it's a major award
Part of an erratic series. Check the comments for potential corrections from gsimmons and others who are actual coaches.
Notre Dame didn't have a ton of success running the ball against Michigan, but their performance against Michigan State—2.0 YPC for the running backs—indicates they suck and that any amount of success is disturbing.
Notre Dame's run strategy last Saturday was to double the hell out of the defensive tackles and exploit Michigan's crappy linebacking. Time and again ND would leave Michigan linebackers totally unblocked and still pick up plenty of yards; they did this mostly by crushing Johnny Thompson with their fullback. An example follows.
It's second an nine on ND's first drive of the third quarter; they come out in an offset I and Michigan has their base set on the field.
The play is pure caveman: an iso up the gut. Will Johnson is doubled; this one of the rare times that Taylor doesn't get the double himself. Johnson's holds up decently on the initial play and Jamison isn't upfield so the hole Thompson has to deal with is manageable.
Thompson meets the fullback and makes a critical mistake: he lets the FB get outside of him, losing leverage on the ball and opening up a hole outside. There's no one outside of him: he's the outside linebacker.
Meanwhile, Johnson has slipped and is going to the ground; Ezeh has to watch a cutback lane opened up and is hesitant; he still needs to read the RB's cut faster than he does. (It wouldn't have mattered much because of Thompson's failure to get to the outside shoulder of his blocker.)
Thompson is now getting shoved backwards by the FB, and Johnson is finished getting wiped out. Note that Taylor has beaten his blocker and slid down the line; if Thompson had done his job and funneled the tailback inside there's a good chance he's making a tackle right now.
Thompson did not do his job and is now three yards downfield; Hughes takes it up into a sizable hole, gaining seven. Notre Dame would run the exact same play on second and three, gaining thirteen as Thompson repeats the performance encapsulated here.
This play highlighted a number of themes from the day: Taylor crushed single blocking whenever Notre Dame provided it, which was rarely. Johnson did okay against a wide array of double teams but not great. Thompson was owned by the fullback, and Ezeh was hesitant.
A couple site notes: if you're using IE7 and the text runs off the screen, reload. I don't know why this is happening but it appears to be a temporary issue. Also: I planned on getting one half of UFR up today but I discovered this morning that I can't split either torrent I downloaded, and I can't convert them either. Maybe this is an NBC thing? If anyone can help, please send me an email. If I can't figure it out by tonight I'll put them up sans video.
The main takeaways:
- Ortmann should be okay to play this weekend, but…
- Dorrestein nicked up his knee and is questionable.
- Shaw is at full health.
- Huyge is practicing at guard.
- Robinson won't play. (Redshirt on its way?)
- Kick returns are wide open: Trent, Harrison, Cissoko, Odoms, Rogers, Horn, McGuffie, and Shaw were mentioned.
There is an updated depth chart with a distinct lack of "OR": Threet and McGuffie are your starters in writing now, and the rest of the RBs go like so: Shaw, Minor, Grady, Brown. Savoy has been supplanted by Stonum opposite Mathews; Ortmann and Dorrestein are listed as co-starters at left tackle.
Sigh. The second most annoying statistic on the planet is "red zone efficiency." (#1: time of possession.) It has an arbitrary cutoff point and mostly serves to confirm the idea that not scoring is bad. This does not count as enlightening.
But that's not even the worst part. The worst part is that they don't even calculate it right. The NCAA is now tracking the statistic officially. This is how they do it:
The NCAA grades on a percentage basis, and eight teams have a perfect 1.000. They range from undefeated Oklahoma, which is 18-for-18 with 17 touchdowns and one field goal in three games to winless North Texas, which has reached the opponents' 20 only five times in three games and has three touchdowns and two field goals.
Argh. No, no, no. If you are really attempting to measure who the best teams are when the field shrinks—not a completely crazy thing to do—you probably shouldn't come up with this equation:
TD = FG
AKA "3 = 7." Three does not equal seven. Three equals three.
The current system suggests that Northwestern and Oklahoma are equally proficient at scoring when they get inside the twenty. Sanity notes that Northwestern is acquiring 75% of the maximum points and Oklahoma is acquiring 96% and these are nowhere near equal.
Ding for them. Meanwhile, Badger redshirt freshman John Clay is questionable for Saturday:
According to a source, redshirt freshman tailback John Clay missed practice time before the players were given off for the bye week and did not practice again Sunday because of an apparent injury.
His status appears uncertain for the Michigan game. The players generally are given Monday off before going through had practices on Tuesday and Wednesday.
PJ Hill and Zach Brown are healthy so it probably won't be much of a factor.
I wave my wand and poof. UMHoops has an extensive recruiting update on the basketball team worth checking out. Michigan is still looking for another 2009 player; anyone they pick up will probably be a low-rated guy destined for role-player-dom. Its 2010 and 2011 where the magic is happening, as articles have been flying back and forth about a trio of big recruits who have Michigan at or near the top of their list: PF Nate Lubick, SG Trey Zeigler, and 2011 combo guard Brandon Kearney.
Lubick and Zeigler are scheduled to visit in the near future; PG commit Darius Morris was supposed to come in for his official at that time too but had to reschedule. Meanwhile, Kearney and Zeigler know each other and talk about attending the same school. Kearney's got ties to both MSU and Michigan—Braylon is his cousin.
And then there's PA SG Cameron Ayers, current the #55 player in the class of 2010 to Rivals:
Favorites: “I like Georgetown [and] Michigan so far. That’s really it.”
Morris was the first step, an indication Beilein can acquire high-rated talent, and there are three or four guys who could come in over the next few classes that would put Michigan's talent level on par with anyone in the league. Someone's got to jump first, though.
Wheeee. Our scheduling outside of Notre Dame is going to suck forever. Evidence:
Michigan has contacted Delaware regarding paying a visit to Ann Arbor for a nonconference game, Keeler said. He added it is unlikely Delaware would be interested, since he would prefer a nonconference schedule concentrating on I-AA home games, which can earn Delaware as much as most I-A road games and give the Hens a much better chance at winning.
I guess the pitch there is "see Michigan play a team that looks just like Michigan! The spring game… except it costs like 80 bucks!"
Update 9/23: Linked to articles on LA WR Rueben Randle, NJ WR Nyshier Olivier, FL QB Denard Robinson, OH OL Chris Freeman, OK RB David Oku, AZ DE Craig Roh (second), CA QB commit Tate Forcier, FL S Vladimir Emilien, FL CB Josh Robinson. Linked to video on MD DE Jason Ankrah, MD CB Travis Hawkins. Moved AZ DE Craig Roh to committed.
Downgraded CA WR Shaquelle Evans to red (USC soft commit). Michigan looking good for SC OL Quinton Washington?
Farrell's weekly whispers have a number of items to note; various items about SC guys; the Daily scouts Cass Tech; so does the News; we're apparently recruiting this UGA commit hard. ESPN on the DE commits. Note: A couple links from Bleed Scarlet.
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here. A note: Shaquelle Evans was reported to have made a soft commitment to USC but directly disputed that elsewhere. I believe he's still going to visit.
Big pretty please.
With the back-to-back commitments of Lalota and Roh, Michigan's major need in the class shifts to the secondary and offensive line. I've previously expressed the opinion that Michigan's doesn't exactly need a boatload of OL, and they don't, but one or two more guys are important.
OH OL Chris Freeman, the enormous man with vanishingly little experience, is a guy to keep an eye on:
Michigan, Florida, Tennessee, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Missouri, UCLA and Oregon are all currently on Freeman's list. The first five are his favorites.
Freeman is from Trotwood-Madison, the school that provided Roy Roundtree, Michael Shaw, and Brandon Moore to Michigan last year. This may give Michigan an edge, but he's been hard to read so far.
The other guy getting some positive buzz of late is SC OL Quinton Washington. Sam Webb called him out as a guy who Michigan has a strong shot at. He'll visit for Wisconsin
If you can come up with a non-evil joke more power to you.
Michigan's recruiting a couple teammates from a Florida high school that's actually named "Plantation" and appears to be in decent shape for both. FL S Vladimir Emilien, who has outstanding nickname upside, appears to be favoring M and Wisconsin:
“I have Wisconsin scheduled when they play Penn State on October 10th. Michigan, I go up there when they play Michigan State October 23rd I believe. I’m planning on visiting USF in the next couple weeks I hope. Also, I have a visit set for Stanford November 15th, but I don’t know if I’ll make it there.” … Emilien did not want to name a favorite, but would say Michigan and Wisconsin were recruiting him the hardest.
Emilien is a low four-star sort; he had an early Ohio State offer and seemed to be leaning there until OSU picked up five or six DBs.
Meanwhile, Emilien's teammate is FL CB Josh Robinson. He's a curious recruit in the Rivals 250 but without any offers from Florida's big three; despite that he maintains he favors USF and UCF because he wants to stay close to home. Michigan will probably be the choice if he decides to go elsewhere:
Robinson admits that he'd prefer to stay close to home yet says that won't be the deciding factor. "I'd rather not go too far," he said. "But I will if I feel it's the best place for me. If I love Michigan when I visit them and think it's the best situation for me, then I'll go to Michigan."
He has an official visit scheduled to Ann Arbor for Oct. 24 when they take on in-state rival Michigan State. "I really like Michigan," Robinson said. "It's a big football program and I really want to see the campus and see what life is like there. I'm really looking forward to going up there.
Later in that article he says Michigan is recruiting him to play receiver(!). I'm leaving him at corner for the moment.
Michigan's recruiting another pair of teammates, these from Maryland's Quince Orchard high school. MD DE Jason Ankrah is a three star sort:
MD CB Travis Hawkins is a guy just outside most top 100 lists:
A quote from Hawkins for those not inclined to watch the three minutes:
My mom wants me to go to Maryland, and Jason's mom wants him to go to Maryland, but me and Jason want to look at other schools because we don't know if we want to stay close to home.
Ankrah is obviously more enthused than Hawkins, mentioning Michigan first a couple times, and is rumored to have been shot down by Penn State for whatever reason. Both plan to visit in early October.
Random dispiriting bits.
A couple other secondary targets happen to be Clemson commits—TX S Craig Loston and NC S Devontae Holloman; there were rumors that both would end up visiting Michigan but now that seems unlikely:
Perhaps the worst-kept secret in recruiting is that Loston will de-commit from Clemson. Sources say that Texas won't be the destination, though. The true contenders are LSU and Texas A&M, with the Tigers holding a slight edge. Evidently, even the Clemson coaching staff knows Loston is gone.
Holloman is a different story. According to sources, it would take something special to pull Holloman away from Clemson. While he's going to visit Tennessee and Alabama and would like to visit LSU, he's still leaning strongly toward honoring his commitment.
Other bits from that "Weekly Whispers" article; which is not always accurate:
- Michigan is mentioned for VA OL Morgan Moses but seems like a real long shot.
- We're basically out of it for NJ WR Nyshier Olivier.
- "Sources say" Tennessee is the team to beat for SC DE Chris Bonds.
- SC DE Sam Montgomery is "more likely to stay in state" than head to one of his official visit destinations but "anything could happen."
There's also this stellar quote from Montgomery in another article:
"I've never been to a USC [not that USC] game and people not call my name," Montgomery said. "I feel like I'm at home, like I can walk around with no drawers on. It's just so comfortable."
Oklahoma fruitbat David Oku took a visit to Tennessee and then actually said this in the aftermath:
"They've always been up there," Oku said of the Vols. "I've just been giving people some thoughts with some false information.
"That was just to give people a different thought, I guess."
"I have a lovely hostess who's showing me everything," Oku said when asked of the trip's highlights. "She's been lovely and I appreciate her.
"If I wasn't with her, it probably wouldn't be as fun as it is."
Oku is a silent commit to Tennessee, and won't be heading to Michigan.
In the pipeline.
I've been resisting the recent expansion of recruiting coverage into prospects entering their junior years of high school, but it sounds like 2010 FL WR Ricardo Miller is likely to be a Michigan commitment sooner or later:
“Michigan is still my leader. I am thinking they are my very strong leader. To be honest that’s where I will probably where I am going to go. There’s lots of reasons why I will go with them. But that’s now and they stand No. 1.”
One of the primary reasons is Miller's mother, a class of '88 Michigan graduate with some kickin' genes.
Miller is a big deal recruit, already the possessor of offers from Florida, Tennessee, and Stanford and the #3 recruit on this list of ten juniors to keep an eye on from the Gainesville Sun. He's as much of a lock for top 100 lists as anyone can be at this point. Here's a profile article and some highlights.
9/20/2008 – Auburn 21, LSU 26 – Uh, Michigan is still 1-2
So. I have ventured into the heart of darkness to experience their football and have returned. Evaluations are in order but they should be prefaced with some context: college football is awesome. I have seen eighty-seven thousand people scream this at the top of their lungs:
I defy you to find another activity outside of speaking-in-tongues-style Christianity that can cause large masses of people to say "bodda getta, bodda getta, bodda getta bah." All of this should be prefaced with that truth. College football is awesome. What makes the ESSSS EEEEE CEEEE garbage so odious is its claim that college football outside of the SEC is not awesome. Going to Auburn was awesome. End of big picture opinion.
But I'm sure people are curious about how it compares, so some comparisons:
The chintziness. On a chintziness scale where Michigan is zero—pending the public shaming of whoever piped in RAWK MUSIC over the highlights at the end of the third quarter in the Miami game—and Michigan State is ten, Auburn is around a six.
- Jordan-Hare's advertising isn't too obnoxious, and the edifice itself is extremely nice.
- Aforementioned ridiculous college-only cheer.
- There is a freakin' eagle that flies around the stadium in the pregame.
- Related: "War Eagle" is way, way cooler than "Go Blue" and any other "GO BLANK" exhortation you care to name. War Eagle. Just say it. War Eagle.
- Tiger Walk, the first "team walks to stadium surrounded by fans" event, was really impressive.
- Despite having a couple of bands in the stands, evil recorded music was played over the PA on a regular basis.
- YMCA was one of these songs. YMCA. Come on! My Auburn compatriot said he wanted to run around telling everyone the song was about anonymous gay sex so they would stop, but he was nodding his head to the music just moments before.
- There is a band hype video. It's actually a really well done band hype video but the mere concept of it sent me into hysteric giggles. It also sort of worked, so I was simultaneously FIRED UP about Auburn's band and laughing. It was a weird 30 seconds.
- Auburn has a male cheerleader on a stand in front of the student section that acts like a hype man. He's got a mic, he exhorts the crowd to do things, and it's pretty meh.
- Exception to the non-obnoxious advertising: there's a video board with replays of every play, but sometimes instead of a replay there's an Under Armor commercial, which is a really good way to 1) get me to look at an ad and 2) swear a blood oath against whoever's running the ad.
It was nowhere near the Michigan State experience—if you've never been to MSU, their hype video ends with a computer-animated Sparty coming to life and blowing up a logo of the opposing team with frickin' eye lasers; also at one point they had this plastic chariot that looked like it was made of legos—but I'm a zealot about the piped-in music.
The noise level. We were in the upper deck, so determining if the vaunted SEC noise levels lived up to the hype was impossible. The organized pre-game cheers were pretty blasting all the way up there but I didn't get my face peeled off at any other time during the game.
Shockingly, on LSU's final drive—Auburn up one, this is a BFD—I stood up to yell at some point and had to sit back down sheepishly because no one else in the section was up. WTF? I sit in one of the oldest, lamest sections of Michigan Stadium and I personally guarantee you that if Michigan was up one with six minutes left and the other team had the ball, the section would be on their feet, gurgling out whatever noises their suppurating intestines could manage. This was a game-long issue. The noise levels in my immediate vicinity were no louder than I am used to. Maybe it's an upper deck thing.
The scoreboard. Auburn just has one video board but it's huge and in HD. It is killer. We need one. You have no idea.
However, I suggest that the awesome enormous HD scoreboard at Michigan Stadium should have SEC scores on it. Though Auburn was plenty happy to inform us that Utah had beaten Air Force 30-23 and Missouri had defeated mighty Buffalo 42-21, there was not a single Big Ten score, and the only Pac 10 score was the Georgia-Arizona State game.
The people. Auburn fans were friendly. There were some undercurrents of "Michigan sucks hur" but I took that more as a commentary on society than Auburn.
One thing became terribly annoying, though: "you guys are at the wrong game!" We heard this bon mot at least a dozen times. By the end when people would say it I would have one hand make the universal sign for "yap yap yap" and then have the other eat it violently. We get it. We're not from around here. We are probably aware of this fact.
I assume anyone in a random neutral college football shirt at Michigan Stadium is there to check it off his list of places to see a game before he dies, but apparently the idea of college football tourism is completely foreign to Auburn fans. Why? You have a freakin' eagle.
The coaches. After watching Auburn run what seemed like their eighth consecutive ineffective first down zone stretch with their pounding power back Ben Tate, I concluded that Tommy Tuberville is Lloyd Carr and he's trying to turn Tony Franklin into Mike DeBord.
Later this crystallized into a more general theory of offensive philosophy. Franklin kept running that zone stretch on first down, giving up expectation because of predictability, and hoped to make it back by catching LSU cheating for a big play. Debord was very similar with the zone left-zone left-zone left stuff. The idea is to execute well enough to eke out decent yardage and hit it big every once in a while when you break tendencies. To break tendencies you have to establish tendencies.
Rodriguez, meanwhile, seems diametrically opposed to this. His philosophy is based more on keeping the opponent guessing, whether it's on a play-to-play basis or within the play itself with the zone read. Auburn sort of ran a zone read but when you've got a lead-footed white guy and he's got no options other than a run you're not really threatening much. Rodriguez saw his quarterback's footspeed hampering that part of his offense and implemented that zone read keeper + late bubble screen combo we saw a couple times. I think Rodriguez hates the idea of establishing a tendency; he would prefer the defense to be uncertain at all times, even after Steven Threet's kept the ball.
And then there's Les Miles. At an early juncture when things were going well and LSU looked discombobulated, the Auburn blogger who kindly provided us with tickets sarcastically yelled out "run another trick play, Miles!" and I thought this was a very, very bad thing to tempt fate with. LSU, of course, would later run something I'd never seen before, a halfback pass off the fake-dive-pitch-outside play that would give them a go-ahead touchdown. The two plays before that were identical—someone must have held triangle—deep balls that exploited the same hole in the Auburn zone drops. There was also a successfully recovered onside kick. The Lesticles were in full force, and all of us from the Auburn guy to the three Michigan guys experienced a pang of regret that Miles hadn't ended up in Ann Arbor. The guy is legit.
The sign in the trash. If Georgia goes down and Matt Stafford has a bad game I assume some SEC blogger somewhere will have a use for this picture:
Go for it.
The exploding vein. An enormous black mark on Tuberville: not calling timeout once LSU had driven to around the Auburn 20. At that point they're either going to punch it in or get a makeable field goal attempt; with LSU down to a single timeout they would have little chance to get the ball back if they missed that field goal. You must preserve as much time as possible for a potential response. Instead, Tuberville let the clock run and was fortunate that LSU scored as quickly as it did; Auburn got the ball back with 1:03 and three timeouts instead of 1:43 and two or 2:15 and one.
Also, it was completely nonsensical to use Tate on all those first-half zone stretch plays when they've got a slashing McGuffie type in Brad Lester. Lester briefly enlivened the Auburn run game in the second half before an injury knocked him out.
The fandom. Auburn fans at the game itself were a weird combination of the nouveau Michigan fan who was completely frustrated with Lloyd Carr's coaching style and the old-school Michigan fan who can't stand this newfangled shotgun bullcrap, which was appropriate because their offense was that same weird fusion.
The best example of the latter: Auburn now does the thing where the team doesn't huddle, lines up, looks ready to snap the ball, relaxes, and then looks to the sideline for the call. Whenever Auburn would do this, an elderly Auburn fan was visibly, I-can't-set-the-time-on-this-damned-VCR agitated, throwing his hands in the air in disgust. This obvious discontent seemed to spread to the other oldsters around him as the game continued.
Overall, I got the sense that Auburn fans were a bit more fickle than Michigan fans, ready to turn on Tuberville when something went wrong and willing to turn back when something went right.
The pork and crawfish sausage we got at Winn-Dixie. Like college football, it was awesome.
Rich Rodriguez had plenty of time to work on his "I am not Satan" talking points over the summer, since there was a 75% chance that any question he fielded was about 1) West Virginia, 2) Justin Boren, or 3) the squawking lawsuit kerfuffle. By the time Big Ten Media Days rolled around he had them down to a science: I just changed jobs. Everyone focuses on the one guy who left instead of the 99 who stayed. I can't talk about that because it's a lawsuit.
Meanwhile, various parties in the media incensed that Rodriguez either wasn't West Virginia's coach (WVU honks), was Michigan's coach (ND, MSU, OSU honks), or wasn't Bo Schembechler (Mike Rosenberg and others in the Detroit media) spent the summer decrying Rodriguez's selfish decision to forge ahead with the lawsuit at Michigan's expense.
A typical passage, this from Rosenberg:
This whole thing could have, and should have, been settled long ago. But RichRod was determined to fight West Virginia all the way to the bitter end. Anybody who has even driven past a law school knew he had no case, but that didn't matter to Rodriguez.
Martin should have told Rodriguez that this whole ordeal was embarrassing the university, and that the case was a lost cause. But Martin's legacy is in Rodriguez's hands, so he let his coach do whatever he wanted.
Even at the time this passage was transparent bunk, since the articles about Michigan's decision to settle plainly stated that Michigan had agreed to handle most of the buyout. Now thanks to an article in the Ann Arbor Observer and MVictors, we know the extent of that agreement:
“We’ve seen an email that went from [Rodriguez’s] financial advisor, Mike Wilcox, to athletic director Martin on December fifteenth, 2007, confirming a conversation they’d had earlier that day,” he says. “I believe it was cc’ed to Mary Sue Coleman. It said that the liquidated damages clause with West Virginia was a huge issue, and that the U of M had agreed that they were going to be responsible for I think it was seventy-five percent of the buyout, up to 2.5 million dollars.” The email was sent one day after the Toledo meeting that led to Rodriguez’s hiring.
The rest of the excerpted passage discusses Michigan's extreme reluctance to allow that agreement to find its way into the light, as knowledge of its existence would trash their case. They lost that battle and immediately settled.
- The Michigan AD is on the hook for 75% of the buyout and successfully fought a portion of the exact same clause in John Beilein's contract.
- As soon as Michigan realizes they can't win the case, they settle.
Somehow this adds up to "Rodriguez forced this lawsuit on the athletic department" and is worthy of condemnation because of the negative publicity associated with it.
Anyone who espouses this line of reasoning is either ignorant of the particulars or is so far around the bend on Rich Rodriguez that they should be ignored.
Meanwhile in Morgantown, Rich Rodriguez's problems with the West Virginia athletic department and administration become more understandable by the day:
These people are &#$@ing amateurs.
Two pictures that somehow summarize the directions of two linked programs follow. Be careful with your eyebrows, folks.
There have been a lot of changes in Michigan's program over the last few months, ranging from the expected (lots of shotgun, zone read option) to the… well…
…unexpected profusion of naked freshmen. Earlier this year we had the assortment of shirtless helmeted guys; now we've got freshman wideout Terrance Robinson without a helmet. Or anything else except an arched eyebrow and all that promises in the way of smooth jazz and smoother lovin'.
Meanwhile, this screencap will haunt Bill Stewart for the rest of time.
There's nothing more to say. This is Bill Stewart, now and forever. It's over.