Friday, December 21, 2007

Capital One Bowl

We apologize for the light blogging, finals were this past week and that took up much of our time. We are on break now and will be back over the Holidays were the blog will be updated more regularly. For now I want to tell everyone that you can listen to myself and Stu Zaas call the Capital One Bowl LIVE on January 1st by listening to us on the sports stream!

Take care and Happy Holidays.

Go Blue!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Baseball Offseason Report: Finals Week Edition

With finals week approaching, I may not have time to update the baseball offseason portion of the blog, but with my first break from constant schoolwork in about two weeks, I think it’s time to review A-Rod, the Winter Meetings, and the current Johan Santana talk (from a Mets fan’s perspective) before the Mitchell Report occupies the eyes and ears of the baseball world.

Topic 1: Alex Rodriguez re-signs with the Yankees

Shame on me for believing Hank Steinbrenner at all. Luckily, I’ve learned my lesson, and yes, the Yankees are still contenders for Johan Santana, if not his most likely destination. In all fairness, in my offseason preview for Maize & Blog on November 7th, I did write this concerning Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees:

“Reports out of New York last week are that A-Rod would still be open to signing with New York, and while Hank Steinbrenner made it very clear that A-Rod wouldn’t be welcomed back to Yankee Stadium, can we really trust that the Yankees won’t be involved in the negotiations over the best free agent since, well, A-Rod at age 25?”

So don’t say I didn’t see it coming, but the Yankees should’ve been at the top of my list, and for that, I apologize.

This is a pretty obvious move for both sides. For A-Rod, it was easy – get rid of Scott Boras because nobody needs to sell the talent of the greatest baseball player on earth, and play where you want to play, which happens to be in the biggest media market in the country. For the Yankees, they had a vacancy at 3B, and most importantly, they had a vacancy in the middle of their lineup. Above all else this offseason, the Yanks’ top priority was acquiring a clean-up hitter, NOT acquiring another pitcher, and looking at the Yankees lineup without A-Rod and a top pitcher (Johan Santana anyone?) should reveal that:

C- Posada; 1B- Mientkiewicz/Giambi; 2B- Cano; 3B- Betemit; SS- Jeter; LF- Matsui; CF- Cabrera; RF- Abreu; DH- Damon

That equates to a lineup along the lines of: 1. Damon; 2. Jeter; 3. Abreu; 4. Posada; 5. Matsui; 6. Cano; 7. Betemit/Giambi; 8. Mientkiewicz/Betemit; 9. Cabrera

That might seem like a deep lineup, and it is, because I’m very high on Cano, Betemit, and Cabrera, but it lacks something that’s essential to a winning baseball team: POWER. Case in point, the 2007 Yankees of April and May, when they struggled in the power department and watched a Red Sox team slug their way with the likes of Manny, Papi, and Lowell to a double digit lead in the AL East. In A-Rod, the Yanks got not only the best hitter on the market, but the best hitter in baseball, and they didn’t have to give up prospects for Miguel Cabrera, they just had to open their wallet, which has never been a big deal for the Yankees. The only issue here is that Hank Steinbrenner’s word has taken a major hit, but for a franchise which thrives on smugness, does anyone think they really care?

Topic #2: The Winter Meetings

This was a whole lot of nothing for a bunch of teams that everyone figured would make a move, and a whole lot of something for two teams that I expected to stay quiet at the Winter Meetings in Nashville.

Of course those two loud teams were the Marlins and Michigan’s own Detroit Tigers, who pulled off a huge 8-player trade that sent Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers for Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, and 4 other prospects to the Marlins. This trade makes a ton of sense to me for both sides. As for the Marlins, they certainly could not have gotten Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin for Miguel Cabrera, and there may not be a better OF or P prospect in the majors than Miller and Maybin, so for the Marlins they add in a pitcher with diminished value and a ton of uncertainty and they end up with a hard throwing lefty and a 5-tool player who will most likely be an all-star in this league for many years along with 4 other prospects. For the Tigers, it makes a ton of sense also – the Red Sox are a juggernaut, the Indians are an improving and already successful young team with Sabathia and Carmona who can shut down any lineup on any given night, and seemingly every team in the AL is threatening to add a top pitcher. The Tigers simply had to do something if they wanted to win this year, and they did a big something by netting one of the best young hitters in baseball and a pitcher who, if he can reclaim his prior success, will make a 1-2-3 in Verlander, Bonderman, and Willis, which can challenge Beckett, Dice-K, and Schilling. My only reservations if I’m a Tigers fan are that they have an extremely righty-heavy lineup (Cabrera, Sheffield, Ordonez, etc.) and they traded a guy in Miller who might be better than Willis this year and a guy in Maybin who they’ve been steadfast in keeping off the trade block (even when the Nationals called offering Soriano a couple of years ago) because he really might be that good. With that having been said, they added 2 young guys who will help now, and they have enough young pieces that they won’t need to make another trade for 3-5 years, and they can use that time to rebuild their diminished farm system.

As for the quiet teams, Johan Santana is still on the Twins, Erik Bedard is still on the Orioles, Dan Haren and Joe Blanton are still on the Athletics, Omar Minaya still wants a pitcher, and the Angels and Dodgers kept their prospects… for now. Chances are all of these names will come up again and again for the rest of the offseason, but in Nashville it was much ado about nothing. The Orioles seem to want more than the Twins want for Johan Santana if they’re going to trade Erik Bedard, which means they’re demanding guys like Jonathan Broxton along with Matt Kemp, James Loney, or Andy Laroche (I’d assume pitching prospect Clayton Kershaw could substitute for these guys, but those are the names I’ve heard). The A’s are sending out signals that they may want to hang onto Haren and Blanton unless they get blown away. As for the Twins and Santana….

Topic #3: Johan Santana

While the reports have changed by the minute when it comes to this guy, I’ll give you the abridged version of how we got to where we are before I rant. At the Winter Meetings, it looked like Santana would end up on the Red Sox after Hank Steinbrenner put a deadline on the Yanks’ negotiations with the Twins. The Yankees were apparently offering Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera, and one or two other prospects, while the Twins were asking for a package including Hughes and Ian Kennedy, which the Yankees decided was too much. As for the Red Sox, it appeared a deal was very close on the 2nd day of the Winter Meetings, but the Red Sox left Nashville empty-handed, but still negotiating with new Twins GM Bill Smith. The Red Sox basically made two offers, with one containing LHP Jon Lester, disappointing OF Coco Crisp, and two prospects in SS Jed Lowrie and P Justin Masterson, and one containing star OF prospect Jacoby Ellsbury along with two or three prospects (possibly including Lowrie and Masterson), and when it looked like the Twins were going to accept one of the deals after exchanging medical records, the Tigers pulled off their deal for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, the AL Central got a lot stronger, and the Twins became gun-shy. Most notably, they backed off their insistence on getting players who can help now and concentrated more on stockpiling high-ceiling guys who can help beat the Indians and Tigers in a few years, and with that new mentality, here come the Mets. Certainly teams aside from the Yanks, Red Sox, and Mets want Johan Santana and have the prospects to get him (see Rangers and Mariners with Adam Jones), but remember that Johan Santana has a no-trade clause and is going to demand a contract for 7-years and more money than Barry Zito got, potentially in the $25 million per year range, so that eliminates nearly every team that isn’t named the Yanks, Red Sox, or Mets (see Angels, Dodgers, DBacks). The word lately has been that Santana is not crazed about pitching in the Bronx, although I will still NEVER count out the Yankees – as I’ve said, I learned my lesson, and lets be honest here… if Bill Smith called up Hank Steinbrenner (I love how I’ve completely disregarded Brian Cashman as a member of the Yanks’ organization now) and said, “We’ll take Hughes, Cabrera, Tabata, and Jackson for Santana”, Hank is not going to say, “Well Bill, we’d love to do that, but you see you didn’t meet our deadline, so it’s a no-go.” However, what’s important is that Santana and his no-trade clause apparently wants to go to the Mets and then the Red Sox, and the Twins want to honor his desires, so they’ve been working with the Mets to get something done. Today, apparently the Mets offered the Twins a number of packages with either top OF prospect Carlos Gomez or high ceiling OF prospect Fernando Martinez, but none with both. The Twins said they would agree to the deal with Gomez if the Mets included either Martinez or a fourth pitching prospect in the deal, and the Mets declined. That means the Mets declined a trade for Johan Santana which didn’t involve David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, John Maine, or Oliver Perez… and I’m furious. The Mets were offered the National League pennant on a silver platter and they declined. It is idiotic to not give up prospects – let me repeat that, PROSPECTS – to get the best pitcher on the planet. Put Johan Santana at the top of a rotation with Pedro Martinez, John Maine, and Oliver Perez, and you have a team that contends for a title in 2008. Keep Carlos Gomez, Fernando Martinez, Mike Pelfrey, Kevin Mulvey, and whoever else the Mets are putting too much faith into, and they’ll continue to be an 88-win team that falls a game short of the playoffs. The Mets just had one of the biggest collapses in baseball history, and they won’t unload five prospects to get a chance at a title for their fans this year, and I, as a fan, am furious.

- Jeremy Kreisberg

Monday, December 3, 2007

All I Want for Christmas is a Playoff System


I woke up this morning and had a vision of something beautiful: a playoff system for college football. It was so simple, a solution that would keep the bowl system, but still determine a national champion on the field instead of on a computer. Here's how it works. The BCS computers actually do a decent job of synthesizing the major polls into one, so they will determine the top 12 teams in the country, with the top 4 teams getting byes. Teams 5-12 would match up in bowl games the December 21st and 22nd in the Cotton Bowl, Capital One Bowl, Gator Bowl, and Holiday Bowl (bowls chosen based on prestige and location). So this year the match-ups would be:
  • (5) Georgia vs. (12) Florida in the Gator Bowl
  • (6) Missouri vs. (11) Arizona State in the Cotton Bowl
  • (7) USC vs. (10) Hawaii in the Holiday Bowl
  • (8) Kansas vs. (9) West Virginia in the Capital One Bowl
The winners of those games would advance to the quarterfinals, which would be held on December 28th and 29th in the Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and the Rose Bowl. Those match-ups would be:
  • (1) Ohio State vs Kansas/West Virginia winner in the Rose Bowl
  • (2) LSU vs USC/Hawaii winner in the Sugar Bowl
  • (3) Virginia Tech vs. Missouri/Arizona State winner in the Orange Bowl
  • (4) Oklahoma vs. Georgia/Florida winner int he Fiesta Bowl
The semifinals would be held the following week with the national championship taking place on January 14th. In addition, all the other bowl games not taken up by this playoff system would remain unchanged. To sum it all up, here is what the bracket would look like:

This setup would create a ton of excitement and give us more games between the top teams in college football during the bowl season. Just look at some of the games and possible games, how can you not be excited? These are all very good teams at the top of their conferences. Plus, we'll get to see how the coaches prepare for a different opponent every week, instead of having over a month to gameplan for only one team. How will the sweater-vest prepare for an explosive spread attack one week, and then have to deal with a completely different offense the next week? I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about all the possibilities.

Now if only I could convince the presidents of all the major conferences, the representatives from the affected bowl games, and the TV executives who hold broadcasting rights to those games to adopt my system. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. I guess I'll just have to sit back and watch the bowl games, only to wonder what could have been.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Statement Made

Tonight, as I watched the #2 UM Ice Hockey team absolutely dominate the perennial powerhouse (and currently down-on-its-luck) Minnesota Golden Gophers, I felt excitement well within me. I came into the season expecting a low seed early exit NCAA Tournament season from this team. It seemed to me that a team led by Kevin Porter had no chance of missing the tourney but I felt that the loads of freshman (12 who play regularly!!) and the inconsistency of Billy Sauer was too much to overcome for this year's squad. The first weekend got the ball rolling and I was happy with my prediction, this team was not gonna fall like everyone said they would but still were not good enough to beat the Minnesotas of the world. Then they beat Northern, then BU, then UNO on the road, the wins just kept piling up. Everyone on the college hockey beat though were unimpressed, asking for the victories against the ranked opponents and pointing to the College Hockey Showcase as the time where we would find out how the Wolverines stacked up. Well, I think the statement was made emphatically, as Michigan not only swept this weekend's games but swept them convincingly minus an 18 second lapse in play towards the end of the Wisconsin game. The Wolverines not only beat the #12 Wisconsin Badgers 3-2 Friday night, but followed that up with the biggest statement of the year, a 5-1 thrashing tonight of the #13 Golden Gophers, a team that beat them 4-3 earlier this year in St. Paul, Minnesota. No longer will Michigan be overlooked this season, no longer will the CCHA be considered extremely inferior to the WCHA (still nowhere near as tough, but much closer than years past), and no longer will the Wolverines be considered a team fattened up on a cupcake schedule. I end this post with a message to all UM fans reading this: If you get the chance, go out to Yost and catch a game. You will not regret it, as this team is so much more fun to watch now that they play their hearts out night in and night out and very well could end up raising multiple banners to those lofty rafters over the ice at Yost after this season is completed.

Friday, November 23, 2007

WCBN Top 25 Poll (Nov. 21)

The day following Thanksgiving, I come to you the readers, thanking you for reading our blog and listening to our broadcasts and shows. Most of all, I thank you for putting up with the forgetful nature of myself, as I completely forgot about putting up this week's top 25. So without any further delay, here is our top 25 for this week(first place votes in parentheses):
  1. LSU (6)
  2. Kansas (2)
  3. Missouri
  4. West Virginia
  5. Ohio State
  6. Georgia
  7. Arizona State
  8. Virginia Tech
  9. Oklahoma
  10. Oregon
  11. Hawai'i
  12. Florida
  13. Texas
  14. USC
  15. Virginia
  16. Boise State
  17. Boston College
  18. Illinois
  19. UConn
  20. Tennessee
  21. Wisconsin
  22. Clemson
  23. Cincinnati
  24. Auburn
  25. BYU
Others receiving votes: South Florida, Texas Tech, Air Force, Michigan, Kentucky

We also remind you that we are calling both College Hockey Showcase games for this weekend, tonight's game against #12 Wisconsin at 7:35 PM and tomorrow's game against #13 Minnesota at 7:35 PM, both can be heard on our sports stream at http://sitemaker.umich.edu/wcbnsports/listen_live_.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Carr to Announce Retirement


Michigan has scheduled a 10 AM press conference for Monday to announce the retirement of head coach Lloyd Carr.

Carr coached the Wolverines to a 121-40 record over 13 seasons. Before being named head coach in 1995, Carr served as an assistant under Bo Schembechler for 15 years. Carr is third all time in conference winning percentage at .779 which puts him behind two other Michigan coaches, Bo Schembechler and Fielding Yost. Carr's greatest accomplishment came in 1997 when he lead the Wolverines to a National Championship and was named the NCAA Coach of the Year.

Carr will likely stay on and work in the athletic department and should play a prominent role in choosing his successor.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The 104th Meeting in the Greatest Rivalry in Sports: Preview

A season that has not gone as planned at least will end the way it was predicted. Tomorrow at noon Michigan and Ohio State will meet for the 104th time and again the winner will claim the Big Ten championship. Regardless of how the season has gone, this is what the Michigan seniors came back for, a chance to beat Ohio State and win a championship. With the National title out of the picture, it seems like the pre-BCS days with the two teams fighting for the conference and the Rose Bowl.

Michigan Offense vs. Ohio State Defense

Despite the declaration by Lloyd Carr that Chad Henne and Mike Hart’s statuses will be game time decisions, there is no doubt that both of them will start and play in there final game at the Big House. They will play regardless of how far along they have recovered, but if they are both at 100%, this might be the first time all season that the offense will be healthy enough to click on all cylinders. However, it will not be easy against an Ohio State defense that is one of the best, if not the best in the country. They are number 1 in the nation in scoring defense holding opponents to 11.4 points per game and second in total defense. They are led by 6-3 240 pound junior linebacker and team captain James Laurinaitis. He is the team’s leading tackler and consensus All-American at the middle linebacker spot. He has a combination of speed, size, and ferocity that has every NFL team looking at him. He’s flanked on both sides by very talented linebackers as well with 6-3 226 pound senior Larry Grant and 6-2 236 pound junior Marcus Freeman. Freeman is starting for the second year in a row and has a knack for being around the ball shown by an 18 tackle performance in the loss to Illinois last week. Grant is a versatile, athletic backer for the Buckeyes who has played all three spots and has blocked a FG and punt this season. They make up possibly the best linebacking core in the country and in front of them is a young, but very talented defensive line. The front line is lead by the eldest player among them in junior defensive end Vernon Gholston who has harassed quarterbacks all year long with 10 sacks to show for it. He normally attacks on the same side Jake Long is on so that will be quite a battle to watch. On the other end is an extremely talented freshman in Cameron Heyward. At 6-6 282 he presents a challenge for any offensive line. In the middle are two sophomores in Doug Worthington and Todd Denlinger. They are still young but big guys on the line. That front seven is undoubtedly one of the best in the country, but Illinois exploited them last week and Michigan’s offensive line which is now healthy might want to study that film. Then some holes can be opened for Mike Hart and company to establish the run. However, those gaps might close quickly with the linebacking core. Due to this, Michigan may need to go to the air to loosen up the front seven. But Ohio State is very strong there as well with the second best pass defense in the country. They have a young, but very talented secondary. Their two cornerbacks are both 6-1 in junior Malcolm Jenkins and sophomore Donald Washington. Both have returned an interception for a TD this year and Jenkins is a Thorpe award candidate. They have playmaking ability so one bad throw can be costly. The two safeties are rather inexperienced, but have improved as the year has gone on. They are both sophomores with Kurt Coleman at strong safety and Anderson Russell at free safety. This is where Michigan has the advantage. Chad Henne must be precise in all of his passes. Michigan will have the advantage if the spread out the offense first and look to go to the air with Arrington across the middle and Manningham deep if he can beat the corners. If Michigan does this successfully without turnovers like they did last season, Mike Hart should have more room to run. But Ohio State’s young defense will be hungry after last week’s performance. Still:

Advantage: Michigan if they run the offense like they did last year

Ohio State Offense vs. Michigan Defense

Ohio State’s offense is definitely led by there sophomore running back Chris “Beanie” Wells and their rushing attack. They average nearly 200 yards on the ground and rely on the running game to get the offense going. He has had 7 100 yard rushing games this year, but was held to 76 yards on 20 carries last week in the loss to Illinois. Ohio State needs to get him going in order to have success. The veteran offensive line in front of Wells has to have a big day opening up holes for the Buckeyes. Led by 5th year senior Kirk Barton, the Buckeyes are a veteran bunch with 3 juniors and one sophomore under center. Look for them to favor the right side with Barton although they have another great tackle on the other end with junior Alex Boone. The key for Michigan’s defense will be to fill in the gaps and hit Wells early allowing teammates to flock to him. He’s tough to bring down alone so the defensive line and linebackers have to have a great effort flying to the ball. Look for Jamar Adams to come up in run defense as well. While the Buckeyes like to run the ball, as the season has progressed, junior quarterback Todd Boeckman has developed into a pretty good passer. He has completed 65% of his passes for 2121 yards 23 TDs and 11 INTs. In addition, last week he even showed some mobility with 68 yards on the ground. Still, his mobility will not present near the challenge Troy Smith’s did the last three years, but his arm sure can with the wide receivers who have developed for Ohio State. Brian Robiskie has become the main weapon with the departure of Gonzalez, Ginn, and company and he has 864 yards and 10 TDs receiving this season. He is complemented by Brian Hartline who has 610 yards and 5 TDs this season. While these are the two main weapons, do not be surprised if Ohio State has saved some weapons for Michigan and decides to spread the field and go five wide. They have talent with Jake Ballard, Dane Sazenbacher, and Ray Small all inexperienced talents. Also, tight end Rory Nicol can become a weapon if Michigan leaves the middle of the field open. For Michigan, obviously the main concern is slowing down the rushing attack. That will take a complete team effort. Other than that, in the passing game, the key still lies with the front seven getting pressure on the quarterback. Michigan must bring blitzes and change up their coverages to rattle the young Buckeyes. The secondary has stepped it up with Morgan Trent and Donovan Warren really coming along. Jamar Adams was the only player who played well last week in Madison and hopefully he will continue that. And Shawn Crable must make up for his costly penalty last season with a great effort. If Michigan does that then they should have success, but the last two games have season runningbacks run all over the Wolverines.

Advantage: Ohio State

Special Teams:

To sum it up very simply, Ohio State has a solid kicker in Ryan Pretorius. Ohio State also coaches to special teams. Michigan doesn’t. That is unfortunate considering special teams can make a world of difference in these games. Michigan needs to play by far their best special teams game to compete.

Advantage: Ohio State

Intangibles:

It sounds cliché, but in the greatest rivalry in all of sports, both teams will be giving it their all. I would like to say Michigan will play harder, but that is not true. The only thing working in Michigan’s favor is Ohio State being knocked out of the national title picture last week. People are still complaining about a fumble not called in the game against Illinois last week and it could be a distraction for the Buckeyes. On the other hand Michigan seemed to play the Wisconsin game just because they had to and were waiting for the game against Ohio State. This being Chad Henne, Mike Hart, and Jake Long’s last game, after coming back specifically to beat Ohio State, should give Michigan an advantage. However, Ohio State should come out just as hard since this is the biggest game of the year. But since it is in the Big House, I’ll give the slight nod to Michigan

Advantage: Michigan

This is the last chance for Michigan to salvage the season, otherwise, it could turn into the same type of season as 2005 when the team had a record of 7-5. There is no way around it: that would be a FAILURE for Michigan football.

-Rushi Vyas

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

MLB Offseason Preview Part II

Before we get into trade rumors, as promised, here are some updates on the (arbitrarily decided) top ten free agents, as discussed in last week’s edition of Rumor Season 2007-2008.

Mike Lowell, listed at #3 last week, looked as though he was a lock to resign with the Red Sox, but apparently Theo Epstein is reluctant to include a 4th year to Lowell’s deal. Reports last week had the Red Sox offering what appeared to be a lowball offer at 3 years and $30 million, although with the third base market being as deep as it is (A-Rod, who can be had via free agency, and Miguel Cabrera, who can be had via trade, are better and younger than Mike Lowell), it’s not crazy to think that Lowell won’t get more than $12 million per season. With that have been said, Lowell and his agents believe he can get a four-year deal in the $13-$14 million range, so this stalemate might continue, and will surely impact the market for Miguel Cabrera.

Jorge Posada, listed in the Yankees trio at #4-6, re-signed with the Yankees as predicted by WCBN’s Maize & Blog, for $52.4 million over 4 years (with the last year basically a DH year given that Posada is 36, signaling the beginning of the end for most catchers). Posada is now the highest paid catcher annually in baseball at $13.1 million, eclipsing the $10 million that Pudge and Jason Varitek received last year and the $13 million that Pudge is guaranteed in 2008.

Mariano Rivera, also in the aforementioned Yankees trio, has been offered a record contract for relievers at $45 million over 3 years, which would make him higher paid than Billy Wagner, who is currently the highest paid reliever.

In other free agent news, Todd Jones re-upped with Michigan’s very own Detroit Tigers, signing a reasonable one-year deal that will guarantee the aging closer $7 million in 2008. Speaking of the Tigers, they have not only been busy signing Todd Jones, as they have been working the phone lines, and have made the early splashes via trade this offseason. The Tigers acquired Edgar Renteria earlier this offseason, and have now added Jacque Jones from the Cubs for Omar Infante, presumably to platoon with Marcus Thames in LF.

Finally, as promised, here are WCBN’s Top 5 Trade Targets and, as always, relevant predictions, for Rumor Season ’07-’08.

  1. Johan Santana: Well, he’s the cream of the crop. What A-Rod is to the free agent market, Santana is to the trade market… potentially. The big question is whether Johan will be made available. The Twins want to keep either Torii Hunter or Johan Santana, with Hunter obviously being the more affordable and less effective of the two players. The problem that the Twins, and the teams who want Johan Santana (and that list includes every team, from the Toledo Mud Hens to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to the New York Yankees) may have is that Torii Hunter is receiving a lot of interest. As written last week, Hunter is being pursued strongly by the Rangers, and as predicted would happen last week, Hunter is being courted by the White Sox. Both the Rangers and White Sox probably will have more money to spend than the Twins, although neither team has the inherent advantage of being Hunter’s previous home, so this situation will need to unfold itself before we can really tell whether Santana will be dealt. However, the one thing that we’ll continue to see as the offseason goes on (and this started early with the Astros putting Brad Lidge on the market so that the Phillies could move Brett Myers into the rotation) is that there are simply no good pitchers available via free agency, so if teams want to move their starting pitching, now is the time to get the highest possible value – not July 31st, and not next offseason.

Prediction: Hunter signs with the White Sox and Santana stays with the Twins. However, I could envision a scenario in which the Twins move Santana either way. If this is the case, you’re going to see a huge bidding war, including all of the teams with great young talent, and that includes the Yankees, Dodgers, and Angels (the Mets would be interested, but they won’t be able to come close to matching offers from the Yankees, Dodgers, and Angels). This bidding war will basically depend on the Yankees; if Pettitte re-signs with the Yankees and doesn’t retire, the rotation will contain Pettitte, Chien-Ming Wang, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy. In this case, the Yankees will need to decide whether they are willing to give up one of Hughes, Joba, or Kennedy along with Melky Cabrera in order to get Johan Santana from the Twins (some reports say that the Twins will demand Robinson Cano, but I can’t imagine them getting more than Kennedy, Melky, and some blue chip prospects).

  1. Miguel Cabrera: This could be another offseason for the Marlins in which they’ll unload their stars who are about to get paid for young talent. Cabrera has all the talent in the world, and one of the best bats in the game, but his attitude was certainly in question last year with the Marlins. From his fights with Scott Olsen to a visible lack of effort in the field, Cabrera looked last year like a guy who the Marlins may not want to build around, especially with young talent like Jeremy Hermida and, of course, Hanley Ramirez able to carry the offense. Now might be the best time for the Marlins to get value for the second best 3B in the NL (no bias, I promise).

Prediction: The Yankees abstain from talks with the Twins for Johan Santana and go with the young aforementioned rotation, while the Red Sox give Mike Lowell the fourth year he desires, so the Yankees are left with prospects and a vacancy at 3B. They use those prospects to outbid the Angels for Miguel Cabrera, who will be unwilling to part with Howie Kendrick, who the Marlins want in any deal for Cabrera. The Dodgers will feel out the Marlins, but will inevitably cough up the big bucks to bring A-Rod to Hollywood, and the Giants will dangle some young pitching, including Jonathon Sanchez, but will also get outbid by the Yanks in an attempt to give their offense some juice.

  1. Giants Pitching (Noah Lowry, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum): The Giants fit into the category of teams that were discussed earlier, who will look to capitalize on a weak free agent class of starting pitching. Although GM Brian Sabean has said that nobody is untouchable, I just can’t envision the Giants giving up Tim Lincecum. So, that leaves the Giants with a guy who I evaluate as a potential #2 major league starter in Cain and a southpaw who, if he’s on, reminds me of a young Tom Glavine, but will never show the same consistency and will always be counted on as a #3 guy.

Prediction: The Giants make a blockbuster deal with the Devil Rays, in which they acquire Delmon Young and hitting prospects for whichever pitcher of Cain and Lowry the Devil Rays desire. The Giants could try and go after a big time bat with their pitching talent, but they are simply not one player away, especially after losing Barry Bonds. This trade would provide the Giants with some young, desperately needed hitters, while giving the D-Rays some legitimacy for the first time in franchise history, as they’ll be able to send out Scott Kazmir, Jamie Shields, or Cain/Lowry three of every five days, making them a team that needs to at least be reckoned with.

  1. Oakland Pitching (Joe Blanton, Rich Harden, Danny Haren): The A’s are in the same boat as the Giants – they are capitalizing on a weak free agent class and they need offense. They also will probably not give up the guy who has the most value of the three tradable commodities in Danny Haren because he’s simply too valuable to the A’s.

Prediction: The Mets are not willing to go into the season with Mike Pelfrey or Phil Humber as a starting pitcher, so after signing Carlos Silva, they go after Joe Blanton to give the rotation two inning-eaters with good consistency over the last three years. Billy Beane loves Lastings Milledge, and the Mets still have Moises Alou, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Gomez, and Endy Chavez in a busy OF, with Shawn Green still having the potential to re-sign. The Mets and Beane work out a deal that works for both sides, with Blanton and Milledge going coast-to-coast.

  1. Dontrelle Willis: This story is particularly interesting for those of us currently living in Michigan, as trade rumors have been swirling about Detroit making a run at Dontrelle. Coming off an atrocious year, the Marlins, as discussed earlier, must decide whether they want to build around Willis, Cabrera, or neither.

Prediction: While the Marlins do have young hitting that makes Cabrera expendable, they don’t have nearly enough starting pitchers. They need Dontrelle to be good, and they hold onto him for now, but don’t be surprised to see a 35-55 Marlins team looking to trade Dontrelle to a contender in July, at perhaps a higher price than they would get now.

Thanks for tuning in folks, and hopefully we’ll be able to do less previewing and more reviewing in the coming weeks of Rumor Season ’07-’08.

- Jeremy Kreisberg

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

WCBN Top 25

It's that time again, as we look at how a bunch of college students with access to the radio and press boxes view the world of college football. So without anymore hesitation, this week's top 25 (with first place votes in parentheses):
  1. LSU (7)
  2. Oregon (3)
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Kansas
  5. Missouri
  6. West Virginia
  7. Ohio State
  8. Georgia
  9. Arizona State
  10. Virginia Tech
  11. USC
  12. Florida
  13. Texas
  14. Virginia
  15. Hawai'i
  16. Clemson
  17. Boise State
  18. Michigan
  19. Boston College
  20. Cincinnati
  21. Illinois
  22. Tennessee
  23. Kentucky
  24. Wisconsin
  25. Auburn
Others Receiving Votes: Navy, Penn State, South Florida, UConn, Air Force, BYU

Notes: For the first time in the short history of our poll, it was a pretty much consensus view on who deserved in the top 25, as there was only 6 other teams to receive votes.

Now we get ready for The Game this Saturday, and if you just can't get enough of the talking heads for this game, WCBN will have 3 hours dedicated to the game this Friday night from 7-10 PM, on wcbn.org or 88.3 FM if you are in Ann Arbor.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Trap Game in Madison May Mean Loss for Michigan

Following an unforgettable comeback victory in East Lansing last week, Michigan could be caught in a trap game this week against Wisconsin with Ohio State looming. Wisconsin took a lead into the third quarter at Columbus last week before giving up 28 unanswered points to lose 38-17. They are now completely out of the Big Ten title race with only Ohio State and Michigan still in contention. Michigan and Ohio State both remain unbeaten at 7-0 in the conference while every other team has at least two losses. Wisconsin has three, which has to be disappointing considering many had picked them to win the conference prior to the season.

Michigan Offense vs. Wisconsin Defense

Wisconsin, usually known for having a stout rush defense, has not had its normal dominance on the line this season. The Badgers give up 148.1 yards per game on the ground which ranks a mere 8th in the Big Ten and 57th in the nation. Michigan has to take advantage of Wisconsin’s sub-par rush defense and this will be the key not only to this game, but potentially looking ahead to next week as well. Chad Henne’s partially separated shoulder is still a concern and even though he had quite a remarkable performance on the final two drives last week, Michigan needs to save his arm for a much tougher Buckeye defense. The only way that can happen is if the Wolverines get off to a running start and can continue to pound away at the Wisconsin defense. Mike Hart says he should be getting close to 100% by game-time and if he is, Michigan can look to jump on his back. Playing Ryan Mallett may also be an option for the Wolverines in order to rest Henne. Mallett did lead the Wolverines to a win over Penn State earlier this season, but the concern may be throwing him into a hostile environment in Madison and with his fumbles so far. If Mallett does play, however, and does not lose the ball too much, he did show against Minnesota that he can throw the deep ball pretty well and Michigan should give him some chances to do so. That, however, was the worst pass defense in the Big Ten while Wisconsin comes in much better at 3rd in the Big Ten in that category. The Badgers secondary is young with a freshman starting cornerback and two sophomores at the safety position, but they have been solid most of the year with sophomore free safety Shane Carter leading the way with 4 interceptions. This only gives the Wolverines more reason to milk the running game. Still despite the fact that Wisconsin has struggled against the run at times they still have talent in the front seven. Led by outside linebacker Jonathan Casillas, the Badgers also return end Matt Shaughnessy and tackle Nick Hayden. So the talent is there, but a finally healthy (relatively speaking) line for Michigan should be able to get the job done. Adam Kraus is now at center permanently, at least for the end of the season, and Alex Mitchell is back in the lineup. The Wolverines should be able to run successfully, but the key is to stay healthy.

Advantage: Michigan

Wisconsin Offense vs. Michigan Defense

Michigan’s defense played lights out in the first half against Michigan State until getting run over in the second half. That second half is a not a good sign coming into this Wisconsin game and their power rushing attack, especially if star back P.J. Hill plays. Hill missed last week’s game in Columbus, but if he returns against the Wolverines, the defense will have to find a way to slow down one of the best backs in the country. Hill, a stocky 230 pound sophomore, has rushed for over 1000 yards and 14 TDs this year. Michigan held him to just 54 yards on the ground last season, but that was at the Big House. After Caulcrick and Ringer pounded away at the defense last week, Hill has to be a concern for Ron English and company. The offensive line and Hill have made Wisconsin second in the country in time-of-possession as they will look to keep the ball away from the Michigan defense. If Hill does not play, however, Wisconsin should struggle on the ground as they did last week when they only gained 12 yards on the ground without him. Still quarterback Tyler Donovan does have plenty of playmakers to look to other than Hill. The main target is junior tight end Travis Beckum who leads the team in receiving with 765 yards and is considered the best tight end in the country by many. Donovan will look to him often and he can even go deep to Beckum as shown last week with a 46 yard connection between the two. Other than Beckum, wide receiver Luke Swan should be a key target if healthy. Swan is known for making big plays, but has missed four games this season due to injury. If he plays, that will be another big play man for Michigan to account for. Michigan’s secondary, however has been playing well and should be able to handle Wisconsin when they go to the air since they do not usually spread the field which is where Michigan struggles. The main question will be with the front seven who often in the second half were staring at the backs of Michigan State ball carriers as they ran on by. Shawn Crable must lead this defense to shore up their gap control and the defensive line needs to slow down P.J. Hill right at the line. If he gets momentum, Michigan’s secondary will have a very tough time bringing down the power back. But with his health in question:

Advantage: Michigan

Special Teams:

Wisconsin has a clear advantage in placekicking here and if the game comes down to a field goal, they have a kicker in Taylor Mehlhaff who can boot it through the uprights from over 50 yards. Mehlhaff is 15-17 on the year for field goals including a 51 yarder against UNLV. Michigan’s K.C. Lopata has not missed yet, but has not proven to be reliable from long distances. While Michigan’s kicking game has improved, it still has no where near the consistency of Wisconsin’s. Punting wise, as this could become a game of field position, it’s nearly a statistical draw with Michigan’s Zoltan Mesko and Wisconsin’s Ken DeBauche both averaging about 40 yards per punt. Both punters are very solid, but Mesko was shaky last week at Michigan State. In the return game, Michigan continues to struggle with even catching the ball so Wisconsin gets the advantage by default. They have not scored a touchdown on the return, but David Gilreath does average 11.3 yards per return.

Advantage: Wisconsin

Intangibles:

Despite the hype for this game in the preseason which suggested it would not be a trap game, with the way Michigan won last week, it does set up in such a way. The Wolverines are coming off an emotional comeback victory last week and are only a week away from the Ohio State game which will be for the Big Ten title. The leaders of the team specifically came back to beat Ohio State and with this Wisconsin game having no effect on their Big Ten title hopes, the Wolverines could easily fall asleep on the Badgers. In addition, Wisconsin is still bitter about last season’s 27-13 loss to Michigan as it was their only blemish to an otherwise perfect season concluding with a bowl victory over Arkansas. Wisconsin has all the reason to try to salvage their lost season with revenge, while Michigan may be more focused on Ohio State next week. Regardless of what Michigan players may say:

Advantage: Wisconsin (and I forgot to even mention the game is at Camp-Randall, one of the toughest places to win a road game: 13 game home winning streak for the Badgers)

Prediction:

While Michigan may have the better team, this has all the makings of a game with Michigan being asleep at the wheel and focused on Ohio State.

Final Score: Wisconsin 20 Michigan 17

Player of the game: P.J. Hill 31 carries 155 yards, 2 TDs. Hill comes back in style and pounds away at the Michigan D all day eating up the clock. Wisconsin controls the ball and wins it on a Mehlhaff field goal midway through the fourth quarter. Chad Henne does not play much and Michigan suffers the consequences losing for the second straight time in Madison.

- Rushi Vyas

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

MLB Offseason Preview Part I

With the GM meetings underway in Orlando, Rumor Season 2007-2008 has officially begun! And what better way to begin Rumor Season ’07-’08 than with the WCBN Top 10 Free Agent List and predictions as to where all of these players will end up? Let us begin with the free agents:

  1. Alex Rodriguez: Obviously A-Rod is the crown jewel of the free agent class – he’s the guy for teams who think they’re “one player away,” and he is the only profitable man who costs upwards of $300 million for teams who are trying to raise themselves out of relative obscurity. A-Rod is still in his prime, at only 32 years old, and is coming off a season in which he hit .314, while leading the AL with 54 HRs and carrying the Yankees from the bottom of the scrapheap in mid-May to the top of the Wild Card race by September. So who is not trying to get this guy? Well, there are some owners who actually do have a cap on what they’re willing to give to one player (rumors indicate that the Angels are unwilling to give more than 17% of their salary budget to one player), and some GMs simply aren’t allowed spend $30 million a season total. With that having been said, there are plenty of teams who are in the running….

Candidates: Angels, Dodgers, Giants, Cubs, Red Sox, Tigers, Mets, Yankees?

Where does that leave us? Well, all of these teams have issues when it comes to signing A-Rod. While they have a team that could win now and have a vacancy both at 3B and the spot in the order that protects Vladdy, the Angels apparently don’t have the money; the Dodgers have Andy LaRoche coming up to play 3B, nobody knows how much money they have to spend this offseason, the relationship between Joe Torre and A-Rod is probably overstated, and Scott Boras and the Dodgers simply don’t get along; the Giants are getting rid of Bonds’ contract, but that’ll probably account for half of A-Rod’s, and they are more than one player away – way more – and the buzz has been that they are shopping frontline starters like Tim Lincecum, Noah Lowry, or Matt Cain to try and get hitting in the trade market; the Cubs aren’t going to get sold, and Aramis Ramirez is just fine at 3B at Wrigley; the Red Sox Nation hates A-Rod, and Mike Lowell looks as though he’s going to re-sign with the BoSox; the Tigers just acquired Edgar Renteria, so they may have their hitting situation dealt with, and there hasn’t been too much talk coming out of Detroit about A-Rod, but given their good working relationship with Boras, they’re hard to ignore; the Mets might be the most interesting team on this list, because they have plenty of money, a new ballpark opening up in 2009, their own TV station, and, in short, the resources to make this $350 million investment an extremely profitable one – with that having been said, Jose Reyes and David Wright comprise possibly the best left side of the infield in baseball, and moving Wright, who’s now a gold-glove 3B to 1B or 2B could be disastrous from both the team’s defensive standpoint and Wright’s mental standpoint – plus, the Mets then must decide to not go after Luis Castillo or shop Carlos Delgado, while ensuring the ownership that A-Rod won’t ruin the chemistry on a very affable team – sounds like a tough sell; finally, the Yankees are still in this thing. Reports out of New York last week are that A-Rod would still be open to signing with New York, and while Hank Steinbrenner made it very clear that A-Rod wouldn’t be welcomed back to Yankee Stadium, can we really trust that the Yankees won’t be involved in the negotiations over the best free agent since, well, A-Rod at age 25?

Prediction: In a battle between teams trying to woo A-Rod to Hollywood, the team that actually plays in LA wins out… A-Rod to the Dodgers.

  1. Torii Hunter: This defensive stalwart will be patrolling CF somewhere next year, the question is whether it will be in Minnesota or elsewhere. The Twins have internally discussed making a play to resign Hunter while potentially unloading Johan Santana for a huge source of young talent, but before we get crazy, lets discuss the contenders….

Contenders: Twins, Rangers, White Sox, Dodgers, Braves, Phillies, Astros

I sincerely believe that many more teams can pop into this discussion, because very few teams are actually settled at CF, and the consensus among MLB GMs at the meetings in Orlando has been that Torii Hunter is head and shoulders above Andruw Jones in the CF pool. With that having been said, the buzz is all about the Rangers and how they’re ready to spend on Hunter.

Prediction: I don’t see Hunter failing prey to the same predator that doomed A-Rod and every other batter that has signed with Texas – you simply don’t win there. Hunter has always been a winner in Minnesota on small payroll squads, and he’ll want to continue that trend with a team that has a deep pitching staff and the potential to go back to the World Series for the second time in four years… Torii to the White Sox.

  1. Mike Lowell: Oh boy, is this guy good. He plays solid defense, hits the heck out of the ball, and just won a world series. His numbers, however, were way better at Fenway, and some question how he’ll hit in pitcher-friendly parks.

Contenders: Red Sox, Yankees

The Red Sox apparently are very confident that they’ll bring back both Schilling and Lowell… well Schilling signed, and Lowell will probably be next.

Prediction: Lowell to the Red Sox

4-6: The Yankees Trio: Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte: All of these guys have different stories, but they will all end up returning to the Yankees. Posada will spark a huge bidding war between the crosstown rivals from New York who both need catchers, but in the end he’ll just be using the Mets to drive up the price on the Yankees, who will bite the bullet and give Posada the 4th year (or “DH year” basically) he wants at around $13 million per season. Rivera has all of the bargaining power in the world, with Torre gone and the only other viable closer option on the market being the enigmatic Francisco Cordero. Rivera’s heart is in New York though, and with the negotiations recently starting between Rivera and the Yanks (3 years, $39 million reportedly was the opening offer), I can’t imagine they end without his signature next to the X. As for Pettitte, I just don’t see him retiring when he still has enough in the tank, and with the Yankees pitching stuff in desperate need of a veteran anchor for their starting staff (Wang, Hughes, Joba, and Kennedy don’t exactly scream experience), they’ll throw a huge one-year deal at Pettitte, and he’ll stay.

  1. Barry Bonds: The name should say enough – steroids, media, clubhouse poison, and oh yeah, the best bat in the major leagues when healthy… that’s a big if, especially for NL clubs. Lets get right to the contenders, and please remember, given the lack of questions that Bonds answers even when he’s on a team, this is purely speculation based on who can afford him, handle him, and needs him.
Contenders: Padres, Athletics, Rangers, Angels, Yankees, Cardinals

All of the squads mentioned are very interesting, and all have one very glaring need: a power threat. The Padres lead the list because, even though they are in the NL, they have a young clubhouse which would be forced to respect Barry Bonds, and they are quite possibly the team that best fits the “one hitter away” category (Peavy and Young aren’t exactly going to fight the Padres ownership on getting Bonds). The A’s allow Barry to keep his home, play DH, and potentially take some fans with him on a team with a deep pitching staff and a gaping hole at cleanup. The Rangers are always looking to spend, the Angels and Yankees need someone with power in their lineup, and as for the Cardinals, well Tony La Russa can handle anyone, and the Cardinals don’t exactly field a lineup filled with sluggers.

Prediction: Barry goes where it makes the most sense, as Billy Beane swallows his pride and goes for it all in 2008… Barry to the Atheltics

  1. Carlos Silva: Yes, Carlos Silva is the 8th best free agent on the market, and no, it’s not because he’s better than Aaron Rowand or the slew of Japanese imports coming into the majors this offseason. It’s because he’s a starting pitcher, and a perfectly mediocre one in the mold of last year’s Gil Meche or Jeff Suppan, and therefore he’ll receive interest from EVERYONE.

Contenders: Everyone

Who doesn’t need a starting pitcher who will eat innings and give you an ERA under 5?

Prediction: (No bias here, I promise) Unlike the Dodgers and a bunch of other teams who plan on bidding for starting pitching, the Mets have zero prospects and a ton of cash to play with after “the collapse.” With names like A.J. Burnett, Scott Kazmir, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Noah Lowry, and oh yeah, Johan Santana, out there, teams with prospects are not going to go as crazy over Carlos Silva as the Mets will. The Mets will need to replace Glavine when he walks to go to the Braves, and Silva is their guy. Silva to the Mets.

9-10. Aaron Rowand and Andruw Jones: And yes, the order of those names was done with a purpose. Aaron Rowand is a much better player than Andruw Jones, even though Scott Boras might get Jones more money because of the value of his name and the player he used to be. Jones looked lethargic in CF this year (he had no business winning a gold glove), struck out more than Randy Johnson would have if he played 162 games, and let his team fade away in September. As for where these guys go, refer to the contenders list on Torii Hunter… everyone needs a CF, it’s just a question of how it all sorts itself out.

Predictions: Now that the Dodgers have signed A-Rod (in this fantasy world that is), they’ll need to keep Juan Pierre at CF. The Braves work hard to replace Jones, and will wind up settling on a guy who impressed everyone in the NL East last year. Rowand to the Braves. As for Andruw Jones, Scott Boras will manage to start a bidding war between the Astros and Rangers. The team with more money wins, because it’s Boras. Jones to the Rangers.

There you have it folks. Trade Rumors are to come in next week’s edition of Rumor Season ’07-’08.

- Jeremy Kreisberg

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

WCBN Top 25 Poll (Nov. 6)

We continue with our weekly top 25 poll, now compiled and ready to be presented to y'all. So here is our idea of the nation's top 25 (first place votes in parenthesis):
  1. Ohio State (7)
  2. LSU (3)
  3. Oregon
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Kansas
  6. West Virginia
  7. Missouri
  8. Michigan
  9. Arizona State
  10. Boston College
  11. Virginia Tech
  12. Georgia
  13. UConn
  14. Texas
  15. Hawai'i
  16. Florida
  17. USC
  18. Auburn
  19. Boise State
  20. Virginia
  21. Alabama
  22. Clemson
  23. Tennessee
  24. Kentucky
  25. Penn State
Others Receiving Votes: Cincinnati, California, Florida State, BYU, South Florida, Illinois, Arkansas, Navy

Notes: Ties-Virginia & Alabama, Tennessee & Kentucky; The top 7 in the polls have a large lead over the rest of the teams in our poll, thus we see the teams who are set up for the Nat'l Championship. Michigan continues to move up our polls, while teams like USC and Texas continue to linger in the teens while we wait to see if they can beat a real team.

Monday, November 5, 2007

MSU Highlights

courtesy of the Big 10 Network

Chad Henne takes a spill Michigan State Game

Even the MSU equipment managers have it out for Henne

#12 Michigan 28 Michigan State 24

Michigan escaped East Lansing with a 28-24 victory over their intrastate rivals. Trailing by 10 in the fourth quarter, Chad Henne marched the Wolverines down the field and into the end zone twice in a four minute span. Henne battled through injury, throwing four touchdown passes on the day. After connecting on a 14-yard touchdown pass to Greg Matthews with 6:47 left to play, cutting the MSU lead to 24-21, the Wolverine defense forced a Spartan three and out. Henne then led the Wolverines 65 yards on the game-winning drive which was capped by a tremendous leaping grab in the end zone by Mario Manningham, his second TD catch of the day.

Michigan Offense vs Michigan State Defense:

The Wolverines dominated this battle early as Mike Hart, in his return from injury, had rushed for 97 yards by halftime as Michigan led 14-3 at the break. The second half was an entirely different story as Michigan struggled to move the ball once Hart left the game after aggravating his ankle injury.

Hart ended the day with 15 carries for 110 yards even though he was only in the game for two plays in the second half. Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown who had performed admirably while Hart was out with his injury had a rough game, combining for 8 carries for 5 yards. Henne put together another remarkable game, considering his own injury problem, completing 18 of 33 passes for 211 yards and a career high matching four touchdowns. Manningham hauled in two Henne’s touchdown passes among his eight catches for 129 yards.

After a first half that saw MSU give up touchdowns on two of Michigan’s first three drives, they buckled down and forced Michigan into 7 punts and an interception on their next eight drives. Each of those eight drives was under 2:18 in length. Jonal St. Dic tallied five QB hits on Henne along with one sack and one tackle for a loss. Michigan did not convert a third down in the second half until the final drive during which they went three for three on third downs.

Edge: Michigan

Michigan Defense vs Michigan State Offense:

After a field goal on Michigan State’s opening drive, Michigan’s defense held the Spartans scoreless until the third quarter. Jehuu Caulcrick and Javon Ringer combined for 212 yards on 37 carries. After having some success against spread offenses in the last few weeks, the Wolverines had their hands full trying to contain the smash-mouth style of football that the Spartans ran.

The Wolverines were able to get to Hoyer for three sacks with two of them credited to Obi Ezeh. Jamar Adams led the way for Michigan with 14 tackles and an interception. The biggest play of the game for the Spartans came on what should have been a loss. Ringer took a handoff to the left where it appeared like Shawn Crable had him wrapped up for a five-yard loss. Somehow, Ringer managed to cut it back all the way across the field and turn that five-yard loss into a 72-yard gain. Ironically enough, it was Crable who tracked him down and made the tackle from behind to save the touchdown. While the Spartans were able to punch it in a few yards later, that play really symbolized this season for Michigan. They fell behind early but by putting through their best effort, they’ve managed to salvage their season.

Edge: Michigan

Special Teams:

Not a whole lot to talk about here, as the only field goal of the day was a 36-yarder by Brett Swenson. Aaron Bates had a good day punting the ball, averaging 41.7 yards on nine punts including a long of 67. Saturday wasn’t one of Zoltan Mesko’s best games as he averaged just 35.7 yards on his nine punts.

Carlos Brown had Michigan’s longest kickoff return of the year at 32 yards. Matthews had his best punt return, a 29 yarder. Michigan also did a good job on kickoff coverage as the longest return of the day for the Spartans was 31 yards.

Edge: Michigan

WCBN Player of the Game: Chad Henne, playing through injury passed for 211 yards and four touchdowns and leading the Wolverine comeback.

Notable Stats:

  • Chad Henne: 18-33; 211 yds; 4 TD; INT
  • Mario Manningham: 8 catches; 129 yds; 2 TD
  • Mike Hart: 15 carries; 110 yds; 7.3 YPC
  • Jamar Adams: 14 tackles; INT
  • Obi Ezeh: 13 tackles; 3 TFL; 2 Sacks
  • Javon Ringer: 15 carries; 128 yds
  • Henne’s four touchdowns matched his previous career high as well as the Michigan single game record
  • This was the 100th game between Michigan and Michigan State and with the win, the Wolverines improve to 67-28-5 in the series
  • Henne is now 9 yards away from becoming Michigan’s all-time passing yardage leader
  • Hart has rushed for over 100 yards in each of his four games against Michigan State
  • Hart’s 110 yards rushing makes this the eighth straight 100-yard game that he’s played in.
    • Hart needed that Ryan Mallet fumble recovery and 10-yard run to surpass the 100-yard mark
  • Mario Manningham tallied over 100 yards receiving for the fifth game in a row that he’s played in
  • Manningham has also caught a touchdown in five straight games that he’s played in
  • Sean Crable is now 4 TFL away from the Michigan single season record of 26 which is currently held by Mark Messner (1998)
  • Jamar Adams set a career high with 14 tackles
  • Greg Matthews had the best punt return of his career with a 29-yard return late in the second quarter

Press Conference Tidbits:

  • Chad Henne has been named Big 10 Player of the week, his first time earning that honor
  • When Mike Hart was asked who he would give his Heisman vote to, his answer was Jake Long
  • Asked about how this high ankle sprain is limiting him, Hart said that it really only affects certain cuts that he tries to make
  • Hart was asked if there were any thoughts of sitting out this week to ensure his health for Ohio State he replied, “These are my last two games at Michigan, plus the bowl game…I’m not missing one.”
  • Talking about the play where Sean Crable chased down Javon Ringer after initially missing the tackle in the backfield, Hart said, “well, Crable should have had him in the backfield”
  • When Coach Carr was asked the same question he called it, “one of the best plays I’ve ever seen on a football field”
  • Henne revealed that he had a partially separated right shoulder but feels like he’ll be back to 100% by this weekend
  • Henne expects to throw every day in practice this week. Last week he didn’t throw at all until the game

Friday, November 2, 2007

Battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy: 100th meeting in Intrastate Rivalry

After polishing off a one-win Minnesota team to win the Little Brown Jug last week, Michigan will take on another rival tomorrow afternoon, this time for the Paul Bunyan Trophy, when they meet the Michigan State Spartans for the 100th time. The game is in East Lansing and against a very formidable Spartan squad who is 5-4, but all four of their losses have been by a touchdown or less. The Spartans have reportedly been counting down the seconds until the Michigan game ever since first year coach Mark Dantonio arrived on campus. Michigan will look to stay unbeaten in the Big Ten and in the driver seat for the Big Ten title while Michigan State will be searching for a win to salvage their season.

Michigan Offense vs. MSU Defense:

Michigan is expected to have seniors Chad Henne and Mike Hart back on the field tomorrow afternoon and, if healthy, MSU should have their hands full. Michigan should have a huge advantage especially in the running game. Although MSU has held teams on average this season to 129 yards on the ground per game, the last two weeks they’ve seen Iowa back Albert Young rush for 182 and OSU back Chris Wells run for 234 yards. Even if Mike Hart is not healthy, Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown have both proven in the last few weeks that they can do damage with both having 100 yard games last week. Throw all-time leading rusher Mike Hart into the mix, and the Spartan secondary should be busy making a lot of tackles on the Michigan backs.

In the passing game, Michigan should also have an edge. MSU does not have a terrible secondary, but still give up over 200 yards per game through the air. If Chad Henne plays, Michigan should be able to look to the air deep and often. Mario Manningham is starting to play the way he did at the beginning of 2006 and Adrian Arrington is continuing his stellar season. They should overwhelm the two undersized corners of MSU in Kendell Davis-Clark and Ashton Henderson. Even if Ryan Mallett needs to play, he threw some nice deep balls to Manningham last week and if the Michigan rushing attack plays as well as they should Michigan should be able to get by. MSU’s best defensive player is a true freshman in SAM linebacker Greg Jones. Even if he has the best game of his life, MSU’s only hope is to take advantage of Michigan’s mistakes and to force turnovers.

Advantage: Michigan

MSU offense vs. Michigan Defense:

MSU’s offense has been very balanced on the year. They, like Michigan like to run the ball first, averaging 213 yards per game rushing, and then pass, averaging 222 yards through the air. The Spartan ground attack is spearheaded by two backs in power back Jehuu Caulcrick (255 lbs.) who has 564 yards on the year, and Javon Ringer who has amassed 1111 yards. Michigan’s front seven will have to continue their hot play in order to slow down those two. After the run, the Spartans will look to the air behind the arm of Junior pocket passer Brian Hoyer. Hoyer has been more of a game-manager and one who takes care of the ball with 1910 yards and 11 TD’s to just 4 INT’s while completing 60% of his passes. His best attribute might be that he will not lose football games by carelessness so Michigan will be hard-pressed to force Hoyer into bad decisions. Hoyer will mainly look to Junior wide receiver Devin Thomas who leads the team with 906 yards receiving with 5 TDs. Thomas is his favorite target as no other receiver has over 300 yards receiving. The fact that Michigan State does not tend to spread the defense out and that Hoyer is not a mobile quarterback, should work in favor of the Wolverines. Michigan State does not have the “communist” spread offense as Linebackers coach Steve Szabo referred to it as, and Michigan’s defense has been playing their best football as of late. Still Michigan has not faced a rushing attack this solid since the second week of the season against Oregon, and everyone knows the result of that. Brandon Graham, Shawn Crable, Obi Ezeh, and company have to have their best game to date if they want to slow down that attack. The way they have been playing would suggest they can, but with the other factors such as the clock at Spartan Stadium, Michigan State might have an extra second to make the one play they need to win. Still the defense has been playing too well.

Advantage: Michigan

Special Teams:

Unlike Michigan who did not find their kicker (K.C. Lopata) until midway through the season, Michigan State has had Brett Swenson handle the placekicking duties all year. Swenson is a sophomore and is coming off a year where he was named a freshman All-American after going 15-19 on field goals. This season he has struggled a little more and is 10-16 this season but two of those misses are from over 50 yards. Earlier this season he missed a 50-yarder at the end of the Wisconsin game that would have forced overtime. On the Wolverine side it looks like K.C. Lopata will be the kicker for the rest of the year as he is 8-8 since taking over and even kicked a 42-yarder last week. Still I don’t know that Michigan’s kicking game can be trusted when the game is on the line. In the punting game, Michigan will have the advantage with Zoltan Mesko who averages about 42 yards per punt. Michigan State punter Aaron Bates is still respectable with a 38.3 yards per punt average. In the return game, Michigan State’s only legitimate threat is Devin Thomas who averages 30 yards per kickoff return. Michigan, still has not found a consistent return man and still looks lost at times. Due to this, Michigan State gets the nod in special teams until Michigan proves that they actually are ready to field punts and kicks.

Advantage: Spartans

Intangibles:

Michigan is still in the driver’s seat with OSU for the Big Ten title and though a loss to MSU would not knock them out of the race, it would hurt their chances of an outright title. Seniors Mike Hart and Chad Henne are expected to be back for the game and will not want to lose their last game to Michigan State. On the Spartan side, this game alone might mean more, though. The Spartans are 1-4 in the Big Ten, but might be the best 1-4 team ever. They have plenty of talent, especially on offense, and gave #1 Ohio State their best test of the season so far only losing by a touchdown. More importantly, new coach Mark Dantonio has stressed the importance of the game since he arrived and started a Jim Tressel-esque countdown to the Michigan game. The Spartans have been counting the seconds to this game and a win would certainly salvage a disappointing run as of late. In addition, most Wolverines have responded to the countdown in a joking manner with captain Jake Long even saying “at least they will be on time.” If Michigan does not take the Spartans seriously they could get hit in the mouth early and often and not wake up until it’s too late.

Advantage: Spartans

Prediction:

I will stay true to my superstition and due to the way the Wolverines seem to be laughing at the Spartans’ attention to this game, I have reason to believe the Spartans can steal this one and send the Wolverines back to Ann Arbor disappointed.

Final Score: Michigan 24 Michigan State 26

Player of the game: Spartan Bob (Bob Stehlin): Spartan Bob somehow gets into the stadium tomorrow and takes over the clock operating for the final minute for a repeat of 2001. Michigan State is down 24-20 and the Spartans are out of timeouts. Hoyer throws a 20 yard pass to Thomas who goes down at the 2 yard line with 7 seconds left. The Spartans rush to the line to spike and Spartan Bob keeps the clock at 1 second (for 5 seconds) until Michigan State can get to the line and take advantage of a Michigan defense who thinks they won the game. Tight end Kellen Davis catches the game winning touchdown as time expires due to Spartan Bob’s efforts. (Yes, I am still bitter towards Spartan Bob)

-Rushi Vyas

Thursday, November 1, 2007

WCBN Top 25 Poll (Oct. 31)

The third edition of our top 25 poll returns slightly later than wished, as everyone else this time around has been swamped with work (problem with being a student: do I make a poll or write that essay that's due tomorrow? I know I'm one hell of a procrastinator!!), but it is now compiled and ready to be released. So once again, here is the Top 25 teams in the nation, from the point of view of a bunch of college students (first place votes in parenthesis).
  1. Ohio State (9)
  2. LSU (3)
  3. Oregon
  4. Boston College
  5. Oklahoma
  6. Arizona State
  7. West Virginia
  8. Missouri
  9. Kansas
  10. Michigan
  11. Virginia Tech
  12. Hawaii
  13. Georgia
  14. Texas
  15. UConn
  16. USC
  17. Auburn
  18. Alabama
  19. Florida
  20. South Florida
  21. Wake Forest
  22. Boise State
  23. South Carolina
  24. Tennessee
  25. Wisconsin
Others Receiving Votes: Kentucky, Virginia, Clemson, BYU, Cal, Oregon State, Penn State

Notes: Apparently our pollsters were not impressed with BC's win over VaTech as they dropped this week behind Oregon to the 4 spot. The back of the poll is SEC-heavy with 5 SEC teams in the last nine spots. Those teams added to LSU and Georgia give the SEC a whopping 7 teams in the polls, with an 8th (Kentucky) receiving votes. Finally, Michigan crawls all the way back into the top ten after that 0-2 start!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

NBA Preview: Southeast Division

We continue our preview even as the season has begun, with my own defending champion Spurs kicking off the season with a victory last night to go along with their rings. Amy Aimonovitch now finishes up her preview of the weaker of the two conferences with the youngest division in the East, the Southeast Division.

Southeast Division

1. Miami Heat
Last season: After their first round loss in the playoffs last year, it’s obvious that the Heat are getting older. Considering that early on in the season, Miami was 13-19, it’s amazing they finished 5th in the Eastern conference. Key injuries didn’t help Miami at all either. Shaquille O’Neal had to have knee surgery after only 5 games and then went on to miss the next three months. And I think everyone remembers Dwyane Wade’s dislocated shoulder. Even Pat Riley got in on the act, having knee and hip surgeries mid-season. Despite giving up more points than they scored, Miami managed to finish at 44-38. On explanation for this is that Miami went 18-6 in games decided by 5 points or less; some might see this as lucky, but you could also attribute it to experience and knowing how to pull out games. Surprisingly, despite having both Shaq and Wade, Miami’s offense was unimpressive. They shot well from the field, but they finished last in the league in free throw percentage (thanks mostly to Shaq, 42.2% and Antoine Walker, 43.8%). On top of that, Miami, even with Jason Kapono, didn’t shoot well from 3 point range, but they still shot an incredible amount of 3 pointers. Kapono made an amazing 51.4% of his 3 pointers, but at some point, he was offset by Walker (27.5%), Jason Williams (33.9%), and Gary Payton (26%). As a result, Miami shot 34.3% from 3 point range. Defensively, though, the Heat were much better, somewhat making up for their offensive woes.
This season: During the off-season, Miami lost Kapono, Eddie House, and James Posey, which all but decimated their outside shot. Without these three, the rest of the Heat only made 28.9% of their 3 pointers. The only guard the Heat picked up during the off-season, though, was Smush Parker, who isn’t particularly good at 3 pointers or defending. Luckily for Miami, they decided to pull a deal during the preseason and got rid of Antoine Walker, and picked up two players from Minnesota (Ricky Davis and Mark Blount). Walker was a liability last year, jacking up shots constantly and making less than 40% of them, and both his free throw and 3 point percentages were horrible (mentioned above). The biggest concern, of course, for the Heat this year is Wade’s healthy; he’s still out indefinitely after shoulder and knee surgeries, and who knows how many games Shaq will be able to play this season.

Prediction: If the Heat can stay healthy and a couple of players off the bench can help out, the Heat will finish 1st in the division and 4th in conference. Right now, with both Shaq and Wade, I just can’t pick against this team.

2. Orlando Magic
Last season: The Magic had an odd season last year; first they roared out to a 12-4 start, only to fall apart and eventually sink to 7 games under .500. At the end of the season, though, they managed to win six of the last seven games and secure the last playoff berth in the East. Part of the problem for the Magic was that certain players didn’t live up to their expectations. Jameer Nelson field goal percentage dropped by 50 points and his 3 point percentage fell by nearly 90 points. Darko Milicic (who I’m sure all Detroit fans remember) continued to play sluggishly and J.J. Redick missed the first part of the season with back problems. Redick’s injury was a blow to the Magic too, as they were in need of an outside shooter; the Magic didn’t have a dependable 3 point shooter last year, and as a result, didn’t take very many. The only player on the team with more than 3 attempts per game was Hedo Turkoglu. The biggest problem, though, for Orlando was turnovers. Howard was the worst offender here, averaging 3.9 turnovers per game; the Magic threw the ball down deep to Howard a lot and because of their lack of 3 point shooting, opponents were constantly double teaming him. Despite all these turnovers, Orlando still managed to finish fourth in the league in field goal percentage with 47.2%. But their free throws killed the Magic. Orlando only made 70.2% of its free throws, and Howard didn’t help them out, making less than 60% of his shots from the stripe. Defensively, the Magic were a lot better. Though they had a tendency to foul, they also gave up the third lowest field goal percentage, behind only Phoenix and San Antonio.
This season: Orlando’s biggest move this off-season might have been the one that didn’t work out, their attempt to obtain Florida coach Billy Donovan. Thankfully for Orlando, after Donovan backed out, they still managed to hire Stan Van Gundy, who was ousted from Miami by Pat Riley. Otherwise, Orlando had a decent off-season. For the most part, the Magic managed to shed some dead weight (Milicic and Travis Diener, who didn’t play because Orlando has too many guards) and picked up some valuable players. Picking up Rashard Lewis from the Sonics was probably their best move; Lewis is an outside shooter who can help draw double teams away from Howard and his 22.4 points per game will help Orlando’s offense. Unfortunately, Tony Battie will miss a substantial part of the season because of a torn rotator cuff.

Prediction: 2nd in the Southeast and 6th in the Eastern conference.

3. Washington Wizards
Last season: As usual, the Wizards were an amazing offensive team last year and abysmal on the defensive end. Washington gave up nearly 105 points per game and as a result went 41-41. While the Wizards might have the Big 3 of Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, and Caron Butler, none of those players are known for their defense, only their shooting. With all these shooters and no defensive specialist, Washington allowed opponents to shoot 37.7% from 3 point range (second worst in the league beating only Memphis) and 47.3% from the field (good enough for 27th in the league). Offensively, though, the Wizards dazzled. Both Arenas and Butler made the All-Star team and the team averaged 104.3 points per game (which was still slightly less than they gave up per game). The Wizards did excell in forcing turnovers and offensive rebounding. Unfortunately for Washington, though, they didn’t end the season well; Arenas suffered a knee injury and the team finished out the year 2-8 before being swept by Cleveland in the playoffs.
This season: Despite all of this team’s problems on defense, Washington did almost nothing during the off-season; the only player they signed, Oleksiy Pecherov, is just another player who likes to shoot. Otherwise, they simply resigned their free agents, which could be a problem for this team. Arenas is coming off of knee surgery and Jamison is now 31, so it’s hard to imagine that both those players can have outstanding years, although, it’s never good to count them out. If the Big 3 in Washington don’t perform up to expectations, this will be a long season for the Wizards.

Prediction: I just can’t count out Arenas, Butler, and Jamison, so I have the Wizards finishing 3rd in the Southeast and squeezing into the playoffs with the 8th seed.

4. Atlanta Hawks
Last season: The Hawks went only 30-52 last year, much as they usually do. At least last year they actually had an excuse though; all of Atlanta’s key players, except for Sheldon Williams, sat out at least 10 games. The injuries were the worst in the backcourt, specifically at point guard, where Tyroon Lue missed 26 games and Speedy Claxton suffered knee problems that kept him out of 40 games. Those weren’t the only injuries though; Joe Johnson missed the last 21 games with a calf strain, Marvin Williams missed 17, and Josh Childress missed 27 games with foot problems. Because of all of these injuries, Atlanta’s top players could only took the court together 7 times. Worst still is the fact that the Hawks are essentially in the middle of custody battle between their two ownership groups; currently they are trying to resolve whose team it really is. This makes it a lot harder for the Hawks to make moves, since both sides must agree. And the Hawks need help. Offensively, they were one of the worst teams in the league last year. The Hawks made only 32.9% of their 3 pointers, which was the worst in the league. Because Atlanta couldn’t shoot from the outside, it gave opponents the opportunity to double team Johnson and Josh Smith. On the defensive end, the Hawks were also plagued by the 3 pointer, giving up 37.6%. Really, the only thing that the Hawks excelled at on defense was blocks.
This season: The only moves Atlanta made this off-season were drafting Al Horford and Acie Law. Seriously. Amazingly, though, they managed to go 7-1 in the preseason, and now suddenly people are predicting great things for the Hawks. This team was lucky to win 30 games last year and all they’ve added this year are two rookies. They also have to find a steady point guard this year; Lue has suffered injuries the last two years that forced him to miss time, Claxton is getting older and coming off knee problems, and Law is only a rookie, so while he may start, he’s going to have some growing pains. On top of that, there’s still always the legal battle for ownership hanging over this team, considering that both sides must approve any deal. So even if the Hawks want help during the season, it’s going to be incredibly difficult for them to get a deal done.

Prediction: I just don’t see this team turning the corner yet, so I’ve got them 4th in the division.

5. Charlotte Bobcats
Last season: Despite going 33-59 last year, the Bobcats actually finished with the most wins by a 3rd year franchise in the last two decades. Like the Hawks, the Bobcats also suffered through several injuries to key players. Emeka Okafor missed 15 games with a calf strain, Brevin Knight sat out 37 games with abdominal injuries, and Sean May suffered knee problems which caused him to miss 44 games, and this after he missed 59 games as a rookie. But not everything can be blamed on the injuries; for some reason, the Bobcats decided to start Adam Morrison. While he managed to average 11.8 points, his shooting percentages were horrendous. Morrison shot 37.6% from the field and 33.7% from the 3 point line. Overall, offensively, this team was horrible. They finished 25th in the league in field goal percentage, making only 44.6% of their shots. Obviously, Morrison didn’t help bring that up, but then again, neither did Raymond Felton, who shot 38.4% from the field. And, for some reason, the two of them combined took about 25 shots each game. Defensively, the Bobcats were slightly better. While they allowed opponents to shoot 46.5% from the field and had trouble with fouls and rebounding, they did excel in forcing turnovers, though not quite as much as they did the year before.
This season: Not only are the Bobcats looking at a new coach (which can cause enough problems), but they’ve also lost on of their top players, Sean May, to knee surgery. However, the Bobcats also picked up Jason Richardson over the off-season from the Warriors. Richardson may not be an All-Star, but he can score, when he’s not injured; last season, Richardson only played 51 games because of knee issues. Unfortunately, the Bobcats also let Knight go, meaning they just gave up on a backup point guard who can get you over 6 assists a game. The biggest issue for the Bobcats, though, is going to be the frontcourt. Sure they have Okafor, Wallace, and Walter Herrmann (who’s only in his second year) but beyond that they only have Morrison (who was terrible last year), Othella Harrington (who is 33), and rookie Jared Dudley to backup their starters. Essentially, if this team suffers injuries, they will fall apart.

Prediction: 5th in the division.