Mike Lantry, 1972
(Read the rules and regulations if you're confused.)
If you were looking for a brief summary of the last thirty years of Spartan football, 2004 was your lucky year. It had everything you could want: a loss to Rutgers, heartbreak at the hands of Michigan, two totally unexpected crushings of quality opponents (51-17 over Minnesota and 49-14 over Wisconsin), and a final collapse that prevented Michigan State from going to a bowl game--one that involved giving up 37 points to one of the worst offenses in the nation and a late-game implosion against Hawaii. It had just the right mix of burgeoning hope with soul-mangling incompetence, the right mix of surprising success with surprising failure, the right mix of Duffy Daughterty with Bobby Williams. Michigan State's porridge is never too hot, never too cold, always just mediocre. On a micro level MSU is completely unpredictable week-to-week. On a macro level it's always Same Old Spartans.
So MOTS from the SOS this year? Probably. John L. Smith's offense transitioned to the Big Ten with a bang, finishing tenth in the country in both rushing yards and total offense despite missing Crazy Legs Drew Stanton for portions of seven games. When Michigan State had Stanton they had you dead to rights. When they didn't, it was roadkill time.
The vast, huge, enormous problem is the defense. It gave up seventeen points to Michigan in six minutes. It gave up thirty-seven points to Penn State. Converted running back Jaren Hayes is the team's best corner. The defensive line is thin and fat at the same time. There are hardly enough linebackers for a two-deep. There are few defenses in the Big Ten this side of Illinois that look as flimsy.
Still, I have a simple system by which I rate Big Ten players: how much do I fear this particular person? Stanton is #1 on my list this year. That's got to count for something.
Unit By Unit
Rating: 4. Whenever Drew Stanton takes off down the field next year, he'll be scaring the crap out of everyone. Opponents will worry that Stanton will chew their defense to shreds. Spartans will worry that Stanton won't get up after the play is over. Last year's backups are gone, either to graduation (Damon Dowdell) or DUI (Stephen Reaves), and the remaining quarterbacks--redshirt freshman Brian Hoyer and 'greenshirt' freshman Dominic Natale--got absolutely ripped by Tourette's-stricken coach John L. Smith after spring practices.
The injury angle on Stanton is a little overblown, but last year he was in and out of the lineup because of three separate injuries, not one nagging one. That has to be alarming to Spartan fans, especially because Stanton is going to take a lot more hits than quarterbacks that stick to throwing. In all Stanton missed portions of seven games. If Stanton remains healthy, however, Spartan opponents will have their hands full. He is an unparalleled dual threat and the best quarterback in the Big Ten. What? Henne Tate you crazy!
Seriously. Stanton's arm isn't far off the two quarterbacks generally considered to be head and shoulders above the Big Ten pack. He completed almost 64% of his passes last year. His yards per attempt and passer efficiency don't stand up to Henne and Tate's numbers, but how much of that is on Michigan State's inconsistent and big-play-deficient wide receiving corps? mgoblog thinks most of it. Tate and Henne had Hinkel, Solomon, Edwards, and Avant at their disposal. Stanton had a ragtag bunch (more on them later) of trash-talkin', pass-droppin', bomb-makin' fools.
What Stanton gives you that Tate and Henne don't is crazy goddamn legs. Stanton rushed for 687 yards last year, averaging 7.2(!) yards per carry. His mobility was also a major reason that Michigan State yielded only four sacks all year. Stanton's ability to throw on the run makes his rollouts a deadly weapon. Linebackers tasked with defending him are often caught in no man's land; by the time they make a decision it's the wrong one. Stanton will rush for 1,000 yards this year and pass for 2,500... (you know the drill) if healthy.
How can I give this unit a four, then? No depth. MSU was terrible without Stanton last year save for a few long Cobb runs in the Michigan game and they'll be worse this year should Stanton go down, which is a pick-'em.
Rating: 4. It doesn't feel right giving this group a four but it's impossible to argue with the numbers. Michigan State finished tenth in the country in rushing yards and that wasn't all because of their quarterbacks. Michigan State had three running backs finish with better than 4.5 yards a carry: Jason Teague had 4.6, Jehuu Caulcrick 5.5, and departed senior Deandra Cobb 7.6(!).
The Spartans will miss Cobb, who had the ability to go "meep meep" and severely confound the plans of Wile E. Coyote defenses around the conference. If not for Braylon Edwards and the greatest comeback in Michigan history, Cobb's ability to hit lightspeed would have led the Spartans to a precious victory over Michigan last year. Neither Jason Teague nor Jehuu Caulcrick has that game-breaking ability. In fact, mgoblog wouldn't be entirely surprised to see Caulcrick shift to linebacker (a position he briefly played last fall) if the two incoming recruits are ready to play immediately.
Those two incoming recruits are Ohio's Javon Ringer and Missouri's AJ Jimmerson, though there is a possibility that Ringer may not qualify at the moment, which would be a major loss. Ringer tore his ACL midway through his senior year, which caused several major programs, including Ohio State, to back off of him.The Spartans continued to pursue him and were rewarded. Many Ohio high school football watchers considered Ringer to be a major steal for MSU. Jimmerson wasn't quite as highly regarded, but is a pounding back in the Caulcrick style who, should Ringer not qualify, will see immediate playing time.
Wide Recievers & Tight Ends
The Spartans have a slew of wide receivers who have performed well intermittently but don't have a standout that defenses have to focus on. Basketball moonlighter Matt Trannon has the physical tools to be a star at 6'6", 225, but runs sloppy routes and has hands that can be kindly described as inconsistent. Kyle Brown, Terry Love, Aaron Alexander, and Jerramy Scott are all thoroughly all right but none are particularly inspiring. Brown has the most athletic ability but hasn't emerged as a go-to receiver despite not exactly being overshadowed by anyone on the team at the moment. Love specialized in unexpected critical third down catches but is smallish and not particularly elusive. When defenses become more aware of him his effectiveness will plateau.
Agim Shabaj was declared academically ineligible but probably won't be missed partiuclarly much. Redshirt freshman Carl Grimes, who nearly signed with Florida State, can fill Shabaj's role as a slot receiver who can grab screens and pick up yards after the catch on crossing routes. Maybe Grimes will actually, you know, catch the ball before trash talking the opposition. Losing mouthy tight end Eric Knott is addition by subtraction. Projected replacement Kellen Freeman-Davis is an excellent receiver and isn't on the sexual offenders registry.
Altogether this set of receivers has a number of guys who would make effective #2 or #3 wideouts but no one other than Trannon who can really strike fear into a defense, but Trannon has been plagued by mental mistakes his entire career. If the prospect of a major NFL paycheck lights a fire under him he could emerge into a nightmare for opposing defenses but the mistakes and cement hands aren't going to disappear overnigh
t. Everybody else is uninspiring, guys who are decent cogs but not threats. The unit, taken as a whole, is average.
Rating: 4. When you end up tenth in the country in rushing and yield eight sacks all year, the offensive line is doing something right. RT Sean Poole and RG William Whitticker have graduated but the entire left side of the line returns. C Chris Morris is probably the second-best center in the Big Ten behind Greg Eslinger of Minnesota, and both LG Kyle Cook and LT Stefon Wheeler played well last year. Several players are competing for the open jobs on the right side of the line.
The Spartan offensive line doesn't have quite as much pass protection to do as most teams given the frequency of rollouts and the elusiveness of Stanton, but they were extremely effective at engaging blockers and keeping them off the running backs until they crossed the line of scrimmage last year. Morris, Cook, and Wheeler all returning bodes well; that side of the line's effectiveness in the run game should shift defensive attention there and take some of the burden from the new starters.
Rating: 1. The defensive tackles are overweight or unproven. Neither Brandon McKinney or juco transfer Domata Peko had much impact last year, amassing a mere three TFLs between them. You can get away with that kind of production as a defensive tackle if you're part of a defense that is stiff against the run, but Michigan State was certainly not that, yielding 4.5 yards per carry in conference. Only Illinois and Indiana were worse--not the kind of company you want to keep. Behind the two projected starters is very, very little. Sophomore Joe Toth has six tackles, and that's it. JUCO transfer Bobby Jones may have to step in immediately spelling Peko and McKinney.
The defensive ends are slightly deeper but little better on the surface. Clifton Ryan was expected to be the star of the line last year, but a nagging quadriceps injury hampered him all season. Ryan finished with only 2.5 sacks. Redshirt freshman Justin Kershaw, sophomore Nick Smith, and junior Michael Bazemore will battle for the other defensive end spot. Whoever doesn't win the job will at least provide the Spartans with a quality two-deep at defensive end. Watch out for Kershaw.
Rating: 2. Michigan State runs one of those 4-2-5 defenses with one guy who's a sort of a really strong safety with a cool name like "Apache" or "Hawk" or "Bazooka Rambo-man"--in Michigan State's case he's the "Bandit." The bandit position is covered in this section.
This is another area at which Michigan State is horrifically thin. Junior "whip" linebacker David Herron and sophomore middle linebacker Caleb Thornhill are the only players who saw anything more than token duty at linebacker. Freshman Hugh D'Imperio--one of the prizes of last year's recruiting class--was kicked off the team for an off-field incident. Herron is the guy who has to step forward this year. He's a proverbial 'playmaker' and the only one on the entire Spartan defense except (potentially) Clifton Ryan.
The bandit appears to be former safety Eric Smith, who has been racking up tackles and blowing coverages the past few years. He screwed up the angle on Ted Ginn's slant that beat the Spartans, and though mgoblog can't prove it, I am pretty sure that John L. Smith called for Braylon Edwards to be double covered over the top late in last year's Michigan game, because he's not totally insane--no matter how many recruits he slaps. Eric Smith was nowhere to be found, however. Maybe he'll thrive without extensive deep coverage responsibilities, but Smith is awfully slight to be taking on the (increasingly few) Big Ten teams that can break out a thudding ground game.
Thornhill did okay backing up Ronald Stanley as a freshman but isn't particularly athletic. He's the kind of guy who could be the third, unnoticed piece of a good linebacking corps if the other two guys drew a lot of attention--unfortunately that describes his situation in no way whatsoever. He'll rack up a lot of tackles, but too many of them will be six to eight yards downfield.
No one outside of the MSU coaching staff has any idea if the backups will have a clue. The only one with a modicum of hype is sophomore 'bandit' SirDarean Adams, who came to MSU with much athleticism but hasn't translated it to the field just yet. Any injury in this position group will be a major worry, and even without any the Spartan's can't expect much in the way of big plays from this group. If the don't screw up and occasionally make a play in the backfield, that would be a huge win.
Rating: 1. I don't see how this position group can be anything other than a total disaster; Jaren Hayes looks to be Michigan State's #1 corner next year. Michigan State fans can't be happy about that. No one in the secondary cracks six feet tall since Smith was moved to bandit. FS Greg Cooper was toasted regularly last year and senior Ashton Watson, the starter at corner opposite Hayes, has hardly played despite having only converted running backs and toastmaster Roderick Maples in front of him. Sophomore SS Cole Cooper has almost zero experience.
Anyone covering anything would be great here, at least until freshman Kendall Davis gets acclimated. Davis is fast, rather large, and athletic, which means he beats everyone currently starting on all three counts. If he has a clue he'll be seeing extensive time immediately and maybe even starting halfway through the year. This position group needs help from a heavy pass rush. Without it, expect a repeat of last year's poke-eyes-out-with-stick performance.
Rating: 2. Without Cobb and Shabaj MSU doesn't appear to have anyone who can serve as a threat returning kicks. If Ringer makes it to campus he is reputed to have the speed to be dangerous, but there is a lot more to returning kicks than just being really fast. Unless you're Ted Ginn. And you probably aren't. No one currently in the wide receiver corps or the defensive backfield has shown an ability to duplicate Cobb's numbers. Michigan State will likely take a step back here.
Punter Brandon Fields has a monster leg but is inconsistent and has a tendency to hit returnable line drives. If he could just kick 45-yard fair catches (something well within his leg's, er, reach) he would easily be the conference's best punter and a Ray Guy finalist. As it is, he will occasionally be brilliant and occasionally shank one out of bounds after 15 yards or set someone like Ginn up for a touchdown.
Michigan State will break in a new kicker this year after Dave Rayner's departure. It is official mgoblog policy to not wildly speculate on the fortunes of kickers who have never seen the field, because I am just not (quite) that arrogant.
State's nonconference schedule features a terrible Kent State team, a Timmah Chang-less Hawaii squad (in East Lansing) and Notre Dame. That should be 2-0 and then... the ND matchup, which is critical to MSU's season. It's a swing game that looks like a shootout. Notre Dame's shallow defensive backfield will be extensively tested and should be beaten repeatedly, but the same can be said for Michigan State.
In the Big Ten the Spartans miss Wisconsin and Iowa. Missing Iowa is extremely fortunate as Drew Tate and the Hawkeye linebacking corps are terrible matchups for the Spartans and that would have been a very tough game to come out of with a win. Wisconsin, eh, not so much, but you never
really want to face a team you utterly humiliated the very next year. Things generally don't go as swimmingly.
Michigan comes to East Lansing fresh off a ridiculous win last year in a game that promises to be a bloody affair. Many Michigan fans immediately wrote off that game after the Wolverines' fortunate escape last year; Michigan never plays well in East Lansing and is incapable of stopping mobile quarterbacks. But with defensive line coach Steve Stripling defecting from the Spartans to the Wolverines, Michigan will have a very good idea what goes into the Spartan offense, and without Cobb that counter draw won't be as effective.
Keys to the Season
For God's Sake Keep Stanton Healthy. John L. Smith has crafted a devastating ground game around the multitalented junior but no one on the roster behind him has taken a competitive snap and Smith specifically lambasted Stanton's backups after Spring practice. The dropoff from Stanton to one of his backups would be vast and terrible, especially because neither Brian Hoyer nor Dominic Natale seems to be much of a run threat, and Michigan State's offense depended heavily upon the threat of Stanton or backup Damon Dowdell taking off from the multitude of rollouts and bootlegs the Spartans run.
Beat Michigan. State fans have to be hopeful after taking Michigan to the brink last year. Describing Michigan's escape as "miraculous" doesn't do it justice. Now they have Michigan at home with Stanton poised like a dagger ready to enter the Wolverine hearts at their weakest point: running quarterbacks. A loss in East Lansing would put John L. Smith at 0-3 heading into Ann Arbor next year with the hangman's noose at the ready.
Banzai blitz. A pass rush is absolutely required. The defensive backfield is going to be a disaster; sitting back and playing conservatively will eat up time on the clock and merely extend the time the defense is on the field. A passive MSU will be playing a bend-and-then-break defense. The right way to play in MSU's situation is to freak out and blitz from everywhere constantly. Big plays will be given up, but MSU has to trust that the offense can get it back. Blitzing will at least put the opposing offenses in some distress.
Worst case: Stanton goes down, and none of the backup quarterbacks is much of a running threat, forcing JLS to scrap large portions of his offensive game plan. The defense plays exactly like it's expected to. Michigan State implodes impressively, finishing 4-7 and driving the RCMB to the
brink of suicide basketball season.
Best case: Stanton stays healthy. Someone, anyone, emerges as a reliable midrange receiver and Trannon puts brain together with 6'6" 230 to become the second coming of (ugh) Plaxico Burress and starts ripping jump balls down like he's Braylon Edwards. The defense... well, it doesn't do so bad stopping the run. And Ryan lives up to expectations, covering the defensive backfield a little. The defense still cracks a few times at inopportune moments, but it's good enough for 8-3 and a bowl that doesn't say "Motor City" anywhere in it.
mgoblog says... You predict whether a quarterback with an injury history who runs around constantly will stay healthy, and I'll tell you how Michigan State's offense does. If he manages to remain upright the entire season, MSU will have a decent to good year. A healthy Stanton will be neck and neck with Drew Tate and Chad Henne for the title of Best Quarterback in the Big Ten, and he will have a slew of targets to throw to this year. One or two of them will emerge into threats. The running game got Jason Teague, who mgoblog secretly considers to be severely average, 4.6 yards per carry--its scheme and execution are impressive to behold as long as the threat of old Crazy Legs is there. As long as he is (and the bet here is that he make it through the season mostly okay), Michigan State's offense will be a nasty problem.
The defense will be another story. Ryan and Kershaw may provide some pass rush but the defensive tackles are shallow and unimpressive, the linebackers are mediocre, and the secondary is foul. Michigan State will have to win shootouts against teams with decent offenses. They'll end up slightly better than last year, finishing 7-4 and 4-4 in the Big Ten, looking to nuke the hell out of some poor sap bowl opponent who won't know what the Stanton is coming.
I suppose it's inevitable with a list like the most memorable sports moments of your life there is going to be a slapping of the head and a "dammit, I can't believe I forgot that" afterwards. And I've got a doozy that demands attention, plus some comments on objections lodged in what turned into a great comment thread.
This stuff is all based on my memories and recollections, so some things that are omitted are due to ignorance, like the famous victory over North Dakota in 1998, which everyone tells me was no-contest louder than the Denver game. In 1998 I knew nothing of college hockey and thus missed that particular game, something for which I am forever regretful. Please stop telling me about it, as the fact that I missed it brings me pain. The first Michigan hockey game I would ever watch would be the semifinal against New Hampshire the next week. I am too young for Wangler to Carter.
The overtime Penn State game was indeed a great game but didn't contain one signature moment (unless you are a paranoid PSU fan, in which case the debatable Bryant Johnson incompletion qualifies). Maybe Marlin Jackson ripping a sure touchdown away from Johnson, but I don't think it's top ten material.
The Minnesota comeback certainly did have a signature moment, when John Navarre (of all people) thundered his way into the endzone flanked by about 1500 pounds of offensive line manbeef in the slowest 57-yard touchdown run of all time. A friend immediately called me to exclaim "did you just see that?" So that's a pretty good one. But it didn't dramatically shift the fortunes of Michigan. At that point it was just faint hope. Anyway. Three additions that cannot be denied, to follow.
Not one person thought that Brabbs would make it. There were approximately 110,001 people watching Michigan play Washington, and not one person thought Brabbs would make it. Except maybe his mother. His dad may have told his mother "he'll make it," but if so that was a courteous lie.
At least it wasn't a 59-yarder. It was a slightly more plausible 44-yarder that Brabbs would obviously miss after Rick Neuheisel had sent 12 men out to defend 11 on the second-to-last play of the game--after a timeout. And at least there was an attempt at all after a questionable fourth-down conversion that was sort-of-caught and then fumbled and then recovered. All for naught, though, because after a comedy of errors throughout the day, there was no way that he would make it.
There was a snap. There was a kick that was not blocked. My eyes pivoted towards the fans in the north endzone, the approximate place where the kick would land after going wide by eight to twelve feet. They looked strangely happy. I looked down at the referees perched under the goalposts. They raised their arms in the air; I was confused; Brabbs ended his Michigan career as the anti-Hayden Epstein--he made no field goals except the one that really, really mattered.
6 (tie) Hello, Heisman #2
Can't reasonably distinguish this from Desmond, now can I?
2.5 Go on, Keano
I spent the summer of 2002 in verdant Galway, Ireland. The plan was to go there, find a menial job of some sort, and have a good time. Unfortunately, when I applied for said menial jobs they said "Do you have any experience?" and I said "At picking things up and putting them down? Do you need experience for that?" and that was that. The working holiday transformed itself into a doing nothing at all holiday. This was quite pleasing to me but annoyed my mother greatly.
My idleness allowed me to watch just about every game of that year's World Cup, including the titanic day when both the USA and Ireland were in action against world heavyweights Portugal and Germany, respectively. I settled in to the couch, torn over whether I should make the approximately 20 minute trek into town to drink by myself and watch soccer at nine in the morning. I decided against it, partially because I anticipated that the day's results would be depressing. Both the USA and Ireland were heavy underdogs. Each team was missing midfielders thought to be critical to the entire enterprise. The USA was absent both Claudio Reyna and Chris Armas to injury while Ireland was without the services of talismanic midfielder Roy Keane after he had a decidedly un-Irish spat with manager Mick McCarthy (<-- MOST IRISH NAME EVER). Portugal had one of those guys who just go by one name, Figo. Germany had the brutally effective goaltending of Oliver Kahn, a name that US soccer fans would come to know far too well in a couple weeks. Prospects for joyous carousing seemed dim. Prospects for swearing sufficiently to end up deported seemed high. Home was best.
Three minutes in to the USA-Portugal game, however, American striker Brian McBride (everything you ever need to know about McBride: US soccer fans call him simply "McHead") got on the end of a corner kick and fired a blistering header at the Portugese goal, which was blocked. The rebound fell serendipitously to midfielder John O'Brien, who, as the lovely Irish announcers said, made no mistake. The USA was ahead a mere three minutes in. In the 28th minute a deflected Landon Donovan cross would make it 2-0. In the 36th minute McHead would score on a gorgeous diving header. Even though Portugal clawed one back before halftime, home had entirely lost its appeal. I force-marched myself into downtown Galway and a pub that was getting packed in anticipation of the Ireland-Germany match. I arrived just in time to see US defender score a beautiful goal... into his own net. The US held on to win 3-2, though, and my plan was half complete.
The Ireland game did not start as swimmingly. Miroslav Klose (<-- not Irish) scored in the 18th minute; afterwards the Germans sat back and played cynically, hardly advancing out of their half of the field and suffocating Irish attacks, content to kill 70 minutes of gametime. The Germans played so to stereotype that I began to formulate a new theory of soccer: teams reflect their national character. Thus the ruthless efficiency of the Germans. Thus the magical skill of Brazilian soccer--they play the game like it is Carnivale. Thus the thuggish undertone of teams like Ecuador, teams composed of players who grew up with a knife in their back pocket.
Ireland's situation grew increasingly desperate. They needed a draw to avert the possibility of Cameroon and Germany knowing that a lifeless nil-nil draw would advance both teams. Such a match would certainly play out if Ireland lost here, leaving the boys in green with almost no hope of advancement. A draw would almost guarantee advancement, as anything except a rather high-scoring tie in the Cameroon-Germany game would put Ireland through to the second round as long as the Irish took care of group minnows Saudi Arabia, who had lost to Germany 8-0. All they needed was a tiny sliver of light.
Germany was not forthcoming with that sliver. Time and again Ireland would pressure, and Oliver Kahn would bail them out. Damien Duff--a soccer version of Mike Hart, slippery, somewhat magical, incredibly short--would advance and cross. Someone would get a shot on. Kahn would snuff the chance out, sometimes incredibly. Ireland began making the flailing offensive substitutions a trailing team makes in a soccer game, hopeful moves that seldom amount to anything. Niall Quinn, a creaky 34-year-old target forward in his last international tournament, came in. (The role of the 'target forward' is to play McHead, basically. They get on the end of crosses to fire headers at goal or knock down balls booted from far upfield to their shifty waterbug cousins, something that is called a 'flick on' in the wonderfully expressive language of soccer.)
Ireland's substitutions availed to nothing, though. Deep into the second
half, two minutes into the three minutes of stoppage time, Ireland was dead in the water. Any moment the referee's whistle would blow and Ireland's World Cup would be functionally over. Some anonymous defender lofted one last desperate long ball to the top of the 18-yard box.
Quinn rose up, holding off his defender. His head met the ball. A flick on.
Suddenly Robbie Keane was in space, the ball was heading right for him, and Kahn was rushing out. Someone in the pub cried out "Go on, Keano!" The Germans had cracked the door the slightest of inches and somehow Quinn had put the ball in the only place that he could and Keane had made the only run that he could, chested the ball down, and there it was: the titanic Kahn oncoming, the ball dropping softly to the turf, and Keane lashing out at it. Keane had no time to direct the ball; he just had to get rid of it lest Kahn come right on him and gather the ball up. Ball met foot, and then ball met goalie. That bastard Kahn had gotten a piece of it! The shot glanced off of his hand, deflecting slightly, turning our hope into a cruel mockery of same.
Then, joyously, impossibly, the shot hit the crossbar, rolled along the top of the net for a tantalizing fraction of a second, and nestled safely home. The pub--and, I am quite sure, the nation--exploded. I hugged a confused looking Indian man and several Irish lads of the tough-lip, short-haired persuasion. A second roar went up when the final whistle blew mere seconds after the restart. Ireland had escaped.
After the game, I wandered out into downtown Galway. Seemingly everyone had decided to screw work and sit outside, drinking and laughing on the banks of the Corrib. I did so, sitting by the river, watching the waves roll by, and thinking that the beautiful game was beautiful indeed.
Just one more fantasy-laden post about a college football playoff, and only because excellent input was received. After this I'll put it away, secure in the knowledge that this particular dead horse won't be messing with mgoblog in time soon.
To recap: mgoblog advocates an eight-team playoff selected by a bouncyball-like committee. The first two rounds are on campus at the higher-seeded team's stadium. Champions from the top five conferences (Pac 10, Big 10, ACC, SEC, Big 12) are automatically qualified. The committee then selects one team that is either an independent or a smaller conference champion. Two at-large bids are dispensed. The committee places an emphasis on quality non-conference opponents.
IBFC responded wisely per usual with an eight-team playoff of his own with a couple pertinent differences:
- No at-large bids. Only the top eight conference champions get in.
- Two different scheduling items, both of which have slightly less home-field advantage.
I think excluding any at-large bids at all might encourage better matchups in non-conference games but it would remove much of their importance. NC games would be less important since they could only impact playoff seedings, not who gets in. Minor differences, though. I'd be 95% happy with his proposal... though I get the feeling he wouldn't be, since he's posted before that he would prefer a return to ante-bellum CFB and a de-emphasis on national championships. IBFC also floats a great idea for seeding: let the top four seeds choose their opponents from the bottom four. Heaps of intrigue added, plus the disrespect factor provides juicy motivation for the newly-ordained #8.
ParadigmBlog also chimed in with something I still find tres icky: 12 teams all culled from the five or six power conferences. I did managed to back him down from 16, so I guess some progress was made, and a system with byes does place a heavy emphasis on making it to the top four, but mgoblog still thinks that's too many. A matter of taste, I guess.
Some commenters preferred a four-team playoff that works within the BCS system, perhaps with a couple games in December before the bowls. I'd be 95% fine with that, too, though I think eight teams would open up nonconference schedules more.
One thing is clear: the BCS is close to the worst of all possible worlds. It is a half-solution to a problem that the BCS itself created. It's forced college football into a no-man's land where non-conference schedules are weak, the end of the season is more often than not unsatisfying, and the traditions of the game are damaged. We hates it.
I would be happy with almost anything that doesn't let more than a couple teams that did not win their conferences in. Four, six, eight, fine. I'd prefer flagrantly unfair homefield advantage. I'd like the Rose Bowl to be the last game of the season. I know Bo will probably die if anything like this is implemented, and I know I'll miss some of the traditions from the past. I think it's worth it.
IBFC made an excellent, harrowing point, though:
To me, the structure is less important than the selection process. I'm firmly anti-playoff, but the biggest fear stems from a firm belief that "they" will get it wrong. I mean, you can't get wronger than the BCS, and we've had that for almost a decade.
Blue-Gray Sky: it's time to head to the grotto and start praying.
Right, right. Shutting up on this, too. The "mgoblog forces itself to shut up" list now reads:
- Terry Foster
- Great Sissy Boy Blogger Slapfest
- College Football Playoff
- NBA refereeing
Hopefully soon to be added: The Incredible Awesomeitude of Steve Breaston.
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting news has slowed to a crawl in recent days after a flood surrounding Michigan's camp. Ricker was supposed to be very interested in Michigan but never ended up getting offered, despite being a Top 100 guy to Rivals. More fuel for the "Cone, eh, probably doesn't suck" fire. Also you can see at right that some Buckeye fans are already cowering in fear of young Mr. Cone. Strange respect for Michigan in that thread at BP. Usually they're the sort to go OMG U SUX0R.
Programming Note: Playoff and the Top Ten meme both generated much interesting discussion in the comments thread and, occasionally, at other blogs. I'll respond to both today or tomorrow. I think the Top Ten is going to have to expand, because I know of at least one flagrant omission that I have to correct. Memes are meant to spread, so anyone considering 'stealing' it and posting one's own version is highly encouraged to do so.
I have succumbed to memery. I apologize to all those who thought better of me. Your faith was totally unjustified. This one that's floating around is the ten "Most Unforgettable" moments you've seen live, either in person or via the wondrousness of TV. Batten the hatches. Discovered this via The Bemusement Park's iteration of same.
10. That LSU Hail Mary Against Kentucky
Probably the most surreal end to a football game I've ever seen. After Kentucky scored late to take the lead, some fans actually started storming the field before the game ended and had to be cleared off, but just barely. You could see a teeming mass of humanity at the edges of the field, just waiting to be released. And then you could see them crestfallen after a ridiculous bomb found an LSU receiver, who scampered into the endzone. And thus ended the Wildcats' brief flirtation with college football relevance.
9. Mariano's blooper.
I don't really follow much baseball, but I do like watching the Yankees lose. I made a point of watching Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, which ended when Luis Gonzalez stared down the greatest closer in the game at his very peak and hit a mighty, towering, shattered-bat bloop single to win the game only moments after Tim McCarver had said "left handed batters hit a lot of bloop singles off of Rivera's cut fastball."
8. You Don't Have A Goddamn Timeout.
7. Both posts.
The second Michigan hockey game I ever watched was the overtime national championship game in 1998 against Boston College that ended when freshman Josh Langfeld slipped a puck under the BC goalie's pads. That was memorable, but the game would never have gotten that far if not for a shot geometrically proven to be the closest a shot can be to a goal without actually being one. The shot skidded along the ice past goalie Marty Turco and hit the right goalpost, then slid straight across the goal-line, hit the other post, and bounced out.
Twenty seconds later, I remembered to breathe.
6. "Hello, Heisman."
Keith Jackson + Triumphant Michigan Football Moment = Brian Happy.
5. Carnival of Braylon.
The greatest comeback in Michigan history.
4. Intended for Row Four.
1997. Michigan vs. Michigan State in East Lansing. Spartan QB Bill Burke rolls out to his left, can't find anyone open, and throws the ball away in what appears to be routine fashion. Except for one Charles Woodson, who leaps into the air and makes a magnificent one handed grab at the absolute apex of his jump. Unfortunately, he landed several feet out of--what? That was in-bounds? OMG CHARLES WOODSON!!!!
O. M. G. Charles. Woodson.
When Jeff Smoker idiotically scrambled to the one yard line with the clock ticking down on the Michigan-Michigan State game in 2001, the game was over. The Spartans scrambled to the line and downed the ball as fast as they could, but only a crooked, partisan Spartan clock operator kept the clock from reading 0:00 at the end of the play. Michigan State, aided by the referees ignoring a flagrant case of holding, scored on the phantom down to win 26-24. Bobby Williams cried. I vowed to Keyser Soze him and his entire family. Part 1 of my plan is going swimmingly.
Definitely the angriest I've ever been about a game.
The four games Michigan played at Yost Ice Arena in the regional playoffs of the NCAA tournament in 2001 and 2002 are, as a unit, the finest live sporting events I have ever attended in my life, and it will take some doing to top them. The trademark moment, the loudest one I've ever experienced, came with under two minutes remaining in Michigan's 4-3 victory over Denver, the #1 team in the country.
The second intermission had heavily featured me staring at the 15:00 countdown on the Yost scoreboard, trying not to think. A few minutes into the third Eric Werner tied the game up by plunging into the slot like the swashbuckling buccanneer he was, and the roof nearly lifted off the building. The game went back and forth, each shot ratcheting the tension level up a notch until Denver turned the puck over in the neutral zone. Jed Ortmeyer came away with the puck and started a two on two rush into the zone. He found freshman Eric Nystrom.
Eric passed it back. Ortmeyer slid the puck two inches past the outstretched glove of Wade Dubielewicz, and I lost my mind. You can see it here, courtesy Michigan Hockey Net. The video does not do the crowd justice.
1. Go, John.
I spent a sizeable chunk of my youth in Colorado--a pre-Avs, pre-Rockies Colorado that was completely, utterly, and entirely obsessed with the Denver Broncos and their Super Bowl-losin' ways. My mother and I were both amongst the great teeming mass of Broncos fanatics. In fact, my entire school was under the orange-and-blue spell: we named our fake town "Ameagleton" instead of just "Eagleton" in tribute to the Bronco wide receiving corps, who had been nicknamed "the Three Amigos" for some reason that no one ever figured out. My mom would sit in front of the TV when the Broncos played and cry out to John Elway as if they were old friends. "Go, John!" when he made an excellent play. "Oh, John..." when he made an error. "Come on, John!" during the tense, tight moments that Bronco games often featured due to the stubborn refusal of Dan Reeves to take advantage of Elway's magnificence.
Super Bowls came and were lost. Mediocrity came and was lamented. Then Mike Shanahan and Terrell Davis showed up and there was a Super Bowl again against Brett Favre and the Packers. I went home to watch the game with my mom.
Late in the third quarter, the score tied at 14, the Broncos faced third-and-six at the Packer 12. Elway dropped back to pass and found no one open. He scrambled, directing his creaky, 37-year-old body to the first down marker. He wasn't going to make it. He wasn't going to make it. Two Packers bore down on him. Elway leapt into the air just as the first made impact. The second Packer hit a split-second later. Elway spun 360 degrees and hit the turf with a thud.
He made it.
I looked over at my mom. She said nothing; she just gripped a pillow, knuckles white, too petrified to speak.
Missed The Cut
Mike Camalleri's diving, twisting, impossible goal against Michigan State scored from his knees; A lot of equally ridiculous stuff Mike Comrie pulled; Charles Woodson's Heisman-clinching punt return; The Music City Miracle; The Longest Yard; The Drive; Tom Brady driving for the win against the Rams with John Madden saying it's a terrible idea and mgoblog screaming "Did you watch the Orange Bowl? Did you watch the Penn State game?"; the time during that same Superbowl where Pat Summerall said "this game has turned into Shockdome 36," sending Raffi and myself into hysterics for a good five minutes; Mercury Hayes catching the game winner against UVA in the early 90s; 313 for Timmy Biakabutuka against OSU; Paul Martin blocking Jason Ryznar's open net shot in the 2003 Frozen Four; Milan Gajic finding the stick of Curtis MacElhinney instead of the back of the net in the 2005 NCAA hockey tournament; Chauncey B
illups banking home a half-court three-pointer to take a 2004 playoff game against the Nets into overtime; Goddamn Robert Horry; Tim Duncan making an impossible shot followed by Derek Fisher making an even more impossibler shot in the 2004 playoffs; Desmond Howard laying out on fourth down against Notre Dame; Desmond Howard getting tripped against Michigan State; Desmond Howard and Rocket Ismail on College Gameday providing the most painful three minutes of television ever; Lance Armstrong miraculously avoiding Joseba Beloki and going cross-country for fifty feet after Beloki splattered himself across the pavement on a descent; Kordell Stewart blah blah blah; Clint Stoener's fumble vs. Tennessee; any number of Wide Rights; Nebraska's kicked ball against Missouri in '97; Marquise Walker's catch against Iowa; Jason Avant's catch against Northwestern; Steve Breaston's punt return against Illinois.
Things I Missed
Tayshaun Prince's block on Reggie Miller in last year's playoffs (was attending indie rock concert; am idiot), Miracle on Ice (was one), Anthony Thomas' fumble against Northwestern (had to leave home before game's end to go to UM-MSU hockey game(no, wouldn't have left for any other opponent)).