this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Potentially notable movers:
- BYU continues to drop as it becomes clear how bad UCLA and Washington are and their competition drops to MW-level teams as others reach their conference schedules.
- North Carolina shoots into the poll after beating Notre Dame, but they were an omission last week and probably should have been around #20.
- My top three are very debatable; if you've got an argument for Penn State or Texas let me hear it.
- So too with four through eight… if you've got suggestions in there let me know.
10/11/2008 – Michigan 10, Toledo 13 – 2-4, 1-1 Big Ten
Not to turn this column into a running diary about Douchebags of Michigan Stadium, but after Kicking Competency Lopata went a long way towards being just KC again I attempted to bolt from the stadium as fast as possible. I got caught in the inevitable traffic jam a dozen or so rows up from my seats. A couple rows above me, a middle-aged man stood on a bench and booed and booed.
He was angry. I was angry.
I stooped to pick up whatever flingable bit of detritus I could find, seized upon an empty water bottle, and chucked it at the booer. I missed,* lightly damaging an older man a row behind him. But I did get his attention. And the old guy looked like he was on The Other Side, so eff him.
At this point a shouting match ensued. Shouting matches are never like they are on TV—laced with penetrating logical deductions that leave the yelled-at victim incapable of response—so I mostly just told him to shut up like 10 times consecutively.
At some point he actually said "if this bothers you that much there must be something wrong with you," at which point my irony sensors exploded. It was sort of like this minus the laughter:
He did shut up, though, or at least direct his anger somewhere other than the field.
Anywhere large groups of Michigan fans interact has fallen into civil war, with people like this on one side…
Listen, I just wanted to vent. I have supported this team this year.
I supported them when Utah won, I supported them when Illinois blew us out of the frickin stadium.
This, I cannot support. I am absolutely disgusted with this.
In my opinion, Calvin Mcgee, Rich Rodriguez, and even Mike Barwis, yup, that's right, Mike Barwis, can go back to West Virginia where they came from.
…and bottle-chucking hippies on the other. That email hit my inbox yesterday around noon; I got a few others like that. You can check the increasingly annoying comments here, where virtually every thread descends into a flamewar within five posts.
And I don't get it. If you read this blog and think I will be at all sympathetic to the idea we should get rid of our extremely successful coach after one year (and hire who? and recruit who?) you have reading comprehension issues. If you use the words "unacceptable"—not actually in this email but man have I see that particular word everywhere in the past few days—and "disgusted" because Michigan's confused, young, and physically inadequate offense can't cobble together drives no matter who they go up against, do you realize that the core community of this blog, including the author, kind of loathes you? I am not on your side.
Sports suck sometimes, especially when you care so much about something you control not at all. I assure you that every Michigan fan was angry on Saturday, and every one had second thoughts about this New Era thing. Some of them chose to swallow that anger, and some chose to give it to someone else. What's the adult thing to do? What would those people in hats have done in 1935?
They would have sucked it up. So suck it up, you pansies. It hurts. Act like a man about it.**
Go do something else. This makes you mad. People say Hinterland is pretty good and it's only twenty bucks. Go play that. Go ride a bike. Or hike into the woods and look at the chipmunk-bears. Build 60-foot sculptures out of balsa wood and your shattered hopes. Just get off the goddamn internet.
Come back in fits and spurts and keep whatever connection you want to have with the program but don't hit that post button when the vein on your forehead is sticking out. It's not that important.
And what does "unacceptable" even mean, anyway? Okay, you do not accept the Toledo loss. And now…? You will inform the internet of this? I see. Congratulations. Go away.
*(Yes, I threw the bottle at Tacopants. If I was one of those guys calling for Threet's execution this would be the height of irony.)
**(Women, in my experience, do not have these issues.)
- There are also two camps about the defense: 1) they only gave up 6 points (really nine if you count the chip-shot FG Toledo missed) and that should obviously be good enough to beat Toledo. 2) That one guy caught 20 balls and they had something like 350 yards of offense. I lean towards two; the only reason Toledo didn't score more was Zoltan's munificence and some of their own incompetence. Though they figured out how to defend some of the play action rollout stuff late, it shouldn't take 5.5 games to come up with a response to the quarterback exiting the pocket. Too many opposing teams have been able to remove Michigan's defensive line from the game by leaving in blockers or hitting short passes or rolling the pocket, and Michigan's insistence on leaving in a thousand crappy linebackers against spread formations is maddening.
Scott Shafer was supposed to be an aggressive man-to-man guy, but Michigan this year has seen a ton of zone and a ton of three-man rushes. WTF?
- Also, on a late third and one Michigan had a three-man line in the game. Toledo ran and made it easily. WTF?
- The playcalling made a lot more sense once Threet's injury was revealed. Also Threet's horrible first few passes, though the endzone pick six wasn't inaccurate. If Nick Sheridan was in for reasons other than "starter incapacitated" even my enforced patience was going to be tried.
- No, this offense would not be any better if it was lining up under center every play and running isos. Banish this from your mind. When you have freshmen at quarterback and most of the skill positions and a line with something like 6 even quasi-reasonable options and the lone senior on the two-deep is the third-string tight end, you are going to be awful no matter what offensive philosophy you adopt. There are like two and a half good players on offense.
And what would that buy Michigan? A Motor City Bowl invite? I'd like to keep the bowl streak—not going to happen—but if the choice is between a crappy December bowl and some increased chance Michigan is great in 2010, I'll take the latter.
- I think that "pre-hab" stuff is well debunked.
- Cissoko seemed to do well, though it was tough to tell with all the zone.
Hello once again. As per usual: Live Blog Chaos Mitigation Post; festivities should start around 11:30.
Run Offense vs. Toledo
Well, it doesn't look like the Rocket defense is much good:
(EMU had three "team" rushes for –38 yards that I didn't include, FWIW. Those are usually fumbled snaps or something. I assume a ball flew over the QBs head at least once.)
(Also, this from the FIU box:
However, Michigan's problems on the offensive line are well documented, and running backs not named McGuffie roll themselves in industrial lubricant before each game. Even if you give Michigan the 33 yards they lost on sacks, against Illinois they put up 102 yards on 31 carries, 3.3 YPC. Coming into the game the Illini had been mauled on the ground.
Against Notre Dame and Wisconsin things were better, but the Wisconsin game's final numbers were greatly aided by two late rushes totaling 93 yards. The down-to-down stuff was often caught in the backfield, and you can't rely on 60-yard runs from Steven Threet on a weekly basis.
So… I don't know. I thought this would be a ton better than it was last week because the evidence suggested it, then the Zooker pulls out all this zone read scheming that basically crushes the Michigan run game. Coach Redacted did something right; I have no idea what to think anymore.
I do suggest—again—that this team has nowhere near the athletic ability of a Wisconsin or and Illinois and Michigan should find greater success on the ground than they have recently.
Key Matchup: Rodriguez versus coaching hijinks. I wonder if Toledo will attempt something similar to what Illinois did, and I wonder if Rodriguez will have a response this week.
Pass Offense vs. Toledo
This has been Toledo's greatest statistical weakness. The Rockets check in 109th in pass efficiency D. They're much better—55th—in raw yardage, but getting blown out in three games will do that to you. They appear to have faced two wretched quarterbacks (a rotating duo for Eastern Michigan and Paul McCall for FIU), who they did all right against when their teams let them throw. This was "rarely." Against Arizona, Fresno State, and Ball State, however:
That is ugly, ugly, ugly. Compounding matters: Toledo is 93rd in sacks.
This is again where we point out that Steven Threet is erratic and a freshman and sometimes sinks the Michigan passing game by himself; also sometimes Michigan receivers conspire.
Darryl Stonum returns from suspension for Michigan, but Martavious Odoms sustained a shoulder injury in his breakout game against Illinois and will be limited. Michigan will probably try to sit him out. Expect more of Toney Clemons, the only backup in the slot with Terrance Robinson injured, and possibly more sets with Kevin Koger and Mark Moundros on the field.
This looks like a situation in which Michigan will have to stop itself. There will be many people open and plenty of time for Threet; it'll be a matter of executing.
Key Matchup: Threet versus Tacopants. The main thing I want to see over the remainder of the season is an improvement in Threet's accuracy.
Run Defense vs. Toledo
After a tough game against a BCS foe in Arizona, the Toledo offense blew up for 54 points (41 in regulation) against Fresno State and scored on their first three drives against Florida International. Then the bottom dropped out: Toledo turned the ball over four times and scored three points in the final three quarters against the Neds, then followed that up by getting shut out against Ball State.
Total yards against Letterman U: 157, including a rushing statline that looks like it could be Michigan's:
Things were slightly better against Fresno State:
I dunno, you tell me. The rest of the evidence suggests that Toledo should be easily handled by the Michigan front seven: they were totally mediocre against FIU and got squashed by Arizona. There is no Juice Williams on Toledo's team, there's no Daniel Dufrene, and there aren't any beefy Samoans. I expect something like 3 YPC, not including sacks, with one or two instances where shoddy linebacker play gashes Michigan for 20 or so.
Key Matchup: Obi Ezeh versus fullbacks and pulling guys and reads and the like.
Pass Defense vs. Toledo
Okay, so we give up on the safeties. They're a liability. But where is Boubacar Cissoko? Where is Troy Woolfolk? Why does Michigan bring in two extra safeties in their dime package? I'm extremely concerned for their futures if they can't see the field over Charles Stewart.
In any case: Toledo runs a quick-strike passing game reminiscent of Purdue's. Historically this has not been an offense that finds much success against Michigan, and this year it's been super-dinky. Quarterback Aaron Opelt is completing nearly 60% of his passes and has a nice 7-3 TD-INT ratio but is 86th in passer efficiency because he's averaging just 5.2 YPA. Toledo averages just 8.9 yards per completion, too, and a YPC under ten is a sign of a heavily dink-and-dunk sort of attack. Toledo's also 12th in sacks allowed despite passing more than half the time.
I guess this is good, as it indicates a team not particularly inclined to launch bombs to wide open receivers. Perhaps they're just incapable of getting someone open deep or holding their blocks long enough to do so; I'd be surprised if they didn't at least try it.
Key Matchup: Michigan DBs tackling the Toledo WRs. In an offense like this if you just tackle the bastards as soon as they get the ball the other team eventually turfs one or throws one short of the sticks on third down.
Zoltan now has Michigan #1 in net punting. All hail Zoltan.
Key Matchup: I SWEAR TO GOD JUST KNEEL IT IN THE ENDZONE *#$&#$#$#.
- Threet's accuracy doesn't improve.
- We're not blocking Toledo like we did Notre Dame. There has to be some bottom to the inability of the line.
- They get protection to go deep.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- They can't tackle, which they probably can't.
- There's some semblance of coherency on the OL.
- The DL spends the day in the backfield.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 3 out of 10. (Baseline 5; –1 for You're A 1-4 Team That's Played EMU and FIU, –1 for And Got Shut Out By Ball State, +1 for Could We Get Shut Out By Ball State?, –1 for Probably Not, +1 for But Maybe, –1 for No, Seriously, I Doubt It).
Desperate need to win level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for This Is A MAC Team, +1 for And Maybe 6-6 Will Get Us To "The Promised Land", –1 for "Promised Land" = Detroit, +1 for Losing This Would Mean Bad Things For Next Year, +1 for and Probably The Year After, +1 for We Must Defeat This State, +1 for This Is A 1-4 Team That's Played EMU and FIU)
Loss will cause me to... zombie apocalypse.
Win will cause me to... sigh with relief.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
I'm not going to go so far in the tank as to say Michigan loses to what appears to be a truly horrible team, but I don't expect this one to be over in the first half, either. It'll be the usual grinding struggle with one good play followed by one bad play; Michigan should win comfortably but will be frustrating at times.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Non-McGuffie carries = 8, one of which is fumbled.
- We finally start seeing Woolfolk and Cissoko.
- Michigan, 27-10.
Pumpkin patterns! Last year, reader Matt Lipshaw sent in a picture of a pair of jack-o-lanterns carved to look like Bo and Lloyd. The picture's a little fuzzy but you get the idea:
A couple weeks a go I serendipitously ran into this reader whilst waiting in line at the Blind Pig; he introduced himself and mentioned this interaction we had; I suggested he forward along the patterns so that others could have a very Wolverine Halloween, and he kindly obliged. Here they are; click the pictures for mondo original versions. You might have to resize them depending on how mondo your pumpkin is.
Lloyd's a little stressed.
Back in the saddle. Darryl Stonum will play tomorrow:
Freshman Darryl Stonum, out last week for an apparent violation of team rules, will play Saturday, Dews reported. Rodriguez said Wednesday he still wasn't certain whether or not Stonum would go, but the decision to play him was apparently made today.
I don't think we'll see Odoms from the sounds of it.
Run chartin'. GS has your run chart. Michigan checks in with a zero, which
- is very disappointing given the shredded cheddar the Illinois defense had been to date.
- is pretty high given the run game's output, indicating there were a lot of schematic issues.
- includes a +6 from Moundros.
Moosman is your second-best blocker, FWIW.
Drop the puck. Hockey gets it on for real tonight against the St. Lawrence Saints (We're Saints!)*. St. Lawrence was a poor ECAC team last year and Michigan is favored to win both nights.
Yost Built has ten things to know about the Saints. Sounds like we might see a soft goal or two:
Remaining are juniors Kain Tisi and Alex Petizian. Tisi was 1-5-1 last year with a 2.73/.884. Petizian went 4-5-1 with a 3.48/.884. Petizian did play in 29 games as a freshman and went 19-9-1 en route to the NCAA Tournament.
Bork. Bork. Bork. Let's git it awwwn. COMMMME TO PENN SHHHTAAATE!
*(Stolen from Yost Built, but he sort of stole it from me so this is all very recursive.)
Etc.: The WLA notes our rampant domination of the state of Ohio.
I can't believe we didn't pursue Brady Hoke harder during the coaching search. Ball State is on their way to an undefeated season and a national championship that could have been ours...instead we are stuck with Rodriguez whose only accomplishment so far is making 50% of the plays we run on offense look like they are going to go the distance every single time starting next year and recruiting players that could probably run to Lloyds house and back and then score a touchdown without us ever knowing they left the stadium. And some were mad that Martin missed out on Miles.
Serious question though - almost half way through the season now, do you have any regrets that we didn't get Les Miles? I have mixed feelings - I prefer to run a pro style offense and believe that you can run a pro style offense that is really exciting and really liked the idea of a Michigan guy coaching. On the other hand, Rod is the exact opposite that Lloyd and Bo ran and it seems like it was time for that kind of change, and you cant argue with results. He is a young guy with nothing but success on his record and probably has nowhere else in the coaching world to go that is a real step up from Michigan (no spread in the NFL). I am worried that the record books will reflect that this is the start of a new era and that every single relevant and irrelevant Michigan streak will be broken this year, culminating in the bowl streak ending. Stupid examples - Illinois had their best game against us since 1929 and we are off to our worst start since 1967.
I'm not sure if I ever expressed any sort of "woo forget Miles" sort of sentiment during the Peanut Butter Jelly Time, but I don't think I did. I converted from Miles skeptic to full-on believer at the exact moment the full girth of his massive, game-theory-PhD-possessin' testicles became apparent. The Miles Profile In Heroism was highly positive, though that incident where he tried to call timeout to save time after a turnover lingered.
As far as regrets, let's break it down a bit. In Miles's corner: Michigan background, performance at the highest level, a (probably) less-harrowing transition year, a much less annoying summer, and the rock-hard certainty he was going nowhere.
In Rodriguez's corner: a potentially more explosive offensive system, his ability to take bleah recruiting classes and turn them into national contenders, and his relative youth—Rodriguez is nine years younger.
Which of those would you prefer? I prefer Miles, but the gap is small.
*The current Old Testament plague of fumbles is, of course, maddening, and perhaps even inexplicable (Cissoko, Shaw, and Threet are true freshmen, Grady and Minor are chronic coughers, but what gives with Trent and Matthews?) I wonder: Is there any evidence, statistical or anecdotal, that Rodriguez's WVU teams also had a propensity to lose the ball?
I've heard the arguments on the discussion boards about inexperience and overcompensating to the point of being reckless, but isn't such a breach of fundamentals (or at least miserable special teams play) actually a coaching issue, and, if so, a blind spot on Rodriguez's otherwise impressive resume?
Fumbles are rare events that can vary wildly, so to take a look at this we'd probably need the full Rodriguez dossier from West Virginia. Unfortunately, the NCAA is in the process of revamping its internet-accessible statistics and many years of data are currently offline. What data we do have is from CFBStats.com; I'm just focusing on the raw number of fumbles since study after study has declared fumble recovery to be pure luck. Drum roll:
There is some evidence that West Virginia was fumble-prone. But not much. 2007 was likely a monster outlier with those turnover-fest games against South Florida and Pitt. (FWIW, WVU was still #9 in TO margin last year.) And 2006 is the equivalent of two extra fumbles per year, one of which you'd expect to be lost. Not exactly an enormous (or statistically significant) difference.
Unfortunately, we don't have an actual fumble count for earlier years and can't even get a number for fumbles lost because the NCAA's site is wonky. I hope to revisit this later when there's more data available.
Oh, in case you were wondering: Michigan is dead last in fumbles this year with 20, eleven of which they've lost. Is this the fault of the coaches? Eh… I don't think so. There has been one fumble on a bad pitch to McGuffie; other than that the rest of them have been freshmen fumbling kickoffs or juniors fumbling handoffs or Threet just fumbling for no reason whatsoever. Even if you believe that coaches can affect a team's focus and preparation and make them carry it high and tight—and that there's any difference in coaching methods here—I think any effect would probably take longer than a few months.
I chalk this up to the usual: the universe's specific desire to cause me pain.
I had a quick question for you with regards to injuries. Is it just me or does it seem like a lot of guys are dinged up week in and week out? Every week, I see something like this....
On when freshman Martavious Odoms hurt his shoulder against Illinois: "He went back in the game, but he was feeling it for the rest of the game. We obviously held him out. We're going to try to do some things with him today but he'll be questionable for Saturday. We'll see what happens."
On other injuries: "Austin Panter is out with a shoulder, Brandon Graham is questionable with a leg infection, Junior Hemingway is out, Carlos Brown is out still. Perry Dorrestein should be able to go."
Is this a function of conditioning? I KNOW that Barwis is a stud, i KNOW he will kill every man, woman, and child who crosses him, and i KNOW these boys are in shape, but, doesn't it seem a little weird that every week there is another key player that goes down?
I just don't remember this many injuries when Lloyd was coach, and I am well aware that this could be because Lloyd didn't give any info, ever! I was just wondering what your two pennies was on this....it just seems odd to me. Obviously, injuries hapen, however I just don't remember this many, week in a week out in the past.
thanks and keep up the good work.
chris (last name withheld so Barwis doesn't eat me)
It does seem like there are slightly more people banged up than usual but not by an alarming amount. I mean, have you seen UCLA's quarterback situation? There are worse fates than Michigan's current injury docket.
Obviously, the "pre-hab" that featured in a few of the eeee Barwis articles hasn't turned Michigan players into the X-Men sort of Wolverine; it was probably a little overblown. Barwis can't prevent ankle sprains or mono or thigh bruises. He can only prevent communism from taking over the world. And puppies from flying off into space.
You're right to point out the perception effects: Rodriguez, when asked, says "this guy is injured in this way." Lloyd would never do that. A player could limp by trailing a bloody stump and someone could ask him about it while standing on the very trail of viscera and he would claim the guy was "tremendously questionable." I specifically remember the woe during the Year of Infinite Pain that resulted in the "Angry Michigan Safety Hating God" coinage; this is not new.
If you had to guess, one year from today (week between Illinois and Toledo) who do you think the Starting Quarterback will be? After weeks 1 and two I would have said Tate Forcier will come in and start next year, then Notre Dame and Wisconsin happened, and Threet looked like he had the potential to continue as the starter next year. Then Illinois happened, and after watching Juice run a similar system I became convinced that Shavodrick Beaver will get the nod. Watching Juice just made me realize that w/o the constant threat of a run by the quarterback this offense is only about 50% effective no matter how good the other 10 offensive players are. It seems like teams are not containing Threet, but why should they care? besides the Wisconsin 58 yard Scamper, he hasn't really burned a team for more than 10 yards. And I think most coaches would think that's a fair trade off for completely shutting down the running game.
I have no faith in this prediction, but: Threet. Watching Shavodrick Beaver scramble around like a maniac during his high school game was pretty impressive but that guy is like 180 pounds and needs some additional arm strength. I bet he's headed for a redshirt.
Forcier, meanwhile, will press Threet but he'll have a full year under Rodriguez to his credit and he hasn't been completely clueless so far. I think it'll be a battle; at the moment I give Threet a 40-35 edge with Beaver picking up the remaining 25%.
I don't think anyone's going to be able to help this gentlemen but on the off chance:
Where can I get one of those alumni cheerleader maize sweaters with the big block M? I have searched high and low all over the internet, eBay, MDen, random Michigan shops wherever I see them, etc. Short of persuading my grandmother to knit me a maize sweater and then attach a large M to the front of it, any idea where I could find one of those things? I can't think of anything cooler to rock at a future "Maize Out" when the weather turns cool.
Keith aka "WolverineKeith"
Anyone have any ideas other than "bounty hunting"?