TO THE HOT TAKE CANNON
(@ 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.
I guess just for completeness... most people watching will probably be away from home.
Update: Briefish thoughts @ The Fanhouse. Obviously not thrilled but unless Sears and Stewart are our starting cornerbacks in two weeks I don't think it has much relevance to Ohio State. Michigan's big weakness under Carr has always been treating inferior teams like they're full of retarded Armenian six-year-olds instead of actual players, lip-service or no. Lifting the starters as early as Carr did was ridiculous.
But does that have any bearing on Armageddon? Not really. A suggestion, though: let's catch the damn passes Henne throws.
Note: Comment moderation has been enabled. I don't think it's any secret that the signal to noise ratio has gotten hideously low in recent weeks and this is an endeavor to change that. Anything I think is going to lead to noise will stew in limbo. Anything really angry is in that category, as is anything posted by Buckeyes that does not specifically strike my fancy as useful. I'm tired of being condescended to by people who couldn't spell their name in three tries. I'm tired of wading through a bunch of crap. So no more crap.
Upshot: if your comment doesn't appear right away it's being held. Things should get back to normal after the OSU game.
Ball State sucks.
Update: The Hoover Street Rag has a real preview, if you like. "Real" means "with content," in this case.
Tomorrow being senior day, MGoBlog presents haiku in commemoration of those graduating. You might want to get a box of kleenex for this. Make it two.
#3, P Ross Ryan
Once I thought you were
Kevin Grady but no more
As you hit harder
#4, CB Darnell Hood
Somebody dug up
Your modeling pictures
In brief: sex miner
#6, LB Prescott Burgess
We're all glad Clarett
Stole your girlfriend, no offense
Because you now kick ass
#9, S Anton Campbell
Hey: kickoff coverage
Is the noble art of speed
Applied to face masks
#15, WR Steve Breaston
A wind through the trees
Line-drive punt tumbling earthward
Who would need a seat?
(Addendum: BLOCK THE DAMN GUNNERS.)
#17, WR Carl Tabb
'03: Avant out,
Tabb in, converting third downs.
And you're still fast.
#19, S Willis Barringer
What's wrong with your hand?
I mean, I'm seriously:
It's always broken.
#24, RB Jerome Jackson
Many lives pass without
Plunging in overtime endzone
#26, RB Alijah Bradley
You're really, really
really, really, really, real-
-ly, really quite short.
#29, CB Leon Hall
Too bad re: Woodson
Otherwise "Best corner since?"
Would be a debate.
#35, TE Brian Thompson
Reach down, snatch the ball
Hidden cog in Braylonfest
So, yeah, thanks for that
#38, ST BJ Opong-Owusu
Hey, did you know this?
An entire line
#38, K Garrett Rivas
Well, compared to
The Brabbs/Neinberg/Finley year
You're more than all right
#40, FB Obi Oluigbo
When you're coming through
Linebackers should know better
And run far away
#45, LB David Harris
On one of these days
You are going to kill someone
I'm okay with that
#50, DE Jeremy Van Alstyne
You've got Barringer's
Hands in your knees, so it's hard
to play much football
#54, C Mark Bihl
I can't think about you
Without seeing a bloody
newborn cow. So... yeah.
#56, DE Lamarr Woodley
If you were to sack
A QB with eye lasers
Only mild surprise here
#61, LS Turner Booth
You're the long snapper
I've never thought about you
Therefore: good job, Booth
#72, OT Rueben Riley
Guard? Tackle? Neither?
Say both, focus on Riley
Does what Lloyd Carr needs
#76, OT Mike Kolodziej
Sorry about the
Whatever it was. So weird.
Enjoy life despite
#89, TE Tyler Ecker
Leaping grabs, missed blocks
You can't have everything
Heal that ankle soon
#91, DE Rondell Biggs
Biggs: the anti-Watson
Arrives: nothing; leaves: starter
By sheer force of will
Have any of your own? Fire away.