...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
Indiana is a fine football team worthy of our respect.
Run Offense vs. Indiana
Running the ball was the one thing Michigan fans could not complain about after the Ball State near-fiasco, as a trio of Michigan backs racked up over 300 yards. Michigan finally got its backs loose into the secondary, getting 20+ touchdown runs from Jerome Jackson, Mike Hart, and Brandon Minor. Meanwhile, Indiana features the nation's 100th-ranked rush defense. They give up 4.6 yards per carry; they're also missing a starting linebacker. This has the potential to be just about as ugly (for the opponent) as the Ball State game was, especially if Indiana safeties react to Manningham like Ball State's did: freaking out and running backwards at the snap.
If Indiana adopts a similar posture -- and given their massive troubles in the secondary, it seems likely -- Michigan will grind away against an undersized front seven ill-equipped to deal with... well, anything really. Michigan will likely run on 80-90% of their first downs again and I'll mutter something under my breath about expectation and deception and ugly statistics as Michigan rumbles towards another win. Pay me no mind, I'm just like that.
Key Matchup: Interior offensive line versus penetration. We're going to be predictable, and the line is going to have to deal with a lot of small guys slanting playside. Blocking them is going to be tough.
Pass Offense vs. Indiana
...is likely to be voluntarily MIA despite the tantalizing numbers put up by opposing pass offenses. Indiana is 116th in pass efficiency defense and is coming off a week where they allowed Brian Cupito(!) to throw for 378 yards on just 33 attempts. Along the way he picked up four touchdowns, too, as Indiana gave up 63 points to a Minnesota offense that's a mere shadow of last year's. The Hoosiers are also 108th in sacks, averaging just over one per game. The invitation is wide open: throw throw throw throw. We probably won't, much.
What we will do is work Manningham back into the swing of things. He saw 8-10 snaps last week, running nothing but fly routes that cause the aforementioned safety freakouts. He was targeted once while double covered. It was overthrown. This week he'll see most of the meaningful offensive snaps, according to Carr, and will no doubt be targeted frequently to get his timing back and shake off any potential rust. With the wretched Indiana secondary awaiting him, he won't have to deal with tight coverage and should have a big day.
Also potentially returning are tight ends Tyler Ecker and Mike Massey. Massey's only been gone a couple weeks but Ecker left after the first play of the Minnesota game; Michigan will endeavor to get those guys a few touches as well. Carson Butler will rotate in as well.
Key Matchup: Everyone versus Traitorous Hands. Everyone except the seldom-targeted Greg Mathews has dropped at least one ball so far this year. Henne's been accurate; too often his receivers have let him down.
Run Defense vs. Indiana
Indiana does run quite a bit -- 341 carries -- but their runs don't go anywhere. They're 88th in the country and their leading rusher is quarterback Kellen Lewis with... wait for it... 333 yards. Nominal starter Marcus Thigpen has been banged up in recent weeks but is expected to play. Not expected to play: their starting left tackle. Thees, not so good. Ball State managed the most success anyone's had on the Michigan defense since Amir Pinnix almost cracked 100 by spreading Michigan and finding small gaps in the line. Expect Indiana's "finesse" (read: crappy) offensive line to try the same thing. They'll try to misdirect us by using Lewis as a run threat, get us confused, and get someone to miss an assignment. This will probably happen at least a few times, but there will be TFLs in spades to make up for it and eventually the Hoosiers will find themselves in third and long.
Key Matchup: Harris/Burgess versus Misdirection. If they get out of position we could get gashed.
Pass Defense vs. Indiana
Lewis has emerged as the starter and can be thought of as Troy Smith lite if you're so inclined, but he's not anywhere near the passer Smith is. That's to be expected, as Smith has three years of experience on Lewis. One thing Lewis has that Smith does not is 6'7" James Hardy, the man who singlehandedly threw Iowa's season into the Pit of Despair. Hardy has nine touchdowns, seven of them in just two games: the aforementioned Iowa victory (three) and Indiana's demolition of Michigan State (four). Against Ohio State he was held in check with four catches for forty-five yards. He's a deep threat and a hard man to stop along the sideline.
It will be interesting to see if Michigan matches anyone specific on Hardy and, if so, who. Morgan Trent's been excellent in deep coverage (despite the referees' strange insistence on calling nonexistent pass interference calls) but dodgy at best underneath. Hall has been an all-around standout when targeted, though that's been infrequent. Michigan may use Hardy as a test case for the MGoBlog-supported hypothesis that Trent's speed can neutralize Ted Ginn. Or they may just let him roam free against whoever he'd like to line up against.
Key Matchup: Hardy versus Whoever. He's their best player and only playmaker.
Another interesting test for Football Armageddon, Indiana's return teams are excellent. The Hoosiers rank in the top 25 in both categories. Marcus Thigpen has three KO return touchdowns and ranks fourth in the country in average. Michigan has been suspect at times (specifically, Central Michigan and the opening kick versus Penn State). Tracy Porter, the punt returner, has a touchdown in only seven return attempts. Amazingly, Indiana has only gotten 13 chances to return a punt this year. That's all you need to know about the Hoosier defense, I guess.
Key Matchup: Coverage teams versus Whatever You Do to Be Good At Coverage. I don't pretend to understand the ins and outs of covering kicks, but I would very much like to see two things: good Whatever You Do and some Mesko kicks that do not have 75-yard Ginn Return Touchdown written all over them.
No kittens; 19 point spread.
- Johnny Sears and Charles Stewart appear with the game still in doubt.
- Our receivers continue to drop third-down conversions.
- Mario looks off or gimpy.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- A couple of Henne bombs find their way into Manningham's hands.
- Kellen Lewis is chased by angry defensive linemen.
- We look crisp.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 3 out of 10. (Baseline 5; -1 for You're Indiana, +1 for They Were Ball State, -1 for That Is Not A Defense It Is A Point Yielding Machine, -1 for Fresh(man) Meat).
Desperate need to win level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +5 for Eff It, We Must Go To Columbus Undefeated)
Loss will cause me to... gibber, blubber, and faint.
Win will cause me to... AAAAAAHHHH FOOTBALL ARMAGEDDON.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict: Well, we win, though Indiana is a team worthy of our respect and admiration that I would like to make very clear does not suck at all, not even a little bit, except on defense.
Right, that defense: it's not good at all in either phase of the game and will likely cede a number of big plays either on the ground or through the air. I do assume DeBord will go for Manningham deep if it's available since getting him some game reps and a touchdown or two will make everyone breathe easier heading into Football Armageddon. So the playbook should inch open a tiny bit until midway t hrough the third quarter when we have a six point lead and Carr brings in the backups and runs zone left for the rest of the game.
Indiana's offense has the opportunity to hit us for a few big plays, but trying to run Lewis with frequency is going to get him Branched eventually. I expect a lot of sputtering, one or two long completions to Hardy, no ability to line up and run, and etc. etc. etc. Basically the same thing Michigan's done to everyone since day one.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Breaston touchdown. I have to be right about this eventually. (Take four.)
- Henne has fewer than 20 attempts.
- 30-13, Michigan. (Indiana cover! Look at the respect!)
Somewhat obligatory! Somewhat rote! Definitely slapped together as an ill-thought-out-spur-of-the-moment replacement for UFR! Iiiiiiiiit's... MICHIGAN BASKETBALL.
GONE GONE GONE
Skilled, turnover-prone, oft-injured-or-suspended, and mercurial point guard Daniel Horton slipped through the NBA draft and is now plying his trade somewhere in Europe, no doubt, after getting cut by the Heat.
Skilled, turnover-prone, oft-injured, and mercurial power forward Chris Hunter has taken his game to somewhere in Eastern Europe. Probably.
Unskilled, turnover-prone, rock-solid rebounding machine Graham Brown could potentially be plying his trade in NFL Europe but probably isn't.
BACK BACK BACK
Skilled, wildly turnover-prone, mercurial post Courtney Sims and unskilled, turnover-prone human trampoline Brent Petway.
Sims is perhaps the most frustrating Michigan player since... um... Daniel Horton. Depressingly recent comparisons aside, give Sims the ball on the block against a single defender and he'll murder you. The guy had 226 shots last year, all within the arc, and made 63% of them! His usage rate was 24%, too. Maintaining that kind of usage and that kind of shooting efficiency is nearly unheard of. So why did he only average 10 points a game? Why did he only play barely half the time? Sims has two forms of kryptonite: little bulldog bastard defenders who can shove him out from the block and doubling. Look at Sims' points over conference games:
|1/25||Mich St||W 72-67||17||1||3||2||4||4|
|2/1||@Penn State||W 71-65||12||1||6||0||0||2|
|2/9||Ohio St||L 94-85||34||13||16||0||1||26|
|2/18||@Mich St||L 90-71||14||5||6||5||5||15|
|2/25||@Ohio St||L 64-54||30||5||9||0||0||10|
Are these at all explicable? 50 minutes versus Purdue yield 13 points while 15 versus UW yield 18? 13 of 16 versus Ohio State? Four field goal attempts in two games versus Indiana? I don't know. I do know this: I watched the Wisconsin and Ohio State games. Both teams placed an indifferent defender on him and did not double. (UW's entire defensive strategy is built around man-on-man defense, no doubling, and no fouling. OSU was trying to keep Terrance Dials in the game. I wonder if there was similar Augustine foul trouble in the first Illinois game.) End result was a torching. Teams that think they can play Sims man-up are wrong. The Purdues and Penn States and Indianas (remember, no DJ White and Killingsworth was a foul machine and indifferent defender) of the world who have no illusions about the defensive competency of their post players swarm Sims and force hideous turnovers. Then he is forgotten about.
By this point everyone's given up on Petway as anything other than decent rebounding and a couple of really fun blocks a game. If you get the ball to him somewhere near the rim he will throw it down and roar. That's fun, too.
Twin offensive engines and seniors Dion Harris and Lester Abram. Abram is a model of shooting efficiency... when he manages to stay on the court. This has been infrequently, something that cannot continue if Michigan is to have any chance this year. Remember 2004, when Harris was stripped of Abram and Horton? Yeah, that'll happen again.
Abram's ruthless efficiency is strictly a points thing, though. He doesn't provide assists or blocks or steals at an appreciable rate, though he is a decent defensive rebounder. He is an effective shooter but not a volume one, one of the many guys on the team who has a specific subset of things he's very good at but not at creating his own shot. He'll move around in the structure of the offense. Sometimes he'll find something he likes. Sometimes he'll move the ball to someone else, and sometimes this process will repeat itself until someone -- probably Harris -- is jacking up something contested with the shot clock winding down.
Harris is basically Horton minus half the assists, most of the defense, and almost no free throws. No, seriously, his free-throw rate is amazing Despite playing over 70% of Michigan's minutes and firing 123 two-point shots (three-pointers hardly ever draw fouls), Harris had but 39 free throws a year ago. His free throw rate is one-third Horton's, probably because his 42% 2PT% strikes fear into precisely no one. The sad truth is that Harris is awful within the three point line, especially for a guy expected to be Michigan's primary scorer this year. If Harris sets for three, celebrate. If he steps inside the line, cringe.
Also returning are backups Ron Coleman and Jevohn Shepherd, though filing Shepherd and his 45 shots under "returning" may be generous. Coleman is a decent role player capable of stroking an open three but not much else. He hits but 45% of his two-point shots, doesn't dish assists, block shots, or rebound much. Shepherd came out of Canada with a fair bit of hype then failed to deliver. Last year would have been better spent redshirting, as when he came in the game he was incapable of doing much other than pass around the perimeter.
Defensively, both backups were complete and total nightmares. Coleman, in particular, was pressed into duty guarding actual wing players and put on clinics on how to not get out on three-point shooters or prevent penetration.
The basketball team's Garret Rivas Award Winner for Outstanding Impression Of An Athlete By A Slightly Pudgy Short Guy, point guard Jerrett Smith. Would you like to be terrified? Okay: forty percent of the time Jerrett Smith did something that showed up on a box score last year, it was a turnover. When he was on the floor teams pressed him mercilessly and were richly rewarded for their efforts. Now this man steps into the shoes of a guy who used 28% of Michigan's possessions a year ago. He has no real backup -- Dion Harris will see some minutes at point and I guess Reed Baker exists -- and not much in the way of upside.
The good news? The flipside of Smith's generous ballhandling is that it's also generous to Michigan players. When he was on the floor last year, 26% of Michigan baskets ended in Smith assists. He does have a knack for finding the holes in a defense forced by penetration. It's just that he's singularly incapable of getting that penetration. Combine his head with Jevohn Shepherd's body and you have an NBA star. The Life Sciences Institute is working on it as we speak.
NEW NEW NEW
Class star DeShawn Sims from Detroit, a 6'9" power forward with an advanced offensive game, the ability to score facing or with his back to the basket, and a recently deceased younger brother, shot in a burst of senseless violence. Who knows how available or into basketball Sims will be for the next year, and who could blame him if he's not? If he's with it, he should see lots ot time and soon.
Stealth recruit Epke Udoh, the player who may be the key to not only this year but Amaker's very survival as Michigan coach. Udoh futzed around this year sporting offers from Pitt and Michigan and talking longingly about schools like Kansas, UConn, and UNC. He announced that he'd be prepping for a year in the hopes of grabbing the attention of a powerhouse, then made a late 180 and committed to Michigan. Initial reports out of open gyms are unanimously enthusiastic. Udoh is one of those guys who looks like a permanently stretched Stretch Armstrong, a shot-blocker and rebounder who has a nice short jumper.
Wing K'len Morris, who's white (someone call the Freakonomics guys), is a 6'5" guy who hovered around the edges of the top 150 lists recruiting gurus put out. I have no handle on him or his projected role or ability.
Kendrick Price redshirted a year ago since he was 6'9" and 65 pounds. Michigan may deploy him either inside or outside but he's another player I don't know what to expect from. Either of these guys contributing would be a bonus.
Aaaaand Reed Baker, Rain Maker. You may remember Baker from such posts as "Shouldn't Tommy Amaker Be Fired For This?", "Seriously," and "Like, Seriously." Passed up by the Citadel and desperately searching for a scholarship anywhere, Baker arrived on campus, attended a Michigan open gym, and rode his Big Wheel home a Michigan commit. Of note: though Baker attended this particular open gym, Tommy Amaker did not. Site unseen, Baker showed up on campus and proceeded to drain 5/6 threes in Michigan's exhibition games. He's Steve Nash!
NET NET NET: OFFENSE
Rebounding. Holy pants: Michigan kicked ass at this last year, topping the Big Ten. Petway's crazy pogo legs -- dismissed below -- are a major asset in this category. For all of Courtney Sims' mincing with the ball in his hands, he's an able rebounder on both ends of the floor. Brown's lumbering, wide-body stance was a tremendous boon on both e
nds of the floor but had more impact on defensive rebounding; we should be fairly good here again.
Turnovers. Will be even more rampant than last year. We lose three turnover-prone players only to replace them with even more turnover-prone players, Smith in particular. Without a reliable ballhandler or an identifiable way to create shots (more on that later), we will be much like last year's team: damn good at knocking down the open shots we manage to get off but horrible at getting those open shots. Dion Harris will again be forced to hurl up a wide array of prayers at the buzzer.
Shooting. As above. Everyone on this team except Petway can shoot and shoot they will. I expect a modest downturn since Horton's efficiency and ability to get others open looks is gone, but this is still an above average team when the ball has been released.
NET NET NET: DEFENSE
Rebounding. Looks poised to drop off a cliff if you look at Pomeroy's statistics, but Michigan's non-conference schedule full of schools from the Yukon and North Korea wildly inflated our competence in this area. In conference, Michigan was only "meh" in defensive rebounding despite Brown vacuuming up anything in his vicinity: 7th at 67%. This could be a real worry. Though losing Hunter is no big deal, Brown was an astoundingly good rebounder for someone who couldn't jump at all. Despite Petway's "mad hops," as the kids say, he only rebounded 18% of opponent's misses when he was on the floor, a far cry from Brown's 24%. Since Michigan did not often deploy the total offensive black hole represented by a Brown-Petway front line, his numbers can't be excused by Brown's presence. Petway's leaping is more than offset by his failure to box out and his tendency to attempt spectacular blocks on anything and everything, leaving the weakside wide open.
Unless the freshmen help significantly or Petway suddenly gets basketball fundamentals religion, Michigan will remain mediocre here. Sims is good but not great; he'll need help.
Shooting. Michigan will not yield 39% shooting on three-pointers two years in a row. Regression to the mean. Even if Michigan's defense was awful, it wasn't that awful. Whoever replaces Graham Brown will be more of a shot-blocker, be it Udoh or Petway or Sims, but less likely to apply his muscle cleverly or take charges. The net effect should be similar for post defense, but the forest of potential shot blockers will make driving the lane a dodgy proposition, and that's good, because there are going to be a lot of drivers.
Jerrett Smith has shown no inclination to get between men and the basket -- another nasty habit for a point guard -- and now will be squaring off against the opposition's primary ballhandler. This is going to end badly.
THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES
Who in the sam-hell is going to create shots? Separately Michigan appears to have three proven collegiate scorers in Courtney Sims, Dion Harris, and Lester Abram, but not one of them consistently gets his own shot. Harris' distinction is stark: outstanding when he finds himself a three-pointer to take but saddled with a 2FG% frankly awful: 42%. Whoah, there, Iverson! Abram and Sims have consistently shot the lights out but have coupled that with eye-gouging assist-to-turnover ratios, Sims in particular. He's a black hole in the post. Once it goes in, it's going up or it's dribbling weakly out of bounds as Sims shrugs in disgust.
For all of Horton's faults, he was a somewhat reliable penetrator who occasionally created something for another player. Michigan doesn't have anyone matching that description this year.
Michigan has scheduled itself into a corner. Like Wisconsin football, it will be hard to get any respect in the early part of the season, as the schedule is divided into two sorts of teams:
- "I didn't know they had a college called that."
- Georgetown and UCLA.
Unless we pull out an upset in our two opportunties, the committee will have every reason to look down its nose at our candidacy, especially if the Big Ten is as bad as it looks like it will be and if this team fumbles its way to a mediocre record in the league. Can this team get to 11-5? It may have to.
I don't pretend to know enough about the rest of the league to provide a solid prediction, but here are some things I think will happen:
- Petway is replaced in the starting lineup by the Big Ten season.
- Jerrett Smith is not quite a disaster but is an obvious millstone around our neck on both ends of the court.
- Sims rolls up huge numbers against the weaklings on our schedule, gets everyone excited, and then pulls the same disappearing act he did last year.
- The team looks about as well-coached as Michigan State... football.
- We miss the tournament.
HOW DO WE MAKE IT?
Jerret Smith has to function. He doesn't have to shoot but he does have to maintain a respectable A-TO ratio and find his teammates open shots. There is some hope here: as a freshman he looked frankly better at that than Horton ever did. (Horton was always more of a shooting guard with a nice handle.) But his ballhandling and defense must improve radically for him to be anything other than a liability.
The other thing that could tip the balance is DeShawn Sims and/or Udoh busting out like whoah. Either could; much has been said positively about them. A major post threat would open up all sorts of excellent kickout options.
The rest? Name someone Amaker's coached other than Graham Brown who has changed as a player under his tutelage.
SOON TO BE HILARIOUS NUMBERS
12-3 OOC, 9-7 in conference, second round of BTT, 22-11, NIT bid.
WTF IS UFR?!?!?!?!? "W" stands for "where" in this instance. Ask damned Comcast. Cable box hasn't worked for two days and that's where the OSU games are. So I'm all calling and stuff. Yes, this stuff does always happen to me. This is much better than last year, when everything evil happened to players on the field. I'll take this. Anyway, UV...
Probably not good when you're Indiana, you're facing Lamarr Woodley, and your starting left tackle is out. Also out is serendipitously-named linebacker Matt Mayberry.
Sure to draw a depressed comment from Matt Glaude, this Syracuse-area column is just tickled pink about Mike Hart's remarkable success at Michigan:
[It] remains our area's ongoing delight to know that Mike Hart, as remarkable a player as there is in the Big Ten, showed up at Michigan from Onondaga Central School.
The incredible prestige. From a recent article on Brady Quinn's Heisman chances from the South Bend Tribune:
Quinn threw three interceptions in the 47-21 loss, fumbled away another ball that was returned for a late Wolverines touchdown, and generally acquitted himself so poorly -- with the help of a porous offensive line -- that a lowlight reel for the game, set to the theme music from the "Benny Hill Show," became an instant smash hit on youtube.com.
"Smash hit" is something of an overstatement -- Brady Quinn for Heisman is no gyrating Argentine -- but it's nice to be recognized.
Note that the above article is penned by momentarily-blackballed Jeff Carroll, who's returned to writing sunnier things in line with the worldview of ND fans. In his article titled "Heisman race all about the politics," no mention is made that if Quinn played for a MAC team -- where he also could have faced an array of the nation's worst pass defenses, beaten Penn State, and lost by 26 to Michigan -- he'd be as prominent in the race as Garrett Wolfe.
Normally, basketball signing day is boring faxes. But not when Tommy Amaker's your coach. Yes, all three recruits signed letters of intent. No one decommitted. Hurrah.
File under "gloriously backhanded." A reader sends in an NRO editorial on Michigan's Prop 2:
Students who struggle in Ann Arbor through no fault of their own (they may have received substandard Kâ€“12 education, for example) may be able to thrive in East Lansing, at Michigan State University. Insisting that they belong at the University of Michigan is like telling a football team in the NCAA's Mid-American Conference that it can play in the Big Ten and expect to compete with the Wolverines, Buckeyes, and Nittany Lions.
Note that this does not constitute endorsement of any viewpoint other than "Michigan State is a backwater for people who can't hack it at Michigan."
Closer still. Bruce Feldman throws out a couple names for the Iowa State coaching search everyone expects to happen this offseason. One name: Jim Harbaugh ($).
Hurray, that's the poll hurray. If you're interested, you can see all the individual ballots here.
Risers: Louisville claims the #3 spot by virtue of turning the ball over just a little bit less than WVU. Many teams benefit from the falls of Clemson, Boston College, Tennessee, and WVU. Of note are Arkansas hopping over ND, Maryland entering the poll, and Wake Forest up four to #18.
Fallers: The aforementioned Clemson, Boston College, Tennessee, and WVU.
Wack Ballot Watchdog:
- Dammit, I hate it when this happens: my hatred for Auburn is unmatched amongst pollsters. I have them #12.
- What is with Boi From Troy and Off Tackle ranking BC #12 and #13, respectively? (Note: BFT says that the ballot entered was erroneous and he didn't get his update in before the deadline.)
- BFT also has ND #3, BTW, which is not in error.
- 50-Yard Lion has UW at #7, which seems high to me. Meanwhile, Eagle in Atlanta has them #21, which seems low to me.
Now on to the extracurriculars. First up are the teams which spur the most and least disagreement between voters as measured by standard deviation. Note that the standard deviation charts halt at #25 when looking for the lowest, otherwise teams that everyone agreed were terrible (say, Eastern Michigan) would all be at the top.
Ballot math: First up are "Mr. Bold" and "Mr. Numb Existence." The former goes to the voter with the ballot most divergent from the poll at large. The number you see is the average difference between a person's opinion of a team and the poll's opinion.
Mr. Bold is NC State blogger Section Six, though the victory is less bold than they usually are. I can find nothing exceptionally weird on this ballot. Oklahoma (#11) is a little high, as is Clemson (#19). ND (#13) and Arkansas (#15) are low, but nothing completely insane leaps off the page. So, uh, yeah.
Mr. Numb Existence is once again Double Extra Point for the third time this season. The voting equivalent of dry white toast, it should come as no surprise that DEP is a Nebraska blog.
Next we have the Coulter/Krugman Award and the Straight Bangin' Award, which are again different sides of the same coin. The CKA and SBA go to the blogs with the highest and lowest bias rating, respectively. Bias rating is calculated by subtracting the blogger's vote for his own team from the poll-wide average. A high number indicates you are shameless homer. A low number indicates that you suffer from an abusive relationship with your football team.
The CK Award goes to Tennessee's Corn From A Jar, who has the Vols at #10, down four. LSU bolts up 7 spots to #9, resulting in a net +3 for the SEC after a conference game. Theory: this is why the SEC has so many teams in the top 10.
Straight Bangin' Award goes to Off Tackle, an A&M blog with the Aggies unranked after their narrow loss to OU. Was it really so bad, Off Tackle Tom?
Swing is the total change in each ballot from last week to this week (obviously voters who didn't submit a ballot last week are not included). A high number means you are easily distracted by shiny things. A low number means that you're damn sure you're right no matter what reality says.
Mr. Manic-Depressive is Dan Shanoff, who (I'm assuming) forgot West Virginia on his ballot. As they were #2 a week ago, this naturally inflates one's swinginess.
Mr. Stubborn is BGSU's The DJL Zone, but 48 is a perfectly reasonable amount of difference on a ballot and so no berating is forthcoming.
Much has been made of Bret Bielema's clock-wrangling decision to have ten Wisconsin players offsides on a couple kickoffs towards the end of the first half. If you haven't seen it by now, this is what went down:
If you listen to Penn State fans, this was reckless endangerment of the kick returner's very life and a classless jab at Joe Paterno. If you listen to Paul Maguire it's genius on a profound level -- which tells you something about Paul Maguire. If you listen to Craig James... well, no one should listen to Craig James.*
EDSBS declares Bret Bielema "person of the year" for giving the virtual finger to 3-2-5e. (Though Orson underestimates the damage of 3-2-5e: last year we got 168 plays per game, this year 152: that's a ten percent reduction, not six. Must have been looking at the time.) I'm just confused. I am confused in these ways:
- If Wisconsin players were going to go offsides intentionally, why stop at ten yards? Why not leisurely walk down to the ten yard line, then kick it? As structured, Penn State still had an opportunity for a couple semi-legit returns, and in a situation like Wisconsin faced on Saturday Penn State either breaks it or does not break it. Why leave any chance at all?
- Why deploy this now? 23 seconds left in the first half? Penn State's going to kneel down as soon as they get the ball.
- Why does PSU force a re-kick? Is it not obvious what Wisconsin is doing? Just take the penalty, kneel, and go in for halftime.
- Why is everyone so up in arms over this? I mean, seriously: this has a tiny window of application and the offended team can take the extra five yards after the return.
- WTF did Paterno expect the refs to do? They could dig up the creaky and never-applied "unfair acts" rule, but A) I'm sure Paterno has no idea of that little quirk in the rulebook and B) deploying football refereeing's nuclear option on the spur of the moment just to get Paterno 20 seconds he's not going to use is not something I particularly want to see.
While I'm not entirely convinced that Bielema has invented fire here, it is worth discussing. First off: it's not "classless." It's a little chintzy, but football coaches are supposed to do everything they can within the rules to win. When someone finds a rule loophole, more power to them until that hole gets closed. Joe Tiller's huddles with 15 guys in them were far more relevant than Bret Bielema running out 23 seconds that no one was going to use anyway but no one accused Tiller of being classless. Save me the sob stories about the endagered spines of beleaguered returners. No one got hurt, nor was anyone more likely to get hurt than on a typical play. Classless is watching a punt-return scrub try to injure an opponent after the play and doing nothing about it. It is not going offsides on purpose.
Is it a useful device at the end of games? Only in very marginal situations where the opponent needs a touchdown in under a minute, IMO. Remember that at any time the offensive team can take five yards after the play and start a drive. A team could potentially force a touchback by threatening to BielemaBall the rest of the game away. The trailing team would get the ball at the 25 and last-second comeback drives spurred by good returns would be a thing of the past. No Henne to Manningham versus Penn State.
Is it a stupid consequence of a stupid, ill-thought-out rule that literally no one except network executives likes? Yes. And I'm sure they'll get rid of it somehow next year. Hopefully by getting rid of 3-2-5e in its idiotic entirety.
Stop him before he predicts again! I wonder if it was coincidence that Mike Lucas of Capital Times predicted something along these lines before the season:
Consider this scenario:
The University of Wisconsin football team has just scored to take a one-point lead over Bowling Green in the 2006 season opener. There are 29 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, UW coach Bret Bielema instructs both of his outside sprinters to leave early - before the ball is kicked - purposely drawing a penalty flag for off-sides.
Taylor Mehlhaff drives the ball to the 2-yard line to the Falcons' Brandon Jones, who's tackled on the 9-yard line by the Badgers' Jack Ikegwuonu, one of two players off-sides.
There are now 24 seconds remaining in the game.
The Bowling Green captain has two options: A) decline the penalty and take the ball on the 9-yard line or B), take the five-yard penalty and force Wisconsin to re-kick from its own 30.
The natural impulse would be to take the penalty.
Let's say that is the case: The Badgers then line up for the re-kick. However, because there has been a change of possession, the official starts the game clock on the ready.
Mehlhaff unfastens his chin straps and waits while the final 24 seconds tick off the clock.
Lucas is incorrect that there would have been a change of possession -- that's no more true than there being a change of possession when an interception is overturned by some defensive penalty -- but if we're operating under the assumption that newspaper people never have original thoughts, someone on the UW staff probably fed him that scenario complete with erroneous rule interpretation when he was researching that piece.
*(Is it not sort of incredible that one of the main offenders in the worst scandal in NCAA history is presented to the nation every Saturday as a man worth heeding? It's the equivalent of hiring Todd Bertuzzi to sit in an NHL studio, or Pete Rose in an MLB one, or Michael Irvin in an NFL one. Maybe that last one was a bad example.
So you have everything awful with the NCAA sitting next to Doug Freakin' Flutie. Maybe ABC just likes the juxaposition.)
Well, what now? Neither Troy Smith or Lamarr Woodley did anything to distinguish himself last weekend. Steve Slaton fumbled away his team's MNC chances, though an arm injury had something to do with that.
Irish bloggers are getting progressively more ornery about the continued omission of Official Heisman Candidate Brady Quinn from the majority of MaxwellPundit rolls. ROM runs the thing and is on the warpath:
I can't wait for Wednesday when the blog brigade of dumbies vote for the likes of Steve "Fumblitis" Slaton, Lamarr "Victor Abiamiri has more sacks than you" Woodley, and some WAC running back ahead of Brady Quinn. Anti-Irish sentiment at its finest.
This is an odd thing to shift the burden of proof to Quinn skeptics. What, exactly, are Quinn's qualifications other than being a very pretty senior? A smorgasbord of empty-but-similarly-pretty numbers against teams ranked 109th, 86th, 94th, 76th, 93rd, and 107th in pass efficiency defense. (Upcoming: numbers 106 and 89, then #25, USC.) General failure as a passer in games versus Georgia Tech and Michigan. Only a clinical dissection of a Penn State team foolishly dedicated to three-and-four man rushes and a soft zone stands out as anything better than average this year. Two dozen quarterbacks would have Quinn's statistics if slotted into his place. Nearly two dozen have better numbers to date: he's but 19th in passer efficiency. There is no argument in favor of Quinn that Colt McCoy or Nate Longshore can't obliterate. So Irish fans are reduced to arguing that the Notre Dame offensive line couldn't block a poodle and Darius Walker actually died in 1896.
The reason no one's voting for Quinn is that there is not much reason to vote for him. After his spectacular failure against Michigan, Quinn's only ping on the national consciousness was to nearly blow the Michigan State game before Drew Stanton and the Spartan secondary generously returned the favor. Since then he's been treading water against no one in particular. He's proven excellent at glorified seven-on-seven drills and precisely nothing else. Call that anti-Irish if you want, but that's no MaxwellPundit winner in my eyes.
So, then, who is? I must return to the stated principles laid out in the (Friedrich) Nietzsche Theory of the Heisman:
The ideal Heisman candidate is frightening to behold unless he is on your side, in which case he is your flagbearer and protector. The ideal candidate is a force of nature that rolls through his opposition against tremendous odds. His name is graven on the tombstone of instant replay's creator as a justification. He is not sunnily efficient, or competent, or a great fat beast who crushes only the weak. He is slightly terrifying. There is a small but real possibility that he is the escaped prototype of a CIA-developed breed of unkillable soldiers; he is not man; he is overman.
So... with the lack of flawless candidates, I end up sorting amongst the flaws and get this:
1. Calvin Johson, Georgia Tech
A wide receiver can only do so much to be involved in a game. He runs routes; the quarterback throws or does not throw to him. All he can do is run crisply and hope to get open. Unless you are Calvin Johnson, in which case the idea of "getting open" is absurd: you are always open because you own the area 8-25 feet above the playing surface.
Why did Georgia Tech steadfastly refuse to give Johnson the ball against Clemson? No one will ever know. What we do know: if you throw, he catches. And runs. And is impossibly big, fast, and elusive. Give him the damn ball.
2. Lamarr Woodley, Michigan
Can hardly be blamed for the 26 points Ball State managed, as nine were handed to the opposition by the offense and fourteen more were at the expense of backup cornerbacks as Woodley observed from the sideline. It would have been nice if he could pad some numbers but
3. Troy Smith, Ohio State
Can certainly be blamed more than Woodley could for his 100-ish yard, 1 INT performance versus Illinois, but with Alex Boone out and OSU staked to a 17-point lead Tressel decided to play Lloydball and get out of there intact. Result: run run run run run run. Debordism is contagious. He drops but remains... he's still sixth in the country in passer efficiency.
4. Marshawn Lynch, Cal
Two touchdowns versus UCLA though not a ton of yards.
5. Reggie Nelson, Florida
Still here and dreadlocked.