Saturday, August 30, 2008


Again. Utah 25, Michigan 23. For the second year in a row, Michigan lost its home opener. For the second year in a row, Michigan played awful for a majority of the game, made it tantalizingly close at the end, and then blew it. For the second year in a row, I'm left with an incredibly sour feeling in my stomach after waiting all summer for the college football season. There is a difference between this year and last year, though. Last year, the opening loss was rock bottom. They could not play any worse or lose in more embarrassing fashion. This year, the opening loss might be a sign of things to come. It might be one of many losses this season. It might mean, god forbid, that Michigan is this year's Notre Dame nightmare from last year (the Fighting Irish went 3-9). Now, I don't think the situation is that bad, but without any veteran leadership on the offense, I don't know if Michigan will continue to improve or if they'll play poorly throughout a tough rebuilding year. Regardless, here is a summary of the game, quarter-by-quarter:
  • The first quarter was acceptable. The offense didn't do much, but took advantage of a Utah turnover and punched it in the endzone for a 7-0 lead. The defense let the Utes come right back and score but they did block the extra point so Michigan led 7-6. After a field goal, Michigan was up 10-6 and the quarter came to an end with Utah driving down the field.
  • The second quarter was an absolute disaster. I can honestly only think of a few plays in the entire quarter where Utah wasn't gaining positive yardage. Every drive ended in a field goal or touchdown and almost every offensive possession by Michigan resulted in a 3-and-out. Starting quarterback Nick Sheridan was rendered useless by unimaginative play calling and good down field coverage by the Utah secondary. The half ended with Utah leading 23-10.
  • The third quarter showed promise on the defensive side of the ball, as Utah was completely unable to do anything on offense and Michigan began to gain some momentum. Unfortunately, a bad punt off the side of Zoltan Mesko's foot gave Utah some good field position and they kicked a field goal for what ended up being the winning points in the game. Even after Rich Rodriguez substituted Steven Threet for Nick Sheridan at quarterback, the Michigan offense sputtered and never gained more than 10-15 yards. The defense stayed tough however, and things moved to the fourth quarter with Utah leading 25-10.
  • The fourth quarter was the only promising part of this game. Combined with a blocked punt and a Utah fumble, Michigan was able to come from behind and score two touchdowns in a matter of minutes. Threet threw the ball much too high and too far behind his receiver on the two-point conversion attempt though, and the Wolverines were still behind 25-23 with 5 minutes to play. They got the ball back twice after keeping the Utah offense at bay, but didn't manage to do anything to move the ball downfield. Utah ran the clock down to nine seconds and Michigan didn't even try a hail mary from their side of the field and instead opted for a poorly executed lateral trick play. Final score: Utah 25, Michigan 23.
So, that's what happened. Now, here are the positive and negative aspects, in my opinion, from Michigan's first game of the 2008 season.

  • The second-half defense. They got after the talented Utah quarterback in the third and fourth quarters and really limited Utah from gaining any positive yardage. The speed of the front line was very evident in the fourth quarter and since it was in the fourth quarter where they picked up the tempo, endurance could be a strong point as the season moves along.
  • Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan, kind of. They both showed some flashes of being able to run the spread offense, avoid the rush and throw accurate passes. Some flashes (see Sheridan's nice pass to Michael Shaw for a TD in the 1st quarter or Threet's beautiful TD throw to Junior Hemingway in the 4th quarter).
  • The true freshman skill players (Sam McGuffie, Michael Shaw, Martavious Odoms, Darryl Stonum). They all played relatively well for the majority of the game and showed that they will be tough to handle when they get some more experience.
  • Junior Hemingway. He looked like a very good option at receiver and as he is one of very few returning wideouts, he could help the freshmen receivers (Odoms and Stonum) improve their skills.
  • Defensive Special Teams. They blocked an extra point in the first quarter, a punt in the fourth quarter, and came very close on many others. I don't think I've ever seen a Michigan team block a kick or punt in my lifetime and if they did, it was an absolute rarity. The team today seemed like they could block, or at least threaten to block, any kick or punt that was made over the entire game.
  • The first-half defense. They gave up 300+ yards, 22 points, and only forced Utah to punt once. Utah had six possessions in the first half and got two touchdowns and three field goals out of them. That is completely unacceptable for a defense that has seven veterans and plenty of experience. They were supposed to be the anchor that the offense could lean on but instead, they let Brian Johnson, the Utah QB, pick apart the seconday and move the ball down the field with ease.
  • Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan, kind of. Discounting their respective touchdown passes, they looked completely inept at running the spread offense. Sheridan made some poor decisions that created two different turnovers (he threw an interception that led to a Utah TD and he tried to keep the ball when McGuffie was supposed to run with it and caused a fumble). Threet, on the other hand, struggled under pressure and was extremely inaccurate at times, most notably during the two point conversion attempt that would have tied the game and during the 4th down play that could have extended Michigan's final drive in the closing minutes.
  • The offensive line. I knew they would be bad but I didn't realize how bad. Their pass protection was average but their run blocking was horrendous. They were able to thwart the Utah defensive line from getting too much pressure on Threet or Sheridan but when they did let the lineman through, it looked like they gave up and the quarterbacks were left on their own to try and avoid multiple attackers. The run blocking was so bad that at one point near the end of the third quarter, Threet (the Michigan quarterback) scrambled for a six yard gain and became the team's leading rusher on the day with six yards. Wow.
  • Offensive play-calling. Disregarding the middle of the fourth quarter when Michigan was given the ball twice at Utah's 30 and scored a touchdown on both drives, the play calling was awful. In many instances, the execution by inexperienced players could be to blame but there were many third down situations where Michigan didn't even threaten the first down marker. 3rd and 10, completed 4 yard pass. 3rd and 11, run up the middle. Just awful. It also worries me that all three of Michigan's touchdown drives started deep in Utah territory (Utah 26 yard line, Utah 33 yard line, Utah 31 yard line). Don't get me wrong, I'm glad they were able to capitalize on turnovers and get those red zone drives in for touchdowns, but outside of those three possessions, Michigan punted the ball eight times and turned it over four times (two fumbles, an interception, and a turnover on downs). A list of Michigan's drive lengths in yards over the entire game: 2, 26, 17, 9, 19, 30, -4, -11, -2, 0, -16, 45, 27, 33, 31, -1, 3, 2. That's not Michigan football, that's Duke football. Yup, just vomited a little bit in my mouth. Ooh boy. Definitely some work to do on offense.
So, I really don't want to think about this anymore. I did like the fact that not a single highlight was shown of last year's debacle against the team that shall not be named on the date that no longer exists in my memory. It was nice that they kept that out of ESPN2's broadcast. I appreciate it. Other than that, the game was awful to watch. Depressing throughout the middle and even more depressing after the excitement at the end. But, despite the team's struggles and despite another torturous, devastating loss, I can take solace in the fact that I was able to watch another game of Michigan football today. I was able to watch the group of winged helmets fly out of the tunnel and jump up to hit the banner in the Big House. And, even after a loss, that image of those players in Maize and Blue will always cheer me up, at least a little bit.

Next week: Miami (OH) at Michigan. I'll be back with a preview of this game sometime this week, depending on how much work I have during the first week of college classes. Take care everyone, I hope you have a good weekend.

College Football Predictions

With less than three hours before Michigan kicks off its 2008 season, I need something to do to settle my nerves a bit. I figured that making my predictions for the rest of the college football season would be a great way to get my mind off of Michigan for a second and guess at what will happen with the other 118 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I). So, without any further ado, I give you my conference selections followed by some other random predictions for the season:

Conference Champions:
  • ACC: Wake Forest over Virginia Tech. I think Jim Grobe is an incredible coach and that Wake Forest will pull a surprise upset on Clemson in the middle of the season. Everyone is so excited about Clemson but ever since I began watching college football, the Tigers have never lived up to any of their preseason hype. I like Tommy Bowden, the Clemson coach, and I hope he can finally get over the hump this year, but I just don't see it happening.
  • Big 12: Oklahoma over Missouri. Everyone is talking about Missouri and how good Chase Daniel is and it's hard to argue with them. I think Missouri will stay in the top ten all year and might be undefeated before facing Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game but after watching Oklahoma pick Missouri apart twice last year, I don't see a different result happening this year.
  • Big East: West Virginia. This is a complete pick of instinct. I think Pat White is going to have another great season and West Virginia will be very good. South Florida is the other team to watch in the Big East and I think the final game of the regular season between West Virginia and South Florida will ultimately decide who wins the Big East and right now, I have West Virginia coming out on top.
  • Big Ten: Michigan. What kind of fan would I be if I didn't pick my team to win their conference? This pick is biased in every way and has little or no argument to back it up, but did you really think I was going to pick the Hairless Nuts to win the Big Ten, despite the unfortunate reality of the possibility? Not in this lifetime, pal.
  • Conference USA: What, you thought I'd skip this conference just because they're irrelevant? Remember, I have nothing to do before this afternoon's opener so I'm going to preview allllll of the conferences, no matter how useless or terrible they may be. So, I'm gonna pick Luke Skywalker over Count Chocula for the Conference USA championship. (If you can actually name the twelve teams in Conference USA without looking them up, you deserve a freakin' medal).
  • Mid-American Conference (MAC): Bowling Green over Ball State. Why? I don't know. I just assume that after a full season of football, someone has to win this conference. It's not like anyone really cares about who wins the MAC; they are only a small step above fantasy USA up there.

  • Mountain West Conference (MWC): BYU. The Cougars schedule is pretty light and with a bunch of veterans returning from a good team last year, I think that BYU will crack the top 15 and might be undefeated at season's end.

  • Pac-10: USC. Southern Cal. The Trojans. They've won six Pac-10 titles in a row and they will probably win six more as long as Pete Carroll is there. The only other concern is Oregon and they have an injured starting quarterback. Even then, the Trojans should have no problem winning another conference championship outright.
  • SEC: Florida over Alabama. In my upset special of the day, I think Alabama will surprise some people and win the SEC West over LSU and Florida will win the SEC East over Georgia. Neither will be undefeated because the SEC is just too hard but Tim Tebow and Florida will take the cake and move on to a BCS bowl.
  • Sun Belt Conference: The Ragin' Cajuns over the Mean Green. And yes, I simply picked this conference by mascot names. In all seriousness though, can you name even one team in the Sun Belt conference? I didn't even know it existed until I looked it up on ESPN.

  • WAC: Fresno State. They're pretty good and the only other team that could compete for the WACkiest conference in the country would be Boise State. And Boise State plays on blue turf, which is just preposterous.

Now, despite the amazing color graphic logos of the teams that will win their respective conferences, I want you to pay attention to this portion of the post. This is the meaty, important stuff that will grow hair on your chest.
  • Notre Dame will be almost as bad as last year and will miss a bowl game for the second straight season. Why? Because when your coach likes donuts more than he likes winning, your team is usually going to suck.
  • Missouri will get some redemption from last year's BCS snub. They will lose to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game but still get a spot in a BCS bowl after finishing the season with only 1 loss.
  • The Big Ten will gain some validation and send at least eight teams to bowl games. The conference is better than people say and often gets a bad reputation only because the Sweater Vests choke every year on the national stage.
  • Georgia will stay at #1 until they lose to Alabama at home on September 27th. For some reason, I just feel like the Crimson Tide will be better than expected this year. (The reason: Nick Saban).
  • USC will crush Ohio State in the third week of the season. The most hyped up non-conference game of the year will be a two-touchdown victory for Southern Cal.
  • USC will run the table and win the BCS National Championship over Florida. The Trojans are absolutely stacked this year and, if they can fight the injury bug, they should cruise.
Alright, I'm done. I need to go watch more football. Michigan starts their season in two hours now. I'll be back tomorrow with a recap of the game against Utah once I get settled in to my apartment at school. Adios amigos...and GO BLUE!

Monday, August 25, 2008

John Mayer!

For those of you who enjoy reading my writing but don't find a connection with the intense obsession I have about sports, I thought I'd throw you a bone and write about the John Mayer concert I attended last night in Hartford, Connecticut. If you don't like sports and you don't like John Mayer...well then you're just missing out on a couple of the best things in the world. But don't worry, I won't linger on the fact that you're wasting your life; I'll just move on to Saturday's events.

So, since I live at least four or five hours from Hartford by car, the concert was a whole-day ordeal. Other than a few errands in the morning, I spent most of my day driving because it was a Saturday afternoon and traffic was backed up like all hell at the tolls. It only took me an hour or so but I got through it and continued down past Boston to pick up my friend Katie, who you might remember from a previous blog shout out (she likes to travel through the seven layers of the Candy Cane forest). Anyway, she lives right on the way to Cape Cod, so I met more traffic in the form of stressed out families going on vacation. You'd think they'd be relaxed because they have their inner tubes and beach towels and they're headed to Cape Cod on a beautiful day but nooo...they'd rather lay on their car horn and scream obscenities in front of their children. Great decision. So, when I finally arrived to pick up my fellow concert-goer, it was about 5:30 and the show was scheduled to start in two hours. We figured eating and hanging out for a while was more important than seeing OneRepublic (the opening band) so we did that and then made the two-hour trek over to Hartford to see the amazing man below (the picture is from his website but it was taken during the concert last night).
The concert was amazing. Mayer was sporting a new haircut and opened with "Belief," which turned out to be a much better opening song than "Waiting on the World to Change," which is what he opened up with in Boston when I saw him last summer. The usual aspects of a John Mayer concert were all there: the insane solos, the comedic banter in between songs, and the mobs of screaming girls still hoping to hear him play "Your Body is a Wonderland" (it's not going to happen sweetheart, you can stop painting the title on your white t-shirts). But what made this particular concert different was that he played a few songs he doesn't play very often. Maybe it was because he was back near his hometown (Fairfield, CT) but for whatever reason, he decided to play two of his older songs ("No Such Thing" and "Why Georgia") along with a hit he made with Herbie Hancock ("Stitched Up"). I might be biased because I love those songs so much but they really made the concert so much better. He also played "Say," which is a great song he created for the recent movie, The Bucket List. It was absolutely incredible. Here's the full set list from last night's show:
  • Belief
  • Vultures
  • Crossroads (Eric Clapton Cover)
  • I Don't Trust Myself With Loving You
  • Dreaming With A Broken Heart
  • Stop This Train
  • Daughters
  • Free Falling (Tom Petty Cover)
  • Mercy
  • No Such Thing
  • Why Georgia
  • I'm Gonna Find Another You
  • Stitched Up
  • Bigger Than My Body
  • Gravity
  • In Repair
  • Waiting on the World to Change
  • Say
I can't emphasize how much I love listening to John Mayer's music. So many of his solos and artistic styles on stage come from predecessors like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix but he is the guitar god of this era. I would be content just to sit in a soundproof room across from him and watch him play the guitar. He's that good. It just so happens that he's creative, has a great ear and has the ability to write amazing lyrics. He is truly a phenomenon. He's such a special musician, in fact, that I will stick by the claim that I made last year when I said that anytime he is playing a concert in a venue reasonably close to me and I have the funds and the transportation to get there, I will be there. Anyone out there reading this should also go see him but if you can't or don't want to, you should at least buy/rent his new DVD, Where the Light Is..., which showcases his talents just as well.

Okay, I'm done for the night. I usually don't do two posts in a single sitting but since they were both relatively short, I figured I could do it. Now it's 3am and I'm done with this post. I will be back with a recap of Michigan's opening game either Saturday night or Sunday morning. Until then, take care and enjoy the final week of August!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A New Era Begins...

The University of Michigan football season begins soon. This Saturday soon. They open up with Utah. Will Rich Rodriguez be able to take Michigan football to the next level in 2008? Will the Michigan quarterbacks be as bad as everyone says? No one knows. One thing's for sure though: those warriors in winged helmets will come roaring out of the gate in the Big House and be ready for the Utes. It should be a tough opening test for an inexperienced team, but here's what you need to know about RichRod's debut on August 30th.
  • The AP Poll has Utah ranked 29th, Michigan 32nd. The USA Today Poll has Michigan 24th and Utah 28th. Not that preseason polls have ever been a good indicator of a team's talent, but it's safe to assume that these two teams are pretty evenly matched. Whatever Michigan lacks in experience, Utah lacks in recruiting talent. So, overall the two teams balance out pretty well.
  • Michigan's offense is a total question mark. Untested quarterbacks, injury-prone running backs, decent wide receivers, and the offensive line is a complete mystery. The defense is solid, with plenty of returning starters from last year's squad. As long as they can get off to a good start, they should be able to keep the offense in the game.
  • Utah has a good quarterback/running back tandem and a decent defense. They will test Michigan both offensively and defensively and create problems throughout the game with excellent play from their special teams. Utah also runs a version of the spread offense so be prepared to see plenty of option run plays and weird offensive formations on both sides of the ball.
  • The last time these two teams played, Michigan won 10-7 at home in 2002. This stat has absolutely no bearing on Saturday's game and really shouldn't be included in this post but I looked it up because I was bored and it's the middle of the night. So, now that little piece of useless knowledge is taking up some of your brain space too. Ha.
Prediction: Michigan starts off slow and falls behind early. Utah is a tough team and they will have something to prove to their conference because everyone is talking about BYU in the Mountain West; and there's nothing like beating the Wolverines in the Big House to send that message. Don't get me wrong though: I don't see Utah winning the game. I have however, seen enough Michigan openers in my life that I know Michigan hardly ever starts out as good as they should so I see them down by about three at halftime. I think the defense will step it up in the second half and Michigan will pull ahead by the start of the fourth quarter and never relinquish the lead. Let's Go Blue! Michigan 23, Utah 17.