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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Delany gets it right: B1G/Pac-12 announce scheduling agreement

One year ago, Jim Delany almost allowed the biggest blunder in Big 10 history when word leaked that the Michigan-Ohio State game was going to be moved from its traditional spot at the end of the regular season.  Hell, it was so bad, I immediately returned from blogging retirement to man the keyboard in protest of this boneheaded decision.  Thankfully, The Game stayed put (unfortunately for my productivity, I somehow kept blogging).

That hair and those eyebrows just
scream evil genius
Yesterday, Delany teamed up with his counterpart in the Pac-12, Commissioner Larry Scott, to announce "a collaborative effort to enhance long-term scheduling commitments between the two conferences across all sports amongst the 24 institutions."  And more football specific, starting in 2017, "the objective is to create an annual 12 inter-conference game schedule between the two conferences."

And just like that, the SEC's addition of Mizzou and Texas A&M seems so...quaint.  The Big East's addition of Boise State and...who again?... seems so 2011.  As Scott points out, the B1G and Pac-12 gain a lot of the upside of expansion (broader reach, new markets and recruiting areas( without actually expanding.  And with the conferences' TV deals with ESPN expiring in 2016, the BTN and the Pac-12 new network stand to make a financial killing.

The new scheduling means the B1G nine-game conference schedule that was being discussed is kaput.  And it also means replacing one non-conference with the new Pac-12 game (whether that "replaced" game is the annual crap-fest against some MAC or 1-AA school or ND remains to be seen.  I for one wouldn't mind showing ND the door, or at least not having that game every year). 

According to the Freep story on the announcement, "together, the Big Ten and Pac-12 encompass 15 states holding 43% of the nation's population and 22 of its top 50 television markets."  Not a bad national footprint and recruiting pitch.  Plus, it doesn't take much foresight to see this positions the B1G (and the Pac-12) as the leaders for any future shifts in the college football landscape.

So while last year during the M/OSU bruhaha, I hated Delany with the intensity of a thousand suns, today I must tip my maize and blue cap to him for getting so far out in front of the curve, the other conferences must now rethink their plans as the contemplate catching up.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Great Offensive Myth of 2011

In a column called Grading the First-Year College Football Coaches, Yahoo sports editor  Mike Huguenin graded all 22 new head coaches (not including interim coaches) on their initial campaigns.  After guiding the Wolverines out of The Dark Period to a 10-2 record and BCS bowl berth, Michigan's Brady Hoke received an "A" with Huguenin stating:

Hoke left San Diego State and arrived at a Michigan program that had a full cupboard on offense. But the defense had been atrocious, and Hoke made a masterful hire at defensive coordinator when he snagged Greg Mattison away from the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. The Wolverines’ offense isn’t as good as it was last season, but the defense made huge strides – and that improvement is why the Wolverines are in their first BCS bowl since the 2006 season. Hoke is a good fit at Michigan, and assuming his recruits pan out, the Wolverines will be back among the Big Ten’s elite for the foreseeable future.

There.  Did you you catch it?  The Great Offensive Myth of 2011:

The Wolverines’ offense isn’t as good as it was last season

Really?  By what measure?  Because I've seen this assertion made a couple other times in various places, but is it true?  Is Michigan's 2011 offense "not as good" as the 2010 variety?  Or is former coach Rich Rodriguez's reputation as an offensive guru and his introduction of the spread in A2 overshadowing the facts on the field from last year to this one?

So let's take a look.

According to cfbstats.com (which is a great site if you've never checked it out), Michigan's scoring offense (including its bowl game) for the 2010 season ranked 25th in the country, averaging 32.8 points per game.

So how does the 2011 squad stack up in that category?  With its bowl game to go, Michigan ranks 22nd in scoring, averaging 34.2 points per game.

Now, I'm no math wiz, but I do believe that 22nd is better than 25th, and 34 is more than 32.  Then again, I was just a liberal arts major at Michigan and didn't study the hard sciences.

Let's check out some other stats, shall we?  Last year, Michigan's rushing offense averaged 238.54 ypg.  This year, they have fallen waaaay off -- just 235.67 ypg.  Almost 3 yards a game LESS than last year.  Fucking Borges.

The big "advantage" for 2010?  Passing yardage.  Last year, U-M averaged 250.2 ypg through the air.  In 2011, that number dipped to 187.4 ypg.  Of course, it's hard to say how much Michigan being completely out of games such as MSU, Wisco, OSU and Mississippi State in the 4th quarter last year inflated that stat.  No need to play tight when you're smoking the other team.

And yes, Denard also rushed for 1,702 yards last year vs. "only" 1,163 this season.  But Michigan also established a second running threat in 2011 with Fitz Toussaint (1,011 yards) to lesson the load on Denard and make opposing defenses worry about another set of legs besides just those of the U-M QB.

More?

2010:  Offense averaged 6.8 yards per play
2011:  Offense averaged 6.41 yards per play

2010: Team passer rating of 145.99
2011: Team passer rating of 141.19

2010: 3rd down conversions -- 44.77%
2011: 3rd down conversions -- 48.39%

I'll stop because I think you get the point -- which is that Michigan's offense didn't really take any measurable step back in 2011.  In fact, with Denard taking less of a beating and the emergence of another running option in Fitz Toussaint creating a more balanced attack, I'd say they took a step forward. 

Put it this way, if you were an opposing coach, which Michigan offense would you least like to face?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thank you!

Yeah, I know: the NCAA velvet hammer came down on OSU this week.  Had planned to put up a post at how laughable the punishment was but then, well, screw it.  It's the holiday season and I still have shopping to do.  So I'll just go with this cartoon from Gary Finkler, a graphic designer and sports fan, who combined those passions and started a sports art blog called 7th Inning Sketch.


I do however want to take a moment before checking out completely for the next couple of days to thank those who helped the MZone continue to chug along this year.   There is no way I could -- or would want to -- keep the site going without all the folks who pitched in.

First of all, I must give a big shout out to Rigby who took over the all-important Photoshop post here on the MZone.  Not only are his 'shops top notch, but he was always willing to help, even if I shot him an email about some wacky concept at some ungodly hour.  You have no idea how many hours he put in.  Thanks, Rigby.

Thanks to Michigan Sports Girl who not only submitted a number of guest posts, but was constantly promoting the MZone on her popular Twitter feed @SupportBradyHoke.  She really helped push our following up over the 1,000 mark recently.  Thanks to Andy who, even though he had to step away from regular blogging, still sent us a number of great wallpapers.  Thanks to Ron for his help with fan fave Know Your Foe.  Thanks to Steve for his guest posts.  Thanks to reader Mikoyan for use of his pics when needed.  Thanks to Surrounded in Columbus for material, pics and tips from deep behind enemy lines.  Thanks to all the others who submitted links, pictures, tips and story ideas.   Much appreciated!

A special thanks to my former blogging cohort and college pal, Benny, who returned (after much "No way in hell" talk) to his Know Your Foe creation for Michigan's inaugural B1G battle with Nebraska (he's also working on the Sugar Bowl edition!).  And a bigger thanks to Benny for all the lost work hours for patiently listening to my "Is this funny?" calls throughout the season as I pitched him the latest idea for the MZone.

Most of all, thanks to you, the loyal MZone reader.  Your daily readership, comments, suggestions, kind emails and sense of community make it worthwhile and are why I keep doing it. 

Have a great holiday!

Go Blue!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ohio: Where honoring the disgraced is just how they roll

Not much to blog about with the Sugar Bowl still a couple weeks out and the holidays on the horizon...until I got the email below from MZone reader Megan:

Fallen Heroes


As a Michigan alum living in Columbus, the picture below is one of the many reasons why I love this city.


Enjoy!   It was like an early Christmas gift.


This is so...Ohio.  Didn't realize Fathead had a Disgraced Coaches section.  Who knew?

Why do I get the feeling that if Bernie Madoff had won a National Title or two for Tosu and had a winning record against Michigan, Buckeye fans would hang a wall-sized poster of him in their double-wides?

Damn straight it's a trailer park joke!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

MZone Holiday Mode

Light blogging probably from now until the Sugar Bowl draws near as real life takes over during the holidays.  Of course, the last time we said "light blogging" here at the MZone, Ohio State imploded in a sea of scandal and we never had a break.  Therefore, if Tosu decides to do it again (which would be the best Christmas present of all), you can rest assured that the MZone will fire up Ye Olde Photoshop Machine.

However, even during the craziness of the next couple weeks, we'll keep throwing 140-character nuggets your way on a regular basis via Twitter.  So be sure to follow us @MZoneBlog. And any new material will be below this post.

Go Blue!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Have a Hoke and a Smile

At the Michigan Football Bust this week, emcee Desmond Howard compared Michigan to a soft drink brand and the Rich Rodriguez years to one of the flavors:

"It’s a brand.  It’s like Coke. So, some people in the board room at Coke made some crazy decisions in the past to make Cherry Coke. But then the consumers didn’t like it too much. So, they had to go back and bring in some brilliant mind to get this thing back on track."

Now, I think Howard meant New Coke, not Cherry Coke.  And I take great umbrage if he didn't, comparing the failed Rich Rod flavor to the highly underrated Cherry Coke (which, if 11 Cherry Coke cans lined up on defense last year, could not possibly have done worse statistically than what Gerg employed). 

But that's all behind us now.  I'm just happy with have the real thing as Michigan's head coach since -- wait for it -- things go better with Hoke.


ED. NOTE: Yes, this entire post was simply an excuse to Photoshop a Diet Coke can as a Brady Hoke can. But can you blame us?  After reading Desmond's quote, it was just the sort of low hanging fruit we can't resist here at the the MZone.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Brandon hired as Christmas consultant, unveils new look for Santa

(from MZone wire reports) North Pole -- Kris Kringle named Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon as a special consultant for the upcoming Christmas holiday and changes are already in the works.  At the press conference announcing his hiring, Brandon unveiled several new looks for Santa's iconic attire and said Jolly Old St. Nicholas will be wearing each of them as he heads across the globe on Christmas Eve.

Needless to say, not everyone was pleased.

Following a brief "elf fight" upon seeing leaked photos of the new suits on the popular holiday blog Every Day Should Be Christmas, Brandon calmed the crowd by assuring the concerned elves and several of the reindeer that these were not permanent changes nor were they the only suits Santa would wear during his yearly sleigh ride.  Most of the time, Brandon said, Santa would still be wearing his traditional all-red-with-white-fringe suit.  He insisted the new "legacy costumes" would only be used for a limited time during a small portion of the trip.

"The new candy-cane-adorned suit is only going to be worn over parts of Canada, the violet snow-flaked-encrusted costume is for the Netherlands, and the tie dye look is specifically for UC Berkeley," said Brandon as Mrs. Claus and Rudolph stood nearby, modeling two of the new suits.

Brandon claimed he understood the anger expressed by those who didn't want any changes to Santa's familiar and time-honored look.  However, he pointed out that an update to the Old Man's attire was needed if Christmas wanted to continue to appeal to a younger audience.  "Look at Halloween," said Brandon.  "It's a marketing bonanza because there are so many different costumes to choose from.  Kids love it.  So while we're sensitive to tradition here at Christmas, we're also mindful of the need to keep pace with the other holidays during the year."

The new suits will be available starting Friday on The SantaDen for $60 each.




Monday, December 12, 2011

Miscellaneous Monday

There's Now a Dead Guy in The Big House

Saw this on YouTube: some dude sprinkled his stepfather's ashes on the field at Michigan Stadium after the Wolverines beat Ohio last month...



Sure, on one hand I get it.  On the other, uh, well, there's some dead guy now on the 50 at The Big House.

The Perfect Addition to Any Office

Got the following email last week:

Felt the need to share the newest addition to my office.  I might take him home and make him the center piece for the Sugar bowl party!

I live in Nebraska so I’m thinking of putting a pile of half eaten corn under him!

Go Blue!

Nick


That's probably the only Wolverine anybody from Nebraska laid a hand on this year.

M Go Camaro!

While Nick's office addition is a fine way to show your Michigan pride, the picture below is not.

I was searching on Google for a picture for a post using the words "Christmas" and "University of Michigan" and, sadly, this popped up:


Man, we sure wish he'd have just gone with the 1/2 shirt at Wal-Mart instead.

Friday, December 09, 2011

We're not together anymore, Rich. This is getting awkward

Yesterday, Rich Rodriguez did a radio interview on The Huge Show on WBBL out of Grand Rapids.  I know: why is the new head coach of Arizona doing radio interviews in Grand Rapids, Michigan, rather than scouring God's earth for a decent defensive coordinator to join him in Tucson?  Good question.  But I digress.  Anyway, during the interview (which you can listen to here on MVictors), Rodriguez was asked the following about Michigan:

"Do you think if you were still the coach this team would have been 10-2 this year?"

"Yep.  At least."  (laughs) "But that's again being confident and a lot of things going the right way, and certainly we had to make a few changes, needed alterations and had to play better defensively." [emphasis added]

Look, I don't want to beat a dead horse here but if you're gonna say that, then pardon me while I get my whip. Okay, got it.  Thus...

You're out of your fucking mind.  I'm just happy Michigan didn't have to go through a 4th year of The Dark Period to prove it.  I'm glad we didn't have to watch another squad not only not improve during the course of a season, but get worse as the weeks wore on.  I'm thankful to not have seen a great offense get stuck in the mud each time it played a team with a pulse.

I'm glad that's all behind us.

Rodriguez's answer perfectly illustrates exactly why -- outside the obvious W's and L's -- that I was relieved after Michigan pulled the plug when it did.  When it came to the losing, that wasn't his fault due to -- get ready for the list -- injuries, "bare cupboards," everyone not "pulling in the same direction, whether it's coaches and players and administrators," etc. etc. etc. INSERT ANOTHER EXCUSE HERE.

And now that Michigan is coming off the first 10-win season by a rookie coach in A2 since Fielding H. Yost in 1901, one that not even the most optimistic fan could've hoped for?  Naturally, Rodriguez could have done just as well.  At least.

No, that's not confidence, that's hubris.  That's a man who hasn't learned from his mistakes like he claimed he has.  That's a coach I'm glad is no longer leading our team.

So what should Rich Rod have said to the interviewer's question?

How about something along the lines of, "I don't want to get into that.  It serves no purpose.  I'm the head football coach at Arizona now, not Michigan anymore.  But since I coached most of those guys, I'm happy for them, proud of them and wish them the best.  They and the current staff did a tremendous job this season."  

It's called the high road.  With no subtext to deflect blame.  No wink-wink to make sure folks "know" what "really" happened.

Instead, once again, Rodriguez sounds like an old lover who says he's moved on but then takes every opportunity to talk about why the relationship didn't work out and, more importantly, doing so via thinly veiled barbs explaining why the break-up wasn't his fault.

Contrast that with Brady Hoke's words.

When he was first hired, Hoke was asked about his expectations for the upcoming season.  Now, it would have been very easy and understandable for him to say something about lowering expectations due to a new coach with new assistants coming in with new schemes, new plays and new ideas.  He could have pointed out he was taking over the worst defense in the history of Michigan football.  He could have asked for time saying Vince Lombardi couldn't make that much of an impact in one year.  He could have said a lot of things like that.

But he didn't.

Instead, if you recall, Hoke said that the expectation is for Michigan to win the Big Ten championship.  He said that's always the expectation at Michigan.  And he stated that if they didn't do that, then he and his assistants will have failed the players.

When Michigan lost the MSU game played in the tornado scene from The Wizard of Oz, he could have shouted from the rooftops about how Michigan was robbed due to MSU's thuggish play.  But he made no excuses.

And at the end of his inaugural 10-2 season which led to a BCS bowl berth, was Hoke basking in his success or pointing out how well he did?  Quite the contrary.  Hoke said his team didn't win the B1G and thus they still had a lot of work to do.

Rodriguez also mentioned in this interview (and others) that Michigan's players this season were "his guys."  Really?  Weren't contributors this season such as Hemingway, Herron, Huyge, Molk and Wolfolk all 5th year seniors who were recruited by and thus played a season for Carr?  And, correct me if I'm wrong, weren't players like Demens, Floyd, Koger, Martin and Moore 4th year seniors who were initially recruited by Carr but still signed with Michigan when Rodriguez took over?

Point is, it's not "Rodriguez's team" any more than it's "Carr's team."  It's Brady Hoke's team.  It's Brady's team and he deserves the credit.

So good luck in Arizona, Rich.  Really.  Everybody says you're a nice guy.  And the past has proven you're a good football coach.  It just didn't work out in A2.  Shit happens.

But if you have moved on as you claim, then please stop talking about it.  And no, nobody wants to hear, "Well they asked me about it!  I didn't bring it up."  Fair enough.  So in an effort to solve that problem, here's a crazy idea: stop doing interviews with Michigan-based media outlets for awhile.  Because, going back to the old relationship example, you're gonna end looking like the dude who keeps hanging out with the mutual friend who lives down the hall on your ex's floor in her dorm. And that doesn't look good.

I'm just sayin'.

According to Rich Rod's telling of the story, the bare cupboards
were the fault of the previous homeowner.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

From Our Readers...

Mark "Green Skull" Dantonio?

Got the following email from KP:

So I was watching Captain America the other night and I couldn't help but notice that Huge Weaving (I think that's his name) who plays the Red Skull looks deceptively similar to one coach in Green and White.

You make the call.

Let's take a looks, shall we?  Here's Hugo...


And here's Complaino...


Busting a Nut

The following was sent to us by Steve who runs Michigan Meets SC (as in the state)...

Back in 2006, the last time Michigan and Ohio State played for anything meaningful, a friend of mine and work colleague came back from a visit to Cincinnati Ohio, her home town, and brought me a buckeye.  Attached to it was a little flag.  One side said “Do Not Open” and the other side said “Until Michigan Beats Ohio”.  Notice even back then “State” was gone.  Huh, go figure.  It sat on my desk and over the years the nut dried out, the hull began to crack and peel away.  I could see the nut but not touch it.  I had really taken it for granted, like it would always be there.  Intact.



Anyway never giving up hope I applied tape and such to keep in intact for one day I knew I would get to peel away what pissed me off and bust that nut open.  Anyway on November 28th at 5:00 PM I cracked that nut.  Up until my drive to work that Monday morning I had forgotten about it.  A dreary Monday suddenly turned into a day long anticipation of releasing that nut from it’s confine of tape and dried hull.  It was truly like winning all over again.  Almost ceremonial.  I hope I don’t have to wait that long again to get a nut.  Thanks Team 132.



If you have an idea, picture, link or video for the site, please send it our way!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Ohio Needs Our Help

Last night, we got a tweet from @BPotterR alerting us to an opportunity to help our neighbors to the south.  Apparently the fine folks in Ohio are looking for a new slogan for their license plates:

On behalf of Governor John Kasich, welcome to "MY OHIO PLATE." Ohio's new license plate and driver's license will showcase how Ohioans feel about Ohio. Please select the one slogan, phrase or fact that you think best describes Ohio. The deadline for submitting your recommendation is January 8, 2012. We'll review your suggestions and unveil the final version later in 2012.

Folks are then presented with a list of options to choose from including (and no, we're not making these up):

*  1st Traffic Light
*  White Trillium (which is not the substance the bad guy is trying to obtain in the next James Bond movie, it's a flowered plant)
*  40,948 Square Miles
*  State of Perfect Balance
*  Rubber Capital of the World

They also have Tosu-centric choices such as "The Horseshoe" and "Woody Hayes" (we're guessing somebody tried to get "Fuck Michigan" on there but was unsuccessful).

Sure, some of these are okay.  I mean, who wouldn't be bursting with state pride driving around sporting "1st Traffic Light" on their license plate.  But none of them really capture what Ohio is.  Luckily, there is a way we can be neighborly and help Ohio with this important and difficult decision.  At the bottom of the BMV page with the choices is a blank write-in box under the heading "What does Ohio mean to you."  Naturally, we have very strong feelings about that one.  So, after giving it some thought, we here at the MZone came up with a couple suggestions:

*  The Buckstache State
*  I believe in hell, I live in Ohio
*  Ohio: It's like Michigan...only without the class or scenery
*  Speed Trap Capital of the World
*  Ohio: Round ends, high inside.  Just like its residents
*  It could be worse, I could live next door in Kentucky
*  Who farted?

Anyway, we're still trying to figure out which one to submit.  And make sure you do your part for Ohio by giving them a suggestion.  Let us know what it is in the comments section.


UPDATE:  T-man sent us his submission.  Pretty darn good...


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

University of Illinois Official Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Email

Many Michigan fans received an email from the Alumni Association and/or the Athletic Department about tickets for Michigan's Sugar Bowl appearance and bowl tour packages.  Pretty exciting stuff.

Of course, not all bowl games are created equal.  In an MZone exclusive, we have obtained the bowl email the University of Illinois sent to its alumni and fans.  You'll notice the excitement level isn't quite the same...


Holy fucking crap!

The University of Illinois football team is just as stunned as you are to find out we were invited to a bowl game.  We're playing in something called the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on December 31 against the only team in America less deserving than the Illini, the 6-7 UCLA Bruins (I know, right?).  And as embarrassing as this is for all involved, we're actually required to send out this email inviting you to join the Fighting Illini as our interim head coach faces off against their interim head coach in a bowl game so absolutely unnecessary even hunger is ashamed to be associated with it.

You may purchase bowl tickets (limit of 14,000) for $25 -- Box Endzone (Note: the box is to be placed over your head to hide your identity just in case any TV cameras point your way), $50 -- Sideline View (of the other seven people in your section lonely enough to be spending New Year's Eve at this cripple fight), or $75 -- Club (as in you're in a special club of not very smart people who paid $75 bucks to see a team on a 6 game losing streak face off against a team that actually has a losing record).  There is also a special Family Plan Ticket Package.  Bring the family to the game and, for $40, get 4 tickets, 4 hot dogs, 4 sodas, 2 game programs and a free evaluation by a trained medical professional curious to know why you hate your family so much.

Ticket sales begin Tuesday, December 6 at 8:30 a.m. (with the office pool over/under on when the first call actually comes in now hovering around 4 p.m. -- on December 27th).  To order tickets, visit www.lookatthepileofdogshitRonZookleftbehind.net or call the Illini ticket office at 1-877-HOW-HUMILIATING.  As an incentive, a raffle will be held at halftime of the game in which the winner will get an immediate interview for the head coaching vacancy at either of the game's participating schools.

Travel packages are also available.  Each includes hotel accommodations, game tickets, and ground transportation to San Francisco's AT&T Park on game day (although this fiasco is such a crime it should be held on Alcatraz).  Be sure to also ask about attending our Official University of Illinois Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Tailgate!  But don't delay as we only reserved a four-top at IHOP for this humdinger.

Let's paint the town orange and blue! (or, short of that, see if we can get at least one dude to show up wearing orange and another in blue)

CLICK HERE FOR TICKET INFORMATION
(no, it's not a live link as we don't think such a radical move is either warranted or necessary)

Monday, December 05, 2011

MZone Autopsy: Bowl Selection Edition

Michigan got rewarded for its big turnaround in 2011 (and, let's be honest, for being Michigan, fergodssake) with a Sugar Bowl invite.  The Wolverines will take on the Virginia Tech Hokies on January 3rd in the first ever meeting between the two schools.

Let's take a quick look at the Sugar and a couple other bowl matters.

MZone Autopsy: Bowl Selection Edition

* The early line from the Wynn in Las Vegas has Virginia Tech as a 2.5 point favorite.

*  This is Michigan's second appearance in the Sugar Bowl.  The Wolverines lost to Auburn 9-7 in 1984.  Michigan's last BCS game was a 32-18 loss to USC in the 2007 Rose Bowl.  U-M's last BCS victory was 35-34 over 'Bama in the 2000 Orange Bowl. 

*  While I'm obviously thrilled to be in any BCS bowl after wandering in the football wilderness the previous three seasons, I would have much rather played Boise or K-State. 

* V-Tech is 11-2 with both losses being beat downs at the hands of Clemson

*  To those saying that Michigan didn't deserve a BCS bid: if there were a 16-team playoff, Michigan would have made it.  If there were a 4-team playoff, the teams folks are bitching the most about for getting left out -- namely KSU and Boise -- would still have been left out.  So really, the argument that Michigan shouldn't have gotten an at-large berth and a "more deserving" team should have is just an argument about which playoff format one favors, then trying to overlay their "rage" on top of the selections made.  Because outside the top 2, the system is basically about the teams that would have made a 16-team playoff forced to play musical chairs.  That's it. 

*  Best thing about Michigan's BCS bid: it pissed off MSU and Drew Sharp.  Sweeeeet!

*  Michigan is tied for the 17th toughest schedule (the other team tied at 17?  VA Tech).  K-State's schedule was 23rd, Boise's was 40th.  Michigan played 10 -- yes, 10! -- bowl-bound teams this season. 

* Dear Spartan fans: Stop bitching.  Michigan didn't "take" anything from you.  After losing the B1G title game, you dropped to #17 in the BCS rankings.  You weren't even eligible to go to a BCS game.  Yes, you beat Michigan during the season.  Congrats.  You also got smoked by ND and Nebraska, two teams U-M beat.  In both of Michigan's losses, the Wolverines had a chance in the fourth quarter.  If you should be pissed at anybody, it's the two DBs who somehow were right next to the Badger receiver but gakked during Wisco's 4th and 6 conversion that ultimately led to their winning TD.  Be mad at your coach who called for a punt block when you were about to get the ball back with just over 1:30 left in the game.  Get upset with the player who ran into the kicker.  Don't blame Michigan for having the Rose Bowl in your grasp then letting it slip through your fingers.

Then again, life is unfair.  Like when a player punches a dude in the face but doesn't get kicked out of the game.  #Karma

Actually, I'm guessing even you guys can see the irony in a team that bragged about their goal of playing "60 minutes of unnecessary roughness" each game losing the B1G title and Rose Bowl bid on a roughing the kicker call.  Doh!

* Things that are "cute" now but that you are going to get tired over over the next month until the game comes: "Geaux Blue!" and "Hoke vs. the Hokies."

*  Worst bowl match up: 6-6 Illinois (riding a 6 game losing streak and having fired its coach) vs. 6-7 UCLA (having also fired its coach) in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.  Even hunger is embarrassed. 

* Amazing how an LSU/Bama rematch is okay to the SEC now, but they were up in arms about the possibility when Michigan's only loss in 2006 was by also by just three points to the #1 team in the country...but on the road instead of at home...and less than 24 hours after the most iconic coach in school history had passed away.

*  Finally, our pal Andy, who did the "Sparty No!" pic above has put together a Sugar Bowl wallpaper for your download pleasure.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 02, 2011

A Michigan fan's weekend rooting schedule

I'm not a fan of a playoff (I'm an old bowl tie-in then unseeded +1 supporter), but this weekend's conference championship games are a complete waste of time.  Seriously, how bad is the system when the only impact from a ranking standpoint isn't at the top but whether or not #16 Michigan -- which isn't even playing -- will end up in the BCS top 14 and thus be eligible for a BCS bowl game?

I mean, just about everybody agrees that LSU can lose the SEC title game on Saturday and it won't matter -- they'll still play in the BCS Championship against Alabama.  But who doesn't want that dream match up of a team that didn't win its division versus a team that didn't win its conference to prove on the field which is the best team in America?

At least there's some excitement in the other title games.  Like will UCLA yell mercy in the 3rd quarter of the PAC-12 championship game against Oregon, in which the Bruins are a 31 point 'dog?  Or who will win the ACC, where...uh...Clemson plays...somebody else...in a game nobody watches anyway?  And let's not forget the Seat Filler B1G Championship where Sparty takes on the Badgers in a showdown featuring two of the angriest, stick-up-their-ass coaches in America.

Damn, somebody pinch me!

Of course, as mentioned above, the only reason to watch this weekend's games is to see if Michigan can rise from its current spot at #16 in the BCS standings into the top 14.  So, who do we need in which contests?  Let's discuss, shall we...

B1G Championship -- # 13 Michigan State vs. # 15 Wisconsin

Root For: MSU (although if you can't stomach the thought, it hopefully shouldn't matter)

Why: A win by either should drop the loser behind Michigan.  That goes for Sparty even though they beat Michigan since this would be their third loss.   And who doesn't like to see Sparty suffer?  However, from a strength of schedule standpoint, it might be more helpful if Sparty wins, thus dropping Wisco and beefing up U-M's SOS.

SEC Championship -- #1 LSU vs. #14 Georgia

Root For: LSU to win in a rout

Why: While it probably doesn't matter in terms of the BCS Championship, it does matter big time for Michigan.  A Bulldog victory would be very bad.  And even a close Bulldog loss could be troublesome.  Thus, this is no time for Crazy Les to be on the sidelines.  We need focused, grass-eating Les.

Bedlam -- #3 Oklahoma State vs. #10 Oklahoma

Root For: Okie State

Why: Simply put a loss won't drop the Cowboys below Michigan.  Maybe a blow out could, but it would have to be massive.  But the game's in Stillwater so don't count on it.  With two losses already, a Sooner set back would be perfect for the Wolverines' hopes.

PAC 12 Championship -- # 9 Oregon vs. How-The-F*ck-Is-This-6-6-Team-Here UCLA

Root For: UC.. I can't even type it with a straight face

Why: The answer to the question about how on God's earth UCLA is here is that 10-2 USC is on probation.  Look, obviously it would be extremely helpful to Michigan if UCLA won (as Oregon would drop like a stone in the BCS rankings) but if you're hoping for that, you're also hoping to find out Santa Claus is real this December and thinking the NCAA is actually going to impose sanctions with teeth against OSU.

Ed. Note: The only good thing about this is the where the PAC 12 stages its title game -- at the home stadium of the team with the better conference record.  Thus, there is no need for seat fillers.  And it keeps teams playing hard in order to lock up this benefit.  Take note, B1G.

#11 Kansas State vs Iowa State

Root For: Iowa State

Why: The computers love K-State.  Even though they're only #15 in the human polls, they're #11 in the BCS.  A loss ends that problem.  And ISU has a lot to play for -- they're 6-5 and another win would significantly improve their bowl outlook.  But the game's in Manhattan, KS so it's going to be tough. 

ACC Championship #5 Virginia Tech vs. #20 Clemson

Root For: Virginia Tech

Why: A Hokie loss probably won't drop them below Michigan while a Clemson win might -- maybe -- help them vault the Wolverines.  So play it safe: Go Va-Tech!

Texas at #17 Baylor 

Root For: Texas

Why: Baylor is breathing down Michigan's neck at #17.  A win -- with their Heisman Trophy candidate QB -- against a name program and there's a good chance the Bears jump the Wolverines (plus, Baylor President Kenneth Starr will sue if they don't).  Go Longhorns!

Conference USA Championship -- #6 Houston vs. #24 Southern Miss

Root For: Southern Miss in a rout

Why: This is another example of a game that may not matter since Houston is #6 and undefeated.  However, maybe a big Southern Miss win will cause voters to realize that Houston's "best" victory this season is against...nobody.

Well, Michigan fans, that's the weekend.  You now know who to root for.  Get at it!

Fingers crossed and...

Go Blue!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

David Boston gets his Buckstache on!

You know, folks, with the regular season over, there's always a worry that there will be a lack of materiel to fill the MZone "pages."  But then I remembered, Wait a minute -- we live in a world where the next Buckeye scandal is just around the corner.  Case in point:

Most of you probably remember former OSU receiver David Boston who is best know for getting owned by Marcus Ray in the '97 M/OSU game and having said ownage immortalized on the cover of SI...


Well, Boston has a new, bigger embarrassment to add to his resume: Buckstache.

For those of you not familiar with the term (shame on you!) it refers to Ohio State fans, players and players-to-be busted for various run-ins with the law who all seem to sport various degrees of upper-lip-centric facial hair.

So what did Boston do?

According to this story sent to me by MZone reader SH:

Boston was charged with aggravated battery on Wednesday. Boston allegedly punched a woman twice in the head, leaving a gash that required 10 stitches."

One woman who lived with Boston (but was not the one beaten) said she witnessed Boston drink a bottle of vodka, a bottle of wine, and take some pills on Wednesday. Boston was supposedly set to move out into a nearby hotel.

What a gentleman.

And here's Boston rockin' the full bearded Buckstache for his mugshot...or should we say Buckshot?

HAIL: Brady Hoke named Big Ten Coach of the Year

Some said he was the back-up choice.  Some claimed Michigan settled when it "couldn't" land Les Miles or Jim Harbaugh.  Still others derisively pointed to his ties to former coach Lloyd Carr.

Today, those folks are hard to find.  

He's B1G Coach of the Year, fer God's sake!
After leading Michigan to a 10-2 record -- including a perfect 8-0 at the Big House with wins over ND, Nebraska and Ohio -- Brady Hoke was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year by both the media and the other coaches in the conference.  It was the 6th time a first-year coach had been awarded the media honor which began in 1972 and is named after some guy you probably never heard of.  This marks the inaugural presentation of the coaches' award which is called the Hayes-Schembechler and is named after...I'm kidding.  If you need an explanation for that, please ask your mom how to get back to the Justin Bieber fan site.

As pointed out here and so many other places, Hoke took over a team that had only won six B1G games the previous three seasons and matched that total in his first.  He inherited a defense that was both a punching bag and a punchline.  It was "ranked 110th in total defense in 2010, 16th this season. It was 108th in scoring defense in 2010, No. 9 this year."  And contrary to some fears, the offense didn't suffer -- it was 25th in scoring last year, 23rd this year with a game to go.

In short, Hoke did a helluva job.  Best of all, he did it with class and dignity.

And he's starting to run out of room in his trophy case as this is Hoke's third Coach of the Year honor in four seasons.  Previously, Hoke won the MAC's Coach of the Year award while at Ball State, then he won the same honor for the Mountain West when he was the head man at SDSU. 

Well done, Coach!

Coincidentally, on the same day Hoke was honored, former Michigan defensive coordinator Ron English was named Coach of the Year in the MAC for his work in turning around the Eastern Michigan Hurons Eagles.

Gee, I guess Lloyd Carr's coaching tree isn't too shabby after all.

Finally, this feels like the perfect time to repost the MZone editorial below that first went up on January 13th of this year.


Will some UM fans one day wish they hadn't "shouted at the airport?"

I've been disappointed by the harsh criticism of the Hoke hire in some Michigan quarters.  Obviously one doesn't have to do cartwheels if they disagree - that's what being a sports fan is all about.  But some of the shrill negativity from Day 1 is sad (and no, Rich Rod didn't face such a "the sky is falling!" response immediately following the announcement of his hiring and his first press conference.  But more about that in a post next week).

Judging by some reactions, one would think Dave Brandon hired me (I got a call, but no face-to-face).  Hell, Fox News wasn't this harsh on Obama until at least six days after his inauguration.

But history always has the last laugh.  

When Gene Chizik was hired at Auburn in December 2008, the first video shows the "welcome" he got from one Tiger fan.  This, uh...passionate fan...showed up at the airport to heckle AD Jay Jacobs as he arrived back upon the Plains with his new coach.  The fan was less than thrilled by the selection of Chizik, a former Auburn assistant - an "Auburn Man" if you will - who just went 5-19 at Iowa State.

Actually, there's no need for me to point out Chizik's record as you'll soon understand why:



But, in the wake of Auburn's national title, the maker of the new video below theorizes that that airport "Greeter" might do things a little differently if he had a mulligan:



I hope those Michigan fans who are "shouting at the airport" today regarding Hoke's hire also wish they had a do-over in the near future.

(Video HT: EDSBS)

ED. NOTE:  As Benny noted (yes, that Benny), did you hear what the guy in the top vid shouted out around the :58 second mark?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

God spites ref for bad call

Been meaning to say something about this...

Did you notice the bile bursting forth from the ref when he announced they were overturning Fitz Toussaint's TD late in the game?  Everybody I was watching with asked, What the hell was that? 

Well, after getting all Zapruder on it, I think a Higher Power was in the process of making the ref's innards purge themselves from his body after such an atrociously bad call.



Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Who's coaching Ohio: The Urban Legend or the Urban Myth?

As you may have heard by now (I think it was on the one of the sports blogs somewhere), Ohio hired a new coach yesterday.  And they got themselves a great coach.

There.  I said it.  Based on his past record and accomplishments, one could even argue they got the best available coach.  But in the immortal words of Lee Corso, "Aww, fuck it!"  "Not so fast my friends."

Just four short years ago, Michigan nabbed a can't miss coach who'd won everywhere else he'd been.  And 10 months ago after the can't miss coach did, they hired what a sizable portion of the U-M fan base called -- and I'm being kind here -- the 85th choice when "better" choices like Jim Harbaugh and Les Miles didn't pan out.  And Michigan's equivalent to some of a "safety school" hire has so far gone better than almost any of us dared to dream.

Point is, you don't know.  So while Ohio State fans spent much of the yesterday yelling at their dial up modems because they couldn't get online at the Rent-to-Own store for Cyber Monday believing that an O-H was already being engraved on the next BCS Championship Trophy that they'll be on probation for, I say there are no guarantees.  I mean, wasn't John Cooper hired due to his past success at ASU, including a Rose Bowl victory over Michigan?  And I seem to recall more than a few snickers in Maize and Blue circles -- and panic in Scarlet and Gray/Grey ones -- when OSU struck out with bigger names and hired some guy named Jim Tressel "pryor" to the 2001 season.

And just who is this guy?  Yeah, I know about the "W"s and "L"s, but I mean the man behind the headset.  The man whose program had over 30+ arrests in his 6 years at Florida.  Who quit, then unquit, then quit again when things got tough in Gainesville.  Who swore he wasn't interested in the OSU job a couple months ago -- so much so that his daughter took to Twitter to quell the speculation -- then denied again last week while parsing his words like a practiced politician when the story began to leak about his impending hire.  It was "truthiness" at its finest. 

So sure, the hire looks perfect on paper.  And on the Buckeye blogs.  But the games aren't played there.  As Matt Hayes said in the Sporting News, the Urban Meyer the Buckeyes think they're getting might not be the one who'll actually be on the sidelines.

But what if Meyer turns out to be as advertised?

Bring it.  Because isn't that who you want to go into Columbus and beat next year?  Isn't that what The Game is all about?  Bo vs. Woody.  The Ten Year War.  Our best against their best. 

So let's do this.  No matter which Meyer they got.  We'll help get the smack talk started...
It's never too early to start the smack talk!

Monday, November 28, 2011

MZone Picture of the Day: Super Sale in Ohio

Our pal BigAssHammm who, unfortunately, is trapped behind enemy lines, sent us this picture he took near Cuyahoga Falls, OH on Saturday.  We're guessing this display was full...until right after the Michigan-Ohio game ended. 

MZone Autopsy: That School in Ohio

I think I'm only now finally coming down off the high.  That game...that game...

That game.

I don't think I've been as nervous for a Michigan game since the '97 Michigan-Ohio State when the Rose Bowl and National Championship were on the line.  Crazy as this may sound, Saturday's game almost felt like it was more important for Michigan's psyche.  Personally, I don't think I've ever wanted one more -- nay, needed one more -- than the 2011 edition of The Game.

Had Michigan lost it would have been devastating.  Yes, there would have been no denying the strides made this year, but a loss would have gnawed at the soul for a long time.  Instead, Michigan's hard fought victory has turned the 2011 campaign into one that none of us could have realistically hoped for or imagined.  And back on the personal level -- it made blogging and Twitter a hell of a lot of fun over the weekend!

Now let's take one more look back at The Game that ended The Streak in...

MZone Autopsy: That School in Ohio

*  Don't let the close score in any way shape or form detract from the sweet taste of victory.   Some Buckeye fans are trying to taint the victory by saying this was the worst OSU team in forever.  And yes, many Michigan fans didn't just want a "W," they wanted retribution.  But this Ohio State squad was a team playing with nothing to lose, finally fielding a team with all its weapons, the most potent of all being desperation.

So this was exactly the kind of titanic struggle that the great mythology of this series demanded and deserved.  To understand why it absolutely had to play out the way it did, check out our post from yesterday, The Hero's Journey

*  The overturn of Fitz Toussaint's touchdown was one of the most egregiously bad replay calls I can remember.  What part of "can only result from indisputable video evidence" did those clowns not understand?!  It would have been criminal had Michigan lost after that.  When that TD was taken off the board, I started to think that Benny Oosterbaan must've been busted having an affair with the wife of somebody pretty high up in the afterlife because it looked like the fickle finger of football fate was about to f*ck us.  Hard.  I hope somebody questions the B1G about it (the replay call, not Benny Oosterbaan's sexually active ghost).  Seriously.  I really want to know what was indisputable.  There were two angles, one in which the ball was over, one in which it might -- might -- have been, what?, an inch shy?  Maybe.  But indisputable?  Hell no!

But don't just take it from some biased blogger.  Watch this video of Fox Sports refereeing guru Mike Pereira as he goes over the play and discusses why it was wrong.

*  Let the most recent chapter of The Game serve as reminder number 6,482 that Michigan-Ohio State must always be played on the last Saturday of the regular season.  Saturday's showdown left no doubt that the B1G's marquee match up must never be moved.  And if Dave Branding Brandon and Gene "See No Evil" Smith ever float the idea again of putting the game anywhere else -- as they did in 2010 which is why the MZone returned from cyber hibernation -- they should be immediately canned.

Ed. Note:  I still believe it was a colossal mistake to put U-M and OSU in separate divisions, but that's a debate for another time if the B1G ever expands again. 

*  By beating that school in Ohio, Brady Hoke just became the first Michigan coach to claim at least 10 wins in his debut season since -- wait for it -- some guy named Fielding H. Yost in 1901 (who won 11).

*  Brady's six B1G wins in his first season equaled the total conference games won during the three years of The Dark Period. 

*  Team 132 became the first Michigan team to ever go 8-0 at home in a single season.  And anybody who said they predicted that (beating ND, Nebraska and Ohio along the way) or that Michigan would win 10 regular season games this year, is a liar or a meth head.  Or a lying meth head.  

*  The 40 points Michigan hung on OSU is tied for the 4th most points Michigan ever scored against the Buckeyes and the most since putting up 58 in '46 (thought still a ways off from the record of 86 in 1902).  And that wasn't some hack-ass defense since, even after the U-M game, OSU is tied with Oklahoma for the 27th best scoring D in the land and is #23 in total defense.

*  Couldn't believe all the bitter tweets by Buckeye players immediately after the game.  From one guy saying he's "never going to lose to those scrubs again" to Boren (not Justin but Zach) claiming Michigan showed a lack of "respect" for The Game, to several other disparaging comments by others, it actually made them look bad.  I pictured them all sitting there on the team bus on their long ride home, heads buried in their smartphones, typing their tacky tweets while poor Luke Fickell sat up in the front, watching the rest of the CARS 2 DVD playing over bus' entertainment system.

*  In looking up some of the stats for this post, I noticed Michigan's captain in 1908 was Adolf "Germany" Shultz.  I guess in 1908 you could get away with that.  Nowadays he'd claim his first name was Eddie and go by "Shultzy."

*  Luke Fickell did a great job in a virtually impossible situation.  And I'm not just talking about the Michigan game.  All season.  But I was particularly impressed with how he handled himself in the post-game presser, when he was getting hammered with questions about his future.  He made it all about The Game.  Best of luck to him in the future.

*  As you know, Buckeye fans are waiting on pins and needles for Santa to deliver an early present for their team in the form of new head coach Urban Liar Meyer this week.  And some Michigan fans are worried such a hire will tip the scales back in the Bucks' favor after only one Michigan victory.  Well, if I may say something to those folks that someone may have tweeted in kinder terms over the weekend:  Sack. The. Fuck. Up.  This is Michigan, for God's sake!

First of all, those name hires rarely work out as well as hoped for.  For every Saban at 'Bama, there's a Dennis Erickson at ASU.  And I even seem to recall a "can't miss coach" being hired in A2 a couple years ago, a guy who'd won "everywhere he's been."  But that didn't turn out so well if you recall.

More importantly, let them have their Urban Myth.  It's great for the rivalry and we have Brady, for God's sake.  If this season has proven anything, that ain't too damn shabby!

*  Remember when Urban's daughter tweeted “HE IS NOT repeat NOT, GOING TO OHIO STATE" a couple months ago? Bad news: Daddy lied.


(Thanks to Andy for the picture!)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Hero's Journey

It's not supposed to be easy.

Mythologist Joseph Campbell believed that there is a basic structure to any good narrative.  No matter the language, culture or country, he argued that there is a pattern that must be followed.  A series of tests a story's protagonist must overcome to get what he wants.  And the bigger the reward being sought, the more daunting the challenges must be to achieve it.  The more valuable the golden chalice, the harder the quest to grasp it.

He called it the monomyth: The Hero's Journey. 

Michigan fans had hoped for an easy victory over Ohio State.  A blowout.  A cake walk.  But that's not how good stories are told.  Even ones written not on the page, but between the lines of a college gridiron.  For after 7* consecutive losses, the task was too important.  After three years staring into the football abyss, the final push toward the mountain top demanded it be the hardest.

The hero's journey must never be easy.

He must enter the cave and slay the dragon.  Not in the first chapter of the book.  Or the start of the movie.  And certainly not during the first half of college football's most storied rivalry when facing one's fiercest adversary .

Everything Michigan faced yesterday was a test to see just how bad they wanted it.  How much they were willing to fight to get it.  To determine if they would quit in the face of seemingly unending obstacles.

To discover just how far they were willing to go to complete their journey.

When facing the 3rd worst passing offense in the country, what were the Wolverines going to do when the Buckeyes scored on a 50+ yard touchdown bomb on their very first possession?  When a nine point lead disintegrated into a one point deficit at halftime, how would they respond after the intermission?  When the star QB fumbled, the punter gave one away, the rebuilt defense showed cracks and the opponent kept fighting, it was nature's way of asking one burning question:

How bad did the hero want it?

And just when it seemed success was at hand, like any good story, there was one final tribulation.  One last twist.  When the clinching touchdown was unfairly taken away with only moments left, would the hero rise yet one more time to the occasion, or finally give up.  Falling just short of his goal.

Michigan's stirring victory over Ohio State played out just as it was supposed to.  Exactly as it was intended to be written.

Saturday's conquest tastes so sweet today because the barriers blocking Michigan from seizing the crown seemed insurmountable.  But now the demons have been vanquished.  The biggest dragon slain.  The maiden's hand won.  The clock has struck :00.

And the hero's journey is now complete.

(HT: to @jlfelicity for sending us the pic above taken by @laurenleland)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Michigan - 40, That School in Ohio - 34

It wasn't pretty, but it's a big Meeeeeechigan "W"!

And with The Streak now history, I think President Ford speaks for all Michigan fans in saying...



Yes, my fellow Wolverines, our long national nightmare is over!

Need more?  Sure you do!  And with the Michigan victory, here's one of the most beautiful things you'll see today courtesy of the Columbus Dispatch...


And this is what 114,000 Meeechigan fans celebrating a victory over OSU looks like...

(HT: BP for the pic!)

Michigan vs. Ohio Open Thread

It's here.  The Game.  Meeeechigan vs. That School in Ohio.  I want this one more than I've wanted to beat the Bucks in a looong time (uh, especially since we haven't beaten the Bucks in a looong time).

Leave us your thoughts and comments here and be sure to follow the MZone on Twitter.

GO BLUE!  BEAT OHIO!

(Big thanks to Andy for all the fantastic wallpapers this week!)

And here's one more from our buddy Mikoyan and his site, Michigan Exposures...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Behind Enemy Lines: Talking M/OSU with The Buckeye Battle Cry

As you know, we take special delight in giving our Big Ten brethren from Columbus grief here on the MZone (probably because we haven't been able to do it on the football field for quite some time due to their lax interpretation of the rules).  And while most a large portion some Tosu fans react to our shenanigans as they do when somebody tries to explain to them that pro wrestling is fake, some not only have a sense of humor, but they give as good as they get.  Such is the case with the boys of The Buckeye Battle Cry.

This week, in anticipation of The Game, they asked the MZone to answer a few questions about the greatest rivalry in sport in their Across the Web series.  So, in a nod to bipartisanship, we reluctantly agreed.  Below is the transcript.

-------

Do you ever feel dirty rooting for the Maize and Blue?  Do you ever get one of those shudders like pure evil has settled into your soul?

Never dirty, just horribly dazed watching what passed for our beloved Wolverines the last three years.   And if you've been following the Maize and Blue this season, as you know, the only evil emanating out of A2 is of the Pop Evil variety.  While, as the world knows, the evil that spews forth from Columbus is more of a Mordor strain.

What's your favorite memory of The Game? On the other end of the spectrum, what play or game gives you nightmares?  


Sweet, sweet memories.
Near the top of the "good" list are '95 and '96 when Michigan wasn't given a chance and Ohio State was undefeated and, I believe, #2 in the country both times.  Of the two, I think I enjoyed '96 a tad more just because it was in Columbus.  That was the 13-9 Michigan win that swung U-M's way when Shawn Springs slipped and fell allowing Tai Streets to score on a 69 yard slant.  OSU had been up 9-0 at halftime and you could almost hear the dread as it settled over the stadium.  My god, I'm getting weepy just thinking about it again.  But I digress.

Actually, at the top of my fave list has to be '97 when #1 Michigan faced off against #4 OSU with everything on the line.  The Game initially looked to be a Wolverine rout with Charles Woodson returning a punt for a TD (you seen that replay once or twice, right?).  But when OSU cut U-M's 20-0 lead to 20-14, you could hear a car key jingle pin drop in The Big House.  Thankfully, Michigan held on and then won the Rose Bowl to claim a National Championship.

It was the stakes of '97 and what a victory meant that made it so meaningful and memorable.  Conversely, that's precisely why 2006 still gives me nightmares.  For the first time in history, Michigan and Ohio State were #1 and #2 at the time of The Game.  OSU had the big lead at halftime but Michigan fought back.  With 6:49 left, Michigan had cut the lead to 35-31.  OSU had the ball on the Michigan 38 yard line, 3rd and 15.  Troy Smith rolled out and threw an incomplete pass.  Michigan was gonna get the ball back with a chance to drive down for the winning score.  But...

Michigan LB Shawn Crable was flagged for a late hit on Smith.  OSU got the first down and scored the clinching TD three plays later.  So that play/game is still what sends a chill down my spine whenever I think about it.  Now if you'll excuse me whilst I clean up the vomit from my keyboard after having to actually write about that &%$# game/play. (Memo to self: never do one of these Q&As with a Buckeye blog again.  Ever.)

Many Ohio State fans are frustrated by our current Athletic Department's decision to commercialize football and basketball games. With M*ch*g*n making similar decisions regarding "special" uniforms and weddings at the Big House, are you concerned that some of the "soul" of gameday experience is being compromised?

I think this is Ohio State
100%.  I loathe "special" uniforms.   Does that mean I'm out of touch?  Maybe.  But you didn't need any of that shit for decades and The Game did just fine.

Look, I can't stand the very sight of your scarlet and gray/grey uniforms and your little pot-leaf-infested helmets.  I get the same feeling seeing them that that a bull must get when he sees the color red (obviously bulls hate OSU, too).  Which is exactly why, when Michigan plays Ohio State I want, to see them!  That's part of the rivalry -- the bile that rises when I see your godforsaken uniforms.  I want to see two teams in the 'Shoe or The Big House that look like Michigan and Ohio State, not Nike or Adidas ads.

I guess the only positive is, the last two years when you guys wore whatever it is the hell you wore for The Game, at least in some small way it didn't feel like we were losing to Ohio State because you didn't look like Ohio State (then again, we didn't look like Michigan.  Unfortunately, that had nothing to do with our uniforms).

M*ch*g*n seems to have a defense for the first time since Mr. Carr left the program. What does that feel like, and who makes it happen?

Hey, been meaning to ask -- what's with the lack of "i's" when spelling Michigan?  I assume it's because folks in Columbus are really big Wheel of Fortune fans.  But again, I digress...

For years to be known as a defensive-minded school and then to not simply slip but completely implode was disgraceful and painful to watch.  Worst of all was watching Michigan actually get worse as the season progressed the previous three years.  Even in the year we lost to Appy State then got smoked by Oregon, by the time we got to the Ohio State game, we were playing for the Big 10 title and a trip to the Rose Bowl. 

So here in 2011, to go from where we were just last year to where we are now is nothing short of miraculous.  Last year we were the 110th ranked defense!  How bad is that?  Before this season, I think any U-M fan -- myself included -- would have been thrilled with something out on the field that wasn't a YouTube Yakety Sax clip waiting to happen.  It's mind boggling to now be not only good, but statistically one of the best defenses in the country.

As for who makes that happen, Rich Rod inadvertently answered that during his presser this week when he was introduced as the new Arizona head coach.  He said that it was hard watching Michigan play this year because "those are all my guys."

Exactly.  Which means  you have to give all the credit in the world to Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison for coaching them up to the level they've attained this season.

So- you've got another coach from Ohio who's turned things around for your program. What was your initial reaction when Hoke was hired?

Big fan and supporter from day one.  Which wasn't even close to the case in much of the Michigan blogosphere.  Many wanted a "bigger" name.  Or thought Michigan "settled" for Hoke.  But for every big-name hire that works miracles -- like Nick Oversigner Oversaban Saban at 'Bama -- many, many more fail, ala Rich Rod at Michigan and hopefully Urban Meyer at Ohio State.

Put it this way, I don't seem to recall Buckeye fans exactly overjoyed with The Vest's hiring.  He wasn't the first choice.  But he loved Ohio State and understood the rivalry and knew how to cover shit up.  Heck, Michigan fans weren't thrilled when Bo was hired.  The headline in the local Detroit paper was "Bo Who?" 

Hoke loves Michigan, obviously gets the rivalry and is a damn good coach.  You don't do what he did at Ball State -- BALL F'ING STATE! -- and SDSU and not have some coaching chops.  And he's only confirmed that with what he's done this season at Michigan.

Colin Cowherd- Asshole, or Douchbag? Discuss...

Gee, how do you pick one?  I think you have to merge them and go Assbag or Douchehole.  Or, as he was named by the blogosphere after the CowherdItSomewhereElseFirst incident with us, Schrutebag.  The guy's a clown.  I don't think he has insight as much as he's successful at trying to call attention to himself by being a jackhat.

(Finally, something I think UM and OSU fans can actually agree on. )

Currently, tOSU has two M*ch*g*n natives on their roster, while UM has 21 former Ohioans on their squad (I'm assuming they've been permanently banned). With several more folks from our state seemingly headed north to the dark side, how does it feel to know the successes in Ann Arbor don't happen without the state of Ohio?

Say what you will about our lack of success against OSU the last couple of years, I think your very question proves that U-M is a school that will give a kid a chance to escape the heinous stigma of having to attend that school in Ohio.  Sure, it may help our football team but on a larger human scale, it's more of an act of mercy and kindness.

In spite of your hopes and dreams, the Rodriguez Era didn't transmogrify into the Oregon Death Attack that you envisioned. What's your take on Rich and his time in Ann Arbor? How do you feel about his new gig in Arizona- will he raise them up?

From everything I've heard and read, Rich Rodriguez was a good guy.  And his success pre-A2 points to a fine football coach.  However, I think the fit was a bad one from the get go.  He came in and talked like -- as well as backed up said words with his actions -- as if he was taking over at Buffalo State, not the winningest program in the history of football.  Instead of "updating" our offense, he proceeded to tear everything to the ground.  He threw not only the baby out with the bathwater, I think he also pitched the entire tub (or maybe it just got overrun by the sink while employing his 3-3-5 defense during the bath itself).

Rodriguez's attitude -- both stated and implied -- that "we had more work to do here than I thought" was both a) entirely incorrect and b) a mindset that leads (and led) to mediocrity (and worse).  Contrast that with Hoke who said if we don't win the B1G our first season, we'll have let the kids down because that's what we always strive for at Michigan.  Put it this way, I'll excuse his "failure" this year.

As for how he'll do in Arizona, I actually think he'll succeed there.  While I don't think he'll compete with the powers in the Pac-12 year in and out (which is a UA issue, not RR issue), I think he'll put together a solid, winning program.  And I wish him well.  Again, sounds like a great guy, but wasn't the right man for the Michigan job.

We're asking everyone - If the B1G expands, who would you want to add? If we can only pick up one team, who would you drop from current membership to keep things at 12?

Boy, I don't know.  I guess my two part answer to that is: a) anybody but Notre Dame.  The B1G has been wooing them and kissing their ass for so long -- plus helping them schedule by having UM, MSU and Purdue play them each year -- that I say screw 'em.  Not only do I not want them, I wish U-M would drop them from the schedule so we could play an interesting home-home against a variety of high-quality opponents like OSU is doing with Texas, Miami, etc.

And b) if we do expand, no matter who joins, the biggest thing we need to do is put Michigan and Ohio State back in the same division.  I still believe that it was a colossal mistake to separate Michigan and Ohio State.  There should never be a chance that the result of The Game will be a mulligan; a do-over in the conference championship game.  N-E-V-E-R.  Winner take all.  That's part of what makes it special.

As for dropping someone, I wouldn't.  I love the general stability of the conference.  Although, just to be a dick I'd tell Brett Bulimia we were dropping Wisconsin only to watch his head explode.  Not a fan of his.  I bet he listens to Colin Cowherd.

How do you feel about this game coming in?  Does it feel like that 2004 game, or do you feel that M*ch*g*n will finally be able to take advantage of having the upper hand again? Other than the ones your fans will jingle, what are the keys to a Wolverine victory?

I never want to say I'm confident going into The Game (certainly not after losing so many in a row, some of them even with Ohio State using eligible players).  But while this could come back to bite me in the ass, I really like Michigan's chances.  Looking at it as objectively as I possibly can, Michigan should win.  Period.  This year U-M is the better team.  I think even OSU fans would admit that (internally, not out loud).  Furthermore, unlike The Dark Period, Michigan is -- and I have to get used to this again -- actually improving as the season has gone on.  Just as importantly, from what I've seen this year, OSU isn't close to a complete or good team.  Miller is going to be a great QB...but not this year.  Not yet.  He's too young and doesn't have enough help around him.  Plus, with The Game being played in The Big House, it really does feel like the odds and rivalry gods are in our favor.

As for the keys (to the game, not the famed Big House cheer variety), I actually believe the biggest is the mental aspect for Michigan.  Sure, players can say they weren't around when The Streak started and they're a different group of guys.  But in the back of their minds, they have to be feeling the pressure.  Plus, with Fickell apparently gone, he and his team have nothing to lose. 

So first and foremost, Michigan has to do their best to concentrate on just this Michigan/Ohio game, not the larger albatross that is The Streak.  After that, the key is to make Braxton Miller beat you with his arm.  I don't think he can do that yet, especially with what Mattison will be throwing at him from a scheme standpoint (at least that's my hope).  If you see Braxton Miller with a lot of third and long situations, I think Michigan could potentially have a big day.

Offensively for Michigan, I think RB Fitz Toussaint is the key.  I believe it actually starts with him more than Denard.  As Fitz goes, so will go Denard.  If he can establish himself early, forcing OSU to focus on both his and Denard's legs, the Bucks could be in for a long afternoon.  So if I'm Fickell, I actually concentrate on stopping Fitz and once again try to turn Michigan into the one Denard man show of last season.

In closing, thanks for having me, gentlemen.  I appreciate the opportunity to show that, while we both give each other a ton of crap online, there is a ton of respect for The Game and both participants (I almost said respect for that school in Ohio but my keyboard wouldn't even allow it to be typed).

Now, here is where I guess I'm probably supposed to wish you luck this Saturday.  But it would be a complete and total lie.  Thus, I wish you the opposite of luck.

Go Blue!

Still more BEAT OHIO wallpaper

Just when you thought we couldn't give you more, Andy did!