Category Archives: Sports

Nicklas Lidstrom and Class in Detroit Sports

“And time waits for no one, and it won’t wait for me.” – The Rolling Stones

It really was the moment every Red Wings fan had been dreading for years, but after an absolutely brilliant 20 season career filled with accolades (really, there’s a bunch: 7 Norris Trophies, 1 Conn Smythe Trophy, an Olympic Gold Medal, a World Championship Gold Medal, 12 time NHL All-Star, and 4 Stanley Cup Trophies to go along with never seeing his team fall short of a playoff berth) defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom announced his retirement from the NHL this morning. Lidstrom is easily one of the best defensemen to ever play this amazing sport (he’s without a doubt the best defenseman I’ve ever seen play the game), but he’s also one of the classiest and nicest players this league and the city of Detroit has ever seen. He’s been referred to as “TPH – The Perfect Human” or “Norris”, but anyone-whether they be media, fan, or opposing player-has never had a bad thing to say about him. It’s probably not an understatement to say that there’s a huge hole to fill on the Red Wings’ blue line with #5 retired, but his class will be missed too.

When I think about it, the city of Detroit has been pretty blessed with its share of humble superstars. Just in my timeframe of watching, Alan Trammell of the Tigers, Barry Sanders of the Lions, and Steve Yzerman of the Red Wings have all represented their teams and city just like Nick Lidstrom has. Odds are I’ve missed a few, but those are the ones that immediately popped into my head. I can only hope that the current and future athletes will represent their team and city as well as those four have.

I seriously thought I had more to write, but what else is there to really say? Countless words have been written about Nick Lidstrom from mainstream media and bloggers alike, and if you’re looking for something with a bit more substance, you’ll want to start at The Malik Report-George Malik is an excellent writer and the first one you’d want to go to for information about the Red Wings. I guess I’ll just end with this: thank you for one hell of an amazing Hall of Fame career. Your talents on the ice, as well as your class and patience off of it will truly be missed.

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May 31, 2012 · 9:25 pm

Michigan Hockey Post-Mortem, and a word on Shawn Hunwick

It’s been a long time since I’d written about sports here (for that matter, it’s been a long time since I’d written about anything here), but I feel compelled to write about it now, a little more than 12 hours has passed since the Michigan Wolverines hockey team had their season ended way sooner than many fans had hoped…and no less agonizing than the year before when the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs scored in OT to win the Frozen Four Championship (not sure what I’m talking about? If you watched any of the NCAA hockey coverage on ESPNU or ESPN3.com yesterday, then you saw the highlight pretty much EVERY COMMERCIAL BREAK. It doesn’t sting any less with repeated viewings, ESPN, thanks).

The start of this game gave plenty of hope, simply because Michigan started off quickly and took control early. Compared to the CCHA Championship weekend games against Bowling Green and Western Michigan where they found themselves trying to dig out of two-and-three goal holes, the start against Cornell couldn’t have gone much better. Luke Glendening scored just 1:11 into the game, and then just :13 seconds later Kevin Lynch appeared to make it a 2-0 game and the Wolverines looked like they might just steamroll all over Big Red. An official review would overturn Lynch’s goal however, and then a combination of the Wolverines deflating/Big Red getting their legs under them would make this contest much closer than it looked like we’d all get to see. I really am torn on the goal being overturned: my Michigan bias thought that goal should’ve counted since the goaltender interference came just as much from a slight bump by Luke Moffatt as it did from a Cornell defender, but as someone that’s also dabbled in playing goal I’d be pissed off if I didn’t have a shot at making the save.

Special teams had a huge part in Michigan’s downfall: Cornell was able to score on the power play to tie the game up later in the first period, and then early in the second period Big Red took the lead on a shorthanded goal (the first SHG the Wolverines had given up this season couldn’t have come at a much worse time). If it seemed like the Wolverines spent a decent portion of that game on the power play, they did-but they couldn’t score with the man-advantage once. Not to take away anything from Cornell’s special teams or the play of goaltender Andy Iles (they were stellar), but a team with Michigan’s firepower throughout the lineup can’t have that many chances and not bury them. Down 2-1 heading into the third, and for a large portion of that period it seemed the Wolverines just couldn’t get anything going until Kevin Lynch scored the game-tying goal with about four minutes left. An odd-man rush and some very mediocre back-checking led to Cornell’s OT goal: Shawn Hunwick made the initial save but couldn’t control the rebound, giving Big Red forward Rodger Craig the easy tap-in. Bubble burst, season ended too soon.

Speaking of Shawn Hunwick, the fifth-year senior that by most accounts was never even supposed to see ice time at Michigan and yet proved everyone wrong: man, he’ll be missed. There’s no way Michigan keeps the NCAA record streak of tournament appearances alive in 2010 without a stellar performance from Hunwick to win the CCHA Tournament. There’s no way Michigan gets to the Frozen Four final without Hunwick carrying the team and shutting down the cage night after night. Easily one of my all-time favorite players to ever wear the Maize & Blue, up there with RB Mike Hart and guards Zack Novak and Stu Douglass. Not much was expected from any of those guys, but every single one of them delivered above & beyond and helped the Wolverines in their own way. So Shawn: thank you.

For the record, Michigan Daily’s Zach Helfand wrote one hell of an article about Hunwick and you should definitely check it out: The midnight gesture of Shawn Hunwick.

Michigan Daily Sports and MiHockeyNow were both referenced in the writing of this post. Thank you.

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Another one of those ‘last look back at sports in 2010’ posts

Yes, I’m sure you’ve seen this a bunch of times already the last week-a column or photo collection of the images we’ve seen in sports the past year. I thought to try something unique: take a few sports photos from this past year and comment on them, as serious or as sarcastic as I want. That seems like a lot of fun, and it’s something different.

Seriously? That’s been done before too.

Oh, I suppose it has. Well I’m doing it anyway, and I even got Doug from The Detroit Transplant to chip in (over a week ago, too-yeah, I’m a bit of a procrastinator it seems). So sit back, grab a drink, throw on some music and continue reading if you haven’t already moved on to something else to kill time. Warning: some of these images might not be suitable for work viewing (Rex Ryan giving a one finger salute, Sidney Crosby and Matt Millen also appear), so you’ve been warned.

Doug: What a heart-warming moment. If there’s a model athlete in terms of perseverance and morality, Drew Brees is easily it. You know he’s got to be the best father ever.

Norm: You just had to know Brees was going to win every athlete trophy ever invented once this photo went out. I think he even finished second in the Hart Trophy voting behind Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin. Easily one of the best moments of the year, and seeing New Orleans win it had to give every Detroit Lions fan just a little bit of hope.

Doug: Whoa, hey! Rex Ryan isn’t a smart person? I would have never guessed. That’s why ya don’t flip people off, Rex! You can’t bury the internet.

Norm: This is one of the faces of the NFL, everyone. Now let’s go eat a g–damn snack.

Doug: This man made the daytime portion of the Olympics. He’s a genius. 

Doug: See my US Soccer response below.

Norm: I think I lost my voice at the very moment Parise tied the gold medal game up. I just knew Luongo would relent eventually, and he didn’t disappoint. I thought for sure the US was going to hand Canada their second crushing loss on home ice in 2010 (the US World Junior Squad knocked off Team Canada in the championship game of the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championships in January). But then…

Doug: What an awkward face. Although, I probably made the same face though when I saw the goal. Being a Canada fan my whole life, it was great to see the team be so dominant in the tournament, and to see them facing the US, which, was a feat in and of itself.

Norm: It just had to be the ‘Whiny Face of the NHL’ to score the goal to kill the US. A substandard showing in the entire tournament gets wiped off the slate with the OT dagger. The only good thing to come out of this photo were the numerous photochops that surfaced after. They are still out there, and hilarious.

Doug: This (Luongo bitching) has become a fixture in Vancouver. Maybe he should shut his mouth and make some saves, instead?

Norm: “Mr. Referee, it’s playoff time now. I’m ready for my annual choke job.”

Doug: After watching his Sports Science videos, I wanted him on the Lions. And look what a beast he’s been for us. The kid is gonna be the future and the face of our defense.

Norm: I’m so shocked when a draft pick works out for the Lions-I have Matt Millen to thank for that…and also the history of the franchise under William Clay Ford. Speaking of Millen…

Norm: I think all tv sets should come equipped with a Mute Matt Millen button. Mute Pierre McGuire too while we’re at it. The image of Matt Millen that Doug sent actually left him speechless, which is why his response isn’t here.

Doug: He’s (Jim Joyce) probably never been too great at Duck Hunt is my guess.

Norm: Ugh, the most famous blown call of 2010. Could’ve been one of the worst sports moments of the year, but what happened in the aftermath (and if you don’t know what happened, what rock have you been living under) made it an example of sportsmanship. Yes, it still exists.

Doug: what a great run for a team that had no business in the tournament really. Also, what a great way to build up the most disloyal bandwagon in the history of this country!

Norm: One of the most exciting moments in the World Cup, and just a great sports moment overall-everyone knew they needed a goal, and Landon Donovan delivered. I’m also curious about your comment, but we’ll save that for another day.

Doug: *barf*.

Norm: The only good thing about this is that it’ll probably be another 49 years before the bandwagon fanbase in Chicago sees another one. Ha.

Doug: The most self-centered, conceited move I’ve ever seen in sports. Bring all the kids from Cleveland in to break their hearts? Smart guy. This is how it’s done.

Norm: All that stuff I wrote about sportsmanship a minute or two ago? Yeah, don’t apply that here. Also, just click the link Doug provided if you haven’t seen Steve Carrell’s parody of The Decision.

Doug: He completed the process. No one will ever convince me otherwise. Thus, we are 5-9 (now 6-9, this should’ve come out a week ago–Norm) this year.

Norm: I still can’t believe that this wasn’t a catch. I think the season unfolds differently for both squads had this been ruled correctly.

Doug: Keeping the skirts on QB’s since 1990.

Norm: “My decision making seems to have gone downhill since the NFL forced me to cover up my biceps here. My apologies.”

Doug: Made my year. The drama, but not the publicity. It split this team in two, which means the Lions are no longer bottom of the barrel. Think about it– if they lose out and we win out, we finish with a better record. WOW.

Norm: I don’t know who is happier seeing this photo of Favre-FAIL, Jenn Sterger or everyone in Green Bay.

Doug: A fixture of the year in AZ, perhaps they should get a statue of this face at UA. He (Mike Stoops) whines and complains about every play.

Norm: I wanted to come up with something funny to say, but if you’ve read up to this point your hopes of seeing something funny from me probably dried up a bit ago.

Doug: Worst PR stunt EVER. How about put a winning football team on the field?

Norm: I’m certain I heard howls of laughter coming from East Lansing and  later on in Columbus (after someone had to explain to each person there why it would be funny). Please go away.

I’m now making one last addition. You can read what Doug has to say about it here. All I’ll say is this: Congrats, Ozzie. You earned it-here’s to a few more wins and another Stanley Cup celebration in June.

Happy New Year, everyone.

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One Big (Ten) Mess – Another College Football Roundtable

Finally into November and the homestretch of the Big Ten Conference season (and hopefully Greg Robinson’s last few games as Michigan’s ‘defensive coordinator’-hey, look at that, his ‘defense’ just gave up another touchdown). If you’re not familiar, Doug from The Detroit Transplant , Joe from Joe Knows Stuff and myself have been running a roundtable since the beginning of the season. Here’s what we’ve talked about this week. Also, pardon the mess-still working on the new look, but also just wanted to thank Doug for the brand new header. Awesome work!

The Big Ten Title Race is officially a mess. What happens the rest of the way, and which team is taking the title?

Doug (Michigan State): Okay, this is getting messy, you’re right. After MSU losing to Iowa last weekend, it’s a giant cluster-you-know-what. With that being said, we’re still technically ahead of the other “top” teams. Granted, Iowa has not played OSU yet, and that’s where the big piece comes in. If MSU and Iowa win out, we tie for the title, giving Iowa the heads up because they beat us. We own the head to head against Wisconsin, so unless we lose one more, Iowa loses one more, and Wisconsin wins out, they have no shot. OSU needs all three to lose to win a share of the title. Now that that’s sorted out, here’s what I see happening: MSU winning the title. We’re not the “same old Spartans,” and we really don’t have any foreseeable challenges on the horizon (in theory). Granted, this is the Big Ten, and anything can happen– that’s why you play the game (thanks Herm). Iowa I think will have issues, and that’s why I’m glad we avoid OSU altogether this year. I agree, lucky scheduling. MSU should win the title when the dust settles, in my opinion.

Joe (Wisconsin): I think the Michigan State loss is just the kind of game that can start a losing skid. I can’t see it happening this week, but I can see them start to lose their edge. I see Wisconsin winning out, and while they’re doing that, hanging on for dear life in the BCS Standings to win the conference.

Norm (Michigan): I see Iowa, Wisconsin, and MSU all tying for the conference title at the end of the season. With the exception of that wild Iowa/Wisconsin game, Iowa is an incredibly tough team at home-that team from Columbus will see their BCS/Conference Championship streak come to an end. Barring Michigan somehow pulling off a miracle win over Wisconsin (hey, it happened in ’08 so anything is possible) the Badgers should cruise. The biggest threat the Spartans have the rest of the season will be complacency.

What was the biggest surprise to you this past weekend?

Joe: Iowa making Sparty their bitch. I haven’t seen a blowout that shocking since… since….. probably some time last year, anyway.

Doug: How flat we looked against Iowa. My god, I wasn’t sure who was on the field. Cousins played uninspired and made some uncharacteristically bad throws– at one point I asked who dressed up as cousins for Halloween. The offense just looked bad, and the defense did too. It was just an overall bad outing. With that said, Michigan’s performance at PSU really shocked me too. They made Penn State look good, which concerns me about our last game of the season– I hope it was a one game thing.

Norm: Doug, it’s Michigan’s defense coached by Greg Robinson. I wouldn’t worry. That being said, I concur-Iowa absolutely dominating Michigan State. I always thought MSU looked shaky the last few weeks, but never thought I’d see them get blown out the way they did. Kirk Cousins looked like he was channeling Chuck Long-the Detroit Lions version.

There are still a few games left, but what two teams do you think will be involved in the BCS Championship Game?

Doug: What I want to see: Oregon vs. Boise State. Why? I want to see if they’re for real, Boise has been the epitome of success in college football in the last long while, and they haven’t really been tested. I want to see if the hype is worthy, or if we’re pumping up a good team that is in a horrifically weak conference. Plus, who wouldn’t want to see like 2,000+ yards of offense in ONE game?

What we’ll probably get: A snoozer. Thanks to computers, we can’t go by gut feelings and pick good games. To place heavy emphasis on one single game: the Iron Bowl will determine one of the teams, unless Auburn lays an egg against Georgia. If Oregon wins out– may not be easy either– they’ll be the other team. High powered offense vs. high powered defense. Yep, I’m picking Alabama vs. Oregon. And I bet I fall asleep by half time.

Joe: I can’t see Oregon falling, and I can’t see Boise State getting in, because Alabama will get the voter love late, Auburn’s got a burning problem that will distract them into a loss to Bama, and I’d honestly be interested in seeing if the SEC can be outrun.

Norm: No argument here. I’d love to see Boise State here (but the computers will give us Broncos v. Horned Frogs…again), but Oregon and Alabama will more than likely get the nod (unless the Ducks stumble at Corvallis in the season finale-always a strong possibility when it comes to those two).

Switching things up a bit since we’re all fans of NFC North teams-which team do you think will take the division?

Joe: The Packers are in the driver’s seat, Jeff George’s spirit in a younger body will sink the Bears, the Vikings are a mess, and the Lions aren’t quite ready for prime time.

Doug: How bout this: I HAVE NO IDEA. The Bears are finally reaping the rewards of Martz’s system– the INT. The Packers don’t know what they’re doing on the field, and have no running game. The Vikings have a revolving door at WR, and Brett Favre is being fitted for a walker. The Lions– I can’t believe I’m saying this– have been the most consistent team in the division this year. That doesn’t mean they’ll win it, but it means they’re a threat to spoil it. And with NYJ, DAL, and BUF coming up, the reality of being a 5-5 team is really not that far off.

As for who takes the division, I have to go with Green Bay– and only because they’re the best team that has the least amount of problems in their lap compared to the other 3. Lions, penalties; Vikings, age/senility; Bears, Jay Cutler. So yeah, Packers by a slim margin in the tightest NFC North race we’ve seen in a LONG time. Like one game. Wouldn’t it be perfect for us to ruin Favre’s last game? That may be what makes it close.

Norm: I’m just in absolute shock that the Lions even have a shot (sure it’s a small chance, but it is one) at the NFC North in November. I still think the Pack will pull it off, but this is a Lions team playing with some confidence. I’d also like to take this moment to laugh at the Vikings and Brett Favre. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

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A Wolverine Hosts a Spartan and a Badger…(an MSU/Wisconsin preview)

…clearly coming up with catchy post titles is not my thing-something to work on for down the road. Anyway, I digress…since the start of the college football season Doug (owner of The Detroit Transplant blog and the resident Spartan), Joe (writer of Joe Knows Stuff and the resident Badger) and myself have been hosting a football roundtable, and this was supposed to be no different. The opening of Big Ten conference play presented a nice little opportunity to change things up just a little bit however: Michigan State opens up at home against the University of Wisconsin in a very big game for both ranked teams. We all thought it’d be better if I shelve the jokes about Greg Robinson’s defense for a week and just play moderator for Doug and Joe. Hey, it’s that political time of year and there’s nothing wrong with a good debate. Ready? Let’s go, with the first question directed toward Doug…

Why will Michigan State win on Saturday?

Doug (MSU): Offensive balance and momentum. The guys will be ready to play, and Coach D will be upstairs coaching. We’re on a 4 game winning streak, and the team is playing better and better every week. Caper is back for his first big game, and all three (yes, three) running backs are playing outstanding right now.

In terms of offensive balance, how many teams can say they can have 3 running backs on their roster that could start? Kirk Cousins hasn’t made many mistakes this year, and he’s got a lot of weapons to throw to. If Wisconsin stops the run, we can pass with the best of them, and vice versa.

That’s why MSU will win on Saturday.

Joe (Wisconsin): Doug, you guys have a good team, but I giggled a bit when you talked about the three running backs playing outstanding. That’s par for the course over in these parts. We have a veteran quarterback that’s not going to lose us games, we’re getting our offensive weapons back from injuries, and you still have to worry about the backs and Kendricks at tight end. Of course, we also have the farm boys at offensive line. I’d put our offense up against yours.

As for defense, we still have playmakers, even if we are lacking Chris Borland. If we can remember how to play something other than a cover 4 soft zone against a team that matters, I like our chances of stopping your offense too, maybe not every time, but enough to help our offense take care of business.

If Michigan State wins, it will be because our special teams decided to be terrible again. They do that quite frequently. I don’t see them failing as miserably as they did against ASU, because if they do, they have no chance at doing any damage in the Big 10. None.

Doug: I’ll give you the fact that Caper hasn’t shown much on the season since he’s only played one game, but you can’t deny the fact that we have a top 20 running game with 3 guys that are some of the most explosive in the big ten– you’ll see that saturday. It’s hard to judge either offense though, because neither team has really played a sizeable opponent, most likely a good explanation for the #10 and #17 running game rankings.

While we’re talking stats, both teams are within 3 points of each other in points for and points against– also can be attributed to not playing anyone tough as of yet.

It’s really hard to get a judge on how this game will play out based on those numbers– neither team has been tested. If I’m going based on sheer momentum, MSU is going to win because they’re not accustomed to starting undefeated and being ranked, where it’s just a walk in the park for Wisconsin. That’s the perfect recipe for an upset.

Alright, for Joe: which player on the Badgers should the Spartans be most concerned about on Saturday?
Joe: I hate to give away trade secrets, but Lance Kendricks is another in a long line of two-way Badger tight ends. We’re going to get running yards, that’s not going to be completely stifled, but if the Spartans get gashed by Kendricks slipping across the formation on a play fake, it could be a long day for Sparty.
Doug: I’ve got two, and one of them is going to be covering Kendricks for a large portion of the afternoon–

Greg Jones. He had 2 INTs last week (first two of his career), and he’s been playing hard all season so far. This is going to be our first test, and I think Jones is up to the task. He’s one of the best linebackers in the country.

Our hidden weapon though, who really has flown under the radar for the most part, is Keshawn Martin. Last season, every time he touched the ball (rushes, receptions, KRs and PRs) he averaged 18.2 yards A TOUCH. This season, he’s averaging 14.8 a carry rushing, and 13.2 a catch. He’s got the speed, and he’s got the moves to make big plays.

Alright, just interrupting for a moment. This is the part in the discussion where I realized that I pretty much suck at asking questions that can keep the conversation going, or even moderate a debate. I blame my high school counselor for not letting me take a Journalism class until my senior year. Anyway, I decided to just throw it out to let one of these two ask the next question, and Doug obliged.
What scares you about MSU?
Joe: From the reports I’m getting, they’re a very similar team to what we are, and I don’t see nearly the special teams problems. If MSU can make a play or two on special teams, this could get too close for comfort.

Your turn. What scares you about the Badgers?

Doug: Scott Tolzien. He’s a great passer, and our secondary is comparable to the Lions’. I think we can handle the run with our great linebackers, but the passing defense has left a lot to be desired, especially giving up 400+ yards to Notre Dame. Scott Tolzien could have a monster game against us.

What’s your prediction for the game?

Joe: I have Wisconsin 31, Michigan State 21. A late Badgers drive, up 3 and needing to protect the ball, finally breaks it open with Clay left, Clay right, Clay left, Clay right, and so on and so forth. A worn down Michigan State defense can only create 2 third down situations, and both are easily mastered. With less than two minutes to play, the Badgers finally cross the goal line, and a last ditch Michigan State drive ends in a tipped pass interception.
Doug: Haha Joe, that’s very specific. I’ve got MSU winning a shootout– 42-38. Both teams are high scoring, neither defense has been tested entirely either, and I think both teams are going to catch each other off guard on offense. Kirk Cousins will have a big game, but the explosive backs will carry Sparty to the gigantic upset– especially Le’Veon Bell.
So there you have it. Wisconsin visits Spartan Stadium to kickoff the Big Ten season for both teams (I really need to work on my closing statements too).

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Doing that College Football Roundtable Thing again…

Last week, a college football season preview roundtable of sorts was hosted over at The Detroit Transplant by our good friend Doug, and we were joined by another good friend of mine Joe (he runs a blog that you should all check out called Joe Knows Stuff…seriously, you should go check it out it’s even on my blogroll). It seemed like suck a good idea we decided to take a shot at another one. So since you already clicked the link and got this far, you might as well just keep on reading. Without further ado…

Opening weekend has come and gone. What did you like/dislike about your team performance in Game 1?

Joe (Wisconsin Badgers): Can’t say I’m thrilled about the second quarter, but the rest of the game was Badger Football at its finest.

Doug (Michigan State Spartans): I loved that we got to see yet another running back succeed in our system. Two 100 yard rushers against any team is moderately impressive. The defensive side of the ball scared me– way too many easy throws for a bad quarterback. The secondary specifically was pretty shaky, and the penalties we got (I’m hoping) were just first week jitters. Caper should be back this week, giving us three running backs for the FAU and ND games, all whom have big play potential and will have fresh legs because of splitting carries.

Norm (Michigan Wolverines): I honestly didn’t expect to see (and by the look of things neither did the UConn defense) the type of performance that QB Denard Robinson gave in his first start. Everyone knew he could run, but he also made smart decisions throwing the ball and rarely missed. The offensive line was also solid, giving Robinson time to make reads and take off running. Defensively? Well, they made plays when they had to but I also think the Husky offense helped them out in that regard-dropping passes, missing open receivers, and turnovers. I didn’t like seeing Tate Forcier sulking on the sideline, and hope this matter gets taken care of internally. Given the fact that Denard took off to run 29 times, odds are the Wolverines are going to need both Forcier (remember, last year at this time the accolades were rolling in for this guy just like they are for Robinson now) and true freshman Devin Gardner to assume the role of signal caller eventually.

What was your favorite game (excluding your team) from this past weekend?

Doug: How could you not vote for the VT Boise State game? In a week full of duds and lame games, this stood out as the great game of the week. I would nominate Ole Miss and Jacksonville State, but it’s Ole Miss– they got overrated enough last year. VT and Boise was pure college football, and as much as the BCS purists want to argue it, they’re really fun to watch and a solid team.

Joe: I have to say the Boise State – VT game. Both teams lived up to their rankings. Also want to give an honorable mention to East Carolina vs. Tulsa. That ending was fun to watch.

Norm: Since you both covered the incredible Boise State/Virginia Tech game (and I agree), I’m also going to mention the LSU/North Carolina match. The fact that the undermanned Tar Heels were able to come back and almost steal the game from the Tigers was exciting, and also hammers home the point that once again Les Miles coached teams have some real clock management problems.

We’re all aware that the Big Ten has announced their football divisions that begin with the 2011 season. How do you feel about them, and why?

Joe: I think we already covered this, but Wisconsin got it sideways up… well, we’ll just stop there. I also hate that most teams don’t get to face their rivals in-division, as I think it would be great fun for Michigan and Ohio State to compete for the division at the end of the year, or for one to play spoiler to the other. That’d happen more often than a title game matchup, especially since a loss to the other could hinder the losing team’s chances of getting there anyway.

Doug: Obviously Joe sees it the way I do. The divisions are so imbalanced it’s not even funny. In the preliminarily named “division o”, I think the top two teams are MSU and UM. Nebraska was nominated as a top team because of history– they’re really not that great, and Iowa I feel has always been a tad wishy-washy. Division X is stacked, and features every single team I never want to play as MSU. Take it for what it’s worth– it may change next year, but right now it’s looking like a Big 12 kind of setup with the North being completely incomparable to the South division. I like the fact though that there will be a title game, and that for once, MSU has a legitimate shot at getting a title in this climate because Ohio State can’t just waltz through their cakewalk schedule anymore.

Norm: I think both of these divisions are a lot closer in talent than either of you give credit. Nebraska is back on the rise after getting Callahan’d, and Iowa is strong enough now as well. That division with Michigan and Michigan State is going to be tough…as is the division with that other ‘school’ that shall not be named.

Polls-what is the earliest time of the season you’d start them and why?

Doug: Week 1 is fine with me, but I think there should be some more thought put into them. They should be more subjective, consider the players that have left/transferred, and actually really look hard for the top 25. If someone isn’t willing to do that, wait til week 4, when teams have played at least one meaningful game– not cupcake schools. There were teams in the top 5 to start this season that will clearly finish unranked (I’m looking at you Texas and Florida), and those rankings are largely in part due to Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy– neither of whom are on their respective college teams anymore. That is exactly why the polls need to be based on projections, not history.

Joe: Why not now? Gives us something more to argue about.

Norm: I’ve always felt polls were useless before at least four games have been played, and I still feel that way. That way rankings are based more on what the team has done to that point as opposed to what everyone was expecting prior to the first game.

The NFL starts up this weekend…now it’s a given that we all love football, but which do you prefer to watch: college or pro?

Joe: I prefer the pageantry of college football as a whole, but as a Packers fan, I like to think I get a little bit of both worlds, what with the deep tradition of the Packers and the small-town atmosphere of the team. I think if I lived over your way, I’d prefer college for sure, but I still have to say NFL, for the Packers alone.

Doug: I watch both for different reasons. The NCAA has this level of, as Joe said, pageantry that can’t be touched by any other sport I can think of. The history, pride, and the all out determination the kids have to make a good name for themselves and for their schools is what draws me to college football. Plus, I’m in college– I think that has some weight to it as well. On the other hand, the NFL is the cream of the crop. You see top talent, and more now than ever: any team can get upset. I love seeing my team (the Lions) making it back to a winning franchise, and I think that’s what draws me to the game even more.

Overall, I see them as two different sports, both in atmosphere and in talent, so I love them equally.
Norm: I’m partial to the college game…my first memories of football are of Bo, Anthony Carter, Rick Leach, the Maize and Blue. When I’d want to watch the Lions in my younger years, it seemed like I’d be more likely to see a showing of Mary Poppins or Tron thanks to the silly NFL blackout policy. The atmosphere at a college game blows away anything I’ve ever seen in the NFL. Don’t get me wrong, I love the pro game but college football gets the edge for me.
Feel free to leave comments, and pass it along.

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Writers’ block can kiss my a$$: my 2010 Michigan Football Preview

Another season kicks off for college football and the Michigan Wolverines

A few days ago I had this idea for a post about previewing the upcoming Michigan football season. Then I even decided to expand on that a bit and asked a couple other friends if they would also like to write about their teams on their sites and then in a separate post we’d all have a nice little roundtable format to talk about the upcoming season and beyond. Both Doug (of The Detroit Transplant blog) and Joe (of the Joe Knows Stuff blog) loved the idea and within a matter of days had their respective previews for Michigan State and Wisconsin up and ready to go. So that leaves me…

…and of course, I now have the worst case of writer’s writers’ (I’m off on my grammar-what is it, writer’s or writers’? Do you care? I really hope none of my former English professors read this) block. I honestly don’t know where to start with the Wolverines, there are so many angles that I can take (and many of those have probably already been done over and over and over). Not a good thing for someone that needs to hammer out a blog post, but maybe that even speaks volumes about all the questions surrounding this storied football program that over the last couple of seasons has fallen on some really hard times. Alright, let’s get moving.

Things were going so well at the start of 2009...

Offense

The 2009 season started off about as well as you could hope for when true Freshman QB Tate Forcier took over the Rich Rodriguez spread offense and looked like a seasoned veteran running it. He led an amazing last second comeback against Notre Dame and the team quickly started off 3-0 heading into conference play. The Michigan Wolverines were back, and taking on all challengers…but then the Big Ten conference schedule started. Escaping with a win against Indiana, and then suffering their first loss at East Lansing a week later (Tate Forcier led a late drive in the 4th quarter to tie the game up, but the interception he threw in OT ultimately cost the Wolverines a chance at victory and gave the Spartans a rare two-game winning streak in the rivalry game) seemed to send the team into a downward spiral that ended with a second straight season of no postseason. This year it’s still up in the air as to which QB will start behind center: Tate Forcier or Denard Robinson (highly touted true freshman Devin Gardner is also apparently in the mix). For the first time under Rich Rod’s watch the offensive line finally seems to have some depth and competition, the group of wide receivers is versatile and experienced, and with Michael Shaw eligible the Wolverines have four running backs that could all see significant playing time. We all saw glimpses of what this offense could do last year, and all Michigan faithful should expect continued growth here. Quite simply it has to be brilliant, because the next topic is, well…

Defense

This defense was giving up bunches of yards and points last season with departed defensive studs Brandon Graham and Donovan Warren. Those two now gone, plus a young secondary already depleted by injuries (Troy Woolfolk was the only CB with starting experience and he’s out for the year), and I pretty much imagine every opposing offensive coordinator on Michigan’s schedule this season is looking at that defense and laughing much like most Wings fans were laughing at the Blackhawks Cap situation this past summer (and if you’re a Red Wings fan reading this, let’s pause and do it again: HAHAHAHAHA…I never said I was above cheap laughs). The best I can hope for is that the entire defense steps up and improves in a hurry, because if they don’t…it’s going to be ugly.

Everything Else…

I don’t really feel like getting into all the Coach Rodriguez issues, so I’m not going to (for now…and by the way, if you’re annoyed by my constant use of parentheses my apologies). My best hope looking at the schedule is a 7-5 season, but even that is me being overly optimistic. I hope you’ll check in for a roundtable coming up with Doug and Joe…and Go Blue.

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