chance of bowl: 13.6%
Much has been made of Bret Bielema's clock-wrangling decision to have ten Wisconsin players offsides on a couple kickoffs towards the end of the first half. If you haven't seen it by now, this is what went down:
If you listen to Penn State fans, this was reckless endangerment of the kick returner's very life and a classless jab at Joe Paterno. If you listen to Paul Maguire it's genius on a profound level -- which tells you something about Paul Maguire. If you listen to Craig James... well, no one should listen to Craig James.*
EDSBS declares Bret Bielema "person of the year" for giving the virtual finger to 3-2-5e. (Though Orson underestimates the damage of 3-2-5e: last year we got 168 plays per game, this year 152: that's a ten percent reduction, not six. Must have been looking at the time.) I'm just confused. I am confused in these ways:
- If Wisconsin players were going to go offsides intentionally, why stop at ten yards? Why not leisurely walk down to the ten yard line, then kick it? As structured, Penn State still had an opportunity for a couple semi-legit returns, and in a situation like Wisconsin faced on Saturday Penn State either breaks it or does not break it. Why leave any chance at all?
- Why deploy this now? 23 seconds left in the first half? Penn State's going to kneel down as soon as they get the ball.
- Why does PSU force a re-kick? Is it not obvious what Wisconsin is doing? Just take the penalty, kneel, and go in for halftime.
- Why is everyone so up in arms over this? I mean, seriously: this has a tiny window of application and the offended team can take the extra five yards after the return.
- WTF did Paterno expect the refs to do? They could dig up the creaky and never-applied "unfair acts" rule, but A) I'm sure Paterno has no idea of that little quirk in the rulebook and B) deploying football refereeing's nuclear option on the spur of the moment just to get Paterno 20 seconds he's not going to use is not something I particularly want to see.
While I'm not entirely convinced that Bielema has invented fire here, it is worth discussing. First off: it's not "classless." It's a little chintzy, but football coaches are supposed to do everything they can within the rules to win. When someone finds a rule loophole, more power to them until that hole gets closed. Joe Tiller's huddles with 15 guys in them were far more relevant than Bret Bielema running out 23 seconds that no one was going to use anyway but no one accused Tiller of being classless. Save me the sob stories about the endagered spines of beleaguered returners. No one got hurt, nor was anyone more likely to get hurt than on a typical play. Classless is watching a punt-return scrub try to injure an opponent after the play and doing nothing about it. It is not going offsides on purpose.
Is it a useful device at the end of games? Only in very marginal situations where the opponent needs a touchdown in under a minute, IMO. Remember that at any time the offensive team can take five yards after the play and start a drive. A team could potentially force a touchback by threatening to BielemaBall the rest of the game away. The trailing team would get the ball at the 25 and last-second comeback drives spurred by good returns would be a thing of the past. No Henne to Manningham versus Penn State.
Is it a stupid consequence of a stupid, ill-thought-out rule that literally no one except network executives likes? Yes. And I'm sure they'll get rid of it somehow next year. Hopefully by getting rid of 3-2-5e in its idiotic entirety.
Stop him before he predicts again! I wonder if it was coincidence that Mike Lucas of Capital Times predicted something along these lines before the season:
Consider this scenario:
The University of Wisconsin football team has just scored to take a one-point lead over Bowling Green in the 2006 season opener. There are 29 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, UW coach Bret Bielema instructs both of his outside sprinters to leave early - before the ball is kicked - purposely drawing a penalty flag for off-sides.
Taylor Mehlhaff drives the ball to the 2-yard line to the Falcons' Brandon Jones, who's tackled on the 9-yard line by the Badgers' Jack Ikegwuonu, one of two players off-sides.
There are now 24 seconds remaining in the game.
The Bowling Green captain has two options: A) decline the penalty and take the ball on the 9-yard line or B), take the five-yard penalty and force Wisconsin to re-kick from its own 30.
The natural impulse would be to take the penalty.
Let's say that is the case: The Badgers then line up for the re-kick. However, because there has been a change of possession, the official starts the game clock on the ready.
Mehlhaff unfastens his chin straps and waits while the final 24 seconds tick off the clock.
Lucas is incorrect that there would have been a change of possession -- that's no more true than there being a change of possession when an interception is overturned by some defensive penalty -- but if we're operating under the assumption that newspaper people never have original thoughts, someone on the UW staff probably fed him that scenario complete with erroneous rule interpretation when he was researching that piece.
*(Is it not sort of incredible that one of the main offenders in the worst scandal in NCAA history is presented to the nation every Saturday as a man worth heeding? It's the equivalent of hiring Todd Bertuzzi to sit in an NHL studio, or Pete Rose in an MLB one, or Michael Irvin in an NFL one. Maybe that last one was a bad example.
So you have everything awful with the NCAA sitting next to Doug Freakin' Flutie. Maybe ABC just likes the juxaposition.)
Well, what now? Neither Troy Smith or Lamarr Woodley did anything to distinguish himself last weekend. Steve Slaton fumbled away his team's MNC chances, though an arm injury had something to do with that.
Irish bloggers are getting progressively more ornery about the continued omission of Official Heisman Candidate Brady Quinn from the majority of MaxwellPundit rolls. ROM runs the thing and is on the warpath:
I can't wait for Wednesday when the blog brigade of dumbies vote for the likes of Steve "Fumblitis" Slaton, Lamarr "Victor Abiamiri has more sacks than you" Woodley, and some WAC running back ahead of Brady Quinn. Anti-Irish sentiment at its finest.
This is an odd thing to shift the burden of proof to Quinn skeptics. What, exactly, are Quinn's qualifications other than being a very pretty senior? A smorgasbord of empty-but-similarly-pretty numbers against teams ranked 109th, 86th, 94th, 76th, 93rd, and 107th in pass efficiency defense. (Upcoming: numbers 106 and 89, then #25, USC.) General failure as a passer in games versus Georgia Tech and Michigan. Only a clinical dissection of a Penn State team foolishly dedicated to three-and-four man rushes and a soft zone stands out as anything better than average this year. Two dozen quarterbacks would have Quinn's statistics if slotted into his place. Nearly two dozen have better numbers to date: he's but 19th in passer efficiency. There is no argument in favor of Quinn that Colt McCoy or Nate Longshore can't obliterate. So Irish fans are reduced to arguing that the Notre Dame offensive line couldn't block a poodle and Darius Walker actually died in 1896.
The reason no one's voting for Quinn is that there is not much reason to vote for him. After his spectacular failure against Michigan, Quinn's only ping on the national consciousness was to nearly blow the Michigan State game before Drew Stanton and the Spartan secondary generously returned the favor. Since then he's been treading water against no one in particular. He's proven excellent at glorified seven-on-seven drills and precisely nothing else. Call that anti-Irish if you want, but that's no MaxwellPundit winner in my eyes.
So, then, who is? I must return to the stated principles laid out in the (Friedrich) Nietzsche Theory of the Heisman:
The ideal Heisman candidate is frightening to behold unless he is on your side, in which case he is your flagbearer and protector. The ideal candidate is a force of nature that rolls through his opposition against tremendous odds. His name is graven on the tombstone of instant replay's creator as a justification. He is not sunnily efficient, or competent, or a great fat beast who crushes only the weak. He is slightly terrifying. There is a small but real possibility that he is the escaped prototype of a CIA-developed breed of unkillable soldiers; he is not man; he is overman.
So... with the lack of flawless candidates, I end up sorting amongst the flaws and get this:
1. Calvin Johson, Georgia Tech
A wide receiver can only do so much to be involved in a game. He runs routes; the quarterback throws or does not throw to him. All he can do is run crisply and hope to get open. Unless you are Calvin Johnson, in which case the idea of "getting open" is absurd: you are always open because you own the area 8-25 feet above the playing surface.
Why did Georgia Tech steadfastly refuse to give Johnson the ball against Clemson? No one will ever know. What we do know: if you throw, he catches. And runs. And is impossibly big, fast, and elusive. Give him the damn ball.
2. Lamarr Woodley, Michigan
Can hardly be blamed for the 26 points Ball State managed, as nine were handed to the opposition by the offense and fourteen more were at the expense of backup cornerbacks as Woodley observed from the sideline. It would have been nice if he could pad some numbers but
3. Troy Smith, Ohio State
Can certainly be blamed more than Woodley could for his 100-ish yard, 1 INT performance versus Illinois, but with Alex Boone out and OSU staked to a 17-point lead Tressel decided to play Lloydball and get out of there intact. Result: run run run run run run. Debordism is contagious. He drops but remains... he's still sixth in the country in passer efficiency.
4. Marshawn Lynch, Cal
Two touchdowns versus UCLA though not a ton of yards.
5. Reggie Nelson, Florida
Still here and dreadlocked.
Wonk On Michigan: Alphabetically-sensitive preseason walkaround. Likely the best preview on Michigan you'll read anywhere, as per usual. Wonk elegantly summarizes the post-season reaction to the Michigan basketball team, no matter their fate:
The thing to keep in mind about Michigan is that, after eight years on the outside looking in, the goal of an NCAA berth--just the invite itself--has become all-consuming and indeed totemic to a degree that is unequalled anywhere in the Big Ten. ...
Now, as it happens, I would rate the Wolverines' chances at getting that berth this year as "fair" for the not very sophisticated reason that I think they'll be about as good this year as they were last year, when they missed a bid by a hair. And in that sense Michigan is indeed being underrated this year. But the larger point is the dichotomy itself: the Wolverines will likely be about the same as last year but they'll be spoken of in one of two wildly divergent ways. If they get into the tournament: they're back, stigma's gone, blue-chip recruits are interested, watch out Izzo, 'doze Crisler now. If they don't: a program in limbo, no discipline, no character, bring in the hot seat. And whatever the outcome in March, it will be written about in April as though it were all foreordained in November.
With a last name like that... Defenseman Kevin Quick has committed to Michigan and no, he's not 14. He's actually already drafted, -- Tampa in the third -- which makes him 18 or 19. Zounds. He'll come in next year, which is a huge boost for the prospects of next year's team. Michigan loses three senior defensemen (Dest, Cook, and Hunwick) and only Steve Kampfer is a lock to return next year. Mark Mitera, Jack Johnson, and Chris Summers are all first-round picks and thus defection threats of one level or another. Quick joins Tristan Llewellyn and Chad Langlais as incoming freshmen in 2007 and should stave off the prospect of a five-man defense corps that year.
Yost Built has much more on Quick.
Can't you people divide? I take a stand for the secondary @ The Fanhouse.
I didn't know this was possible: "Ohio getting dumber." ZING!
"You are red, we are blue. We all must die!"
Via the MZone comes a Daily Show segment on Football Armageddon with the above Jon Stewart quote sure to live on in perpetuity:
(@ Hey Jenny Slater)
1. We're just a few weeks away from the end of the regular season, so everybody should have a pretty good handle on how good their teams are and what sort of records they can expect to finish with. Looking back over the season, which was the game where your team really defined itself in 2006, for good or ill? Or to look at it another way, which game, win or loss, was most representative of your team's attitude and style of play this season?
Every year since I have been a Michigan fan, the offseason promise has been to ditch the two-gap plugging in favor of a vicious, attacking front that you daren't leave a football within 100 yards of. It has never happened. Even last year when we got a new defensive line coach who looked exactly like Sargeant Slaughter, the line underwhelmed. Gabe Watson was out of shape and unmotivated. Pat Massey was completely useless. One end was a revolving door filled somewhat adequately by an out-of-position Alan Branch. Lamarr Woodley was good but far from dominant. We were never, ever going to get the line promised to us.
Hints that things were changing came against Vanderbilt -- six sacks and a generally terror-inspiring performance -- but the line was a nonfactor against Central Michigan and doubts arose. Crushing Vandy's offensive line meant nothing. Notre Dame's lethal west-coast attack and veteran offensive line awaited. Three hours later, Brady Quinn had been battered into pretty goo and Michigan 2006 had been defined. The offense has oscillated wildly, but the Michigan defense established itself as a badass unit far removed from the Herrmann years.
Also, we won a road opener!
2. Are there any teams you think are still hugely overrated? What about underrated?
Can someone explain to me the differences between the resumes of Notre Dame and Texas?
- Thorough beating at the hands of Big Ten power. (Ohio State/Michigan)
- Two narrow escapes from mediocre or worse teams. (Nebraska & TTech/MSU & UCLA)
- Solid win over top-20-ish team (Oklahoma/Georgia Tech)
- Pounding of mediocre team. (Oklahoma State/Penn State)
- Meaningless wins over dregs of college football.
The answer to my rhetorical question is "no, because there is none." If you want to pick nits I guess MSU turned out to be worse than either Nebraska or Texas Tech and the margin of victory against Oklahoma was greater, though heavily turnover-aided. I'll drag out this ol' chestnut: Oklahoma outgained Texas something like 300-200. If Texas' resume is more impressive it's incremental.
But Texas is #3 in the coaches poll and Notre Dame hovers towards the bottom of the top ten. It's confusing. I guess it is possible that Texas is much better than ND is, but shouldn't there be some evidence of that by now? (Please don't let this be construed as an argument in favor of ND. They're placed about right, IMO. I'm just missing what the BFD is about Texas.)
Since I'm having difficulty ranking anyone past about #12, I am not too incensed about potentially underrated teams.
3. Did your team play any Division I-AA opponents this year? If so, do you think it benefited your team at all? If you were a coach or an NCAA official, what policy would you have toward scheduling D-IAAs?
Michigan's never scheduled a I-AA team and likely never will, preferring to load up on MAC teams when it's time for snackycake. The ability to schedule I-AA teams is an abomination and should be abolished. The NCAA should do everything in its power to limit the ability of teams to schedule non-competitive teams, and eliminating I-AA sacrifices is a logical and necessary first step.
4. Which not-a-typical-national-powerhouse team (i.e. no Ohio States or USCs) has played well enough this year to set themselves up for a breakout season in '07?
Doug cites Rutgers and Missouri in this category, which is... uh... odd. Is 8-0 not a breakout year for Rutgers? Rutgers done broke out already. Missouri less so but they're going to end up around 8-4 or something this year, and how much better do they get after that?
Meanwhile in the land of actually answering the question: I am sorely tempted to take Illinois, given that an Illini "breakout" at this point would be a Motor City Bowl bid. But... no. Juice Williams is still light-years away from being a respectable passer and Zook's inexplicable ability to recruit stars from wherever to the moribund Illinois program won't pay dividends until his first recruiting class has been around for at least a couple years. Put me down for an Illinois revival, but in 2008.
Further exploring the dregs of the Big Ten: Northwestern has found a quarterback in CJ Bacher and will probably return to scratching out bowl bids as soon as next year. They'll rebound from this tragedy-induced low. Whoever ends up Michigan State's next coach will walk into a situation far from unsalvageable. Javon Ringer, Brian Hoyer, and freshman wideout TJ Williams make a good offensive nucleus and there should be more depth and strength on the offensive line. Defensively? Well... nevermind.
5. Take a look at your team's bowl prospects this season. Which bowl(s) do you think you have a reasonable shot of ending up in? Of the teams you might likely face in a bowl, which team would you most want to play and why (maybe you've always wanted to see how your team would match up with them, maybe there's an old score you want to settle, or maybe you just want to finish the season with an easy win)? Conversely, which potential opponent would you really like to avoid in a bowl game?
Assuming we get past Indiana, win @ OSU == MNC game. Lose == Rose Bowl. Michigan's best matchup in the MNC game went by the wayside when WVU went down. Of the remaining reasonable possibilities, anyone who has trouble passing would be best: Arkansas, Rutgers, and Florida. If we're in the Rose there's a 95% chance we'll face the winner of the Cal/USC game so speculating there is pointless.
As for avoiding: rematches. If Michigan beats OSU @ OSU there's no way the Bucks should get a MNC game berth unless there are absolutely no other possibilities. Ditto for Notre Dame. Cal, USC, Texas, Florida, Arkansas, and Louisville would all have to lose to open up a door for either team, IMO, and the chances of that are remote at best.
(Note that desire to avoid rematch goes out the window in the vent of a Michigan loss versus OSU.)
6. In a roundtable question during the off-season, we were asked whom you'd pick if your current coach fell deathly ill and you had to select another coach to lead your team to victory. Let's turn this around and imagine that you've somehow schemed your way onto the search committee to select your biggest rival's next head coach. Which rival would that be, and which coaching sooper genius would you try to stick them with?
This is an odd question for a Michigan fan, because all three of Michigan's rivals have perfect answers who happen to be old coaches. Sooper genius away:
- Michigan State: Bobby Williams, natch. Managed to turn Jeff Smoker and Charles Rogers into 3-8. Possibly the only coach in history to look like he was about to cry every moment of every loss.
- Notre Dame: a tough choice between Tyrone Willingham and Bob Davie, but probably Davie. Willingham made Stanford competitive and is currently improving a Washington program that had bottomed out. His brief tenure at Notre Dame featured the transition from Carlyle Holiday, Jarious Jackson, and the option to a West Coast attack that was severely hampered by a freshman quarterback. He could actually be a decent coach. Davie, on the other hand, got his full five years and failed.
- Ohio State: John Cooper. He still pops up on ESPN+ pregam
e and halftime shows where the obsequeous talking head always calls him "Coach." Coach of what?
Ohio State could do much worse than John Cooper -- his Buckeye teams were powers year-in and year-out -- but the sheer panic would well worth it.
Ron gone? Your hackier local media types (Pat Caputo and Drew Sharp, if you're wondering) have been promoting Ron English as Sparty's next head coach, causing all sorts of mild panic amongst the Internet fanbase. Personally, I gave little credence to the idea even when the LSJ picked it up and message board insiders rumbled about it: English is a lose-lose proposition for Michigan State. If he fails, he fails and the school looks ridiculous for hiring a guy with one year of experience as a coordinator. If he succeeds, he's going to get snapped up by Michigan or some other school as quick as you can say "Saban." As a young, dynamic recruiter Without any ties to Michigan State or the area, a better job offer would come quickly and be accepted. Sure, there's a Citrus bowl in there somewhere for you but the chances of a Ron English coaching tenure long enough to be called an "Era" are zero.
So this isn't much of a surprise, though you might want to look upon it with a skeptical eye, as I'm pretty sure Roger Brown is Cleveland's Rob Parker:
Look for Browns defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to become the No. 1 candidate for Michigan State's head-coaching job when John L. Smith leaves after this season - provided that former NFL head coach Steve Mariucci, a Michigan native, turns down the MSU job. Grantham was a Michigan State assistant coach from 1996 to 1998.
Creepy quote from Bo on his recent hospital visit:
"When I was in the ambulance, I've got to admit, I wasn't so sure ... that I'd make it. I really wasn't," Schembechler told The Detroit News. "I was thinking, 'This thing is going to take me.' I snapped back out of that."
Of note: Bo's 77, the same age as Bobby Bowden and two years younger than Joe Paterno. His retirement could be featured on "I Love The 80s."
Projected line for OSU: -7? That was before this weekend's close calls, but there you go:
"My first thought would be Ohio State -8 or -8 Â½," says professional oddsmaker Keith Glantz. "But that would probably be a 'take' with the wise guys so maybe OSU -7 Â½ would be better. Make that -7 if wide receiver (Mario) Manningham returns 100 percent for the game."
If that seems high you're not alone:
"To me a 7 or 7 Â½ looks high, but it is consistent with what we have seen all season â€“ Michigan has generated more profits for us than any other Division I team, and the betting markets still do not realize how good they are," says Covers Expert David Malinsky. "A 'true' line based on the abilities of the teams, and not the public perceptions, would be around -4 or -4 Â½. I expect to see it in the -6 range at kickoff."
Etc.: Michgian Monday blows off last weekend entirely; the Indianapolis Star takes a look at the Big Ten's refusal to schedule games after Thanksgiving; What The Deuce looks at the NW game and summarizes the case against boredom.
Saw: WVU-UL; Michigan-Ball State (yow!); OSU-Illinois; Tenn-LSU; Texas-Okie State; Arkansas-South Carolina.
Uh... well, it's like this. Many people saw the UL-WVU game as cosmic proof that the Big East teams were terrible and utterly defense-free and said as much. Apparently none of these people vote in polls. IMO, that game was tennis where serve was broken once on West Virginia's disastrous backwards drive in the third quarter that ended with a shanked punt returned for an easy touchdown. Many of Louisville's yards came on wide-open post routes over the middle -- 'Eer linebackers are apparently prohibited from not biting viciously on even the most token of play fakes -- they could not even think about stopping Steve Slaton, and only a fluky spree of turnovers gave them the comfortable margin they maintained by holding serve against the aforementioned bitin' linebackers.
Are both these teams real good? Yes. Are they incredibly good? Well... maybe. I am less eager to punish WVU and elevate UL for a game that seemed virtually equal both in yardage and my head.
No doubt a controversial minority will elevate UL over Michigan because of the close game against Ball State, ignoring the other nine games both teams have played and, for that matter, the Ball State game itself, in which Michigan outgained BSU by 200 yards and was only threatened because of a dogged determination to rest the starters before the game was actually put away. Hell, while you're at elevating Louisville to heights undreamt, why not put them #1? After all, Illinois is just about as bad as Ball State and OSU was actually outgained by the Illini.
UL at #2 is movement for movement's sake.
Arkansas runs a high school offense, but I mean that in the nicest way possible. Somehow they've cobbled together a system that takes a non-functional quarterback and three completely insane athletes (Marcus Monk, Darren McFadden, and Felix Jones) and gets them running past stunned defenders via some strange formation and playcall alchemy that turns inevitably-doomed Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Draws into actually surprising quarterback sweeps, counters, reverses, options, and the like. The overall effect is a low-rent system flooded with electricity in the form of impossibly fast guy and the hazy memory of a Division-C state championship game from long ago.
They still don't have a quarterback. But I'm sold anyway.
- Auburn! I'm tired of your close calls against mediocre opponents. I'm tired of your three-score loss to a team I had ranked below you. You're down five, and don't you forget it.
- I think I need to restore BC somewhere late.