9/10/2007 - Michigan 7-39 Oregon - 0-2.
Bo is dead.
And, apparently, when he died the spirit of the program went with him. I don't know where it went. Probably Tibet. There is probably a 9-month-old child somewhere in Tibet who has the spirit of the Michigan football program. What a dick, hoarding all that spirit we need. I hope his yak butter goes rancid. But here we are.
I posted the above on the eve of the season as part of a hype post featuring Bo's "The team, the team, the team" speech. On the left: Bo, weirdly confident, almost bemused by all this crap he has to put up with just to get the job. In the middle: a young, petrified-looking Don Canham. There are few expressions easier to read than the one he's sporting: "God, I hope I didn't screw this up." On the right: Bump Elliot wondering if someone off camera has a sandwich. "I'm hungry. I wonder if that guy has a sandwich. I wonder if he would give me his sandwich... probably not. I probably shouldn't have lost to Ohio State 50-14. This seriously compromises my sandwich-acquisition capabilities. Shit. I knew that two-point conversion was bad news."
In two games Lloyd Carr has gone from a potential mini-Bo, pending the successful resolution of his final season, to a definitive mini-Bump and Michigan is searching for the man on the left again ten games too early. And while I would still give Lloyd Carr a sandwich, I no longer want him mucking around with my football program. This is an opinion now universally held by Michigan fans, and the alternative is too mindboggling to consider. So going forward, the assumptions:
- Carr will retire at the end of the season.
- His assistants will be given nice severance packages and a firm handshake.
- Martin conducts Michigan's first open, national search for a new football coach since 1968.
There are competing theories out there. Tom Kowalski, who's a Lions guy and probably should not be trusted, asserted on the radio this weekend that Carr will wait until the last possible moment to retire to ensure his assistants get a crack at the job. This assumes that Carr has completely lost his mind and that this will not cause a major revolt among donors and fans. It can't be taken seriously.
There's also a hilarious debate amongst various Detroit columnists about whether Carr should be fired right now or resign right now or wait until the end of the year or whatever, which is a quintessential example of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Who cares if Carr goes now or at the end of the season? What matters is the man who replaces him. The conversation going forward here will focus on that.
As I was searching for the pictures of Bo featured in the above-linked post, I stumbled across a page the Bentley put up with items from their library; the above was weird and wonderful and did not quite fit with the post I was putting up, so I squirreled it away for another time, which is apparently now. The Bentley caption:
Bo Schembechler leaving hospital after heart attack at 1970 Rose Bowl [with Hal Coombes, University Entertainment, Tournament of Roses and Mrs. Helen Fowler, R.N. ] Date: 19700119
Bo, struck down after his program-defining victory over Ohio State, leaves the hospital and is accosted by some photographer. He wants a picture. Hal Coombes, University Entertainment, Tournament of Roses and Mrs. Helen Fowler, Registered Nurse, are appalled, but Bo accedes. Hal Coombes, UE, ToR and Mrs. Helen Fowler, RN, can't quite get over the awkwardness of the situation -- this man, just out of the hospital, still in a wheelchair, asked for photographic evidence of his weakness -- and end up looking like extras in a zombie movie.
But Bo does not care. Bo says what the hell, and smiles, and by all appearances actually means it, and Mrs. Helen Fowler, Registered Nurse, is confused and alarmed into inaction but thinks that if this guy here is so capable of dealing then things will probably be all right. We have lost that; it is time to go seeking again.
Well, yeah, that sucked. But way less than last week because Michigan declared itself to be no-fluke pure suck by about midway through the second quarter. I was given the opportunity to disconnect and erect a wall of sarcasm between myself and the team, and this I did. There's no pain here, just a steady drip of resignation. Mmmm.
So I'm all out of rage. The reaction at this point: whatever. Who's the next coach? For the first time since 1968, Michigan is going to go looking; chances are the next guy isn't currently working at a MAC school. Unless it's Brady Hoke. Maybe he can bring back Stan Parrish! Oh, the tingly bits are tingling at the mere possibility.
Anyway, I'm going to Chicago to day to watch Brazil tear through the USMNT like it's Michigan's defense, so content will have to wait until tomorrow. This is just a heads up that I'm out here and will be posting with alacrity this time. No need for kittens when you've already set the clock ahead to next year. UFR will be abbreviated as per the standard practice to ignore plays which have no outcome on the bearing of the game. Garbage time started right after Dixon's third long touchdown of the day and charting will cease there, though I'll go in and grab all the Mallett plays to evaluate how he did. (Not well is your answer.)
One thing: yes, Les Miles is back on the table. I know I wrote a big long post claiming he was not a candidate for anything, and I still remain fairly skeptical, but a large portion of the "not a candidate for anything" post rested on the dual assumptions that
- Michigan would not be looking for a drastic change in the tenor of the program, and
- Lloyd Carr's personal enmity would be a major negative.
IE: it was written in the expectation that Carr was going out on a high note instead of as Bump Elliot with a national title. Obviously this is not the case and Carr's opinion is likely to carry little weight with an athletic director already inclined towards national searches that acquire proven winners instead of, say, Mike DeBord. So Miles is no longer a longshot. I got a solid tip from someone claiming that he would jump at the job if offered, FWIW, and his public non-statements in the past week about the Michigan job tend to reinforce that vision. He has a specific $1.2 million buyout for Michigan, but that's nothing. Someone will step forward and donate that much if it comes to that.
Uh, like... hopefully this one goes better.
Note: the TV thing got canceled until the station can also find a State guy. Frowns. Sorry to anyone who stayed up on Sunday.
Right, I promised a look at Crable's culpability or lack thereof in the field goal. Here's the setup:
Questions, and a sincere one to anyone who's blocked for a field goal before: should Banks have taken the man Crable let go? Is the double team on this DE here necessary? Is the guy on the interior here any threat? Does your opinion change considering this guy plays I-AA? Why does this always happen to us?
My answers: yes, no, no, N/A because I of what I think on the first three questions, one of us must have killed Jesus. I blame Leopold and Loeb.
Run Offense vs. Oregon
This, at least, looks like an area of little concern. Oregon was shredded like whoah by the Houston Cougars last weekend, giving up 205 yards on just 22 carries to Anthony Aldridge and getting outgained(!) in a 48-27 victory. This was no fluke. In offseason scrimmages similar events occurred:
At the start of fall camp, Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti was asked about the apparent dearth of run-stoppers in his front seven.
"There's no cavalry coming," Aliotti said, acknowledging that the Ducks would have to try to stop opponents without the benefit of a run-stuffing body such as Matt Toeaina, Haloti Ngata, Igor Olshansky et al.
During Friday's scrimmage at Autzen Stadium, his defense not only couldn't stop ballcarriers but often failed to get a hand on them.
Running backs Jeremiah Johnson and Andiel Brown, as well as quarterback Nathan Costa, scored on runs of 69, 39 and 62 yards, respectively. All three were untouched.
Oregon was badly hurt by the loss of two big-time DTs from their 2007 recruiting class and the departure of Dexter Manley II, a rotation defensive end, in the offseason. It showed against Houston and is likely to show again against Michigan.
The run game was the one area Michigan fan's couldn't quibble much with after the Appalachian State game. Normally this would mean nothing -- grinding a I-AA opponent to dust is expected, after all -- but we are going to take what we can get. Aside from one Justin Boren bust on Michigan's second drive, the blocking was somewhere between good and excellent all day. Mike Hart must have had some sort of injury to miss sections of the second and third quarters, but a 54-yard touchdown run that will unfortunately not live in Michigan lore seemed to indicate he was fine. He should be 100% for the Ducks.
Key Matchup: Michigan versus its own playcalling. Fullback shuffles and a refusal to use play action were fine against a I-AA foe but even if Oregon is a terrible defense they'll have more size and talent than the 'Eers of Doom did. Plowing ahead on 2/3rds to 3/4ths of Michigan's first downs, as they did in the WVU game and many games last year, will hamper Michigan's offensive efficiency.
Pass Offense vs. Oregon
Was Mario Manningham eliminated by a 5'7" I-AA cornerback last week? Sort of, but not really. I counted four separate instances in which Manningham beat that guy downfield, but only one was accurate enough to be completed. This, of course, begs the question "why not try Arrington?" as Arrington would have dominated those midgets on underthrown Hopeful Jump Balls, but whatever. I'm rambling. Uh. Anyway: Oregon had a statistically excellent pass defense a year ago, but they did that on the wings of things like "Rudy Carpenter, 6 for 19 for 33 yards" and "someone called Carl Bonnell who is not Isaiah Stanback" and "14 total attempts for Arizona". Though Henne didn't exactly establish himself a Heisman contender in his first game, he's probably closer to Nate Longshore, John David Booty, and John Beck than the aforementioned trio. All of the latter trio had excellent days against the Duck defense foreshortened by the massive blowouts their teams were laying on them.
Herein lies a reason I may have been excessively optimistic about Oregon preseason and a major factor in that crazy Michigan + 8 line: that was all smoke and mirrors and the Oregon pass defense is ugly. Houston, breaking in a new quarterback for the first time since Kevin Kolb debuted against Michigan, was not a good test for this theory as two separate QBs completed a lot of passes for no yards -- screens, most likely -- and a pick each.
Given that Henne's off-ness is not likely to repeat, and this I do believe to be true, Oregon is ripe for the picking here, though it remains to be seen just how competent the right side of the offensive line is against actual live bodies.
Key Matchup: Henne versus inaccuracy. Michigan will ask Henne to complete two or three of those passes he missed against Oregon; I figure someone will be open. He just has to hit them.
Run Defense vs. Oregon
Oh, boy, this will be fun. Take Apppalachian State and upgrade everyone on the team to a D-I level player and make their tiny little darty guy the avatar of rage Jonathan Stewart is. And then put them up against Graham, Thompson, et al. Result: yikes. It was just Houston, sure, but Jesus H. Christ:
# Player No Gain Loss Net TD Avg Long 10 Dennis Dixon 15 172 31 141 1 9.4 80 19 Brian Paysinger 2 14 0 14 1 7 14 22 Andre Crenshaw 7 48 1 47 0 6.7 16 24 Jeremiah Johnson 11 73 3 70 2 6.4 19 28 Jonathan Stewart 14 72 5 67 0 4.8 24 Totals 49 379 40 339 4
Holy clodhopping hell. I guess you can argue that an 80 yard touchdown run by your quarterback tends to distort things, but raise your hand if you don't expect Dennis Dixon to rip off something like ten yards a carry. Right. That's what I thought.
I don't necessarily buy the theory that Michigan will be more prepared to face Oregon's spread rushing attack than Appalachian State's because they are nearly identical. Oregon is a spread option run team that runs a zone read all the time, and the zone read is a basic play Michigan should already know how to defend given their run-ins with Texas and Northwestern and etc etc etc. No, Michigan was not taken by surprise. And, no, there's no reason to expect improvement. Chris Graham is a senior; Johnny Thompson is also in his fourth year in the program. The light, if it's not already on, is not likely to pop on now. Jonas Mouton and Obi Ezeh may offer some hope (in Mouton's case, if he's healthy enough to play) and the potential return of Brandon Graham from an ankle injury that limited his time against the 'Eers of Doom may help, especially if they make the 3-3-5 that did so well against spread rushing an option again, but I expect horror on an epic scale.
Key Matchup: Taylor and Johnson versus Oregon interior line. These two have to make more disruptive plays for Michigan to get Oregon in advantageous down and distance situations. If Michigan can't do it, they'll get tired in the pounding heat and there are evidently no backups.
Pass Defense vs. Oregon
Anyone who kept an eye on mgo.licio.us over the offseason probably knows about Dennis Dixon's inexplicable sojourn into minor league baseball this summer. Dixon, a talented player prone to baffling mental breakdowns, decided to pass up the chance to Akili Smith some poor team into drafting him and instead hit like .200 in summer league ball. This is not a wise decision, I think, when last year you got yanked for Ryan Leaf's untalen
ted younger brother because you threw more interceptions than touchdowns.
Aside from the whole buckets of interceptions thing, though, Dixon was a prolific passer at times last year: 61% completions, 341 yards and two touchdowns in Oregon's "win" over Oklahoma (albeit with two interceptions), and 263 yards and two touchdowns against Cal (albeit with three interceptions). However, after that Cal game his productivity evaporated. He could not crack 150 yards passing the rest of the season, threw nine interceptions to two touchdowns, those against Portland State and BYU, and generally was the main reason Oregon's talent-laden offense clattered to a spectacular halt as the team imploded over the second half of the season. Against Houston he was infrequently deployed but effectively so: 9 for 15 with two touchdowns and 134 yards. And no interceptions, even.
Still, Dixon's proven little other than he's extremely effective at winging balls directly into defenders hands. He's exactly like that Appalachian State guy in that respect, and Michigan should dare him to throw the ball.
Key Matchup: Safeties versus falling down. The best way to turn a crappy passing attack into a great one is to turn a five yard completion into a 70 yard touchdown.
Oregon kicker Matt Evensen might be pretty crappy: prior to this year he was called upon to attempt twelve field goals across two years. He made five of them. He was two for two against Houston, but there's the possibility of a miss or two here. Oregon was a dangerous punt/kick return team a year ago (29th and 19th, respectively) and has an advantage over Michigan's non-Breaston return units.
Key Matchup: Let's block some blockerguys.
- We get gashed early; more running equals more time on the field equals exhaustion equals more running.
- Henne's still off.
- Just worry.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Dennis Dixon finds himself rattled and in full-on interception mode.
- Um... we bring up a safety and we find a couple linebackers? And fairies descend from the sky bearing a time machine we can use to go back to a time before this all happened?
- Screw it, I like the fairies thing. Let's do that.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 I Was Already Frightened; +1 for AND THEN WE LOST TO A I-AA TEAM, +1 for THAT RUNS THE SAME OFFENSE OREGON DOES, +1 for AAAAAARRGH, +1 for IT BURNS!!!!!!).
Desperate need to win level: 3 out of 10. (Baseline 5; -3 for It's Not Like It Can Get Any Worse, +2 for Mike Hart Deserves Better, -1 for If I Get Emotionally Invested God Will Smite Us Again, +1 for Those Are Some Ugly Uniforms, Though, Shouldn't God Smite Them?)
Loss will cause me to... yawn, create detailed post about Michigan's coaching search, have inexplicable heaving sobs at various times during the week. (Note to mom: kidding!)
Win will cause me to... yawn, create detailed post about Michigan's coaching search, privately concoct ridiculous national championship scenarios.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict: Unpredictable shootout coming with lots and lots of running. Presumably Michigan wises up too late about the dare-them-to-throw thing and gives up a touchdown or two aerially just to spite my assertions about how Michigan should play this game. Offensively, I don't think Henne was that bad against Appalachian State and the have no answer for Hart. Up and down it goes; in the final estimation I believe Michigan will piss away a field goal here and a touchdown opportunity there as Dixon runs to his heart's content and Michigan comes up with another loss.
The wildcard here, though, is turnovers. Oregon is liable to lose a lot of 'em, and if M ends up +1 or +2, which seems fairly likely, they should be in to win.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Oregon goes with the neon yellow helmets, green jerseys, and white pants.
- Henne looks much better, like 65% plus Manningham touchdown better.
- 34-32, Oregon.
With the talking. Russ Levine of Football Outsiders had already scheduled me to be on the new FO Seventh Day Adventure podcast, which, depending on how you look at it, is either great or awful timing. This is sort of an extended version of the various radio appearances I've done in support of the book, in case you're interested in what that's going like. Results (I call Morgantown a "hole"! I pick ND! Woo!):
There's a lot of discussion in there about Michigan and its future, it's not all Washington-Boise picks.
In case you were wondering... Garnet 'n' Black Attack, nee Cock 'n' Fire, asks this in the wake of the AP's decision to allow I-AA teams in:
Now, there comes this question of the BlogPoll: Will we allow FCS teams in? I, for one, would be opposed to this, since it would undermine the whole "We watch more games than the media pollsters" argument. If you add FCS teams, we'd be either excluding or including them more on gut feeling or a good win or two than on an actual examination of how they play, since there are very few that are consistently on television.
But I think it's a fair topic for discussion.
Yet another reason to wish this upset had happened to anyone else: any statements about how friggin' stupid this decision might look like sour I-AA grapes. But what the hell: this is a moronic decision by the AP that reflects the mentality of its voters. The AP voters can't even track the entirety of I-A, and now they deign to rank a team they very likely didn't even see play in their massive upset and will not see play the entire rest of the year. There's a reason Appalachian State was the biggest upset ever: I-AA teams cannont compete with the top I-A teams. And what if Appalachian State loses to D-II Lenoir-Rhyne this weekend? Do we rank Lenoir-Rhyne? Once you let I-AA teams in, why not D-II or D-III teams in? Should we put the NFL in there too? What about women's volleyball teams? Pollsters are already set an imposing task without having to consider whether or not a team that plays in an entirely different division should be ranked. But if your mentality is that you can look at a bunch of scores and then rank the teams, it makes sense. Thus the AP's decison.
Aigh. USA Today talks to the Appalachian State coach. Quotes of interest/disgust follow. How easy are we to prepare for?
Coaches and players did not begin looking at video of Michigan until the third week of August, Moore said.
Maybe our DTs should have done lots better?
"My center (Brett Irvin) is a redshirt freshman who hasn't played a game in more than a year. Will he be able get any movement on their tackles? And he hadn't played in front of more than 15,000 people."
Do we not have a dime package?
"We noticed that four- and five-wideout sets caused matchup problems for" Michigan's secondary, Jackson said. "It enabled us to create gaps in the defense."
Brown, the 6-6, 310-pound lineman, noticed Michigan's players were "out of shape. Their defense was struggling to get to the ball," he said.
(I don't actually know that I buy this: the D was much more effective in the second half and a large portion of the problem was with angles and playcalls.)
Hurray! This video of Oregon's win over Houston is remarkable since it's shot from one endzone. It shows: misrepresentations of the Duck D, slow-mo cheerleader sexytime, and a whole lot of zone reads:
We surrender. (Via the Diag)
Etc.: Hawaii's AD: kind of a dick. ESPN has a huge piece on Jalen Rose. Pirates don't say "arrgh"? OBVIOUSLY. Pirates say "HHHYYYYARRRRR." Also an Illinois guy disses the Big House, which is probably because he only saw it when Illinois was playing in it.