"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
Hockey-izing. Michigan takes on Michigan State in a home-and-home this weekend and desperately needs a sweep to keep on any sort of pace for the NCAA tournament. Fortunately, Michigan State looks far more obliging this year when it comes to that sort of thing:
MSU is 10th place in the CCHA with an overall record of 4-9-3 and a conference record of 2-6-2-2. They haven't won a game since Halloween night when they beat WMU 3-1. Since then they lost seven in a row, bookended by two ties. Before exploding for four goals in a 4-4 tie against Minnesota, the Spartans had scored 0, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1 goal in their last seven games. It's like they're starting Billy Sauer in net every night. They've scored more than 2 goals just three times this season.
Hogan will play Friday and if things go well is expected to get the start Saturday.
If you're interested in going to Munn, there are huge numbers of tickets still available. I will be in attendance.
Looking a little farther down the road than this weekend: Matt Rust and Aaron Palushaj have been selected to the USA World Junior Championship team and will miss the GLI. Michigan takes on Tech in the first round and either State or North Dakota in the second. Also, Steve Kampfer's return looks to be sooner than anyone expected:
Junior defenseman Steve Kampfer is back skating with the team and could return by the Great Lakes Invitational according to The Wolverine. Kampfer had said a few weeks ago that he was about a month from being full strength and that any decision to return to the team was in the hands of head coach Red Berenson.
That would put his return in early January, which would be great. Given Michigan's scoring struggles it also might mean a return of Chris Summers to forward.
Scapegoatin'? People have been muttering about a potential change at defensive coordinator ever since Justin Siller turned Michigan's secondary into Swiss cheese, and this might be an indication the mutterings have some validity:
Miami (OH): We hear that Michigan defensive coordinator Scott Shafer is interested in the Miami (OH) head coaching position.
That's from "Football Scoop," which is a website I've never heard of and may not be credible. I tend to give any site that reports on the fate of schools from Michigan to Eureka College the benefit of the doubt.
There have been some rumors—nothing solid—suggesting that Shafer was not likely to be back next year; this could be a symptom of that. For the record, I remain ambivalent about a potential change.
Rick Leach. No one in associated with the program has been more publicly supportive of Rich Rodriguez than Rick Leach, and here's another example:
“I’ll make you a promise before I go,” he said. “My promise to you is, I know that day’s coming. Maybe you had your fun and got your pound of flesh out of Michigan after 33 years. I don’t care if it’s Mark Dantonio, Charlie Weis or - you better believe it - Jim Tressel. Your freakin’ day is coming.”
This will draw immediate comparisons to Charlie Weis' statement last year that people should "have their fun now" (or, if you're Syracuse, in the future) but here it's a loose cannon ex-quarterback and not, like, the freakin' head coach.
Not a good week for Michigan State receivers. Remember Charles Rogers? Yeah:
Jail records show the 28-year-old Rogers has been locked up since Wednesday.
I still think Plaxico wins.
So, the football bust was last night and word has spread that a few players weren't present: Carson Butler, Avery Horn, and Sam McGuffie. This is obviously a sign they won't be around next year. Some brief words on their status.
A couple sources suggested Butler was the guy who Rodriguez mentioned had not been present at the first team meeting after the season. Supposedly he was part of that flareup on the sidelines in the Ohio State game and challenged Rodriguez to an honor du-el or threatened to St. Valentines Day Nerd Massacre him or something. That sounds farfetched but I've heard the exact same story from two different sources. Butler was already hanging by a thread under Carr and quickly found himself in Rodriguez's doghouse for, you know, never blocking anyone.
Personal opinion on his departure: extremely likely.
Horn got to return like one kickoff the whole year even when two or three of the running backs in front of him were out. The writing is on the wall; I haven't heard anything specific on his status but a playing time transfer (Fresno State?) would make a lot of sense.
McGuffie. Hey, this electrical socket seems fun to stick my hand into. Ouch. Let's do it again!
So, yeah: yesterday Tom got a couple of independent reports that McGuffie was out again, and then came this bust thing. I think he's gone this time, and also expect him to change his mind fifteen minutes after this post goes up.
If that's the whole flood of transfers—and these remain unconfirmed—Michigan got off easy. Other than McGuffie, the guys leaving (Babb, Chambers, Horn, Butler) were noncontributors. Babb and Butler did play a bit, but not well, and it was clear the staff was looking for better options.
Chambers was a potential contributor at safety or linebacker and his departure does thin the ranks at an already thin position, and McGuffie showed potential before his concussions.
Okay: we are in MGoBlog's annual season-over-I'm-burned-out period. Posting slows and for the next few weeks you're not going to get many 5000 word exegeses; I will get the OSU UFR done sometime before Christmas.
At that point I'll look towards the summer and various improvements that can be made to the blog. Last year's project was the move off blogspot to the current digs. This year's projects are still up in the air.
A list of things under consideration:
- The addition of a rating system for diaries and posters in general that will bubble high-rated things up to more prominent positions and bury low-rated ones.
- More prominent access to diaries and the like; a better page for each user.
- Creating a full-fledged recruiting wiki.
- Similar to the above, adding in player pages and so forth.
- A revamp of the comment system.
- Improving the interface for posting diaries and comments.
- Fixing the stupid bug that never sends emails to some people who register.
A couple things I'm committed do doing:
- Restoring tags to all the posts moved over from blogger and all the posts from this season I was too lazy to tag because Drupal made it a pain to do so from Windows Live Writer.
- Creating a local streaming video solution so I can host UFR clips without someone shutting an account down.
I know there were a number of complaints when the site first launched but I figured a good portion of them were just the natural tendency to hate change; anything that's still bothering you is an issue. If you've got something you're wishing for, leave a comment or send me an email and I'll add it somewhere on the list.
Oh, yeah: how is the performance of the site? It seems slow to me but has gotten better of late. Is it a problem for people?
12/3/2008 – Michigan 70, Maryland 75 – 5-2
Well, they lost, but they did so in encouraging fashion. This is the place Michigan basketball finds itself in ten years after its last tourney appearance: losses to meh ACC squads—no one really expects Maryland to make the tourney—are signs of encouragement. Eh… I'm okay with that.
I hardly remember a good Michigan basketball team. I remember sitting in a couch stolen from the South Quad lobby and watching three-seed Michigan lose to UCLA in the second round, and then it's a black hole of Dom Ingerson and Pete Vignier and Maurice Searight and Courtney Sims and so forth and so on. Even that one year in which they looked pretty good and briefly led the Big Ten was followed by an epic, tourney-bid crushing collapse down the stretch. At work I listened to Michigan lose their first-round Big Ten tournament game to Minnesota, at one point giving up four straight fast-break buckets off turnovers.
And, honestly, I hated that 1998 team even before it became clear that Taylor, Traylor, and Bullock were strangling the program by taking money from a guy they had been explicitly told to avoid. Taylor was a sullen loafer who would become the NBA's worst-rebounding power forward; Traylor would lose 50 pounds right before the draft in order to get some idiotic team to pick him, then immediately gain it all back after he got that cheddar.
It was little surprise he was convicted of tax fraud for helping a drug dealer launder money. These guys were hard to root for even when they won, and that broken backboard picture is a perfect metaphor for what they did to the program: it's pretty now, but picking up the shards is going to be long, bloody work.
I haven't actually liked a Michigan basketball team since Jalen Rose was around. So I sort of like these guys and they might be sort of okay, and this seems just fine to me.
Last year Michigan lost for a lot of reasons, from terrible fundamentals to lack of talent to walk-on point guards. The walk-ons remain, but just for another three games. The fundamentals are better. The lack of talent remains apparent at certain spots in the rotation.
Add it up and you get a really fringe NCAA team that needed a couple of lucky games to slide in as a ten seed. They managed to get one against UCLA, and entered the second half against Maryland up six, opportunity beckoning. The NCAA tournament lay prostrate, saying "just finish this off and go .500 in the Big Ten and you can make a brief, unsuccessful appearance in me." Michael Scott materialized and exclaimed "that's what she said!" Two minutes later Michigan recovered from the shock naturally caused by the spontaneous appearance of a fictional character; they were down five and couldn't dig out.
This happened last year, too: I remember a competitive game with Boston College that went horribly awry early in the second half. That game got blown open, though, and this one see-sawed between one and four points for most of the second half until Maryland got a dagger three with the clock winding under three minutes. They stuck close, and had a chance. Having a chance is the difference between 10-22 and the NIT; taking it was the difference between the NIT and the NCAAs.
And I'm okay with that. The team is going in the right direction and there is a guy who wears 0 and another one who looks like Spock and another one who will probably play in the NBA but, like, be a good rep for the program. Ben Cronin is going to be endearingly awkward for four years. And the tourney will beckon again.
- This is going to be a lot of complaints, I realize after I wrote the below, but I'd like to stress I'm totally on board with Beilein and if Manny returns next year that team should break the ignominious streak.
- I'm sure this is a shared concern: what is with Beilein's rotation? David Merritt is a walk-on for a reason and Kelvin Grady is the perfect sort of point guard to break a press without a sweat. Grady should have seen like 35 minutes with Merritt coming in only when Grady's dead.
- Similarly, Anthony Wright killed us in the first five or six minutes, launching up a torrent of errant threes and making poor decisions. With Jevohn Shepard looking like a functional basketball player—which is a Beilein-induced miracle, I say—he should be getting Wright's minutes.
- …or Stu Douglass should. He was largely benched, as far as I could tell. (I watched the game at a bar because no one gets ESPNU.)
- Speaking of Douglass, does he have Spock hair or what?
Sorry I couldn't find a better picture, but check it out the next time you see a game. Kid's hair is way Vulcan. I am going to shout "highly illogical" whenever he makes a ridiculous three.
- After a few games of looking useless, Novak has really come around. Douglass and Novak are the kind of kids successful mid-majors are built around. Either one of them could play for Butler and one might pan out to be that scrappy 12-seed's best player as a senior. This is night and day from Amaker, who grabbed unheralded recruits like Ron Coleman and Jerrett Smith and Wright (who didn't even start for his high school team!) and saw them play like the kind of kids D-II teams use as role players: Smith is Grand Valley State's seventh-leading scorer and has an A:TO ratio of 19:17.
- Assuming a loss to Duke, the next major event on the schedule is the debut of Laval Lucas-Perry. If he's as good as advertised Michigan just might eke that tourney bid, as he'll be sucking minutes away from walk-ons. The leap to a functional player who looked pretty good as a freshman at Arizona should be vast.
- Damn you, Ekpe Udoh's AAU coach.
Why? There are certain things that burn themselves into your brain and never leave. These are unusual events, like a punt return touchdown against Ohio State or your brother setting his pillow on fire. Usually they don't involve charts:
What is this a chart of? Rick Reilly's dental jokes per year. It is part of an extensive article by Josh Levin that contains perhaps the most pointless project ever undertaken by man:
As a service to sportswriting and dentistry aficionados, I've compiled all of Reilly's tooth jokes on a single page, with a link to the relevant story when available.
I… what do you even say? I spend my life dissecting college football in minute detail and at some point I laughed out loud and asked "why? why would you do this?" One thousand cocktails to Levin.
Basketballin'. Michigan-Maryland at 7:30 tonight on ESPNU, which no one gets. I assume someone will ask for streaming info on the board and someone else will provide it, so if you're like most of America and don't have ESPNU you can watch it on the computer.
Assuming Michigan doesn't get any additional Savannah State-like scares from the smaller teams on the schedule, the upcoming game against Maryland looms as perhaps the biggest of the year. Win and you're likely to hit the conference schedule with just two losses, both to Duke, and the scalps of Maryland and UCLA. A .500 conference record probably gets Michigan in the tourney. Lose and you're probably going to have to go 10-8, which seems doubtful.
Oh, I guess they could beat Duke. But probably not.
While we're on the subject of Duke, this should be fun:
Jay Bilas, a former Duke player, is going to be the color commentator for Michigan's game against Duke on Saturday.
Over/under on patently false accusations Amaker wasn't given sufficient opportunity at Michigan is set at two.
LOL. A Scout headline($):
Muschamp to Visit Hicks in Ohio
Coach rotation? Brian Kelly is staying at UC? And they're renovating Nippert* Stadium? Charlie Weis is staying at Notre Dame? Is anyone hiring, firing, or accepting a coaching job going to make a decision that makes sense this year?
On the Weis thing: as mentioned, I'm torn. Weis has recruited a ton of talent over the past two years (his first real class has mostly washed out, with a number of four-star guys transferring) and eventually you figure Notre Dame is going to get results from it. Better to have Weis in charge than someone who's demonstrated an aptitude for anything other than recruiting, I guess. And if they struggle to 8-4 next year you'd have to imagine it will be tough for a coaching staff on terribly shaky ground to bring in more guys.
OTOH, Weis getting canned might have gotten Michigan a recruit or two and accelerated a critical building process as Rodriguez tries to stay ahead of the executioner's axe. And I generally root for chaos at rivals because unstable programs are bad ones, consistently. If Brian Kelly isn't an option there are precious few available coaches who strike me as fearsome. There's no Urban out there, and programs like Tennessee are reaching for guys like Lane Kiffin. Maybe next year someone will emerge.
*(Whenever anyone mentions "Nippert Stadium" I'm reminded of that scene in Christmas Vacation wherein Chevy Chase unleashes a torrent of accidental innuendos at a hot chick in the mall.)
Etc.: Smart Football on the Urban Meyer offense; some references to Rodriguez. A recap of the WLA-RBUAS mini-war from an unaffiliated source. Former Michigan safety Vada Murray has lung cancer. (HT: Spawn of MZone.)
To what extent do you think Paul Johnson's success this year implementing his option offense at Georgia Tech was a product of his coaching ability? Do you think RichRod could have had the success that Johnson had at Georgia Tech? Or would Johnson have had a better season for Michigan this year than RichRod did? While I have full confidence that RichRod will bring us to the promised land one day, I just don't see how you could completely attribute our season this year on lack of talent/players not meant for the system, when Johnson faced similar issues at Georgia Tech.
Thanks for considering the question,
I can't properly answer these questions without doing an in-depth survey of Georgia Tech's recruiting and retention similar to the one I did for Michigan in the "what talent?" post, and I'm not inclined to do that. I know, however, that a large part of Johnson's success is this guy:
That's Josh Nesbitt, and that lustful howl you hear is Mike Leach pining loud enough for you to hear thousands of miles away. (hhhhhyarrrr!)
Nesbitt was a linebacker-sized four-star dual threat quarterback in the class of 2007—he was part of the same class Steven Threet was. And while his year wasn't unbelievable or anything, grab him off GT and insert him into Michigan's starting lineup and how many more games do they win? Especially if you replace the Big Ten with the ACC and Notre Dame with Gardner-Webb?
Eh… probably three or four, which still brings them up short of GT's 9-3 record and status as likely the best team in the ACC. Paul Johnson's done a tremendous job and was an excellent hire.
Rodriguez… eh, not so much. I'd like to clarify my position on Rodriguez's culpability for this year's struggles: it's not "he has none." It's "I don't have any idea how much he has." I think there's a reasonable case to be made that this was a 3-9 team given the roster composition and injury situation under just about anyone. I can understand people who think that's being too kind.
What I do think: we're here now, down at 3-9, and Rodriguez has proven he can pull programs out the fire before. I'm pretty confident he can do it again.
This showed up in the inbox titled "Why I drink":
( The reader noted that a hat tip should go out to This Is Indexed.)
This is not relevant but I have to get it off my chest, as they say:
Brian, doesn't it seem like Tennessee is making the same mistakes that Nebraska, Notre Dame and Syracuse made by hiring NFL coaches? Lane Kiffin, really Vols? How did it come to this guy down in Knoxville?
Absolutely. What on earth made Lane Kiffin a hot coaching candidate? Even if you don't hold his tenure with the Raiders against him, and you probably shouldn't, you're hiring a guy whose main accomplishment was not screwing up USC's offense the year after Norm Chow left. Once the Chow-taught guys exited, USC's offense sank considerably.
His main assets are a reputed ability to recruit (which would be great if he was your offensive coordinator) and his 68-year-old father showing up as a defensive coordinator. Which, okay. How long, exactly, is Monte Kiffin going to keep coaching? Minnesota just made the same hire, basically, by picking Brewster. And I guess that's fine if you're Minnesota, but Tennessee should be able to get someone more proven.
Also stupid: Clemson hiring a WR coach instead of going on a search. The only program out there who seemed to know what they were doing was Syracuse, which was pursuing Chip Kelly, and now Kelly is the coach-in-waiting at Oregon so they're SOL. I don't understand why someone hasn't thrown stupid money at Brian Kelly, even if he is a legendary jerk.
Update: Clay Travis, Tennessee fan guy, is also kind of leery.