Showdown in Columbus

Written by :
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.

 

 


Michigan Wolverines are storming towards OSU and the College Football Playoff

Written by :
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

Written by :
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?

Written by :
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.

 

 


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.

 

 


Champ and Chump: Week 6

Written by :
Published on : October 25, 2015

 

 

 

A little late with my Champ and Chump picks this week but even with the few extra days, there was nothing that could save the Wolverines from finding a less than desirable spot on the charts over here. Spoiler alert, not that you needed it, Michigan finds itself on the wrong side of the Champ and Chump board this week and boy was it ever something special. See what other special performances happened this past week below, and take a scroll through my Champs and Chumps of the week.

 

Champ: Daniel Murphy

Murphy has been a home run machine this post-season.

 

What a post-season for Daniel Murphy thus far. As the New York Mets enter the World Series, they do it with the hottest hitter on the planet right now. In a series sweep of the Chicago Cubs, Murphy hit .529 and has homered in 6 straight post-season games, a Major League record. The Mets are heading to the Fall Classic for the first time since 2000 where they lost to their cross town rival, the New York Yankees. This time they’ll take on the Kansas City Royals, who lost the World Series last year in a 7-game thriller against the San Francisco Giants.

 

 

 

Honorable Mention: 

Landry Jones- The third string quarterback came in for the injured Mike Vick and went 8-12 for 168 yards and 2 touchdowns in a win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Cristiano Ronaldo- Became Real Madrid’s all-time leading goal scorer (324 goals) passing Raul who played in 741 games with Madrid from 1994-2010. Ronaldo accomplished the feat in just 310 games with the team.

Christian McCaffrey- The son of former Denver Bronco’s wide receiver Ed McCaffrey had a school record 243 yards on the ground and 4 touchdowns, helping Stanford beat the UCLA Bruins last week. McCaffrey, who also returns kicks, finished with 369 all purpose yards.

 

 

Chump: Tie: Jim Harbaugh and Blake O’Neill

Harbaugh and O’Neill dropped the ball in a big way.

 

On what will likely be the play of the year, Michigan State defensive back Jalen Watts-Jackson took a fumbled punt attempt 38 yards to the house as time expired to give the Spartans a win over archrival Michigan. We’ve all seen the play, (as a Spartan fan I can’t watch it enough) with Michigan up 23-21, the Wolverines faced 4th and short with just 10 seconds left. On the other side of the ball, Michigan State figured they had one shot at a miracle and that was to go all out for a block. The snap came in (a bit low) and Michigan punter Blake O’Neill did the unthinkable and dropped the snap. In a panic, O’Neill picked up the ball, turned and tried to get off a kick while getting swarmed by white jerseys. The ball was fumbled up into the air and came right down into Watts-Jackson’s arms. Shocked, speechless, in disbelief, Michigan fans could hardly move. Once they could, and they realized what happened, naturally, the thought was how the hell could you fumble that snap?! Why didn’t you just fall on it?! Both good points, and while O’Neill no doubt is quite the goat for this incredible finish, I think equal blame should fall on the shoulders of their coach. Jim Harbaugh called two timeouts on that drive allowing the clock to dwindle down as much as possible on 2nd and 3rd down before ultimately deciding to punt. I have no problem with the decision to punt, however, how do you not prepare your team to setup in max protect, knowing the Spartans are bringing everyone to block this kick. Again, no Spartans were back to field the kick, yet Michigan sent four gunners down to cover the return? While O’Neill fumbled the ball, I think the Spartans may have got in there to get the block even if O’Neill caught it clean. Four guys had a free release, Harbaugh and company enjoyed their spot as my Champ of the week last week, a complete 180 here as they are big, big Chumps this week.

 

 

 

Dishonorable Mention:

Colts 4th down “fake punt”- Every once in a while a team calls a play or a player does something that leaves you speechless. The Indianapolis Colts provided us with one of these moments last weekend in a highly anticipated game vs the New England Patriots. Down 6 in the 3rd quarter, the Colts faced a 4th and 3, they shifted 9 guys down towards the sideline leaving a wide receiver and safety to act as the quarterback and snapper. Hut, hut, hike…and then 3 unblocked New England Patriots tackled the Colt “QB” for a loss.

David Price- This may be a bit harsh, but for an ace entering free agency one can’t ignore the struggles that Price can’t seem to shake in the post-season. With a career 0-7 post-season record as a starter, and an overall post-season ERA of 5.24, Price was given the ball again for Game 7 in the ALCS vs Kansas City and didn’t pitch well enough, getting a no decision.

 

 

 

 


Champ and Chump: Week 5

Written by :
Published on : October 15, 2015

 

 

Welcome back to another installment of Champ and Chump. The Major League Playoffs are in full swing, college football is at the halfway point of the season and we are beginning to separate the contenders from the pretenders around the NFL. Hockey is back, and the NBA is on its way with a few more preseason tilts left for each team. Be sure to check out a couple recent articles by Antoine and Patrick to educate yourself on what to expect from the NHL and NBA this season. As for me this week, here’s a look at the champs and chumps.

 

Champ: University of Michigan Football

Harbaugh and khakis have led the Wolverines to the nation’s top ranked defense.

 

It was only a matter of time before Jim Harbaugh was going to revitalize the football program at Michigan, but I’m not sure even the biggest Wolverine slappy thought it would be this fast. Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, realistic expectations had Michigan needing a full season under their belts before they could compete for a conference championship, let alone a national championship. After just 6 games, Harbaugh and company look primed and ready for potentially both as they dismantled Northwestern this past weekend 38-0. It was the third consecutive shutout for the Wolverines who have outscored their last three opponents 97-0. Michigan has the nation’s #1 ranked defense and the offense seems to be finding a groove too. Climbing up to #12 in the rankings has folks in Ann Arbor ready to explode and with in-state rival Michigan State coming to town this weekend, expect the college football world to be glued to some Big Ten action.

 

Honorable Mention:

MLB Divisional Rounds- With at least two of the four going to the maximum 5 games and the other two looking like they may as well, the 2015 playoffs have gotten off to an awesome start.

Eli Manning- For as much shit as people give this guy (myself included), he’s having one hell of a season and Sunday Night was no exception. He went 41-54, for 441 yards and 3 touchdowns including the winner with 21 ticks left.

Andy Dalton- Leading the Bengals to an undefeated record thus far is anything but expected but perhaps something we need to get used to. After all, the guy’s made the playoffs every year. He went 30-44, for 331 with 3 touchdowns in an overtime win over the Seahawks Sunday afternoon.

 

 

 

Chump: Bret Bielema

 

If you didn’t see it, Bret Bielema and the Arkansas Razorbacks went down to Tuscaloosa to take on the Crimson Tide this past weekend. While Alabama went on to win the game, Bielema himself looked like a loser on two fronts. One, he coached the losing team, which is no embarrassing feat when you play Bama. However, after an interception in the first half, a little shoving happened, all of it very mild and the type of behavior you’d expect to see on a football field after almost every play. Bielema is seen in a video getting in between the players to separate this “confrontation” that is clearly not going to escalate, and then sells a shove by flopping away from the Bama player, getting the referee to throw a flag. This immature small victory causes Bielema to celebrate like a 5-year old who just knocked down his first couple pins in bumper bowling. I’m a big soccer fan, and much like we see in the NBA nowadays too, I am ok with a little selling of the foul every once in a while. Granted, there better be some contact, I am 100% against completely flopping. In the case with Bielema, you’re a coach. You should be setting the example for the players on the field, and instead you’re desperately trying to sell that to get your team 15 yards? It is cheap, classless and down right embarrassing. Stay on the sidelines and let the players determine the outcome of the game because after all, you were hired to coach. You do remember how to coach right? (12-19 career record at Arkansas)

 

Dishonorable Mention:

Rutgers QB Chris Laviano- Ugh this poor guy. In the final seconds, on 4th down near midfield with his team down 7, he spikes the ball trying to stop the clock turning the ball over to Michigan State.

Golden Tate- Saying that Lion fans have “turned their backs” on the Lions? Really?! You’re 0-5, have one playoff win in 57 years, you find any and every way to lose while making millions of dollars, yet they owe you more?… he has since apologized but the damage is done.

US Men’s Soccer- On Saturday night, the USMNT had one last chance to clinch a spot in the 2017 Confederation’s Cup after losing during the Gold Cup this past summer. Played in Pasadena, California, the US Men got on the board early only to lose 3-2 in extra time. These guys have been absoluty Jekyll and Hyde recently, when it matters most they’ve faltered.

 


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.

 

 

 


The Hit That Broke My Heart: Michigan vs Ohio State 2006

Written by :
Published on : August 31, 2015

2006 was a good year to be a fan of the University of Michigan Wolverines. Lloyd Carr was still our coach and he was putting the finishing touches on a very successful career. Our team was strong that year; perhaps the strongest team during my lifetime as a Wolverines fan. We had a shutdown defense led by 1st year coordinator Ron English. Along with an offense that could run the ball and beat you through the air, led by Mike Hart and Chad Henne. Times were good.

  The Wolverines had steamrolled through the season. Very few games that were even close, let alone in doubt. With an 11-0 record and the #2 ranking in the country, we headed into a showdown with our most bitter rival, Ohio State. All we had to do was beat the Buckeyes and we would be headed to the National Championship game. That was all we had to do.

  

Lloyd and the boys back in 2006.

  There was just one problem. The Buckeyes were the #1 team in the nation and a force to be reckoned with. Led by Heisman hopeful Troy Smith, a defense that was just as good as ours and a coach who owned us his entire career, they would not be easy to overcome. That said, if there was a more exciting year for the greatest rivalry in college football, I challenge you to show it to me. We were #2 and they were #1; this had never happened before. What could be better than playing your biggest rival for the chance to go to a national championship? There was belief that this could finally be our year to go all the way.

 

The enemy.

  The day before the biggest game in decades, the unthinkable happened. On November 17, 2006, the University of Michigan lost its heart and soul, the most recognizable figure in the hallowed legacy of the program, Bo Schembechler. The man who cared most about the team and who was loved by everyone who ever loved Michigan, passed away at the age of 77. No one could believe it. For Michigan players, coaches, fans and students it was like losing a family member.

 

Michigan’s heart and soul, Bo Schembechler

  There was little time to mourn. Players had to get on that bus the very same day and head down to Columbus, Ohio for a date with destiny. The passing of Bo was hard, but at the same time it gave us hope and inspiration. The feeling amongst Michigan fans was that the team would overcome the painful loss of their patriarch and win this one for Bo.

  The morning of the game I was as excited as ever and had a good feeling about the whole thing. How could we lose when Bo was looking down on us from above. Sentimental stuff aside, I had watched every single game that season and we were really good. Good enough to win in Columbus that day.

 

The team and the fans wanted this one for Bo.

  On the first drive, the Wolverines offense looked unstoppable. They capped a long scoring drive with a Mike Hart touchdown; things were falling into place. Then reality set in, and the Buckeyes defense handled the Wolverines offense for the rest of the first half. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes offense was firing on all cylinders, and OSU took a 28-14 lead into half time.

  Ron English and the Michigan defense made the necessary adjustments at half time and came out on fire. They looked like the ferocious top ten defense that we had all become accustomed to watching. They did enough to give the Michigan offense some time to put some plays together, and the game was 28-24 OSU with 8 1/2 minutes to play in the third. There was hope.

 

Mike Hart drags a defender as he runs through the tackle.

  Almost immediately that hope began to fade as Antonio Pittman gashed through the middle of the defense on his was to a 54 yard rushing touchdown.  But this game would not end like so many others, with Ohio State beating their opponent into submission; this was Michigan. The defense turned two bad shotgun snaps by the OSU center (who was wearing a cast on his hand) into fumble recoveries. With Mike Hart trucking his way to a touchdown, it was 35-31. There was a real chance the the Wolverines could pull off the upset.

  It was 3rd and 15 in Michigan territory with just under 7 minutes to play and Troy Smith was rolling out of the pocket to his right. As he left the field of play, he rocketed a pass across his body. His receiver dove for it but came up just short. It was incomplete and the Buckeyes would have to punt. Giving a Michigan offense, that was just hitting its stride, a chance to come back and take the lead. This was it. This was our moment.

  That’s when it happened.

  A flag hit the field. How could this be? What happened? There was no obvious pass interference; it didn’t make sense. The announcers said that Michigan linebacker, Shawn Crable, led with his helmet and connected with Smith under the chin as he was heading out of bounds.

  What. The. Fuck.

  A replay from a different angle came on the screen and sure as shit, plain as day, there it was. Shawn Crable had sucked the life out of every living room and sports bar in Southeast Michigan.

 

  A fresh set of downs for the Buckeyes. The Michigan defense got the job done only to be let down by one bonehead play. This is the type of thing they teach you in middle school football; you don’t lead with your helmet. Especially against the quarterback. Especially in the biggest game of your life!

  That’s when my heart broke in two. I was shocked as I sat there on the couch in my friend’s apartment. There was plenty of time left, but in a game where you need to play mistake free football, a mistake like that can be a back breaker. And it was.

  I knew it was over after that, regardless of whatever words of encouragement and hope were said across the State of Michigan. With about 2 minutes to go, Michigan even came back and made it 42-39, but after a poor attempt at an onside kick and an OSU recovery, that was it. There were no time outs left for the Wolverines and all Ohio State had to do was get a single first down to end it quickly. They did, of course, and it was over. The heart of every Michigan Wolverines fan was in tattered pieces. We were so close.

 

Ted Ginn Jr. celebrates the big win over Michigan.

  Since that fateful Saturday in November 2006, Michigan has had years of bad luck, poor play and unfulfilled expectations. That was the last year that they fielded a team that contended for the honor of being the best team in the country. Through the Rich Rod and Brady Hoke eras, fans of the Maize and Blue have taken some serious shots to their ego and had to admit to themselves that we are, at this point, far inferior to Ohio State, and even Michigan State.

  Michigan vs Ohio State is always exciting even when one of the teams isn’t very good. There have been some close games (2013 and 2012) and even a Michigan upset win (2011), but Ohio State has owned the Wolverines for the better part of a decade. But that day, before Shawn Crable broke my heart, we were good enough to win, and damn near did it. We could taste it and then one player lost his focus and gave it one dirty hit. One dirty hit that broke my heart.

 

 


30 Years Later… The Greatest Sporting Event I Ever ‘Saw’

Written by :
Published on : August 8, 2015

On a wet and rainy fall Saturday in the mid-80’s, my dad took me to my first University of Iowa football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. And it wasn’t just any game. It was October 19th, 1985 – the day #1 Iowa was hosting #2 Michigan. Iowa’s quarterback, Chuck Long, had decided to stay for his senior season (insuring his body for a million dollars) and was an immediate favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. He led what was being called the most exciting offense in Iowa history.

 

The 5-0 Hawkeyes started the season ranked in the top 5 and eventually reached #1 (their first time in the top slot since 1960), after Bo Jackson and his Auburn Tigers lost to Tennessee at the end of September. On the other hand, Michigan (with quarterback Jimmy Harbaugh) had started the season unranked, and then proceeded to climb to the #2 spot by going 5-0, with wins over three ranked teams. Now they were set for a mid-season 1 vs. 2 showdown in front of 66,350 fans – the largest crowd to ever witness a sporting event in the state of Iowa.

 

houghtlin

 

The game was as good as advertised. The story of the day was Iowa’s offense against Michigan’s defense. And with 5:27 to play in the 4th Quarter, Iowa trailed 10-9 with the ball at their own 22. #3 Oklahoma (the team with Brian Bosworth, who many people felt should be #1) had just lost to Miami at home, with quarterback Troy Aikman, going out for the season with a broken ankle. Brent Musburger, calling the Iowa game live on CBS, reported the score by saying, “Vinny Testaverde is for real.” #4 Arkansas had also just lost to Texas that day. So fans tuning in to the Iowa game were now witnessing the Heisman favorite trying to march 78 yards to victory against the best defense in the nation. And with 2 seconds left, Long and his top weapon, Ronnie Harmon, had gotten Iowa inside Michigan’s 15.

 

Iowa’s kicker, Rob Houghtlin, who had made all of Iowa’s points on the day, but missed his prior attempt, jogged out onto the field to try for one more. He was promptly iced by Michigan’s legendary coach, Bo Schembechler. Schembechler, by the way, hated playing at Kinnick. Iowa’s coach, Hayden Fry (who had a psychology degree from Baylor), had created many new traditions since joining the team in 1979. One of them happened to be painting the visitor’s locker room pink in attempt to pacify the opposing team. Reportedly, Schembechler would have his staff cover all of the pink in white paper before the game. Maybe icing Houghtlin into a late game miss would be part of his sweet revenge.

 

rob houghtlin kick

 

But with a thick air of nervous tension, Houghtlin kicked the ball right through the uprights and the Iowa fans went bananas. “It’s on its way and it’s good,” Musberger said in a calm that didn’t match the tension and release of the moment. The Iowa student section wildly rushed onto the field, while the Iowa players jumped around in jubilation. A mob of students tore down the goal posts, severing the ear of one student. My dad, who was 32 at the time, leaned down and said to me, “Mike, you’ve got to remember this!

 

Here’s the thing: I don’t remember anything about that game. Nothing. I was six-years-old and in kindergarten. And my only recollection of the entire day is having to wear a rain poncho and thinking it looked stupid. And I also remember an old man in front of me who kept saying, “Go Hogs!” and I thought he was an idiot because Iowa was clearly called the Hawkeyes. Not the Hogs. And that’s all I remember.

 

houghtlin?

 

That same year, a kid in my kindergarten class told me he kept his boogers in a jar at home. Of course that I remember. Not the greatest college football game in Iowa’s history. No. But I remember a kid named Jason’s disgusting booger collection LIKE IT WAS YESTERDAY. Same thing with getting in trouble for kicking my sister in the butt at recess one day. And then getting out of it by telling the teacher who caught me that I didn’t go to school there.

 

Same thing with avoiding a fight with an older kid because I told him I knew karate. Like it was yesterday. My little kid brain stored away every detail of those idiotic memories because it deemed them to be important to my development or something. Rob Houghtlin will never have to buy a beer in the state of Iowa ever again. Meanwhile, I was having booger conversations with weirdos and lying my way out of my problems

 

A few months ago, I went on Homage.com and bought a t-shirt that says, “Hawkeyes Win! 10-19-85.” Because I was there. But the more I thought about it, and the closer we get to the 30 year anniversary of that game, the more it bothers me that I have no recollection of anything about the actual game. And so I called my dad today to talk about it. After a great conversation, where he filled me in on a lot of the details, he said, “Just know in your heart that you were there.” And that’s all I can do. Go Hogs!

 

 


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