Showing posts with label Rivalry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rivalry. Show all posts

Thank Your Enemy

Sunday, June 2, 2013

As the sun set on Memorial Day, many Michigan fans waited patiently for a softball game to wrap up on ESPNU. Jabrill Peppers, rated as one of the top players in the country by the four main recruiting sites, had long favored the Wolverines and made his commitment that evening. 

The commitment vaulted Michigan to the top class, up to that point, on two of the major services. The impact of Peppers' commitment is palpable considering it filled a severe position of need with one of the best athletes in the country.  

The greater impact of Peppers' commitment may still be in the works. Peppers, who labeled himself 'The Commish' after pledging to the Wolverines, immediately became the school's biggest cheerleader and recruiter. You see, while it may be a violation for coaches to contact recruits or go above and beyond the normal call of duty in the recruiting process, it is not off limits to current high school students regardless of where they are pledged to play. They have not signed a letter of intent and are not officially tethered to a school. They're just kids. The recruiting rules that inhibit coaches don't apply here. 

Peppers has made it no secret that he's been heavily recruiting defensive end and top overall player Da'Shawn Hand. He's also put in work recruiting another 5-star defensive back in Adoree Jackson and defensive end Malik McDowell.

Such is the new atmosphere of high school recruiting. Nowadays, high profile recruiting compete with each other to help their schools compete for the highest rated recruiting class. Last year it was Shane Morris putting in extra hours to help kids from around the country come to Michigan. This year it is Michael Ferns. Ferns started 'Project 135'. Every time a player commits to Michigan, he sends them a 'Project 135' shirt.   

When did this all begin? Who do we have to thank for these kids moxie in the recruiting arena? The answer leads back to the 2008 season and may not make many of you Michigan fans happy with the answer. 

The first class to actively have a top player openly recruit was the 2008 Ohio State recruiting class when they received a pledge from a 5-star offensive lineman out of Orlando by the name of Michael Brewster.  Brewster was the fifth player to pledge to Ohio State's 08' recruiting class and immediately got to work assembling his 'Brew Crew'. 

Yes, Michigan fans. I know it's hard to swallow sometimes. But occasionally that school down south does have some intelligent players with great ideas. You could argue that Brewster was responsible for bringing an additional 5(!) 5-star players to the class that included No. 1 overall player Terrelle Pryor. Sound familiar? Well, it should. It's the exact kind of class that Jabrill Peppers is trying to bring to Michigan if they were to land players like Hand, Jackson and McDowell.

That 2008 class, on paper, was very scary. That class went 3-1 against Michigan. 

The 'Brew Crew' class all pledged together based on the friendships that were built between Mike Adams and Brewster. Adams was the first 5-star to commit to Ohio State that year. He wasn't as active as a recruiter as Brewster, but it was his pledge and bond with Brewster that ultimately led to Brewster's commitment. From there, things snowballed. Adams was a teammate of Jake Stoneburner. Brewster began texting and calling Stoneburner hoping to get his pledge to the Buckeyes. Stoneburner was good friends with another 5-star player named DeVier Posey. After Stoneburner committed, he began working hard on Posey. Later, through the camp circuit, Brewster was able to befriend J.B. Shugarts and Andrew Sweat. Those commitments fell like dominoes for the Buckeyes. Sweat and Brewster began putting in serious recruiting on the crown jewel of their class. 

Sweat had been a longtime friend of another 5-star athlete by the name of Terrelle Pryor. Pryor, who at the time was labeled 'The Next Vince Young', would have a recruitment that lasted a month and a half after signing day. The battle was down to Ohio State and Michigan. Rich Rodriquez was offering the chance at instant playing time. Tressel and Company were offering a similar depth chart and the opportunity to play with the crew that he'd built such solid relationships. Pryor chose Ohio State and the rest is history. 

While their legacies won't be cemented in the same lore as Ohio State's 2002 national championship team, the current trend in recruiting and the landscape of high school kids heavily recruiting other high school kids, can be tracked back to Brewster and his 'Brew Crew'. 

Jabrill Peppers, Ferns and fellow commit Wilton Speight have their sights set on the No. 1 recruiting class in the country. Over the next couple of months, we will see if 'The Commish' and company achieved their goal. But for this journey to even be possible, we have to thank our enemy for the blueprint of success. 

Smack Talk & Tattoos

Monday, November 19, 2012

It's Oh*o State week, and yes I refuse to spell out the name completely. 

In 1897, the rivalry began. Over one hundred years later, in 2000, it was named by ESPN as the greatest North American sports rivalry. 

This is not just a game. This never was just a game. Because on 22 occasions, Michigan and Oh*o State played to decide who would be B1G Conference champions. It's affected the determination of the conference title an additional 27 times. From there, roses are on the line.

Photo courtesy of

The "Ten-Year War" began in 1969, when Woody Hayes' former Assistant Coach, Bo Schembechler, was hired as The University of Michigan's head football coach. The Buckeyes brought in a 22-game win streak that was deflated by a defensive battle and a 60-yard punt return to set up a touchdown, and in turn, a Michigan win. In 1973, both teams entered undefeated. Four times during the War, Michigan and Oh*o State were both ranked in the AP top five. Six times the teams shared the B1G title. Oh, and there was that infamous quote by Woody Hayes… it had something to do with filling up for gas. 

Photo courtesy of

Then there was the Carr/Tressel era. When Tressel took over, he beat Michigan twice in a row; the second of which was decided on the last play of the game. Michigan struck back at the 100th meeting, winning 35-21 in Ann Arbor. In 2006, each team entered with an 11-0 record. The day before the matchup, the legendary Bo Schembechler died. The Buckeyes won the game, that could have been called an offensive battle, 42-39. There was a brief moment where the possibility of a rematch for the BCS title game was possible and even a reality… but then something happened with the state of Florida.

Photo courtesy of

All in all, there's a history. This year, it's two schools and two new coaches. As history has shown, there really is no "offensive" or "defensive" battle. It's all out war. Oh*o State enters this match-up undefeated. Michigan, despite three tough road losses, has shown the ability to switch things up when needed. The good news is that there's another set of two this year: Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson. Or as I like to call it, double-trouble. If the Iowa game was any foreshadowing: Al Borges has a few tricks up his sleeve with these two. Will the Buckeye defense be able to stop Denard playing as a slot receiver? Will they even know which one is going to get the ball on the snap? Guess we'll have to wait and see how well their football players are at reading. And if I remember right, Cardale Jones wasn't too fond of classes.  

Enjoy your rivalry week Wolverines,

Bust a nut. Beat a buckeye. 

Deebo Knows: Pay No Attention to the Spread

Monday, October 15, 2012

Revenge. Redemption. Payback. Paul Bunyan. Those are the words that are on the minds of the Wolverines and their fans as THE RIVALRY WEEK is upon us. Those words seem like a very possible reality for Team 133 as the two teams that will square off on Saturday appear to be heading in different directions.

The Spartans (4-3, 1-2 B1G) appear to be crumbling as they suffered a heart-breaking loss to a putrid Iowa team at home on Saturday. Add the fact that the week before they barely squeaked out a victory against Indiana and struggled against EMU a few weeks prior and you have a floundering football team.

Meanwhile, the Wolverines (4-2, 2-0 B1G) put a gigantic maize and blue boot in the behinds of a not-so-great Illinois squad to the tune of a 45-0 massacre after "shocking the world" (or at least Kirk Herbstreit) by embarrassing Purdue on the road the week before. They are hitting their stride and booming with confidence at the right time.

As a result, Michigan opened up the week as a huge 11.5 point favorite for Saturday's game. The spread has now dropped to 10 which, in my opinion, is still way too high. Wolverine Nation should not buy into this absurd line...mentally or monetarily. Let me explain.

First and foremost, let's all remember who coaches the Michigan State Spartans. Yes, the man with the biggest maize and blue chip on his shoulder...Mark "The Red A**" Dantonio. He has a complete and utter disdain for Michigan. Hate is definitely not a strong enough word to describe his anti-love for the Wolverines. As a result, he puts quite an emphasis on this game every year and thus has them uber prepared and fired up for this contest...every...single...year. I expect nothing less this year nor should anyone else. Especially after they were embarrassed on Saturday by Iowa at home. He will have the Spartans, angry, determined, and desperate knowing a win against their arch rival is key to salvaging their disappointing season. They will be coming out swinging...count on it.

Second, Michigan State still has a very formidable defense. The group is number one in all major defensive categories in the B1G. It is also a defense that for the past three years has completely shut down Denard Robinson and the Michigan offense.

I am not going to waste my time throwing out the blatant statistics. Anyone who has watched the last few games in the rivalry knows that defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi's "Spartan Dawgs" have lined up and punched the Wolverines' offense in the mouth. It has looked like full grown Pitt Bulls against Shih Tzu puppies. It is THE team that has mapped out the blueprint on how to stop "Shoelace." Many of the players who effectively stymied his play previously will be taking the field on Saturday. It will be up to Denard and Al Borges to prove they can figure out how to bite back. I truly believe Robinson will be incredibly focused on beating the Spartans in his final try and will play his heart out. We'll see if he can keep calm and play within himself and not try to do too much.

The Spartans are the inverse of the Wolverines of the Rich Rod Era. While they tout an incredibly stingy defense, their offense is pretty pedestrian (I am being P.C.). They're pretty bad. No, I am not being a Michigan slappy or a "Walmart Wolverine," that moniker still holds no water to any intelligent sports fan but I digress, I am calling it like it is.

Anybody who has watched the Spartans in the last few weeks will tell you they are anemic offensively. Once again I am not going to throw out the glaringly supportive statistics, I am simply going with the eyeball test. Their receivers are young and drop a ton of balls, Maxwell is still fairly inexperienced and makes some questionable decisions, their offensive line is banged up, and they live and die with LeVeon Bell. With that said, Maxwell, statistics aside, has shown he has the potential and physical tools to get the job done and Bell is an absolute horse. With a struggling air attack, they will feed Bell the rock constantly and force the Michigan defense to match their physicality and stop it. While the UM defense has dramatically improved in recent weeks, they have yet to step up to the Spartans' challenge in recent years. It will be up to them to keep that struggling Spartan offense from breaking out and give their own offense as many possessions as possible.

Don't think I am being a Negative Nancy and thinking the Wolverines will lose the game. Quite the opposite. I fully believe the Wolverines will play inspired football in front of their home crowd and break "The Streak." They look like the more complete team and are motivated to get the MSU monkey off of their backs. However, I am not buying the huge spread that Vegas is selling, nor am I jumping on the Train of Overconfidence that many fans are currently riding. This is a rivalry game, and in the past, no matter how good or bad the teams have been, it is typically a close, hard-fought game. I expect nothing different here.

The Paul Bunyan Trophy has made a home in East Lansing for four years now. It basically has changed its area code to 517. Its keepers, the Michigan State Spartans, a.k.a. "Spartan Dawgs," will be rabid, desperate, angry, and foaming at the mouth to ruin Michigan's chances at a division championship. Dantonio, Narduzzi, and Co. will see to it that MSU gives Team 133 all it can handle on Saturday. Buckle up for another exciting chapter of this civil war because bringing Mr. Bunyan back to the 734 area code will not be easy.

**You can also find this blog, as well as blogs regarding ALL DETROIT SPORTS, at You can also follow me on Twitter @adamdibart.**

The Notre Dame Disease

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Notre Dame Disease
by Mark Lennox

It’s that week again. Notre Dame Week.  The first rivalry game of the season for Michigan. The buildup to this game will have a little more zest thanks to the Irish thoroughly dismantled Michigan State in East Lansing. Pundits nationwide are quickly anointing the Irish as one of the dark horse contenders for the season. Given their schedule, if they were to go undefeated (they won’t), you’d have a hard time keeping them out of the hunt.

Realistically, however, Notre Dame should not be worth the sudden hype.  No. No they should not. Just like Michigan, Notre Dame often gets a lot of its recognition based on its name and past accomplishments alone. Michigan was rated way too high going into the Alabama game this year with so many holes that needed to be filled but that didn’t stop prognosticators from ranking Michigan No. 8 going into the season.
It’s the Notre Dame disease. A disease of the mind where pundits and fans overrate schools based on their name. This arena is flooded by people who think Notre Dame has a place at the table simply because they are Notre Dame.

Let’s just forget that Notre Dame hasn’t had a 10 win season since 2002. It doesn’t matter that their record in bowl games over the last 10 years is 2-10 and have gone 0-3 in BCS bowl games. They look in the mirror and see that golden dome and believe that they matter. Looks can be deceiving. Just because Snooki THINKS she looks good in Cheerleader shorts that say “Juicy” when she walks out of the house doesn’t mean that the rest of us think that.

Where Notre Dame has gone wrong and will continue to go wrong is thinking that your name actually means something. Notre Dame cannot and will not win any games this year because of that clover on their helmet. In fact, in post-World War 2 America, Notre Dame is one of the most mediocre programs in the history of College Football. I won’t go into it to the depths that this guy did but he does point out that a lot of Notre Dame success, like Michigan’s took place during an era where segregation and discrimination affected a team’s success.

Truth be told, nobody cares what your name is. Nobody cared who Alabama was when they went 27-31 from 2001 to 2006. People care now, because Nick Saban has built a machine in Tuscaloosa. Their name sounds a lot better with two national titles in the last three years next to it, but Alabama was still just Alabama with bad coaching prior to that. Nobody rolled over for the Crimson Tide because they were the Crimson Tide.

Don’t think for a second I’m thinking we’re more high and mighty. Michigan fans have been negligent in this process as well. During the RichRod years and the last few years of the Carr era, the Wolverines tried to win games based on the “We’re Michigan, we should win” strategy. Appalachian State didn’t care. Oregon didn’t care the following week. Ohio State didn’t care for seven consecutive years.

Many Notre Dame faithful believe that college football glory is not only their entitlement but, damn it, it’s their birthright. From the snide little leprechaun, to Touchdown Jesus, to Tom Hammond claiming that a rainbow was specifically shining down on Notre Dame when Kyle Rudolph scored the “game winner” only to see Denard and Company march down the field and break their hearts…again.

Michigan fans are arrogant, yes. But Notre Dame fans make Michigan fans look like the most humble human beings on the planet.

I asked a coworker who is a diehard Notre Dame fan how they expected to beat Michigan this week despite having a wide receiver playing safety and no other conceivable talent in the defensive backfield. His response: “They’re Notre Dame, they’re more talented.” No, sir, they are not.

There comes a point in time where you have to look in that same mirror and say “This isn’t working.”  Making an effort to say ‘We need to actually join a conference instead of feigning independence’ would be a start. Playing nearly 50 percent of your games in the ACC without taking on the ACC moniker is just another feeble attempt at hanging on to some ideal that had it’s death rattle in the late 1950s.

While I’m incredibly apprehensive to announce Michigan’s return to national prominence, I like where they’re at a hell of a lot more than I do Notre Dame because I believe in results on the field. Last time I checked, Michigan has broken Irish hearts three years running. 

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