the season has truly begun now
Hyyyyaaaaaaarrrr! It's International Talk Like A Pirate Day, me hearties, and by the black beast of the South Pacific, 'tis not a day to miss if you've got a
vehicle for public expresssion mighty boat of spoutin' landlubber nonsense. Which I does.
(Tip 'o the pirate cap to Golden Tornado, if ye be curious.)
So, here there be gold in the form of a BlogPoll ballot, carefully considered from stem to stern, from middenmast to plain midden, from hook to parrot, eteckera and so forth and so on. Hyyyaaaaaarrrr!!!! Avast!
A note on me polling philosoporpoise: we're about 1/4 of the way through the season, so me ballot is 1/4th a season grade for these teams and 3/4ths a projection on how good I think these teams are, so the "you-beat-X, you're-higher-than-X" thing has walked the plank(!). Hyyyarrrr! The plank! Since it is the opinionporpoise of Blackbeard the Bearded and Hookeye the Hook-eyed and Flouty McGillicudy the No Nickname Applicable that Michigan is a 9-2, 8-3 team now and that ND's win over Michigan was no more likely than Ahab finally harpoonin' that great white Fulmer and that ND is probably going to be 8-3 if the moons align into a sea wench of becomley power, they be distant specks in the spyglass of the Michigan crow's nest, if you catch my hyyyaaarrrrr!!! Avast!
|1||Southern Cal||As obvious as Blackbeard's nickname.|
|3||Florida||Aye, aye, it was brutal, but it was a two-score win over the preseason SEC favorite and they outplayed them, unlike LSU vs. ASU and VT vs. NCST.|
|4||LSU||In port this week.|
|5||Virginia Tech||Boarded Ohio and slaughtered the fools. May has well have been in port.|
|6||Arizona State||773 yards? What foul voodoo is this? The Daily Northwestern sums it up: "Welcome to a game of EA Sports' NCAA Football 2006, courtesy of Arizona State, with gameplay set on "beginner" and Northwestern playing the part of the slaughtered CPU opponent."|
|7||Louisville||Harpooned some Beaver and will traipse about like Drake until the BCS game. Any loss and they walk the plank! Hyyaarrr! The plank!|
|8||Georgia||May has well have been in port against ULM.|
|9||Ohio State||Another ugly ffensive (<-- sic typo, no O! Ha!) game, but the SDSU ffense was just that, playing like a fresh pup faced with his first port harlot: one flurry of exciting activity and then long, awkward silence.|
|10||Tennessee||I pity the fool who doesn't run 8YPC Gerald Riggs. Hyyaarr! Mr. T is a pirate!|
|11||Purdue||Avast, a close game against peglegged Arizona, but harpoon them they did, though the pass coverage is no better than Silver's foul brew.|
|12||Florida State||Hyyyaaarr! Sunk the HMS O'Brien with a defense remiscent of a great white's gaping maw. OSU '02 and Michigan '97 did it, why not FSU?|
|13||Michigan State||Aye, it's a mighty boat, imposing with all those cannons, but it tends to spring leaks and sink to the bottom with surprising regularity. When will it happen again? (Hopefully in two weeks. Avast!)|
|14||Michigan||Functional drydock against EMU.|
|15||NC State||Functional drydock against EKU.|
|16||Alabama||Did indeed shove USC (not that USC) off the plank (the plank!) more easily than Georgia did and are showing signs of offensive life, but it's crowded in the middle here, Warren.|
|17||Miami||Squeezed by Clemson--not the Miami of old, which was a ship that virtually guaranteed you would end up in Davy Jones' locker at the mere hint of its flags on the horizon.|
|18||Georgia Tech||Hyyaaaarr! Is viral meningitis anything like syphillis?|
|19||Minnesota||Functional drydock against FAU.|
|21||Notre Dame||Aye, much joy when the becollared ones sank meekly to the bottom.|
|22||Boston College||Gave the Bowden a full salvo but came up short.|
|23||UCLA||Avast! Hyyaarr! I'm tired of this!|
|24||Clemson||Beat A&M, barely lost to Miami, beat A&M. Nestled here for the moment.|
|25||Texas A&M||Drydock against SMU.|
Dropped Out: Cal (#25), Texas Tech(#22)
Games I Saw: Michigan-EMU, ND-MSU, three way flipfest between BC-FSU, UW-UNC, UT-UF.
(Comments on poll delivered in pirate lingo get special precedence.)
Update: Moved Clemson back in since a triple OT loss to Miami isn't too bad and they've proven a lot more than Texas Tech at this point.
Anyone who thinks this
is a good picture should
not be taken seriously.
That dude at right writes like so in "Florida Today":
We also see that Urban Meyer is a smart man. Very smart. Yet, he can still be boneheaded enough to go for it on fourth-and-one at his own 44, with the score tied at 7-7, and the game only midway through the second quarter. That was dumb. Very dumb.
Here in the land of "people who understand statistics" that decision was a very good one, and one that most coaches don't have the cajones to make (let alone fourth and fifteen on your 37, like Weis E. Coyote did against MSU... that was the most foreboding sign yet that Weis knows what he's doing). Check it Romer-style. The only possible defense against solid game theory is resorting to fictional intangibles like momentum and blah blah blah, but what momentum did Tennessee gain, exactly? UF was so disheartened that they blocked a field goal attempt on the drive. But don't let that prevent you from filling your column with unsubstantiated tough-talkin' in an attempt to get it in on time.
Oh, and your construction here is annoying. Very annoying.
Stands at 76 for the year, and it's done, because he's done, at least for the year and possibly forever if the "Lawrence Reid-type" assertion holds true. Apparently the reason freshman Brandon Harrison ended up at safety was Door #2 in the three reasons I posited, though I went with Door #3: we're screwed. Willis Barringer, who's started the first three games and done nothing I can remember, is probably the permanent starter. Harrison is listed as the second stringer on the new depth chart.
Also of note:
- Manningham is listed as the backup to Breaston; Dutch is third behind him, probably due to injury. Michigan delists guys who are totally out but demotes them if they are maybes. I wouldn't expect Dutch against Wisconsin but he should return sometime in the near future.
- Kolodziej is still listed as second-team behind Riley, which is ominous because Riley had numerous pass-protection issues against Eastern. Eastern! Stenavich is listed as the starter; his injury is apparently not serious, and I believe Lentz was just held out as a precaution. Wisconsin is down three defensive linemen, including both starting DEs (I think... Bruce, am I wrong?), so it might be a backups vs. backups situation.
- Max Martin OR Kevin Grady OR Mike Hart OR Jerome Jackson. Ugh.
- Alan Branch is listed as the starting NT this week (yay!) but Gabe Watson is listed as second string behind Pat Massey (boo!). Seriously: the point has been made. Wisconsin can't throw, but Calhoun hasn't been held to less than eleventy jillion yards this season. Watson should start and play extensively. Failing that he should come in on the second play of the game. Massey should be used as a situational interior pass rusher against Wisconsin and that's all.
PS: Michigan Monday at the OZone.
Update: Official confirmation on Mundy from Carr's press conference, and some very good news on the offensive line: Kolodziej will return at full strength for the Wisconsin game. Also, Doug Dutch's absence for the EMU game was due to a "103 degree fever" which has receded, so he will also be at full strength for Wisconsin.
And then there's this on Gabe:
On Gabe Watson not starting: "I'm not going to say a lot about it. It's not an easy thing ... it's a difficult thing for everybody. But you have to start with the fact that it's a competitive situation. That's what the game is really about.
"Absolutely [it's hard for me], because any time a guy is in a position that there are great expectations, and for whatever reason â€“ sometimes it's an injury, sometimes it's something else. Those are tough for everybody. It is what it is. I'm not going to talk about some issues on a team. The player-coach relationship is one of them."
Argh! Same page! Get on the same page! Double argh!
Post 'em here.
Well, that's certainly a way to put it. Check out this disgraceful "unbiased" AP article on the Cal-Illinois game. Though the thing is littered with stuff that screams OMG I WRITE FOR THE CAL DAILY BEAR OR WHATEVER, the passage that is most divorced from reality and clearly from the pen of an addled Cal undergrad:
Cal already lost starting quarterback Nate Longshore to a broken leg in the season opener, but the injured players' replacements have been uniformly impressive. That's gratifying to Tedford, who has spent four years building a roster with depth comparable to rival USC and the nation's best teams.
Er. Joseph "Booya" Ayoob completed a whopping eight passes against Illinois after going hilariously 0-11 against Sacramento State. Cal trailed this thing in the fourth quarter. At this point in the season, how can you claim that the Tedheads are anything approaching good?
Joey on the ball. Straight Bangin' has links to the halftime show if you missed it and are inclined to fix that issue. It's Monty Python, so some sort of dorks-only disclaimer should be issued. But you're reading a blog; I figure you knew that already. Blue Cats and Red Sox goes into extensive detail as well. Photos included. Yes, way too much emphasis on the halftime show, but it was Eastern Michigan, and this halftime show was even better than that one years ago when they did the Titanic music and then various bits of the band formed into a large, clearly boat-shaped object and other members formed into a large, clearly iceberg-shaped object and rammed into the boat, causing it to split and crumble. Which was also cool. But not as cool as a Bridge of Death re-enactment with Sparty forced to answer the question "HOW do you lose a seventeen point lead in six minutes?"
Roundtable Roundup #7 can be found over at Eagle In Atlanta; a fine job all around. I heartily agree with EDSBS about Brad Nessler, by the way. With Keith Jackson on a long, painful decline he's clearly the best play by play guy in college football. He's not Keith at his peak, but no one is. It helps that his partners, Bob Griese and Lynn Swann, are also amongst the best at their jobs, Swann in particular, who is actually a useful, intelligent sideline reporter and not some faux "babe" for middle-aged married guys to fantasize about when they're going about their monthly wife Xing. Now that Adrian Karsten is strangely and tragically departed from this mortal coil, there's not even a second place.
At least we aren't... Pitt. Man, the Wannstache honeymoon was cancelled due to suck, wasn't it? Pitt Sports Blather tries to cope by wallowing in the misery of others, and I have to admit that when I saw this:
1. That A Few, Brilliant Michigan State Spartans took post-game celebrations to a whole new level: More than anything else, watching Michigan State upset Notre Dame at home (thus beating the Irish five times in a row in South Bend) helped pick up my spirits again after the Pitt-Nebraska debacle (especially given the Domer a-hole who sat behind us in Heinz Field two weeks ago). But even that was nearly topped by the post-game celebration, during which a few Spartans took the Michigan State flag from their cheerleaders (green with a white block "S"), ran out on to the field, and planted the sucker on the fifty yard line while thousands of Notre Dame fans booed and howled. Call me sophomoric (and I am), but I thought it was laughing-till-my-sides-ached hilarious. Why hasn't anybody ever thought of planting a flag on an opponent's field before? It clearly beats jumping around on his logo. And of all places to invent the practice. Almost immediately, Lou Still-A-Domer Holtz was nearly jumping out of his seat on ESPN demanding that MSU "show some class" and "act like you've been there before." Admit it, Lou. It was funny. Especially because they did it to your Irish.
I heartily agreed in amazingly hypocritical fashion, and it's even funnier because they did that same thing two years ago. Sort of a painful funny given that we can't beat Notre Dame and manage to look like
UC-Davis Stanford whenever we play them, but funny nonetheless. The fact that a lot of Domers who came on here and flamed about me being a "whiner", etc., immediately got a foot in the ass from Providence Itself, had a touchdown stolen by bad refereeing (and questionable review), and then immediately started complaining about how MSU lacked class? Maybe there is a God after all. A God that enjoys playing cruel tricks on everyone, but a God nonetheless.
Also newly on the God-believing platform: Orson of EDSBS, who continues to write stuff that I read despite not particularly giving a damn about the events that produce the contents. 16-7, ugly to neutral observers and Pac-10 sophistication fetishists, but beautiful, beautiful, beautiful to the jean-shorts aficionados of the CFB blogosphere. There's something to be said for these grinding, bloody games which feature teams that "would punch the other team in the throat until one of them died in the effort," as Orson pithily summarizes. That 10-7 Miami-Florida State game was another example of an objectively terrible game that by the end was terrifically, mindbendingly tense, closer to a soccer game than a football game, every first down a precious diamond to hoard. You can keep your 38-35 shootouts. I'll take the streetfight every time.
The difference between dull (Pitt-Nebraska) and brutal but strangely attractive (UF-UT, Grace Jones) has everything to do with the stakes, the screaming insanity at the swamp, the lumbering moose presence of Phil Fulmer on the sidelines, and the fervrent hopes of a fanbase coming off a Zook hangover it would like to forget. The game's better because people care more, which is why no one really gives a damn about the Pac-10: 50k for UCLA-OU, USC still scraping to sell out, etc. If you can't convince your own locals you matter, how do you expect to convince anyone else?
More on the game can be found at Fanblogs. Mr. Donahue reasonably suggests that the Urban offense didn't exactly set fire to everything. This garnered a hilarious riposte from CFR: "At this point some are trying to justify their fears by piling on early." Wow. That's a spicy meatball of projection.
My pregame routine involves illegally parking a place I will not disclose because it has garnered my friend and I one ticket in four years, and thus is precious. Walking ensues, a winding path that takes us by the lumber yard, Elbel field, and the east side of the stadium, past all the tailgaters with enough coin to purchase a primo parking spot and enough ancient white person bling-equivalent (which turns out to be not much different from your urban bling: ginormous SUVs, though the AWPBE generally lacks spinny rims, unfortunately) to make said coin worthwhile. When I stroll through, the place is invariably packed with every variety of upper-middle-class late-middle-age your mind can muster, which is probably just one. That's fine, there is only one.
The point of all this verbal and literal meandering is as follows: when my wander reached the tailgate zone this Saturday, large swaths of it were empty. Say, 60%. While I'm sure this has happened before, I found the partially empty lot disquieting. The stadium was not much better; whoever had the two seats directly next to mine elected not to show. The final ominous note of discontent was an unprecedented smattering of boos when the pregame introductions got to Lloyd Carr.
Clearly, last week's improbable unvictory against Notre Dame broke some camel backs. There's a growing discontent with Carr directly traceable to the numbers "1" and "3": 1-3 against ND the last four games, 1-3 against OSU the last four games, 1-3 in the last four bowl games. I won't try to characterize the arguments against Carr. You can find two examples of the genre at Straight Bangin' and BenKepple.com. In its most succinct form, Joey presents the Litany Against Carr:
People like me are tired of Carr. We're tired of the predictable letdowns against seemingly inferior teams when relying on criteria like past recruiting hauls, perceived athletic strengths, and previous exploits to establish the relative strengths; we're tired of the scared mentality that governs preparation and game plans for road games; we're tired of the predictable schemes and inflexible formations; we're tired of the persistent inattentiveness given to areas of the game like special teams; we're tired of the program's inability to fully develop defensive talent. In short, we're tired of Michigan being less than what most seem to think it can be.
I am undecided. I think that all the reasons Joey spells out basically come down to "we lose too much," which is fine. I think we lose too much, too, but I am not so hasty to put all the blame on Carr.
There's an unstated assumption here: coaches are entirely responsible for their results. So when Michigan loses, people ask "how is this Carr's fault?" without asking the preliminary "is this Carr's fault?" It's the same thing everyone does when they ask "what is the meaning of life?" without considering whether there is one at all. (Yes, I just compared football to the fundamental question of human existence, providing definitive proof of what I believe the answer to be.) I submit that [swearing coming up] Shit Happens. And I know that's incredibly hard to believe given 1-3, 1-3, 1-3, but is the fact that Michigan State owns Notre Dame at home explainable? No. Is the fact that Ohio State can't beat Wisconsin explainable? No. Are there reasons behind these things? Probably not. Announcers grasp for meaning everywhere, so they spout off about being inside someone's head or having a team's number, implying that there is something intangible that's common across the years which explains the surprising dominance of one team over the other when no such thing exists. It's just probability.
It's akin to the old Mutual Fund Genius game. Take 32 mutual fund managers and then eliminate the ones who don't outperform the average of their brethren. After a year, you have 16 left. After two, 8, etc, until you get one guy who's beaten the average for five straight years. Is there a reason? No. In general your results will be normally distributed. The guy at the top is just lucky. There's no reason to expect his results to repeat (Hi, Tyrone Willingham!).
This picture is here because of ineffable math!
Carr is somewhat culpable for 9-3, 9-3, 9-3, 9-3, etc, etc, etc. The way he coaches leads to a lot of close games and reduces his team's theoretical talent advantage. But it's hard to do any better over the long run; check Michigan's record versus everyone else's over the last ten years or so. If Carr had gone 6-6, 8-4, 10-2, 12-0 over a four year span instead of 9-3, 9-3, 9-3, 9-3 everyone would declare Carr to be TEH OMG GENIUS (Hi, Jim Tressel!) but because he hasn't piled up wins in one particular year he gets Litanied against by frustrated fans.
I'm just as frustrated as all of you, but instead of blaming Carr I blame math, or God, or just the general bloody-mindedness of the universe. And I know exactly zero people who read this are going to buy it, but my mind is full of angles and statistics and distribution curves. It thinks in a fundamentally different fashion than your Aaron Taylor meathead contingent, and it's resigned me to football fatalism. Each game is Schrodinger's Cat with a slightly altered halflife based on talent and coaching, and the cat's been eating it on a regular basis lately.
By the way, if you're wondering whether or not this resigned, rational viewpoint is somehow freeing and relaxing, the answer is no. It does involve a lot of shaking my fist at the sky, screaming "why do you taunt me so? Just smite me fully and get it over with!" So I've got that going for me.