Don't look now, but the Michigan Wolverines are probably headed back to being #1 again. They swept a series on the road against the Northern Michigan Wildcats, and paired with a one-point weekend for Colorado College, Cornell getting smoked by Darmouth, and Maine losing to New Hampshire, it looks like the Maize and Blue are headed back to the top of the rankings, just in time to see Wisconsin and Minnesota come to town. Our only hope is that the voters like what they saw out of Wisconsin, taking 3 of 4 points from CC, and move them over us up to #1.
I didn't get to listen to very much of the 3-1 victory on Friday night, as I was working the Michigan volleyball game, but it sounds as if Billy Sauer had an excellent night. He earned himself another start on Saturday and by several accounts was the difference in the 4-3 overtime win. The NMU homers didn't make him a star of the game, but WTKA gave him the third star. Brandon Naurato was the obvious choice for #1 (with 2 goals including the game winner) but NMU gave it to Contois. Apparently both goals Naurato scored were of the "You'd like to have that one back" variety, but if you shoot the puck on net, good things happen.
It sounded like Sauer was outstanding once again, stopping at least 3 breakaways. It's a little disturbing to me, though, that there were so many quality chances for the Wildcats. Part of that is probably the big ice again, but we've hung our goalie out to dry plenty of times on the small ice too.
We had two more players ejected for hits from behind, thankfully neither was given a game DQ, so both Turnbull and Bailey can play against Minnesota. Porter continues to play well, and Kolarik netted another goal this weekend. The Wolverines' power play scored in both games, and they've now scored a PPG in all 11 games to start the season.
They now get a week off before a crucial weekend against Minnesota and Wisconsin, which I imagine has some severe Pairwise implications. The Gophers have been a pretty schizo team so far this season, but Wisconsin has been rolling as of late. It should be a pretty fun weekend. I don't know how I'm going to make it through the next 2 weeks--which will include a trip to Kentucky--before they faceoff.
The Wolverines now stand alone at the top of the CCHA standings with 11 points, following Miami's loss to LSSU. Ohio State is a surprising last place, and it's not due to them having played less games, because they've played 6 in conference already. You've gotta think that they've already kissed their conference championship hopes goodbye. They've lost 4 games already, and Michigan only lost 3 CCHA games all of last year. Granted the Wolverines set a record for points in the conference, but short of running the table, I think Ohio State might have already played themselves out of the race for the regular season championship at this early date.
Michigan football had--as Brian would call it--a "functional DNP" against Indiana this weekend that was never really in doubt. Indiana scored on their opening drive and then--as I predicted in the crowd--didn't come close the rest of the game (until the scrubs came in). Gotta love that first drive defense...give up 80 yards on the first drive, then about 80 the rest of the game.
From the crowd, it seemed like Henne was pretty on the ball. He missed on a couple of throws for sure, but you're not going to hit on every single one. He was pretty close to perfect throwing the outs and the timing routes and had several throws that were just gorgeous. Apart from maybe the first half against MSU, that was the closest he's been this season to the Henne from last year. Grady did a nice job running, in limited opportunities and Breaston went 2005 Rose Bowl on the Hoosiers, though no one can figure out why he cut that punt return back to the east side of the field when he had a clear path to the endzone. I feel like there was one other time when he cut the wrong way or he would've been gone.
The second half was uber-boring and I paid attention for all of about 3 plays, but in the first half it was nice to see the Wolverines open the playbook, giving OSU a lot of looks to think about. You gotta believe that they're cooking something up for Antonio Bass next week. I'm not sure what it is, but they're planning something. I wondered aloud when we might see the throwback to Henne, since it hadn't come out yet this year, and darn if they didn't run it about 5 minutes later. Breaston made a terrible throw, or Henne had a LOT of running room. Gotta love that play.
I always say that if I could pick any team that I root for to win a championship, it'd be Michigan hockey. And a big part of that is because I'm in Ann Arbor, I go to every game, and if they win a title, I'd be there. It'd be incredible. But today taught me that the team I care about most is still the Green Bay Packers. The injuries have been a big joke to me, since there's no team in the league that could overcome what the Packers have gone through and they've pretty much derailed at least a decent football team. That being said, every loss this season has just made me ache. I hate watching them be 1-7, and I can't imagine what everyone went through in the 70s and 80s watching this every year, because it just makes me hurt.
Today felt great though. What a performance out of this team. I think it converted a lot of people back onto the "Don't fire Mike Sherman" side of the fence, because there aren't a whole lot of teams in this position who would come out with the effort that this team came out with (and has come out with every game this year). They fight for every game, even though their playoff hopes have been all but over for 2 or 3 weeks.
Jim Bates has done absolute wonders for that defense. They held the NFL's #1 rush offense to 133 yards on the ground, which is 50 yards below their average and they never trailed in a game that they were probably close to double digit underdogs in. The knock against the defense all year has been the lack of turnovers, but they came up with 3 fumble recoveries today and put the offense in good field position a couple of times. Nick Barnett had his best game of the year. Brady Poppinga has a ton of speed and Thornberg was a heckuva pickup for the special teams. Those two just prove Fisher DeBerry wrong. I can't say this enough: No matter what happens in the offseason, Green Bay has to find a way to keep Bates. He's an absolute miracle worker and I can't wait to see what he can do with a few more pieces.
Samkon Gado. What can you say about that kid. He rushes for 100+ yards and scores 3 times in his first start? Yikes. I still don't know that he's a starting-caliber running back, but he definitely can play in this league. The line looked much better with Wells in there for Klemm. I wonder why they didn't pull the trigger on that move sooner.
Basically at this point, you're just looking at positives for next season. I think they've definitely found one in Gado. Antonio Chatman has proven that he can be a pretty darn capable slot receiver. And they're getting a lot of looks at some good young defensive players that will make an impact on this team in the future. They dressed 13 rookies today. If you're going to have a season that has this much go wrong, then at least a lot of youngsters are getting valuable live-game experience. 4 games down in the division with 7 games to go is probably too much to overcome, but I guess crazier things have happened, especially when they get to play the division-leading Bears twice still.
Overall though, I'm just going to enjoy the ride and hope this isn't the last I'm going to see of Brett Favre, because he deserves to go out on a better note than this, and I really feel that they could be right back in contention next year. This guy makes a really good case for why Favre should actually be the MVP right now. He changed the headline of the article and toned it down a bit, but the point he makes rings true. The guy is doing it with a CFL team around him. They showed a lot of heart today, and they showed everyone that they're not the laughing-stock that their record would indicate.
Oh. And Kurt Busch is a douche bag. He got cited for reckless driving outside Phoenix Speedway Friday night and Roush racing suspended him for the rest of the season because of his confrontation with the officer that pulled him over (and probably the fact that there was at least some alcohol involved, and he's damn lucky the Breathalyzer broke). Since Busch is joining Penske Racing South next year, that officially ends his time with Roush. "We're officially retiring as Kurt Busch's apologists effective today"?? That was in the Roush Racing press statement? Yeah, I'm sure they're sorry to see him leave the team next year. That's a ballsy move out of Jack Roush, since Busch was one of the Chase For the Cup drivers. Even though he was pretty much out of contention for the title, that's still quite a bit of money he's leaving on the table by taking him out of the car. Kudos to him for making that move. Now if he'd do something about his other prick of a driver, Biffle.
And Tony Stewart is gonna win the title again. Yippee. He seems to be less of a prick this year, and honestly, I'd probably rather see him win it than Busch or Biffle, but I hate seeing that guy do well. Hopefully Jimmie Johnson can pull something out, but if Stewart even lands a Top Ten at Homestead, I think he has it locked up.
And next weekend there's a 500 mile go kart race in Brazil that guys like Tony Kanaan, Dan Wheldon and Bryan Herta will be driving in. I'd love to see that on TV somewhere. Last year, Kanaan, Wheldon, Felippe Giaffone and Rubens Barrichello won the race. I'm sure all the amateurs that were racing just loved seeing three IndyCar veterans and one of the premiere F1 drivers racing on the same team. Can't wait to see how that one turns out. Hopefully Speed will cover some of it, but I doubt it.