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For three quarters, the Detroit Lions performed like playoff veterans.

They led Drew Brees and the mighty New Orleans Saints at halftime. They were still right in the game heading to the fourth quarter.

But Brees and the Saints blew it open in the final period, turning Detroit's postseason return into a one-and-done affair with a 45-28 NFC playoff victory that was much closer most of the night on a raucous Saturday at the Superdome.

Images from MSU and UM Facebook pages

The Big Ten is still considered one of the nation’s top leagues, despite its frequent belly flops in bowl games. 

This year, the Big Ten placed a record ten teams in bowl games – then watched them drop, one by one. 

And not just in the storied Rose Bowl, but in games like the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl, the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, and the Insight Bowl. 

When Iowa got whipped 31-14, I wonder just how much insight they had gained. 

Brendan Gibbons drilled a 37-yard field goal down the middle in overtime to lift Michigan to a 23-20 victory over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl on Tuesday night.

The victory capped an impressive debut season for head coach Brady Hoke, who has led the Wolverines (11-2) back to prominence with a BCS bowl victory. Denard Robinson highlighted an otherwise unspectacular night with touchdown passes of 45 and 18 yards to Junior Hemingway.

Kirk Cousins threw for 300 yards and one touchdown and Dan Conroy kicked a 28-yard field goal in the third overtime, giving No. 12 Michigan State a 33-30 victory over No. 18 Georgia in the Outback Bowl on Monday.

Georgia's Blair Walsh became the Southeastern Conference's career scoring leader with a field goal in the second extra period. But he missed a 42-yarder in the first overtime after conservative play-calling and had a 47-yard attempt blocked on the final play of the game.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan State and the University of Michigan will be playing more west coast teams in the future.

  A deal announced Wednesday could mean the Big Ten will  wield more power in the increasingly competitive world of college athletics.  

Other college sports conferences have added schools in recent years to make themselves more competitive.   The Big Ten is effectively adding another entire conference.  

If you are a football fan, you probably know that the Detroit Lions won a thrilling comeback victory yesterday, and are having their best season in something like a million years.

If you know a lot about University of Michigan athletics, you may know that the athletic department has a budget of $110 million, of which football takes the biggest share. Michigan State’s athletic budget is about $80 million.

Dave Hogg / Flickr

Former Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren said, “I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people’s accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man’s failures.”

But this year, the sports page had plenty of both.

Sad to say, bad news tends to travel faster.

So let’s start with some good news.  In men’s tennis, the rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, already one of the best, was joined by a man named Novak Djokovic, who won three majors this year on a gluten-free diet – no joke. 

Hundreds of the nation’s best teenage figure skaters are in East Lansing this week competing in the U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships. Organizers say the Lansing area economy is among the winners.   

On the ice, figure skaters glide through their routines to strains of classical music.  But it’s the hundreds of skaters, their coaches and families who are music to the ears of East Lansing businesses.   

mgoblue.com

Last week, the Michigan football team beat Ohio State for the first time since 2003. While it wasn’t anything like the half-dozen “Games of the Century” these two rivals have played, I believe it might be one of the most important.

Just a few years ago, ESPN’s viewers called the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry the best. Not just in college football, or all football, but in all sports. Period. 

But this year’s game won’t go down as one of the best. Michigan entered the game ranked 17th, but the Buckeyes hobbled into their annual finale dragging a 6 and 5 record behind them, their worst team since the 1990s.

But all that just made the stakes for Michigan that much higher.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan's first-year head football coach was given Big Ten "Coach of the Year" honors by other conference coaches and by members of the media.

Hoke led the Wolverines to a 10-2 season overall, including a win against rival Ohio State.

From MGoBlue.com:

The Big Ten Conference announced Wednesday (Nov. 30) that University of Michigan head football coach Brady Hoke was chosen as the Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year, as selected by conference coaches, and the Dave McClain Coach of the Year, as picked by the media.

Hoke is the sixth first-year coach to earn the McClain Coach of the Year award, which dates back to 1972 and is named for the former Wisconsin coach. This is the inaugural awarding of the Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year honor, which pays tribute to Ohio State's Woody Hayes and Michigan's Bo Schembechler.

MGoBlue.com reports Hoke joins former Michigan coach Fielding Yost as the only coaches in Michigan's history to win at least 10 games in their first season as head coach.

user sd dirk / Flickr

The Cy Young award last week. The American League MVP this week.

It was announced today that Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers took home the prestigious baseball award.

It's the first time a starting pitcher has won the award since Roger Clemens won it playing for Boston in 1986, according to ESPN.

More from ESPN.com:

Andrew Horne / wikimedia commons

The lights went out at Michigan Stadium Saturday morning, just an hour before game time with Nebraska.

An isolated power outage at the Big House left the facility without a P.A. system, scoreboard or countdown clocks.

But the game started anyway.

Jeff Arnold is a reporter with CBSsports.com.

He said things got a little complicated.

“It’s wreaked havoc for at least one of the offenses doing down toward the west end of the stadium, where the 25-second play clock is inoperable,” Arnold said.

Power was gradually restored to parts of the stadium, but reporters in the press box had to scramble as laptop batteries ran out of juice.

The national broadcast of the game was uninterrupted because the network had a backup generator.

The cause of the power outage hasn’t been revealed.

The Wolverines beat the Huskers, 45-17.

user audreyjm529 / Flickr

College football coaches are far from the richest people in sports, but they could be the most powerful.  That might seem far-fetched, but not to the disciples of Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes, and Tom Osborne, among others, who rose to become almost spiritual leaders at their schools.   

At University of Michigan President James Duderstadt’s retirement banquet in 1996, he said being president wasn’t easy, but it came with some nice perks.  He even got to meet the man thousands of people considered God.  “No,” he said, “not Bo Schembechler, but the Dalai Lama.”

Kevin Ward / Flickr

Many fans of professional basketball are disappointed that the ongoing contract dispute between players and owners may end up canceling this year’s NBA season. But in Auburn Hills, the home of the Detroit Pistons, disappointment is turning into desperation.  

Many businesses in Auburn Hills rely on the 41 games the Pistons play at the Palace each season. Pete Auger is the Auburn Hills city manager. He says the local economy supported by the games is more than just the thousand people who work at the Palace. 

“You also have restaurants and bars that thrive off of those dates that you get 20-22,000 people coming to one location. All those locations are reporting to us their business is down 40 to 60 percent," says Auger.  

Auger says the city is also missing the exposure that comes from having a pro-sports team identified with the community. That lack of exposure may continue for a while. NBA players this week rejected the owners’ latest offer and that may result in the entire season being canceled.

The crackle of gunfire can be heard today across Michigan as the state’s firearm deer season opens.   

For the first time in three years, hunters in the Lower Peninsula are legally using piles of food to lure deer. Deer baiting was temporarily banned after a Kent County deer tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease in 2008. The ban was lifted earlier this year after no more deer tested positive for the disease.   

Dean Molnar is with the Department of Natural Resources law enforcement division.  He says baiting can be effective if done properly.   

“I think in some particular areas it will be beneficial for folks to be able to see deer and harvest them…especially in areas where (the deer) have minimal habitat," says Molnar.   

Something else new this year, hunters are getting younger. The state is permitting ten and eleven year olds to hunt deer, as long as they are accompanied by an adult. The previous age limit was twelve.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Today across Michigan many businesses are closed, absenteeism is up and even state legislators are taking the day off. This is Michigan’s unofficial state holiday, the first day of firearm deer season.  

Hunter Gabe Van Wormer and I recently went walking through some woods just north of Lansing. The area is hemmed in with suburban neighborhoods. But there are deer in these woods.  

user: Michael Knight /flickr

A student riot erupted this week at Penn State following the firing of the university’s longtime coach, Joe Paterno. He was fired after details surrounding alleged child sex abuse emerged involving the university’s former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talked with Dr. Cheryl Cooky, Assistant Professor in the Department of Health & Kinesiology and Women’s Studies Program at Purdue University. She specializes in sports sociology. Cooky talks about how we view athletic scandals.

 

There's money to be made around the passion for Michigan football at Michigan Stadium.
Anthony Gattine / Flickr

Michigan Radio's Sports Commentator John U. Bacon has a new book out. It premiered at number six on The New York Times non-fiction best seller list this week. Bacon was already well-known at the University of Michigan for the book he co-wrote with Bo Schembechler. So, it wasn’t difficult for him to get access to the Wolverine football program in 2008 when the team got a new head coach Rich Rodriguez, or Rich-Rod.

Bacon's plan was to write a story on the spread offense that Rich-Rod had used so successfully at West Virginia. But Bacon quickly found himself in the middle of a new, more complex story.

"It started out being a very simple story... and, now you realize, of course, three years later, the real story is off the field: it's what it's really like to be a player, what it's really like to be a coach, NCAA investigations, pressure, losing, ultimately getting fired... I don't think you have to be much of a football fan to follow this," says Bacon.

Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley spoke with Bacon about his new book, Three and Out: Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football.

Pure Michigan

State lawmakers are considering legislation that would open more state owned land to horseback riding. But the proposal could also end up costing Michigan millions of dollars in federal grant money.   

The state House Natural Resources, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation committee is scheduled to discuss the horseback riding bill Wednesday. The bill’s sponsor says opening up more state parkland to horseback riding could increase tourism. 

But Erin McDonough says the state could lose $25 to 30 million in federal grant money. McDonough is the executive director of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs. The federal grant money is intended to promote hunting and McDonough says increasing horseback riding would negatively affect land the state bought for hunting. 

"There’s a way to have a balance.  And there’s a way for everybody to have recreational opportunities on all those lands," says McDonough.  

McDonough says supporters of the bill do not believe federal officials will follow through with a threat to cut the grant funding.  

Michigan has approximately 80 thousand recreational horseback riders using around 25 hundred miles of trails around the state.

Michiganensian

At last week’s Homecoming Game, Michigan had planned to honor one of its great alums, a man named Chalmers Elliott – better known as Bump.

He was an All-American football player and a Big Ten champion coach, but earned greater fame as the athletic director at Iowa, Michigan’s opponent this weekend.

Pneumonia kept the 86-year old legend from making it, however, so we're honoring him today. 

Michigan football has produced a lot of big name coaches and players, but one of the finest men who played and coached for Michigan deserves to be a little bigger.

His name is Chalmers Elliott – which might explain why he goes by “Bump.”

In the summer of 2008, Rich Rodriguez granted me unfettered access to the Michigan football program so I could write a book.

Three years later the book is finished, and not with a happy ending.

Similar to just about everybody else connected to Michigan football these past three years, I had no idea what I was getting into. 

During my three years following the Michigan football team, the working title of the book changed from “All or Nothing,” to “All In,” to “Third and Long,” before Rodriguez’s last season, and after he was fired, to “Three and Out.”

wikimedia commons

The term “Michigan Man” probably goes back to the day men arrived at Michigan.

But it’s taken more than a few twists and turns since – and not always for the better.

Fielding Yost gave the term “Michigan Man” a boost when he started using it in his speeches.

But the phrase really took off in 1989, when Michigan athletic director Bo Schembechler announced he was firing basketball coach Bill Frieder, on the eve of the NCAA basketball tournament, because Frieder had signed a secret deal to coach Arizona State the next season.

Specialist 2nd Class Joel Carlson / United States Navy

President Barack Obama will attend a basketball game between Michigan State University and North Carolina. The game will be held on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson on Veteran's Day (11-11-11).

The game is being branded as the "Quicken Loans Carrier Classic" and it's billed as the "first ever carrier to host a Division 1 college basketball game."

From the Washington Post:

Obama is expected to lay a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery in honor of Veterans Day and then travel to San Diego for the game.

“This Veterans Day, President Obama will honor our nation’s veterans by laying a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery and then by traveling to San Diego, California, to attend the Carrier Classic on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson,” the White House said in a statement. “He looks forward to a great game between Michigan State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.”

The nuclear powered aircraft carrier is famed for being the carrier from which Osama bin Laden's body was buried at sea. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

Derek Tam / Flickr

The University of Michigan football team plays Northwestern in Evanston tomorrow for the first time since 2007.  The undefeated, 12th ranked Wolverines are seven-point favorites, but beating the Wildcats is no longer the easy game it used to be.  Whatever happens this weekend, it can’t match what happened back in 1995 – one of my favorite sports stories.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Don Kelly and Delmon Young hit first-inning home runs, Doug Fister and the Detroit bullpen held on and the Tigers edged the New York Yankees 3-2 Thursday night to win the deciding Game 5 of the AL playoff series.

The Tigers escaped jams all game and advanced to the AL championship series against Texas.

Jose Valverde shut down the Yankees in the ninth as the Tigers eliminated New York in the division series for the second time in six seasons.

AccuWeather, the  respected private weather forecasting service based in Pennsylvania, is  predicting this will be a horrible winter, worse even than the last one. This  news came on the very day it became certain that it will
soon be faster to  escape to Chicago.

Keith Allison / Flickr

Once in a while something happens that is so unusual, even those who don’t normally pay attention have to stop and take notice.

Haley’s Comet, for example, only comes along once every 75 years.

A leap year only comes around every four years.  And Lindsey Lohan goes to jail – no, wait, that happens every week. 

Well, this week, Detroit sports fans got Haley’s Comet, a leap year, and a clean and sober Lindsay Lohan all wrapped into one:  The Tigers clinched the American League Central Division, and even more shockingly, the Lions won their third straight game. 

Flickr

There may be no joy in Boston or Atlanta, but there is plenty among baseball fans in the Great Lakes.

The Detroit Tigers and Milwaukee Brewers are headed to division playoff series in the American and National Leagues, respectively.

The Brewers have a leg up on their neighbors across Lake Michigan: they’ve clinched home field advantage in the best of five series. They play the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday and Saturday at Miller Park in Milwaukee.

The Tigers face the New York Yankees those same days at Yankee Stadium in New York, then return to Comerica Park on Monday.

user: Urban Adventures / flickr

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In 1935, the Detroit Tigers won the World Series. The last time the baseball team won their Division was back in 1987. And now the Tigers will open the playoffs this Friday. While it’s certainly exciting for the team and its fans, is there a larger impact the city and the state can enjoy from a successful sports team?  Michigan Radio's Jack Lessenberry gives us a historical perspective.

Big Ten Facebook page

College conferences are going through a major upheaval – perhaps the biggest in the history of college sports.

In the past year, we’ve seen Nebraska join the Big Ten, Colorado and Utah join the Pac-10, and, this week, Syracuse and Pittsburgh join the Atlantic Coast Conference.  DePaul, Marquette and Texas Christian University just joined the Big East.

Which raises the question: Just how BIG is the East?

Big enough to swallow half the Midwest and a chunk of Texas. 

A lot of people who don’t care much about sports seem to care about this.

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