I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
We're going to kick David Letterman's ass. Ball State. 2006. Feel the lack of excitement.
The Big Ten basketball schedule was recently released. Hawkeye Hoops has the relevant section of it: a list of the opponents each team plays only once. Michigan draws one of the shorter sticks, missing delicious puffy substances Northwestern and Penn State. (Why does the Big Ten play only 16 conference games? Can't they at least go to 18? Do I really need to see Michigan destroy pushovers like
Boston University Oakland IUPUI?)
Blogspotting over heah: The Bemusement Park checks in with a Dabbler's Guide to College Football. Good for you Pac 10 fans out there. Check it out between earthquakes. Sunday Morning Quarterback drops his Big Ten preview. He picks the Hated Buckeyes with an Obviously Flawed Computation System, but he does it with panache, so it's cool. The Subsidiary... I don't even know how to describe this. It's obsessive, insane, beautiful: a theorized fall spent road-tripping across the country, catching games as often as possible, wandering about, watching bratwurst, eating football. Sweet. Eat football. And then there's this from Wannabeleader. Uh. Yeah. And stuff. (HT: Boi From Troy.) And Blah Blah Blah has some lingering concerns he'd like addressed.
O Canada, sometimes I love you. Usually this is during the opening theme of Hockey Night In Canada, but it also pops up when I read things like this:
The lockout-ridden CBC was left without camera technicians, directors, announcers and commentators for the game between the Toronto Argonauts and Edmonton Eskimos.
"We've been monitoring the chat rooms and some of the online feedback around the game and in fact the response has been fairly positive," said MacDonald. "Contrary to what some people have said in the press, a lot of fans said they enjoyed it."
Ratings actually increased. Hopefully network management is getting some "right-sizing" ideas. (HT: FO.)
Speaking of Canada, when you make an uncannily accurate comparison between the Canadian Curling Association and the NCAA, well, you get linked. The Sports Economist has your SWEEP! SWEEP! AVAST YER MATIES SWEEEEEEP action.
Sports (Graphically) Illustrated gets a well-deserved knifing from Michael David Smith, also of Football Outsiders, in the latest issue of The New Republic. Insert a lot of words about the unfortunate direction of sports media that you've heard from me before. I actually stopped reading SI before the ESPN Magazine/tabloid pressure came into being because when I got each issue I realized I was reading about the last 10 pages--you know, the "Inside the NFL/NBA/CFB" stuff--and skipping over 80 or so softball profiles of athletes who I find interesting only in the context of competition. People who are both highly paid sports professionals and, you know, not deathly boring are few and far between, like supermodel neuroscientists. I'm at a loss to explain why it seems to be the focus of an ever-expanding coverage universe that results in things like the "Budweiser Hotseat."Gag me with a spoon, as they say.
Check the comments on FO for more discussion.
The Harris Poll sucks! Okay, this is an interesting article from Dennis Dodd on the 114 voters of the Harris poll and their general unsuitability for the job at hand. Four have already resigned. Three, including Lou Holtz, are gone because of their ties to ESPN, which is apparently against this whole polling business now. The fourth is some dude who lays bricks for a living. No, that's not a joke. His connection with college football: he watches a ton of it. Sounds like he'd do a better job than Terry Bradshaw, but alas, it is not to be.
The voracity is verified by the Free Press, though no length of time is given. I've heard from a few unconfirmed-but-good sources that the duration is on the worse side of the scale, closer to the whole year than 4-6 weeks.
Panic level seems low. Vijay and even nattering nabob of negativity (no offense) Joey seem relatively placid, as am I after a few deep breaths. Kolodziej is an able replacement. Michigan's OL was about eight deep with people I wouldn't hyperventilate upon seeing in crunch time. Now they're seven deep, though the two remaining non-panic backups are both interior linemen (at this point apparently Henige and Mitchell), so another tackle injury would put us a nervous place. But probably not a Courtney Morgan-against-Iowa place.
This still fits in the "rumor" category, but four different sources have indicated that tackle Jake Long is seriously hurt. It's supposed to be an ankle. Estimates on the time missed range from four weeks to six weeks to the entire year. The parameters are still up for debate but I think it's extremely doubtful that it's not true. The extent of the injury is probably still unknown.
Redshirt junior Mike Kolodziej is now thrust into the spotlight. Kolodziej actually beat Long out at right tackle last year and started the first couple games before Long took over and started ripping opponent's arms out of their sockets and beating them to death with the now-useless appendage. So he's probably going to be all right. He played large sections of the Rose Bowl and did fine. However, there's now a huge and ridiculous gap back to the third tackle, who would appear to be, uh, I have no idea. Ruben Riley, who was a tackle until he found himself starting at guard midway through last year, would probably slide back outside and whoever lost the LG job would find himself in the starting lineup.
In summary, goddammit.
So says Michael Spath on Rivals. tbarr chimes in as well. As mentioned earlier, what a strange decision by the Canucks. They had an extra year before the leverage swung in Brown's direction and it's hard to see him as anything other than a disposable fourth liner in the NHL, if that.
Michigan is down to 13 forwards now. Before it looked like the team would actually have considerable depth up front. Now we're two injuries/suspensions/WJC seeyas away from seeing Krikor Arman 2005 suit up. My enthusiasm for the season has taken a huge hit. At least Johnson appears to be showing up; if he had gone, too... well, let's not think about it. Puppies, etc.
(Still the CCHA favorite? Sure.)
I do a lot of Carr apologizing on this site... or at least I think there is a definite subset of Michigan fans who would think so. Never fear, hardened cynics, for there are things Lloyd Carr does that make me want to tear his spleen out. (These fits are usually brief in duration and followed by regret. (Please no sex jokes at my expense.))
So, I *DEMAND!!1!* that the following changes be implemented in the next week or so:
Stop running defensive players on and off the field after every damn play.Jim Herrmann seems to have the belief that a more complicated defense is a better defense. Part of this is a substitution scheme that sees four or five defensive substitutes enter the game after most plays, look back to the sideline, and then scurry off. I believe this system initially was created to combat Joe Tiller's 15-guys-in-the-huddle offense. It was a good idea at the time. Now it's just thoroughly annoying and confusing.
The Jim Herrmann Playbook
The useless run-on-run-off thing is also a microcosm of Jim Herrmann's fatal flaw: excessive complexity. I despise watching the Michigan defense attempt to line up before the snap, especially if someone goes in motion. Instead of simply adjusting to the situation presented to the defense, there is always hurried pointing. Then either three players or no players cover a particular wide receiver until some more pointing is done, at which point (hur hur) someone completely different takes the guy, who then scores a 58-yard touchdown. Every time. And then people say that Michigan's defense is easy to interpret! Why is it that Michigan's defense is so incredibly simple to dissect but difficult to actually play?
I have to stop this section now before I shatter my monitor and electrocute myself to death. Puppies. Puppies. Heart love candle puppies. Okay. Better.
Not a common sight.
Throw the ball with backup wide receivers in the game. Michigan used to have a nasty case of formation/down-and-distance predictability. Michigan fans could tell you that a second and long was going to be an unsuccessful draw 80% of the time. Certain formations were guaranteed runs, others guaranteed passes or unsuccessful third and long draws. Terry Malone and Scott Loeffler the Boy Wonder have largely excised this failing from the Michigan offense, but there remains... er... a remnant of the bad old days. Michigan will often substitute out its badass first string wide receivers for younger or scrubbier players in the midst of the drive. This is fine. It usually happens after a couple of completions, it gets the first-stringers a blow and the superstars of tomorrow some experience. The only problem is that the only experience the young players get is blocking, because 90 percent of the time a play run with backup wide receivers is a run up the gut.
I kid you not: if Jermaine Gonzalez was in the game in a base formation last year there was a 90% chance of run. If Gonzalez and one of Carl Tabb or Adrian Arrington was on the field, there was a 99% chance of run. There are going to be a lot of times this year when younger wideouts are on the field. Throw them the ball, yo.
Go for it more. This is a principle familiar to all NCAA 2005 players. Fourth and two on the forty? Go. Forth and inches on your own three? Eh... go. Fourth and twenty from the thirty yard line and your kicker wears a helmet on the short bus home from the game? Go! It's also a principle that has been proven to be mathematically correct according to game theory. When you have a makeable fourth down in enemy territory, you should almost always go for it.
Run a fast-paced offense. Michigan will be the clearly superior team in almost every game this year. Ohio State is a wash. Iowa is close. Everyone else fits in the category of "should win due to general superiority." For years now Michigan has adopted a methodical, ball control style that has been generally successful save for about one game a year where the plebians revolt, storm the Forum, gut Michigan's national championship hopes, and leave them streaming in the wind.
Why does this happen? Because you play with your wing wing too much. Uh... I mean, it's partially because Michigan's style of play gives the underdog the advantage. A possession in football is much like one in basketball. You get the ball, you try to score, they try to stop you. Football has some very significant added state in the form of down and distance and field position, but the two situations are analogous. What do underdogs do in basketball? They slow the game down. Witness Michigan's near upset of Illinois last year. Michigan took the shot clock under ten during every possession before even looking for a shot. This is a reasonable strategy as you are looking to increase variance since you are the underdog--reducing the number of possessions in the game increases the variance. (Do you think the Illini would have ended up 39-2 if each game consisted of one possession per team?)
Michigan's football team finds itself in the opposite situation. They are expected to win and win often because few teams can match the talent they march out on the field. They want to reduce variance. (If you buy this, you can also buy that Lloyd's conservative coaching style makes some sense... but there are situations in which the expectation he gives up far outweighs the reduction in variance that he gains by, say, punting from the 35.) An excellent way to reduce said variance is by increasing the tempo of the offense.
Not to mention that Michigan's plethora of offensive talent--three deep at almost every skill position--should have a greater advantage late versus a defense that's tried to tackle Hart, Martin, and Grady all game. Running a speedy offense will reduce variance and highlight Michigan's depth advantage. Also there will be more touchdowns, and touchdowns make you feel goooooood.
Play extremely aggressive defense on first down. This suggested strategy also derives from the desire to increase the number of drives in a game. On first and ten I would rather see Michigan in a defense that produces a large number of second and longs and a few 15-20 yard plays against than a defense that concedes 3-5 yards before the ball is snapped. Bending and not breaking is for teams like MSU who are just hoping to get a stop maybe okay just this once please.
This isn't something you can do all the time or you'll get burned--there's that game theory again--but Michigan should regularly attempt to punch opposing offenses off the field after three plays. The best way to do that is by inserting someone's helmet into the opposing quarterback, preferably so far it takes a quarter to remove.
You can see below what I've got for the BlogPoll ancillary stats so far. There's also going to be a "swing" measure which is the total change between each blog's ballot from week to week.
What should the in-season roundtable format be? They've been coming at approximately two week intervals now. Obviously college football's preferred time unit is the week. I thought we'd bump the frequency up to weekly, cut the question count down to ~2, and continue on. Without a critical mass of participation they seem kind of dumb, though, so I'd rather have too few than too many. Is weekly too often? Will you participate in most of them?
Should we weight ballots? If so, how? I would like to start this at some point in the future to give more weight to the opinions of people who participate on a regular basis and make good cases for or against teams. Part of the poll's philosophy is to fill in gaps of knowledge. The best way to do this seems to be offering tangible reward to those who do the filling. I was pleased to put NC State at #23 in my poll because Section Six gave me reasons to do so. TAMBINPO's Big 12 rundown for the BlogPoll question swayed my opinion on various teams (it knocked OK down about 4 spots, moved up Texas A&M, and earned Texas Tech #24). They should get some extra poll-power, because if I got as well informed about every team I would feel much better about my ballot.
How to do this? Initial thought was a "rep me" button on everyone's blog that people could click when they found something useful, but that's absolutely ripe for abuse, and honestly a bit beyond my current web-wizardry (<-- TIC). It could be basd on traffic, but not everyone in the poll makes their traffic numbers public. I could give a small boost based simply on participation (ie, by voting and answering roundtables) or by weighting ballots based on correctness relative to the week's games. Whatever I decide will probably be a major project (and something not implemented until Year 2), but I'd like to get as many ideas possible here.
How should we deal with wildly biased voters? The Enlightened Spartan's initial ballot has MSU #17 and Michigan #20, which is pretty much beyond the pale when it comes to ridiculousness. This aggression will not stand, man. Remember how we scoffed at that guy who put Louisville #1? (Good times, good times.) Well, we've got our own house to attend to. I don't mind the ceremonial "whoever my team is goes #25 if they're not higher" preseason vote, nor do I particularly mind Bruins Nation giving Texas the #1 spot in the poll in an effort to piss off the USC voters--as long as they are willing to drop that motivation if USC proves itself to be a juggernaut once more. But something wildly divergent that has a real effect on the poll and loses us credibility in the eyes of discerning rabble is not cool. Bruins Nation with USC at #2 isn't going to do anything nasty to the poll. If they had them at #10, though, I'd have to get out my Internet Club With Nails In and thump some heads. There's a difference between harmless fun and poll-distorting juvenile bias.
I've got a bias rating and though it's simple, I plan on using it like a hammer, by, like, de-weighting votes of people who exceed a certain threshold, and continuing to do so if they continue to exhibit flagrant homerism. Does this meet with protest? Pitt Sports Blather pointed out an interesting article by a longtime AP voter. The AP takes things seriously:
Back in New York, the AP folks look at those ballots as they are tabulated. If they see something that doesn't pass the smell test, they make phone calls. If a Florida voter had ranked Tennessee ahead of Southern Cal, that would've been OK. But if that voter were to put Florida or Florida State as No. 1, alarms would go off.
Reasonable for them, critical for us. Whereas AP voters are Unbiased Press, we're Obviously Biased Fans. To have credibility (and I'm talking "this is an interesting social phenomenon" credibility not "let's insert this puppy into the BCS" credibility) we have to be more interesting, more open, and generally all-around better than the existing polls. Just as good isn't going to cut it. If some of us act immaturely, it reflects on the poll at large. I'd like to prevent that embarassment at all costs, but I can see an argument for anything-goes fun. What do you think?
So. Floor's open. Discuss.