that is nice bonus change
Excerpt time. There is only one sport in the world with a dogged devotion to the regular season comparable to that of college football: the other football. Fever Pitch is Nick Hornby's peerless book about fandom and the other football. This is as close a comparison I can find to what will transpire Saturday: 5/26/1989.
In all the time I have been watching football, twenty-three seasons, only seven teams have won the First Division Championship: Leeds United, Everton, Arsenal, Derby County, Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa and, a staggering eleven times, Liverpool. Five different teams came top in my first five years, so it seemed to me then that the League was something that came your way every once in a while, even though you might have to wait for it; but as the seventies came and went, and then the eighties, it began to dawn on me that Arsenal might never win the League again in my lifetime. That isn't as melodramatic as it sounds. Wolves fans celebrating their third championship in six years in 1959 could hardly have anticipated that their team would spend much of the next thirty years in the Second and Third Divisions; Manchester City supporters in their mid-forties when the Blues last won the League in 1968 are in their early seventies now.
Like all fans, the overwhelming majority of the games I have seen have been League games. And as most of the time Arsenal have had no real interest in the First Division title after Christmas, nor ever really come close to going down, I would estimate that around half of these games are meaningless, at least in the way that sportswriters talk about meaningless games. There are no chewed nails and chewed knuckles and screwed-up faces; your ear doesn't become sort from being pressed up hard against a radio, trying to hear how Liverpool are getting on; you are not, in truth, thrown into agonies of despair or eye-popping fits of ecstasy by the result. Any meanings such games throw up are the ones that you, rather than the First Division table, bring to them.
And after maybe ten years of this, the Championship becomes something you either believe in your you don't, like God. You concede that it's possible, of course, and you try to respect the views of those who have managed to remain credulous. Between approximately 1975 and 1989 I didn't believe. I hoped, at the beginning of each season; and a couple of times -- the middle of the 86/87 season, for example, when we were top for eight or nine weeks -- I was almost lured out of my agnostic's cave. But in my heart of hearts I knew that it would never happen, just as I knew that they were not, as I used to think when I was young, going to find a cure for death before I got old.
In 1989, eighteen years after the last time Arsenal had won the League, I reluctantly and foolishly allowed myself to believe it was indeed possible that Arsenal could win the Championship. They were top of the First Division between January and May; on the last full weekend of the Hillsborough-elongated season they were five points clear of Liverpool with three games left to play. Liverpool had a game in hand, but the accepted wisdom was that Hillsborough and its attendant strains would make it impossible for them to keep winning, and two of Arsenal's three game were at home to weaker teams. The other was against Liverpool, away, a game that would conclude the First Division series.
No sooner had I become a born-again member of the Church of the Latterday Championship Believers, however, than Arsenal ground to a catastrophic halt. They lost, dismally, at home to Derby; and in the final game at Highbury, against Wimbledon, they twice threw away the lead to draw 2-2 against a team they had destroyed 5-1 on the opening day of the season. It was after the Derby game that I raged into an argument with my partner about a cup of tea, but after the Wimbledon game I had no rage left, just a numbing disappointment. For the first time I understood the women in soap operas who have been crushed by love affairs before, and can't allow themselves to fall for somebody again: I had never before seen all that as a matter of choice, but now I too had left myself nakedly exposed when I could have remained hard and cynical. I wouldn't allow it to happen again, never, ever, and I had been a fool, I knew that now, just as I knew it would take me years to recover from the terrible disappointment of getting so close and failing.
It wasn't quite all over. Liverpool had two games left, against West Ham and against us, both at Anfield. Because the two teams were so close, the mathematics of it all were peculiarly complicated: whatever score Liverpool beat West Ham by, Arsenal had to halve. If Liverpool won 2-0, we would have to win 1-0, and so on. In the event Liverpool won 5-1, which meant that we needed a two-goal victory; "YOU HAVEN'T GOT A PRAYER, ARSENAL", was the back-page headline of the Daily Mirror.
Let's make it a clean sweep of Michigan blogs and post this email sent out to Michigan students:
We are sure that you are excited about this Saturday's football game versus Ohio State, and the possibility of capturing the Big Ten conference title and playing for the national championship.
For those of you traveling to Columbus, we invite you to kick off your Saturday by joining the Alumni Association, Michigan Student Assembly, Division of Student Affairs and other Michigan fans at a fun-filled True Blue Away-Game tailgate. You and your fellow fans can enjoy food, music, large-screen TVs and a variety of arcade games and activities before the game. The cost of student tickets is free with a valid U-M student ID. The tailgate is being held at the Fawcett Center, which is approximately 1/2 mile northwest of Ohio Stadium. The tailgate entrance will be located inside the Fawcett Center. There will be signs posted inside directing you to the Alumni Room and patio. Game-day parking is $10 per car.
We know that it can be uncomfortable being in an opposing team's environment, especially when the stakes are so high. We would like to offer a few suggestions in order to help you stay safe and have a positive experience this weekend:
--Try carpooling to the game; if possible, drive a car with non- Michigan license plates.
--Keep your Michigan gear to a minimum, or wait until you are inside the stadium to display it.
--Stay with a group.
--Know and obey the laws regarding alcohol use.
--If you are of legal age to drink, use alcohol in moderation. Stay in the blue.
--Stay low-key; don't draw unnecessary attention to yourself.
--If verbally harassed by opposing fans, don't take the bait.
--Avoid High Street in Columbus.
If at any time you feel unsafe, you should call 9-1-1 for assistance. U-M campus police also will be available in Columbus to support our fans. You may call them with non-emergency concerns at (734) 216-****.
We look forward to a tremendous game on Saturday. Let's help the Wolverines win with spirit and class.
Sue Eklund, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students
Steve Grafton, President, Alumni Association
Nicole Stallings, MSA President
Stay safe, kids.
|You know it, you love it: zone left on the first play of the game. Pretty well blocked, but Mitchell's guy gets free of him and closes down Hart's hole after a few.|
|Manningham runs off the zone, leaving Breaston wide open a long way down the sideline. Hene flutters the ball out there, but it's accurate. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Blitz up the middle is unblocked; Henne gets the ball out anyway to Manningham, who makes a semi-tough catch. (CA, 2, protection 1/2, no specific blame.)|
|Nowhere for Hart to go off the left side of the line. Momentary pause is followed with a bounceout all the way around fallen IU defenders and a nine yard gain. Hart is k-rad.|
|O28||1||10||Trips Empty||Pass||Inc||Breaston||Diamond screen|
|Breaston motions over to the trips side of the formation for the obvious screen; Henne throws it wide of him. (IN, 0)|
|O28||2||10||I-Form||Run||16||Hart||Lead draw (2)|
|This director refuses to show the play until it's underway. Ecker(+1) gets a nice block on the second level; Breaston also comes in to seal the last guy that can get Hart before he's into the secondary. Well blocked all around. I miss this play.|
|Cutback this time as the front side is closed off. Riley's actually cutting guys now. This one isn't completely wonderful but does delay his man enough to get Hart a lane. Corner comes off Arrington to pop Hart and grabs his ankles, preventing him from getting another couple yards.|
|Mitchell(-1) whiffs a second level block. His man comes in on Hart; Hart ducks under his arm and plows for a couple.|
|Note that we've spent most of this drive in 2TE with the TEs overloading one side and twin WRs to the other. We do this again and run to the strong side. Oluigbo is one of the "tight ends" in this case. Same cut as the last play between Bihl and Riley with Mitchell trying to get a guy on the second level. He does better this time. There's a small crease between him and Riley occupied by the DE, who's trying to fend off a blocker and is moving laterally. Hart crashes into him, blowng him back three yards and finding first down yardage.|
|Perfect throw and catch. (DO, 3)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 10 min 1st Q. Less sloppy than previous games. Helped by IU defense best described as "not present."|
|Hart decides to cut all the way back past the backside tackle, dodges an unblocked guy to prevent a TFL, and gets a yard.|
|I prefer the waggle when we get a guy on the outside to block the backside end or linebacker, giving Henne more time to throw. This one doesn't feature that, so he dumps the ball to Butler for a moderate gain. (CA, 3) Still in the overloaded twins formation.|
|Marginal throw behind Manningham forces a double-clutch grab and prevents him from getting the first down. (IN, 1, protection 1/1)|
|M47||4||1||I-Form 2TE||Run||4||Hart||Zone left â€“ Iso|
|Yeah, this features zone blocking but the directive is clear: Obi finds a crease and Hart follows him. This seems a different playcall than the stretch stuff that drives me mad on third and short. Oluigbo does find a crease as Mitchell(+1) gets enough of a playside block to force the IU DT back a bit. Oluigbo finishes blowing up the DT; Hart has a path.|
|Pitch and catch; nicely executed. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|O38||1||10||I-Form||Run||17||Jackson||Zone right (2)|
|Against the strength of the formation and another cutback lane. Oluigbo(+1) deftly pilots a filling linebacker out of the play. The backside is two blocked IU guys, cavernous space, and a safety trying to fill. Jackson bursts through a tackler near the LOS and rips off a major chunk of yards.|
|O21||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||6||Hart||Zone right|
|Kraus cuts the DT, totally eliminating him and opening up a huge cutback lane in the middle of the field. Hart makes a brilliant in-out cut that had him free for a big gainer but stumbles at the last moment.|
|Token draw fake; Butler finds himself in one-on-one coverage with the free safety. The ball is placed right in Butler's hands but he juggles it and Meyer accidentally bats it free. Great throw; not so great catchin'. (DO, generous 2, protection 2/2)|
|Henne throws a dead-on bullet to Arrington for the first down. Arrington holds on despite the safety nailing him as he catches the ball. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Mitchell's guy on the second level beats him to the spot and makes the tackle at the LOS. Near impossible for him to make that block given how quickly the IU guy read it.|
|O4||2||G||I-Form 2TE||Run||4||Hart||Zone left (2)|
|IU dead from the snap here; DE attacks outside and is sealed. DT also pushes inside. Kraus gets out and gets a second level block. Massive hole; Oluigbo thumps the last defender with a chance. Hart touchdown.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-0, 4 min 1st Q. File under make OSU prepare: more empty sets plus this overloaded twins formation.|
|M31||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||1||Hart||Zone right|
|Only six guys in the box and Michigan runs away from the seventh, shaded over the slot WR. Unfortunately, this is away from the wide side of the field and the strong side of the formation. Momentary double on the DT by Kraus and Long; Kraus tries to disengage to block the linebacker but is too late. Hart's forced outside into unsealed guys.|
|Balanced TEs this time. Short side again (WTF). Linebacker comes through unblocked (also again) as no one gets out at him. Grumble grumble playcalling grumble. Hart powers through the tackle and falls forward for his customary four-yards-from-nothing.|
|Well wide. Had Breaston on that short cross wide open, too. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 1 min 1st Q.|
|M26||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||12||Hart||Zone left|
|Wide open on the left side â€“ the strong side, as Hart has a huge cutback lane. I initially thought this was a draw due to Henne's straight-ish dropback and Hart's immediate backside cut. A planned playcall? I do know that the backside DE flies up towards Henne, opening this up. Hart gets past the linebacker shaded over the slot WR and slips a couple tackles. I heart Hart.|
|M38||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||62||Breaston||Hello, Nurse (2)|
|Dude, like, we could have used that versus ND last year. I keed, I keed. Post and go pwns Meyers; Henne drops it in his midsection; Breaston catches it yay. (DO, 2, protection 3/3)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-0, 10 min 2nd Q. Dear Bill Curry, if our biggest concern versus OSU is people tracking down Steve Breaston from behind I'll take that chance.|
|O49||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||6||Hart||Zone right|
|Hart cuts back behind Kraus. A linebacker has an angle and gets a hand on him a couple yards downfield. This is not enough to slow him down. He stumbles and powers and generally Mike Harts his way for six yards, tacklers draped.|
|Balanced TEs. Not much room; Minor hops inside an attempted arm tackle. Bihl(+1) is driving his man well downfield, allowing Minor to follow him for near first-down yardage.|
|O40||3||1||I-Form 2TE||Run||0||Hart||Zone left|
|A linebacker isn't blocked. He flows down the line, steps up through a crease and hits Hart in the backfield. Another run to the short side, not that it would have mattered much.|
|O40||4||1||I-Form 2TE||Run||7||Hart||Zone left|
|Same formation, same play. This time there's a gap between Long and Kraus. Long's kicked his guy out and for some reason the Indiana DT gets sealed instantly, dooming the Hoosiers.|
|O33||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||-2||Minor||Zone right|
|I'm not sure what the deal is on this play. There's a huge gap between Bihl and Kraus, especially with Oluigbo flying up into it to pound the linebacker, but Minor hesitates and runs into a mass of blockers and defenders on the left side. Theory: one of those counter-zone plays that Minor screwed up. Acres on the backside here, which is also the strength of the formation.|
|I guess you could blame Jackson for this shaky blitz pickup, but two more guys come free, forcing Henne to step up into the pocket and the two remaining Hoosier pass rushers. Ugly all around. (PR, protection 0/2, -1 Jackson, -1 Kraus/Bihl)|
|O36||3||13||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||22||Ecker||Deep cross (2)|
|Protection is great, great, great this time. Henne sits back in the pocket and fires, hitting Ecker in the numpers past the sticks. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Ecker follows up his nice catch with a crappy block. Kendal blows him backwards. It forces Jackson to cut back inside, then outside, disrupting the play's timing and screwing up what's otherwise a big gain.|
|Hey... at least it's his second read. With no one occupying the corner in the short zone, he's free to drift back and step in front of Henne's pass. (BR, Breaston, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 21-3, 3 min 2nd Q.|
|M41||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||3||Hart||Zone right|
|Eighth guy in the box for the first time this game â€“ Indiana perceives that the scoring offense has gone in the box, perhaps. Kraus' man gets playside of him and engages Hart at the LOS, making the tackle. Decent crease otherwise.|
|Minor chooses to plow ahead; I think he's got a major lane to the right that he misses. Plowing ahead is good for about four, as the Indiana DL has given up the ghost when it comes to holding up at the POA.|
|Oluigbo lined up at TE. He's beat by his man after the PA fake to the inside, forcing Hart to pick him up and leaving a blitzer from the outside unblocked. Henne stands in and rifles a pass 20 yards downfield that hits Breaston in the chest as he's being hit. (DO, 3, protection 1/2, -1 Oluigbo)|
|See, this is why I think we have more running plays in the playbook than zone right, zone left, and draw: Riley's first two steps here are parallel to the LOS â€“ almost backwards â€“ and he only engages his guy once he knows he's got the outside shoulder. He's sealed, and this play is supposed to go outside the tackle. Early in the year I labeled stuff that seemed like it was supposed to go like this "off tackle," then decided everything was the same and just went with "zone right/left"... now I'm not so sure. Anyway: yes, Riley seals his guy. Manningham, motioned in presnap, gets out and blocks a linebacker, as does Butler. Jackson goes off tackle for a nice gain. I mutter and type in "zone right."|
|Grumble! Also think this is planned to go the backside, as we fake an end around. This holds the backside DE and opens up a cutback lane that Jackson exploits like whoah.|
|O17||1||10||Ace||Run||16||Jackson||Zone left (2)|
|Not so grumble. Here Long engages right away, making me think this is a traditonal zone left. It goes outside anyway â€“ great second-level blocks by Butler and Kraus; Long seals his guy. Breaston's motioned in and is trying to deal with a safety. When Jackson gets to the outside he makes a smart cut upfield when he clearly had a pretty good gain outside. The smart cut carries him past Breaston's guy and another player trying to get outside, getting down to the one.|
|O1||1||G||I-Form 2TE||Run||1||Jackson||Zone left|
|Met at the LOS; Jackson gets his pads down and powers through. A well-deserved touchdown.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown (missed XP), 34-3, 5 min 3rd Q. I don't get why Jackson was the starter for most of the year when Hart went out. Grady potential whatever but on the field Jackson has owned him. I wonder if history would have been different if he wasn't injured early in Hart's freshman year. He must have been better than Underwood. If Grady gets any carries versus OSU he must have incriminating photos of Carr.|
|IU cuts off the play side with a blitz. Jackson cuts back finds more bodies, cuts back some more... space. Cuts up past Mike Massey then bounces it out again. Nice run. Why can't you be a freshman?|
|Zirbel and Boren in on the left side now. This run in stuffed as there's no crease on the left; unblocked linebacker on the second level finishes the play|
|Coupled with an end-around fake and designed to go off right tackle. The backside guys don't take the bait this time.|
|Zirbel is owned by Kenny Kendal. If we're going to get a QB killed subbing for Long, could it please be Forcier?|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 34-3, 13 min 4th Q.|
|Notice all the 2TE sets? I imagine we wanted to use these all year but with Ecker and Massey out (plus Butler suspended one game) we never really got the opportunity.|
|Good job by Boren to ride his guy out, providing a lane. IU's defenders are overrunning the play.|
|Will Paul in. This is like that window in the fourth quarter of a MNF game where you talk about anything other than the game.|
|Brown needs work. Should have redshirted.|
|AAAAARGH YOU'RE GOING TO GET HENNE KILLED AGAIN. Oh. Screen. (CA, 3)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 34-3, 8 min 4th Q. Next drive features Chris Richards; charting ceases.|
- Savoy now has zero reception for seven yards; he's the all time leader in YPC.
- Forcier is all runny.
- Darnell Hood pwns you.
OSU OSU OSU OSU OSU.
We showed a few things we hadn't before, or at least not for a while:
- Massey and Ecker's return also featured the return of a lot of 2TE sets that had receded in favor of the I or three-wide.
- Steve Breaston running a deep route, and catching it.
- The empty sets we started breaking out a few weeks ago.
- A few fake end-arounds that are designed to cut back inside the DE.
Manningham was used sparingly, though just about everyone ends up being used sparingly when you only throw 15 passes. He looked fine on his two catches.
|Notre Da me||6||10||2||2||0||1||3|
A weird game from Henne where he was either doing something really bad (interception, misthrowing a screen, winging it wide to Manningham) or throwing lasers twenty-to-forty yards downfield. The lasers outweighed the errors, say the numbers, and I agree. That's partially an artifact of playing Saturday's red-clad men that claim they are a secondary, but a 62-yard bomb placed delicately between the 1 and the 5 on Breaston's jersey is a 62-yard bomb placed delicately between the 1 and the 5 on Breaston's jersey. Henne was also aided by a couple plays where Indiana rushers didn't come within five yards of him. I don't expect a similar performance against a much better defense, but if we get one...
Not much throwing to go around. No mindboggling drops, but Butler probably should have had the potential touchdown thrown to him. Otherwise, the WR corps was perfect.
More on this later, but I think there's strong circumstantial evidence that we'll be able to move the ball on Ohio State. Opponent running backs in Hart's statistical class have done well versus the Buckeyes this year, but have had vanishingly few carries because damn near everyone is trailing big early. In the pass game, Gholston versus Riley seems problematic but Rueben's quietly put together a solid season. Other than one play against Iowa where he unwisely tried to limp back onto the field after an injury and immediately gave up a sack to Brian Mattison, I can't remember any "aaaargh Riley" moments since the Wisconsin game. Say what you want about the level of competition, but he's done well enough to escape much mention in UFR for about half a season.
That'll obviously be a key matchup, but how much worse can Gholston be than Abiamiri? I think we'll see a couple plays at Riley's expense but my main worry is receivers catching the damn ball.
As much as DeBord grinds my gears, one thing Michigan has always done is pull out the stops for OSU. I expect a fairly even run-pass balance unless our relative proficiency at one blows the other away. No more of this 80% rushes on first down. I doubt we'll see any wacky halfback passes or flea-flickers or whatever. I also doubt Michigan will throw away a couple possessions trying to figure out if they have to get Henne out of mothballs.
...this guy definitely had to add that tiny apostrophe and obviously-not-centered E after a Northwestern fan pointed out that "Michigan Your Next" isn't English. Ladies and gentlemen, Ohio State fans!
CSTV is doing this "Battle of the Blogs" thing where Michigan and Ohio State bloggers tackle certain topics. Main page is up; my thing goes Friday.
In which I take aim at Michigan Monday. Passages of interest:
What worries me on offense? Basically, 1995 and 2003. I'm worried about Michigan coming out and being able to run the ball at will. Usually, when the game is in Columbus, I have no fears about Michigan's running game. Don't get me wrong, I don't see Mike Hart busting out like Tim Biakabatuka or Chris Perry, but the thought of Michigan getting five yards on first down every time concerns me.
Weird. The thought of Michigan running on every first down gives me hives; he's concerned about the rush defense. I do think there's reason to be concerned, FWIW, as the Buckeyes have given up quite a lot of yards per carry when opponent running backs are suffered to possess the ball, but I wouldn't expect an OSU fan to be worried about what's honestly been a pretty meh running game.
If Troy Smith gets time to throw, Michigan's secondary is vulnerable. The Wolverine safeties don't necessarily excel in pass coverage and the corners can only do so much. Leon Hall is a very good corner, and when he feels challenged, he always steps it up. Again, if Troy Smith gets time to throw, Michigan will have no favorable match-ups in four and five-wide situations. And that's why Michigan has to get to Troy Smith. If they don't, it's going to be nearly impossible for them to win.
I've addressed this before, but the persistent belief that the Michigan secondary is way vulnerable is also weird. And I agree: if Troy Smith is allowed to sit in the pocket with only one or no extra blockers in, we're screwed. But that's like saying that scoring points is a good idea. Uh... duh. For what it's worth, if OSU doesn't pressure Henne it's going to be almost impossible for them to win.
What about Michigan's passing game, you ask? Honestly, I'm not too concerned about it. Obviously, the screens concern me. In this game, they'll always concern me. But as far as the downfield stuff goes, I'll believe Michigan can have success with it when I see it. Of course, there's always the chance that Michigan has been saving something. Perhaps they'll choose to use the middle of the field more this week than they have in the past. Who knows. I feel the Ohio State secondary matches up very well with the Michigan receivers. The Buckeyes have three very good starting cornerbacks and two very good safeties. Without knowing how effective Mario Manningham is going to be, I think the Ohio State pass defense definitely has the advantage in this one. And don't forget, the Buckeye defense is averaging two interceptions per game.
See, to me something like "the Buckeye defense is averaging two interceptions per game" is a giant red flag, since interceptions are almost always someone on the offense's fault and are totally fluky unless a quarterback is hit while he throws. As a general rule, turnovers are a function of the offense's competency to avoid them, not the defense's ability to force them -- again, with the exception of quarterback pressure. Michigan is very good at avoiding turnovers.
Also: if he doesn't want to believe Manningham is healthy, that's his prerogative, but given everything we know about the nature and extent of his injury, plus the snaps he's taken in the last two games it's silly to assume he can't play. Wishful thinking. Nowhere in his column does he mention Alex Boone's status, and he didn't even play versus Northwestern. (Not that I think his injury will be an issue. The Bucks say he'll be fine, so I believe them.) Manningham is also fine, otherwise Michigan wouldn't risk him before the game -- that would be insane.
He revisits this later:
Receiver Mario Manningham. I won't be convinced he's healthy until I see it. What made him so good before his injury was his ability to cut and separate from the defender. I'm not sure he can do that as well as he needs to against Ohio State's secondary.
Seems like wishful thinking, IMO.
He's going to play most of the game this week due to Ohio State's spread attack. Ask your local Michigan fan how they feel about that. Assuming you know a Michigan fan that knows who Harrison is.
Well, you know, I wish he was like Justin King or whatever, but Harrison's been okay.
Braves & Birds takes a look at the MNC contenders and their average yards per play on both sides of the ball. Conclusions:
In addition to all the other factors that make this weekend's tilt exciting, Ohio State and Michigan look to be two very evenly-matched teams, especially when you take into account that Michigan puts the brakes on its own offense when leading more than your average college football power. (An unprovable assertion, I know, but I've watched a lot of football and I feel pretty comfortable in saying that no one employs the Milton Berle approach more than Michigan.) Michigan is a little better on offense, Ohio State is a little better on offense, and they both have wild card returners who can alter the balance of the game.
Notre Dame has no business being in the national title discussion. Against a relatively unimposing schedule, their defensive numbers are signficantly worse than those of any other national title contender and their offensive numbers are not nearly enough to make up for the shortcoming. USC should bury Notre Dame, especially if the USC team of Saturday night that can run the ball and play defense is the USC team that shows up on November 25. Furthermore, Notre Dame would either be there against a team that beat them by 26 in South Bend or in place of that team with the same record.
Amen. Lord knows what voters will do -- they have West Virginia in front of a Louisville team that beat them by two scores two weeks ago -- but I think they'd be hard pressed to dump the Michigan/OSU loser below ND given the BEAT DOWN in September. OSU would be more likely to fall than Michigan, IMO, since a potential OSU loss would be at home, the Buckeyes' primo win over Texas has recently lost some luster, and the computers are already turning up their noses at OSU's Wisconsin-free schedule.
Stadium & Main has more on the rematch thing.
I guess I should have pointed this out sooner... damn. Anyway, for much of the year the top result on Google when you type in "F*** Michigan" (sans stars) was my anti-Buckeye diatribe from last year. Something must have gotten rejiggered; now it's third. Damn.
BON busts out their "Under The Hood" series for Michigan-OSU, providing a complete statistical overview well worth your time. I also have to link anyone who busts out the time-tested and true "Charts? Charts." Charts!
Initial conclusion: approximately equal teams. Michigan slightly better on resume.
Okay. So a part of this process involves saving out a spreadsheet as a text file. I name these totally obvious things like "ufr-iowa-2006-d.csv." I named this file "ufr-osu-2006-d.csv." When I typed the title of this post I typed "Upon Further Review: OSU versus OSU."
Yeah... about that.
Highlights from Dangerous Logic!
|Um, okay. Leon Hall(+2) is in better position than the receiver on this deep ball. (Cover +2)|
|O31||2||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Inc||WR Screen?|
|Playaction fake off tackle is followed by... well, I'm not exactly sure what. Lewis rolls out left a bit but the receivers to that side seem more interested in blocking than looking for a pass. Busted play. Lewis throws it away. Good pressure on the outside by Biggs(+1). (Pressure +1)|
|Crable(+1) comes around the outside, forcing Lewis to scramble. Branch(+1) is on a screen/QB spy assignment, sees Lewis flush, and attacks for the sack. (Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 9 min 1st Q. Probably see a fair amount of this Branch thing against Smith.|
|Branch-spy again is our rock to their scissors, as the OL is supposed to ride him out of the play, only there is no riding to be done as he stops dead. Woodley(+1) is allowed into the backfield but is too quick and disrupts the play a little bit, allowing Branch(+1) to finish at the LOS.|
|Way behind his intended receiver; if on target Chris Graham was going to fricking kill him. Or whiff hilariously. Either one. (Cover +1)|
|Nice pass and catch. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, two yards OOB. Receiver ends up bracketed by Trent(+1) and Adams (+1, cover +1); if Lewis held onto the ball for one additional second he was going to get sacked by Jamison(+1, pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 3 min 1st Q.|
|O27||1||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||5||Slip screen|
|Harris(+1) tasked with the slot reciever... moves upfield first (blitzing?) before reading the play and tracking down the WR. Impressive reaction. Harrison(+1) also did a nice job to get to the outside of his man, forcing the play back to Harris.|
|O32||2||5||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||8||QB Draw|
|Ugly whiff by Graham(-1) turns a small gain into a first down. Get well, Prescott.|
|Hall's going to be there, but only to make a damage-limiting tackle. Lewis' throw is low and off. Still catchable, but is not. (Cover -1)|
|O40||2||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||9||Zone read|
|Simple handoff to Thigpen gets a chunk of yards... we're stunting on the left side of the line and they run right at it. No contain there, obviously, as Crable's pass rushing. He misses a tackle(-1) opening up a lane. Adams(-1) misses another tackle; Trent ends the play with a solid one.|
|Weird... third and one and still no Taylor. We line up with four down linemen, but Woodley is a DT and Crable a DE. We still stuff the POA fiercely; Sears (Josiah Sears) manages to lean for the first down. No complaints about the D here.|
|50||1||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||11||Scramble drill|
|I can see Troy Smith doing this a few times against us. We get an unblocked blitzer off the corner; Lewis steps up. Another rusher comes at him up the middle; Lewis rolls out. Woodley and Crable track him down to the outside; Lewis finds a guy and rifles a pass to him. A first down created by Lewis alone; not much you can do here. (Pressure +1)|
|Lewis not so fortunate this time. Crable(+1) knifes through two blockers, flushing him. Branch â€“ still spying â€“ cuts him off to the outside, allowing a pursuing Jamison(+1) to recover and sack. (Pressure +1)|
|M40||2||11||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||9||QB Draw|
|Sigh. Harris(-1) misses this tackle (apparently he's not infallible), opening up a bunch of yards, especially since we're blitzing from the outside. Van Alstyne in on this snap. Also, here starts the incredibly long Dick Enberg interview with no explanation from anyone as to why the game stopped. I assumed the next play I would see would be a third and goal from the five for Indiana. Helpless... rage...|
|Lewis' pass badly underthrown, actually hitting Adams in the back. Trent(+1) had outstanding coverage anyway. (cover +1)|
|Hall's jump is a moment late, allowing this completion. A half-second earlier and this is a PBU.|
|M23||1||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||1||Zone read|
|Graham manages to finish since he's unblocked. Think a charging Crable(+1) forced a cutback away from the play design and thus the unblocked linebackers.|
|Well overthrown. Harris(+1) in outstanding coverage. (cover +1, pressure -1)|
|Woodley(+1) dominates the RT and gets instant pressure; Lewis responds by rifling a pass way over the head of his receiver. Almost picked off by a safety. (Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: FG, 14-3, 11 min 2nd Q. Not that upset about this drive. A couple missed tackles are irritating but a lot of pressure and three of the first downs were either ORTP, an excellent play from Lewis, or a screwup from Graham.|
|David Harris(+1) obliterates this. I am increasingly incensed he isn't a Butkus finalist.|
|We blitz directly into this. Harris(+1) nearly overruns the play but manages to recover and tackle at the LOS.|
|Graham comes on a stunting blitz as Woodley drops off into a zone. Graham(+1) gets pressure, forcing a hopeful jump ball. Hall(+1) is in position, getting the PBU. (cover +1, pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 21-3, 8 min 2nd Q.|
|Perhaps the only consistent irritations on the day were these dumb little hitch routes we never seemed to cover. Hall's run off by a deeper route and can't recover in time to do anything but tackle, with the help of Harrison. (Cover -1)|
|See? Aarrrrrgh! (cover -1)|
|O45||1||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Inc||Hopeful Jump Ball|
|Lewis flushed and escapes contain. Finds a receiver running down the sideline with Englemon and nearly completes a pass. Two problems: receiver landed OOB and Englemon had forced him to step OOB before he came down with the pass. Good coverage. (Englemon +1, cover +1, pressure came off major blitz and let Kellen Lewis out of contain so no +)|
|Terrible PI call no matter what Bill Curry thinks. We blitz again, leaving Mundy man up against Hardy. Lewis, rattled, throws the ball well inside and Mundy, running stride for stride with Hardy, is flagged for being corporeal and not allowing Hardy to pass right through him on his way to the ball. Also, Goddammit Bill Curry can you for once in your life criticize something other than politically correct coaching points?|
|M40||1||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||5||Jailbreak screen|
|Good job by Graham(+1) to fight through a block and make a tackle; Will Johnson's pursuit also helpful.|
|Hall right there but not close enough to do anything but tackle (cover -1). Curry goes off on some rambling tangent about cliches being cliches because they're true then never mentions a cliche. I miss Chris Spielman. Seriously, Chris Spielman is about a billion times better than Curry.|
|M29||1||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||13||QB Draw|
|Graham reacts to this very, very late, then sort of falls at Lewis' feet as he dashes by(-2). Yuck. He has to get better next year.|
|M16||1||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Inc||Hopeful Jump Ball|
|Hall(+1) on Hardy in the corner of the endzone. Great coverage, great play on the ball, PBU. (cover +1)|
|Wildly overthrown by Lewis. Free INT for Trent(+1).|
|Drive Notes: Int, 21-3, EOH.|
|RB forced outside the tackles â€“ good job by Taylor(+1) on what may be his first snap â€“ and run down by Woodley(+1).|
|Woodley dropping off into a zone again. After the play Hall's a little disgusted and motions to the neophyte DB, indicating he needs to get wider. (Cover -1)|
|Taylor(+2) loves to time snap counts, which is why I think he's the only Wolverine to have gone offsides all year. This time he gets it right, crashing into the backfield, disrupting the play, and drawing a holding call. Michigan takes the call on the assumption IU will go for it. Smart move.|
|Indiana goes empty; this time Michigan sends the house. There are more blitzers than blockers and those blocking are overwhelmed. A tide of humanity meets at Lewis. Uh... +1 Harris and Biggs. Note: Brandon Graham in at DT.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 21-3, 12 min 3rd Q. Breaston houses the return.|
|Taylor(+1) gets into Thigpen's feet, occupying a couple blockers and allowing Harris(+1) to blow the ballcarrier backwards five yards. HULK SMASH.|
|The mirror image of the last play, faking the offtackle right and countering left. Harris(+1) is neither fooled nor blocked and flows and destroys. Crable(+1) also plays this well.|
|O13||3||9||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||1||Bubble screen|
|Well played by Graham(+1). Gilmore is forced to pivot and reverse his field. By the time he does that the cavalry has arrived.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 9 min 3rd Q.|
|Taylor(+1) and Johnson(+1) remove all traces of room in the middle.|
|Pretty decent coverage by Harris(+1) and Crable(+1) closes the receiver down immediately. (Cover +1)|
|Lewis gets outside the pocket... Will Johnson is the guy who gets out there. He's not quite fast enough.|
|Huge pass drop from Lewis... Harris(+1) reads, runs through a block and tacles at the sideline. Great play.|
|Jamison(+1) stunts around and snows Lewis under. (pressure +1)|
|Mutter mutter mutter. Barringer(-1) is slow reacting and whiffs a tackle that would have held this a yard or two short of the sticks. Don't mind the coverage, since if properly played it equals punt.|
|O41||1||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||2||QB Draw|
|Nice play by B. Graham(+1 â€“ this is going to be a pain next year when both are starters) to hold up at the POA come off, and tackle. He's going to be a player, whether it's at DT or DE. Don't think he's big enough to be a run down DT, at least not yet. His lack of a redshirt is a good decision... he's gotten a lot of useful snaps.|
|Miscommunication between players means wildly misthrown ball. Barringer breaks, but drops it.|
|Right: just like their last conversion except we substitute Hall(+1) for Barringer. Tackle made before the sticks. Punty time.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 34-3, 1 min 3rd Q.|
|Pressure comes, though it's late. (Cover +1). Lewis is flushed and throws it OOB.|
|M37||2||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||5||Off tackle|
|C. Graham is unblocked on a blitz; he overruns the play, missing the tackle(-1). Brandon Harrison(-1) comes up too far inside, allowing the RB the corner. Should have been a loss of 4 or 5.|
|Throw is high and off the hands of Bailey; Hall in fairly tight coverage.|
|Graham beaten to the inside by his guy; pass is there; bobbled; Graham recovers to prevent the catch.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover On Downs, 34-3, 12 min 4th Q. Chris Richards is in on the next drive. No offense, Chris, but that == no more charting.|
(Also: Will Johnson's sack.)
OSU OSU OSU.
Things of slight relevance reveal themselves:
- We would much like Burgess back please. Graham made a few plays but also missed more tackles than Burgess has all year. Report is that he was left out as a precaution and will be fine for OSU. Hopefully that's true or we can expect a couple extra Troy Smith first downs via land.
- Expect a lot of 3-3-5 against the Buckeye spread, a lot of instances where six guys threaten at the line and then random players back off at the snap, including Jamison and Woodley.
- We'll probably use this DT spy thing quite a bit to capture a flushing Smith and shut down screens and the like.
- Terrance Taylor might not get much run unless the Bucks line up in some more conventional sets, which would be a shame. But English clearly has a preference for this 3-3-5 when he feels the run is not a big threat. We'll see.
|Woodley||3||3||Few decent plays in limited opportunities, but not a huge impact.|
|Taylor||5||5||Hardly played but made instant impact when he did, though that snap-timing thing has backfired more often than not this year.|
|Branch||2||2||Lifted midway through the second, I think, with an ankle ding.|
|Jamison||3||-||3||Could be key versus OSU.|
|Harris||9||1||8||I'm seriously. Never comes off the field, missed like his second or third tackle of the year against IU. A blitzer, a run-stuffer, a goddamn linebacking ninja.|
|C. Graham||3||4||-1||Get well soon, Prescott.|
|Hall||5||5||Maybe I could have dinged him for a couple of those stupid hitch routes, but it's not like he was ever badly out of position.|
|Trent||3||-||3||Not tested except deep, really. INT was a gift.|
|"Pressure"||8||1||7||Again very good though depressed by many short drops.|
|"Coverage"||10||5||5||Almost perfect except for -- yup -- stupid hitches.|
Story here is the linebackers: Harris was outstanding; Graham a major dropoff from Burgess. (This is better than last year, when bench scrubs who replaced starters maddeningly outplayed the starters.)
What about this rumoured "vulnerable secondary"?
Uh... okay. Michigan's now up to 11th in pass defense efficiency after the IU game. This is vulnerability? Yeah, I guess Brandon Harrison is short and misses more tackles than I'd like but an Ohio State gameplan that revolves around OSU's third WR would be AOK with any Michigan fan you choose to query. Leon Hall is going to be a top ten pick in the NFL draft; Kiper ranks Jamar Adams as one of his top five junior safeties, and, uh, Morgan Trent has been a little iffy on short routes but nigh unbeatable deep, whack pass interference calls excepted. Free safety has been kind of dodgy, I guess, and a number of Michigan's interceptions have been fortunate, but Michigan's secondary is only vulnerable relative to its run defense.
That said, every secondary is vulnerable to a quarterback throwing accurately and on time. More power to him if Smith can do that, but his window of opportunity will be a narrow one if the season to date is any indication.
Any concerns arise from this game?
Other than the obvious n eed to have Burgess back, no. Lewis got free a few times, but twice those were a direct result of Graham whiffs and sometime that's just going to happen versus a mobile quarterback. As Troy Smith previews go, it was reassuring. I would like to order a couple of those hilariously overthrown interceptions for Saturday.
No? Not so much?
Okay, seriously: I addressed this on Friday but did not fully understand the depth of Charles P. Pierce's mania re: Tom Brady getting screwed by Michigan. He's the guy with the book out on how Brady is basically, like, football Jesus, except LOL better. On Friday I knocked him for calling Michigan's coaching "incompetent." Now he's doing this thing at Slate where two guys send letters back and forth and he can't get through one without dropping something about how Tom Brady was basically, like, tortured and stuff by Lloyd Carr. It was like Abu Ghraib.
Article one has a throw-in phrase completely irrelevant to his point:
His entire competitive personaâ€”which he fashioned on his own, without a lot of help, especially at Michiganâ€”is based upon being a vital part of something bigger.
And then this:
And he did that believing, with the fundamental conviction that most great athletes have, that he was a better quarterback than the guys who had the advantages over him, whether that was Drew Henson at Michigan or Drew Bledsoe in New England. That's a difficult feat of locker-room diplomacy, but he managed it well on both occasions, particularly at Michigan, where he really did get a raw deal.
Article two further reminds us that Tom Brady overcame political machinations so staggering they boggle the mind to get anywhere near the NFL:
One of the things that first bound Tom Brady to Belichick was the fact that the latter runs as close to a pure meritocracy as there is in the league. After what Brady went through at Michigan, where his progress as a starting quarterback was consistently retarded by off-field politics that would have embarrassed Machiavelli, that kind of system was exactly what he was looking for.
(Such transparent crap: Brady was drafted by the Patriots. What he was looking for was "a team that wanted to draft him." And the Patriots meritocracy was so pure that the only way Brady got in a game was for someone to explode one of Drew Bledsoe's lungs. This stuff is worthy of deranged message board posters.)
Article three manages to avoid mentioning how Michigan dipped Brady's toes in acid before each game, but only because it mostly discusses contracts and kickers. Brady only shows up in one sentence.
So what do we make of all this? I'm not inclined to read books that only purport to be non-fiction, especially when they're no doubt filled with details of Lloyd Carr's daily meal of breakfast burritos made from the souls of dolphins, but we can observe the overall tone of Pierce's book from a statement his correspondent made in his initial salvo:
Brady's career arc lays waste to the clinical approach that dominates personnel evaluation in our most bureaucratic and CW-driven sport. Your book demonstrates that old sporting tropes like "character" and "perseverance" actually can matterâ€”if the athlete applies them to himself. What surprised me is how much material you found in the short life of a suburban kid whose toughest choice growing up was whether to hit a 3-iron or a 5-wood. This isn't an indictment of your portrait of the athlete as a young man, but I kept waiting for Brady to race into a burning building to rescue a litter of kittens.
Ah. It all becomes clear. To use the terminology of the dead-end sports-scribe, Pierce is a "fanboy," specifically a Tom Brady fanboy. He thinks that Brady's success in the NFL is because of character and perseverance instead of, say, his incredible ability to read defenses and accurate arm. You could read that sentence as "Pierce is dumb about sports," if you're so inclined. And you are. To prop up his idea that Brady's character and perseverance saw him through, he invents tragedy (the "material" referred to in the above quote) in the form of Michigan's "incompetent" coaching. No matter that literally every school in the nation looks up at Michigan's record of putting quarterbacks into the NFL. So he got a "raw deal" at Michigan which somehow explains his low draft status. No matter that in his two years as a starter he racked up approximately 700 attempts to Drew Henson's 150, a portion of those in garbage time. So Brady's progress as a starter was "consistently retarded" at Michigan. No matter that he was All Big-Ten both years and led Michigan to an Orange Bowl victory.
It would appear that the only thing here consistently retarded is Charles P. Pierce for Tom Brady.
(Note that Peter damn King apparently writes completely fictional columns that should not be cited.)