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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Michigan-Northwestern Open Thread

Why jinx success?

Coming off a victory over now-exposed previously-Top 10 ranked Penn State Michigan - just as they did against Appy State - is primed to take Northwestern too lightly, instead looking ahead to the big showdown next weekend against EMU.

And even though NU has injuries and and their talent level isn't on par with the Wolverines, the mere sight of a team lining up in the spread formation will send the Wolverine defense running toward the bench to curl up in the fetal postion.

RBP (Reverse Blog Psychology) Pick - Michigan - 21, Spreadwestern - 35

FINAL SCORE:

We-Can't-Stop-The-Spread-Michigan - 28, Northwestern - 16

Oh, riiiiight. Now I remember those first two weeks of the season. We're not that good.

Beer Bong Friday: Rookie Mistakes 101

This is sad to watch. Folks, when doing a beer bong, one never ever wears rain gear!

Simply unacceptable.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Know Your Foe - Northwestern 2007

The Wolverines hope to continue their winning ways (since the Oregon game) when they play their first road game of the season at Northwestern on Saturday. Michigan is 51-14-2 against the Wildcats and have won seven of the last eight. Last year, the Wolverines beat NU in an extremely ugly game in Ann Arbor, 17-3. This year, the Wildcats will try to bounce back from two dreadful losses the past two weeks to Duke and to Ohio State. But you probably already knew that. For what you don’t know, the MZone is providing the latest installment of KNOW YOUR FOE.

History - Northwestern was founded in 1851 by Methodists. Though the school is non-sectarian, some religious overtones remain, including two biblical passages on its crest (along with untold souls mortgaged to the Devil after allowing the former football laughingstock to play in the Rose Bowl in the mid 90s). Since the departure of the University of Chicago in 1946, Northwestern remains the only private Big Ten School. Interestingly, Northwestern and U of C almost merged in the 1930s, but the plan was killed by the Northwestern trustees. And if you think Northwestern's teams suck now, could you imagine how bad they'd be if they were combined with the University of Chicago? It would be an embarrassment that would eclipse the academic power such a school would possess. Also, why is the name Northwestern? Shouldn't it be Midwestern? Shouldn't Northwestern be in Seattle? Yes, probably, but the university's name comes from the founders' wish to serve the states of the former Northwest Territory, which included Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. They should have just called it the Big Ten Territory.

Location - Evanston, Illinois. Due to its proximity to a major metropolis, I wouldn't consider Evanston a college town, a la Ann Arbor or Madison. But there's no doubt the university has had and continues to have a major impact on the town. Hell, the village was named for Northwestern's founder, John Evans. In the 1960's, the university changed the shoreline of Evanston by dumping landfill into Lake Michigan to allow more land for campus buildings. Lately, the relationship between the village and the university has turned frosty as, per the founding charter, Northwestern does not have to pay property taxes. Ever.

And though it's not necessarily a "college town," it's still a great place to live. A lively downtown, easy access to Chicago, and a beautiful beach (when it's warm enough) make Evanston one of the more desirable and expensive suburbs of Chicago. It's also home to numerous famous people, including the Cusacks, Jeremy Piven, Charles Gibson, Donald Rumsfeld, and Eddie Vedder. Not bad for a town of about 75,000.

Nickname - Wildcats, named by a Chicago Tribune reporter in 1924 . Wow, that's original. In a conference with unique nicknames, the Wildcats stand out - and not in a good way. And not only are the nicknames in the conference unique, almost all have significance to the school or state they represent. Where else could the Hoosiers be but in Indiana? Not in St. Louis, that's for sure. But the Wildcats got their name from a newspaper story, not because there were once wildcats (or even wild cats) roaming the North Shore or anything like that. Lame.

Mascot - Willie the Wildcat is the costumed mascot for the university. The original mascot was a live bear cub named Furpaw (remember, this was before they were known as the Wildcats). But in 1923, after a losing season, the university abandoned Furpaw (as a mascot) because they believed he was bad luck. If Northwestern continued this practice of changing mascots after bad seasons, they'd be on about their 80th mascot by now.

Colors - Purple and White. A lot of people don't like purple on uniforms, but I think it looks great. Purple's not the problem with Northwestern - it's what they've done with it. They've been all over the board with their uniforms, including going with the trend in the '90s of adding black. Black and purple are not a good combination. Unfortunately, this also corresponded to the time Northwestern stopped being a laughingstock on the gridiron, so they kept the black well beyond the time it was trendy. Thankfully, the only semblance of black remaining is on their facemask and as trim. Despite this dalliance with black, purple is the identifying color of the university. Back in 1995 when the Wildcats went to the Rose Bowl (I still can't freaking believe NORTHWESTERN went to the Rose Bowl!) coach Gary Barnett proudly proclaimed "The purple's going to Pasadena."

Logo - After struggling through the '70s to find a logo, Northwestern settled on their current version in 1981 and have not changed it since. The stylized bold N is sometimes adorned with a snarling wildcat, but the N is the symbol of the university and has been the only adornment to the football helmets for 25 years. While the current N is solid, and has provided the university and its sports teams an identity for a long time, I think Northwestern made a mistake in 1967 when they went away from using this guy.


(Logos from Chris Creamer's SportsLogosNet).

Fight Song - The Northwestern fight song, Go U Northwestern, is a solid middle of the pack song for the Big Ten. Theodore Van Etten, inspired by a 20-7 victory over Indiana, wrote the song in 1912. It's pretty sad when your fight song was written because of a victory over Indiana - in football. The song was originally titled Go Northwestern Go but was changed soon after. This is one of the rare fight songs that actually references the university in the title and not some sports cheer. I guess that reflects Northwestern's academic prowess and athletic incompetence. The lyrics are quite simplistic, and they really only apply to football with "Break through that line," and "Hit 'Em Hard! Hit 'Em Low!"

In addition to the fight song, Northwestern fans enjoy other chants and cheers to occupy themselves while their team is losing to the worst football team of any division in North Carolina. They jingle their keys before the opening kickoff, and throw marshmallows onto the field. I'm not sure whether Northwestern or Michigan originated these annoying traditions. They also like to chant "That's all right, that's OK, you'll all work for us someday," which might apply when they're playing tOSU, but not Michigan.

Academics - No surprise that Northwestern has the highest academic ranking of any Michigan opponent this year. Their law, medical, business, and journalism schools are consistently ranked near the top. The U. S. News' ranking of America's Best Colleges has NU at #14 nationally. That's the third highest ranking for a school with Division I-A football, behind only Stanford (#4) and Duke (#8). Sadly, Northwestern is worse than both of those schools on the football field too.

Despite, or maybe because of, the strenuous academic environment at NU, the students are involved in some pretty lame activities. Primal Scream has to top this list. It's held on the Sunday before finals week every quarter. Students are encouraged to lean out of their windows and scream at the top of their lungs. Maybe they need to do this since they don't get to do much cheering at sporting events.

Athletics - Northwestern was one of the founding members of the Big Ten. But they've practically stood still athletically since then. The university fields only eight men's and eleven women's Division I teams (Michigan fields 12 men's and 13 women's teams). The football team has won only one bowl game - ever - and endured a Division I-A record 34 game losing streak that was broken in 1982. The men's basketball team has NEVER appeared in the NCAA tournament, one of the few schools from a major conference to have such a distinction. Sure, Northwestern often has a decent men's swimming team, the women's lacrosse team won the first-ever national title (men's or women's) at the school a couple of years ago, and the football team is now at least sometimes competitive. But overall Northwestern athletics are, uh, not good (my polite way of saying "an embarrassment").


Famous alums - OK, so I've ripped Northwestern for their mascot and their sports teams, but I have to admit: Their alumni list is about as impressive as any in the country. When you combine a powerful academic school with one that's also strong in high profile areas such as drama and journalism, you're going to get a list with a ton of people that everyone knows. From the entertainment field you have Ann-Margaret, Zach Braff, Cindy Crawford, Marg Helgenberger, Charlton Heston, Shelly Long, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jeri Ryan, and David Schwimmer. That's a pretty good babe quotient there too. From the business world Northwestern can claim the CEOs from Wells Fargo, Motorola, Paramount Pictures, Office Depot, and AON. Numerous journalists are NU alumni including Christine Brennan, Gregg Easterbrook, Rachel Nichols, Michael Wilbon, and Brent Musburger. And Stephen Colbert. That pretty much trumps any astronauts or athletes that Michigan might be able to brag about. The school has also produced a number of presidential election losers (William Jennings Bryan, George McGovern, and Adlai Stevenson), but no Presidents.

The Game - This should be an easy win for Michigan. Then again, Appalachian State should have been a sure "W," too. Will the spread offense of the Wildcats be a problem? Not really – NU’s players aren’t as good as ASU’s. And overconfidence shouldn’t be a concern for the Wolverines. Just like against Appa...never mind. MICHIGAN 31, NORTHWESTERN 13.

Thank you, MZone readers...

As the 2007 season started, our biggest single month in terms of unique visitors here at the MZone was 170,000+ last November.

Not anymore.

Yesterday, we passed 200,000 for the month of September, bringing us to well over 2.3 million unique visitors in the nearly two years we've been hanging out here in cyberspace.

Oh, sure, 2.2 million of those are Buckeye fans coming to threadjack posts because they seemingly can't understand how a blog called THE M ZONE can be so biased against Tosu. Even still, that's a hell of a lot of people who stop by to read what I've been writing in my underwear (sometimes less on Tuesdays). Who knew it would get this big (the blog, that is).

In any event, just wanted to say thanks to everyone for reading (yes, even the Buckeyes. Okay, just the cool ones one).

Most appreciated.

Your friendly neighborhood blogger,

Yost

MZone Helpful Hint #324...

What to wear when your wife wants you to help with the housework but you just want to lay on the couch and watch college football all day...



(HT: CB)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Penn State Names Paterno Statue New Head Coach

(from MZone wire reports) State College, PA -- Following their 14-9 loss to Michigan in which the Nittany Lion offense continued to struggle and showed no imagination, Penn State has named the bronze Joe Paterno statue outside Beaver Stadium as its new head coach.

The statue was introduced at practice Wednesday and will be on the sidelines this Saturday when Penn State faces off against Illinois.

"After my son's cocker spaniel was calling out our offensive plays before they happened during the Michigan game, it became obvious we needed to make a change," said PSU Director of Athletics Timothy M. Curley.

"But we knew we couldn't fire Joe because the man's a living legend...and has donated all this money to the school...and graduates most of his players...and other crap like that which really has nothing to do with football. So it would look bad if we just canned him. Then somebody in my office suggested replacing him with the statue, which we all thought was brilliant. People can't really say we fired a legend, we just replaced one with another. Plus, the statue has only been around since 2002 and thus has a better grasp of modern offenses."

The move already seems to be paying off. Sources close to the program told the MZone that during the Nittany Lion practice yesterday, Bronze Joe Pa called three consecutive pass plays for the first team offense during its scrimmage against the first team defense, something that had previously never happened in Happy Valley.



(Note: the above was inspired by a reader comment on Todd Sponsler's 50-Yard Lion, an excellent Penn State blog which linked to us yesterday)

MZone Top 25

The latest poll in the Blogpoll sponsored by MGoBlog is up. Little late in getting this up, but here's our ballot below.

Feel free to leave your comments. Just remember, I try not to refer back to my previous poll each week. I think that rewards teams for perception instead of reality and leads to teams being punished who didn't "start high." Which is why both the so-called "real" polls had Kentucky behind Louisville the week after UK beat them.

RankTeamDelta
1LSU 1
2Southern Cal 1
3Oklahoma 1
4Florida 1
5Ohio State 3
6California--
7Oregon--
8West Virginia 1
9Boston College 2
10Texas--
11South Carolina 1
12Wisconsin 1
13Rutgers 2
14Kentucky 3
15Clemson 1
16Virginia Tech 9
17South Florida 9
18Missouri 1
19Georgia 7
20Arizona State 6
21Purdue 3
22Michigan State 4
23Cincinnati--
24Hawaii 3
25Alabama 7

Dropped Out: Penn State (#5), Texas A&M (#14), Arkansas (#20), Louisville (#22).

"Pulling a Jim Tressel"

A new phrase has entered the lexicon courtesy of the ol' ball coach, Steve Spurrier.

During a conference call before South Carolina's game last weekend with LSU, Spurrier said he voted the Tigers #1 in his USA TODAY Coaches' Ballot stating, "I can honestly say I voted them No. 1, how about that? I'm not pulling a Jim Tressel, either. I did vote them No. 1. Ya'll can check it out."

Spurrier was referring to the "mix up" last season before Ohio State played Texas when Tressel said he voted the Longhorns No. 1 but it was later revealed he actually voted the Buckeyes No. 1. A Tosu assistant was then thrown under the bus claiming he called in Tressel's ballot and made the mistake.

Today's assignment, class: use "pulling a Jim Tressel" in a sentence. For example, Paul told his girlfriend, Sue, he was going out with the guys Friday. But she caught him pulling a Jim Tressel when she found out he was actually with her sorority sister, Maggie, that night.

Please note that, while easily confused, "pulling a Jim Tressel" is not the same as "pulling your Jim Tressel."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Why it's good to be Joe Paterno...

Even being 80 years old and following his ninth consecutive loss to Michigan, Joe Pa still managed to nab some tail in A2 after the game.

Eat your heart out, Hugh Hefner.


(HT: Dave)

Two-Minute Drill

* The Michigan-Northwestern game is on the BTN this Saturday. However, Michigan's student radio station, WCBN, will be there broadcasting the game live. In order to listen, go to www.wcbn.org/listen.html and then click on the Sports Stream.

* Want to help bring the Dave Matthews Band to A2 for the OSU game? We received an email from MZone reader and U-M student Monica who asked us to if we could help inspire the Michigan fans out there, especially those who will be coming in for the OSU game, to visit AT&T's Blue Room and participate in their contest to send Dave Matthews Band for a pep rally at a college campus sometime in November (rumor has it happening on the same weekend as the OSU game).

There are several ways to enter, but each person who registers can send in 50 "invitations" a day. These invitations, in the form of text messages, videos, audio, and essays, are all meant to convince DMB to come to Ann Arbor to perform at the AT&T sponsored pep rally. The link to the webpage is http://www.attblueroom.com/sports/collegefootball/.

* Penn State blog Run Up the Score put up one of the single funniest sub-headlines ever on their site in the wake of the Nittany Lions's loss to U-M last weekend: We Put the Turd in Saturday.

Brilliant, guys.

(HT: KVP)

* Shooting Blue has some good photos up from the Penn State game including these freaks...



Seriously, if I saw those guys outside my house, I'd call the police.

* And lest anyone forget that We OWN Penn State, JB sends us the following...

Breaking News: The Buckstache Strikes Again!

If you're a regular reader of the MZone, you probably know about The Buckstache - our moniker for a mustache sported by Buckeye fans, players and players-to-be, a grooming choice which we here at the MZone noticed seems to increase one's chances of being arrested by, oh, about 684%.

Case in point: Tosu QB Antonio Henton.

The facial-hair-loving third stringer was arrested Monday night and charged with soliciting a prostitute in Columbus. According to the link, the arrest took place at 8:30 pm.

Now, having never solicited a prostitute myself (although some who know the girl I asked to my high school homecoming dance junior year may dispute that), I always thought such transactions were more of a late night affair. I guess Henton was thinking, "Damn, really want to get laid, but don't want to be out late doing it."

And how sad to see a varsity football player at a top ten program have to resort to prostitution for sex (rather than drunk sororities girls saying, "I don't normally do this."). Man, it must really suck to be third string at OSU.

On other note, just the thought of a "Columbus hooker" is almost enough to initiate the ol' gag reflex.

(HT: Lisa)

Wisco Chippendales Dancers Hate Michigan?

Ah, I love checking ye ol' inbox when I find something like the story below. It comes our way from Reed at RoadGames07.blogspot.com who writes...

Hey Benny and Yost,

I was at the Wisconsin/Iowa game this past weekend and on my way back to my friend's apartment, I came across some Wisconsin fans who are apparently emulating Buckeyes in their obsession with Michigan. Or something. I don't know what to make of the bow tie.

Anyway, this really doesn't fit with my blog, but it probably does fit with yours. So here's some guy holding up a weathered sign for all to see on Mills Street in Madison. Again, this was after the Wisconsin/Iowa game.


So, just what did Reed see? Behold...




WTF?!?!

In September? After the Iowa game? Gee, obsess much? Or is that not a slam but rather a solicitation?

And what's with the dude in the background near the keg in the crazy red and white get up? I guess every day is Halloween in Madison. Or at least I hope this is some bizarre, Halloween-in-September bash. If not, I don't even wanna know.

When facts get in the way of "annoyance journalism"

Like pretty much all Michigan fans, bloggers and anyone else who enjoys clever, insightful writing rather than repetitive, shrill diatribes, I can't stand Detroit Free Press columnist Drew Sharp. And not because he criticizes Michigan (hell, we did that quite a bit ourselves here on the MZone after the start to the 2007 season). Rather, it's the spirit in which Sharp does it.

Sharp's attacks (one can't really call them columns) appear to be done in an intellectually dishonest manner, written not to critique, provide insight or even to entertain, but solely to annoy and agitate a fan base. He's the journalistic equivalent of that older sibling who, after being told by his father to "stop touching (his) brother" spends the rest of family trip in the backseat waving his fingers mere millimeters from his kid brother's nose whispering with sadistic glee, "I'm not touching you."

Now, I'm sure Sharp would deny that, probably claiming Michigan fans are simply too thin-skinned to hear "the truth," as he might call what he does. But as someone who runs a Michigan-centric college football blog, I can attest U-M fans not only can take it, they can dish it out with the best of them - if it comes from a genuine place.

In the twelve days surrounding Michigan's opening two defeats this season, Sharp wrote four "columns" blasting various aspects of the Michigan program. Interesting considering that during our "Drew Sharp Watch" last season, when we were trying to see how long it would take for him to write a positive piece on the Wolverines as they made a most unexpected run to 11-0 and a #2 ranking, he had only written 6 stories about Michigan by October 19th with five of them negative, one neutral (a seventh positive piece was about Bo personally, not the 2006 team).

So, how many Michigan stories - good, bad or otherwise - has Sharp written about Michigan since they won their last two games?

Not one. Because, God forbid, he might have actually write something positive. Thus, he has conveniently turned his college football attention to the Spartans (which will probably last until Michigan stumbles again).

But even with his focus up the road in East Lansing, Sharp can't resist his "I'm not touching you" brand of "annoyance journalism." For while he reserves an especially antagonistic relationship with Michigan fans, it's not limited to the maize and blue faithful.

Spartan Bob of cfb site Smash Mouth Football has a story up about Sharp's postgame article in the Free Press on the Michigan State-Notre Dame game in which, with a "South Bend" dateline, Sharp describes a fumbled snap by the MSU QB - which was picked up and thrown for a TD pass - this way:

"Quarterback Brian Hoyer fumbled the snap on a fourth down and short opportunity. It is moments like those in which the demons that have long haunted this program return, manifesting themselves in the most emotionally tortuous way imaginable."

Just one problem: Spartan coach Mark Dantanio revealed in the postgame press conference that the "fumble" was a designed play.

Oops. That's gotta suck when facts get in the way of a slam.

Now, maybe Sharp missed that part of press conference. Or maybe he submitted the piece before attending it, the Spartans preordained to get poked no matter what (he had to have gone to the press conference if he was in South Bend as a "journalist" at the game, didn't he?). Whatever the case, Sharp and the Free Press "updated" the original column and changed it to line up with what happened on the field. But thanks to "Google Ghosts" and the good folks at Smash Mouth Football, this factual faux pas is there for all to see.

And did Sharp mention his mistake in the new story? Ha! What do you think.

P.S. Didn't Mitch Albom catch hell for a factual error in a "feature" column he wrote about the MSU basketball team a few years back? Wonder if Sharp will face any consequences over this.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Monday

Light blogging today. Life and shit.

Mike Gundy Meltdown

Saw on EDSBS (via BON) a story on Okie State head coach Mike Gundy's "press conference" following his team's victory over Texas Tech Saturday. Apparently, the coach was less than pleased with a column in the Daily Oklahoman in which Jenni Carlson wrote some things about the OSU QB that Gundy didn't agree with. I mean really didn't agree with. And he let her know just how much at the press conference. Behold...

Are you not amused?

Brian at MGoBlog found this clip of Lloyd Carr's press conference after the ND game when he had his new BFF Russell Crowe join him at the podium. Pretty cool.

Saturday Recap & Random Thoughts

Let's start with the Maize and Blue, shall we?

After where we were two weeks ago, I'm going to attempt to keep that new found hope and excitement for the season from bursting out of my chest like the creature in ALIEN.

With that said, in no particular order:

* Some pointed out in the comments section of the postgame open thread how Michigan kept running (seemingly) only to the left, especially in the second half. This wasn't lousy play calling (contrary to the shouts in the stadium and living rooms across America), this was out of necessity. Right guard Alex Mitchell left with a knee injury in the second quarter and his replacement, Jeremy Ciulla, was also injured on the same series leaving third stringer Tim McAvoy to start the second half. Even worse, Mitchell and Ciulla were in street clothes at that point.

This is a major loss. Hopefully the injuries aren't serious. Even still...

* We have to disguise things more. There was one play in particular, I believe in the fourth quarter, when the fullback started doing that "shuffle" to the right before the ball was snapped and the entire Penn State defensive line shifted that way because they knew that's exactly where we were going to run the play. Consequently, we were stopped for little or no gain.

Brian on MGoBlog rails on this all the time and it's gotten almost silly now, it's so obvious.

* What on earth can be said about Mike Hart that wasn't said on every newscast and highlight show after the game? The kid is simply amazing. Everybody in the stadium - including the entire Penn State team - knew he was going to get the ball all damn day and - even worse - which side of the line it was going to go to after the injuries mentioned above. And yet he still found a way to carry this team as he always seems to day. Wow.

Watching SportsCenter, Lee Corso had him atop his early Heisman list. While September is never the time to be talking such things, if you're drawing up lists like that, even for just for debate purposes, he has to be top three on everybody's list. Has to.

* Is it just me, or is College Football Final the greatest show on earth after a big win such as this? I swear, I can't get enough highlights, recaps and analysis tonight. Maybe I'm simply making up for the first two weekends when I turned the TV off in disgust after the Michigan games and didn't watch a damn thing after the rest of the night.

* Mallet did exactly what he was supposed to do - not lose the game. Yes, he made some mistakes but, my goodness, that's to be expected at this stage in his career. Best of all about this kid, rather than wilt under pressure, he seems to relish the challenge. That's huge.

* Props to Ron English and the defense. Like the rest of the team, he and they could have quit after being ass-raped the first two games. But they have come back and looked stellar. Yes, I know one of those games was against Notre Dame (man, it's almost weird to type that) and a vanilla Penn State offense (it's standard to type that) but they hung tough when they were needed and made the big stops. On the flip side...

* After seeing what teams - and more importantly, what schemes - have beaten Michigan the last couple of years, how on earth does a team come out and just run such a basic offense against us. Hey, as a Michigan fan with a "W" in the win column today, I'm thrilled but it's a head scratcher. Obviously a team can't junk their entire offense in a week and install the spread, or suddenly make a slow-footed pocket passer Vince Young, but Penn State showed no imagination. It's like they had no idea what sort of plays/gameplans we have trouble with.

And if the QB can't do that (as PSU's couldn't) then directly snap the ball to Derrick Williams or one of your other fleet-footed stars the way Arkansas does with McFadden. Michigan can match up and play with any team in the country that plays "old school" or smashmouth football. So to line up do that hoping to simply do it better, to me, is silly when the blueprint for success has been out there some time now.

As Detroit News sports writer Bob Wojnowski said better than I ever could in his excellent column today, "The Nittany Lions might be the last Big Ten team that still tries to beat the Wolverines at their own game, nothing fancy."

Again, I'm not bitching. I wish all teams would do that.

* The crowd. I thought the crowd was good...for a Michigan crowd. On Penn State's first drive, they were so loud, the announcers commented on the noise. However, on the next drive, it wasn't even close to where it was that first possession. The nearest it came to that opening level again was in the 4th quarter when Penn State was attempting to rally. But not every down. Only on the third downs and not with any real consistency.

And therein lies the difference between a "loud" Michigan crowd and the 'Shoe, Penn State, Oregon, etc.: Sustained noise. If you've never been to one of those places to watch Michigan play, it's not just loud for the first series and then for obvious "key" third downs in the third and fourth quarter of a close game, it's deafening on a 2nd down at the end of the 1st and a 1st down early in the 3rd. In other words, it's loud when the other team has the ball, period.

Furthermore, did you see all the crowd shots of during important moments in the game? Yes, some folks were screaming their heads off. But you could literally count just as many in each of those shots not even clapping. Just watching like they were at the theater. Pretty bizarre.

After the game, I was talking to a good friend leaving the stadium who commented on how good the crowd was. When I said that I indeed thought it was pretty good for "for a Michigan crowd," he not only disagreed but seemed to take it as a personal insult. Like he was the designated crowd noisemaker guy and I was blaming him. But like most who, for some reason, bristle at this lack of noise observation, my friend has never been to a road game to see Michigan play in one of the tough venues against a good team. So don't shoot the messenger. Because if you've never been, that's a different kind of loud.

* Anybody else catch Russell Crowe on the GameDay pre-game show in the morning in which he said something like he'd "fight to the death" for Lloyd Carr if he was his coach? Pretty damn cool.

Ed. Note: Anybody have the clip and know how to get it up on YouTube?

* Oh, I'm sure the haters who were hoping he'd get fired after Appy State or Oregon won't say it but Carr deserves props for keeping this team together and not quitting. It seemed the entire college football world - not just U-M fans - were breathing down his neck yet somehow (I'm not sure how) the man didn't panic. Unfortunately, that calmness is one of the things those that have never liked Carr use to blast him with, calling it a lack of fire or "grumpiness." But such a steady hand has been crucial to getting Michigan back to the place where every Michigan fan wakes up today thinking, "Holy shit, we have a shot at the Big 10 title." And who would have thought that two weeks ago?

* Along those same lines, look around the country at some other teams that were highly ranked then suffer heartbreaking and/or bad defeats early in year. Watch how many fight back and knock off Top 10 teams as opposed to those that go in the tank. Say what you will about Carr, English and the 2007 Wolverines, but they never, ever gave up when the entire cfb world really expected them to.

* Interesting to note that Adrian Arrington has really become the go-to receiver this year as opposed to Mario Manningham. That's not a knock on Mario, just an observation. And when either a) Henne comes back and/or b) the coaches feel confident enough with Mallet, if we start airing it out to go with Hart's skills, this offense could still be the one everybody thought it would be when the season started.

Also, Greg Matthews continues to impress.

* The kicking problems could still cost us one more game (assuming the rest of the team continues to improve and isn't the problem). I have no confidence from any place on the field with this unit. None. Zip. Zero. 24 yards or 44 yards, it's all the same to me.

* Anybody else think Hart didn't get in on his TD and was surprised there wasn't a review/challenge? I personally didn't think he made it. In fact, you saw him motion for the kicking team to "hurry up" as he ran off the field because, I think, he was also unsure.

* As noted by many, those Penn State/Joe Pa masks worn by some Nittany Lion fans are creepy as all hell. They could be the new killer mask in the next HALLOWEEN sequel.

* Didn't realize Mallet was 16 of 29.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Michigan - 14, (We OWN) Penn State - 9

Oh...my...goodness! Folks, folks...I can barely type as I put up this post. Oh...my.

I'll have up a longer postgame post either late tonight or early tomorrow. Until then, let's hear what everyone's thinking. And most of all...

GO BLUE!

UPDATE: Thank God we don't have to play Wofford: Wofford - 42, Appalachian State -31.

Then again, it could be worse: We could be the team that lost to the team that lost to the team that lost to Wofford.

Michigan-Penn State Open Thread

In keeping with the reverse blog psychology that worked so well last weekend, I predict that not only will Michigan get smoked but it's going to be so lopsided the refs are going to take away :02 seconds in an effort to both shorten the game and also keep Joe Pa from having a heart attack every time he sees the number he now refers to as "that which falls between 1 and 3."

Prediction (since Benny always makes them in KYF and I get left out):

Michigan - 14, Pennsylvania State University - 24

Ed. Note: Of course, what also worked well last week was playing Notre Dame.

MZone to Boycott NCAA PC Police

Ok, something has been bugging me since long before Michigan lost to a... Football Sub Championship Lesser Division Smaller Stadium Whatever-The-Hell-They're-Now-Called School and I need to get it off my chest.

In case you missed it, starting last season, the NCAA began phasing out the classification names "1-A" - where Michigan, Florida, USC and the like reside - and "1-AA" - which includes teams like Appalachian State, Furman, Montana and their ilk who have that 16-team playoff at the end of their season which nobody watches. Now, the Division Formerly Known As 1-A is supposed to be called the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) while 1-AA is to be referred to the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).

FCS, FBS? Sounds like a bunch of BS and all I have to say is WTF?

Can somebody please explain what was so terribly wrong with the simple and longstanding 1-A and 1-AA classifications? Is it an attempt to be "PC" when referring to schools with, shall we say, "smaller stadiums" if you know what I mean? Like "those schools" such as Youngstown State and "their kind" were offended by the second "A" so the NCAA threw the word "Championship" in the division classification name to appease these schools I used to make fun of until Michigan lost to one...smaller schools that gladly accept Miami recruits after their third felony arrests...fine institutions of higher learning who at least know how to crown their national champion.

Seriously, this renaming idea is so unnecessary and unsupported by the fans, I almost thought Jim Delaney must have come up with it. And we here at the MZone aren't going to stand for it.

As such, we're calling for a boycott of the new FCS and FBS names. We are only going to refer to team divisions by their OG classifications of 1-AA and 1-A on this site and we urge other bloggers across America to do the same.

Fight the Power! Stop the NCAA PC police!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Know Your Foe - Penn State 2007

It’s the start of the Big Ten season, and Michigan fans are thankful for that. As a matter of fact, let’s call it the start of the real season since the pre-season didn’t go so well. And what a conference opener, as Penn State comes to Ann Arbor. Michigan’s beaten the Nittany Lions eight straight times, including a dominant defensive performance under the lights in Happy Valley last season. Michigan leads the all-time series 9-3, and PSU hasn’t won at Michigan Stadium since 1996. With those basics out of the way, here we go with the latest edition of the MZone's KNOW YOUR FOE.

History – Penn State was founded as the Farmers' High School of Pennsylvania in 1855 (you read that right, Farmer’s HIGH SCHOOL). With the passage of the Morrill-Land Grant Act in 1862, the school's name became only slightly worse - The Agricultural College of Pennsylvania. In the following years, enrollment sunk as the university tried to balance providing agricultural studies with a more classic education. Sound familiar? This is the same route that Sparty followed. No wonder they battle for the Land Grant Trophy in the last game of the season. The university’s motto of “Making Life Better” sounds more appropriate for an allergy medicine.

Location – State College, Pennsylvania, though the mailing address of the university is University Park, Pennsylvania. To add to the confusion, the area in which PSU is located is commonly referred to as Happy Valley. In 1953, when Penn State went from being a college to a university, college university president Milton S. Eisenhower wanted the town to change its name. No majority was reached in a naming referendum, so the name remained State College. However, PSU president Eisenhower asked his older brother, U. S. president Eisenhower to grant the university its own ZIP code and named it University Park. Happy Valley refers to the campus and surrounding area. Whatever you want to call it, the campus, though a bitch to get to, is a classic college town with a thriving music scene and plenty of places to eat or drink.

Surprisingly, over 60% of Penn State students begin their studies at one of the 19 commonwealth campuses throughout the state. It’s kind of a like a farm system for the big university in State College. I’m surprised JoePa hasn’t called up a player or two in the past few seasons.

Nickname – Nittany Lions, named for the mountain lion that used to roam the area near the university until they were eliminated in the 1880s. The mascot was created by a Penn State senior, H. D. “Joe” Mason, after he went to Princeton and was upset that they had a ferocious Tiger as a mascot and PSU had nothing. Good thing he didn’t steal Princeton’s helmet design. The Nittany part of the nickname comes from Mount Nittany near campus.

In 1940, the university built the Lion Shrine, which is probably the most popular place on campus for visitors, a huge photograph subject on graduation day, and is always a subject of the TV networks’ shots of campus during a game. The statue of a lion was carved by Heinz Warnecke from a 13-ton block of limestone. Again, much like Sparty, the Penn State ROTC guards the shrine during homecoming weekend.

In contrast to the dignified, elegant Lion statue at the Lion Shrine, Penn State also has a costume mascot that roams the sideline during football games. I think I could find a better costume at a Halloween shop. What did they spend on that thing, $10 bucks? It was accurately rated as “Sucks” by the Golden Tornado’s analysis of college mascots.

Colors/Logo/Fight Song – Blue and White. Yawn. Very common. Very plain. But that’s what Penn State football is about. Plainness. No logo on the helmet. Those horribly ugly white road uniforms with no trim anywhere. They are unique. But still bland. Still ugly. There was probably an uproar when they changed to a blue facemask in 1987. What most people don’t realize is that Penn State used to have a helmet adornment. From 1968 to 1974, a player’s number appeared on both sides of the helmet, similar to Alabama. After seven years though, this must have proved too radical for a still-youngish but still-ornery Joe Paterno, and PSU went back to the plain white with blue stripe.

The Penn State logo, which is a modernistic take on the statue in the Lion Shrine, returned in 2005 after a more modern (and generic) logo replaced it for four years. The current logo is unique and clearly signifies “Penn State” to any college football fan. The logo from the early part of this century was obviously the result of multiple marketing committees and planning teams. The university was wise to revert back to the classic logo.

As always, all images of the helmets are from the incredible Helmet Project site, and the logos are from the equally wonderful SportsLogos.net.

The Penn State Fight Song is non-descript and doesn’t rank anywhere near most of its Big Ten counterparts. Very few college football fans, other than those who cheer for the Nittany Lions, would be able to recognize it, much less hum a few bars. Sadly, the annoying electronic lion roar that’s repeatedly piped through the PA system at the stadium is more well known than the fight song (which Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said he actually liked last year on Michigan Replay).

Academics – You know you pale in comparison to your neighbor when Wikipedia begins its entry on your university with the following: "This article is about the state-related university. For the Ivy League university in Philadelphia, see University of Pennsylvania." Make no mistake, other than on a faulty Internet search, Penn State would never be confused with a prestigious university such as UPenn. Or many other highly-rated schools for that matter. PSU ranks 48th in the latest U.S. News rankings of the nation's universities, dropping one spot since last year.

Athletics – The Nittany Lions became members of the Big Ten in 1991. After enjoying tremendous success beating teams like Temple and Rutgers while an independent, Penn State has found the football road a little tougher, only winning two Big Ten titles since joining the conference. Their basketball team has been mostly a non-entity on campus, as has most of their men's sports teams. PSU hadn't won a conference title in any men's sport for three years until the football and futbol teams broke through last year. Along with their two national championships in football (1982 and 1986), the Nittany Lions have won NCAA titles in such sports as boxing, men's soccer, and women's bowling. And they're a veritable dynasty in fencing, having won ten national titles since 1990, including in 2007.

Famous alums – For a school with the largest dues-paying alumni association in the world, Penn State sure doesn't have many well-known members. Take a look at this list. Come on, the most well known person on the "Art/Media" list might be the former carpenter on Trading Spaces. No, not Ty Pennington. They're so desperate to get people on the list, they actually list a Survivor contestant...who finished third. OK, they can claim one of the founders of Fisher-Price (Fisher, not Price), but that's about it for business. As far as athletes listed, they're almost all football players. That isn't surprising, but it's certainly different from any other school Michigan's played. But I will give them credit for spanning the political spectrum when producing polarizing politicians and their relatives: Hillary Rodham Clinton's father and brother, Valerie Plame, and Rick Santorum are all PSU alumni.

The Game – Making a prediction on this game is a crapshoot. How good is Penn State? Who knows. They’ve probably had the easiest schedule of any team in the country. But they’ve TCB. Michigan’s played at least two teams tougher than anyone PSU has faced, but they’ve looked horrible in those games. And all that last week against Notre Dame showed is that the Wolverines aren’t pitiful. Michigan has the streak going, but most of those years Michigan was the much stronger team. This year that’s not the case. PENN STATE 17, MICHIGAN 13.

Who knew?


Forget that His Holiness cheers for the maize and blue, frankly, I'm more surprised to discover he has a foam "shocker."

(HT: DL)

Two-Minute Drill

* Tommy Bowden calls Carr to apologize.

(HT: SiC)

* U-M campus icon Shakey Jake passes.

* Irish to release Jones from scholarship after looking a-holes after initially saying they wouldn't.

(HT: D)

* So what's with Michigan's defense? Fellow U-M blogger Shooting Blue says look no further than 2005 recruiting class.

* While not a big fan of speech codes in general, here's a short piece on Ohio State's. My favorite part is this section: “Words, actions, and behaviors that inflict or threaten infliction of bodily or emotional harm, whether done intentionally or with reckless disregard, are not permitted."

Gee, how on earth is the entire student body not expelled every time Michigan plays in Columbus?

(HT: SK)

* Charlie Weis: The Anti-Bill Callahan. In a Chicago Sun-Times article, ND's Weis said that he opted not to try to score the team's first TD late in the Michigan game when they were driving, explaining his decision as such:

''I could've thrown the ball to the end zone, but I think that's disrespectful to Michigan,'' he said. ''It's better to take your beating than try to get a garbage touchdown."

Uh, dude, you have ZERO touchdowns on the year. I think you should be trying circus tricks to try to get in the endzone and give your team even the smallest amount of confidence and a positive to take away. The games are 60 minutes long. There is no mercy rule.

(HT: AS)

* Finally, since one of our readers suggested we provide more info on Bo's just-published book, voila...

Shameless Self-Promotion

If you haven't checked it out lately, we urge our readers to stop by the CafePress MZone store for all your college football shopping needs.

Not only do you get to a make a stunning fashion statement but each dollar we make goes right to Benny in a (probably futile) attempt to raise enough money to move out of his mom's basement...and into that sweet ass one-bedroom over in Ypsi he's had his eye on the last six years.

Yes, we dream big here at the MZone. So check out our complete selection of Buckstache gear, "Oh, the humanity!" stuff and our Fall 2007 collection of anti-key play/"Loud Out" tees (which look very similar to the Fall 2006 line) among other wonderful, high-quality items.

And for any Domers stopping by the MZone, this may be your last chance to pick up one of these collector's items...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Leave Coach Fran Alone!

If, in additional to your love of college football, you're a pop culture junkie who a) knows about Britney Spears' disastrous performance at the VMAs resulting in near-universal criticism/mockery and b) are familiar with Chris Crocker's YouTube response to said criticism, the clip below is actually pretty funny.

If, however, you are not familiar with both A and B, skip this and go to the next post.



(HT: wealeat09)

Props to Ron Simpkins

Been meaning to get this up but hadn't had a chance (and also wanted to make sure I had some good pictures to go in the post).

Last week, in our first ever legit MZone scoop (suck it, Detroit News), we broke the story (yeah, sounds weird just saying it) about the show of support by former players outside the Michigan Stadium tunnel before the ND game. Well, former U-M All-American linebacker Ron Simpkins was the Michigan Man who spearheaded the initiative and we just wanted to give him a shout out for a job well done.

I think what he did, and the enthusiastic response from former players, says a lot about the bond between players today and those who donned the winged helmet in years past. They didn't turn their backs on the 2007 Wolverines after their early struggles, but did whatever they could to help prove that Bo's well-known mantra "The Team! The Team! The Team!" lasts longer than just those four years a player is on campus.


Further props to all the maize and blue faithful who also were on hand to show their support as well. Every little bit helped. Because as bad as the Irish are (suckola), something like this never ceases to bring a smile...


Go Blue!

(HT: RC and EM for the team bus pics and JB for the scoreboard)