so much for that
Yes, Stewart, Michigan is always overrated. Mandel makes the case against Michigan #4, and hits on the same points everyone's discussed: we can't stop mobile quarterbacks. Secondary, bleh, linebackers, bleh. Etc. Includes your standard annoying reference to drinking "the Maize and Blue Kool-Aid." Includes your standard "OMG they lost Braylon and Marlin and Shazor." Includes extremely common gamblers'-fallacy thinking. I don't really want to go in-depth here because it'll all show up in the Michigan preview, and I'd like to avoid repeating myself as much as possible.
What I'd like to highlight is the following validation for the BlogPoll's existence:
Maybe the problem is that voters don't necessarily view their preseason votes as any sort of prediction of a team's final ranking. After all, Michigan's position was hardly the only one in the coaches poll that caught my eyes. How about the team that finished one spot higher, Tennessee? The Vols have an excellent team on paper, no question about it, but does anyone actually look at schedules when they fill out their ballots?
Why should they look at the schedules? Isn't your poll a ranking of football teams, not football schedules? The fact that this confusion exists in Mandel's head--Mandel is a new AP voter, by the way--and likely the heads of many other voters makes the AP poll highly suspicious. It's fundamentally incoherent to make your vote a prediction of what the final poll will look like. Remember top-10 West Virginia? A mediocre team with an easy schedule gets way overrated. If it keeps winning it creeps up the polls as others drop around it. In the end it's rated highly specifically because it hasn't proven itself. The poll becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
And then Mandel goes and dogs Michigan even though all three NC games are at home, the road opener hex will be tested against a Wisconsin team that looks very shaky, and Ohio State is at home. Incoherence. Especially when he gets down on the defense for finishing... gasp... 42nd in scoring D. Isn't that above average? No, it isn't great, but how is Michigan's defense more of an issue than Ohio State's offense, which was 71st in scoring last year?
It's really easy to do this sort of hack job on any team in the country. "X Y and Z graduated and last year A happened so death." Everyone has questions, everyone has holes. That's the nature of college football, and part of what makes it so fun. Even USC fans have to be sort of nervous about the defensive line. Michigan has one flagrant issue. Find me a team that doesn't that isn't USC. #4 is fine.
(I've previously said I like Mandel, and I still sort of do. What I've noticed is this: when he writes a straight news or feature story, it's well researched and good and extremely worthwhile. When he tries to analyze things systematically we get CFN-worthy analysis.)
Holy Unibrow, Batman! Via EDSBS comes this:
I wonder what Lloyd Carr looked like in the 70s. Anyone with pictoral evidence of such, contact me immediately.
Der ball der bounce, Big Ten section, is previewed by Yoni Cohen of yocohoops on FoxSports.com. Michigan's mentioned in the middle tier of the conference, but there's a picture of Amaker yelling at someone. So we've got that going for us.
The Blade has another in the "hometown dudes playing for Michigan" genre. The Toledo-ans playing for Michigan are guard/long snapper Pat Sharrow and FS Willis Barringer.
Yes, I am concerned about MSU this year. So articles like this one in the Lansing State Journal make me happy. MSU's corner situation is a disaster at the moment. Jaren Hayes is suspended due to an off-field incident. Redshirt freshmen Brian Brighton and Eric Hines are probably out for the year with injuries. Freshman Kendall Davis is dealing with some NCAA clearinghouse issues. The guys currently listed as starters are senior Ashton Watson, who's proven to be pretty meh so far, and sophomore and former walk-on Travis Key. Past that are converted WRs, JUCOs, and walk-ons.
We're #4 again. This time it's in SI's college football preview. The article focuses on Breaston, who is apparently a fledgling slam poet. Witness:
See, whenever I was young, I spent a dollar twenty-five/On a book that had inside/Men who could fly/Who wore mind-grabbing costumes/ And these men couldn't die.
I actually see my share of slam poetry for reasons of time-overlap with standup and I can safely say that since Breaston's apparently isn't five minutes of screaming about eeeeevil Republicans, it's the best slam poetry ever. Also, it's reassuring that the most damage Breaston can inflict on himself via hobby is a paper cut. (No wise remarks about that knocking him out of action, please.)
One of my friend's friends is Neal Pollack's friend. I think. Also I've just experienced that weird cognative dissonance thing where you burn yourself out on a particular word and it looks strange, alien, horrible. The meaning escapes you. The point of this? Well, Pollack wrote an excellent article taking the "OMG Wacky Athlete Yoga" sportwriting crutch to school (yo).
Update 8/10: Removed NJ WR Andrey Baskin, who dropped us. Also removed DT Aundre Henderson, who committed to Minnesota... Minnesota? Linked to a couple articles, one in the Seattle Times on Taylor Mays and Steve Schilling, the other a Rivals article on Mays citing the Times article.
Editorial Opinion: The decision of Mays (clumsy and dorky sounding, but the possessive "Mays's" I could not stand) could come at any time. Michigan boards are ominously silent on his decision. Joey says it looks like USC, which would make my previously published unsubstantiated hunch totally wrong, but I think Joey just tries to be as pessimistic as he can about everything to prevent heartbreak--clearly Michigan football is way, way too important to him. A kindred spirit.
Anyway: I still think there's a decent chance Mays picks UM, but not a great one.
Numbers are getting really thin at defensive tackle now. Looking increasingly likely that Michigan will forgo DT entirely in this class, unless you count Marques Slocum, which you certainly could.
Oh, Media Day... you siren you. Everyone is talking and talking. After hearing Mike Hart say things and Chad Henne say things and everyone saying saying saying and everything to be wonderful miraculous and like 49-10 every game and eventually my brain just shuts down and this is the result:
YES BANANA KICK ASS PICKLE ROSE BOWL PEPPER NCAA CHAMPION.
Safari or UM Media Day? You make the call!
Article flood: Hart more Hart we should Tackle the Quarterback also Henne Hart we have Lofty Goals dude you're a Cynical Daily Guy Henne good Hart good(Blade article, sorry Tony) Carr Press Conference boring Offense Kickass sweet Grady Train annoying nickname South Bend fears Hart oh yeah Sam Sword, LB Coach Woodley Bring w00d destroy! Saginaw kids Womyn's Music Festival what? Carr no Retire 4 QBs going at it at NIU
Shazor showed up. FYI.
Mark Hasty sort of weighs in on the whole Nancy Clark hubbub in fine fashion:
With one inflammatory column, Clark raised her profile by playing to the one advantage newsies know they have over bloggers: There is no piece of bait so stinky that some blogger somewhere won't swallow it. (This, by the way, becomes Hasty's Sixth Axiom of Blogging.)
Guilty. Hook, line, and sinker. Mmmm sinker. Hasty also points out a more measured look at the blog thing in the very same Des Moines Register:
The mainstream media are in a semi-panic over blogs. Many, perhaps most, news organizations are starting their own blogs to meet the perceived competition. Yet blogs for the most part do not originate news. They merely offer endless chatter about news that was originated somewhere else - mostly in newspapers.
Yes. mgoblog is a consumer of news, not a producer. I engulf the bits and process them into something (debatably) cool. Without the MSM there would be little to engulf. Why do we fight so? Symbiotic we are.
Since I've spent large hunks of the offseason previewing the Big Ten, I am going to stick to that conference exclusively.
First: do not rank Wisconsin. They're looking at 6-5 at best, but somehow slid into the #30 spot in the Coaches Poll. Flagrant. (Sorry, Bruce.) I could see you giving votes at the tail end of your poll to Penn State or Michigan State, if you believe the hypotrophied units of the Nittany Lions or Spartans will perk up.
#22 Minnesota: Minnesota is one of a group of three Big Ten teams that figure to have one standout unit and one mediocre-to-bad one. Penn State and Michigan State are the other two. All three have claims to be ranked but Minnesota is the pick a few reasons:
- Minnesota's pounding ground game is not going away. They have three linemen who will challenge for All Big Ten honors and C Greg Eslinger is probably the favorite for the Rimington. Lawrence Maroney is explosive, a really fantastic runner. Minnesota has consistently proven that the ground game is no joke.
- Minnesota's passing game figures to take a step forward. TE Matt Spaeth and WRs Jared Ellerson and Ernest Wheelwright all return, as does QB Brian Cupito. Cupito only completed 47% of his passes last year but led the conference in yards per catch and yards per attempt; most of his throws were bombs. Wheelwright is huge and fast, another Braylon Edwards in the making--complete with inopportune drops as a youngster.
- There's a foundation for about half a defense. NT Anthony Montgomery is a solid run stuffer in the middle and the linebackers, uh, could be all right. Minnesota's run defense... might be okay. Pass defense? Disastrous. But we're talking #22 here.
Michigan State has the Stanton injury worry to deal with, and I believe that Penn State is playing a wide receiver at quarterback. Backup Anthony Morelli has apparently been underwhelming in practices as well. The offense is going to be really bad again.
If you need more convincing, there's always my Gopher season preview. Print it out and beat a moose to death!
#14 Iowa: I am torn about the Hawkeyes, but ultimately I believe that it's too much to ask an entirely new defensive line to stand up to the rigors of the Big Ten season without a loss or three along the way. Add in the fact that the Hawkeyes are dangerously thin at tackle and there's no established running back and the top-ten pub Iowa is getting is a bit much. There's a lot to like: Drew Tate, Hinkel & Solomon, the back seven on defense, Kirk Ferentz, and did I mention Kirk Ferentz? But Iowa looks to have a team that will have a tough time both running and stopping the run.
Yes, I fear this pick.
#10 Ohio State: I'm baffled by the high expectations some have for Ohio State this year. Troy Smith is not Michael Vick. His explosion of a game against Michigan was more on Jim Herrmann and the inept linebackers and safeties than anything he did on his own. He cannot read defenses. He does not have an accurate arm. The Ohio State quarterback situation is still a mess. There is no running back. Eric Haw and Antonio Pittman did nothing last year despite having autistic ducks in front of them on the depth chart. So, yeah, Ted Ginn is really good, but given Tressel's historic inability to coach offense and the huge question marks in the backfield, how are the Buckeyes regarded a national contender? Not to mention the fact that they have exactly one cornerback and security blanket Ted Nugent is freakin' finally in the NFL.
So why are they #10? Well, that Ginn guy is pretty good. And the safeties and linebackers are as well. Smith will get better and his running talents will probably be better utilized. They aren't going to roll over and die, but I don't think they'll beat Texas or Michigan.
Take this for what it's worth. I acknowledge that it's basically impossible for me to approach Ohio State with anything resembling objectivity.
#7 Purdue: Yes, Purdue. No, this isn't a pick based on the schedule. I discussed this at length in the Purdue season preview, but I believe that Brandon Kirsch has the run/pass ability to make Purdue's offense effective against all sorts of defenses, not just the ones who are shaky against the pass. Dorien Bryant is going to be better than Taylor Stubblefield was. Kory Sheets should improve the running back situation. All eleven starters on defense return, including five great defensive linemen. Ray Edwards is going to be a load for Big Ten left tackles. Purdue led the Big Ten in sacks last year and was second to Iowa in opponent's YPC.
There are issues at cornerback and kicker Ben Jones absolutely must rebound from a 2004 wherein he cost the Boilers three games. Yes, Purdue has issues playing close games... I but don't think there will be many of them this year.
#4 Michigan: What about the defense? Well, that defense was the worst Michigan defense relative to its opponents in the Bo-Mo-Llo era of Michigan football, which stretches back to 1969. IBFC wrote it up, see, and you should listen to him because he's smart. Michigan is no more likely to repeat its performance from last year than the 1998 defense was to repeat What Woodson Wrought. There's an actual defensive line coach and he's got some very large angry men to work with. Gabe Watson and Lamarr Woodley are good. The linebackers are all new but I think they'll be better than last year's crew, because it would be impossible for them not to. The secondary won't be particularly good. Leon Hall is an All Big Ten-level guy but the rest of the starters... eh, not so good. The defense will rebound.
The offense you probably know about. Henne, Hart, 4/5 offensive linemen return, the top two tight ends. Let me dispel some things you may have heard about the WRs: there will not be a significant drop off from Braylon. The offense will have to operate differently, yes, but Jason Avant is the best possession receiver in the country, Steve Breaston is supposed to be healthy (and if you need reminding what healthy Steve Breaston looks like, check it out here), and there 4 top-100 recruits behind them. Michigan's WRs are still very good.
Michigan's probably a 10-1 team in what looks to be an excellent Big Ten this year. So here they go.
The subsidiary returns and reports on a Lloyd Carr event even though I unfairly trashed OSU's 2002 national championship team, which... okay... wasn't the worst ever. It was the most annoying ever, however. Dispute that! Anyway. Two really good 'quotes' (absolute accuracy is not guaranteed):
(Asked about an anonymous Big Ten coach who called Michigan "arrogant and overrated")
It was probably one of those guys who hasn't had any success against Michigan.
(After he talked about goals in a general sense)
Reporter: What are your goals for your defense this year?
Carr: (staring at reporter silently for at least 5-10 seconds... room gets uncomfortable)
Carr: "We'd like to tackle the quarterback."
Spectacular. More over there.
I was struck by Carr's need to indicate why UofM has been so successful and is so uniquely positioned to prepare QBs for the NFL.
This dude is hearing Charlie's big footsteps, IMO.
Or... maybe he was asked a direct question. At a press conference, no less.
Get up to date on the Dome over at BGS. They've got five questions heading into fall practice, a post that I was going to make in the next couple days myself.
Michigan's roster is updated. Messageboarders point out several interesting things:
- LB Jacob Stewart and TE Kevin Murphy are no longer on the roster. If they've left the team that means one additional scholarship for 2006 (Stewart was a senior).
- CB Brandon Harrison is listed at 5'11", which is probably kind, but it's beyond the normal roster stretching to list him there unless he's least a solid 5'9" and maybe a half or three quarters.
- The "RLB" or rush linebacker position designation has returned. Listed there are Lamarr Woodley, Tim Jamison, and "Jim" McKinney. Pierre Woods is still listed at OLB.
- Gabe Watson is not the heaviest guy on the roster at 331. Jake Long is listed at 338 and Leo Henige, Jr., is listed at 339. Do I buy that? No. 331 is probably Gabe's fairyland fantasy target weight. It bears little resemblance to reality.
Germany is to invade opponents' backfields from the DE position according to this Scout article. Irony is pointed out: Keston Cheathem and Germany were high school teammates and friends who were both planning to attend Michigan. Germany went to USC temporarily while Cheathem ended up at Michigan. A year later, Cheathem is at Oregon State. Germany is at Michigan. It's like rain on your wedding day.