Saturday, November 19, 2005
Michigan Takes the Lead!
Ohio State 9 - Michigan State 7
For the Wolverines, The big stories from here on out will be:
A) Michigan's defense needs to find a way to stop Troy Smith's offense. The fumble recovery was a great start
B) Michigan needs to establish a run game. Hart is averaging 1.6 yards per carry, with a long of only 4.
Gotta Love Ross Ryan
Hart will Start!
Game of the Year
Almost every major sporting website has the Michigan-Ohio State matchup featured as their front page article:
Well, except for those that somehow feel that discussing the anniversary of the Pistons/Pacers brawl from last year is somehow more important:
There seems to be no consensus on this game. Vegas has settled on listing Ohio State as three point favorites. Three out of four of CBS Sportline's "experts" have picked Michigan to come out on top. One of the staff on the Michigan's own school paper, the Michigan Daily, went against his own school, although four out the five picked Michigan. USA Today has Ohio State winning easily, 24-10, while Fox Spots has Michigan listed as their favorite.
As you can see, there is no consensus on this matchup. Both teams are coming into this game brimming with confidence, and all you can really predict with confidence is an exciting football game. I expect to see huge games from both Steve Breaston and Ted Ginn, Jr, with 175+ All Purpose Yards and a touchdown from each of them. The return of Michael Hart is going to be huge - I fully expect a 100+ yards rushing from Hart. I believe Michigan's defense in the second half of the season has been underrated, and I fully expect them to be ready for this game. Michigan has handled mobile quarterbacks much better this season, and I don't expect Troy Smith to be as big of a factor as he was last year. In the end, I'm predicting a 38-34 win for Michigan.
People have been giving Michigan State a lot more respect this week than I expected. Vegas has Michigan State listed as 8-point underdogs. On paper, this one looks like a blowout. I would've expected Penn State to be listed as 24-point favorites. All along, I've though that Michigan State has what it takes to pull out a win.
Michigan State did not end up bowl eligible last year, and needs a win today to become bowl eligible. John L. Smith has all kinds of tricks up his sleeve, and I expect him to pull out every trick play you can imagine today. With home field advantage, I believe a hungry Michigan State has what it takes to eke out a win. Expect a huge offensive battle. Final score: Michigan State 41-Penn State 38
Monday, November 14, 2005
The career of Steve Breaston has been somewhat of an enigma. In his first two seasons, Breaston exploded on the scene with an arsenal of highlight real punt and kickoff returns, registering a total of 7 touchdowns, including two on the punt return, in his freshman year.
Big things were expected from Steve Breaston in his second season last year. Unfortunately, Breaston had an injury-plagued sophomore season, and managed only four touchdowns. In the final game of the season, Breaston was finally 100% healthy and put together one of the most impressive performances in Rose Bowl history, shattering O.J Simpson's single game record for all purpose yards in the Rose Bowl, with 315 total all purpose yards, including 221 yards on 6 kickoff returns and a touchdown, averaging 26.5 yards for each time he touched the football.
At the start of the 2005 season, with the graduation of Braylon Edwards, Breaston was expected to be promoted to one of two primary receiver slots, alongside of Jason Avant. Early in the season, Carr attempted to establish Breaston as a deep threat, calling his number five or six times in the first few games. Breaston demonstrated the ability to break away from his defenders, but did not seem to connect that well with Henne, as the majority of those deep bombs were falling about 5-6 yards outside of Breaston's reach. Steve did manage to catch a couple of those deep throws, but they were both out of bounds.
Early this season, it appeared that Breaston was just pushing things a little too hard. He is an amazing talented athlete, and he is fearless. In a few of the early games, Steve attempted to make a big play on every single punt/kickoff return, even when there was little to no opportunity of a successful return. I can't remember which game it was, but in one matchup, Breaston was literally hammered four or five times while refusing to call for a fair catch. I have great respect for the competitiveness of Breaston, but I can't help but feel that this approach set him back a little bit.
For the majority of the season, Breaston appeared that he was just a step off of peak form from his freshman season. To me, it seemed like he was playing like he has been hampered by nagging injuries all season, and, until recently, not quite playing to his full potential.
In any case, we longer need to worry about Steve Breaston. In his most dominant performance since the Rose Bowl last season, Breaston managed 201 all purpose yards on just 8 touches in the first half of the Michigan-Indiana matchup. I couldn't have asked for a more exciting performance from my favorite player in my lone visit to the Big House. Everytime a returnable punt was up in the air, I was out of my seat in anticipation before the ball reached his hands, and he did not disappoint, with returns of 46 yards, 54 yards, 25 yards, no gain, and 31 yards. To top it off, Breaston closed out his performance on a receiving touchdown with 29 seconds left in the second quarter.
I'm not sure if Breaston was ever entirely comfortable in the roll of the deep threat wide receiver, although I'd like to see Carr give him at least one more opportunity. I'm curious about Breaston's intentions for next season. In his first year with the Wolverines three years ago, Breaston was listed as a Redshirt freshman, meaning that he has one more year of eligibility. With a healthy Hart and Henne returning for the junior seasons, and the majority of the key players returning, the Wolverines will once again field a competitive team next year. I really hope Breaston decides to return, as we have yet to see what a truly healthy Breaston can bring over the course of an entire season. Given a full healthy season, Breaston may end up smashing many of the NCAA return records, as he has already set several Big Ten career records.
After finishing off the Hoosiers, it was up to Iowa to win on the road in Wisconsin to keep the Wolverine's Big Ten Title hopes alive. I had a lot of faith in the Hawkeyes to get the job done, and they put together a strong second half performance to win 20-10.
This set up two huge final weekend games, with Ohio State visiting Michigan at 1 PM and Penn State visiting Michigan State at 4 PM on Saturday. I have been talking about the slim opportunity of Michigan still winning the Big Ten Championship over a month ago, and I am glad that the title hopes are still alive going into the final week of the season. I believe a surging Michigan will pull out a win against Ohio State, leaving our cross state rivals with the job of finishing the job. Michigan State has 5 wins, and needs the win against Penn State to become Bowl Eligible. A win against Penn State would salvage the season for the Spartans, so look for this team to play as a hungry opponent. The Spartans played very tough against the Wolverines earlier this season, they are at home, and they have a potent offense. Even though they are going to be big underdogs when they announce the line later this week, I think the Spartans have what it takes to play the role of the spoiler.
Finally, to finish off the Trifecta, the Maple Leafs pulled out a 5-4 OT victory over Montreal. It was a cheap way to win, with a too-many-men-on-the-ice call in overtime, but I'll take it :)
Saturday, November 05, 2005
Saturday Night Sports Blogging
In order for Michigan to win sole possession of the big ten title, the following things need to happen:
- Penn State needs to win this game against Wisconsin. (Nov 5th)
- Michigan needs to win their last two remaining games, against Indiana (Nov 12th) and Ohio State (Nov 19th)
- Penn State needs to lose their final Big Ten matchup against Michigan State in Lansing (Nov 19th)
- Finally, Wisconsin needs to lose it's final Big Ten matchup against Iowa in Madison (Nov 12th)
If #1-3 occur, we would end up with potentially 5 times tied with a 6-2 record, meaning Michigan would share the Big Ten title, but due to the complex tie-breaker rules, they would be eliminated from BCS bowl-game contention, due to the fact that they lost against Wisconsin. If #4 occurs, Wisconsin falls to 5-3 and it out of the picture. That would leave Michigan, Northwestern, Penn State, and Ohio State tied with 6-2 records, but since Michigan would have beat all three opponents, they would take the BCS bowl bid.
I'm still holding out hope that this might happen, although #2-4 are all huge question marks. Michigan is always in for a battle against Ohio State, but I believe the Wolverines have finally worked out all their kinks, and will win out the season. Michigan State has completely fallen apart since the loss to the Wolverines, going 1-4, with only a win against Indiana. They had a tough schedule, but the loss against Purdue is pretty unforgivable. Still, they are playing at home in the final game of the season, with nothing to lose, and one of the most potent offenses in the league. Finally, I would feel a lot more confident about Iowa beating Wisconsin if the game was in Iowa, but I'm not counting out the Hawkeyes in the this matchup. I believe Wisconsin has played above their heads the entire season, and are due for a letdown after losing this key matchup against Penn State tonight.
I know it's a long shot, but I called it right after the Wolverine's third loss on October 8th, and their is still some hope left :)
BTW, why is Calhoun not listed on ESPN's Heisman Watch? He has two 5 touchdown games this season, and, with 21 touchdowns and 126 points, he has more touchdowns and points than any other player in the country. Wisconsin's entire offense is basically Brian Calhoun (About 90% of all rushing carries and 30% of all receptions)
- Sundin's supposed to be back tonight. The Leafs looked pretty good without him for a while, but have barely been holding on for the past two weeks. I taped the 8-0 spanking that Ottawa put on the Leafs, but didn't bother watching it after seeing the score. Yikes! Heatley, Alfredsson and Spezza is probably the best line in the league this year. For the Leafs, the most exciting players on the team in my opinion are the young guys Steen, Stajan and Wellwood. Steen is quickly becoming one of my favorite players - I love him on the PK. The Northeast division is insane -- all teams are playing above .500 right now, but something has to give, since each of those teams have to play each other 8 times :(
- Eric Staal is unstoppable this year. The kid is only 21 years old, and if he keeps it up, he's could be challenging Gretzky/Lemieux's #s (or at least Yzerman-type numbers) Staal now has 25 points in 12 games, a hat trick, 2 4-point nights, and 2 3-point nights. Ovechkin and Crosby haven't disappointed, although Ovechkin got snubbed on the September rookie of the month award. (Look for Steen to grab the Rookie of the Month at least once this year)
- I hate to say it, but Detroit has been the biggest surprise for me so far - they're pretty much unbeatable. I expected them to falter a little bit after picking up Osgood as their new starter, but I'm glad their finally giving Legace the starting position he so patiently waited for. I guess Nashville and Carolina are generally considered the biggest surprise teams, but I sort of expected both of those teams to do well. Pittsbugh took forever to manage their first win, but with 3 wins in their last 4, they could be back in the playoff picture fairly soon.
- I'm very happy to see that my favorite player, Teemu Selanne, is finally back in scoring form. Selanne is leading Anaheim with 9 Goals and 16 Points in 15 games -- not too shabby. Selanne had surgury in the offseason, and is playing with full health for the first time in years. He looks like he is enjoying the game again, and has a pretty competitive team to work with in Anaheim. I stayed up last night to watch the Anaheim/San Jose matchup, but it was a snoozer - I almost regret staying up, as it ended up being a 1-0 final in OT, and I didn't get to see Selanne get any points.
- Well, it looks like Wisconsin is finally on the board in the 4th quarter, and wouldn't you know it - #2 Brian Calhoun. Make that 22 touchdowns on the year. Come on' -- Hold on to that 21-7 lead Penn State...