this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Henri the Otter of Ennui is the new mascot of posting restrictions.
Post-Illinois restrictions back: 20 to comment, 500 to start new threads/diaries. Will be in effect until Monday morning.
Justification I probably don't need to provide: seriously dislike new registrants who sign up just to flame and would rather proactively cut them off than have to read it. Criticism is fine from people who have established themselves as part of the community.
As always, please read the Live Blog Chaos Mitigation Post before typing in your one-word responses.
Rounding up the week's best in user-created content.
A little off the wall choice for the diarist of the week. Captain Obvious writes an awesome set of lyrics about the state of Michigan's football team:
It's a punt block when it's already too late
It's a no-punting sign on your Space Emperor's leg
It's like ten thousand Slots when you need is a MIKE
It's meeting the Center of my dreams
And then meeting his shredded up knee
And isn't it ironic... don't you think
A little too ironic... and yeah I really do think...
It's like rain on Homecoming Day
It's a blown punt when you've already faked
It's the three points that you just couldn't take
Who would've thought ... it figures
Congratulations, Captain Obvious, you are the Diarist of the Week.
michelin looks at similarities between the overall trajectories of the Notre Dame and Michigan football programs.
The promising thing is that, unlike ND, UM has more, not less, starters coming back for the next two years. Clearly, it’s way too early to tell—as Brian has intimated today—but I can't help worrying that we might end up like ND if we keep getting rid of coaches before they can build their program.
I think at this point, there's no (rational) fan calling for Rich Rodriguez to be fired at least until the end of next year, so this overall worry may not be an issue. I still recommend clicking through because lolnd.
On a similar note, Brady2Terrell looks at the 47 coaches who have started their Big Ten coaching careers with 2 consecutive losing seasons:
*5 (10.6%) have won even a single Big Ten title;
*5 (10.6%) have finished their tenure with even a winning record;
*2 (4.3%) have won at least one Big Ten title AND finished with a winning record; and
*0 have won national titles.
The numbers aren't pretty, but there's still hope ahead for Michigan fans. Like he says, it's not that we're screwed, it's that we're in uncharted territory here. A positive comparison would likely require winning one or both of the last two games. Hey, then Rich can be like... Jackie Sherrill?
TAMU was 5-5 going into its final game at Texas, which was playing for the SWC Title. TAMU blew out the Horns in Austin, something like 38-12, sending the Horns to one of those nondefunct bowls. The 6-5 record wasn't good enough for a bowl game in those days (unless you were ND or UM) so TAMU stayed home but the win in Austin took all of the heat off of Sherrill.
TAMU went on to win 3 consecutive SWC titles in 85-86-87 and beat Texas each year. Sherrill had finally "arrived" at a school where Football is king over the other sports.
Let's hear it for positivity!
The week started off with some seriously emo posts following the Purdue loss. Geaux_Blue said:
I guess why I made this diary is simple. For those of us All In, the road is narrow and uphill. The likelihood is 5-7 and the off-season is going to be months of looking at checkbooks and wondering "why did I spend $50 to drink at the bar and watch non-Siller shred us in November." This is difficult and not even close to the experience of overcoming kneeshoulderelbowhead like Forcier or any player is facing. But the fanbase has its own wounds. And they're licked (that's what she said).
A rational take for the fanbase that continues to support Michigan.
Lordfoul sums up what we know coming out of the Purdue game. In condensed form:
- Michigan has the worst defense in the B10.
- The offense continues to improve.
- This confluence of probabilities is not favorable for the current coaching staff. Michigan is known for giving its coaches time and not being hasty in firings. That said this situation may not right itself in time to save Rich Rod and friends even given the extra slack.
- I would put it at at least improbable that we will win either of our last two games this season.
- Danny Hope is an asshole.
I disagree with point #3. Dude, there's no way Rich gets fired after two years, and a (highly likely) bowl game is probably enough progress to save his hide for another year. He may get fired after that, but it wouldn't be because there wasn't enough time, it would be because he was given enough time and failed.
hekdchi looks at what has improved between year 1 and year 2 of the Rodriguez era:
This entry will list the raw numbers of Michigan's 2008 season versus the 2009 season thus far to demonstrate where the team has and has not improved in the Rich Rodriguez era.
Hint: offense good, defense bad. This is probably not terribly surprising to anyone. Of note is that the defense is giving up fewer points than last year, and has improved in a couple other categories (though slightly). Expanding on that idea is clarkiefromcanada, who takes umbrage with the use of the term "regression":
Like all of you I am totally frustrated with how this is working out this year; however, I am sick and tired of the naysayers, trolls and newbie idiots posting the exact same material on "regression".
Amen. Especially since it's totally fair to expect a defense that lost half of its starters will get a little worse. Speaking of losing all those starters, Misopogon gives a handy graphical representation of his stellar "Decimated Defense" series. There are kittens involved. Jokewood also shows that even the sheer numbers, especially of upperclassmen, are a sign that Michigan isn't going to be a great defense:
The rest of the Big Ten averages 50% more upperclassmen on defense. We are dead last in the conference by a wide margin in terms of experienced defensive players. Purdue and Notre Dame - the two teams closest in terms of youth - also have terrible defenses, against which Michigan averaged 35 ppg this year.
It may be a while before the numbers are worked out, too.
Steve Sharik's awesome X-and-O post was frontpaged; you're probably familiar with it.
Familiarize yourselves with the veer, fools.
Etc.: Wolverine in Exile runs down the BCS rankings. 909Dewey talks about expectations for Rich Rodriguez coming in, how they've shifted, and how he's living up to them. stubob previews the ugly games of the week. The Mathlete looks at the Purdue game by the numbers. I recommend you stop reading before you get to pass defense. The man... the myth... THE_KNOWLEDGE predicts coaching changes.
|WHAT||Michigan v. Northern Michigan|
November 13th, 2009
|THE LINE||No line, junkie|
|TELEVISION||Big Ten Network|
Year 3 of the John Beilein era gets off to its official start Saturday at 7 as Michigan takes on the Wildcats of Northern Michigan in Crisler Arena. Though he's been a coach for over three decades, Beilein still feels butterflies heading into the year. "My gut feels the same... You're excited about it, and at the same time there's nervous energy."
If everything goes according to plan, the Wildcats will provide little competition. Instead, it should be an opportunity to get the kinks worked out, and a rotation established, before Houston Baptist comes to town next Friday—and hopefully even that is just a tune-up for the Old Spice Classic. The game against Northern will count as a win in the record books, but doesn't have an effect on Michigan's final RPI.
Manny Harris is still not 100%, though he's finally practicing in full with the team. Jordan Morgan has yet to hit the court with his teammates, though it should come soon. He and Blake McLimans will be kept on a redshirt track until the team absolutely needs them, in hopes that it never does.
A number of players are looking to improve their versatility. "I'm here to do what Coach Beilein needs me to do," says Laval Lucas-Perry, "I think I'm a little bit of both: point guard and a shooting guard." Darius Morris needs to learn when to simply go to the bucket, instead of setting up an offensive play (he also needs a winter coat). "As a point guard, you have to know when it's your opportunity to go out there and be a scorer... when you have to make that extra pass or go straight to the basket," Morris said. Stu Douglass is learning that sometimes it's OK to just trust his shot, even when running the point.
The rebounding and three-point defense continue to be issues, as they probably will be throughout the John Beilein era, though not to the extent they were last year. "The zone, at times, will give up a higher percentage than we'd like to, but it also creates turnovers," says Beilein. The team size will improve over last year, hopefully fixing some of those issues.
This team is still very much a work in progress. But isn't it fun to be able to enjoy the process?
As discussed in yesterday's non-conference roundup, Northern is, like, not very good. Against D-2 competition, they were below .500. They split the season series with Wayne State, a team that gave Michigan a comfortable victory in their exhibition last week. This is the Wildcats' first game of the season, in the largest arena they'll visit all year. They placed nobody on the pre-season all-conference squads.
Their players to watch are guards Marc Renelique and Raymont McElroy. They were atop last year's squad in scoring, and McElroy is the three-point shooter. The Northern Michigan roster from their website has some differences from ESPN's website, so take any personnel notes with a grain of salt. Hopefully, it shouldn't be too relevant for this game.
No tempo-free breakdown for this game, as it's the first game of the year against a D-2 opponent. We'll see about Houston Baptist getting the statistical preview, but it should make its permanent debut for the Old Spice Classic.
UMHoops has a little more on the Wildcats and six questions going into the season, which makes Rothstein's five questions seem very sad and small and alone. AnnArbor.com has plenty of coverage; Morris and LLP are the point guards with Douglass a third option. Jay Bilas has gone from emotional problems to crazy Michigan homer. Also Dick Vitale said something I'm betting was annoying.
|WHAT||Michigan at #21 Wisconsin|
|WHERE||Camp Randall, Madison, WI|
November 13th, 2009
|THE LINE||Wisconsin –9*|
|TELEVISION||Nationwide on BTN
|WEATHER||Around 50, cloudy,
slight chance of rain
Run Offense vs. Wisconsin
The stats here are grim. Wisconsin may have gone up against a I-AA snackycake but it was a I-AA snackycake that runs the triple option and put up 214 yards on 55 carries: their 1-AA game actually distorts their run defense negatively. There are probably four teams in I-A that can say that.
In the Big Ten, rushing has been near pointless for opponents lately:
Michigan State fell behind big in that game, which helps explain how the meh Spartan rushing offense got 5.1 YPC and why they wouldn't go to it more than 20 times if they were picking yards up at such a good clip. Then you've got a decent performance by Minnesota, a good one by Ohio State, and three obliterations. Despite a ton of sacks—about which more later—Wisconsin's stats hold up under scrutiny. This is one of the best rushing defenses Michigan has played, with only Penn State and Michigan State(!)* anywhere in the statistical ballpark.
Michigan's rushing game never got untracked in a bizarrely short game against State, but the more recent outing against Penn State saw three separate rushers crack four yards per carry; erase five sacks for Penn State—about which more later—and Michigan finished the day with 138 yards on 34 carries, 4.1 yards per attempt. This was accomplished with a long run of 17 yards and without David Molk, so there aren't any factors that suggest Michigan won't be able to replicate that performance against the Badgers.
Well, there may be one: Michigan's senior tailbacks have come down with their usual array of minor injuries. According to Rodriguez, Brandon Minor was "day to day" earlier this week after re-emerging as the primary option against Purdue. He was almost entirely absent from the Illinois game. Carlos Brown, the primary guy against Illinois, was hampered with tendinitis against Purdue and saw one carry. Neither was on this week's injury report, but they weren't on the injury report either of the last two weeks. Either or both could be limited and we won't know until their mysterious absence lasts into the second quarter.
I'm expecting something similar to the Penn State game, where the rushing is effective but erratic enough that Michigan can't just pound it all day; a big play or two is a possibility but not a major one. Unless Michigan can get some pass blocking drives will be hard to sustain.
*(Seriously: MSU is 15th in rushing defense, which makes that game earlier this year far less weird.)
Key Matchup: Brandon Minor's ankle versus Everything Good And Holy.
Pass Offense vs. Wisconsin
Wisconsin's been far more vulnerable here when Purdue receivers aren't making Danny Hope's mustache droop and opposing passers aren't arm-punting all day. Ben Chappell, who you will remember as a polished, entirely average sort of fellow:
If that looks familiar, Ben Chappell against Michigan:
I'll take any statistic that suggests the opponent's secondary is on par with Michigan's. Please.
The wider view isn't as kind but it does suggest some vulnerability: the Badgers are 65th in pass defense efficiency, and those numbers Wisconsin's stats are probably about right relative to how they've performed. The Purdue game may have been a break but Wisconsin scrubs also gave up two long aerial touchdown drives to Michigan State after that game had descended into garbage time.
The secondary is vulnerable. The problem will be getting to it. Magically delicious Badger defensive end O'Brien Schofield has seven sacks this year and the run stats above required serious extraction to separate the actual runs from the copious sacks Wisconsin has racked up. They're 27th nationally, and remember they basically did not have a I-AA game in this statistic. Michigan is 82nd in sacks allowed despite being 82nd in pass attempts: the pass protection has been really, really bad. Michigan's responded with rollouts and screens and crazy huge dropbacks from the shotgun, so they might be able to get around the pass protection issues by it's going to be a matter of mitigation.
Roy Roundtree might be key again. He was the bulk of the pass offense against Purdue and while Wisconsin will adjust to that, the slot receiver is a guy who will be open in seams and on bubble routes when linebackers are cheating to the run game and having a rangy, sure-handed target like Roundtree can provide Forcier with an array of quick options on which magically delicious defensive ends are spectators. Then the weakside linebacker must choose between eating Brandon Minor facemask seven yards downfield or watching Roundtree grab a short seam route or four. Part of the slot receiver's popularity in this edition of the Rodriguez offense is borne of necessity: guy is close and you can get it to him quick.
I'm heartened by the relative inexperience of the Badger linebackers and think Forcier will have a good day in the short to intermediate stuff, with Koger and Roundtree frequent targets and that RB wheel route re-emerging into a threat. On passing downs Michigan will be ineffective and Forcier flushed or sacked frequently. The usual.
Key Matchup: Huyge or Dorrestein versus Large Minus In Next Week's UFR. This is easy, right: the RT spot has been a sore one in pass protection all year.
Run Defense vs Wisconsin
To adequately address the Michigan defense this weekend we have to address the rumors that there's been a major shakeup in the secondary. The rumors are so rampant that they just about must be true. "Guy is practicing at this position on the first team" is a rock-solid piece of information that comes with future intent; "OMG Forcier transfer!" is the opposite of that.
So: Michigan is likely to reconfigure its defense. The obvious thing to do is pull the overmatched or underperforming safeties off the field; rumors are focused on Brandon Smith, linebacker as of two weeks ago, as a replacement. This makes sense against Wisconsin, as Michigan figures to be in an eight-man front on any reasonable rushing down. Then you've got one deep safety who will probably not be Jordan Kovacs because Kovacs has shown over the past few weeks that he has magically un-delicious walk-on speed. Woolfolk may move, or it may be Warren, who's been playing a two-deep safety in various formations for much of the year after the Woolfolk move. This means JT Floyd gets another crack at corner.
To the run defense: despite rumors that the Big Ten is a huge power running sort of conference from people who haven't watched a college football game in ten years, this will be the first actual test of Michigan's defense against a team of neanderthals who know and love rock, only rock. Previous traditional running teams have not done that well…
[Note: QB/WR runs excised for tighter focus on 'rock' style running.]
…but none of those teams is actually much good at running. Iowa and Michigan State are terrible; Penn State is 42nd.
To boot: many of those yards have not been Michigan getting overpowered by their opponent but Michigan doing something dumb like Mouton leaving a 41-yard cutback lane for Royster, Kovacs whiffing on Robinson, or Mike Martin stopping his flow down the line against Caper. This is the opponent-invariant bit. Michigan's defense has been bad for reasons other than physical limitations.
Unfortunately, if there's a team out there more likely to expose Michigan's physical limitations it's the last game on the schedule. Wisconsin is Wisconsin except this year they've replaced an overweight plodder with John Clay, a true moosebeast of a tailback who looks like Beanie Wells or Adrian Peterson, a guy it's hard to believe is playing college football instead of the NFL variety. Clay had some issues early in the year of the practice fumbling or disciplinary variety that saw him lose time to decent backup Zach Brown, but once he emerged he did so with vigor. He is currently the leading rusher in the Big Ten and is averaging 5.1 YPC.
A few teams have held him in check but one of them is Ohio State, with whom there is no possible comparison to Michigan's defense. The other—outside of a strange 15 carry, 45 yard day against NIU in the opener—was Iowa, though, and we saw that Iowa's rushing defense was pretty mediocre this year. However, Clay's crushed Indiana, Purdue, Minnesota, and Michigan State. Put Michigan's defense in one of those two categories, and it's the wrong one.
Michigan is already slant happy and will remain even more so against a Wisconsin line that is much bigger than they are; I think you''ll see a lot of cutbacks because guys are hitting it into the backfield. These cutbacks will meet late and ill-prepared linebackers and Clay is going to get his 2-3 YAC on most plays and grid like he usually does. He'll also break a long one when someone screws up. Fact of life. He should easily clear 100 yards.
Key Matchup: Whoever is at linebacker versus overpursuit. This week's key matchups are "things I expect Michigan will not do well."
Pass Defense vs Wisconsin
Death by tight end. I know that our Wisconsin guest suggested that Garrett Graham had disappeared after the Michigan State game—in which he and Tolzien had a creepy mind-meld—but Michigan has a knack for making tight ends re-appear. The dossier is extensive at this point: Moeaki, Quarless, etc. Last week against Purdue Kevin Leach got lost on a mesh route and turned a third and five dumpoff crossing route into a 56-yard completion. Garrett Graham will be hand-wavingly wide open on a series of waggle plays/seam routes, especially if Michigan goes to a one-high eight man front as the previous section suggests they will. Linebackers will bite, and Graham will be open, and he will probably get 100 yards.
That out of the way: Tolzien's been decent in his first year as a starter. He's 51st in efficiency and is completing 62% of his passes. His main issue has been interceptions; he threw five in the two losses against Ohio State and Iowa; those were huge factors in their losses. If Michigan can cover some guys, he might screw up, especially if Brandon Graham is attempting to eat his face.
That might happen. Wisconsin's sack numbers are decent on the surface—they're 49th—but that conceals a passing offense that doesn't get a whole lot of work. The Badgers are 94th in pass attempts. If Michigan can get Wisconsin into passing situations, Graham can nibble on a cheek here and there. Those figure to be few and far between.
When Wisconsin gets protection, the deep threat is Badger legacy Nick Toon. He's Wisconsin's best deep threat and a guy who can probably get open downfield against Woolfolk—who's been vulnerable—but not Warren. He's averaging 14.5 yards per catch but only has two touchdowns on the year.
And then there's Michigan's presumably reconfigured secondary. I assume Toon will draw the non JT Floyd corner, which means second receiver and infrequent target Isaac Anderson will get a lot of work. Given what we saw from Floyd earlier this year he's going to play off and hope for the best.
That'll be the recipe, I guess. Tolzien won't have a lot of attempts, but the ones he gets will be efficient.
Key Matchup: Roh/Leach/Ezeh vs Graham. If they can get a chuck or read the play action or just do something long enough for the dodgy pass protection to matter, maybe?
This should be a solid advantage for Michigan. Darryl Stonum continues to prove himself the conference's best kick return specialist. He's already broken the single-season kick return yardage record set by Steve Breaston a few years ago. That's largely because of sheer volume, but Stonum took one back for a touchdown against Notre Dame and has interspersed excellent returns throughout the rest of the year. He took two over the 50 against Purdue. Wisconsin, meanwhile, ceded a kick return touchdown of its own against Ohio State and Adam Hoge of Bucky's Fifth Quarter thought they might be vulnerable despite a recent improvement in performance.
Michigan's punt returns have been substandard all year, so that's not much of a threat; Wisconsin is about average in net punting.
When Michigan kicks to Wisconsin, expect little. Wisconsin's in the triple digits in both punt and kickoff returns and David Gilreath has taken a major step backwards this year. Kicker Phillip Welch has been okay, not great. He's hitting two-thirds of his attempts and missed an extra point against Wofford. He was very good last year, going 20/24. Jason Olesnavage is 10/12 with a far costlier missed extra point.
Key Matchup: CATCH THE DAMN BALL.
- Wisconsin has adjusted to the Roy Roundtree show and Michigan is forced to rely on pass protection more than they'd like.
- Michigan has no answer for the beast machine.
- Forcier doesn't play on the second drive.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Wisconsin's OL can't handle the quickness of Martin and Van Bergen.
- The reconfigured secondary makes you wonder what the hell took them so long.
- It's 2010.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 8 out of 10. (Baseline 5, +1 for The Scales They Fall From My Eyes, +1 for We're Winless On The Road And Camp Randall Is Slightly More Intimidating Than Memorial Stadium, +1 for I Bet Totally Changing The Defense In Game 10 Is Going To Work Great, –1 for I Guess It Can't Be Worse, +1 for Forcier Aigh!).
Desperate need to win level: 9 out of 10. (Baseline 5, +1 for Bowl Game, +1 for Partial Cessation Of Hostilities In The RichRod War, +1 for Escape Big Ten Basement, +1 for Tip The Scales Back Towards Not Doom.)
Loss will cause me to... work on my Henri the Otter of Ennui impression even more.
Win will cause me to... relax.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
To reiterate on the Forcier thing: I expect he will miss the first series and then return. If that assumption does not pan out, head for the hills and re-emerge in two weeks.
Given that: I can see many ways for Wisconsin to move the ball against Michigan's defense, reconfigured or not, and have explained them in detail above. I think Michigan will have a decent day on offense but be poor on third-down conversions because of the pass protection issues; they'll need about two huge breaks to win.
Finally, opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Garrett Graham goes over 100 yards receiving.
- Minor is the primary back and also goes over 100 yards.
- Robinson gets more work in the backfield than he has to date.
- Wisconsin, 30-20.
We've got a guest this time! Woo! It's Adam Hoge from Bucky's Fifth Quarter, the SBNation Wisconsin blog—and only extant one, it appears. Unfortunately, logistical issues—read "sleep schedule of a 70-year-old"—prevented regular guest Jamiemac from making an appearance this week. We persevere.
This week's edition is far less suicidal. Also, for the record: I was not drunk for last week's podcast, but I can understand how one might think I was.
Links of use: