I have not hidden the fact that I am a Michigan fan. When planning my Tivo schedule for each Saturday, the Michigan game gets 1st priority. So it’s been tough for me to write this each week without recommending the Michigan game. But, I was willing to wait, since this was going to be their biggest game of the year since Appalachian St knocked them out of the National Title picture.
Things were looking good coming into last weekend. It was going to be Michigan vs. Ohio St. with national title implications for what seems like the 8th time in 10 years. We had a no doubt about it 1 game to watch. Then last Saturday happened. Michigan relapsed to early season form and Ohio St. decided to prove that Michigan wasn't the only Big Televen team that couldn't handle a spread offense.
Now the luster has been stripped from the game. Sure the Big Televen title is still on the line, but Honestly, the Rose Bowl is a let down for Ohio St. after the rest of this season, and a 3 loss Michigan team shouldn't be in BCS contention.
So do we look elsewhere for the one game to watch this week? The only other contender in my eyes is Oregon heading to Arizona. Both teams have plenty of NFL talent on the field, but the match up just doesn't have the historical significance to knock off Ohio St. vs. Michigan here.
So here it is, the Battle for the Big Televen championship, and the right to loose the Rose Bowl to a spread offense team.
THE Ohio State University
Is there a more annoying University in College Football? The answer is yes, Notre Dame. But THE Ohio State University is close. Why do they feel the need to call themselves THE Ohio State University? Is using THE really a stroke of branding genius? Were we confusing them with A Ohio State College? Should they throw a THE in front of Buckeyes to make sure that there is no confusion there? Making the full team name THE Ohio State University THE Buckeyes?
For the rest of this column I'll be shortening it to THEO, since the full name takes too long to type, and to invoke the Memory of Theo Huxtable, the most annoying black character of all time, until Will Smith. (Will Smith plays the same character in every movie, therefor he is a character, not an actor, so save it you coor light drinking Will Smith fans)
Jim Tressle is the Anti-Carr. Until Tressle took the reigns at THEO, Carr owned them. Now THEO owns Michigan. And the key reason is Tressle gets the most out of his players. Other than a couple of Defensive players, what THEO player has made a huge impact on the NFL during the Tressle era?
Ted Ginn Jr., and Anthony Gonzalez jury is still out
Santonio Holmes is looking good, if he can overcome his turdishness
A.J. Hawk and Donte Whitner are both Solid
Nick Mangold looks good
Will Smith had one really good year and...
That’s really the only impact players from a perennial National title contender. The only QB who was highly regarded as far as college is concerned; from the Tressle regime is Troy Smith. While most college contenders depend on top QB play, Tressle gets by without and puts top teams on the field. Keyword: Teams.
Once again this year, THEO brings a top-notch team to the field. But, I really have only 2 seniors to keep an eye on. Part of this is the number of guys who have come out of OSU the last two years. (They may not be impact players, but 17 players have been drafted out of THEO the last 2 years). And part is due to an insanely strong junior class. So once again, I'm going to break my own rules and feature juniors over seniors for THEO.
James Laurinaitis (ILB, 6-3, 247) Laurinaitis is the prototypical College MLB. As a true sophomore he won the Nagurski for best defensive player. For some reason he doesn't seem to get the Hype that past THEO linebackers have. But he is every bit as good, if not better than A.J. Hawk and should be drafted just as high if he comes out as a Junior.
Don't bother looking for a glaring hole in his game. He has the size speed and awareness to immediately translate his game to the next level. Plus his dad is former professional wrestler Animal which just raises his cool factor. If he played for any other team he would be one of my favorite players, but since he is a Buckeye, I have to hate him.
Malcolm Jenkins (CB, 6-1, 202) The next in the long line of standout THEO CBs. Jenkins is everything the past guys were and more. While guys like Winfield and Clements were a bit undersized and fit better in a zone scheme. Jenkins is the complete package with the potential to be a shutdown corner at the next level. Add the fact that he is an excellent tackler, like his predecessors, and you can see why Jenkins may very well be the 1st CB off the board come April, if he comes out.
Vernon Gholston (DE, 6-4, 258) One half of the best match up to watch this weekend (against Jake Long) Vernon may very well be the 2nd best DE in this years draft, once again, if he comes out. Gholston's sack numbers are down this year due to constant double teams, but this converted OLB has stepped up his game against the run in response. Making him a more complete player.
Michigan will most likely leave Long 1 on 1 with Gholston when he lines up on the right side. The winner of this match-up will solidify their draft stock and may very well determine the outcome of the game.
I'm going to end my breakdowns of the THEO juniors there, as the rest I feel would be best served to stay in school one more year. Although Brian Robiskie (WR, 6-3, 195) could declare if he finishes strong.
Others to Watch (Seniors):
Kirk Barton (RT, 6-5, 312) Senior leader on a mauling offensive line. May not have the athleticism to play tackle at the next level. But has the size and strength to be a project RT or RG at the next level for a man-blocking scheme.
Larry Grant (OLB, 6-1, 238) Junior college transfer who got a shot due to Hawk and Carpenter leaving. Has been a solid player, but over shadowed by Laurinaitis and Freeman. Late round/undrafted prospect.
Who is Lloyd Carr? If this were Jeopardy the answer would have been "College coach who does less with more talent on a yearly basis". Michigan consistently produces some of the most exciting offensive players, while running the most pedestrian offense. Produces top defensive talent, while getting exposed scheme wise on Saturday.
Take a look around the NFL and you find Michigan players, look at the top recruiting classes every year, and you find Michigan in the top 10. Take a look at most disappointing team at the end of each college season and you find Michigan near the top of the list.
Carr had a strange hold on the Michigan boosters up until the Appalachian St. game this year. Sure there were rumblings going into last year, but an excellent run going into the THEO game eased the pressure on Carr. Then Appalachian St. and Oregon exposed Michigan again, and the writing seems to be on the Wall for the end of the Carr era.
The NFL draft will be littered with Michigan players again this year, as NFL teams once again will look past the lack of results on the college gridiron and base their rankings on the results at the NFL level of Michigan alumni. Leading this year’s list are:
Jake Long (LT, 6-7, 315) This years "Next Orlando Pace" Long appears to be the complete package at LT. Both an excellent pass and run blocker, Long looks to be the 1st Olineman off the board this year, and is almost a lock for a top 5 pick.
Long has excelled in Michigan's zone blocking scheme the last 2 years. Engulfing DE, getting down field on LB's and dominating whomever tries to rush the QB against him. Due to the fact he played in a Zone scheme, can he translate his success to the NFL if asked to perform in a Man scheme? That is the only question in his game.
Long is the unquestioned Leader of the Wolverines, as both Henne and Hart waited for Longs decision on whether or not to return for his senior year before making theirs.
Chad Henne (QB, 6-2, 225) Being a Michigan QB almost guarantees you a shot at starting in the NFL since Jim Harbaugh was at the helm. Henne now holds every Michigan record of note and the most talent of any Michigan in recent memory.
So why isn't Henne regarded as the top QB in the draft? Simple, scheme and injuries.
Henne has been handcuffed by the offensive scheme that Carr runs the last 2 years. Sure he wasn't ready for a wide-open offense when he was forced into a starting role as a freshman. But with the incredible offensive talent around him the last two seasons, there is no excuse for Michigan not opening up the playbook.
But instead, Michigan ran the same 10 plays over and over and Henne has had an injury riddled senior year.
IMO, Henne has the physical and mental ability to be a top 15 starter in the NFL. He will most likely never reach the level of a Manning or Brady, but with the right cast around him should be better than most of the QB's in the NFL. His future is brighter than his past.
Mike Hart (RB, 5-9, 195) The third part of Michigan's senior offensive tri-umber ant. Hart is Michigan's offensive MVP. When he is healthy and plays the Michigan offense is markedly better than when he is on the bench. Hart never fumbles, and almost never goes down on the 1st hit. Hart plays much bigger than his size, at the college level.
However, going into the draft, NFL teams will not be willing to overlook his size. This is nothing new for Hart as he has always been told he isn't big enough. But the injury bug has hit him this year, and NFL teams will use that as justification to downgrade Hart. Hart has put up 1st round RB numbers as a college player. But his size and injury history will most likely drop him into the 2nd round.
Shawn Crable (OLB, 6-5, 245) Crable is all over the field for the Michigan offense. He is their defensive playmaker. However I have two question marks for Crable to address in order to step up his game to the pro level.
Crable can be run at. If you run away from him he will track you down, run at him and he tends to get caught up in the blockers. Can he get stronger at the point of attack?
Crable, due to his athleticism, is allowed to freelance in Michigan's defense. Often with great results, but also opening up the field for the occasional big run. Can he adapt to being a system performer?
Someone will pick Crable early, most likely late in the 1st round, but their is plenty of homework to be done 1st.
Since this is most likely Carr's final season as Michigan coach, you can also look for most of the top juniors to declare instead of dealing with a new HC. At the top of the list is junior:
Mario Manningham (WR, 6-0, 185) Michigan's playmaker at WR enjoyed a breakout year last season. Manningham emerged on the seen as Henne's favorite target after Edwards moved on to the NFL. Manninghan looks bigger and faster on the field than he is listed. And his ability to stretch the field keeps defenses playing Michigan honest.
Manningham's draft stock will rise or fall based on his 40 times during draft season. He could go as high as mid 1st round, or as low as mid second. He has millions of dollars riding on his performance in shorts. This system rocks.
Other to watch (Seniors and Juniors likely to declare)
Adam Kraus (G, 6-6, 305) You would have to scan pretty far down most draft boards to find Kraus, but a zone-blocking scheme is going to take him much higher than projected.
Jamar Adams (S, 6-2, 210) Always seems to be around the ball, but often a step late. Another player who needs to run well to solidify late 2nd round status.
Brandent Englemon (S, 6-0, 200) May have earned himself a draft pick due to his breakout game against Illinois.
Terrance Taylor (DT, 6-0, 310) Should stay for senior year, but may declare early due to coaching shake-up.
Tim Jamison (OLB, 6-3, 255) Tweener DE/OLB prospect, should also stay for senior year.
Well I may have gone a little long here, but it is the game I look forward to most in college football every year. And it’s my blog so fuck off, if you don't like it read something else.