Sunday, August 29, 2010

Big Ten Road Trip 2010

Special thanks to Mapquest for all the mileage.

Do you want to see the a lot of Big Ten football live this year? Well here's the solution: drop everything and go on the Big Ten Road Trip 2010. The trip will visit all eleven Big Ten stadiums as well as Notre Dame and Nebraska so you can get your fill of Big Ten football. Here's your itinerary for your thirteen week journey:

September 4
Your journey starts in South Bend, Ind. as you take in Notre Dame Stadium and watch the Fighting Irish host Purdue. Last year's game was an instant classic as Notre Dame pulled out a 24-21 win in West Lafayette on a 4th and goal touchdown with under a minute to play.

After the game head to Champaign, Ill.
Distance to Champaign: 199.9 miles
Total distance traveled: 199.9 miles

September 11
The Fighting Illini host Southern Illinois and you will be in attendance. One of the few games on the schedule that Illinois has a chance of winning!

After the game head to Minneapolis, Min.
Distance to Minneapolis: 511.88
Total distance traveled: 711.78

September 18
You watch while the Golden Gophers host the USC Trojans at TCF Bank Stadium. The Gophers are projected to struggle but a win over the troubled Trojans could spark a run for the Fighting Brewsters. And you would be there to see it.

After the game head to Bloomington, Ind.
Distance to Bloomington: 638.18 miles
Total distance traveled: 1,349.96 miles

September 25
You get to watch a night game in Bloomington, and the Hoosiers take on Akron in the Big Ten's final non-conference week. Get ready for conference play because you're about to head to some big games.

After the game head to Iowa City, Iowa.
Distance to Iowa City: 413.26 miles
Total distance traveled: 1,763.22 miles

October 2
The Hawkeyes will play host to Penn State in a likely national ABC game beginning at 8:05 pm. The place will be rocking (maybe even a blackout) and this is a huge game early in the Big Ten Season.

After the game head to Ann Arbor, Mich.
Distance to Ann Arbor: 452.01 miles
Total distance traveled: 2,215.23 miles

October 9

The Wolverines will host one of their bitter rivals, Michigan State, as the two teams battle it out for state supremacy with you in attendance. May the best Michigander win.

After the game head to Madison, Wisc.
Distance to Madison: 395.37 miles
Total distance traveled: 2,610.6 miles

October 16
Another huge conference match-up awaits you at Camp Randall Stadium as the Badgers welcome in the Ohio State Buckeyes. An upset win here for Wisconsin would likely shatter not just the conference picture but the BCS as well.

After the game head to Evanston, Ill.
Distance to Evanston: 114.14 miles
Total distance traveled: 2,724.74 miles

October 23
Your shortest drive of the road trip takes you a showdown between the happy-go-lucky Wildcats of Northwestern and the Michigan State Spartans. Michigan State set the NCAA record for biggest comeback in college football history at Ryan Field in 2006 in a 38-35 win.

After the game head to State College, Penn.
Distance to State College: 588.23 miles
Total distance traveled: 3,312.97 miles

October 30
Welcome to Happy Valley, home of the whiteout. The Nittany Lions will entertain Michigan, a team they have stomped two years in a row. The game will also be a nationally televised night game so buckle up.

After the game head to West Lafayette, Ind.
Distance to West Lafayette: 546.54 miles
Total distance traveled: 3,859.51 miles

November 6
Another long drive brings you to the campus of Purdue University where the Boilers will be looking to get revenge on Wisconsin, who whooped them 37-0 in Madison last season.

After the game head to
Lincoln, Neb.
Distance to Lincoln: 612.11 miles
Total distance traveled: 4,471.62

November 13

You get to a catch a preview of the Big Ten's soon-to-be newest member, the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The Kansas Jayhawks come to town to try to upset the Big Red.

After the game head to East Lansing, Mich.
Distance to East Lansing: 727.44 miles
Total distance traveled: 5,199.06

November 20
Your longest trip of the journey takes you to Spartan Stadium where Sparty battles Purdue. While you're there you can watch the Michigan State football players struggle to read first grade level books.

After the game head to Columbus, Ohio.
Distance to Columbus: 250.97 miles
Total distance traveled: 5,450.03 miles

November 27
What better way to finish your Big Ten Football road trip than sitting back and watching a new chapter unfold in the greatest rivalry in all of sports? Your last game of the trip is The Game. Hopefully Michigan will be able to keep it close for you.

So there's you itinerary, a 5,450 mile journey across Big Ten country. For perspective you could drive from New York City to Los Angeles nearly twice with that kind of mileage. Better save up for gas.

2010 Season Preview: Wrap Up

Now that my whirlwind of previews is over here's all of them in one easy access point:

2010 Season Preview: Schedule

First I want to apologize for the absence of a defense and special teams preview. I've been working on a couple of other posts that should be up soon. Anyway, here is Michigan's 2010 schedule with my predictions.

September 4th: Michigan 27, Connecticut 21 (1-0)
Connecticut puts up a good fight but Michigan squeaks it out in the fourth quarter.

September 11th: Notre Dame 34, Michigan 20 (1-1)
Michigan falls behind early and can't catch up.

September 18th: Michigan 41, Massachusetts 13 (2-1)
Michigan always goes to town against 1-AA opponents with the exception of one team that is not Massachusetts.

September 25th: Michigan 37, Bowling Green 20 (3-1)
Another inferior opponent, another win.

October 2nd: Michigan 31, Indiana 17 (4-1, 1-0)
Even at home Indiana is still hapless.

October 9th: Michigan 31, Michigan State 28 (5-1, 2-0)
Finally a win against Sparty! Michigan wins on a last second field goal.

October 16th: Iowa 34, Michigan 24 (5-2, 2-1)
The Hawkeyes are too much for the Wolverines and beat them on homecoming weekend.

October 30th: Penn State 24, Michigan 21 (5-3, 2-2)
A heartbreaking loss in the fourth quarter for the Wolverines in Happy Valley.

November 6th: Michigan 28, Illinois 20 (6-3, 3-2)
This is the point in the season where Michigan's downward spiral has accelerated the past two years. Not this year.

November 13th: Michigan 41, Purdue 34 (7-3, 4-2)
Michigan wins an offensive shootout in West Lafayette.

November 20th: Wisconsin 38, Michigan 23 (7-4, 4-3)
John Clay and the Badgers offense torch Michigan's defense at the Big House.

November 27th: Ohio State 28, Michigan 17 (7-5, 4-4)
Michigan will beat Ohio State sometime in the near future. Just not this year.

December 28th (Insight Bowl): Michigan 34, Kansas State 30 (8-5, 4-4)
Michigan comes out inspired and wins their first bowl game since 2008. Rich Rodriguez hailed as a hero in Ann Arbor.

I went with the favorite in most of these games because I fully expect that to happen. Beating Michigan State is what I believe is going to be the highlight of this season next to the bowl win. This is a fairly optimistic look but there are some games I had as losses that could go Michigan's way such as the Notre Dame game. A season like this should definitely allow Rich Rod to keep his job. The only team on the schedule I believe Michigan can't beat is Ohio State. That leaves eleven possible wins on the board. Let's get 'em. Go Blue.

Friday, August 27, 2010

2010 Season Preview: Offense

Michigan's 2010 football season is now just over a week away and competitions at the three offensive skill positions are wrapping up with the end of preseason practice. Here's a breakdown of the competitions at QB, RB, and WR with my projected starters for the three positions as well as the rest of them.

The candidates: Devin Gardner, Tate Forcier, Denard Robinson
Gardner (Freshman):
Devoin, a highly touted freshman, came into spring practice with a red shirt season almost inevitable. However, Gardner has played so well for a freshman that he's likely going to avoid the red shirt and probably even see the field a tiny amount in 2010 even though a red shirt is not out of the realm of possibility at his point. Devin has great speed and explosiveness and a strong arm. However, he is just a freshman and his lack of experience has hurt him in camp. Devin should see the field for at least a handful of plays this year but he's not far along enough to grab the starting job.
Forcier (Sophomore, 2009 stats: Passing 58.7 comp.%, 2,050 yds, 13 TDs, 10 INTs; Rushing 118 att, 240 yds, 2.0 avg, 3 TDs):
Tate grabbed the starting job by the horns last year after stellar performances in the first two games of the season against Western Michigan (a 31-7 win) and Notre Dame (win 38-34). After some more heroics he became a legend on campus. However, late in the season Tate unraveled hitting rock bottom in the Ohio State game. This summer senior corner Troy Woolfolk called Tate out for a lack of work put in during the off season and Tate was forced to practice without wings on his helmet because Rich Rod didn't believe he had earned them (Tate has since received his wings). Tate has pretty good speed for a quarterback and a stellar arm when throwing on the run. He does struggle as a pocket passer and needs to make better decisions in general as he forced way too many passes last year.
Robinson (Sophomore, 2009 stats: Passing 45.2 comp.%, 188 yds, 2 TDs, 4 INTs; Rushing 69 att, 351 yds, 5.1 avg, 5 TDs):
The passing stats last year were ugly to say the least, but Shoelace's seemingly joystick controlled runs electrified the offense last year. Robinson easily has the best speed of any player on the roster and probably in the Big Ten. It's not even much of a stretch to say he is one of college football's fastest players. Last year his wild arm and poor decisions throwing the ball held him back. However from what I've heard (and saw in the spring game), Denard is a much improved passer. If Denard is indeed as good as advertised with his arm he could be not just the next Pat White, but even better.
Projected starter: Robinson
Tate and Devon will also see the field briefly but expect Denard to grab the bull by the horns after a few games.

The candidates: Michael Cox, Michael Shaw, Vincent Smith
Cox (Sophomore, 2009 stats: Rushing 13 att, 113 yds, 8.7 avg, 2 TDs; Receiving 1 rec, 11 yds, 11.0 avg):
We didn't see much of Cox last year but he's a promising young player. His high yards per carry average is impressive but slightly distorted considering he carried the ball the 13 times. To his credit he didn't fumble on 14 touches so he can hold on to the ball, a problem for one of the other candidates. Cox will definitely see the field in 2010 but he will not be the starter.
Shaw (Junior, 2009 stats: Rushing 42 att, 185 yds, 4.4 avg, 2 TDs; Recieving 2 rec, 5 yds, 2.5 avg):
Shaw is the most explosive of the three backs and probably the most speedy. Because Brandon Minor was the feature back last year, Shaw didn't get too much of a chance to showcase his talent but he did a decent job when an opportunity presented itself. One problem with Shaw has been his fumbles. Shaw coughs up the ball a lot and needs to improve that aspect of his game if he wants extended playing time.
Smith (Sophomore, 2009 stats: Rushing 48 att, 276 yds, 5.8 avg, 1 TD; Receiving 10 rec, 82 yds, 8.2 avg, 2 TDs):
Vincent battled injury for most of spring practice but has looked great in fall camp and says he's 100% healthy with no after effects of the injury. The coaches and trainers agree so the sky is the limit for Smith this year. Smith can slip and break through tackles better than any of the other running backs and his acceleration and agility is unmatched on the Wolverine squad. Vincent has a great chance to be a star this year.
Projected starter: Smith
Even though Smith will be the main back all three should see the field for extended periods of time with Shaw likely getting the second-most carries.

The candidates: Kelvin Grady, Junior Hemingway, Martavius Odoms, Roy Roundtree, Darryl Stonum
Grady (Junior, 2009 stats: 10 rec, 102 yds, 10.2 avg, 1 TD):
Grady, a former Michigan basketball point guard, is trying to work his way into the slot receiver spot in 2010. Grady's long arms allow him to reach up and grab errant screen passes and his quick speed and feet (his basketball upbringing likely helped him with this) allow him to run precise routes and break away from defenders. That said his small stature is an issue although not too much for a slot receiver. He also doesn't have great hands and that will limit him going forward.
Hemingway (Junior, 2009 stats: 16 rec, 268 yds, 16.8 avg, 2 TDs):
Hemingway was the Wolverines best deep threat early in the season last year and was Tate Forcier's go-to receiver against Western Michigan making both of his touchdown receptions in that game. However, he tailed off with the rest of the team towards the end of the season. He needs to work on his consistency and his 6'1'' stature certainly is not big. However, Junior has breakaway speed and good hands and will contribute this year.
Odoms (Junior, 2009 stats: 22 rec, 272 yds, 12.4 avg, 1 TD):
Despite Martavius's small stature (5'8'', 175 lbs) he has some serious speed and great route running skills. Odoms has a fantastic freshman season in 2008 but slipped a bit last year. He has great potential, much more than he showed in 2009. Odoms is at his best over the middle of the field and is also a good deep threat. Whoever ends up quarterback this year will be looking his way frequently. Odoms will also likely contribute on special teams but I'll have more on that Saturday.
Roundtree (Sophomore, 2009 stats: 32 rec, 434 yds, 13.6 avg, 3 TDs):
Roy became Tate Forcier's go-to receiver in the slot last season and had a huge part in the comeback against State, catching the game tying touchdown with just two seconds on the clock. Roy has the best hands of any of the receivers and can slip through tackles. His lack of breakaway speed is a concern (remember the Illinois game last year?) but as he matures and gains leg strength that will solve itself.
Stonum (Junior, 2009 stats: 13 rec, 199 yds, 15.3 avg, 1 TD):
Stonum probably has the best sheer speed of any Michigan receiver and definitely the best acceleration. Stonum is great at making catches over the middle and then making things happen in the open field. He also will be a big special teams contributor. However, Stonum does have problems with drops and fumbles, something he'll really need to focus on fixing this season if he wants to start at receiver.
Projected starters: Hemingway (Outside), Odoms (Outside), Roundtree (Slot)
Just like the running backs all of the receivers will see the field at one point or another but these three will play the most. Stonum will also get a lot of time on the field however so he is not out of the mix by any standpoint. The unfortunate banana in the bunch is probably Grady who's skills are just not up with the other receivers. Grady will get some playing time but it will be limited.

FB: Mark Moundros (SR)
TE: Kevin Koger (JR)
LT: Dan O'Neill (SO)
LG: Steve Schilling (SR)
C: David Molk (JR)
RG: John Ferrara (SR)
RT: Patrick Omaneh (JR)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

2010 Season Preview: Head Coach

Rich Rodriguez is probably most on the hot seat of any coach in the entire country this season. Posting just an 8-16 record has not helped him, especially noting he is just 3-13 in the Big Ten and 1-5 against rivals (0-2 vs MSU and OSU, 1-1 vs ND). Unless Michigan has a solid season it will be hard to imagine a fourth year for Rich Rod. Here are some goals I believe Michigan needs to accomplish this season if Rich Rod wants to please the Michigan faithful and keep his job:

1. Get to a middle-tier bowl game.
This one is pretty simple. After Lloyd Carr's final season in 2007 Michigan owned college football's longest bowl appearance streak. The streak ended in 2008 after a 3-9 season and now Michigan's bowl-less streak sits at two after a fruitless 2009 campaign. Just six wins would get Michigan into a lower-tier bowl but I honestly don't think that the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl is enough to save Rich Rod's job. It would take at least a 7-5 season to get to a modest bowl and that's where Rich Rod needs to get.

2. Beat Michigan State.
The battle for the state is normally a football game that the Maize and Blue win but not since Rich Rod came to town. An extra painful loss at Spartan Stadium last year was the start of a tailspin that saw Michigan lose seven of their last eight games to ruin an outstanding 4-0 start. This year the Wolverines have Sparty at home and another loss to Michigan State might just see Rich Rod chased out of town even earlier than expected. It's time. If Rich Rod wants to keep his job his team must beat the Spartans to claim the state.

3. Finish the season strong.
In 2008 after an average 2-2 start the Wolverines plummeted, dropping 7 of their final 8 games to finish the season 3-9. A similar thing happened in 2009, just worse as a 4-0 Michigan team quickly lost steam and finished 5-7, their only win coming against a team that was barely in Division I. For Rich Rodriguez to keep his job it will be important to gain some steam early but far more important to finish the season strong, something his Michigan teams have been unable to do. The opportunity is there, with November bringing a tilt at Purdue and then against Illinois at the Big House, two extremely winnable games. November 20th is an outstanding chance at home against Wisconsin where the Wolverines could really build momentum into the Ohio State game the next week. Michigan has a great chance to finish strong, they just need to take advantage of it.

I truly believe that all three of these goals are extremely attainable for this Michigan team, but it will still be a challenge. My predictions will come later, but it certainly will not be impossible for Michigan to save their coach's job.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

2010 Season Previews

In the next few days I will post previews for the 2011 season. All previews will post at 12:00 pm eastern time. Here are the previews coming up:

Thursday: Rich Rodriguez and the head coaching position
Friday: Offense
Saturday: Defense/Special Teams
Sunday: Schedule and final prediction

Big Ten Preview

Big Ten football is just days away, officially beginning on September 2nd. In honor of the near start of college football season I picked every game of the season for all the Big Ten teams and came out with my final standings with bowl game projections. They are as follows:

1. Ohio State 8-0 (12-0) BCS National Championship
2. Iowa 7-1 (11-1) Rose Bowl
3. Wisconsin 6-2 (10-2) Capital One Bowl
4. Penn State 6-2 (9-3) Outback Bowl
5. Michigan State 4-4 (8-4) Gator Bowl
6. Michigan 4-4 (7-5) Insight Bowl
7. Northwestern 3-5 (7-5) Texas Bowl
8. Purdue 3-5 (6-6) Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl
9. Illinois 2-6 (4-8) None
10. Minnesota 1-7 (4-8) None
11. Indiana 0-8 (4-8) None

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Getting the Blog Back on Track

It's August and I'm stopping in again with a couple updates. I will be out of town from August 7-16 and then again from August 18-23 with some exciting trips. However once I return I will head right to the posting as there will be a lot to cover with just eleven days till the season opener! Can you believe we are so close?

Anyway over at Spawn of MZone they have been making some fantastic desktop wallpaper. Here is a link to a collection of great ones of this year's schedule. This one is my personal favorite:

Enjoy the rest of your summer and get ready for Michigan football in just 31 days!