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Posts Tagged ‘Jim Tressel’

First Look: Akron

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013


(GoZips.com)

While Michigan has opened its season with a pair of wins, Akron has already matched its win total from each of the past three seasons. The Zips posted a third straight 1-11 season in Terry Bowden’s first campaign, but the former Auburn head coach had the offense running a high octane spread that will surely improve as he recruits more talented players into the program. After opening the season with a 38-7 loss to Central Florida, Akron topped FCS heavyweight James Madison 35-33 this past Saturday.

This Saturday marks the first meeting between Michigan and Akron, though you can be sure at least one Akron school administrator will be hoping for an Appalachian State-style upset. Former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel serves as the Vice President of Strategic Engagement for the university and teaches a “Principles of Coaching” class this fall. No word yet on how far up the list of principles lying, covering up for your players, and providing improper benefits to players rank, but he’s there and probably the future university president nonetheless.

But the game takes place on the field and unless Akron hires Gene Smith or Gordon Gee as Athletic Director in the next few days, Tressel won’t be involved, so let’s take a look at how the Zips compare to Michigan through the first two weeks of the season.

Akron Statistics & Michigan Comparison
AkronMichigan Rank Opponent Rank
Points Per Game 21.0 | 50.0 88 | 10 35.5 | 19.5 T-100 | 44
Rushing Yards 203408 345 | 162
Rush Avg. Per Game 101.5 | 204.0 101 | 47 172.5 | 81.0 78 | 15
Avg. Per Rush 3.4 | 4.7 3.8 | 3.4
Passing Yards 403515 629 | 458
Pass Avg. Per Game 201.5257.5 82 | 48 314.5 | 229.0 112 |27
Total Offense 606923 974 | 620
Total Off Avg. Per Game 303.0461.5 106 | 46 487.0 | 310.0 111 | 31
Kick Return Average 19.5 | 26.3 T-80 | 25 21.4 | 26.3 T-74 | T-102
Punt Return Average 9.8 | 8.0 42 | T-52 2.7 | 18.0 38 |112
Avg. Time of Possession 24:3034:10 116 | 16 35:30| 25:50
3rd Down Conversion Pct 55% | 59% T-19 | 14 53% | 41% 111 | T-85
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 5-34 | 2-11 T-92 | T-18 7-42 | 5-31 T-10 | T-34
Touchdowns Scored 6 | 13 9 | 3
Field Goals-Attempts 0-0 | 3-3 3-3 | 6-6
Red Zone Scores (4-4)100% | (11-11)100% T-1 | T-1 (10-10)100% | (6-8)75% 73 | T-30
Red Zone Touchdowns (4-4)100% | (10-11)91% (7-10)70% | (2-8)25%

It’s painfully obvious from the stats and rankings that Akron simply isn’t very good at the game of football right now. That’s not to say that Bowden isn’t seeing improvement or that the Zips won’t work their way towards the top of the Mid-American Conference in the near future, but at this point the squad ranks near the bottom nationally in nearly every major category. The one positive thing that sticks out, however, is the 4-for-4 red zone touchdown rate through the first two games, which is very Devin Gardner-like. Something tells me that will change this week considering Michigan’s defense has given up touchdowns on just 2-of-8 red zone trips.

Terry Bowden set his goal to double last season's win total and is already halfway there (GoZips.com)

The Akron defense allowed 38 points in Week 1 to Central Florida and then 33 to James Madison last Saturday. Both teams did most of their damage through the air, CFU passing for 319 yards and JMU for 310. What’s more is that they did it by completing 69 percent of their passes, which suggests a big game for Gardner and the rest of the Michigan pass offense that shredded Notre Dame.

The run defense is slightly better if only because the pass defense is so bad. James Madison did rush 51 times for just 3.7 yards per carry and Central Florida carried 39 times for 4.0, but UCF also struggled rushing against Florida International, so I wouldn’t crown the Zips’ rush defense great just yet. Michigan’s running game outside of Gardner didn’t do much in the way of big plays on Saturday, but it was effective enough to keep the chains moving and allow the passing game to be effective.

Akron has sacked the opposing quarterbacks seven times so far, with ranks 10th nationally, but it hasn’t faced an offensive line as big and talented as Michigan’s, which surrendered just one sack against Notre Dame’s ferocious front.

Offensively, Akron has been two-third passing to one-third running in terms of yardage, though it is balanced with 57 pass attempts and 60 rushes. Last season, the Zips’ offense as a pretty good through the air with three times as many passing yards as rushing, but that top passing duo, quarterback Dalton Williams and top receiver Marquelo Suel, has moved on.

With a coach of the pedigree of Bowden, there’s no question Akron is heading in the right direction. He did go 47-17-1 at Auburn in the mid-1990s after all. He runs a spread passing attack, but has a pretty good running back in Jawon Chesholm who led the team with 953 yards on 5.3 yards per carry last season. It just won’t be able to hold up against a Michigan team that suddenly has its sights set on the BCS and beyond after an impressive first two weeks of the season. Bowden will likely at least double last season’s win total, but it’s a good thing he has nine games left to do it after this week.

Key Players
Passing Comp-Att Yards TD INT Long
Kyle Pohl 30-43 241 2 2 29
Rushing Attempts Yards TD Long Average
Jawon Chisholm 22 97 0 55 4.4
DJ Jones 7 62 0 23 8.9
Conor Hundley 15 61 0 13 4.1
Receiving Receptions Yards TD Long Average
Andrew Pratt 3 118 1 68 39.3
Fransohn Bickley 6 61 0 19 10.2
LT Smith 3 41 0 16 3.7
Zach D’Orazio 5 23 2 10 4.6
Defense Solo Assisted Total Tackles TFL-Yds Sacks-Yds
Justin March (LB) 9 6 15 1-7 0-0
Emmanuel Lartey (CB) 7 5 12 0-0 0-0
Johnny Robinson (S) 5 7 12 0-0 0-0
Jatavis Brown (LB) 9 2 11 1.5-2 0-0
Kicking FGA FGM Long XPA XPM
Robert Stein 0 0 N/A 6 6
Full Stats

Rival Rewind still won’t admit Irish are the best

Monday, November 26th, 2012


Michigan has the unique position of having three big rivals. Most teams only have one rival to get up for, but year-in and year-out, Michigan has three. While we, as fans, hate each of these teams, we carry some respect for them. Michigan State and Ohio State carry conference affiliation ties while Notre Dame, well, we all just put up with them. All season long, it’s fun to keep track of how each of them is doing, but there’s only so much time on Saturday to watch games. More often than not, they play at the same time Michigan does so you don’t get a chance to do your “advanced scouting.” Well, don’t fret because we’ve got you covered. This weekly feature will give you an overview of Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State’s games the previous weekend and a look ahead to the upcoming one.

#1 Notre Dame 22 – USC 13
Record: 12-0
This Week: Regular season over

Notre Dame took the final step towards the BCS title game by downing USC in its season finale. Despite the Trojans missing their record setting quarterback, Matt Barkley, and replacing him with a freshman, I may be ready to change my tune on the Irish. All season long I have been reluctant, to say the least, to give Notre Dame full credit for being a top team. The rankings may say they are the No. 1 team in the land, but my football knowledge says they are far from the top team in the land. They struggled against Purdue, BYU and Pitt – none of whom are good teams. They barely beat Michigan despite being given the ball six times on turnovers. On Saturday night they beat a USC team with two future NFL receivers on offense (possibly the best receiver tandem in college football no less); but they did it against a freshman quarterback making his first start.

Theo Riddick celebrates the undefeated season (Danny Moloshok, AP)

However, Notre Dame has beaten all comers and I will not take anything away from their defense. They’ve held strong when they needed to and when it matters the most, like in the red zone. They have finally found their coach in Brian Kelly and he is poised to become yet another Irish head coach to win a national title in his third season.

Charlie Weiss may have recruited these seniors but Brian Kelly has turned them into winners. This Notre Dame team is good and given what they’ve done they deserve to play in the BCS title game. I will not concede they are the best team in all the land, yet. Nor will I proclaim they are back; I need to see consistency, not just one magical season. Regardless, they will be a worthy opponent for the SEC in the BCS title game, unlike Ohio State has proven to be against them in title games.

And now on to the game. The Irish took their opening drive and went straight into the heart of Trojan territory. However, they were held off inside the 10-yard line and held to just three points. USC and its redshirt freshman took the field and ran the ball four straight times with Curtis McNeill. With the “pressure” off their young QB, Lane Kiffin let the kid air it out. He missed on three straight attempts and USC was forced to punt. Notre Dame used a heavy dose of Theo Riddick through the air and on the ground as they made way for a Cierre Wood 2-yard touchdown run.

Up 10-0 ten minutes into the game and it looked like the Irish might run away with it. But as Lee Corso likes to say, not so fast my friend. Max Wittek regained his composure and went 5-of-5 for 48 yards and a touchdown to Robert Woods to get the Trojans back within three points. Notre Dame mounted another long drive but managed only a field goal. USC added another field goal their next time out, and then forced the Irish into a three-and-out to get the ball back with just over a minute and a half remaining and a chance to take the lead before halftime. The Irish defense had other ideas as they picked off Wittek’s first pass attempt; ultimately setting up Kyle Brindza for a career long 52-yard field goal, which he nailed. The Irish led 16-10 at the half, but it was far from over.

Max Wittek’s first pass of the second half was also picked off, but this time the Irish could not capitalize. It went back and forth until about the six minute mark in the third when Brindza hit his fourth field goal of the day to give Notre Dame a two possession lead at 19-10. USC added a field goal on their next drive to cut the lead back to six but that would be as close as they got.

Aided by a 60-yard kick return by George Atkinson III, the Irish were set up in great field position and used it to their advantage. They quickly marched inside the Trojan 10-yard line but were held out of the end zone. It didn’t matter because Kyle Brindza’s fifth field goal of the night proved to be the nail in USC’s coffin.

Next:

At 12-0 and the No. 1 team in the BCS rankings, Notre Dame is set up for the BCS title game against the winner of this weekend’s SEC Championship game, Georgia or Alabama. Both teams sport stout defenses and good quarterbacks. I’d give Georgia the edge in the passing attack (which could cause ND fits if they cannot get pressure) and Alabama the edge in the rushing attack. Regardless of which team emerges out of Atlanta we should have a great title game on our hands.

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Michigan State 26 – Minnesota 10

Dan Conroy's four FGs clinched a bowl bid for MSU (Paul Battaglia, AP)

Record: 6-6, 3-5 Big Ten
This Week: Regular season over

Michigan State was looking to get bowl eligible against a Minnesota team that just cannot catch a break. Le’Veon Bell made sure the Spartan offense did its part, rushing for 266 yards and a touchdown, while Dan Conroy made four field goals.

On defense, they looked like the Sparty of last year, holding the Golden Gophers to a mere 96 yards of total offense, 92 of which came through the air.

The Gophers took the lead 7-3 in the first on the heels of a pick six by Aaron Hill but that would be the only time they found the end zone. Conroy added a field goal, then Andrew Maxwell found Bennie Fowler for a 41-yard touchdown pass less than three minutes later to go up 13-7. Sparty picked off four passes and made the most of them as they held off a Gopher team without its head coach in the second half.

Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill suffered yet another seizure during halftime and did not return. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family.

Next:

With the win Michigan State became bowl eligible. It wasn’t quite what they expected but they should be thankful to be going bowling at all. At this point we don’t know for sure who they’ll play but it won’t be a New Year’s day bowl, we know that much. We will find out the matchup on Sunday evening.

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Ohio State 26 – Michigan 21
Record: 12-0
This Week: Season over

We won’t rehash the tragedy that struck on Saturday, but Ohio State’s season ends before December due to NCAA sanctions. In true Buckeye fashion, they honored the man who put them on probation during the first quarter of Saturday’s game, giving him a standing ovation and lifting him onto their shoulders. That’s all you need to know about our rivals to the south.

A thousand words (Jay LaPrete, AP)

Ohio State Receives NCAA Punishment, But Was It Enough?

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011


[Ed.: Below is a reaction to Ohio State’s NCAA sanctions from Tab Bamford, the man who was the first to break the Jim Tressel news almost exactly a year ago. On that day, he sent shockwaves throughout Columbus, eliciting direct denials from the school and Tressel himself, and started the ball rolling towards yesterday’s sanctions. He was blasted on Columbus radio, received hate mail and personal threats from crazed fans, and became the state of Ohio’s top trending topic on Twitter. And, oh yeah, he’s a Michigan fan].

On Christmas Day, 2010, a blog post sent Columbus, Ohio into a frenzy. Someone outside the Buckeye Bubble had the nerve to receive credible information, and publish a report that said Ohio State head football coach Jim Tressel’s last game at OSU would be the Sugar Bowl.

OSU Athletic Director Gene Smith tweeted that day that Buckeye fans should “Go back to drinking your eggnog!! Rumors not true…”

OSU Sports Information Director Shelly Poe then allegedly texted media members in Columbus that the reports of Tressel’s impending departure were “the work of some prankster.”

These comments, coming from two of the highest-ranking individuals in the Ohio State Athletic Department, came on Dec. 25… or, according to later reports, 18 days after federal officers contacted the university to determine if items in question were stolen or simply sold for cash.

For over three months, Smith defended Tressel publically. In spite of self-reporting violations and taking steps to do the right thing, it was six months after the initial report that Tressel was actually gone from Ohio State. And yet, at the end of the day, the 2011 Sugar Bowl was indeed the final game Tressel coached at Ohio State.

The fall guy in all of this became Tressel, who was fired, fined, and cast away to the previously-unknown level of Dante’s inferno known as “the 2011 Indianapolis Colts.” He was fired by OSU, I mean he resigned on May 30, leaving behind a program will with suspended upper classmen, legal issues and a head coach that appeared to be finishing puberty.

Fast forward 360 days – an ironic, perfectly round number – and we’re back at square one. Smith was yet again answering for a systemic failure he continued to blame on Tressel.

The NCAA handed a one-year bowl ban and other minor, inconsequential penalties to the Buckeyes on Dec. 20. Smith said he was “surprised and disappointed” that the Buckeyes received such a punishment.

Tressel received a 5-year show cause order from the NCAA as part of the sanctions

My question, indeed my problem with this disappointment, is how the Buckeyes continue to get away with a naïve sense of entitlement in the face of serious issues.

In June 2010, USC was hit with a two-year bowl ban, four years’ probation, had to vacate 14 wins and the loss of 30 scholarships over a three-year period because Heisman Trophy-winner Reggie Bush and eventual NBA first round draft pick OJ Mayo took thousands of dollars from agents and supposed sports marketers.

Pete Carrol, who was then the head coach at USC, didn’t lie to the university or the NCAA; he left for the Seattle Seahawks.  The university was required to banish Bush from the program. USC was cited for a lack of institutional control and Bush gave back his Heisman.

But Tressel, who was absolutely wrong for being dishonest to the NCAA and OSU on multiple occasions, received more blind faith from his bosses than Carrol did from the Trojans’ athletic department.

Just a couple days before Tressel was encouraged to resign, USC’s appeal of their historic sanctions was denied by the NCAA. The hammer still dropped on Southern Cal, and yet now the Buckeyes are disappointed with receiving the quintessential slap on the wrist.

What is disappointing is that, in both cases, the head coach of a major program was a fraud. But in both cases, the lack of institutional control was laughable.

Ohio State’s idea of “institutional control” was forcing the players at the heart of the mess to come back to school for another season. If they had done the right thing, and immediately ended their collegiate careers, then the Buckeyes may have lost face – and recruits – in a nationally televised bowl game. So, in an effort to “do right by their student athletes” (read: athletic budget), Ohio State allowed those players to win them a bowl game before the program could use spring ball and summer practices to get players ready for prime time.

Meanwhile, all along, Smith defended his coach.

Did Ohio State deserve the same sentence USC received? Probably not. The prestige of the players involved at USC, including a Heisman Trophy winner, took the required penalty up a level for the Trojans.

But the separation between what OSU received and what USC was handed a year ago shouldn’t be so wide. The fact remains that Ohio State University knowingly used their power over student athletes for the financial gain of the university at the expense of credibility.

________________________________________________________________________________________

Tab Bamford writes the Daily Chicago Sports Tab for ChicagoNow.com, serves as a columnist and Chicago correspondent for TheFourthPeriod.com, and runs the wildly popular CommittedIndians.com, a Chicago Blackhawks blog. He is also the featured sports blogger for the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau and recently authored his first book, “100 Things Blackhawks Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die.”

What Comes Around…

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011


When Jim Tressel announced his resignation yesterday, it seemed fitting that the man who constantly spoke out in support of American’s troops chose Memorial Day of all days to resign, thus ending his 10-year reign as one of the best coaches in the nation.

For the past two-plus months since the original Yahoo story was released detailing the cover-up, it seemed as if Tressel was going to fight this thing to the end, refusing to admit wrongdoing or take responsibility. And as such, Buckeye fans have taken to denying his transgressions, defending his standing as a legend, and personifying the “win-at-all-costs” mentality.

Some of the statements I have seen from my Ohio State acquaintances include: “Tressel is a legend & he will be missed at OSU” and “Regardless of what happens with Coach Tressel, and I certainly hope he gets through all of the crap they’re piling on top of him, Ohio State will still beat Michigan.”

That Buckeye Nation is in denial only stands to show just how sad this situation is. As long as you outwardly portray your good deeds, tout your religion, say all the same tired “senatorial” lines, and beat Michigan, you can do whatever you want, flaunt the rules, and claim ignorance, and you’ll go down as a martyr in Columbus.

While George Dohrmann’s Sports Illustrated article that was release last night didn’t drop any further bombshells, it added further substance to the previously known allegations, which will likely make it impossible for the NCAA not to find Ohio State guilty of “failing to monitor.”

It described in more detail Tressel’s turning a blind eye to rules violations while at Youngstown State and even the way he cheated high school kids out of camp raffles as an OSU assistant in the 80s. It also brought to light a dozen more football players on the take over the past eight years.

If Tressel has been cheating his entire coaching career, not just an isolated incident involving a few bad apples as Ohio State spun it back in December, it begs the question of how good a coach he actually is.

Former Buckeye Brian Rolle posted to his Twitter account today, “Since when did ‘receiving extra benefits’ have anything to do with a 106-22 record,what 6 straight against them whores up north #DontFlagOut.”

True, Tressel was 9-1 against Michigan during his career, and the results on the field speak for themselves. But what kind of advantage did Tressel gain from his transgressions? To impressionable 17-and-18-year old high school kids, many of whom come from rough neighborhoods and broken families, one school offering car deals, free tattoos, money handshakes, drugs, and help with getting out of traffic tickets, sounds a lot more appealing than another school offering just an education and a chance to play football.

If those extra benefits of playing for Ohio State are used as a recruiting tactic, either by the coaches or by the players during official visits, and it can sway just a couple of top recruits per class, that’s a decided advantage over schools that play by the rules.

"Here Terrelle, I filled it with some of that Hennessy stuff you like so much."

Tressel was able to get away with it for so long by playing the sweater-vested, bespectacled, politically correct saint. His hospital visits, charity work, and support of the troops are all great things. But if he used those things, consciously or subconsciously, to shield his unsavory behind the scenes work, he’s no better than any other coach who was caught cheating or any priest who was caught abusing children.

I make that comparison, not because I think what Tressel has done over the past two-plus decades is anywhere near as filthy and vile as that, but in a sense, he was taking advantage of kids. For his benefit. For the benefit of winning games and Big Ten championships and beating Michigan.

Sure, the players got to participate. Those in the early 2000s got to be part of a national championship team, and several classes got to lay claim to being undefeated in their careers against Michigan. Some, and probably the majority, will cherish those memories as they move on to life after football. But others, the ones who were really taken advantage of, found a hollowness in those trophies, rings, and golden pants. They weren’t prized possessions full of significance. They were a means to an end – an end, which just like the ink that will always stain their arms, will leave lasting scars on their college experience.

To many a Buckeye fan, Tressel was seen as  role model for kids, a mentor helping bridge the gap between childhood and adulthood for many who lacked significant father figures in their lives. But what did those kids really learn? On one hand, their coach was taking them to visit sick children in hospitals, but on the other hand, he was letting them get impermissible car deals, cash, drugs, and more. Instead of learning right from wrong or being punished for their mistakes, they were taught that winning games and beating Michigan were more important than playing by the rules.

Perhaps the mentality of today’s youth is partially to blame. In an era of Facebook and YouTube, Twitter and FourSquare, over-hyped commitment press conferences, and recruiting rankings that seemingly start at birth, playing for school pride and gaining an education is no longer enough. Making money, driving the sweetest rides, and smoking weed have become symbols of entitlement for many athletes. The problem is, these players don’t realize that if they work hard for two or three years, they can have all of that stuff legally when they become pros. They need role models to help them understand that. Of course, it should start with the parents, but many times these kids don’t have that, and the responsibility falls on the coaches. A true coach of character and integrity wouldn’t recruit those kids in the first place, but certainly would make sure they’re getting the best education possible, both in the classroom and in life. A coach’s job, more than just winning games, is to provide leadership, accountability, and an example of character and integrity, not just write about them.

Upon being hired by Ohio State in 2001, Tressel stood at mid court at halftime of an Ohio State basketball game and stated, “I can assure you that you will be proud of your young people in the classroom, in the community, and most especially in 310 days in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the football field.”And that’s where Tressel failed. He lived up to the “on the football field” part, but failed in the other aspects, and that’s the sad part about this whole thing.

The NCAA investigation will go on for the coming months and eventually sanctions will be imposed on the Ohio State football program. What those sanctions are is yet to be determined, but current players and incoming recruits will be affected, and former players’ careers tainted, whether they participated in the shenanigans or not. But hopefully everyone learns a valuable lesson from all of this: no matter how good your perceived reputation is, the truth will always come out and cheaters never win.

How Tressel Saved America: The Tale of a True American Hero

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011


Breaking news out of Columbus indicates that Ohio State head football coach Jim Tressel is not the villain we all made him out to be over the past couple of months. In fact, he’s a true American hero; the mastermind behind bringing down Usama Bin Laden.

When Yahoo released a series of emails Tressel exchanged with Columbus attorney Chris Cicero prior to last season, Tressel insisted he wasn’t trying to break any rules; he was merely scared and wanted to respect the confidentiality of the matter.

While we all scoffed at the notion of confidentiality in that case, the situation was evidently far more serious than we realized.

“I had been working behind the scenes with an elite team of Navy SEALS and the CIA,” Tressel said in a statement released Monday afternoon. “My guys weren’t selling their possessions for personal gain. They were working as undercover operatives extracting information to help capture Bin Laden.”

Those guys, most notably star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, had been dubbed the “Tat-5,” but Monday’s revelation shows them to actually be Jack Bauer-style covert agents.

Pryor released a Twitter statement on Monday explaining how it was done:

@TPeezy2 – We tat the info on our arms so we wouldn’t forget it n brot back to Tress. We the American heroes #haterz.

He then issued a follow-up statement:

@TPeezy2 – Everybody kills people but not everybody kills Bin Laden. Go Bucks!

According to a source close to the situation, Pryor and the others traded their trophies, gold pants, and autographs for information from informants throughout the Columbus area. Former Ohio State quarterback and current ESPN College Game Day host Kirk Herbstreit, was recently relocated to a safe house in Tennessee for nearly exposing the undercover op.

The information collected was then brought back to Tressel who formulated the game plan and implemented it with the SEALS and the CIA.

The game plan initially called for a conservative ground attack, code named Three Islamists and a Cloud of Dust, but Tressel called an audible when he received some last-minute information over the weekend.

“We received a tip from our scouts that Bin Laden had a son that wanted to play football for that school up north,” Tressel said. “The scoop is that he has a rocket of an arm and, like his dad, was very good at scrambling. We could not let him fall into enemy hands. Because of this, I decided it was not the time to be conservative, so I opted for the hail mary.”

The disclosure of yesterday’s information brought a massive sigh of relief from Buckeye fans who say they knew all along that the man they call “Saint Tress” wasn’t the corrupt cheater we all made him out to be.

“This explains a lot,” said one Buckeye fan. “We knew he was an amazing man of integrity and character. Now we know everything he has done since the day he stepped foot in Columbus was to serve our great country. When he searched Michigan’s bus with dogs in 2004, he was actually searching for Bin Laden. When he recruited Maurice Clarett, it was for the sole purpose of planting him in GITMO to extract information from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Muck Fichigan!”

Tressel installing the game plan to bring down Bin Laden

High-level sources have confirmed that Tressel has been working undercover with the CIA since he was hired at Ohio State just before the attacks on Sept. 1, 2011.

Ohio State president Gordon Gee couldn’t be happier that his coach succeeded on his mission.

“I’d like to see the sisters of the poor find and kill Bin Laden,” Gee said on Monday. “You all made fun of me for saying that I hope Jim doesn’t fire me, but what I really meant by that was that I hope Jim doesn’t fire AT me. He’s the patriot of all patriots.”

We reached out to the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis for comment on the current investigation, but they declined to comment.

We did, however, unearth a series of emails between Tressel and NCAA president Mark Emmert from early Monday morning.

Tressel: Marky Mark, I’m sorry that you were unable to realize the magnitude of the situation we were in. I had to keep pounding these guys. Happy Easter !! Go Bucks !! jt

Emmert: Jim, I understand completely. Always knew you were a class act. By the way, I’m sending some footballs your way if you wouldn’t mind signing them for me. M

Tressel: Mark, no problem. I’ll get on it asap !! So we’re all good now? No hard feelings? I mean, you know, we’ve got bigger fish to fry, right? Go Bucks !! jt

Emmert: Jim, Absolutely. You mean you’re going after Ahmadinejad next?!?

Tressel: Mark, no, I mean we literally have some Arabian Picasso triggerfish that we caught in the Arabian Sea last night to fry up. Some guys I know tell me it goes perfectly with wine coolers. Go Bucks !! jt

p.s. – I hear that school up north has been driving up gas prices and kidnapping some of our Ohio kids lately. Might want to look into this Hoke guy. jt

[Ed. Note: This piece of satire is in no way intended to trivialize the extraordinary efforts and sacrifices made by our military].

He Is Who We Thought He Was

Thursday, March 10th, 2011


It’s never a good thing when your rival goes down in flames. We may root for them to lose every now and then (okay, or more times than not). We may be glad when they lose out on a top recruit. But when their coach is outed for NCAA violations, we shouldn’t rejoice, right? Yet, in the aftermath of Tuesday’s bombshell dropped by Yahoo that Ohio State Head Coach Jim Tressel was made aware of NCAA violations regarding some current players and did nothing with it, I’m met with mixed emotions.

On one hand, it’s bad for the rivalry and bad for the Big Ten Conference as a whole, but on the other hand, it’s been a long time coming.

For the past decade, college football fans that don’t see the world through scarlet and grey lenses have known something just wasn’t right with the guy. The writing was on the wall, if only with laundry detergent* instead of Sharpie. He’s been deified by those in Buckeye Nation as a supreme bastion of integrity, but there’s a reason others dubbed him “Teflon Tressel.” Even though the number of violations involving high-profile players that have occurred under his watch could rival those of any other coach in the country, he always maintained a pristine reputation. Until Tuesday.

Yahoo’s piece by Charles Robinson and Dan Wetzel finally revealed enough to perhaps permanently tarnish that reputation. And he didn’t make it any better with the spin job he put on during last night’s televised press conference.

Most expected him to admit wrongdoing, apologize for it, and take his medicine. Instead, he admitted wrongdoing, said he has a tendency to talk in circles, and then talked in circles.

If you haven’t read the emails that form the backbone of this revelation, his explanations probably seemed at least somewhat understandable. He received a startling email from an attorney hinting at involvement of some of his players with the subject of a federal drug trafficking investigation, was so scared and concerned that he didn’t know what to do, decided he didn’t want to break confidentiality and interfere with a federal investigation, so he did nothing. Except that wasn’t actually his reaction.

“Thanks [name redacted]…I will get on it ASAP…Happy Easter to you as well !! Go Bucks !! jt” read his reply to the initial email on April 2.

I’m no expert on email lingo of middle-aged football coaches, but common sense tells me that when you’re truly “scared” and “concerned” about the contents of an email, your reply wouldn’t include multiple exclamation points, and “Go Bucks.”

His reply suggests a “buddy-buddy” relationship with the attorney, a “thanks for giving me the heads up before anybody else found out” reaction.

(AP Photo)

Nowhere in the initial conversation did the word confidential appear, nor was it hinted at. In fact, the attorney said “Just passing this on to you,” which indicates it wasn’t intended to be confidential.

Two weeks passed before the attorney emailed Tressel back with more detailed information and stated that the information was confidential. Tressel had two weeks before confidentiality was requested to report it to somebody (I mean, he did say “I will get on it ASAP”), but as he said in last night’s press conference, “In my mind, I couldn’t think of who that best to be.”

Huh?

You received information which at that point wasn’t confidential, that some of your current players were engaging in what you knew were NCAA violations and you couldn’t think of who to report it to? Seriously? This coming from the coach of a program that has self-reported more minor violations than any other school in the nation the past 10 years ?

His next response was even more puzzling.

“I hear you !! It is unbelievable !! Thanks for your help…keep me posted as to what I need to do if anything. I will keep pounding these kids hoping they grow up…jt”

When thinking of who he could possibly report this to, his boss, school compliance officials, or even the university’s attorney apparently didn’t come to mind, but he asked the attorney who sent these emails to keep him posted as to what he needed to do if anything. Since when does Jim Tressel, head football coach at The Ohio State University, report to this attorney, and why is his take-away action-item that he’s going to “keep pounding these kids until they grow up”?

If he was concerned about the confidentiality of a federal investigation and not compromising the well-being of his involved players, it seems like an appropriate response would be something along the lines of “Look Mr. Attorney, I realize this is confidential, but I’m bound by contract to report any possible NCAA violations to my superiors and ultimately to the NCAA. Would my doing so jeopardize your investigation?” Perhaps then the attorney would have said yes and Tressel would have been faced with a moral dilemma, but at least he would have a paper trail backing up his innocence.

Of course, we have now come to learn the identity of said attorney and it doesn’t help Tressel’s defense from last night. According to the Columbus Dispatch, the attorney who sent the emails to Tressel is Chris Cicero, a former Buckeye player who was on the team while Tressel was an assistant under former head coach Earle Bruce. This means that Tressel likely had some sort of relationship with Cicero, which explains the “buddy-buddy” tone of the emails and furthers the notion that Cicero sent the emails to Tressel as a heads up so he could cover it up before anyone else found out. This certainly wouldn’t be out of character for Cicero, who according to the Dispatch, has been in trouble multiple times previously, including having his law license suspended by the Ohio Supreme Court for a year in 1997.

Chris Cicero, the attorney who sent the "heads up" emails to Tressel (photo from Columbus Dispatch)

This does not bode well for Tressel or Ohio State. Not only did Tressel cover it up initially, but he lied about (or intentionally omitted disclosure of) the incident when NCAA investigators came asking in September and twice in December. When asked in December whether he had any prior knowledge of the tattoo parlor, Tressel said that he had received a tip, but it wasn’t specific. Yet, as the emails show, they were specific and certainly worthy of being brought to the attention of school compliance officials.

The school’s self-imposed two-game suspension and $250,000 fine will undoubtedly be raised by the NCAA and only goes to show the arrogance of Tressel, Athletic Director Gene Smith, and school president Gordon Gee. That they’re willing to concoct a story in front of a national television audience that they think will appease the NCAA and convince everyone that Tressel was really just a martyr shows that they believe they’re above reproach.

And why should they think any differently? Tressel and Ohio State have toed the line between right and wrong the past decade and gotten away with it with a couple of very minor slaps on the wrist.

In just his second season, Tressel ran into trouble with freshman Maurice Clarett, a key member of the 2002 National Championship team, who got in trouble for both academic and legal issues and was dismissed from the team. He claimed that had he told the truth to investigators, “half the team would have been suspended” so he just “took it,” and that he received preferential treatment, phantom jobs, money and favors. At the time, he was written off as a rogue player operating on his own and trying to get back at his former coach who “blackmailed” him.

Then, star quarterback Troy Smith was suspended a couple games for accepting $500 in return for nothing from Robert Q. Baker, a health care product provider, who also said that former OSU receiver Chris Gamble had “worked” for him as well. Interestingly enough, Baker played at Baldwin-Wallace while Tressel’s father was head coach there, so there was a prior relationship. Sound familiar? Neither the program or Tressel received any penalties.

A year later, star linebacker A.J. Hawk and lineman Nick Mangold’s apartment was robbed of $3,000 in cash, $1,425 in movies, a $500 Gucci watch, and more. You know, all the stuff that a normal college student has laying around. Nothing came of it after his dad said he had repeatedly warned Hawk not to keep his money in his apartment. Just like Cam Newton’s dad warned him to act as if he didn’t know he was shopped around.

This past fall, former NFL agent Josh Luchs described meeting with OSU receiver Santonio Holmes in 2005, but Holmes told him that he had already been receiving money from an agent the past couple years and his family had been taken care of.

Finally, since it’s still fresh in our minds, we remember “Tatgate” in December when Terrelle Pryor and several others were found to have sold championship rings, gold pants, and other gear to a tattoo parlor in exchange for tattoos. In addition, Pryor was pulled over driving loaner cars not once, not twice, but three times. Of course, all three were on the up-and-up while his car was getting worked on by this dealership that features autographed Ohio State memorabilia all over its walls.

Of all its transgressions the past decade, Ohio State got dinged the worst for the tattoo incident, with those players being forced to sit out the first five games of next season. AD Gene Smith tried to play it down as “an incident isolated to these young men and this particular instance,” but former Buckeye running back Antonio Pittman said players have been getting hookups on tattoos since 2001 (when Tressel took over).

Co-conspirators Smith and Gee say Tressel won't be fired (AP Photo/Terry Gilliam)

Each of these incidents when taken individually aren’t particularly damning. But when viewed together, with the addition of Tressel’s cover-up, they certainly suggest  a pattern, especially considering that OSU has self-reported a nation-leading 375 minor violations. It seems to suggest that their strategy is to self-report the small things so the NCAA will overlook the bigger things. Yet, even the small things when compiled together, should point to a larger problem.

A married man may be able to receive forgiveness from his wife once or twice for telling her that he mistakenly kissed another woman.** But when it keeps happening, sooner or later, she’s going to realize that he either keeps putting himself in those situations or is having an outright affair and is trying to cover it up by telling half-truths.

Likewise, a coach may occasionally realize he sent one too many texts to a recruit and need to self-report, but when it’s happening 35-plus times a year, you’re either covering up larger issues as an organization or you have incredibly poor compliance educators.

So what should we Michigan fans hope for? Is this a good thing for us?

I say it’s not a good thing, because while we may take some satisfaction about our smug rival’s downfall (finally), he has basically owned us since he took over from John Cooper. We have our own new regime with Brady Hoke committed to restoring Michigan football to its glory days and this provides us a perfect opportunity to recapture the rivalry. We want Tressel at the helm when that happens. We’ll probably never achieve a winning record against him since he’s already so far ahead and won’t stay coaching that long, but at least we could put a dent in it.

Secondly, we just went through an NCAA investigation of our own and are currently on probation for Rich Rodriguez’s violations. Yes, we all caught a lot of flak from our Buckeye brethren during that time, but we don’t have much room to talk.

Finally, even though they’re our arch rival, we want the Big Ten to remain strong and above the cheating reputation that the SEC has earned. It may be too late for that now, but if the NCAA drops the hammer on Ohio State, it could affect their program (and by default, the Big Ten) for years.

That being said, I think we can all agree to paraphrase Dennis Green and say that he is who we thought he was and we never have to listen to a self-righteous Ohio State fan wax poetic about their sweater-vested hero anymore.

It will be interesting to see the fallout from this in the coming months, but this is the last I’m saying about Tressel or Ohio State for the foreseeable future on this site. I now turn my attention back to Michigan !! Go Blue !!

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*If you take a brush, dip it in laundry detergent, and write on a wall, it won’t show up in daylight, but if you turn off the lights and shine a blacklight on it, it will glow. Years ago, in college, we painted the NCAA Tournament bracket on the ceiling of our dorm room with detergent and updated it each night throughout the tournament. The RAs had no idea, but it created one of the coolest rooms on campus, and unless they’ve re-painted the ceilings, it’s probably still there. Just like the baggage Tressel left behind at Youngstown State when he took over at OSU.

**I’m not at all saying this is okay or condoning this. Just using it as an example.

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FORECAST FRIDAY: Michigan at Ohio State

Friday, November 26th, 2010


To paraphrase legendary Michigan broadcaster Bob Ufer, we’re going down to the snakepit at Ohio State and our Maize in Blue dobbers are high right now cuz we’re getting ready to do battle with Dr. Sweatervest and his Scarlet and Grey Legions.

Ufer, of course, was talking about Dr. Strangehayes, former OSU head coach Woody Hayes, but a case could certainly be made that Dr. Sweatervest, current Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel, has his Scarlet and Grey Legions more of a threat to Michigan than Hayes ever did.

In remembrance of good times

Ohio State is looking for its seventh straight win over Michigan, which would be the longest in the 106-year rivalry since Michigan won nine straight from 1901-’09.

Michigan hasn’t won since 2003, when Chris Perry and Braylon Edwards lit up the 4th-ranked Buckeyes as Michigan won 35-21. It hasn’t won in Columbus since 2000 when Drew Henson led the Wolverines to a 38-26 victory.

To do the same tomorrow, Michigan will need its defense to step up and its offense to perform like it did against Illinois three weeks ago. It will be a tall task against a Buckeye team that ranks eighth in the nation, its only loss a 31-18 defeat at Wisconsin on Oct. 16.

Stranger things have happened in the rivalry in which the old cliche “throw out the records” certainly applies, and more often than not, it has been Michigan on the positive end of that.

Michigan will be looking to recapture the magic of the 1969 and 1993 teams which upset highly favored Ohio State teams.

The ’69 team, in Bo Schembechler’s first season as head coach, entered the matchup as 17-point underdogs (which is the same as it is for this season’s game) to the first-ranked Buckeyes, a team many thought was unbeatable. Ohio State had beaten Michgian 50-14 the year before, but when all was said and done, Michigan emerged victorious, 24-12.

The 1993 game is perhaps more similar to this season, as Ohio State entered with a record of 9-0-1, ranked 5th in the nation, and Michigan came in 6-4, having lost to Notre Dame, Michigan State, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Virtually nobody gave Michigan a chance, but Michigan dominated, rushing for 285 yards and winning 28-0.

If that happens tomorrow, it will probably signal the apocalypse since Michigan’s defense ranks as one of the nation’s worst and Ohio State’s offense is ninth in points per game.

Michigan vs. #8 Ohio State
Block M logo Sat. Nov. 27
12 p.m. ET
ABC/ESPN
7-4 Record 10-1
UConn 30-10
Notre Dame 28-24
UMass 42-37
Bowling Green 65-21
Indiana 42-35
Illinois 67-65 (3OT)
Purdue 27-16
Wins Marshal 45-7
#12 Miami 36-24
Ohio 43-7
E. Michgian 73-20
Illinois 24-13
Indiana 38-10
Purdue 49-0
Minnesota 52-10
Penn St. 38-14
#20 Iowa 20-17
#17 Mich. St. 17-34
#15 Iowa 28-38
Penn State 31-41
#7 Wisconsin 28-48
Losses #18 Wisconsin 18-31
36.8 Scoring Offense 39.6
257.4 Rushing YPG 216.2
257.2 Passing YPG 230.0
514.5 Total Offense 446.2
33.5 Scoring Defense 13.9
181.3 Rush Defense YPG 86.4
263.9 Pass Defense YPG 155.1
445.2 Total Defense YPG 241.5
17 Takeaways 26
24 Giveaways 14
16/10 Sacks By/Allowed 18/21
70/147 (48%) Third-down Conv. 61/137 (45%)
4/13 Field Goals 16/21
36.9 Net Punt Avg. 34.0

So is this Michigan team capable of pulling off an upset for the ages? I think the answer is yes, but it will take a flawless effort to pull it off.

I believe it all rests on Michigan’s defense selling out to stop the run, which it did not do last week against Wisconsin. One thing that’s fairly certain is that Jim Tressel is going to want to run the ball, control the clock, and keep Michigan’s offense off the field. That’s essentially Tressel’s modus operandi as it is, but as Wisconsin showed last week, Michigan’s defense has been helpless to stop anything other than a second-string Purdue offense in rainy conditions.

Ohio State’s offense averages 216 yards per game rushing, good for 17th nationally. The workhorse is Dan Herron who has run for 893 yards and 14 touchdowns, averaging 5.3 yards per carry this season. Two weeks ago, he gashed Penn State for 190 yards and a touchdown, an average of nine yards per carry. Last week, however, Iowa held Herron to just 69 yards on 20 carries, 3.5 yards per carry.

The second-leading rusher is quarterback Terrelle Pryor with 590 yards and four touchdowns. In Ohio State’s offense, Pryor doesn’t have to run as much as Michigan’s Denard Robinson, but he’s certainly dangerous and hard to bring down when he does. In last year’s meeting, Pryor rushed for 116 yards minus sacks.

It’s the passing game where Pryor is most vulnerable. Don’t get me wrong, he’s improved in the past couple of years and has some good targets with Dane Sanzenbacher and Devier Posey, but if there’s any weakness Michigan can try to exploit, it’s Pryor’s tendency to make poor decisions when pressured.

Pryor has thrown for 2,331 yards and 23 touchdowns, but has been picked off in each of the last five games, including twice last week against Iowa. In Ohio State’s only loss, to Wisconsin, Pryor completed just 14-of-28 passes for 156 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception.

Michigan has to be able to stuff the run on first and second down, forcing Pryor to make plays on third-and-long.

Sanzenbacher is the most dangerous receiving threat and if Michigan sells out for the run, he could have a monster game. Last week, when Wisconsin decided to pass, the middle of the field was consistently wide open. The only hope defensively is for Michigan to bring a lot of pressure and force Pryor to make mistakes. Yes, it will yield some big plays, but that might be beneficial to give Michigan’s offfense the ball back instead of Ohio State bleeding the clock with time-consuming drives.

Offensively, Michigan is going to have to take advantage of its opportunities. Overthrown open receivers like last week can’t happen. Neither can dropped passes that have seemed to plague the offense this season, leading to intereceptions on the very next play.

To win, it’s going to take around 35 points, a feat Michigan hasn’t accomplished against a ranked team yet this season. One could say Michigan is due for an offensive breakout, but it’s not likely against Ohio State’s defense which boasts the nation’s third-best rush defense, seventh-best pass defense, fifth-best scoring defense, and third-best total defense.

The Bucks allow just 86 rushing yards per game and have allowed just one 100-yard rusher all season, Wisconsin’s John Clay who gained 104 yards on 21 carries. In last year’s matchup, Michigan managed just 108 yards on 31 carries as a team, not counting sacks.

On special teams, I would love to see Darryl Stonum return kicks like he did late in the game last week and all season last year. He consistently gives Michigan better field position, as well as a home run threat, as opposed to freshman Jeremy Gallon. The only catch will be if Stonum isn’t healthy enough after getting injured on a return last week. He is expected to play, but whether he’ll be healthy enough to return kicks isn’t yet known. If he is healthy, I see no reason not to let him return the kicks tomorrow since it’s the last game of the season.

Three Predictions:

1. Denard throws for 250 yards

2. Dan Herron rushes for 150 yards

3. Michigan has the lead at halftime

Overall, I think Tressel will keep it conservative enough to keep Michigan in the game for a while. If Tressel’s game plan is to come out throwing or in the spread on first down, Michigan is in for a long day. If Michigan can stuff the run and force Pryor to make plays on third-and-long, Michigan has a chance.

I don’t think the offense can score enough to keep up, but it should at least be enough to keep it close and assure Rich Rodriguez’s return next season.

Ohio State 33 – Michigan 24

GROWING GAINS: How I grew to hate Ohio State

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010


One week in mid-November makes us obsess a little bit more than all the others: Ohio State week, or Buckeye week, or Hate week. Whatever you want to call it, we spend more time during the week longing for Saturday to come, more time ragging on our family, friends, and coworkers who have the unfortunate quality of being Ohio State fans, and more time telling “a Michigan fan and Ohio State fan walked into a bar…” jokes.

So I’ll spend a little more time this week writing about all things Michigan and Ohio State related. Thank goodness for Thanksgiving making this a two-day work week! I’ll publish an article every day this week, the schedule as follows:

Monday: Wisconsin recap and Ohio State preview

Tuesday: What The Game means to me

Wednesday: Why Michigan has a chance on Saturday

Thursday: What I’m thankful for this season

Friday: Michigan-Ohio State game preview

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Michigan-Ohio State week is upon us and I find myself reflecting on what it means to me. Every Michigan fan has their own stories about how they grew to love the Maize and Blue and how the rivalry was ingrained into them as a sort of religion. But while each person’s story is different, we all share a common bond: a hatred of Ohio State.

For me, it comes from having grown up in Ohio. I became a Michigan fan because my mom, class of ’81, and grandfather, class of ’51, were Michigan grads and my parents took me to the Rose Bowl in 1983 when I was a month and a half old. Of course I was too young to know what was going on, but something captured me and brought me to the good side.

My parents moved from Arizona to Ohio when I was two years old, ensuring that I would grow up surrounded by Buckeyes.

The 1995 game in which Tim Biakabatuka gashed Ohio State for 313 yard was my first UM-OSU game

As a very young kid, before I knew what the game of football was, let alone who Bo Schembechler was, my first stuffed animal was a little yellow bear which I named “Mazie.” I took the thing everywhere I went.

Becoming a Michigan fan must have been exciting for my mom, but a sad reality for my dad, an Ohio State fan from a family of Buckeyes. For his first child, a son nonetheless, to become a Michigan fan, must have been hard, but he didn’t try to push me towards the Buckeyes. Or if he did, I didn’t know it.

As long ago as I can remember, my parents took me, and eventually, my younger brother and sisters, on an annual trip to Ann Arbor. It was where my parents had met, my dad having moved there for work after college, and my mom, three years younger than he, a student at Michigan.

I remember, as young as three, spinning the cube on campus or avoiding the “M” in the Diag. As the years progressed, and the annual fall pilgrimage continued, the memories grew fonder. The dinners at The Cottage Inn, the trips to the MDen, the walks across campus, and of course, football Saturdays.

My first trip to the Big House was for the 1995 Michigan-Ohio State game. It was my dad, my grandpa, and me, and we witnessed Tim Biakabatuka run for 313 yards against a formidable Buckeye defense, leading Michigan to a 31-23 upset win. If there was any question up until that point as to whether or not I was a Michigan fan, “Touchdown” Tim removed all doubt from my then-13-year old mind.

On many of those trips to Ann Arbor, if Michigan was away for the weekend, we would venture into the Big House and walk down to the field. Those days, the gates were open and no one stopped us from throwing the football around, acting out Desmond Howard-like catches in the endzone, kicking field goals, and pretending to be a Michigan Wolverine.

I remember walking into Crisler Arena and standing in the tunnel watching the basketball team practice. One time, an older gentleman approached me and struck up a conversation. About what, I don’t recall, but what I do remember is realizing that this man was none other than Bo Schembechler, the Michigan legend who led the Wolverines for 20 years and, along with OSU coach Woody Hayes, made the rivalry what it is today.

I was there in 2001 when Ohio State ended its 14-year losing streak in the Big House

Another time, while watching basketball practice, the head coach walked over to us and in my young, star-struck awe, I mistakenly called him George Fisher. He was, of course, Steve Fisher, the coach who guided Michigan to a National Championship in 1989 and hauled in the best recruiting class in college basketball history, the Fab Five.

In addition to the yearly trips to Ann Arbor, I also went with my dad to an Ohio State road game every year. He made it one of his goals to visit every Big Ten stadium, and since I was his oldest kid, he took me along. Of course, I always wore my maize and blue, which didn’t sit well with the Buckeye fans. One year in Indiana, while walking down the steps to our seats, an adult Ohio State fan reached out and knocked my hat off. Granted, it wasn’t as bad as the Cleveland Browns fan tackling the eight-year-old Jets fan a couple weeks ago, but still, who does that to a kid? As if I needed any more reasons not to be a Buckeye, that was it.

I remember, in 1997, sitting in an Ann Arbor sports bar watching the “Judgment Day” game between Michigan and Penn State. It would all but wrap up a Rose Bowl berth and I insisted on buying a rose to clench between my teeth like Charles Woodson as we walked around campus that afternoon.

It was a great year to enter high school, with Michigan coming off a National Championship. I was one of just a handful (if that) of Michigan fans in the school, an hour west of Columbus. All of my friends were Buckeyes and they always let me know it.

My birthday is Nov. 17, so that makes the Michigan-Ohio State game that much bigger every year. I came to expect my locker getting decorated in scarlet and grey each year while I was in class. At the time, I didn’t mind because I knew that when the following Monday rolled around, I would be the one with the bragging rights once again. It was the same sort of pride that Ohio State fans must have right now.

On the morning announcements, they would blast Ohio State’s fight song or “Hang on Sloopy” each day leading up to the game, but then on the Monday after, I would persuade them to play “The Victors,” much to the dismay of 99 percent of the student body.

My freshman year of college, I found a girl who had a friend at Michigan that sold me two tickets to the 2001 Michigan-Ohio State game for $100. I took my dad and we sat in the Michigan student section and I suffered my first heartbreak in the Big House as Ohio State broke out to a 23-0 lead and Michigan lost despite a furious comeback.

In 2006, I bought tickets on Craigslist from an Ohio State fan for The Game, which was dubbed “the Game of the Century,” between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan. Both were undefeated and the winner was headed to the BCS National Championship. I couldn’t find just a single ticket, so I bought two, knowing that I had no one to go with. My dad wanted to watch the game at home and my Michigan friends didn’t have the money to pay for a ticket at the time.

I was right there in the student section for the 2006 "Game of the Century"

When I met the guy in a coffee shop in Columbus, I wore an Ohio State hat, the one and only time I’ll ever do that, because he was adamant that he sell the tickets to a Buckeye fan. Sucker.

I stayed with a friend on campus and we tailgated with some friends the morning of the game, but they went back to their apartment to watch the game. I was heading into the Horseshoe alone, clad in maize and blue, with seats in the OSU alumni section.

I befriended a Michigan fan on my way into the stadium, who happened to have tickets in Michigan’s student section. Once we got through the gates, he let me borrow his ticket to get me into the section so I was among friends in hostile territory. I ended up four rows from the field in the corner of the endzone.

Unfortunately, the game didn’t end well, and I was left to walk back across campus, a lone wolf in enemy clothing. By some miracle, I didn’t get hit with one of the many full cans of beer that were chucked my way from fraternity rooftops. And thanks to Buckeye drunkenness, I was able to get away from the brahs that tried to chase after me.

Each of those experiences only cemented why I’m a Michigan fan and why I dislike Ohio State. While I love my family and friends who happen to be diseased enough to be Buckeye fans, I hate the school and want nothing more than to see them lose.

This year takes on added significance for me since it’s being played over Thanksgiving weekend. I’ll be with my mom’s side of the family in Tennessee, my mom being the only one of which who is a Michigan fan. The rest are Ohio State grads. It will be my first time actually watching The Game with them and a win by the boys in blue would make for the perfect Thanksgiving.

My first child is on the way in March. It’s a girl, and I know I’ll have the same battle as my parents did to bring her up as a Michigan fan. My wife is a Notre Dame fan, so she’ll try to sabotage her fandom, but I’m thankful for my mom doing that to me, so if that’s what happens, then so be it as long as my dad doesn’t get revenge and turn her into a Buckeye.

I’m sure you have stories just like these, stories of how you became a Michigan fan and how your hatred for Ohio State grew. So while we probably don’t know each other, we’ll be family on Saturday as Michigan goes for an upset that could turn a lot of young kids into Michigan men (and women).

Go Blue!

BREAKING RECORDS: Denard tops all-time as UM rolled by Wisc.

Monday, November 22nd, 2010


Eleven games into the season, I’ve either gotten this Michigan team figured out or I’ve become so desensitized to losses that it’s what I’ve come to expect against teams not from the Mid-American Conference or the state of Indiana.

Montee Ball runs away from Michigan defenders (photo by the Detroit News)

All three of my predictions came true on Saturday, and while they weren’t too far out on a limb, they were right on, and save for a late touchdown by Wisconsin, the final score would have been exactly right too.

I don’t want to be right on those predictions, so it’s not exactly something I’m proud about. I’d much rather be completely wrong and Michigan win, but unfortunately, that’s where we are right now.

While defensive progress appeared to have been made last week in a 27-16 win over Purdue, window dressing is all it really was. Purdue was essentially playing with its second-team offense and the game was played in poor weather conditions, making good offense the exception rather than the norm.

So when Wisconsin came to town with its steamroller offense, everybody knew what the Badgers’ offensive strategy would be: run, run, run, and sprinkle in a pass here and there. Quarterback Scott Tolzien completed 14-of-15 passes for 201 yards, all of one of those passes coming in the first half when Wisconsin jumped out to a 24-0 lead.

From there on, Wisconsin ran the ball on 33 out of 34 plays in the second half, and Michigan was helpless to stop it as the Badgers rolled up 357 rushing yards.

The loss dropped Michigan to 7-4 on the season, 3-4 in the Big Ten, and set up a chance to play spoiler, and salvage the season, this Saturday in Columbus. I won’t go as far as to say this is the most important game in Rich Rodriguez’s three-year tenure at Michigan, since I think he’s returning next season no matter the outcome, but if Michigan wins it would certainly be his biggest win during that time.

Ohio State sits in a three-way tie for first with Wisconsin and Michigan State. Wisconsin beat Ohio State 31-18 on Oct. 17, and Ohio State doesn’t play Michigan State this season, so if Ohio State beats Michigan, it will claim a share of the Big Ten title and likely receive a BCS bowl game since it’s ranked higher than Michigan State in the BCS standings.

A Michigan win would keep Ohio State from reaching its sixth straight Big Ten title and a sixth straight BCS bowl. It would also give Rodriguez his first win over a ranked team since 2008 when Michigan beat No. 9 Wisconsin. That Wisconsin team was vastly overrated at the time and finished the season with a 7-6 record, so beating Ohio State on Saturday would easily top that one.

But most importantly, it would end Michigan’s six game losing streak to the Buckeyes, the longest in the rivalry since the 1920s. After dominating the 90s, Michigan has seemingly forgotten how to beat Ohio State since Jim Tressel took over. Ohio state fans love to point out that it has been two thousand and something days since Michigan has beaten Ohio State. Beat Ohio State on Saturday and Rodriguez will regain much of the Michigan fan base heading into the bowl game.

Ohio State is by far the better team this season and will be heavily favored, but just ask the 1993, ’95, and ’96 Buckeye teams if the better team always wins. The beauty of the rivalry is that you can throw out the records. Let Buckeye week begin!

Notes

Robinson broke the FBS single-season rushing record by a quarterback (AP photo)

Hats off to Denard Robinson for breaking Beau Morgan’s record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a single season. His 121 rushing yards against Wisconsin also made him the first 1,500 yard rusher and passer in NCAA history, not to mention the first player to have 1,500 yards rushing and 2,000 yards passing in a single season.

The sophomore in his first season as a starter has been electrifying for Michigan this season and gives the Wolverines a lot of hope for the next two years.

He’s now 403 yards short of the all-college football quarterback rushing record, which was set by Chris Sharpe of Div. III’s Springfield (Mass.) College. He would have to average 202 yards per game to break that record, which is a tall task considering Ohio State’s rush defense which ranks third in the nation.

Injuries are hitting Michigan hard in the last few games of the season. Already having lost starting receiver Martavious Odoms and cornerback J.T. Floyd, and nose tackle Mike Martin and center David Molk having missed all or parts of the past few games, Michigan suffered another blow on Saturday. Receiver Darryl Stonum was inured returning a kick late in the game and running back Vincent Smith and defensive end Craig Roh each suffered what appeared to be concussions.

Stonum ranks second on the team in receptions and third in receiving yards with 493. He also has four touchdowns. Smith is the leading running back 571 yards and five touchdowns. Roh has been more effective as a defensive end since moving there from linebacker.

All three of those guys will be needed this Saturday if Michigan has any shot to win. Hopefully Stonum is healthy enough to keep returning kicks, because at this point, he’s light years better than Jeremy Gallon, who has been Michigan’s returner most of the season.

After the game, Stonum tweeted, “hopefully I’m ok (I think I am) but its gonna take a whole lot to keep me out of this next game.”

Roy Roundtree’s 114 yards against Wisconsin put him within striking distance of becoming Michigan’s first 1,000-yard receiver since Mario Manningham in 2007. For the season, he has 839 yards, just 37 behind Northwestern’s Jeremy Ebert for the Big Ten lead. With two games remaining, at Ohio State on Saturday and a bowl game, Roundtree needs to average 80.5 receiving yards to eclipse 1,000.

He would join the ranks of Manningham, Jason Avant (2005), Braylon Edwards (2002, ’03, ’04), Marquis Walker (2001), and David Terrell (2000) as the only Michigan receivers to reach 1,000 yards since 2000.

[Ed.: The below chart will live on the Wolverine Watch page for the rest of the season]

Roy Roundtree vs. Jeremy Ebert
11 Games Played 11
7-4 Win-Loss 7-4
58 Receptions 56
839 Receiving Yds
876
6 TDs 8
75 Long
45
14.5 Avg./Catch 15.6
76.3 Avg./Game 79.6
5.27 Rec/Game 5.18

The State of Michigan Football (for Dummies)

Sunday, August 29th, 2010


Being a Michigan fan that grew up in Ohio and currently lives in New York, I’m constantly bombarded with ridicule from friends and family about the state of the Michigan football program.

“Wow, Michigan has really fallen apart; I don’t think they’ll ever be the same,” one will say, or “Don’t you wish you had a quality coach like Tressel?” another will ask.

In passing conversation, especially with an Ohio State fan, it’s impossible to adequately describe the perfect storm that has been Michigan football the past two seasons.

So as we enter Week 1 of the 2010 college football season, let’s put into words how Michigan’s recent demise, while frustrating, is not quite as bad as it seems.

Be Careful What You Wish For

On the surface, it’s easy to pronounce, “Carr never had a losing season and Rodriguez has losing seasons in each of his first two years, therefore, Rodriguez is a terrible coach and must be fired.”

Yet, a little critical thinking will tell you that there’s more to it than that. The blame for the past two seasons should be as much on former Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin as on Head Coach Rich Rodriguez. It was Martin, after all, who decided to take Michigan down a completely new path to modernity following Carr’s retirement after the 2007 season.

The hiring of Rich Rodriguez signaled a shift to modernity for Michigan

The hiring of Rich Rodriguez signaled a shift to modernity for Michigan

Carr was a conservative coach who continued the success of his mentor, Michigan legend Bo Schembechler, combining with Bo and Gary Moeller to guide the program to 40 straight winning seasons and 33 straight bowl games. His teams were never going to go out and put up 60 points or step on an opponent’s throat while it was down. But they were never going to get blown out either.

That was both a blessing and a curse. Carr’s safe approach, whether it was punting on fourth-and-one from the opponent’s 45 with a minute and-a-half left in the half, or running three straight times to wind down the clock late in the game while clinging to a two-point lead, worked out more often than not. However, in the few instances when it gave the opponent enough time to score before the half, or gave the opponent the ball back with a chance to drive for the winning score, it was enraging. Michigan fans were constantly calling for Carr to stop being so conservative and some were even calling for him to be fired.

When Martin went out and hired an offensive innovator from West Virginia, some Michigan fans were disappointed that he didn’t get former Michigan offensive lineman Les Miles, while others were intrigued by the notion of the spread offense in Ann Arbor.

Martin knew upon hiring Rodriguez that, while he was an offensive genius, that coaching IQ fit a certain system. His style of coaching doesn’t mesh with the 320-pound offensive linemen and statuesque quarterbacks of Michigan past. He needs smaller, quicker offensive linemen and dual-threat quarterbacks. Whether you think that’s the sign of a good coach or not, that’s what Martin hired.

Right off the bat, Michigan fans expecting a carry-over from the Schembechler/Moeller/Carr regime were in for a letdown. That blame cannot be pinned on Rodriguez.

An Empty Cupboard Won’t Yield a Feast

Carr officially retired following the 2007 season, but he seemingly checked out a couple of years prior. He first hinted at calling it quits prior to 2007 and many believe that had Michigan beaten Ohio State in 2006 and advanced to the National Championship game, Carr’s exit would have come then.

Lloyd Carr didn't leave much for Rodriguez to work with following the 2007 season

Lloyd Carr didn't leave much for Rodriguez to work with following the 2007 season

He entered 2007 with a senior four-year-starter at quarterback (Chad Henne) and a hot-shot freshman (Ryan Mallett) backing him up. Part of Carr’s bait to hook Mallett, the number two quarterback in the 2006 high school class, was that the job was his when Henne graduated and Carr wouldn’t recruit a quarterback in the 2007 class.

Mallett, however, had trouble adjusting to Ann Arbor, butting heads with Carr during his freshman season, while being thrust into playing time during Henne’s injury-plagued senior season. By all accounts, Mallett intended to return home following that season regardless of who the coach was in 2008.

Following that season, Henne graduated along with four-year starting running back Mike Hart and left tackle Jake Long (the 1st overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft). Junior wide receivers Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington chose to enter the Draft and left guard Adam Kraus graduated, leaving Rodriguez with just a handful of returning starters on offense, none of which were suited for his offense.

The coaching transition was further slowed when Rodriguez lost out on Terrelle Pryor to Ohio State and offensive lineman Justin Boren bolted for Ohio State, bad-mouthing the program on his way out.* Pryor’s talents fit Rodriguez’s system and would have made some difference in 2008 and Boren certainly had the talent, but wasn’t committed to working hard enough for Rodriguez’s system.

Instead, Rodriguez was left with less talent and experience on offense than the majority of college football. His choice at quarterback was a freshman (Steven Threet) or a walk-on junior (Nick Sheridan), neither of which had any game experience and neither was suited for Rodriguez’s system. That alone wouldn’t have doomed the Wolverines had there been an experienced supporting cast to make up for it.

The best running back Rodriguez had was also a true freshman, Sam McGuffie, a Carr recruit who would have redshirted in any normal situation. The top receiver was a true freshman as well, Martavious Odoms, one of Rodriguez’s first recruits at Michigan who is more suited to be a supporting receiver rather than the lead role.

It’s certainly no stretch to say that no team in college football history has succeeded with freshmen starting at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver, no matter how highly-touted they are coming out of high school. It’s also no stretch to say that no coach in the country could have fared well with what Rodriguez had to work with in 2008.

Three of the top players in Michigan history at their position (Jake Long, Chad Henne, Mike Hart) graduated prior to Rodriguez's hiring

Three of the top players in Michigan history at their position (Jake Long, Chad Henne, Mike Hart) graduated prior to Rodriguez's hiring

Essentially, Rodriguez had two choices: to design a completely new playbook to fit the talents of the players Carr left behind or to begin installing his spread ‘n shred offense.

The former might have yielded another win or two that season, allowing Threet and Sheridan to be drop-back passers and McGuffie to run for three yards and a cloud of dust. Yet it would have set back the progression of the offense Rodriguez was going to install – the one he made his living on in working his way up from Glennville State to Tulane to Clemson to West Virginia and, ultimately, to Michigan.

The latter would at least get that progression started for Odoms and the rest of the players recruited by Rodriguez specifically for that offense.

Again, keep in mind that Martin didn’t hire a coach who then surprised everyone by running some wacky offense that no one knew about. Martin knew when he hired Rodriguez that he was essentially a system coach and the best in his field.

To expect that system to work from Day 1 is ludicrous even if he had Henne, Hart, and Long. Simply put, Michigan didn’t have the right players and that’s not Rodriguez’s fault.

Imagine if Schwinn Bicycle Company hired a new CEO who decided the company was going to start making airplanes. While the company is great at making bikes, handlebars and spokes will only fly so far. Mr. CEO would have to begin acquiring the necessary components to build airplanes and it wouldn’t happen overnight.

In the world of college football, players stay in a system for four or five years, making the roster turnover a slow process. It’s impossible to just get rid of 100-plus players of the old regime and bring in 100-plus of your guys. It takes four or five years to turn over the roster, and in theory, the results should progress each year.

By planting the seeds of his offense from Day 1, Rodriguez began to water the roots of his system.

In 2009, Rodriguez was able to land two quarterbacks that fit his offensive style, Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson. Threet transferred to Arizona State when he realized he was a square peg in a round hole and Sheridan was relegated to third string.

In one sense, Rodriguez has progressed with Odoms and the rest of the returnees from 2008 already having a knowledge base of the system. But on the other hand, he was back at square one, having to start another true freshman at quarterback.

Even so, the offense showed marked year-over-year improvement, going from 20.2 points and 290.8 yards per game in 2008 to 29.5 points and 384.5 yards per game in 2009. It just lacked consistency as a result of inexperience.

Reporters With an Axe to Grind

The next fodder for the anti-Rodriguez crowd is the allegation of cheating which was exposed by the Detroit Free Press last August. While all kinds of conspiracy theories exist, the fact is that the Free Press’ reports were nothing short of slanted, biased and exaggerated.

The paper’s writers, Michael Rosenberg and Mark Snyder, succeeded in creating a national sense of animosity towards Rodriguez and ego-boosting by fans of other schools.

The NCAA’s probe, released in February found five violations that in any other situation would be considered the minor, slap-on-the-wrist types that are constantly self-reported or overlooked by other schools. However, as a result of the “Freep Jihad,” the NCAA came down hard, finding five so-called major violations.

While all are nothing more than what would be found at nearly every other school in the country, the national perception is that Michigan and Rich Rodriguez knowingly cheated. It’s easy to create that perception when you’re a reporter with an axe to grind. Just find a couple of disgruntled former players who will gladly trash their former coach as well as a few ignorant freshmen and distort their words. In that way, the situation in Ann Arbor is different than everywhere else.

The Detroit Free Press drove the NCAA allegations with this article

The Detroit Free Press drove the NCAA allegations with this article being just one of many slanted pieces by Michael Rosenberg and Mark Snyder

There is no doubt that Ohio State would find itself behind the eight-ball if the Columbus Dispatch decided to declare jihad on the school. Just this summer the Ohio State athletic department self-reported 13 minor violations between Jan. 1 and July 1, six involving the football program. In fact, since 2000, Ohio State has self-reported 375 minor violations (across all sports), the most of any school in the NCAA. By comparison, Oklahoma has self-reported 224 and Florida 112. 

This leads to two possible conclusions: either Ohio State purposely crosses the line just a little bit, and decides every now and then to self-report just to keep the NCAA at bay; or Ohio State’s athletic department and coaching staff don’t monitor the rule book well enough to know that they shouldn’t keep making these kinds of mistakes.

Either way, if the Dispatch decided that instead of just reporting these violations, they were going to dive in and blow them out of proportion, the NCAA would almost certainly have to come down hard.

So the issue isn’t that Rich Rodriguez is a cheating scumbag; it’s that he didn’t meet the standards of two local reporters.

I’m not saying that Michigan wasn’t wrong, but failing to count 10 minutes of stretching as countable practice time certainly doesn’t justify the national perception created by Rosenberg and Snyder, nor does it create any more of a competitive advantage than those 375 minor violations at Ohio State.

To Paraphrase Arnold, We’ll Be Back

So now that Rodriguez finds himself firmly on the proverbial hot seat, many consider him all but gone if Michigan fails to have a great season this year. But that’s not the case.

If absolutely no progress is shown and another losing season is the end result, then it could happen. But a winning season, a bowl game, and signs of progress assure a fourth season on the job because 2011 promises to be a good one.

Forcier and Robinson will be juniors in 2011, leading 10 returning starters on offense

Forcier and Robinson will be juniors in 2011, leading 10 returning starters on offense

Following this season, Michigan loses only one starter on the offensive side (left guard Stephen Schilling) and two on the defensive side (linebackers Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton).

When senior cornerback Troy Woolfolk went down with a season-ending ankle injury last week, it was both a blessing and a curse. Woolfolk won’t be able to help out a very thin secondary this season, but intends to come back for his senior season in 2011, so a position that will be a weakness this season will be a strength next year.

In addition to 18 starters returning (19 if you count getting Woolfolk back), quarterbacks Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson will be in their third season running the offense. By then, their comfort level will be enough to ensure an offense sure to be as vaunted as those Rodriguez featured at West Virginia.

The schedule also sets up nicely with Notre Dame, Wisconsin, and Ohio State at home, Penn State off the schedule, and Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, and San Diego State as the other non-conference opponents (although the conference schedule may change due to the realignment and addition of Nebraska).  

In other words, Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon would be ill-advised to fire Rodriguez after this season unless things really blow up. I don’t support firing him this season anyway, since 2011 will really be the determining season.

Consider 2010 the primer for a run at the inaugural Big Ten Championship next season. Don’t write off Rodriguez and the Wolverines just yet, because it’s not quite as bad as it seems.

________________________________________________________________________________

*Many have also piled on Rodriguez for the players that have left the program for various reasons, such as Boren and wide receiver Toney Clemons who transfered, Justin Feagen and Boubacar Cissoko who were kicked off the team, and others who failed to qualify. Yet they forget that Carr had the same troubles.

In 2007 alone, Carr dismissed tight end Carson Butler, defensive end Eugene Germany, and cornerback Chris Richards from the team for violating team rules, backup quarterback Jason Forcier (Tate’s older brother) transfered to Stanford, and linebacker Cobrani Mixon transfered to Kent State (all of which subsequently hurt the depth of Rodriguez’s teams).