9/20/2008 – Auburn 21, LSU 26 – Uh, Michigan is still 1-2
So. I have ventured into the heart of darkness to experience their football and have returned. Evaluations are in order but they should be prefaced with some context: college football is awesome. I have seen eighty-seven thousand people scream this at the top of their lungs:
I defy you to find another activity outside of speaking-in-tongues-style Christianity that can cause large masses of people to say "bodda getta, bodda getta, bodda getta bah." All of this should be prefaced with that truth. College football is awesome. What makes the ESSSS EEEEE CEEEE garbage so odious is its claim that college football outside of the SEC is not awesome. Going to Auburn was awesome. End of big picture opinion.
But I'm sure people are curious about how it compares, so some comparisons:
The chintziness. On a chintziness scale where Michigan is zero—pending the public shaming of whoever piped in RAWK MUSIC over the highlights at the end of the third quarter in the Miami game—and Michigan State is ten, Auburn is around a six.
- Jordan-Hare's advertising isn't too obnoxious, and the edifice itself is extremely nice.
- Aforementioned ridiculous college-only cheer.
- There is a freakin' eagle that flies around the stadium in the pregame.
- Related: "War Eagle" is way, way cooler than "Go Blue" and any other "GO BLANK" exhortation you care to name. War Eagle. Just say it. War Eagle.
- Tiger Walk, the first "team walks to stadium surrounded by fans" event, was really impressive.
- Despite having a couple of bands in the stands, evil recorded music was played over the PA on a regular basis.
- YMCA was one of these songs. YMCA. Come on! My Auburn compatriot said he wanted to run around telling everyone the song was about anonymous gay sex so they would stop, but he was nodding his head to the music just moments before.
- There is a band hype video. It's actually a really well done band hype video but the mere concept of it sent me into hysteric giggles. It also sort of worked, so I was simultaneously FIRED UP about Auburn's band and laughing. It was a weird 30 seconds.
- Auburn has a male cheerleader on a stand in front of the student section that acts like a hype man. He's got a mic, he exhorts the crowd to do things, and it's pretty meh.
- Exception to the non-obnoxious advertising: there's a video board with replays of every play, but sometimes instead of a replay there's an Under Armor commercial, which is a really good way to 1) get me to look at an ad and 2) swear a blood oath against whoever's running the ad.
It was nowhere near the Michigan State experience—if you've never been to MSU, their hype video ends with a computer-animated Sparty coming to life and blowing up a logo of the opposing team with frickin' eye lasers; also at one point they had this plastic chariot that looked like it was made of legos—but I'm a zealot about the piped-in music.
The noise level. We were in the upper deck, so determining if the vaunted SEC noise levels lived up to the hype was impossible. The organized pre-game cheers were pretty blasting all the way up there but I didn't get my face peeled off at any other time during the game.
Shockingly, on LSU's final drive—Auburn up one, this is a BFD—I stood up to yell at some point and had to sit back down sheepishly because no one else in the section was up. WTF? I sit in one of the oldest, lamest sections of Michigan Stadium and I personally guarantee you that if Michigan was up one with six minutes left and the other team had the ball, the section would be on their feet, gurgling out whatever noises their suppurating intestines could manage. This was a game-long issue. The noise levels in my immediate vicinity were no louder than I am used to. Maybe it's an upper deck thing.
The scoreboard. Auburn just has one video board but it's huge and in HD. It is killer. We need one. You have no idea.
However, I suggest that the awesome enormous HD scoreboard at Michigan Stadium should have SEC scores on it. Though Auburn was plenty happy to inform us that Utah had beaten Air Force 30-23 and Missouri had defeated mighty Buffalo 42-21, there was not a single Big Ten score, and the only Pac 10 score was the Georgia-Arizona State game.
The people. Auburn fans were friendly. There were some undercurrents of "Michigan sucks hur" but I took that more as a commentary on society than Auburn.
One thing became terribly annoying, though: "you guys are at the wrong game!" We heard this bon mot at least a dozen times. By the end when people would say it I would have one hand make the universal sign for "yap yap yap" and then have the other eat it violently. We get it. We're not from around here. We are probably aware of this fact.
I assume anyone in a random neutral college football shirt at Michigan Stadium is there to check it off his list of places to see a game before he dies, but apparently the idea of college football tourism is completely foreign to Auburn fans. Why? You have a freakin' eagle.
The coaches. After watching Auburn run what seemed like their eighth consecutive ineffective first down zone stretch with their pounding power back Ben Tate, I concluded that Tommy Tuberville is Lloyd Carr and he's trying to turn Tony Franklin into Mike DeBord.
Later this crystallized into a more general theory of offensive philosophy. Franklin kept running that zone stretch on first down, giving up expectation because of predictability, and hoped to make it back by catching LSU cheating for a big play. Debord was very similar with the zone left-zone left-zone left stuff. The idea is to execute well enough to eke out decent yardage and hit it big every once in a while when you break tendencies. To break tendencies you have to establish tendencies.
Rodriguez, meanwhile, seems diametrically opposed to this. His philosophy is based more on keeping the opponent guessing, whether it's on a play-to-play basis or within the play itself with the zone read. Auburn sort of ran a zone read but when you've got a lead-footed white guy and he's got no options other than a run you're not really threatening much. Rodriguez saw his quarterback's footspeed hampering that part of his offense and implemented that zone read keeper + late bubble screen combo we saw a couple times. I think Rodriguez hates the idea of establishing a tendency; he would prefer the defense to be uncertain at all times, even after Steven Threet's kept the ball.
And then there's Les Miles. At an early juncture when things were going well and LSU looked discombobulated, the Auburn blogger who kindly provided us with tickets sarcastically yelled out "run another trick play, Miles!" and I thought this was a very, very bad thing to tempt fate with. LSU, of course, would later run something I'd never seen before, a halfback pass off the fake-dive-pitch-outside play that would give them a go-ahead touchdown. The two plays before that were identical—someone must have held triangle—deep balls that exploited the same hole in the Auburn zone drops. There was also a successfully recovered onside kick. The Lesticles were in full force, and all of us from the Auburn guy to the three Michigan guys experienced a pang of regret that Miles hadn't ended up in Ann Arbor. The guy is legit.
The sign in the trash. If Georgia goes down and Matt Stafford has a bad game I assume some SEC blogger somewhere will have a use for this picture:
Go for it.
The exploding vein. An enormous black mark on Tuberville: not calling timeout once LSU had driven to around the Auburn 20. At that point they're either going to punch it in or get a makeable field goal attempt; with LSU down to a single timeout they would have little chance to get the ball back if they missed that field goal. You must preserve as much time as possible for a potential response. Instead, Tuberville let the clock run and was fortunate that LSU scored as quickly as it did; Auburn got the ball back with 1:03 and three timeouts instead of 1:43 and two or 2:15 and one.
Also, it was completely nonsensical to use Tate on all those first-half zone stretch plays when they've got a slashing McGuffie type in Brad Lester. Lester briefly enlivened the Auburn run game in the second half before an injury knocked him out.
The fandom. Auburn fans at the game itself were a weird combination of the nouveau Michigan fan who was completely frustrated with Lloyd Carr's coaching style and the old-school Michigan fan who can't stand this newfangled shotgun bullcrap, which was appropriate because their offense was that same weird fusion.
The best example of the latter: Auburn now does the thing where the team doesn't huddle, lines up, looks ready to snap the ball, relaxes, and then looks to the sideline for the call. Whenever Auburn would do this, an elderly Auburn fan was visibly, I-can't-set-the-time-on-this-damned-VCR agitated, throwing his hands in the air in disgust. This obvious discontent seemed to spread to the other oldsters around him as the game continued.
Overall, I got the sense that Auburn fans were a bit more fickle than Michigan fans, ready to turn on Tuberville when something went wrong and willing to turn back when something went right.
The pork and crawfish sausage we got at Winn-Dixie. Like college football, it was awesome.
Rich Rodriguez had plenty of time to work on his "I am not Satan" talking points over the summer, since there was a 75% chance that any question he fielded was about 1) West Virginia, 2) Justin Boren, or 3) the squawking lawsuit kerfuffle. By the time Big Ten Media Days rolled around he had them down to a science: I just changed jobs. Everyone focuses on the one guy who left instead of the 99 who stayed. I can't talk about that because it's a lawsuit.
Meanwhile, various parties in the media incensed that Rodriguez either wasn't West Virginia's coach (WVU honks), was Michigan's coach (ND, MSU, OSU honks), or wasn't Bo Schembechler (Mike Rosenberg and others in the Detroit media) spent the summer decrying Rodriguez's selfish decision to forge ahead with the lawsuit at Michigan's expense.
A typical passage, this from Rosenberg:
This whole thing could have, and should have, been settled long ago. But RichRod was determined to fight West Virginia all the way to the bitter end. Anybody who has even driven past a law school knew he had no case, but that didn't matter to Rodriguez.
Martin should have told Rodriguez that this whole ordeal was embarrassing the university, and that the case was a lost cause. But Martin's legacy is in Rodriguez's hands, so he let his coach do whatever he wanted.
Even at the time this passage was transparent bunk, since the articles about Michigan's decision to settle plainly stated that Michigan had agreed to handle most of the buyout. Now thanks to an article in the Ann Arbor Observer and MVictors, we know the extent of that agreement:
“We’ve seen an email that went from [Rodriguez’s] financial advisor, Mike Wilcox, to athletic director Martin on December fifteenth, 2007, confirming a conversation they’d had earlier that day,” he says. “I believe it was cc’ed to Mary Sue Coleman. It said that the liquidated damages clause with West Virginia was a huge issue, and that the U of M had agreed that they were going to be responsible for I think it was seventy-five percent of the buyout, up to 2.5 million dollars.” The email was sent one day after the Toledo meeting that led to Rodriguez’s hiring.
The rest of the excerpted passage discusses Michigan's extreme reluctance to allow that agreement to find its way into the light, as knowledge of its existence would trash their case. They lost that battle and immediately settled.
- The Michigan AD is on the hook for 75% of the buyout and successfully fought a portion of the exact same clause in John Beilein's contract.
- As soon as Michigan realizes they can't win the case, they settle.
Somehow this adds up to "Rodriguez forced this lawsuit on the athletic department" and is worthy of condemnation because of the negative publicity associated with it.
Anyone who espouses this line of reasoning is either ignorant of the particulars or is so far around the bend on Rich Rodriguez that they should be ignored.
Meanwhile in Morgantown, Rich Rodriguez's problems with the West Virginia athletic department and administration become more understandable by the day:
These people are &#$@ing amateurs.
Two pictures that somehow summarize the directions of two linked programs follow. Be careful with your eyebrows, folks.
There have been a lot of changes in Michigan's program over the last few months, ranging from the expected (lots of shotgun, zone read option) to the… well…
…unexpected profusion of naked freshmen. Earlier this year we had the assortment of shirtless helmeted guys; now we've got freshman wideout Terrance Robinson without a helmet. Or anything else except an arched eyebrow and all that promises in the way of smooth jazz and smoother lovin'.
Meanwhile, this screencap will haunt Bill Stewart for the rest of time.
There's nothing more to say. This is Bill Stewart, now and forever. It's over.
Wish me luck. I am going to be out of pocket this weekend: I'm going to the LSU-Auburn game with some friends. Fortunately I'm going to be in the part of the state that doesn't want to string me up, so I should be okay. I don't think it will disturb posting schedules too much but today and Monday might be a little light.
Obviously, there has not been a UFR as promised. I'm through most of the game and it will be up Monday/Tuesday next week.
Oh. My. God. I have veins in my head labeled "rupture in case of clock management malfeasance" that I have to get replaced on a weekly basis every fall, but holy God I have never seen anything quite as inept as "Coach Stew" screwing around with the clock last night.
So Colorado and West Virginia are tied 14-14 and West Virginia is putting together a potential gamewinning drive. They're on the 50 with 1:10 left and two timeouts. (4th Q PBP.)On first down they hit Devine for four yards and let the clock run. This would be fine if you could get to the line with a play ready to go; instead WVU burns 25-30 seconds screwing around. After getting stuffed for the fifth or sixth time on short yardage, they run the clock down to four seconds and try a Hail Mary. Erin Andrews then describes the scene on the sideline as "chaos… carnage… limbs everywhere, disorganization… blood".
- How do you burn 30 seconds like that in your two-minute drill?
- How do you not have the ability to pick up a QB sneak or even a short yardage play four or five times in a game?
- How do you see yourself stuffed four or five times on runs up the gut on third and short and not, I dunno, try anything else?
And oh my god the sideline interviews. You just know, don't you? You, the college football viewer, have seen dozens and dozens of successful college football coaches and not one of them is like Bill Stewart in any way whatsoever.
Prediction: in two or three years there will be a post on this blog attempting to decide what was the most obviously terrible hire in college football history: Bobby Williams or Bill Stewart? (I guess you can throw Gerry Faust in there, too.)
Again with the high school football. Jeremy Gallon and Apopka take on Mississippi powerhouse South Panola tonight on ESPNU at 8. I don't get ESPNU and will probably be in Alabama by then, anyway, but if anyone's got it and can compile a set of Gallon clips that would be excellent.
Oh, snap. I guess you can do this when you're USC and you've just bombed Ohio State 35-3, but man these guys are carpet bombing the Buckeyes with incendiary quotes:
“Easy” was one word defensive end Kyle Moore used after missing practice two days last week with back spasms before having the game of his life (eight tackles, a fumble recovery, two tackles for loss for 19 yards, including a sack for 15).
“You can tell they don’t practice full speed,” Moore said of the massive Buckeyes who made it “easy” to fly past them.
“They were still getting into their (first blocking) move, and we’d already be into our second move (on defense) and past them,” Moore said.
Conference solidarity only applies when you're not trying to scratch out a Motor City Bowl bid, so: ha-ha.
Argh why would you call a backwards pass? The header to the left was a common complaint in the aftermath of the first disastrous fumble of many disastrous fumbles. This complaint is answered simply: no one called a backwards pass.
Rodriguez clarified that in the weekly Big Ten teleconference thingy:
We want to throw it in front of the receiver, and when you do that it's obviously a forward pass, not a lateral.
That's mostly on Threet then, not Minor.
Who's on what then? I'll have my piece on this in UFR, but Varsity Blue takes a look at the long Tate touchdown, concluding thusly:
The blame for this touchdown does not fall on Stevie Brown. Repeat: Stevie Brown is not culpable. He wasn't exactly stellar the rest of the day, but don't rag on the kid for this touchdown. Our good friend GSimmons (a high school DC who runs Shafer's 3-4 Okie package as his base defense and also knows much more about football than I ever will) lets us know that it appears Michigan is running a read-2 defense, which is a form of cover-2-like-substance. Morgan Trent sees Tate head inside, leading him to believe that Tate will not be a deep vertical threat. Because of this error in judgment, Trent does not cover a deep half, which allows Tate to get behind the defenders.
A commenter protests that gsimmons' meaning is not clear and the man himself descends to clarify:
I don't see Stevie Brown being responsible for a deep zone, if its man, he has back out of the backfield, if its three roll, he has flats, if its 2 read, he has underneath responsibility, one thing for sure, its not a deep quarter zone, you can tell by his alignment, and his eyes.
While I'm not going to dispute gsimmons' assertions about the coverages, I do think that there is a possibility Brown's alignment and eyes were screwed up because he was running the wrong coverage.
Arizona DE Craig Roh has committed to Michigan. Informative update coming.
GURU RATINGS & CHATTER
|4*, #67, #8 DE||4*, #188, #8 WDE||82, #87, #6 DE|
Roh's guru ratings are, on average, slightly better than Anthony LaLota, who committed last week. Roh will be a weakside compliment to Lalota, who's already around 260 and will probably play at at least 270. Roh's around 225, more of an edge rusher. ESPN bot Tom Luginbill:
"He is a prospect who plays smart and displays good recognition skills and instincts for the game and puts himself into positions to be successful on the field. He can quickly get off the ball and be violent with his hands. He has good speed and can pressure the quarterback. He is also a well-rounded prospect who also excels in the classroom with a 4.3 GPA."
ESPN's scouting report($) is weirdly reserved for a guy who is in their top 100 and will play in their All Star game this winter:
Roh is a productive and sound player. As he physically develops he has the tools to be a good and accountable defensive player at the college level. He may not always be the most athletic kid lined up, but he knows how to play the game and get himself in situations to be successful.
WTF? That reads more like the scouting report for a guy they give a three-star-equivalent rating. They mention the need to "add bulk," FWIW.
And your weekly dose of eeeeeeee Barwis:
"He's out-of-this-world good," Roh said of Michigan's new conditioning guru. "He was the most impressive strength and conditioning coach I've seen. He's very outside the box. They don't just do ordinary lifting, and that really impressed me."
Roh's final five was impressive: Michigan, USC, UCLA, Nebraska, and Arizona State. Other suitors were numerous: 40+ offers including Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Miami, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, LSU, Texas, and the entire Pac10.
99 tackles and 15.5 sacks as a junior, garnering all-state recognition.
FAKE 40 TIME
Roh's listed 40 is 4.72, which actually seems feasible given his stature.
Highlights from last year:
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Well, the kid is a top 100 recruit with offers from just about everyone. That's good. The add-bulk thing might dictate a redshirt, but only if Brandon Graham sticks around for his senior year. Without that luxury we'll probably see Roh on the field as a slight but explosive pass-rushing DE that tantalizes with the occasional big play.
Think Tim Jamison, who flew up recruiting boards his senior year to be rated even slightly above where Roh is currently hanging out. It'll be interesting to see his development under Barwis as opposed to Gittleson; hopefully his big strong muscles are the things getting developed instead of his spare tire.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan's severe need at defensive end has been met in under a week by two high-rated players with offers from a who's who of college football programs. Huzzah! Assuming Michigan re-acquires the commitment of five-star DT Will Campbell, Michigan will have a full defensive line of four-star-plus prospects. Score.
The only potential downer: Lalota, who just started playing last year, and Roh, who needs to add weight, might need a year or two before they're ready to go. With Michigan's tendency to rotate defensive ends and the lack of options in front of him they might not have that luxury.
As far the rest of the class goes: Michigan's still in the running for a variety of other guys, including a top-50 type in SC DE Sam Montgomery, and may take a third. The next guy on commitment watch is Cass Tech safety Thomas Gordon; past that Michigan needs a couple more guys in the secondary and another OL or two.
Okay, so we put up the Bo T-Shirt during the summer and a lot of people purchased it. Then they waited because Rich Robots was switching providers and printers and this didn't go very well. These people got shirts, but very late, and they were charged very early.
Then we got a note from the Bo foundation/organization/paramilitary threatening to sue the begeezus out of us so we had to take the shirt down. We're currently trying to work something out with them, but I'm told things aren't looking great on that front. (But Bo can have his own merlot, which is a little mindboggling.)
This meant a large number of people who had not received the shirt sat there waiting and never got one and only got a refund eventually.
This is Not Good, and we're sorry. In an attempt to make it up to you, we've got a three-pronged attack:
- Anyone who ended up waiting an unacceptable amount of time and did not get a shirt should have a refund. If you don't, please email me. This summer I'm going to implement a "subscription" option that will remove the ads for anyone who signs up; these people will get two-year freebies.
- MGoStore is having a "no, seriously, we actually do make and send out shirts" sale. Everything is 25% off until September 30th. The sale code: "MGoBlog Autumn".
- We're also implementing a contest: every week the best diary entry as chosen by yrs truly, will get their diary bumped to the front page and a shirt of their choice for free. The start of a week is defined as Saturday; the diary contest will run weekly during the season and monthly the rest of the year.
Now is the time to get your "Bow Down, Little Brother" shirt.