"The face of the operation is Briatore (referred to exclusively in the film by his colleagues and angry, chanting detractors as "Flavio"), an anthropomorphic radish who spends most of his time at QPR plotting to fire all of the managers."
1/26/2006 - Michigan 72-67 Michigan State - 14-3, 4-2 Big Ten
2. Beat Michigan State.
I present ??? to you:
Horton was the Making Things Happen Guy Who Takes Over and Makes Things Happen Player Of The Game, but we needed him to play like he did just to stay close. It was Chris Hunter's second half reminder that yes, he does exist and yes, he plays basketball that provided the impetus that put Michigan past the Spartans. (It's unfortunate that Hunter is a senior: dubbing him "The Riddler" is terribly clever but hardly worth doing for the few months that remain in his mercurial career.)
Hunter relegated Courtney Sims to the bench for most of the second half by scoring seven of the nine points that pushed Michigan from a 39-45 deficit to a 48-45 lead they would never relinquish, playing excellent defense (two blocks), and--this is important--only travelling once. The whole game! It's no exagerration to say that he was the best big man on the floor, as Sims provided a valuable service by transmitting his acute vaginitis to Paul Davis, turning the much-ballyhooed beast of board into a nonfactor.
Now for the profit. Michigan has a marquee win for the committee and can get another by beating Wisconsin. After that, with three of the four hopeless teams in the Big Ten on the schedule, a win over Wisconsin, well... this falls solidly into the "getting way, way ahead of yourself" category, but it's conceivable that in a couple weeks we could be in some sort of Big Ten title race. And ranked. And thinking more about seeding than pretty please can we get in.
Crazy? You can't discount the Purdue game entirely, but outside of that hiccup Michigan has:
- lost narrowly at Illinois and Indiana
- stomped Northwestern and Minnesota
- beat Michigan State.
That's five out of six performances any team in the country would think acceptable, even ones that have big hopes for March. Our hopes may not be big, but they're extant. All thanks to The Riddler(!) and one game against MSU that did not end with tragedy. Let it be said: this could be the point at which the program turns around. Michigan fans are starved for something positive after football's Season of Infinite Pain. The hockey team is mired in the middle of the CCHA pack. A sold-out Crisler sounded like a real arena; the team that played inside it looked like a real team.
All that's just 'could,' but hey, it says 'did' up there today.
- Brent Petway's collision with Ager didn't appear intentional to me, but I think once it was clear the two were going to bump into each other Petway decided to get his money's worth. Ager's response: hunch over and allow teammates and medical staff to swarm over him. Bill Laimbeer he's not. Ager then went 0-4 for the rest of the game, though he did have 4 FTs.
- Was it unethical/wrong/evidence of the moral decay inherent in the Michigan program? Um... ask someone who doesn't regard that Laimbeer guy as something of a father figure. IMO: he didn't intentionally clock the guy, so play on.
- Was the foul called on Graham Brown for watching Paul Davis fall over the worst in the history of basketball? Discuss.
- ...but, yeah, Spartans got jacked something fierce. I don't think I could have gotten through that game had the calls been reversed without calling a friend and ordering a hit on Bova. My friend would have told me "I'm a computer engineer, I don't kill people," I would have said "but what about the snake, man?" he would have said "that's a foosball move," and that would have been that. But I would have tried.
I do think Michigan earned a certain level of positive FT differential by playing better, less grabby defense than MSU, but the Spartans were in the penalty with about 11 minutes left in both halves and that was due to three or four fouls per stanza that were phantom in nature.
- The other candidate for ???: Ron Coleman, who filled in admirably for Abram. Coleman was 4/5 from the floor, one of those being a three, and somehow managed to stay in front of Shannon Brown for the entire game. I assumed that projected mismatch would see Brown traipsing through the lane unmolested, but Coleman held his ground. Brown was all of 2-5 from within the three-point arc. Shocking.
- MSU: 16 turnovers. Michigan: 15 turnovers. Zounds.
- Another major factor: Michigan pounded the crap out of MSU on the boards. Michigan's offensive rebound percentage: 34. MSU's: 18.
The sound of ratchets; the tweaked blog look. Now thinner, smaller text-ed, and be-watermarked. If you can't read the damn thing anymore, increase the font size: this baby's bulletproof. Within reason.
Soliciting opinions on the avant-garde off-center watermark: stay or go? Does it make things annoying to read?
Ut oh. The Dallas/Fort Worth Star Telegram:
Jerry Jones said although the Cowboys are going outside the current coaching staff to interview Chris Palmer for the offensive coordinator opening, they will look internally for a candidate to replace former linebackers coach Gary Gibbs.
The top candidate appears to be Paul Pasqualoni, who joined the staff as tight ends coach last season.
Pasqualoni, the former Syracuse head coach and linebackers coach, also played the position at Penn State.
University of Michigan defensive coordinator Jim Herrmann's name has been rumored as a possible replacement, but Jones denied Herrmann is a candidate.
"Last week was funny... now the joke's wearing thin..."
Man above the clouds, if you'd prefer that next year Michigan participated in the Fiesta Bowl rather than The Cast of Con-Air and/or The South Bend School for Accelerating Arrogance, you'll..
..Make Prescott Burgess stop playing with anvils bolted to his legs
..Have Mike Gittleson fired for telling the training staff to fill the Gatorade bottles with condensed milk and melted dove bars
And anon. Fill out your personal bitch-list today!
No no no no no no. Um... nothing like a scary-ass article from Bob McKenzie--a man who knows his hockey--to make one suddenly appreciate the majesty of Jack Johnson and never, ever criticize him again even if he does let Bryan Lerg score shorthanded breakaway goals:
Do not be surprised ... if the Hurricanes get even better before the 2005-06 season is over with the addition of a high-impact player on their blueline. And we're not talking about a trade here either.The player in question is defenceman Jack Johnson, the No. 3 overall pick by Carolina in last summer's NHL Entry Draft.
Immediately after the tournament, Carolina inquired into whether Johnson would be prepared to leave the University of Michigan, where he's in his freshman season, and start his pro career with the Hurricanes.
Johnson respectfully declined, saying he would never leave his Wolverine team in the midst of the season.
Okay. Okay. Breathing again. McKenzie then states that the 'Canes will heavily pursue Johnson as soon as Michigan's season ends, but we knew that already.
Michigan State Open Thread
Yeah, it doesn't seem particularly likely with Lester Abram reprising Mike Hart's role as the injured star relegated to looking on pensively from the bench. But they could. They could walk into Crisler tonight, play their asses off, and set the message boards a-gibberin' about gaps and how they're mighty thin these days, nothing to mind at all.
Such talk--guaranteed to occur--would be ludicrous, but after eight years in the wilderness brought on by NCAA sanctions, ludicrous optimism would be more than welcome. We would at least have something to talk about. 14-3 with a marquee win over a top ten team, a wounded Wisconsin team that suddenly looks more like the hunted than the hunter... things would look very different. The niggling little issue is: Michigan has won once since that whole implosion thing and this year's edition of the Spartans is no different from the merciless tanks that have ground down the token resistance Michigan has generally offered over the past eight or so years. Despite this Michigan has been installed as a two point
favorite underdog (thanks newspaper, grumble).
I don't do the basketball predictions gig. I don't have the depth of knowledge, especially about the college game, to offer anything more than the same useless stuff you've read before. So I'll spare you the meandering paragraphs that add up to "Thog think play good is good," but I can tell you that if I was a gambling man I would be scrambling to find the deed to my farm.
It's not quite Underpants Gnomes, but this is how tonight goes:
2. Beat Michigan State
??? is probably "55% shooting from 3"... not likely. But they could.
Editorial Opinion: MGoBlog policy is to declare Lemming creepy and unreliable at every opportunity, but data is data. Lemming's top 100 provides a fourth point of reference in our attempts to judge the quality of the incoming recruits.
FTR, Michigan recruits/commits on the list:
- #14 Brandon Graham
- #19 Jonas Mouton (uncommitted)
- #23 Jai Eugene
- #40 Steve Schilling (uncommitted)
- #66 Justin Boren
- #73 Brandon Minor(!)
- #81 Adam Patterson(uncommitted)
- #85 Carlos Brown
- #94 Daron Rose (uncommitted)
- #99 Steve Brown
- #100 Greg Mathews
There may have been some transcription errors: QB Pat Devlin is described as "a well rounded back who can catch as well as he can run," which would be quite a surprise for Penn State. Lemming sides with Scout.com and ESPN on the side of Jai Eugene, supahstar, leaving Rivals' "meh" all by its lonesome. Minor's inclusion is the most surprising divergence from the existing lists, but a senior year injury tends to increase the differences of opinion on a recruit--witness the suddenly out of favor Steve Brown's precipitous drop due to a hurt ankle.
Schilling dropped USC. Sweet. Cal and UW are the other possibilities for Schilling and a lot of people are speculating he'll stay in Washington, but I'd rather his final two being Michigan and UW than Michigan and USC.
Jason Kates? Well... perhaps an ominous sign regarding Marques Slocum, who was supposed to enroll this semester but obviously has not (search the umich directory: no dice). Slocum is still searching for a qualifying test score and will be working his ass off over the next few months to get one, but obviously Michigan is nervous about his status and is looking for other potential DTs. Kates was highly regarded earlier but an indifferent senior year has gurus souring--Scout's dropped him to a two-star. Rivals still has him a four; ESPN has him a 6.6 (the middle of the "good" range).
See Part I here.
I said... sweet Jesus, can we just pretend this thing never existed? Undaunted by Kyle Orton's departure and heeding the sweet siren call of eleven returning defensive starters, I... well...
...as a Michigan fan I want no part of Purdue this year. None. No thank you. Gone is All-Choke Hall of Famer Kyle Orton. Into his decidedly average-sized shoes steps redshirt junior Brandon Kirsch, who has experience and Stantonlegs. ...
The Purdue running game should be meaningfully better. The defense should be meaningfully better. Jones should cease resembling Tweek from South Park. If Kirsch can keep the Boilermaker passing game churning at a respectable level, look out, because Boilermania is about to run wild all over the Big Ten.
And I predicted... 10-1 and a BCS bid. Close: 5-6 and a home for the holidays bid.
Eerie Accuracy: Absolutely nothing. The defense fell apart; the offense was awful; the worst case scenario I projected was 7-4.
Disheartening Idiocy: In leiu of just pasting the entire document under this heading, I'll highlight some specific idiocies.
As the first edition of the postmortem indicated, I managed to get the relative suckiness of almost every quarterback in the Big Ten completely wrong, and I may have been wrongest of all about Purdue, deriding Kyle Orton as a no-talent choke artist and declaring Brandon Kirsch to be the next coming of Stanton:
Redshirt junior Brandon Kirsch is the most important player in the Big Ten this year, period. If he plays like I think he can Purdue is going to kill people, just like last year, except they will continue to kill people the entire year.
Orton spent a decent portion of the year starting in the NFL and not embarassing himself; Kirsch--apparently born with a deep psychological need to have people laugh at him--got benched midway through the year and then entered the draft early.
My assessement of the defensive line is doubly hilarious for the caveat I offered:
This is the best line in the Big Ten with the possible exception of Michigan.
...yeah. About that.
Overall: Let us never speak of this again.
Expect Michigan State to win a game or two it shouldn't, lose to Kent State or Indiana, and finish in the middle of the pack, just like always.
Bizarre win: Notre Dame; inexplicable loss: 49-14 against Northwestern; middle of the pack: check... ish. This theme continued. I captured the historical arc of the Spartan program in one fell graf:
If you were looking for a brief summary of the last thirty years of Spartan football, 2004 was your lucky year. It had everything you could want: a loss to Rutgers, heartbreak at the hands of Michigan, two totally unexpected crushings of quality opponents (51-17 over Minnesota and 49-14 over Wisconsin), and a final collapse that prevented Michigan State from going to a bowl game--one that involved giving up 37 points to one of the worst offenses in the nation and a late-game implosion against Hawaii. It had just the right mix of burgeoning hope with soul-mangling incompetence, the right mix of surprising success with surprising failure, the right mix of Duffy Daughterty with Bobby Williams. Michigan State's porridge is never too hot, never too cold, always just mediocre. On a micro level MSU is completely unpredictable week-to-week. On a macro level it's always Same Old Spartans.
Thanks, reliably unreliable MSU!
And I predicted... 8-3, 5-3 in the Big Ten. Not great, as the Spartans went 5-6 and an astounding 2-6 in-conference. Why didn't I listen to my own damn historical arc garbage?
Eerie Accuracy: I dubbed Drew Stanton "the Jesus" and I stand by that description:
If Stanton remains healthy ... Spartan opponents will have their hands full. He is an unparalleled dual threat and the best quarterback in the Big Ten. What? Henne Tate you crazy!
Stanton ended the year 10th in passing efficiency, rushed for 338 yards, and was flamboyantly distasteful. Eight-year-olds, dude. And this is "duh," but it has links to pretty pictures:
Defensive Backs: 1. I don't see how this position group can be anything other than a total disaster; Jaren Hayes looks to be Michigan State's #1 corner next year. Michigan State fans can't be happy about that.
Disheartening Idiocy: I underestimated MSU's capacity for losing games in wacky fashion, obviously, but none of the position estimates were far off. I declared the offense to be one of the best in the country; it was. I declared the defense to be one of the worst in the country; it was. The mistake came in adding 5 + 0 and getting 8.
Overall: This was looking right on until about halfway through the year when the wheels came off and John L. Smith couldn't slap enough kickers or scream at enough sideline reporters to squeak the Spartans into a bowl.
I said... chalk:
Minnesota's failures have nothing whatsoever to do with some sort of mental malaise that sets in after yet another heartbreaking loss to the perpetual Brown Jug holders and everything to do with the fact that Mason has only put together half a team. Minnesota's offense has been a running juggernaut the envy of every old-school six-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust Big Ten traditionalist but their defense has been horrible, terrible, unwatchable, repulsive... pick up a thesaurus, start at "sucktastic," and point. You'll find something that's probably a little too nice.
This does not look to change this year.
And I predicted... 8-3, 5-3. The Gophers ended up 7-4, 4-4.
Eerie Accuracy: Both my preview and the Gophers' season went by the book: bad defense, good offense, meh bowl, so most things in the preview fit under the "duh" category--hey! Laurence Maroney is good!--but I did take a shine to TE Matt Spaeth early:
Tight end Matt Spaeth is 6'6", 270 and plays like an offensive lineman with soft hands. He's excellent blocking for Maroney and when he finds himself open will come down with the ball but isn't overly athletic for a tight end and sometimes has trouble getting open. Another good year and he will start getting All Big Ten consideration.
All Big Ten TE: Matt Spaeth.
Disheartening Idiocy: I was excessively optimistic:
Swap Minnesota's and Purdue's schedules and I'd be slotting the Gophers in a BCS bowl...
I think Cupito and Wheelwright will both take big leaps forward this year but the defense will not. That should still be enough to make it to 5-3 in the Big Ten.
They didn't; it wasn't.
Overall: Good. But for a fluky punt block against Wisconsin it would have been right on.
So. This is what I think: Iowa will disappoint a bit this year. Not Mot
or City Bowl disappoint, but maybe Outback Bowl disappoint. Yes, I realize that I am betting against Kirk Ferentz and Drew Tate. Yes, I think that there is a good chance that this is going to make me look stupid. But I think what I think, and this is what I think. I think.
The one prediction most couched in "please don't stone me for this" disclaimers turns out to be right on the nose. OMG rain on your wedding day.
And I predicted... 8-3, 5-3 in the Big Ten. Correct on the conference mark; didn't see the Iowa State upset coming.
Eerie Accuracy: See above for the whole Outback thing.
Disheartening Idiocy: No one thought that the Iowa running offense would repeat its dead-last performance from 2004, but I was harsher than most on its prospects, giving an ugly 1 to the running backs and declaring it unlikely Iowa would even be average this year:
Will anything decent emerge out of this sack of cats? It's unlikely. Brownlee, Simmons, and Sims were very bad last year, and OSU fans tell me the talent elves are all busy turning Ohio State's Troy Smith into a legitimate quarterback. It usually takes two years to fully recover from an ACL tear, so Young and Schnoor probably won't be full speed. None of the three freshmen come in with high accolades. Unless there is a Mike Hart-like serendipity somewhere in the running back corps, Iowa's running game will still be downright bad.
(Bonus points for Troy Smith sneering!) Iowa finished a respectable 35th nationally; primary tailback Albert Young was 17th in rushing yards.
Overall: The best prediction offered in this space. It's hard to remember this now, but Iowa was in everyone's top ten at the beginning of the year and quite a few top fives. They were regarded as a serious national threat. This did not come to pass and the Hawkeyes did indeed end up in the Outback Bowl.
There's reason for optimism in the Worst Place On Earth. But isn't claiming the Buckeyes a national championship contender a fit of irrational exuberance, in the words of Alan Greenspan? Is this not a team that got one good game from a quarterback last year, has a running back situation featuring two freshmen and a sophomore (who has not run for 1400 yards), can't start the same offensive line from one game to the next, has exactly one cornerback and no pass rush? Isn't Ted Nugent gone?
Er... yeah, they had a pass rush, though it came via a hellacious amount of blitzing. OSU was out of the national championship picture early after a loss to PSU that was my preseason wingnut upset pick.
Texas beats OSU out of conference, and then OSU embarks on another highwire act of ugly games won and lost on punt returns, long field goals, and turnovers which they mostly end up on the good side of, but not always.
...this sort of happened before Ohio State's offense met a slew of eminently movable objects in the second half of the season, but this was half-right at best.
And I predicted... 8-3, 6-2. Ohio State was 9-2, 7-1. And maybe if Herrmann's defense could have held just one fourth-quarter lead this year it may have been on the nose.
Eerie Accuracy: Remember Ted Ginn, Heisman Candidate? No sale!
For all the hype surrounding Ginn, it's worth noting that he only caught 25 passes last year and a good number of those were screens or short, simple routes. Ginn has yet to display any route-running acumen, ability to adjust to a deep ball in flight, or sticky hands. The jury is still out. Sure, the jury's probably going to come back and say OMG TED GINN IS FAST, but I'm just saying: he's not the best receiver in the conference yet.
And maybe this fits into the "duh" category, but...
This is the best linebacker corps in the country and it isn't particularly close.
... even if that Posluszny guy somehow ganked the Butkus.
Disheartening Idiocy: At least I have a lot of company in this particular edition of Misjudge the Quarterback Badly:
Without drastic improvement, Smith is an erratic thrower prone to poor decisions who's a good runner. This makes you walk on water against Michigan and the Keystone Klinebackers, but it does not imply success against other teams. Ohio State's offense was terrible last year, and Troy Smith was a major reason why. This is not a strength.
Stupid, stupid, stupid me and my big mouth. In retrospect, this was a big flashing "SMITE ME, INEFFABLE GOD" sign:
I'll believe Troy Smith, Actual Quarterback when I see it more than once.
Yeah. Seen it. Now I officially say "I'll believe Troy Smith, guy who takes money from boosters and is not allowed to play when I see it more than once." Make it happen, big guy.
Overall: Another prediction that was humming along smoothly at midseason before collapsing down the stretch. The Ohio State offense consisted mostly of quarterback draws in the game against Texas and the Buckeyes lost an ugly defensive struggle against Penn State. Then they started murdering a collection of horrific defenses (seriously, check it out: after the Penn State game the best defense OSU opposed--by far--was Michigan's. Yeah). The offensed reached near-Irish levels of probably unjustified media slobbering and Michigan imploded, taking my prediction with it. Still, one game off in the great scheme of things, a fairly accurate picture of the team aside from that whole Troy Smith thing, and early debunking of the national-title contender and Heisman candidate Ginn thing... not too bad.
Part III (Michigan) coming soon.
Update 1/23: Removed OT Sam Young(ND), LB Thaddeus Gibson(OSU), RB William Griffin(with Minor's commitment there's no room at the inn for RBs). Moved RB Brandon Minor to committed. Linked to Steve Schilling article and Dallas Morning News blog entry(!) on TX QB Nick Stephens.
Editorial Opinion: The blog entry has this hilarious little passage:
I 'm not one to read between the lines, especially when it comes to recruiting, but he did tell me: "I'm a Southern guy."
I'm not one to make fun of professional media people, but ha ha usuxor. It also says that a decision could come as soon as tonight.
You probably heard about Young; Gibson was discussed in this space earlier, and Minor got a big ol' post on Friday. Gibson is not a big loss to the recruiting class what with the four linebackers already committed, but losing Young means we're battling home-state schools and USC for Steve Schilling and Daron Rose... um... bad.