ALDLAND takes you live to Ohio State-Michigan in Ann Arbor

ALDLAND will have a presence on the ground at this weekend’s Ohio State- Michigan game in Ann Arbor. According to widespread commercials promoting this game, the annual meeting between these two rivals is known as “The Game.” I have attended this game many times over the past twenty or so years, and I’ve never heard it called that. Unless Brendan, between gulps of Four Loko, corrects me on Saturday morning, I’m going to chalk this labeling up as a media marketing concoction.

Outside of pride, this game does not have a lot of meaning for either team. Ohio State is undefeated but has only an outside shot at the BCS championship game, and has already secured a spot in the Big Ten championship game against Michigan State. Michigan is bowl-eligible at 7-4, but they have a losing conference record and will be home dogs on Saturday.

In year three of the Brady Hoke era at Michigan, things are slipping a bit. His teams have yet to beat Michigan State and Ohio State in the same season, and it looks like the Wolverines could go 0-2 against their conference rivals this year. Michigan was 11-2 with an exciting Sugar Bowl win in Hoke’s maiden maize and blue voyage, but they were 8-5 last year, losing to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. There’s still room– with zero margin for error– to improve on that mark this year, but even if they do, it may not erase the feeling that there’s a noticeable lack of spark with this Michigan team. Negative forty-eight yards of rushing against Michigan State says a lot about the Spartan defense, but it says something about the Michigan offense too, and although at least one critic has pointed a finger of blame at Hoke, most Wolverine fans have been calling for the head of offensive coordinator Al Borges. (Text message from a die-hard Michigan fan after the Nebraska loss: “I can never actually root for Michigan to lose, but I hate the offensive coordinator enough that I think  a few more losses are in Michigan’s best interest if it gets the OC fired.”)

Still, the feel in Ann Arbor under Hoke is decidedly different than it was under the coach Hoke replaced, Rich Rodriguez. Should it be, though? Is there a chance Michigan fans are missing Rich Rod?

Ohio State is about a two-touchdown favorite on the road this weekend, and although that feels about right as I write this on Tuesday morning, my prediction is that they will not cover on Saturday.

Unless Michigan has beefed up their mobile reception capabilities, expect in-game coverage from Brendan and I to be somewhat limited, but you can always track us @ALDLANDia.

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Michigan On Top

bpbrady and I were, in fact, at the football match between the University of Michigan Wolverines and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. There are so many things to say about this game so I guess I’ll jump right in.

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Tuesday Afternoon Inside Linebacker

tailSince “Monday Morning Quarterback” and “Tuesday Morning Quarterback” are taken and uninspired, and because I’m preempting my own exhaustion of “Monday“-themed alliterations, ALDLAND’s regular football/weekend roundup will move to Tuesday afternoons, which also permits incorporation of the Monday night NFL game. With week two of college football and week one of the NFL in the books, here goes:

College Football

Pregame:

  • Brendan and Physguy were in Ann Arbor for ESPN College Gameday, and the only evidence is a couple cryptic tweets from Brendan.

The games — No surprises:

  • I was able to find Michigan State’s game against South Florida on television in the Southeast, which may be thanks to USF’s participation in the game, but which also felt like finding a unicorn in the wild. MSU’s defense continues to outscore their offense, and that’s with three quarterbacks! Even Sparta only ever had two kings at once. Michigan State 21, South Florida 6.
  • I also found Vanderbilt-Austin Peay on TV, which is a reminder that it’s week two for the broadcasters as well. VU had no problem with its Middle Tennessee neighbors, winning 38-3.

ALDLAND college football weekend update, part 1

As announced, Brendan will be attending and (has already begun) live-tweeting The Game. If you want to follow along, make sure you’re following ALDLAND on Twitter (@ALDLANDia), something you probably should be doing anyway.

Although I am indeed in the midst of a relocation project, I’m taking a break to attend senior day in Ann Arbor, where the Wolverines will be hosting the Iowa Hawkeyes. Key questions include: 1) Will Michigan senior QB Denard Robinson play a meaningful snap, and if so, at what position? 2) Will the mobile reception situation be as bad as it was last time? and 3) Without my charger, will my phone battery even last long enough to make the answer to question (2) relevant? Strategic packing during a move is difficult.

For live coverage of both games, follow @ALDLANDia on Twitter.

Back to basics: Michigan State 10, Michigan 12

Michigan’s last-second victory over Michigan State last Saturday afternoon was a historic one for the Wolverines, marking the program’s 900th overall win and their first win over Sparty in five tries.

Despite nasty weather forecasts, the day remained dry and not too chilly, which made for a comfortable setting in which to watch one of the most competitive games I’ve seen in the Big House in recent memory.

While local radio callers and personalities, in the days leading up to the game, were predicting multi-touchdown margins of victory for Michigan, Saturday’s contest featured only one touchdown, and it belonged to the Spartans.

Although Michigan led for much of the game, this one really was the Spartans’ to lose, which they did, chiefly as a result of a missed field goal early and an inability to manage the final 5:48 of the game, eventually giving up a game-winning field goal with five seconds remaining.

College football rivalry losses on the road always are going to be rough, and that’s especially true when your team gave the game away, but as I said in our tailgate full of Michigan fans afterwards, there’s no MSU fan on earth in 2008 who, if offered a 4-1 record in the next five meetings with Michigan, would decline. And while these programs look, for the moment, to be trending in the opposite direction– Michigan on the upswing and MSU on the decline– that 4-1 record is good enough for me right now. At least until November 2, 2013.

ALDLAND takes you live to the battle for the Mitten

A glutton for entertaining punishment (my teams are 0-fer when I’ve seen them live this fall), I’ll be back on the road this weekend, this time joining Brendan in Ann Arbor for the Michigan/Michigan State game. No current Michigan player has beat Michigan State– the Spartans have beaten the Wolverines four straight times– and MSU has made life difficult for Michigan QB Denard Robinson in particular.

I was in the Big House at the beginning of this current streak, when MSU won for the first time in Ann Arbor in eighteen years. I am worried that I will be there when the streak ends, too, and it has a good chance of ending tomorrow. Before the season started, I was sure that Michigan would win this game. After the first couple weeks of the season, MSU definitely looked like the better team, though, but after what we’ve seen recently from each squad, I’ve reverted to my preseason position: this is Michigan’s game to lose.

Michigan State has not looked good at all in recent weeks. For them to win tomorrow afternoon, they’ll have to have a complete game on both sides of the ball, something they have yet to accomplish this season. The X factor this week is coach Mark Dantonio. The MSU staff hasn’t been the same since the departure of offensive coordinator Don Treadwell, but Dantonio always seems to save something for big games. I don’t think he’s in danger of losing his job right now, but with now-dashed Rose Bowl hopes running high headed into this season, his seat may be feeling a bit warm. He has to know, though, that all will be forgiven in East Lansing if his team beats Michigan tomorrow.

Whatever happens, we all can agree that the Paul Bunyan trophy is ugly.

Bpbrady’s year in review

Top 5 Albums of the Year

5. Everything is Boring and Everyone is a Fucking Liar—Spank Rock: Spank Rock’s sophomore album delivered more of the same electro rock/rap goodness as his debut.  EBEFL is a good album to play at parties if you want music that is suitable for partying but you don’t want to cry after hearing LMFAO for the thousandth time.

4. El Camino—The Black Keys: While not as good as 2010’s Brothers, El Camino is another excellent effort from the Nashville based duo.  The Black Keys maintain their signature sound, while making things feel a little fresh with more upbeat, rock-y sounding tracks.  Plus, the announcement video for the album featured Bob Odenkirk playing Saul Goodman if he was a used car salesman

3. Within and Without—Washed Out: Washed Out’s first LP is going to be hard for him to top in the future.  In a year that featured a lot of good albums by chillwave artists, Within and Without was one of the best.  Washed Out is the chilliest of chillwave artists, and his music is perfect for relaxing.  He also does awesome live shows, so check him out if he ever stops by your town.

2. In the Mountain, In the Cloud—Portugal.  The Man: Portugal.  The Man has been putting out around an album a year for the past six years, yet they continue to fly under the radar.  In the Mountain, In the Cloud is probably not going to raise their profile very much, but it should, because it is an awesome album with a fantastic indie sound.  It even features a track that was deemed good enough to be included in the FIFA 12 soundtrack.

1. Era Extaña—Neon Indian: Neon Indian is also classified as a chillwave artist, at least by Wikipedia, however his (their?—Wikipedia is often vague on whether Neon Indian is a stage name for one person or for a group) music is a little more upbeat than that of Washed Out.  A lot of his music sounds like it could come straight out of an NES-era video game, which is fun.

Top 5 Sports Moments/Things of the Year

5. Dustin Ackley: When you are a fan of a team as crappy as the Seattle Mariners, good baseball moments are hard to come by.  It’s one thing when rookies are struggling to a 70 win record, but when it is a bunch of lazy, overweight vets going through the motions on the field it gets tiresome.  That is why Dustin Ackley was such a breath of fresh air—he was a rookie who came in and instead of struggling, lit up the AL for a couple months.  If he had been able to get a full season under his belt, he likely would have been rookie of the year, but Mariners fans will settle for the four months of excellent play they got out of him, and hopefully many more years to come.

4. The Detroit Lions 2011 season: Like fans of the Mariners, fans of the Lions will take whatever good they can get, and this year there was a lot of it.  Even if the Lions lose out and miss the playoffs, they will have finished with their first winning record in God knows how long.  The best thing about the Lions this season is that the players seem to finally care.  Stafford, Megatron and House of Spears have provided Lions fans with a lot of good times this season (and in House of Spears’ case a few less than good times).  If the Lions make the playoffs, I think I will finally understand what it means to be “happy to be there,” although I hope the Lions themselves aren’t satisfied with that.

3.  Michigan—Notre Dame: The first night game in Michigan Stadium did not disappoint.  Early on it looked bleak, as Notre Dame jumped out to a 14-0 lead.  ND even led 24-7 at the end of the 3rd quarter.  But Michigan would not go away, and came back to lead 28-24 with a minute to go.  The game was not over, however, and Notre Dame marched down the field to take a 31-28 lead, giving Michigan the ball back on their own 20 with 30 seconds to go.  Notre Dame then decided that covering Michigan’s receivers was overrated, and Denard Robinson lead the Wolverines 80 yards in 28 seconds, throwing a touchdown pass to Roy Roundtree to rip the Fighting Irish’s hearts out for the third year in a row.  Attending the first night game in Michigan history was a memorable experience, and I even got to see Little Aldland and  Mr. and Mrs. Aldland.

2. Michigan—Ohio State: It’s tough to lose to your rival, or any team for that matter, several years in a row.  Just ask Vandy fans, many of whom have gone their entire lives without seeing Vandy beat Tennessee.  While Ohio State’s streak over Michigan was not nearly that long, it was still annoying and OSU’s off the field troubles provided the perfect opportunity to end it.  And end it Michigan did, although not without drama, as the Buckeyes put up a fight, falling to the Wolverines 40-34.

1. Barcelona—Real Madrid/Barcelona—Manchester United (UEFA Champions League): Barcelona’s exit in the 2010 Champions League to Internazionale left a bad taste in the mouths of many fans of the club, particularly this writer who will go to his grave thinking that what would have been the winning goal by Bojan Krkic was wrongly disallowed by a handball call on Barcelona midfielder Yaya Toure.  Still, commentators and analysts around the word continued to praise the 2011 Barcelona side as potentially one of the best all time if they would be able to win the Champions League twice in three years (Barcelona also won in 2009).  As is often said, to be the best, you must beat the best and “the best” came in the form of Barcelona’s eternal rivals Real Madrid and English giants Manchester United.  The semifinals of the Champions League saw a hard fought battle between Barcelona and Madrid, with the Blaugrana narrowly dispatching the team from the Spanish capital.  Despite the talent level at Manchester United,  the final seemed like a fait accompli, and largely it was.  Barcelona dominated  possession and the run of play in a 3-1 victory over their English opposition, lifting the Champions League trophy for the second time in three years.

Related
ALDLAND’s year in review 

Upset Monday

As hoped for here on this site, Robert Griffin III became Baylor University’s first Heisman Trophy winner on Saturday night. Griffin was the clear choice for the award, in my mind, and the voters agreed.

No sooner had the Kentucky Wildcats become the top team in the basketball land then they went into Bloomington and fell to the unranked Hoosiers on a last-second three pointer. Unranked Michigan State went out west and beat a ranked Gonzaga team at their place, and unranked Murray State took down #20 Memphis on the road to go to 10-0 on the road.

In the NFL, the Indianapolis Colts, Green Bay Packers, and Denver Tebows held serve this weekend, doing what they’ve been doing the way they’ve been doing it all year. Despite a defense stripped by injuries and a suspension, the Lions held on to go to 2-0 on the year against division foe  Minnesota, a game Detroit had to have.

In the nascent NBA, the nixed Chris Paul trade still is on hold despite early reports that the Hornets, Lakers, and Rockets had reworked the deal. As I write this, the latest from ESPN’s “sources” is that the Los Angeles Clippers have moved onto Paul’s shortlist of acceptable destinations behind the Lakers and New York Knickerbockers.

The emerging offseason baseball story is NL MVP Ryan Braun’s positive PED test, but fans should be aware that Manny Ramirez, who I assumed was totally dunzo, may be back in baseball in the upcoming season.

The sum total of these and other stories lead me to believe that December is mere prelude to 2012’s sportspocalypse.

Programming note: ALDLAND’s live coverage of the biggest events in sports will continue in the coming weeks with NHL hockey and college football bowl games. Related, a recap of Michigan’s win over Ohio State in Ann Arbor will not run because I only got one good picture and it was a couple weeks ago and everybody knows what happened, and my only real insights on the experience were that there were more Nebraska fans in the Big House the week before than OSU fans that day and that people still have and are drinking Four Loko. Here’s the picture:

Michigan’s unfriendly welcoming of Nebraska

Not pictured: Ndamukong Suh

In what was supposed to be the Big Ole Game of the week, Nebraska’s first visit to the Big House looked a lot like the ‘Huskers’ first visit to Camp Randall to open their first season of Big Ten action this season. The visitors gave up three fewer points to the Wolverines than they did to the Badgers, losing to Michigan 45-17. (The Wisconsin score was 48-17. Maybe Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany told Nebraska that there was a hard scoring cap in place for all new conference members?) Nebraska’s quarterback did not look comfortable in the pocket, the position, his uniform, or his throwing motion on Saturday, and the Cornhuskers’ special teams coughed the ball up repeatedly on the afternoon to give Michigan’s offense great field position.

One quibble I had with the Michigan fans’ assessment of their opponent’s struggles on the day and mixed results in the conference this season was their comparison of Nebraska to Penn State when the latter became the Big Ten’s eleventh team in 1990 and, despite prior success, struggled in its first few years in the conference. The important difference the Nebraska comparison ignores is that PSU had been independent prior to joining the Big Ten, while Nebraska had been a member of the Big XII. I buy the argument that Penn State’s early difficulties were due to adjusting to playing competitive teams every week, rather than the mixed schedule of an independent school. In Nebraska’s case, the Big XII may be down, but it’s conference schedule isn’t comparable to that of an independent. Moreover, Nebraska’s conference play this year really has been mixed, rather than down. They certainly had trouble with road games against Wisconsin and this one against Michigan, and they lost at home to Northwestern, but they also dominated Michigan State. I’d say the jury’s still out on Big Ten Nebraska, and if they end up having a hard time, I don’t think the Penn State analogy helps explain why.

Before the game, I teed up a Friday jam for the visitors from Lincoln that was pretty upbeat. In light of how things went, though, this may be more appropriate:

Previous Live Coverage:
B1G Roadtrippin’: Michigan at Illinois
Nashville recap: Georgia escapes, 33-28

B1G Roadtrippin’: Michigan at Northwestern
The Little Brown Jug stays in Ann Arbor

Recap: Detroit Red Wings’ Red & White Game
Motor City recap: Tigers win, 2-1
Music City recap: Vanderbilt wins, 45-14
Concert report: Lyle Lovett and his Large Band
Concert report: An evening with Bruce Hornsby, Béla Fleck, the Noisemakers, and the Flecktones

The Little Brown Jug stays in Ann Arbor

After opening up the college football season with Vanderbilt, I opened big Ten conference play in Ann Arbor last Saturday, where Michigan took a vice-like grip on the Little Brown Jug, beating Minnesota 58-0.

Across the state, the weather had been somewhat crummy all week. I got into town on Friday night hoping to watch Game 1 of Tigers-Yankees. I thought I might’ve seen snow in Ann Arbor, but everyone saw rain in NYC, necessitating a suspension of that game after about an inning of play. Our Saturday-morning tailgate (for a noon game) was a cloudy windstorm punctuated by grilled bratwurst. It turns out that those are the best kind of windstorms. Even better was that things calmed down and the sun came out just in time for kickoff.

I cannot immediately recall a more one-sided game between teams in equivalent classifications above the high school level. I’m told Minnesota was without its senior quarterback. Given that the Gophers have a win on the year and apparently played USC close, he probably deserves some Heisman votes even if he doesn’t take another snap. It wasn’t so much that Minnesota made a lot of mistakes– they only had one turnover, which I predicted right before the play occurred– as that they just couldn’t function on either side of the ball, while Michigan seemed to gain an easy 8-10 yards on every play.

And thus Michigan improbably moves to 5-0. I want to say they aren’t as good as their record, but I’m really not sure anyone has a basis to say anything about them because, outside of the strange Notre Dame game, they really haven’t been tested. The next two weeks will provide that test, though, as they go on the road for the first time this season, first at Northwestern and then at Michigan State.

Look for ALDLAND to take you to a couple more Big Ten games this year, and maybe even another SEC game.