Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Spring Game Wrap - 12 Expectations/Observations/Predictions for 2017

Spring – the time of college football renewal!  That spring rite of passage that’s similar to the Masters and lets you know that the snow shovels can be put away and we can safely take the shorts out of winter storage. Also the time when you get the E-mail that you only have until April 28th to renew your Season Tickets!!!  
Also makes me wonder why they can’t do a “scrimmage” against other local teams in the area, but then I guess things would get a little too out of hand…so scratch that.  Why risk injury any more than they already are.  Urban Meyer charged suckeye fans to $5 to watch OSU play a game of two-hand touch….
No – I didn’t make the Spring game.  Simply too much to do around the house.  55,000 fans did attend, however.  I have seen it twice on the BTN at this point and if you haven’t seen it, I think there’s a couple of things you need to know:
1.     I’m not saying there’s a QB controversy brewing in A2, but I will say that Speight was fortunate to lead one of the best offenses last season both in terms of efficiency and points scored.  He didn’t look very good on Saturday and Brandon Peters looked like a seasoned veteran.  In other words, if Speight gets a boo-boo, Michigan should be in capable hands under center.
2.    While I get that defenses get a chance to see the same players day in – day out, week after week in the spring and can “plan” things ahead of time, I was surprised that the defenses looked “as good” as they did.  The defensive line will be fine this season and I’m not sure how much Peppers will be missed with a couple of different players looking effective in the SAM position. 
3.    Evans got 3 carries and was yanked because, well, we know who the starting tailback will be.
4.    Did I mention that Speight didn’t look great?
5.    Brandon Peters’ passing performance was especially remarkable as the announcers mentioned the wind swirling several times.
6.    The CB play wasn’t great, but I saw things I liked.  Over-pursuit (read:  SPEED) was apparent and once these guys learn their assignments, I don’t think we’re gonna’ miss Stribling or Lewis….

And I guess that’s about it….

I never get overly excited about the Spring Game, even though it’s nice to see Michigan actually back to having a Spring Game vs. a spring practice where everyone just runs around in practice mode.  

Now it’s off to Rome to see the sights.  

12 Expectations/Observations/Predictions for Michigan and College Football in 2017

I hate to get ahead of myself, because I like to leave a little something for the Pre-Season Spectacular, but what are the expectations of the Wolverines and other teams for 2017?
In no particular order:
1.    I expect Coach Harbaugh to coach better in close games and come up with plays/scenarios so when you NEED a first down, you GET a first down.  Review the Iowa and Suckeye games that were very winnable with a first down and running out the clock.  As good as he seems to coach in most games, Jimmy and OC Drevno sometimes get a little group-think going on between them in tight games.  Drevno needs to step up and be a little more creative or stand up to Jimmy when the time comes to deliver the last nail in the coffin or the knife to the jugular – whichever analogy you prefer.  They need, together, to develop a “tight game killer instinct”. 
2.    A quick review of the Michigan schedule: 
a.    @Florida – SEC East Champ in Arlington, Texas
b.    Cincinnati – Luke Fickell revenge for that loss when he was interim?
c.    Air Force – Always a nightmare with that offense
d.    @ Purdue – the New Cocktail Patio will be OPEN!  Road Trip?
e.    Sparty – Rivalry game…
f.     @ Indiana – New Head Coach….
g.    @ Penn State – REVENGE for Embarrassment…Night Whites, too..
h.    Rutgers – Yawn…Hanging 80 on them last season makes me yawn
i.      Minnesota – The uppity Gophers will be rowing the boat to A2
j.      @Maryland – I hate that Michigan plays Maryland so late in the season
k.    @Wiscy – Classic Trap game.  After emotional Terp game aginst Derkin and before
l.      OSU – glad this is home this season. 
With a lot of the tough games at home (OSU, Minnesota and MSU) not that the latter should be all that hard, but rivalry to them, a share of the B1G Title, barring horrendous injury, of course, should be the floor.  There are some tough road games and Penn State has announced the Night White Out Game and will want a lot of revenge for the 50 they got hung on them in Ann Arbor (Jim – Word of advice – Bring back the Maize Pants for that Road Game – PLEASE!!!).  Not to mention that Wiscy is always a tough place to play and is the trap game right after Maryland and right before the Suckeyes.  It’s Jimmy’s 3rd season, he’s been close, and there’s no more excuses.  Not that he was making any last season.  Well, maybe a couple that were justified from the OSU game, but still…  In review, last year was a great opportunity squandered.  And I do believe the Wolverines would have at least scored on Clemson unlike the suckeyes completely and utterly embarrassing themselves….
3.    Speaking of which:  the CFP, logically, is kind of a must, also.  I would say that it’s a given if you win the B1G, but when you look at what happened to Penn State last season (winning the B1G with 2 losses) and the huge loss up in Ann Arbor resulting in them getting overlooked for the CFP after beating the suckeye team that DID GET IN, well, you can understand now how it’s possible to have one without the other.  And that’s frustrating and I get PSU-Fan and why they were so angry last year.  Conference Championships should mean SOMETHING!!!!
4.    Which means the ceiling for Michigan is (at least) getting to the National Title Game with the floor being an either/or with the B1G Championship/CFP spot..  Now, I know that’s asking a lot.  But, Michigan is paying the guy to win B1G Championships and National Titles.  So, please go do it. 
5.    Who will be in the title hunt this season?  Well, Bama, for sure, as they didn’t lose anyone (relatively speaking) and the SEC is undeniably weak at this point.  The SEC East will probably have a 3rd year champion in Florida as I don’t see anyone else in the East figuring out how to beat McElwain’s Defense.  I’m not falling into the Tennessee hype or the Georgia hype.  They both lost key players and will be re-building.  So, that leaves Bama and nobody else from the SEC.  From the ACC I kind of like Clemson or Miami, but I’m not sure either of them goes through this season unscathed meaning that there could be a 2-loss ACC champion on the outside looking in.  FSU lost a lot of talent last season so while they’ll be an odds on favorite, look for them to be more of a spoiler in the ACC.  I like/love USC coming out of the Pac12, even though Washington will be right there.  The BigiiX will eat their own and miss the CFP altogether, leaving the potential for two qualified B1G teams to crash the CFP party.  Don’t be surprised…it’ll happen sooner rather than later and two conferences will get left out of the CFP party whilst one conference reaps the spoils…
6.    How does the B1G play out?  Great question.  The Champion, once again, should come out of the East Division.  The West, while improving, just isn’t there yet.  I know, I know, PJ Fleck in Gopherland, Purdue getting Jeff Brohm, not to mention that the Huskers should be feeling the 3rd year vibe of Riley.  And Wiscy is Wiscy.  Kind of like Iowa.  But none of them are “dominating” yet.  Noticed I said yet. But they aren’t sitting still, either…that much is clear.   I truly believe Michigan finally breaks the cherry for Jim, but they’re might be a blemish on the record.   
7.    Can Michigan win the whole thing?  Answer:  Why not?  The Odds as of February 6th:
  The Analysis:  I’m not sure from where or why FSU is getting such love in Vegas as they lost a lot of personnel.  And Michigan nearly beat them in the bowl game.  I would have FSU closer to 15 or 20 to 1.  Oklahoma won’t go undefeated, eliminating them from the discussion with a weaker SOS due to Big iiX malaise.  Yes, the suckeyes.  They need to be defeated, but Michigan has them at homeUSC is going to be interesting and if they do make it, I’d rather not have to play the Trojans in the semi-final and rather see them play Bama.  Which, leaves us with Michigan.  So, yes.  The Vegas Final 4 projection (with assumptions that Michigan wins B1G regular season) is:  Bama, FSU, USC and Michigan.  Kind of like I said in point number 5….but without FSU and maybe a B1G runner up….suckeyes – Michigan Rematch????
8.    Is there another darkhorse in the NCAA we’re not seeing right now?  Maybe…And Michigan plays one of them.  Florida will be better this season and will present a VERY DIFFICULT opening game challenge.  There will be a lot of talk about both of those teams and how far the winner can go.  UCLA will be in the 2nd year of their new, revamped offense and could be a thorn in everyone’s side in the Pac12, but I sort of say that every season about UCLA and I have lost some faith in Coach Mora ever getting it done.  2nd season coach Fuente at Va-Tech may make noise in the ACC with close to a full roster returning.  I also refuse to leave Washington out of any discussion as I believe Petersen will win a National Title while he’s coaching there, and don’t forget that Washington made the CFP Last season.   Miami has players coming back and Richt will be in season 2 as well, but I see Miami as spoilers and not ready for Prime time…yet.  So, yeah, there’s some dark and not so darkhorses that could make things interesting.
9.    Will the Domers and Sparty recover from embarrassing seasons?  In a word: NOBut when has the MMQ ever stopped at just a word?  The Domers probably should have won (and would have won if Kelly wasn’t so bull-headedly stubborn/stupid – you decide or use both) 7 games last season vs. just 4.  And they simply have too much talent coming back and coming into the program to not win 9 games (floor). But in Domerland, that still a disaster and no CFP berth.  Sparty, OTOH, is a disaster and you’re probably not going to find too many Sparty fans that are going to argue with you.  They’d all rather talk about basketball for Bridges reasons.  Football:  Depleted roster.  Unexpected players leaving the team and Sexual Assualt Title IX investigations may further deplete the depth chart.  Sparty could repeat at 3-9 or maybe get to 4-8/5-7 and it wouldn’t surprise me.  That’s not bouncing back…That’s getting ready for Basketball season early.
10. Who will be “The Greatest Coaching Hire Ever” that everyone is talking about at the end of the 2017 season?  Texas should be better this season as Charlie Strong didn’t leave a bare cupboard.  The question is:  Will Hermann pay attention to the defense and make them better?  I already mentioned PJ Fleck rowing the boat in Minneapolis, and the Gophers are only 2 seasons removed from winning 10 games under former coach Kill.  Fleck should be able to take a non-disaster situation and surprise some people this season and at least make a decent bowl game.  If Willie Taggart gets Oregon back to 9-10 wins, or even somehow beats Washington and gets to the Pac 12 Championship, that hire will look brilliant. Conference USA has two big names both coaching Florida schools in Butch Davis (FIU) and Lane Kiffin (FAU) that may be able to mix it up early with the powers in that conference. 
11. And because you can’t have one without the other, what hires are we going to look at and say, “Meh….Coulda’ done better myself”?  I still can’t figure out the Brohm hire at Purdue.  He might work out, but I think that’s a disaster and it’ll take someone special to fix Purdue football.  Tom Allen hiring Mike DeBord at Indiana convinced me that Allen might not know what he’s doing either…or what he has to work with from a personnel standpoint.  That’s an offense built for speed and DeBord is a manball kind of coach.  IMHO, Matt Rhule landing at Baylor is going to be an unmitigated disaster.  Baylor is Texas, Briles was Texas….Rhule isn’t a fit.  Plus who knows what pending Title IX disasters await. 
12. Hottest of the Hottest Seats starting out this season?  Without question, Sumlin has worn out his welcome at Texas A&M.  Butch Jones at Tennessee desperately needs to do something in the SEC East.  Rich Rod has Arizona diehards pulling their hair out with lack of defense…sound familiar?  Kelly will need at least 9 wins or he and $warbuck$ will both be in a very precarious position. Malzhan is living on grace time at Auburn and the winningest LSU Head Coach EVER is still looking for a job  - Les Miles.   

I know – what’ll be left for the Pre-Season Spectacular, right?  I’ll find something to write about!!!!

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