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A college sports blog from The Oakland Press, dedicated to covering Michigan and Michigan State athletics as well as former Oakland County athletes at other schools.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Little Caesars Pizza Pizza Bowl example of unneeded excess in college football

Despite all its flaws, I like the college football bowl system in Division I. Maybe not the system itself, but the games. They do a great job showcasing more teams and players, allowing more teams to finish their seasons on a high note on national TV, which improves their brand and recruiting — thus in many ways improves the quality of college football across the board. It's a March Madness feel without the playoff reality (I'm currently 6-1 in The Oakland Press office pool by the way, which is another reason for optimism).
Having said that, there's too many. While it's hard to convince a corporate accountant of this, just because a sponsor is willing to underwrite a game doesn't mean it should exist. Sorry, but that includes the Little Caesars Pizza Pizza Bowl in Detroit (by the way, if it must exist, it should be called the Crazy Bread Bowl). The herd needs to be thinned.
This year's participants, Western Michigan (7-5) and Purdue (6-6) both are below average football teams. Winning six games in a college football season is so easy Eastern Michigan can do it. I saw both the Broncos and the Boilermakers play in person this year and flashes of a few of their other games on TV. Western has a nice quarterback-to-receiver combo in Alex Carder and All-American Jordan White. That's it. Purdue can point to Drew Brees and Cliff Avril and say 'They went here'. That's it. The Broncos didn't beat a single team with an over .500 record this season. Neither did Purdue.
Bad football in Detroit is outdated, remember.
Save the argument that it's good for the downtown area. Even with two relatively nearby opponents, that crowd is going to be sparse. And I'm not just picking on the Motor City Bowl (excuse me, the Pizza Pizza Bowl. I momentarily forgot Detroit's auto companies got their financial priorities in order). It's just an example of the bowl excess in college football. I've attended one Motor City Bowl — it was in 2007 when Purdue beat Central Michigan 51-48 as quarterbacks Curtis Painter and Dan LeFevour put on an offensive show. It was without question the best game in the bowl's history. I could have lived without it. I will say LeFevour was fun to watch, and Central deserved to be in a higher bowl that year but got stuck at Ford Field for attendance and other monetary reasons. Yet, it was nothing more than two really good QBs tacking advantage of really bad defenses. In other words, mediocre to bad football.
At minimum, the college bowl field should be cut to 25 games (it's at 35 this year). That's the top 50 teams in the country, in theory, playing in the postseason. That's more than enough. Also playing Wednesday are Louisville and North Carolina State in the Belk Bowl (If you didn't know, Belk is a department store. It's the fourth sponsor for this game). Get your popcorn ready. Or, you could do what I'm doing and make other plans.

Yet, for those who do care, here's a preview of the game out of Kalamazoo

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Recruiting wars heating up for Wolverines

While the Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech is set for just after the new year, the Michigan coaching staff is also fiercely preparing to make the team better for next season.
Newly named Ohio State coach Urban Meyer wasted little time making a recruiting splash when he snagged star recruit Se'Von Pittman away from Michigan State this week. It's representative of something Michigan athletic director David Brandon said was unfair, in that Ohio State is currently allowed to employ two coaching staffs. The current staff led by Luke Fickell is preparing the team for its bowl game against Florida while Meyer's incoming staff is allowed to hit the recruiting trails with no other distractions. However, the Wolverines are recruiting, and recruiting well.
Here's some news from around the web:

Meyer, who was Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison's old boss at Florida — including when they won a national title together in 2006 — called Mattison one of the best recruiters in the country. Brady Hoke has also shared that opinion time and time again since Mattison's hire and Mattison himself said during the preseason that one major factor in him deciding to leave the Baltimore Ravens for Michigan was his love of recruiting. He also expressed full confidence in his, and the entire staff's, ability to recruit top-ranked players to Ann Arbor. Mattison declined to talk about his time working for Meyer in a recent article for

Three prized recruits have indicated that Michigan is at the top of their lists as Signing Day approaches in February. Top 10 recruit Stefon Diggs (Maryland), who is being recruited as an "athlete" could be in a Michigan uniform next season. Diggs has taken just one official visit, which was to California but is far from committed.
Cornerback Yuri Wright (New Jersey) is ranked as the third best defensive back in the country and is a 4-star recruit. Mattison's recruiting skills and system could give the Wolverines an edge in landing him.'s recruiting page says Wright is planning on attending the Sugar Bowl.
Offensive tackle Joshua Garnett (Washington) has already taken an official visit to Michigan and would be another great piece to add to an already impressive incoming group of offensive lineman. Read more about these recruits and see game highlights in this article from The Bleacher Report.

According to, Michigan has the second-best recruiting class in the national already, behind only Texas. The Wolverines have 23 verbal commits and are expected to land a few more before Signing Day. See more info on Michigan's recruiting class along with additional players the Wolverines are pursing on's football recruiting page.

The Wolverines will look a little different when they take the field in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl Jan. 3. Michigan will unveil new uniforms for that game, which will be white-based because the Wolverines are technically the road team. The uniforms are a modified version of the legacy uniforms Michigan wore against Notre Dame and Michigan State. See a photo of the jersey's from The Michigan Daily.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

MSU's Worthy, Michigan's Molk named first-team All-Americans

Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy came into the season with sky-high expectations. Michigan center David Molk had a little less fan fare (which goes with the territory of being an offensive lineman, particularly a center). However, both ended up on the Associated Press first-team All-American team today.
Worthy has been projected some NFL Draft experts to be as high as a first-round pick, but hasn't made a decision or announcement on whether or not he'll return to East Lansing for his senior year. Worthy said he'll make that decision after the Spartans face Georgia in the Outback Bowl Jan. 2. Worthy totaled 25 tackles and 3.5 sacks this season.
Molk became the first AP first-team All-American from Michigan since Jake Long in 2007. Molk as won the Rimington Trophy, given to the nation's best center. Molk and Worthy were on the only selections from Michigan or Michigan State to be named to the AP's first or second team. Western Michigan wide reciever Jordan White was named to the third team. White was placed on the third team despite leading the nation in receiving yards with 1,646 on 127 catches with 16 touchdowns.
Other first-team selections from the Big Ten include Wisconsin's Monte Ball (RB) and Kevin Zeitler (OG) along with Illinois' Whitney Mercilus (DE) and Penn State's Devon Still (DT).

Friday, December 9, 2011

Detroit Mercy appears to be burning bridges with in-state teams

If you're looking for a modern day symbol of the historical rift between the City of Detroit and its Michigan surroundings, the men's basketball program at University of Detroit Mercy might be it. It appears that either the Titans are burning bridges with in-state schools, or those schools are choosing to cast them aside.
Detroit beat Western Michigan 92-81 at Calihan Hall Thursday night but it will be the last time the two teams play each other for a while, as Broncos coach Steve Hawkins announced he's ending the 18-year series between the two schools. While Hawkins hasn't made specific comments on why he's opted not to renew the deal with Detroit, reports from the Kalamazoo Gazzette indicate that he's upset over how current Titans Juwan Howard Jr. and LaMarcus Lowe, both former Broncos, ended up playing for McCallum and the Titans.
Lowe, from Flint, is now a senior at UDM after transferring there sighting mostly family reasons following the 2008-2009 season. Howard Jr., from Detroit, joined his former Bronco teammate after last season and is currently sitting out the year in Detroit. At Detroit's media day earlier this year Howard Jr. said his decision to transfer was purely about basketball and his confidence in the direction of the Titans program.
There's no reason not to believe that. Under the direction of McCallum, the Titans basketball program has steadily improved. Detroit was a popular preseason pick to win the Horizon League this year and despite early-season troubles, the Titans still have a strong chance of coming through on that prediction. With remolded facilities, including the newly-named Dick Vitale Court, along with a regular TV series on Fox Sports Net Detroit and some nationally televised games coming their way, everything about Titans basketball is on the upswing.
However, the rift with the Titans is not exclusive to WMU. There's been a long-time grudge between UDM and Oakland as well. Those issues extend long before McCallum's arrival, but they've been amplified since. The Titans were supposed to restart a series with the Golden Grizzlies last season, but opted out late in the process, angering OU coach Greg Kampe.
There was early speculation that because both Oakland and Detroit are part of this year's ESPN BracketBusters the Titans and Grizzlies would play this season, but Kampe squashed those rumors by saying he'd refuse to play at Calihan Hall.
"We said we won't play them if it's a BracketBuster," Kampe told Matt Pocket and Bryan Everson on WXOU's "The Greg Kampe Show" last week. "We're not playing them there. They owe us a game. They can come here and play us and everything will be all nice again, but until (then) it's not going to happen. We just said if they pair us up with Detroit, we're not going."
Detroit does not regularly play Michigan or Michigan State either, however there are rumors of a regular series starting between the Titans and Eastern Michigan -- now coached by Detroit native Rob Murphy.
Another indicator that links this issue specifically to the Detroit men's basketball program is that the school regularly plays other state schools such as Oakland and Western Michigan in other sports, including women's basketball.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Led by local talent, Wayne State has chance to shock Division II football

Grand Valley State is no longer the dominant Michigan team in Division II football. The Lakers are down, and my goodness are the Wayne State Warriors ever up.
Wayne State is just two wins away from what would be a shocking Division II title. The Warriors (11-3) will travel to unbeaten Winston-Salem (13-0) for a semifinal game Saturday.
Much of the Warriors' talent has been drawn from Oakland County. In total, Wayne State has 21 players from Oakland County, several of whom have made a major impact.
Senior running back Josh Renel of Rochester Adams has tallied over 2,000 all-purpose yards and 14 touchdowns this season and is a Harlon Hill Award candidate (the Division II equivalent to the Heisman Trophy). Sophomore linebacker Ed Viverette (Birmingham Brother Rice) is a key contributor on defense with 69 total tackles and 7 1/2 sacks as is former South Lyon standout and WSU cornerback Anthony Baskin, who also contributes on special teams. Senior left tackle Joe Long from nearby Lapeer East recently won the the Upshaw Award for Super Region 3, which makes him a national finalist for the award given to the best lineman in Division II.
The players who took a chance on a downtrodden and frankly irrelevant program just a few years ago now have a shot to reshape the Warriors' image.
"It really has been an emotional roller-coaster ride," Renel said. "When we finally saw our name on there (the playoff bracket), it was really a second chance."
The Warriors have made the most of that opportunity.
Just making the playoffs, which they barely did less than a month ago, was a first-time accomplishment for the program. Wayne State lost 43-42, in overtime, to Findlay on the last game of the year -- finishing 8-3. Somehow, the Warriors not only got into the Division II playoffs, but have since reeled off three consecutive road wins including an upset over D-II power Minnesota Duluth last week.
"Losing the last game (to Findlay), you're thinking it's over," said safety Jeremy Jones, who has nine interceptions on the year, three of which came in an upset playoff win over Nebraska-Kearney. "It's very surreal. It's gone by so fast."
Jones, from Rockford High School, was named Division II Defensive Back of the Year this season.
Wayne State coach Paul Winters went 4-16 in his first two seasons after taking over the program in 2004. The talent cupboard was bare and the program's brand recognition extended little further than its stadium placed awkwardly off the highway in what will never be mistaken for the entertainment district of Detroit.
The perception of Wayne State football will change drastically if the Warriors cap off their already improbable run with a national championship. Winters isn't looking ahead though.
"It's hard to talk about what we've done... We're still in the process of doing it," he said.
With mid-December set to arrive and the onslaught of Division I college bowl games about to kickoff, what Wayne State has been able to do in its playoff run should serve as a reminder of what Division I teams are missing.
The chance to do the improbable. Just lining up, winning games and staying alive for another week. That's the way it should be and that's what's happening at Wayne State right now.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this post

Here's more news on the Warriors from around the web:
Warriors a tough team on the road -- The Winston-Salem Journal

Jones resist temptation to quite, finds success at Wayne State -- The Detroit News

Wayne State has built a football winner -- The Detroit News

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Spartans have done enough to earn national respect, but haven't demanded it

Michigan State safety Isaiah Lewis dove right underneath the leg of Wisconsin punter Brad Nortman to draw the penalty that costs MSU the game Saturday night, but in reality that kick went straight to the Spartans' gut.
Lewis' running into the kicker penalty, on a punt that was returned by Keshawn Martin inside the Wisconsin 10-yard line, denied MSU a Big Ten championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl. No luck this time for the Green and White.
It was a horrible call. While by definition Lewis did run into the kicker, that call can't be made in that circumstance. Officials should not take the fate of the game out of players' hands. Let 'em play ref. Let 'em play.
It's a shame, really. Michigan State outplayed Wisconsin Saturday and deserved to win that game. What's going to compound the heartbreak for the Spartans is that this game -- more specifically that penalty -- has cut the legs out from what was a program-defining season in East Lansing. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio wants so badly to be able to change the national image of Spartan football. He also believed whole wholeheartedly that this group of players was the group that was going to accomplish that. It's the reason for the "Little Giants" play call last season against Notre Dame. The reason he showed not the slightest bit of surprise when Kirk Cousins connected with Keith Nichol on the hail mary that beat the Badgers earlier in the year and why he called a fake extra, which was successful, early in Saturday's game.
This team, which features a senior class that has won more games than any other in the history of MSU's program, was supposed to finish on top -- at least in the minds of everyone associated with it. Michigan State even went as far as to put Rose Bowl perihelia up around the football complex this week, including Roses in the players lockers. That's the type of confidence this team had.
Yet, entering Saturday's Big Ten championship game, MSU was listed as 9.5 point underdogs to Wisconsin -- despite beating the Badgers in the regular season and finishing with the best record in the Big Ten.
Somehow, that logic rang true. The underdog Spartans did what the "experts" said they would do. They came up short.
"This is a good football team. This is a good program and their tired of being disrespected," MSU radio announcer and former Spartan quarterback Jim Miller said Saturday night.
They've got to be getting tired of losing big games, also.
While a Vegas betting line might not offend the Spartans, getting left out of the BCS pool should and likely will.
"We are the winningest program the last four years in terms of Big Ten conference games," Dantonio said prior to the championship game. "We're 24-8. We're 14-2 in the conference the past two years, so hopefully we're changing that thought process a little bit... I think we're changing perceptions as we go."
That being said, there's not a BCS bowl executive or board member in the country that would rather have Michigan State in its game over a more prestigious football school -- such as Michigan. In many ways the Spartans are the equivalent to a basketball mid-major when it comes to the top ranks of college football. The only way they're going to get respect is if they demand it. If they leave no doubt. Beating Wisconsin Saturday night was an opportunity to do that. I believe Michigan State should get an at-large bid to the BCS. In my mind the Spartans are one of the top 10 teams in the country. But it's no secret that is the minority opinion.
Instead, the Spartans will likely end up in either the Capitol One Bowl or the Outback Bowl against either Arkansas or Georgia. Until next year at least, Michigan State is still Michigan State. And like Saturday's performance, that's just not good enough.