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Your bye week Saturday viewing guide

Friday, October 25th, 2013


Michigan’s second bye week in four weeks provides another great chance to relax, get your fall yardwork done, and ultimately get ready for the final five-week stretch of the season. All five of the next Saturdays feature big-time matchups for Michigan, each of which is a must win if the Wolverines want any chance of winning the Big Ten this season. This stress-free Saturday sets up nicely to scout each of the five teams Michigan has left on its schedule with a nice slate of games. Here’s your viewing guide.

Early games

At noon, two Big Ten games are worth at least casually keeping your eye on. They won’t necessarily be good games, but three of the four teams involved are among Michigan’s next four opponents. Iowa hosts Northwestern (12pm, Big Ten Network) in a battle of 4-3 squads. The Wildcats began the season 4-0 and battled Ohio State punch-for-punch in Evanston, but a combination of factors including injuries to several of their top playmakers have them reeling with three straight losses. Suddenly, one of the Legends Division favorites from the beginning of the season is now relegated to playing spoiler.

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Following the Iowa game, Northwestern has Nebraska, Michigan, and Michigan state in three consecutive games before finishing the season at Illinois, so beating Iowa is a must-win for the Wildcats to be assured of bowl eligibility. But that’s easier said than done in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes won the last matchup at home and are always tough to beat at home, especially in late fall when the wind starts whipping.

Iowa has shown to be pesky this season, playing Michigan State and Ohio State tough each of the last two games, so while neither of these teams is likely to win the Legends, Michigan will have to get through both of them – on the road – to have a chance.

The other noon game to keep an eye on is #24 Nebraska at Minnesota (12pm, ESPN). The Cornhuskers may be the Legends Division favorite at this point, but as Derick described on Wednesday, they have beaten just one team this season that has a winning record (4-3 Wyoming). The other four have come against winless Southern Miss, FCS school South Dakota State, and Big Ten bottom feeders Illinois and Purdue. The one team with a pulse Nebraska has faced, then-16th ranked UCLA, stomped the ‘Huskers 41-21 in Lincoln.

Minnesota is coming off a big win at Northwestern with head coach Jerry Kill taking a leave of absence. The Gophers likely don’t have enough in the tank to hang with Nebraska, but after last weekend’s big road win they’ll at least be playing with confidence.

Outside of the Big Ten there aren’t really any other big early games worth watching. Wake Forest vs #7 Miami (12pm, ESPNU) and #16 Texas A&M vs Vanderbilt (12:21pm, ESPN3) are the only others even remotely good, the latter because the Aggies are a potential bowl opponent.

Afternoon games

The afternoon slate features a few games worth watching, most notably Michigan State at Illinois (3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2), only because the Spartans are Michigan’s next opponent. It’s not likely to be much of a battle as MSU’s top-ranked defense should be able to handle Illinois’ offense that was held to just 25.5 points per game against Nebraska and Wisconsin the past two weeks. Conversely, Michigan State’s offense, which hasn’t been much to talk about this season should be able to move the ball and score against the Illini’s 98th-ranked scoring defense which allows over 32 points per game. The Spartans shouldn’t have much trouble beating Illinois, but it will be a good chance to get acclimated with them if you haven’t seen them play yet this season.

Outside of the Big Ten will feature a few solid matchups worth paying attention to. Tennessee visits #1 Alabama (3:30pm, CBS), #2 Florida State hosts NC State (3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2) and #9 Clemson visits Maryland (3:30pm, ESPN). Tennessee isn’t likely to pull off the upset in Tuscaloosa, but the Vols have shown some fight this season under Butch Jones, including last week’s win over #11 South Carolina and taking then-#6 Georgia to overtime earlier this month. Similarly, Florida State shouldn’t have trouble dispensing of NC State, but an unranked Wolfpack squad has beaten a ranked FSU team four times since 2005, including a 17-16 upset last season. Florida State is coming off a huge primetime win at Clemson and faces #7 Miami next week, so this could be a classic trap game. Finally, the team that was on the losing end of that Florida State win last Saturday, Clemson is licking its wounds as it travels to College Park to face a 5-2 Maryland squad. The Terps, however, were blasted by FSU (63-0) and last week by Wake Forest (34-10).

Another one to at least flip over to during commercial breaks is #10 Texas Tech at #15 Oklahoma (3:30pm, FOX). The Red Raiders are a surprising 7-0 and the Sooners’ only loss of the season was two weeks ago at the hands of Texas. Both of these teams are potential bowl opponents if Michigan either gets a BCS at-large bid or limps through the rest of the season falling to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl or Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.

Evening games

The evening set of games features several ranked foes squaring off. The one that most pertains to us is Penn State at #4 Ohio State (8pm, ABC). The Nittany Lions had a week off last week after beating Michigan, while Ohio State got an unexpected fight from Iowa. With two weeks to prepare, could Penn State pull off a big upset in Columbus? The big play threat of Christian Hackenberg throwing to Allen Robinson and the rest of Penn State’s receivers is sure to test Ohio State’s beleaguered secondary, but the Buckeyes will look to put pressure on the freshman quarterback. Expect a close game in what’s likely to be Ohio State’s final test before visiting Ann Arbor on Nov. 30.

The biggest battle of the day will be #12 UCLA at #3 Oregon (7pm, ESPN). The Bruins lost to 13th-ranked Stanford last week and will be looking to bounce back in Eugene against the high-powered Ducks.

Two other games feature battles of ranked teams: #21 South Carolina at #5 Missouri (7pm, ESPN2) and #6 Stanford at #25 Oregon State (10:30pm, ESPN). Missouri is the surprise of the SEC this season, but a team many feel is overrated at fifth in the BCS standings. South Carolina is coming off a disappointing loss at Tennessee, looking to pull off an upset of its own and stay in the SEC East race. Stanford got upset by Utah two weeks ago and now finds itself a game behind Oregon State and Oregon in the Pac-12 standings. If UCLA is able to upset the Ducks, this game could either put Oregon State in the conference lead or leave a three-way tie, and both teams still have to play Oregon in the final month of the season.

Your bye week Saturday viewing guide

Friday, September 27th, 2013


Since you don’t have to worry about making the pilgrimage to the Big House or blocking off a chunk of time to watch the beloved Wolverines on TV tomorrow, there are any number of things to do. Yardwork, that home improvement project you’ve been putting off, appeasing your significant other, take the kids to a fall festival, or…maybe watching other games? Without much at stake tomorrow, you may not have paid much attention to the slate of games, but don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. Here’s your guide to tomorrow’s games that relate to Michigan.

Early games

There are no noon kickoffs that have any bearing on Michigan’s season so use this time to do any of the aforementioned tasks. Spend the morning and early afternoon with your significant other or getting stuff done around the house before you settle in for the afternoon games. There are three ranked teams in action at noon: #11 Oklahoma at West Virginia (ESPN), #12 South Carolina at UCF (ABC), and #15 Miami at South Florida (ESPNU), so perhaps you could have one of those on in the background.

Afternoon games

LSU and Georgia are potential bowl opponents to keep an eye on (Dale Zanine, US Presswire)

The first big matchup of the day that relates to Michigan is #14 Oklahoma at #22 Notre Dame (3:30pm, NBC). The Sooners are out for revenge after getting throttled by the Irish in Norman a year ago. OU has given up just 27 points in three games this season, and they have had two weeks to prepare for Notre Dame, but this will be their first road test. Quarterback Blake Bell looked good against Tulsa two weeks ago, completing 27-of-37 passes for 413 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. Michigan fans will want to cheer for the Irish in this one since Michigan already beat Notre Dame. The more games ND wins the rest of the season the more it will help Michigan’s BCS chances should the Wolverines keep winning.

Also at 3:30 is a Big Ten matchup between Iowa and Minnesota (ABC/ESPN2). This certainly won’t be the best game on but it’s a chance to scout out two future opponents including next week’s. Minnesota is 4-0 so far and Iowa is 3-1, though neither has beaten a quality opponent. It will be a good early season barometer of how good both of these teams really is before they face the upper tier of the Big Ten in the coming weeks. It’s a rivalry game, played for the Floyd of Rosedale, and two of the last three meetings have been decided by three points or less.

The biggest game on at the 3:30 time slot is one that may or may not be relevant to Michigan: #6 LSU at #9 Georgia (CBS). GameDay will be in Athens in the morning, which might be worth flipping on to see Bubba Watson and Willie Robertson as the guest pickers. You may not enjoy watching SEC football, but one of these teams could very well end up being Michigan’s opponent in January, and it’s sure to be a great game.

Evening games

Wisconsin may be the best chance for Ohio State to lose before Nov. 30 (Kirk Irwin, Getty Images)

If you weren’t able to catch any of the games during the day, now is definitely the time to kick back, enjoy a cold one (or a few) and watch some football. At 8pm #4 Ohio State hosts #23 Wisconsin on ABC. While Michigan doesn’t play the Badgers this season, it may be the best chance for the Buckeyes to lose before they come to Ann Arbor on Nov. 30. Wisconsin has one of the nation’s top running games with two very good backs, both of which are on pace for well more than 1,000 yards. Melvin Gordon has 624 yards on 11.8 yards per carry through four games, while James White has 442 on 7.2 yards per carry. Even freshman Corey Clement has more yards than Michigan’s leading rusher, Fitzgerald Toussaint, does (334 on 7.6 yards per carry).

Ohio State has played four cupcakes to start the season and is coming off a 76-0 thrashing of Florida A&M. What’s more is that Braxton Miller is set to start after missing the last two games with a knee injury. He entered the season as a Heisman favorite, but his backup, Kenny Guiton has looked phenomenal the last two weeks. It will be interesting to see how Urban Meyer handles it if Miller struggles.

Two other evening games will be worth checking out similar to the LSU-Georgia game for the potential of Michigan facing them in January. Top-ranked Alabama hosts #21 Ole Miss (6:30 on ESPN) and #10 Texas A&M visits Arkansas (7:00 on ESPN2). Alabama hasn’t been as dominant to this point as it has been the past few years, and Ole Miss is in the midst of a resurgence, so it should be a good one to watch.

Overall, it’s a pretty good slate of games this weekend so enjoy a stress free weekend of football and whatever else is on your agenda.

The Michigan Medley explains why Manti Te’o winning the Heisman would illegitimize the award

Friday, December 7th, 2012


Tomorrow night, one of three men will be awarded college football’s most prestigious honor, the Heisman Trophy. Only three were invited to the ceremony this season instead of the usual five, but in reality only two of them have a chance of winning the award and only one is actually deserving. But in the wacky landscape of college football in 2012, it’s likely that the most deserving player, the one who fits the definition defined by the Heisman Trust, won’t take it home.

But that shouldn’t surprise anyone that has followed college football, especially over the last decade or so when the Internet, social media, and more televised games have allowed everyone to be an expert. The award voting involves more politics than Washington and that’s why Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o will likely win it tomorrow.

Te’o is a great player. He’s a great person. He has had a great career and he’s a great story. But none of that makes him the most outstanding player in the country whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.

Linebacker comparison
Forget the Heisman Trophy race for a minute; let’s take a look at Te’o compared to Michigan’s top linebacker, Jake Ryan. It’s a lot closer than you think.

Manti Te’o

Jake Ryan

103 Total Tackles 84
52 Solo Tackles 53
5.5 Tackles for Loss 14.5
1.5 Sacks 4.0
7 Interceptions 0
2 Forced Fumbles 4
As you can see, Ryan’s numbers are very comparable to Te’o's and actually better in most categories, but no one is saying he’s deserving of Heisman consideration. And rightly so. In fact, Ryan was only named Second Team All-Big Ten by the media.

It can be argued that had Notre Dame been in the Big Ten, Te’o would have been the third or fourth best linebacker in the conference. Six Big Ten linebackers had more tackles, five had more solo, about a dozen had more tackles for loss, and several had more sacks.

Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier had 12 more total tackles than Te’o, 18 more solo tackles, 11.5 more tackles for loss, and 3.5 more sacks. The only thing he lacked were interceptions, though he did have one and forced three fumbles. Is the reason he’s not up for Heisman discussion simply because he has six fewer interceptions?

If Te’o wins the Heisman, then Ryan and Shazier better be invited to New York if they have similar seasons next year. They will, after all, be upperclassmen by then, which is apparently the main criteria used by many voters.

His 103 total tackles are tied with Wyoming’s Corey Jones, Western Michigan’s Johnnie Simon, and Florida Atlantic’s Bret Harstad. Are any of those guys considered for the Heisman? How about the 51 players who had more tackles than him? Or the 58 who averaged more tackles per game?

But it’s not solely based on tackles is it? How about solo tackles? You know, tackles made by yourself without the help of a teammate. Te’o's 52 are fewer than at least 87 others. His average of 4.3 solo stops per game don’t even rank in the top 94.

Ok, so maybe it’s not simply about tackles, so how about tackles that mean something – tackles in the backfield? Te’o had just five-and-a-half (yes, 5.5) tackles for loss. That puts him far outside the top 100. Four Michigan players had as many or more, led by Jake Ryan’s 14.5.

So Te’o hasn’t been dominant in tackles, solo tackles, or tackles for loss; how about sacks? Surely the likely Heisman winner has been lethal in the backfield, right? Wrong. His 1.5 sacks are fewer than five Michigan defenders – and Michigan ranked 85th nationally in sacks.

So he’s clearly not one of the top 100 defenders in the country when it comes to tackles for loss or sacks, and barely cracks the top 100 for solo tackles. Are we sure we’re looking at the right player’s stats? Yep. So what other defensive categories are there that have him as the likely Heisman winner?

How about turnovers forced? Ding ding ding ding! Te’o collected seven interceptions this season, which are second nationally to Fresno State defensive back Phillip Thomas. So there you have it: the Heisman trophy is now the award for the linebacker who makes the most interceptions.

Look, Te’o is a great linebacker and will probably have a long NFL career, which is why he won the Nagurski (best defensive player) and Lombardi (best lineman) awards. But even those are debatable, given the numbers listed above. Let’s be real here: he has benefited greatly from a productive career at Notre Dame and a defense stocked with NFL talent.

If the trophy is truly for the most outstanding player, as the Heisman Trust mission statement reads, then Johnny Manziel is the winner hands down. He ranks second nationally in total offense and points responsible for, 18th in scoring, 16th in passing yards, 33rd in rushing, and 17th in pass efficiency. Name another player in the country that has had that much of an impact in that many categories. Here’s another exercise: name another player on Texas A&M’s team. If you’re not an Aggie fan, you probably can’t. His offense isn’t chocked full of next level talent and he still led it to be the nation’s third-best scoring offense – as a freshman.

Aaahhh, so there’s the main reason he likely won’t win the award. Many Heisman voters won’t vote for him simply because he’s a freshman (a redshirt freshman that is). No freshman has ever won the award, and the snooty voters who are willing to deny the most outstanding player the award simply to preserve that record should be stripped of their ability to vote. Manziel should be rewarded because he’s a freshman – a freshman that led what was previously a 7-6 team to a 10-2 record and an upset of then-No. 1 Alabama in its first season in the nation’s best conference. He shouldn’t be penalized for it. It makes what he has done this season that much more – wait for it – outstanding.

Despite being a great player and a great person, Te'o (center) doesn't deserve the Heisman

If Te’o wins the Heisman, it should officially be re-named the Popularity Contest Trophy. Te’o will earn the sentimental vote because of his career body of work, because he came back for his senior year, because of the personal tragedy he suffered mid-season, and because his team is ranked No.1. But it will completely render the trophy, as currently defined, illegitimate.

The only thing he has done spectacularly is intercept seven passes. Is that more impressive than scoring 43 touchdowns? Is it more outstanding than breaking the all-time SEC total offense record that was set by Cam Newton during his Heisman trophy-winning season? Year in school aside, there’s probably not a person outside of South Bend that would say yes to those questions. Which means that if Te’o wins the award for this season’s most outstanding player it will be because of those outside factors mentioned in the previous paragraph, which are not what the Heisman Trophy is for.

It’s too bad we’ll never see Manziel and Te’o battle it out on the field. It would be a good one to watch considering that entering this season (you know, since we’re apparently taking into account full careers now) Te’o couldn’t stop Denard Robinson. Instead, we’ll have to settle for the two battling it out on a stage in New York and hopefully the voters will uphold the integrity of the award by actually awarding it to the nation’s most outstanding player rather than one whose only distinguishing points among dozens of other linebackers are interceptions and a stellar career.

The Michigan Medley analyzes Michigan’s bowl outlook

Thursday, November 29th, 2012


With an 8-4 record and a second place finish in the Big Ten Legends Division, Michigan is obviously headed to a bowl game. Since Ohio State and Penn State are both ineligible for postseason play, Michigan’s bowl destination will be better than it would have been had the 12-0 (8-0) Buckeyes and 8-4 (6-2) Nittany Lions been able to go bowling.

Games to watch on Saturday
Atlanta, Ga. Indianapolis, Ind.
#2 Alabama #3 Georgia #12 Nebraska Wisconsin
11-1 11-1 10-2 7-5
4pm on CBS 8:17pm on FOX

Michigan will fill the Big Ten’s second or third bowl slot behind the winner of Saturday’s Big Ten Championship game between Nebraska and Wisconsin. The winner will get the conference’s guaranteed BCS bid, while the loser is unlikely to receive a BCS at-large due to the conference’s weak showing all season. There is a chance Nebraska could still get one if it loses, but the bowl committees won’t look to kindly on an end-of-season loss to a 7-5 team.

If Nebraska wins and heads to the Rose Bowl, the Capital One Bowl will choose between Michigan, Northwestern, and Wisconsin. A 7-6 Wisconsin squad is likely the odd man out despite playing in the Big Ten title game because the Badgers wouldn’t have been there if Ohio State was eligible. Michigan will travel far better than Northwestern will, and a matchup between the Wolverines and a top-tier SEC school is far more appealing than one involving the Wildcats.

If Wisconsin beats Nebraska and goes to Pasadena, Nebraska will likely get slotted into the Capital One Bowl, pushing Michigan down to the Outback Bowl in Tampa. In the previous two decades, Tampa was a familiar sight for Michigan, but the Wolverines haven’t been there since beating Florida in 2003. The bowl committee would love to get a Michigan vs. SEC matchup in Raymond James Stadium. So who will Michigan face? Depending on the outcome of the Big Ten title game as well as the other conference championships, Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M, and LSU are most likely. Let’s take a look at each team.

Likely Bowl Opponent Comparison
Points/Game 38.0 26.8 44.8 30.2
Scoring Defense 17.7 12.9 22.5 16.9
Rush Avg 190.1 194.5 235.1 179.9
Rush Def. Avg 163.4 97.0 140.9 101.8
Pass Avg 273.6 143.9 317.2 207.2
Pass Def. Avg 174.4 186.4 248.4 194.3
Total Yds Avg 463.7 338.4 552.3 387.2
Total Def. Avg 337.8 283.4 389.3 296.2
Turnovers 16 12 20 16
Takeaways 25 29 15 31
Time of Poss 28:39 33:07 28:33 31:09
3rd Down Conv. 69/150 (46%) 62/168 (37%) 102/184 (55%) 75/181 (41%)
3rd Down Def. 64/180 (36%) 49/173 (28%) 58/189 (31%) 51/167 (31%)
Sacks by/allowed 24/22 25/36 30/23 30/26
Field Goals 8-for-12 23-for-28 13-for-22 20-for-28
PATs 54-for-58 34-for-35 64-for-71 41-for-41
Red Zone pct. 35/41 (85%) 35/42 (83%) 56/64 (88%) 42/50 (84%)
Red Zone Def. 25/35 (71%) 23/32 (72%) 31/40 (77%) 24/31 (77%)
Red Zone TD pct. 30/41 (73%) 22/42 (52%) 47/64 (73%) 25/50 (50%)
Red Zone TD Def. 18/35 (51%) 15/32 (47%) 24/40 (60%) 19/31 (61%)

Georgia faces Alabama in the SEC Championship game on Saturday in what is essentially the BCS National Championship play-in game. Notre Dame awaits the winner. The loser will still probably get a BCS at-large bid because of the strength of the conference, especially if Alabama is on the losing end. But there’s a slight chance that if Georgia is blown out by the Crimson Tide, the Dawgs would fall to the Capital One Bowl and Florida will gain a BCS at-large bid.

Georgia has quietly put together an impressive season, beating then-No. 2 Florida in Athens, and outscoring opponents by an average of 38-17. But if there is a knock on the Dawgs it is the fact that the SEC scheduling allowed them to skirt playing LSU and Texas A&M and they didn’t play anybody of note in the non-conference. The only loss was a 35-7 thrashing by South Carolina on Oct. 6. The Gamecocks were the only other ranked team Georgia played all season. We will find out on Saturday whether they are for real or merely benefited from a favorable schedule.

Florida and Georgia would both present stern tests for Michigan (Sam Greenwood, Getty Images)

Florida won’t get to play in the SEC Championship game because of a 17-9 loss to Georgia. It was the Gators’ only loss of the season, although they had several close wins. Thanks to the SEC’s wacky scheduling, Florida got to face Texas A&M in Week 2, before super freshman Johnny Manziel took off, and beat the Aggies 20-17. They beat LSU 14-6, hung on against Missouri 14-7, and needed some late magic to hold off Louisiana-Lafayette 27-20. Like Georgia, the Gators didn’t play much of a non-conference schedule save the annual matchup with rival Florida State. Bowling Green, Jacksonville State, and Louisiana-Lafayette were the other opponents. If both Alabama and Georgia earn BCS bowl bids, Florida will likely be slotted into the Capital One Bowl.

Texas A&M finished the season 10-2 and 6-2 in the SEC with losses to Florida (20-17) and LSU (24-19). The Aggies feature one of the best players in college football, likely Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. They rank fourth nationally in points per game (44.8) and shook up the BCS standings by beating Alabama on Nov. 10 (29-24). Since they were in the SEC West, they didn’t have to face Georgia or South Carolina, and their non-conference schedule featured SMU, South Carolina State, Louisiana Tech, and Sam Houston State. The Aggies will likely go to the Cotton Bowl, but bowl committees would love to get a matchup of two of college football’s most exciting players, Manziel and Denard Robinson.

LSU put together a good season, going 10-2 with losses to Florida (14-6) and Alabama (21-17). In the game against Alabama, LSU moved the ball with relative ease and led the Tide 17-14 late in the fourth before A.J. McCarron hooked up with T.J. Yeldon on a screen pass that went 28 yards for a touchdown with 51 seconds left. The Tigers beat Texas A&M 24-19 on the road and South Carolina 23-21. Like the Florida and Georgia, LSU didn’t play much of an out-of-conference schedule of North Texas, Washington, Idaho State, and Towson. LSU is probably the most unlikely opponent among the group, but if Wisconsin beats Nebraska and Michigan slides to the Outback, it’s possible.

Florida and Georgia are probably the most likely, depending on the outcome of the SEC title game, which will be played Saturday at 4pm on CBS and the Big Ten title game, which will be played Saturday at 8:17pm on FOX. I would much rather face Florida than Georgia or Texas A&M. While A&M doesn’t quite have the defense the other two feature, Florida’s offense is not very good. The Gators are pretty comparable to Notre Dame with a really good defense and a lackluster offense, and Michigan hung with Notre Dame for most of the game, falling due to a cacophony of turnovers. Regardless of the opponent, it will be a tough bowl game to win for Michigan this season since they will essentially be playing up a slot or two. If Ohio State and Penn State were eligible, Michigan would probably be playing in the Gator Bowl against someone like Mississippi State.