"Though I received no official response to these sophisticated and elegant tweets to the Illini Athletic Department, I would like to think that Beckman spent the evening prank calling everyone in Illinois named George McLellan and then ordering an absurd amount of hats off an internet haberdashery to hoard in his home's hat annex."
Arrgh. Fanhouse stuff plus LA time == I couldn't quite finish the second half of UCLA before I got roped into liveblogging the Alamo. Should get it up by halftime.
Features four team: USC, UCLA, Ohio State.... and Michigan. Must... not... choke... everyone.
UCLA Drive 1
UCLA opens empty and immediately proves that's not a great idea, as a three man rush from #96 easily beats their LT inside. Markey for two on second down. Cowan overthrows an open TE seam. UCLA will return to the seam later.
DRIVE NOTES: Three-and-out to start for the Bruins. If I remember correctly, Cowan proves he can't pass worth a damn in this game.
USC Drive 1
Booty nailed by an unblocked, blitzing linebacker on first down; his dumpoff is well short of the TE. Gable goes zone outside for a nice pickup on second down, but a downfield holding call brings it back. False start; second and 19. Badly busted coverage allows Booty a first down conversion by dumping down to Fred Davis; Booty was harried.
Gable draw for seven, and the same play goes for ten. USC to the UCLA 40. First down is Gable again, this time shut down by the free safety after a minimal gain. LB stood up the FB â€“ is that still like the fifth string guy? -- to delay Gable a bit. WR screen sets up third and one.
And here's a key play. On third and one, USC goes play action and the world crashes in on Booty as both defensive ends run right around the tackles, forcing Booty up into a charging linebacker. End result is a panicked throwaway.
Look at the defensive ends shooting upfield on a third and one like it's third and fifteen. It worked out this time, but UCLA's defensive ends were a one-trick pony all game: run as fast as you can upfield and get Booty moving no matter what the situation is.
On fourth down USC gets stoned.
This seems to be mostly the ponderous Chauncey Washington's fault. Good job by the UCLA LB to stand up the FB, forcing Washington outside, where he impotently churns nowhere.
DRIVE NOTES: UCLA spent most of the game speed-rushing around USC tackles. Unfortunately, I don't know if we'll be able to replicate that.
- Our DEs are not edge-rushing speed mavens aside from maybe Jamison.
- By the end of the game, USC had figured it out and started walling off UCLA. The final drive was a methodical thing that seemed to be an inevitable touchdown until the fateful deflection. UCLA's pressure had dissapated.
- Lord knows that USC's spent the last month working on edge rush.
So... this was probably a one-time thing.
Reassuring item: Booty reacts about as well to pressure as Henne. That is, he gets a solid C-. This third down is the second time on this drive he's turfed a ball.
UCLA Drive 2
Cowan throws a short post into coverage; Sartz deflects it. Sartz has impressed me in the USC games I've seen. Guy is fast and active in coverage. On second and ten Markey is stuffed on second down; on third down a Cowan bullet in the seam (open for the second time) is called back by holding. USC's nose tackle, Sedrick Ellis, goes right around the center.
Other than Ellis's slick move, note the gaping hole between the linebackers, who got no depth, and the safeties. Cowan was actually late on this one.
On third and nineteen, UCLA gives up.
DRIVE NOTES: Nice play from the NT here. He looks undersized and penetrating, which is not a good combination from Michigan's perspective.
USC Drive 2
Booty, play action, tons of time, wide open Steve Smith. Doubled Jarrett drew the zone coverage. USC false start. Screen blown up by an alert defensive end; second down zone run picks up four. Third and long sees the defensive ends warp around the tackles again. Booty steps up into a nice pocket and wings it nowhere near his intended receiver.
Another instance of Booty's iffy ability to handle pressure.
DRIVE NOTES: "Doesn't respond well to pressure" is usually nothing analysis on a level with "THEY DON'T HAVE ANY HEART!!!!" but Booty looks more prone to rattling than, say, Troy Smith.
UCLA Drive 3
Starts way deep in USC territory; UCLA picks up a big gainer with a waggle dumpoff to Markey that catches USC blitzing hard. Zone blitz filled the wrong (short) side of the field.
USC in a 3-4, stones a UCLA zone play as the NT gets good push again.
We are likely to see this alignment frequently.
No gain. Next play is Cowan's first scramble, which isn't that relevant for us. Cowan then rolls out and fires way too hard and high for his TE underneath the zone. No YAC, two yards.
Next play is a delay that goes for good yardage.
One of the few times in the game UCLA is able to get a running back out to the linebackers smoothly, and the linebackers don't react very well. Two get blocked off, the other gets spun through by Markey, an eminently average back.
Huge Cowan scramble gets UCLA down to the ten; he takes the run option on a waggle down to the five. Endzone PI on next play, and UCLA manages to punch it in from the two on a Cowan rolout that he cuts up.
DRIVE NOTES: Mostly Cowan running and not relevant for our game. Note one good completion on a waggle completion and a delay that looks a lot like ours.
USC's linebackers are fast and impressive in coverage, but might they be a little undersized to take on our rushing game? Dunno.
USC Drive 3
Opening quick pitch is cut off by a corner blitz and blown up. Rock versus scissors. USC goes wide on second and long and Booty nails a slant for a big gainer.
Next play is a near-disastrous waggle. Booty rolls out and find himself pincered by two Des. This time his dumpoff is accurate and the TE picks up a few, then fumbles spectacularly. Jarrett recovers the popup. Gable goes offtackle for four, setting up another third and short for USC. UCLA stones it again.
DRIVE NOTES: Carrol, chagrined, actually punts. This is the third time in the game USC has failed in a short yardage situation, twice getting stoned on runs.
UCLA Drive 4
Starts at the one, and ends in the endzone with a holding penalty. Safety.
He won't stay blocked; hopefully UCLA's center is poo.
DRIVE NOTES: Cedrick Ellis again owns the center on the holding penalty. Penetrating, gappy player, and a major danger for our running game.
USC Drive 4
Ball at the 34 after the free kick, Booty drops back and is immediately under seige from the ends and a late-charging blitzer. He manages to scramble out for seven. Next play is a WR screen that's dropped; since it's backwards USC loses three yards. False start. Third and 11; Booty is again forced to step up into the pocket by an edge-rushing defensive end. He dumps the ball off and concedes a punt.
Where Troy Smith tends to look for ridiculous huge plays when things break down, Booty has eyes only for the checkdown.
DRIVE NOTES: Michigan's going to see a lot of familiar formations when they play USC. The Trojans' default set is good old Ace 3-wide.
UCLA Drive 5
End around snuffed out by a good play by #28, skipping past the WR's block. Cowan waggles on second down, finding a wideout open in the zone. Markey shut down by Cushing, who shredded a TE block in a way unfortunately reminiscent of Tyler Ecker.
Also of note: USC has moved Cushing to defensive end but will occasionally deploy him in a stand-up look that's indistinguishable from the old 5-2/3-4 we ran a couple years back. I would expect to see that a butt-ton against Michigan. Ellis will probably line up directly over Bihl and try to beat him playside while the five guys on the line try to shoot gaps.
Cowan sacked on the next play by Cushing, who beat the UCLA RT badly.
Ugly visions of that happening against Michigan, though Cushing and Sartz have some nagging injuries.
Third and fifteen. Cowan flushed â€“ no one wants to block a defensive end this game â€“ steps up and throws it a way punty.
DRIVE NOTES: Fairly sure that Jake Long is better than whoever UCLA is deploying at LT, but Riley's been functional at best and is likely to give up a couple QB hurries or worse.
USC Drive 5
Ace 3-wide again. Gable for a few. He's no Reggie Bush. No terror there. Booty again checks down... no deep passes yet aside from the early waggle. Third and three. Second excellent slant to Jarrett. He's no burner but we don't have anyone who can match his size and strength.
Booty gets time on the ensuing first down; checks down anyway. This one works out as Gable outruns the pursuing linebacker. Think David Harris makes this a minimal gain, hypothetically. Play action next; Booty has better time but doesn't have time to look deep. Flushed out, he finds Smith for an eight yard gain at the sideline. Washington picks up the first down on second and short.
Play action on first down again ends with Booty surrounded by UCLA defenders; TE checkdown for a few. Draw opens up momentarily but an excellent play from the MLB holds it down.
Tellingly, USC converts the third and short with the old fake FB dive-quick pitch combo that gets Gable outside. First and goal. Booty slips on a waggle, smartly ditching the ball at a receiver's feet. Gable plows to the one on a draw. (An attempt to bleed clock and rob UCLA of a final first half possession? Worked out if so.) Gable takes a toss on third and goal, touchdown. USC 9-7.
DRIVE NOTES: First actual drive USC's put together. They do it on the backs of checkdowns, solid possession throws from Booty on slants and an out or two, and decent running, much of it finesse.
This ends the half with USC up 9-7.
Second half tomorrow.
I'm off. Approximate schedule over the next couple weeks:
Now until the 28th: sporadic Fanhouse blogging, mostly bowl previews and liveblogs.
29-30-31: Rose Bowl preview.
1-2: Maybe a brief postgame thoughts post, but maybe not. It depends on how things go.
3: Resumption of normal service.
I'm about to sign off for Christmas, but before I do two things.
1. Work It, Ron English. Scout article on Michael Williams:
I'd say Michigan has just a slight lead over Notre Dame," the four-star defensive back said. "It's really neck-and-neck. I would say there's a 51% chance I'll choose Michigan and a 49% chance I'll choose Notre Dame. Both have great programs. I really haven't made up my mind yet. I'll definitely decide after Christmas. It's a very difficult decision.
"I guess I feel like I fit in a little better at Michigan, with the campus and the school," he said. "They seem to really try to help their student-athletes. They have a twelve million dollar student-athlete place. I just really liked it. Their facilities are top-notch."
Williams plans to announce at the Army All-American bowl January 6th. He also claimed something interesting: Michigan is recruiting him for "nickel-back". WOOOOOO ROXORS GO BLOW LOL MEATCHIC--
...sorry. Subcomandante Wayne tends to show up whenever you mention Stupid Canadian Rock Band.
Anyway: the implication that we're recruiting kids specifically so they can play a nickel... guy... spot jives with what we saw during the year, when Brandon Harrison and Ryan Mundy occupied the nickel-guy spot instead of someone like Sears.
2. The Matrix. I haven't mentioned Sam McGuffie here, but if you read Deadspin or the Fanhouse you've seen him go all Neo on kids:
So I grab some videos and slap 'em up on the Fanhouse, because, dude. Seriously. A comment shows up like so:
Ok, here's the deal. I was on the same team with him this past year when he rushed for his 3,121 yards and 43 TD's.
Im a Michigan fan so of corse Im trying to get him to wear the maize and blue, and sometime in November I think it was Michigan offerd him a full ride.
Later on in the season when I walked in to watch film of our previous game, our head coach saw my shirt (the day of the Indiana game) and we were talking about Michigan, and Sam looked at me and kept stating he's going to Michigan. Over time, he's repeated the same statements to me. And just last week he got my attention to let me know he's visiting Michigan in February.
(Comment sic.) Intriguing! But probably internets FUD. I follow up with the guy. I get a name and number that check out. I think it's legit, and I think in February we're likely to get a commit from McGuffie.
Harbaugh Harbaugh Harbaugh. Right, so he's the coach of Stanford. I had assumed this would be widely regarded as a good move given the pool of masochists and bedwetters willing to consider the Stanford job, but NSFMF!
It's not if you ask Jon Wilner , who's yet more proof that the people we have voting in the polls should be disenfranchised. Check the exclamatory bon mot:
So you might be asking yourself: Why is Harbaugh qualified to coach Stanford?
Well, I'll tell you: Last month, San Diego lost to UC-Davis â€” Harbaugh is perfectly qualified for his new job!!!!
That's a zinger, there. Zing!!!! The rest of it putters along as you might expect; it makes me mad because it's really dumb. I almost fisked it, but there's been too much fisk in these here parts lately. For a much better version of the same skepticism check Tightwad Hill.
That's a double suckit on the rocks. Remember Notre Dame defensive end Ronald Talley's bizarre midseason decision to transfer away from a sure starting spot? Well, Talley has decided on a school and they wear this:
That's I-AA Delaware for anyone still stuck in double-take mode.
Woo statistics. The advent of the offseason causes some of the twitchier amongst us to pore over tables of minutiae like total dorks, something you would never see on this blog.
IBFC broke down the careers of offensive coordinators Malone, Parish, and DeBord in astounding detail. Vijay breaks up Michigan opponents by winning percentage, then presents average scores for those teams:
An interesting pattern emerges: Malone blows the doors off of bad teams, as does Stan Parrish, but as soon as you get away from the dregs of the schedule (say, teams in the 0-20% categories) Terry Malone's PPGs show a clear declining pattern (scoring less and less as the competition gets better), Stan Parrish's PPG show a generally declining but pockmarked pattern and Mike DeBord's don't waiver much at all. DeBord's offenses are scoring almost the same against the best teams on the schedule as they are against the good, the mediocre and the slightly bad.
Is this infuriating or not? I can't tell. Vijay doesn't offer up sample sizes here, but I would venture that if you're breaking down teams into 10% buckets and only have 3-5 years of data for each coordinator, some of the buckets are going to have two or three games and not represent all that much. More useful are scoring averages charted against average opponent score and averages based on leading/trailing in the fourth quarter, both of which offer a stark and probably statistically meaningful difference between DeBord and his personal Benjamin Harrisons. The conclusion:
To me, it seems that the most obvious answer would be that all the rhetoric is true with DeBord, that there is a "scoring offense" and a "non-scoring offense", that DeBord puts a greater emphasis on putting points on the board when he thinks they are needed than when he thinks they are for style. Playing Vanderbilt or Indiana, they aren't necessary. Up 14 on Wisconsin, Penn State or Iowa and you've got a great defense, they aren't necessary. In Columbus against Ohio State, you better grab the reins and go full speed.
The question remains: can DeBord adapt to defenses that aren't 1997 or 2006's? DeBord's been around for a lot of wins; not coincidentally he's also been around the two greatest defenses at Michigan since Bo retired. So his strategy has been sound, but what happens if next year's D is kind of bleah? Does DeBord open it up early and try to establish an unassailable lead? Or is the Orange Bowl all over again (granted that was not a DeBord production, but it does stand out as the platonic ideal of boneheaded Michigan stubbornness in recent years)?
Let's hope we never have to find out.
Meanwhile, SMQB is breaking down statistical relevance like whoah. My favorite part: other than the odd phenomenon of few penalty yards being slightly negative indicator of victory (hypothesis: penalties are more likely when you're on offense, so teams who finish way low in penalty yardage do so because they don't get many offensive snaps), the least relevant stat tracked by the NCAA? Time of possession. Which I hate.
Etc.: Rosenberg corrects Amaker. Mallet throws things. Florida wants to be just like Michigan. Former Michigan coach Steve Fisher doing fairly well at San Diego State. Braylon interview. Subcomandante Wayne is coming for your hookers. "Michigan Football Memories" Dec 31 @ 8.
Hey, it could get better. USA Today's hockey prospect guru Kyle Woodlief ranked the incoming NCAA classes; Michigan came in third behind Wisconsin and BU. Sayeth Woodlief:
They added a lot of nice ingredients, particularly restocking their blue line with nasty USHL d-man Tristin Llewellyn and a smooth puck mover in Kevin Quick from the prep ranks. Up front they grabbed two Red Line favorites from the USHL: Max Pacioretty brings a big winger with good hands, hockey sense, and touch; and Aaron Palushaj is a pure sniper. Throw in a pair of smallish but speedy and skilled centers in Ben Winnett from the BCHL and Matt Rust from the NTDP, and it's both a strong and well-rounded crop.
Woodlief didn't even get to St. Mike's Louie Caporusso, who leads the Buzzers in scoring -- though he's not quite as prolific as Cogliano was in the OPJHL (30 games and 18-26-44 versus 37 games and 26-46-72) -- and has been compared to Andrew Ebbett by assistant coach Billy Powers. You can see some Caporussian exploits on the Buzzers' home page. Check out highlights 2 and 4... especially 2. If you want to watch Caporusso in his native environment, the homepage has a staggering amount of video available.
The nice thing about this class is its depth. Five of the six forwards coming in project as scoring line players. Then there's Swede Carl Hagelin, a late pickup who would normally be Wyzygowski or a MacVoy, a grinder who's stapled to the fourth line or wearing a suit for the duration of his career. Not so for Hagelin. Says Elite Prospects:
Hyfsad driv i skridskoÃ¥kningen och fina offensiva instinkter. Okej mÃ¥lsinne.
See! Awesome. Offensiva instinkter. Hagelin did average over a PPG for his SÃ¶dertÃ¤lje U20 team in a couple years of play. Powers also claims he's got instinkter:
So it was good to see him in a North American environment over the summer, and he did very well. He's a scorer. He's an offensive player. A very good skater. He is excited about playing the North American brand of hockey because he likes the physical game. He likes to forecheck. He's a skill player.
Some Swedish guy on Hockey's Future chips in as well (everything in here sic):
He's a pretty smallish player an captain for the Sodertalje juniorteam this season. H has alot of speed and has pretty good offensive abillities. Skating and agility is above average, has an fairly good shoot and okay passingskills and vision. Not that good along the boards and has problem when meeting aggressive defensmen.
Don't se him develope in to a great player(no NHL material) but perhaps a pretty good forwards a few divisions down.
We have no frame of reference to judge Hagelin's ability, but at the very least he sounds like more than a random body.
Also unmentioned by Woodlief: obscure-ish defensemen Chad Langlais and Scooter Vaughn. Vaughn is from the NAHL, which is normally a bad sign. Though Michigan will pick up the occasional Kaleniecki or Rohlfs from the league, that's about the performance cap of USHL players. Positives: Vaughn is rated a "B" player at this early juncture by the CSB, so he can't be that bad, and his name is "Scooter." Langlais is tiny but he plays in the much higher-profile USHL and is already 20, so he should be able to step in right away and be serviceable.
Then there's Bryan Hogan, a goalie and teammate of Langlais on the Lincoln Stars. Regarded as the third best prospect in 2007's weak goalie class, Hogan drove current Michigan backup Steve Jakiel from the starting job in Lincoln. When Michigan picked Hogan up, he had just finished posting an impressive .916 save percentage, but this year... sigh: .885 in 20 games. Sad panda.