"The face of the operation is Briatore (referred to exclusively in the film by his colleagues and angry, chanting detractors as "Flavio"), an anthropomorphic radish who spends most of his time at QPR plotting to fire all of the managers."
Michigan managed to score two commits while I was in an airport or waiting on a runway for two bonus hours of incredible fun or actual in transit or watching Italy-USA, about which I have to say aaaargh aaaargh Rossi aaaargh.
Tom Van Haaren caught up with commit #1, TX OLB Holmes Onwukaife, this afternoon. Commit #2 is SC QB Cornelius Jones, about whom more later. First, Onwukaife's awesome highlight video, which features the best highlight music ever and lightning bolts.
On with the talking:
TOM: So you committed today, have you gotten a chance to talk to Coach Rodriguez?
[Note: commitments are apparently not 100% official-official until Rodriguez has been called, which is probably why neither premium site has an article up yet. FWIW.]
HOLMES: No sir, I told Coach Jackson, and some other coaches. I'm just waiting for the camps to get over with today, so he can talk.
TOM: Have you been to Michigan yet?
HOLMES: Last summer, at the AAU track meet, I went to Eastern, but never to the University of Michigan.
TOM: What have the coaches told you they like about you as a player?
HOLMES: They like me for the outside linebacker position. They told me they just really like my explosiveness, and my pursuit. They like that I don't give up on the play, and I go after the ball.
TOM: Ok, so what made you decide to commit? What was the difference maker?
HOLMES: I was just waiting for school to finish, and once that happened, I sat down with my family and we decided that Michigan is the best place for me. It's got the best mix of academics and football. It's a great school, with great tradition. Coach Jackson has come out to me, and he's seen me three times now. The effort he put in was well done. We built a good relationship, and developed a bond. I've talked to Will Campbell, Roy Roundtree, and Tony Drake. I just asked them what they liked about it, and how they felt. They all had the same message, that it's just a family once you're there. You're part of something special, and the University really wants you to succeed academically.
TOM: So when do you plan on taking a visit?
HOLMES: I'm not sure the date yet, but I plan on taking my official visit to Michigan. I'm still planning it out.
TOM: So, what's next for you?
HOLMES: Just working hard, focusing our team, we're trying to do big things. I want to stay in contact with Devin Gardner. Stephen Hopkins, and some other guys.
"Confirmation." Rodriguez was pinged at last weekend's Women's Football Academy about Dann O'Neill. The Free Press reports back:
Rodriguez confirmed that offensive lineman Dann O’Neill has left the program, but he wasn’t sure whether O’Neill will transfer to another school.
So… confirmed, eh? Which sort of implies the existence of a report that O'Neill has departed, eh? Where might this report be? I'm curious as to when a newspaper will credit something other than another newspaper for breaking a story.
- If the elder Grady gets his probation together and so forth and so on he'll remain on the team:
“He’s still working out with the guys,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve gotten the details from him and researched it a little bit . Kevin has taken care of some of (those) responsibilities, and the rest of that is up to him. If he does everything, come Aug. 9, when we start camp, he’ll rejoin us.”
FWIW, Grady's father went on WTKA and asserted that the newspaper reports of what, exactly, he didn't complete were erroneous and the slip-up was considerably more minor. I don't have strong feelings one way or the other about Grady staying on the team.
- Rodriguez said there was only one freshman in danger of not qualifying. Sam Webb asserted that Fitzgerald Toussaint was good to go, which leaves Jeremy Gallon squarely in the crosshairs of that comment. (There were rumors that Adrian Witty was also a potential casualty, but since we know Gallon has a point or two to get it's easy to infer Witty has cleared the bar. Justin Turner's situation is apparently not a big deal.)
Speaking of that Women's Academy, while it didn't turn up anything equivalent to last year's legendary squat 'n' scream…
…Rivals does have some entertaining pictures. Here's Greg Robinson not getting the spirit of the thing:
YAAAAAARGH GET WITH THE PROGRAM 70 YEAR OLD 110 POUND RETIREE. There is also this woman wearing a shirt that appears to say "SQUIRELS [sic] GONE WILD" which WTF. And yes, insane all caps man, this girl is hot. I assume she's a cheerleader given the outfit.
Busts past. I was reading the good Doctor's Auburn preview when I ran across a name from the past:
As bad as those two [Kodi Burns and Chris Todd] were, career backup Neil Caudle only got on the field for five snaps against Tennessee-Martin -- yet he left the spring in a virtual dead heat with Burns to be No. 1. If we also assume Rollison can run, his arm might be worth a flier in case of another slow start.
Caudle was at Michigan's camp at the same time as David Cone, who apparently outperformed him and another high-profile quarterback. At the time this was encouraging; now it's apparent it said more about Caudle than Cone. Take it from a guy who witnessed Todd's painfully looping throws in the flesh: if you couldn't get on the field for Auburn last year, you were bad.
Also, that Rollison guy is Tyrik, who hardcore recruitniks may remember as the guy who played opposite Shavodrick Beaver in a game televised by ESPN. He had virtually no offers—Baylor might have been his best—until very, very late, when Auburn took a flier and got a commitment. This obviously meant JUCO, but somehow the guy qualified. Many teams will be kicking themselves if Rollison lives up to the hype. And manages to stay in school.
Yes, fair enough. Conversations about Rodriguez's recruiting this year usually go something like this:
Person One: I am concerned the class is filling up with players with low ratings and unimpressive offers.
Person Two: But Rodriguez dominated doofuses in the Big East with crappy classes!
That's an expletive, ad-hominem free version of events but you get the idea. The WLA takes issue with that latter hypothesis, because it is their job to find any optimism related to Michigan football and stamp it out:
Let’s look at how WVU recruited compared to their primary competition: fellow teams in the Big East:
2002: #2 class in the Big East (includes Miami, VT, and BC)
Looking at those results, it’s difficult to argue that West Virginia suffered any tangible talent deficit to it’s fellow Big East teams. … while WVU’s classes full of two andthree-star talent seems poor when put into the context of major college football, it was actually an above-average result when put into the context of their conference.
Okay, point taken, but counterpoints: West Virginia was most certainly at a huge talent deficit relative to Georgia and Oklahoma, and once you start getting into the area where you're pulling hairs between the #27 and #37 classes the gradation is way flatter than it is at the tippy top; West Virginia dominated a conference in which they had virtually equal talent to everyone else, and even if Michigan's class comes in a little disappointing this year it's still virtually guaranteed to be third at worst. This is coming off a horrendous year and should improve in the future. The argument that Rodriguez can take his and beat yours, then take yours and beat his, is one with significant data backing it up.
I went, I saw, I ate little finger foods and learned fascinating things about the New York-area magazine softball league, which has been dominated by High Times for the past decade. We eventually settled on this theory: at some point in the hazy past, the High Times staff sat around, high off their gourds, and someone said "hey… you know what would screw with everyone's heads?"
A report ensues. What follows could be interpreted as excessively critical, so some positive words first: I'm astounded that HHR managed to put this together and pull it off so successfully. The room was packed and the people who spoke were terribly impressive on paper. There was an after-party with an open bar sponsored by GQ. This was such a vastly inexplicable accomplishment that when I asked one of the roving, frightened-looking GQ writers why the magazine would do such a thing he was as lost as I was. Roping in all these different people with different interests is so far beyond my ken that I spent a large section of the day in silent awe of the power of being a nice friendly driven person who can sell other people on your point of view. The mere existence of the thing is a tribute to HHR Media.
This is a power I lack utterly, though. Posts like this one, all sun and exclamation points and so forth, are grating things designed for buttering up more than honest evaluation. I prefer the bitter truth, and there were a lot of rough spots. So here goes.
Note: Yes, MSM is a frequently-deployed term below and it's hard to separate it from its pejorative connotation; I don't wish to come off like a snotty blogger as I use it. But there are huge differences between journalism borne of an institution and not-journalism borne outside of institutions, and MSM remains a useful catch-all.
"The Future Of Sports Media"
This was not a good start. Various venture executive suit type people sat around and gave their talks. They apparently got together and bet each other which of them could say "Twitter" 2000 times in 10 minutes. Kathleen Hessert, who runs Sports Media Challenge, won. Each speaker focused on the changing media landscape from the perspective of an agent/handler. Now athletes can interact directly with their fans. Okay. How does this pertain to me? This was not explained.
I remember zero from the presentations of the guy who runs sports agency Octagon and the guy who runs Fantasy Sports Ventures, but Richard Ting from R/GA had a interesting power point presentation that was unfortunately compressed given the pointlessness of the rest of the panel. Factoid: if Shaq's twitter was a newspaper, it would be the country's third largest. (And shortest, and most likely to talk about ass-tasting.)
If this was actually about the direction sports media was going with an angle on, you know, independent sports media often purveyed in blog form, it might have been worthwhile. It wasn't; looking around the room towards the end of the panel I saw glazed eyes and discontent.
Confirm or Ignore: Leveraging Social Media
This was the nadir. At one point Dan Levy spent five minutes explaining RSS to a room full of bloggers. Much snark befell him in the back room. The rest of the panelists weren't much more enlightening: Twitter! Social media! Etc.! There was a long discussion about whether or not following 30,000 people on Twitter was a good idea. Conclusion: maybe if you're a marketing droid. Not if you're a real person.
Hi Mom! Claiming That Earned Media
This is where things started turning around. Matt Ufford, aka
Unsilent Majority Captain Caveman of KSK and then the guy behind With Leather and now the guy behind Warming Glow—who I was disinclined to like because my impression of his work was "hey… tits!"—turned out to be awesome. He expressed a desire to move away from tits, even. He moderated a panel with Michael Tunison, AKA Christmas Ape, one of the guys behind WhoDeyRevolution, a Bengals blog dedicated to the proposition that the Bengals are basically owned by William Clay Ford, and Sarah Spain, who is famous for some reason or another.
Spain spent a lot of time complaining about how people judged her on her looks. The irony of her skirt hitting mid-thigh as she said this escaped her. She was intent on justifying herself, and by this point I was really tired of people with no interest in talking to the audience. I mean… seriously, own up to what you're leveraging (right). If Ufford was posing for cheesecake pictures people would start talking about it, yo, and possibly questioning their sexuality.
This panel was mostly a discussion of what happens when something you do catches fire, and the answer was "watch the carnage and buy something flame-retardant."
The WDR guy talked about some of their Project Mayhem stunts—placing urinal cakes with ignominious Bengal records in every urinal at a home game—and about how they've galvanized a fan community around their cause; that was the best part of the panel. A discussion of what happens after your post about Allison Stokke gets shot across the internet doesn't do much; a discussion of how you can get yourself some notoriety without resorting to 1) dumb luck, 2) hot underage chicks, or 3) getting fired would have been appreciated.
Ufford did have a salient point on Digg: it takes a huge amount of effort to penetrate the byzantine Digg community and the traffic you get from hitting the front page is ephemeral. That was a bit on social media more useful than anything in the actual social media panel.
Making It Big: The Secret of My Success
Strange selection of folks for this panel, as Tunison moderates:
- AJ Daulerio, whose secret is "be a close personal friend of Will Leitch"; no offense to his talent, but come on now: getting handed the keys to Deadspin after your BFF leaves for New York magazine is not a widely replicable strategy.
- Ufford, who did indeed turn himself from a crazy nickname into a professional writer via the dint of hard work.
- Dan Shanoff, whose personal brand got a major kick in the ass from his time as a prominent writer on Page 2 back when Page 2 was relevant, and
- Jimmy Traina, who writes Hot Clicks for SI.
Exactly one of these people—Ufford—did not have a major kick in the ass from an existing brand when they jump started their own, and KSK's close association with Deadspin was maybe a half kick in the ass. (Spain actually would have been a good selection here.)
As per usual, this topic didn't really come off like the title and description intended it. Instead, the highly influential linkers on the panel discussed how to catch their eye and how not to be ignored when you send them your awesome link. Worthwhile discussion despite the bait-and-switch.
Power In Numbers: Content Networks
Burned by the earlier panel without any bloggers on it, I missed most of this one in favor of talking with some folks I knew via their blogs but not personally. I did catch the last 15 minutes or so, which mostly justified my decision to skip the rest. Again, I don't see what the relevance of this is to most in the crowd: sure, it's nice SB Nation and Uproxx have blogs, but either they want you to sign up with them or not. My problems with Bleacher Report are well documented; anyone who's serious about establishing a career for themselves should avoid it like the plague. By posting there you associate yourself with the overall opinion of BR. This is not something you want to do. (This Get The Picture post is fortuitously timed; I wanted to ask the Bleacher Report CEO "do you know that your median post is horrible?")
This would have been much more interesting with a devil's advocate of some sort instead of just five guys who were trying to sell you something. I think certain members of the audience sensed this too, because the first question was a long rambler that boiled down to "don't you people have any souls, man?" It was overheated but I saw where that guy was coming from.
But, right: didn't see this whole thing so I could have missed something enlightening.
Make It Your Job
Clearly the A-1 panel, with Orson—in full WP Mayhew sartorial/drunkenness splendor—and Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski hilariously holding court. There was also some quality thinkin' injected, but it was the hilarity that stood out after a day sorely lacking in it. Also around:
- John Ness of NBC Local and a former boss of mine when we were both at Fanhouse, was an odd inclusion since he's not a writer. He didn't say much, though he was good when he did speak.
- Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead. TBL attracts a large share of the sports blogosphere's catty derision and this panel made it clear why.
- Matt Cerrone of Metsblog; he was overshadowed by the two cards but when he said something it was considered and on point.
The first questions from this panel linger in my mind as emblems of a conference-wide lack of focus on the audience. Paraphrased, they were "what was the thing about your old job you hated most?" and "what's great about being a blogger?" Neither question has anything to do with the process of going from Some Guy On The Internet to a professional writer, and while the guys on the panel eventually roped the discussion around to some useful advice the moderator didn't have much to do with it.
McIntyre is a highly unpopular character in the blogosphere and it's not hard to see why: most of his answers were pure MSM. There was a question about whether the panelists were rooting for a specific outcome or a "good story"—another question that had zero to do with the putative panel topic—and he went right for the cynicism of traffic and pageviews. In a later panel an ESPN reporter cited Deadspin and TBL as things the MSM reads; I think the popularity of TBL is largely because of the site's decidedly newspapery mindset: as many things as possible in as little detail as possible. You could see other people on the panel chafe as he talked.
That only added to the overall entertainment, though. This was engaging, interesting despite the questionable direction provided, and a welcome relief after some soul-deadening previous panels.
Show Me The Money
This was about turning posts into money and was moderated by Mike Hall, a baby-faced guy at NESN running their new media department; he was terrific. His questions were focused and audience-directed. This panel also had one blogger—the guy behind WOO TITS AND SPORTS (NTTAWWT) blog Uncoached—paired with a couple of business-side guys, which provided an interesting mix. Hall delved into specifics, attempting to ferret out a solid number of pageviews that would provide a livable wage. The answer, worked out in detail by Yardbarker CEO Pete Vlastelica, was about a million per month. I can tell you that 1M per month is in the ballpark, but it's at the beans-and-rice-daily end. (MGoBlog is averaging around 2M of late.)
Other parts of the discussion were about how swearing like a sailor makes you tougher to market to some brands, and something called Lijit, which remains mysterious to me. This panel was okay but lacked a discussion of ways to monetize other than the banner ad, save for some comments by Vlastelica about moving display/brand advertising more into content a la Gawker.
I had a side discussion with Bethlehem Shoals about his frustrations trying to monetize his content which would have made for great fodder here; it's not all sunshine and lollipops.
Why We Hate You
This was posed as a rehash of the Buzz Bissinger stuff. The panel was a strange melange, with Hall and Dan Steinberg clearly caught between worlds, and the woman from ESPN whose name escapes me largely silent. Only SI's Jeff Pearlman really took up the MSM flag.
A large portion of this panel was spent explicitly rejecting its premise. Every panelist took time to explain that no, they don't hate blogs or the mainstream media, with Steinberg and Bethlehem Shoals holding forth convincingly on what a stupid conversation it is to have. When the panelists did get into some of the rifts between large institutions and independent mavericks—"blogger" was dismissed as a term of art—Pearlman made a case for the really good reporters who seek out stories instead of following time-worn paths through the season, much of it in response to Wyshynski's earlier assertion that in 20 years bloggers would be the only game in town. He came off very well, and posted on his blog about his appearance.
This was the second-best panel of the day once it got past the disavowal stage.
I find people like Gary Vanyerchuck kind of depressing and tuned him out after he literally said "if you're not spending 20 to 50 times more effort promoting your content than creating it, you're an idiot." For the record, this blog has become a living for yrs truly and what I'm pretty sure is the #1 college football blog of any description with vanishingly little effort applied to marketing the content. His model is not the only model. I don't go in for rah-rah, and I don't want to own a professional sports team.
Suggestions for BWBII, which is in October in Vegas:
Avoid college football season. Because I can't go.
More. I may have tripped a fine line between being honest and being a dick, so to clarify: spectacular win for HHR and something that now has the momentum to self-perpetuate. That's a huge accomplishment.
More bloggin'. It's not a coincidence that the best panels were heavily populated by bloggers and the deadest ones were the province of corporate types. I understand that the corporate sponsors want some face time for their promotional considerations, but full panels of these guys talking adjacent to each other, not to each other, isn't particularly good.
More diverso-bloggin'. There's a huge difference between a blog that covers sports as a whole and one that covers a specific team, but by my count only two team-specific blogs were represented: WhoDeyRevolution and MetsBlog. Both of those inclusions were valuable, and in the future more team-driven sites should be highlighted. It's a totally different world.
More focus. The first panel probably should not have happened at all, as even when it flickered towards interestingness it remained irrelevant. Other panels wandered back and forth with little guidance; sometimes the guidance was an active hindrance to the topic at hand.
If this Lijit guy is going to talk someone should be asking him pointed questions about why a blog should slow its pageloads down and hand over valuable real estate to him. If the corporate types are going to be talking about the shift in media the person moderating the panel should be a blogger trying to figure out why this is relevant to him.
More breaks. People got increasingly antsy as the day dragged on and opportunities to interact with people were limited to lunch (and the afterparty). Everyone took a half-hour afternoon break at some point, which caused several interruptions as panelists asked people to quiet the din in the back.
For The Win. The panelists most full of win:
- Orson Swindle
- Matt Ufford
- Greg Wyshynski
- Dan Steinberg
- Bethlehem Shoals
- Jeff Pearlman
I will forgo a full conference UFR.
Previously: S Vlad Emilien, S Thomas Gordon, CB Justin Turner, CB Adrian Witty, LB Isaiah Bell, LB Mike Jones, LB Brandin Hawthorne, DT Will Campbell, DE Anthony LaLota, DE Craig Roh, OL Michael Schofield, OL Taylor Lewan, OL Quinton Washington, WR Cameron Gordon, WR Je'Ron Stokes, WR Jeremy Gallon, RB Teric Jones, and RB Vincent Smith.
|Youngstown, Ohio - 5'10" 185
|Scout||3*, #49 RB|
|Rivals||4*, #8 all purpose back, #239 overall|
|ESPN||79, #28 RB|
|Others||#95 to Lemming|
|Other Suitors||Pitt, Illinois, WVU|
|Hello: Fitzgerald Toussaint|
|Notes||Youngstown Liberty (Isaiah Bell, Antonio Kinard)|
This might be hard to get your head around after profiles of running backs who run 5'8" and 5'6" in sensible heels, but people think comparative giant Fitzgerald Toussaint—he's 5'10"! Gojira! Run!—is a small, zippy, tiny back. So, yeah, more of that stuff.
Toussaint has advantages over the other two kids in this class other than his spectacular name: he made Rivals top 250 and Lemming's top 100 and ended up a low-ish four star to ESPN. Only Scout remained skeptical. If you run into Scouty.com McScouterson, ask him what's up, because Toussaint's senior year was re-damn-diculous. He ran and ran and ran. By week eight his stats were astounding:
Fitzgerald Toussaint, Youngstown Liberty: Senior RB and Michigan recruit went over 250 yards for the seventh week in a row in a 33-28 win over Hubbard. After generating 16 yards on four carries in the first half, Toussaint erupted for 235 yards in the second half and scored two TDs. He has 1,950 yards in eight games.
Though tougher teams in the last portion of the season and the playoffs reduced Toussaint's torrid pace—he finished with 2,239 yards—he still averaged nearly ten yards a carry and scored a total of 28 touchdowns. Liberty's season ended against spectacularly-named Chagrin Falls, during which game Toussaint was truly shut down for the first time all year with just 21 yards.
The yards he did acquire were often spectacular. Check it:
If you watched that you know he is fast, but confirmation for skeptics versed in the ways of one college-bound guy against future engineers starts… now! JJHuddle's Duane Long:
Sometimes I watch a player and I see another level of speed. That is what I saw the first time I took a look at Toussaint. … He ran a 10.7-second 100-meter time as a freshman. Last year he ran a 10.59 100-meter and clocked a 21.79 200-meter time. That is an entirely different level of speed.
That was going into the year; during it Toussaint won the indoor season's 60 meter dash:
Toussaint, an All-Ohio running back who is headed to the University of Michigan, won the 60-meter dash with a time of 6.96, edging Columbiana junior Nick Melone (7.04), who placed second.
Toussaint's senior year outside started off with a hamstring injury but he managed to win some 100m dashes despite not being 100%. Unfortunately, he didn't get a chance to run at states because of a false start. Without that we might have had a titanic matchup between future Wolverines: junior and WR commit DJ Williamson was the state champion.
ESPN says he "might be a national sleeper at the position," but refrained from rating him higher than they did because of issues with his level of competition. (Liberty plays in one of the smaller Ohio divisions and in an area of the state that's not exactly loaded at that level.) Tantalizing specifics:
Runs patiently with good vision through the hole. Excels as a zone runner with his ability to stretch it east-west with great lateral quickness and avoid the initial penetration. Can sharply cut it back against the grain or turn the corner and separate from defenders with a great second gear, acceleration and top-end speed. Very shifty through traffic. Runs low to the ground, with excellent body control allowing him to slide through small run creases without losing much in transition. Very dangerous when he gets in space with his elusiveness.
Their main complaint is a tendency to dance around, which directly contradicts what you see above so like WTF. I don't know. As per usual, the scouting report highly recommends Toussaint land in a spread offense that can deploy his open-field elusiveness to devastating effect: check.
Other scouting reports and/or tantalizing coach quotes are surprisingly sparse. Rodriguez on Toussaint:
"We thought he was one of if not the best back in the state of Ohio last year. … he’s got all the things we want in a running back."
And this opposing coach offered an opinion after Toussaint shredded his team at the beginning of his junior year:
Friday night, the Struthers head coach had a similar feeling after watching Liberty junior Fitzgerald Toussaint juke, jive, spin and accelerate past his team — sometimes breaking a few tackles along the way — on his way to 239 yards and four touchdowns.
"He's a special back," said Saunders after his team's 43-22 road loss to the Leopards. "I don't know that he's quite at that [Wells'] level, but he's the best I've seen in awhile."
It wasn't all flowers and 90-yard touchdowns for Toussaint, though. His dad—also named Fitzgerald Toussaint—ended up in jail after stabbing his ex-wife's boyfriend… at a football scrimmage. Nasty business.
WARNING! Like Jeremy Gallon, rumors have been swirling about Toussaint's grades, and not "wow, did you hear Fitzgerald Toussaint has a 3.9?" The latest completely unsupported speculation is like the tiny amount of data we have on Gallon: it's looking like he will probably make it, but don't bet the farm.
Etc.: Various pictures.
Why Steve Slaton? Toussaint is a fast 5'10" slasher with the speed to take it the distance who will be deployed in the spread 'n' shred. Slaton, a universal three-star who had his Maryland offer yanked, was actually lower rated than Toussaint.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. High profile kid at a relatively easy to project position, but wide spread and no camps/combines.
General Excitement Level: High. While I think Vincent Smith can be a good back in the Michigan offense, Toussaint has the bigger recruiting rep, better track numbers, and heart-stopping highlights; my bet is that he's the most successful tailback out of this class. I love the combination of moves, zone suitability, and flat-out speed cited by ESPN and demonstrated at track meets and football games.
Projection: I hope they don't go Carr here and burn a redshirt for no purpose; Toussaint will be behind the two seniors, Mike Shaw, and possibly Vincent Smith and Mike Cox this fall if for no other reason than inexperience and whatever incremental improvement Michigan might get from running Toussaint out there for a couple dozen carries, or—ugh—special teams duty seems outweighed by the potential of a fifth year.
Past that, he'll be part of an all-out war for the starting job in 2010.
Instead of my content, here's a fun diary I've bumped. Actually, wait, this is extremely painful. Dammit.
Football is such a game of inches. If you could go back in time and gently nudge a single play in Michigan’s favor, which would you choose to change? I’m not talking about randomly adding 7 points to a game, but rather a minor change to an actual play that has a huge effect. This is my list:
10. Michigan v Nebraska, 2005 Alamo Bowl – Steve Breaston is RIGHT THERE and you don’t flip the ball to him? Oh Ecker. I would go back and have you make one little pitch. Although this game had no global impact or anything, it would’ve been nice to beat Nebraska.
9. Michigan v Northwestern, 2000 - Did we really deserve to win this game? Probably not. But we certainly would have but for one little fumble, almost an unforced error by Anthony Thomas (one of my favorite players.) If he just puts both arms on the ball in the waning minutes, Michigan wins an odd Big Ten shootout.
8. Michigan v Michigan State, 1990 – We got jobbed on the 2-pt conversion. If Desmond can hold on for just another .5 seconds, it’s good. This game marks my first sports bet. It, um, wasn’t my last.
7. Michigan v Ohio State, 2006 – How many plays in this game could’ve gotten us a victory? I’ll focus on 2, though both involve the same player, Shawn Crable. Crable had Beanie Wells for a loss in the backfield, and let him get by for 7. Then he gets the infamous penalty on Troy Smith, and if his head were just a few inches lower he’s probably in the clear and we have a shot at the win. This game isn’t on the list as a guaranteed win, but I’d just have liked to see us with the chance at the end. That’s why it isn’t higher.
6. Michigan v Texas, 2005 Rose Bowl – Vince Young loses if Dusty Mangum’s FG attempt is blocked. I forget which defender it was, but one Wolverine was literally an inch or two from blocking it. It certainly appeared to me that if he didn’t touch the football, he felt the breeze on his hand as it went by. Would’ve been nice to have won this one, and we were maybe an inch away.
5. Michigan v ND, 1990 – This game was on ESPN Classic the other day. Michigan was leading by 28-14 in the 4th quarter and driving deep in Irish territory. I’m thinking, how the hell did we lose this game? Then Elvis tossed a bad interception to Michael Stonebreaker, and the rest is history. If that ball is just tipped or dropped, or sails over his head, we kick a FG and win easily. Sigh.
4. Michigan v ND, 1988 – Mike Gillette’s field goal attempt sailed wide by inches. Lou Holtz goes on to win a MNC, and I generally hate life for awhile. This one was personal, though Michigan only lost 2 games (and tied Iowa) and had a great season.
3. Michigan v Appalachian State, 2007 – Shawn Crable, can’t you just block the guy? Seriously? Or Steve Brown, can’t you just tackle the guy in the first quarter? Really? Truth is you could probably pick 10 plays from this game an inch here or there and it goes the other way.
2. Michigan v Iowa, 1985 - If that damn field goal at the end misses, or one Wolverine hand gets on it, chances are Michigan wins a National Championship for Bo a year after going 6-6. Yes, Michigan tied Iowa, but I personally believe that if we’d topped Iowa we’d have beaten Illinois. Just the impact of that game alone warrants being very high on this list, but for me personally, well. We all have that first loss when you’re old enough to know what’s really going on and you’ve developed enough of a passion that it *matters*. This was that game for me personally. It hurt. A lot.
1. Michigan v Colorado, 1994 - I don’t even really have to say which play, do I? It would be nice to avoid sitting there in the stands for a half hour after the game just looking at the crumpled up freebie program and thinking about the meaninglessness of existence. Feel free to share your own, I'm sure I've forgotten a ton. And please let me know if you have a time machine I can borrow.
Wow. Wow. Wow. I was idling along on SI.com doing something, what I can't remember, when an SI Vault link invitingly titled "Herbstreit has Buckeyes Rolling" promised retro lulz given the way Herbstreit's career turned out (0-4-1, all of which losses were entirely his fault… just like Mike Hart). I clicked, and found myself in a gold mine. (Though it was a mistitled one. Herbstreit hardly came in for a mention.)
For one, here's one of the great quotes of the rivalry, one I had no idea about:
Facing fourth-and-goal on the Michigan five with 4:24 remaining and the Wolverines leading 13-6, Ohio State's Kirk Herbstreit threw a scoring pass to Greg Beatty, and the Buckeyes hung on for a 13-13 tie. University president Gordon Gee's jubilant assessment of the stalemate—"This tie is one of our greatest wins ever"—was interpreted as naked relief that he wouldn't have to fire a decent man.
Also, I had no idea how rough Cooper's start was. His first four years he brought home a winning percentage of .600 to go along with an 0-4 record in The Game. Would Rodriguez get that sort of slack these days? (Maybe, since it would mean Michigan would average 9.2 wins over the next three years. Woo for going 3-9 to start.)
And then there's this annoying, deathless meme:
Two things, however, separate this Buckeye squad from Cooper's previous teams: an abundance of speed and an absence of controversy. The ascension of Florida teams has finally convinced Big Ten coaches that the days of pounding the ball behind stegosauruslike offensive linemen are over. "We've begun to realize," says Cooper, "that if we're going to compete with the big boys, we're going to have to recruit speed."
argh. argh argh argh. This is almost 20 years ago! How many times has a spiritual equivalent of the bolded sentence been written? An exhaustive search of everything ever written about sports yields 600 million, or so, all of them trite and dumb.
And this… this I give the title of fakest FAKE 40 of all time:
Even Dan (Big Daddy) Wilkinson, the Buckeyes' 6'5", 305-pound defensive tackle, can motor. Big Daddy ran the 40 in 4.87 three years ago—when he weighed 350.
The hell, I say. The freakin' hell.
And then there's the tenor of the article itself, wherein undefeated Ohio State wonders if its current team "stacks up with Woody's best":
Certainly the defense, which has yet to yield a rushing touchdown, is special. A debating topic among Buckeye fans is whether this is the best Ohio State defense since the '84 unit, which featured Chris Spielman and Pepper Johnson, or since the '73 defense of Bob Brudzinski and Randy Gradishar.
How did this all work out for Ohio State?