Posts Tagged 'michigan'

College FootBlog Week 6 Recap

Mark Richt may have gotten himself off the hotseat last weekend (photo courtesy of blogs.ajc.com)

Week 6 of the college football season is in the books, and once again, College FootBlog brings you a complete recap of the week that was.  Check out our breakdown of five key bits of info you can’t do without as we continue through the 2011 college football season.

No Florida Schools in the Top 25: Florida State was supposed to be the bell cow of the ACC and the state of Florida in 2011, but after suffering their third straight loss to Wake Forest last weekend, the ‘Noles are out of the top 25.  Much hype was surrounding the Florida Gators, but back to back games against Alabama and LSU would be enough to drop anyone.  The Gators were hammered 41-11 by LSU, and the second-straight loss was too much to keep them in the rankings as well.  Miami, USF and UCF have all been mentioned in the top 25 at different points this season, but all have lost critical games this season, and all are on the outside of the polls looking in.

Red River Blowout:  Many (including myself) thought Texas was way overrated coming into this game–the Longhorns were ranked as the #11 team in the nation, but very few predicted the kind of beat down the Sooners would deliver last weekend.  The OU defense outscored Texas in this one, accounting for three touchdowns.  The fast-paced OU offense did their damage as well, on their way to a 55-17 blowout victory for Oklahoma.

Michigan off to the quietest 6-0 start in history: The dominance of Wisconsin and the implosion of Ohio State have been the main topics of discussion this season in the Big Ten.  That has overshadowed a fantastic start by first year head coach Brady Hoke’s perfect start in 2011.  Hoke has done a lot with very little, especially on the defensive side of the ball, but the Wolverines aren’t getting much love.  A win at rival Michigan State this weekend would not only make the Wolverines bowl eligible in mid-October, it would also serve as notice to the college football world that, while Michigan is still not a top 10 team, Hoke has cleaned up Rich Rod’s mess much faster than anyone could have imagined.

Mark Richt gets 100th win: After starting the 2011 season with a loss against Boise State and a heart-breaker at home to South Carolina in week 2, the Bulldogs won their third straight game last weekend at Tennessee.  The win was head coach Mark Richt’s 100th as a head coach in Athens.  Richt, who came into this season on the hot seat, has Georgia playing better than any team in the SEC East.  A win against rival Florida on October 29th could buy him an extra year and vault the Dawgs into an SEC Championship Game.

In a stunning revelation, Ohio State is the “poster child” of compliance:  I was under the impression that massive suspensions of key players, the untimely departure of a hall of fame coach amid controversy, inappropriate dealings with boosters and free tattoos and gifts from a known Columbus drug dealer were signs that an athletic program wasn’t keeping very good tabs on its student-athletes.  Fortunately, for people like me, who were completely misunderstanding the situation at OSU, their president Gordon Gee took the liberty of clearing up that slight misconception.  Gee informed the Ohio State faculty last week that OSU is the “poster child” of compliance.  In the wake of that announcement, Charlie Sheen is expected to announce that he is the poster child of child care, Lindsay Lohan is expected to announce that she is the poster child of sobriety, and Carrot Top is expected to claim he is the poster child of comedy.

College FootBlog College Football Week 2 Recap

Denard Robinson worked his magic on Notre Dame again last weekend (photo courtesy of Melanie Maxwell I, annarbor.com)

With the end of week 2, the 2011 college football season continues to take shape.  <a href=”collegesportsfeed.com”>CSF</a> highlights five of the most crucial outcomes from the second week of the young college football season.

Denard Robinson is still lightning in a bottle: After having an up and down game through the first three quarters against Notre Dame, Michigan’s dynamic play maker saved his best for last in what was an instant classic in one of the most storied rivalries in college football.  Robinson threw for two touchdowns in the final 1:02 of the game, capping off yet another performance that saw him rush for over 100 yards and throw for over 300 yards.  Health is the key for Robinson, whose body wore down the second half of 2010, but he proved once again that he is arguably the most exciting player in all of college football.

<strong><a href=”auburn.rivals.com”>Auburn</a> bounces back: </strong> After needing a recovery of an on-side kick to knock off visiting <a href=”utahstate.rivals.com”>Utah State</a> in week 1, the Tigers played host to <a href=”mississippi.rivals.com”>Mississippi State</a>.  In another of the many thrillers of week 2.  Auburn stopped Mississippi State quarterback <a href=”mississippistate.rivals.com”>Chris Relf</a> just in front of the goal line, which prevented overtime.  The tough SEC schedule will only get tougher, but the Tigers passed a major test in week 2, against a legitimate top 25 team.

Richt officially on the hot seat:  Opening against two top 10 teams to start your season would be a tall order for any program, but that’s exactly what Mark Richt and Georgia has done in 2011.  After taking on a gritty and underappreciated Boise State team (currently ranked #4 in both major polls), the Bulldogs had to play host to last year’s SEC East champs, South Carolina (currently ranked #10 in the AP poll).  Bruising tailback Marcus Lattimore made up for quarterback Stephen Garcia’s dismal performance, by rushing for 176 yards and a touchdown.  In yet another game that went down to the wire, Georgia fell 45-42, making them 0-2 to start the season.  After going 6-7 last year, Richt can’t afford another losing season in 2011, and he has his work cut out for him to catch up after dropping the first two games of this young season.

Russell Wilson continues to impress: After being shunned by NC State head coach Tom O’Brien for electing to play professional baseball this summer, Wisconsin gladly accepted the talented senior quarterback, and Wilson has delivered.  In the first two games, Wilson has picked up right where he left off, when he led the NC State Wolfpack for his three years as their starter.  Wilson is completing over 79% of his passes and has thrown for five touchdowns with no picks, and he has also added 73 yards and a touchdown rushing.

Garrett Gilbert is out in Texas:  In the 2009 BCS Championship Game, Gilbert, then a true freshman, relieved an injured Colt McCoy against the top defense in the country, Alabama, and he passed with flying colors.  Although the Longhorns lost that game, Gilbert’s poise and athletic ability gave fans in Austin a lot to look forward to–at least they that’s what they thought.  Last season, much of the blame for Texas’ offensive woes was blamed on Gilbert, who completed less than 60% of his passes with just 10 TDs to go along with 17 picks.  In the first two games of the 2011 season, the junior signal-caller has done even worse, completing just 45% of his passes with two TDs and four picks.  Head coach Mack Brown decided last week during the BYU game that enough was enough and replaced Gilbert with back ups Case McCoy and David Ash, who are expected to split time for the remainder of the season, while Gilbert watches from the sidelines.

Why College SuperStars Are Bad for Their Teams and the NCAA

Why College SuperStars Are Bad for Their Teams and the NCAA–by Christian Hon/Contributor. 

What do the following players have in common?  Reggie Bush, Terelle Pryor, Mariuce Clarett, Peter WarrickMaurikce Pouncey, Cam Newton, Rhett Bomar, Lawrence Phillips and to make it interesting – O.J Mayo

Interestingly, they all have several things in common – they were all prized recruits – all, except Mayo, touched or have been within a win of the national championship trophy and all have or will leave their team in worse shape than when they arrived. 

I’m sure you expect this diatribe to steer towards the familiar road of “The Case For Paying College Players” but it won’t.  In fact, you can’t.  The nuances of college sports and what make them great is exactly what prevents you from doing so.  The fact remains however, a super star athlete, especially a superstar football player, at the college level is more often the fuse that ignites a negative PR bomb more than a “get over the hump to greatness” one.

Is USC better or worse off because of Reggie Bush? (google images)

I recently finished reading Tarnished Heisman – How Reggie Bush Turned His Last Year At USC to a Six Figure Job and got to thinking, do I really want my favorite team to get a player like that?  The quick answers is yes.  All college football fans are glued to their TV and computer for national signing day.   Short of our bowl game, it’s the biggest day of the year. 

What ranking we achieve by the recruitment review services is as much of a bragging point with our rivals as our record and/or bowl game finish.  With each star that our recruits receive, more hope springs for the following 4 years.  A thought out answer tells us a different story however. 

Are USC fans glad that Reggie Bush is considered a Trojan?  Will his number be retired?  When you thought of Auburn a year ago, what came to mind versus what you think of now? ( Crimson Tide fans please refrain from answering this one – you skew my point )  Is it coincidence that post Bush, USC have lost their dominance?  If so, what about Phillips at Nebraska?  What about Pouncey at Florida? Clarett at OSU? What about the glaring post Warrick years at FSU

Don’t get me wrong, there are several superstars that are never caught up in these media storms – Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, etc.  But if you look at the averages, you can’t deny that the greatest teams are typified by a crescendo of winning years leading to utter dominance, then severe drop off. 

It’s not because the teams can’t replace the talent, it’s because of the shock wave felt once their gone, both from a media standpoint and a game plan standpoint.  You never wondered if Bush was going to get his yards every game but when Joe McNight took over the starting RB job ( McNight was also the #1 recruit in the nation when he came out of high school)

I doubt the other team had a defense, blitz package and spy designed specifically for him from the first play of the game.  Players like these draw attention from the opposing defensive coordinator just as much as they do from ESPN‘s Game Day.  The fact is, superstars make the other players around them better just as hitters benefit from batting behind Pujols, Cris Carter benefitted from the arrival of Randy Moss and (insert Jordan / Pippen, Kobe / Shaq, Magic / Jabbar reference here)

Adding to the headaches of departed stars are the pitfalls they often fall in to while at their university.  All the aforementioned players had significant stories of misconduct to explain away, some of which added to the challenge of replacing them because of the imposed NCAA sanctions. 

Replacing a star is hard enough, replacing a controversial star is impossible.  Without Bush, USC would likely have won their national championship behind Lendale White and the stable of running backs they enjoyed.  With Bush, they lost scholarships , the best recruiter in the pacific time zone,  a Heisman Trophy, a percentage of their fans and the respect of college fans across the country.  (They got Lane Kiffin back though!)

Lastly – We all know how much the NCAA hates cheaters…once their caught.  ( Pre-conviction, the NCAA is rather fond of the revenues brought in by top-tier teams that dominate)  Their unrelenting pursuit of improper benefits is second only to John Walsh of America’s Most Wanted in regards to “hunting down the bad guys.” 

The NCAA is this strict because anything less than severe punishment of any impropriety is a swing in the direction of college football being a business ( which it is) and they can’t have that.  By trumpeting the “passion of the game” and purity of college athletics” their coffers stay full while they 18-22 year olds kill each other in the weight room and on the field for the glorious payment of free tuition, room and board and food.  And for the really good teams, there are goodie bags of portable DVD players and sweatshirts at the bowl game but you better not sell them or you’ll be expelled!

I root for my favorite college team with true passion and live and die with the scoreboard on Saturdays in the fall.  I, as much as any fan, have my favorite players on the team and they are often the players scoring the most points, making the most tackles and featured in an expose by Erin Andrews

With that said, I fear the day that my team gets a true top-level player that can change the outcome of a game by himself.  The more media attention we receive, first place recruiting votes we garner and appearances at the Heisman ceremony we have, the closer we are to the dark days of “rebuilding.”  Can you hear me post Gino Toretta Miami fans?  Ok, ok…post Charles Woodson Michigan fans…no?  Post Peyton Manning Tennessee fans?

Fail! To the Victors!

In 2007, Michigan decided that the Lloyd Carr era was over.  The only problem was that the storied program didn’t have anyone locked in to take the vacant position.  Speculation was that LSU’s head coach Les Miles would return to Ann Arbor, where he played and coached, but Miles made an announcement before he led his LSU Tigers into that year’s SEC Championship game.

The Rich Rodriguez experiment did not go well for Rodriguez or Michigan (google images)

Michigan then turned to Rich Rodriguez, despite not being the program’s top choice to fill the vacancy, and despite the fact that Rodriguez’ coaching style was in stark contrast to the Wolverine’s 4-3 defense and pro style offense.  It was not a pleasant three years for Rodriguez or Michigan football.  In his brief tenure at Michigan, Rodriguez was 15-22 with just six wins against Big Ten opponents.

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon showed that the program didn’t necessarily learn their lesson, firing Rodriguez in favor of what he thought would be Jim Harbaugh, who led the Stanford Cardinal to a 12-1 record and an Orange Bowl victory.  Harbaugh instead opted to take the head coaching job for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.  Brandon quickly turned his focus once again to Miles.  But, once again, Miles said thanks, but no thanks.

Brandon is hoping the third time is a charm, and Michigan announced today the hiring of San Diego State head coach Brady Hoke.  Brandon insists that Hoke was Michigan’s first option, but the timing of his hiring suggests otherwise.  Hoke’s season with SDSU wrapped up on December 23rd, when he coached his Aztecs to a bowl victory over Navy.  And yet the decision to hire him did not take place until after Harbaugh and Miles were not only finished with their bowl games, but the decision also came after each coach publicly announced their decisions to coach somewhere other than Ann Arbor.

On paper, Hoke actually looks like a better fit for the traditional Michigan program–he did, after all, coach as an assistant at Michigan from 1995-2002.  Hoke actually has an overall losing record (47-50), but he has shown an ability to revamp programs.  He led Ball State to a 12-1 record in 2008, and after a losing season in his first year at SDSU, Hoke led the Aztecs to a 9-4 mark.

He will have his work cut out for him as the head man in Ann Arbor though.  Not only will all eyes be on him to see if he can right the ship, the new head coach will also have to revamp, recruit and reconstruct Michigan’s defense, which ranked 110th in the FBS.  He will also have to give the Wolverine offense its second complete overhaul in four years if he goes with a more traditional offense that the Wolverines have been known for in the last few decades, instead of Rodriguez’ spread attack.

Add the fact that Hoke is taking over a programs with only three weeks before National Signing Day, and it could be at least two years before fans of the Big Blue can expect any reason to celebrate.  Brandon will go down as a genious or a moron when the dust settles, and nothing in between.  If he can’t dig the program out, Brandon will be looking for a new job long before Hoke will.

College FootBlog 3rd & 1: Week 8

For the second consecutive week, College FootBlog rolls out our 3rd & 1 feature, which breaks down three observations from the college football action from the previous weekend.  And we finish by giving one key match up to look for in the upcoming week.  Let’s get to it, shall we?

1st:  Another week, another set of hangover games.   Last weekend, the Alabama Crimson Tide fell at South Carolina after thumping the hated Florida Gators the week before.  This weekend, Kentucky returned the favor.  Steve Spurrier took his Gamecocks into Lexington, and the Wildcats shocked them 31-28.  Not to be outdone, Oregon State lost a double-overtime thriller to Washington, just one week after knocking off previously undefeated Arizona.   

2nd:  Michigan QB Denard Robinson cannot take the punishment of a full Big Ten schedule.  Although Robinson is the most explosive player in college football, Rich Rodriguez has no other legitimate weapons on offense, making Robinson a one-man show.  Robinson is on pace for around 250 rushes this year–if his body can take it.  They need more production and more carries from their running backs to take some pressure off Robinson (RB Vincent Smith is second on the team in yards and carries and currently has nearly half the rushes (70) that Robinson has accumulated this season.  More importantly, Robinson, who is listed 6’0″ and only 188 lbs. does not have the body to take that many hits in the thick of the Big Ten schedule.

Wisconsin's bruising running back, John Clay took it to Ohio State this past weekend (google images)

3rd:  John Clay is the real deal.  The Big Ten’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year, along with Wisconsin’s massive offensive line smacked Ohio State right in the mouth this weekend, en route to this season’s biggest upset as they took dominated the Buckeyes 31-18.  Clay led the Badgers’ ground assault with 104 yards and two touchdowns on just 21 carries (5.0 yards per carry).  Behind arguably the most physical offensive line in the country, the 255 lb. junior proved to be too much for a Ohio State defense that features seven players who could be playing in the NFL in the very near future.  Clay and fellow tailback James White will get another opportunity to shine on national television this upcoming weekend when they travel to Iowa City to take on the Hawkeyes.  If he has a similar performance against Iowa’s stout defense, Heisman voters will be forced to take notice.

…and 1:  Mizzou QB Blaine Gabbert will get his first major test of 2010 this weekend when Oklahoma comes to town.  At 265 yards per game, Gabbert ranks 20th in the country.  Statistically, the Sooners defense has been far from stellar this season, but a closer look shows that Bob Stoops’ squad has brought their A-Game in their only two legitimate contests so far this season.  The Sooners shut down Florida State in week 2 and rattled Texas QB Garrett Gilbert in the Red River Rivalry game a couple of weeks ago.  Look for OU to come after Gabbert, who has battled through a hip injury.  The Sooners will bring it this upcoming weekend, and they will look to ruin Mizzou’s homecoming weekend on the national TV game of the week.

College FootBlog Spotlight: Denard Robinson

Heading into the 2010 college football season at Ann Arbor, it wasn’t even clear who the starter at quarterback would be, so there was obviously no talk of Heisman

Oh, what a difference a few weeks can make.  It’s very early in the season, but Denard Robinson has put himself and his team back on the map, and in the process, he may also be saving his head coach, Rich Rodriguez’ job. 

All Robinson has done to this point is lead the nation in total offense and beat hated Notre Dame in week 2.  In this edition of College FootBlog, we examine three reasons for optimism for Michigan fans, and we also break down the three biggest hurdles standing in his way to making the trip to New York this December.

Feeling Optimistic?  Robinson has done more than his part to be in the national spotlight, but here are three factors that play in his favor to continue his momentum:

1.  Opposing Defenses:  With Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin left on the schedule, you would think this would be a negative.  True, going against three of the best defenses in the country will provide a significant challenge, a closer look at the rest of Michigan’s opponents, and more notably, the defenses they will face, should have Robinson salivating.  Of the final nine games of the regular season, the Wolverines will face only two (Ohio State and Iowa) that are currently ranked in the top 25 in total defense.  And next week’s opponent, Bowling Green, is ranked 111th nationally in that category.

Denard Robinson has put himself in the mix for this year's Heisman race (google images)

2.  National Television:  If Michigan can continue to win, they have a chance to play nationally televised games against Michigan State, Penn State, Iowa, Wisconsin and the showdown against the Buckeyes on November 27th.  This could backfire if Robinson has a bad game or two, but with his explosiveness and knack for the big play, it could also play hugely in his favor.  He has proven so far this season that the more opportunities he gets, the more big plays he produces.

3.  Ohio State:  With the defensive woes that Michigan has shown (most recently against FCS opponent UMass last weekend), there is very little chance that Michigan will be in the hunt for a Big Ten title this season, and by the time the Big Game against the hated Buckeyes rolls around, the Wolverines could have nothing to lose.  This actually plays into Michigan and Robinson’s favor.  Rich-Rod has been known for trick plays and gambling, but look for him to pull out all stops against OSU.  If the game stays tight, even against one of the best defenses in the nation (OSU), Robinson has the speed and athleticism that is impossible to defend.  This scenario could provide Robinson with a couple of opportunities for a signature Heisman moment if the Wolverines were to pull off the unthinkable and take down the Buckeyes at the Horseshoe in the final week of the regular season.

Not so fast, my friend.  Here are the three factors that could keep Robinson from punching his plane ticket to New York City:

1.  Ohio State:  Just as this game could catapult Robinson to center stage of the Heisman race, this game could also be catastrophic.  Since his arrival at OSU, Jim Tressel has owned the Wolverines, going 8-1 in this rivalry game.  Of this success, there has been one constant–defense.  Tressel has consistently produced top 10 defenses since coming to Columbus, and the 2010 version could be his best yet.  Also, considering this game is at the Horseshoe, it could be a rough finale to the regular season for Robinson.

2.  Michigan’s Final Record:  Unless Michigan can find a dominant defense in the next two weeks, they will inevitably lose some games this season, and despite the 3-0 start, they have quite a task if they want to finish out the season with 7-8 wins.  Although it is not a requirement that you win your conference to take home the Heisman, the numbers are telling.  Six out of the last seven Heisman winners played on teams that won their respective conference.  Robinson would likely have to “buck” that trend (no pun intended).

3.  Robinson Must Stay Healthy:  At 6’0″ and 188 lbs., Robinson is not the biggest, most physical QB in the Big Ten.  His style of play and the number of carries as he gets into the thick of conference play in the Big Ten could prove to be a difficult task.  If he can stay healthy and continue to get the number of carries he has managed to this point, the stats will be there.  One big hit, however, could be the difference maker in whether or not he continues to light up the scoreboard like he has so far this season.

NFL QBs: Here’s to the Underdogs

For the elite high school quarterbacks in the country, the opportunity to play quarterback at one of the bigtime college football programs is a dream come true.  One major factor in making the final decision on which program gets the signature on the letter of intent is the degree to which that individual player will be prepared for the next level (the NFL).

The high-powered programs like Florida, Oklahoma, Miami and USC are just a few of the major BSC schools that elite high school quarterbacks consider, and why not?  These teams are known for their juggernaut offenses, and they are consistently in the hunt for a national championship.  College FootBlog takes a deeper look into the progress of the top performing quarterbacks from the NFL and where those QBs played their college ball.

Drew Brees has continued to relish the underdog role in the NFL, much like he did when he played QB at Purdue (google images)

If you are a coach or a parent of an elite QB, the you may want to take a hard look at the numbers because you’ll probably be very surprised.  For a number of reasons, which we will cover later, the major programs typically do not groom their top-tier signal callers for the NFL.  Let’s take a look at the passer ratings from the last season.

Of the top ten quarterback ratings, only two, Peyton Manning (Tennessee) and Tom Brady (Michigan) went to perineal BCS power houses, and Manning was ranked sixth, with Brady at #9. 

Purdue’s Drew Brees was the Superbowl MVP and the top-rated QB in the NFL last year, with a QB Rating of 109.6.  Brett Favre was a close second and is a sure-fire, first ballot Hall of Famer, and he played at Southern Miss.  

Phillip Rivers was the 3rd-ranked QB last year and has been a dominant player since his arrival in 2004, but NC State is not exactly known as Quarterback-U.  Aaron Rodgers was #4 and played at Cal, which doesn’t have the glamor of USC, but he outperformed his former rivals from LA last season.  Matt Schaub was ranked seventh and hails from the University of Virginia. 

The other three QBs in the top ten really dispel the idea that you have to go to a bigtime program to prepare for the NFL.   Fifth-ranked Ben Roethlisberger went to Miami–no, not that ‘Miami’…Miami of Ohio.  Eighth-ranked Tony Romo and 10th-ranked Kurt Warner played Division IAA (or FCS for those who are up on the new abbreviations) at Eastern Illinois and Northern Iowa, respectively.

Now, let’s take a look at the lowest ranked QBs from last year’s NFL season.  Five of the worst eight QBs in the NFL last season were from major programs, including #32 (the worst) first-round bust JaMarcus Russell from LSU.  Former USC quarterbacks Matt Cassel and Mark Sanchez were numbers 25 and 28.

Former Notre Dame star Brady Quinn came in at #27 and rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford struggled in his first season out of the University of Georgia, ranking 29th.

When digging into the numbers it really should not come as a huge surprise.  Afterall, the quarterbacks at the major programs typically have a bigtime advantage with their receiving corps versus the opposing secondaries.  For example, in Stafford’s last season at Georgia, he had 6’2″ and 2nd round pick Mohamed Massaquoi and soon to be first rounder AJ Green, who is 6’4″ and could be the best wideout in the country this year.

Even in the SEC, which is widely known for being the best conference in college football, the dominant programs have bigger, faster and stronger WRs, creating bigger windows to throw into and much more room for error. 

In the NFL, it is typically the cornerbacks that are the fastest players on the field, and while they may be at a disadvantage in size, the talent pool is much smaller, and those large windows to complete passes are not only smaller, but they also close very quickly.  In the NFL, a ball delivered a split-second too early or too late is the difference between a completion and a pick-six for the defense.

The QBs at the lesser-known programs have to deal with a more balanced and level playing field and often do not have this colossal advantage with their receivers, forcing them to make better reads and to thread the needle, instead of throwing to an area.

In the end, there are a few low-ranked QBs that could easily turn things around.  After all, Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford were only rookies last season, but the trend is quite staggering when you take away all the glamor and simply look at production on the field.  For the time being (and seemingly for the immediate future), it is the underdogs that continue to lead the way.