Thursday, August 16, 2012

2012 Michigan Football Preview

With the Michigan football season now only two weeks away and media day nearly a week behind us, here is my game-by-game break down of team 133's 2012 season.

Game One:  vs Alabama (Arlington, Texas - neutral site)

Michigan starts off their 2012 season with a bang as they face the defending national champions and look to build off of their first year success under Brady Hoke.  I'd like to think Michigan has a very good shot at competing and winning this game, but lack of depth has me skeptical.  Roy Roundtree will only have a maximum of one week of practice before the season opener due to his arthroscopic knee surgery and the wide receiving core is already pressing for guys to step up.  Denard Robinson has never seen a defense with the speed of Alabama, and a depleted receiving core is a serious disadvantage.  With Frank Clark likely out in this game due to legal issues, the revamped and rebuilding defensive line will depend on many players with little experience to hold down the trenches.  Will Campbell said this is the best offensive line he will have faced in his college career, so it looks like the Crimson Tide will be controlling the line of scrimmage over the course of the entire game.

Prediction: Alabama 31, Michigan 17

Game Two: vs Air Force

After a disappointing loss in week one, the Wolverines will get their first taste of victory against the Air Force Academy, but the Falcon will not go down with out a fight.  The Falcon went 7-6 last year with a loss in the Military Bowl to Toledo, but held their own against Boise State losing by only 11.  With Fitz Toussaint more than likely back in action, look for the Michigan offense to take over the game in the second half.

Prediction: Michigan 42, Air Force 17

Game Three: vs Massachusetts

UMass enters their first year as an FBS football program in 2012 and introduced Charley Molnar as their new head coach, but Molnar is in for a rude awakening when he and the Minutemen step foot into the Big House September 15th.  The team speed and strength of Michigan will be far too much for the Minutemen to contain, and this game will undoubtedly be a blowout.

Prediction: Michigan 52, UMass 10

Game Four: at Notre Dame

The instant classic of last year will be hard to top, but this year's game is going to be another tight one.  Michigan is a more talented team than the Fighting Irish, but the Wolverines have struggled tremendously on the road in recent years, and they'll find a way to keep Notre Dame in this game.  Notre Dame's downfall?  Not having a go-to quarterback.  Brian Kelly is leaving his QB competition open once again this fall camp instead of just handing the job back to Tommy Rees after he serves his one game suspension.  Michigan's defense will find an identity in this game and propel the team into Big Ten play with a victory.  Look for Denard Robinson to put himself right back into Heisman Trophy contention after this game as well.

Prediction: Michigan 28, Notre Dame 17

Game Five: at Purdue

After a good victory in South Bend and a bye week September 29th, the Wolverines will come out slow in the first half of their first Big Ten game against the Boilermakers making Michigan fans nervous going into the second half, but talent will finally take its toll in the second half.  Denard will lead an offense that is in top gear at this point in the season and blow Purdue off the field in the second half.

Prediction: Michigan 38, Purdue 20

Game Six: vs Illinois

This game won't be a ridiculous shootout like it was in 2010, it will more than likely be a little bit more once sided in Michigan's favor.  After countless disappointing years with Ron Zook, the Fighting Illini brought in Tim Beckman last December to take the program in another direction.  I wish him the best of luck, but not even luck will get him a victory at Michigan Stadium.

Prediction: Michigan 35, Illinois 14

Game Seven: vs Michigan State

This is the most anticipated game of the Big Ten season for Michigan, no disrespect to the Ohio game.  Four straight losses to Michigan State is unacceptable for a Michigan program, but Brady Hoke will snap that streak this year in a defensive struggle at the Big House.  Michigan State's defense ranked number one in the Big Ten last year and returns 8 of 11 starters to this year's defense.  Their defense will certainly be one of the tops in the country, but their offense is the big question mark.  Andrew Maxwell takes over for Kirk Cousins at quarterback with very few snaps under center.  Look for the Michigan offense to do just enough to pull out a victory in this game.

Prediction: Michigan 14, Michigan State 13

Game eight: at Nebraska

After a huge victory against MSU in the previous week, Michigan will suffer an unfortunate let-down and be handed their first loss of the Big Ten season courtesy of Nebraska.  The night game atmosphere and the impressive running game that the Cornhuskers possess will be too much for Greg Mattison and the Wolverines defense.  Look for Al Borges and the rest of the Michigan offense to put up points, but the other side of the ball will let the Wolverines down.

Prediction: Nebraska 35, Michigan 31

Game nine: at Minnesota

The Battle for the Little Brown Jug has hardly been a battle in recent years, and look for that trend to continue in Minneapolis.  The Wolverines won't thrash the Golden Gophers 58-0 this year, but this game will absolutely be another blow out.  MarQueis Gray and Max Shortell will continues to share snaps this year at quarterback, but once again Gray will receive the majority of them.  Gray can be dangerous on the ground or through the air seeing as he compiled 2,461 total yards last season, but the Michigan defense will be well tested at this point in the season and will make it a point of theirs to stop the dual threat quarterback after facing Taylor Martinez on the previous Saturday against Nebraska.

Prediction: Michigan 35, Minnesota 14

Game ten: vs Northwestern

Pat Fitzgerald always puts a well-coached and well-organized team out on the field, but the Wolverines will win this game easily at the Big House.  Were this game being played at Northwestern this game would be a different story, but it's not.  Michigan will be one step closer to playing in the Big Ten Championship game with only two games remaining.

Prediction: Michigan 38, Northwestern 17

Game eleven: vs Iowa

Kirk Ferentz's Hawkeyes seem to constantly be up and down, and it's hard to say what the team will look like this year.  Former star running back Marcus Coke left the program in the spring and had more carries last year than all of the current Iowa running backs combined, but the Hawkeyes do return quarterback James Vandenburg; he threw 25 touchdown passes and only 7 interceptions in 2011.  All this being said, Michigan will be too much for Ferentz and his Hawkeyes.  The running game and speed of Toussaint and Robinson will blown by the slow Iowa defense.

Prediction: Michigan 37, Iowa 20

Game twelve: at Ohio State

The most important game of them all... will not go as Wolverine fans would like.  Braxton Miller will have been in new head coach Urban Meyer's system for nearly a year, and he will be the X-factor in this game.  Miller put up impressive numbers as a freshman in his game against the Wolverines last year scoring three total touchdowns and posting 335 total yards.  With this game being played down in Columbus and Urban Meyer coaching in his first Michigan vs Ohio State football game, too many areas play to the Buckeyes' favor in this one.

Prediction: Ohio State 30, Michigan 24

Regular Season Final Record: 9-3

If Michigan manages to sneak into the Big Ten Championship with two losses in Big Ten play, you better believe Coach Hoke will have the team ready to play.  There is no doubt they will win a Big Ten Championship and head to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Miggy's making his mark

Watching the Tigers this year has been a roller coaster ride and simply unbearable at times.  Fortunately for us though, they seem to have settled in and found a level of consistency.  Consistency is the key to a 162 game season, and consistency is the reason Miguel Cabrera deserves the AL MVP over anyone else in the league (yes Rod and Mario, that includes Mike Trout).  Throughout the struggles of the first half of the season, one thing remained constant, and that was Cabrera.
Cabrera hit a 2-run walk-off home run against the Tribe August 5th

Seeing Miggy come to the plate day after day is an unbelievable spectacle.  The future Hall of Famer has such a smooth swing at the plate and somehow makes hitting a ball 450 feet look effortless.  Cabrera is once again posting phenomenal stats at the plate, as he always has as a Tiger, and his production at the plate is finally paying off; the Tigers sit atop the ALWild Card and one-game back of the White Sox for the AL Central division lead.

The way I see the AL MVP race shaping up, there really are only two legitimate contenders to win the award: Cabrera and Trout.  I know everyone keeps saying that Mike Trout should be and is the AL MVP, but I have a couple of reasons why he absolutely should not be.
Mike Trout is having a historic rookie season

First of all, if the playoffs started today, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim would not even be one of the two teams to qualify for a wild card berth.  Last time I checked, the voters consider making the playoffs a very significant part of being the most valuable player.  Actually, to be exact, the last time a player won the MVP in the American league and his team did not make the playoffs was in the year 2003 when Alex Rodriguez won his first MVP award.  Alex Rodriguez, like Mike Trout, had crazy-good numbers in his 1996 rookie campaign batting .358, with 36 home runs, and 123 RBI’s but he still managed to finish second in the MVP race.  Interestingly enough, Rodriguez’s Seattle Mariners finish second in the AL West and they missed out on postseason play.

Secondly, Mike Trout did not join the Angels’ big league squad in 2012 until April 28.  How can you consider someone the most valuable player if they haven’t played in nearly every game for their team?  Cabrera hasn’t missed a single game for the Tigers this year; that stat alone speaks for itself.  The Tigers cannot afford to take Cabrera out of their lineup, even with guys like Austin Jackson and Prince Fielder having their own MVP caliber seasons.  Cabrera is just too dangerous and too valuable in the middle of their lineup.

Enough of why Trout shouldn’t win the MVP.  Here’s why Cabrera should.  Currently Cabby is tied with Josh Hamilton for the league lead in RBI’s, he’s second in the AL in batting average with a .323 average, and he’s fourth in the league with 29 home runs.  No other player in the American League ranks in the top five of all three of the triple-crown categories.  Add 145 hits to the mix, which ranks second in the AL, and you have the most complete hitter in all of baseball.

Cabrera has committed only 9 errors at 3rd base this season
One area of the game that many “experts” expected Cabrera to hurt the Tigers was with his defense going into the 2012 season.  With the signing of Prince Fielder, Cabrera was forced to make the move back to third base.  He simply has not hurt the Tigers in the least playing third base.  In fact, Cabrera boasts a .968 fielding percentage which is second highest among qualifying American League third basemen.

Yes, there is still a month and a half left in the baseball season and many things can get in the way of Miguel Cabrera winning his first MVP award, but if he keeps doing what he’s been doing there is no stopping the big fella.  Miggy deserves to win his first MVP this year, and I’m sure this year’s award won’t be his last.