Monday, September 24, 2007

Around the Sports World

Since today's Michigan Hockey Preview was so short, and I don't feel like doing Kevin Porter's yet, let's take a cruise around the sports world, because there's been some pretty great stuff out there lately.

Michigan Football: Michigan has now--in the words of Ed Rooney--beating Penn State niiiine....timmmmes in a row. The natives are getting restless. To BWI's credit, most of the posters over there were directing most of their anger at Joe and Jay Pa rather than the officials. I thought for sure that we'd see a lot of complaining about Hart's last touchdown (I thought it should've at least been reviewed), but JoePa was doing more bitching than their fans. At least when I popped in over there. Some people seem upset about the PI call in the endzone and I'm not sure why. That one was completely legit. He held him when the ball was in the air. Done and done. And I mean done.

Ryan Mallett deserves all the credit in the world for his performance. He was erratic in the first half, but was dead on balls accurate in the second half. Those passes on third and long in the fourth quarter were extremely impressive for a true freshman making only his second career start.

I'm officially impressed. I'm not on the "Keep Chad Henne on the Bench" bandwagon like some people seem to be, but the future is definitely bright for this kid. He has it. A lot of people compared him to Favre, and it's easy to do, what with his arm strength and the amount of fun he seems to be having. Even if it's back to the bench in another week or two, this experience will help him a ton next year when it's his team. Instead of breaking in a sophomore QB with next to no game experience, along with a freshman running back, we've got a guy who has a couple of wins under his belt, and led the team to a victory over a top 10 opponent.

And then there's our running back. Just when I think I couldn't be more impressed by Mike Hart, he has a performance like that. If you read this blog, it's 99% that you've already seen this, but Mgoblog's piece on Hart today was just perfect. It can't be said any better than that, so I'm not going to try. But I love that kid. He's officially in my pantheon of Michigan Athletes with Jed Ortmeyer, Jack Johnson, David Terrell & his B.A.D., and whoever finally replaces Billy Sauer.

I think it's safe to say at this point that our defense is pretty good, they just have that fatal flaw that they can't stop mobile QBs or the spread. So, pretty much every other year for the past decade. And after watching the Wisconsin/Iowa game, I'm pretty unafraid of going into Madison late in the season. The fear factor goes up a little bit because Donovan can move around a little bit, but the Badgers really didn't look good. And they haven't looked good most of the year thusfar. The Citadel played them even in the first half before Wiscy pulled away in the second, like good teams typically do against Division I-AA schools ::mutter:: and UNLV almost knocked em off. Ohio State is still (somehow) the team to beat, but this team can still contend for a Big Ten Title. It seems kind of weird to be saying that after the way this season started, but I guess we've done the same thing twice before....minus the whole losing to a I-AA team.

Packers: Holy shit, they're 3-0. I'm as big of a homer as there is and I never in my wildest dreams thought that this team would be sitting 3-0 right now. 1-2 was what I expected, I could've seen 2-1, but to beat three playoff teams from last year, including the Chargers, is really impressive.

People are going to hate seeing it, but Brett Favre is going to keep being slurped by the media and rightfully so. He's playing great football right now. He's taking care of the ball--both INTs he's thrown this year were more on the receiver--and the short passing game has been extremely effective in lieu of a running game.

Plus, now we get to see what having a healthy Greg Jennings can do for this offense. He had 80 yards or so and a touchdown this week, but they didn't know he could go until the day before the game, so I'm guessing they didn't have a whole lot in the gameplan for him.

Chad Clifton deserves all the credit in the world for yesterday's game. He had a rough couple of weeks to start the season, but he was absolutely fantastic against Shawn Merriman. The guy had 2 assists, no solo tackles, and more importantly didn't come near The Legend all game.

This is a far cry from previous efforts against the 3-4 defense. And even though it was the preseason last year, this same Chargers team made the Packers look like a high school squad. It just goes to show how far this team has come in a short while.

After this win, the Packers have to become one of the favorites in the NFC, along with the Cowboys. Though the Packers have been more impressive in the early going of this season: Both teams beat the Giants, though Green Bay did it by more points and on the road. The Eagles are superior to the Dolphins, and San Diego is better than Chicago (they proved that Week One).

They still need to find a running game. Currently, they rank dead last in the NFL in rushing yards, and are second-to-last in rushing attempts. The running game did show signs of life yesterday, however, but I don't blame the coaches for sticking with the pass since it was working so well. They ran effectively when they tried it though. And after the first couple of weeks, I can see why they wouldn't want to risk possessions in the name of establishing the run, especially when the data shows you don't need an effective running game to beat San Diego.

NHL: Scott Burnside had an article about the story lines for the upcoming season, and there were a couple of interesting tidbits in there: One was that the league, it appears, has finally decided that this current scheduling format has got to go. This isn't really news, since it came out last week or the week before, but I'm happy about it nevertheless. I've hammered on the schedule plenty of times on here. It's idiotic not to have guys like Crosby and Ovechkin in every market in the league at least once. Especially when the alternative is 32 games against the Blues, Blackhawks, Blue Jackets, and Predators. Yuck.

The other thing that I found interesting, however, is that it also appears that expansion is on the way to the NHL. I think it's a bad idea because the league is pretty watered down as it is, particularly in goal, but it's hard to tell all the owners to turn down a free $20-30 million in expansion fees.

The best part of this is the cities that Burnside cited as possible destinations for the two teams: Las Vegas, Kansas City, Winnipeg, Portland, Seattle, and Houston. What do all those cities have in common? They're all west of Detroit. Which means that the Wings could finally move into the Eastern Conference where they belong. And the Blue Jackets could come too, which would mean that there would be no Eastern Time Zone teams in the Western Conference.

If expansion has to happen, I'm all for it if it involves the Wings heading East. Enough of this travel BS. You can't tell me it doesn't make a difference over the course of a season that ends up being close to 110 games between the preseason, regular season, and playoffs.

Other News: It's not just football where we own! Penn State! That makes 8 out of 11 in that series, though they have a huge lead overall. I've talked about this before, but I have a hard time believing that too many sports teams have played a schedule harder than Michigan's field hockey team at this point. They're 6-4 on the year. The wins have been against two unranked teams, along with #3, 7, 9 and 16. The losses have been to #1 (ot), 2, 3, and 3. That's brutal.

MGoBlue has an interview with Bryan Hogan, our best hope for salvation this season. His family is friends with Ed Belfour. There's no truth to the rumor that Michigan had to offer Hogan $1 billion to come to school here. Though I wouldn't complain if he gave one of these to Benedict Lerg.

The friendship also led to him training with Belfour, Ilya Bryzgalov, Evgeni Nabokov, and Vladislav Tretiak for a week or so. Not bad company to be in!

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