I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
First, if you care about that last play in the Minnesota game I suggest you check the comments on yesterday's voracity. There's a lot of intelligent discussion (much of it disagreeing with me) about the play and exactly what the problems were. I still hold to my belief that the call was a major coaching mistake above all, but you can read both sides and decide for yourself.
I have to be faster because people keep "stealing" my obvious column ideas. Offtackle beats me to the halfway point punch with six reasons Michigan has done poorly. I agree that QB play and the Long injury have been major problems but I think the problem on defense hasn't so much been tackling as extremely poor play by the outside linebackers, who have all too frequently tried to run around blocks instead of taking them on and have let running backs escape contain with disturbing frequency. And who knows what's going on with Breaston? Crap crap crap crap great game. Is it injury or is he just not as good as we thought? Probably some of both.
The Athletic Department, in the hunt for funding for new stadium renovations, has floated the idea of building a new level of indoor luxury seating, a proposal that while potentially lucrative, risks irreparably altering the face of the Big House as we've come to know it. Athletic Director Bill Martin, in weighing different alternatives to offset construction costs, should consider the stadium's structural and commercial integrity as nothing less than sacrosanct.
(Someone hit the author with "Elements of Style" before he writes again.) I'm all for removing the head of the first AD who approves that advertising in Michigan Stadium and placing it on a pike on Stadium as a warning to others who would be so foolhardy, but I don't get this. If people want to pay an insane amount of money to sit very far away from the game, we should encourage them. Luxury boxes will help shift the burden of funding Michigan Athletics towards the people with enough disposable income to purchase a small island and away from people like, well, me. They'll also get some of the ancient, silent people who actively detract from the atmosphere of the stadium into a quarantined place where they can no longer ask me to sit on third and five in the fourth quarter. How is getting rid of several thousand of these people going to hurt anything? The idea that Michigan Stadium--where the new PSLs have made seats between the twenties approximately twice as expensive as endzone seats, where the only way to get said seats is to donate a metric buttload of money to the athletic department--is somehow an egalitarian place where Downriver Bob in his Red Wings pleather jacket and Grosse Point Bunny in her mink stoal commune as one with the football team found therein is, uh, interesting. Bring on the rich old people bilking-machines, I say! Huzzah!
My only concern with the proposed renovations is they put a fairly hard cap on the ultimate seating capacity of the stadium--personally I would add a dozen or so rows to the top of the stadium before sealing the sides off with relatively immobile luxury/press boxes. I'm talking Maracana here. Screw this "largest crowd watching a football game in America" stuff. I want "largest crowd watching anything in the Solar System."
The BCS could be only one of its annual train wrecks away from going directly to some sort of a playoff system.
At least that's the view of BCS coordinator and Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg.
"If the majority of the folks agreed to take a look at something like that, it could possibly happen," Weiberg said. "It's hard to predict what would trigger our presidents changing their minds about the structure.
"But, if we have another year with three major teams unbeaten and one left out of the championship game or some additional situation, that could cause folks to at least think about it."
In hindsight this extra-bowl-a-week-after thing does look mighty convenient. The idea of a college football playoff has been beaten to death, reanimated, and then beaten to death again in this space, so I'll skip it this time. But: yay.
Hurray, that's the poll hurray. If you're interested, you can see all the individual ballots here.
It's old school time in the BlogPoll with Penn State and UCLA joining Alabama in (or very near) the top ten. Penn State gained almost as many poll slots as they did yards this weekend, but they are 6-0 for the first time since Joe Paterno was creepily alive instead of creepily undead. We have a definite top 6 this week--there's a cliff after 'Bama--as well as a definite top 12--another cliff after Florida.
The Nittany Lions should be on full... ugh... upset alert in Ann Arbor this weekend (even though the bookies have installed Michigan as three point favorites) since Big Ten whackamole has gotten everyone except them so far. Will that help Michigan block Tamba Hali? Probably not.
Meanwhile, at the bottom of the poll people are so desperate for teams that Indiana and Baylor are getting votes--okay, they have nice records but whenever you're scouring the nation for the 25 best teams and either of those come up, you know you've found yourself in a year when college football has been a mess.
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.
As expected, the deviation is coming down as the games get played. OSU and UT, both teams with good defense, no offense, and two losses, top the charts this week, followed closely by weekly cipher Texas Tech, who managed to beat a probably not very good Nebraska team by the flukiest play of the year to date when a sealing interception was fumbled on the return. Tech has three creampuff wins, an okay win versus KU, and then the fluke against Nebraska... a lot of ground there to disagree on.
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 Texas Tech-affiliated blog Cheap Seats. Nothing really jumps out as strange until you get to Louisville at #12 but then you get some major disagreement with the poll at large: Miami slumming at #15, behind two-loss UT at #14, Iowa #19, Maryland #22, UTEP #24, etc.
Mr. Numb Existence is the Enlightened Spartan, who you should all fear as he's managed to bend reality to his will this year--save for one afternoon in Spartan Stadium. He apparently expects MSU to lose this weekend versus OSU, having the Bucks just a single space in front of the Spartans.
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 Fresno State blogger MDG, who has the unranked-at-large Bulldogs at #18. Personally, I left Fresno State off my ballot without really considering their body of work, which is worthy of consideration. They nuked a decent Toledo team and dropped a very close one to #20 Oregon. I think there's a case for the Bulldogs if they continue to win before their matchup with (gasp) USC.
The Straight Bangin' Award has a truly SB-worthy margin this week from Tennessee blogger I Know College Football, who dropped the punchless Vols from his ballot entirely (natch). The Michigan bloggers commiserate.
Swing is essentially 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.
Swing doesn't work. Apologies; I find myself fairly busy during the season. When I can find time to fix it I will.
Comments welcomed, as always.
|1||Southern Cal||Wavering a little bit here but Texas' marquee win over OSU is losing luster by the week.|
|2||Texas||I am required by law to include the words "monkey" and "back" and "off" in this section of the poll. So: BACK OFF, MONKEY!|
|3||Virginia Tech||What should have been a functional DNP against Marshall was close for a half, but given that their offense has always been bad I don't think it's particularly surprising or troubling.|
|4||Georgia||Okay. I'm a believer. Watching UGA throttle the Vols was impressive. There are a large number of giant angry defensive linemen in the SEC this year and Georgia appears to be playing 13 of them at once.|
|6||Florida State||Again a supposed functional DNP goes somewhat awry.|
|7||Miami||Functional DNP vs. Duke.|
|10||Florida||Another wobbly day at the office for Leak.|
|11||Penn State||The offense is a tiny increment better and the defense is just as good, so Penn State is squeaking out wins instead of losses this year.|
|12||UCLA||Largely unsure of exactly what to do with these teams.|
|13||LSU||Functional DNP vs. Vandy. Sorry Vandy, but you lost to MTSU: functional DNP you are once more.|
|14||Boston College||Beat UVA soundly.|
|15||Cal||Shoulda won. Did not.|
|16||Ohio State||Ohio State was the one team I pegged exactly: despite Troy Smith's heroics against Michigan he's a far below average DI QB, and he's wasting Holmes, Ginn, and a spectacular defense all by himself.|
|17||Minnesota||I want chicken, I want liver, meow mix meow mix please deliver.|
|19||Wisconsin||51 points to Northwestern. 42 points to BGSU. Michigan scores 20. Ugh.|
|20||Texas Tech||Fluky win over a flukily undefeated team.|
|21||Louisville||Crushed a not-awful UNC team.|
|22||Oregon||Er... now is the time on BlogPoll when we grab whoever's left.|
|23||Tennessee||Utterly dominated by Georgia.|
|24||Colorado||Put the nail in the A&M coffin; only loss to #7 Miami.|
|25||Georgia Tech||It's either them or some mid-major, and they have three wins over not bad teams, including Auburn, and one shoulda-won against NCSU. It's unfortunate that the Golden Tornado/DJL detente had harsh reality intervene.|
Dropped Out: Arizona State (#11, "a third loss will be met with harsh reassessment"), Michigan (#24)
Games I Saw: Michigan-Minnesota; PSU-OSU; UT-UGA; last bit of GT-NCSU
Help Requested: What should I do with Cal and UCLA? Any better suggestions for the tail end of the poll?
Update: Commenters make cases for UCLA and PSU so they rise a bit at the expense of LSU and BC.
Cathartic or something. IBFC has a clip of the deadly third down. You can see what happened for yourself. Vijay breaks it down very well, so I won't go into tremendous detail. Run over there and read it for yourself, then come back...
doGsinairB: OMG U R soooo dumb MannMann1997
MannMann1997: LOL thn why am i defnsive cooordinator n u r not
doGsinairB: UR such a homo. man+man = homo.
Okay. If you want to assign blame (and you do), #1 is Jim Herrmann, who lined up his players in a fundamentally flawed, excessively aggressive alignment, #2 is Prescott Burgess, who lost contain two seconds after the ball was snapped, and #3 is Chris Graham, who shot up into an interior hole and thus left the outside open. The sad part is that Alan Branch makes a great play but just can't make it outside to tackle. You can't blame Mason, who correctly forced the runner inside of himself, but it was all for naught.
What to do about Herrmann? The guy sits back on every third and long, rushing three, when Minnesota wants to convert them and then when Minnesota is clearly playing for overtime he calls a fundamentally unsound blitz that pulls any sort of safety help away from the run to the short side that the defensive alignment obviously invites. Michigan set up in a 3-3 nickel with Burgess--an undersized SAM--lined up as the strongside DE, taking on a tight end who outweighs him by 50 pounds, and Michigan's best linebacker (Harris) and defensive linemen (Woodley, Watson) lined up on the weak side of the formation, ready to attack the run to the wide side which never comes.
What an absolutely arrogant call! Michigan lines up as if to say "don't run here," thinking they've outsmarted the Gopher offense, and then calls a blitz from that side of the formation, abandoning the last, disaster-preventing line of defense on the short side of the field, as if there was no possibility that the Gophers might recognize the blatant overload and attack the defense's weak point. If there was ever a time to send in a base nickel formation and drop seven, this was it--who blitzes on third and ten when you know a run is coming? The point is to get the stop, and the probabilities of doing so are greatly increased when you don't blitz. There was no advantage to blitzing; we saw the disadvantage unfold in front of our eyes. This is a clear instance of brain-dead coaching, combined with two bad plays from the linebackers, costing us a game.
Yeah, Jim Herrmann coaches the linebackers, too.
"After watching it, we had some guys kind of loafing,'' cornerback Leon Hall said Monday, two days after Minnesota's 23-20 win.
"The guys that were loafing, they know,'' Hall later added. "I'm sure they're down on themselves about it."
That's a really strange statement. Graham made a bad decision. Everyone else was out of position because of the playcall except Burgess, who I think screwed up, but I don't think there's any indication of loafing. Were it so simple.
I highly recommend the Big Ten basketball season preview being assembled by Hawkeye Hoops. He's got Minnesota up and more are on the way. You will be notified when Michigan shows.
Tempting... I'm trying to not uselessly bash media people--bad for the image, dontchaknow--but when Deadspin posts something like this in its ongoing series "Why Your Hometown Columnist Sucks," it's like walking out of an AA meeting and into Oktoberfest. Must... not... write... DrewSharpequivalent SPOCK! So dead on:
It's not so much that American newspaper editors want to employ mean-spirited sports columnists such as Bill Conlin; we're pretty sure it's the law. How else would one explain it? Every large paper seems to have its resident sports bastard.
And the reasons why are mystifying. They get ratings, I guess--anyone reading RJYH's passages about 'Bama public enemy #1 Paul Finebaum knows that well--but they also engender a deep distaste. Though St. John manages to humanize Finebaum by following him around on a 'Bama football Saturday when the threat of violence against him is palpable, I found little sympathy in my heart for a man who's consciously chosen to piss off a state full of people in exchange for money and notoriety, who's built an entire career out of gleeful, cynical schadenfreude. It would be different if people like Sharp or Conlin or Finebaum gave a damn about the teams they berate--there's something endearing about watching Joey short-circuit like Johnny Five--but they don't.
If you're going to do it, do it right.
DO bitch about Lloyd Carr playing his tight end with a cast on his hand simply because he's a senior. He can't block or catch.
DON'T bitch about Carr not playing Grady or Martin against Minnesota. Mike Hart didn't have an excessive number of carries and is obviously better than his backups. Given the overall crappiness of our offense we can't afford to yank Hart just because backup want a lolly.
DO bitch about the offensive line's complete inability to drive block a team of small children. There is no such thing as "push" on our offensive line unless we're playing MAC teams. Hart is our most effective runner because he's very effective running draws and can pick his way through tiny holes--which are the only holes available.
DON'T bitch about the Riley/Kolodziej combo at RT singlehandedly dragging our offense down. Long is out; Riley is a guard who is playing injured; Kolodziej had a mysterious illness that forced him to the hospital for a number of days and prevented him from practicing for a month. There's just no way any team could take those sorts of hits and still get anywhere near competent production from that position.
DO bitch about Carr's occasional ridiculous expectation-scorning decisions made because of a tiny chance of a big play, e.g., the pooched kickoff after Minnesota's good return in the second half last week. You can also bitch about Carr's thoroughly mediocre understanding of clock management.
I dunno; ask Google.
DON'T bitch about Carr's excessively conservative second-half playcalling costing us games. The ND, UW, and MSU games all opened up the second half with Henne throwing the ball, usually inaccurately or into the hands of the opponent. He's also gone for it on all the fourth downs he should have--it's actually been a radical improvement. Unfortunately it hasn't resulted in anything positive.
DO bitch about how there's no particular reason that Chad Henne should be getting so much slack from the coaches. Unless Gutierrez is simply incapable of playing, he should have made an appearance at some point in the UW or Minnesota games when it became clear that Henne was out of it.
DON'T bitch about how we never throw it over the middle. The routes in the passing game have been good enough to get guys open just fine. It's always easier to pick your spots along the sideline since most defenses have safeties patrolling the deep middle.
DO bitch about how our outside linebackers have absolutely no idea how to keep contain, or tackle, or take an angle, or shed a block.
DON'T bitch about David Harris.
DO bitch about how Jim Herrmann's affection for Charmin-soft zone defenses paired with three or four man rushes has made third and long an easy conversion for most of our opponents.
DON'T... no, I have nothing to defend the defensive playcalling, which has crumbled at every moment it's really been needed, sat in obvious, flaccid zones for the majority of the year and hasn't kept a single opposing ballcarrier under 100 yards other than EMU's cast of invalids and the Michigan State three-headed monster.
DO express concern about the state of the program and its direction.
DON'T puff yourself up as an insider and then drop vague hints about discontent within the program and double standards unless you're prepared to back it up with details. Otherwise you're okay with sounding like a petulant child.
So, a clarification... I've been kicking around an "Ethics of MGoBlog" post for a while that hasn't quite materialized yet, but now seems like a good time to delineate a particular portion of said ethics: I won't detatch emotionally from the football team and use it as a punching bag to minimize whatever issues I'm having with our Alamo Bowl-bound (at best) warrior-poets. That's a cop-out. I'm here. I'm posting UFR for the rest of the season. I'm talking frankly about the relative gaywaddery of the team in no uncertain terms.
It will be okay. As I exited the stadium after the 30-17 Iowa win last year I witnessed a strangely moving scene between some Iowa frat boys wearing football-theme frat T-shirt prominently featuring the phrase "GIT R DUN." One of them was in full hangdog mode. His buddy said softly "it's only football, man," and put his arm around his friend in a non-ironic, genuinely comforting way that--given the general attitudes of frat boys towards male-on-male touching--completely put the lie to his statement.
So: it's just football. Those of you who are freaking out, disconnecting, and generally saying things that will be regretted later even if their dire predictions turn out to be entirely correct, console yourselves: it's only football. It is only football; repeat until sedated. Release upon temporally nearest major, soul-freeing victory.
Anyway. On with the show.
Mmmph. I said this in regards to the MSU flag-planting:
I would hate whatever team did that at Michigan Stadium, but I would *love* hating them for doing it. It would make my hate strong, and I love having my hate strong.
The Gophers then did this:
Now I say this: I would also love to hate the fact that Mike Hart stubbed his toe in garbage time of next year's national championship game. Are you there, God? It's me, Brian.
Also I say that there is a critical difference here. Michigan State's flag stunt came after five straight victories at Notre Dame. Minnesota last beat Michigan in 1986, back when Abraham Lincoln was still the nation's top dinosaur hunter. State's stunt was funny, relatively original, and apropos. The Gopher stunt is just sad. As Seinfeld would say, I'm offended as a comedian. Enjoy the Jug, kids. Maybe your grandkids will see it again one day.
Meanwhile, why is it that when Michigan loses to Minnesota I have to delete useless comments from Notre Dame fans instead of Minnesota fans?
You know, in the sports bar I watched the game there were 10 other guys watching too. It could have been that they were just too drunk to do anything else, and it could have been that they liked football in general. But it seemed like they were rooting for
, and when they lost it was like none of them were surprised. Well, that makes 11 of us. Michigan
But perhaps the question I haven't asked enough is how many times in a game like this do I stop and say, of Terry Malone's calls, "Wow, that was a great play call there." or "that was the perfect play ... caught them off guard"?
"Hey, Gophers! Hey Gophers! Go eat some more weeds!" (note: as the gopher's diet does consist of a wide variety of vegetation, this chant was surprsingly accurate)
It's not just Carr. During Sunday's Baltimore-Detroit game, a total self-destruction thing for the Ravens and their nigh-NFL-record number of penalties, Detroit was the recipient of not one but two personal foul penalties after an extra point. As a result they kicked off from the Baltimore 40. Instead of attempting an onside kick that would have ended up with the Ravens at their 30 at best, Jason Hanson kicked it through the uprights for a touchback. Not that it really mattered, given Baltimore's impression of the VIBE awards, but Steve Mariucci continues to fall on the gym teacher side of the coach scale.
Dear Detroit News, I know that college hockey is not A1 on the importance scale, but there's no one named "Matt Hensick." The name you're looking for is Hunwick.
Also with the skating and the shooting and the red lights, CSTV's resuming their "Tuesdays at the Rink" series of Internet chats. Tomorrow at 2 they'll have color guy Dave Starman on. Starman saw Michigan up close and personal at the Quinnipiac game on Friday; perhaps if you ask him something about the kids and if they are all right he'll respond with an interesting tidbit or two.
Personally, I was impressed with Tim Miller, who was rough and ready all weekend, then capped it off with a sweet pass he flicked through his own legs that created a scoring chance. Also, the fact that Jack Johnson can shoot it hard and low from anywhere on the ice in any position is kind of totally awesome.