Thursday, July 17, 2008

Know thy Opponent takeover 2008: MGoBlog

There will be no Boilermakings that week as there is a surprising dearth of Purdue-related news. One of the few highlights I can mention here is the new defensive lineman in Kris Cooke. Cooke has taken quite a circuitous route to Purdue, but it is good to see him in the fold. Unfortunately, he comes into one of the deepest positions on the team. He probably not play much this year, but with his size and three years of eligibility remaining I look for him to start making an impact next fall.

The bad news is that we did indeed lose Jordan Brewer as an academic casualty. He’s off to junior college where hopefully we can pick him back up in a year or two after he develops some more. Before he can qualify for Purdue he has to finish with at least is Associates degree from junior college, but if he sits out this year and plays only one year in two at the junior college we can get him with three years of eligibility. I don’t think we have seen the last of him, but for now there’s not much we can do about it. It’s up to him to get his academics in order.

With those small bits of news out of the way it is time to turn the blog over to someone else once again. This time Brian from MGoBlog stops by to answers some questions about Michigan. Of all the blogs in the Big Ten bloggers’ networks Brian’s is one of the best. He has devoted an enormous amount of time to the Wolverines, so take it away, Brian.

Off the Tracks:
Rich Rodriguez hasn't exactly endeared himself to the rest of the Big Ten so far. How much do you think this will play a role in the coming season in terms of extra motivation? What is your honest opinion of him?

MGoBlog: I don't think anyone is going to roll out the ball against Michigan and decide to play hard because Rodriguez is on the other sideline. Michigan's either the biggest or second-biggest game on everyone's schedule; motivation never seems to be an issue for opponents. (For Michigan... well...)

As far as my opinion: I think he's a highly accomplished football coach with no interest in reading Rudyard Kipling. I won't root for him personally like I often did for Lloyd, but I think the team will be more successful. All the stuff about the lawsuit and the snake oil and everything else is just noise. Incredibly annoying noise, but noise.

OTT: The offense is obviously the biggest question for Michigan this year. How long will it take before everything begins to run smoothly in the scheme?

MGB: Depends heavily on Steven Threet. Threet was a four-star recruit a couple years ago who enrolled early at Georgia Tech and immediately won the backup job, so he's not necessarily a schlub. But his performance in the spring was wobbly and if he doesn't perform Michigan is looking at either a walk-on or a true freshman, and likely another half-year to year of clattering around aimlessly until 2009 recruits Kevin Newsome
and Shavodrick Beaver get acclimated. Anywhere from six games to two years, then.

OTT: Will having four juniors and a redshirt sophomore on the offensive line help the transition, or will it hurt because they have so little game experience?

MGB: It'll hurt. There's hardly any experience, as you note, and there are about seven half-viable linemen outside of the true freshmen. Michigan is really banking on a lot of guys coming through.

OTT: How scared are you for the coming season? Is it possible that Michigan's bowl streak could end?

MGB: I guess you have to define scared. I anticipate 8-4 or 7-5, which in any other year would be terrifying. This year I'm just hoping to have some fun and extend the bowl streak. Said streak could definitely end, especially as the lower-tier opponents in the Big Ten load up on delicious cupcakes, which will likely mean 6-6 is SOL.

OTT: When starting offensive linemen defect to Ohio State it has to feel omewhat unnerving. Is Michigan losing it edge just a little bit? How much did Boren's comments affect the fans?

MGB: Michigan *was* losing its edge. Now it is regaining it via a steady diet of punishing Barwis workouts and profane, demeaning swearing. (Woo hoo!) I think Michigan fans were more shaken up by the departure of one of the very few returning starters on the offense than the words that followed. If anything, the 'family values' complaining and the private reaction to that softened the blow.

OTT: Switching to the positive, the defense certainly has the look of having a great year. Can they perform well enough to hold things together while the offense comes together?

MGB: I think so. Michigan returns the entire defensive line and three good corners. Both defensive ends are poised for massive breakout years, and Donovan Warren is on his way to stardom like Law, Woodson, Jackson, and Hall before him. The big question is right up the gut, as Michigan got hurt by poor conditioning and linebacker play all year and gave up tons of yards to power rushing attacks. Middle linebacker Obi Ezeh has to get better, and the defensive tackles have to help cut the holes down. We'll know early, as Utah brings 10 starters and a pounding ground game to Ann Arbor in the opener.

OTT: Along that same line, why has Michigan been the one team in the Big Ten that has been constant Kryptonite against Joe Tiller's teams? (We've had one good half of offensive football in 7 games while being ranked in the top 10 for three of them)

MGB: Some of it is plain bad luck: Shazor decapitating Dorien Bryant (Ed Note: I was there, it made me hurt) or that game (against Brees, I believe) in the rain when Purdue wideouts thought the ball was covered in Ebola. If you were to play all the Purdue-Michigan games in the Tiller era over again, Purdue would probably not be 0-fer (Ed. Note: we’re note, thankfully, we did get that one win in 2000). Some of it is questionable coaching by Tiller.

There was one year when Kirsch was tearing Michigan apart with his legs; Tiller inserted Orton, who proceeded to suck, and Purdue couldn't catch up after throwing away a few possessions. And the other part is not having a proper running threat most of the time. Michigan under Carr was always been vulnerable to spread attacks with a heavy ground component and running quarterbacks of all sorts, but very strong against one-dimensional passing attacks. (Ed note: agreed, our running game takes the day off against Michigan except Montrell Lowe in the 2000 game).

Thanks Brian, I appreciate you stopping by!

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