#1 vs. #2

Battle for Olympus: Who would win if '97 Woodson covered '04 Edwards?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Michigan vs. Alabama, 2012

As Brian from mgoblog (http://mgoblog.com/) disclosed this morning, Michigan vs Alabama is pretty much a done deal:

But apparently [the game] is happening. The contract is being signed Monday. Which is tomorrow.

This is good news for football fans, as two of the most storied programs of all-time are brought together for what amounts to a pre-season bowl game. As a Michigan fan, the reactions are mixed. Not only is Alabama riding high right now, but Michigan's program could possibly be in turmoil. Most of the people I've talked to have said something along the lines of "...so it'll be in Jim Harbaugh's second year?" only (usually) much, much more unfriendly. Michigan also has to play 'Bama, ND, MSU, OSU, and possibly PSU, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. That's one murderous potential schedule. On the other hand, this promises to be a damn good game, with senior Denard/Tate and RS Sophomore/Junior QB Devin Gardner to pick from, Michigan promises to be stacked at the QB position.

Assuming the Big Ten plays 9 conference games in 2012, Michigan also promises to have a maximum of 6 home games that year, as they travel to Ohio State and Notre Dame. Now they are down to 5 as they travel to Dallas. People are going to complain about this, saying things like "the students won't be able to make it!" and "it's so far away from Michigan!" and the blindly obvious "but but but but it's not a home-and-home" and "RAWR it's in an NFL stadium!".

As cool as it would have been in a home-and-home with 'Bama, scheduling probably wouldn't have worked out to be in simultaneous years and thus have something like the Oregon series, which was separated by 4 years and a lot of Oregon improvement. One could argue that the Tide has nowhere to go but down, and that Saban tends to move from place to place more than a drifter, but home-and-home with opponents Michigan doesn't see very often (if at all) tend to not turn out well for the Wolverines. Regardless, this game should be a classic. Hopefully. Maybe.

Now onto the money, which is what this is all about right? No? What's this "molding of young men" garbage? Whatever. According to the depths of the interweb, the maximum capacity for Cowboys Stadium is listed at 110,000. Let's assume 100k show up, half of which are Michigan fans. How much did the Wolverines take to show up? One would (hopefully) assume it's more than a normal Saturday afternoon haul from Michigan Stadium.

Projecting that the average ticket is $60 at the Big House, and assuming each of the 109, 901 attendees spends $10 at the concession stand (not too unreasonable, I would say). That's roughly 7,700,000 brought in on one Saturday. Obviously these are very, VERY rough numbers, and do not add in programs, merchandise, parking fees, TV revenue, and the newest crown jewel (the suites), or less the operating costs such a large enterprise entails. But there's the rough ball-park figure for what Michigan got paid to come into Dallas. Add in the fact, according to mgoblog, that

[The] [g]ame is happening because a desperate Jerry Jones "overpaid."

so it's safe to (maybe) assume that Michigan's pay-out in this is somewhere in the 8-12 million-dollar range, and you can see why new AD Dave Brandon said YES PLEASE when this deal hit his desk.

There's also the presence of the game in Texas/the south in general, which should help recruiting in the area, and if the game ends with a Wolverines victory, it will be a huge opening-season win and show the media and recruits that yes, Michigan is back, and they have re-gained their usual winning ways against the SEC. Obviously all this is subjective to what happens between now and then - if Michigan improves like they should this year and then lights it up next year, then there's no need to "prove" that they're back. Likewise, if they go to bowl games and end up playing SEC teams (and come out on top), then there's no need to prove themselves.

To sum it all up: lots of on-the-field stuff is subjective, while lots of off-the-field stuff is not. It will be Michigan-Alabama. It will be week one in 2012. Michigan will have made a boatload of money off of it. Let's hope the football record comes away with as much as the AD's wallet does.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Sitting in a Hammock Sipping a White Russian

Hey guys 'n gals! First off, thanks for visiting/reading MAIZE WINGS. I'm very stoked about not only the upcoming football season (less than a month away EEEEEEEEEE!) but the possibilities and future of this blog. Though it may seem like I'm in a hammock drinking white russians, I'm actually working diligently to collect information, write, and finalize a few wonderful pieces before the start of the season and the subsequent pre-season predictions.

No guarantees on if this one is going to work out, but at the moment it appears I'll be able to interview a member of the current Michigan Marching Band and ask a few questions, band related and otherwise! This promises to be a spectacular experience so hopefully I'm able to.

I've also gotten my hands on a few old playbooks, from two of Rich Rodriguez's while he was at West Virginia to some old Michigan playbooks. Mid-80s (exact year uncertain) and 1997 defensive playbooks will be scanned over/evaulated (for what my e-pinion is worth), and two MORE special treats: Fritz Crisler's from 1947, and Field H. Yosts from 1905. These also promise to be extremely special.

A very, very big 'thank you' goes out to Brian from www.mgoblog.com for linking me in his latest 'random news' post, also dubbed "Unverified Voracity". If you haven't yet seen his masterpiece, head on over and experience what is one of the best football blogs, if not the best, on all of the internet!

Look for those pieces up early next week, have a wonderful, safe, relaxing weekend, and as always, GO BLUE!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Top 10 Most Dominating Michigan Wolverines, Part 2

Throughout the last fifteen years there have just been some Michigan players that make you say "wow. From the freakish athletes to the constant bangers to the seemingly 'overachievers', there will be some expected and some unexpected names on this list. Sit back, relax, and relive some of the greatest Michigan players of the past fifteen seasons.

5) LaMarr Woodley

Woodley came to Michigan as the best high school player in the state of Michigan and a consensus 5* recruit. After moving from linebacker to defensive line his freshman year, Woodley saw spot duty. Occasional playing time was seen at outside linebacker when Michigan ran a 3-4 alignment; Woodley's last two seasons on campus were his best, his senior year being the pinnacle. Staring on the best defense a Wolverine squad fielded in ten years, Woodley was a constant presence in the opponents backfield and a large part of Michigan's 10-0 start. A cult hero in Ann Arbor, fans had Woodley T-Shirts made about him stating 'Guns don't kill people, LaMarr Woodley kills people'.

Most Memorable Plays:
-Knocking 25 years off Drew Stanton's life in the 2004 Michigan/Michigan State game, preventing Stanton from returning in the process.
-Picking up a Notre Dame fumble and rumblin' 54 yards for a TD, stiff-arming Irish TE John Carlson and leaving Carlson in his wake.

Final Statline:
177 tackles, 47 tackles for loss, 24 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, 5 fumble recoveries, 5 pass breakups. Won 2006 Lombardi Trophy, awarded to the best lineman (offense or defense) in the nation.

4) Brandon Graham

Much like LaMarr Woodley before him, Graham was a consensus 5*, the best player in the state, and came to Michigan as a linebacker. Graham took several years to mature as a player and after a disappointing sophomore campaign in which preseason practice reports of him transforming into a typhoon and leaving offensive linemen scattered, hysterical, around Washtenaw County never came to fruition people began to wonder what the hype was all about. For whatever reason, whether it was the typical jump from sophomore to junior year, 'Magic' Mike Barwis, or some combination of the above Graham turned into a terror. His senior year Graham was one of a few good players on the team and the only elite player on the D. Graham, unlike Woodley, did not benefit from good-to-great players around him yet still managed to battle through double- and sometimes triple-teams and was a menace to opposing offenses.

Most Memorable Plays:
-Essentially, whenever the defense needed a big play over the past two seasons Graham made it or no one did. Graham blew through the MSU line and transformed Glen Winston from 'human being' to 'smoking crater' in no time flat.

-His blocked-punt TD vs. Delaware State defined Graham: making the big plays when needed, but putting in the blue-collar work in every facet of the game, in this case volunteering to play special teams as a senior.

Final Statline:
138 tackles, 56 TFL, 29.5 sacks, 8 FF, 3 FR, 2 blocked punts

3) Braylon Edwards

Braylon Edwards, son of former Wolverine Stan Edwards, came to Michigan as a mid-level recruit. Edwards first came onto the radar of Michigan fans as the 2002 season approached. Braylon, who had worn the number 80 his freshman year, requested to wear the legendary number 1. Lloyd Carr scoffed and told him to earn it. Edwards broke onto the national scene, as he had a few fine receptions in the opener against Washington and took off from there, slowly morphing from a serviceable receiver to great college receiver to destined for the next level. Edwards had several amazing catches, including a few over/away from defenders and turned the 2004 Michigan/Michigan State game (the same one Woodley murdered Drew Stanton in front of 111,000 people and got away with it) into what will forever be known as "the Braylon game".

Though he constantly made the impossible, acrobatic catches, Edwards tended to drop a few easy passes thrown his way.

Most Memorable Plays:
-Pick one, any one.

Final Statline:
252 receptions for 3,541 yards and 39 TDs. Edwards won the Biletnikoff Award in 2004, given annually to the best receiver in college football.

2) Jake Long

Long came to Michigan in the same recruiting class as LaMarr Woodley. Coming in as a 4* offensive line prospect, Long did what every incoming freshman lineman has done since the creation of football and redshirted. After starting his first year at right tackle, Jake moved to the left side and produced more pancakes than Bisquick. Long was never called for a penalty and only allowed one sack his senior season (to Ohio State man-beast Vernon Gholston). Jake was also the reason every Michigan fan simultaneously sighed and said "stretch off-tackle left" every time the down marker read "1" and Michigan had the ball. Despite the obnoxious predictability the runs usually went for positive yardage, in part because of Mike Hart's ridiculously difficult-to-tackle frame but mostly because whoever Long blocked looked like they had been run over by a semi.

Final Statline: Two-time 1st Team All-Big Ten, Two-time Offensive Lineman of the Year, Two-time 1st-Team All-American.

1) Charles Woodson

Simply put, Charles Woodson is the most dominant Michigan player ever witnessed. The man literally shut off half the field and was a very, very large reason the 1997 team, and defense in particular, went 12-0 and won the National Title. Woodson was also deployed on offense as a wide receiver and special teams as a punt returner. Wherever he lined up, "Sir Charles" was always a threat the change the game in a split second. From his two interception game as a freshman against Ohio State to any of the spectacular plays he made his junior season (one-handed pick at MSU, TD reception at Penn State, punt return TD and interception to clinch the Heisman versus Ohio State, or interception in the endzone in the Rose Bowl), Woodson made you say 'wow' every week.

Most Memorable Plays: Even though Woodson is best remembered for his PR TD against Ohio State to put Michigan up 13-0, momentum had swung to the Buckeyes side after they blocked Michigan's extra point attempt. Driving deep in Wolverine territory, OSU had a 2nd-and-Goal from the 2 when they attempted a pass into the endzone...and "Sir Charles" intercepted the pass, not only ending the Buckeyes scoring threat but slamming, bolting, welding, and bombarding the door shut on any momentum Ohio State had and, ultimately, preserving the victory.

Playing the Detroit Lions at Ford Field in Detroit, Woodson intercepted a pass and took it to the house...and celebrated by throwing up "the Heisman". A few years too late, but still.

Final Statline: 11 carries, 173 yards, 2 TDs; 25 receptions, 402 yards, 3 TDs; 47 punt returns, 407 yards, 1 TD; 182 tackles, 7 TFL, 1 sack, 3 FR, 30 PBU, 18 INT. Chevrolet Defensive Player of the Year ('96, '97), Big Ten DPOTY ('96, '97), 1st Team All-American ('96, '97), Nagurski DPOTY ('97), Walter Camp DPOTY ('97), Thorpe (Best DB) Award 1997, Chuck Bednarik (Best Defensive Player) 1997, Heisman Trophy Winner 1997.

There you have it, the top ten most dominating Wolverines of the past fifteen seasons. This was very, very hard to narrow down and come to grips with only having ten; at one point it was almost made into a top fifteen but the same problem with cutting people who should have gotten recognized popped up so it was left at ten.

Almost made it: Leon Hall, Marlin Jackson, Chad Henne (who loves him some 'gator), Stevie Breaston, Tom Brady

Honorable Mention: Jeff Backus, Steve Hutchinson, John Navarre, Marquise Walker, Victor Hobson, Alan "Tree" Branch, Bennie Joppru, Tai Streets

Monday, August 2, 2010

Top 10 Most Dominating Michigan Wolverines, Part 1

Let's be honest for a second: the last few years haven't exactly been a party if you're a Michigan fan. At times it's felt a lot like using this:

However, during the last fifteen years there have just been some Michigan players that make you say "wow". From the freakish athletes to the constant bangers to the seemingly 'overachievers', there will be some expected and some unexpected names on this list. After coming up with an initial bunch, comparing stats, and using personal experience, here's the list. Sit back, relax, and relive some of the greatest Michigan players of the past fifteen seasons.

10) Mike Hart

Although Hart wasn't an imposing physical presence like some of the others on this list, nor did he have great speed, Hart still took over games, doing anything and everything very, very well. From pass-blocking, to catching the ball out of the backfield, to finding a hole when there really wasn't to never, ever fumbling the ball, Hart was a constant performer in the Michigan backfield, starting every game he was healthy while on campus. That, however, is the problem; Hart's one negative, besides the lack of breakaway speed, was the curse of nagging injuries which plagued his career in its' latter half. Regardless, the aptly-named Hart showed a toughness much greater than his 5'8" frame would indicate, popping out of piles, running over, juking around, and dragging tacklers to gain that extra inch. If you had to pick an aspect of Hart's game to be his best, after much debate it would have to be his ridiculous balance and amazing ability to see cutback lanes forming before they were actually there.

Most Memorable Play: It's 2007. Michigan is attempting to come back in East Lansing against the Spartans, and Chad Henne limps off the field. Ryan Mallett comes in, takes a sack, and fumbles the football. It's over for Michigan, right? Wrong. Hart, in the backfield on a blocking assignment, picks up the fumbled ball and runs for a first down, juking out a Spartan and running one over in the process. Awesome.

Final Statline: 1,015 carries, 5,040 yards, 41 TDs, 67 receptions, 566 yards, 2 TDs. Left Michigan as the all-time leading rusher, a very prestigious honor.

9) Larry Foote

Foote was an outstanding linebacker during the defensively-deficient late '90s/early '00s that produced a lot of shootout victories and even more heart attacks among Michigan fans. Never a flashy player, Foote scrapped and clawed his way to 1st-Team All-American honors his senior year. Foote was a constant banger, always in the correct position and was the heart and soul of the defense at that time. If a tackle was needed, Foote was usually the one to make it. The tag-team of Foote and Victor Hobson in the early '00s was probably the best one-two linebacker combo of the decade.

Most Memorable Play: Since defensive highlights from the early 2000s are sparse at best, Foote's most outstanding game was the 2001 outing in Iowa City. Foote came up huge, wracking up 15 tackles, 7 tackle for loss, 3 sacks, and 1 pass break-up in a tight 32-26 win over the Hawkeyes.

Final Statline: 212 tackles, 39 TFL, 11 sacks, 16 pass break-ups, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 forced fumbles, and 3 interceptions. Foote also wrapped up two 1st-Team All-Big Ten honors and a 1st-Team All-American honor in 2001.

8) David Terrell

Terrell became the first Michigan player to wear the legendary number 1 jersey since Derrick Alexander in the early '90s, and he wore it well. The number one wide receiver recruit in the nation, Terrell tag-teamed with fellow recruit and number two receiver Marquis Walker to bring Michigan into the modern age in the passing game. A physical specimen at 6'3", 210 pounds, Terrell had deep speed and elusive moves; when a big play was needed from the receiving core Terrell was the first option. Perhaps his best game came in the 2000 Orange Bowl, tearing apart Alabama in Michigan's back-and-forth nail-biting 35-34 overtime victory. Terrell was the perfect blend of size, speed, and hands; he was good for two or three acrobatic, athletic catches a game along with the normal routine catches. David was the best Michigan receiver of the last decade until some guy named "Braylon Edwards" took the field.

Most Memorable Play: During the 2000 battle against Wisconsin in Ann Arbor, Michigan was down 10-6 and driving. Drew Henson took the snap, didn't find anyone open and rolled right. Under duress, Henson hop-threw off his back foot and across his body into the endzone. "Dangerous! Real Dangerous!" yelled Brent Musberger, echoing the thoughts of 110,000 people. Three Badgers waited for the lollipop of a throw to fall to earth when out of nowhere Terrell plucked the ball away from the mass of white jerseys for a touchdown, saving Henson from being killed the moment he stepped out of the stadium. Michigan would win the game, 13-10. [Catch at 5:18 of below video]

Final Statline: 8 carries, 108 yards, 1 TD; 152 receptions, 2,317 yards, 23 TDs.

7) Anthony "A-Train" Thomas

Anthony Thomas came to Michigan as a highly-rated running back out of Louisiana, and immediately contributed as a true freshman during Michigan's run to glory in 1997. Used occasionally to spell Chris Howard, most of Thomas's playing time came at kick returner. Blessed with a big frame, amazing lower-body strength, surprising speed and great hands, Thomas could run you over, run around you, or simply pull a catch-and-run on one of Michigan's plentiful screens of the time. Thomas was the most physically-gifted back Michigan has had in the past 15 years and was the anchor of the offense as soon as he won the starting job in 1998.

Most Memorable Play: Not his for-no-reason, there's-no-one-around-me-and-I-just-ran-for-the-winning-first-down fumble which cost Michigan the game in the epic 2000 shootout at Northwestern. Probably his long screen-reception TD against Ohio State in Columbus during the 2000 campaign, cleaverly picking his way around blockers and stiff-arming the final man before trotting into the endzone [8:05 of below video]. That or his second TD run in 2000 against MSU, in which he bounced outside, used his speed to get to the second level, vision to cut back around a tackler, and power to run into the endzone with a Spartan defender on his back [6:52].

Final Statline: 924 carries, 4,472 yards, 55 TDs; 88 receptions, 810 yards, 1 TD; 31 KR, 720 yards. The A-Train left Michigan holding the all-time rushing records, which were broken later by Mike Hart.

6) Chris Perry
Chris Perry came to Michigan from a prep school, having attended the Fort Union Military Academy in Virginia before donning the Maize 'n Blue. Perry shared time in 2000 and 2001 with the A-Train before becoming the feature back the following season. Like Thomas before him, Perry could run people over, had good field vision, and had great hands. Unlike the A-Train, however, Perry didn't have top-end speed; he wasn't a plodder, but if you put him in a footrace against a defender more often than not he would get brought down. He was literally the definition of 'average' speed. Saddled with sub-par QB play and a general lack of offensive weapons around him (he was there for the end of the Terrell/Walker duo and the start of the Edwards era), Perry was often the target of opposing defensive coordinators but still managed to put up good numbers. He's above Thomas and Hart on the list because he was the focal point on offense and still produced.

Most Memorable Play: Perry had a number of great runs in 2003 but his slashing TD run in the 100th occurrence of "The Game" (his first TD) which put the Wolverines up 28-7 was not only the game winner but a counter to the OSU touchdown only minutes earlier [3:36 of video below]. His second TD run was also a thing of beauty and put the game away with 7 minutes left to play. A shout-out to Perry's legendary 51 carry, 219 yard, 1 TD game at Michigan State in 2003.

Final Statline: 811 carries, 3,696 yards, 39 TDs; 66 receptions, 572 yards, 2 TDs. 1st-Team All-Big Ten ('03), Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year ('03), Jim Brown Award Winner ('03), 2003 Doak Walker Award Winner (Best runningback in college football), 2003 Heisman Trophy Finalist (finished 4th overall).

There you have numbers 10 through 6. Hopefully enjoyable thus far, tomorrow should only get better with the release of 5 through 1.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Don't Bring 'the Club' Back Again!

As I sit here on my deck in late July writing what will hopefully be the first of many entries on this site, there is a slight chill to the air. And not the normal, because-I'm-almost-living-in-the-Arctic-Circle chill. It's the chill of Fall, barely present amongst the blossomed flowers and green grass and all-encompassing grapevines. The slight kiss of cold weather, hinting at the changing of the seasons and the best season of them all: football season. But like your vision of a perfect woman, this is but an illusion; there are no perfect women, and, sadly, it's only late July.

Each and every day drives closer to the kickoff of another glorious year of Michigan football. I use the term "glorious" loosely, because as you are well aware as Michigan fans or just fans of college football in general the words "glorious" and "Michigan" have not been used in the same sentence for awhile, unless it was in the context of "that was a glorious failure by Michigan". I digress; salt in the wound, kicking a man while he's down, etc.

This season will be one in which no living person has witnessed before: this year a revolution takes place for Michigan football. It should (hopefully) be of the American Revolution variety (good) and not of the French Revolution type (gory). I am a History major (along with English, hurray for lots of reading!) and the first thing we're beaten over the head with until we all succumb to our head wounds and then rise again as half-living, half-dead history zombies is that HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF. If you ducked and missed the club that was aimed at the back of your skull, you surely will not dodge this one: HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF. There, got you. Now that you know that history, like old men, repeat themselves, this column will go from seeming wildly optimistic to being slightly optimistic. This, if you are a Michigan fan, is a good thing.

Let's review what has happened in the past, shall we? Ancient "Michigan man" head coach with even more ancient "Michigan man" ideas and schemes began to lose it. Losses to inferior opponents piled up, losses to that one school down south came in bunches that would make a banana blush, and people began calling for his head. Athletic facilities began to fall behind other leading institutions around the country, and suddenly the "Leaders and Best" had a very unfamiliar view: looking at the butts of others as they were passed quicker than a Prius on a highway. Suddenly, old-school "Michigan man" is on a seat made of lava and talk of facility upgrades and additional ways of gaining income, until now thought of as "brash" and "new-fangled" and "not Michigan", are being talked about and are likely to come to fruition. The "Michigan way", the safety blanket hidden under by all fans, alumni, and (most especially) old people is ripped away, held in front of the noses of these people, and burned. The "Michigan man" resigns, upgrades to facilities become a reality, an outsider of the Michigan family is hired to be the new coach, and thousands of enraged people all bellow "NOOOOOOOO!" at the same time.

Then what happened? Then, my dear reader, people asked the same question: Who the hell is Bo Schembechler? Ooooooh, got ya. You thought I was talking about Lloyd Carr and Rich Rodriguez, didn't you? And that question everyone asked was going to be something like "What the hell is a Zone-Read Option?". Nope. Remember what we talked about at the beginning of the piece? HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF. As you're picking yourself off the floor, and wondering if you've suffered a lobotomy, I can assure you that no, you didn't, that yes, the pain will go away after a while (so much so, in fact, that the clubbings become less and less painful), and that no, in no way, shape, or form am I comparing Lloyd Carr to Bump Elliot and Rich Rodriguez to Bo Schembechler (God bless you, Bo). Except that I am. You see, to avoid the club coming out for a fourth time this piece, these things tend to fall into patterns.

Almost since the beginning of time a "Michigan man" has been the head coach, then has retired and had his descendants coach, until there's a break in the chain because an "outsider" has been hired; said "outsider" is soon wildly successful, elevating the program to heights only occasionally reached by the previous regime, coaches for awhile then retires, leaving one of his descendants to take over until the next "outsider" is hired and the process repeats itself.

It's like in the Bible: Creation of the program begat "Michigan men", Fielding H. Yost married in and begat "Michigan men", Bo Schembechler married in and begat "Michigan men", Rich Rodriguez married in...

You get the picture. The point, to avoid the club one more time, is that these things are cyclical. So please, as you're sharpening your pitchforks and oiling your torches for this fall, remember that these things are usually good, and sometimes they take time. This isn't 1901 where simply changing the scheme is going to produce instantaneous results, or 1969 where simply training the kids better is going to produce better results. This is a hyper-competitive age of football, where rules and scholarship limits and this thing you may be aware of called "practice time limit" and ESPN 8 all skew the game to favor "the little guy".

Give Rich a chance. After all, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; we get to witness, firsthand, the transformation of a football program to once again take its' rightful place as NUMBER ONE WOOOO! and put those morons from that school down south back in their place (shut up, Little Brother, no one cares about you).

This is like witnessing the American Revolution; something that is so awesome and overcomes all odds and morphs into this beast of a nation/football program after the fact.

That, or it's going to be like the French Revolution, and it's going to be bloody and there's going to be heads and guillotines everywhere and wildly unsuccessful and OH GOD WHAT WERE WE THINKING, we're just going to be an after-thought has-been the rest of time.