Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Tying up the loose ends from the Michigan game

First, if you're interested in downloading video of the entire UW-UM game (for some reason), one can be found here.

Guest blogger Nicole made a gut-wrenching post back in better times. Yes, the Badger defense played very well. But that post will remain long after 10-10. And fear not: the Badgers, from what I've seen, are getting respect ... from the Blogpoll voters, anyway.

UW-UM photos can be seen here. Perusing the photo archive this blogger has put together is worthwhile. The coolest shot? Giant Tigers at Comerica Park.

Mgoblog and Wisconsin Sports Rant have their say about the game.

In recruiting news, four-star safety prospect CJ Peake has made an official visit to Madison, calling UW a top-three school for him. The other two contenders are Michigan State and West Virginia. This will most assuredly be a two-horse race after Peake takes his official visit to East Lansing, as the Spartans are playing Ohio State that day.

Speaking of Ohio State, a stunningly stupid post emerges over at Buckeye Commentary. The gist: OSU's opponents, through four games, are the least penalized of any set of opponents in the Big Ten. OSU opponents also were the least flagged last year. The only reasonable conclusion? The conference hates and is out to get Ohio State. This makes complete sense, as the Buckeyes are the number one team in the nation right now, and the Big Ten is practically obligated to remove them from contention. After all, why would the conference want to produce a national championship? It makes no sense.

Lost, as always, in the Buckeye realm is a little bit of logic. So, here are a few reasons why the Buckeyes' opponents might be the least penalized of those in the Big Ten:

1. Ohio State has played, in four games, Texas and Penn State. These are higher-quality teams and, as such, don't do the stupid things that cause penalty flags to fly.
2. Ohio State is a damn good football team. Teams know that they can't afford to spot the Buckeyes unearned yards, so they play their game more cleanly.
3. The referrees are good and just and huddle up before the game, declaring that they will let borderline calls go for every team that doesn't pay its players and/or double as a work-release program.

And now, some final thoughts about the Michigan game:

* Hart is in the groove: Watching the game, I wasn't too impressed by Hart. This is a common trap that should be avoided, and the stat line backs it up: Hart rushed 23 times for 91 yards, an average of slightly under 4 yards per carry. What that doesn't tell you is that when Hart ran with the ball, he gained fewer than 3 yards only 6 times. Comparing PJ Hill's day isn't fair to begin with (20 carries, 54 yards), but it becomes worse when you consider that Hill had one carry that gained 16 yards, meaning his other 19 went for 38 yards: 2 ypc. Hart didn't have a run that went for 16 yards all day. He's not breaking big runs. He's just gaining tough yards, and he did that against a pretty respectable run defense. That's how Michigan keeps winning: when your feature back is moving toward the correct end zone 90% of the time and going at least three yards in said direction over 75% of the time, you're going to get where you need to go.

* How do you solve a problem like Mario? Manningham was the ostensible difference in this game. The kid was a highlight reel even in UM's disappointing 2005 season. He's just a nightmare for opposing teams this year. After hauling in two touchdown passes on Saturday, he's now tied for the nationwide lead in TD receptions. Given that UM isn't a one-dimensional fun-'n'-gun team, that's a statement. It sucks to lose, but it's easier to take when the guy who beats you is #1.

* Chryst have mercy: Let's talk for a second about the playcalling for the Badgers' offense on Saturday. Simply put, it was more boring than the Scarlet Letter (take that, Nathaniel Hawthorne!). That red "W" on the Badgers' helmets might well have stood for "watered-down" on Saturday. I'm not the type of guy who thinks that running the ball is boring. I'm just saying that the conventional offense simply wasn't working on Saturday. Change things up a bit! We've got track star/wide receiever Paul Hubbard on the team. Why not see what he can do on an end-around if you don't trust him to make catches in the open field? I'm not calling for halfback passes or flea flickers or anything of that nature. Just something that might -- might -- catch a defense off guard.

* Discipline: I respect Coach Bielema for wanting to take care of football-related discipline in-house, but one thing is true: you only get one chance to make a first impression. The impression that most people have, and this includes fans of the program and casual observers nationwide, is that we're on track for "just win, baby." We don't want that. We want a team that wins and does so in a graceful, gracious manner.

* And about that last minute: I like Bielema for calling the timeout down 14 and with a minute left on the clock, and I like Lloyd Carr for calling for Henne to air it out. Play sixty minutes. Why the hell not? In taking the timeout, Bielema effectively said, "This game isn't over." And Carr responded, "Huh, I guess it isn't. Better try to score again, then." Of course, the Badger defense had ten guys in the box, and Chad Henne still managed to throw an interception. Go figure.

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