there would have to be some to wash away
Er... hopefully this one doesn't get many posts.
(note: this preview sucks. I came out flat this week and fell behind early. I am spending the time that would make it not suck on Ohio State material, Gods of Hubris be damned.)
Run Offense vs. Indiana
Terry Hoeppner may have installed a half-decent offensive system in Bloomington, but he can't materialize defensive linemen out of nothing. The Hoosier's run defense remains wretched, yielding over 200 yards per game and finding itself 104th in the country. Michigan's had its issues on the ground, but expect a performance like the Eastern game that featured steady, boring pounding.
Will Max Martin fumble his first carry? Will Mike Hart not limp anywhere and look on stoically from the sideline, breaking my heart? How many offensive linemen will Kevin Grady run into? Stay tuned!
Key Matchup: RB Mike Hart versus Play Effectively and Sit, Kid.
Pass Offense vs. Indiana
Freshman nickelback DeadShawn Ferret.
Ah, Indiana, how I love you. Whereas other members of the Big Ten get uppity and attempt to win games, go to bowls, and even claim championships, you continue to send out crippled ferrets at defensive back. It does me good to see the tradition (88th pass eff defense) continue.
Crippled ferrets do seem to be just as good as actual people for watching errant balls zing yards in front of their intended targets, but Henne will hit his share of downfield throws and I'm expecting the screens to be there. MOTS.
Key Matchup: Chad Henne versus Please Cease Throwing The Ball At Me, I'm In Row 40; If It's About The Chart I'll Stop.
Run Defense Vs Indiana
Um... I suppose there's going to be one.
Key Matchup: Graham and Burgess versus You've Heard It Before, Outside Contain.
Pass Defense vs. Indiana
Blake Powers has given Indiana a passable quarterback for the first time since Antwaan Randel-El finished wasting Michigan State. 6'7" WR James Hardy could give Michigan some troubles on the defensive end... if he plays. Indiana's top two receivers are both battling nagging injuries and are doubtful.
I've actually seen quite a bit of Indiana since they've had a tendency to play our opponents in the weeks leading up to their games with Michigan and their offense is familiar. We've seen it just last year against Miami. It relies heavily on Powers finding a slew of short routes and lax coverage or the Indiana wide receivers breaking tackles and moving the chains, a real death-by-thousand-papercuts job. Powers will occasionally fling a completed duck up to Hardy, who has some Braylon Edwards qualities about him, but Michigan is advised to take its chances.
Key Matchup: Michigan safeties versus missed tackles. Indiana can function as a pain in the ass if Powers is on and Michigan is not responsible.
Lance Bennett returns kicks and writes popular music. Ross Ryan kicks unreturnable kickoffs and pretends to be Kevin Grady.
Key Matchup: I wasn't kidding about the suck.
The kittens are enjoying some much needed R&R and installing a new offensive package heavily featuring the black kitten who was an option quarterback in high school.
Three Things I'd Like To See:
- Fifteen carries for Hart and a shot of him on the bench at halftime, relaxing.
- Henne throwing it straight.
- Lamarr Woodley. At all.
Three Things I Don't Want To See
- Anyone else critical to the enterprise holding something and wincing.
- The dreaded curse of flat coming off a bye week against Indiana.
- Any of that plucky underdog stuff.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 1 out of 10. (Baseline 5; -1 for It's Indiana; -1 for Seriously; -1 for Seriously(!); -1 for SERIOUSLY!)
Desperate need to win level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +5 for If We Lose To Indiana Kittens In A Three State Area Had Best Watch Out.)
Loss will cause me to... hit snooze, roll over, and finish my Scarlett Johansson dream.
Win will cause me to... continue breathing.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict: Michigan rolls.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Woodley does not play.
- Henne does not inspire confidence.
- 34-10, Michigan.
First... we have a new Best Search Ever: "michael vick having harpies."
No bad for a guy who kind of resembles Toad. Garrett Rivas is a Groza semifinalist. Reader Matthew Rudary queries:
Does this mean our kicking isn't as bad as I like to complain it is? Did he get good when I wasn't looking? Or is it just that I only remember the misses?
This proves that 1) I'm a sucker for an eecs.umich email address and 2) Mr. Rudary either wasn't paying attention during the Year of Kicking Dangerously or blacked out whenever the field goal team scurried onto the field--understandable if so. This seems to be a common phenomenon. Tom's Michigan season preview claimed that Rivas sent Michigan fans to their rosary beads and I've heard grumbling from my friends about Fat, Small Elvis. The question remains.... why? I mean:
He lists third in field goals scored (45) and field goals attempted (58) on Michigan's career lists and is second with a 77.9 field goal percentage during his career. Rivas has connected on 45 of 58 field goal attempts in his career and is 35 of 42 from inside 40 yards (83.3 pct.). He is tied for fourth in school history with 10 field goals from 40 yards or longer. Rivas has converted 24 of his last 29 field goal attempts dating back to last season. He is seventh among active kickers in field goals scored.
Rivas doesn't have ideal leg strength but 78% lifetime is close to Michigan's best all time.
All right, I do remember jumping up and screaming "I HATE YOU" after Rivas had a critical field goal blocked against Purdue last year and after his miss at the end of regulation against MSU I was quietly planning to get that kitten with a sniper rifle up on the belltower. His dual misses against Minnesota were a major factor in that loss. But the Brabbs-Neinberg-Finley triumvirate of suck makes me think we'll miss Toad when he's gone.
That said, I'd rather that Rivas not lead the Big Ten in made field goals, as that's a sure sign of a crap offense. Guys who kick nothing but extra points are not Groza semifinalists.
More reader input. What is this, a blog? Alton Hollingsworth points out a relevant post on the Freakonomics blog about loss aversion and the NFL. In short, the Chiefs and Raiders found themselves in exactly the same situation USC and Notre Dame did earlier this year, with the Chiefs in the USC role down three with one play from the one yard line. Vermeil pounded Larry Johnson into the end zone and won the game. As discussed here and elsewhere in the immediate aftermath of OMG BEST FOOTBALL COLLEGE EVER GAME, this is an obvious decision. Salon's King Kaufman* has a post in the comments that details the, er, details in, er, detail. In short: you're a dummy if you don't go. This was the USA Today headline:
"Chiefs' Bold Gamble Hits Pay Dirt at Home: Kansas City shocks Oakland with touchdown after forgoing tying field goal on last play of game."
Yet more evidence that sportswriters and math don't get along, which prompted some theorizing in the comments that Vermeil's decision was unusual because coaches are attempting to avoid the scrutiny a failed "bold" (high variance) but correct decision would bring. Here's King:
What makes Vermeil's move so unusual isn't that he took a gambleâ€”as others have pointed out, kicking the field goal would have been the riskier move, the decision less likely to result in a winâ€”it's that he put himself in position to be have the blame fall squarely on him if his team lost. That blame being misplaced or ill-informed would make it no less heavy.
I'm not entirely sure I buy this, since any loss gets people heated about the coaching. Though Barry Switzer did get roasted over the coals after failing on fourth down from his own thirty while trying to kill a game, that situation was far more ambiguous if I remember it correctly. He got fired shortly thereafter, but had he lost that game in more conventional fashion he likely would have gotten fired anyway. Any coach that loses for any reason gets fired. Is the difference between a "bold" loss and a conventional loss really enough to swing public opinion? I doubt it. 6-10 is 6-10 is 6-10. Unless you take the wind.
One thing there can't be any doubt about is that attitudes about statistics are changing. College football, always home to more experimentation than a Tampa bathroom full of cheerleaders (ZING!), is experiencing a tiny revolution in fourth down strategy that David Romer should be getting royalties for. Even Lloyd Carr, college football's archetypical crotchety grandpa, is getting in on the act. As for the media, the smarter members of it--the oft-referenced TMQ, Kaufman, and Dr. Z, for instance--are already leaping on board the train of common sense. This transformation will never be complete, since angry vigilante justice will always be demanded by fans of losers (and there are always more losers than winners), but there will at least be a second voice out there that doesn't breathe through its mouth.
As per usual, Football Outsiders is all over this, contrasting Vermeil's decision with Marty Schottenheimer's choice to kick a field goal in a superficially similar (fourth and goal from the one) but really vastly different (up eight with about ten minutes left) situation. They cite more media reaction:
Days after Johnson's last-second touchdown, fans and analysts were still gushing over Vermeil's decision to go for the win rather than attempting a game-tying chip shot field goal.
"I thought it was about as gutsy a call as I have seen broadcasting the NFL, which I've done every year since 1985," said announcer Kevin Harlan. The Kansas City Star devoted a whole article to the jubilant reactions of dumbstruck fans.
The next thing I will do to amaze Kevin Harlan: I will choose to not cut my legs off. Schottenheimer got the bad stick, though:
On the Monday edition of his television show, Rome took time out from ESPN's 24-hour Terrell Owens format to attack Schottenheimer for kicking a field goal from the one-yard line in the fourth quarter against the Jets. To paraphrase Rome, the Chargers had their hands around the Jets' neck but refused to squeeze.
Note that his team won. There's plenty of evidence here that ratings-seeking mouthbreathers like Rome will find a way to criticize you no matter what decision you make, so you may as well make the right decision. It's hard to criticize a winner.
The thing is: Schottenheimer's decision was almost definitely the right one. There's a huge difference between the two situations. Vermeil was faced with a 70% win if he ran and 50% if he kicked. It's a duh. Schottenheimer's situation is much harder to analyze, but there is great value in pushing a one-possession eight-point lead to a two-possession eleven-point one. The Jets--a crappy offense--were forced to score two touchdowns on two possessions to win. They didn't. Schottenheimer maximized his chances of victory, but that doesn't make good copy.
(Media bashing and game theory? In one topic? I'm in heaven.)
*(strangely enough, one of the best sports columnists in the country. Strange because he's at Salon of all places and not, like, a sports
company. He's also a nice guy. I fired off an email promoting college hockey to him after he mentioned it in one column and he responded and promised to go to the Frozen Four when it inexplicably swings by St. Louis.)
This is totally off-topic but it isn't about the OC or celebrities or anything that would provide evidence of creeping Simmonsism. It's important though: Sony is the Devil.
To make a long story short, they've incorporated "digital rights management" software into a number of their CDs that secretly installs a program that hides itself from your operating system and cannot be uninstalled. If you hate geek crap, CNET has a layman's view that puts it in stark terms:
You buy a CD. You put the CD into your PC in order to enjoy your music. Sony grabs this opportunity to sneak into your house like a virus and set up camp, and it leaves the backdoor open so that Sony or any other enterprising intruder can follow and have the run of the place. If you try to kick Sony out, it trashes the place. And what does this software do once it's on your PC? Well, here is (via David Berlind's excellent breakdown of the issue) what Amazon's CD listing page has to say on the subject:
"This product limits your ability to make multiple digital copies of its content, and you will not be able to play this disc or make copies onto devices not listed as compatible. Content/copy protected CDs should allow limited burning, as well as ripping into secure Windows Media Audio formats for playback with most compatible media players and portable devices. In rare cases, these CDs may not be compatible with computer CD-ROM players, DVD players, game consoles, or car CD stereos, and often are not transferable to other formats like MP3."
So it's not just the black hat tactics. The DRM itself is almost unbelievably restrictive, and some have suggested that the reasoning behind it is part of Sony's ongoing war over digital music supremacy with the decidedly more supreme Apple.
Read the whole thing. It's righteously indignant as it should be.
So, real horns and everything. If you would like all the bloody details, Mark Russinovich has a series of posts that detail the process of discovery and Sony's insulting, idiotic, and duplicitous attempts to deny the obvious and hoodwink the public. Ironically, Sony is acting precisely like the digital pirates that put out backdoor-laden, music-stealing facilitators, as Mark points out:
The uninstall process Sony has put in place is on par with mainstream spyware and adware and is the topic of this blog post. ... Sony even gives those users like me that are aware of the "uninstaller" several hurdles to jump over. First you have to go to Sony's support site, guess that the uninstall information is in the FAQ, click on the uninstall link and then fill out a form with your email address and purchasing information, possibly adding yourself to Sony's marketing lists in the process.
Then, after you submit the information the site takes you to a page that notifies you that you'll be receiving an email with a "Case ID". A few minutes later you receive that email, which directs you to install the patch and then visit another page if you still really want to uninstall. That page requires you to install an ActiveX control, CodeSupport.Ocx, that's signed by First 4 Internet, enter your case ID and fill in the reason for your request. Then you receive an email within a few minutes that informs you that a customer service representative will email you uninstall instructions within one business day.
When you eventually receive the uninstall email from Sony BMG support it comes with a cryptic link in the form http://www.xcp-aurora.com/support/sonybmg/process.aspx?opt=1&id=[snip] (I've modified the link so it doesn't work) to your personalized uninstall page. Interestingly, the email address has a confidentially notice, which implies to me that Sony has something to hide, and it informs you that the uninstaller will expire in one week.
The EFF has a list of the CDs they've identified that have this trojan on them (warning: Celine Dion fans are screwed!) and tips on identifying infected CDs. The general recommendation is: don't buy Sony CDs. If you know someone who is responsible for this, kick them in the nuts.Did I mention that Playstation 3 looks like a disaster?
Thus ends the offtopic portion of today's posts. Now I can return to the explosively controversial racial politics that we all know and love.
First... who thought this incredibly creepy, animated Dennis Dodd was a good idea? John Carpenter? Dude looks like Gollum. Here's a fun tip: move your pointer from his left to his right and watch his lopsided conehead shift. FFTWF.
Andy Warhol lives. Warren St. John gets a massive journalistic scoop by interviewing this guy:
No, not Corso, wiseass. The guy with the sign. As you might expect from someone holding a "Lee Corso is a Penis" sign, he wants to work for ESPN:
...Todd's still a free man -- for now -- and he agreed to talk if we promised not to print his last name. (Todd wants to work for ESPN someday.)
I regret to inform Todd that if the criteria for acquiring an ESPN job was calling various employees of the company unflattering names, I'd be on the six o'clock Sportscenter tonight trying to translate (!) into a complicated series of hand gestures. (Seriously. Both hands move in a downward sweeping motion for the parens, then the right hand draws a line between them and flicks out the dot with considerable flair as I cock an eyebrow; I'm doing this right now as I pretend to narrate highlights; Please send help.)
In other Lee Corso Is A Penis Guy news, Golden Tornado's dismissive, dawg-baiting reaction to the interview drew fire from the great man himself. I'd say he obviously has too much time on his hands, but
- he was just on TV with a "Lee Corso is a Penis" sign, so we should encourage his sloth and
- I have a goddamned sports blog.
Speaking of ESPN. You can't spit on the Internet of late without hitting three pages laced with invective against the company. The latest is a parody from the always-on Something Awful that highlights something strange:
We'll be back in a minute folks, but in the meantime enjoy this commercial break featuring an ad for SportsCenter which is infinitely more entertaining and informative than the actual show itself.
Seriously! We should fire the ESPN executives and just hire the ad company.
Illinois at the bottom? That's what we call a sanity check. Pat from Bleed Blue n White pointed out one man's foray into the wonderful world of directed acyclic graphs and how they apply to football at Beatpaths.com and then attempted to apply it to the Big Ten. It's an interesting concept, but I don't think there's really enough data in college football for it to mean much. I would be fascinated to see a beatpaths/pairwise comparison for college hockey or basketball, though.
We respect the upcoming opponent, product, or service immensely. Defensive end Jeremy Van Alstyne on Indiana:
"You know, they have some really good skill players,'' the redshirt junior said with a serious expression. "They're able to make big plays and stuff like that."
And who, exactly, are those skill players?
"I don't know," Van Alstyne said, admitting he hadn't watched much film yet.
No doubt the Wolverines will be jacked for Unnamed Opponent on Saturday.
When we last left our other winged-helmet wearing heroes they were 4-0-1 and coming off a tie against Michigan State. Since that time Michigan has split with Alaska Fairbanks on the road--as predicted in this space--and swept the Fighting Irish in a home and home to run their record to a highly respectable 7-1-1. Andrew Cogliano is in the process of blowing up all over the CCHA, recording 15 points in his last 6 games.
If you will it, Dude, it is no dream. I done figured some stuff out, and though the grab-convert-edit process is an unwieldy thing requiring three different programs, it's done. I wouldn't expect this every week, but I'll try to get up some clips on a semiregular basis. Strictly links at this moment; I hope to get non-crushing embedding going soon. Also, these clips are much smaller... perhaps too small(?). They're about 3-5 megs. On with the show, IBFC style. (All clips in WMV, should play no problem in Windows Media Player. Does this work for Mac people? Please inform. Right click and "Save As" to get a clip
in your belly on your hard drive.)
First on the docket are a pair of nice plays from the Friday game against Notre Dame that ended 8-5 for the good guys due in large part to one Andrew Cogliano. One is a sweet cross-ice pass to give TJ Hensick a tip in; the other is a Tambellini special where Cogs warps into the offensive zone and gives the water bottle a ride.
Second is Cogliano's goal from Saturday against ND. It's not a hard shot but it's well placed and uses a screen cleverly.
Third is Chad Kolarik's first goal against ND, which is a combination of sloppy penalty killing and a healthy fear of one Jack Johnson. Notice how when he gets the puck everyone freaks out. Kolarik's left wide open for a tap-in rebound.
Fourth is some additonal Cogliano hotness--if I was Sam from BC&RS I would make some refence to it being Brandon-Inge-ass-level hawtness. Fortunately for Brandon Inge, I'm not. Anyway, Cogs receives the puck from Johnson on the power play and then whips an unpossible cross-ice pass right to Kolarik's stick; Kolarik then roofs it. A real NHL '95 special here, and a beauty.
Finally we have TJ Hensick using his quickosity to pick up a loose puck and bury a wraparound before anyone realizes what's going on. The color commentator, former Michigan player Sean Ritchlin, has just finished claiming that Hensick's the premiere player in college hockey. Good on yer, Sean.
- I had been disappointed with Cogliano early in the year and was wondering if he could end up with Milan Gajic disease. Yeah... not so much anymore. That cross-ice pass from above is a thing of beauty and the rifle shot from Friday is pure Tambellini...
- Goddammit, I hate you, LA Kings.
- Both of the goals Sauer yielded on Saturday against Notre Dame were pretty soft. On the first one he left a Star Jones rebound lying right in the crease on a puck he should have been able to kick to the corner. He failed to hold the near post on the second one and was going down in a butterfly as the stoppable ND shot flew by him. A Josh Blackburn special.
- But, yeah, he didn't give up five.
- Refereeing level was "harmless monkey."
- Ebbett and Kal haven't been filling up the scoresheet but it's just a matter of time, as Ebbett is playing very well.
- Remember when we thought this team would have trouble scoring? Yeah: we're #2 with 4.56 goals per game. That will probably come down as the year rolls along but Hensick, Colgiano, Porter, Kolarik, Johnson, Hunwick, Ebbett, and Kal are a hell of a scoring combination. Cogliano has 15 points and is leading all freshmen in scoring. Johnson is #2 with 14.
- Powerplay is diiiirty, having gone 24 for 72. That's 33 percent, and is tops in the nation by a wide margin. The penalty kill is 55 for 60 and is fourth nationwide.
That OSU-preseason-favorite thing went in the tank after, oh, about a weekend of CCHA play. After getting three points from Bowling Green the Buckeyes went on to get swept by Western Michigan and Miami. Miami actually has the look of a good team, but Western's four games against non-OSU competition: loss to second-year program Robert Morris, loss to Niagara, and a sweep at the hands of Lake State, including a 10-0 whomping. Lake State used to go a month without scoring 10 goals under Crazy Frank Anazalone. Suffice it to say that the already ghostly Buckeye bandwagon has entirely ceased to exist.
Miami and Michigan State, and UAF have emerged as Michigan's main competition for the league title. Miami has swept UNO and OSU; State has swept Northern, tied us, and tied Ferris State. UAF has a split with us and three points on the road from Ferris. Then there's a group of no less than five teams currently .500 in league play. Major shmozz at the moment.
Two nonconference series of note from two weeks ago: Notre Dame split with Princeton and Michigan State split with Cornell, both par for the course. The CCHA has already put itself in a much better position than it did last year for tournament seeding. The next major nonconference test for the CCHA will be the always-huge College Hockey Showcase over Thanksgiving.
The Nonconference Opponents
Why? Well, when Mr. Pairwise comes around he's heavily based on how our opponents do. Better opponents means better seeding relative to our record. I'll keep an eye on how they're doing.
The first bit of good news is that Quinnipiac came off its opening-weekend sweep at the hands of the Wolverines and ran off eight straight victories. Granted, six of those wins are against the very bottom of D-I, but the Q did sweep its first-ever ECAC weekend, taking one each against Harvard and Dartmouth. Boston College is 3-2-1, having had last weekend off after beating UNH. They'll be a Hockey East contender as per usual. Merrimack, on the other hand, is going to be berry, berry bad.
- A "Mr. Johnson" clapclapclap after he danced during "I Can't Turn You Loose," like, again.
- The tiny shirtless guy who's, like Cogliano's creepy best friend or something was back, this time with a shirt.
The Next Weekend
A pair in Marquette versus Northern Michigan, who were just swept at the hands of Michigan State. The Wildcats always give Michigan trouble and really need to pull something out of this weekend or they'll be reeling. The results will depend heavily on the refereeing. Michigan's been awful attempting to clear the puck from their zone 5 on 5 and (obviously) lights out on special teams. If ticky-tack home crowd-hating Wilkins shows up Michigan will have a major advantage. If the ref lets them stay out of the box, the Wildcats will take at least one.
I'll stick with my bold split pronouncements: 4-3 NMU Friday, 5-3 Michigan Saturday.