The Athletic Department Gets it Right with the New Football Student Seating Policy

March 21st, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Central Student Government and the athletic department have put together a new football student seating system beginning next season that should solve many of the problems regarding student attendance at home football games. The package addresses the incentives to not only attend the games but also to arrive early, while accommodating students’ most pressing desire: the ability to reserve groups with their friends without having to arrive at the same time.

“Our goal has always been for students to attend games and arrive early and this plan reinforces this goal. From the student perspective, feedback through CSG, as well as multiple surveys showed that sitting in reserved groups was the students No. 1 concern and this plan addresses that feedback,” said Hunter Lochmann, chief marketing offer of the Michigan athletics.

The plan features changes to 2014 seating in addition to further changes to future seasons thereafter. There will be no more general admission seating, as there was in 2013. Instead, all season ticket holders will have reserved seats, similar to the system that had been in place before 2013. However, the key change implemented as a result of this plan is that seating will be administered based on previous season attendance. In 2014, all students who attended five or more games in 2013 will be seated in the SuperFan group, located in the lowest rows closest to field level. The remaining students will be seated by year, with the seniors seated just above the SuperFan group, followed by the juniors just above the senior group and so on. Groups can be formed with a maximum of 100 participants and will be seated based on average class level of the group.

In 2015, the plan will kick into a higher gear. Seating will be determined based on a points system that will begin in 2014. Students will receive three points for every game attended in addition to three extra points each time they arrive 30 minutes before game time. There will be a 36-point maximum to account for inclement weather and break games. The students with the highest point total will be seated in the lowest rows the following season. Groups will be seated based on their average point total.

Overall, the policy appears to be exactly what students desire and the athletic department deserves a great deal of credit for their willingness to work with student government and for the creative plan produced. This plan allows the serious, committed fans to be rewarded for their dedication, as fans with perfect attendance that show up early will be seated closest to the action. The policy further allows those who choose to buy tickets for the social aspect of football Saturdays to have the opportunity to create a seating group with their friends instead of requiring them all to arrive at the same time. Group seating is generated in the fairest way possible, although it does incentivize those with low point totals to join groups with students who have high point totals. Despite this, the incentives are shaped for all to attend games as opposed to skipping games, since most people prefer not to be seated in the highest rows. It also forces freshmen to prove their dedication before they are rewarded with a superior seat location.

The problem facing the athletic department in regards to student seating is based on the fact that once students purchase a ticket, there is little that can be done to force students to attend on time or even attend at all. The fact of the matter is that many students care more about the drinking than the actual football being played, and that is something no athletic department policy can change. Nonetheless, this policy gives the strongest incentives for students to show up early since it gives them a tangible reward for attendance.

Over the past few years, the complaints about the athletic department have been rising. People have clamored and complained about increased ticket prices, the student seating policy, and a general feeling that the athletic department doesn’t care about Michigan students and only cares about profit. However, with this policy, the athletic department has done their part to show they care about the students and are willing to reward them for dedication. There are no excuses anymore. If you aren’t dedicated enough to Michigan football to attend games and arrive early, you don’t deserve a good seat. The onus is now on the students to prove to the athletic department that we care about Michigan football and not just about getting drunk on Saturday mornings. The athletic department did their part. Now, it is time for the students to do theirs.

Michigan Sets their Sights on the NCAA Tournament After Tough Loss to Rival in the Big Ten Championship

March 17th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Photo Cred: (http://www.umhoops.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Michigan-vs-Minnesota_341.jpg) These Michigan men have first hand experience succeeding the NCAA Tournament. Can they repeat last year’s success again this year?

Photo Cred: (http://www.umhoops.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Michigan-vs-Minnesota_341.jpg)
These Michigan men have first hand experience succeeding the NCAA Tournament. Can they repeat last year’s success again this year?

 

The final weekend of the regular season provided no shortage of drama for the Wolverines in the Big Ten Tournament. After receiving their ever first No.1 seed, Michigan fended off a tough Illinois team in the quarterfinals by a score of 64-63. Jordan Morgan nailed the go-ahead floater in the paint to give Michigan the lead with 7.9 seconds remaining and Tracy Abrams missed a floater in the lane on the ensuing possession for the Illini as the buzzer sounded.

This set up a rematch in the semifinals with rival Ohio State, who overcame an 18-point deficit in the quarterfinals to defeat fourth seeded Nebraska. Michigan raced out to an early 32-16 lead in the first half, but the Buckeyes fought back, taking the lead in the second half on a Sam Thompson alley-oop with about 7 minutes remaining. The Wolverines stayed tough though, as Nik Staukas nailed an incredible “up-and-under” basket with 2:08 left to give Michigan a 71-68 lead. Ohio State, down by three on their final possession, had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer, but Aaron Craft’s shot slipped out of his hands and Michigan again escaped and advanced to the conference championship.

Another familiar rival, the Michigan State Spartans, greeted them with Brendan Dawson, Adrien Payne and Keith Appling all in the lineup together, unlike in the previous two matchups against the Wolverines. Despite getting out to an early 9-4 lead, the Wolverines were dominated by the Spartans for the rest of the game, as the Spartan lead went under 10 points for only 42 seconds of the second half. Michigan looked tired at times, but the Spartan defense on Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert was too much to overcome, especially since Michigan struggled to move the ball and generate offense in the paint. Both Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford picked up two fouls in the first half, forcing Max Bielfeldt into extended minutes. Despite the loss, this was Michigan’s deepest Big Ten tournament run under John Beilein and it certainly doesn’t detract from an incredibly successful 25-8 regular season, which featured an outright regular season Big Ten title.

Now, the Wolverines will focus on the NCAA Tournament, which begins on Tuesday with the First Four in Dayton. Michigan earned a No. 2 seed in the tournament and will take on the 15-seeded Wofford Terriers out of the Southern Conference. The Terriers are 20-12 on the season and defeated Western Carolina in their conference championship.

The Wolverines were placed in the Midwest region, which will hold its Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matchups in Indianapolis, giving Michigan a very generous geographic advantage should they advance. Second and third round matchups will take place in Milwaukee. If the Wolverines defeat the Terriers, they will face the winner of the matchup between 7-seeded Texas and 10-seeded Arizona State. Both teams have struggled of late, as the Longhorns stumbled to a 5-6 finish while the Sun Devils have lost five of their last seven games. Looking beyond the first two rounds, other top seeds in the Midwest region include Wichita State, Duke and Louisville. The Duke Blue Devils are the third seeded team in the Midwest region, meaning the Wolverines could very likely face them in the Sweet 16. Michigan and Duke faced off December 3rd at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, with Duke winning 79-69. However, the Wolverines were playing with Mitch McGary healthy, while Stauskas managed only four points, and Jordan Morgan played only 10 minutes. Clearly, Duke would be facing a much different Michigan team this time around. Looking even farther ahead, one potential Elite Eight opponent for Michigan could be the 4th seeded Louisville Cardinals. This would set up a highly entertaining rematch last year’s national championship game.

Overall, the outlook looks very good for Michigan to advance to the Sweet 16. The Wolverines should have no trouble with Wofford in their first matchup and Texas or Arizona State seems manageable as well. After that though, the matchups will be very tough, as the prospect of facing Duke, Louisville or even Wichita State won’t make many fans optimistic. However, the NCAA Tournament features a great deal of unpredictability and as Michigan fans learned last year, anything can happen to turn the bracket upside down in an instant. Get excited fans, March is finally here!

Pistons fire Maurice Cheeks

February 9th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Maurice Cheeks was fired just 50 games into his first season as Pistons head coach (Photo courtesy of Kim Klement/USA Today)

Maurice Cheeks was fired just 50 games into his first season as Pistons head coach (Photo courtesy of Kim Klement/USA Today)

The Detroit Pistons fired first-year head coach Maurice Cheeks on Sunday morning 50 games into his tenure with the organization. The Pistons are 21-29 on the season, and have won back-to-back games – including a 126-109 victory against the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.

“This was a difficult decision for the organization to make but we needed to make a change,” said President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars. “We have great respect for Maurice and appreciate his hard work.”

With prized free agent acquisitions Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith, rising stars Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe and key reserves Rodney Stuckey, Kyle Singler and Will Bynum, the Pistons figured to have one of the more talented rosters in a historically weak Eastern Conference. As of Sunday, Detroit stood a half-game out of playoff contention behind the eighth-place Charlotte Bobcats.

“Our record does not reflect our talent and we simply need a change,” said Pistons owner Tom Gores. “We have not made the kind of progress that we should have over the first half of the season. This is a young team and we knew there would be growing pains, but we can be patient only as long as there is progress. The responsibility does not fall squarely on any one individual, but right now this change is a necessary step toward turning this thing around. I still have a lot of hope for this season and I expect our players to step up. I respect and appreciate Maurice Cheeks and thank him for his efforts; we just require a different approach.”

Detroit now seeks its ninth head coach in Dumars’ 14-year tenure as President of Basketball Operations. Multiple sources report assistant coach John Loyer will be named interim coach before Detroit’s home game Monday against San Antonio. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting former Memphis Grizzlies’ coach Lionel Hollins has also emerged as a potential candidate for the job. Hollins interviewed with the Pistons last summer to join Cheeks’ staff as an assistant.

Calm, Cool, Steady Wolverines Just Keep Winning

February 3rd, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Nik Stauskas’s sustained in success in Big Ten play could make him the second consecutive Wolverine to win Big Ten player of the Year. (http://www.toledoblade.com/image/2013/01/03/800x_b1_cCM_z_cT/Michigan-Northwestern-Basketball-Nik-Stauskas.jpg)

Nik Stauskas’s sustained in success in Big Ten play could make him the second consecutive Wolverine to win Big Ten player of the Year. (http://www.toledoblade.com/image/2013/01/03/800x_b1_cCM_z_cT/Michigan-Northwestern-Basketball-Nik-Stauskas.jpg)

On December 14th, the Wolverines were 8-4. Just over a week later, they found out they were losing their star big man, Mitch McGary, for the season. It’s almost a guarantee, though, that John Beilein and his young team weren’t panicking. And that’s what seems to be the guiding principle of 2014 Michigan basketball. Cool, calm, steady, un-phased, and ready to execute. Despite their youth and lack of a true post presence, the Wolverines won ten games in a row before losing to Indiana on Sunday, and find themselves in the driver’s seat for the Big Ten title. Even though the Wolverines are starting three sophomores and one true freshman, Michigan seems experienced beyond their years, as the road wins and shocking upsets keep coming.

Although on the surface, this calm, steady, veteran-looking basketball may surprise many after looking at the youth on the roster. The Wolverines have actually grown up beyond their years as a result of many valuable opportunities afforded to their young stars early in their careers. Glen Robinson III and Nik Stauskas started in the Final Four as freshmen. They experienced the pressure of being ranked #1, the embarrassment of seeing opposing fans storm the court after losses three times (at Penn State and at Wisconsin last year, at Iowa State this year). Robinson and Stauskas felt the pain of being on the floor when a Big Ten title slipped right through their fingertips last season. Taken together, these experiences sure make a trip to the Breslin Center for a regular season conference road game seem like nothing.

The same can be said for sophomores Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht. Both knocked two 3-pointers each in the Final Four matchup against Syracuse and Albrecht had his famous 17-point performance in the National Championship, knocking down four 3-pointers after taking over for Trey Burke once he got in foul trouble in the first half. Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford also bring a veteran presence to the team, as a result of more tangible metrics such as age and games played. Jordan Morgan won a Big Ten title in 2012 and he’s executing on the offensive end like he’s playing with Darius Morris, the point guard responsible for providing Morgan with a plethora of scoring opportunities as a freshman. Horford’s game has finally slowed down, as well. He now possesses a serviceable post game and a solid defensive presence in suitable matchups, a major asset off the bench.

The freshmen have also displayed an impeccable learning curve as they improve their knowledge of Beilein’s offense each and every day. Derrick Walton, who struggled in road games at Iowa State and Duke to such an extent that Spike Albrecht played in crunch time, has notched critical late baskets on the road against Nebraska and Michigan State. His free throw shooting performance down the stretch of the Michigan State was cold-blooded. Likewise, Zak Irvin has morphed into a solid catch-and-shoot player, the perfect fit for Michigan’s offense, and he’s put together some incredible shooting performances against Minnesota, Stanford, and Iowa.

The result of all these developments has been road dominance in Big Ten play. An 8-point deficit against Michigan State in the second half? No big deal. A ferocious end-of-game rally against the Badgers that elicited memories of previous heartbreaking losses in Madison? Didn’t happen this time. Last second paint defense against Nebraska? Michigan emerged victorious. This team finds ways to win games but in a different way than last year. 2014 Michigan doesn’t have a Trey Burke who can win games on his own for them. This team relies on team-basketball principles such as execution, ball movement, screens, cutting, timely defense and cold-blooded shooting. While Nik Stauskas has emerged as the alpha dog and certainly had his moments of clutch play, he doesn’t dominate the basketball at the end of games and it seems as if all members of the Wolverines must contribute their part in order to emerge victorious on any given day.

This whole process has all come together because this team has learned how to win together. Without road games in tough environments like Cameron Indoor and Hilton Coliseum, the Wolverines are unprepared to go into Wisconsin and win for the first time in 11 years. Without a test against the #1 team in America, the Arizona Wildcats, where shoddy execution let the Wildcats steal away a victory, the Wolverines aren’t prepared to defeat three top-ten in the span of one week. It sure does help that Michigan has a really good offense. The Wolverines shoot 49% from the field, 74.9% from the line, and 39.5% from three-point territory. Jordan Morgan is shooting a whopping 69.8% from the field while Stauskas and Robinson are both dead even at 50%. Stauskas leads the team with 50 three-pointers, 116 free throw attempts and 72 assists on the season.

Many have come to question whether last year was a one-hit wonder, especially with the loss of Michigan’s top two scorers. It was easy to do so when, at 8-4, Michigan’s hopes of making the NCAA Tournament were beginning to come into question. This recent stretch of play should easily quiet these concerns. John Beilein has, year-in and year-out, proven he knows how to win, no matter how much his teams have to grind, claw, and three-point shoot their way to victory. With another team dreaming of a deep postseason run and going toe-to-toe with the Big Ten’s best, one thing is for sure; Michigan’s basketball program is in the right place, with strong leadership at the top, and players buying in. In Beilein We Trust.

Michigan’s New Big Time Football Hire Restores the Energy Around the Program after a Disappointing 2013

February 2nd, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Doug Nussmeier’s track record of success as an offensive specialist is unquestionable. http://www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/234132aacf60ca8a56286399f2531a8a7899a2c1/c%3D424-199-4006-2901%26r%3Dx404%26c%3D534x401/local/-/media/USATODAY/test/2014/01/10//1389380214000-AP-Michigan-Nussmeier-Football.jpg)

Doug Nussmeier’s track record of success as an offensive specialist is unquestionable. (http://www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/234132aacf60ca8a56286399f2531a8a7899a2c1/c%3D424-199-4006-2901%26r%3Dx404%26c%3D534x401/local/-/media/USATODAY/test/2014/01/10//1389380214000-AP-Michigan-Nussmeier-Football.jpg)

On Thursday January 9th, only a day after the announcement that offensive coordinator Al Borges would not be returning in 2014, Michigan announced the hiring of their new offensive coordinator, Doug Nussmeier. The move was quite a surprise and the speed at which it was executed was quite impressive for a program that has struggled in the past with coaching transitions.

Upon receiving his introduction into the program, Nussmeier made it clear he was excited to join the Maize and Blue: “I’m extremely excited to join University of Michigan and work with Brady Hoke, the staff and players…Michigan is a program I’ve always had deep respect for and I’m looking forward to getting started in Ann Arbor and being a part of the great tradition there.”

Hoke echoed this excitement, stressing Nussmeier’s experience and offensive expertise: “Doug is a highly respected offensive coordinator… Doug has been successful at every coaching stop with his balanced and explosive offenses, and he brings national championship experience. He is an excellent addition to our coaching staff and football program…”

More recently, Nussmeier opened up about his decision to come to Michigan, citing a conversation with coach Brady Hoke. According to Nussmeier, Brady stressed the importance of the role the coaches play in developing their players, not only on the football field, but off the field as well: “The most important thing we do is to make an impact on these young men in order to be successful for the rest of their lives.” This strong philosophy resonated with Nussmeier and he has been on board ever since.

Nussmeier has made many stops along his coaching career, which ironically began in East Lansing, as he served as quarterbacks coach at Michigan State from 2003-2005 under John L. Smith, whom he played quarterback for during his days as an Idaho Vandal. From 2006-2007, Nussmeier went to the NFL and served as quarterbacks coach for the St. Louis Rams. In 2008, he went back to the college game, where he held the position of offensive coordinator at Fresno State. Nussmeier stayed out west from 2009-2011, where he held the same position at University of Washington, until he left to become offensive coordinator at Alabama in 2012.

Nussmeier brings with him a reputation as a strong recruiter, something that could be said of Al Borges, as rumors have already floated around about some Alabama commits potentially to jumping ship with Nussmeier and heading to Michigan. At age 43, he will certainly be an asset as a young energetic leader hitting the recruiting trail to try land Michigan’s next generation of offensive talent.

There’s no question that this hire has generated a great deal of buzz around campus about the immediate prospects for success, as Michigan’s offense was horrendous in 2013 and needed a new look after the many offensive no-shows against the likes of Northwestern, Nebraska, Iowa and UConn. Nonetheless, it will be no easy task for Nussmeier to turn things around quickly. In 2013, Michigan averaged 373.5 yards per game (10th in the Big Ten) and 125.7 rush yards per game (11th in the Big Ten). The running game and the offensive line in particular, need immediate help. Nussmeier’s zone-blocking offensive line scheme has generated some early attention among fans but it’s highly doubtful that Michigan can transform into an elite rushing in merely one year. With this new scheme and with tough runners like Derrick Green and Deveon Smith a year older, the rushing attack should improve, but improvement is a relative term, as Michigan’s run-game nearly reached rock bottom last season.

The passing attack, on the other hand, succeeded for the most part in 2013, averaging 247.8 yards per game (4th in the Big Ten) and 32.2 points per game (4th in the Big Ten). Quarterback Devin Gardner had very gaudy offensive stats at times while displaying a great deal of inconsistency as well. For example, Gardner’s offense produced 9 points against Northwestern in regulation, 13 points against Nebraska, and zero against Iowa in the second half last year. Notre Dame, Indiana and Ohio State however, were victims of Gardner’s successful performances, as the offense seemingly fluctuated to a large degree on a weekly basis.

There has been a great deal of speculation as to whether the change at offensive coordinator will result in a change at the starting quarterback position. As of right now, Nussmeier has not announced a starter yet and likely will not until after spring ball at the earliest. Gardner will likely be the starter; however, his recovery from his foot injury might cause uncertainty in that regard. Most fans are frustrated with Gardner’s inconsistency and would love to see the young Shane Morris, the more traditional pro-style Michigan quarterback, get a chance to run a true pro-style offense. However, there’s no denying that Gardner is the most talented quarterback on the roster, and he gives Michigan the chance to beat nearly anybody in the country on any given night.

In conclusion, Doug Nussmeier was truly a big time hire for the Maize and Blue. The Wolverines, and Dave Brandon specifically, have proven that they’re willing to do whatever it takes to restore Michigan back to its position as a traditional superpower. A couple notes of caution, though, should be considered before fans begin expecting Rose Bowl and Big Ten Championships. This move was clearly made because Brady Hoke is on the hot seat after seeing his team regress for the second consecutive year. This was, by no means, a panic hire, but its clear that Hoke recognized his current offensive system was not getting the job done.  Furthermore, if Michigan’s offense flourishes, Nussmeier will be a strong candidate for a head coaching position somewhere else, potentially as early as next year, and could very easily bolt to reach his own professional goals. Finally, this Michigan team is still very flawed. It’s unfair to expect them to compete for a Big Ten title or even become an elite offense in just one year. With trips to Michigan State, Ohio State and Notre Dame in 2014, wins are going to be hard to achieve. Nonetheless, the hire was absolutely essential to restoring the energy around Michigan football and hopefully marks the beginning of a better football year.

 

Pistons dominate short-handed Sixers, 113-96

February 1st, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Brandon Jennings drives to the basket against Philadelphia's Spencer Hawes in the second quarter of Saturday's game. The Pistons defeated the 76ers, 113-96 at the Palace of Auburn Hills (Photo courtesy of Allen Einstein/Detroit Pistons)

Brandon Jennings drives to the basket against Philadelphia’s Spencer Hawes in the second quarter of Saturday’s game. The Pistons defeated the 76ers, 113-96 at the Palace of Auburn Hills (Photo courtesy of Allen Einstein/Detroit Pistons)

Auburn Hills, MI – Andre Drummond scored a game-high 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds as the Detroit Pistons defeated the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday at the Palace of Auburn Hills, 113-96.

Greg Monroe scored 21 points for Detroit and added 12 rebounds, and Kyle Singler had 20 points and 10 rebounds. Brandon Jennings also had 20 points, and the Pistons led by as much as 28 points in the fourth quarter.

“I think we’re still attacking, instead of trying to keep the lead and playing conservatively,” Pistons’ reserve guard Will Bynum said. “I think we were attacking in the fourth quarter until we pretty much got the win.”

Tony Wroten led the Sixers with 18 points and five assists. Elliot Williams and Evan Turner added 15 points each and Thaddeus Young had five steals to go with 14 points.

Philadelphia was without star rookie Michael Carter-Williams, who leads the Sixers with season averages of 17.3 points and 6.6 assists. Carter-Williams has sat out 12 games this season due to injury, this time with a sore right shoulder.

“We decided to give him some time off and he needed it,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said.

Saturday was the first time the Pistons had three players with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds (Drummond, Monroe and Singler) since Dec. 3, 1997.

Detroit (19-27), riding a two-game winning streak, travels to Miami on Monday and Orlando on Wednesday. Philadelphia (15-34) plays at Brooklyn on Monday and returns home against Boston on Wednesday.

The Review’s Super Bowl Preview

February 1st, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

When the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos meet up in Super Bowl XLVIII, it will be the ultimate clash of styles in what should make for a truly memorable game. The Seahawks, the top ranked defense in the league, will test the Broncos, the top ranked offense in the league. The Broncos are a finesse, up tempo, quick-starting offensive unit, while the Seahawks are a physical, bruising, “mash-it-down-your-throat” team that enjoys low scoring, ball-control, take-the-air-out-of-the-ball style of play. Peyton Manning and the Broncos act like they are frontrunners and play with an aura of supremacy and dominance that passes the eye test of a Super Bowl Champion. The Seahawks, on the other hand, play with chip on their shoulder each time they take the field, as if nobody respects them despite their dominating physicality, carrying the weight of seemingly the entire Pacific Northwest on their backs. Immersed in this clash of styles are a number of headlines that will provide no shortage of drama as the game approaches.

First and foremost, Peyton Manning has the chance to cement his legacy as one of, if not, the greatest quarterback of all time with a second Super Bowl win. This would quiet all of his doubters who constantly criticize him for his inability to succeed in the playoffs and would add to his incredible resume of NFL dominance. Speaking of dominance, Seahawks’ cornerback Richard Sherman has dominated the headlines as of late, due to his theatrics at the conclusion of the NFC championship game. The world will have the opportunity to see if he can live up to his haughty words on the highest stage in all of sports. Another key headline will be the weather at MetLife stadium, where temperatures are expected to be between the 20s-30s and the winds will most certainly be a factor in the play on the field.

A few other subplots of intrigue: Pete Carroll is seeking to become the first coach to win both a college football national championship and a Super Bowl. This is the first Super Bowl where both teams hail from west of the Mississippi since the Chargers played the 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX in 1995. Seahawks’ wide receiver Percy Harvin should return from his injury sustained in the NFC Divisional Round against the Saints, giving the Seahawks another offensive weapon. The experience gap between Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson, at 14 years, is the largest between any two quarterbacks to start the Super Bowl, and Wilson is the 6th youngest quarterback to start a Super Bowl. On the field, watching Denver’s talented core of receivers go up against the Seahawks’ vaunted secondary will likely be deciding the factor in the matchup, while watching Marshawn Lynch against Denver’s stout run defense will provide no shortage of entertaining, tough, physical play.

So, where will the game be won and lost? Five key factors as follows will go a long way in determining who wins Super Bowl XLVIII.

Which set of running backs will be tougher in the trenches?

Marshawn Lynch will be receiving all the hype in this matchup and deservedly so. He’s already run for 249 yards and three touchdowns in the playoffs after rushing for 1257 yards and 12 touchdowns in the regular season. However, Knowshon Moreno is having a career year of his own, rushing for a career high 1038 yards and 10 touchdowns while adding 548 yards through the air. The Broncos leaned on him heavily in the cold, especially in their epic game against the Patriots when he rushed for over 200 yards. Despite battling a nagging rib injury, health will not be an issue for him in the Super Bowl. The ability for these two running backs to grind out tough yards against stout opposing run defenses will be crucial for getting their teams into manageable third down situations, especially considering the conditions and winds. Expect both running backs to carry the ball above their per-game averages.

Kickers and the Wind

Broncos’ kicker Matt Prater missed one field goal in the regular season. Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka missed two. Both of these guys are money in the kicking game. Both are also used to outside, cold, windy environment in their home stadiums. The wind will be a huge factor at MetLife Stadium, and the ability of these kickers to remain steady in the kicking game could make a difference in the game, especially if the weather conditions prevent offensive explosions. Eight of the last Super Bowls have been decided by seven points or less, meaning missed field goals become ever more painful to stomach.

Coaches in Unchartered Territory

John Fox’s last appearance in a Super Bowl came 11 years ago, when the Carolina Panthers lost to the Patriots by a field goal. Pete Carroll has won college titles but he’s never advanced this far into the postseason at the professional level. In a game with very low margin for error, every 4th and 2 decision, every time-out, every play, every challenge, and every 40 seconds rolling off the clock is important. Will the coaches let these moments get the best of them on the big stage? Will they handle the expanded press coverage, the exposure, the distractions, the longer halftime, and extended warm-ups properly? Will the coaches have their teams prepared to handle adversity with the stakes at their highest?

Russell Wilson’s Feet

            While the Broncos certainly don’t lack for experience in terms of facing opposing mobile quarterbacks, as they faced the likes of Michael Vick, Terrelle Pryor, and Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson presents more complex problems in comparison. The Seahawks utilize less designed quarterback runs for Wilson compared to the number of designed runs utilized in the offenses of the aforementioned quarterbacks. Most of Wilson runs come as a result of scrambling once the play breaks down or carefully thrown-in designed run to keep the defense off balance. Wilson’s football IQ is also a couple of levels higher than his fellow dual threat quarterbacks, as evidenced by his 32 games played in his first two seasons, without injury. This alone will give the Broncos defense fits, and will be a key for the Seahawks in extending drives and keeping the ball out of Peyton Manning’s hands.  

Response to Adversity

Russell Wilson’s high football IQ has already been mentioned and it’s no secret that Peyton Manning is commonly regarded as one of the most intelligent players to ever play football. The precision and preparation with which each quarterback play on weekly basis spreads to the rest of their teammates. As a result, both of these teams are almost never caught off-guard, always stick to their plan, often controlling games from start to finish, whether it be on the strength of their defense or a fast-paced high powered offense. This game, on the other hand, won’t be easy for either team, as they may see their strength taken away or at least slowed. The winner of this game will emerge based on how they respond to adversity. Peyton Manning hasn’t trailed yet in the playoffs. How will he respond if he needs a touchdown in the 4th quarter? Richard Sherman hasn’t had a touchdown scored on him in weeks. How will he respond if Manning beats with a spectacular Manning-like throw early on? Responding strong to adversity separates champions from contenders, and adversity will certainly show its face in Super Bowl XLVIII in multiple facets. Who will step up and persevere?

Pistons Pregame: Detroit tries for third consecutive win over visiting 76ers

February 1st, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

After defeating the Orlando Magic on Tuesday, Rodney Stuckey and the Detroit Pistons welcome the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday (Photo courtesy of Allen Einstein/ Detroit Pistons)

After defeating the Orlando Magic on Tuesday, Rodney Stuckey and the Detroit Pistons welcome the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday (Photo courtesy of Allen Einstein/ Detroit Pistons)

Auburn Hills, MI – After beating Orlando on Tuesday, the Detroit Pistons spent some unexpected time away from the court on Wednesday when the team’s game at Atlanta was postponed due to weather.

On Saturday, Detroit (18-27) hosts the Philadelphia 76ers in search of its second consecutive win and only its fifth in the last 16 games. The Pistons are also looking for consecutive home wins for only the second time this season.

After starting the season 3-0, Philadelphia has fallen to 15-32, good for 12th place in the struggling Eastern Conference. Two of the Sixers’ 32 losses have come against the Detroit Pistons.

Philadelphia will be without rookie of the year candidate Michael Carter-Williams (17.6 ppg, 6.6 apg), who is ruled out for Saturday with a sore shoulder. Reserve guard James Anderson (10.0 ppg, 4.1 apg) will start in place of Carter-Williams.

Thaddeus Young (17.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Evan Turner (17.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg), Spencer Hawes (13.5 ppg, 8.6 apg) and Tony Wroten (12.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg) round out Philadelphia’s starting five.

Detroit will feature the same starting five for the 21st straight game: Josh Smith (15.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg), Brandon Jennings (16.5 ppg, 8.5 apg), Andre Drummond (12.8 ppg, 12.8 rpg), Greg Monroe (14.4 ppg, 8.8 rpg) and rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (7.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg). Sixth man Rodney Stuckey (14.2 ppg, 2.2 rpg) and reserve forward Kyle Singler (8.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg) lead Detroit in minutes off the bench.

Tip-off is at 7:30 pm at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Follow all of the action on Twitter @MichiganReview

Jennings, Drummond lead Pistons over Magic, 103-87

January 28th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Brandon Jennings shoots over Orlando's Jameer Nelson in the second quarter of Tuesday's game at the Palace of Auburn Hills. The Pistons defeated the Magic, 103-86. (Photo courtesy of Allen Einstein/Detroit Pistons)

Brandon Jennings shoots over Orlando’s Jameer Nelson in the second quarter of Tuesday’s game at the Palace of Auburn Hills. The Pistons defeated the Magic, 103-86. (Photo courtesy of Allen Einstein/Detroit Pistons)

Riding a four-game losing streak, the Detroit Pistons got a much needed win at home on Tuesday, defeating the visiting Orlando Magic at the Palace of Auburn Hills, 103-87.

Brandon Jennings led the Pistons with 20 points and eight assists, and Andre Drummond scored 13 points to go with his team-high 17 rebounds. Josh Smith had 16 points and five Pistons finished in double-digit scoring totals for the game.

“We needed it a lot,” said reserve Pistons’ guard Will Bynum. “Just happy to get a win.”

Victor Oladipo led Orlando with 19 points off the bench, and Aaron Afflalo and Tobias Harris each added 14 points. Jameer Nelson scored 11 points to go with a team-high seven assists, and reserve forward Kyle O’Quinn grabbed 11 rebounds.

“We have to be tougher,” Nelson said. “Every guy on this team needs to take pride and ownership in their individual performance and the team’s performance. We didn’t do that tonight, not at all.”

After trailing 22-20 at the end of the first quarter, the Pistons opened the second quarter on a 14-8 run thanks to seven points by Bynum. Leading 34-30, Detroit never looked back – leading by as much as 26 in the second half.

“We’ve got a lot of talent on this team, and we just have to figure out the right chemistry of players, at the right times,” Bynum said.

Detroit (18-27) improves to 8-15 at home. The Pistons travel to Atlanta on Wednesday and host Philadelphia on Saturday. Orlando (12-34) falls to 3-20 on the road this season, and next plays at Toronto on Wednesday. The Magic return home Friday to host the Milwaukee Bucks.

Pistons Pregame: Drummond, Detroit look to rebound against visiting Magic

January 28th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Andre Drummond shoots over DeJuan Blair of the Dallas Mavericks in Sunday's 116-106 loss. Drummond contributed a season-low four points and six rebounds in the game. (Photo courtesy of Glenn James/NBAE/Getty Images)

Andre Drummond shoots over DeJuan Blair of the Dallas Mavericks in Sunday’s 116-106 loss. Drummond contributed a season-low four points and six rebounds in the game. (Photo courtesy of Glenn James/NBAE/Getty Images)

After a forgettable performance Sunday night in Dallas, Andre Drummond and the Detroit Pistons hope to snap a four-game losing streak on Tuesday, and host the Orlando Magic.

Drummond turned in a season-low four points in Sunday’s 116-106 loss to the Mavericks and had six rebounds. He averages 12.6 points and 12.6 rebounds on the season.

“He just had a bad game,” Pistons’ coach Maurice Cheeks said. “The guy’s 20 years old. We’re not going to expect him to be like a machine every night, to go get 18, 19 rebounds. He’s 20 years old. He didn’t have a good game.”

At 13-33 on the season, Orlando is the NBA’s worst road team. The Magic are 3-19 through 22 road games, and their .136 road winning percentage is the lowest in the league since the 2011 Charlotte Bobcats.

Former Piston Jason Maxiell will start for Orlando in place of rookie Victor Oladipo. Maxiell is averaging 3.5 points and 2.7 rebounds in his first season with the Magic. Oladipo has made a strong case for rookie of the year so far this season, averaging 13.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists

Glen Davis (12.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg), Tobias Harris (13.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg), Jameer Nelson (13.7 ppg, 6.7 apg) and Aaron Afflalo (20.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg) round out Orlando’s starting five. The Magic will be without starting center Nikola Vucevic for the 12th straight game due to a concussion suffered on Jan. 6.

Detroit will feature the same starting five for the 20th straight game: Josh Smith (15.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg), Brandon Jennings (16.4 ppg, 8.4 apg), Andre Drummond (12.6 ppg, 12.7 rpg), Greg Monroe (14.4 ppg, 8.8 rpg) and rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (7.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg). Sixth man Rodney Stuckey (14.2 ppg, 2.2 rpg) and reserve forward Kyle Singler (8.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg) should also see extended minutes off the bench.

Tip-off is at 7:30 pm at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Follow all of the action on Twitter @MichiganReview