Radio liveblog of the Minnesota game forthcoming... which should be interesting.
So. Pardon something that may be a "duh" statement, but this is a blog. The word blog is like obscenity: no one really knows what it is, but you know one when you see one. The simplest and most complete definition of a blog is "a really easy way to publish a website in reverse chronological order," but there are a lot of bits that are often-but-not-always components of said website that make absorbing the bit-heroin more convenient. Since I'm stuck on Blogger for a little while longer, there are only a couple relevant bits of knowledge. I hope to switch to Wordpress soon, at which time all knowledge will be beamed directly into your brain. Anyway, the bits:
Linking to MGoBlog from elsewhere is always much appreciated. The more people who join the dar al-blog the better. However, an annoying thing about linking to blogs is that the front page is always changing. By the time someone gets around to clicking on the link provided, something almost but not quite entirely different may be featured as the last post. This leads to consternation and, in extreme cases, firebombs hurled at my apartment. Not cool.
The solution is in the magic little panel at the bottom of each post. You will see a line like so:
The "Permalink" contains the URL that uniquely identifies the post you want to link to. Using permalinks makes you a message board superstar. Rock on.
Weaning yourself from clicking your bookmark every twenty seconds can be accomplished in many different ways that are all the same way at heart: RSS. In a nutshell, RSS packages up the posts I write in a standard format that RSS readers can interpret. This allows you to, say, track the feeds of two hundred different blogs in one convenient place, like so:
That's a screenshot from Bloglines, which is a popular reader. In practice, using an RSS reader for one website is not much of a time-saver, but when you track a ton of sites it's indispensable.
Also of note: you can subscribe to the blog's comments here (there is also a link under "Site Feed" on the sidebar. The result is somewhat lacking -- comments appear in order of posting with no context -- but at least you know what conversations are ongoing.
Update 3/8: Linked to article on CA CB Michael Williams that says Michigan is in his top two. Added PA WR Toney Clemons. Linked to Scout article on MI LB Chris Colasanti and one on IN LB Jerimy Finch. Added MI TE Martell Webb, who has been offered. Linked to Scout article on IL RB Robert Hughes.
BP thinks Brandon Saine just picked up a Michigan offer, BTW.
Editorial Opinion: I'm not entirely sure, but I think the other team leading for Michael Williams is USC. You are advised keep your excitement on "top two" appropriately muted if that's the case. Clemons just won some camp MVP or another and is widely regarded as the top prospect in Pennsylvania, so he should end up on everyone's top 100 lists.
Of note in the Scout articles... Colasanti is looking for a quality academic program, no foolies:
"My favorites are Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Boston College, Stanford, Notre Dame and Penn State. I really don't have a leader. I grew up a Notre Dame fan because of the whole 'Rudy' thing. I thought it would be cool to play football there but now I'm just looking for the best fit."
The Finch article is hilariously titled:
Will Hoosiers Factor In with Finch?
Survey says... no! The following talent evaluation comes with a Use of Word "Freak" or "Stud" Warning:
"Finch is a freak of nature," Pool says. "He has the size of a linebacker and hits like one as well, but has the speed and instincts of a defensive back. Finch is versatile and could develop into a linebacker at the next level."
The Hughes article contains high praise for OSU:
"Ohio State was real cool," Hughes explained. "They didn't offer me a scholarship but the coaches talked to me about Chris Wells and where I would fit in. Ohio State is a great place. The stadium and facilities were incredible.
"Out of all the junior days, I'd say that Ohio State has been the most impressive so far."
The offer for Martell Webb is either interesting or fictitious -- could be either at this point. If it's interesting, it's... um... interesting. Webb didn't even show up on Rivals' initial top 25 in-state football recruits and, while this is an exceptional year in-state, that would usually be straight MAC territory populated with the occasional Carson Butler-esque sleeper. Webb's 6'5" and thus probably a TE prospect, which would partially explain an early offer--it's a position of need--but the state has a few others who are more highly ranked.
On Saine: flimsy offer rumor offers pretext to highlight his video (via SunshinePreps), in which he looks all Roadrunner and shizz. I have him tentatively listed as a CB, but I may have to move him back to RB.
Despite the reassurances of everyone from sea to shining sea, (we're not even in Lunardi's last four in--hell, we're still a #9 seed) I'm still jumpy about Michigan's NCAA tournament fate. Beating Minnesota seems wise. Lesters Abraham will-could-might-should return from the sprained ankle that's kept him out the past two and a half months, according to the News, but we've been reading that article for about two months now--who knows? Abram was supposed to be medically cleared for the IU game but did not play. The article also claims Hunter is "questionable," but I would be very surprised to see him play.
Of course, the overall voracity of any article is severely damaged when the lede is like so:
NCAA Tournament hopeful Michigan is facing another in a long list of must-win games when it plays Minnesota at 2:30 p.m. Thursday in its Big Ten tournament opener at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Um... okay. It's just that of the past, say, eight "must-wins," Michigan has won two. And they're still in. I believe this is stretching the definition of "must." And, for that matter, "win."
Anyway, lest the Michigan blogosphere be accused of ignoring the basketball team further, I point you to Maize 'n' Brew's latest. Horton compared to Sisyphus! Yow! Also: Sisyphus is on the All Big-Ten team. The media said first team; the coaches said second.
I'm fairly amazed this came from the Daily, but URL don't lie: the most extensive, thoughtful consideration of the Michigan athletic department's academic support structure yet published. No offense intended to any Daily staffers out there (unless you write for the editorial page, in which case: OFFENSE OFFENSE OFFENSE) -- I'd be surprised to see an article of that quality in the News or Free Press. A fascinating look into the academic support-thingy that is all of a sudden very relevant for major athletics departments nationwide.
Etc: Orson interviews professional riot-starter Paul Finebaum; Michigan is scientifically proven to have average-looking coeds... we'll take it! Coach K "knows" ESPN has "orchestrated" the nationwide Duke hatred... no, seriously. He said that. Look, I know you don't believe me. Just click the link.
PS: I don't consider myself a blogger. I consider myself a leader. Just so you know.
John Paul Campos in today's Rocky Mountain News comes a revolutionary method for making difficult hiring selections:
The FBGR [Fat Bald Guy Rule] posits that, when considering otherwise roughly equivalent candidates for any job whose formal requirements don't include being good-looking, hire the fat bald guy. The reason is simple: Society gives all sorts of unearned preferences to good-looking people, so when a fat bald guy manages to assemble a rÃ©sumÃ© that at first glance resembles that possessed by his good-looking competition, the FBGR assumes that the former record is actually far more impressive than the latter, all things considered.
Of course, two questions spring immediately to mind: does the fat bald guy rule apply to college football and if so, how have we done over the past few years adhering to it?
Campos's theory holds for most areas of society, but it may not apply to the highly selective world of college football coaching, where there seems to be a fan preference for coaches who could stun a horse. Hell, Notre Dame fans were downright giddy about the picture you see at right, in which Weis looks like he's thinking "is Charlie Weis going to have to use the Force to choke a bitch? Charlie Weis is going to have to use the Force to choke a bitch!" No doubt most of the Irish optimism came from the resume, the Belicheck pedigree, etc., but the fact that Weis is so out of touch with modernity that he's rocking an R. Lee Ermey flattop probably helped. We kind of like the idea of the head coach sleeping in his office and wondering what the big deal is with all these kids and their hula hoops.
So, a caveat: insofar as football coaches are supposed to look like giant, angry mounds of biologically-processed bacon drippings instead of Keira Knightley, the FBGR may not correlate as strongly with qualifications as it might in other fields. However, a brief survey of the Meatnormous category of EDSBS's Coaches' Death Match shows an extremely high number of FBGs with disproportionate amounts of success--Fulmer, Mangino, Freidgen, Weis, etc. One is led to believe that the FBGR applies, but perhaps with a higher threshold: it takes some doing to get an observer to exclaim "holy crap, that is one ugly football coach."
In any case, let's evaluate the recent Michigan coaching changes in light of the FBGR:
Defensive Line coach Steve Stripling
A veritable home run. Stripling is not only both fat and bald but is faintly reminscent of both Sargeant Slaughter and Captain Lou Albano playing Mario. The chances of someone who looks like Stripling doing something other than plumbing or lounging around auto factories, destroying the Big Three one three-hour lunchbreak at a time, are astronomical. Bonus points for the Captain Picard-style 'do, which--unlike the shave-everything technique--emphasizes the lack of hair atop Stripling's grizzled pate. The overall impression: this man is probably killing polar bears with his bare hands right now.
Linebackers coach Steve Szabo
Szabo isn't fat or bald, but neither does he threaten to steal Angelina Jolie away from anyone... although you never know with the kind of girl who carries around Billy Bob Thornton's blood in vial. At least that's what I keep telling myself. Still, for a college football coach Szabo's mug is downright palatable. He's no Urban Meyer-esque pretty boy, but for a 60-something guy who's been around linebackers his entire life he isn't bad.
Overall: fairly disappointing. No one would be taken aback by Szabo's sudden appearance outside one's door, even if he was handling a knife. Looks more like a friendly grandfather than a menace 2 polar bear society.
Cornerbacks coach Ron Lee
I couldn't find a picture, but I saw one at some point: Lee is bald and somewhat pudgy, although not to the extent that Stripling is.
Defensive Coordinator Ron English
Bald, but not fat and actually fairly attractive (as Joey might say, no Brokeback). Vaguely reminscent of Denzel Washington -- pissed-off, going to kill your ass Denzel, not respectable lawyerman Denzel. Sadly, appears to be prettier than departed defensive coordinator Jim Herrmann.
This is obviously unacceptable for the well-being of Michigan fans everywhere, so allow me to propose the Silly Mustache Corollary: if your unattractiveness is due in large part to poor decision-making instead of God being generally spiteful when your genetic makeup was determined, the FBGR shall be deemed inapplicable.
An obvious application of the Corollary is the silly mustache of Jim Herrmann. Therefore, the Herrmann-to-English switch is a step up, because though Herrmann was bald he loses points from the SMC. English is both bald and has the good sense to shave: progress.
God... is it really seven months until the season starts?
Reader Interaction Day did not fall into the "let us never speak of this again" category. Thus this: a wrap. First, the Debord discussion, as it was more thoroughly... er... discussed.
The lasting memory I have of Mike Debord's previous tenure as Michigan's offensive coordinator is screaming "throw it to Terrell" approximately 25 times per minute during the first half of the Orange Bowl. I am not alone. Commenter Matt went right to the well:
the first 22 minutes, David Terrell was getting about a 15 yard cushion on every play, yet we never threw a quick pass to him. Meanwhile, I was about 40 rows up from Debord/Carr, etc... yelling "Throw the quick hitch to Terrell" over and over again. Either he finally heard me, or he finally made the adjustment, because we started throwing that pass for big gains over and over again.
At that point we had plowed our way to a fourteen point deficit. Michigan's bullheaded stupidity was breathtaking.
Earlier in the year this memory was thrust unbidden into my mind when I read Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, Warren St. John's opus about that particular year's Alabama team. It's more a book about fandom than football, but St. John repeatedly mentions that the 'Bama secondary was by far the weak point of the team. This was common knowledge anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line. Also obvious to anyone who watched Alabama: running was futile business. Despite the obvious invitation to fling the ball willy-nilly about the pitch, we did not do so until we absolutely had to. I find that disturbing.
There's some disagreement on exactly what DeBord's offense entailed. Witness the divergent accounts from commenter Dave...
I recall his tenure as OC with fondness, and am excited that we might (gasp! shock!) utilize the middle of the field again in the passing game. And maybe run a little more effectively. And maybe run the bootleg to the TE play that used to be such a staple and that we never use anymore. (I really liked that play.)
... and heismann007...
I am amazed at how people have forgotten the DeBord era on offense. I think 1999 is the greatest example of what DeBord offense was all about. That year Michigan featured the following talent:
QBs Tom Brady and Drew Henson
RBs Future NFL Rookie of the Year Anthony Thomas and Aaron Shea
WRs Terrell, Knight and Walker
OLs Hutchingson [sic], Brandt, Backus
Despite this extremely high level of talent, Michigan finished 8th in the conference in total offense. More importantly, as we are all concerned about the running game, U of M averaged 128 yards a game rushing, our lowest total since 1962. Our running game under DeBord was a disaster.
The offense that year struggled the whole season, they could not score touchdowns against ND, scored only 18 points (2 were a safety) against Syracuse, struggled terribly the whole game against the worst Ohio State team in the last 15 years, and fell nearly hopelessly behing against Penn State and Alabama before finally playing desperate catch-up.
Chris echoed those sentiments in a follow-up and brought up a good point:
The previous post covered most everything I could point to as evidence that DeBord did exactly the opposite of utilizing the offensive talent effectively. To be fair, Carr's influence probably added greatly to the conservatism of DeBord's OC tenure here, though his disastrous stint at Central featured some really poor offenses in a conference not exactly known for lights out defense.
Several commenters mentioned that DeBord's three years featured only five losses between them ...
The 5 losses from 97-99 were, in order: @ND, Syracuse, @OSU, @MSU, and Illinois. In the 5 losses, Michigan averaged 24.8 ppg, and only scored less than 20 once. Meanwhile, the defense allowed a whopping 174 points in those 5 games (34.8 avg.), and never fewer than 31. My point? You can pin all 5 of those losses on Herrmann's defense.
... but Chris's post has an awfully good NSFMF in response:
I'm envious of those who apparently have erased from their memory the worst stretch of Michigan football I've ever witnessed, against some truly awful teams:
10-03-1998: Michigan 12 Iowa 9
10-17-1998: Michigan 12 Northwestern 6
10-24-1998: Michigan 21 Indiana 10
10-31-1998: Michigan 15 Minnesota 10
The game against the Gophers featured something like -40 yards rushing.
Aye, that it did. QED, MFers. DeBord's offenses were also cited as being clutch, but grngoblue blew that up:
I don't think DeBord had a knack for getting the team out of trouble, I think his weak running game and ... unenthusiastic ... play-calling had a knack for getting us into trouble. The only reason the era was even moderately successful is because we happened to have outstanding quarterbacks (especially, of course, Brady).
What would've happened if DeBord didn't have calm and precise Griese, Brady and Henson dealing with lead, Clint Eastwood-style, at the end of all those games when the plan failed and it was time to scrap everything, go four wide, and ask him to sling it?
The team can't expect to always have a QB to be able to pull out those wild finishes. It's not practical. I'd like to see the team execute a strategy in the first three quarters and not just trust, over and over again, that the QB has balls of steel and will make it happen in the end.
The general tenor of the conversation was skeptical, to be kind. I'm with the skeptics. There are three unresolved questions in my mind:
- How much of the crap offense was DeBord's fault? It's not like he was trying to rein in Lloyd Carr's tendency to call a flea-flicker on every other play. Carr has been inching away from Bo and Woody ball--is Debord going to accelerate that process or hinder it?
- How much was actually a good idea? A great defense can justify extraordinary conservatism on offense. Michigan had one of college football's all-time Ds in '97; they won a national championship and all those legendarily ugly games. Debord walks into a vastly different situation. Michigan has an erratic defense that is liable to give up thirty on any particular day. College football is slanting more towards offense these days. DeBord is no doubt aware of this and may not repeat the same mistakes again.
- He can't seriously call games like that now, right? Seriously.
In sum: On the surface, DeBord is a ridiculous choice for offensive coordinator. He was unimpressive during his first three years; he failed at CMU; he is not particularly exciting. But there are extenuating circumstances that provide hope that the second time will be better. Loeffler is more heavily involved with the game planning ever year. Lloyd Carr is adapting to college football's offensive renaissance -- with painful slowness at times, granted. The defense is not a rock to fall back upon. DeBord's made some noises in interviews the echo these sentiments, but we won't have a clear idea how meaningful those noises are until the Notre Dame game.
Aaaargh. Right. If anyone has any computers they'd like to give boot-sector smallpox, I am charging a reasonable fee.
Anyway... The APR debate continues at the official NCAA blog The Double A Zone. To their credit, they left the rah-rah at home. Money graf:
The fact that some of the 99 penalized teams were significantly below the 925 cut score, which only correlates to a 60 percent graduation rate, makes me worry about what is happening on some of our college campuses.
Emphasis mine, because huh what hello? Knowing full well that the attention paid to the intricacies of the APR will be cursory at best by the vast majority of the public, the NCAA concocted a score with a maximum of 1000 and a stiff-sounding 925 pass/fail line... that happens to correspond to a 60% graduation rate? Fishy.
However, Pat Forde goes too far in his hatchet job:
The NCAA's new Academic Progress Rates benefit the big-time schools and hurt the small timers.
That's the primary conclusion that can be drawn from the report released Wednesday. (There is no truth to the rumor that the letterhead on the report read, "NCAA: Of the rich, by the rich, for the rich.")
Ouch... Forde just bludgeoned both the NCAA and his own credibility on this matter with said ill-considered cheapshot. Forde's argument boils down to this:
- Schools with money can spend it on keeping their athletes eligible.
- Schools without can't.
- This is cosmically unfair.
- Why does the Sun Belt exist, anyway?
Here at MGoBlog we're bang on with that last bullet, but in effect Forde is complaining that the NCAA is forcing its member schools to spend money educating its athletes. Um... okay. Good luck with that. In between complaining about the NCAA's "caste system"--Mr. Shirky would like to explain the power law on line two--he inserts small disclaimers that absolve him of responsibility for his words:
I'm all for rigorous academic standards for college athletic departments
No, you aren't. If you were, you would not have written this article.
How exactly is the NCAA supposed to deal with this other than setting standards for progress towards a degree for schools? You have two choices: this or nothing. It's telling that Forde's most damning accusations lay out like so:
Tennessee's athletic Web site lists 17 individuals who work at or with the Thornton Center -- not including tutors -- all dedicated to the academic advancement of Big Orange athletes. There are five academic counselors devoted to individual sports -- including one whose sole focus is the Volunteers football team.
I suppose it's reasonable to be angry at the NCAA for forcing Tennessee to care about the education of its athletes and thus undoubtedly accelerating the impending Apocalypse, but unless that's your plan of attack you'd probably be better off not attempting to portray tutors as a bad thing. Louisiana-Monroe can't afford them? Well, then ULM has two reasonable options:
- Don't recruit people who need tutors.
- Drop their ridiculous football program.
Elsewise: The AP now has a selection of podcasts for your perusal, including one about the weekly basketball poll. No doubt they fear the mighty BlogPoll.
...but seriously, folks, if you have any feedback I can pass it along to the nice man who pointed out the podcast's existence. They're just getting started and would like to hear what works and what doesn't.
Deadspin had a chat with Will Blythe, the author of the outstandingly-named "To Hate Like This Is To Be Happy Forever," that briefly discusses how unfulfilling most professional sportswriting is. Succinct and less rambling than my occasional manifestos.