Originally intended as a UV bit, but then it got long.
As you've probably heard, Bill Belichick went for a first down on fourth and two from his 29 with about two minutes left and his team leading by six points. The Patriots didn't get it, the Colts made the short march for the game-winning score, and commentators duly exploded at how awful the decision was. Tony Dungy evidently kept saying Belichick "should have gone with the percentages."
He did. Of course he did, he's Bill Belichick:
With 2:00 left and the Colts with only one timeout, a successful conversion wins the game for all practical purposes. A 4th and 2 conversion would be successful 60% of the time. Historically, in a situation with 2:00 left and needing a TD to either win or tie, teams get the TD 53% of the time from that field position. The total WP for the 4th down conversion attempt would be:
(0.60 * 1) + (0.40 * (1-0.53)) = 0.79 WP
A punt from the 28 typically nets 38 yards, starting the Colts at their own 34. Teams historically get the TD 30% of the time in that situation. So the punt gives the Pats about a 0.70 WP.
This is obvious in retrospect, right? Bill Belichick is one of the greatest coaches in the history of the NFL. There is a slight chance he knows what he's doing. And even if you are one of the folk who really believes emotion and momentum overwhelm probability in football, not even broaching the idea that Belichick might be on to something is simultaneously stupid and arrogant—neat trick. If you are a caveman when it comes to football and see Belichick go for it there, your first thought should be "hmmm… maybe I don't know something." This, obviously, has not happened. Caveman status is self-perpetuating.
Really, no matter how you play with the numbers, it will come out about the same. Try it. There is almost no way–without suppressing the numbers–to make the percentages even out. The Patriots’ best PERCENTAGE chance was to go for it on fourth down. Of course, football is not really a percentage game for most of us, is it? No, it’s a game about emotion and passion and momentum.
This is where Posnanski needs to play a lot of poker. Emotion and passion and momentum are great for football players. For coaches they are ways to go on tilt and make dumb decisions that are safe but go against the percentages. Belichick is ruthless and in a position where media criticism means nothing as far as his job goes. Most other NFL coaches would take the safe route and decrease their chances of winning because they perceive that it would increase their chances of keeping their job.
But, you know, at least Posnanski brought it up. Many thousands didn't, and just did some blah blah about how it was dumb, thereby implying they were smarter than Bill Belichick. This is why he is the traditional journalist who's bridged the internet divide more successfully than any other. Clark Wonk:
In other words, ”traditional sports punditry” is denoted not by what kind of resume you have, how old you are, whether you sit in the press box, or even whether your thoughts are packaged in 800 words of ink, 1600 words of pixels, or two minutes of streaming video. No, “traditional sports punditry” denotes merely that you’re not staying current within your own field: “What the hell is Belichick doing?” as opposed to “Whoa, talk about trusting the percentages–what the hell is Belichick doing?” …
To be aware of what Posnanski calls the “PERCENTAGE”s, ones that indicate that probability was in Belichick’s favor over the course of a thousand tries, does not rule out disagreeing with the coach in this single instance. But to not be aware of these percentages is to fail in the most basic journalistic sense. To write about a decision, much less try to criticize it, without displaying any understanding of its self-evident context is to fall down on the job in the ”why” department, even if you do get the who, the what, the when, and the where.
Humans would be well-advised to nail the “why,” by the way. Computers can now do those other four pretty well.
Seriously. Does anyone remember SHOCKDOME XXXVI*? The Patriots get the ball back in a tie game with about two minutes left. Tom Brady is the Patriot's first-year starting quarterback. John Madden, embodiment of conventional wisdom-type substance, is publicly begging Belichick to run the clock out and head to overtime instead of putting the game on the kid's shoulders. Belichick says screw that noise, I've seen Tom Brady play football, let's go, and two minutes later Adam Vinateri is kicking a game-winning field goal and no one remembers the ballsy decision that won the damn game. The reason Belichick is so untouchable that he can defy conventional wisdom is because he defied conventional wisdom.
And yet no one mentions this.
*(AKA Super Bowl XXXVI. An aging Pat Summerall awkwardly blurted out "this game has turned into Shockdome 36" at some point in the second quarter when the Patriots weren't getting stomped like everyone expected they would, and I died laughing.)
The MGoCreeper van headed to Southgate this weekend for its latest excursion, to see Devin Gardner and the Inkster Vikings take on the Titans of Southgate Anderson. Inkster walked away with a 35-7 victory, behind yet another stellar performance from Gardner:
Gardner finished the night with 74 yards rushing on 11 carries. He also passed for 171 yards and 2 touchdowns on an 11/19 performance.
This was not Devin at his most impressive, but it was still enough to blow out a team in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs. A couple of the rushes he had were sacks that came on bad snaps where he had no chance to react, and some of the passes were catchable balls that the receivers weren't able to come down with. Still, it's clear that Devin is the best athlete on the field regardless of who steps onto it, and he's also been the better quarterback every time we've seen him play.
Inkster next takes on Warren De La Salle at 1PM on Saturday at Ferndale High School. Alas, we shall not be there, because there's some college football game going on at the time or something. If the Vikings win, they'll be in the State Finals.
- Brandon Minor is still nicked up, but he'll go if he can. Carlos's knee is still bothering him a little bit. Vincent Smith played well, Shaw "did some good things." Backups will be ready if the starters can't go.
- "Legends are made in the Michigan-Ohio State game." Good feel for the rivalry. Doesn't take long to understand it. Don't have to coach or play here to get the intensity of it. What will it take to turn the rivalry around? Having a better team than the opponent. Emotion and passion will carry the team a little bit. The more experienced team (OSU) will be able to stem a tide of emotion. Use the big rivalry factor to help guys focus on preparation during the game. Win over OSU means something special especially for the seniors. Team has overcome a little adversity, that would be important for them. Try to accentuate the positives this week. It's an easy game to get them excited for. Our guys know it's a big challenge. You always have a chance. We have to play really well. Maybe they'll make a few mistakes.
- Hasn't heard from past Michigan coaches about the rivalry. He doesn't need to be lectured on the importance of the rivalry. He gets it. Just because he's not from Michigan doesn't mean he doesn't get it. Everyone gets it. He coaches as hard as he can in every game. Ohio State is just a whole lot more important. College football has the most intense rivalries, none more important than M-OSU. '69 team was one of the best M-OSU games. They'll be honorary captains for the game.
- A couple things different: Senior week. Practice won't be much different. There will be more in team meetings about the importance of the game, etc. Permanent team captains will be voted on this week.
- Senior class. All programs have something special for last home game. Best week of seniors' careers. Devoted 4-5 years to the university & team. Small group of seniors.
- We can play a whole lot better offensively. Defensively, we haven't been playing well. It's not a lack of effort, there are a lot of reasons. Solid on special teams. Have to make a lot of improvement on defense. Hopefully they rise to the challenge in the last game.
- Made D changes, guys played pretty well. Looking for the right combination. Defense maybe moved slower than he thought it might. Last year's team had more experience defensively. Knew we were going to be inexperienced. They might make personnel moves from offense to defense in the offseason. In next couple recruiting classes, add talent on defense.
- All coaches hate to lose. It eats at your soul. "I don't coach football, I live it." He loves what we're doing, so it eats at you to be unsuccessful. He's not used to losing, so it pretty much sucks. Each day is a new opportunity. This year or last year was the most emotionally taxing in his career. We've all fought through this thing together, and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. When the young guys lift weights, practice, etc., you can see that we're going to be back there. He likes winning too much to not evaluate everything the team does. If adjustments need to be made, they'll do it. Some of the problems are going to take longer to fix. "I feel very good about our staff." Good coaches, family men, recruiters. Scheme and stuff will be where the changes come. Personnel-wise it's tough to overcome. The players know how competitive the coaches are. As long as they're giving their best effort, that's all the coach can ask. This is a good group to coach.
- Not getting back as quickly as he'd like. Only had 1 full recruiting class. When those 18-19 year olds are 20-21, they'll look more like men. There's a group of 4-5 college head coaches he keeps in touch with for encouragement, etc.. Also the assistant coaches he's been with for a long time. Sometimes things come up that aren't in coaching 101.
- On offense, they feel a lot better than last year. Players have a better grasp of the offense. OSU will still be a huge challenge. Not showing up to hope it stays close, they want to win.
- Comparing leagues to leagues is misinformed, there's no reason that a different style of football can't be played in the Big Ten. Every league has a variety of styles, etc. Coaching the pro-style to fit the talent. Our guys that started on offense last year hadn't played in any system yet. No mattter what system you ran, they hadn't played in it. Same with defense this year. Need to recruit guys who can play at the highest level, but experience is a big player too.
- Tate - hopefully learned that you have to compete every week, continue to get better, different schmes and challenges every week. He and Denard are both very good for true freshmen. They'll get better when they have more practice time. Hopes everyone (not just tate) is committed to getting the seniors to a bowl game.
- Koger played some last year. He's played well sometimes, other games he hasn't taken the next step. He'll get better.
- Graham - doing all he can. He knows he's surrounded by inexperience. Still being a team guy and playing within the framework of the defense. Trying to free him up and use his ability.
- Kovacs is a tough guy. It's just his first year playing, so he'll keep getting better. Lack of depth gave him an opportunity.
- Boren: Doesn't do much good to go back in the past. "We pride ourselves on the closeness we have as a family." If you ask the players, they feel the closeness. Hasn't talked to Boren since he left.
- Pryor. He's done extremely well. Started games as a true freshman. Very talented. Won a lot of games. Don't really like to play him because he's a talented playmaker. Nobody on scout team can replicate him (obvs). Denard will play him a bit on scout team.
Ryan Van Bergen
- Scoring the touchdown against Wisconsin was pretty cool. He thought his days of scoring touchdowns were over after high school.
- It would mean everything to this team to beat Ohio State. Bitter taste after last year's game is still there. Want to beat OSU and get the 6th win for the seniors. Looking to stop the streak of 4-5 consecutive OSU losses. There's an external sense that Michigan doesn't stand a chance. A lot of people around the rivalry know that records mean nothing on the field.Practices will stay the same, but in the group preparation "you always do a little extra for Ohio State." Film room, etc.
- Defense is getting close, but they're still making fundamental and technical errors. They're getting better and better, but that's still not good enough. Can't lean on the offense. Mistakes this year aren't sustained drives or anything. It doesn't look better on the scoreboard, but if they can stop 4-5 plays of 60+ yards and TD, it will look a whole lot different. Guys aren't wearing out. Other teams have similar size and frequency of defensive rotation. Got away from scheming other teams, need to execute physically.
- Michigan Ohio State game has an intensity level that can't be matched in other games. It's like you're on the front line of a battle. We enjoy it, and it's great to get after it with passion.
- Never grew up an Ohio State fan. Always got chills watching the big game. "I'm a Michigan man, that's all I'm worried about right now." Roundtree born in Pahokee, big Miami fan. Miami-OSU game in '02. McGahee, etc. "Just can't go for Ohio State, don't know what it is."
- Desmond Howard, Charles Woodson. Great memories.
- Preparation started saturday after Wisconsin. Practice is going to have to pay off this week. Veterans say to go all out. You never know when it's your last play, especially against Ohio State. Have to go harder this week. Put in the hard work all season. Learn from mistakes, prepare for Saturday. Everybody's ready.
- Rodriguez toughest season. Just his second year, how the season is turning out. Roundtree and Hemingway sat together last year watching the game. "This year should be a turnaround."
- Won't have his phone on this week because he needs to stay focused.
- Big 2 weeks: It just happens. Shows the work he put in everywhere. Doesn't worry about how many balls he catches, etc., just worried about running his route. You can't back down in blocking.
- The QBs have to work with each other to improve. Tate has to do more to show what he can do.
- Same feeling against OSU every year (always do everything you can), but each year is different with his role increasing. "It'll be my last game in the Big House, I wanna go out with a win." This week, anything that's wrong has to be corrected Everyone has to be in watching film, everyone has to go hard in practice. Stevie and seniors lead by example. Getting to a bowl and beating Ohio State are linked together, so neither goal is bigger than the other, they're the same.
- Boren - did everything he could while he was here, he'll be the same for them. No personal vendetta, just another O-lineman.
- Pryor throwing it better this year. When the play breaks down, he's able to do things with his feet. Big guy, need to get a secure tackle on him.
- Stevie doesn't try to think about "if we lose, it's over" type stuff. Worries about preparing to win the last game. Doesn't look at beating them in terms of breaking the OSU streak, just want to beat them.
- Whenever we play very well, play together, we can shut teams down. We've shown flashes, just need to come together for 60 minutes.
- Graham provides a lot of vocal encouragement. Leads by example as well. Works as hard as he can, makes plays he's supposed to make. The team doesn't want to let Brandon down. Stevie's not vocal. You can come ask him questions, but he tries to lead by example.
- Hasn't looked at Ohio State film yet. Heard Herbstreit say that this is one of Tressel's best defenses.
- UT-A&M rivalry is the main one where Ortmann's from. The M rivalry is something he knew about, but didn't get to experience it that much.
- The preparation week for OSU his freshman year, their helmets were taped up like OSU, you can sense a different atmosphere .
- Loss= the end has been playing in everyone's mind. We've broken a lot of records and set some new ones the past couple years. Beating OSU would be a great spot to start a new record.
- It's been a while since we've beaten them. Go in with mindset that we are capable of winning. The tackling dummies with the block o are just a reminder that OSU is the biggest game every year.
- Boren - nobody has a relationship with him anymore really. Ortmann has talked to him just a couple times. They had a good relationship before. It was hard to hear him say what he did when he left. He was raised to be a Michigan fan and he loved Michigan. Had some underlying personal issues. What he said on the way out was unfair. People with their own individual reasons. Some statements have been inaccurate. They're entitled to their own opinions.
- Big difference between the OSU games and all the rest. "Growing up, you know that this is one of the biggest rivalries in college football." Big for both programs. Definitely have more intensity this week, get the guys riled up. Help the young guys understand how important this game is.
- Limit big plays. Make them earn everything that they get. Have to come out in practice, get some confidence rolling through the week. Believe in the gameplan, minimize what the opponent will do.
- At safety last couple weeks - do what the coaches ask, and what's best for team. Trying to help the team win. That was for Wisconsin, doesn't know if it will be this week as well.
- Discipline against Pryor. Tougher to stick to receivers because he might need help. Tougher to stick to receivers for longer. Posey - made some big plays with Pryor. Try to minimize that, make them earn it. Sanzenbacher started year as Pryor's go-to guy. Duron Carter is good too. Contain all three of those and the RBs.
- Little things add up and lead to opponents' big plays. Can't let that continue to occur. Have to just keep working on it. Don't let it disrupt your confidence. Confidence - if you can limit big plays, the defense has actually been solid. Hear outsiders talk about how bad the defense is. Can't let it get to you. Continue to work and get better. Do the little things.
- Is it disrespectful for Boren to go to the hated rival. "We're here and he's talking that the family values have eroded. Definitely, the family is still intact." He had to do what was best for him.
- Losing rivalry games is tough. Have to look on the bright side. Don't have anything to lose. Win this one, go to a bowl game. Something to look forward to winning this game. What's in the past is in the past, worry about what you can do in this game.
- Seen some great defenses this year - PSU, Iowa. OU has some solid guys, nobody stands out above everyone else they've seen this year.
- "I don't talk to him, I don't think about him. He doesn't come up in my daily life. I don't have to play against him on defense. I wish I could." Boren
- Tate and Denard don't need to be told things, they need to learn through intensity and preparation of teammates.
- This game is huge, last regular season game, last game of the year. It's everything. Unfinished business against OSU - haven't beaten them in 5 years. This is what we have, we're going practice hard. The context can only mean so much. Don't need a "little brother" mentality. It's Ohio State. Records mean nothing, etc. Don't need more analogies.Just prepare every day. This falls under every category - last game, bowl eligibility, OSU, etc.
- Hopefully we can get a big win, and the reality of never playing in M stadium again will kick in after the celebration.
- Scout team players go extra hard this week. Some guys that normally wouldn't be on scout team go down because they want to practice against the best.
- Omameh - nothing needs to be said to him. They'll watch film together. He'll show him what he needs to do to win. All we can ask is for him to play his heart out - and he will. As an OL, we are looking at their film to see how to attack their defense. I think we can do that.
- 70-80% underclassmen. Always great to see the young guys (tate) take leadership roles.
- Watched Purdue-OSU film. It's going to take our best effort to beat them. Purdue put together a great gameplan, and we've got one this week.
- When the offense goes in, no matter the game situation, they go in to score. The defense goes in to stop them. Our job is to score and win. We want to score more than the other team. Minor's gonna play. He'll play hard and run hard. This is his last game. Concerned about his health, but he'll do what he can. "He's gonna do great, he always does."
- Block-O tackling dummies are going to be in view all week. They have been all year. Lots of motivation to beat Ohio State. "If you can't get jacked up for this one, I don't know where you've been." If he doesn't beat Ohio State, it just wasn't meant to be. "We will beat them... sooner or later. Hopefully it's this Saturday."
- Defense wants to have their best game of the year. Even if old goals weren't achieved you have to set new goals. Time to play their best. They haven't had many games where they could say they played their best and got beat. Showed effort in the last game, but Wisconsin came out with a plan to exploit their weaknesses.
- BG trying to take it in now, since he's got one last game if they don't win. Kinda sad that his college career is done. Dreamt of this moment, now it's almost gone. Realized when he was watching Lamarr Woodley with the Steelers yesterday. Woodley told him to enjoy it, because it's over in a beat. Now he's telling the new young guys the same thing.
- He doesn't want to think about his kids now, but when he eventually has them, he'll tell them he got to play in the greatest game in the country. When his kids go here, it will always be something special when they play Ohio State. Couldn't send his kids to Ohio State "I'm not Justin Boren." He's got a lot of words for Boren. "Just somebody who shouldn't have been here in the first place... We'll see him Saturday." Our front four can get the job done. Boren's got to prove he's still got it. He was good here, but isn't as good there because it's O-State. Family values thing was just an excuse for Boren because he wanted to leave. Never gave the new coaches a chance. "Some people just leave because they feel like they're better than what they is. Not trying to put that much work into it.... a lot of people get lazy and feel like it's supposed to come to them."
- BG has noticed at times that he's a really good player on a bad defense. He doesn't worry about it, and just tries to get to the ball. He wants everyone else to play with the same attitude, they don't all grow as fast as others. Go hard every day. Whoever's in his way, he'll tell them to not come his way. He's in the best shape of his life, and he'll wear the opponent down.
- "It's about to be his last, next year" for Donovan Warren. Does he know Warren plans to stay or is he just saying that?
- Graham grew as a person and was humbled this year - can't take anything for granted. Feels like he could work harder or something to achieve success. My personal goals went OK, but it's about the team. I was happy to be able to help change the game and help my team. Stuff happens for a reason.
- Seniors want to leave with a win "What's a better way than to beat O-State?"
Come on, compliance, WTF:
University of Michigan football coaches failed to file the required monthly logs that track how much its players work out and practice, according to an internal audit released today.
The details: according to a university-released report—hey, look, a hyperlink to the primary source so the reader can click through and make his own judgment of the facts—as of May Michigan had not filed the internal paperwork (called CARA) that covers the countable hours for the 2008 season.
This is now fixed, but the report is unclear as to whether the reports have been retroactively submitted or not:
When detail on a concern identified in an audit needs to be provided to a department, a memorandum is sent so the issue can be addressed. In this instance, the audit and a memo went to the athletic department on July 24, 2009. The forms are now turned in on a timely basis. The audit does not identify where the system broke down and it did not identify any other areas of concern with respect to the football program.
The News tried to get a straight answer on that and got a "no comment." While this could be a legitimate inability to answer because of the investigation, it's probably an indication that the 2008 reports don't exist and can't be constructed retroactively for obvious reasons.
And the tail end of the Michigan report has a slightly defensive paragraph about what this all means (emphasis mine):
CARA forms were created by the U-M athletic compliance office and are one tool U-M uses to track athletic activities undertaken by student-athletes and ensure compliance to our own and NCAA rules and regulations. Other tools include regular monitoring and extensive educational programming for athletes, coaches and other personnel affiliated with the program.
It's not a response to anything. As the report makes clear, this was an issue that was internally flagged in May, months before the Free Press story, and officially addressed in June, weeks before that story.
In itself it doesn't mean much… The absence of these logs is not incriminating—they're an internal tool, not something the NCAA requires.
…but it opens the university up to punishment. Extant signed logs and forms, as people inside the program suggested were standard practice, would just about shut the door on anything except complaints from former players. If it's a bunch of he-said-she-said and since the NCAA isn't a court of law they could decide to hand down something. What is still entirely murky.
This does not look good if you're banking on your faith in compliance. If these logs existed they'd be a fantastic way to tell various folks to talk to the documentation. They don't, and whether that's an intentional omission on the part of a nefarious mastermind or mere incompetence on the part of a compliance department that didn't bother to inform the new guy that they had to do this paperwork it is a missed opportunity.
The last bit of the report at suggests that Michigan has some records disputing the allegations, but a compliance department truly on top of their crap would not have let these forms slide even for a year. If there is no paper trail indicating compliance outside of the CARA forms, someone needs to be fired and possibly branded with a scarlet NCAA.
Mike Wilbon just said on Kornheiser's radio show that 'on pretty good authority' both Charlie Weis and Rich Rodriguez are both 'done.'
6 minutes ago from TweetDeck
…let me make a futile attempt to stop the rumor storm coming down the pike. At this point if there were things afoot in the athletic department, someone would mention it to me. I don't have anything in the inbox suggesting that Rodriguez is in trouble, which is about as good as a denial when the idea in question is firing a football coach with Rodriguez's track record and a four million dollar buyout after two years.
Mike Wilbon doesn't know what he's talking about and is irresponsibly throwing stuff on the wall to see what sticks because he heard from a friend of a friend who's got a guy who says he doesn't like Rodriguez. This is almost literally the case:
He says he talked to a guy who played for Rich Rod who 'threw his wallet down' and would bet it all
So… yeah: Wilbon is asserting that Rich Rodriguez is "done" because one of his old players has a hunch. Sounds rock solid to me.
NYC radio host Mike Francessa did the same thing a couple days ago. Insert default complaint about laughable assertion that mainstream journalists are more responsible with facts here.
[UPDATE: I forgot to mention the delicious comparison between Wilbon on Weis—one of the all time slam-dunk predictions—and that guy on Bleacher Report* who asserted "inside sources" told him Weis was fired after the Navy game. In other news, Allies favored to win WWII. Wilbon == Bleacher Report.
11/14/2009 – Michigan 24, Wisconsin 45 – 5-6, 1-6 Big Ten
Well, I finally broke: I've checked out emotionally. This happened last year, too, and the game columns from the on were pleas for something else to do and grim, brief recaps of the latest indignity. It's progress of a sort that it took eleven games for the team to TKO any interest in what might happen the rest of this year, but it's not a fun sort of progress.
A serious thematic analysis of the Wisconsin game is pointless. Michigan's defense is exactly as horrifying as it's been all year. Everyone wants to fight each other in the liveblog. When the MGoPosse assembled to record this week's podcast, Paul said "at least we didn't muff a punt" and I responded "they didn't punt." (It turns out they did punt once in the first half, and Junior Hemingway misjudged a short one, almost fumbling it.)
Today I'll go on the radio and say the exact same things I've been saying all season to people who say the exact same things they've been saying all season. Here I could either repeat the assertion that firing Rodriguez after two years is idiotic or the description of what this season turned into in the third quarter of the Illinois game. Nothing has changed, and there's nothing to say when the team is turning in uncompetitive loss after uncompetitive loss.
There is an increased chance that sometime today I will read or hear something that cause my entire body to crumple and my head to thump audibly on the desk. So I guess that's different. Not different: for the second straight year the Ohio State week is only welcome because after it there won't be this unpleasant thing that happens every Saturday. The Notre Dame game seems like another decade.
- Surprised that Mouton and Ezeh got the whole game after their backups played at least as well as they did against Purdue. I guess there were huge busts by both Fitzgerald and Leach, but… um… right.
- Seriously: after Wisconsin completed their sixth or seventh big gain over the middle because Ezeh and Mouton were hugely out of position on zone drops, I was begging for the backups. No dice. The prospect of starting these guys next year is not fun.
- I'm betting the adjustment Wisconsin made to their running game was to start doubling defensive linemen for real and leaving the linebackers to their own devices, or down-blocking them on their slants and getting outside where the linebackers are on their own. Michigan was shooting into the backfield a ton early.
- Poor Brandon Graham: if Michigan would just cover anyone for two seconds he would have an incredible number of sacks this year. It wasn't Graham who had the most frustrating non-sack on Saturday, though. Stevie Brown came free up the middle on a third and five in the third quarter and Tolzien nailed a wide open tight end for a first down. That turned into the drive Wisconsin used to go up three scores, salting the game away.
- Vincent Smith is now your tentative leader for the starting tailback job next year, though that title figures to be a ceremonial one in a sea of options. I know Shaw's had the occasional nagging injury but I think he's just beat him out, fair and square. My favorite play from Smith was the screen he took past three or four defenders in the first half. He was one desperate hand-wave by a Wisconsin safety away from
a touchdowna long run that looks like it should be touchdown but disappointingly ends short of it. He's got skills. There was one out that was incomplete that anyone else on the team would have caught by virtue of being bigger than a marmot, though.
- Brandon Smith seemed pretty mediocre on the edge. I know he didn't make any of the huge, obvious mistakes that Mike Williams did, but Wisconsin isn't the sort of team that puts you in the backfield unblocked to make a huge, obvious mistake. I bet a lot of the outside running Wisconsin did will be on Smith somehow.
- I did think Wisconsin was the grabbiest line Michigan's played against all year. Wisconsin's first drive saw Graham held twice on long completions, and while they got a number of calls later they just love getting their hands outside the shoulder pads. Default disclaimer whenever officiating as mentioned: would not have changed outcome of the game, would merely have led to more second-and-twenty conversions. Maybe I should thank the refs for mitigating the damage I would have done to my forehead and the sidewalk if I watched another guy wide open over the middle.