Saturday, October 04, 2008

Week #6 - Here Comes the Chief!

Around the Nation -

Welcome to October and WEEK #6 already of 2008; amazing how time flies. And as I look around the nation this week, I'm starting to see some themes emerge as teams begin to claim their slice of the pie. CAL, Penn State, Alabama, and all took care of business today as well. Auburn went down @ VANDY today for the first time in forever. I had a feeling about that outcome. It's hard to watch that club try to move the ball on offense. And how about Miami / FSU - crazy game. Missouri, Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and UNC all rolled with the TRIBE. And looks who's back - Ohio State with a quality road win in Madison tonight. Ugh! And for the first time ever at 4-1, the Irish are unranked (Wow, how times have changed). It's happened 27 other times, to put this story in perspective. A win this coming weekend in Chapel Hill will ensure they're ranked at 5-1. Of course, a loss will justify this week's story. Here's what else we learned.

Chief on the Tribe -

I know, I know - before you even say it. Sure, this wasn't the Michigan of old, of Schembechler, Moler, or Carr. Yes, these Wolverines are a young bunch searching for an identity under 1st-year coach, Rich Rodgriguez. Still yet, today's ILLINI performance in Ann Arbor was historic (45-20 final score). Yes, on Saturday we broke an 84-year old mark with our 45 points in the BIG HOUSE. The old record was set by Red Grange's 1924 club. And finally, we have a 'quality' win to move us to 3-2 (1-1 in conference). And when you look at the two losses, they don't look so bad at this point do they? At least we played Mizzou and Penn State competitively for most of those games.

Give credit to the coaching staff this week. The tribe was ready to play in front of our second 100K road audience in as many weeks. And this time, we came through in a BIG WAY (45-20). What was impressive to me about this win wasn't the W but the way we did it. Down 14-3 early, it could have been a long day in Ann Arbor. But, when Juice took charge in the 2nd quarter with a quick 10-yard TD scamper you knew it was game on. From there, he put his stamp on this team and would not be denied. Yes indeed, put it down. On 10/4/2008 Isiah Williams announced to the league and nation that this is his team going forward.

And kudos to my much-maligned defense for finally stepping up in the 2nd quarter. Michigan really didn't have an answer the rest of the game. At times, we made them look bad - really bad. It was a slow start and more of the same in the 1st quarter: missed tackles, blown coverages, and poor positioning. I guess it helps when your offense reals - off 42 points to their 7. Still yet, the defense came to play today for most of the game. Miller was amazing, make big play after big play all day. The D-line grew up today in front of our eyes. And the secondary made a few nice plays as well.

Yes, it was the 108th homecoming for the EVIL EMPIRE today. What a glorious victory in the BIG HOUSE. Benn, Dufrene, and Williams (the terrific trio) had monster days. Williams rushed for 120 and passed for 310, accounting for 4 TDs and no turnovers. It's probably too early to mention him and Heisman in the same sentence, but if he keeps putting up numbers like this it won't be much of a decision. Next year. Next year. Enjoy the helmet sticker Isiah. Benn had 6 catches for 122 yds. And while Daniel only had 46 tough yards on the ground, he had 77 in the air including a monster TD in the 1st half. Yes, it was a good day in most areas of the game.

On the downside, our special teams needs work, especially on PUNT and KICK-OFF coverage. With the offense finally starting to click, they should have plenty of chances to improve. We gave up far too many return yards today (243 yds), especially in that 1st half. And while Juice did have a big day, he only hit 50% of his 26 pass attempts. There's room for improvement there. Other stats to consider: 11th in BIG - 10 in points allowed (94th nationally) and just 10th in total defense (75th in nation). We give up 29.6 points per game and 371 total yards. Yuck! It's a good thing we put up 35.6 ppg and 455.6 ypg, respectively.

Looking ahead, always dangerous, we finally get back home for our next two games where we should be heavy faves (Minnesota and Indiana). Then we hit the road again play Wisconsin in Madison before closing with Iowa and Ohio State at home, Western Michigan and NW on the road. 10-2 isn't impossible, but 9-3 or 8-4 is more likely given the schedule. At this point, 7-5 would be a bit of a disappointment. Anything less than 7 wins would be a letdown, especially after last year. Keep in mind, we were expected to take a step back this year from 9-3 as we re-load for next year and a possible BIG10 / Championship run. At 3-2 (1-1) we're in good shape. We needed a 'quality' win; which this was by all accounts. After last week's road loss, Penn State is clearly the cream of the conference. But, we're right there should they slip up. Check out the latest bowl picture.

Message to coaches - Do it like you've done it before. And play up to the level of the competition, and beyond. Stop the run and you'll have more fun! We need to get the next two as we continue to improve, especially on defense and special teams. We'll need those skills up in Madison. I'm hoping this was our 'get off' game of the year, propelling us on our way. So, enjoy this one for 24 hours, a truly historic - our biggest win over BIG BLUE. The last time Michigan gave up 45 points at home was 1991 against Florida State (51). I expect these winning results to help us on the recruiting trail where our 2009 team is 34th nationally, and only 6th in conference right now behind the big boys like Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Michigan State.

My Top 10 -

  1. Oklahoma - Taking care of business in Baylor today. Next week is HUGE! Bradford and McCoy will finally get to duke it out against each other. Who has the better 'D'?

  2. Missouri - Simply amazing offensive machine. Another beatdown in Lincoln tonight. It's OK Ted, they do this to just about everybody. Scary team!

  3. Alabama - Scratchy win over Kentucky in a trap road game for the TIDE. They move on in the SEC. A bit surprising they didn't dominate more here.

  4. LSU - Off this week. Holding steady. Off to Gainesville next week. Oh my! Could easily swap them with #3 above. Let's see what they do agains the GATORS first. Bama has better wins right now.

  5. Texas - Blew out the Buffs in Boulder. Red River Shootout at the Cotton Bowl next. Colt and Company are rollin'. I'd be a little worried about the pass 'D' if I were a UT fan.

  6. Penn State - Good but not great road win today in West Lafayette. I've been saying it all year, fear Joe Pa this year. Where's the first loss in the schedule? Lot of football to be played.

  7. USC - Back on track tonight against a disillusioned duck squad. Injuries starting to pile up. Too much for Oregon tonight. Far and away the BEST compilation of players in PAC-10.

  8. Texas Tech - Yep, they're for real this year - at least on offense. Ask Kansas State.

  9. BYU - Beating UTAH STATE to extend the nation's longest winning streak to 15 was the good news. Bad news, AF lost to NAVY.

  10. Ohio State - Gutty back and forth comeback win on the road. Watchout for the Buckeyes. This just in, they have a QB.

Conference Ratings - not that conferences win Championships; teams do. That being said, there's a lot riding on how conferneces are perceived internally and externally across the nation. From recruiting to pride, it matters.

  1. SEC / BIG 12 - I just don't see much of a difference between the two anymore. BIG-12 obviously has the better offenses. SEC plays stout defense. You pick 'em.

  2. BIG 10 - Penn State, Illinois, Ohio State, NW, and Michigan State lead the way in a very deep conference. It's going to get interesting in early November.

  3. ACC - UNC, Va Tech, FSU, Ga Tech, BC, and Duke all have winning records right now.

  4. BIG EAST / PAC 10 - UCONN gets blown out by UNC. OS loses to UTAH. I'm still not sure how the PAC-10 will have 7 bowl-eligible teams to fill those slots.

Looking Ahead - Week 7 promises to be awesome. Here are some of the games I'll be looking forward to next week:

  • LSU @ Florida - another SEC clash that will shape the national championship picture.
  • Texas & Oklahoma - in the Cotton Bowl. Probably another classic Red-River Showdown.
  • Penn State @ Wisconsin - I know, but winning in Camp Randall is tough!
  • Notre Dame @ UNC - Hmmmm .....
  • Poker Night in Woodhaven - always a game to look forward to.
  • World's largest basketball practice on 10/11 after Minnesota and Illini gridders.

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