

 

Those are some of the bigger points of The Game to look out for this year. On Saturday November 26th, a year’s worth of hard work and preparation for both teams will come to a head. Look for this year’s edition of Michigan vs Ohio State to be one of the most exciting meetings in recent memory. Whatever the outcome, it’s us fans who will be the real winners.

 

 


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.

 

 


#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.

 


Joey Bosa and the Chargers both screwed this up

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Published on : August 27, 2016

 

 

After the most recent collective bargaining agreement was finalized, most people thought that it would be the end of rookie holdouts. And for a few years those people were correct. That’s until the San Diego Chargers drafted the 2014 Big Ten Defensive player of the year, Joey Bosa, out of OSU. The situation between the team and Bosa has deteriorated to the point where the two have taken to the media to bash the other side and try to gain sympathy from the public. But how did we get here?

 

When the Chargers drafted Joey Bosa with the 3rd overall pick this past spring, the team and the fans thought that their pass rush had finally found the boost it has needed. Instead, Bosa has yet to practice with the team and has indicated that he is willing to sit out the entire season and re-enter the draft next spring. This all seems so puzzling when you consider that the NFL now has set salaries for rookies and the big holdup is minor details regarding the signing bonus and the team’s ability to recoup that money should they cut Bosa. As it stands now, Bosa is the owner of the longest rookie holdout since the new CBA went into affect. And it’s not even close.

 

 

Many people, including the Bosa camp, will say that the Chargers are being cheap. They’re probably right. The Chargers want to break up the signing bonus on Bosa’s guaranteed $25 million contract and include offset language. Both of these things are somewhat unprecedented for a 3rd overall draft pick and the reality is that it’s a pretty insignificant point to be holding up the contract on a player that could have contributed early and often. The team is being stubborn and once again showing the world why they are a second-rate organization in the NFL. But they also have all of the leverage, so you can’t really blame them for refusing to be pushed around by some snot-nosed Buckeye hotshot.

 

As a rookie, Joey Bosa should be learning the ins and outs of the NFL. Game speed and the skill of his opposition will be like nothing he saw in the Big Ten. The fact that he is missing out on all of this could be detrimental to his development. He has no power in this situation and if he really does sit out the entire season, it seems unlikely that he will be drafted as high as he was this time around. Some teams might consider him to much of a headache to deal with, or maybe they will be scared that a year off of the football field eroded some of his skills and conditioning.

 

 

The Chargers may have their reputation tarnished, but they never were much of an appealing destination for players to begin with. At the end of the day, the Chargers will still be an organization that is worth millions, even if it is run like garbage. Joey Bosa on the other hand, stands to lose out on millions of dollars. If he comes back from a year off of football and looks like Maurice Clarett did after he went from top prospect to slow, fat trash monster in his year off of football, then he sure is going to look stupid.

 

Both of the parties are probably at fault here, but only one has the chance to be ruined from it and that is Joey Bosa. It’s probably too late to repair the relationship between the two but it’s not too late to make something out of Bosa’s rookie season. The Chargers will still be a laughing stock among NFL Front Office’s no matter what, but they are used to that. They won’t bend and because of that Joey needs to sign the next offer they give him, even if it isn’t as good as the last one he so stupidly turned down. His livelihood could depend on it.

 

 


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

Written by :
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.

 

 


Predicting This Weekend’s NCAA Football Conference Championship Games

Written by :
Published on : December 4, 2015

 

With the College Football Playoff on the horizon, eight conferences will hold their championship games this weekend. While eight teams will be crowned conference champions, four teams will be hoping to play for an even bigger prize come January. In just a few days we’ll find out who those teams are but until then, here’s my predictions for this weekend’s NCAA Football Conference Championship games.

 

 

MAC Championship- Detroit, MI- Friday @ 8:00

Bowling Green Falcons (9-3, 7-1) vs Northern Illinois Huskies (8-4, 6-2)

Matt Johnson will be the difference in this one.

 

For the third consecutive year, these two teams will meet in the MAC Championship with both teams splitting the previous two meetings. The Huskies are making their sixth consecutive appearance in the championship game and are looking for their fourth conference title during this stretch. The teams didn’t meet during the regular season and the Huskies will be down to their third string quarterback for this battle. I think that will be the difference. The Falcons score a ton of points with a high octane offense led by the nation’s leading passer Matt Johnson, and I do not see Northern Illinois being able to match it.

Prediction: Bowling Green– 38, Northern Illinois- 24

 

 

American Athletic Conference Championship- Houston, TX- Saturday @ Noon

#22 Temple Owls (10-2, 7-1) vs #19 Houston Cougars (11-1, 7-1)

Can Greg Ward Jr overcome the Temple defense?

 

Another championship matchup featuring two teams that did not play during the regular season. The game will be played in Houston’s backyard which is an added bonus for the Cougars. Houston is led by dual-threat quarterback Greg Ward Jr, who has 15 touchdowns through the air this year and another 17 on the ground. Temple however, has the nation’s 13th ranked rush defense and are poised for the upset. Also, did you know that in 2012 I moved to Philadelphia and had actually applied and was accepted to Temple University before ultimately moving back home later that year? For that, give me the Owls–my almost Alma Mater.

Prediction: Temple- 30, Houston- 27

 

 

Conference USA Championship- Bowling Green, KY- Saturday @ Noon

Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (9-3, 7-1) vs Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (10-2, 8-0)

Doughty will be playing on Sundays.

 

Talk about a game that could have some fireworks. Both the Golden Eagles and Hilltoppers rank inside the top-10 in passing yards and I would expect an absolute shootout in this one. At quarterback for Western Kentucky is a future NFL play-caller, in my opinion, in Brandon Doughty. After throwing for 49 touchdowns last year, Doughty has his eyes on 50+ this year and I see him as a mid-round steal for an NFL team.

Prediction: Western Kentucky- 45, Southern Mississippi- 35

 

 

SEC Championship– Atlanta, GA- Saturday @ 4:00

#18 Florida Gators (10-2, 7-1) vs #2 Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1, 7-1)

Derrick Henry will help Alabama win this one.

 

The first game that will have playoff implications takes place in the Georgia Dome as Alabama looks to solidify a spot in the Final Four with a win over Florida. The Gators come in with a good record, ranked in the top-20 but haven’t looked good in about a month. After getting dominated by Florida State, Florida will need to clean up a lot of things if they plan on making a game out of this one. Alabama on the other hand, has won 9 in a row and looks poised to make its second consecutive playoff appearance. I don’t think this Alabama team is nearly as talented as we’ve seen from coach Saban usually, but Derrick Henry is an absolute monster, who very well may take home the Heisman trophy. Both Florida and Alabama feature top-5 defenses, so the Gators will need to force Alabama to beat them through the air.

Prediction: Alabama- 31, Florida- 14

 

 

Mountain West Championship– San Diego, CA- Saturday @ 7:30

Air Force Falcons (8-4, 6-2) vs San Diego State Aztecs (9-3, 8-0)

SDSU will ride its backfield to the win.

 

It’s always tough to defend the triple option, and that’s the task at hand for San Diego State this weekend. Air Force isn’t going to beat you through the air, as their starting quarterback actually has one more interception than he does passing touchdowns on the year. San Diego State is also led by their ground attack and features a couple really talented backs that can also catch the ball out of the backfield.

Prediction: San Diego State- 27, Air Force- 20

 

 

PAC 12 Championship– Santa Clara, CA- Saturday @ 7:45

#20 USC Trojans (8-4, 6-3) vs #7 Stanford Cardinals (10-2, 8-1)

McCaffrey does it all.

 

Finally, a championship that features a rematch from the regular season. Way back in week 3, Stanford traveled to the Coliseum and defeated the Trojans 41-31 after trailing by 11 points in the second quarter. Over the past couple months both teams have changed, however, I think it’s Stanford who has changed for the better. The Cardinals are as talented as any team in the country but sit at #7 and need some help if they hope to make it to the College Football Playoff. Led by one of the more exciting players in college football, Stanford has Sophomore Christian McCaffrey close to breaking NCAA records for All-Purpose Yards. McCaffrey does it all, from sprinting through holes from the backfield, catching screens or balls over the middle, to being an explosive weapon in the return game. He is impossible to shut down. Hell, he even threw a touchdown pass this season. Both USC and Stanford have experienced 3+ year starters at quarterback in Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan. Neither will shy away from the spotlight or pressure and this game could come down to who protects the ball better.

Prediction: Stanford- 34, USC- 31

 

Big Ten Championship– Indianapolis, IN- Saturday @ 8:00

#4 Iowa Hawkeyes (12-0, 8-0) vs #5 Michigan State Spartans (11-1, 7-1)

Can Sparty ride Cook’s arm to the playoff?

 

As Mike wrote a couple days ago, these two teams couldn’t have had any more different paths to get to this game. While their records are about the same, the expectations and buzz surrounding both programs over the past few months have been polar opposites. Iowa was never expected to really compete for the Big Ten West, let alone run the table, while Michigan State was picked by many to be Ohio State’s only true road block in the way of another Buckeye championship. As I myself wrote in September, it is playoff or bust for the Spartans, and the winner of this game is all but assured a spot in the Final 4. Iowa is anything but flashy, offensively they have a ground and pound attack that wears you down and are very solid on the defensive end. Old smashmouth Big Ten football at its finest. Michigan State is led by potentially the best quarterback in the country in Senior Connor Cook, but has a defense that has been playing very well the last few weeks after being decimated by injury early in the season. I think this game is going to be won in the trenches. Can Iowa get their rushing attack going and keep Michigan State’s front-7 out of their backfield and on the other end, can Michigan State give Cook time to throw and make plays down the field?

Prediction: Michigan State- 24, Iowa- 21

 

 

ACC Championship– Charlotte, NC- Saturday @ 8:00

#1 Clemson Tigers (12-0, 8-0) vs #10 North Carolina Tar Heels (11-1, 8-0)

Watson is gunning for a playoff spot.

The ACC didn’t get much love heading into the 2015 season as only Florida State was inside the top-10. Clemson found themselves at #12 and North Carolina wasn’t given much of a chance to make any noise. Instead, both teams made it through conference play unscathed and almost the entire season as a whole as well. The Tar Heels lost their opener to South Carolina but have since won 11 in a row. While neither team boasts the strongest schedule, both feature very talented quarterbacks who are looking to silence the critics. Sophomore Deshaun Watson for the Tigers and Senior Marquise Williams from North Carolina are almost carbon copies of one another in how they play the game, and their statistics are pretty close as well. Vegas is giving North Carolina more and more of a chance as each day goes by, so this one figures to be a good one.

Prediction: Clemson- 38, North Carolina- 30

 
 
 


A Tale of Two Seasons: Why Iowa Can Beat Michigan State on Saturday

Written by :
Published on : December 2, 2015

 

 

I don’t know what’s more improbable – that Michigan State beat Michigan with 10 seconds left on the clock in Ann Arbor back on October 17th or that Iowa is even in this conversation to begin with. But here we are. The 12-0 Iowa Hawkeyes play the 11-1 Michigan State Spartans on Saturday for the Big Ten Championship and a (more-than-probable) spot in the College Football Playoffs on New Year’s Eve. The hype, or lack thereof, surrounding both teams as the season began could not be more different. And the end results could not be more similar. But I’m going to tell you why Iowa can win the game. Let’s start at the beginning.

 

When Iowa started the season, it was an ugly time for Hawkeyes football. They were destroyed by Tennessee on January 2nd in the TaxSlayer Bowl and then, frustrated fans who were desperate for change, responded by giving Iowa the smallest crowd they’d had in years at the home opener against Illinois State. They even cheered a failed fake field goal attempt because at least coach Kirk Ferentz was trying something. On the other hand, Michigan State was the preseason #5 in the nation and an early 31-28 marquee win against #7 Oregon in Week 2 already had sportswriters and analysts talking about the Playoffs and the national title hopes for the Spartans. They were supposed to cruise until they faced Michigan in October. Then they’d have this ultimate showdown with Ohio State in late November for the Big Ten East title. Never mind that Connor Cook hadn’t really played well yet. Never mind that this wasn’t the same Oregon team that Heisman-winner Marcus Mariota led to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game back in January. Everyone had already decided that Iowa was an afterthought in the West and Michigan State was the real deal in the East. That’s how we started.

 

Head Coach Kirk Ferentz and a lot of empty seats for the home opener.

 

It wasn’t until a 62-16 blowout of North Texas on September 26th that anyone began to notice Iowa at all. They’d found a solid running back in Jordan Canzeri, who tied a school record with four touchdowns in the game. Quarterback C.J. Beathard had also looked solid all season to that point. And Desmond King looked like a real play maker on defense and special teams. On the other hand, #2 MSU looked pretty bad in its win against Central Michigan. The game exposed their lack of a run game, Cook was still inconsistent at quarterback and injuries were mounting for the team. Just in time for October and Big Ten play.

 

By mid October, Michigan State was 6-0, but had two more ugly wins against Purdue and Rutgers. Sure, they were dealing with injuries. And their mantra was that since they were ranked so highly everybody was gunning for them, but they’d been completely underwhelming since the Oregon win and it was clear that this team was not as good as last season’s. Analysts argued that it would be a cause for concern against Michigan the following week. On the other hand, with wins against Wisconsin and Illinois, Iowa was on the brink of controlling the Big Ten West. They received their first ranking (#22) of the season and Jordan Canzeri managed 256 yards (the 3rd most in Iowa history) against Illinois, which continued his season-long praise. The “surprisingly resurgent” Hawkeyes were now bowl eligible and a win over Northwestern could put them in the driver’s seat.

 

Illinois couldn’t touch Jordan Canzeri.

 

The aforementioned INSANE and unforgettable ending of the Michigan State-Michigan game and the Twitter explosion that followed put the national college football spotlight back on Michigan State. Even though they’d only won this game and the previous two by a combined 14 points. Everyone forgot about their games against Central Michigan and Purdue and Rutgers. Now all that mattered was the Oregon win in September and the (literally) show-stopping finish against Big Brother. It’s even possible that nobody managed to notice Iowa lost Canzeri to injury, but still managed to get four rushing touchdowns out of his replacement, Akrum Wadley, in their dominant win against #20 Northwestern to become the clear favorites in the West. Really, nobody cared, nationally. The MSU finish truly was one of the craziest endings in NCAA football history. Everyone outside of Ann Arbor loved it. And without a convincing win in October and without a running game, the Spartans were back in the Playoff talks and Connor Cook was once again a sleeper choice for the Heisman.

 

As we entered November, both teams were undefeated with costly injuries and ugly wins. Iowa’s defense and forced turnovers kept them in the games and moved them into the top 10 for the first time. Their win over Indiana on November 7th had analysts talking about a clear path to the Big Ten West title, controlling their own destiny and, for the first time, actual Playoff talk. That was all with Jordan Canzeri still hurt and C.J. Beathard’s mobility slowed down with a groin injury. Not that it stopped him from diving over a pile of Indiana defenders to score a touchdown. But obviously the CFP committee wasn’t aware of any of that because they cited a lack of “offensive explosiveness” in their decision to place Iowa at #9 in the first CFP rankings. The very same day that Playoffs talk began with the Hawkeyes, the Spartans’ Playoff hopes took a huge hit with their ‘controversial’ loss at Nebraska. What everyone was ready to deem a magical season for MSU had actually and secretly been anything but. Nobody had noticed they barely beat Purdue and Rutgers. And that their win against Indiana wasn’t impressive. And then there was the miracle against Michigan. But it’s possible that playing the underdog is exactly where Michigan State needed to be in the long run.

 

Michigan State Kicker, Michael Geiger celebrates the last second, game-clinching field goal against OSU.

 

Without Connor Cook, Michigan State upset #3 Ohio State with a last-second kick by Michael Geiger, whose windmill celebration was actually kind of awesome. And the Buckeyes seemingly imploded after the game. Ezekiel Elliott and Cardale Jones said they were leaving the team after the season. Analysts called OSU the most overrated team in the country, saying they hadn’t been challenged all season long, hadn’t played a ranked opponent and that it took everyone until late November to realize the reigning national champions weren’t really that good. But the fact was that now the Spartans were in total control of the Big Ten East and right back in the Playoff hunt. And once again, everyone forgot about all their squeaker wins and their loss to Nebraska.

 

In the meantime, Iowa had already clinched the Big Ten West with a victory over Purdue. They’d never been 10-0 before in school history. Now they were 11-0. They’d scored over 30 points in 5 straight Big Ten games, which they’d also never done before. They’d already tied records from 2002 and 2009 for most wins in a season. And Beathard, who now looked healthy, was 12-0 as a starter for Iowa, which is something only Cam Newton, Darron Thomas and Jameis Winston had done in a Power 5 Conference since 2010. Oh, and also Jordan Canzeri was back.

 

Smith #4 and Beathard #6 celebrate the Purdue win and an 11-0 record.

 

On the final weekend of the regular season, Iowa clinched its undefeated regular season with a cold and ugly 28-20 win at Nebraska. Which was the team that, if I recall correctly, beat Michigan State on the same turf three weeks prior. It probably won’t convince any of the critics who totally do not want Iowa (the only other undefeated team besides #1 Clemson) to be in the Playoff picture. But it’s Iowa’s first perfect regular season in 93 years and their first team ever to win 12 games in a season at all. The next day, Michigan State blew out Penn State to clinch the Big Ten East in their best win of the season. And now the two teams are finally set to play each other in the championship and the virtual play-in for the Playoff.
Michigan State has loved playing underdog all season. They did it against Michigan. They did it against Ohio State. But they won’t be doing it against Iowa, where they are pretty heavy favorites. In fact, Paul Finebaum of ESPN gave the Hawkeyes “zero chance” to win the game. And Michigan State already thinks they can win it all, alluding to how Ohio State shocked everyone in the Playoffs last year. Sure, they’re “playing their best football” and “hitting their stride at the right time” and Connor Cook is back from injury. And so is their O line. But 12-0 Iowa is not 7-4 Penn State.

 

I know Iowa isn’t flashy. But they’ve won games on both sides of the ball. They’ve never trailed in the 4th quarter all season. They’re 4th in the country in turnover margin, meaning they don’t make many mistakes. And they tend to capitalize when the other teams do. And in games against mutual opponents (Maryland, Indiana, Purdue and Nebraska), Iowa scored as many points as Michigan State, while giving up fewer on defense. Plus they fucking beat Nebraska. “Football’s not gynmastics,” as Ferentz said last week and both teams know well. Iowa and Michigan State both have ugly wins. And neither team was supposed to be here in the first place. But while Sparty has thrived on being underdogs, it’s been Iowa that’s had to constantly prove people wrong. Starting with their own fans. And I’d like to see them prove people wrong again on Saturday.

 

Seriously, Iowa can win this.

 

 


From Michigan to Ohio State: An Ode to My Favorite Rival

Written by :
Published on : November 27, 2015

 

 

Dear Ohio State,

 

 

It’s that time of year again where our respective student bodies cram into stadiums, bars, and living rooms across the nation. The air is peppered with smells of pizza, hot dogs, and the ever-present stale aroma of weeks old Natty Light. Ah yes, The Game, as it so condescendingly known to our lesser rivals, is upon us. No longer must we shake our fists to the sky and threaten each other from afar as if we were easily provoked world leaders on the brink of war. Now we get to meet face to face. Finally, our frustrations and joys from an entire year of football can be honed into three plus hours of drama right in the heart of our nation. Will we return to work with our shoulders hung low, or will we breathe new life once again as the victors for another 364?

 

Man-drinking-water

         Not actual photo of ScoreBoredSports office life

 

Aside from all of the animosity, however, it is also a time to be thankful. With Thanksgiving still close behind in the rear-view mirror, one can almost forget the things that we should be thankful for. So, Ohio State, while I savor the month’s worth of Thanksgiving leftovers scattered across my refrigerator like buried treasure, I would like to reach out my turkey-leg free hand and say that I am thankful for you. I know fellow Wolverines, I know. This doesn’t seem right and, frankly, writing it out on the page gives me pause but I have to acknowledge what the famed school down south brings to the table. For it is their presence on the other side of those hallowed sidelines that makes this rivalry worth it. Red vs. Blue. Woody vs. Bo. Slytherin vs. Gryffindor. No matter which way you slice it, we were meant for each other from the very start. By the way, that start in 1897 resulted in a 34-0 shellacking from Michigan, but I digress.

 

Draco-vs-Harry-draco-malfoy-vs-harry-potter-7684972-1023-584

                                                    Ohio State vs. Michigan

 

Just think about all of the memories we have shared together. Who could forget Desmond Howard’s famed Heisman pose? Or what about the legendary #1 vs. #2 match up in 2006 where the Buckeyes barely escaped and advanced to the National Championship game? And you DEFINITELY can’t give thanks and remember all the good times without being reminded that we once thought these two jokers were good enough to coach our teams. But what truly makes the stories even better is the fans. Every Michigan and Ohio State fan has a story or experience related to The Game. I can tell you about the joy I felt rushing the field when Michigan finally won in 2011. I didn’t care that it was a supposed “off year” for Ohio State. I’ll never forget feeling the Michigan field underneath my sneakers. On the flip side, I can also tell you what it was like to hear the echoed silence of the Big House when Ohio State obliterated us during my freshman year. At that point (2008) we were pretty used to losing but that didn’t make it hurt any less.

 

This upcoming Saturday is just the next chapter in our story. Today, we find ourselves both coached by madmen. Men who represent their alma maters with an intensity and dedication to detail that will make the game itself into a massively televised chess match. We have the spirits of Bo and Woody back, with all the bells and whistles of old. We have our old rankings back. We have the fire of the greatest rivalry in football burning as bright as it has in years. We have pride, bowl games, and, yes, maybe even playoffs on the line. That is, of course, assuming that Christian Hackenburg plays like the 1st round QB a lot of us hope he is because a certain SOMEONE couldn’t beat Michigan State without their QB but, again, I digress.

 

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                        Don’t let the smiles fool you. They’re both clinically insane.

 

See you Saturday Ohio State. I’m happy that it’s you guys I get to hate.

 

 


Five Teams that may surprise the College Hoops Nation come March

Written by :
Published on : October 27, 2015

 

With so many new faces being added to rosters in the offseason, it is becoming increasingly difficult to predict an outcome for a team in the whirlwind that is a college basketball season.  Experts will take their best shot at telling you which squads will be dancing in the spring.  No matter how accurate they may be, there are always a few sleepers that come out of nowhere and play their way into contention.  Here are five teams that have a very good chance to be one of the aforementioned sleepers, and shake up the world of college hoops.

 

1. Auburn

Bruce Pearl and the boys

 

In only his second year as HC, Bruce Pearl has the Tigers well on their way to ascending out of the basement of the SEC.  He has put together a very talented incoming freshman class, (led by 6’9 Finley Prep, VA forward Horace Spencer).  Throw in 2 returning starters, 2 immediate impact transfers, a high scoring JUCO transfer, and this team has ‘scary’ depth.  There’s more of a feeling that this team will be something special in the future, but if all the puzzle pieces fit then the future is now.

 

2. Mississippi State

Malik Newman doing work for team USA

 

Sticking with the SEC theme because they are arguably the most improved conference from top to bottom. Expect 6, 7 or possibly 8 teams to get into the tournament. Add up new coach Ben Howland, with his 3 final four appearances, with the number one shooting guard and 5 star prospect Malik Newman, and your team becomes an immediate contender. They also have 4 seniors and 1 junior who collectively started 110 games last year. With Malik Newman being a probable one and done, look for the bulldogs to try and ride his shoulders all the way to March.

 

3. Tulsa

Everything is OK in Tulsa

 

This a team that returns all 5 starters after finishing 14-4 in the AAC and getting completely snubbed by the selection committee last year.  Nah, they won’t have a giant chip on their shoulders, (I don’t know if I need to clarify, but that was thick sarcasm).  This team has 9 seniors.  Ill say that again…They have 9 seniors. Unheard of in this day of college basketball.  These are also 9 seniors who know how to win and want to end on a high note.  Guard play is their strength with James Woodard as the top scoring threat. Do not be shocked when the Golden Hurricanes are still alive in March.

 

4. Northwestern

Wildcats

 

Will it finally happen?  Will Northwestern be celebrating on Selection Sunday?  The Big Ten is going to be stacked yet again, but the Wildcats, thanks to wonderful recruiting by Chris Collins, have the talent to compete. This team has 8 players who saw significant minutes last year.  The key, however, will be 6’10 senior transfer from Virginia Tech, Joey van Zegeren.  His experience, along with seniors Tre Demps and Alex Olah, should help gel with the younger players and create a team that could pull off a few surprises.

 

5. Oregon State

This is one Beaver who isn’t messing around

 

This could be the best Beaver team in history.  The key phrase of that statement is “could be”.  They finished 3 games over .500 a season ago and return all 5 starters.  One of those starters is All American candidate and Oregon State royalty Gary Payton II.  He is one of the most complete players in the country on both ends.  The PAC12 is stacked at the top, but the Beavers also have a highly touted recruiting class with 6’4 guard Stephen Thompson Jr. leading the way.  Making a postseason tournament seems definite. Making the NCAA tournament is within reach, and soon will be in the rearview mirror.

 

 


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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