Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cliff Keen Confidential

The Michigan women's volleyball team is the best kept secret on campus.

By now, everyone knows that Yost is a legendary place to watch hockey, that the lacrosse team is a juggernaut, that the only team with maybe more offensive firepower than Denard Robinson is the softball team, or that the soccer teams play in one of the nicest new venues in the country. But what people around campus don't seem to realize is that the most exciting young team on campus doesn't play at the Big House - they play in tiny Cliff Keen Arena.

The football team is obviously, far and away, the premier team on campus. Every game is like a holiday, each win a momentous occasion, each loss casting gloom and doom over Ann Arbor. But when you remove the immense meaning of each game, pound for pound, the Michigan women's volleyball team is the most electric team on campus, as anyone who witnessed their stunning comeback victory over Minnesota on Saturday will attest to.

Down 2-0 headed to the locker room, Michigan was out of sorts. They were pummeled 12-25 in the first set, and lost a hard fought second set 23-25. Minnesota, the #14 ranked team in college volleyball, was big and physical, dominating play at the net behind sophomore Tabi Love. There was a palpable sense of disappointment in the crowd, who had the previous night witnessed Michigan run over an overmatched Iowa squad. This was Michigan's first chance of the season to beat a ranked team, and a Big Ten foe at that. 2-0 felt like an insurmountable hole to climb out of.

And then, a ray of hope. Behind 7 kills from Alex Hunt and 4 from Claire McElheny, Michigan took the third set 25-22. A buzz was restored to Cliff Keen as Michigan was finally able to solve the 6'-6" Love. In a back-and-forth fourth set, Hunt got help from freshman Jennifer Cross and McElheny, and Michigan won 25-23. Michigan believed, and so did the Cliff Keen crowd. After falling down 9-6 in the decisive fifth set, Michigan battled back, and Alex Hunt's career-high 28th kill sealed the upset for the Wolverines.

I, for one, was calling the game for MGoBlue.com and I went nuts. Like, screaming hysterically. The show the Wolverines put on was incredible. Easily in the top two comebacks I've witnessed as a Michigan student (Tate v. ND in 2009 #1, Denard's ND comeback was never in doubt). I know it's just one win, but what a massive, massive win for this Michigan team.

And it's only going to get better. This team is built for something special. Lead by senior All-American setter Lexi Zimmerman, perhaps already the greatest Wolverine volleyball player ever, and junior outside hitter Alex Hunt and libero Sloane Donhoff, Michigan is experienced and talented where it counts. Michigan also sports a fantastic group of talented freshmen in Molly Toon, Jennifer Cross, Lexi Erwin, Brittany Lee, and Ally Saybol, all of whom have gotten extensive playing time so far this season. Toon, Cross and Erwin especially have shown the ability to take over a game and provide solid secondary options to Hunt. Add in solid depth from McElheny, Courtney Fletcher, and Karlee Bruck and Michigan has the veteran leadership to make a run at not only a Big Ten championship, but a national championship.

That road continues this weekend as the Wolverines go on the road to Ohio State and Penn State. Michigan has a legitimate shot to take down the fabled Nittany Lions and emerge from this weekend with a sweep and a message to the world of college volleyball that they are title contenders. Sweep, and Michigan should return to Cliff Keen the following weekend to a standing ovation, and I'd expect the team to draw a packed house. Get on the bandwagon now, Michigan fans, because this volleyball season has the potential to be historic.

Monday, September 27, 2010

What Must Be Done if Denard Robinson is to Win Heisman Trophy

So maybe Ryan Mallett's three interceptions against the best team in college football didn't completely take him out of the Heisman race, but it did cripple his chances. With Mallett's stock wounded, all eyes are on Michigan QB Denard Robinson to take the lead in the competition for college football's most coveted individual prize. As of today, in my opinion, there are two legitimate candidates significantly leading the race for the Heisman- Our beloved Denard Robinson, who has looked like Superman in a winged helmet, and that goon down in Columbus who is not respected enough to be named by the Michigan student who authors this article. If Denard is going to win one for the good guys, there are a few criteria that must be met:

1. Denard must play in all 12 games this year.
This, admittedly, is easier said than done. The Bowling Green knee scare, though nerve-wrecking for the Wolverine faithful, was not detrimental to Denard's Heisman candidacy, but it certainly didn't help. In order to keep up his ridiculous stat line, Denard needs to play... it's that simple.

2. Michigan must win 9 games this year.
We need look no further than the last three Heisman winners to see that the Heisman trophy recepient usually plays on a highly respected team- Ingram's team won it all, Bradford's team finished runner-up, and Tebow's team had 3 losses going into the postseason (remember the capital one bowl?). Though Denard may be the best player is college football, if his team doesn't win, then he may not get the respect he deserves come Heisman voting time.

3. Denard must run for 100+ yards nearly every game.
Yes, he's a quarterback, but what makes Denard Robinson unique is his ability to create on the ground. Mark Ingram won the Heisman trophy with 1658 yds rushing last year and he was a running back. If Denard, who's on pace to get 1500+ yds on the ground, can come anywhere near Ingram's mark he should be on easy street. Remember, Ingram didn't have 2000 yds passing, which is a very feasible passing mark for Robinson in 2010.

4. Denard must show up to play in Columbus.
Think of the defining moments in the Heisman-winning seasons of previous Wolverines. These moments- Desmond Howard striking a pose after a punt return for a touchdown and Charles Woodson returning a punt for a touchdown- occurred against Ohio State. There's no better way to end a year than by embarrassing a rival on the road in the last game of the regular season. This is especially true this year, when Denard's greatest Heisman competition may be the man running the offense opposing the Wolverines.

Whether Denard Robinson fulfills these criteria in 2010 still remains to be seen. With 8 games left to play in the regular season, the Wolverine faithful hopes that whatever Shoelace is doing, he can keep it up.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Week of the Irish

We have a fantastic upcoming slate of football games to look forward to this weekend! Of course, top billing belongs to the renewal of the rivalry between the Wolverines and the Fighting Irish as Michigan heads to South Bend to take on Notre Dame. Come back to the blog this saturday at 3:30 to listen in live for WCBN Sports' broadcast of the game! Bill Rothwell, The Andrew Goddeeris, Adam Brewster, and Tyler Bruens will have the call What makes this an even better weekend is all the other quality games that fill out the remainder of the weekend:

22 Georgia vs. 24 South Carolina, 12:00 PM

This game starts a three-games-in-a-four-game-stretch that will make or break Steve Spurrier's job at South Carolina. After Georgia, the Ol' ball coach catches a bit of a break against Furman before taking on Auburn and then Alabama. Losing all three of those games against ranked opponents would make it nearly impossible for Spurrier to keep his job (unless he can take down Florida later in the year).

17 Florida St. vs. 10 Okalahoma, 3:30 PM

The Seminoles look to jump on the suddenly weak-looking Sooners. Florida St. looks for its first significant win in the post-Bobby Bowden era while the Sooners look to try to show that last week's rough effort against Utah St. was an aberration.

12 Miami vs. 2 Ohio St, 3:40 pm

This one is a huge game for both teams. Ohio St. looks to gain a more secure footing on second place ahead of Boise St. with a strong showing here, while Miami looks to give itself national championship hopes with a win of its own. The battle between highly-touted QBs Jacory Harris and Terrelle Pryor should be a thrill to watch.

18. Penn St vs. 1 Alabama

JoePa has his work cut out for him this week, taking his Nittany Lions (and true freshman QB Robert Bolden) to Tuscaloosa. Bolden looked good in his first game, but the Youngstown St. defense doesn't even compare to Alabamas. If Bolden can play like an upperclassman though, this game should be filled with smash-mouth football. It is still not known if last year's heisman winner, Mark Ingram, will play for the Crimson Tide.

Should be a fantastic weekend for college football fans! And don't forget, if you want to join the WCBN Sports' colorful team of personalities, come by and find the WCBN Booth at Festifall in the Diag today!

Friday, September 3, 2010

2010 Football Preview


Listen as the WCBN-fm Ann Arbor personalities, after a few struggles with the intro, break down the Michigan roster and preview the 2010 Michigan football season.