1. Call your shot. We are halfway through the Big Ten season (or, at least, most of us are). What will be your team's final record? Where, if anywhere, will your team be spending late December/early January? Who will win the Big Ten?
One of the hallmarks of Maize n Brew is its hopeless optimism. Even after ASU I predicted we'd beat Oregon. I was wrong, but it did nothing to dampen my spirit! Looking at Michigan's remaining schedule, there are plenty of land mines and plenty of reasons to doubt Michigan can win the Big Ten. However, looking at the records and the teams, it's either going to be Michigan or Ohio State that wins the Big Ten this year.
@ Illinois - The first trip wire is the Wolverines visit to Champaign. Any time before Zook showed up on campus you could notch this in the belt as a win. Now going in cocky will get your national title dreams crushed, right Wisconsin? Illinois runs a weird pseudo spread. It's a pseudo spread because Juice Williams can't seem to throw the ball to people in the same color jersey. This gives Michigan a better than average chance of escaping Champaign with a victory. If Williams plays like Troy Smith, Illinois probably wins. If he doesn't Michigan walks
out with a hard earned victory. Williams wasn't responsible for the bone headed interception that sealed Illinois' loss last week but the fact he wasn't in the game during crunch time is a telling factor. I think Michigan wins.
Minnesota - As Brian would say "Auto-win".
@ Michigan State - Tricky call. The Spartans are improving and they've got a coach that's not flat out crazy. Still, there are plenty of signs this team is still recovering from JLS, the Northwestern overtime loss being example 1A. Despite that, this is going to be an even more difficult game than Illinois in the sense that MSU really needs this game as a marker for not only this season but the seasons to come. Dantonio has marked this game on his calendar since day one and made it the Spartans' focus. I think Michigan's defense will get the stops Indiana and Northwestern couldn't, and Michigan's offense will be too much for the Spartans' rebuilding defense. But Lord, it gonna be ugly. If MSU beats Ohio State, I reserve the right to be really, really scared of this game.
@ Wisconsin - Less scary, but still imposing. Their defense was torched by Morelli. I'll repeat that. Their defense was torched by Morelli. This means bad things for the Badgers when Michigan comes calling. Fat running back PJ Hill hasn't been the same since pulling his groin, and then injuring it! (HA! I kill me.) Wisconsin's offense is one dimensional and their defense has played sub par all season. Unless there's a dramatic turn around in the next few games, I think Michigan will score more points in a battle of bad defenses.
Ohio State - I fear Jim Tressel. I feel no shame in admitting that. He's one of the best coaches in the country and has beaten the tar out of Michigan during his tenure. How do I think this will turn out? I'd rather not say. Every time I've picked in this series I've been wrong. Which means I keep picking Michigan. This game will depend on who has the most to lose, that seems to be the way the series has gone. I'll pick this game at a later date.
So I'm predicting 9-2 before The Game, and a January 1, 2008 bowl game.
2. How is your team's coaching situation? Clearly, this varies from school to school, with some coaches approaching retirement (Carr/Paterno), some who are just starting out (Brewster/Fitzgerald), the unique case of Bill Lynch, and others who seem to be in their primes. If your coach is on the tail end of his career, where do you see things going from here? If he's still early in his tenure, any buyer's remorse? If he's in he's somewhere in the middle, are you happy or wishing things would go a different direction? How does your view correspond to the "majority" view among your school's fans?
The Michigan fan base and Coach Carr have had a somewhat turbulent relationship this year. It's gone from "Never Leave" in the preseason to "Burn Him! Build A Bridge Out Of Him!" to "Burn Him Some More!" to "Hey, Notre Dame!" to "Leave. Leave Now," to "Okay, Maybe Don't Burn Him, But Make Him Leave," to "Hey We're Not That Bad, And He's Leaving at the End of The Year," to "He's Gonna Leave, Maybe He Can Go Out on Top."
Personally, I like Carr a lot. I think he's the type of coach I'd want my kids to play for. He's just a good man. Unfortunately, he's really taken it from the fan base this year, myself included. I really hope he manages to win out and close his great career off with a Rose Bowl win. Win or lose, I think he's done at the end of the season.
The coaching search has been ongoing, at least in Michigan fan circles, since Appalachian State. The front runners at this point are Les Miles, Jeff Tedford, Rich Rodriguez, Tom Landry, Vince Lombardi, and Jesus himself (after Notre Dame's year, I hear he's shopping around). Think of Michigan in football as Kentucky in Basketball. A spoiled fanbase. Unrealistic expectations of winning the national championship every year. Rich football history that predates integration. Media darling/bullseye. Hasn't won a MNC in 10 years. Yup, Michigan football!
I think the job will likely go to Miles if he wants it. However, if it doesn't, Tedford and Rodriguez will definitely be on the short list. Another name to watch out for is Brian Kelly of Cincinnati. He's got national championship rings at the DII level before turning CMU into a MAC champion in less than three years. He's got Midwest ties and a sterling record. Dark horse, sure, but one to watch. Especially if Cinci finds a way to win the Big East.
BONUS BASKETBALL QUESTION: If you plan to cover basketball, give us a brief outlook for your team. Who is your best player? What do you expect from the team?
Hell yeah I'm covering Basketball season!
This will be an interesting year for Michigan. For the first time since Steve Fisher, Michigan has a competent coach in John Beilein. Let's face it, we outright STOLE this guy from West Virginia. He's a proven winner as a coach and seems to be an all around great guy. I'm hoping his recruiting picks up, but it's early. The Michigan name will sell itself if he starts winning.
Beilein will likely switch Michigan from its totally uncontrolled chaos style of defense to a 1-3-1. There's going to be some adjustment time as the players get used to it, but I suspect the outcome will be a competitive team in the Big Ten Season. The biggest change will likely come on the offensive side of the ball where Courtney Sims and Lester Abram are finally gone, and a real point guard can control the flow of the game. Expect Michigan to put up bigger numbers as the season rolls on.
Talent wise, Michigan is going to be young and fast. I have concerns about Jarrett Smith as PG, but under Beilein's coaching I do expect improvement. The best player on the team last year will likely be the best player on the team this year: Sophomore Ekpe Udoh. King Udoh. Bring him meats and cheeses. For some unknown reason Amaker kept him on the bench in favor of waste-of-space Courtney Sims. Never mind, I know the reason, Amaker sucked. Udoh is a shot blocking machine with a seemingly endless motor. He's the guy every major program is kicking themselves for letting get away. Other's to watch are Freshmen Manny Harris and Kelvin Grady and Sophomore DeShawn Sims.