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Monday, October 31, 2005

Do Bloggers Get Bye Weeks?

I actually thought about taking a "blogger break" today. Heck, Michigan has a bye this week, why shouldn't I? In addition, we're coming up on the one month "anniversary" of this little site and that seemed like a perfect time to kick back, relax and let my creative juices take a rest along with Michael Hart's ankle. But when I discovered some surprising info about our site today, I had to jot this post down.

First, a little backstory.

Since the first M Zone post was released into the cyber ether on October 5th, I had been emailing my 10 or so closest Wolverine pals regularly with links to the site in the hopes that they might stop in and read these musings of a couple of Michigan madman. Like somehow those 20 eyeballs would help justify the time being put into this endeavor which sometimes -- oh, how should I put this? -- "distracted" me (and our other M Zone "staff") from the permanent job that has been paying my bills for over a decade.

I have to admit, I'm quite proud of the site. I thought Benny had done an amazing job of taking the basic Blogger template, adding some Maize and Blue flair and making it look pretty darn impressive. Most of all, it's a blast. I loved talking Meeeechigan football with my friends. When I'd see that Wangs had posted a reply to my comment on an NCAA football playoff, I couldn't wait until my day (or night) freed up so I could shoot off a retort. It's a fun hobby.

But was anybody else reading? Or was this just a dressed up version of the daily emails Benny, Wangs, Loeffler and I had been shooting off amongst ourselves during the previous couple of Michigan football seasons?

So a couple days ago, I added a "hit counter" to the site to see how many -- if any -- folks "visited" our tiny corner of cyberspace. I did it out of curiosity -- and because it was free -- to see if even the ten people mentioned above were checking this out "M thing we do."

Well, much to my amazement when I checked the detailed stats today, I discovered fellow Wolverines are indeed stopping by this addictive hobby/developing passion. In greater numbers than I would've thought at this juncture of our fun experiment. In fact, so far today, 154 "visitors" came to the site. Granted, 154 folks isn't exactly like reaching SI's circulation. Let's be honest, we're not getting as many hits as the water polo page on ESPN.com. But Maize and Blue faithful from such places as Phoenix, Arizona...Flower Mound, Texas and Tyrone, Pennsylvania came by today along with international Michigan fans (or extremely lost computer users) in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada...Lancaster, Blackpool, U.K and Moscow, Moscow City, Russian Federation.

Wow. Pretty cool.

So I just wanted to say thanks for checking the site out. We had no idea what would happen when we started it. Nice to see some other Michigan Wolverines have found us. I hope folks out there in cyberspace enjoy perusing this site as much as we enjoy doing it.

Go Blue!

PS To the guy in Russia, assuming you weren't lost and come back -- do you really get the Michigan games over there? Boy, I knew WJR had a strong signal but THAT is amazing!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Mr. Carr's Wild Ride

What a crazy season.

I've never been so disappointed with a Michigan team that scored 27 points in the first half and I've never been more proud of a Wolverine squad that managed only two field goals in the second.

Welcome to University of Michigan football, the 2005 Sybil edition. This wacky, test-your-nerves thrill ride was perfectly summed up tonight watching Michigan "upset" 21st ranked Northwestern 33-17 in a game that would be better known as A Tale of Two Halves: In the first half, try as they might, Northwestern couldn't give the game away. In the second half, the Wolverines simply took it.

This was a game where, up 24-10 with under two minutes to go in first half, the Wolverine coaching staff showed its usual maddening preference to play it safe rather than go for the throat. With first and goal from the NW five yard line following the second interception by NW QB Brett Basanez, it appeared Coach Carr was more concerned with draining time off the clock (as evidenced by three consecutive running plays right up the middle) which led to a field goal rather than a knife-in-the-heart touchdown and 21 point lead.

Yet this is the same game where, faced with 4th and three with just over four minutes left and Michigan up by 16 at the NW 36, instead of safely trying to pin the 'Cats deep in their own territory with a punt (and not give them great starting field position), the riverboat gambler Carr went for it.

This was a game in the first half which Michigan, with numerous chances to open up a sizable lead (but fearing its record streak of games being decided in the final minute was in jeopardy), refused to take the gifts NW was throwing around and allowed itself to be in a much closer game than they should have been in. Thus, after its "play it safe" redzone drive above resulted in the Wolverine's usual field goal attempt, the 'Cats marched down the field and scored with ease, reinforcing the 2005 Michigan defense's reputation of giving up big plays when a stop could ice a game or turn the tide.

But this is also the game that this much-maligned Michigan defense kept what-had-been the 4th ranked offense in the country scoreless in the second half, holding NW to 94 meaningless yards after the intermission.

This was a game in which Michigan's D gave up over 300 yards in the first half alone. But this same defense allowed NW to convert just 2 of 13 third downs and 0 of 2 fourth downs.

Yes, something strange indeed happened out at ol' Dyche Stadium on the way to what everyone assumed would be another nailbiter tonight. Who knows, maybe it's the Halloween weekend. Hell, something wasn't right. You had to know that when you heard Northwestern had the audacity, the unmitigated gall (to quote the late, great Bob Ufer) to schedule Michigan, MICHIGAN!, as its homecoming game patsy.

Not strange enough? How 'bout this quote: "Their defense is great. They all seem to be 6-5, 300 and run a 4.4 40.'' That's Basanez talking about the defense. Michigan's defense. The same bunch who have up the 61 yard run that led to the Minnesota loss when the Gophers were just trying to run out the clock.

Yes, what a crazy game that sums up a perfectly crazy season.

Two weekends ago, Michigan was :01 away from a 3-4 record. Tonight they are 6-3 and all the talk about a losing record is mute, college football's longest streak still safely intact.

Before last week Michigan hadn't won two in a row. Tonight after their third straight victory, it's very conceivable the Wolverines could be playing for a piece of the Big 10 title November 19th when they face tOSU in tBH.

A few short weeks ago, Michigan fans everywhere, both live and cyber, were criticizing Lloyd and this group of Wolverines non-stop. But tonight, I think Lloyd, his staff and this team are owed a well-deserved pat on the back. They could have quit. They could have given up. They could have played for "next year" (Heck, can you ever remember a Michigan team this racked with injuries, right down to the equipment manager?). Instead, they've hung tough, never said die and tonight find themselves with much to play for the these final two conference games.

What a crazy season. And I'm loving each and every :01 of it.

Friday, October 28, 2005

You Wanna Play Some Fistball?

There was an interesting article about former Michigan QB Jim Harbaugh in the Chicago Tribune today. He's having a pretty good year coaching the University of San Diego. Some of us on the board were in school at the same time as Harbaugh, and even had some personal contact with him. We also had some pre-blog discussion about who would take over for Lloyd when he decides to retire. Harbaugh's name was never mentioned. Should it have been? Feel free to share your stories about #4, and opinions about the article and the possiblity of him ever coaching the maize and blue.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Football Funnies


Ok, even though this article in The Onion only mentions Michigan football tangentially, it was too funny to not to post.

And for the best (and continually funniest) writer covering Michigan football, check out Bob Wojnowski's regular column in the Detroit News.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

2005 Football Season...or The Twilight Zone?


Just read online today at cfbnews.com that Saturday's game with Northwestern will be the first time since 1959 that the Wildcats will be the higher ranked team going into the Michigan game. Coming on the heels of the MSU game in which they were favored for the first time since 1967, I'm starting to think maybe we've crossed over into some alternate reality this season. What's next? Is "F*ck Michigan!" no longer going to be the most popular chant in Columbus (ok, let's not get carried away).

Saturday's game really does present some problems. The (no longer mild) 'Cats have one of those pesky spread offenses and a QB who refuses to stay in one spot so we can tackle him. Unfortunately, this does not bode well for a Michigan defense which, after practicing with John Navarre all those years, apparently is still under the impression that such tomfoolery was banned and thus refuses to tackle any quarterback outside a 3 foot radius of the pocket. Of course this also assumes our defense could actually reach the quarterback before he either a) completes a 14 yard pass on 3rd and 12 (which is cheating to begin with because as every Michigan fan knows, on 3rd and 14, a team is only allowed to throw a 5 yard out pass) or b) the opponent's offensive line chants "Red Rover, Red Rover send your linebacker on over!"

However, what gives me hope is that Northwestern has some misconceptions of its own, apparently believing that because their offense is so good, they are no longer required to play defense. The NW "defense" is ranked dead last in college football giving up an impressive 504 yards per game with a we're-not-even-really-trying 316 of that through the air. That being the case, Chad Henne should be able to pass for 900 total yards Saturday (300 to Jason Avant, 550 in lateral sideline passes and 50 to either Manningham or Breaston -- but only late in the 4th quarter when the game gets tight and never to both as using all our offensive weapons in the same game, for the entire game, is prohibited in the Michigan playbook).

Which means Saturday's showdown will unfold something like this: because NW being higher ranked is as insulting to Michigan as being told there's a one plate limit at a wedding buffet is to Jim Brandstatter, Michigan will come out firing on all cylinders and quickly race to an insurmountable 7-0 lead with 10 minutes left in the first quarter, after which they will go into a shell to protect the lead and run out the clock.

Then, when that doesn't work and we surprisingly find ourselves down 28-7 in the third quarter (after injuries to our first through sixth string tailbacks, our starting left tackle, any remaining DBs on scholarship and the kid who carries Lloyd's headset), Michigan will mount a furious comeback and, by the grace of God (as well as a few well-timed instant replay reviews), will be ahead 35-31 with three and a half minutes left in the game and possession of the ball at the NW 35. That's when Lloyd, having learned from his mistakes the last two weeks, will take destiny by the throat and try to ice the game right then and there.

So after three consecutive QB sneaks, he will confidently direct his punting unit onto the field in order to pin NW deep and turn the ball over to his stout defense, figuring NOBODY marches down the field for a game winning fourth quarter drive against a Jim Herrrrrrmannnnn coached defense more than 68 times in a row. Nobody.

But, this is 2005. So...

After Michigan's punt is blocked and recovered by the punter-nobody-can-name-this-year in the Wolverine endzone for a 65 yard safety, Michigan is faced with a dilemma: With just under a minute left on the clock and only up by 2, the coaching staff now finally sees the light, realizing that kicking the ball away will almost certainly lead to another heartbreaking defeat.

Thus, Michigan surprises NW with an onside kick and recovers the ball at its own 30. But faced with 4th and 10 with :08 seconds left on the clock, instead of kicking the ball away with so much time left for an opponent's offense to work with against the Michigan D, the Wolverines opt to have the punter run around to kill off the remaining eight seconds before falling in the endzone for another safety in order to get the game into the slam dunk that is overtime.

Once there, knowing resistance is futile, Northwestern head football coach Randy Walker will instruct his once high-flying offense to do it's best "Michigan with three minutes and the lead at our 25 impression" by calling three straight off-tackle running plays before kicking the go-ahead field goal. With the trap now set, Michigan will win the game on Jason Avant's TD pass on 3rd and goal as Chad Henne tries to throw the ball away.

Motor City Bowl my ass!

Note: Funeral services will be held for Bo Schembechler next Thursday. In lieu of flowers, donations should be made to the Make a Defense Foundation.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Really?

I thought I had mistakenly clicked on the link to the NATIONAL ENQUIRER when I read the stat. I would have been less surprsed if the first paragraph said "Bigfoot spotted in A2" (and was not referring to any residents of Stockwell). But...

Rumor (and the Detroit News) has it that Michigan claims the Big 10's second-best pass defense. Can that possibly be right? Who's keeping tabs of the stats this season, Katherine Harris and the Florida Election Commission?

Monday, October 24, 2005

Could be worse, they could be jangling their keys...

Here is why Los Angeles fans are the worst in the country:

UCLA is undefeated, #8 in the land and coming off a 6-6 season in 2004. Fans should be fired up, right? Well, for their game last weekend against an Oregon State team with a winning record, a key conference game, they only drew an "announced crowd" of 49,932 to the Rose Bowl.

Granted, the Rose Bowl in Pasadena is about a three day bus trip from UCLA's Westwood campus but still. Forty-nine thousand? To a 100,000 person stadium? To see a top 10 team? Ok, that's worse than "key play" fans.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

I wasn't even nervous this time

We've played so many close games in a row, I wasn't even all that nervous for the overtime over Iowa. I pretty much expected it. That makes four games in a row that were decided on the last play. That's inconceivable. And five in a row decided in the last minute. I expect more of the same this week against Northwestern.
Was there any doubt our defense was going to collapse on Iowa's final drive in regulation? They played well since the first quarter, but when the pressue's on, they manage to give up the key score. They've done it in every Big Ten game except against Sparty. After Iowa's long pass that put them down near the 20, they called for a replay review. That was key - it was like a much-needed time out for us. I was thinking we should call one anyway. Iowa got a bit conservative after that play, though the D stood up on the third down shuffle pass. There were 27 seconds after that play - we should have called timeout after that. It would have given us a possible return from Breaston on the kickoff which would have been into the wind.
Pierre Woods made a couple of great plays right off the bat in OT. Who knew he was still on the team? He's been invisible most of the season. And who's this John Thompson guy and why hasn't he been playing a lot more? He was hitting everyone, though I could go for a little less of the trash talk. The holding call on 3rd and 8 could have been a killer, especially since it was completely unnecessary.
The Hawkeyes' holder: Fentstermaker, the kicker: Schlicher. Is there a more hilarious name combination in football?
Jason Avant - who was the true player of the game - made an incredible catch on 2nd down to get us to the 5. How he contorted his body that way is unbelievable, but he does it so often, I shouldn't be surprised. It was also a great call and something I'd like to see more of - play action and a rollout. Thankfully, we got in on 3rd down with a very ineresting formation with Massaquoi and Paul in the backfield with Jackson. Kind of a semi-wishbone. Would we/should we have gone for it on 4th down if we hadn't made it?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Yabba Dabba Do?


Is it just me, or does the Iowa Hawkeye logo bear a scary resemblance to Fred Flinstone?

Michigan vs Iowa

Can Michigan, eight games into the season, do something it hasn't done yet: win two games in a row? (man, it feels strange just having to write that sentence as a Wolverine fan).

With the league as crazy (or balanced) as it is (5 teams have one conference loss, 4 others - including Michigan - have 2), a shared Big 10 title is still a very realistic goal.

Have to be honest though, I'm just not feeling it this weekend. I don't know what it is about this team but they don't know how to handle what little success they've had. And Iowa is a tough place to play, having won 22 in a row at home. Thus, I think it will be another close game, but in the end, my gut says the Hawkeyes (whose emblem on their helmets, when turned sideways, looks a heck of a lot like Fred Flinstone) will win.

Thoughts?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Playoff? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Playoff

In USA TODAY yesterday, Jon Saraceno's column voiced what I've believed all along: NCAA football is better than the NFL. He said that last weekend's "wild flurry of upsets, near-upsets, comebacks and last-second thrillers demonstrated why college football has it all over the NFL."

Couldn't agree more with Mr. Saraceno. Almost.

Later in the article, Saraceno states, "Can you imagine what might happen if Division I-A mandated a national championship playoff? Winter Madness would chase the NFL to the back pages."

But his implication that an NCAA football playoff would make the college game even better is where Jon and I begin to disagree. In my not-so-humble opinion, such a playoff would destroy the very underlying reason last weekend's games were so compelling. It would weaken the foundation that sets it apart. It would dilute the thing that makes college football so special and pro football so... unspecial: the regular season.

That's because, since there is no playoff in college football, every regular season game is important. Unlike the pros, each regular season game matters. See, I believe college football does have a playoff -- and it started in September.

Imagine there were a 16 team, pro-style playoff, what would the real importance of the Notre Dame/USC game have been? Answer: Seeding. Notre Dame and its fans are still reeling from the defeat (and will be talking about it for years to come) due to the fact that there is no opportunity to "get a second chance at Southern Cal in the playoffs." Last Saturday was their playoff game with SC. And they lost.

Revenge, redemption and a rematch will have to wait until next fall. Bragging rights last a full year because there are no mulligans in college football.

Not so in the pro game. Are you a San Diego Chargers fan bummed about that 20-17 September setback to Denver? Don't sweat it. Get them during the rematch at home in December. If that doesn't work out, there's always the playoffs.

And what about Penn State's loss to Michigan on the last play of the game? With a playoff, it still would have been a great game. That's a given. But would it have been so heartbreaking for the Nittany Lions with a 16 team playoff at the end of the year? Even with the loss, they're still atop the Big 10, still control their own destiny for the league's BCS nod and are still ranked among the top 12. But without a playoff they're seriously, if not mortally, wounded in their quest for the National Title. Fair? That's another debate. But boy oh boy did it make that game even more exciting Saturday. Because it meant something. Everything most likely. Yet in the pros, your favorite team can go 10-6, often even 9-7, and still make the playoffs and dream of the Super Bowl. What's so super about that?

Quick, name five classic regular season NFL games. Games that still get under the skin of fans of the losing team. Hard, right? Now name five great college football games. Even excluding last weekend, it's almost as easy as naming national holidays. And it seems like that every weekend.

That's why you never see regular season NFL games on ESPN CLASSIC: because it's not do or die week in and week out in the NFL. But UCLA fans still cringe when discussing that make-up game with Miami in '98. "Wide right" is practically an obscene phrase in Tallahassee. And Texas fans can finally sleep a little easier after ending their losing streak to Oklahoma.

Now granted, as a lifelong Michigan fan who has been forced to accept that early September losses are becoming as much a part of Wolverine tradition as The Victors, such a playoff would undoubtedly help us. At 4-3, if we run the table, 8-3 Michigan might still have a shot. A chance. A prayer.

But I'm unswayed.

That's why I still cringe at The Big House memory of that September day in '94 when Kordell Stewart launched a 60+ yard dagger into the heart of every Michigan fan on the game's final play to beat the Maize and Blue. I still shake my head at our last second loss to Miami in '88. And I still smile from ear-to-ear when talking to my Buckeye "friends" about their not-quite-undefeated regular seasons in '93, '95 and '96. Because each of those games mattered. And in a crazy way that only a fellow college football nut can understand, they still do. That's what makes college football so special.

So, Jon, you're right, college football is a better spectator sport than the pros. I'd go so far as to say it's the best spectator sport (don't get me started on how "meaningful" the major league baseball season is. What are there, like, 286 regular season games now?).

But a playoff would not make college football better. It would take it down that slippery slope toward being a copy of the pro game. Bring it closer to the very things that make the pro game, week to week, so boring. And it's not the money or the coaching or the commercialism. It's the fact that, let's face it, each game doesn't mean that much.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Bass Effect

An "innovative" play the Wolverines have been using this season that, to me, instead points out why we are so predictable on offense is the use of Antonio Bass lining up under center. I'm sure from the coaches POV, this seems like some wacky, freewheeling, almost-spread-offense type of play.

However, the reason I find this predictable is b/c, when you see that formation (and thus, when defenses see it), is there any question as to what the play is? No. It's a run by Bass. Period. You know he's not going to throw out of that formation (unless we're running it two or three times a game as a season-long ruse for the tOSU game).

Now, he's good and the play can pick up a few yards here and there but I don't get the "element of surprise" that we think we're pulling off. I almost feel like the thinking behind the play is, "See, we can go with a mobile QB just like other programs these days." But the big difference is, when tOSU or Pennsylvania State University or Texas, etc. etc. line up w/ their mobile QBs the problem is you have to defend against the run AND the pass. But when we line up in the U of M version of "trickeration," there is no real surprise as it's always going to be a run. Your thoughts?

Monday, October 17, 2005

Michigan's schedule...

Read the following in the Detroit Free Press today:

U-M's schedule difficulty now ranks No. 2 nationally, trailing only Oklahoma. The Wolverines' opponents have a 42-19 combined record (.688).

And with 5-2 Iowa at Iowa this weekend followed by 4-2 Northwestern at NW before closing out against Ohio State, it doesn't get any easier. Heck, even our "gimme" game of the final four is against an IU team that is 4-2.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Perspective

Between 1970-1976, the Bo Schembechler-led Wolverines went 68-5-3 during the regular season (9-1 in '70, 11-0 in '71, 10-1 in '72, 10-0-1 in '73, 10-1 in '74, 8-1-2 in '75 and 10-1 in '76). And you know what the most incredible thing about that is: During those 7 seasons, outside of tOSU, they only played four ranked opponents. Of those, only one (#20 ranked Northwestern in 1971) was a Big 10 foe (their only ranked opponent that season as tOSU was unranked). In '70, '73, '74 and '76 the only ranked team Michigan faced all year was tOSU in their final game. Against Top 10 teams, Michigan was 3-4-1 during that span, only 1-4-1 against ranked tOSU squads.

If we include bowl games, Michigan was an additional 0-3 against ranked teams in that span, 0-2 against Top 10 teams.

Now compare that with the current 2005 season. Michigan has already played three ranked teams (ND, MSU and PSU) and two others with a combined record of 11-3 (Wisco and Minnie), that were unranked when Michigan played them. With the annual showdown with tOSU still to come, Michigan will most likely have faced four ranked teams this regular season. And that's not unheard of today. In fact, often that is now on the low side. In 2003, believe it or not, Michigan faced a whopping SEVEN ranked teams in the regular season. In 2002, the number was five.

I think you get my point (and no, it's not that I think Bill Snyder used to make our schedule for us). There's a reason the Big 10 used to be called the "Big 2 and Little 8." We only had to get up for a game each season. Today, Lloyd and his staff are faced with more difficult challenges week to week. And while I think they've made some big mistakes (and I certainly wouldn't mind seeing a change at defensive coordinator), I think all the "Fire Lloyd Carr!" talk is a bit misguided (and downright asinine such as the alleged M "fans" who, before the game yesterday, passed out anti-Lloyd literature and held up a sign of Osama Bin Laden with "Osama Bin Lloydin has hijacked Michigan football" written above it).

As for Michigan "slipping" under Lloyd, remember that as parity overtook college football, Michigan lost three or more games in six of Bo's last 11 seasons and Mo lost three or more in three of his five season. And outside of Ann Arbor, look at what the "best coach in college football" has done so far this season with all that talent at Florida. Urban Meyer is a whopping one game better at 5-2, with a 31-3 blowout in mixed in there.

So while I'm in no way excusing some of the mistakes this season, or saying that I enjoy/like/accept a 4-3 record at this point, I think that, coming off back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances, having the fifth winningest record in all of college football the last eight seasons and going 15-5 against Top 10 teams, maybe Michigan fans need to have a little perspective.

Oh, and think of Nebraska. They got their wish to get rid of Frank Solich after going 10-3 two years ago. Picked up a "pro genius" in Bill Callaham and went a very ungenius like 5-6 last year. But then again, this is the same school that for some unknown reason let go of a coach after he went 8-3 for them back in 1898. That coach was some guy named Fielding H. Yost.

It's all about perspective.

I Still Say Fans in Columbus are Worse

Read about the following soccer incident in Brazil where one person was killed and homemade bombs were seized before a big rivalry game.

Or as tOSU fans call such behavior -- homecoming.

:01


Wow. What a finish. When Pennsylvania State University's QB scored with some :52 seconds left on the clock, I thought for sure Michigan had once again written another sad chapter in the "Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda" saga that is their 2005 campaign. Yet somehow they pulled it off in thrilling fashion. Are we trying to be on ESPN Classic every day next year? Hell, ESPN might have to give us our own special "Michigan Night" if this keeps up. Can you remember a season with this many games coming down to the wire in the 4th quarter? We're a handful of plays from being undefeated...and a handful the other way from being 2-5. Ah, the fickle finger of football fate.

Hats off to the team for pulling this one out. They could have easily quit a couple times in the fourth quarter (after the two PSU TDs scored in a nanosecond early and then their above-mentioned final TD with under a minute left) but they didn't and produced one of the greatest wins in Michigan history.

But, not to rain on the victory celebration, had we lost, I think the blame would have rested squarely on the shoulders of Coach Carr. After Leon Hall intercepted Michael Robinson with around 3 1/2 minutes left, Michigan called three consecutive running plays in order to get Pennsylvania State University to use up timeouts rather than trying to score. Typical Michigan in these situations: instead of going for the kill, we played "not to lose." And it nearly cost us (again).

Even Coach Carr admitted as much saying: "If we had lost this game, I would have blamed myself. What I should have said, is, 'Let's throw the ball in the end zone.' We were so concerned with making Penn State use their timeouts ... Instead of being so concerned with them using all their timeouts and maybe kicking a field goal, we left them (the defense) out there."

Let's hope he won't make this mistake in the future and it signals a realization that you have to be daring and have a set of stones more often than not in these situations.

On the positive side, this is Lloyd's 15th victory in 20 games against Top 10 teams during his tenure (8-0 in A2). I have to think that's one of the best big game records in the land. The problem with that success is, I think it tends to make the scratch-your-head losses to the teams we should beat that much more frustrating.

On another positive note, the offense proved they can win a game in the clutch, a big game against a top team (and even score in the 3rd quarter. I didn't realize until it was mentioned on TV that our TD in the 3rd quater was our FIRST one this season! But like my friend said, "Relax. It's only the SEVENTH GAME OF THE SEASON.")

But while the O showed its stones by marching down the field at the end, like everything this season, there is a flip side: the defense still has yet to prove it can stop somebody -- anybody -- on a final drive to preserve a victory. After shutting down PSU in the first half, they gave up 22 points in the 4th quarter. I guess we should all be thankful our game winning TD came with no time left on the clock. Is there anybody who thinks we would have held on to win had there been another minute to go?

And finally, for those like me who no longer live in A2 and must watch the games on TV: DID YOU SEE ALL THE SHOTS OF PEOPLE SHAKING THEIR KEYS?! &^%*!

Oh well, I guess I'll bask in the victory tonight and leave my anti-key crusade to another post (oh, and there will be more).

Next up: Iowa at Iowa. Another tough game. Is it just me, or does anybody else miss the good ol' days of the "Big 2 and the Little 8"? Gee, how many heart attacks do you think Bo would've had coaching in this age of parity?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

More on The Big (Quiet) House...

A friend sent the "PUT THE DAMN KEYS DOWN" column below to some of his Michigan pals who responded to him instead of posting here in the M Zone, so he forwarded the comments to me. In my opinion, their comments confirmed everything I wrote about in that column. You decide. Here are those forwarded emails (with my comments inserted in bold blue):

--------------------

Those 100,000 people in a closed room would be a lot louder. So it IS the shape of the stadium, to some extent. Not entirely, of course, but it does make a difference.

Yes, 100,000 in a closed room would be louder. And I'm guessing 100,000 with bullhorns would be even louder still. But until they enclose the stadium or pass out bullhorns, I'm sticking with my crazy hypothesis that 100,000 fans cheering and clapping like mad would be a hell of a lot louder than 100,000 waving their damn keys in the air. Now that would make a big difference.

We do have many old alums, and we drink less than a lot of other crowds, both of which definitely contribute.

First of all, from this statement, is one supposed to assume that Michigan draws more "old alums" to its games than, say, Notre Dame does? Or more than Penn State? Hmm. Interesting. Must have missed that little factoid in the last Alumni magazine (or was it AARP?).

But taking that as gospel, since they're "old," they don't cheer as much? Is that it? Christ, what section is that and how old are these people? I thought the folks with blue hair at the games were frat guys showing their school spirit. Didn't know they were just "blue hairs." Must be a GOLDEN GIRLS DVD boxed set included now with season tickets that I'm not familiar with. Or coupons for a free dinner at Bill Knapp's drawing in all these non-cheering elderly.

Then again, maybe they just seem old because they're so quiet.

As for drinking less, like the "old" comment, I'd first love to know what data this comment is based upon because, call me crazy, but I've noticed a tailgate or two around the stadium on football Saturdays. And you're not going to believe this but, get ready, I've seen...alcohol served. Swear. Then again, didn't realize that chaste M fans drank less than "a lot of other crowds." All that booze must just be for show.

Furthermore, I also didn't know one had to be drunk or part of MTV's target demographic in order to cheer loudly for the Maize and Blue. I guess sober old people are required to root for their team by quietly shaking the keys to their retirement condo in Boca.

We also get fairly loud at times. (So the stadium is not a complete excuse).My own take is to call it, "Smells (or maybe better"Sounds") like M Spirit"-- here we are now, entertain us. We don't scream our heads off just to scream. But when something big happens, or a major play comes up, we can get pretty loud.

I beg to differ. Here is a fan that obviously hasn't traveled to a lot of Michigan away games and has no point of reference to what "loud" is. But then again, we're old, we're sober, we're Michigan.

And for Michigan Stadium to be an intimidating place to play, fans must get loud more than just a play or two on third down in the 4th quarter.

Used to bother me that we weren't as loud as we could be. Now I've just decided that's just the way it is at Michigan.

Why? Why, why, why is that "just the way it is?" And why must it continue to be that way?

I know that I'm hoarse every Sunday after a home game from screaming on all those key third downs your friend references.

Well that's good. I guess at least this writer is young and a drunk.

Another writes:

I only go to one game per year, but fans don't do that key play thing much anymore.

That's just not true. For starters, see the picture in the "Key Play" post below. That's the student section. The picture is from the 2003 Ohio State game. More importantly, watch the games on TV when you're not there. You see it all the time.
Plus, the games I've been to, there seems to be a decent effort to make a lot of noise when the other team has the football at critical points in the game. Is Michigan the toughest place to play? No, from what I've heard, places like Oregon are much tougher.

Much tougher. Maybe, just maybe, that played a part in 2003 when 3rd ranked U-M lost to 22nd ranked Oregon in front of a paltry 59,023 fans who were twice as loud as 110,000 Michigan fans ever are. I know, I was there in Eugene. Pretty impressive.

But let me ask this. Would we trade won-loss records with Oregon? Number of national titles, Heismans, bowl games, etc? Somehow the team has amassed this impressive list of accomplishments over 126 years without having the loudest fans. Maybe other things are more important.

Yes, I would trade won-loss records with Oregon this season. True, over the last 50+ years, we do have...*ONE*...National Title (shared, technically) more than Oregon. Got me there. Then again, poor ol' Oregon just took up the game in 1894 so we do have a couple years on them.

But why is it so wrong to strive to be better? We're disappointed with the team this year because we think, expect, KNOW, they can do better. Why is it so bad to ask more of the fans? Why does it have to be either/or? Why can't we have great fans and a winning team? How would giving our team a bigger home field advantage be a bad thing?

Friday, October 14, 2005

And remember -- Bo Knows Football...

Looks like even the ol' Field General himself, Bo George Patton Schembechler, doubts the '05 Michigan squad can rebound this season as evidenced by his recent comments.

Sad times, indeed -- WJR dumps us, Bo doubts us...at least the M students will be shaking their dorm keys during "key plays" this weekend in an attempt to give Michigan a home field advantage, figuring the Pennsylvania State University players will be laughing too much at the sight to hear the snap count.

WJR Dumps U of M for MSU

Bob Ufer must be rolling over in his grave. Just read on the Detroit News website that, starting next season, WJR will no longer carry Michigan football and basketball, broadcasting MSU games instead. Holy Huckleby!

Remember Ufer's classic line, "Broadcasting to you from coast to coast -- from the coast of Lake Michigan, to the coast of Lake Erie?" That's how far the WJR signal carries M games on the "Great Voice of the Great Lakes." Heck, growing up, when our family drove to Florida for vacations, we used to see how far down I-75 we could get before we lost radio contact with AM760. Seemed like it was just north of Macon, Georgia. WJR has greater reach than Radio Free Europe had at the height of the Cold War.

Now what station are the Michigan games going to end up on? WXYT? WWJ? Aren't those just a small step up from ham radio? If Ufe were alive, he'd have to change his signature line to something more like, "Broadcasting to you from...is this thing on? From the coast of that small man-made lake near Ypsi to the far reaches of Bellville -- on a good day if the wind is blowing just right..."

Boy, this season is turning out worse than I thought. Tomorrow I'm going to find out that U-M has been dropped by Nike and we're going to run out of the tunnel Saturday in our new B.U.M. Athletic Equipment uniforms, right under the big "M Go Blue, Ernie's Taco Shack Supports You" banner.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Put the Damn Keys Away!


I once met an Auburn fan at a sports bar where I had gone to watch the Michigan game not long after moving out of state. Talking college football, he mentioned that he always wanted to go to a game in Ann Arbor saying, "Must be crazy there, 100,000 fans in the stadium going nuts each weekend."

When I told him that actually, during big -- or "key" -- plays, Michigan fans whip out their key chains and "jangle" them, he thought I was joking. When I told him I wasn't, first he laughed, then he called one of his fellow SEC buddies over and said, "Tell him what you just told me."

After explaining Michigan's key play "tradition" once more, the other Auburn alum asked, "Does it ever get loud there?"

"Truth is," I said, "not really." I told him that about the only time you hear a Michigan fan in the alumni section scream is when he yells "Down in front!" at one of the few truly vocal Wolverine supporters in Michigan Stadium (I think I even said that chant should replace the more famous "Let's Go Blue!" cheer as it's probably uttered more during games).

The Tiger/War Eagle/Make Up Your Mind fans were shocked. And I almost felt embarrassed. Like I had just revealed some awkward family secret. But it's time to face reality:

Michigan fans are some of the worst fans in the country.

There, I said it. And I feel better having gotten it off my chest as this post/column/rant/soon-to-be-diatribe has been building in me since I first traveled to watch Michigan play on the road when I was 14 years old and saw for myself what a true home field advantage really is. Or more to the point, I HEARD what good fans "sound" like. And they don't sound like The Big (Quiet) House which is quite possibly the lamest home field advantage in all of college football.

Am I wrong? Was I exaggerating to the Tiger/War Eagle/Make Up Your Mind fans above? Take a look at the picture: Hands raised, keys out, mouths...shut! Wow. How intimidating. Must be so hard to audible when the car key clangs against the house key like that. Or maybe the reflection is supposed to blind the QB.

And the most pathetic part? If you're familiar with Michigan Stadium then you know that this picture was taken IN THE STUDENT SECTION!

Sweet Mother of Ufer! How sad. And that's the "rowdy" section of Michigan Stadium.

Unfortunately, those that attend Michigan games seem to confuse merely showing up at the games with being great fans. But I don't give a rat's cornhole that we've had over 100,000 at every home game since 1975. Playing at home should provide the home team with an advantage. And in football, the way to do that is to be LOUD! To keep the other team from being able to change plays at the line. To keep them from getting in a rhythm. To keep them from hearing the snap count. And not just for a handful of plays one or two games a year!

Now before someone out there even says it, before Mr. Down In Front even opens his mouth to utter The Big Excuse for The Big (Quiet) House, shut your pie hole and listen:

IT'S NOT THE SHAPE OF THE DAMN STADIUM!

We've all heard that crap, right? "But the open bowl doesn't trap the sound."

Bullsh*t! I am so sick and tired of hearing that excuse.

Look at the picture again! It's not the shape of the stadium. It's the shape of the mouths of the fans in the stands: CLOSED!

I've traveled to away games at places like Notre Dame, Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa and Oregon (half the size, twice the noise) -- as well as numerous bowl games -- and Michigan fans are by far the quietest fans around. Period.

Sure, we throw great tailgates. We buy lots of maize and blue paraphernalia. We pack the stadium each Saturday. But we don't give our team a home field advantage worth a damn!

So folks have to stop "blaming" the shape of the stadium. The problem is the fans. If you put 100,000 people on a flat, open field and they're all screaming, guess what? It's going to be loud -- that is if everyone opens their mouths and not their pockets and purses to pull out their &^%$ keys!

Bottom line, we need to turn The Big House into the most intimidating home field advantage in all of college football. A place that, due to the constant noise level, is the most difficult place to play for an opposing team -- from the first snap until the final gun. A place so thunderous that the Michigan student section keeps track of false start penalties and delay of game infractions caused by noise, like baseball fans who mark off strike outs using "K" signs hanging over the outfield wall.

So next time you see a guy take out his keys before a crucial play, tell him to put the damn keys away and GET LOUD.

Next time someone behind you yells "Down in front!" during the opponent's drive toward our endzone, tell him to turn that energy toward the field to help his team.

Next time a cheerleader holds up a "Key Play" sign on the field, throw her a Sharpie and tell her to write "MAKE NOISE!"

And most of all, you -- you reading this column/post/rant -- MAKE SOME NOISE next time you're in A2 for a game.

You know, I may not bring about world peace. Or cure a deadly disease. But if I can somehow spur Michigan fans to make The Big House into the biggest home field advantage in America, if I can help turn Michigan Stadium into the most intimidating place to play in college football, I will have accomplished a feat some say is tougher to achieve than the first two.

If you disagree with this column, post away. But for the love of Schembechler, if you agree with this in any way, shape or form, please pass this on to five or six Michigan fans. I figure if chain emails about Bill Gates giving away money can circle the globe every three months, we can reach 100,000 season ticket holders no sweat. Help turn The Big House into The Loud(est) House.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

There's precedent for hope

Last year a Big Ten power started the year 3-3, including three straight losses in the Big Ten, two of them blowouts. But that team rallied, won four of their last five, including a pasting of their arch-rival in the season finale. They rolled in their bowl game, ended up ranked 20th and entered this season ranked 6th. Of course that team was Ohio State. Were they more talented than the teams they lost to? Probably. But they made some adjustments, including changing their QB, and salvaged their season. Do we have the guts to do that?

Loafing? I thought we were just bad

Have you heard about Hall's comments re: our defense, especially on that critical 3rd down play?

This is troubling to me on a number of fronts. First and most importantly, if it's true, then things are even worse than we thought in A2. That would be an ominous sign.

Second, and this is potentially just as bad, I don't ever remember Michigan players coming out and airing dirty laundry like this in public. This sort of crap reminds me of Miami, circa the Jimmy Johnson years.

Yes, there is nothing good out of a statement like this.

The Sky Is Falling, The Sky Is Falling...

...Or maybe it isn't. Good article today in the Detroit Free Press on the current state of Michigan football. Your thoughts?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Eye Popping Stat of the Day

According to the Detroit Free Press...

4-9 -- Michigan's red-zone percentage (times they've made it inside the 20 and scored) in losses to Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Minnesota. That's 44%. And of their four red-zone scores, just two have been for touchdowns.

12-12 -- Red-zone percentage by opponents in those games.

That is appalling. Just appalling. And how many of those have been first and goal situations?

Was OT really going to save us?

How many of you thought we were actually going to win in OT on Saturday? Sure, I'd take it over what ended up happening, but I had no confidence that Henne could make a clutch pass, or that we could make a FG. Sure, their backup QB was in the game, but our D would probably have found a way to give up a big run.
Maybe this is just rationalization on my part because that 60 yard run was so inexcusable, but I would put our chances of winning in OT at less than 50%.

Nostradamus was here

Ok, in my bleak post-Minnie (I go "Minnie" but I see Benny prefers to spell it "Minny," I assume after his own name) loss state-of-mind, this U of M blog made me laugh. I was searching for other U of M football blogs when I stumbled across it.

The guy, after getting a pretty good name for his blog, puts up one highly optimistic post -- in May! -- then doesn't add another thing. He's so confident, he says, "I'm starting this blog. Here is my prediction and damnit, I'm sticking to it. Period. The end."

I can only assume after seeing the ND game, he simply ended it all.

Proof that Bookies Smoke Pot...

Saw in USA TODAY that Michigan was favored by 3 over PSU. Again, if our team that has only beaten two MAC schools and MSU in OT was wearing Oregon State uniforms instead of Michigan jerseys, would we still be favored?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Did you see this?


After the game, they planted the Minnesoooota flag smack dab in the middle of the block M at the 50 yard line of the Big House.

"The horror. The horror."

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The bright side?

At this point I'm just looking to get us six wins. I think that's the only thing we have left this season - to keep the bowl streak and non-losing season streak going. I'm trying to be optimistic about this - could we be facing Penn State at any better time? They just closed out a very emotional win over tOSU at home. Going on the road against a wounded animal could be the best thing for us. Everyone's going to be talking about how great they are, how they're back. I still see them as a defense-only team. We have to have the same attitude we had against Sparty. It also wouldn't hurt if we got some play from the QB position.

Halftime Report...

M 13, Minnie 10

You know, I can always get a sense of the team's mindset for a game by how my fellow M fans react watching the showdown w/ me at my house. For the MSU game, we were glued from the first play, the focus totally on the game. Each play watched w/ rapt attention.

But today, there was a "looseness," like we were playing Central Michigan, not a 4-1 Big 10 team as talk in the first quarter actually turned to last Wednesday's LOST episode (I nipped that as soon as it came up). Point is, M fans weren't focused, and from the play so far, neither is our team.

This is exactly the sort of game we didn't want to get into today: a dogfight. We came out distracted (maybe Ecker was talking about LOST in the huddle before dropping the pass that split his numbers) and seemingly expecting Minnie to roll over for us. We didn't put up 7 on our first drive and then gave up their TD at the end of the 1st half. Both bad signs.

Minnie's first drive of the upcoming second half is going to be very telling. If they drive right down the field, we could be in very big trouble. Michigan needs to quickly stop them and put up their own points (7, not 3!) to regain control of this game.

I hope my exuberance in the long post below wasn't premature.

M Superfan

You know the Michigan fan you always see on TV w/ the cowbell, wearing the M flag as a cape, his face painted sporting a Michigan "mask"? Well, I stumbled across his website tonight. Pretty funny. Check out the story of the M Superfan(s).

Guys, how do we get our own Pez dispenser like this guy? Tell me you don't want to see "Benny's" mug popping out candy.

Twas the Night Before Football...

The Minnesota game is going to be a very telling bellwether game for the rest of our season, maybe even more so than MSU last weekend. Let's face it, Michigan could've been 0-4 and would have still played their best game of the year thus far against their in-state rival. But tomorrow is going to be different. The emotion won't be the same. We haven't lost to the Golden Gophers since 1986 (when we had just risen to #1 in the country only to be upset at home!). And w/ resurgent PSU coming to town next week, there is always the chance to, not look ahead, but take the little vermin not quite as seriously as we should. Furthermore, Minnesota will be fighting to save their season tomorrow the same as we had to do last weekend.

In other words, tomorrow is the perfect test to see if the ND and Wisco losses were flukes, a combination of injuries and bad luck. To find out if this team really can turn out to be as good as advertised before the season started. Or instead, if MSU was the fluke game and the ND/Wisco results had nothing to do w/ injuries or luck but rather the simple fact that, uh, we stink as much as it appeared in those games.

But Michigan has a great tradition of recovering from bad starts and finishing strong:
* In 1980, they started 1-2 (having lost 5 of their last six if including the last three games of the '79 season) only to go on to win the rest of their games, including the Rose Bowl, w/ arguably Bo's best defense which didn't allow a TD in the last 5 1/2 games.
* In 1988, Michigan started off 0-2, losing heartbreakers to #13 Notre Dame and my second most painful loss (after ND '80 and before Colorado '94) to #1 Miami, before rebounding to finish out the year 9-0-1 (remember ties?) including a Rose Bowl victory over SoCal.
* And most recently, there was 1998 when Meeechigan again started 0-2 then bounced back to win 10 of their final 11.

However, one of these years the hole is going to be too deep. One of these times the rebound won't happen. One of these times, sad to say, Mighty Michigan won't be able to turn it around after the slow start. Is this that year?

Tomorrow is going to be a true test of this team's maturity and the coaching staff's ability to get them ready to win a game they, as a top team, should win. Period. Yes, it's amazing what one game -- in this case MSU -- can do for a team's (and this True Blue fan's) psyche. And I still believe. At least until 4pm or so tomorrow rolls around.

Prediction: Michigan 31, Minnesooooota, 21

PS Please note how cocky I'm getting now as a "blogger," putting hyperlinks in my posts an' shiat. Dat's right. I might put a hyperlink here for no reason jus' cuz I can (c'mon, you know you're tempted).

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Minnesota

Michigan has always been great stopping one dimensional teams...until Wisco 2005. Was that an aberation? Or does it speak to problems w/ this D?

PS Man, I'm not sure having this on the Internet for the world to see will help our posts right away. Seems like I'm "self editing" right now. Maybe the next post I'll mix it up a bit, like asking "Didre" why he chose that as his post name. Didre? DIDRE?! 125+ years of Meeechigan football history to choose from and...Didre?! Sweet mother of god!

And so it begins...

What is this blog? Well, it's about Michigan football. Comments, critiques, compliments, criticisms and a little funny thrown in for good measure.

Three of my M alum friends and I have been emailing back and forth, everyday, during each football season for the last couple of years. Sometimes our emails number close to 30 after big wins or tough losses. And while we're all huge Michigan fans, that doesn't mean we don't disagree often (as you'll soon find out). So I figured, if we can procrastinate that much during the week, let's see if others want to join in. Hey, if we're not going to get any work done, why not drag some complete strangers down with us.

So, here it is. This is my first blog so pardon the rookie mistakes I'm bound to make as I get this up and running (hell, I don't even know how to add pictures yet).

Welcome and...

Go Blue!