"Though I received no official response to these sophisticated and elegant tweets to the Illini Athletic Department, I would like to think that Beckman spent the evening prank calling everyone in Illinois named George McLellan and then ordering an absurd amount of hats off an internet haberdashery to hoard in his home's hat annex."
A big game in one way (an excellent opponent) but not all that important in the long run (since everyone has it a guaranteed loss). Abram will play, so we've got that going for us.
So, I dumped a lot of time and effort into a series of Big Ten previews of prodigious length and questionable accuracy. This being the Internet, people can actually go back and read these things, marvel at my incompetence, and flit away, never to be heard from again. I thought I'd dissect them myself... if you have to hear that I'm an idiot, at least you're hearing it from me.
I said... absolutely nothing.
Overall Accuracy: Excellent. If there was one Big Ten team to ignore due to time constraints, Illinois was it.
I said... in summary:
...the forecast for Indiana football remains mostly cloudy with a 10 percent chance of bowl.
Hoeppner has proven he's a good coach, but if he turns Indiana into a winner he'll be doing the coaching equivalent of walking on water. The Hoosiers don't need a coach, they need a savior.
And I predicted... That the Hoosiers would end up 3-8 and 1-7 at best in the Big Ten. Indiana ended up 4-7, 1-7.
Eerie Accuracy: A defensive line returning three starters did not impress:
Three of four starters return, but it's doubtful a single offseason has worked wonders--all three returners were juniors last year, not pups fresh out of high school. They're not likely to instantly turn into stout run stoppers. The new face on the defensive line is a redshirt freshman converted offensive lineman. There is no depth whatsoever behind the starters. This unit will be a major hindrance to the team unless Hoeppner works a near-miraculous turnaround.
Redshirt freshman Mike Vlahogeorge has an outside shot of taking the reins if Powers falters.
Vlahogeorge quit football.
Overall: Good, but this was a prediction with a low degree of difficulty. Quick, I'm holding a gun to your head and will fire if you're incorrect: is Indiana going to suck in 2006?
I said... um, not so good.
On November 12th, 2004, the Badgers were 9-0, #4 in the polls and riding an intimidating defense to either the national championship game or the Rose Bowl. Badger fans would do well to wistfully remember that moment. ... Close your eyes and think of Koufax, cheeseheads, because this year is going to be ugly.
10-3 and a Citrus Bowl stomping of Auburn? Sign me up for some of that ugly.
Eerie Accuracy: I did rate the defensive backs a 2 and claim them a "huge question mark."
Disheartening Idiocy: Yeesh. I think "John Stocco sucks" was the conventional wisdom going into the year. It certainly was around these parts:
John Stocco was a mess last year and it would be surprising to see him make it through this year without getting in a serious quarterback controversy. ...I can't understand how he's the starting quarterback of a program with a pulse. ... Stocco has a long way to go. A really, really long way.
I gave him a big fat "1." Prepare for some mindblowing stats: Stocco threw seven more passes in 2005 than he did in 2004 but had 32 additional completions, 12 additional touchdowns, and 921 additional yards. Wisconsin went from 99th to 11th in the country in passing efficiency. Sweet Fancy Moses.
What happened? Paul Chryst returned from pass-nutty Oregon State to become offensive coordinator and lived up to the ridiculous preseason message board hype--a titanic accomplishment. To put it in terms Michigan fans can understand, if Steve Stripling had the impact Chryst did, Lamarr Woodley would have beaten six quarterbacks to death this year with only his right pinky toe.
And I predicted... Goddammit: 5-7 and 2-6 in the Big Ten. The best-case scenario I laid out? 7-5.
Overall: A Gang Of Six-esque projection. Totally useless. In my defense: how was I supposed to know John Stocco would turn into a quarterback and that Brian Calhoun would haunt my dreams?
Northwestern appears to be relying on Brett Basanez's shaky arm (53.8 completion percentage in '04) to win games next year. They are confused. Basanez is "heady" and "a gamer" but in his case those are just nice ways to say "incapable of throwing straight." ... Never fear, Wildcats, there's always basketball season... uh, the hockey team... um... alums bashing everybody in newspapers nationwide. Yeah. That's the ticket.
Stupid quarterbacks who "improve."
And I predicted... 5-6, 3-5 in the Big Ten. Nortwestern finished the regular season 7-4, then lost to UCLA in the Sun Bowl to finish 7-5.
Eerie Accuracy: Probably the best obscure prediction of the entire enterprise:
Despite his diminutive stature, or perhaps because of it, Sutton could be the 2005 version of Mike Hart. ... Expect to see him on the field sooner rather than later.
Sutton ran for 1474 yards, eighth in the country, and caught 44 passes for 396 yards.
And this was a layup, but I trashed the defensive backfield:
Expect many very short men to escort larger men in various uniforms to the endzone. ... Northwestern is looking at three new starters (with the returning starter switching positions), a set of corners who have difficulty seeing over steering wheels, very little depth, and a history of giving up a ton of pass yards. I would be very surprised to see this unit pick itself up off the canvas this year.
Disheartening Idiocy: You will begin to sense a trend very soon. Like Stocco, Wildcat quarterback Brett Basanez came in for a tongue lashing:
Brett Basanez has a ton of experience but an inaccurate arm. He's a hard-nosed guy who is decently suited for the run-oriented spread option Northwestern runs but doesn't have the athleticism to be a real threat in the run game or the arm to be a true dropback passer. ... He is a limited player who's essentially a version of Craig Krenzel surrounded by middling talent. Yes, he's "heady" and "a gamer" but he's not particularly good.
Also like Stocco, Basanez used his anger at getting trashed on some anonymous dude's blog and turned it into yards and points: 9 more touchdowns, about 800 additional yards, etc. Both the coaches and media selected him first-team All Big Ten.
Overall: Meh. I was two games off on the regular season prediction and severely underrated Basanez, but accurately forecast Sutton as a player and didn't think much of the defense.
Penn State's hope this year rests heavily on [the] defense, which returns 10 starters, the shotgun arm (powerful but inaccurate) of quarterback Michael Robinson, and the fleet feet of freshman uberrecruit Derrick Williams. If the defense can again lock down its opponents and Robinson, Williams, and the rest of the offense can eke out juuuuust enough offense, Penn State will return to a once familiar fairyland: a bowl. Any bowl.
I suppose the Orange Bowl counts as "any bowl," right?
And I predicted... 7-4, 4-4 in the league... certainly not 11-1, but also far better than the conventional wisdom.
trong>Eerie Accuracy: There was a theory running around that the Penn State defense wasn't actually all that good but it looked like it was because the PSU offense was so toothless that opposing coaches got a one-score lead and spent the rest of the game practicing their fullback dives, but I didn't buy it, ranking the DL, LBs, and DBs a 4, 5, and 5, respectively. I called Tamba Hali "Lamarr Woodley-lite" and meant it as a compliment and claimed that the secondary was most definitely "for real." A layup, perhaps, but I take what I can get.
Disheartening Idiocy: It's Michael Robinson's turn in the Hilariously Wrong Preseason QB Trashing Hotseat:
Rating: 1. Can I give this a zero? Joe Paterno, repeat after me: "Michael Robinson is a wide receiver. Michael Robinson is a wide receiver. Michael Robinson is a wide receiver."
Hell, I even made getting rid of him one of my season keys for PSU:
Bench Robinson. Or move him to wide receiver. Unless Jay Paterno works a miracle he's going to be the least accurate quarterback in the league by a country mile--coincidentally the same distance by which he'll miss his WRs.
Oy oy oy. Though Robinson did not deserve the second-team All Big Ten status he received, he was an average passer (mid-50s in efficiency) and capable runner (nearly 1000 yards), which is all the Penn State defense needed to choke bitches nationwide.
Overall: Despite being three games off probably one of the better results. You show me someone who thought Penn State would win the Big Ten and finish 11-1 and I'll show you a 38-year-old mail carrier from Pennsylvania who thinks Michigan pays the refs and is still voting for Eugene V. Debs. (Screen name: sxyPSUgrrl, natch.)
The remainder early next week.
Crappy table legend:
- * == redshirted
- bold == key players
|2005||Chad Henne||So.||Matt Gutierrez||Jr.*||Jason Forcier||Fr.|
|2006||Chad Henne||Jr.||Jason Forcier||Fr.*||David Cone||Fr|
Should improve, though how much I have no idea.
I guess it says something when your true sophomore quarterback completes 58% of his passes for 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions and is regarded as a big fat disappointment. For the 2005 edition of the Michigan Wolverines it says "Jesus we ran a lot of wide receiver screens," because Henne was indeed a big fat disappointment no matter how slightly above average his stats look. We've gone over this before, so suffice it to say that Henne's inconsistency caused more than a few people to curse their television (or eyes) out and definitely cost Michigan more than one game.
This will be Henne's make or break year. With two full years of starting under his belt, he's as experienced as John Navarre--who has a third of Henne's natural talent--was when he led Michigan to the Rose Bowl and was named All Big Ten. If he doesn't improve his accuracy significantly, Michigan's offense will end up spinning its wheels much like it did last year. The good news: towards the end of the year his accuracy and pocket presence both improved, especially against Ohio State.
|2005||Mike Hart||So.||Kevin Grady||Fr.||Jerome Jackson||Jr.*||Max Martin||So.|
|2006||Mike Hart||Jr.||Kevin Grady||So.||Jerome Jackson||Sr.*||Carlos Brown||Fr.|
Should improve moderately.
Predictions of a three-headed demon backfield did not materialize. Mike Hart limped through the season, alternating dominating, saliva-generating performances with pensive standing on the sideline. Kevin Grady's often ended up running into his own offensive linemen or the waiting arms of tacklers surprised at the young man's generosity. Max Martin, well... I called him a greasy-armed malcontent and I'm sticking with that. Though they were hamstrung by an offensive line best forgotten, the position group was an overall disappointment.
With a healthy Hart, a more experienced backup, and some OMG speed in freshman Carlos Brown, the running backs should come closer to the lofty expectations placed upon them before last year. That won't necessarily mean the running game becomes crushing--the mess on the offensive line will have to get resolved before that happens--but goddammit Hart's going to be on the field instead of on the sidelines (knock on wood). That's improvement.
|2005||Brian Thompson||Jr.*||Will Paul||So.*||Obi Oligibo||Jr.*|
|2006||Will Paul||Jr.*||Brian Thompson||Sr.*||Andre Criswell||Fr.*|
Should remain level.
I suppose returning both players who saw extensive time is good, but Paul can't catch and Thompson can't block. With a couple of capable tight ends and a veritable armada of wide receivers, Michigan should rely on the fullback less this year--though whether they actually will is a matter of some debate.
|2005||Tyler Ecker||Jr.*||Tim Massaquoi||Sr.*||Mike Massey||Fr.*|
|2006||Tyler Ecker||Sr.*||Mike Massey||So.*||Carson Butler||Fr.*|
Should decline slightly.
Massaquoi was never a great receiver, especially when he was running around with a club in one hand, but the fleeting glimpses of Mike Massey demonstrated that the freshman's blocking has an epic distance to cover before it can be considered adequate, let alone good. Assuming Tyler Ecker has plateaued, that indicates a slight decline.
Even so, the tight ends should be good. Ecker is athletic for a guy his size and has good hands. Even when Massaquoi's cast came off it was clear that Ecker had passed him for the starting job. Massey--who has received buzz as an excellent receiver--also contributed a few catches. Neither of these guys is going to pound your head into the ground, but as a pass-catching duo they'll probably be formidable and heavily relied upon, as the receivers do not appear to have a possession type in their midst.
Keep an eye out for hulking manbeast Carson Butler, who has Bill Brasky of College Football potential down the road. Butler--6'6", probably getting towards 240 or 250--played mostly basketball in high school before switching sports as a senior. He spent his senior year running fly routes as a hilariously oversized wide receiver. If he can actually play football he could find himself starting as soon as next year.
|2005||Jason Avant||Sr.||Steve Breaston||Jr.*||Antonio Bass||Fr.|
|Mario Manningham||Fr.||Carl Tabb||Jr.*||Doug Dutch||Fr.*|
|2006||Mario Manningham||So.||Antonio Bass||So.||Carl Tabb||Sr.*|
|Steve Breaston||Sr.*||Adrian Arrington||So.*||Doug Dutch||So.|
Should be approximately level.
Jason Avant will be missed, but the next five guys on the depth chart return. Antonio Bass and Mario Manningham got unprecedented levels of playing time for true freshman, Manningham in particular. One of them will have to make the leap from intruigingly fast youngster to "Oh God, Not That Guy." Indications are that this will likely happen: after all, Manningham had a better year than any freshman wide receiver since AC. He's on the fast track to stardom. Michigan's hopes for the WR corps rest on just how fast that track is.
There is an issue with size. Michigan has always had a selection of big, physical players. None of the projected top three wideouts next year matches that description, but sophomore Adrian Arrington and redshirt freshman Laterryal Savoy will audition for the role of deceptively tan white possession receiver.
|2005||Adam Stenavich||Sr.*||Leo Henige||Sr.*||Adam Kraus||So.*||Matt Lentz||Sr.*||Rueben Riley||Jr.*|
|Mike Kolodziej||Jr.*||Alex Mitchell||Fr.*||Mark Bihl||Jr.*||Jeremy Cuilla||Fr.*||Jake Long||So.*|
|2006||Mike Kolodizej||Jr.*||Rueben Riley||Sr.*||Adam Kraus||Jr.*||Alex Mitchell||So.*||Jake Long||Jr.*|
|Mark Ortmann||Fr.*||Justin Boren||Fr.||Mark Bihl||Sr.*||Jeremy Cuilla||So.*||Cory Zirbel||Fr.*
Should... improve I guess.
Normally losing three starters would be major cause for concern, but since two of the starters were obviously quite bad at the whole blocking people thing it's a mixed blessing. Add in the fact that both Jake Long and his backup missed most of the season and Michigan should have a bounceback year on the OL. Four of the projected starters have about a season's worth of experience, though Rueben Riley's has come at a mishmash of positions. Only projected RG Alex Mitchell is totally inexperienced.
Despite Mitchell's youth, the blinking question mark is new left tackle Mike Kolodziej. Lost in the wailing over the revolving doors at guard was how the departed Adam Stenavich quietly erased anyone who attempted to get past him. Kolodziej is regarded as an able pass blocker without the mean streak needed to do much in the run game, but has not been extensively tested. He's seen time here and there, usually against weak competition, and is now thrust onto the most important spot on the line.
Hail! Hail! to the champions of the Crab
Nebula... or something.
Looks good, doesn't it? Projected improvement from the returning offensive backfield, the cornucopia of top-100 wide receivers coming of age, an offensive line that has both experience and functional knees... Michigan's offense will explode across the stars in a glorious supernova of points, leaving a white-hot glowing Crab Nebula that future football teams will marvel at for millennia to come!
Wait, that was what I said last year. Or words to that effect. Consider me chastened and newly humble. There's a lot of good out there but three major ways it can fall apart:
- Evil Henne. This is obvious: he has to play better. He should have more opportunities to actually do something right with a (please, God) better offensive line and the threat of an actual running game, but even accounting for the myriad problems he had to deal with this year he was an average Big Ten quarterback at best, which doesn't cut it.
- Hey, offensive line, it's your mom! She says you still suck? Yoda says if the OL does not improve, the skill position talent matters not.
- Proving message board retards right. This is not a place where lamentations about Carr's utter unsuitability for anything other than janitor at a meat packing plant are offered up constantly, but Michigan has shown a tendency to fritter away offensive talent on a regular basis. This usually happens when Michigan has found itself in a "comfortable" lead (like, say, 3-0 in the first quarter) and decides to pack away the scoring offense for another day. Stay aggressive.
If none of these three things come to pass, the Michigan offense really will be nebula-causing. That's unlikely, though. Pumpkin Henne is probably not going to go back to Cinderella without a half-season of growing pains. The offensive line is not likely to be magnificent, and Lloyd Carr is too set in his ways to change completely.
Yes, it should be better, but better does not necessarily equal "good." Michigan finished 55th in total offense, and that likely understates how crappy they did. Tomato-can defenses occupied a wide swath of the schedule: only three opponents (Penn State, Ohio State, and Nebraska) had defenses ranked higher than 50th. Michigan could improve a great deal and end up average.
More (tenuous) grist for the mill. Lynn Henning throws this line away at the end of a column called "The Buzz" (OMG young reader magnet!):
Michigan is about to change defensive coordinators...
I hope everyone likes speaking ENGLISH WINK WINK WINK. (<== clever allusion to rumors? we'll never know!) Also, Max Martin's transfer is official.
Meanwhile, people who don't know sexy from a dead penguin have declared the 2005 Automotion calender to have too much of said sexy when in reality it contains far too little. The "American Decency Organization" is pissed and totally lacking a copy editor or even the slightest idea what's going on in the world. Check it from their press release... here's a piece of evidence that world hell handbasket etc:
***The SuperBowl and Jannette Jackson (the wardrobe malfunction)
Figures. Though calling "Michael" something closer "Michelle" might work. And I would love to see an ADO boycott of the SuperBowl this year. After all, it's in DetRoit.
You can see for yourself: WARNING!!! PORNOGRAPHY!!! Hell, you can download the whole thing and set it up as your desktop background... but, really, it's disappointing. You'd think the American Decency Organization would have the, er, decency to trash something with, like, whips and perversion and stuff. Instead they attack the most innocuous, innocent pictures of B+/A- chicks in bikinis ever created. Go figure.
Speaking of perversion, move over "Tim Tebow Shirtless" because we have a new winner in the field of "creepiest search term used to reach MGoBlog"... drumroll please:
If you don't know what slash fiction is, er, check Wikipedia. And then enter the fetal position if necessary.
Speaking of overuse of the segue "speaking of"... I got nothing. But I want you to know that I know. Now you know that I know you know.
Update 1/11: Removed OLs Mark Jackson and Doug Stroud (not being recruited), QB Rick Stanzi, RB CJ Spiller, DE Jason Adjepong(VT), CB Devin Ross, LB Mike Morgan, S Ian Conyers. Moved LA CB Jai Eugene to committed. Added SC DT Adam Patterson, who just visited. Also added LA RB William Griffin.
Linked to free Scout article on Thaddeus Gibson in which Gibson is very explicit about his intentions:
"I 'd say there's a 65-70% chance I'll commit to Ohio State over the other programs."
Mentally moving him to the "written off" bin. Also linked to Scout article on Brandon Minor. Minor is noncommittal in the article, though he does get off this totally awesome quote:
"Coach (Lloyd) Carr was here on Jan. 3, and Coach (Phil) Fuhlmer was here on Jan. 4," he said. "They both told me how much they wanted me and stuff. I know that Michigan got a commitment from another running back, but that doesn't mean anything to me, I'll go in and play wherever I go."
Editorial Opinion: Most of the casualties were guys who mentioned Michigan once or twice and then never again. Only Adjepong actually got in for a visit. The Eugene commit is obviously very good. Check last weekend's article for more details.
That leaves a few pieces of news: we're in it for a random SC DT, Adam Patterson, who visited and came away quite impressed; Thad Gibson is probably going to Ohio State; Brandon Minor has Michigan in his leading group and Allen Wallace can't spell "Fulmer."
The projected loss of Gibson is no big deal since Michigan has either three or four linebackers in this class already, though he may prove a thorn in the side down the road. First he'll have to get his grades up. Minor seems interested in Michigan and the above quote indicates he isn't looking at Carlos Brown as a major negative. Some think Minor would be a fullback in college, but Michigan's recruiting him at TB. Patterson--a DE/DT tweener, BTW--still has four more official visits to go but is definitely interested.
For a more complete take on Michigan's recruiting efforts to date, check out IBFC's latest opus. I would just add this: with the departures of Martin and Gutierrez, the most commonly kicked around number of scholarships is 18. It's likely that a few fifth-year seniors do not return, however, and Michigan could take as many as 21 players. Michigan has 15 commits. Simple math (coughLloydcough) indicates 3-6 additional players.
Link a heah.
Hurray, that's the poll hurray. If you're interested, you can see all the individual ballots here.
Blogpoll Declares Victory! Um... yeah, Auburn is lower than Wisconsin. I love you guys.
Fallers: As expected, both Miami and Oregon got thumped heavily, Miami because they lost by 37 points and Oregon because they finished the season as unimpressively as any 10-2 team ever has. Also getting pounded was Auburn after they were run out of the (cough) Citrus Bowl by Brian Calhoun and Wisconson. Fellow top-ten losers Georgia and Notre Dame found a softer landing, dropping only 3 and 4 slots respectively.
Risers: Mass carnage in the top ten allowed several teams to slide up quite a ways, most notably Wisconsin. Their unexpected throttling of the aforementioned Tigers catapulted them from #17 to #10. Also shooting upwards: Sugar Bowl-shockers West Virginia and Miami-assistant-coach-murderers LSU, each gaining five slots. Towards the bottom, an 8-4 Oklahoma team parlayed a victory over Oregon into the #20 spot, largely because down there a lot of nose-holding took place.
Wack Ballot Watchdog: Come on, now, Boi From Troy. Y'all lost. It does the poll no credit to be the only one in existence with someone holding out for USC. Nor does your sanity seem, uh, sane when Florida State is #10. Not to be outdone, Pitt Sports Blather ranks the Tide #17, a full six spots worse than any other voter.
Now on to the extracurriculars. First up are the teams which spur the most and least disagreement between voters as measured by standard deviation. Note that the standard deviation charts halt at #25 when looking for the lowest, otherwise teams that everyone agreed were terrible (say, Eastern Michigan) would all be at the top.
Ballot math: First up are "Mr. Bold" and "Mr. Numb Existence." The former goes to the voter with the ballot most divergent from the poll at large. The number you see is the average difference between a person's opinion of a team and the poll's opinion.
Go ahead, take a guess as to who Mr. Bold is. Yes, it's Boi From Troy. We've discussed TCU, Texas, and FSU already. Georgia at #17 is also a huge outlier and various smaller ones are dispersed throughout the ballot. It's okay, BFT: two national titles is still pretty good.
Oddly enough, our final Mr. Numb Existence is is RD Baker from Cheap Seats, who was a frequent visitor in the "Mr. Bold" category, winning it three times (I think). Newly staid and plaid-donning RD Baker, the BlogPoll salutes your for your ruthelessly efficient ballot! [/Big Ten Wonk]
Next we have the Coulter/Krugman Award and the Straight Bangin' Award, which are again different sides of the same coin. The CKA and SBA go to the blogs with the highest and lowest bias rating, respectively. Bias rating is calculated by subtracting the blogger's vote for his own team from the poll-wide average. A high number indicates you are shameless homer. A low number indicates that you suffer from an abusive relationship with your football team.
The CK Award belongs to Oklahoma blog The Gaylord Memorial Gathering for placing the Sooners #15... but given the mess in the middle of this year's poll that's not too insane.
Straight Bangin' Award candidates number exactly two in the post-season, as only two blogs got above the paltry -0.4 registered by any Michigan blogger who (justly) omitted his team from the final poll: Bruins Nation, your champion, and Mayor Kyle King. One wants Karl Dorrell fired... the other is above such petty things as overrating his own team. Salutes all around.
Swing is the total change in each ballot from last week to this week (obviously voters who didn't submit a ballot last week are not included). A high number means you are easily distracted by shiny things. A low number means that you're damn sure you're right no matter what reality says.
Mr. Manic Depressive is a less notably insane version of The View From Rocky Top, who dropped his tremendous SEC fixation in favor of... well, a lot of stuff. You don't hit 172 on the swing scale without seriously revamping your ballot.
Mr. Stubborn goes to the aforementioned Pitt Sports Blather, who had West Virginia in front of Georgia even before all this crazy Sugar Bowl stuff happened... and reacted to that game by bumping WVU up two spots and Georgia... up one spot! Likewise, the (cough) Citrus Bowl saw both participants drop a single slot. I, uh... okay.
Aaaaand that's all folks. Except not really. I'll throw together some season averages for next week so we can have some fun badgering the outlying voters with evidence o
f their clear insanity. Thanks to all who participated by voting, writing roundtable responses, commenting, and reading. We'll wind down over the course of a few weeks, discuss what went wrong and what went right, and then start up again in the summer when the impending season can no longer be ignored.