that is nice bonus change
- Uh... LSU's persistent reluctance to beat anybody at all keeps dropping them down. They're probably better than that, but who knows?
- Everything else is fairly rote, I guess. I'm surprised everything is basically what I thought last week updated with a few events, like Clemson getting crooshed and USC finally dropping the game they've threatened to all year.
- Didn't see much except the 3:30-7 window -- home football and (ugh) hockey.
10/28/2006 - Michigan 17-3 Northwestern - 9-0, 6-0
You would think a poncho is something you can't screw up. Take some flexible plastic, punch one to three holes in it, and enjoy a waterproof exterior when the 35-degree rain comes down. Is it possible to get a poncho wrong?
Unfortunately, I can testify that it is. Unearthed from ancient reserves, I donned something that can be described as a poncho but could be more accurately be titled "grounds for murder." Made of a thick, stiff plastic, the thing projected out from my shoulders at a ninety-degree angle for a few inches. Its sides were left entirely open, one half-inch-long nub of ratty velcro the only concession to the idea of closure. When the wind blew -- which was constantly -- the Grounds for Murder flapped wildly, protecting my grumpy person in no way whatsoever. I sat on the poncho. People in front of me stood; I stood. I sat again. Wind kicked up and Grounds for Murder flapped again. I watched dropped passes and fumbles and an offense seemingly unearthed from the 1920s. I sat in the dreary rain. I coughed and ejected mucus, leftover goo from my midweek near-death experience. I was cranky. No doubt the following has been colored by that -- fair warning.
Even though I wrote something along the lines of "this is going to be boring and frustrating and we'll run all day" the day before, I was still surprised and dismayed. Michigan fans have split into two warring groups, one running around declaring Mike DeBord to be the devil, the other dismissing the game as a meaningless blip. Personally? I'm torn.
Mike DeBord does have some pointy-horn qualities about him. The kind of contemptuous gameplan assembled today is one reason we generally lose to some team we shouldn't. Michigan's bizarre strategy when coming up against obviously inferior teams is to run as much as possible, reducing the number of possessions in a game, giving away much of our advantage on offense by being remarkably predictable, and getting ourselves locked in close games. While the strategy reduces the chances of disaster but increases the chances said disaster will be fatal instead of annoying. It's dumb.
And don't give me guff about hiding the playbook for Ohio State. The Rosetta Stone to our offense is not a first-down slant. Throwing one will not cause the scales to fall from Tressel's eyes. Also not something to provide guff-like substance about: Mike DeBord's record as offensive coordinator, now something like 41-5 (I cannot be bothered to look it up, since it's a crap stat). DeBord's been OC here for four years and has had the good fortune to coach opposite two of the finest defenses in Michigan history. He's a pitcher who gets 8 runs a game from his offense: his win-loss record is virtually meaningless. If he didn't have a gaudy record it would be conclusive proof that he is inept.
So all these things are true. One of the crosses Michigan fans must bear is the nasty, dull, too close for comfort win over clearly inferior competition. It's our version of the Spartan collapse. But Michigan does not play like this against opponents it respects. I would like to have my cake and eat it, too: I don't like DeBord but it won't matter against Ohio State, a team that even he has to take seriously. Michigan's gameplans are only expectation-scorning things against the Northwesterns of the world.
Also: no Riley, Manningham, Ecker, or Massey. Arrington with reduced playing time. Hart dinged up and Super Fumble Brothers replacing him. Miserable, miserable weather. Excuses a-plenty are available if you wish to use them. But, really: Michigan's playcalling put it in a situation much like last year where they were forced to make several third-down conversions per drive. With the weather, the missing personnel, and the execution errors, the offense on homecoming was indeed a blast from the past: 2005.
The defense of a more distant, more powerful vintage, and we'll ride it as far as it takes us.
Hopefully light on "aaaaargh."
There are few iron-clad rules when it comes to this blog, but here's one: when you make your entire post a pitch-perfect homage to Alton Brown, you get a link. In a really big font:
Why? Because Alton Brown is the kind of man who goes to the hardware store to make barbecue. That's why. Because his sort of do-it-yourself spirit is the cooking analog of blogging. And because when he makes fajitas he puts the meat directly on hot charcoal.
How do you know something is the grand-bull-moose of terrible ideas? Well, it's a start if both Dennis Dodd and Matt Zemek think it's clever. If calculus was the world's lamest nickname, one of these guys would be Lame Nickname Newton and the other Lame Nickname Leibnitz. Dodd:
They call them the "English Majors," even though there aren't any on the Michigan defense. The nickname is a tribute to new defensive coordinator Ron English.
No, "they" don't. No one calls them that. Are these the same they that wanted Lloyd Carr fired? The same they that are strenously against Michigan luxury boxes?
To Michigan fans: if you weren't Michigan fans or Big Ten fans, would you still rate the Penn State win as impressive? The Nittany Lions scored just one offensive touchdown against Illinois... the same amount of offensive touchdowns scored against your truly wonderful defense, which shall now be known as the "English Majors."
No, it shall not. Dude... dude... I've got this rad idea for a nickname for Michigan's offense: the "Hart Attack." OMG LOL. And then we could call Mario Manningham "Super Mario" OMG LOL. OMG. LOL.
And they start to turn. Weis E. Coyote is beginning to grate on members of the media. His pity party about Notre Dame's drop in the polls after miraculously escaping UCLA caught the attention of Stewart Mandel (who I've figured out, BTW: he's really irritating when he writes anything about a team you support; that same quality makes his articles about rivals gold, Jerry. Gold!):
How, he wonders, did the Irish get passed by both a Tennessee team that needed a last-minute rally itself to survive Alabama and a Florida team that didn't even play?
It's a valid question.
Then again, one could also ask another legitimate question in regards to the situation: How on earth were the Vols and Gators ranked behind Notre Dame in the first place?
Climbing on board the bash-wagon is DJ Gallo of Page 2:
Hey, care to know what befuddles me, Charlie? How the head coach of Notre Dame, a program which has consistently been overrated and ranked higher than it deserved to be for more than a decade -- and for most of the past century -- has the audacity to complain about polls. I mean ... wow! That more than befuddles me.
I notice far fewer articles about Weis healing the sick and turning a meal for five into one for five thousand (then eating that, natch) these days and more pointing out that Weis and big games go together like peanut butter and cancer.
If you'd like a horrfying image of Weis' face photoshopped onto a baby's body (probably -- it could just be a tabloid candid), the MZone has you covered. And you need therapy.
Etc.: Article on FB commit Vince Helmuth.
What? Oh, come on. You really want me to do this? I was going to leave it at "Northwestern sucks," but that tempts fate and makes me feel guilty after a week of crappy blogging. So an abbreviated preview but a preview.
Fair warning: next week's preview is going to be "Ball State sucks." And that's all. I'll spend the time assembling a recruiting update.
Run Offense vs. Northwestern
I expect a return to the early days of the season, where we plow mercilessly into stacked fronts against teams that can't handle it. Though the Northwestern rush defense is statistically only slightly worse than average, they were ripped for 249 yards by PJ Hill and 137 by Tony Hunt in the only two games they faced actual Big Ten rushing attacks. (Michigan State sort of had to abandon the run after that whole 38-3 thing.) I don't expect Michigan to replicate Hill's 7.1 YPC, but anything less than 4.5 would be a disappointment, especially since the Wildcats' leading tackler, Nick Roach, is out for the year.
This is essentially a MAC level defense and Michigan will probably treat them with the contempt they reserve for apparently inferior foes, running blindly into stacked fronts. It'll work, it'll be boring, and it'll be frustrating.
Key Matchup: Minor and Grady versus Competence. No doubt they'll get some early carries; hopefully they prove capable enough to give Hart a nice long breather.
Pass Offense vs. Northwestern
Manningham, Massey, and Ecker are all out. Adrian Arrington's legal situation makes his status for this game questionable. Rueben Riley may or may not play after suffering some sort of leg injury towards the end of the first half versus Iowa. Even when healthy and playing competition we think is dangerous to us we run lots. To date we've run about 2/3rds of the time.
So... yeah. This is probably going to end up one of those days where Henne throws something like 18 times and completes 14 of them. Without anything resembling a deep threat (if Arrington is out), he'll probably end up with 150 yards or so. Not that the Northwestern defense is much good -- 84th in pass efficiency D, 104th in yardage terms -- but we're not likely to throw unless we have to.
Key Matchup: Breaston versus His Traitorous Hands. Mostly dormant these last few weeks but even I, a staunch defender of the man, don't think a game with him as the #1 receiver appeals much.
Run Defense vs. Northwestern
This is the one thing the Wildcats are good at, 31st in the country. Tyrell Sutton is having a rougher time of it this year without Brett Basanez to take some heat off of him, but the Wildcats are managing against the weaker defenses on their schedule.
With the #1 ranked rushing defense in the country, Michigan does not qualify as "weaker" than anyone, however, and the results from Northwestern's games against two similar opponents, Penn State and Wisconsin, do not project well for NW. Strangely, Sutton only got eight carries in each game, totalling 58 yards between them. The quarterback ran (or fled quite a bit); backup Terrell Jordan also got some carries. The totals: 56 carries for 203 yards, or 3.6 per, or slightly more than the season averages yielded by the two. If Northwestern turns in a similar performance they'll probably beat the 1.5 YPC Michigan is ceding.
So they've got that going for them.
Key Matchup: Michigan perimeter defenders versus a relatively mobile quarterback. We reached this point in 2004 with a rushing defense almost as good as this one only to see it fall apart QB draw by QB draw. It's doubtful such a thing will repeat, but still possible.
Pass Defense vs. Northwestern
I actually taped the Northwestern-Penn State game to review it. What can I say? I have a disease. The lingering impression from that game was the Northwestern quarterback -- whoever it was -- running for his life constantly. The offensive line was a sieve against a defense that hasn't shown much in the way of consistent pass rush versus the pulse-bearing. With 12 sacks and three broken quarterbacks left in its wake the past two weeks, the Michigan defense does not look like a good matchup. In other news: man bites dog and you can't breathe in space.
Though the Northwestern offense managed to find something resembling a passing game for the first time all year against Michigan State, let's review: Michigan State. Michigan. Okay. There's a reason Northwestern is 107th in passing efficiency.
Key Matchup: CJ Bacher versus complete annhilation.
...will be irrelevant.
Key Matchup: As above.
Okay... I break many rules by posting this but I must anyway:
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Everyone remains healthy.
- Prescott Burgess is not tackled at midfield and arrested by the Ohio National Guard for stealing baseball cards when he was nine.
- We show up.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 0 out of 10. (Baseline 5; -1 for You Lost To Michigan State, -1 for And Did I Mention You Led That Game 38-3, -1 for You Lost To UNH And This Isn't Hockey, -1 for Seriously, They're I-AA, -1 for SERIOUSLY.).
Desperate need to win level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +5 for Eff It, We Must Go To Columbus Undefeated)
Loss will cause me to... look for the portal back into my home universe.
Win will cause me to... yawn.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict: We win by lots.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Breaston touchdown. I have to be right about this eventually.
- Ohio State loses to Minnesota by 80 points.
- 30-6, Michigan.
WR Toney Clemons has committed to Michigan. Hooray and stuff. Informative update coming.
Informative Update: So... yeah, there's this YouTube compliation video with grainy-field level footage of Clemons doing stuff. Sometimes it's running a route or waiting for a punt or, like, sitting down, but he's definitely doing stuff. One warning: if you're Mormon, at work, or just irritated by choruses that consist of "#*$& bitches, make money" repeated a dozen time you might want to mute your computer. Anyway:
There's remarkable consensus on Clemons for a total lack of consensus. Scout has him the #8 WR in the country, Rivals #20, and ESPN #37, but all say the same thing about him: he's peanut butter cookie dough, raw but so good.
Mmmm... peanut butter cookie dough.
Anyway, witness the remarkable consensus! Scout:
Clemons is fantastic in the air, showing great leaping ability, body control, aggressiveness, athletic ability and concentration. He'll attack the ball at the highest point and make an acrobatic catch with the defensive back draped all over him.
... but they list "route-running skills" as an area for improvement. (Also, Scout purports that this quote came from Clemons in re: his Michigan official visit: "It was bananas!" Did we take him to a speakeasy? Or just warp him into Pleasantville?)
He is explosive for his size and can get over the top of defensive backs in a hurry. He has very good hands and long arms. Can extend to snag balls thrown outside of his frame and shows outstanding body control on contested balls and jump ball match-ups. ... Huge red-zone threat because of height and strength. ... There is no questioning his tools, measurables and athleticism, but he is raw.
ESPN ends up rating him a 78, which doesn't match the "WR #37" ranking, since their 150 ends at players ranked 79, making a 78 a four-star equivalent. Weird.
Recently I asked a dozen high school and college coaches who they thought was the best prospect between Jon Ditto, Nick Sukay, and Toney Clemons. Six coaches thought Ditto was the best prospect while six thought Sukay was.
...As for Clemons, while none of the coaches considered him the best of the three, he did get a good amount of second place votes and was considered to be the receiver with the biggest potential. "If he ever puts it together, he could be tough," said one coach, "but he is the most raw of the three. You would be taking him on potential because he won't make the sudden impact that Ditto and Sukay would make".
(Odd, since Sukay and Ditto are not college WRs. Sukay is a safety, Ditto a TE. The high school coaches probably answered a different question than they were asked.)
Gateway HS coach (
the home of Steve Breaston, I believe the home of Justin King, that foolish man) Terry Smith:
"Clemons was the best of the bunch [at the Pitt Scout Combine]; when a defensive back gives you a cushion, the good ones you can always tell will eat that up, and he does," said Gateway football coach Terry Smith, who worked with wide receivers at the combine. "He is just a great athlete, he's not a polished receiver, but his natural ability is off the charts."
Clemons was named MVP of that combine, and after it it was widely presumed that the guy was a five-star lock when guru rankings came out. Obviously, that didn't happen.
In keeping with our upside-themed discussion, NFL Draft Showcase -- run by a guy who's somewhere between "random" and "guru", Allen Trieu, projects him as the #1 wide receiver prospect for the... uh... 2010 NFL draft:
Surprised? [That you rate HS seniors? Yes. -ed] Clemons may be a top 100 player in most books, but rarely is he rated in the top 5-10 at the position nationally. After watching him on tape, I'm blown away by his ability to go up and get the ball. He has a big frame (6'3, 190) and great athleticism. He was also a track (hurdles) champion, so you know he has the physical tools. He hasn't put up huge stats, but he has all the skills to blossom into a big time college receiver and he projects well to the NFL as well. This could be a player some of the national powers regret sleeping on.
So there you go. Raw. Described as a "track phenom," named an Army All-American, a combine MVP, has friends with horrendous taste in highlight compilation music. Sounds good.
There is a catch, though: what was the deal with his offers? Michigan beat out Pitt, WVU, Colorado, and MSU -- though mostly Pitt -- for his commitment. No offense to those schools, but that's not exactly USC, OSU, and Texas. Michigan was the only top-tier school to offer, which has to raise questions. Anyone as supposedly electric as Clemons should have at least token offers from the big schools, especially after that combine performance. I guess we'll see.
This is all very odd to me. How raw can a wide receiver be? Your job is to go out, run routes, and catch the damn ball. I can see how there might be an adjustment period if you were switching positions, as Steve Breaston did, but Clemons has played WR his entire high school career. Any inconsistencies in his technique or route-running will get worked through in his freshman year, especially given Michigan's apparently never-ending assembly line of terrifying wideouts. Either Clemons is not the remarkable athlete everyone says he is or a bunch of schools just made a major mistake.