the season has truly begun now
Editorial Opinion: Uh... yeah. So not much is going on. Obviously.
MI LB Kenny Demens as a weakside linebacker, presumably filling up Michigan's class at the position. Marcus Witherspoon is coming in as a strongside linebacker; JB Fitzgerald is the middle linebacker. Each is ranked somewhere in the nebulous zone between the top 100 and the top 250, Fitzgerald towards the high end and Demens and Witherspoon towards the low. Demens is not a huge get or anything, but he's a nice pickup. Rivals rates him a four star, the #7 prospect in Michigan, and the #230 player overall. Scout has him a three-star not within their top 300. ESPN gives him a 78 and spends basically the entire scouting report talking about his potential as a fullback. Not useful. There's little else on him out there.
Meanwhile, CA S Vaughn Telemaque got the USC offer he was waiting on. This bodes unwell, but he plans on visiting Michigan and seeing what the school has to offer:
"Michigan has great tradition and they always have great defensive players there. Also I think it would be really cool playing in the Big House," Telemaque said. "They've struggled this season, but I think they'll be back in contention. My teammate (freshman defensive back for the Wolverines) Donovan Warren goes there and he's doing great. He's starting as a freshman and that makes me think that I can do the same thing."
Telemaque would have to wait at USC, and the pull of Warren may help out, but USC remains USC and Long Beach Poly remains their school. I doubt he ends up anywhere but there. (Previous assertion not based on anything but speculation and tea leaves, FWIW.)
And, uh... that's about it, really. Michigan is done on offense save for one more receiver, probably, and possibly another offensive lineman. Defensively they're looking for a couple DEs, another cornerback, and two safeties. The best bets appear to be PA WR Vaughn Carraway (meh), CA DE Jamar Jarrett (meh+), MI DE Nick Perry (yay!), NJ S Brandon Smith(yay!+)... and who knows? Spencer Adams might come. But names are thin on the ground at the moment.
Yeesh. Three games in a row; guess we know one of the weeks the Big Ten got the #2 pick. Smooth move, Comcast.
Monday Recruitin' is Tuesday Recruitin' this week.
Oh, this is unwise. Yeah, pictures of yourself after getting battered by the sun and Stalin-era football are not good, but the serendipity of it all demands it. As my friends and I exited Ryan Field, we noticed a man walking ahead of us in a jersey that said "Mesko" on the back. Surely... surely these can't be common. I happened to be wearing a "Zoltan For Space Emperor (of Space)" T-shirt; friend Dave was sporting the "I, For One, Welcome Our New Romanian Punter Overlords." So, like, WTF, get busy livin' or get busy dyin': we approached him, said hi, showed him our shirts, and, well...
Depth chart bits: Massey is not listed; Butler and McLaurin are listed with an OR. Given the way he went down and the way they tended to him on the sideline, I think he might be shelved for a while. [Update: this is because he's out for the year per Carr's press conference.] Thompson and Graham are still your linebacker starters despite their injury problems; same for Jeremy Cuilla. Henne is back atop the QB depth chart; kicker is open again. It sounds like Wright is still way too inaccurate and KC Lopata will get a shot against Eastern.
The Chambers thing. Right, so apparently freshman Artis Chambers has been deemed ineligible by the Big Ten:
Under NCAA rules, Chambers was eligible to play this fall.
But Isaacs said he got a call from a Michigan assistant coach last week telling him that under Big Ten rules, summer school grades couldn't count toward eligibility for freshmen such as Chambers, who enrolled in the middle of a school year.
"I don't understand why these kids would be any different in their summer school GPA not being used," Isaacs said. "In one regard, they should be rewarded. They graduated from high school in seven semesters and met all the NCAA requirements."
This is a problem since he played on special teams against Penn State:
Martin said he expected resolution on the matter this week, but Chipman said the committee could take up to two weeks to decide on any penalties.
Chipman said he didn't know the range of disciplinary measures Michigan could face, but added - as Martin noted Saturday - that forfeiture of the win over Penn State was a possibility.
This "forfeiture" thing has been in every article about the situation but seems akin to giving a kid arrested for pot the chair. This violation appears to be a minor misunderstanding of a recent change to Big Ten rules and was self-reported. The player in question also covered a few kickoffs and that's all. IM (uneducated) O, the end result here will be a slap on the wrist and the media breathlessly reporting about a potential forfeiture is misleading given the severity, or lack thereof, of the situation.
Torrent spat. I don't want to get in the middle of this, but anyone looking for the Northwestern game can find it on Mininova. Here's the ~1.5 gig XVID; here is the ~4.2 gig DVD. If you pull down the XVID, you should watch it in VLC and manually change the aspect ratio to 4:3 -- it's square for arcane technical reasons. Unfortunate conflict in full detail here; hopefully this gets worked out soon.
Aaaand more. Michigan 27, Penn State 0, 1998 (Keith Jackson!):
Sportscenter's profile of the weird Crowe-Carr thing:
MGoInternets. There's a new Hart-centric blog dubbed "I Heart Hart" that's worth checking out for your full mancrush service needs. Also, Genuinely Sarcastic put together a very cool feature for the Penn State game that is a sort of niche-y UFR focused exclusively on Hart and the Michigan ground game called the Hart Chart. I've struggled for a couple years now to come up with a meaningful offensive line metric in the run game but never found one that I could do and still get UFR up, like, ever, so this is a pretty exciting addition. GS takes every Hart run and grades out relevant blocks as either "yay" or "nay" with irrelevant blocks given no grade; the results are as you might expect but still thoroughly interesting: Long crushes all comers and Boren shows very poorly after a tough day against Ollie Ogbu and Jared Odrick. Hopefully we get a Northwestern edition; this is an area of UFR I've always felt was lacking.
Etc: Braylon, you are killing me. And not with your eyes this time.
When Mike Debord plays rock-paper-scissors, he always picks rock.
Rock totally beats scissors. Why would anyone pick anything else? Sure, occasionally someone will throw his own rock, but this is Michigan. We can out-execute their rock. And there are rumors of this thing called "paper". Apparently it beats rock, which seems darned unsporting, but Mike Debord will believe that when Mike Debord sees it. We can probably out-execute paper, too. Some people will hypothesize that the potential existence of paper warrants the occasional scissors throw, but only three things can happen when you throw scissors and two of them are bad. The idea of throwing "paper" is to be regarded with naught but scorn. Oooh, a Snickers bar! Mike Debord likes Snickers and will let pet monkey Bonzo call a series as he enjoys a candy bar.
Hey, Bonzo scored a touchdown. Now we're ahead. Let's go back to rock. Rock beats scissors.
Rock, rock. Definitely rock. Rock. Judge Wapner's on at ten.
I had a dream literally moments ago that jolted me awake at 8:30 -- this is early for me -- after a weekend of getting up insanely early to drive to or from Chicago and drinking heavily. In this dream, Michigan was playing some team. It might have been Eastern, it might have been Washington. After an impressive opening touchdown drive, Michigan sent walk-on Nick Sheridan out to play quarterback. He completed a third down post. Then Michigan sent out four offensive linemen -- no right guard -- as the PA announcer said that today they were honoring the Bellevue Wolverines, singled out Steve Schilling as Michigan's lone Bellevue-ian, and ran behind him. Schilling could not out-execute three defenders and the play went for a loss. Oops let's punt.
This proceeded, as Michigan clung to a 7-0 lead whilst rotating in a vast cast of characters that had no business on the field and calling ridiculous plays that were destined to fail. Perhaps the best exemplar of the ridiculous things Michigan was doing came when yet another walk-on quarterback entered the game -- Michigan's fifth or something -- without even so much as a jersey. Instead, the new quarterback wore a Judd-Nelson style 80s jean jacket with The Realests spray-painted on it sort of where a name would go if this was an actual jersey and not an item of clothing ripped directly from The Breakfast Club. Also spray-painted on the jean jacket was the number seven.
It was at this point that I lost it. (This didn't seem like the trigger at the time, but the Michigan coaching staff inserting bloggers into the game and not picking me must have been intolerable.) Finding myself standing on the sidelines, I ran across the field between plays with the intent of finding Mike Debord and berating him or headbutting him so that his nose bled and bled and bled and Bonzo had to take over (note: don't try this, kids! MGoBlog does not advocate acting on the crazy id impulses of your dreams!) and that Michigan would yank The Realests and put in its actual starting quarterback and run actual plays. But all I found over there was my father. We crabbed about the playcalling and looked on dolorously, waiting for lightning to strike and for Michigan to blow it.
Eventually it rained.
If respected Rocky Mountain News columnist Paul Campos can let our mutual acquaintance JJ write entire columns, I can yank the most perfect metaphor ever for what Michigan football seems to be in 2007: a unit of Redcoats in the Revolutionary war walking down the road in a block, getting picked off on all sides by guerrilla fighters. They drink tea and think "by crumbs, these chaps will never make it in a real war" and feel superior to the elusive guys who are cutting them down by the dozens.
And, of course, we won. By a seemingly comfortable score, even. No doubt this will be chalked up in certain Pravda-esque circles as grumble grumble BLOGS(!) grumble downfall of public politeness grumble internets bleah. Michigan won by twelve points and the nuts on the internet are livid. See how unreasonable they are. But it's not the nuts on the internet who inserted Chad Henne for the first drive of the game, watched him score a touchdown -- albeit one aided by a fortunate fourth-down facemask call not relevant to the play -- then sat him on the bench and ran Mike Hart zone left for two yards for the rest of the first half. Against a team that let Duke's quarterback -- who plays for Duke, which is Duke, people, friggin' goddamned Duke -- do this:
Northwestern stacked the line, leaving its corners on an island the entire first half, and Michigan called rock. Because eff you, that's why. The results: oops let's punt. Or miss chip shot field goals. They did this because they were playing Northwestern, nevermind that the Wildcats were clearly moving the ball up and down the field against Michigan -- over 300 yards in the first half alone -- and that Michigan had proven quite thoroughly that it couldn't stop the spread attack of a I-AA team. Nevermind that a play here and there and Michigan would have been facing a truly formidable halftime deficit against a team that lost to the above-mentioned Duke team. Nevermind that every time Ohio State threw it deep they scored a touchdown. Nevermind all that: throw rock. We will out-execute their paper.
We might forgive this outburst of stupidity if it was a one time thing, or something that Michigan might learn from. Obviously, it is not. Michigan arrogantly assumed its front six could stop a zone read play and sat in a cover two as Appalachian State shredded them for four first-half touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, a slightly dinged Mike Hart watched Brandon Minor take 13 handoffs for 3.8 yards per carry -- Hart would finish at 6.2 even if you completely remove his 54-yard touchdown run that briefly gave Michigan the lead -- and lose a fumble despite Michigan still trailing a I-AA team. The vast stubbornness, arrogance, and outright stupidity of Michigan's coaching staff led to the most embarrassing loss in college football history... and three weeks later they let a virtually identical script play out. They will never learn. They will always play football like it's 1978 and Northwestern's starting a 190 pound defensive tackle. And it will cost us. It already has, dearly.
To reiterate, to be as clear as possible: there is no excuse for what happened yesterday. Pulling Chad Henne when he was clearly healthy enough to play and telling Ryan Mallett to hand it off time and again into a stacked line -- no, I don't buy that Mallett's just failing to check off into pass plays; even a freshman can count to eight (or nine) -- when that was clearly not working turned a game that Michigan should
win 90% of the time into a game it wins 50% of the time. Michigan's failure to take advantage of the nation's 114th-ranked pass defense is criminally negligent coaching of the sort that led to Michigan's loss to Appalachian State. The historical record is clear: Michigan does this all the time. Lloyd Carr should be extended a hearty handshake at the end of the year and given a gold watch whether he wants it or not, and Mike Debord should be the next head coach of a North Korean Pop Warner team because it's still 1972 in North Korea.
Bullets that we are specifically not aiming at anyone in particular because violence is wrong, man.
- This was my first trip to a Northwestern game; it was worth returning. We drove to a lot maybe ten minutes from the stadium on Lake Michigan, parked there for free, and were surrounded by Michigan fans, some of whom were making bratwurst wrapped in bacon. Nice. Also, Tyler Ecker was there, as was Hot Dog Man. (Hot Dog Man? Hot Dog Man.) I managed to not spend the hour before the game screaming "why didn't you pitch the ball?" until I got cold-cocked, so I've got that going for me.
- Everything at Northwestern is named: the press box, the locker rooms, the weight room, the ring of honor, some terrace. I was busy looking for Stewart F. Mandel Pole, but there doesn't appear to be one.
- It must be really frustrating to be a Northwestern fan and to have fewer than half the fans at "home" games against Michigan.
- Did Michigan miss either of its starting linebackers at all? Maybe Thompson, as there were a lot of gashing runs in the first half, but there didn't appear to be a dropoff from Graham. And where is Jonas Mouton? This has gone on too long for a little ankle sprain. Brandon Logan was his replacement.
- A Brandon Harrison blitz worked. Me == stunned. It came from the backside, so Bacher couldn't side-step it.
- Yeah, Jason Gingell is officially not a good kicker. What happened to KC Lopata?
- Another hideously frustrating thing: as soon as it looked like there was even a chance at a field goal for the lead, Michigan went back into its caveman offense. Third and long after two running plays led to a bullet Henne post for a touchdown. We scored almost in spite of ourselves.
- The zone game is showing serious flaws in year two. We have no play action that isn't a waggle and precious little in the way of available misdirection.
- We do have some, though. Where was the TE-pull thing?
- This was another log for the "Lloyd Carr always coaches like he has a killer defense and a pounding ground game no matter the facts on the ground" theory.
- Pregame prediction: 27-17. Final score: 28-16. Oh, how I wish I wasn't right about that.
- Maybe we could cut down on the spleen in the comments? There was righteous complaining all weekend, which is fine and something heavily featured above, but we can just assume that anyone defending the coaching staff is an Ohio State plant, ignore them, and keep it constructive... maybe?
Hopefully this goes better than The Horror.
Re: sopcast. Sorry, guys. I could not find one already listed. Maybe someone in the comments can help.
I will be attending the game, then crashing in Chicago for the night, so content this weekend is unlikely.
Run Offense vs. Northwestern
This should be a replay of the first three games, not the ten-yarders interspersed with lost yardage that Penn State was. Northwestern is currently a respectable 55th in rushing defense but has played Northeastern, Nevada, and Duke to go along with Ohio State. Chris Wells went for 100 yards on just twelve carries before getting sent to the bench with Ohio State up like 400 points, leaving disappointing Maurice Wells -- Ohio State should not recruit running backs named "Maurice" -- and Antonio Henton to flail into the line and bring down OSU's average. Though Penn State had a lot of success at shooting into the backfield, that requires a lot of huge agile guys. Northwestern does not have these guys.
One potential downer: Tim MacAvoy, the third string right guard, will start this game.
Key Matchup: Mike Massey versus whoever. Block someone, kid!
Pass Offense vs. Penn State
Mallett or Henne? It probably won't matter as Michigan hands off time and again, but whoever it is is likely to have major opportunities to pad some stats. Consider the following QB lines:
- 11 of 14 for 179 yards and 4 TDs.
- 19 of 23 for 246 yards and 3 TDs.
- 22-36 for 337 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 interception.
Now consider one of these quarterbacks (the second) plays for Duke and... like... wow. The Wildcat secondary is playing Oregon every week, and now they're down starting safety Branden Smith. Northwestern is 114th in pass efficiency defense. It could get ugly if Michigan chooses to balance their offense.
They won't, of course. Throwing on first down will happen a quarter to a third of the time, Mallett will be kept away from sharp objects, and Michigan will be content to have its quarterback finish with 20 attempts.
Key Matchup: Mike Debord versus spectacle.
Run Defense vs. Northwestern
The absence of Hart-like mighty mite Tyrell Sutton helps assuage fears that Northwestern's run-based spread option will slice and dice Michigan's defense in a fashion reminiscent of The Horror. Sutton's replacments are not even close to the little adorable bastard's level of play. The results have been good (204 yards on 26 carries versus Nevada), bad (3.8 YPC for Brandon Roberson, Sutton's replacement, against Duke(!)), and ugly (61 yards on 33 rushes versus Ohio State). I think we can safely say Michigan's run defense is not Ohio State caliber, but... uh... probably better than Duke. If they aren't, it's time to sound the alarm and dive, dive, dive, because it would mean Michigan is truly irredeemable against the zone read with Purdue and Illinois fast approaching.
Key Matchup: CGraham and Thompson against whatever the hell they were doing in the first couple games.
Pass Defense vs. Northwestern
After what was probably the worst performance by a secondary in Michigan history, the defense bounced back with strong efforts against Jimmah Clausen and Anthony Morelli. Caveat emptor, though, given the lack of talent and intelligence evident in both. (Many will blame Clausen's performance on a leaky Irish OL and while said OL is not particularly good, many of Michigan's sacks were solidly on Clausen's inability to find anyone to throw to at all.) CJ Bacher does not come with guru-approved talent but I kind of like the kid. However, statistics do not. In the past two weeks he's thrown four interceptions and no touchdowns, though he did rack up a lot of yards versus Duke.
Meanwhile, a lot of Nittany Lion receivers found themselves open last week to no avail, and Michigan is still starting two questionable veterans and a true freshman at corner. This will not be a slam-dunk shutout. Northwestern's game is all short stuff that relies on receivers picking up yards after the catch, which should help neutralize a pass rush that has been fierce against charitable lines the past couple weeks. And our corners, well... dodgy tackling, IMO. Northwestern probably lacks the ability to execute consistently enough to shred Michigan, but a dominant performance is not coming.
Key Matchup: Cornerbacks and tackling. Trent has been good so far this year. Warren has not; Brandon Harrison has a history of taking poor angles and allowing YAC. Northwestern lives and dies on YAC... this is kind of bad matchup.
Northwestern has a decent punter, a kickoff return touchdown, a decent kicker but hasn't shown that their special teams units can be a real asset. Meanwhile, Zoltan Mesko spent the week booming 36-yard fair catch specials that prevented Derrick Williams from getting even one return and dropping balls inside the five that should have been downed. He's been outstanding. Michigan's return units have been mediocre and the kicker missed a 29-yard field goal, though.
Key Matchup: Eh... this does not seem to be a point of major concern this game.
Sorry, but I love the punching cat thing to death.
- AAAAARGH SPREAD OPTION GASH
- For some reason we can't run the ball.
- See "AAAAARGH SPREAD OPTION GASH".
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Clever zone left stuff goes for 8 a pop.
- BGraham continues his ascension.
- Henne starts.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 3 out of 10. (Baseline 5; -1 for You Lost To Duke, +1 for Uh, We Lost To Appalachian State, -1 for Then You Let OSU Put Up A 50-Spot, +1 for Uh.... Right, Oregon, -1 for Technically A Road Game But Dollars To Donuts Michigan Fans Outnumber Wildcat Fans, -1 for Stewart Mandel is Your Fault and God Will Punish You).
Desperate need to win level: 6 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for Oh God, The Dashed Hopes, +1 for Mike Hart, Man, Mike Hart, -1 for But Then We're Seriously Going Outside The Program, +1 for Wide Open Big Ten Means Potential Rose Bowl, -1 for ...Where We Might Well Play Oregon.)
Loss will cause me to... drive into Lake Michigan.
Win will cause me to... concoct crazy justifications as to why this means we can totally stop Purdue's offense.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Northwestern appears to be really, really bad this year, but I still believe the Michigan defense is vulnerable to all sorts of things like non-inept quarterbacks. Bacher may or may not be one of these, but he'd be hard-pressed to play as crappily as either of our foes the last two weeks. Northwestern will move the ball some. Their defense will get knocked over by a feather, but Michigan's reliance on pounding the ball time and again will put them in constant third down situations, many of which they will convert but many of which they will not. Think of it as Penn State light: many drives that pick up a chunk of yards but end somewhere short of the endzone. The end result should be a comfortable but disappointingly close win; if ill fortune intervenes this could be close well into the second half.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Manningham finally catches a deep ball.
- Our defense gives everyone the heebie-jeebies.
- 27-17, Michigan.