4/10/2008 - Michigan 4, Notre Dame 5 (OT) - end of season
During Billy Sauer's period of extreme incompetence at the beginning of his sophomore season, I figured out which of the parents in the Michigan section was Sauer's mother. There were hints -- she always sat next to a woman in a Sauer jersey, for one -- but the key "this is definitely her" event came when I made a sarcastic remark about Sauer and her head whipped around to identify the offender. We kept the volume of our sarcastic remarks down thereafter.
Our prior restraint was soon unnecessary. The sarcastic comments stopped once Sauer first reached competence and then exceeded it, but the presence of Sauer's mother remained something of a burden. Though I don't know what anyone else's parents look like except those of Jack Johnson -- for obvious reasons -- and Scooter Vaughn -- for equally obvious reasons -- I imagine they come off as less... severe.
Jack Johnson's dad had the time of his life at each and every game. While Mrs. Sauer may be a vibrant woman in the course of her everyday activities, at Yost she's always seemed grim and sad. This probably says more about being the mother of a goalie than her. I have made a mental note to never let hypothetical children of mine guard anything other hypothetical children are supposed to put balls or pucks past.
I find attempting to analyze hockey impossible. Football is discrete and measurable. It lends itself to charts. Basketball is in the early stages of a tempo-free statistical realignment. And baseball is a stat heaven. Statistically-minded hockey fans are out of luck. NHL fans can find shift-chart data and make some calculations about even-strength goals for and against. The next step is to take a player's opposition into account and normalize for strength of schedule, resulting in... a vague idea that a player is kinda good when averaged across hundreds of minutes. The idea of analyzing a single game is absurd. Pucks bounce.
The INCH podcast previewing the Frozen Four brought this point home. I listened to it and thought their analysis was pretty stupid, then attempted to improve it mentally, then failed at that, then was enraged by their Hockey East knob attempting to justify a Gerbe Hobey because "every great player" spears opponents to get an edge.
In contrast, I spent the week before the Ohio State game predicting that Vernon Gholston would obliterate Steve Schilling and Beanie Wells would grind out 200 yards on an excessive number of carries; this was (unfortunately) exactly right. But it's not the exactly right bit that matters: it's impossible to make a statement of that specificity about a hockey game without being ridiculous.
What are you supposed to say? "Watch out if Sauer lets in an early goal, freaks out, and lets in two goals so horrible you nickname them 'Nickelback' and 'Creed' because the furious comeback the team mounts in the next half-hour will see them tie the game but cost them their legs and cause them to lose in overtime"?
Hockey is a bitch, and makes the observer feel helpless. The observer is always helpless -- this is the definition of "observer" on a non-quantum level -- but the random number generator that produces goals emphasizes the general bloody-mindedness of the universe. If all sports fandom is a form of emotional gambling, football is poker and hockey is roulette. In the NCAA tournament said roulette comes with a gun and the appellation "Russian" -- how apropos -- and I'm terrified. Every time. I cannot function.
So I understand Billy Sauer pretty well, I think. I empathize. I wish I didn't.
We were exiting the arena in a herded mass, attempting to come to grips with what just happened. I saw a woman in a Sauer jersey ahead and was just perceiving the import of that, picking out the woman I've seen at Yost for three years, when I heard one of the people I was with sum up his opinion of the game.
She's probably overheard her share of nasty comments. She's definitely heard me say something meaner. This one was worse because it was matter-of-fact, evenly delivered, and indisputably true. It lacked hyperbole, utterly.
"Sauer dug them a hole they couldn't get out of."
She turned around. Her eyes looked bloodshot and tired as she scanned for the offender, then she gave up and moved off into the crowd with her husband.
- Remember how I spent a month advocating Notre Dame's inclusion in the tourney before the seventh and/or eighth WCHA team? Nevermind, bring on Mankato.
- I didn't have a great angle on the third ND goal, the backhand one, and kinda thought it might have picked out the top corner. Not so much:
- For both semifinal games the NCAA put the pep bands on the other side of the arena from their fans. WTF?
- North Dakota fans made a very strong showing; too bad their team did not follow suit. They had more fans than any other school, and even after getting housed a lot stuck around for the late game. Just about every BC fan left.
- I don't think I have to tell anyone this, but: as long as Jeff Jackson is around at Notre Dame they're going to be a good team. Jackson turned Dave Poulin's rag-tag bunch of losers into a tourney team and is now recruiting on a level better than anyone in the league save Michigan. He's 53.
- So we've got a decade of regular tourney appearances by ND on the docket. Miami's got a new Goggin and will not be going away any time soon. (Carter Camper say what!) The era of the Big Two and Little Ten in the CCHA is over, and not a moment too soon. I'm looking forward to more than four big conference games a year.
- You'd think something as heteronormative as all the men bellowing something and the women screeching in response could not possibly be gay, but the Notre Dame pep band would prove you wrong on that.
- Excellent turnout by Notre Dame fans -- better than BC. Could this be the turning point for Notre Dame hockey fan interest? They get the Cinderella tourney run complete with overtime victory over Michigan, then get beat by BC of all teams in the final. Carrot... carrot... STICK STICK STICK. It's a great way to get hooked.
Separate list of confirmed sightings.
One of the super-cool things about the Frozen Four is it acts as a community gathering for the entirety of college hockey, which is just big enough to pack an NHL rink and just small enough for everyone to fit inside.
Jerseys or other paraphenalia representing the following teams were located by myself or compatriots:
(all but UAA.)
(I'm sure there were some NMU/LSSU fans there, but we didn't make any contact.)
Providence (including one guy with a killer handlebar mustache)
What is the chance of us getting a prime time night game at U of M? There is a ton of exposure goes on with night games and the athletic department can't just sit and watch other schools take away that exposure. Now that Rich Rod is here is it more of a possibility?
I would assume that it's more of a possibility with Rodriguez around, as WVU was willing to play on a Tuesday at 3 AM if it got them on TV, but probably not a strong one. Rodriguez can change some things by fiat; this is not one of them. For evidence of this check the Michigan stadium renovation plans, which do not include lights.
The opposition to night games is an institutional and cultural one that won't go away overnight. The administration doesn't like the idea of a night game because
- Old people would fall asleep in the third quarter and maybe die from cold
- Young people would pass out in the third quarter and maybe die from drink, and
- Middle-aged people would get cranky about driving back to Chicago.
I wouldn't mind a night game or two, personally, but I understand the admin's reluctance. It's not like Michigan is suffering for television exposure.
One idea I think might work: pick a Big Ten opponent and play one night game every other when that opponent comes to town. That would provide said game with extra cachet and maybe amp up the stadium experience for that particular contest. Ideally, the team should be consistently good and not have any extant tradition or rivalry. This rules out Michigan State, Ohio State, Minnesota, Northwestern, and Indiana. Purdue... meh. Illinois must never get the impression that we care about them in any way whatsoever, so they're out. Candidates, then: Iowa, Penn State, and Wisconsin.
I have one question for you, regarding two certain web sites I think you have had plenty of experience with. Which site would you recommend subscribing to: Scout.com or Rivals.com? I only want to join one, and I am hoping you say the better site has the better mag as well.
I must confess to having considerably less experience with Scout than one might expect. I was briefly a subscriber there but let it lapse. (Subscribing to two separate recruiting websites is a bridge too far even for me.) Also, I've never gotten either site's magazine. I've leafed through a copy of The Wolverine or two and it seemed fine for something on "paper" or whatever you call it. From what I've gathered, Scout's mag is weak sauce that only exists so the U can't turn them down for press credentials and the like.
I do have some experience with both, and participate -- mostly lurk -- on a message board where opinions about the sites are often bantered. What follows is a combination of personal experience and the collected wisdom of said message board.
Scout and Rivals are extremely different sites. The Wolverine is amongst the most professional recruiting sites out there. Go Blue Wolverine is a cult. This isn't all bad for GBW, since the cult is based around Tom Beaver, the chief koolaid purveyor* in all of Wolverine land. Name a personality disorder and Beaver probably has it: megalomania, workaholism, ellipses fetishization, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder. Slightly over half of these are very annoying; the other half are useful. The end result is the premium message board at GBW, a "TJBlog"-laced minefield of unreadable crap, hero worship, outright speculation, and a really spectacularly annoying system of "percentages" wherein a wink-wink lock is "50.1" to Michigan and a no-way is "49.9" and it's just all very grating.
HOWEVA, within that minefield is more information than is generally provided at Rivals, for a given definition of "information." Occasionally GBW will be out ahead of a story; occasionally they'll be out ahead of a story and just be plain wrong, which cues another round of highly annoying recriminations. Eight now they've collected a set of program insiders and coaches who are providing a wide array of spring practice information that Rivals is getting a shadow of.
- Hockey coverage. Though much of it is free, it's much better than GBW's nearly nonexistent version of same and you should support it on principle if it's important to you.
- Prose. Rivals isn't David Foster Wallace but Beaver and the people he hires sometimes seem nearly illiterate.
- Software. Scout was programmed by gibbons and it's damn near impossible to navigate. Rivals has a more navigable, more usable site.
- Professionalism. This is a matter of taste. Rivals will let you read between the lines when they know a kid is going to commit to Michigan but not come right out and say it. The annoying hero-worship aspect that overwhelms at Scout is still present at Rivals but toned down.
- Big stories. Rivals killed Scout during both coaching searches. I think it's clear they're much closer to the administration. This is no surprise since Beaver lives in Texas, IIRC.
- Insiders. Often the best content on the premium sites is provided gratis by mysterious program insiders that just want to be internet heroes. With the dissolution of Fort Schembechler their importance is lessened in some ways (injuries and the like are no longer state secrets) but heightened in others (open practices attended by high school football coaches are a goldmine of information). Right now GBW has an array of guys providing their takes on what they've seen that outstrips Rivals' considerably.
- More updates. If you're the sort that needs to know what's going on NOW, NOW, NOW, NOW, and NOW, GBW is probably for you.
- They don't delete MGoBlog links on sight. I'm just sayin'.
Both sites have pretty weak basketball coverage.
What it comes down to is your tolerance for bad information and general stupidity versus your desire for every tidbit, dubious or not, you can scrounge about Michigan football. The choice is yours.
*(usage note: references to "koolaid" and the Jim Jones suicide cult have been driven into the mainstream by Jim Rome and his robot followers and now rank amongst the greatest crimes any sportswriter can commit, but in this case the metaphor is highly apt and must be used.)
- It's snowing like a mother; Saturday it will be 60.
- There is a woman on the local news actually named "Amelia Earheart," no foolies.
- This area of Denver is the designated convention-center type thing and is pretty cool, but a little weird: right next door to a candle shop is a payday loan place. And not two blocks from this shmancy Hyatt Regency is a ghetto pawn shop/dive bar area.
- A few people have inquiring about a potential beerfest; if you are so inclined our party will be retiring to the Wynkoop Brewing Company -- recommended by Starbucks baristas when prompted for a snooty microbrew bar -- after the game for the celebration/wake, as is appropriate. Map. I look sort of like this, except now more like a dirty hippie and less like a middle-aged housewife.
- I've got a couple mailbag questions answered so I might as well post 'em.
Avalanche. You can note on the right sidebar a number of new clip reels put up by Wolverine Historian recently. And there's more, oh, more. How about a five part retrospective on 1997?
Raise your hand if you're shocked. Mario Manningham attended UAB during his Michigan career, if you know what I mean:
After hiring an agent, however, Manningham showed up in better physical condition at his pro day and ran considerably faster. He also distributed a letter to NFL team officials admitting that he "wasn't straightforward" during team interviews at the Combine, had failed two drug tests while at the University of Michigan and apologized for any confusion he caused as a result of being "nervous and scared."
"I don't use marijuana anymore â€” and I have passed tests since," Manningham wrote in the letter. "I know what is at stake for me, and my career. I am learning what it is going to take to be a professional. I am writing this letter because I just want a fair evaluation, and I want to be accountable for my actions. I am willing to be re-interviewed, re-tested, and to undergo any evaluation any team wants me to undergo."
The way we hear it, Manningham, despite handling the situation poorly at the Combine with little guidance, is viewed as less of a character risk than Talib, who has been removed from more draft boards than Manningham, based on conversations PFW has had with nine NFL teams.
I guess now it can be told: multiple tipsters reported during the season that Manningham's suspension for the EMU game was the result of Manningham (and housemate Johnny Sears) getting evicted for blazing constantly.
Manningham's senior season was odd. Many Michigan fans crabbed about Manningham's demeanor, attitude, and production. While the first two items might have been legitimate issues, the third... uh...
Manningham also had 53 yards rushing on a combination of jet sweeps and technically backwards passes in the Florida game.
Bolded are the games piloted by Ryan "Whoops" Mallett; but for one 97-yard touchdown horrifically misplayed by a Wisconsin safety they -- when taken with two games in which Henne was doing his best Whoops impression** -- represent the only games of the year in which Manningham's total contributions were less than excellent. The only thing that held him back this year was incompetent quarterbacking.
If this is Mario's brain on drugs, whichever team drafts him should include a kilo of pot in his rookie contract. He's stoner Popeye.
*(post-apocalyptic oregon game)
**(one of those horrible games from Henne was due to a separated shoulder, duly noted.)
Oh, like, duh. This is as shocking as Mario Manningham's pot use. Re: AANews eighty-part investigative series launched in 1856:
Michigan notified the NCAA and the Big Ten about issues raised in the newspaper before the series was published, according to Kelly Cunningham, a university spokesperson.
A statement posted Tuesday on the university's Web site read, "Based on the university's extensive internal review and findings, neither the NCAA nor the Big Ten intend to pursue this matter."
And that's that.
It's like the Marines except with less Demi Moore, who wasn't even a Marine in that one movie but she was bald so close enough. Rodriguez apparently has a press conference every time Michigan practices or he has to make a sandwich. (MGoBlue is archiving the audio here.) In the latest, he was asked about the offensive linemen who have fled in terror:
"I don't know if it's so much about the style (of offense) the guys who stayed, they just like to work," Rodriguez said. "They don't mind being pushed and demanded to take themselves to a place they can't take themselves. You don't have to be a certain style or size of player to do that. You just really, really have to want to play."
Herein, I think, are the seeds of Rodriguez's success at West Virginia and a reason his behavioral outliers are Chris Henry-extreme. He's looking for people who are kind of deranged in the same way investment bankers or politicians are. Really driven people are often driven because they've been damaged in some way -- for evidence check any movie montage ever. Sometimes this turns into Owen Schmitt and other times you get Henry.
"I think we had a lot more guys interested in talking about how tough they are than showing it," Rodriguez added. "So we have to explain the difference to them. I didn't think it was a very good scrimmage. It wasn't a waste of time, because there are some things we can teach off of and all that. The intensity level that we expect to play at, it wasn't even in the same atmosphere."
It's redundant at this point to say "wow, there's a new sheriff around these parts!" but like... dude.
A small glimpse into one of the practices:
We are your sport-specific rulers. I ran across something called "Sports Tech Now" and what appears to be an attempt to order the top sports blogs based on different traffic metrics. I'm not sure what their methodology is -- it doesn't help that I can't figure out how they picked MGoBlog #10 because of the mirroring I've got going on with mgoblog.com -- but let's 1) assume they're right or right-ish, and 2) remove the general/"lookit the boobs" blogs like Awful Announcing, Deadspin, and Busted Coverage to look more closely at sport-specific blogospheres. We get this:
|5||MLB Trade Rumors||MLB||88441||70773||38969|
|8||Kissing Suzy Kolber*||NFL||80814|
|17||Fan Blogs||College Football||22940||19652||323302|
|18||Burnt Orange Nation||College Football||10240||14953||259662|
|20||Minor League Ball||MLB||11957||13596||138590|
|22||Golden State of Mind||NBA||12699||12574||111052|
|23||Fire Joe Morgan||MLB||16602||12067||143345|
|25||Need 4 Sheed||NBA|
And though I love FO, I don't think it qualifies as a blog and mentally remove it. The top 25 is then dominated by baseball -- no surprise -- with college football a close second. I mention it because I've always thought the CFB blogosphere was a particularly vibrant one, out of proportion to the sport's media profile.
I'm leaving on a jet plane for Denver early Thursday morning, and leaving in an SUV Wednesday night because said jet plane departs from Chicago. Then I'm going to be busy finding reasonably priced tickets and watching both semis, and skiing the next day. The upshot for the reader:
- No content Thursday other than an open thread. Maybe something late depending on the quantity of revelry.
- I will try to get something up Friday but it's going to be late in the day, 6 or 7.
- I plan on going WOOOOOO until I get tear-gassed, brah, if Michigan wins the national title and will be flying back early Sunday, so celebratory content this weekend is not likely. If we lose, I'll wait till Monday for sure.
Posting will be as normal tomorrow.
Update 3/31: Added NJ DE Anthony LaLota, OH RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, AZ DE Craig Roh (offer, USC lead), CA OL Everett Benyard, CA WR Shaquelle Evans, SC QB Stephon Gilmore (article header), FL S Frankie Telfort.
Removed KS LB Jaydan Bird (OK), OH FB Zach Boren (just a feeling), TX S Craig Loston (dropped us).
Editorial Opinion: Ok. Sorry this took so long. I eventually gave up on noting all the various additions and articles as I google many of the new names. At this point things are still very fluid and providing blow by blow updates on half the country is probably not a good use of your time. So how about a general feel as to where things are going?
Quarterback. No movement from that update a while back: Michigan's looking at a half-dozen dual-threat and has no clear #1 choice now that Russell Shepard is off the board. Tate Forcier and Kevin Newsome remain the most prominent names who've mentioned Michigan amongst a leading group. There are a couple more guys who claim offers but little is known about them so far.
One upcoming event (no permalink available) that is of interest:
Chesapeake (Va.) Western Branch quarterback Kevin Newsome has said in several interviews recently that visits will play a key part in his decision. Showing his interest in Michigan, the 6-3, 215-pound quarterback has made plans to visit Ann Arbor.
"Kevin, myself, Kevin's father and [his grandfather] will be coming up to Michigan on Saturday," reported Newsome's mother Sunday evening.
Tailback. Jones is in the fold and Michigan is looking for maybe one or two more. They could take some ridiculous number with the intent of throwing them all in a pile and finding a couple guys to play slot or in the secondary.
In fact, let's just pile them together...
Wide receiver. Also a huge area of focus. I thought Michigan's WR haul was pretty respectable last year but Rodriguez and co are going full-bore after ten or so guys. Bryce McNeal, about whom more later, seems the most likely to drop to Michigan, and that possibly soon-ish. Many others are just starting their recruitments.
Between these two positions there are about 20 kids with known offers, and this is a year after Michigan took nine RB/WR/TEs. Rodriguez has made noises about getting the numbers up at the wide receiver position and it's clear he means it.
Offensive Line. This will probably be another four or five person class; there's been little movement here except consistent articles on instate OL/TE Reid Fragel, who's 6'8" and 250. Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Michigan State are all feeling him out but there are no offers on the table yet.
Defensive Line. Five-star Will Campbell was Michigan's first commit but is a little soft in that commitment; picking up Jones will probably help with that. Other than that, little movement. Some more offers have gone out to defensive ends but none seems a high probability at this point. Jay Hopson's offered every kid bigger than 250 pounds in Mississippi, it seems, but I remain skeptical about Michigan's ability to pull kids out of a place that's as deep south as it gets.
Linebacker. A ton of players here a year ago makes this an area of only moderate need, which is good. Michigan hasn't appeared on the short lists of any good prospects yet -- though they are on the longer lists of a number of players who haven't started whittling.
Secondary. Two commits, one of them a top 50 player, is an excellent start; Michigan continues to pursue a bunch of other guys, too. They have offers out to and are getting vague mentions by most of the top guys in the country, most of whom will probably head elsewhere. If they get another blue chip to go with Turner that would be outstanding; I kind of expect a lot of strikeouts and a lower profile guy or two.
At safety, Isaiah Bell's guru ratings after his early commitment will be interesting to track. Though he's not rated right now, that gushing ESPN scouting report implies he'll be a member of their top 150.
One guy worth providing blow-by-blow updates on is MN WR Bryce McNeal. Allen Wallace on McNeal:
"I'm not sure why, but my parents really like four schools," he said. "They like Colorado, Clemson, Minnesota and Michigan. My dad lives in Chicago and I live with my mom so they each have different reasons for liking these."
While McNeal says he likes each of those, Michigan is likely the favorite of those four. "They have a new head coach (Rich Rodriguez) and I'm eager to see what kind of changes they make to their offense. Also, I want to see how they do under coach Rodriguez. I think he'll be a great fit for them."
McNeal visited earlier and was impressed; he plans a return visit after he checks out Louisville's spring game. Ron English is recruiting him, which is interesting. GBW's Sam Webb on McNeal:
Expect McNeal's name to be on the rise in the coming months. He stood out from many other receivers in attendance with his ability to get separation on defenders. He often ran wide open through the secondary after a good route or a burst of speed. He also displayed good leaping ability and strong body control.
He's currently in the Rivals 250 and upward mobility from there would be good, though his offer list (the above mentioned four, Nebraska, UNC, and Iowa are the biggest names) lacks the pop of a truly OMG shirtless five star stud freak stud.
It's a little hard to tell because the below video has about four frames per second and looks like it was processed with the Atari 2600 in mind, but I think this is an impressive eight minutes of highlights:
The above-linked "Wire" area of Rivals says the McNeal visit will be the weekend of the 18th; a commitment seems a real possibility.