Let's make a deal.
Saturday Michigan takes on Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl and Sunday something may or may not happen involving the throttling of an infant Denard Robinson in his cradle and the tears and lamentation that may or may not result. That would hypothetically also mean the reign of terror Greg Robinson's hair and the zombie minion that goes by the name of Greg Robinson would be over. The city of Ann Arbor emerging from its cocoon of upper middle class ennui to shoot AK47s in the air would at least partially offset the tragic, still hypothetical loss of baby Denard. I have taken too long on this bit.
Two days later Jim Harbaugh and his Stanford Cardinal take on Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. After he may or may not be destined for Michigan or the 49ers or the moon. The latest from Harbaugh is reminiscent of one Brian Kelly last year:
"I only talk about the job I have now," Harbaugh said when asked if he or his representatives had spoken to the 49ers about their coaching vacancy.
He acknowledged having a "dual focus"—
--on his team, which will play Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl on Monday, and on his daughter, Katherine, who was born just before Christmas.
Aw, come on, Harbaugh.
So what's going to happen? I still don't know. No one does. Last time on this show I said I didn't have anything solid and probably wouldn't because of the nature of the "search" but that the mystical aura wasn't looking so hot:
I'm not inclined to put much in the widespread chatter that had RR out the door after the OSU game and seems to be continuing since its sourcing seems to be pissed-off-you-guys folk clearly unhappy with the state of the program taking small interactions and interpreting them as they desire. However, the vibe I'm getting from other people who seem to be on the fence about what to do—or at least close to it—also makes it seem unlikely Rodriguez is back. Emphasis on all the qualifying words in the previous sentence, please. I've got nothing solid because no one does.
I also said that Brady Hoke would be named Michigan's coach over my dead body and the last semblance of sanity in the universe but that wasn't based on inside information. It was more a "has everybody gone CRAZY!?!" moment, and if the threat of Hoke didn't linger in the air I'd apologize for it. As it is I'm on the battlements with an axe* waiting to behead anyone who pops up and says "my name is Buh—." Bill Parcells is duly warned.
With less that a week left before the month of limbo is over, I haven't received anything that pushes my opinion much one way or the other. To reiterate, that's:
- There is a nonzero chance Rodriguez is fired, otherwise there would have been an announcement.
- Schools do not start coaching searches on January 2nd.
- There's only one guy out there that could plausibly be socked away or all but in time for Michigan to have a reasonable finish in recruiting and could justify yet more chaos in a program that is pointed in the right direction, even if vaguely.
So it's Rodriguez or Harbaugh and we'll probably know the day after the Orange Bowl. With all due respect to people who would argue otherwise, it makes no sense to fire Rodriguez in January if you do not have a coach lined up immediately. Since the list of people other than Harbaugh who Michigan could install within a week reads "Buh—[blood theatrically spraying from neck]" your alternatives are between rushing someone through without pause for consideration—which worked out so well last time—or dragging the search almost up to Signing Day, leaving your recruiting class a smoking crater and possibly dooming the next guy, who will forever be Not Jim Harbaugh, to repeat the cycle.
I have heard some things that push me more towards Harbaugh:
- Some connected guys at Cal email that Tedford is aiming to poach Harbaugh's OL coach since he has "agreed to go elsewhere already" as of the 17th of December. Caveat: the Cal rumor mill bears no animus towards Rodriguez but would love to see Harbaugh anywhere but Stanford, so as things get passed down the chain they get more certain.
- A player who split his career between RR/Carr years tells an emailer that Harbaugh will be installed on the fifth. Caveat: why the hell would some former player know?
- An emailer who reports things second hand but has been reliable in the past suggests that Mary Sue Coleman isn't a big fan of Rodriguez, which isn't much of anything to go on but just adds to the pile.
- Media people I talk to generally say the best thing is probably to give him one more year but that they don't expect he'll get it. Also not much of anything but vibe.
The only thing pointing the other way is the generally sunny disposition coming from within Schembechler Hall, but with recruits the coaches are saying they've got no idea what's going on but if they're still around after the bowl they'll still be around forever, or something to that effect. That's a hard sale right there.
If I was 55-45 Harbaugh a month ago I'm 65-35 Harbaugh now. I wish I could be more certain and wouldn't make the decision I think is likely if I was king of the world, but that's life. We'll know soon enough.
AWFUL BONUS: If there is a change you can go start the Denard transfer watch at DEFCON 2, since Robinson knows what he is—the Big Ten offensive player of the year as a sophomore at quarterback—and where he fits. How screwed up is a program that manages to get both Ryan Mallett and Denard Robinson to transfer away from certain starting QB jobs in the course of three years?
This hasn't happened yet. Breathe. I am talking to myself mostly.
*(To avoid a Tucker Carlson moment let me clarify: I am not going to cut Brady Hoke or anyone's head off with an axe.)
The inbox delights today with a couple of emails from readers who are devotees of other schools but are offering up items to the Michigan fanbase. The first is from a Purdue fan who's run across old 98's plane in the midst of organizing a family history:
Although I’m from a died in the metal (not wool) Boilermaker family, I have something that might be of interest for your blog.
My family moved from South Carolina and lived in the Caribbean for almost 100 years. I have recently taken upon the task of organizing and writing the family history, which includes an archive of over 5000 pictures from 1860 to this day.
During WW2, one of my relatives joined the AAF and apparently served in a unit attached or even within the 98th Bomb group. It wasn’t until recently that I found out they had flown B-25’s in the Caribbean.
Attached you’ll find photos I have scanned of that fateful time where Lt. Harmon crashed in the jungles of then French Guyana (now Surinam). They operated out of Atkinson Field in adjacent British Guiana (now Guyana) which coincidentally was the same airfield where the infamous Jonestown massacre was initiated that killed a California Congressman.
Hope you Michiganders accept this token gift from an old Boilermaker!
Richard H. LeSesne
Harmon survived "Little Butch's" crash, wandered through the South American jungle until he found civilization, and then made NCIS possible by fathering son Mark.
Hello. Things that transpired in my absence:
Basketball got splattered by Purdue. Hello, reality. You suck. Michigan hadn't played terribly in a game anyone could see yet this year, but they did so yesterday, and those NCAA bubble dreams should be shelved. From the first Jajuan Johnson undefendable hook shot it was clear Purdue was on another level from Michigan's previous victims, especially on defense. Michigan had far too many possessions where the ball barely approached the three-point line until there were ten seconds on the shot clock. The resulting chuck-fest was reminiscent of Amaker's teams.
Michigan's comeback at the end of the first half was nice to see—Stu Douglass was so on fire he drove to the basket for an easy layup that wasn't blocked into the third row—but even as it was happening I was thinking "this can't last." Lo, it did not.
A side note: Purdue employed a strategy I've long thought is a low-cost way to lower your opponent's efficiency: a token press. Don't trap, don't get yourself out of position for easy buckets, just defend all 90 feet. Michigan crossed the half-court line four or five seconds later than they would have normally and often struggled to initiate the offense when the ballhandler picked up his dribble just past the line. On a half-dozen possessions Michigan had no semblance of an offense until half the shot clock was gone.
A kicker committed. I've searched for this a million times already so I know it's not out there but this, truly, is news that should be met with that bit of Monty Python and the Holy Grail wherein the animated peasants give a desultory "hurrah." The tubes don't have this because if you type "holy grail peasants" you get this a billion times:
Which is fine and all but doesn't have much relevance to Michigan's kicker situation. He's Matt Goudis, Tim all typed him up and stuff, and he should be a massive upgrade for Michigan's national-worst field goal kicking.
I'm most encouraged by the bit of the ESPN profile that says he's a "refined ball striker"—yes, yes, that's what she said—with a "motion that's very repeatable"—ditto—since Michigan went with a guy who didn't have great technique but made a lot of high school field goals in Brendan Gibbons and that didn't so much work out. I don't really care if kickers can hit 50-yarders since in most situations you're better off going for it in that portion of the field; give me a Garrett Rivas any day of the week.
Anthony Zettel committed… to Penn State. Guh. If Zettel was going to wait until the 28th of December, what's one more week to see if Rodriguez is retained or booted and if the latter who his replacement would be? That's a major loss for the class and a guy who will rankle every time he does something for Penn State, and one that would have been averted with one more win somewhere along the way this year.
Tate Forcier said a bunch of stuff. Angelique Chengelis scored an excellent interview with Tate Forcier at some of the Gator Bowl festivities. The bit most directly relevant to the "will he or won't he" stuff:
But not long after the UConn game, a posting on Twitter [ed: by that swimsuit model] said Forcier would transfer.
"That was like the fourth time I'd heard that," Forcier said. "I would have left if I was leaving. You just never know what can happen. It's God's plan. You don't know who's watching, and it's really what you make of it. So I stuck it out. It was actually after the UConn game that I just decided I'm going to stick here at least for this year.
"I think it took time for me. If I were to leave, I didn't realize what I would be leaving. One of the things I noticed, everyone who left would have had a shot to play if they would have stayed."
Forcier also says Michigan's system is "tailor-made" for Denard, that he "knows he can run" the offense but that "Denard is better in it, honestly." All of this sounds like a guy resigned to the idea he's a backup at Michigan if he stays, which is a mature way to approach things… and almost certainly provides strong motivation to depart after the year. He's certainly going to think about it:
"Anytime somebody says something to me about leaving, I say, 'I'm still here, aren't I?" Forcier said, pulling his jacket hard to make sure the Michigan logo is properly displayed. "You still see me with all this Michigan stuff on me. This is me. I'm already acclimated to everything here. The education is something you can't pass up.
"You never know what could happen. I just think it's really about what you make of it. When I get in (games), I try to do what I can do and make the most of it. I'm pretty much going to ride my own road. It's up to me."
I do have a credible-seeming email in the inbox about Montana getting a big time I-A QB transfer from a "west coast kid not on the west coast," FWIW, but even if that points to Forcier no names are in it. Since Forcier has a redshirt available it would seem to make more sense for him to transfer to another D-I school, anyway.
I hope he stays but you can't blame him for leaving. We'll always have triple overtime against Illinois.
Old man yelled at cloud. A guy in the News who literally writes Gil Thorpe wrote some thing about how Rich Rodriguez is a slippery money-grubbing so-and-so with a distinctly Hun disposition that's about what you'd expect from Gil Thorpe:
wsg Ming The Merciless
I'm not going to rehash the usual defense of Rich Rodriguez's contractual whatnot—in brief it's "John Beilein, saint"—but here's an oh snap from MVictors in response to the assertion that "Fielding Yost didn’t sign contract extensions and then flirt with other schools to extort raises":
“No matter how long Yost’s contract was (one-year, two-year, five-year) in his first decade, it was always a source of relief in Ann Arbor every late-Nov/early-Dec when he announced he was for sure coming back. Occasionally, there were reports he was considering an offer from, say, Wisconsin — or from the East. One year he even boldly and publicly disputed the wording of his contract as to whether he’d be allowed to coach elsewhere if he opted out of coaching Michigan. Another year he threatened to retire, he was so discouraged. Yost worked it masterfully to his own advantage."
If you think the response to this column has been harsh check out the comments on any Gil Thorpe online, wherein a bunch of snarky hipsters snark at each other about how terrible Gil Thorpe is.
Jim Harbaugh was like "oh no he di'in't." The report about Harbaugh signing an extension and staying at Stanford from the Stanford AD—always questionable—was obliterated by one Jim Harbaugh:
Harbaugh has yet to sign with Stanford, and when asked about his supposedly pending contract extension he stated:
"I haven't even discussed it."
Perhaps more interesting, when asked to respond to remarks from the Stanford AD implying that Harbaugh will sign the contract, "Maybe he misspoke."
Denard said he was "100 percent." Eeeee:
“He’s not banged up anymore,” receiver Roy Roundtree said. “He’s ready to go and he’s just getting the offense ready.”
Robinson didn’t divulge how much of an impact the injuries had on his performance, but he said while speaking at the team’s hotel that he was now “100 percent.”
Martavious Odoms became available for the Gator Bowl. Michigan's wide receiver depth gets a boost:
"Rodriguez says Odoms has been able to do everything in practice and should be good to go in the bowl game."
7-5 Iowa, fresh off a loss to Minnesota, beat Missouri. Good start for the Big Ten and a reason for the conference to be thankful the bowl matchups shook out the way they did—would Michigan have any chance to stay within two touchdowns of Blaine Gabbert and company with their secondary? Probably not.
The big story as far as 2011 goes was Marcus Coker bulldozing the Missouri defense for 200 yards and establishing himself the next obvious target for the wrath of Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God. If he's not struck down by providence, it looks like Iowa's got themselves a version of Beanie Wells the next few years.
Billy Sauer fought Bobby Goepfert. Seriously:
Billy's in the ECHL now. This kind of stuff happens.
Etc.: Ryan Mallett is an "overrated prospect who definitely should return" to Arkansas because he's got a bad case of the Stanzis (Stanzi as a junior, anyway). A few players had trouble getting to Jacksonville because of weather. There was also an "impromptu dance-off." Smart Football emerged from hibernation. Michigan will not have Jon Merrill and Chris Brown for the GLI (which starting tonight with a game against Michigan Tech) as both made the World Junior team. Craig Roh is a nice dude.
Remember, all-time updates can be found on the 2011 Michigan Football Recruiting Board. If you have any recruiting tips or questions, you can e-mail them to me at [email protected] or tweet @varsityblue. For game updates on Wolverine commits, check out the Friday Night Lights series.
Matt Goudis Goes Blue
For the fourth week in a row, I don't have to think of a creative title for Wednesday Recruitin' as Michigan has once again picked up a commitment. This time, it's CA K Matt Goudis. Local commitment article. Matt was also named All-League as a senior. For more info on Goudis, check out the Hello: Matt Goudis post.
Happy Trails, Anthony Zettel
Though many Michigan fans (myself included) had long expected him to end up in the Wolverines' class of 2011, it was not to be as he selected Penn State last night.
Don't be so quick to criticize David Brandon and Rich Rodriguez's job security in this one, though. If Zettel's concerns were about Michigan's coaching situation, he probably wouldn't have picked one of the few schools in America with a cloudier coaching situation than Michigan's.
Assume The Position: Tight End
Michigan's coaches are set on landing a tight end in this class, and the options are dwindling.
NJ TE Jack Tabb will announce a final decision shortly after the New Year. He and his mom both enjoyed their visit to Ann Arbor, and Michigan seems to be one of the top couple choices. He is a Kevin Koger-like TE.
The Wolverines have offered TX TE Andrew Peterson, who's seeing college interest increase after releasing his impressive highlight reel:
Peterson looks massive on the highlight tape, and capable of both blocking and catching - with surprising elusiveness after the catch. He'd be perfect for the Martell Webb role or the Kevin Koger role in Michigan's offense.
OH TE Frank Clark will take all five officials before coming to a decision. His trip to Ann Arbor will be for the January 7th weekend.
Michigan has a couple other potential options at the position, such as NJ TE Tanner McEvoy, so we'll have to wait and see what unfolds with their top choices.
Tom's weekly update was a handy rundown of decision and visit timelines for some of Michigan's top remaining prospects.
The Dee Hart decommitment watch rolls on.
CA WR Devin Lucien will announce in January ($, info in header).
FL Slot WR Prince Holloway will commit to Michigan on his official visit, if he can. Grades are likely the #1 holdup with him.
FL OL James Elliott has made no secret of the fact that he loves Michigan, but he insist's that doesn't mean he's bound to commit to Michigan ($, info in header). Well, yeah, because committing to Michigan requires a commitable offer. Should IL OL Chris Bryant pick Michigan as expected, that means no offer for Elliott.
Michigan is still "in the mix" for MD DT Darian Cooper ($, info in header). Michigan's coaching situation will affect his final decision.
PA DE Deion Barnes earned Philly Defensive Player of the Year honors, and has narrowed his choices to Penn State, Pitt, Michigan, and Georgia.
Sam Webb of WTKA and GBW thinks Michigan is in good position for a few receiving targets.
OH OL Taylor Decker has visited Michigan, but his current top three is Ohio State, Cincinnati, and Notre Dame.
MI DE Matt Godin is paying attention to Michigan ($, info in header).
Next Wednesday's update should be action-packed, as plenty of things are about to happen with recruiting:
- The Contact Period for coaches resumes next Monday.
- The Under Armour All-American Game is next Wednesday.
- The U.S. Army All-American game is next Saturday.
- Michigan's coaches are hosting the next big recruiting weekend next Friday-Sunday.
...and who knows, maybe the 4-week streak of commitments will continue in the meantime. Expect coverage on all that (and much more) next week.
All I want this year is for Michigan to get a kicker…oh and for Ohio State to implode and have their best players all lose their eligibility because of some stupid yet indefensible scandal…
MERRY MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!
The well known bloggist Geaux_Blue started a diary series this week called "Shunning Wings," wherein he promises to profile various recruits who spurned Michigan. The first candidate is Terrelle Pryor who, for better and for worse, put an indelible mark on both programs, leaving Michigan virtually empty at QB in '08 and resigned to underclassmen for '09-'10, and putting the exclamation mark on Jim Tressell's conservative, unlikeable iteration of the Ohio State program.
Facts: Dude got discounted tats in return for his autograph. He sold off the gold pants lucky charm they give out for beating Michigan. He sold his 2008 Big Ten Championship ring. He sold his Sportsmanship Award from the 2009 Fiesta Bowl.*
Of course, considering how badly we wanted Pryor, and how badly Rich Rod wanted Pryor, we can't pretend like this is a "this is the type of guy other programs recruit" kind of thing.
This is why MGoBlog hasn't made a very big deal of the million minor mishaps accrued each year at various collegiate football programs. Giving a moral "tsk" to a 21-year-old athlete – even if it's way beyond your own "never tell the kids" collegiate transgression list – is hypocritical if you root for an FBS team. And since a million crotchety people with internet connections already do enough of this, it's trite. If ever you find yourself sounding like a Yahoo commenter, even if you can't figure out what's wrong with what you're saying, it's probably wrong (this also goes SEC media types).
And not to mention that the whole thing reeks of the NCAA's worst hypocrisy. This is a tax-exempt organization because it's all for the kids, yet here they are laying out a five-game suspension for selling off the same schwag that OSU itself can't push enough. I can't honestly connect the NCAA's decision to delay suspensions until after the Sugar Bowl to money, but does anyone think having them sit out for MSU next October instead of Arkansas in January was made in the best interests of preserving a spirit of amateurism?
So, how to respond to all of this? A list:
- Ohio State fans: Five games for some schlock when Cam Newton was shopped for a fortune?
- SEC fans: NCAA's just protecting their golden conference – everyone knows the world revolves around OSU's record versus the SEC in BCS bowls. S-E-C!
- Big Ten fans: Wow, can Ohio State be any more of an SEC team?
- A.J. Green/Georgia: Wait, you can delay that?
- Misopogal: What were the tattoos?
- Michigan State: Adding a fifth game was a nice touch.
- Rest of World: This looks really bad.
- Michigan fans: …?
I mean, yes to all the caveats above. But this is still our big rival. This guy spurned us. And now he and his buddies are giving the Buckeyes some well-deserved time in the mud. If you're waiting for an official stance on this from MGoBlog, get it out of Brian. As for me, co-sign on any hand gestures toward the NCAA, and otherwise I'm here:**
User bluesouth breaks down the OSU plan in xtranormal form on the boards.
* I know what you're thinking: They gave him an award for sportsmanship?
** Not a Blue Fan et al. reserve the right to call us their bitches until such time as Michigan beats Ohio State in a contest of football.
CRISP These Now!
Before 1994 this was registration. After 2000 everything was done online. In between you wanted to kill someone.
If you were at Michigan from about Tom Brady's freshman season to Drew Henson's last, you will remember the CRISP* lady. If not, consider yourself lucky that you have no idea what we're talking about. This was Michigan's phone-based class registration system before it went all internet. Imagine maneuvering through the world's most complicated touch-tone, automated service system. Now imagine the most annoying lady's voice in the world is behind all the recordings (there was a persistent rumor they were after James Earl Jones to re-record it, which I guess they never did because students who thought this was some sort of Death Star Torture device would just starting yelling out the location of the Rebels' secret base). NOW, imagine only 127 people can use it at a time, so you are given a specific time (like 7:03 a.m. to 7:26 a.m.) that you're allowed to call, and while you're fiddling around in the system and it's misreading your inputs, your classes are filling up quickly so you will need to have backups for all of your timeslots and already know their codes. Now imagine they give you rotary dialed phones in all the dorm rooms.
Nowadays if you're interested in a course, you click on it and it fits automatically into your schedule based on parameters such as location to each other, lunch break, drinking nights, and your hall's designated videogame hour, right?
This is all a long way of introducing some courses you ought to pick up:
Course Name: History of Mississippi State's 2010 Football Team: From Arkansas to Ole Miss
Counts As: History, Non-North American/European History Requirement, Foreign Language Requirement
The dreaded "inverted option":
We'll be seeing a lot of this play or some variation of it. Although this one isn't really part of their option series, it is third play of their sweep series. (The first 2 being the sweep and the counter sweep.) You can tell that this play is a designed QB keeper by the blocking assignments. It doesn't matter what you call it, Relf will have the ball, and he will be running between the tackles with 1, 2, or even 3 lead blockers.
MSU is in a split back slot right. Ark responds with a 4-3 and a late shift into an outside blitz. The safety moves up into man coverage and the MLB fakes a blitz.
In the comments for the Ole Miss one sammylittle asked BlueSeoul to provide a series summation before the bowl. Co-sign that!
NCAA Rankings 412
Course Name: Graph Theory Ranking: Post-Season
Prerequisites: NCAA Rankings 312
Counts As: Statistics, Math, Global World View
Course Description: In this class you will learn which teams in FBS had the best seasons in a statistical revamp of the rankings system. Essentially it's a new computer poll, and better than some of those that are used for the BCS. Then again, uh, Auburn is 4th. Here's his Top 10:
1 Oregon 1.677444 2 Stanford 1.963008 3 TCU 2.011924 4 Auburn 2.066706 5 Oklahoma 2.25209 6 Boise State 2.321805 7 Wisconsin 2.461991 8 Ohio State 2.473381 9 Missouri 2.555164 10 Virginia Tech 2.564181
Sign up to learn more.
* C.omputers R.eally I.rritate S.ome P.eople
More Ohio State
This is a snapshot from this year's edition of The Game, in case you thought that was Fresno State or something opposite Denard and Co. It's also a screenshot from this year's UFR of Ohio State (Not THAT UFR). Unfortunately, Brian seems, for the moment, to be continuing the recent tradition of drowning in sorrow rather than taking the time for a post-OSU Upon Further Review since 2008. This year he didn't even bother with the un-kempt promise, which doesn't bode well for us, but UFR fans may take some solace, for the mighty mighty stubob has stepped up.
Upon Further Review: Ohio State (by stubob)
I'm still working on getting the charts a bit nicer, but the job is a good one. As Brian or anyone else who've UFR-ed a game will tell you, it's a heck of a job. And stubob did one heck of a job. Diarist of the Week.
This doesn't mean you're off the hook, Cook.
It's the end of the semester, which means it's time for report cards. AC1997 has a two-part series giving each position a grade. The position breakdowns are a bit strange, and it's more of a "how do we look next year" than "how did we do this year" kind of thing, but they're good reads and good argument-starters.
Quarterback – A+
That’s right, I went there. I struggle to see how this position could be any better. Denard will be a Heisman candidate for the next two years, Tate has proven to be a very good backup quarterback and spot starter, and Devin will now be a freshman next year and one of the highest ranked dual-threat talents of the past three recruiting classes. I guess it would be nice to have a developmental prospect, but fourth string QBs grow on trees.
I took the liberty of converting to Michigan-style grading:
FINAL GPA: 2.42
The offense's grade was hit severely by the Failure grade at kicker, which I guess is true. I'd much rather he'd just graded '10 and left the '11 predictions for later on.
Alternate backgrounds from monuMental, depending on whether you've been naughty or nice. Does wanting to eat the "Nice" one make one naughty? Also, since I'm late in posting this week, here's this week's masterpiece:
I shall leave you with a bit of poetry from SpyinColumbus: 'Twas the week before the Gator Bowl, and back in A-squared…
|WHAT||Michigan v. #14/13 Purdue|
|WHERE||Ann Arbor, MI|
December 28th, 2010
|THE LINE||Michigan +3.5|
|TELEVISION||Big Ten Network|
Michigan has quietly surprised early in the year, running up a 10-2 record, including a couple solid wins over the likes of Clemson, Harvard, and Oakland. They've already shifted expectations, but knocking off a ranked team in-conference would finally announce to the nation that they intend to seriously compete for an NCAA Tournament bid well into the new year.
Of course, it won't be easy, as Purdue brings a talented squad into Crisler Arena, including Ja'Juan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore, who passed up the chance to leave school early for the NBA last season, to reach new heights in Boilermaker uniforms. Though the Boilers will still be without sophomore sharpshooter Jon Hart, out another week or so with injury, they have the talent and experience advantages over the Wolverines.
Aside from Johnson (similar to Oakland's Keith Benson, but probably better) and Moore, the diminutive Lewis Jackson plays a key role for the Boilers, as the 5-9 junior is just outside the national top-100 in assist rate, and plays the better half of available minutes. DJ Byrd and Ryne Smith are other effective offensive players, but with only so many possessions to go around, they get a lot of playing time but don't hog the ball.
With a few games under each team's belt, it's finally reasonable to look at the stats. If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Purdue: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Purdue Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. PU Def eFG%||100||11||P|
|Mich Def eFG% v. PU eFG%||32||94||M|
|Mich TO% v. PU Def TO%||25||13||P|
|Mich Def TO% v. PU TO%||188||26||PP|
|Mich OReb% v. PU DReb%||210||80||PP|
|Mich DReb% v. PU OReb%||21||121||MM|
|Mich FTR v. PU Opp FTR||315||71||PPP|
|Mich Opp FTR v. PU FTR||9||227||MMM|
|Mich AdjO v. PU AdjD||94||3||P|
|Mich AdjD v. PU AdjO||36||49||M|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
This is as close as Michigan's come since I've been writing the mgopreviews to matching up toe-to-toe with a really good opponent. The emergence of a couple pretty good defensive rebounders in Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan have wiped out last year's consistent advantages for the opponent on both ends of the boards. Michigan's switch to almost-excusive man defense hasn't hurt, and though it means the Wolverines don't force tons of turnovers anymore, opponents are having a tough time making their shots.
The Boilermakers are pretty good in the turnover department, elite at both holding on to the ball and forcing the opponents to turn it over themselves. The emergence of Darius Morris as an elite point guard (90 assists and just 30 turnovers this season) will hopefully mean that the Wolverines can change that trend.
Thus far this season the teams' numbers have been racked up against approximately equal competition. Both beat Oakland at home, took care of a solid ACC team on the road (though Purdue needed overtime to take down Virginia Tech), and have another top-100 win in their own gym, to go along with a smattering of lesser opposition that they've easily dispatched. The only true difference is the lack of two good opponents for Purdue in their Feast Week tournament, as they lost to Richmond, whereas Michigan took home a loss to a very good Syracuse team and a merely decent UTEP squad.
Crisler Arena hasn't been a house of horrors for any Big Ten team, and since Purdue has been solid-to-excellent for the past several years, they won't be afraid of coming into the House that Cazzie Built. If Michigan wants to win, it's execution and effort, not intimidation, that will do the trick.
I have a good feeling about this game, as the teams' resumes really aren't that different at this point in the year, except for the Wolverines' defeat to UTEP (for which they don't receive a mulligan, but Purdue didn't have to face as good of opposition on back-to-back nights as the Wolverines). However, Purdue has the air of a team that's been there before, whereas the Wolverines still have some growing up to do in order to make it to the tournament on any given year, much less four straight as the Boilers have done.
Because this Wolverines team is so young, I think a mistake here and a mistake there is enough to doom them against Purdue. Darius Morris picks up another double-double, as does Zack Novak, but Purdue pulls away at the end, winning 67-58.