"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Wincingly offtopic offseason stuff is go.
Smart Football picked up on a meme from an economics blog and a couple people have asked me to participate, so here goes. It''s a list of the ten books that have "influenced you most," end of explanation. This is my best guess:
Within the last week a friend of mine mentioned he had dug back in the MGoBlog archives for some reason or another and told me that my writing was way less like DFW's than it used to be. It's mandatory, then, that this is at the top of the list.
Not that it could have been anything else. There's something in the final line of "Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley" that sticks with me. The essay is a ramble through DFW's childhood as a near-great juniors tennis player that ends with an incident where he and another local junior who would go on to greater heights are caught in a freak tornado that hurls them into the fence around the court so hard they leave "two body-shaped indentations like in cartoons where the guy's face makes a cast in the skillet that hit him." This event is documented in a sentence hundreds of words long and followed by
Antitoi's tennis continued to improve after that, but mine didn't.
The end. Outside its natural habitat, that sentence is flat enough to be worthy of Hemingway. As the culmination of DFW's dense rainforest of prose, it is a powerful coda. I think I think good writing is something that can take a sentence like that and turn it into something heart-stopping, and the trace of it runs through most of my columns.
Add in a world-realigning essay on what a world-class athlete is titled "Tennis Player Michael Joyce's Professional Artistry as a Paradigm of Certain Stuff about Choice, Freedom, Discipline, Joy, Grotesquerie, and Human Completeness*" that's a major reason I think football is a legitimate degree program and Marques Slocum is kind of a tragic figure despite everything and DFW in a tuxedo t-shirt secretly agreeing that caviar is blucky and there you go.
Let this stand for the rest of Wallace's work as well. DFW's essay on grammar isn't collected in this book but when a reader wanted to break me of my tendency to write singular plurals ending in S without a full possessive (ie, Jones') he pointed out that such things were deployed as "Jones's" in that essay and I immediately followed suit despite my tendency to read that as "keeping up with the Joneseses."
*(Harper's published this as "String Theory," which just goes to show.)
2. Cognition and environment: functioning in an uncertain world, Stephen and Rachel Kaplan.
This is the first of a couple cheats, but I did read it and it was part of a powerful realignment of my brain so here it goes. I graduated with a computer engineering degree in 2001. This was exactly when the Pets.com bubble burst and it seemed like looking for a job was a dumb idea. So I got a master's. In the process I took a couple classes from Stephen Kaplan about mental models, human desires, and accommodating those desires. They were cross-listed under all kinds of departments and I had no idea what I was getting into when I signed up.
The classes ended up being tight 15-member groups where there was little in the way of assignments other than reading the coursepack/books and a solitary one-page paper at the end of the class. This paper was supposed to clearly communicate the ideas of the class—all of them—in about 250 words. The first attempt was meh and got a B+. The second one was kept as an example to show other people. It had bullets. It was about practically applying the ideas imparted by the class in life as an engineer.
That's enough, but the ideas of the class that I got my head around the second time are major reasons this blog has attracted the readership it has: people have a natural desire to explore while keeping familiar landmarks in sight. The possibility of the new is balanced with discomfort at being completely at sea. People seek to expand their cognitive ability in controlled bursts, striking a balance between boredom and confusion. People want their actions to have meaning, even if it's just seeing a number go up or down. Etc. I think the things I do are useful things to do largely because of these concepts.
3. The Elements of Style, Strunk and White.
The first of a couple wincingly clichéd entries here, but one that can't denied on the basis of the sentence that should by all rights be its title: "Omit needless words."
I am not a SNOOT. SNOOT is the acronym DFW deploys in the above-referenced grammar piece to indicate someone for whom the subjunctive is Serious Business indeed. (Wire fans should think of the scene early in season five where two grizzled newspaper editors paternally inform a n00b that unless you're talking about an enema it's not people who end up evacuated but buildings. Copy editors not being frequent subjects of dramatists, this is probably the most SNOOTy behavior ever filmed.) It's not really what I do. I write by ear and occasionally have SNOOTs show up in my own comments to declare that my "were" should have been a "was" or vice versa. All I know about the subjunctive is it makes Spanish verbs hard to conjugate after a "porque."
But I have also edited a metric ton of content over the past decade whether it was at the helm of the Every Three Weekly or editing Hail To The Victors or various guest posters/contributors here. And 90% of what I do is hack out useless clauses, rephrase unnecessarily clunky verb phrases, and turn 30 word sentences into 15 word sentences without dropping any meaning. Everyone who's ever written a paper with a page requirement knows the special agony of having nothing to say and a ton of space to say it in. The sentences that result are meandering things that say not very much in a ton of space. That's what 90% of people learn from English classes: how to turn a perfectly respectable sentence into something incomprehensible, cliché-ridden, and three times as long.
As someone who has fought a pitched battle against his tendency to insert "basically," "generally," "essentially," and all manner of other useless adverbs into any sentence that can bear one, "omit needless words" is a clarion call heeded daily. Many people have problems with specific sections of the book—apparently some of the examples lauded as correct are erroneous and vice-versa—but Strunk and White gets the most important thing right in language so clear as to be blinding. It wins.
4. I'm Just Here For The Food, Alton Brown.
Cheat #2. Alton Brown's influence on me has mostly come via Good Eats, but I do have this and his book about gear for your kitchen and his book about baking which has become completely superfluous in the wake of the fiancée's decision to become the Charles Woodson of sourdough bakers. Brown believes that everyone's lives can be improved by wonky discussions of technical topics enlivened with humor. He is basically me transplanted to Georgia and given a different family background.
Upon Further Review owes more to Alton Brown than any other person on the planet. Yes, the number of people who really care enough about marinades to comprehend the chemistry behind osmosis is relatively small, but by God if knowing that Alton Brown has read Harold Magee's book and translated it into cute kids with silly hats or army men isn't the essence of what I do around here I don't know what is. I'm not a football coach; Alton Brown is not a nutritional anthropologist or food chemist. We both stand as intermediaries. We attempt to translate the detailed, jargon-laden life's pursuit of an obsessive into actionable, relatively easy to understand niblets for the dedicated layman. I kind of hope to be the Alton Brown of Michigan football.
Also, Brown's chili is gooooooood.
5. Reaper Man, Terry Pratchett
I got on the Pratchett bandwagon faster than most scifi/fantasy dorks on this side of the Atlantic because one of my high school friends had an aunt who worked for a British publishing company and thought he'd like them. She was right, and after he read them he'd pass them to me one at a time. I lost one. It was a disaster.
When not losing the irreplaceable foreign books I was reading them and finding that they perfectly matched my sense of humor. For a six month period everything I wrote had superfluous footnotes. Pratchett's influence on me has become considerably more subtle but remains in the pacing of sentences, word play, and occasional deployment of ironic capitals.
A collection of comics that frequently referenced Ed Meese, Oliver North, Pat Robertson, and Tammy Faye Baker was an odd gift to provide a ten-year-old with no idea who any of those people were, but my dad did it anyway. I must have been a weird ten-year-old. He was right, though, and my copies of that and "Classics of Western Literature," the other Bloom County uber-collection, are hopelessly battered.
Here I should confess that I have directly stolen jokes from Breathed: in a preview last year I said if Michigan lost I would lead a convoy of escapees across the border to Mexico screaming "FOLLOW ME TO FREEDOM." This is almost exactly what Steve Dallas says in a Breathed-written short story titled "The Great LaRouche Toad-Frog Massacree." (If the title does not immediately clarify why I find Bloom County so spectacular, I cannot help you further.)
This is fine because Breathed's retrospective + funny stories book starts off with a Bloom County strip that is a close doppelganger of a Doonesbury, which I never read because it seemed like a version of Bloom County without heart. Great artists steal.
7. Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby.
Wincingly clichéd entry #2, but this is the emo sports memoir to end all emo sports memoirs. If you had three words to describe MGoBlog, could you do better than "emo sports memoir"?
(Five words: "Chart-laden emo sports memoir.")
8. Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky.
Another cheat. I don't actually like this book much because it is a book version of the Clay Shirky essays I have soaked in since I first saw some crazy article about Zipf's law applied to the internet a few years ago. It's boring, but only because I've already absorbed the content so wholly that I take it for granted.
I like to think that I've made approximately correct moves when it comes to the community around here, and Shirky's shaped my thinking about how communities act on the internet so profoundly that it's hard to conceive of an alternative. As the blog has grown I've tried to keep the signal to noise ratio up by erecting ever-greater barriers to participating, organizing content into transitory and relatively permanent sections, and providing feedback mechanisms* for people to invest in. I can't cite the Shirkythoughts that have caused me to take this path, but since 50-80% of what I think about the internet has a basis in what he thinks about the internet, I'm sure most of that is in there somewhere.
*(This bit has been scarily effective. Sometimes when someone does something I feel is detrimental to the tone of the community I sock them with absurd MGoPoint penalties. Not once have I done this and not gotten a complaining email. People joke about redeeming their useless MGoPoints for prizes—usually an invite to the wedding—but there's a bit of truth in their jokes. This is how sketchy Facebook game companies can thrive by selling fictional tractors.)
9. Lapsing into a comma, Bill Walsh
I bought a beard trimmer about a month ago. As I used it for the first time, I thought to myself: "I am no longer a man with a beard. I am a bearded man."
This is a style guide by the copy desk chief of the Washington Post. I bought it of my own volition to use for things other than class. Its purchase was possibly the moment I went from a man who writes to a writer. Though I flagrantly defy some of the book's proclamations—the page I just opened to told me that a single parenthesis after a number is an "illegitimate" mark of punctuation—it did finally get me to hurl periods and commas inside quotation marks no matter how little sense it makes.
10. Football Against the Enemy, Simon Kuper.
I was going to write a book on the World Cup, and soccer in general, as a society-defining cultural phenomenon. It turns out someone had already written that book, and then Franklin Foer had come in and rewritten it almost idea for idea. (Seriously: probably 2/3rds of the chapters in "How Soccer Explains The World" have direct analogues in the earlier Kuper book. Don't take just my word for it.)
Kuper's book shapes my conception of fandom to this day.
BONUS NOVELS I REALLY LIKE BUT HAVEN'T HAD SUCH OBVIOUS EFFECTS ON THIS BLOG
A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M Miller
The Baroque Cycle, Neal Stephenson
Mason and Dixon, Thomas Pychon (Gravity's Rainbow was too chaotic and meandering for me. I pick the one written in 17th-century dialect because it's more approachable. Also there is a Learned English Dog.)
Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
Fiasco, Stanislaw Lem
As people who hit the message board already know and have vented about, there's a website out there that lists junior college LOIs for Fort Scott Community College. This would not be of interest to anybody except for this bit:
You may sign a National Letter of Intent if you have already signed a letter of intent with a junior college or an NAIA school. The National Letter of Intent is a voluntary program with more than 600 participating institutions, all of which are members of either NCAA Division I or II. By entering the National Letter of Intent program, participating institutions agree to honor one another's commitments.
…and do the grinding legwork of finding out how many of these 70-deep JUCO recruiting classes actually end up in JUCO:
56% of last year's "class" for the CC never materialized.... yeah, I think many of these are back up plans.
So. At some point Demar Dorsey signed a LOI with a JUCO, so he's not qualified yet and has made a backup plan. Tom tracked down Fort Scott HC Jeff Sims to confirm:
"He's working very hard to be a Wolverine, but he has to be ready just in case, to recover if he doesn't get in. If he comes here, we'd love to develop him, and get him to his goals. We are his back up plan. He may never end up at our school. If he can't get qualified, then he needs to know that he has a backup plan, and that's us."
He's still got the rest of this high school semester and the summer to get his grades in order but there's obviously a nonzero chance that happens. Players with truly hideous grades usually don't end up recruited by the Floridas and USCs and Florida States. Commence steady, relaxing breathing.
A roundup of Spring Practice happenings, all of which should be taken only somewhat seriously. Steve Breaston was "Black Jesus" before he even set foot on Michigan Stadium turf. Patrick Omameh was instantly the star of Michigan's six-member line class despite his status as the least-heralded of any of them. Meanwhile, the warnings about future Bronco Dann O'Neill were immediate. On the other hand, Grady Brooks was supposed to be a ninja and Kevin Grady a ball of knives. Practice rumblings seem to have the same predictive power as recruiting rankings: far from infallible but equally far from useless.
Erm, so… yeah. I will believe this two to three years after I see it but apparently Denard Robinson is running with the ones a lot and looks "radically improved," according to one emailer. Forcier seems to have struggled in comparison. I'm a little leery of spring practice reports at all times and that goes triple when it comes to using a few spring practices to overrule what we saw in twelve games last year. The improvement Robinson would have to undergo—and the lack thereof from Forcier—to be a viable threat to start is vast. I'm filing this under "motivational tactic" for now. Jon Chait is on the "it could happen" side of the fence.
By all accounts, Gardner is considerably behind the two sophomores. If Denard is a capable QB this year his redshirt seems assured.
BONUS: here is Robinson running a long way, albeit with aid from crappy walk-on tackling.
I don't usually do this, but when you've spent a lot of time extracting the superfluous bits from AnnArbor.com's SEO-friendly headlines, this brings out your inner thirteen year old:
running backMike Cox closely this spring
Past the middle school bits is the picture of an emerging running back in Michigan's five-way spring derby. His high school coach hints at some of the practice reports coming from the usual sources:
“He’s tough as nails,” Driscoll said. “He’s very tough and they’re going to have a hard time with him because he’s a big guy that’s really fast. That’s the trouble. He’ll hit you, too. He’s not going to back down from anybody.”
Everyone else comes in for sporadic praise and criticism. There's no consensus on who might be emerging as a tentative (and largely ceremonial starter). Probably the biggest news is a lack of all-encompassing Fitzgerald Toussaint hype.
Wide Receiver And Tight End
With Junior Hemingway and Je'Ron Stokes out there's not much on the outside and Roy Roundtree has moved there intermittently in sets with Martavious Odoms and Jeremy Gallon at slot. When the outside guys return, Michigan will have three or four slots they'd like to work into the lineup.
Here's Odoms answering some questions:
Odoms remains an endearingly terrible interview, but the mention of more two-slot formations is something to pay attention to. Tight ends, like Toussaint, have been largely absent from the spring buzz thus far.
Jerald Robinson has been the most impressive freshman so far, but the outside receivers have been plagued by drops. Kelvin Grady has evaporated, for what that's worth.
On the offensive line, Schilling and Molk stand out to AnnArbor.com, which is not something I feel spectacular about since 1) Schilling is an established quantity entering his fourth year as a starter and 2) Molk is injured and not practicing.
Patrick Omameh is staying at guard for now, though I'm still holding out hope they shift him outside and let Ricky Barnum and Quinton Washington fight to the death for the spot. Four guys competing at tackle, two of them redshirt freshman and two of them upperclassmen who struggled badly in pass protection last year, is a sketchy situation. That has not come to pass, nor has either freshman pushed through into the nominal starting lineup.
I'm a little leery of a strapping 6'3", 208 pound kid who spent the brief duration of his Michigan career to date at wide receiver being the starting deep safety, but with Vlad Emilien out with a minor injury it's Cam Gordon who is the front-runner in the 2010 Grady Brooks Memorial Spring Hype Award chase. He comes in for mention by Rodriguez during a speech at a local football coaches' convention:
"Defensively, guys that have been impressive the last week or so, Kenny Demens, Cam Gordon, Craig Roh’s had a couple good days. Renaldo Sagesse, we were teasing him, Thursday he had the best practice since I’ve been here. I asked him what he ate for breakfast. I didn’t know if it was Canadian bacon or something, but he’s had a terrific spring."
It has been Gordon this, Gordon that at deep safety. This may be largely due to a lack of bodies. Justin Turner is practicing at cornerback, Vlad Emilien is injured, and the three guys who played the spot last year are either box safeties (Williams, Kovacs) or corners (Woolfolk). It's gotten to the point where Brandin Hawthorne, who was a high school defensive end (albeit a tiny one), is splitting time back there.
On the defensive line there's been a consistent stream of positives about virtually everyone. Sagesse, Campbell, and Banks all came in for specific praise from Robinson at today's press conference. Even longtime non-entity Adam Patterson is getting some praise at the defensive end spot he and Greg Banks are keeping warm for Mike Martin. Perhaps the biggest news is the Sagesse praise. If Sagesse is a legit option at DT, Michigan doesn't have to think about sliding Martin inside to platoon with Campbell. I think he will be. I like him in UFRs last year.
Demens, meanwhile, has been the only linebacker to get a fair share of practice hype. Ezeh and Mouton have not been mentioned; Roh comes in for praise as a 250 pound outside linebacker but that's not a surprise. I'm not sure what to make of that: Demens was behind a walk-on last year and didn't see the field even when Michigan was rotating their linebackers so they could yell at them better. His only appearances were on special teams and Michigan's goal line package. Maybe he's a guy who is aided significantly by the move to the 3-3-5? If his issues were mental this defense allows you to do a lot of blitzing and play downhill.
And then there's corner, where Justin Turner still lags behind JT Floyd. No offense to Floyd, but I think that gives everyone hives. Even if Demar Dorsey comes in and is lights out as a true freshman, he's a true freshman and having a hyped guy like Turner struggle to break into the starting lineup in a secondary this chaotic is not a good sign.
Also, Craig Roh coughs and answers questions:
(Odoms, Roh HT: The Michigan Faithful.)
Michigan Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson met with reporters for about a half hour today. Notes from his press conference.
- The defense is moving exclusively to a 6-2-3 (a little April Fools Day humor(!) from Robinson).
- The "new" defensive scheme isn't that dissimilar to what the team ran last year. With the hybrids, there are a lot of different alignments possible. The only big change from last year is some of the terminology.
- The changes weren't an all-Rodriguez or all-Robinson decision. Everyone on the staff wanted to see certain things tweaked a bit, and their input went into it.
- Between years (and over the course of a year), things should always be evolving to match personnel, the opposing offense, and other factors. Coach Robinson is always open to adjustments.
- As he has repeated many times, Robinson's been around football long enough that there are very few schemes he hasn't tried. He ran 3-3 fronts with the New York Jets and the Denver Broncos. With the Jets, the scheme worked particularly well against the Buffalo Bills, who liked to spread the ball a bit.
- Robinson's overarching philosophy is to make the defense strong from the inside out. Having strong defensive linemen, linebackers, and deep middle players is important to that. Robinson also believes in the "weak link theory," that the weakest spot on the defense dictates how good a defense can be. Developing depth is very important to eliminating weak links.
Year One To Year Two
- There was a big emphasis last year on getting more speed on the field (i.e. Stevie Brown playing linebacker). That will continue this year.
- A few items about specific games from last year. The Michigan State game was a good defensive performance, aside from a couple breakdowns related mostly to inexperience. Same with the Iowa game, aside from two specific things that ended up being big plays for Iowa (and a third, less egregious one). The team played some good ball against Wisconsin, but they were pretty banged up, and had to play through that. The Ohio State game was a good performance to end the season, but not good enough because the team didn't win the game.
- The defenders are "absorbing" the defense just fine. The offense is adding a few wrinkles, so they're getting tested by some things they have seen before.
- There's a night and day difference from last spring to now in terms of Robinson's comfort and communication with the staff and players. He knows people's personalities so he can read them better, and the same goes for them knowing him.
- The outside world doesn't need to hear quotes from Robinson to be confident in the defense - they won't believe it anyway unless and until they see it on the field.
- There's a good chemistry mix with younger guys (particularly redshirt freshmen) playing with real enthusiasm. When they're surrounded with more experienced guys, it can be a great thing. The team has been putting in the work, and they understand the expectations. This youth movement didn't exist last year.
- The biggest concern is still a lack of depth. Last year, they didn't have 18-19 guys who were ready to play on defense, but they still had to sub in those seven or eight other guys. Hopefully they'll have that this year, but there are still 15 or 16 defensive guys who won't be here until fall, so you never know.
Coaching and Personnel
- Though Robinson had input, the hiring of Adam Braithwaite was ultimately Rich Rodriguez's decision. Braithwaite is very experienced, having been a coordinator (albeit of a D-3 school) in the past. He's worked with Rich Rodriguez in the past, and the entire coaching staff has confidence in him. He also will be an exceptional recruiter.
- Robinson has worked with inside linebackers a lot in the past, so coaching them this year is not a new experience. He didn't coach them last year because Hopson was already in charge of them. As for how they're doing this spring, it's too early (only eight practices so far) to talk position battles or anything like that. They have a couple experienced guys but quite a bit of youth.
- Losing Mike Martin for the spring will give other defensive linemen more reps, which will hopefully help them be more ready in the fall. Robinson would guess that Renaldo Sagesse and Greg Banks were probably some of the hardest-working players on the team in the offseason conditioning program. Banks is starting to show some true leadership on the team as well. Also on the defensive line, Will Campbell has matured a lot. Last spring he was still like a high schooler - and was probably thinking a bit too much about his prom.
- Floyd Simmons has been playing a lot at Stevie Brown's old position. Thomas Gordon and Mike Williams are new to that spot, though it is somewhat similar to the role Williams played last year. Jordan Kovacs is still playing that box safety spot.
- Cameron Gordon is playing a lot at the deep safety spot due to injuries to some other guys. Brandin Hawthorne has been getting some reps there as well. Gordon is raw on defense, but has a natural feel at defensive back, and they hope he can continue improving. He has a defensive temperament and is very tough.
- At the corner spots, Troy Woolfolk is very comfortable, and is playing well. He's much more settled than last spring, when they had to move him around a bit more. James Rogers has good length, but is somewhat new to the position after switching last year. People forget that JT Floyd is still a young guy who was just a redshirt freshman last year. He put in a lot of work in the weight room, and will have more experience this year as well. Justin Turner is still a work in progress. He's got a prototypical frame for the position, and JT Floyd is helping him learn the position.
Give money to cancer. No, cancer research. Michigan's Relay for Life is approaching and the football team has various items on auction including "Coffee with Coach Carr," spring game field passes, an autographed football, and track suits. You can also donate directly. There appears to be a competition going on between various members of the team to raise the most money. Your dominating leader thus far:
What's with everyone else? Are they spending all their time talking to babies?
Spending all your time talking to babies. Here's Devin Gardner having a nonsense conversation with a baby. The baby enjoys it more than actual words from Gardner. Geoffrey Canada is alarmed.
I've got nothing here. It's Devin Gardner talking to a baby. It requires nothing else.
Also, Gardner and Martell Webb are transferring to Arizona State.
Who is important, who is marginally important, who is a running back. The Mathlete returns with another diary that tackles one of the great unasked questions of our time: are all returning starters created equal? Or, since everyone thinks quarterbacks are way more important than anyone else, how unequal are they?
Some interesting findings:
- Running back experience means zero. Running back is the position at which instant freshman starters aren't that terrifying, but this is quite a statement: "No position on the field came close to running backs in terms of lack of value for returning starts. There was literally no correlation from returning starts from running backs to on field success."
- Quarterbacks do matter but the most important thing is to have some experience: the bottom 20% got hammered out of proportion to the rest of the country.
- Despite running backs having almost no impact, the run game as a whole is heavily dependent on returning starts.
There wasn't a defensive breakout but as a whole it was a lot like quarterback: having severe experience deficiencies is very bad, but milder ones are not a huge deal.
This is not going to do anything but it makes me feel slightly better. Count Red Berenson amongst the folk who are totally pissed off you guys about the waved-off goal against Miami:
"It's really frustrating," said Berenson, who said he didn't see a decent television replay of the controversial no-goal until the Wolverines returned from Fort Wayne, Ind., at 3 a.m. Monday morning. "I never got a clear answer about why the goal didn't count or if there was any room being made for human error ... and that's what we're trying to find out." …
"I saw what I saw and I know what I know," Berenson said. "I think it's pretty obvious."
The lack of accountability here is frustrating. No one has stepped forward to provide any explanation, likely because there isn't one other than "we screwed it up."
Question: shouldn't hockey move to a system sort of like the way the NFL handles fumbles? These days you can fumble, be ruled down, and still lose the ball if the referee decides that the whistle did not have an impact on the play. As the refs headed to the box Sunday I knew two things. One: it was obviously a goal. Two: because the whistle went before the puck was in the net, it would not be called a goal. But the whistle had nothing to do with anything. There was no way anyone on Miami could have stopped Lynch from scoring since the puck crossed the line an instant after the whistle went. It had no impact on the play. So why create a fiasco? Why not just go to the box, figure out that it was a good goal and the quick whistle didn't impact the play, and award it?
Also, Mike Spath reports that Berenson plans on returning next year but it will likely be his last.
Co-sign. Hunwick on the Frozen Four:
Now, Hunwick cannot imagine going.
“No, I won’t be down there,” Hunwick said. “Maybe I’ll watch it on TV. But probably not.”
Ballin'. If you're interested in club seats, an MGoUser has penned a spectacularly long account of his purchase. There is a man named Ted. He is apparently spectacular, as is the club seating:
The club area was AMAZING ... it was really top tier county-club grade workmanship. Very high ceilings, wood paneling, surprisingly spacious, windows everywhere, and cool "maize" mood lights shining through the wood panels on the ceiling. There were speaker grills on the ceiling where the live sounds of the stadium are going to be piped in. The food stations were not in yet, and none of the tables, chairs, etc. are ready to be moved in. Ted said that it should all be done well before game day ... everything is on track.
If you're considering signing up, check it out.
Etc.: This place got shot down by google news when I applied because it didn't produce news or have multiple contributors, both of which the site actually does now. But Bleacher Report is good to go. Guh?
This weekend marks the opening weekend to Big Ten play for the baseball team, so now seems the appropriate time to give an update on how well the other teams are performing around the conference. First, the standings, taken directly from BigTen.org:
|Team #s||National #s|
As we can see, Michigan is doing pretty well here with a winning record against a decent schedule (that's out of 301). But we knew that about the Wolverines already. So let's take a walk through the other teams, and we'll go in order of RPI, a better indicator of how well they've done.
For those interested, my preseason outlook.
The Spartans are the national headliners as far as the Big Ten goes right now. They lead the nation in fielding at .987 have handled the medium to bad teams on their schedule as they should. That shiny 16-4 record is justified, with two great pitchers on the front end of their bullpen and some good hitting to back it up.
As of right now, they're the national pick for taking the Big Ten crown, but the local coverage (particularly the bloggers of the Big Ten) tends to be more skeptical. Michigan State has played a meh schedule for the most part and lacks any wins over a major opponent. All four of the Spartan losses came against quality opponents, including a blow out at the hands of Louisville, a close loss and blow out loss at Mississippi State, and a 10-2 game in the opening week at Clemson. The rest of the schedule has been pretty light. There aren't many creampuffs, but the competition has not been strong. For instance, a sweep of Oakland dropped MSU 4 spots in the RPI.
There is definitely this feeling that much like any other Spartan team, they're due for a collapse somewhere in the middle of the conference season. They haven't had that consistent, successful season to build on yet, and this will be that learning year for a leap next year. I still like them to finish in the top 3-4 of the conference, but I just don't see them going wire to wire in the driver's seat.
The Buckeyes are probably the best team in the conference if their coach would maximize their players' potential, or provide any sort of motivating force. I've long heard rumblings from some Ohio State fans that Bob Todd isn't a great coach, that he's just rode the talent he's found through blind luck. While I'm a bit skeptical of all that, I recently did a guest post and statistical break down of Ohio State over at Buckeye State Baseball and the way he handles his lineup does make me question just how great of a coach he is. The number of pitchers that have missed seasons due to arm injuries would worry me, too.
This season that the Buckeye players have been playing well below their projections. Add that they are playing a seriously light schedule, the players just don't seem motivated. That is reflected most by their losses to DII Rollins and NAIA Webber International. That will probably change in conference, but if Todd's goal is to win the Big Ten and host a regional, he has to have a better OOC record with better OOC opponents.
When it comes to the Big Ten, the Buckeyes will probably pick up the slack. They still have the best lineup in the Big Ten. Their starting rotation is the only one in the Big Ten comparable to Michigan, so it's hard not to see them in the top two to finish the year, and probably in the finals of the Big Ten Tournament.
The loss of Ryan LaMarre was devastating for the Maize and Blue. It probably cost them at least one win per weekend against Texas Tech, St. John's/Louisville, UNC, and Coastal Carolina and sunk any hopes of an at-large bid. Who knows how much better the season would be going with their star, especially with the emergence of Coley Crank and Chris Berset. Now that Mike Dufek is getting hot, they've got the best 3-6 hitters in the conference. On top of that, they have the deepest pitching staff.
I think we see Michigan run through conference season and really get themselves worked back into the national picture. They probably finish between Michigan State and Ohio State in the final standings, and I think they're the team to give the Buckeyes a run for their money in the tournament. The series at Ann Arbor between the two will be huge. [Ed: rest of the conference after the jump.]