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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
For a few short weeks every year, the third largest city in the Nevada springs forth from the nothingness of the Black Rock Desert. This vast expanse of alkali-flats, situated in the northern part of the state, is the home of Burning Man. The festival of art, music and insanity brings all types of crazy things to life, and attendees are constantly bombarded by surprises that keep you in a childlike state of wonderment. Black Rock City is a strange and magical place. A place where anything can happen and the unexpected should be expected. You never quite know what’s next out there in the dust.
This was my first time back at “The Burn” in a couple years, and as always there were a million things that I wanted to do and explore. And as always, it was impossible to hit all of the marks I had set for myself over the week long festival of indulgence and adventure. But there was one thing that I refused to miss. College football. That’s right, I said college football. At Burning Man.
Back in 2013, one of my fellow Lab RaTz (a subsect of NuTz Camp) was thumbing through the list of events that the greeters give attendees upon entering the gates of Black Rock City and stumbled upon “College Football Gameday.” As a group of Michigan Wolverines fans, we figured this would be a nice break from the far out world of art and music that we had been living in, and a chance to indulge in a little good old fashioned Saturday morning American fun. We could get our college football fix, something that seemed very un-Burning Man (which really is the most Burning Man-y thing you can do if you think about it), and check the score of the Michigan Game. Good deal!
Some people might say, “what are you doing trying to watch football at Burning Man? Save that for the default world!” Some of my less football-enthused campmates gave me that same shit. You know what I said? “Fuck off, it’s my Burn and I’ll go check the Michigan score if I want to!” Burning Man is all about self expression and it just so happens that the Wolverines are a part of my “self.” And it was even more glorious than we had imagined. We unexpectedly walked into a tent filled with 20-30 maize and blue clad U of M fanatics and the chants of “Go Blue” were roaring! We were just thinking we would get to check the score and wound up amongst so many of our own! We stuck around for a couple of quarters and to watch our beloved Wolverines stomp the CMU Chippewas and relish the camaraderie of like-minded college football fans for a while.
When I made the decision to return home to Black Rock City this year, along with a few more Michigan fans who happened to be first-timers at the Burn, I knew we had to find my way back Harmonic Convergence Camp for the Michigan game. It took me all of five minutes on the internet to find out that the college football tailgate and viewing party was once again going down and I made sure to let the crew know we were most certainly going to be in attendance.
We peeled ourselves out of bed on that Saturday morning after what you can imagine was a wild Friday night. We made it for the start of the second quarter and were once again met by a tent full of Michigan fans sipping mimosas and watching the Wolverines get after the Rainbow Warriors of Hawaii. Greeted by smiles, hugs, chips, dips and alcohol, we settled in for some dusty football. And man, was it a blast. There were Michiganders galore. Plus people from other places who came to pay respect to the winningest team in the history of the sport, and tons of general lovers of the game. Our feast of Doritos and english muffins was more than we could have asked for. After the mimosas, our gracious hosts broke out the red wine and our boys in blue broke the game wide open.
Every time Michigan scored (which was often), Puma, the master of ceremonies for this unlikeliest of football viewing parties, would lead the group in a spirited rendition of “Hail to the Victors,” the greatest fight song in all of sports. The atmosphere was electric. People were hanging with old friends and making new ones. All while cheering on the Wolverines. Burning Man is all about that feeling of community that you get between your friends and all those wonderful strangers. This was a prime example of that. We didn’t know most of the people watching the game but for those few hours we were brothers and sisters in arms.
Before I was lucky enough to stumble on these geniuses with satellite tv at fucking Burning Man, I never imagined I would get that big game, home team high that I know and love so much out in the desert. For that, my entire crew and I owe Harmonic Convergence Camp a debt of gratitude. Between the tasty Brunello and the brotherhood of being Michigan fans, it was the perfect way to kick off the day the Man burns.
In addition to the good fortune of knowing there was a Michigan football viewing party, which would be fun either way, the boys looked good. I mean, real good. After a poorly thrown ball that turned into an interception to start the game, QB Wilton Speight, settled in and looked pretty solid for the rest of the day. The running game racked up 306 yards and 4 touchdowns. The real star of the day, however, was the defense led by genetically engineered, football freak, Jabrill Peppers. They held the Rainbow Warriors to just 3 points and 232 total offensive yards.
When all was said and done, the Wolverines had a put up an impressive 63-3 victory and we were all riding high. Win or lose, it still would have been a great time. But the fact that we all got to bond over our Michigan roots in a place so far far away and see the Wolverines win big, makes the experience all the more magical. Typical Burning Man.
Jabrill is for real.
It’s kind of hard to describe Burning Man as a whole to someone who has never attended. I like to think of it as a series moments that mystify and sometimes confuse you, but ultimately enrich your life by causing you to question your perspective. There’s so many things that surprise you that by the time you finally think you’ve got it totally figure out, something crazy and unexpected happens to show you that you don’t know shit.
Some people use events like this as a way to completely escape their reality in the real world, but I think it’s all the more special if you can combine your default world with your Burning Man world. Watching the Michigan Wolverines with a bunch of fellow fans does just that. I love Burning Man and I’ve always loved the Wolverines. Doing both at the same time just makes too much sense. It was the best of both worlds. So for everyone who helped make this event possible, I’d like to say thank you and see you next year!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
That movie Paper Towns opens in theaters today. I don’t give a shit about it, but it made me curious as to what the hell a “paper town” actually was. After a quick search, this is what I learned: a paper town is a fake place that cartographers include on their maps to protect against someone stealing their work. These type of “copyright traps” are hidden inside most reference materials (maps, dictionairies, encyclopedias, almanacs, etc.)
Then I found this: in 1978, the official State of Michigan map included two paper towns across the Ohio border: Beatosu and Goblu.
This hall-of-fame worthy prank comes courtesy of Mr. Peter Fletcher, then Chairman of the State Highway Commission.
Legend has it that Fletcher, a U of M grad, was catching hell from another alumnus because the Mackinac Bridge was painted green and white. (Those colors belong to Michigan State University, also known as the Maize and Blue’s “little brother.”) Fletcher had no control over the bridge’s colors, so he created two imaginary places to honor of his alma mater.
At the time, Fletcher argued that all the Michigan information was correct, and that, “We have no legal liability for anything taking place in that intellectual swamp south of Monroe.” The maps were quickly pulled and have since become collector’s items.
Sports fans, search your maps! Keep your eyes peeled for a Roltide, a Beardown, a Fighton, a Wreckem or any other ghost towns that might strike frustration in the heart of your bitter rival.