this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Wooo! The two-pointer as viewed from the student section:
Meanwhile… celebratory posts abound:
- The HSR says [obligatory "rock band" guitar miming] "don't stop believin'." [/miming] Some unruly Wisconsin fans are called out. (FWIW, the ones in our section were all fine except one guy who stood up for almost everything.)
- The WLA has two separate reaction pieces.
- GSimmons has an excellent post from his perspective as a coach.
- Varsity Blue has some bullets.
- In the Diaries there's an… uh… running diary from wolverine32, a simple declaration that Chrisgocomment loves Michigan football, a Saturday relived, and Lordfoul's recap. Uh… and a seriously serious suggestion (we're from serious) that we hire Kirk Ferentz.
Sample the bounty of the internet and laugh contemptuously the next time someone pines for the old days when we'd get Mitch Albom's column and that's it.
BTW, the winner of last week's Awesome Diary = T Shirt Contest was, unsurprisingly, drexel, who got his Wisconsin scouting report bumped to the front page. May I suggest now is the time to get your Bow Down, Little Brother shirt? Or Zoltan For Space Emperor? Topical!
I loled. Cute kids watching the first half of the Wisconsin game, and then a punch line:
That man wins the dry sarcasm award of the week.
We're what? Whenever I post anything about lines four people correct me, but it's worth trying again:
That's the opening line from LVSC. Michigan is… favored? Elsewhere I've seen Michigan –2 and Michigan –2.5, which… wow. I know Illinois has been seivetastic on defense this year and squeaked by a Sun Belt team by three but I have also watched Michigan this year.
Eeee? I was all ready to fire up the Barwis bandwagon once again in the wake of this quote from Brandon Minor…
"There was one play and I ran down the field for an incompletion, and the linebacker that was chasing me, he was out of breath," Wolverines running back Brandon Minor said. "I came back a couple more plays and then scored. I still wasn't tired till my team beat me up on the sideline."
…but, uh… Minor's final line for the game: two carries for 35 yards and one catch for 11. He was in considerably more than he had been the past few games, but this does not exactly seem like a miraculous workload.
At least there's that. Apparently there was no replay of the critical roughing the passer penalty that turned fourth and fifteen into a first down and eventually a touchdown, but someone on the Wisconsin board has a set of images that appear to show it was a good call. FWIW.
Numberin'. Reader Alton provides a link to a mathematical breakdown of two point conversions by lead and time remaining. The data in the cells is what percentage chance you must exceed to make two points the best choice.
The slot for up one with twelve minutes left: 28%. The slot for nine minutes left: 21%. For about 10:30, then, it's reasonable to assume it was the right call if Michigan had a 25% chance to punch it in.
Another reader objects, saying that chart makes an awful lot of assumptions and can't be taken as gospel, and he's right, but I think the assumptions the chart makes—like the offenses in question are NFL-average ones versus NFL-average defenses—actually bias the chart in such a way that they overstate the necessary percentage for the call to be a good idea. This was not a close decision.
9/26/2008 – Michigan 27, Wisconsin 25 – 2-2, 1-0 Big Ten
I don't have to tell you it was ugly at first, but an illuminating example: at a couple points in the first half when the guy with the red hat was on the field various family members of mine stood up because we're natural standers frustrated by the usual decorum of our section.
A set of ancients crabbed at them to sit down despite, you know, the lack of anything to see other than a guy with a red hat standing on the field, and when this was finally annoying enough for someone to respond with the obvious riposte about the red hat a full-scale verbal confrontation ensued in which the crabs behind us simultaneously complained about how we were violating the stadium announcer's request to treat our fellow seatmates with respect and called my cousin "fatso."
I thought but did not say "I know you are wearing a hat that indicates you fought at the battle of Antietam but don't think I won't smash your skull into splinters."
At halftime, Michigan had 21 yards. I tried to hide from the sun and list all the things I would rather do than watch the second half.
At the beginning of the year we were all confronted by an unexpected cost imposed by the massive turnover in coaches and star players: Michigan seemed a little like laundry we wanted to win, and sucky laundry at that. They wore the wrong numbers and ran the wrong way and certainly played the wrong way and goddammit where was Mike Hart?
We know college football players not as people but as things that have transpired on the field. By the story arcs their careers trace out, tragedy or comedy. Without those—without even Lloyd Carr's story to fall back on—the first few games of the season were strangely numb. They lost to Utah? Okay. They lost by 18 to Notre Dame? Okay. You can go back and check the columns here: serenity reigned. That was born from detachment.
Johnny at RBUAS captured this sentiment perfectly:
Mike, Jake and Chad risked their dignity and only left with a little of it, but they came back in the first place by choice, because of something bigger. As for the guys that are still here, Trent and Jamison are mostly quiet and patient and had no place else to go. And no matter how jubilant and grateful Terrance might seem, he knew how much money could be made by coming back. I don’t hesitate to say that wins this year won’t be as satisfying as wins last year were. Not enough of these players have suffered yet.
Those people out there aren't Mike, Jake, and Chad but Threet and McGuffie (or Shaw or Minor or Brown or Grady) and I'm Not Sure Who The Left Tackle Is This Week.
But there is no better one-word description for the first half Saturday than "suffering," and Johnny Thompson is always going to be the guy who picked off Allan Evridge. Steven Threet could have four years of moments good and bad in him but I suspect to me he'll always be looking over his shoulder at Wisconsin safeties, just as shocked at what is transpiring as everyone else.
After it was over I did something I hadn't done since I was a kid making paper airplanes out of the free programs and throwing confetti* in the air whenever Michigan scored. I went down to the tunnel as the players exited the field and watched them go: Taylor boisterous, high fiving anyone he came across, Warren stoic, the Coner completely neutral until someone thumped his shoulder pads in congratulations. The only thing that betrayed Kevin Koger and his old man beard as an 18 year old, not an Antietam veteran, was the kid-on-Christmas-morning smile stretching from ear-to-ear. A blood-soaked band-aid hung from Thompson's chin, gamely sticking to a couple of hairs in his ragged beard. Barwis looked like he was stuck in a paint shaker.
These are no longer strangers. I know how they run, and they are mine. I wanted to say something to them, to wrap everything that had just transpired into a sentence and give it to them, to tell them about ashes and hope and the future. But nothing came.
After Brandon Minor's touchdown run I turned around to see what the crabs were thinking and perhaps to say something unkind. They had left at halftime.
This is what I should have said: "Those who stay will be champions."
- Thanks, karma! The entire crab sequence was awesome.
- Carson Butler got suspended and Mike Massey flailed around a bit before being replaced by Kevin "My Name Lacks An R" Koger, who proceeded to do nothing obviously wrong and then caught a seam route touchdown. If they're going to burn a redshirt, it might as well be for a 30-yard touchdown, and since he doesn't seem appreciably worse than either of the two nominal starters I say let it ride.
- This is what I am talking about with the "It's Great To Be A Michigan Wolverine" chant. It should be kept in reserve for Events.
- I'm sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but if you booed the team you're an asshat. You wear asses for hats. Yes, you may have the purchased the right to boo your asshat-wearing heads off, but you are also taking your frustration out on a team that's obviously trying really hard but just kind of sucks from time to time. Booing the coaches is your excuse? Don't care, the players couldn't tell, and now they probably think we're all asshats because of you. You have a "right" to boo. You also have the right to give your grandmother the finger and call her a harlot.
- The block M in the student section was not epic fail but it did look a little squat from my vantage point.
- What is the point of replay if they aren't going to overturn that ridiculous Wisconsin "reception" in the fourth quarter? Even the Wisconsin fans in our section thought that was a terrible call.
- As I was walking home these guys behind me were having an extended conversation about how Rodriguez was dumb to go for two. One: they were wrong. Two: seriously? Seriously this is what you're focusing on instead of one of the best games in Michigan Stadium history? It must suck to be those guys.
- Those guys at the 1997 OSU game: "It should never have been that close."
- Those guys at the birth of their children: "he has a disappointingly shaped head, did you have to push so hard?"
- Those guys in the space machine vortex thingy from Contact: "you should have sent a poet. I'm just a guy who has no understanding of game theory. I'm not even enjoying this because I don't have someone belting out quatrains about these stupid galaxies."
*(Also made from the free programs. Those things are clutch when you're ten.)
Game column coming.
There's been a lot of debate in the aftermath of the Wisconsin game about whether or not Rodriguez made the right call after Johnny Thompson's interception return touchdown put Michigan up 20-19 with about ten minutes left.
The answer: absolutely, and it's not close. Let's break it down into three scenarios:
YOU GET TWO. Okay, you're up three, which means a field goal ties the game instead of winning it.
YOU GET ONE. Field goal means you lose. If you score another touchdown you have a likely-impregnable two score lead.
YOU GET ZERO. Field goal means you lose; if you score another touchdown Wisconsin can tie the game by scoring their own touchdown and going for two.
You can cancel a lot of stuff out because there are only two realistic scenarios in which the go-for-two situation is relevant: one UW field goal or a touchdown for each team and a Wisconsin two-point conversion. In all other cases outside of bizarroland, the decision doesn't matter.
At the time Rodriguez was trying to decide whether or not to go, Michigan had about 180 yards of total offense. Virtually all of that came on two inexplicable long touchdown drives; on Michigan's other ten drives they collected one first down and 31 total yards.
Wisconsin, meanwhile, had been gifted five first-half turnovers and largely squandered them. They had 248 yards of offense on 14 drives. They were averaging 18 yards every time they got the ball, and only had the points they did due to Michigan's largesse and a huge number of opportunities.
This was not exactly that 54-51 Northwestern game, where you were virtually guaranteed to see the opponent skate down the field and punch the ball in. This was a defensive slugfest between two teams heavily biased to the run, and it would take a highly unusual event like Dual Threet loping 60 yards with the Wisconsin secondary in tow to make the difference between one and zero even moderately relevant.
This is in fact what happened, but since Rich Rodriguez isn't the Kwisatz Haderach he didn't know what the future held in store and did the obvious thing: attempt to keep a field goal from beating you. Protesting that "you don't know what's going to happen" is weak sauce when you've got a pretty good idea that scenario A is far less likely than scenario B.
Anyone who disagrees is more than welcome to email me with invitations to high-stakes poker games.
I have no idea why this is happening in IE7:
Does anyone out there know? It disappears after you click around a bit. Please email me if you do; I've been looking at it forever and can't figure it out.
My suggestion to anyone getting this: click on a diary entry and then click back. I think that might work.
Update: a couple readers sent in fixes; I think this issue should be dead now.
If you're unfamiliar with the situation on these please check out the Live Blog Chaos Mitigation Post; action should get started around 3 PM.