3 Keys to Michigan’s Final Four Run

3 Keys to Michigan’s Final Four Run
3 Keys to Michigan’s Final Four Run

Whether you expected it or not, Michigan is back in the Final Four for the first time since 2013. The Wolverines have defeated Montana, Houston, Texas A&M, and Florida State to make it to San Antonio. While this might not sound like the most arduous road, March Madness is wild, and to win four games against any teams in the field is impressive.

Think of all the teams that came into this year with high expectations that didn’t make it this far. Duke, Michigan St., and Arizona were all preseason favorites that didn’t sniff the Final Four. Arizona and Michigan St. didn’t even make it out of the first weekend. Virginia, the consensus No. 1 seed, was blown out by UMBC (a 16 seed). The point is, March Madness is a crazy and unpredictable tournament; so reaching the Final Four is an incredible milestone no matter the circumstances.

Winning the NCAA tournament is straight out of hell. You have 6 games between 3 different cities, but if you play a bad one night, it’s a flash and then boom.. your season is over. People don’t grasp that it’s the hardest title to win in sports.

— ✖️isaiah!✖️| 4️⃣5️⃣ (@FourWitTheFive) March 26, 2018

Now, many will call Michigan’s run so far lucky, or benefiting from not playing any blue bloods. While they were lucky to avoid North Carolina and Xavier out of the West Region, they still defeated the teams who upset the aforementioned teams. Admittedly, Michigan has only played its best in 1 out of 4 games so far, but if anything that should be chilling to their remaining opponents. Michigan hasn’t played its best, yet here we are.

Michigan showed some rust but eventually fought off a bad Montana team. After that, they had a down to the wire thriller with criminally under-seeded Houston. And again, I’ll never get tired of showing Jordan Poole’s game-winner:

JORDAN POOLE FOR THE WIN pic.twitter.com/oIyDXJ3ZgW

— Michigan Sports Zone (@MichSportsZone) March 18, 2018

After surviving Houston, Michigan throttled Texas A&M in one of the most lopsided games of the tournament thus far. This was the one game where Michigan truly played well in all facets. In the Elite 8, Michigan fought off the stingy, upset-minded Seminoles to earn a trip to San Antonio. Let’s delve a little deeper and see what have been the keys to Michigan’s run so far.

Defense, Defense, and More Defense

This Michigan team does not fit the mold of a typical John Beilein team. They aren’t dependent on the 3, and they don’t view defense as an afterthought.

In the NCAA Tournament, Michigan held Montana to its worst offensive outing of the year, Houston to its fourth-worst, and FSU to its worst. And Texas A&M? They lost by 27.

— Drew Hallett (@DrewCHallett) March 25, 2018

As Drew Hallet stated above, Michigan’s defense has been unreal this season. The typical Beilein mold has been shoot first, ask questions (on defense) later. However, another important facet of what makes Beilein a great coach, he admitted his shortcomings this year with the hire of Luke Yaklich. Beilein gave Yaklich the keys to the defense this season, and boy has it paid off.

According to KenPom, Michigan ranks 4th in adjusted defensive efficiency. This is by far the highest of any John Beilein-led team. The last one of his teams to rank in the top 40 in adjusted defensive efficiency was, you guessed it, the 2013 team.

Michigan has held its opponents to 59 ppg and a meager 37% from the field in its 4 games so far. The defense all starts with Zavier Simpson. His ability to neutralize the opponent’s primary ball handler is huge. And trust me, this is not a fluke. Simpson has been hounding opposing guards all season long since he took control of the starting job. In the postseason alone he has shut down Cassius Winston, Carsen Edwards, Rob Gray, and TJ Starks. In those 4 games, Simpson has held his counterparts to a paltry 28.8% from the field.

The defense goes beyond Simpson though. Charles Matthews is a lock-down defender. Isaiah Livers has sacrificed his offensive contributions to be a stalwart on defense, especially in rebounding. MAAR has been solid, and even Duncan Robinson is much improved. The only relative weak spot in the defense is Wagner. His propensity for picking up stupid fouls is troubling and mitigates his offensive capabilities at times.

John Beilein on Mo Wagner

“Don’t give him too much credit. He still has some of the dumbest fouls I’ve ever seen. And he’s so important to us. And I’ve got to find a German way to tell him that fouling is stupid. So, maybe out there somebody can tweet that to me.”

— Dan Feldman (@DanFeldmanNBA) March 2, 2018

If Michigan can continue to play stifling defense in San Antonio, they will have a great shot at winning the title.

Offensive Balance

The beauty of Michigan’s offense (if you can find beauty in a team’s that’s averaged only 70.5 ppg in the tournament), is that it’s not reliant on just one guy. It’s not like Michigan teams of old who relied on Trey Burke, Caris Levert, or Derrick Walton Jr. to carry the offense. Now, that’s not to say they’re “win-by-committee” like Florida St. either. It’s pretty clear that Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Moe Wagner are the go-to scorers. MAAR’s unparalleled ability to finish at the rim and Wagner’s ability to stretch the defense are two major facets of the offense.

That’s not to say that Michigan relies on these two guys, however. Let’s go back to the Round of 32 games against Houston. The play that produced Poole’s glory shot was actually drawn up for Rahkman. Michigan actually ran the exact same play against Maryland down the stretch. In that situation, Rahkman was fouled and hit two clutch free throws to beat Maryland. His willingness to pass to Poole, however, is indicative of the balance Michigan boasts on the offensive end.

Another great example is Michigan’s play down the stretch against Florida State. With the game on the line, the ball was not forced to MAAR or Wagner. Instead, Simpson beat his man 1v1 for the easy deuce. On the very next possession, Simpson again beat his man and kicked it to Duncan Robinson for the dagger 3.

Another telling stat of Michigan’s offensive balance? They are 28-0 when Duncan Robinson scores 6 or more. It’s not just one guy that carries the load. Charles Matthews was virtually invisible in the latter stages of the Big Ten season. He’s now averaging 16.8 ppg in the NCAA Tournament. Jordan Poole went from being the hero against Houston to playing 2 minutes against FSU.

The maturity and unselfishness on the offensive end have certainly contributed to Michigan’s success so far.

Swagger and the Desire to Win

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s just a different feel to this Michigan team. If you would’ve told me at the beginning of the season that this Michigan team would have the most wins in school history (32 and counting), I would’ve called you crazy. Now, however, it doesn’t look all that crazy.

The growth and maturity of this team is a testament to the great coaching staff Beilein has assembled. This team looks completely different from the identity-less team that put up 51 in horrid performance at Northwestern. They’re a world away from their blowout loss to Nebraska early in the Big Ten season. The unselfishness of this team and the willingness to sacrifice for one another has elevated this team to the next level.

3 Keys to Michigan’s Final Four Run

Now, it’s great that this team has bonded over the course of the season, but the thing that sets them apart is their fire. Sure everyone wants to win, but have you ever seen a Michigan team this in tune with their emotions? Wagner produces elite facial reactions on a daily basis. Jordan Poole throws up gang signs and dances on the bench. The bench goes crazy for a walk-on’s chance in the spotlight.

What a moment for @baird_cj. Started as a student manager and turned into a walk-on as a freshman this season. Can now say that he made a three-pointer in the Sweet 16. The bench’s reaction makes it so much better, too. pic.twitter.com/YCOEmA1gUi

— Josh Poloha (@JorshP) March 23, 2018

The swagger of this team is unmatched. John Beilein even admitted it. For an under-the-radar, calm and collected coach such as Beilein, his Wolverines sure are playing with a championship-level passion to succeed.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it. Michigan’s defensive prowess, offensive balance, and “overdose of swagger” have been the keys to their tournament run so far. If they can continue to execute at a high level and put these three things into practice, we could see a 3rd banner being raised this year in Crisler. For latest updates on Michigan sports news you can download MLive.com App from any APK download site.

DRW Game Recap, Game 74: Bye Bye Bye (Wsh 1, Det 0)

DRW Game Recap, Game 74: Bye Bye Bye (Wsh 1, Det 0)
DRW Game Recap, Game 74: Bye Bye Bye (Wsh 1, Det 0)

Ladies and gentlemen, with this 1-0 loss to the Caps, the Red Wings have been officially eliminated from playoff contention for the second year straight for the first time since 1982-1983.

The Red Wings lose, 1-0 to the Washington Capitals. Kind of a “meh” game, if I’m being completely honest. I was switching to the NBCSN while the Michigan basketball game was at commercial or halftime, and what I saw wasn’t the most inspiring play of all time. That pretty much defines this season.

Let’s get into the recap.

1st Period

The starting goalies, Jimmy Howard, and Philipp Grubauer stopped all shots faced in the 1st period, leaving the game at a scoreless tie after 20.

2nd Period

The two ‘tenders kept that effort up through the second 20 as well, stonewalling the other team’s shooters to keep the game tied at 0.

3rd Period

The Capitals would be the first team to capitalize (pun intended)on one of their opportunities about a minute over a quarter of the way into the third. Brett Connolly finished off a 2-on-0 rush, scoring on a close-range opportunity with literally no Red Wings’ defenders in sight.

That would be the first and only goal of the game, as the Capitals take this one 1-0 and pad their lead in the Metro.

Eliminated

The Red Wings, after losing their streak of 25 straight playoff appearances last year, have once again been mathematically eliminated from contention in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. For us Red Wings fans, it is still going to be a little weird not watching hockey in April. 25 straight years will do that to you. I think we’re all hoping that we don’t have to get too used to it because it’s not too fun. It sucks pretty bad, actually. Just like the Wings this year.

An interesting note, with the Chicago Blackhawks, also getting eliminated a few days ago, this year’s playoffs will be the first since 1969 in which neither Detroit or Chicago was playing playoff hockey. Some other things that happened or were happening in 1969 were the Vietnam War, the introduction of the draft into military service, the moon landing, Woodstock, and the recording of Beatles’ album Abbey Road. The 1969 Ohio State Buckeyes, dubbed “the best college football team of all time” were upset 24-12 in their final game of the season by Bo Schembechler’s Michigan Wolverines. Any Red Wings/Michigan fans who are old enough to remember that game are old enough to remember the last time that this happened.

The NHL had just expanded to 12 teams two years prior in 1967. The Montreal Canadiens won their second straight Stanley Cup and the 16th in their franchise history. Serge Savard won playoff MVP.

The Wings and Hawks won a combined 7 Cups during that span(all of them have come in the last 21 years, though). It was a heck of a run for both teams, and although we love to see the rival Blackhawks ousted, it puts an end to this incredible streak.

Player of the Game

Jimmy Howard will earn player of the game for his performance against Washington. Howard stopped 25-26 Caps shots for a .962 sv%. Howie played a pretty good game despite not facing a ton of shots and scoring chances. Even on the goal that he did surrender, it was literally a two-on-none break for Washington. No Red Wings’ player was anywhere in sight to help out Jimmy. There wasn’t much he could do. It’s always disappointing when you see a goalie perform as well as Howie did in this one and STILL lose. Again, there just wasn’t much else he could have done that he didn’t do. Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way. When you play for the Red Wings, that happens a lot.

Game 75

@ Toronto Maple Leafs(44-23-7, 95 pts)

Saturday, March 24th, 2018

Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario

7:00 PM ET

FS-Detroit, CBC

Preview

The Maple Leafs come into their last game of the season against the Red Wings sitting 3rd in the Atlantic, the only team in the top 3 of the division that has not clinched a playoff spot yet. They most likely will clinch one soon, though, as they are very close to 100 points very late in the season. The only team that has a possibility to knock Toronto out of the top 3 are the Florida Panthers, who currently sit 14 points behind. It is still mathematically possible, but very unlikely. The actual likelihood is that we will see the blue and white in the playoffs this season, most likely taking on Boston in Round 1.

Mitch Marner leads the Maple Leafs in scoring with 63 points in 74 games. William Nylander is second with 53 points in as many games as Marner, and James Van Riemsdyk is third with 51 in one less game than Marner and Will Nye.

The Red Wings could see either Maple Leafs goaltender, Freddie Andersen or Curtis McElhinney, tomorrow night. Andersen is 34-19-5 with a 2.80 GAA and .918 sv%, while McElhinney is 10-4-1 with a 2.09 GAA and .935 sv%.

Five Takeaways From the First Weekend of the NCAA Tournament

Five Takeaways From the First Weekend of the NCAA Tournament

So everyone had the Loyola-Nevada matchup in the Sweet 16, right? My guess is probably not. But that’s why we love college basketball in March. The unexpected happens every year in that first weekend of play.

Five Takeaways From the First Weekend of the NCAA Tournament

From UMBC upsetting Virginia to Loyola’s incredible finishes to Jordan Poole’s buzzer beater, the first weekend of the tournament left us a lot of memories. Last weekend also gave a little bit clearer of a picture in terms of who the true contenders are to cut down the nets in San Antonio.

Here are five takeaways from the first weekend of “March Madness:”

Stop Discrediting UMBC

umbc-ncaa-upset-031618-getty-ftr

The Retrievers of the University of Baltimore-Maryland-County were the story of the weekend, despite being knocked out of the tournament Sunday against Kansas State.

They were the first team to ever knock off a 1 seed in 136 tries. Yet, some people aren’t so high on UMBC, and instead, are ripping Virginia.

First of all, let me just say, that I have never trusted UVA’s style of play. It’s very difficult to hold good teams under 60 points a game in a one and done setting, and they have too many stretches where they simply can’t score the basketball.

However, at the end of the day, UVA was 17-1 in the nation’s best conference. They breezed through their conference tournament and only lost two games all season.

UMBC beat Vermont on a buzzer-beating three to even get into the Dance. On top of that, they lost to Albany by 43 points earlier in the season. But somehow, UMBC went and beat Virginia by 20 points.

That is nothing short of miraculous and historical. Say whatever you want about Virginia. They didn’t come to play. But to discredit UMBC in any way, shape or form, is wrong. They beat a very good Virginia team, and they deserved every bit of credit that came their way.

Michigan Basketball Game 22 Preview: Rutgers

Michigan Basketball Game 22 Preview: Rutgers

Match-up: Rutgers Scarlet Knights (12-8) vs. #23 Michigan Wolverines (16-5) 

Date: Sunday, January 21st, 2018

Time: Noon

Location: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan

TV: BTN

Line: Michigan (-12) 

Michigan Basketball Game 22 Preview: Rutgers

Michigan basketball looks to right the ship at home on Sunday. Coming off a twenty point loss at Nebraska, the Wolverines have questions they need to answer.

Meanwhile, for Rutgers, they are coming off a nice win against Iowa. The Scarlet Knights are no pushover this year. They upset Seton Hall and took Michigan State to overtime in East Lansing.

Beilein and the Wolverines will need to play a complete game to avoid their second straight upset loss. According to the sportsbook at BetOnline.ag, the line on this game is Michigan (-12).

Rutgers

Second-year coach Steve Pikiell has some nice young talent on his roster. Although Rutgers owns a 2-5 record in Big Ten play, they have nearly pulled off some nice upsets this season. #9 Michigan State (twice) and Florida State both went down to the wire with Rutgers.

Those performances have been tremendous and are reasons to believe that Pikiell has them on the rise, but the ugly losses raise serious questions. Home losses to Stony Brook and Hartford don’t look good at all, and a near loss to Central Connecticut State at home makes Rutgers seem like a cupcake game on your schedule.

It’s dangerous to view a team like that. If Rutgers plays as they did against the Spartans, Michigan could be in trouble depending on how the Wolverines play. If they play like how they did against teams like CC State and Hartford, Michigan may as well start the team managers.

Key Players

Corey Sanders

Rutgers’ play-making point guard is going to cause problems in Ann Arbor on Sunday. He had the Breslin Center on the edge of their seats as he almost led Rutgers to an upset victory.

He has scored fifteen or more points in nine games this year and has eclipsed twenty in four of those contests.

Michigan’s point guards struggled a lot on Thursday night. Beilein even went with a no point guard look at one time. Sanders will make them pay for any mistakes made on Sunday.

Zavier Simpson must bring his A game with Sanders coming to town.

Geo Baker

Baker, a true freshman, completes an outstanding one-two guard combo for Rutgers.

He averages nearly twelve points per game and is the perfect sidekick for Sanders.

Michigan’s guards struggled all night with Nebraska. Rutgers is just as good if not better at guard, giving the Wolverines yet another chance to grow.

Deshawn Freeman

Freeman is leading in rebounds for Rutgers. He averages seven boards a game with eleven points and grabs offensive rebounds at a substantial rate.

Livers will match-up with him most of the night and will look to shut his scoring down. Livers, Teske, and Wagner need to secure rebounds and limit the extra shots for the Scarlet Knights.

Michigan has been a good rebounding team all season and that trend must continue on Sunday.

Keys to the Game

Michigan’s seniors continue to underwhelm this year. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman has struggled the last week mightily while Duncan Robinson has struggled all year. Michigan needs these guys to step up down the stretch if they have aspirations of going deep in March.

Michigan needs a leader on offense. Simpson emerged from the group of point guards up until Thursday when he looked lost against Nebraska. Simpson can prove he belongs at the point in Beilein’s offense, or he can let one bad game end his tenure as the starter.

Michigan struggled to shoot the three against the Cornhuskers, hitting just twenty-two percent of their shots from deep. Rutgers has the best three-point defense in the Big Ten and will provide the Wolverines a stiff test. Michigan needs to find their stroke again for the offense to get clicking.

Prediction

Michigan was riding high until Nebraska grounded them. Rutgers should not be taken lightly, and Beilein knows that. Sanders will light up Crisler while Michigan’s guards struggle, but it will be Moe Wagner and Jordan Poole who display their offensive talents en route to a close Michigan victory.

Prediction: Michigan 68 Rutgers 64

Staff Predictions

Emery D’Arcy: 88-64 Michigan

Jake Rossler: 61-58 Michigan

Andrew Shadler: 75-59 Michigan

Charlie Bolone: 77-61 Michigan

Seth Berry: 75-67 Michigan

Max Schnell: 79-65 Michigan

Josh Swerdloff: 71-65 Michigan

Evan Lynch: 81-65 Michigan

Michigan Basketball Game 21 Preview: Nebraska

Michigan Basketball Game 21 Preview: Nebraska
Michigan Basketball Game 21 Preview: Nebraska

Michigan meets the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Wednesday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Both teams are coming off thrilling last-second victories on Monday night. For Michigan, it was Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman who provided the late game heroics. MAAR sank two free throws with 0.9 seconds left, sending Maryland out of town with a loss. In Lincoln on Monday night, Illinois and Nebraska came down to the wire in their Big Ten matchup. Junior guard James Palmer Jr. played hero, nailing a three just before the buzzer as Nebraska escaped an ugly loss.

James Palmer Jr. sinks the contested 3-pointer to give Nebraska the victory over Illinois. (via @BigTenNetworkpic.twitter.com/zBzkq5g0ns

— SWM (@sportswm) January 16, 2018

Key Players

James Palmer Jr.

James Palmer Jr. was the hero on Monday night, but the Wolverines will look to end those heroics tonight. The junior guard leads the Huskers in scoring with 15.7 points per game and ranks in the top 3 in nearly every other category on the team. Palmer is a talented athlete, and it will be important for Michigan’s guards to limit his production tonight. Any chance at an upset for Nebraska lies in Palmer’s hands.

Isaac Copeland 

Copeland is second on the team in scoring and the leading rebounder. A solid scoring run that included a 21 point outing against Penn State ended on Monday, as Copeland could only muster two points against Illinois. He isn’t much of a threat from beyond the arc but still demands attention out there seeing he attempts three shots per game from deep. Isaiah Livers and Charles Matthews will most likely draw Copeland on defense.  Limiting his offensive rebounds and second-chance points will lead the Wolverines to success not only in the paint but on D as a whole.

Glynn Watson Jr.

Watson is another guy who is capable of filling up the basket. He went for 21 points against Penn State. He doesn’t shoot many threes and finds most of his points inside the arc. Nebraska doesn’t hit the three very well as a team, so it will be essential to limit guys like Watson, Copeland, and Palmer from short-mid range.

Keys to the Game

Michigan played down heavily against Maryland on Monday. This was apparent in how Michigan shot the basketball and protected it.

The offense looked stagnant in the first half and when guys did find open shots they couldn’t capitalize. Not only that but the Wolverines turned the ball over a lot more than we have seen from this team. This team is young, and Big Ten road games are no cakewalk. Limiting turnovers and hitting open shots early on would go a long way for Michigan.

Letting Nebraska jump out early as Maryland did is asking for trouble. The Wolverines escaped at home, but Nebraska already had one home miracle this week. We don’t want to give them two.

Prediction

Nebraska should not be written off in this game. This team has solid pieces and can be dangerous when everything is clicking. Just ask Kansas, who escaped Pinnacle Bank Arena with a 1 point victory. Michigan’s youth will once again show through early, as Nebraska will create some turnovers and easy points. A back and forth second half will scare the Maize and Blue, but Michigan’s talented shooters will score down the stretch to bury the Cornhuskers.

Prediction: Michigan 72 Nebraska 64

Staff Predictions

Jake Rossler- 76-71 Nebraska

Brendan Boyd- 79-62 Michigan

Jose Abaere- 78-70 Michigan

Max Schnell- 82-65 Michigan

Josh Swerdcloff- 75-66 Michigan

Detroit Lions Recap Week 17

Detroit Lions Recap Week 17

Ending on a positive note

The Detroit Lions won their season finale 35-11 over the Green Bay Packers. They finished the season 9-7, the first time they finished with back-to-back winning seasons since 94′-95′.

Although this is all fine and dandy, it is grossly overshadowed by the fact that they missed the playoffs for the second time in 4 years under Jim Caldwell. Even with this impressive win over a division rival, his future is still very much in doubt. He could be out of a job as soon as tomorrow.

This game, although meaningless, was admittedly fun to watch. It’s always fun to see the Lions devour the packers to pieces. It also looks like it might not have negatively affected the Lions’ draft position either, which is great to hear. It really was a win-win.

Detroit Lions Recap Week 17

The Good

  • Matthew Stafford was great on a day many didn’t want him to play. 20-29, 323 yards and 3 touchdowns. He looked like the quarterback that everyone expects him to be, which is great for any new head coaching candidate. Stafford finished the season with 4,400+ yards, 29 touchdowns, and 10 ints.
  • Ezekiel Ansah racked up 3 sacks today, which is nuts. He finishes with 12 on the season.
    Now 12.Ziggy’s really working for that contract next year ???????? https://t.co/Ykja7OFSki— MSZ Lions (@MSZ_Lions) December 31, 2017 
  • Darius Slay notched his 8th interception of the year, solidifying his place atop the league in that category. He’s been lights out all season and looks to continue to be for years to come.

The Bad

  • No words…
    #Packers recover the onside kick to start the game ????#GBvsDET #GoPackGo pic.twitter.com/KNOBJXcSNx— Green Bay Packers (@packers) December 31, 2017 
  • Whew, that running game is terrible. Wanna know who our leading rusher was? Tion Green, with 21 yards. Yikes. As a team, it only got worse… 2.4/YPC. Yeah, a coaching change might be needed just for that sole reason.
  • The offensive line wasn’t absolute garbage, just moderately garbage. Stafford was sacked 2 times but hit/hurried 16. I don’t know exactly what needs to be fixed, but my best guess is a scheme. Calling all coaches!

Game MVP

Matthew Stafford easily could have earned this award, but I feel it must go to Ziggy Ansah. 3 sacks? for the second time in a season? What madness is this?

Stat line: 4 tackles, 3 sacks, 7 hurries.

Michigan Outback Bowl Preview: South Carolina

Michigan Outback Bowl Preview: South Carolina
Michigan Outback Bowl Preview: South Carolina

Matchup: Michigan (8-4) vs. South Carolina (8-4)

Date: Monday, January 1st, 2018

Time: 12:00 pm EST

Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL

TV: ESPN2

Line: Michigan (-7.5)

For the second time in 5 years, Michigan will play South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. In the last affair Michigan ended up losing 33-28 in a close battle. The game left us all with a bitter taste in our mouth. Specifically when Jadeveon Clowney blew up Vincient Smith in the backfield.

Team Matchups:

Michigan Defense

This year the outcome will likely be a little different. Michigan’s offense falls short of being even in the conversation of being a powerhouse offense, but their defense is once again one of the best in the nation. Overall, Michigan had the top pass defense in the country.

The only worry is that at times their run defense can be lacking. They have given up around 3.5 yds/rush, and their run defense has been exposed by the better teams in the Big Ten.

Against Michigan State, they allowed 158 rushing yards; Ohio State, 226; and against Penn State they allowed 224 rushing yards.

South Carolina Offense

Not all of this is bad news though, as South Carolina has the 107th worst rushing offense in the country right behind Eastern Michigan. Their total offense sits in the same place nationally at 107. They average a mere 11.31 yds/com.

Compared to the most efficient pass offense in the country (with 200 or more attempts) they are roughly 5 yards behind Oklahoma. This is a sizable difference.

Considering how good the Michigan Defense has been, the U of M defense against the USC offense should fall advantageous to Michigan.

Michigan Offense:

Michigan’s passing game has been the epitome of this years’ team. Under O’Korn and Speight, it was horrendous. Under Peters, however, it was better.

After O’Korn was yanked in the Rutgers game, the offense immediately improved. The good news for Michigan fans is that Peters will be back for the bowl game and is 100% guaranteed the starting spot for the game.

With Peters and Higdon/Evans/Isaac in the backfield, it seems as if the Michigan offense should have no problems. Minus, of course, the O-Line, which has struggled at times this year.

South Carolina Defense:

South Carolina’s defense is mediocre and a little bit ahead of the middle of the pack. They have the 44th overall run defense and allow 11.5 yds/com.

Like I said before they’re mediocre and are nothing like the defense we saw in 2013.

Their defense is very similar to that of Purdue in terms of talent. They’ve got a couple of good guys who can make solid plays, but those solid plays don’t happen every play so they get burned for it.

Key Matchups:

Skai Moore (ILB)  vs. Karan Higdon (RB)

Skai Moore led the Gamecocks defense with 88 total tackles and 3 interceptions. He was their standout Linebacker throughout the season and as a redshirt senior was their captain.

Karan Higdon led the Wolverines in total yards from scrimmage and had the majority of touches amongst the running backs.

Seeing these two square up should be fun to watch come Monday.

Bryan Edwards (WR) vs. Lavert Hill (DB)

Bryan Edwards was the favorite target for QB Jake Bently this season, receiving 59 passes and 4 of his TD’s through the season. He’s South Carolina’s best receiver has had a couple of years of experience under his belt.

Lavert Hill had the most pass breakups of any Michigan DB this season with 7. He had 24 total tackles and was a team leader with 2 ints.

Depending how Don Brown sets it up we should see a Bryan Edwards v. Lavert Hill 1v1 at some point during the game

Keys to the Game:

  • Lockdown the South Carolina offense. This has been a key in every single game Michigan has played in this year minus the Michigan State game. If the Michigan Defense can lock it down, Michigan can win.
  • Have consistent QB Play. With Peters back, this shouldn’t be a problem, but so far this year you never know. If Peters can play decent, Michigan has an even better chance to win.
  • Keep the defense off of the field as much as possible. Having a well-rested D will continue to help in the first key and will.
  • Capitalize on SC’s mistakes. Michigan NEEDS to be successful in the red zone in order to win and this goes hand in hand with capitalizing on South Carolina’s mistakes. Michigan did this well in the first quarter of the OSU game and the first 3 quarters of the Wisconsin game, for the most part. If Michigan can do this, the game is a lock.

Game Prediction:

With a strong defense and an offense that’s close to being put back together, I expect this bowl game to go a lot like Jim Harbaugh’s first bowl game in 2016.

My Prediction – Michigan 31, South Carolina 10

Staff Predictions:

Josh Abeare – Michigan 42, South Carolina 17

Seth Berry – Michigan 23, South Carolina 14

Ryan Caldwell – Michigan 31, South Carolina 17

Josh Swerdloff – Michigan 34, South Carolina 10

Charlie Bolone – Michigan 42, South Carolina 23

Noah Starr – Michigan 23, South Carolina 27

Jake Rossler- Michigan 24 South Carolina 6

Stafford and Lions Agree to Monumental Deal

Stafford and Lions Agree to Monumental Deal

Highest Paid Player in the NFL

The Lions and QB Matthew Stafford have agreed to a 5-year contract extension. Just a month ago the Oakland Raiders and Derek Carr agreed to a 5 year $125 million dollar deal that made Carr the highest paid player in the league. As of now the exact details of the contract are unknown.

What is known is that the deal will make Stafford the highest paid player in the NFL. There have been sources that have said that the deal will be in the ballpark of an average annual salary of $27 million.

Last year Stafford led the Lions to a playoff berth despite losing future Hall of Famer, Calvin Johnson. In years that Stafford has played all 16 games, he has thrown for at least 4,000 yards. Additionally, in one season he threw for over 5,000 yards and 40 TDs.

Contracts and Extensions of the Past

When Stafford was drafted in 2009 he and the Lions agreed to a 6 year $72 million dollar deal with $47.1 million guaranteed.

Despite it being his rookie season, Stafford had a solid year. He threw for 2,267 yards with a 53.3% completion percentage. Back in 2013, Stafford resigned with the Lions with a 3 year $53 million dollar deal.

That deal made Stafford the highest paid player in the NFL at the time. All in all, after years of signing contracts, Stafford has performed good, not great, but not bad either.

Stafford and Lions Agree to Monumental Deal

Looking Ahead

By the time Stafford’s new contract is up in 2022, he will be 34 years old. He will likely still have 4 or 5 years left in his career. Although resigning Stafford in 2022 seems inevitable, most of it will depend on how he can do in the next 5 years.

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Detroit Lions’ offensive line position preview

Lions Offensive Line

Lions’ Offensive Line

General manager Bob Quinn made improving the Detroit Lions’ offensive line a point of emphasis in the off-season. The Lions acquired veterans T.J. Lang and Rick Wagner to replace Riley Reiff and Larry Warford. This was considered an upgrade on the right side of the line.

The offensive line looked to be a strength on this team until Taylor Decker was injured during mini-camps in June. The second-year left tackle suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder that required surgery. He is expected to be out 4-6 months. Decker showed a ton of promise during his rookie season.

Without Decker, this unit should still be improved from last season. As it stands, Detroit’s starters on the offensive line are Rick Wagner, TJ Lang, Travis Swanson, Graham Glasgow, and Greg Robinson.

Rick Wagner

Wagner played college football at the University of Wisconsin. The five-year pro was drafted in 2013 by the Baltimore Ravens. Wagner has great size at 6’6 and 315 pounds.

He played in 62 out of 64 possible games for the Ravens. During that time, Baltimore had an efficient offensive line. Quarterback Joe Flacco had career highs in passing yards. In 2015, Baltimore’s offensive line allowed the third-fewest sacks in the league.

T.J. Lang

Lang is finally home in Detroit after signing a three-year deal with the Lions. He’s from Royal Oak, MI. He played college football at Eastern Michigan University.

Lang spent the last eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers. He was part of the 2011 Super Bowl championship team. Lang didn’t allow a sack last season at right guard, earning him Pro Bowl honors.

Travis Swanson

The fourth-year pro is entering his third season as the starting center for the Lions. Swanson is also entering the final year of his contract.

Swanson missed the final five games of last season with a brain injury. It’s very unfortunate considering how much better he played last season. His progression showed after having a rough 2015-2016 campaign.

Graham Glasgow

Detroit Lions’ offensive line position preview
Lions Offensive Line

Glasgow got a lot of good experience during his rookie season. He played meaningful minutes at guard and center last year.

His development will be something to watch this season. He’s clearly been good enough to get the starting role over Joe Dahl and Laken Tomlinson. The Lions are going to need him to step up in a big way on the left side of the offensive line.

Greg Robinson

Robinson is getting a second chance with the Lions. He was the second overall pick in the 2014 draft by the Los Angeles Rams. He struggled mightily, ranking towards the bottom among offensive tackles in the NFL.

Robinson has big shoes to fill in Detroit. He’s replacing Decker, arguably the best offensive lineman from a season ago. He has the talent to resurrect his career with the Lions. He wasn’t drafted as high as he was for no reason.

Detroit Lions Notable Games This Season

Detroit Lions Notable Games This Season
Detroit Lions Notable Games This Season

When you read Detroit Lions prediction articles, you will see people predict them to have anywhere from four to eleven wins. Nobody knows how good this team is going to be. With that being said, here are four notable and must win games for the Lions.

Week 2 at the Giants

The Giants, coming off of an 11-5 season, look to make another run in the playoffs. With the addition of Brandon Marshall, it looks as if they are ready to come out this season running on all cylinders. If the Lions can pass this test and beat the Giants, I believe they will build early season confidence and be ready to beat other strong teams as the season continues.

Week 8 against the Steelers

The Steelers are built to win this season with the key additions of a 1st round draft pick, LB T.J. Watt, and a 2nd round draft pick, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster. With those additions coming to an already talented team, the Steelers can easily make a run for the AFC Championship. A win in week eight against the Steelers will really show the league that this isn’t the same old Lions.

Week 14 at the Buccaneers

The Buccaneers have been rebuilding since the addition of Jameis Winston in 2015. This summer, the addition of WR DeSean Jackson really makes this Buccaneers team potentially dangerous as DeSean truly complements Winston’s game. I see this as a must-win for Detroit. These are the type of games that playoff teams don’t lose.

Week 17 against the Packers

Every year this game is crucial for both teams, but this year the Lions better hope they have the upper hand and come away with a victory. The Packers picked up TE Martellus Bennett and that’s about their only major addition. Aaron Rodgers is clutch, everybody knows that. This game could very well decide the division. If the Lions defense steps up and stops Rodgers, the Lions could come away as division champs.

I believe that if the Lions can win these crucial games, they will be in the playoffs and will prove to be a scary opponent for any team.