Friday, August 31, 2007

And the Oft-Forgotten NL...

I know, we're cutting this close-- college football is beckoning. However! There is still work to be done, so here are the playoff predictions for the National League. One note, however: these races are unbelievably close, so I'm not pretending that ANY of these will necessarily come true.

NL East - Mets - Yes, they were just swept by the Phils. Yes, their middle relief is non-existent. However, with a favorable schedule down the stretch (six of their last nine opponents are out of playoff contention, likely going into the annual September-swoon for non-contenders) and arguably the finest lineup in the NL, the edge goes to the Metropolitans over the Braves and Phils. Add onto this the fact that they have a solid, albeit not spectacular, veteran rotation in which the fifth starter holds a 4.22 ERA (not counting a possible Pedro return), and Wagner holding down the ninth and the Mets should have just enough to take the division. As for the other contenders, the Phils just don't have the starting pitching to consistently take on the likes of Atlanta, Florida, New York, and Colorado down the stretch-- Howard, Utley, and Rollins are man-beasts, but they can only do so much. As for the Braves, they have a lineup rivaling the Mets and a couple ace veterans in Hudson and Smoltzy, but there's little to no quality pitching depth under them in the rotation and absolutely no back-end relief in the 'pen. So yeah, Mets win.

NL Central - Cubs - Yes, them loveable Cubbies with Sweet Lou, will finally find themselves back in the playoffs. The starting pitching has been inconsistent at times, but (sorry Brewers fans), there's probably more talent in Zambrano's right arm than the entire Milwaukee rotation outside of the brilliant yet injury-prone Ben Sheets. The Brew-Crew has been awfully spunky this year, mashing teams with one of the most intimidating 3-4 punches in all of baseball (Braun-Fielder... pitchers will be seeing them in their sleep), but in the end, pitching and depth wins out. The Brewers lack of deep talent will catch up with them, and the Cubs talent is finally catching up to them, as they're playing up to the form that they should have been for months now. Ramirez, Lee, Soriano, DeRosa, Zambrano, Lilly, Hill, Dempster-- these guys are playoff talents, and too much for the Brewers to overtake for the NL Central. And the Cards? Let me just save room and say that while they're not entirely out of it, there's little about them and their roster to inspire real confidence that they'll rally to October this year.

NL West - Padres - Pitching, pitching, pitching, pitching, and what else? Pitching. Despite Chris Young's recent struggles, the Pads still sport two top NL Cy-Young candidates-- and their third starter? Greg Maddux. Mix in arguably the best bullpen in baseball (and a manager who knows how to use them), and a resurgent Milton Bradley, and you have not only a playoff team but a dark-horse World Series Champ to boot. As for the currently-leading D-backs, I will say this much. Their youth might lead to a late season falter, but this will be a competitive team for years to come. The Pads have the edge to win this year's fight(with their - yes, you guessed it - pitching), but there is no way that the Diamondbacks stay down for long.

NL Wild Card - Diamondbacks(?) - Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Phillies, Braves, and Rockies are all within five games currently of this prize. This is almost too close to call, but because I have to say something intelligent, let me knock out the teams one-by-one. The Rockies certainly have a playoff-caliber lineup, but with so little consistent pitching it's hard to see them overcoming a five game deficit in this race. The Dodgers have a brutal schedule remaining, with seven of their last nine series coming against playoff-hopeful teams, including two series against the Pads and two against the D'Backs. They certainly have a shot, but not an awfully good one considering the lack of power in their lineup and lack of rotation depth (and no, David Wells is not the answer). The Phils are right out for reasons mentioned in my NL East section. So it comes down to the Braves and D'Backs, Veterans versus the Young Guns. Given the Diamondback's current edge over the Braves in record, I'll give them the nod here. But keep an eye on this race, it'll get wild.

There you have it, albeit in a very long-winded fashion. The moral of this story-- the NL is where it's at this year, and if you can spare time from football, do yourself a favor and tune into some of these races, and watch me be very very wrong!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

And Down the Stretch They Come...

Before we all bask in the glow that is college football, I invite you to take one last look at the mlb playoff picture heading into this final month of the season. Of course all the talk is about the YANKS and SOX, but unlike our friends at ESPN, we know that real baseball races are far away from the northeast...

Without further ado, here's the AL playoff predictions division-by-division:
AL East - Boston - This, to much dismay of mass media, will be a snoozer to the end. Not to say that the Yanks won't cut into the lead to four games or so and the whole of New York will wet themselves, but there is no way that Boston gets overtaken by New York in this one. Pitching, defense, hitting, intangibles -- all four categories go to the Sox, with a balanced rotation mixing dynamo youths with ace veterans, a stacked lineup (we all know the names, and no Julio Lugo jokes here... yet), and one of the best managers in baseball in Francona. So enjoy this most recent series win, Yanks fans, but the Sox won't be down for long.

AL Central - Cleveland - I know, I know. Cleveland. Unfortunately the folks down south are going to have something more to cheer about -- with a balanced and consistent lineup, mixed with effective starting pitching(Fausto Carmona!? Really?!?), the Indians are doing what it takes to win. While the Tigers are still in it, the nod has to go to the Indians because the Indians are not only the hot hand, but also have a 34-20 record against divisional opponents while the Tigers are a woeful 25-28. With both teams having six of their last nine opponents within the division, Cleveland has to be the pick. But we'll see if Leyland and the boys can pull something out.

AL West - Angels - While the Mariners were making a run based around average hitting and average pitching, the most recent sweep by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of Orange County of America of Planet Earth of the Milky Way reminded everyone of what the Mariners are: average. The Mariners leading home run hitter Sexson has been flirting with the Mendoza Line all season (currently batting .208, and certainly not bringing Sexy back), and they have to rely on a slumping 20 year old kid in Feliz Hernandez to be the staff ace and bring them to the postseason. By comparison, the Angels have a balanced and battle-tested team with a solid bullpen and enough power hitting to take advantage of their high on-base-percentage. Oh, and Vladdy's heating up. Good luck with that.

AL Wild Card - Tigers - Thinking about this race seriously made me consider renaming this post to "And Down the Stretch They Limp...", because looking across the field-- the average Mariners, the hopelessly streaky Yanks, and the scuffling Tigers, I can't see one that will come into the playoffs with a flourish. The only team that I could potentially see coming into the playoffs with authority are the Yankees, for the fact that the lineup is SO good for certain streaks that they can overcome their pitching woes. It's important that everyone see what the Yankees are-- not a bad team, not a great team, but just a streaky team. But inconsistent hitting, inconsistent defense, and unpredictable pitching (yes, even big Mo) tells me that this year the Bombers will be sitting at home. The Tigers do have a schedule that plays to their weaknesses down the stretch, but with the exceptional starting pitching and run-producers on the Tigers roster, one has to think that of these three the Tigers have the best shot of pulling it out.

And tomorrow, we'll get to the NL-- that's where the real fun begins.

A Call For A New Tradition

I have been kicking around this idea since my Freshmen year here at The University of Michigan. Prior to kickoff we currently twirl our hats in the air and yell "ooooooo" until the ball is kicked. I have always thought it would be a cool chant, and an easy one at that, to yell "BLUE!!" when the ball is kicked off. It would be one large "Gooooooooo BLUE!!" Now I know how resistant to change and especially to new chants the Michigan Stadium crowd can be, but this one is so simple and would produce a great cheer for our team, that I am faithful that even UM fans can pull this one off.

There have been changes in the student section chants before, in my Freshmen year after a 3rd down stop we would do the toma-hawk chop while the band played "Temptation." However for my Sophomore season this was changed to "The Claw." So we have tweaked our chants before. I also want to point out that this is something the entire stadium can do (just wanted to clarify that because contrary to popular belief the rest of the stadium can join the student section in cheering for the Maize and Blue).

So what do you say Michigan Stadium? Let's hear it at every single kickoff!!


Has the U.S. Open Become A Fashion Show?

Do those sneakers have HEELS?

Yes. Definitely.

Now first, I realize that me, being a woman, and writing this article, probably makes me seem like the green-eyed jealousy monster has taken control, but let’s look at the flip side: if a man were writing this, everyone would be saying, “Oh, typical sexist male – looking at what a woman is wearing and not her performance.” Fortunately in this case, none of the women have a performance worth mentioning. Looking at the female world of tennis, nobody stands above the rest – not in accuracy, not is speed, not in precision and judgment. In fact, for the past two or three years, I’ve watched in horrification (yes, that’s a word simply because I say it is) – as the tennis court has been transformed into a place for women to show off their latest clothing line, jewelry collection, or latest push-up-halter-sparkly thingamajig which serves only to distract the audience from recognizing their poor TENNIS performance by allowing them to focus on their, their – well, their YOU KNOWS.

Tennis is a respectable sport and the people who play ought to be treated as serious athletes and not just people who have succumbed to the fast-track world of endorsements. True, Roddick and Federer are also pictured on Nike commercials, but at least they have proven that they are worthy of such an honor – Anna Kournikova, on the other hand, is plastered all over the Nike commercials not because of the way she plays tennis, but because she’s got a hot bod.

I’m not saying women shouldn’t be allowed to wear what they want on the court, but is it really necessary to wear such dangly earrings and super-short miniskirts? Or at least hold off until

you’ve earned the right to.

This must have been early anna – no skin is showing

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Wednesday Rundown

Beware of light blogging for the next few days, as my comrades and I will be converging upon Ann Arbor for yet another year at the University of Michigan. It may get a little hectic, but we will do our best to keep you updated during out move-in time.

There are a lot of small story lines flying around the world of sports, here is a quick rundown of the stories that aren’t about Michael Vick (I just couldn’t have another Vick post, I was starting to feel like ESPN).

NASCAR: Yes, NASCAR. I went there. I am not a fan, but I was impressed at Dale Jr.’s call to fans and media to back off of his step-mother, Teresa Earnhardt. He told the public that they have no idea how difficult it is for her to run the business of DEI and that they should give her a break out of respect for his father. I don’t know his intentions behind this move, but I support it. Everyone is talking about the bitter negotiations in the split between Dale Jr. and his father’s racing company, but we all need to remember that in the end they are still family. I admire Dale for putting that in front of business. He certainly didn’t have to come to bat for his step mother, but he did the right thing as a son.

USA Basketball: I stayed up late last night to check out the US demolition of Puerto Rico 117-78. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be a big deal, except this is the same team that triggered the US collapse in the 2004 Athens games with a 20+ point beat down in the opening round. I was impressed with what I saw- not the 117 points, not the occasional showboating dunk by the Americans over an undersized Puerto Rico squad. It was the TEAM basketball, what won’t appear in a box score. There was ball distribution, there was hustle for rebounds, and there was a fight in this US team I haven’t seen in a while. One can’t put a point value on the addition of Jason Kidd to the squad, but his play has really enabled the scoring stars to get their points and prevent the opposition from keying in on one or two players. He won’t let them be selfish.

Brewers: Cardinals fans, Cubs fans, take solace in this prediction: the Brewers will not make the playoffs. When two of your 5 starters haven’t won since June, and you are pinning their hopes on 10-4 Ben Sheets, who is being yanked off the DL to try to resurrect this club who hasn’t been dominant since June. All of this as they send 10-4 Claudio Vargas to the DL. They have Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and a plethora of other hitters, but it is starting pitching that gets a team into the playoffs down the stretch, especially when the team is struggling to get back to form after falling to 3rd in the division for the first time this season. This team has been struggling for months now, but no one noticed because of their wide lead they’d built up. Now they can look forward to watching the Cubs or Cardinals (my money is on the Cubs) on television in October.

Okay, so the last story isn’t so much a small story, but I had to mention it. For those of you moving in over the next few days, enjoy another wonderful year at Michigan!

An Appeal from Mike Hart, and MZone

Yost at MZone sent me this post about a cause that all Michigan students need to take up arms for. Putting the damn keys away. Yes, y'all tell me that you yell while you are jingling those keys, but clapping or banging the seats or just going nuts is much more effective than any of that. The other team doesn't get the "key play" pun, they aren't going to be distracted by the sheer humor that some frosh thought of 8 years ago. They are more likely to think Santa Claus is coming than get intimidated by jingling.

However, now it is not just Michigan fans and alumni (and opposing fans who just think we are really really stupid in the Big (Quiet) House) who are up in arms about the level of noise in Michigan Stadium. Soft spoken Mike Hart is in the act as well:

The post states:

"In the 2007 Football Preview Issue of THE WOLVERINE, U-M running back Mike Hart says he would like to see things get a little more intimidating for the opposition as well. Quoting from the article titled Hart Wary of Michigan's Schedule, Urges Noise:

Hence the hope that Michigan's fans will make life as tough on the visitors, noise-wise, as the Wolverines find it when they hit the road. Rarely do Michigan coaches or players directly appeal for assistance in such a way, but Hart wasn't shy about it.

"That's when you need the stadium," he said. "That's the one thing we really need to do this year as fans, as everyone - make it extra hard for teams coming in here. Show them it's not the same Big House. It needs to be a lot crazier."

The articles ends by saying:

Hart's appeal appears to follow the general theme directed toward Michigan fans in the coming year. On the Wolverines' schedule cards for football, the message above the listed games urges: BE EARLY - BE LOUD."

I implore you all to check out the full post HERE, it is a great argument from a lifelong Wolverine.

Put down the keys and make some real noise. Please, do it for Mike.

-Weston Bruner, Head Blogger

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Volleyball Opens Season Strong

The ladies of the Michigan volleyball team returned from the ASICS Rainbow Wahine Invitational in Honolulu, Hawaii with more than just a tan. Sunday they defeated Colorado State to claim the tournament title, winning all three of their matches, including an upset of #10 Hawaii on the Rainbow Wahine's home court. Michigan defeated Hawaii 3-2 on Friday before dispatching Oregon State 3-0 on Saturday and wrapping up the tournament crown with a 3-1 win over Colorado State on Sunday. Now, I am not the resident volleyball expert at WCBN, but beating any team on their home court is impressive (especially when Hawaii draws 7,343 fans to the game), and combining an upset of a top ten team with a tournament title should give the volleyball team a boatload of confidence going into their next match (a little closer to home, the Wolverines take on Miami Ohio in Oxford to open the Miami University Invitational).

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Fan Day 2007

On Saturday August 25th the University of Michigan football team held their annual Fan Day at Michigan Stadium where fans get the opportunity to meet with the team, get pictures and autographs. This event continues to grow and grow year after year and after it was moved to the weekend a few years ago the crowds have gotten so large that you have to arrive early and you should plan on only meeting one marquee player. I attended the event as a fan, it was fun to take a day off and to just be a fan again. I arrived outside Michigan stadium at 8 AM, and was let into the stadium at 8:30 and made my way towards Lloyd Carr's line. An hour later, at 9:30 Carr and the team arrived and the 90 minutes of photo taking and autograph seeking began. All I wanted was a picture with Carr and I think this is a historic moment that we are lucky to have documented; Lloyd actually smiling.

After that I really took the rest of the time exploring the old Stadium that will change forever after this season. I added some photos of myself to my collection with some of the more famous parts of the stadium, places I have past many times before, but never thought of getting a picture. And besides the lines and crowds were huge. The photo to the left shows the line to meet Chad Henne. I ventured into the Stadium to find my seats for the year and found a nice surprise, the stadium scoreboards have received a face lift. At the bottom where the shifting panels used to be is now a strip of LEDs, the numbers are also LED and the jumbo-tron is now crystal clear as illustrated by the photo below.

I'll leave you with a few more photos, including Chad and Mike meeting with the fans. I know UM is doing their best when it comes to this event but there is just not enough time for everyone to meet with the players, I heard stories that a few people got in a line and never even got to meet a single player. I'm not really sure how you can correct it though. Obviously Michigan football has a large following and thousands will show up for these events. Some would suggest increasing the time which I agree with, perhaps bump it up from 90 minutes to 120, giving two full hours. However, even with this increase some fans are not going to be able to meet all of their favorite players, they would have to be there all day and we can't expect that out of the players or the coaches. So my advice for next year is to pick out the one player you absolutely must meet and get to Michigan Stadium early!!

Less than a week away...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

What About Tim?

OK, pretend you’re on jeopardy and just for kicks, Trebek and his peeps have decided to add a round entitled “current issues in sports.” Now, say you get the following question: which famous man in sports was quoted as saying, this is the "most serious situation and worst situation that I have ever experienced?" Come on, now – it wasn’t THAT long ago, and yet it seems everyone has either forgotten the issue or put it on the backburner. Just because one scandal has opened (yes, I’m referring to Michael Vick here) doesn’t mean another is closed. For the record, the answer is basketball league commissioner, David Stern when asked about the Tim Donaghy betting scandal. He has also termed Donaghy as a "rogue, isolated criminal." But all you folks following Michael Vick’s saga of doom have forgotten that, haven’t you? In fact, it seems a whole slew of people have forgotten the issue – it took me about 20 minutes to sift through the sports news this morning to dig up anything regarding the skullduggery which took place a little over a month ago – even the NBA’s official website has nothing about it on their homepage.

In case you’re wondering, the Associated Press has provided its loyal readers with the following information: On Wednesday, August 15th, Donaghy pleaded guilty to felony charges and now faces a maximum of 25 years in prison. He will be sentenced Nov. 9 for “conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting wagering information through interstate commerce.” He was released on $250,000 bond and must seek permission to travel anywhere other than Pennsylvania, Florida or New York.

But what happened exactly? There has been a lot of speculation, but it seems only a few people care about the facts because they were – shall we say, sidetracked? Apparently, while speaking in code during telephone calls, Donaghy provided recommendations to co-conspirators about what team they should bet on, said U.S. District Judge Carol Bagley Amon. The price tag, if correct, was $5,000. The picks included information about games that Donaghy officiated - information that was not public (including what crews would be officiating games, the interaction of different officials and players, and the physical condition of certain players). Donaghy was fined $500,000 and must pay at least $30,000 in restitution to the government. So much for getting away with a slap on the wrist. Of course, indications are Donaghy will receive a severance package as well as his pension plan which provides for up to $78,000 annually. It has also been stated that Tim “deeply regrets his involvement in this matter and especially the pain it has caused his family, friends and co-workers." He is supposedly seeking psychiatric help.

As of August 23rd, the Philadelphia Daily News reports Donaghy is scheduled to spill the names of other referees who were in on the ploy with gamblers – thereby making himself possibly the most hated man in basketball (notice how I narrowed down the field so we didn’t pit Michael and Tim against each other?). Apparently, by spilling the beans, his own sentence might be lightened (everyone loves a nark). The league says it has received no evidence that any referees other than Donaghy bet on games.

Sometimes I wonder – and maybe I’m just babbling here – Vick’s actions were taken off the football field. His sick, twisted web of crime was spinning in his own backyard. Donaghy, on the other hand, betrayed everyone right under their noses – players, referees, David Stern, and most importantly, ME – us, the fans. I for one will be paying closer attention to calls from now on, and I’ll be especially suspicious of foul-happy refs. We’ll all be doing it, maybe not consciously, but the magnificent sport of basketball does have one more scuff mark on the court (if you know what I mean).

I know the world of sports is fast paced, with the media and fans jumping from scandal to scandal like frogs hopping from one lily pad to another, but still – this guy has been accused of BETTING ON THE GAMES HE OFFICIATED! Are we just going to move on to the next discrepancy and forget the lessons we learned from the first?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Comcast and Big Ten Network a No-Go

Those Michigan fans who hoped to watch the Wolverines dismantle the App. State Mountaineers are going to be faced with a problem they haven't had to deal with in decades. Mainly finding the Michigan game on TV! The cable provider giant Comcast, and smaller cable company WOW! Have told customers that a deal will not be reached in time for this weekend's games. Both Michigan and Ohio State debut on The Big Ten Network, so the conference's two biggest schools will be seen by thousands and not millions. Contract talks will continue as the season goes along but it doesn't look good for The Big Ten Network (BTN).

The problem is that the Big Ten wants the BTN to be on basic cable where everyone who subscribes to cable will have the channel available to them. This makes sense for the Big Ten as it would allow the most exposure they could get. But the cable companies say that if the BTN were added to basic cable it would increase everyone's cable bill by $1.10. Now for Big Ten football fans $1.10 seems like nothing and they would willingly pay up to watch their favorite schools battle it out on Saturdays. However, think of the families who are not sports fans, who do not follow the Big Ten, who couldn't care less that fight songs are played loudly on Saturdays? Why should they be forced to pay a higher cable bill for a channel they don't want and will never watch? That's Comcast's and other cable companies' argument.

The Cable companies want to put the BTN on their premium sports tier, in which those customers who want the BTN can pay extra for the channel, thus keeping everyone else's cable bill the same. However, the Big Ten hates this idea as it limits the viewer-ship of their station to strictly Big Ten fans, and lower their profits.

Growing up in Michigan since the age of 4 I have grown up on Michigan and Big Ten football. But even so, when the BTN was announced last year I saw it for what it was, another way for the Big Ten Conference to make extra money. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany can say that the station is really meant to show off the conference's many non-revenue sports, but we can all see through that smoke screen. This is just another way for the Big Ten to pad its pocket a little bit more.

In any event the network is going to launch this Thursday, August 30th with or without Comcast and other cable companies. Now I'm not a business major here at UM, but it seems to me like the Big Ten really dropped the ball with this one. The BTN is geared to Big Ten fans, and so 99% of Big Ten fans live in the Midwest and the eight states that make up the conference. Well Comcast happens to be the main cable provider in the Midwest, in over 8 million homes. Now, it would seem to me that if you are launching a new TV station you would bend over backwards to get on the main cable provider for the region where the vast majority of your fans reside. Instead, the BTN went nose to nose with Comcast, who held are the cards, and Comcast didn't fold.

Currently, only DirectTV has signed on with the Big Ten, while other smaller cable companies such as Time Warner are still talking with the BTN. The BTN had hoped that Big Ten fans would put pressure on Comcast and others to have them cave and put the BTN on the basic cable tier. However, the Big Ten overestimated their fans desires to pay extra to watch Michigan pound App. State, or Ohio State roll over Youngstown State.

This is turning out to be a disaster for the Big Ten and Jim Delany. Without Comcast or any other cable network the BTN won't last a season.

For now Michigan and Ohio State fans will have to get a ticket to the game, or head back in time and listen to the games on the radio.

-Tony Bolton, WCBN Sports Director

Heisman Watch: Colt Brennan

Every now and then, we will have a post on a player who may be in the Heisman discussion this year, with a bit of analysis and how they are doing so far this season. We begin with an unlikely candidate in school recognition, but an excellent shot to hit the record books once again.

Why he can win: The sheer numbers he will put up in the Hawaii offense. He was 6th in the Heisman voting last year, so I don’t think he will be as far off everyone’s radar as east coast writers may like to think. If this was his breakout year, that might have been the case, but he has already thrown the most touchdown passes in a single season (58), shattering the previous record of 54.

For those voters looking for a great show he will be there to provide one. This offense looks like Arena Football in overdrive, and will provide a stat line too impressive for voters to completely ignore. He brings back his leading receiver in Davone Bess and has an excellent complement of other wideouts primed to have breakout seasons in Jason Rivers and Ryan Grice-Mullen. C.J. Hawthorne, a JUCO who made a recent move from the secondary will provide yet another jolt of deep speed to this talented corps. The stars have aligned for Brennan to have another explosive year that may eclipse last year’s record marks, despite an offensive line that has been suspect at times.

Why he can’t win: The WAC. Since 1991, the Heisman trophy has been awarded to players from USC, Michigan, Florida State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Miami, Florida, Nebraska, Colorado, Texas, and Wisconsin. These aren’t your father’s Heisman voters who actually looked at an Andre Ware from Houston. In fact, a quick glance at Heisman winners will find a dearth of any schools without mass name recognition.

Not that Hawaii has helped their quarterback much with a big name schedule this year. The Warriors will play Northern Colorado and Louisiana Tech to open the season, and do not play a perennial contender until late November when they host Boise State. In fact, only one school they play is from a major conference- Washington, on December 1st. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to race to the front of the Heisman talk and change voters’ minds that late in the season.

Who he reminds me of: Ty Detmer, the BYU quarterback who set all sorts of records in college at a mid-major school and who, perhaps because of his system, never quite made it on the pro level. However, remember that the Heisman trophy is not for the best pro prospect; it is awarded to the best college player, period.

How he’s doing so far: He is playing a 1-AA team on September 1st (the one infamous for having the most violent punters in the country) in Northern Colorado, which went 1-10 last year and is entering only it’s second season out of Division II. He could throw 12 touchdown passes in that game and get little more than a shrug from voters. Not a great opponent to make a first impression with, but he should bury them.

Verdict: This Colt may wind up being more talented than the one out in Texas, but his odd offensive system at Hawaii, the lack of school name recognition, very weak schedule, and location of his university will keep him from being considered legitimately the best college player in the nation. For reasons outside his control, I don’t see Brennan winning the Heisman.

Vick to Plead Guilty, Maybe?

Earlier this week it was all over the news, Michael Vick was going to accept a plea agreement in the ongoing federal case against him. This was following a guilty plea by all his co-defendants, who also agreed to testify against Vick if his case went to trial. Among the testimony they were supposed to bring was conformation that Vick provided the financial backing for the betting and dog-fighting operation, and that Vick personally took part in the executions of several of the losing dogs.

Now we find out that Vick, while he still intends to plead guilty, will not admit to betting on the dog fights, nor to participating in the executions. He claims that he was present when the dogs were killed, but did not actually take part. I know there is a subtle legal difference there ( like less time spent in jail), but in the court of public opinion it doesn't really matter if Vick actually killed the dogs, because as the head of this illegal operation, Vick at least approved the killings, and then stood there and watched. Either way Vick is seen by most as a barbaric animal abuser. At the same time Vick does plan to plead guilty to a charge of interstate commerce for the purpose of dogfighting. So Vick is admitting he went to the dog fights, and was financially involved in the operation, but he didn't bet any money. That's like saying I bought into a poker game and sat down at the table, but I didn't play, or I bought tickets to a game and sat down in my seat, but didn't watch the game, or, well, you get my point.

This all seems like a last ditch effort by Vick and his lawyers to try and save some shred of dignity for Vick and reduce the inevitable suspension Roger Goodell will be handing down in the wake of the trial. My only hope is that this is all over soon so we can get back to some of the feel-good stories sports has to offer, like the return of Rick Ankiel to Major League Baseball, or the international heroics in the Little League World Series (seriously, walk-offs in both semifinals, sweet).

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Paws Retract

Tigers fans were really tugged along by the invisible leash the Tigers linked to them last night, losing the second game of the series to the Indians.

I have to admit, though, that WAS the first live baseball event I’ve ever been to (excluding the two or three I attended during my girly-girl-no-sports-days way back when). The first thing that struck me was the energy – not only of the players, but the fans – Geez Louise, those guys are CRAZY! Apparently you’re not cool until you’ve had a “daiquiri” in a three foot plastic mug because just about everybody had one – not me of course – I’m underage ;) Anywhoozle, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I am not the most avid baseball fan – especially since it was 81 degrees (I swear, heat follows me like I follow chocolate cake) and humid. However, I did catch the Ordonez fever and I was surprised that the shrill screech I kept hearing each time the Tigers scored, belonged to me.

Still, with a 3 point lead in the second inning, it was devastating to watch the Indians take the game 11-8 after we almost made a comeback – twice. That’s it, there’s nothing more to say except for the fact that it IS my birthday today and the Tigers DO have a game at 1pm.


Perhaps it wouldn’t have been so bad if they hadn’t given us fans hope bottom of the ninth when we had the chance to tie up the game. I mean come on, if you’re gonna lose, then lose and put me out of my misery!

All I have to remember the “blessed” event is yet another heat rash and a headache. Oh well, at least I’m not a Baltimorean…

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

To Get Off the Hot Seat, Coaches Too Often Let Players Burn

Michael Vick has pled out to federal authorities and may spend as few as 6 months in jail (provided for good behavior), I am probably the only person in the country shrugging his shoulders about it. Yes, Roger Goodell will likely suspend Vick for the season following his jail time (there is no way he allows the suspension and jail time to run concurrently), and after that, no team will want to take a flier on a quarterback who was already on the fence. This is a Lawrence Phillips, with “potential” but little consistency, on or off the field. That was fine in Atlanta, if you have him you may as well try to develop him (especially after they gave up LeDainian Tomlinson for him in the draft way back when), but it won’t cut it for any other team.

But this punishment isn’t going to change the culture of the NFL. Whatever Goodell does (and he is doing an amazing job as commissioner), it will be like tying duct tape to a broken down Miata- it’ll hold it together but it won’t solve the problem. The problem does not lie with how the commissioner has handled things in the past or in the future; players won’t change their entire group of “friends” and “activities” because one or two players a year get suspended for the season. The rookie symposium’s inspiring speeches from upstanding players like Troy Vincent won’t make honorable men out of kids with millions of dollars in their pockets and little guidance or direction.

The league isn’t the problem. 117 Division 1-A schools’ coaches and administrators are the problem. An easily overlooked story might be Charlie Weis smoothing over the “lack of knowledge” that landed Jimmy Clausen in violation of the law while driving his 23 year old friend to buy two bottles of vodka, a case of beer, and a bottle of whiskey. Does Weis honestly think Clausen’s friend was going to drink all of that himself? Weis should be giving his quarterback a harsh lesson in judgment and that if he continues that behavior he will get in bigger trouble later. Another Irish quarterback, Demetrius Jones, recently had a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge dropped after he borrowed a car in which pot “happened” to be in the ashtray.

The aftermath of the Miami-FIU brawl saw scattered one game suspensions for several players by Miami (for the game against ACC doormat North Carolina) on a team notorious for having more guns at practice than footballs. The one of the worst of these brawlers, Brandon Merriweather, was drafted in the first round by an organization in the Patriots that is supposed to be the classiest in the league.

College coaches are told to “win now” to preserve their jobs. The will keep their players on the field no matter how they conduct themselves. Larry Coker didn’t lose his job because he was running what was essentially a state prison team in Miami, he lost his job because he went 6-6 after several disappointing seasons. Michigan fans are fortunate that Lloyd holds his players accountable and tries to teach them that their behavior has serious consequences on their lives, but even Coach Carr’s players have been in a great deal of recent trouble with the law.

How is a player who is allowed to do whatever he wants on the college level with nothing but positive reinforcement supposed to suddenly reform when he gets to the NFL? No amount of punishment by the commissioner will change that behavior en masse. Michael Vick is a despicable person who deserves all the time he gets and more. He should never play in the NFL again. But he is far from the last player like Michael Vick we will see in the NFL, no matter how hard the law or the league comes down on him.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Long, Hart, and Crable Named Captains

The 2007 Michigan football team will have a trio of captains the Athletic Department announced today. There wasn't much of a surprise with Long, Hart, and Crable earning the honors. Long was the offensive captain last year and becomes only the 11th repeat captain in the history of the Wolverine football program, so Jake earning the title again wasn't much of a shock. Crable makes sense on the defensive side of the ball, he is a senior linebacker and is going to have to be the leader of an inexperienced defense. Crable has the game and he isn't one to shy away from the microphone, he looked at ease talking and joking around with reporters, teammates, and even coach Carr at the team's media day. The only other player who even had a shot on defense would have been senior Jamar Adams, but if he was named a captain it would have been considered an upset. Mike Hart has been acting like a captain since his sophomore season, heck he was almost named captain last year, and we all know Mike loves to chat with anyone who will listen.

All of this was to be expected, the only real question was whether or not Lloyd Carr would have four captains, which would only have been the second time in history that a Michigan team would have had four captains, the first being in 2000 when Steve Hutchinson, Anthony Thomas, James Whitley, and Eric Wilson shared the captain duties. The player left out is senior quarterback Chad Henne. During media day Chad was asked about the possibility of one of the seniors being left out of the captaincy (Henne, Hart, and Long) Henne said that it didn't matter who was named captain, that while it would be an honor to have that title that all three will act like captains and lead this team.

Henne not being named a captain has bucked a trend of sorts being the first senior quarterback since Brian Griese to not hold the title, John Navarre and Tom Brady were both elected captains. Some fans have said that they don't see Chad as a vocal leader, and admittedly Chad sad that he has worked on being more vocal in practice, but that might be easier said than done with Hart doing most of the talking. That being said this season and all the expectations rest on the broad shoulders of #7. We can say that Hart is the one who makes the Michigan offense go, which is probably true, but if Hart were to go down with an injury Minor could fill the hole. If Henne goes down so does Michigan's national championship hopes. Yes, Ryan Mallet would take over. Yes, he might end up being the best quarterback to ever play at Michigan, but he would not be able to lead this team to an undefeated season.

Chad will be the leader of this offense, the leader of this team. He will be because he is the quarterback which basically comes with a sense of captaincy with the position. Chad won't have the title of captain but he will do more leading than Hart and Long combined when the game is on the line. Picture Camp Randell Stadium in Wisconsin rockin', Michigan is down by 4 with two minutes left in the game, the season is on the line, who are the players going to be looking at in that huddle? Will it be the offensive linemen? The running back? Hardly. They will all, including that linemen and running back, be looking at the quarterback to lead them down the field. And Chad will do it. He'll do it because he has to, because he came back to win that Big Ten title, to beat Ohio State, to play for the National Championship. He may not be a vocal leader, he may not have "team captain" following his name, but his play will do all the leading this team needs.

Pick out the leader

Tony Bolton-WCBN Sports Director

My racket brings all the boys to the court.Yeah right, it’s better than yours.Yeah right, it’s better than yours.I’d teach you, but I have to serve...

First off, this is the very first launching of my "sarcastic wit" - so please be gentle with your comments. Hah, just kidding! It really is my first time doing this blog stuff, though...

OK, so yes, Roger clinched his 50th on Sunday, but that was not the most exciting part of the Masters Series Championship in Cinci. The real action came during the finals of the men’s doubles match. Trust me – I know. I was there.

So let me set the scene for all you readers out there who want to hear about sports from a WOMAN’S perspective (because it is untrue what they say about how all the estrogen-filled chicks crowd the stadium to watch Andy Roddick and Robby Ginepri show off their eight-packs between sets. That is an added bonus, though…). First off, ain’t nobody can say we tennis fans – male or female – aren’t passionate about our sport. If sitting in 100 degree, sticky, humid, just plain NASTY weather for five hours isn’t love, then I don’t know what is. Not only was my hair plastered to my dripping forehead, I totally lost the prim, proper demeanor I have long been proud of. I can only thank the heavens that tennis doubles aren’t popular enough to be televised, because me, skirt hiked up to my thighs, running ice cubes over my body, slouched over and drooping like a parched daisy would have scarred more than a few children. But I’m a true tennis fan, and I’d do it all over again if I had to.

We’ll skip the first few days and move to the semis – that’s when things really started heating up and (warning, I’m going to use a pun here) I’m not talking about the weather. As we know, Nadal bowed out with an ankle injury, thereby taking a competitive edge off the weekend. It’s also worth mentioning that Andy Roddick lost in the quarterfinals to Ferrer, clinching his title as “Shame of a Nation.” Seriously, when is that guy going to get his game back? Also in the quarterfinals, Blake beat newcomer and wildcard Querrey. Wow – this Querrey kid’s got game! He’s 19, six foot seven (or something like that), and has a 125+ mph serve. Look for him in the upcoming future, kids. Anyway – the match boasts one of the best match points I’ve seen in my life – Querrey serves, Blake returns the ball into the back of the court, Quirrey send him a lob which lands up by the net, Blake hustles to volley it back, but Quirrey’s there to lob it right back AGAIN only to have Blake finish it off with a slice to the back corner of the court. In the end, the more experienced of the players prevailed.

So move on to the semis: Federer beat Hewitt (yeah, yeah, no surprises there – although Hewitt did hold his own for the first set) and Blake turned it up to defeat Davydenko. Let’s take some time to talk a little about Davydenko, shall we? The guy’s a human backboard people, but there’s a reason he’s #5 and not #1 – he can’t handle change (what man can?). Seriously, all his shots are crisp and clean and so good, they deserve a place in the textbooks. But once you throw him a curveball he falls to pieces. Towards the end of the match, he had to slow down his killer serve just to get the balls in the court. So we see the Yankee-man pitted against the Swiss Dominator in the finals…

Oh dear, that was embarrassing. The match lasted all of one hour (give or take 15 minutes). You know what I think? I think Blake lost the match before he even stepped on the court. It’s all in the mindset with these things because, believe it or not, Federer did not show us his best tennis this weekend – he was just able to nail the shots that counted and thereby, he freaked out his opponent. If Blake had just imagined playing “some other player” and not “All-powerful Federer” he would have given America the well deserved win we’ve been waiting for. But alas, Federer walked away with his 50th title and not one, but two shiny trophies.

I promise, if I get some exciting comments, I’ll grace you with my not-so-clean take on the doubles’ matches…

When Does a Buckeye Stop Being a Buckeye?

Most football fans can point to themselves as either being disciples of the pro or college game, and invariably have a long-winded prepared speech about which one is more “pure” and thus worth following. I have been fortunate to have grown up in a Michigan football house, where Saturdays were about college football and the annual holiday was the Michigan-Ohio State game, the outcome of which would determine the mood of the household until the Bowl game.

During this time I lived entirely in Baltimore, a city with a football team blessed with a one of the best defenses in the league and an offense that plays like it’s 1954 (Coach Carr would be proud). As I got older each team grew dearer to my heart, and eventually Sundays too were about football, which added a whole new set of holidays to my schedule. These two worlds, while making my weekends busy with football viewing, rarely collided. That is, until April 29. 2007.

My beloved Ravens drafted Troy Smith (yes, THAT Troy Smith) in the 5th round, to potentially groom behind Steve McNair to be the starting quarterback one day. My heart sank, I had just felt this coming. I held my breath for every training camp report, hoping against hope that he might get cut early (though he is battling with former UCLA quarterback Drew Olson, a player I loved coming out of college, for the starting job) and I would not have to pick between my love for the Ravens and my utter disgust with Ohio State. I’d like to think that once out of college, a player starts fresh. I suppose that goes for Leinart, Quinn, Ginn Jr., and every other player to crush my dreams as a Wolverine, but Smith holds an especially devastated place in my heart.

I watched the Ravens preseason game last night, and tried not to see last year’s game in my head or any other Buckeye memory. I listened to Al Michaels narrate a montage of Troy Smith highlights, his Heisman win, and a listing of his achievements (including his 3-0 record against Michigan) and did my best to root for Troy in the purple and black. Coming in to start the fourth quarter, Smith made some nifty passes against the Giants 3rd string, but I found it difficult to get excited. On the last play of the game, down by one point and at their own 20 yard line, Smith dropped back waiting to launch a hail mary down field… and he was easily swallowed up and sacked by the Giants defensive line. I jumped up from my seat and yelled, “Yes baby, take him down!”

I guess if I will always be a Wolverine, he will always be a Buckeye to me.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

2007 Season Preview

Another season is upon us in Ann Arbor and once again expectations are high, but for the first time in the four years of Henne and Hart a national championship is within reach. Jake Long, Chad Henne, and Mike Hart all decided to come back for one more go round. One more opportunity for a Big Ten Championship, one more shot at Ohio State, one more chance for a National Championship. All three could have declared for the NFL draft and all would have been drafted, Long probably would have been the first offensive linemen taken, but leaving without a victory over the Buckeyes drew them all back. With the players returning and the schedule set up the way it is this could end up being a very special year in Ann Arbor.

The Offense

All the publicity this off season has gone to the offense and with good reason. This unit returns nearly every starter from a year ago and with a senior quarterback, running back, and offensive tackle expectations are high. Chad Henne has stated every game since stepping on campus as a true freshmen and will break every passing record in the Michigan record book. Starting the season Henne is only two touchdown throws away from tying the all time record at 72 TDs, a record Henne might break in the very first game, and ranks only behind John Navarre in passing yards only 1477 yards away. While breaking the records is a great individual feat, having Henne back for another year gives this unit a proven winner and a guy who has been through every possible situation during his career, he is not going to get rattled. Mike DeBord has said he plans on using the shot-gun much more this season which will only make Henne better. It will allow Henne to have more time read defenses and allow his receivers to get open. The shot-gun would have helped Henne in the Rose Bowl when it seemed like Henne has Trojan defenders in his face as soon as he dropped back in the pocket. Unlike last year where Michigan had no one waiting in the wings if Henne got hurt this year super recruit Ryan Mallet will be number two on the depth chart. Mallet stands 6-6 and weighs in at 247 pounds, during the Spring Game Mallet made Henne look like a little kid when they stood next to each other. Mallet lacks experience but he enrolled at UM in January and was able to participate in spring drills. Mallet does not lack confidence as Mike Hart raved about Mallet and his leadership abilities already as a true freshmen. The Mallet era will have to wait a year, but expect Mallet to get playing time in mop up duty throughout the year.

The running back position is also solid lead my senior Mike Hart. Hart got his chance in his freshmen year when David Underwood struggled and Hart hasn't let the job go since. After battling through injuries during his sophomore year Hart rebounded with 1601 yards and 14 touchdowns his junior year and finished 5th in the Heisman Trophy voting. Like Henne, Hart's name is scattered across the record book including ranking 6th all time in rushing, only 793 yards behind all time leader Anthony Thomas. Hart is a workhorse who can carry the ball 30 times a game and has only lost a fumble one time in his entire Wolverine career. Nationally the media has Hart ranked behind Darren MacFadden of Arkansas and Steve Slaton of West Virginia but I wouldn't have any other back in the nation leading my offense. Hart makes Michigan go, he is a vocal leader and plays hard every single down, the man just refuses to go down and after working on his lower body power while nursing a shoulder injury in the off season he will be even harder to bring down. What Mike lacks in break away speed he makes up in, well, HEART. Brandon Minor will back up Hart and he showed flashes of brilliance in his freshmen year. Minor is a bigger back than Hart at 6-0 and 213 pounds Minor has a nice combination of speed and power that will be a nice change of pace with Hart exits a game. After Minor there isn't a whole lot on the depth chart, which wasn't the plan during the Spring. The running back position was suppose to be one of the deepest position on the team, however, injuries to both Kevin Grady, knee, and Carlos Brown, broken hand, have left the Wolverines only two deep at running back.

Perhaps the most talented group on the entire team are the wide receivers. Mario Manningham, Adrian Arrington, and Greg Mathews make up the best receiving not only in the Big Ten but in the country and with Henne slinging the ball around, all three should put up huge numbers. In his freshmen season Manningham should us glimpses of what he could be, last year he showed why he has earned the nick name Super Mario. Manningham was unleashed on an unsuspecting Notre Dame defense catching 4 passes for 137 yards and 3 touchdowns. Mario missed a few games due to a knee injury and was never the same afterwards, however, he is now fully recovered and ready to be Henne's number one target. Adrian Arrington is just happy to still be on the team after getting into some off the field trouble that put him in Lloyd Carr's dog house. After running steps at Michigan Stadium this summer Arrington was allowed back on the team. Arrington provides a big target that can go over the middle and take a hit or out jump corner backs for a ball in the end zone. Greg Mathews is a combination of Manningham and Arrington. Mathews posses Mario's speed and Adrian's size. After making an impact as a freshmen Mathews will be the third receiver on the team and provides yet another target for Henne.

The offensive line might be the best in the Big Ten. Jake Long, returns to protect Henne's blind side and Adam Kraus returns at guard where he excels at run blocking. At the other guard spot Alex Mitchell returns. Justin Boren looks to have wrapped up the starting center job replacing Mark Bihl. The only real question mark is who will replace Reuben Riley at right tackle. It seems to be a three man race with Mark Ortmann, Steve Schilling, and Cory Zirbel battling for the starting job. While Ortmann and Zirbel have the experience playing sparingly through their careers I believe that sophomore Steve Schilling will ultimately earn the starting job. Schilling was going to play last year when he came down with a bout of mono and was never able to recovery in time to play. With a year to recover and another year in the system I feel Schilling will get the start September 1st against App State. The line should be able to give Henne all the time he needs in order to find his receivers and Mike Hart should have no trouble as he marches on to the all time rushing record.

The Defense

Last year the defense carried the team, ranking second in the country in total defense. Now with Hall, Woodley, Branch, and Harris all playing on Sundays we are going to see if Ron English is really as good as he looked last year. The offense will put up enough points early on in the year for the defense to come around and mesh but early on it might be a little rough on the defense.

The defensive line lost two key players in Alan Branch and LaMarr Woodley but the line will once again be the strength on this defense. Replacing Woodley is Brandon Graham who is just as quick as Woodley and learned under him last year, watch for Graham to come around the corner to get to opposing quarterbacks. At the other end Tim Jamison will get the start and has played throughout his career but has never lived up to expectations. Last year he stepped up his game recording five sacks which ranked third on the team. Inside Terrance Taylor fills the hole left by Branch. Taylor who is a 310 pound junior who will demand the double teams that Branch took on every single game last year. Playing next to Taylor will be Will Johnson who will be a quicker player than Branch was, and will Taylor taking on double teams Johnson will be able to get into the backfield and disrupt opposing offenses.

At the linebacker position Prescott Burgess and David Harris will have to be replaced. Harris was the leading tackler last year and one of the most underrated defensive players in the country and he will be missed. John Thompson will try to fill the shoes of Harris and while he doesn't have the experience of Harris he is a tad bit quicker. Look for Chris Graham to take over for Burgess full time, last year Graham started four games including getting the start in the Rose Bowl against USC. Shawn Crable will have to step up his game and be the leader of this group which lacks experience. Crable has the size and the speed to be a great linebacker he just has to put it all together this year. While this year's linebackers will be a bit raw early on they will be quicker at every position which will serve them well when they play spread offenses.

The secondary was the weak link in last year's team and that was with Leon Hall. The secondary is not going to get better by losing their best cover man but the secondary might not be as bad as people are fearing. The safety positions will be the strength with Jamar Adams holding down the strong side. Adams is a big back at 6-2 and 212 pounds who hits like a freight train. There is some competition at the strong safety spot between Stevie Brown and Brandent Englemon but I feel that Brown will get the start because of his speed, are you noticing a trend with this year's defense? Speed. Right now Morgan Trent is the number one corner back, the last time Michigan fans saw Trent he was getting abused by USC's Dwayne Jarret. Trent is an excellent tackler recording 40 solo tackles and he has the speed but he still struggles with coverage. Hopefully the arrival of Vance Bedford who coached Charles Woodson and the 97 defense will be able to help develop Trent. On the other corner Johnny Sears will likely get the start Sears played in a handful of games last year and has blazing speed. Prized recruit Donovan Warren also plans to figure into the secondary this year, especially if Trent and Sears are struggling to stay with the receivers.

Special Teams

The punting game will be a strength with Zoltan Mesko back for his second season as the punter. Mesko has a monster leg and he can switch field position with one big swoop of his kicking leg. He averaged 41 yards a punt last season and with a young inexperienced defense pinning the opposition deep with be a big advantage for the Wolverines. Garret Rivas is no longer around to kick field goals for Michigan. While Rivas had some very focal critics throughout his career he was automatic in pressure situations with the game on the line. He left Michigan as the all time leader scorer. As of media day the field goal kicking job was still up in the air Bryan Wright has the biggest leg on the team and will handle kick off duties, but he has struggled some what with his accuracy. Jason Gingell has the accuracy but his leg is not near as strong as Wright's. I suspect this battle will continue into the season and we will see both in games until one emerges as the go to guy, until then Michigan fans may be pulling their hair out wishing for the days of Rivas.

The return game is also still up in the air with the Big Ten's all time leader in punt returns Steve Breaston graduating. At media day Carr listed Sears, Brown, and Mathews as possible return guys. With Brown out with a broken hand look for Mathews and Sears to handle kickoffs and Mathews to handle the punt returns. The most important thing Carr is looking for is someone who will not put the ball on the ground.


The schedule sets up perfectly for a title run. The Wolverines don't play outside Michigan Stadium until the last weekend in September when they travel to Northwestern, where half the crowd will be wearing Maize and Blue. Oregon and Penn State will offer an early test but those games are at The Big House and Michigan should break away from both in the second half. The next road game is at Illinois, a game some are picking as an upset, but I just don't see it happening. The tough part of the schedule happens in the last three games where Michigan will travel to Michigan State, where strange things always seem to happen in Spartan Stadium, then they travel to Wisconsin which might determine the Big Ten Championship. Then, if Michigan makes it through their first 12 games undefeated, which I think they will, they have Ohio State to deal with on November 17th. Sure there are some good teams Michigan plays but the fact is no one on the schedule is as talent as Michigan and the Wolverines will probably be favored in every single game. The Ohio State game provides one last chance for Henne, Hart, and Long to earn a victory over the Buckeyes, and with the game being played on the one year anniversary of Bo's passing the Big House will be rockin'. There are no excuses for not beating Sweater Vest this year.

This team looks an awful like the 2006 Buckeye team. An offense that will be hard to shut down with a defense that is young and inexperienced to start the season. We all know how well Ohio State faired last year, winning the Big Ten and playing for the National Championship. However a word of caution, this Michigan team also reminds me a lot of the 2000 version. A killer offense with Henson, Thomas, Terrel, and Walker, but a young defense that struggled and could not stop teams when the offense struggled. That team finished 9-3 in a tie for first place in the Big Ten. Now I don't see that happening but it is something to keep in mind. This team should run the table, win the Big Ten, and play for the National Championship. There is simply no team on the schedule with as much talent as Michigan and any loss will be considered an upset.

Hold on folks, this might be a very special season in Ann Arbor.

-Tony Bolton, WCBN Sports Director.

Just Plea, Mike

The Michael Vick saga is one of those sports stories that escalated so quickly that it took everyone a little by surprise. Now looking back on the exposure of this dogfighting ring, it is perfectly plausible that an athlete of Vick's stature not only could be a part of the ring, but lead it. I don't think that we have seen anything this serious with an athlete since an "innocent" O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder charges. Even though murder charges are a bit more serious, the charges came 10 years after Simpson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Vick's charges come in the middle of his high profile, while disappointing, NFL career.

Will look better in orange than Martha Stewart

The fact that Vick is even considering a plea deal and that his co-defendants have pleaded guilty is very bad new for the Falcons QB. I may be a few credits short of a law degree online, but felony charges are pretty serious. He will probably spend about a year in jail, even with a plea deal. There will be a long probation period as well as community service. Hey, he could just write some children's books about his own life lessons like T.O.

However, he could have done a little more to help his future NFL career. If he pleas or is found guilty, his career with the Falcons is definitely over. Even before the felony charges, the Vick's days with Atlanta were numbered, especially with Bobby Petrino in as the new coach. Now that he is on the brink of jail time, the Falcons will be going in a different (yikes) direction. So what are the possibilities for Vick after remembering not to drop the soap? Well, he made a huge mistake in lying to Roger Goddell and will probably face suspension time if and when he decides to return to the NFL. There are teams out there, like the Raiders, who would take a chance on Vick. On a side note, I believe Goodell is handling this situation well (see Duke lacrosse team) in not taking to swift a reaction with Vick.

All I can say to Vick now is, next time you want to set up fights, use something that no one loves. Like Ohio State students.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Michigan vs. Appalachian State Preview

The first in a series of previews to come before every game- different contributors may do it different weeks so you can get many different perspectives on our team and our season. Enjoy!

Overview: Many people rolled their eyes and lamented the move to add App State to the schedule, but I think this might be an exciting game to see. If you are going to add a 1-AA to the schedule (I am boycotting the new ridiculous naming system), it may as well be the 1-AA champion. Besides, 1-AA’s aren’t always cupcake teams (just ask Colorado), nor are they willing to roll over just because they aren’t SUPPOSED to win. Remember, this is the team that ripped off 14 straight to become back-to-back 1-AA Champions last year (in an exciting playoff, I might add).

That said, if Michigan doesn’t bury them it will be shameful. I do not care who they are, a 1-AA has to be seeing our backups in the fourth quarter. However, this game should be more interesting than people think and better than just a fluff match- this is a championship team and they will be out to prove it.

Appalachian Offense versus Michigan Defense:
If you are looking for the side of the ball where Michigan might struggle, it is against this Mountaineer unit. They return a very mobile quarterback in Armanti Edwards who, entering his sophomore year, will be very dangerous even after the departure of his leading receiver last year, Will Mayfield. With play resembling a Tavaris Jackson from Alabama State but with a smaller arm, Edwards only threw for 2251 yards last season but ran for an additional 1153 yards and scored 15 touchdowns on the ground and another 15 in the air. The difficulty Michigan has faced in recent years against mobile quarterbacks may cause our front seven to be fooled by App. State’s frequent utilization of their quarterback as a dual threat.

That isn’t to say their running back position has much of a slouch either. Running back Kevin Richardson gained 1676 yards on slightly over 300 carries, yielding a 5.6 yard average. If Richardson can get rolling, it will further stretch a defense that needs to consistently hit the point of attack if it is to succeed. I have always felt that Michigan’s success on defense was not based primarily on the talent of its players, but the attacking scheme put together by defensive coordinator Ron English. It hides it’s deficiencies in coverage by confusing stunts and blitzes that, if unsuccessful, can lead to a pitch and catch that is nearly impossible for our suspect secondary to stop.

This side of the ball will be won by closing the running lanes of either Richardson or Edwards to keep the defense from being tricked by the option, play action or draws, or being forced to back off the line and get away from what Michigan's defense does best.

Michigan Offense versus Appalachian State Defense
As for Michigan, there is no reason to expect anything less than lightning from Chad Henne, Mike Hart, and Mario Manningham. While a consistent tight end has yet to come forward, the skill positions are stacked for the Wolverines, and our offense has been the talk of the country. However, this is all contingent on Michigan’s continuing to attack the defense both with a consistent running game and the willingness to attack the field. Last year Michigan was notorious for getting 7-10 point leads and then simply running Mike Hart up the gut for minimal gains rather than outgunning the defense when it was on its heels (see Penn State, Ball State, USC as prime examples from last season). Carr’s teams have rarely lived up to their offensive potential on a consistent basis, Appalachian State should be a good barometer of what Michigan fans can expect as far as keeping the foot on the gas.

That said, Mike Hart and the Michigan offensive line against the App State defensive line should tell the story of the game. The Mountaineers have lost their 2-time consensus All-American defensive end Marques Murrell, and find themselves largely depleted of defensive tackles with the graduation of starters Omarr Byrom and Daniel Orlebar. If Michigan can attack the center of the line and force the talented App State linebackers to fill those holes, it should put single coverage on at least one wideout or tight end.

Michigan could use to have those corners on islands, too. Jerome Touchstone and Justin Woazeah have started 81 of 82 games for the Mountaineers, bringing experience that will make life difficult for Michigan’s talented group of receivers if they have to face them with safety or linebacker help.

It seems as though Dusty Hill (of ZZ Top fame) has found a new job in Boone, North Carolina. I mean look at this mascot, it looks like Grizzly Adams as a Muppet. That by itself should be enough to tip Michigan over the edge regardless of talent.

Any championship program goes into any game thinking it can win. App State will be no different. The only problem is that Michigan is aiming to be a championship program too.

Michigan wins, 38-17 with Wolverine backups playing in the fourth (who might give up a score and slow our offense down).

Open for Business

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to be the 1st, wait… the 2nd person to welcome you to the WCBN Sports Radio Blog, Maize & Blog. As we start this glorious experiment to capture the greatness of Michigan athletics (and sports in general), we will have the student angle to make you feel in the middle of the campus.

We are not from the Michigan Daily (something we are very proud of); we are not from WOLV-TV. We are the humble color and play-by-play guys who realized that our sports commentary should reach a greater audience than just within the confines of campus or those who already listen to our online broadcasts.

We invite you to listen in to all the Michigan football, hockey, baseball, and softball and all other games, as well as the Daily Sports Report and other broadcasts that can give you the cutting edge in Michigan sports news from the people experiencing it- and save you from having to buy into the Big Ten Network (yes, we have LIVE radio broadcasts of football games from the Big House this year).

Read, Listen, and Go Blue!

-Weston Bruner, Head Blogger

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Welcome to the blog of the sports department of the student radio station here at The University of Michigan.

Who we are

We are the sports department of the student run radio station at The University of Michigan. We are made up entirely of Michigan undergrads; some of us want to make sports broadcasting our career while others will become doctors, lawyers and other important people.

What we do

WCBN is a working radio station that can be heard at 88.3 FM in Ann Arbor or online at We get an unmatched opportunity to cover all Michigan athletics, from the football team to hockey, to softball, we cover it all. During every game we have at least two members who will call the game from the press box. We attend press conferences, cover road games, and act as members of the media profession.

During the week we have three main shows. Mondays: Extra Points. This round table show covers all the weekend’s sports action. It airs for 30 minutes from 6:00-6:30 PM. During the fall this show is almost entirely dedicated to recapping Saturday’s football game while during the winter semester hockey and basketball take center stage.

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays we have a 15-minute sports update called The Daily Sports Report. This show will get you caught up on the pervious day’s sports action including Michigan and national sports. Think Sports-Center on fast-forward.

Our cornerstone show occurs on Friday nights, Game of the Week airs from 7-10 PM. We usually broadcast the Michigan hockey game, if there is no game at Yost then we turn it into a three-hour sports talk show. We discuss Detroit Sports, Michigan Sports and National sports. This is the perfect time for listeners to call in and voice their opinions at (734) 763-3500.

Purpose of this Blog

While we are given an unmatched opportunity to cover Michigan sports on campus we are not as well known as some of our other media groups such as The Michigan Daily or WOLV-TV. With this blog we hope to get the word out on our station, to increase our listening base, and to let people know there is an option out there for listening to your favorite university’s sports teams.

We will be updating this site frequently as soon as school starts up again on September 4th. Right now we have three articles that will be posted regularly. The first will preview Michigan’s opponent in football for the upcoming week. The second will be a recap of Saturday’s game. These two articles will be written by a different WCBN member as to give a different viewpoint on the team each week.

The third article will be written by myself entitled “Scarlet and Grey Days.” Back in the days of Woody and Bo each coach would prepare for the other throughout the entire season. Woody had “Michigan Mondays” where the Buckeyes prepared for the game against the Wolverines, or “That School Up North.” During the press conference the Monday before the Michigan-Ohio State game in 2006 when the teams were ranked #1 and #2 in the country Bo was asked how often he prepared for Ohio State during the year. The coach responded in the only way Bo could in that old raspy voice of his, he leaned over the podium toward the report and said empathetically, “Everyday! Everyday we prepared for Ohio State!” I attended this press conference and in a day full of cliché answers and vague responses Bo stole the show. With Bo still fresh in all our minds I hope this article would make Bo proud. Every Monday I will post “Scarlet and Grey Days” which will recap the Buckeye’s game from that Saturday. In an unbiased article I will tell what the Buckeyes did well and what they didn’t do so well. I will also tell what the opponent did against the Buckeyes that worked and didn’t work. With our recent struggles against Ohio State we hope to buck the trend by breaking down the Buckeyes leading up to The Game on November 17th. Which will be the one-year anniversary of us losing Bo.

There will be other articles that come and go as we discuss how to make this blog the very best it can to represent the Sports Department. As Sports Director I want to welcome you and thank you for reading and hope that our blog becomes one of the sites you frequent.

Also, one last bit of exciting news, for the first time ever WCBN Sports is being allowed to broadcast Michigan football games LIVE this year on the Sports Stream. This will come in handy for those games on the Ben Ten Network as you can log on and listen to us, also for our alumni and friends who are currently living outside the great state of Michigan and are not able to find the game on TV or Radio WCBN might be your only option to get your Wolverine fix. All you have to do is click ont he link to our home page at and click on "Sports Stream"