this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Warning: post rated PG-13 for f-bomb drop.
11/6/2009 – Michigan 1, Miami 3 – 4-3, 2-1 CCHA
11/7/2009 – Michigan 36, Purdue 38 - 5-5, 1-4 Big Ten
11/7/2009 – Michigan 1, Miami 5 – 4-4, 2-2 CCHA
In the aftermath of The Horror, my coping strategy was to shut off the blog—which was then still on Blogger and subject to the chaos of Haloscan's free-for-all—to avoid any emo suicides and watch The Big Lebowski. (Kittens would show up Monday.) Yes, I am one of those annoying people who thinks The Big Lebowski is the pinnacle achievement of western civilization. I haven't gone to a bowling alley dressed up like Saddam Hussein or the police chief of Malibu, at least.
I didn't do this for any reason related to football. I just like the movie. It makes me laugh to beat the band. I'd never thought there was any sort of overarching philosophy in the movie worth starting a religion over. I was in a mood to reflect on the underpinnings of my life, though.
As the movie unfolded I belatedly realized—or maybe it just seemed way more relevant given my mental state—that the Dude is a spectator throughout. At no point in the movie does the Dude actually take an action without being badgered into it by Walter.* Even the cabbie who likes the Eagles ends up taking a decisive action at the expense of our hero. By the end of the thing, Lebowski's rug is gone, apartment destroyed, car burned to a crisp, and friend dead because an inexplicable series of events he had almost nothing to do with.
My girlfriend says that the reason there is not an academic paper about the Dude's shocking lack of "agency," as the smart kids say, is that it is "too obvious to be interesting." So, too, are the parallels to Michigan fandom**.
I didn't intentionally configure my hair to match the Dude but it does and goddamn if big, incompetent misery factory Walter isn't a good stand-in for Michigan athletics at the moment:
(Sorry about the Turkish(?) subtitles. Woo inadvisable copyright claims.)
"Everything's such fucking travesty with you" was my weekend.
I'm worn out after the last two weeks of football and the fiasco at Yost this weekend; when Miami scored to make it 4-1 with maybe 15 minutes left in the third period I reached a breaking point and just left. Other scenes from earlier this week: some guy tells me not to swear so much in front of his kids at the Friday Miami game, I get in a verbal fight with some guy who wants Rodriguez fired and is complaining about Tate Forcier, cousin of mine gets in separate verbal fight after the game when a different guy is yelling "you suck" at Forcier as he runs off the field, and an adorable child in the row behind me at the Saturday Miami game screams "Mich-i-GAN" the whole game—which was cute the first 50 times.
I've got no real analysis of either team other than they're both worse than I thought. I'm burning out after two years of almost unrelenting misery, and looking forward to football season being over for the third straight year. I mean, when Michigan was down to Purdue in the second half, some fan ten or twenty rows behind me kept shouting "they've got no heart" over and over again as the guy in the row in front of me called for Rodriguez's firing. Having a conversation about Michigan football right now is trying to remember that episode of GI Joe where Destro finds a secret ninja manual in a volcano*** that allows him to kill people with precisely-applied touches: if you can just remember where the red dots are you can spare everyone a lot of pain.
I'll address the question I've gotten in a thousand different forms the past couple weeks—"when can we fire this guy?"—in a separate post. It's been that kind of era.
*(The movie opens with a couple guys peeing on his rug because someone else's wife owes money to Jackie Treehorn. The Big Lebowski directs him to make a ransom drop. Walter screws up the drop despite the Dude screaming at Walter not to screw it up. Walter leads the Bay of Pigs invasion of Larry Sellers's home. Jackie Treehorn invites him to his beach party, so he goes. Maude directs him to show up at her place and directs him to sleep with her—"love me". When the nihilists confront the dude for his three dollars, Walter re-enacts Hill 368 as Lebowski attempts to throw money at Amie Mann's boyfriend.
About the only action Lebowski takes in the movie is telling Brandt that he can have a rug.)
**(Freudian slip: spelled that "fandoom.")
***(This may not be the right character, or even the right cartoon.)
- I wonder if the gameplan on offense was specifically designed to piss Joe Tiller off. Probably not. But dang Roundtree is going hold onto his spot in the lineup when Odoms gets back. He is a Purdue wideout in all ways: physically limited but precise, fearless over the middle, and a guy the quarterback clearly trusts.
- Mouton got pulled for JB Fitzgerald after his (-3, cover –3) on Purdue's first drive but re-entered in the second half; Leach got yanked for Obi Ezeh late, too. So much for the hope that either of the two backups could prove clearly superior to the guys who started the season.
- Carlos Brown had one carry. Injured? Or doghouse after Illinois? Not that I mind: Minor is clearly superior when healthy.
- Omameh played RG the whole game and Dorrestein never came in. If guys like Brown and Dorrestein aren't even on the injury report, why bother having one? Not even "probable"?
- Related: it was really frustrating how many times it seemed that Purdue's offensive line had gotten blown back and Bolden would pop through a hole after taking a circuitous route around a mess. I bet there are some major minuses for the LB corps on the UFR.
- That damn rollout play was shades of the Toledo game. Surely there's an adjustment that can be made there, isn't there?
- Warren doesn't seem good enough to go to the NFL this year anymore. He was mostly a spectator as Purdue complete a ton of routes in front of him.
- With Banks out, Sagesse slid over to act as RVB's backup and Campbell got 20-30 snaps as Martin's backup. He seemed to do a little better.
- I would have gone for it on fourth and ten, too. Michigan had one, maybe two more possessions and needed eight points. Kicking a field goal there only helps you if you get the ball back and score a touchdown, events that seemed unlikely given the defense's performance to that point. It think it's a close decision because it was long yardage and a field goal is a defensible option, but I would have gone for it. That's a real gray area.
- I did have a problem with how much time Michigan took on their final touchdown drive. Scenarios there in the event of a touchdown:
You get two: If you hurried up, Purdue has three or so minutes on the block. If you didn't, Purdue has two. Either way they have an opportunity to drive for the win; the minute there doesn't make a big difference.
You don't get two: If you don't hurry, you've got one timeout and two minutes left and have to try an onside kick and get the ball back with 30 seconds when that fails. If you do, you can kick it deep and hypothetically get the ball back with 1:30 needing only a field goal.
Michigan should have been in jet tempo on the final series, and should have thought about throwing for the touchdown instead of running for it.
- Michigan breaks out the triple option—though I bet the dive is not a read yet—for the first time all year and gets a negative play and a crippling fumble out of it. Two initial thoughts: how is that fair when we haven't run that in the history of Rich Rodriguez, and if Purdue can defend it why the hell can't we?
- The Higgs boson theory from the Purdue preview might be publishable after Michigan lost to Purdue because the kicker missed an extra point in the same game he hit a 51-yard field goal.
Danny Hope introduced Rich Rodriguez to Zack Reckman, the Purdue lineman who got suspended in the wake of the Jonas Mouton Suspension fiasco, in a pissy drama that promises to make future Purdue games more interesting. MVictors has the relevant audio clip from the post-game press conference where Rodriguez complains about the incident.
Obligatory "take" I will bring strong: short of slapping yourself, press conferences don't matter. People use them to support/hate a coach they already support or hate because of on-field events. Nothing from Rodriguez's press conferences has ever made me think he was more likely to succeed or fail at Michigan. It is just talking, and that's a skill that a lot of coaches don't have.
As for the act itself: bush league, but I like bush league. It makes things spicy.
MVictors also reproduces an interesting statement from the officials who did the game about what went down on the crazy Carlos Brown lateral review:
What was the interpretation on the fourth down review with the forward lateral? What was it that the replay official saw?
TODD GEERLINGS: “The replay official saw that the ball, when it left his hand to the point where it touched the receiver’s hand, was clearly forward from the 13 to the 12 yard line. That’s why we had an illegal forward pass from the spot of that pass.”
Who called for the review?
GEERLINGS: “The booth called for the review and I announced that on the field prior to. The coaches on the field were trying to but Purdue did not have a challenge left so they couldn’t have. They were trying to but just as I got the buzz on the pager, I just turned to Purdue and said ‘We got it’ but I think people thought they had challenged it. They were trying to, but they did not.”
This is great. I haven't seen it on tape yet but given the lack of bitching it's probably the right call, and having some clear explanations for what happened in the heat of a critical moment is a much better way to go about defusing potential controversy's than the SEC ham-handed—nay—Delany-esque handling of its ongoing and never-ending refereeing fiascoes.
There's a press conference torrent, too.
|Last week's ballot|
Dude, the deltas on my ballot are not working at all. That probably (helps) explain why I got Mr. Stubborn last week, and it actually looks like I may be cruising for that award again.
I moved Texas ahead of Alabama, because the 'Horns showed that even when they play horribly, they're capable of blowing a team out.
I'm finally giving Pitt the respect they've probably deserved for the past couple week. I think that NC State loss was really holding me back, but there's hardly anybody out there who hasn't had a couple sketchy games.
I was surprised how little Iowa and Oregon moved down. I'm not sure if I like the small difference there, but I think the resumes still fit.
I don't like moving BYU in at the end of the poll, since they've gotten blown out in their only two games against actual competition. I also don't like dropping Wisconsin (though their resume isn't too different from BYU's). I think I'll switch Wisconsin back out for BYU in the final.
As per usual, the Live Blog Chaos Mitigation Post exists and you should check it out if you are a n00b.
Michigan (0-0) 73, Wayne State 54.
It was an exhibition game against a D-2 team. It's meaningless in the grand scheme of things, and counts toward nothing. Yet it still felt good to be back in Crisler Arena, and perhaps even better to emerge with a win, be it over Duke, Michigan State... or Wayne State.
In the grand scheme of things, nothing is more important than junior Manny Harris's hamstring injury. Though it has been hampering him throughout fall practices, there was no noticeable effect on the floor. "I think it got a lot better," Manny said following the game. He led all scorers with 25 points,tied senior DeShawn Sims for the team lead in rebounds (5), and even came away with three steals to lead all players. Manny said he wasn't sure how much he was going to play, but coach JOhn Beilein Beilein explained, "I wanted to make sure he got enough touches and just felt good before the real thing starts."
The fast break was a good source of offense for Michigan, as well. "This year, we're trying to be faster, and just really anticipating that. We've got more people athletic on the wing, so there's no reason why we shouldn't be running," said freshman Darius Morris. The three ball wasn't quite as consistent, except from sophomore Zack Novak, who went 5/8 from behind the arc.
I was somewhat surprised that Michigan's athleticism wasn't able to simply overpower the Warriors for the entire game. Basketball is a more skill-oriented sport than football in some respects, so the difference between the divisions may be there and in size, rather than raw athletic ability. Wayne did have a couple guys who could really shoot the ball, but Michigan's defense made it difficult to get a lot of open looks.
The Crisler atmosphere was pretty good, with 9,657 fans in the house. "It's blessing, with all those Maize Rage fans are out there, calling your name. It was just a great atmosphere," said Darius Morris. "It was great," Novak said, "The Maize Rage was awesome, and we had a really good turnout, I thought." A good turnout indeed: That's within a thousand of last year's season average. It's not guaranteed to continue though, according to Beilein: "We certainly have to win to keep them coming back, but it's really neat to have that type of student support."
- Your starters were Darius Morris, Laval Lucas-Perry, Manny Harris, Zack Novak, and DeShawn Sims.
- Coach Beilein mentioned that he would like to get DeShawn Sims on the court with another bigman more often. He couldn't tonight because of Sims's foul trouble, but look for that in the future.
- I was surprised at how little Matt Vogrich played. You'd think a good outside shooter like him would get more run in Beilein's system. He was unable to get into a rhythm in his 11 minutes and was 0/2 from the floor.
- Michigan was able to empty the bench at the end of the game. You can see that those guys aren't as talented as those who will get more regular playing time, but there are a couple guys who could be contributors in the future.
- Zack Gibson is still good for at least one play per game that makes you think "he can do that?".
- It's touched on above, but I was shocked at the fan turnout for a weekend exhibition game. Good work, Michigan fans (or is this a sign we're just waiting to transition from football to basketball?).
- Area for improvement: Free throw shooting. The sample size is small (and Michigan was an excellent free throw shooting team last year), so hopefully the 60% number is just an anomaly.
Rounding up the week's best in user-created content. There's so much good stuff around here that this should become a weekly feature.
[Editor's note: that is the plan for the rest of the season; if/when diaries start to fall off we might make it biweekly.]
Any discussion of excellent diaries from the past week has to begin with Misopogon's 2-parter, "The Decimated Defense" (part 2).
Part one discusses the number of recruits and the amount of attrition from Michigan defensive recruiting classes over the last five years:
- Small defensive class size seems to more culpable than attrition for the defense's depth issues.
- Very, very little of the overall attrition on defense seems to be related to the coaching change.
- The disastrous Class of 2005 is still leaving ripples through Michigan's program. If you discount the erstwhile 5th year seniors and true freshmen, our attrition rate is still like 1 out of 3, which is bad, but not as ludicrously bad-looking at you see here.
- RR's focus on offense in his limited time in 2008 may have resulted in a class just as disastrous.
- The English-to-Shafer-to-GERG shift is probably somewhat at fault for many of these players' seemingly retarded development (particularly the linebackers)
Part Two compares the findings of part one to a number of teams in Michigan's cohort, and it has a lot of awesome graphs like this one:
Michigan Alabama Notre Dame Ohio State Penn State 2005 4 3 0 6 3 2006 6 5 2 6 8 2007 4 8 4 8 6 2008 7 15 10 6 4 2009 5 10 4 9 4 4-Star+ 26 41 20 35 25
It even includes a call to action for you, prospective diarist!:
I posted a copy of the Excel spreadsheet above. I would love it if someone would add more teams to the study, or qualify the recruits by creating a new category for later-career ranking. In that, I mean find some way to reassess each player based on his performance thus far against what we should expect from a player of any given Rivals Rating. I'd like to see how Michigan stacked up in picking up guys who would come above versus below expectations.
Misopogon, you are The Diarist of the Week.
CollegeFootball13 does some additional analysis of Michigan's recruiting and attrition over the past few years. You may recognize MCalibur's diary from being bumped to the front page earlier in the week. Don't be scared by the Picasso at the beginning, there's a statistical analysis of offensive improvement in there, as well.
Elsewhere in graph-heavy diaries, Enjoy Life looks at whether Michigan's ongoing turnover woes are a result of the spread option system that Rich Rodriguez runs. He concludes that Michigan's turnover problems aren't because of the system based on RichRod's past at WVU. He is supported with a little less analysis by bouje:
He didn't forget how to coach, turnovers were never an incredible problem under RR at WV, so what is the problem here? I don't really know but I have the confidence in RR to know that he will sort it out.
HOWEVA, PeterKilma thinks that maybe Rich's style of coaching may not be the most effective for all types of kids, and that could be the problem.
The Mathlete gave his stats-based preview of the Illinois game, then followed up with a recap. These things are not at all alike, of course, because WTF Illinois? I think the whole thing can be summed up by one line:
WOW. This was really bad, worse than I expected even.
The emotional counterpart to that is provided Seth9, who is really, really sad for the sake of sports in the state of Michigan:
Now, as I write this at 1:30 in the morning after watching one of the most atrocious games I've ever seen out of a Michigan football team, I wonder why it is that we surrender our emotional well-being to these teams that so often disappoint us. I am still simultaneously depressed and angry about losing such an awful game to such an awful team and I know that this will persist for at least the rest of the week. And it's not as if this situation, this streak of disappointing performances, is unusual. Our teams will generally disappoint us, because we will always hope that our teams will do better than what we can reasonably expect from them. So why is it that we let ourselves care so much? Why do we look to something as inconsequential as the result of a football game as a source of elation or despair?
jamiemac, ever the reasonable one (except when he bets on Michigan to cover against Illinois), strikes out against the more vocally stupid members of the fanbase:
Those critics must be RIGHT becasue their OUTRAGE is LOUD and ANGRY and this is UNACCEPTABLE and they WONT TAKE THIS ANYMORE because this is not MICHIGAN FOOTBALL.
Well, I have two words for those hyperbolic reactionaries today.
Oh, and another sentence.
Go cheer for another team for awhile.
joeyb breaks down some Picture Pages, and determines that the quarterback who is best with his ballfakes will eventually be Michigan's starter. Using Juice Williams's ninja-osity, and BJ Daniels/Jeremiah Masoli's similar abilities, selling the fake is deemed most important to running the read-option.
Etc.: oakapple reminds up that Rodriguez won't be fired until at least 2011 without major NCAA violations. stubob runs down the worst games this weekend. dmccoy reminds us to keep our expectations in line with where they were in the summer.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Purdue|
|WHERE||Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|WHEN||12:00 EST, November 6th, 2009|
|THE LINE||Michigan -6|
|TELEVISION||Nationwide on BTN|
|WEATHER||Sunny, dry, mid-50s|
So, a bird dropped a baguette on the Large Hadron Collider, causing it to overheat. This is the thousandth thing that has gone wrong with the LHC in the past six months. A couple weeks ago some scientists suggested that the LHC could never be activated because the creation of a Higgs Boson—the thing the LHC strives to create—would not only destroy the universe but retroactively destroy the universe. Therefore the LHC's problems were an inevitable consequence of having a universe and that the universe would prevent the LHC from ever operating in order to protect itself. In effect, they argued that the Higgs boson was preventing itself from ever generating itself from the future. They were serious about this.
Theory: you can create the Higgs boson by combining three things: Rich Rodriguez, a Michigan windbreaker, and a bowl game.
Run Offense vs. Purdue
The issues that cropped up when David Molk got injured are likely to compound this weekend. Perry Dorrestein, who drew into the lineup when Molk went out, wasn't listed on the injury report this week but missed some time against Illinois with a back injury, and midweek his availability was in question:
“(His back problem) has been ongoing,” Rodriguez said. “He's been fighting it every week, and it flared up a little with him in last week's ballgame. He's been battling that the last couple weeks, really."
Patrick Omameh would replace Dorrestein if he can't go. Mark Huyge would kick out to tackle and Omameh would play RG. Omameh did okay in his first shot at playing time but is a redshirt freshman and a backup for a reason. That would probably ding the running game farther.
The Illinois stats are pretty ugly and the goal line stand that will live in infamy is the item that lingers in everyone's mind, but the running game has played a fair number of stiff defenses this year and done well; the Illinois game is an outlier. A scary, terrible outlier against a team that had been horrible against the run, but an outlier. Well, mostly an outlier: Michigan State also shut down Michigan's ground game. The running game was effective against Penn State and Iowa, however, and gets Brandon Minor back from his overwhelming ennui. Mike Shaw, who missed the Illinois game with a knee sprain, also returns.
Purdue, meanwhile, is a bad rush defense. They're 88th nationally and just finished having their head caved in by John Clay and a zillion other Badgers—Wisconsin ran for 266 yards on 53 carries. The week before, Mikel Leshoure ripped off a 65-yard run and Illinois picked up 180 yards on 37 carries. The week before that, Purdue totally annihilated Ohio State. Yeah, that doesn't make any sense. But over the course of the season Purdue has proven itself pretty terrible.
Obvious riposte: so had Illinois. The Illinois game shouldn't be weighted too heavily—losing Minor meant Brown was forced into a lot of sub-optimal situations and Michigan lost its most effective runner by far—but it must be weighted. Michigan now has three good rushing performances in the Big Ten (Indiana, Penn State, Iowa) but no great ones—the long stuff has disappeared since the Indiana game. They also have two bad ones.
Purdue blogs say they're extremely susceptible to up-the-middle pounding…
As boilerdowd noted to me, UM is not a rough and tough team. They're a little more finesse. And if they play that way, Purdue can own 'em. However, if they punch Purdue in the mouth early, like Northern Illinois and Wisconsin did, Purdue may run away whimpering like my dog when I get mad.
…and say that Michigan is not a team to pound you, which is weird but on the radio Monday I argued with a guy who thought the problem with Rich Rodriguez was that he didn't run the ball enough and that running "side to side" gets people hurt. People think things and retroactively come up with reasons for them.
If Minor's back and healthy and Omameh can slot in this should be an effective, if uninspiring, day on the ground, with Minor getting 100 yards on 20 or so carries and other people chipping in to get Michigan near 200.
Key Matchup: Brandon Minor versus His Overpowering Ennui. His ankle has been sprained since the 2007 Purdue game.
Pass Offense vs. Purdue
Purdue's got a good pass efficiency defense, which I do not understand as a thing that is possible but there it is: 25th nationally. Their pass defense is 34th. Some of that has to do with the run defense. Scott Tolzien attempted all of 13 passes last week, and Adam Weber's preposterous stat line from a 35-point output was 5 of 9 for 74 yards and two interceptions. Um.
On the other hand, Jimmy Clausen had what was probably his worst game of the year against Purdue:
There was some severe turf toe involved there, but Clausen would need one foot and half a hand to shred Michigan's secondary.
Purdue's also 25th in sacks, and Michigan's shuffling the offensive line again or playing a guy who was hurt and pretty poor against Illinois. This does not seem like a good matchup after Tate Forcier's last month of football and the problems the right side of the line's had in pass protection. Bonus negative: Martavious Odoms is definitely out for the second straight week. While Roy Roundtree had a nice day against Illinois, he lacks the quicks Odoms has on bubble screens and whatnot.
Forcier did have a nice day against Illinois but remains plagued with freshman inconsistencies and happy feet; this will be a secondary option given Purdue's apparent lack of run defense.
Key Matchup: This
UPDATE: …um, this nefangled offensive line pass protecting again.
Run Defense vs. Purdue
Purdue's Robert Bolden started the year off hot but as the competition has gotten better the Purdue run game has fallen off:
These numbers correspond well to the quality of the opponent rush defense, and are uniformly terrible except for the Illinois bludgeoning. Purdue's early cupcake indicators have given way to the reality that the rushing game can't move the ball at all against quality teams.
Michigan, all you are well aware, is not a quality team. They languish 85th in rushing defense after taking a hammering from Illinois last week; the week before that Penn State racked up a bit over four yards per carry. Michigan's main issues have been terrible linebacker and safety play that causes good work from the defensive line to go to waste, and Robert Bolden is a fast bugger if you screw up like that.
On the plus side, Michigan did do good-to-excellent jobs on the two rushing-deficient Big Ten teams they went up against before the last two debacles. Purdue is evidently a rushing-deficient Big Ten team. Illinois played straight into their weaknesses, too: confusion, inability to maintain their assignments, safeties who have religious proscriptions against containing Juice Williams. Purdue's got a pocket passer and an run game that isn't nearly as good at getting really fast guys in open space one-on-one with guys who might well be chasing someone who doesn't have the ball. The numbers should come down, with an error here and there springing Bolden for a long run or two between a lot of 0-2 yard runs.
Key Matchup: Mouton and Leach versus cutbacks. Obi Ezeh lost his job because he attacks wrong holes all the time and Mouton only has his because Michigan doesn't have many other options. The numbers suggest there will be a lot of fouled running plays that either get crushed or break long.
Pass Defense vs. Purdue
This is where you go "urgh we die" except that Purdue has been crazily inconsistent all year here and it may be a game where Boilermaker receivers drop a thousand passes, as they did against Wisconsin, and Joey Elliott calls them out after the game, as he did after a game earlier this year.
I mean… Jesus:
That makes Denard Robinson look like Tom Brady. But then there's the Ohio State game, in which Elliott was 31 of 50 for 281 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception against the #8 pass efficiency defense in the country.
Which is it? Against Michigan, the probably the latter. Purdue still loves the short dink-and-dunk offense that Tiller deployed so effectively in the early part of his term and Elliott has been moderately efficient running it, racking up a zillion attempts that aren't as accurate as you'd think—58% completion rate—but are as dinky: 6.7 YPA. Boiled Sports on the dinky:
One of the biggest problems that I have with the Elliott-led offense this season is their lack of a vertical passing game. Granted, the simple fact that Purdue's receivers aren't really burners plays into the equation, but, both Valentin and Carlos have gotten behind the defense on numerous occasions this season only to be missed.
Elliott's also had an issue with interceptions, with 11 against 14 touchdowns.
Michigan's got a couple of decent cornerbacks and then hellish confusion all over the field; Purdue is a team that can exploit Michigan's inability to cover anyone with a linebacker or safety with any of their equally mediocre wide receivers—four guys already have over twenty catches. They'll be open, they'll drop some balls to kill drives, they'll be less likely to hit a big play than teams with more explosion at the position, they'll probably still get a couple because Michigan's starting two walk-ons and they're clearly better options than some other guys who are starting.
Key Matchup: Safeties versus enormous long touchdowns. Purdue looks like it will stab itself in the foot often enough if forced to march down the field for Michigan to give up a non-huge amount of points. They also appear to be a team that doesn't have a ton of big-play ability in the passing game unless Michigan gives them the opportunity, which they probably will. Just tackling guys as they grab the ball will be a win.
Hey, Jason Olesnavage and Zoltan Mesko are pretty good. Purdue's guys are not. The Boilers are 104th in net punting, 91st in kickoff returns, and dead average at punt returns. Slight advantage Michigan, I'd say, except that Michigan returners have muffed two punts in the last three games against real competition and let a lot of other punts drop to the turf.
Key Matchup: HOLD ON TO THE DAMN BALL
- Anyone from Purdue shoots into the backfield like Corey Liuget did.
- Purdue decides to catch stuff.
- Minor limps off again.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Purdue leaves the sanity at home.
- Forcier can get time in the pocket.
- Suddenly it's next year.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 6 out of 10. (Baseline 5, –1 for We're Favored By Almost A Touchdown, +1 for Why Are We Favored?, –1 for Purdue Hasn't Won Since 1963 At Michigan Stadium, +1 for The Last Year And Half Has See A Lot Of "Since Impossibly Long Time Ago" Records Fall, +1 for they Spread And Throw At Our Weakness, +1 for And What The Hell Was That Last Week, –1 for Purdue Is Thinking The Same Thing).
Desperate need to win level: 9 out of 10. (Baseline 5, +1 for Bowl Game, Any Bowl Game, +1 for And Really If They Don't Win This Game It's Hard For Them To Not Go 5-7, +1 for And I Am Tired Of Talking People Off Ledges, +1 for Why I Am I Talking People Off The Ledge When I Want Them To Jump?)
Loss will cause me to... well, there's damn well going to be an otter picture, that's for sure.
Win will cause me to... start perusing arcane bowl rules in the hope that Michigan doesn't get dragged into the Alamo or something where someone will rain fury on them.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Does anyone get this line? I know the records are divergent but Purdue is outgaining opponents by 10 yards a game and hasn't played any I-AA opponents. Their nonconference schedule was two MAC schools, Oregon, and Notre Dame. Take away the Baby Seal U game and Michigan is getting outgained by 40 yards a game. I guess they've managed to be competitive until the last couple weeks, but despite Purdue's record I think they've proven themselves a better team over the course of the season. They could-have-should have beaten both Notre Dame and Oregon, they did beat Ohio State, and… well, they did lose to an eh MAC team. And just got crushed, but by Wisconsin, not Illinois.
Purdue's managed to get themselves crushed by making a crap-ton of stupid mistakes. They're turnover margin buddies with Michigan—M is 109, Purdue is 108. They've had punts blocked for touchdowns. They fumbled away the Oregon game. Etc etc etc. They're sort of a version of Michigan that's not quite as bad, despite the records.
I don't want to be over-reacting Straight Bangin' Award winner guy here, but I made a mistake before the Penn State game of not taking Michigan's yardage margins seriously and predicted a win despite Michigan getting seriously outgained in four previous attempts at BCS competition. That streak is now at six if you count Illinois as part of the BCS, which we have to and no one else does.
I mean, sure, Michigan can win if they stop making huge mistakes all the time, but why would that happen now? After the Iowa game you could say "oh, that's just an outlier"; now it's just life.
Finally, opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- 60+ yard Bolden touchdown.
- Shaw gets about as much time as Brown.
- Michigan is –1 in TO margin.
- Purdue, 30-28.