and... i like them? I think I like them.
First... my popularity on the central asian steppe continues to skyrocket. I received this email from one Stephen Repp:
I am a loyal mgoblog reader (OSU fan, sorry Brian) and I can testify that you are the #1 Michigan site in the Central Asian Steppe. As a matter of fact, the #1 college football site there. I reside in Novosibirsk, Russia (you could look it up) and check your site every day. Looking forward to UVV re the OSU game!
UVV? Must be the Russian keyboards. My excitement at this email is only matched by the first note of support from the CAS; I urge any and all MGoBlog readers from this fine area of the world to speak up and be heard.
Must not... make fun of... south... ARGH. Y'all are probably the target audience for shirts that say things like "I skip weddings, funerals, and organ transplant surgery for college football," so I suggest you check out the Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer store. All pre-XMas proceeds go to support, um, adult literacy. And I have... no comment... on the selected cause... as regards the south...
Okay. Okay. We're good. You should have seen my fingers hovering above the keyboard, twitching with the effort of restraint. It was a sight, let me tell you. And while you're tooling around RJYH, check out the anti-Millen sign confiscation post.
I thought that was just a metaphor. Yeah. This is kind of strange and dickish and awesome all at the same time:
That's a woodcarved bobblehead of Lloyd Carr after the Oregon loss a few years back found in "Woodcarver Online Magazine." The story of its construction:
In choosing a subject for this article, we discovered that we were both stalwart supporters of rival football programs (I suspect Matt's support may be derived from prolonged exposure to cold temperatures and too much snow), and a small wager was initiated. The resulting outcome of an upcoming game would determine if the bobblehead I would be carving for this article would reflect the likeness of Ohio State head football coach Jim Tressel or Michigan head football coach Lloyd Carr.
Much to my chagrin, the subject of this article is a bobblehead with the likeness of Coach Carr. Since I am not one to welch on a bet, the likeness of my choosing was selected from an AP photograph of Coach Carr on September 20, 2003 just after shaking hands with Mike Bellotti, Coach of the Oregon Ducks, after a hard fought 31-27 Michigan loss. Perhaps this likeness is not the most flattering one I could have chosen, but from a Buckeye fans perspective it was perfect.
Typical of a Buckeye to obey the letter of the law but to flout its intent. In any case, the end result is actually quite evocative.
The Rose that grew from concrete(!). Uh, Jalen Rose has an official website that demands observation, if only for its ambitious framing of Rose as Roy Hobbs. Warning: if you're at work, turn your speakers off.
Hyyyyarrr! Prepare for a mighty betouchdowning! My obsessions with football, game theory, and pirates wrapped up in one clearly insane man? Bestill my heart! The NYT Magazine has a fascinating feature by Michael Lewis (local ordinances require that I tell you Michael Lewis wrote Moneyball) on Texas Tech head coach/lunatic Mike Leach, though it is amusingly out of touch in parts:
Bad as it [this year's 56-17 shellacking] was for Texas A.&M., its staff might wonder how much worse it could have been if Leach had the same access to talent as A.&M. or Texas or Alabama or, God forbid...
So, right, the end of this sentence is obvious, right? It has three letters, it's in California, all references to it on Bruins Nation are preceded with profanity, etc. NSFMF!
Er... okay, Mr. Baseball Man, whatever you say. (Standard disclaimer: OMG WEIS OMG QUINN OMG THAT WHITE GUY WITH THE UNSPELLABLE NAME.) There's also a sort of breathlessness about Leach throwing the ball constantly that seems dated when half the stodgy ol' Big Ten runs the spread. Leach is certainly an innovator, but it's not necessarily because he only runs when forced to.
Humorous timewarps aside, a look into Mike Leach's head is hilarious:
Last year, after a loss to Texas A.&M. in overtime, Leach hauled the team into the conference room on Sunday morning and delivered a three-hour lecture on the history of pirates. Leach read from his favorite pirate history, "Under the Black Flag," by David Cordingly (the passages about homosexuality on pirate ships had been crossed out). The analogy to football held up for a few minutes, but after a bit, it was clear that Coach Leach was just . . . talking about pirates.
Hyyyarrrr!!! It's also highly interesting. Here's a poignant passage for Michigan fans:
The Texas Tech offense is not just an offense; it's a mood: optimism. It is designed to maximize the possibility of something good happening rather than to minimize the possibility of something bad happening. But then something bad happened. ("It always does," Leach says.)
Recommended for anyone interested in football strategy or pirates. And if neither of those things interest you, I have to seriously question your choice of blog.
En fuego, si, si. EDSBS continues its best blogging ever(!!!) streak.
Basketball 12/3/2005 - Michigan 71-67 Notre Dame - 5-0
I mean the following sentence in the nicest way posssible: Graham Brown, the beating heart of the Michigan basketball team, has no discernible basketball skills whatsoever. Generally basketball players can be described in terms of what they can do--shoot threes, break down defenders off the dribble, post up, find the open man, etc--but not Brown. Attempt to describe him: "er, uh, he's sort of tall... and when a rebound comes to him he secures it and when he doesn't get his shot blocked he can, uh, hit a layup. Sometimes." No, Brown is better defined thus: despite not having any of said abilities, he is still "a legitimate baskeball player" according to Bill Raftery during Saturday's ND game. That sums it up perfectly: he is a legitimate basketball player, but of the sort where you have to be told about it constantly to remember.
This was the rare game in which Brown's contribution were obvious on the box score--13 points on 6 shots, 10 rebounds--and his three late baskets were clearly integral to Michigan's victory, but there will be times in the future wherein his production is not measured in easily identifiable numbers. If, and I'd like to stress "if," Michigan has an unexpectedly strong year and the stat wonks throw up their hands and claim bafflement, it will be time to bring up the Moose in the room. Who does that sound like?
Yeah, him. A commenter below called Brown "Michigan's Ben Wallace," which is precisely correct aside from Wallace's ability to leap higher than two inches off the ground. Remove the outrageous athleticism of the NBA and kindly ignore that Brown and Wallace's respective skins have melanin contents about as divergent as possible, and the comparison is eerie. I'm not going to dip into the refrain of the Typical Middle-Aged White Sportswriter and declare him to be underappreciated because of the hip-hop's pernicious effects on our society or whatever--Graham Brown is exactly the type of player who is a TMAWS encomium magnet--but I would like to revisit something I said earlier...
He'd be a good 10-15 minutes a night role-player for any Big Ten team, but Michigan will probably be forced to use him more.
...and take it back. Brown played 34 minutes against Notre Dame and Michigan needed every one. His performances down the road will be as important to the team's success as those of Sims, Horton, and the rest of the guys who actually have those discernible basketball skills. So call him blue-collar or lunchpail or a roleplayer or apply whatever backhanded compliment is appropriate in your native language (Icelandic: "man who is good at running away from polar bear"), but don't forget the "legitimate." Moose can play.
Magically Delicious Bullet Points:
- Brown's shot-stuffed-to-charge-taken ratio: 0:1, FYI.
- Color me concerned about Dion Harris and his oft-errant, oft-used jumper. While he has been granted amnesty from Big Ten Wonk himself for last year's shudder-worthy PPWS, it does not appear to be moving in a positive direction. Many of Harris' shots are Horton-esque in their audaciousness, though the game-winner was an open look.
- That last sentence is totally unfair to Horton, who is operating at totally unprecedented levels of efficiency. Against ND Horton had 19 points on 14 shots and a 7:2 assist to turnover ratio. Through five games he's shooting 56% with 22 assists and just 8 turnovers. Notre Dame resorted to a box-and-one against him down the stretch. He's been flippin' sweet.
- Our prospects for next year are iffy. Minus Brown, Hunter, and Horton, Michigan will be dangerously thin on the frontline and will be facing a major dropoff at the point. Given that this year's team is a borderline tournament team... well, Alex Legion's commitment may be the one thing that keeps Michigan fans off of Amaker's back.
- This Notre Dame win is probably going to be a good one at the end of the year. They had the best player on the floor in Torin Francis and an impressively annoying array of ugly white guys who can shoot threes. They are likely an NCAA bubble team if not a little better and a win over them on the road is going to be a moderate feather in the cap come committee time.
- Abram: 0-5 from the floor (though he was robbed of a foul call in one instance)... and we win? Great googly moogly. That can't continue. Horton's done a very good job of finding open guys--especially in the post--but he has to get Abram more involved. Remember the PPWS!
Well, that was a thrilling weekend full of, uh, games that were over midway through the second quarter. Nonetheless, congratulations to all the conference champions except Penn State. (I keed, I keed: no congratulations to Tulsa, either.)
Anyway, try to fit links to your penultimate ballots in between the flames from PSU fans down here.
Eight Years In the Making!!!
Two Storied** Programs Face Off For The First Time In Twenty Years
CHARLES WOODSON VERSUS ERIC CROUCH!!!***
Michigan! Nebraska! OMG
EL PAAAAASO!!!! EL PASO! SAN ANTONIO, HOME OF MEXI-MANU, THE MODERATELY SIZED ENCHILADA!!!
ENJOY**** THE DISTANTLY RELATED GRANDNIECE ONCE REMOVED OF THEM ALL
YES I NEED TO WORK ON MY HEADER TAG CSS!!!!!
*(offer not valid in the 21st century)
**(did you hear the one about firing Frank Solich to hire Bill Callahan?)
****(and by "enjoy" I mean "tolerate".)
Programming Note: Further UFR technical delay. I promise promise promise they go up Monday and Tuesday.
Yeah, stuff's going on this year, but it's safe to say that at 7-4 this season is functionally over. Personally I'm less interested in the dying embers of this year than the promise of 0-0 and a healthy Mike Hart, and since we're in a bit of a dead spot the thoughts of MGoBlog return once more to the beginning.
What follows is an assessment of the losses to graduation on offense and an evaluation of their projected replacements. Defense coming soon.
TE Tim Massaquoi
In A Nutshell: Despite being named All Big Ten as a junior, Massaquoi was never a star. Big, somewhat athletic, and a good blocker, he was a useful piece but his tendency to drop catchable balls (with or without a cast on) was a major flaw.
Replacing him... probably: Fifth year senior Tyler Ecker, who saw just as many snaps as Massaquoi did this year and was the nominal starter by year's end. Ecker is a better receiver but an indifferent blocker. Mike Massey and Carson Butler will play when Michigan has two TEs in the game (and they will probably do so with frequency, le sigh).
Net Effect: Probably more productive on the surface. Without Avant's steadying influence Henne will be looking around for a possession guy. Ecker is the one player on the team who seems to have his confidence already; his catches should shoot up as the undisputed starter. It remains to be seen how effective he'll be as a blocker. By the end of the year, though, my first preference was to see Ecker on the field instead of Mass.
LT Adam Stenavich
In A Nutshell: Michigan's best offensive lineman last year with no competition. Stenavich exceeded expectations, shutting down every defensive end he opposed this year. Offensive linemen are like defensemen in hockey: you only notice them when they screw up or dominate utterly. One who appears so rarely in obsessive play-by-play breakdowns of football games must be doing a very good job. The caveat is that Michigan's injury explosion at right tackle caused anyone with a badass DE to line him up opposite poor Rueben Riley for maximum mismatch potential. Thus, Stenavich did not oppose Penn State's Tamba Hali or Notre Dame's Victor Abiamiri. Even so, he was a rare light of consistent competence on a line short of that quality.
Replacing him... probably: Fifth year senior Mike Kolodziej. Kolodziej has a modicum of starting experience--a few last year before Long took over or when Stenavich pissed on something he shouldn't, a few this year when he wasn't busy having a mysterious tingly illness--and should be okay in pass protection, though he will probably be a step back from this year's edition of Stenavich. Everyone says he's not much of a run blocker (his playing time was far too sparing to get a read on it myself), but if he can just keep opponents away from Henne that's enough for me.
Net effect: This departure is by far the most worrying. Whereas some spots have capable backups poised to take over and others are losing distinctly average (or worse) incumbents, there's a potential for a serious dropoff here.
LG Leo Henige and RG Matt Lentz
In A Nutshell: Reasons #2 and #3 why Michigan's offensive line was a huge disappointment this year (reason #1, of course: Jake Long's uncooperative ankle). Henige and Lentz were below average Big Ten guards largely incapable of pulling, blocking in space, or driving back even the lesser defensive tackles in the conference.
Replacing them... probably: Fifth year senior Rueben Riley and redshirt sophomore Alex Mitchell. Riley has bounced around the starting lineup the past two years, from tackle to left guard to center back out to tackle. Once he gets settled in at one position and plays it (likely left guard), he should be somewhere between adequate and good. Many, including myself, were down on his performance in Long's stead this year but he did largely neutralize Penn State's demonic Tamba Hali in one of the year's more surprising overachievements. He's a good player.
Mitchell is being pushed as the gem of the 2003 offensive line class and is clearly in line to start at whichever spot is not occupied by Riley. He did get a not-insignificant amount of time with the starters this year due to injury and looked like a freshman, but there's great hope he can mature into a mauler.
Net Effect: Can't be worse. Michigan started rotating Riley in at guard after Jake Long returned, usually after a couple series wherein Lentz or Henige screwed something up badly. Riley has almost two full years of starting experience, one at left guard in Michigan's 2004 line. He'll be fine. The rumblings about Mitchell are very positive, and he did see some time this year.
WR Jason Avant
That's some Matrix stuff right there, kids.
In A Nutshell: Sticky-handed, more athletic than credited, and ultra-reliable year after year, Avant was Michigan's go-to receiver after the departure of Braylon Edwards. His ability to catch things out of the reach of mere mortals saved Michigan's bacon in more than one game. If Chad Henne had just been average most of the year, Avant would have come close to matching Moonbeam's numbers. He'll be badly missed.
Replacing him... probably: Some array of Mario Manningham, Antonio Bass, Steve Breaston, Adrian Arrington, Doug Dutch and Laterryal Savoy. Savoy and Arrington are the tall, striding types who may play much like Avant, but it's obvious that Michigan is grooming Bass and especially Manningham for starring roles. Expect Avant's catches to spread out to a few different receivers next year, likely Tyler Ecker and Manningham. There's no shortage of talent at the position, but Henne will have to be more accurate next year, since no one bails out a quarterback like Jason Avant bails out a quarterback.
Net Effect: You mean other than severe mental distress when it hits home that the official binky of MGoBlog is plying his trade elsewhere? Michigan's receivers will be just fine. They've been just fine forever--can you think of a year in which Michigan didn't have at least one guy who is obviously one of the best in the conference--and with Manningham, Breaston, and Bass will certainly be so next year.
Yes, every third down drop will make me pine. There might be some yearning when a wide receiver screen is blown up because of bad blocking. But Michigan's stocked up on top-100 receivers over the past couple years--no fewer than four are sophomores--this is not an area of concern. New Math and all that.
Michigan loses two important players, one servicable platoon member, and two anchors... in the "drag you to the bottom of the ocean" sense. That's not much damage, especially when you consider that there are obvious players to step forward in all cases. Michigan should be able to maintain its level of offensive efficiency despite its losses.
Penguins: notoriously anti-semitic.
Of course, maintaining the offense's "efficiency" is about as desirable as being pecked to death by penguins. Penguins who've heard that putting testicles in soup means increase virility. And they've heard that you gave Mario Lemeuix cancer. And that you're a Jew. Look: these are some pissed off penguins, and they're coming for your balls. I
don't exactly what you said, but next time you think about mouthing off outside the weather station you'll feel the void between your legs that reaches down into your very soul and you'll modify your anti-Penguin screed into something a little more balanced, I assume. Because when I get the hell off this glorified iceberg I'd better have all my components in working order or you'll think this impending castration-via-penguin is a stroll in the park. A stroll in the fleebing park.
Er. I... uh. Yeah.
The upshot is that there's no reason to expect Michigan's departures to negatively impact the offense much. Mass and Avant have capable replacments; the guards weren't any good; losing Stenavich versus retrieving Long and Hart is a net win. That's a long way from saying that Michigan's offense is going to have the sort of explosion it was supposed to this year, but if it doesn't it will be more due to Bad Henne than anything else.
NSFMF on that Outback thing. The Northbrook Star(?) has a mention of the Big Ten bowl picture that does not jive with previous speculation:
[Big Ten Commisioner Jim] Delany, who thinks Ohio State will receive a BCS bid, sees Wisconsin and Iowa headed for the two bowl games in Florida (Capital One in Orlando and Outback in Tampa) while Michigan will be going to the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. Northwestern, Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan all tied for third in the Big Ten.
The presumptive opponent there would likely be Oklahoma.
#&*#$ @#*!*%#@! Jeff Tambellini's been called up to the Kings, where he's been placed on a line with fellow last-second-bolter Mike Cammalleri. This is a mindbending event for Michigan hockey fans, especially when they say stuff like this:
"When I was trying to recruit him to come to Michigan, I kept telling him we'd play together," Cammalleri said. "I told him we'd be on the same line and how great that would be."
Said Tambellini: "Then he took off."
Tambellini signed with Michigan, but by the time he got to Ann Arbor, Cammalleri had gone pro. He was drafted in the second round by the Kings in 2001 and signed in July 2002.
"He got me to come there, then I never saw him again," Tambellini said, laughing. ...
"Well, I did the same thing to Andrew Cogliano," Tambellini said.
Argh argh argh argh argh. I have no ill will towards either--three years is above average for players of their ability--but, well, you know. Mmmm. Salty Wound.
They stick it in everybody. Right, so I might post on the Pistons from time to time in the months ahead, because I love me my Pistons. Fair warning and an excuse to link to a couple items. I missed this the first time around on ESPN.com, but Todd Boyd summarized Detroit's attitude towards your Sacramentos of the world with impressive acuity:
Say what you will about Detroit. At this point, you can't say anything worse than what's already been said. We stopped paying attention a long time ago, anyway.
We take all the negative and turn it into our armor. As Rip Hamilton said after beating the Heat in the closing seconds of the East finals, "That's what we do!"
Some creeping Scoop-like prose but still worth your time.
Also, I referenced this blog once before but it bears repeating: Detroit Bad Boys exists and should be patronized with your web traffic. I appreciated his recent MSM sniping; you'd probably like the recurring "Sheed Said It" feature.
Meanwhile, Johnny of RBUAS brought out the knives in his post about University High, the diploma mill that just got exposed in the New York Times. And here I thought "University High" was just another way to say "Ohio State."