Saturday, November 17, 2018

2018 Michigan gameday #11: vs. Indiana

It's a chilly November Saturday in Ann Arbor, textbook "football weather", and it's also Senior Day.  Players such as RB Karan Higdon and DL Chase Winovich will be playing their final game at the Big House, so it's sure to be an emotional day.  Add to that the almost guaranteed early departure of star DL Rashan Gary and the very possible draft entry of transfer QB Shea Patterson and you've got a number of key guys who'll be basking in the sights and sounds one last time.

They'll join their Michigan (#4) teammates on a 9-1 squad that still hasn't lost since week 1 against Notre Dame.  This week they're facing a 5-5 Indiana team looking for one more win for bowl eligibility, though they'll likely have to wait until their final game against Purdue for that.  They'll have to match up against the Wolverines, who were in complete control at Rutgers last week, other than one big run bust that led to the Knights' only points.

Of course, history is still against the Hoosiers in a series that's seen Michigan win 57 of 66 games, not to mention 22 straight since a loss in '87.  That and they're up against a team with conference and postseason aspirations.

I expect an Indiana team searching for one more win to try to keep things close early with Michigan limiting the playbook and trying to keep players healthy.  Still, the Wolverine offense has been getting it done week after week and should be able to do so one more time against a pretty bad defense while the Michigan D does its usual job of stifling the opposition.  This game should end with a return to double-digit wins for Jim Harbaugh's team and a huge matchup in The Game next Saturday.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

2018 Michigan gameday #10: at Rutgers

Yeah, I'm not gonna take this week's gameday post too seriously because the opponent definitely doesn't warrant any effort on my part.  Michigan will be heading east to New Jersey, home of a number of their best players, for a 3:30 game against 1-8 Rutgers.

The Scarlet Knights opened their season with a 35-7 win over Texas State, but since then they've lost eight straight with an average score of 36-12.  They managed to hang in there for a couple one-score losses in conference play, but realistically they've been awful.  Their QBs have combined for four TDs and 17(!) interceptions.  Michigan fans have created a term for the hamblasting above, in which the opposition had fewer yards than the Wolverines had points; they call it a "Rutger".

So let's ignore the cupcake and talk about the Wolverines, whose record is the inverse of Rutgers' (8-1) and have climbed all the way to #4 in the playoff rankings.  Convincing wins like last week's demolishing of Penn State will do that for you.  That 42-7 victory marked the third straight week Michigan faced a ranked opponent and beat them by two scores.  In fact, if you add up the three games with PSU, Wisconsin, and MSU, you get a score of 101-27.

Michigan's rolling and that freight train isn't stopping this week.  The real victory would be getting out of Piscataway healthy, with a bonus mission of reps for the backups.  Then game 11 with Indiana looms, a Senior Day matchup that should go the way of the Wolverines.  They have a very good chance of going into Columbus at 11-1 playing for a spot in the conference championship, and pending the result of the Buckeyes' game in East Lansing this afternoon that may not even be a must-win.  November football is once again high stakes here in Ann Arbor and I'm loving it.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

2018 Michigan gameday #9: vs. Penn State

A fun thing that happened 16 years ago #AlanBranchKillsQBs
It's the biggest game of the year (this is not a repeat from Wisconsin and Michigan State) as the Michigan #revengetour continues during today's 3:45 matchup with #14 Penn State (6-2).

The #5 Wolverines (7-1) are still riding high on a nice hot streak and are coming off a 21-7 thrashing of Michigan State two weeks ago, plus a bye last week.  The defense was once again as advertised in dominating the Spartans, holding them to under 100 total yards, and the offense did enough to make things comfortable at the end.

Now Michigan gets a visit from coach James Franklin's Nittany Lions.  His team lost in consecutive weeks to Ohio State and Michigan State, a pair of defeats that are largely on his shoulders due to his increasingly incomprehensible calls.  They've played three decent opponents in OSU, MSU, and Iowa, with the latter being their lone win against a quality team.  Michigan will definitely be their toughest remaining test, one that they may struggle to pass without stud RB Saquon Barkley. 

Meanwhile, Michigan surely won't look past PSU as they anticipate easier games at Rutgers and vs. Indiana before heading to Columbus for The Game.  The offense will be tested by a good DL and group of DBs while the D will have to account for the legs of QB Trace McSorley.  The book on him this season has been to force him to throw, and that's likely what Don Brown's #1 defense will do.

As usual a two-score spread belies what I think will be a fairly close game unless the Wolverines find a way to blow things wide open.  Regardless, a win today would put the Wolverines in the driver's seat for some interesting postseason play, pending the result on November 24.  I hope to see my guys grind them into paste Alan Branch-style.


Saturday, October 20, 2018

2018 Michigan gameday #8: at Michigan State

Image result for michigan state football riot
What can I tell you that you haven't already heard?  It's #6 Michigan, with six straight wins after the opening loss to Notre Dame, headed up to East Lansing to face another rival, the 4-2 Spartans, ranked #24 despite a 4-2 record thanks to a fluky win at Penn State last Saturday.  It's a trophy game, there's stakes, and the animosity is high.  It's also a series dominated by Michigan (69-36-5) despite what those who pull for Michigan State will tell you as they put on their blinders and limit their world view to the last decade.

Indeed, MSU has won eight of the last ten, a period of success matched only by the 1950s and 60s, when the Spartans took advantage of a dormant program in Ann Arbor to go 14-4-2.  Then Bo came on the scene and things got back to normal; from his first year coaching the Wolverines through the last year of Lloyd Carr Michigan went 30-8.  The RichRod and Hoke years weren't as kind to the Maize and Blue with Michigan State once again on the rise.

But, as today's MGoBlog Punt/Counterpunt feature will remind you, this is a simple rivalry where, aside from a few flukes (a bad snap, a cheating clock operator, refs ignoring blatant pass interference, etc.), the better team wins.  So let's let it come down to that.

There were moments in last week's huge victory against Wisconsin that the game looked like it was up for grabs.  Michigan left some points on the board thanks to missed opportunities, and led by just six at halftime.  But the defense held, limiting the Badgers to a garbage time TD late after the coaching staff inexplicably packed it in early.  The dominance of a team with a quality offensive line was a great sign for Jim Harbaugh's guys and that continues the roll they've been on since getting knocked down in week 1.

Meanwhile, State has plenty of question marks on offense besides a pretty good QB and one excellent WR, plus a defense that can handle runs and not much else.  This is a team Wolverines fans love to beat because of conference championship goals and bragging rights, not to mention shoving it in the face of perpetually grumpy hypocrite coach Mark Dantonio, who owns a dictionary with the word "consequences" crossed out.  But as with Maryland, even though it can't erase the shameful results of a toxic environment, there's some feeling of satisfaction a win can bring.  It's frustrating that the corrupt, tone-deaf administration in East Lansing is allowed to continue to operate, but at least defeating its sports teams can deal a blow to the ignorant apologists.

That's a lot to say for one simple message:  just win.  There will be no getting "outcoached", no excuse that one team was "unprepared" or "unmotivated".  The better team will win today, and I hope that results in my Wolverines bringing Paul Bunyan back to Ann Arbor where he belongs.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

2018 eBay purchases: is there Henne chance I can finish this in five minutes?

Yep, I'm doing the five minute post thing over here too because, why not?  I'm betting if I allow myself to be ok with shorter posts I'll write more often.

And anyway this is a good time for it since I have a single card to show off, my only eBay purchase so far this month, which I won for a bit under $12 shipped:
This here is a 2014 Prestige Cyan Plate of my favorite football PC guy, Chad Henne.  I'd had my eye on it for quite a while before giving myself the green light as the seller also had a card I was chasing for a trade package.  I didn't win that one and its free combined shipping bonus, but I was still very happy to add another Henne 1/1 to my collection.  That's #7 (hey, his jersey number!) and leads my football collection by a lot since he's the only guy for whom I've nabbed more than two.  It also represents hit #120 (also a huge lead) and my 113th total plate/one-of-one.  I also noticed as I was updating my PC page that Henne continues to creep closer to Charles Woodson for the #1 spot in terms of my football player collections.  I mean, he may as well top all the lists, right?

Showing a Henne card is particularly relevant this week as Michigan prepares for the annual battle with Michigan State.  Chad was partly responsible for the insane triple-OT comeback win against the Spartans during his true freshman season of 2004.  He also tossed three TDs in another overtime victory in '05, three more in a three-score blowout in '06.  Henne finished his Michigan career against MSU with a game-winning pass to Mario Manningham in the 2007 matchup in East Lansing, one four he tossed in the four-point victory.  Yep, he never lost to the couch-burners!

It's definitely been more than five minutes, but once again at least that got me to post!  I'll leave you with a scan of the base version of this card as well as the Yellow Plate which I also own.  Half the plates are mine!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

10-7-18 show report: a winning Wolverine weekend

As I said in my TMV show post today I couldn't make my usual trip to the monthly show in Taylor last Saturday.  I wouldn't have gone anyway--it was a college football Saturday--but I especially didn't because Jeff and I were taking in the whupping Michigan put on Maryland in the Big House.

So instead I finally went to see my favorite dealer at the show he runs down in Toledo.  It's not a long drive for me at all (roughly 45 minutes), and other than dealing with the possibility of Ohio's asshole cops and speed limits for babies, it's a nice little trip.

I mentioned on TMV that I dropped $4 on 40 dime box singles, $18 on dollar cards, and added three others that bumped the total up to a fair $30 even.  Here you'll get to see those latter three cards along with a pair of dollar deals.  On a Sunday where Ann Arbor is celebrating a dominant win over Wisconsin in prime time, here's an all hit edition of some Wolverine winners!
Going alphabetically I'm starting out with the biggest card on the day, and the second Amara Darboh hit I added last weekend, with the first coming from Jeff.  From Panini's 2017 Phoenix, it's an Orange parallel of the Rookie Jersey Autographs set, numbered 037/150.  Already my eighth hit of the WR, it's also my third that pairs an autograph and relic, and I actually have a ball/auto card from the same product to go with it.  I suppose I have less competition for Michigan stuff in Ohio--even Toledo, which is more like Michigan, really--so that worked out for me.
The card above was joined by this pair to round out the group that increased my total from $22 to $30, and I'd pay $8 for this trio in a heartbeat.  I mean, I did, but I'd do it again!  I was thrilled to find this pair of Michigan uni autographs of former Wolverine FB and touchdown vulture Khalid Hill, a.k.a. "the Hammering Panda".  I was looking forward to collecting his cards even before he became a very entertaining Twitter follow.  He was a huge part of Michigan's success in 2016, one of the most automatic short-yardage runners for first downs and TDs I can remember in Ann Arbor, plus a punishing blocker to boot!

The pair hails from Panini's always excellent (at least for college collectors like myself) Contenders Draft Picks product, one that's 100% focused on my favorite type of first-year card.  The one on the left is the base version and therefore also a RC while to its right you can see the Red Foil parallel, with the foil being the only difference (e.g. no serial numbering).  I'm proud to make the Hammering Panda the 215th member of my football collection!
Next up I have two player collection guys, one of which hits an "almost milestone" with the other does reach a new mark.  First is the guy whose name you see on this here blog, Mario Manningham.  My 199th overall card of the amazing WR is also hit #83, meaning I'm almost to his #86 jersey!  He continues to be #2 in the hits collection behind Chad Henne and now has a six-card lead over #3 guy Jake Long.

I had zero issue with dropping a buck on this very nice Giants blue swatch from '08 Rookies and Stars' Studio Rookies Materials set (#025/250).  I mean, numbered cards and cheap relics are right up my alley.  Now I just wonder what card #200 will be?
Last up today is a guy who has to share his card with a couple other former RBs.  I finally nabbed my milestone-making 50th hit of Anthony Thomas thanks to today's other $1 card, a 2001 Fleer Legacy Triple Threads triple jersey.  A-Train had the best pedigree as a second-rounder that year with Jackson and Barlow both being selected in the third, though Barlow had the most statistical success of the trio.  Still, Thomas is the main attraction here, and I'm glad to have hit the half century mark finally.  Now I just need to get seven more hits of former teammate David Terrell to even them up!

Until the next show, GO BLUE!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

2018 Michigan gameday #7: vs. Wisconsin

Image result for wisconsin football logo
It's crunch time in Ann Arbor, and I don't just mean the leaves on the ground as fall has arrived in full force.  We've reached the toughest three-game stretch of the season for the Wolverines:  today's game, a trip to face Michigan State, then a return home against a Penn State team that will likely remain ranked.  5-1 Michigan (#12) has won five straight, including a trio of conference games, since the opening week loss to Notre Dame.

Last week's homecoming tilt with Maryland went quite well for the Wolverines, as Jeff and I can personally attest.  All three phases got it done besides a special teams TD and a couple garbage time scores, and QB Shea Patterson had what was probably his best game since migrating to Ann Arbor.  Plus that hurdle by Ben Mason (a FB!) was ridiculous.

Now Michigan has to deal with its first ranked team since week 1, #15 Wisconsin, who are 4-1, though as usual for the Badgers the devil is in the details.  Their win at Iowa was good but the preceding week they fell to a mediocre BYU team, and the rest of their schedule is weak as usual.  Penn State is their only real challenge remaining as the enjoy their annual feast of the Big Ten West.

Aside from some health issues on the defensive line Michigan appears to be catching the Badgers at home at a good time.  Wisconsin brings their usual beefy OL, video game stats-compiling RB, and above average QB to the table, but a below-average defense beset by injuries and an away night game against a humming Michigan team make this a tall challenge.  That likely explains the two-score spread, though I have a feeling this one will finish closer than that.  It's crazy for me to believe that the series between the teams has been absolutely dominated by Michigan, which leads 50-15-1.

So rest assured I'll be nervously watching tonight at 7:30 EST, and hopefully I'll be treated to one of the biggest wins of coach Jim Harbaugh's tenure at Michigan!