As football season approaches there is a pretty wide range of thoughts and feelings that approach with it. There’s the excitement of finally being able to watch my favorite sport every season. There’s also the uncertainty that comes along with not being a fan of the New England Patriots or the Alabama Crimson Tide. It’s an uncertainty rooted in the volatility of the sport from season to season. Aside from a privileged few who produce top notch teams every single year, there’s no telling for sure who will be any good. For everyone who doesn’t have Bill Belichick or Nick Saban at the helm, it’s a crap shoot on any given year. A few thing go wrong and poof! Season is over.
Before any games are played, preseason or otherwise, it’s impossible to predict a team’s performance, but that doesn’t stop the legions of sports media from trying to figure out which teams will rule and which will drool. This leads to endless preseason rankings and in-depth analysis of where every team is thought to stand by people who have no real idea of what will transpire over the course of a football season. No one should put any stock in these preseason lies and conjecture, but alas, they do. And inevitably someone’s favorite team will be picked to be among the worst.
Harbaugh at the helm and still no preseason love.
This brings me to my two favorite football teams, the Detroit Lions and the University of Michigan Wolverines. Neither of them are getting a ton of love this summer leading up to the 2017 season. Michigan lost almost all of their starters so there’s reason to temper expectations and the Lions are the punching bag of the NFL, so there’s that. It’s not like everyone is saying that both these teams will suck this year, but most of what I’ve heard about their prospects has been negative. And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’m not saying that I want the Lions or Wolverines to be a laughingstock, but I would rather have them coming into the year with a chip on their shoulder than have people calling for them to win the Super Bowl or the College Football Playoff. I enjoy being the underdog and without the overblown expectations I like to believe my team is free to just go out there and play the game. Not to mention that every time one of my teams is picked by the talking heads to do big things they inevitably trip over their own feet and do something stupid, like lose to Appalachian State in the season opener.
Give me some Matthew Stafford with something to prove, please.
No, no. Better to be overlooked out of the gate and shock the world. There’s no better feeling than be discounted only to come back and shut up all of the naysayers. Because when everyone thinks you ain’t shit, the only way to go is up. It’s so much sweeter that way. Maybe it’s just my Detroit roots, who knows. But I’d rather be the underdog any day. This season and for every season to come.
The Patriots can have their next championship handed to them before any games have been played, but as for my Lions, I’d rather have them earn it. Alabama or Ohio State can get crowned before the school year even begins, but I’d rather have the Wolverines ruin someone else’s perfect season out of nowhere. Like a cobra laying in wait for it’s prey, I like my teams to surprise the opposition and the spectators alike. I identify with the little guy and the life of an underdog is the one for me.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What a week this has been. If you asked me on Monday November 7, 2016 what life would be like after that day, I probably would have told you that it would be pretty much the same. The world would keep moving on in the same direction it had been moving. No big shakeups other than the usual cyclical hiccups we experience as a society from time to time. Business as usual.
I was wrong. We were all wrong. We were all so very wrong.
On election day, America decided to hand the keys over to Donald Trump. He is the first ever person to win the office of president despite having zero experience governing in any capacity. The country rejected one of the most qualified candidates in history, in favor of the least qualified. Actually, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by about 2 million votes, but in a country that is still bows to rural farmers, despite not being an agrarian society for more than 100 years, there is a system to offset that actual will of the people in presidential elections. So now, we as a people are forced to stomach an uncouth, white-rage fueled demagogue and his bigot-laden administration for four years. That’s cool. Whatever. I guess we all knew we were headed in this direction.
What is happening?
But then things kept getting weirder.
On Saturday November 12, 2016, the 3rd ranked University of Michigan Wolverines traveled to unranked Iowa for a matchup with the Hawkeyes. The Harbaugh coached Wolverines have done a great job of taking care of business all season, and because of that they came into the game undefeated. Iowa had been pretty bad all season and was sitting at 5-4. Once the game started, it didn’t take long to realize that Michigan was in for a long night out in corn country. The Hawkeyes won on a last minute field goal. Michigan joined #2 Clemson and #4 Washington to complete the trifecta of losers and mark the first time since 1985 that the 2nd, 3rd and 4th ranked teams in the country all lost on the same day. College football fans were shocked from coast to coast.
But the weird just kept coming.
On Sunday November 13, 2016, the NFL went on with its usual slate of Sunday games. The Detroit Lions were at home resting on their bye week. A chance to get healthy and come back refreshed and ready to fight for the division. But somehow, they won without even playing. Thanks to the continued implosion of a Minnesota Vikings team that is being critically hampered by its offense (or lack there of), and a blow out loss for the Green Bay Packers at the hands of the Tennessee Titans, the Lions are sitting in 1st place in the NFC North. That’s right the Lions are in 1st place in the division in mid-November. I don’t even really know how to process that.
That 1st place feeling.
After the election of Trump, I was sure that our country was screwed. Once the rest of last weeks events played out, I started to think that things were getting a little too weird to just be a coincidence. All of this has led me to question our entire existence, and after some deep introspective mental toiling and examination of the world around us, I have come to believe that this is not real life.
Sometime before those first east coast polls closed last Tuesday, our timeline split and we are now traveling through some alternate reality where the craziest things that you thought were impossible are, in fact, possible. Many of us are still trying to put the pieces of ourselves back together and make sense of last week. But maybe we can’t make sense of it because nothing will ever make sense again.
Now that I think of it, this split may have occurred earlier than originally suspected. The Cubs won the World Series. Cleveland once again has a championship team. PRESIDENT DONALD J TRUMP. What is happening? My own selfishness says that if all of this means that the Lions are going to win a Super Bowl then I support our immersion in this alternate universe. But that doesn’t mean I’ll ever understand it. And that doesn’t mean I’ll ever be able to reconcile a Trump presidency with my now deeply hurt American pride. But what choice do I have?
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.
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!
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…
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.
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.
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.
As we reach the halfway point of the NFL season, and the first college football playoff rankings are revealed, we crown a true champion in this week’s Champ and Chump. The World Series is over, the dust has settled on the infields soon to be covered by snow in many parts of this nation and we bid farewell to America’s past-time for 4-5 months. This week we welcome a couple first timers to our Champ and Chump section, but also see a familiar face. Spoiler alert: My Detroit Lions are the definition of “Chump”. Alex always said in his NFL Spread picks, “Always bet on the Packers”, well you might as well always bet against the Lions. But before I go on a 6-page tangent that goes through all the feels, six beers, and a box a Kleenex, I’ll just cut to the picks for Champ and Chump this week.
Champ: Kansas City Royals
The Royals getting hype in the 9th inning of their series winning game 5 matchup with the Mets.
Not too much of a surprise here. Let’s face it, if you win the World Series, or any championship for that matter, you have a great shot at finishing as my Champ of the week. A year after losing Game 7 of the World Series to the San Francisco Giants, the Royals had one goal all season long, and for the most part they played pretty consistent baseball to get there. As a Tigers fan, I know all too well how good these Royals are and have been the past few years. Often described as a gnat, or pest, that just won’t go away, they battle for 9 innings, and most times end up on top. They made great moves at the trade deadline, and I declared them winners there, and a few months later, those moves paid off. A quick 5 game dismantling of the New York Mets gave the Royals their first World Series title since 1985. Hats off to them.
Drew Brees- 39-50 for 505 yards with 7 touchdowns. 91.7 QBR and a passer rating of 131.7 begs the question, “Is this a video game?” Big win over the Giants and Eli, mentioned below
Eli Manning- Weird to have a loser from a game in the same “Champ” category but what else could you have asked Eli to do vs the Saints? 30-41 for 350 and 6 touchdowns with zero turnovers. QBR or 94.1 and a passer rating of 138.2, insane.
Andre Drummond- Pistons fans haven’t had much to cheer about the past six or seven years but they have an absolute star in the making at center. Through four games, Drummond is averaging 20/20 a game following a monster performance vs Indiana where he scored 25 and ripped down 29 boards.
Chump: Minnesota Golden Gophers’ late 4th quarter clock management
Because of the terrible clock management, Michigan once again holds the Little Brown Jug.
A little over a week ago, Minnesota football coach Jerry Kill had to resign due to health reasons. In a very sad press conference, Kill was emotional as he knew that coaching the game he loved was taken away from him far too soon. Kill was building a very successful program at Minnesota, a tough feat to achieve. From a 3 win season in his first year, to coming one win shy of a Big Ten West title last year. He led the Gophers to a 4-2 start before having to say goodbye. Tracy Claeys, an assistant under Kill, took over the job as interim head coach and figures to have a legitimate shot to become the long term replacement. After an emotional week, the Gophers and Gopher fans were ready to “win one for the gipper” as they say. They welcomed the Michigan Wolverines for a game on Saturday night. A back and forth game had Minnesota driving deep into Michigan territory, down 3 with under a minute to play. Then with 19 seconds left Minnesota thought they had it, a touchdown pass to win the game, but it was reviewed and called down. Minnesota had the ball, first and goal at the 1-yard line. Apparently, Minnesota spent no time drawing up a play just in case their touchdown was reversed because they got to the line, the ball was spotted, the clock began and they went on to waste a dozen seconds before even snapping the ball. Minnesota’s quarterback then ran around and threw the ball away leaving them 2 seconds left. They called timeout (yes they had a timeout) and ultimately opted for a quarterback sneak which came up short, and they lost. Two things really bothered me about this complete mismanagement of the clock: For one, call timeout as soon as the play is reversed and you would have four cracks at it from the 1-yard line, and secondly, you’re down 3, kick the field goal and force OT. Michigan was down to their backup quarterback due to an injury, so trust that your quarterback can outduel him in overtime. Also to quote Brian Piccolo from the famous Brian’s Song, “When you dedicate a game to somebody, you are then supposed to go out and win it, idiot. Pat O’Brien never said let’s blow one for the gipper.”
Detroit Lions- Congratulations to the Lions as they now suck on two continents, a tough feat. Falling to 1-7 across the pond to the woeful Kansas City Chiefs by a score of 45-10 has led to the firing of their President and General Manager, a week after firing a couple coaches. Cheers Lions fans, it literally cannot get worse (we’ve already achieved 0-16), so hang your hat on that.
Los Angeles Lakers- The Lakers and NBA fans couldn’t wait for Kobe Bryant to return this season, and in what may be his final season he is far from riding off into the sunset on a high note. Sitting at 0-4 Kobe’s $25 million per year contract is easily the worst contract in sports right now… well, aside from Bobby Bonilla still getting paid in New York. The guy is shooting 32% from the field, and just 20% from 3-point land, averaging just 16 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists per game. To make matters worse, first round pick Deangelo Russell appears to be struggling compared to a lot of the other top-10 picks from this past draft.
Chelsea Football Club- In England’s Premier League, Chelsea has enjoyed much success in the 21st century and have done so while having some of the most loathsome creatures take the pitch in their all blue kits. Being a Manchester United fan, there isn’t much I enjoy more than seeing Chelsea completely crumbling right now. Currently sitting in 15th place in the table, just four points from relegation, has Chelsea frantically clawing to stay above the cut. While I am sure they will avoid relegation, it is still a bit satisfying to watch them struggle.
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.
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.
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.