Rantings of an avowed Michigan homer.



The Day is Here.

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Oh, how I have longed for this day. This game day. This inaugural event leading to the greatest 3 months of the year.

Yes, Michigan Football is here.

And I'm not exactly sure what I expect out of this team. Could Michigan very easily go 11-1 or 12-0 this season? Maybe. I think 9-3 is more realistic, and if the chips fall as they may and injuries plague the squad once again, 7-5 is pretty reasonable. I'll go into this more later in another post, after a game or two as to not really give away too much of what I shouldn't be discussing... But I got to watch a little bit of practice yesterday inside Fort Schembechler. I've gotten to do that on a few occasions before through the years, but this practice had a very different dynamic of any I've seen.

Lloyd Carr, as usual, took sort of a backseat approach, letting his assistants run drills and instruct while he walked around adding his two cents here and there. That's not unusual. What did strike me as odd, however, was when time came for practice to be over, it wasn't the team captains who got the team assembled and fired up, but rather Mike Hart. The team seemed slightly unruly and agitated, as if no one was particularly stepping up to get them in line.

Could it just be a bad day? Maybe. I don't know what had happened before or after I was there. But what I do know is that this team is very much Mike Hart's team. And, seemingly, no one else's. Which brings me to a very important point: if Mike Hart is injured again this season, I'm booking tickets for San Antonio rather quickly. This team needs Hart in the game more than any other guy on the roster. It needs a leadership gut check. And it needs to get out of the starting gate better than, well, every year since 1998.

So this is how I see the season progressing. Vanderbilt and Central should be fairly manageable wins (anybody who saw Central's BONEHEAD trick play to close the Boston College game the other night pretty much knows CMU is not only a poor team, but poorly coached as well). I like the fact that we're opening with an SEC team rather than the Directional College du Jour, and I like the fact that Vandy and CMU come before Notre Dame.

Which brings me to South Bend, and vicariously, Happy Valley and Columbus. If Michigan can go 2-1 in those games, and especially if one of those wins is in South Bend, this could be a very special season. I fear a ND loss would start the inevitable wheels-falling-off collapse of this team. It isn't, however, a death sentence. If Michigan is 6-1 going into PSU, or even 5-2, and loses, game over. You can pretty much pencil in a loss at Ohio State. Momentum is so key this year, especially with the fairly murderous stretch of Michigan State, PSU, and Iowa.

I don't like that our three toughest games are on the road, but at the same time, I like that there's a nice, even stretch of cupcakes before the descent into Columbus. But who knows what will happen. This is probably the most anticipated football season in these parts in recent memory- no one knows what to expect out of this team, with every win precariously hanging in the balance on a very, very tough Big 10 schedule. With a few twists of fate here and there, we may be looking at Tempe on January 8, or we may be looking at San Antonio on December 28.

All I know is that tomorrow brings the first football of the year in Ann Arbor. The tailgaters are lined up in their RV's at the Pioneer HS lot, the team is snuggled in their beds at the Campus Inn, the marching band has finished Band Week. It's football season in Ann Arbor. Let the second-guessing and irate phone calls to WTKA and the angry letters to the editor begin. Let the fingernails be chewed to the bone. Let the jerseys be worn and the brats be grilled and the beers go down easy. It's football season in Ann Arbor, the greatest time of the year. And like a little kid on Christmas Eve, I'm having a hard time getting to sleep tonight.

"I don't think I'm ever going to love anything more than I'm going to enjoy bringing you the next sixty minutes of Michigan football. The way we're going, we may not last sixty minutes. But who cares, as long as it's maize and blue at the end of the day. Prejudiced? Partial? You better believe I am today. This is for everything."- Bob Ufer, 1973.


Golden Boy Revisited

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According to Bill Parcells, Drew Henson's time with America's Team is done.

"I just didn't see enough," coach Bill Parcells said Wednesday.

Parcells said Henson hadn't been waived, but the coach wouldn't elaborate when asked if the Cowboys were trying to trade the quarterback who started only one game for Dallas.

"I'm really not at liberty to discuss the situation because I'm not privy to that information," Parcells said. "He's not going to be on our roster. That's all you need to know."

Henson's locker had already been cleaned out when reporters were allowed into the locker room before practice Wednesday. For now, rookie free agent Matt Baker is the No. 3 quarterback behind Drew Bledsoe and Tony Romo.



Has there ever been anyone in recent memory that has been as big of a bust as Drew Henson? He essentially baseball'd his way out of being not only one of the greatest quarterbacks in Michigan history, but being a top-5 NFL draft pick, a probable starter somewhere, the list goes on and on and on. Instead, he opts for baseball, screws over Lloyd Carr, has a batting average less than his weight in the minors, and by the time he wants to give the NFL a try, he hasn't taken a snap in a game situation in over 3 years.

Will anyone else take a chance on the Golden Boy?


Drew Sharp gets sharp

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Drew Sharp from the Free Press, who I usually don't agree with anyway, came up with a pretty pretty absurd article concerning Michigan's success in placing players in the NFL, as opposed to Ohio State.

Ohio State 31, Michigan 16.

No, that's not an early peek into the crystal ball on what will happen in Columbus, Ohio, three months from now. And, no, it's not a first-quarter score from the police rap sheet.

It's the NFL draft score between the two programs over the last four years.

And it underscores more than anything else the wide disparity between the programs. You can't fool the NFL. The Buckeyes have the talent while the Wolverines have the temerity.

The Fraternal Order of Michigan Football Apologists is happily delusional these days, downright giddy that the proper cosmic forces are in place to revisit history this season.

They're thinking 2006 has a great chance of becoming 1997, when the Wolverines began the season residing within the middle of the nationally ranked and finished with a share of the national championship.

Lloyd Carr was under fire then as well.

But the Blue hairs are conveniently forgetting one integral aspect -- all 11 defensive starters on that 1997 team played in the NFL, and one of them happened to win the Heisman Trophy, if you'll recall.

The Wolverines are no longer feared and the Buckeyes are zooming past them. They've lost an average of 7.8 players to the NFL in the last four years and yet they're still ranked No. 1 in the country in the preseason.


Are you kidding me, Drew Sharp? First of all, last I checked, the University of Michigan isn't an NFL program. Who the hell cares if Michigan sends 1 player to the NFL every year, or 11? It's not Lloyd Carr's job to prepare players for NFL rosters- it's Lloyd Carr's job to prepare players for Michigan.

And, let's be honest here, a player can come out of a school as a low draft pick, appearing to have next to no pro potential, and come out with a handful of Super Bowl rings. Tom Brady, anybody? If you had told me in 1999 that by the time he was 30 he'd be amongst the best, if not the best, quarterbacks in the NFL, with a trophy case filled beyond capacity, I'd have laughed. Good college quarterback? Yes. But a probable future Hall of Famer? I would have thought Drew Henson would have had a better shot at that.

Just another stupid Drew Sharp column.


It's schedule time!

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Michigan Basketball has released its 2006-7 basketball schedule. Mmm-mmm! Can you smell that excitement?

Thu., Nov. 2 Wayne State (ex)
Sun., Nov. 5 Michigan Tech (ex)

JOHN THOMPSON CHALLENGE
Fri., Nov. 10 Central Connecticut State
Sat., Nov. 11 Davidson
Sun., Nov. 12 Eastern Michigan

JOHN THOMPSON CHALLENGE FINALE
Wed., Nov. 15 Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Fri., Nov. 17 Harvard
Wed., Nov. 22 Youngstown State
Sat., Nov. 25 Maryland-Baltimore County

ACC/BIG TEN CHALLENGE
Mon., Nov. 27 @North Carolina State

Sat., Dec. 2 Wofford
Thu., Dec. 7 @Miami (Ohio)
Sat., Dec. 9 Delaware State
Sat., Dec. 16 Northern Illinois
Sat., Dec. 23 @UCLA
Thu., Dec. 28 Army
Sat., Dec. 30 Georgetown

Wed., Jan. 3 Illinois*
Sat., Jan. 6 @Northwestern*
Sat., Jan. 13 @Purdue*
Wed., Jan. 17 Penn State*
Sat., Jan. 20 Purdue*
Wed., Jan. 24 @Wisconsin*
Sat., Jan. 27 @Indiana*
Wed., Jan. 31 Iowa*
Tue., Feb. 6 @Ohio State*
Sat., Feb. 10 Minnesota*
Tue., Feb. 13 @Michigan State*
Sat., Feb. 17 Indiana*
Wed., Feb. 21 @Illinois*
Sat., Feb. 24 @Minnesota*
Tue., Feb. 27 Michigan State* OR
Wed., Feb. 28 Michigan State*
Sat., Mar. 3 Ohio State*


OK, let's overlook the Big 10 schedule for a second here. Check out those early-season barnburners! Central Connecticut State, Davidson, and Eastern Michigan. Awesome. And it gets better! Harvard, Youngstown State, Maryland-Baltimore County! And who can contain their sheer and utter glee for that Wofford game? Golly-gee, I can't wait. If Tommy Amaker was any more giddy, his pants would be hiked up to his shoulders.

If Michigan comes into the UCLA games with more than 1 loss, look out. This is a team with a mountain of question marks, and frankly, a cupcake schedule going into what looks like a freakishly difficult Big 10 schedule (that last 12-game stretch looks absolutely brutal), we can use all the wins we can muster up. It's all about padding the record for the inevitable late-season injury/suspension/forgetting the fundamentals collapse. Yeah, we've scraped the bottom of the barrel for what appears to be hopeless opponents. But if that's what it takes to eek our way into the tournament, I'll take it. I've said this each year for the past 3- if Tommy Amaker doesn't lead this team to the NCAA tournament this season, he needs to pack up the ridiculously casual wardrobe and get the hell out of town. Finishing the season with home matchups with Michigan State and Ohio State doesn't sounds too inviting. Then again, neither does sitting through about 4 or 5 40-point wins in a 3/4-empty arena in November.


Christmas Interrupted

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There are certain days of the summer that I consider red-letter days. The Spring Game. Big Ten Media Day. The first day of fall practice. Things like that. But perhaps the most fun of all is the day I get my Michigan Football Media Guide. I love it. It's like Christmas 4 months early. I tear through it digesting every little morsel of statistic, intangible, and tidbit of information. And this year is no different. Today I stopped by the M-Den at Briarwood and picked up this year's edition of the Media Guide. Entitled "Michigan Football Tradition," I flipped it open and gave it a preliminary perusal. And one thing immediately stuck out:

Apparently, 2005 (or as I like to call it these days, 200(7-)5) isn't a part of that tradition as far as the Athletic Department is concerned. No season stats. No game-by-game recaps. No pictures, nothing about the Alamo Bowl. Nothing. Only the customary little box with the game scores, team captains, and the like alongside the other 126 seasons of Michigan football. This was the season that did not exist.

Before last season, the NCAA changed the rules on media guides to restrict the number of pages to a paltry, arbitrary 208. And so schools like Michigan, who were accustomed to putting out Biblical texts of 400 or more pages were forced to decide what to put in, and what to eliminate. Stat hounds like me are now forced to check out mgoblue.com to get bowl recaps, lists of letterwinners, and other things thought too trivial for the guide. Apparently this year, they didn't have a lot of difficulty filling pages, as the guide is now home to pages and pages of filler, including:

-2 pages on the Women's Football Academy (206-7)
-2 pages on Carr's Wash for Kids, with great pictures of football players in t-shirts looking very bored washing cars for C.S. Mott Children's Hospital. (204-5)
-2 pages on the Radio-a-thon the team held this summer at 1050 WTKA (202-203)
-2 pages on the "Michigan football traditions" involving sedate Ann Arbor street scenes and a full page on the Detroit professional sports teams and their venues. (198-199)
-4 pages on the Athletic Academic Center (184-187)
-21 pages of 1/3 to full page pictures of every Wolverine in the NFL today. Who knew that John Navarre's 2 games of NFL action was worth a half of a page? And, for that matter, who knew that Todd Collins was still in the league? And Kevin Dudley has never been on anything better than an NFL practice squad? (62-83)

That's a full 33 pages of pretty useless crap. Yeah, it's something to turn a new page and turn your back on 2005. But to eliminate any trace of the entire thing ever existing? Mmmm-hmmm.



Must be a slow summer in Columbus. Rivals.com's OSU division has resorted to doing a wee bit of fantasy football. With a Playstation. So far the Buckeyes are 8-0. It even includes some nice sports journalism content to update us on the Heisman race, the polls, bowl rankings, and miscellaneous notes on the team roster.

A bit much, wouldn't you agree?


An addition to the Tunnel team

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I'd like to welcome Rob to the Tunnel writing team. Well, more of a partnership, but I'll call it a team. He knows far more about college hockey than most people I know, so I think this is going to be a really strong addition to my humble corner of cyberspace. So, welcome Rob.


Hockey Update

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It's nearly August first, and if you haven't been following Michigan Hockey over the summer, there are some updates you need to be aware of.

-2006-2007 Schedule released
The schedule for the 06-07 season has been released by the hockey offices, and is rather disappointing. The non-conference schedule is weak, featuring home games against the CHA's Alabama Hunstville, Atlantic Hockey's Connecticut, and Hockey East doormat Northeastern. Michigan will face Michigan Tech in the first round of the GLI, and will face either Michigan State or Harvard in the second game. The Wolverines will once again take part in the College Hockey Showcase over Thanksgiving with tough tests at Wisconsin and Minnesota. This weekend is the saving grace of an otherwise weak non-conference schedule. Last year's home game against Boston College seemed to be a step in the right direction in terms of scheduling tougher, more intriguing match-ups. Playing big games against powerhouse programs is a staple of Michigan Hockey, so why dodge these games year after year in the regular season?

The CCHA side of things has Michigan clustered with Ferris State, Western Michigan, and Michigan State. The conference schedule features a January trip to face Alaska Fairbanks, and 6 tough road games to finish the regular season. Michigan fans will be disappointed to see only 6 home games during the second semester.

-Lewis Bolts for Kings
The most touted member of Michigan's incoming recruiting class signed a professional contract with the L.A. Kings, and will forgo his commitment to attend Michigan in the fall. Lewis was selected 17th overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. His entry level contract will place him in the Kings' minor league system. Lewis was a highly touted college recruit after a breakout year with the USHL's Des Moines Bucaneers. His departure is disappointing to a team that lacked a stand out goal scoring forward, a staple of Michigan Hockey teams over the past 15 years. It is believed that his scolarship has not been filled, and that the coaching staff is pursuing U.S. Under 17 Team standout Patrick Kane. Kane will play for the U.S. Under 18 Team this year while he finishes high school a semester early. If Kane chooses to play college hockey, he will be able to start school for the second semester. Michigan is battling Jack Parker and BU for Kane's services in the NCAA, while Kane considers whether Canadian Junior hockey will better suit his development.

-Alumni Showcase to Feature 1996 National Championship Reunion
The 1996 National Championship team will reunite in Ann Arbor on Friday, August 4th. The festivites start at 4:30 with a game between alumni ages 35-50. The 50+ alumni game begins at 5:30, and the featured game between the 1996 team and the recent graduates will begin at 7pm. Nearly all of the members of the '96 team will return (including Harold Shock, Bobby Hayes, Marty Turco, Blake Sloan, Greg Crozier), and will face some of the more notable alumni of recent seasons (including Andy Hilbert, Jed Ortmeyer, and Brandon Rogers). Yes, Brendan Morrison will be in attendance, coaching the '96 team with Jason Botterill. If you are in the area, turn out and witness some of the greatest players in Michigan history as they lace the skates up for what is sure to be a fun filled evening.


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