Michigan's chances for a decent-to-good season increased radically over the weekend primarily because they came out and dominated a decent MAC opponent and proved that they're way less incoherent than they were last year. But the performances of future Michigan opponents also helped out considerably. Notre Dame did better than most expected, but the rest of the schedule:
Ohio State faced a potentially tying two-point conversion attempt with two minutes left against Navy, causing We Will Always Have Tempe to drag out the late-era Lloyd Carr comparisons:
I'm not saying Jim Tressel is Lloyd Carr, but... what separates Lloyd Carr in say, 2002 or 2003, from Jim Tressel right now? This is a line of thought I've been seriously following for the better part of a year now. I'd like some input from Michigan fans on this.
Here's my input: that's way hasty. Hasty or not, Ohio State scraping by Navy (they out gained the Middies by just 21 yards) makes The Game seem like way less of a longshot.
Iowa. DocSat on the bizarre Hawkeye opener:
• I-AA Northern Iowa slightly outgained Iowa overall and matched the Hawkeyes at 5.1 yards per play in a 17-16 loss that featured the weirdest ending of the day. Iowa finished with 87 yards rushing, 100 yards below its 2008 average on the ground; starting running back Paki O'Meara finished with 16 yards on nine carries (1.8 per) on a long gain of five yards.
UNI had two field goals blocked in the last minute, by the way, after recovering the first one. (Which I thought was an automatic turnover, BTW. Is it not? UPDATE: a helpful reader points out the relevant rule:
If a blocked field goal is in or behind the neutral zone, it is treated like a fumble and can be advanced by either team. Beyond the neutral zone, a blocked kick is treated like a punt or missed field goal and can be advanced only by the defense, unless a defensive player fumbles the ball, after which an offensive player can advance it.
Illinois was totally humiliated by a Missouri team debuting a freshman quarterback. Missouri outgained Illinois by over 100 yards and Juice Williams got yanked. Illinois did lose Benn and the starting tailback to injuries in the second half. None of that explains 37-9.
Three of Michigan's four expected wins did nothing to disprove those expectations. Indiana barely scraped by I-AA Eastern Kentucky 19-13. Eastern lost to Army by 13 and Delaware State lost to some random I-AA team.
Purdue, Michigan State, and Penn State all handled business against overmatched opponents. Wisconsin let Northern Illinois back in their game and, after failing to recover a NIU onside kick, let the Huskies down to their 36 before closing the door on 4th and 3. The Badgers did outgain NIU handily, so I'm not sure how much of a concern that is for UW.
Those teams saw their stock remain approximately constant—Purdue may have seen it increase. Three of the toughest games on Michigan's schedule now seem considerably more attainable. I'll take that and the Notre Dame box score any day.
- About 28 players played their first game in a Michigan uniform. A lot of them had meaningful (early-game) action on special teams. The QBs and Craig Roh (in a year, he'll be up around 250 pounds, and faster than he is now) were singled out as some of the young guys who played very well.
- The offense wasn't that bad in the second half. In the third quarter, they only had two drives, one of which had a touchdown called back for a penalty. In the fourth quarter, the offense went to chew-clock mode for much of the time.
- There were a few missed assignments both on offense and defense, but a lot of that can be attributed to first-game jitters. Rodriguez didn't want to call out his players on the long Western touchdown. It was typical first-game nerves.
- All three quarterbacks will continue to play for the next several weeks, but Tate will get the start again next week. It's not fair to compare the freshman QBs, both because they're a little different in terms of skill set, but also because Tate has had 9 extra months in the system - and has about 70% of the playbook at his disposal. Denard is not just a runner, but "He ran really fast."
- Hemingway should be good to go Saturday, Same with Moundros and Boubacar. Minor looked pretty good in pregame, but they still held him out and hope he'll be able to go Saturday. All of those injured players will be a little limited in contact drills this week. Rodriguez is going to implement a weekly injury report for the team, released on Thursdays. He would like to make this a league-wide policy.
- Carlos Brown will start Saturday unless he has a bad week of practice. "We thought he ran well, he caught the ball well, and he really protected well."
- Offensive player of the game: Junior Hemingway. Defensive player of the game: Obi Ezeh and Stevie Brown. Special Teams player of the game: Zoltan Mesko.
- The QBs carried more times (21) than Rodriguez would like in an average game. Some of that was getting Denard in there and getting him comfortable. However, Rodriguez doesn't mind his QB running if nothing's open downfield. The quarterback's 4th read on passing plays should usually be to run.
- Nevada was a top offense last year, so for Notre Dame to shut them out was impressive.
- Both teams being good increases the national tone of this week's contest: "I would hope. Michigan-Notre Dame is always going to have a national tone. It's one of the greatest rivalries there are."
- To beat Notre Dame, Michigan will have to pressure Clausen. He's too good to give him a lot of time, and has some really good targets in Tate and Floyd. Brandon Graham will be double-teamed a lot, because Notre Dame likes to max-protect.
- Adrian Witty will not attend Michigan this semester. The coaches will continue to re-recruit him for the winter or next fall.
- Schilling watched film yesterday on his day off from practice. The offensive line played a lot more physical than last year (which is something Frey emphasizes). There were many more knockdowns than in any game last year. It was nice to move the ball for first downs and touchdowns, which was hard last year.
- Craig Roh is one of the quickest D-Ends Steve has ever seen. When he gets bigger and stronger, he'll be a really good player.
- All 3 QBs are different, which forces opposing defenses to prepare for more things. Tate's a leader, and acts like he's not a freshman although he's been here only 0 months. Denard's a little quieter, but he's still just learning.
- The team has to be grounded after the win. Notre Dame is ranked, and although Western will contend for the Mac title, the Irish present a bigger opportunity to make a statement.
- Tate is young, but he's going to be a great leader. Even if the seniors disagree with him in the huddle, they'll get something worked out.
- It's good to start the year injury free, and he hopes to stay that way.
- If the offense is clicking, Carlos doesn't care whether he gets 1 carry or 20 carries. One of the great things about the college game is that there are multiple capable backs that can step in for each other.
- "We're going to be prepared for Notre Dame."
- The defense made a statement against Western by playing hard, fast, and aggressive. In the first game, it's nice to be able to be aggressive with open field tackles.
- The Notre Dame game will set the tone for the whole season. The team owes the Irish after what happened last year.
- Notre Dame likes to use play action to go deep. Donovan's looking forward to the challenge, and like the opportunity to prove himself against the best. The defense needs top be aggressive on every snap to make Notre Dame's day harder. They'll disguise coverages, but that depends on everybody knowing where the help is coming from and where the defense's weaknesses are.
- He'll get in guy's faces on the other team and play tough coverage on every snap. He didn't think the pass interference calls against him on Saturday were legit - but every defensive back usually feels the same.
- Tate's enrolling early helped get him the experience he needed to start fast. "He knows that we have his back, and we know that he has ours."
- The ankle that's injured is the same one that he hurt last year. He's glad he ended up getting a medical redshirt, because otherwise it would have been a lost year. It was tough not being on the travel squad, and having to text his teammates before the game, and watch on TV.
- "I'll be ready to go on Saturday."
- The receivers have the mindset that they can win every battle on the perimeter. The offense has to make sure they know their assignments on every play.
- "Got to be out there ready to play when we play Notre Dame."
Mustache update. Dang:
You know it's good photoshop when you're futilely scanning for the LSUFreek watermark. Mustaches for Michigan provides, and explains:
My ally is the Mustache, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Mustache around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, the football, everywhere, yes.
The power of the mustache was powerful enough to offset the long-established MGoLiveblog curse, mmm.
On the 'Downfall' thing. There were a few complaints about the Downfall parody posted last week, all of which cited Rosenberg's (presumed) Jewishness vis a vis Adolf Hitler's… well, you know. His opinions, man. I'm not trying to be an insensitive clod here but Youtube is filled with videos of Hitler being enraged at the Dallas Cowboys, XBox Live, Windows Vista, World of Warcraft, the failure of Michael Jackson to perform at his birthday party because he is dead, and everyone on the internet screwing with his subtitles. Oh and yes Hitler is also pissed off because Rich Rodriguez is evil. At this point the comic trope is so well-established that the whole Hitler bit is… well… maybe not secondary, since it's the reason it's always funny, but tangential. If the thing had mentioned the word "Jew" at all, it would have been in bad taste. It didn't.
I think this was on "Automatic For The People." Terrelle Pryor on Michael Vick, who Pryor paid tribute to on his eyeblack—hey, it's either that or John 3:16:
That's right: "everybody murders.":
Not everybody is a perfect person in the world. Everyone kills people, murder people, steals from you, steals from me, whatever.
Who loves the fact that this blog's already got a "terrelle pryor has emotional problems" tag? This guy.
Excellent. The New York bowl game I've been advocating is a possibility, albeit a down-the-line one:
The Tribune has learned Big Ten officials have met with Yankee Stadium representatives to discuss a bowl game that would be played at the so-called "House that George Built."
"It's an interesting concept," Big Ten Associate Commissioner Mark Rudner said. "It's compelling."
Hypothetical New York Bowl is not an immediate possibility, but if it gets established it sounds like the Big Ten will give it a serious look in 2014, the next time contracts come up for renewal. By that time Florida fatigue may have set in and an attractive, if cold, destination like New York should be appealing.
SON OF A. The music was piped in, and I cringed, and then Bill Martin jumped aboard and oh God:
Fans saw a winning product again and were entertained before the game and during breaks in it with piped in music such as AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells,” and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.”
“We need to liven this place up,” Martin said. “When the band is taking a break, I think the music helps the atmosphere. There were about 25 songs on the playlist, I listened to every one and cut about five.”
Ugh. Band members: do you need breaks? Could you have played Sweet Caroline, thus transforming banal minor-league hockey atmosphere into authentic college football atmosphere? Are you happy or irate at the piped in music?
Etc.: Vijay isn't blogging again but he has put up a post with some clips and analysis from the last game. A blast from the past for blogosphere old hands.
You've probably noticed the ribbon at the top of the main column. There is also ad that will replace the HTTV ad on the right when I beat Drupal into submission about it, which I certainly hope is today. So here's the deal: the M-Den and MGoBlog have arrived at a mutually beneficial relationship where I advertise for their products and they give me money. It's an excellent match with the MGoStore; you can get your officially licensed apparel from the M-Den and your insidery MGoBlog shirts from the MGoStore. The M-Den is locally owned by lifelong fans and a longtime supporter of Michigan athletics, and they just lost the Michigan Stadium contract to Jerry Jones's band of carpetbaggers.
They're also a business and are looking for ROI. So if you're buying officially licensed Michigan apparel I hope it's from there and I hope it's via the ads on the sidebar or the sponsorship ribbon. It is in this way you can support the university, the M-Den, and MGoBlog.
I should also note that there will be a brief text advertisement at the bottom of a post once a week; these will be mostly for the Google purposes.
ALSO! We've placed two of Six Zero's outstanding shirts in the MGoStore, where they await your purchase. They are the contest winner and one of the runner-ups that was just too good to not put in the store. The mascot shirt was the winner:
And the "strike a pose" Desmond shirt, the runner up, has also been added to the store for total awesomeness:
I'm wondering if anyone is reconsidering The Forcier after last week's game. What say you about an addition? Yea or nay, class?
BONUS note: I'd like to thank Six Zero for the extensive work he put in on the shirt contest—there were about a half-dozen shirts that simply did not fit—and recommend him to anyone in search of graphic design of any variety. A couple people have already emailed me about getting in touch with him and I've forwarded along the inquiries. If you'd like to do the same, email me and I'll do the same.
9/5/2009 – Michigan 31, Western Michigan 7 – 1-0
Melanie Maxwell, AnnArbor.com
Towards the end of the third quarter, a guy in the row behind me started grumbling about Michigan's offense being boringly ground-based. By the fourth, cramped quarters had given way to roominess. After it was over, I was disappointed that Michigan's first-half outburst gave way to a near-scoreless second half and thought Michigan should have given the kids a little more rope via which to test their skills.
In short, it was a typical game against a MAC opponent. At least it was for a given, thoroughly inaccurate definition of "typical." Michigan's seldom had an easy time of it against anyone since the Carr era started flagging. MAC or MAC-ish opponents since 2004:
|2008||Miami Of Ohio(NTMOO)||W 16-6|
|2006||Ball State||W 34-26|
|2005||Northern Illinois||W 31-17|
|2004||Miami Of Ohio(NTMOO)||W 43-10|
Over last five years, Michigan has been just as likely to be in an actual game (6) with a supposed tomato can as the expected blowout (6). (I am counting the '07 EMU game as an actual one, as it was 16-14 halfway through the third; the others need no justification.) Hell, even in 2006—when Michigan was a Crable helmet hit away from driving to the national championship game—Ball State had first and goal with an opportunity to tie late in the fourth quarter. In no way is a 31-0 halftime lead typical in the recent history of Michigan football except against Notre Dame.
It was just a MAC team, but think of how good those words sound rolling off your lips. Just a MAC team. Couldn't be expected to cope with our freakishly accurate quarterback or our freakishly speedy quarterback or the zippy skill position players who seemed bountiful and endless. Couldn't be expected to cope with Brandon Graham or Craig Roh or Mike Martin. No chance. Just a MAC team with a quarterback who might go in the first-round of the NFL draft and four-fifths of its offensive line back. No chance.
Yes, okay, there remain plenty of concerns. There were folks that the MAC team could cope with. These were the backup quarterback—and think about how good it sounds to have the identity of that person be utterly uncontroversial, no offense to said backup—and any cornerback not named Cissoko or Warren. Oh and any defensive end not named Graham or Roh. Or… well, you get the idea. The defense is paper-thin and can fall off a cliff with a single injury. So can the quarterback position until such time as Denard Robinson develops into something a more than a beautiful freakshow.
But today there is a thread about Michigan on every opponent message board across the internet where some guy says "looks like all that extra practice paid off lol."
Last year, the Utah game was an opportunity to radically reassess Michigan's immediate future. It was far uglier than the final score, and I remember going on WCBN—which BTW I will be on at around 5 today—and telling the assembled folk there that the Notre Dame game would be "critical for bowl eligibility," whereupon we mused ruefully about how far Michigan had fallen in such a short period of time without anyone coming close to realizing how optimistic we still were.
The one piece of good fortune coming from that game was the handy metaphor:
Every rational thought in your head suggests that the whole walk-on or freshman-the-coaches-are-panicked-about at quarterback, the line of baling wire and the occasional confused chicken, and freshmen everywhere at the skill positions will combine to yield an offense worthy of Yakety Sax, but until you actual see the damn thing in action you can hold out hope it will be otherwise.
We have seen it in action. It could have gone better. At least we have an incredibly direct metaphor all around us:
This program is under construction with a completion date around 2010.
This program is still under construction, and the completion date is still 2010. But those shabby exposed girders are now sheathed in brick and lightning, shiny in the afternoon sun. As the season goes on we'll undoubtedly see the unfinished parts within brought to the surface. There's no insulation, and if you peer into the windows you can still see the girders that were plain to all last year.
For now, for right now, it's reassuring to look up and see a modern version of Yost on the way. Through controversy and people with ill-considered protests Michigan comes, echoing the past with a back-to-the-future offense and West Virginians in charge and beautiful brick arcs and, Angry Michigan BLANK-Hating God willing, a point per minute.
- Man, JT Floyd looked like he'd have no chance of ever being a legit Big Ten corner on that bomb. I watched him go from two steps ahead to two steps behind the Western WR and immediately shivered at the safety depth. Maybe I'm leaping to too many conclusions from one play, but I see a safety move in his future.
- Also, and you are going to hear this thought a half-dozen times in this space over the next week, but: man, that Western touchdown was a bummer for a lot of reasons but none more foreboding than its extreme resemblance to the one-man-route Golden Tate touchdown from last year's Notre Dame game. Cissoko's health and Michigan's ability to ignore the Notre Dame ground game will be key.
- Brandon Graham must be livid he doesn't have a sack. Or three.
- How dumb does last year's "Rodriguez refuses to adjust his offense" meme look now? Michigan used a thousand different formations, including intermittent deployments of the I-form and a heavy dose of 2 TE ace sets. He's been presented with solutions and has gone in search of the problem.
- You know, if Michigan compliance is right and they can release a detailed report about offseason activities that results in zero and Michigan does pull out of its steep dive, it's possible the Free Press will be directly responsible for dissolving the gap between Michigan fans and Rich Rodriguez, which would have to go in the Alanis Morrissette Ironic Hall Of Fame. (Note on the linked article: claims that students chanted "keep united" after the game, which would have been awesome if it was true. It wasn't, though: it was "beat the Irish.")
- No, none of the things in that song are ironic, which makes the fact that the hall of fame is named after her ironic. Obvs.
- I think everyone needs to go back into that thread posted by that guy who said Craig Roh would start and posbang him like whoah. Also, I was backing two recruits out of proportion to all reason this year: Roh and Vincent Smith. Remember this when the predictions I make in the future are all hilariously off base.
- Wait just one more before we return to your regularly-scheduled wrongness: I'm telling you about Drew Tate, man. That first touchdown, where Forcier moxied his way away from a defender and then signaled Hemingway to go deep, was vintage Tate. Hopefully it will be vintage Tate again.
- Similarly, Sheridan's interception was a perfect demonstration of the difference between the two QBs. With the safety pulled up, Sheridan actually had plenty of room to hit Mathews in the back of the endzone if he floated it a bit; instead he attempted to rifle it and the ball was undercut.
- I twittered this but if you weren't around: I saw someone carrying around a sign that said "In Rich And Staff We Trust." This is banner fail.
This this was interesting from Touch the Banner:
In the second half, WMU quarterback Tim Hiller started getting rid of the ball quicker. He found a rhythm and started hitting underneath passes to his receivers. Greg Robinson might be served well by disguising coverages on the outside, changing the look from cover 2 man to a cover 2 zone. Suddenly, instead of driving the cornerback off with his initial burst, that cornerback is sitting underneath the quick hitch to the outside. A couple well orchestrated disguised coverages might be just enough to make Hiller think twice, which would give Brandon Graham, Mike Martin, and the rest of the defensive line enough time to get to the quarterback.
Michigan's defense in the opener seemed very simple. There was little rotation down-to-down. Michigan went the whole way in the same 3-4/4-3/4-2-5 hybrid thingy, occasionally rotating in a backup on the defensive line (this was done per series, so the series Graham was out he was just out except for a couple of third downs, IIRC) and yanking Cissoko for Floyd once things got out of hand. Everyone else played almost every snap. So it seemed like Michigan wanted to get their guys doing a limited number of things well; I assume they'll expand on that as the season goes on.
Also, by the time Hiller got going the game was out of hand and I can understand the impulse to shelve the exotics with Notre Dame coming in next week.
The Diag asks if Kelvin Grady has stolen Odoms' job, which probably not but he seems a viable option. I was surprised Roundtree was invisible—only came in with the Conescrubs at the end—after his spring game; even Laterryal Savoy and James Rogers got more run.