I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
Ever have one of those Yosemite Sam moments where something you read just makes you go "OOOOOOOOHHHHHHH WHY I OUGHTA"? Yeah. Well, Terry Bowden's Big Ten preview for Yahoo Sports just made me jump up into the air, steam billowing out my ears, hands grasping for my humorously oversized hat. And it all started with this sentence:
OSU is a different team with Troy Smith at quarterback. He adds a dimension to the offense that opens up things for everybody else.
Oh, man. That's severely disconnected from what passes for reality at mgoblog. It also provides an opportunity for me to digress into
A Diatribe About Human Nature
Ernest Shazor was an All-American last year and a Thorpe finalist despite playing on a defense that utterly imploded its last four games. Pat Massey is coming in for a John Navarre-level bludgeoning from Michigan fans despite having essentially no role in the same defense's collapse. Some people think Troy Smith doesn't suck.
Why is this the case? Evolutionary psychology. For serious! Each of these players has had one high profile event (killing Dorien Bryant, not sacking Vince Young, playing Michigan, respectively) that seriously distorted everyone's perception of their abilities. Check it:
- Human perception is "probable and definite," as William James put it. That means that when your mind gets enough information to identify something, man, it goes for it. A congress of leaves in the jungle arranges itself in a sort of stripe-y, orange-and-black, tail-shaped fashion and OMG IT'S A TIGER!!! Conclusions are leapt to. Good for not getting eaten, but problematic when you're wrong with your conclusion and no further information is provided; you can never swing your probable to another definite.
- We are invested in being correct. So unbelievably so. Attend any political rally, or, I dunno, head over to any of the screamier political blogs, and you'll realize two things:
- I have to take a shower.
- This really isn't about believing in principles, it's about believing that I'm right.
Humanity's survival was always based on its ability to apply gathered knowledge. We are soft and pink and not particularly beweaponed. The reason we eat shark meat instead of the other way around is because we have brains that assimilate important information in one take--tigers eat people--and use that knowledge immediately. Any attack on our accumulated knowledge is met with outright hostility.
- We are naturally inclined to absorb information from others. When one person finds out that those damn tigers avoid certain red berries at all costs, that's good for everyone to know. We built hundreds of languages with thousands of words, devoting large sections of our mind to the ability to take information from one person and transfer it to another. There are trust issues involved, but humanity is naturally inclined to believe what it's told... as long as said humanity has no strongly held opinions that conflict with the subject at hand. Thus political screamy: strong opinions held. Thus the college football hype train: almost no data available. If Fiutak says it, it must be true.
These things are so deeply held to be true that we have cliches for all these things: better safe than sorry; make your first impression the best one; preaching to the choir.
Put those three tendencies together: we leap to conclusions based on little information. We don't change our minds easily. We are inclined to believe information passed to us, especially if it reinforces our previously held beliefs. The result is that when people are exposed to something new, highly unusual, and memorable it's nearly impossible to dislodge that impression no matter how much evidence to the contrary exists. And then these people communicate that impression to everyone around them as part of their desire to be seen as knowledgeable, those people repeat it to others, the first people have their ideas reinforced by others repeating what they said to others like a giant game of telephone, and the dreaded CONVENTIONAL WISDOM calcifies around the topic at hand, obscuring whatever the real situation is.
The end result is that one high-profile event colors all resultant thoughts regarding that topic because of the associative nature of memory. Shazor is the guy who disemboweled Dorien Bryant; he's a game changer, a playmaker, a safety with the rare ability to impact the game. No matter that Michigan gave up huge plays all year because its safeties were woefully unsafe. Pat Massey let Vince Young impossibly escape from a sure sack that probably would have won Michigan the Rose Bowl; he's a douchetard. No matter that he had 37 tackles and 5 sacks from the DE spot in a 3-4, was honorable mention All Big Ten, and was part of a very stout interior run defense.
And Troy Smith... well, let's look at Troy Smith. He detonated against Michigan. This (stolen from the upcoming Buckeye preview) is what happened against everyone else:
- Indiana: (Sucks.) Smith completes 12-24 passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns. Also rushes for 53 yards. Ohio State wins 30-7.
- Penn State: Ohio State attempts a total of eight passes. They gain 202 yards and win 21-10 by returning a punt and interception for touchdowns and getting a 35 yard touchdown drive after a long kickoff return.
- Michigan State: Against one of the worst defenses in the country, Smith goes 13-21 for 138 yards, 58 of which came on a slant where MSU's very special secondary blew the angle on Ginn. His other 20 attempts netted 80 yards. OSU scored on a 17 yard Ginn reverse after a Damon Dowdell interception, a Ginn punt return, a 19-yard drive to get a 53-yard Nugent field goal, the Ginn slant, and a long touchdown run trying to run out the clock.
- Purdue: Smith completes less than 50% of his passes and throws three second-half interceptions. OSU loses 24-17, though Smith does lead two moderately long touchdown drives.
- Oklahoma State: Watches from bench.
You can make the case that Troy Smith was a net benefit against exactly two teams: Indiana, which is such an outlier in terms of team quality that it has absolutely no bearing on reality, and Michigan. In all other games he was somewhere between wretched and zombie death. Six months later, perception and momentum result in this idiocy from Bowden:
Quarterback Troy Smith's ability to run and throw accurately led the Buckeyes to three victories in their last four regular-season games, pumping new life into a stagnant Buckeye offense.
None of these things about Shazor, Massey, or Smith are true, but because it's really easy to see the technicolor iceberg tip that juts out of the sea of noise that is our modern, information-flooded world, people take the one piece of obvious information they have and extrapolate the hell out of it. Good for not getting eaten. Not good for college football analysis. Something that is indicated by one play or one game out of hundreds or dozens becomes the tiger tail, and we materialize the rest of the tiger out of thin air. Then when Tony proves himself to be paper indeed we marvel at the unpredictability of college football when we should be marvelling at the predictability of human nature.
WHAT YOU SHOULD TAKE AWAY FROM THIS POST: Troy Smith sucks.
Say hello. Also that's a foul.
Per Go Blue Wolverine.
Update: Sims is rated #39 by Rivals and their #12 small forward, though he'll probably be a power forward in college. Scout has him #37. He seems like a perfect fit for Amaker's motion offense (hold the cynicism for a moment), as he has offensive game from everywhere from the block to the three-point line, the perfect guy to operate in the high post. Sims may actually rise a little bit when the rankings get revised as he was impressive in recent AAU tournaments.
Important recruit? Absolutely. Michigan's highest rated since, uh... wow. Lavell probably. Also an in-state guy from Detroit who, in combination with Tory Jackson, will probably help recruit fellow '06 Michigan prospect Tom Herzog, a 7-foot center being compared to Chris Kaman and one of the few post recruits on Michigan's radar at the moment.
Also: Da Chairman at Prep Spotlight says that Tory Jackson has chosen Michigan(AR) and will announce it in September. Chair also provides the scoop on three UM targets in the '07 class:
WOTS is that Alex Legion will not pick an out-of-state school. Yes, there have been public statements about it, but WOTS it's also what is being discussed privately. At this point, not many would put money on Alex leaving the state. An earlier east coast trip may have had something to do with that...
And speaking of Kalin Lucas, WOTS is that he may trip to East Lansing this week to get a run in. Lucas is fastly becoming a regular at both MSU and U-M open gym runs, as he tripped to Ann Arbor last week. WOTS is that MSU and U-M are co-leaders for his services.
WOTS is that Trotwood, Ohio's super '07 athlete Chris Wright "really" likes U-M. While there are some in Ohio that are trying to keep him in-state, WOTS is that he's really feeling the U-M staff.
And let's get all the basketball in one coherent post: PrepSpotlight also has a nice free article on cause of mgoblog apprehension (and incoming freshman) Jerrett Smith.
The JJ Defcon Level has been raised to 4 over at Yost Built (you'll have to go to the main page to see the Defcon chart) because of this article in the (No City Given) News And Observer stating that Carolina has offered Johnson the rookie max (approximately $850,000). I still don't think that will change Johnson's opinion much. It was pretty much a given that Carolina was going to offer the max. After all, Johnson was the third pick in the draft, is the most hyped American defenseman in a long time, and was drafted by, you know, Carolina.
Still, it would be very Michigan Hockey Summer for Johnson to bolt now after all the articles we've gotten. Might send my martyr complex re: Michigan hockey to unhealthy(-ier) levels.
Oh boy! Nancy Clark is interviewed by EDSBS. I was going to excerpt, but I realized that I was just pulling the stuff that made her look uninformed [JOKE ABOUT GENERAL UNINFORMEDNESS PULLED FOR RESPECTABILITY'S SAKE]. Fanblogs notes that the accusations she levels against bloggers turn up zero hits in the major blog search engines. Ok. I am going to excerpt this, on Iowa:
OS: Tell me about the Iowa Hawkeyes this year.
NC: I was just at their media day on Monday. They'Â’re feeling really good about their running back situation after having five running backs going down last year. Not only do they have five guys coming back, they've added a few new guys. Coach Ferentz said he'Â’s not concerned about the position now that they have nine guys at running back. Plus they'Â’ve got Drew Tate back, which is a good thing.
A good example of the corrupting influence of access. No doubt Ferentz did say that. Is it true? That's the sort of thing every coach says going into the year, and it's accepted without question by those who have access and would like to maintain it. Clark actually touches on that subject, too, so she's aware of the limitations that come with the privileges afforded the MSM. Like I say, symbiosis, we all get along, etc.
Ok, ok, just to prove that I really don't care about this stuff, Forde and Maisel over at ESPN both tabbed the Big Ten as the nation's best conference this year. Don't care. The competition levels to be found in the ACC, SEC, Big Twelve, Pac Ten, and Big Ten are close enough so that the relative strength levels are irrelevant. This was not the case back in the days when the ACC was Florida State and a bunch of basketball schools.
Forde also has that article about how the Big Ten isn't just Michigan and Ohio State any more that I've been reading for the past ten years. Odds on this thing appearing next year? Like, 90%, anyone?
Is it on? Oh, it's on!
Jesus Effing Christ, do not piss Vijay at IBFC off. Because then he will destroy you. Stewart Mandel came in for a drubbing yesterday in this space but good God, if I had only known the tremendous bitchslap he was in for from IBFC, I wouldn't have bothered.
Elsewhere in the Wolverine-o-sphere, Blah Me To Death puts a percentage chance of victory on every Michigan game this year and comes up with 9-2. That's no fun, but it's always what happens when you try to do such an exercise. Perhaps a reminder that Lloyd Carr isn't so bad. Perhaps not, if you think the percentages are only low because of the coaching.
A group of Georgia football fans took up a collection to pay for a Boise State player's father to fly from Baghdad to see his son play against the Bulldogs in Athens.
But the NCAA rule book got in the way.
NCAA action... it's FAAANtastic!
Finally, Bruce Feldman's blog($) has gotten quite interesting in recent weeks. Clearly the guy knows his stuff. Witness his latest list, the top ten X-factors in the BCS title race. A player from Michigan checks in at #2:
2. Brandent Englemon, Michigan SS: I'm not sure there's any defensive position that's been more scrutinized over the past nine months. The reason is, for as much talent as the Wolverines have (in layman's terms I think it's called a "crapload"), they just got destroyed by mobile quarterbacks (see: Troy Smith and Vince Young) and gave up almost 400 rushing yards to Michigan State. Five-foot-11, 199-pound Englemon doesn't have anywhere near the size of his predecessor, Ernest Shazor, or the guy he's battling for the job, Jamar Adams, but he does run better than Shazor. I suspect Michigan will do some things schemewise to put its people in better position to make plays. I do think with the zone Young was in that day, he would've embarrassed a lot of defenses.
Wow. Now that's something I didn't expect a national media member to say. There's a lot more interesting stuff in his latest entry but since it's all premium content and stuff I'm pretty sure taking a chunk any bigger than I did is a no-no. Anyway. If it keeps up like it is right now it's probably worth 50% of the ESPN Insider subscription all by its lonesome.
Yes, Stewart, Michigan is always overrated. Mandel makes the case against Michigan #4, and hits on the same points everyone's discussed: we can't stop mobile quarterbacks. Secondary, bleh, linebackers, bleh. Etc. Includes your standard annoying reference to drinking "the Maize and Blue Kool-Aid." Includes your standard "OMG they lost Braylon and Marlin and Shazor." Includes extremely common gamblers'-fallacy thinking. I don't really want to go in-depth here because it'll all show up in the Michigan preview, and I'd like to avoid repeating myself as much as possible.
What I'd like to highlight is the following validation for the BlogPoll's existence:
Maybe the problem is that voters don't necessarily view their preseason votes as any sort of prediction of a team's final ranking. After all, Michigan's position was hardly the only one in the coaches poll that caught my eyes. How about the team that finished one spot higher, Tennessee? The Vols have an excellent team on paper, no question about it, but does anyone actually look at schedules when they fill out their ballots?
Why should they look at the schedules? Isn't your poll a ranking of football teams, not football schedules? The fact that this confusion exists in Mandel's head--Mandel is a new AP voter, by the way--and likely the heads of many other voters makes the AP poll highly suspicious. It's fundamentally incoherent to make your vote a prediction of what the final poll will look like. Remember top-10 West Virginia? A mediocre team with an easy schedule gets way overrated. If it keeps winning it creeps up the polls as others drop around it. In the end it's rated highly specifically because it hasn't proven itself. The poll becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
And then Mandel goes and dogs Michigan even though all three NC games are at home, the road opener hex will be tested against a Wisconsin team that looks very shaky, and Ohio State is at home. Incoherence. Especially when he gets down on the defense for finishing... gasp... 42nd in scoring D. Isn't that above average? No, it isn't great, but how is Michigan's defense more of an issue than Ohio State's offense, which was 71st in scoring last year?
It's really easy to do this sort of hack job on any team in the country. "X Y and Z graduated and last year A happened so death." Everyone has questions, everyone has holes. That's the nature of college football, and part of what makes it so fun. Even USC fans have to be sort of nervous about the defensive line. Michigan has one flagrant issue. Find me a team that doesn't that isn't USC. #4 is fine.
(I've previously said I like Mandel, and I still sort of do. What I've noticed is this: when he writes a straight news or feature story, it's well researched and good and extremely worthwhile. When he tries to analyze things systematically we get CFN-worthy analysis.)
Holy Unibrow, Batman! Via EDSBS comes this:
I wonder what Lloyd Carr looked like in the 70s. Anyone with pictoral evidence of such, contact me immediately.
Der ball der bounce, Big Ten section, is previewed by Yoni Cohen of yocohoops on FoxSports.com. Michigan's mentioned in the middle tier of the conference, but there's a picture of Amaker yelling at someone. So we've got that going for us.
The Blade has another in the "hometown dudes playing for Michigan" genre. The Toledo-ans playing for Michigan are guard/long snapper Pat Sharrow and FS Willis Barringer.
Yes, I am concerned about MSU this year. So articles like this one in the Lansing State Journal make me happy. MSU's corner situation is a disaster at the moment. Jaren Hayes is suspended due to an off-field incident. Redshirt freshmen Brian Brighton and Eric Hines are probably out for the year with injuries. Freshman Kendall Davis is dealing with some NCAA clearinghouse issues. The guys currently listed as starters are senior Ashton Watson, who's proven to be pretty meh so far, and sophomore and former walk-on Travis Key. Past that are converted WRs, JUCOs, and walk-ons.
We're #4 again. This time it's in SI's college football preview. The article focuses on Breaston, who is apparently a fledgling slam poet. Witness:
See, whenever I was young, I spent a dollar twenty-five/On a book that had inside/Men who could fly/Who wore mind-grabbing costumes/ And these men couldn't die.
I actually see my share of slam poetry for reasons of time-overlap with standup and I can safely say that since Breaston's apparently isn't five minutes of screaming about eeeeevil Republicans, it's the best slam poetry ever. Also, it's reassuring that the most damage Breaston can inflict on himself via hobby is a paper cut. (No wise remarks about that knocking him out of action, please.)
One of my friend's friends is Neal Pollack's friend. I think. Also I've just experienced that weird cognative dissonance thing where you burn yourself out on a particular word and it looks strange, alien, horrible. The meaning escapes you. The point of this? Well, Pollack wrote an excellent article taking the "OMG Wacky Athlete Yoga" sportwriting crutch to school (yo).
Update 8/10: Removed NJ WR Andrey Baskin, who dropped us. Also removed DT Aundre Henderson, who committed to Minnesota... Minnesota? Linked to a couple articles, one in the Seattle Times on Taylor Mays and Steve Schilling, the other a Rivals article on Mays citing the Times article.
Editorial Opinion: The decision of Mays (clumsy and dorky sounding, but the possessive "Mays's" I could not stand) could come at any time. Michigan boards are ominously silent on his decision. Joey says it looks like USC, which would make my previously published unsubstantiated hunch totally wrong, but I think Joey just tries to be as pessimistic as he can about everything to prevent heartbreak--clearly Michigan football is way, way too important to him. A kindred spirit.
Anyway: I still think there's a decent chance Mays picks UM, but not a great one.
Numbers are getting really thin at defensive tackle now. Looking increasingly likely that Michigan will forgo DT entirely in this class, unless you count Marques Slocum, which you certainly could.