DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE.
- TE Jake Butt. Mackey win might have been a career award but it was warranted in that context. Sure handed, huge catching radius threat. Blocking indifferent. Butt will be missed by more than last name aficionados. 69% catch rate is nuts. He's off to the second round of the draft unless people are spooked by a bowl-game ACL tear.
- WR Amara Darboh. Delivered on Jim Harbaugh's assertions that he was Michigan's best receiver with an All Big Ten year. Still left you wanting a bit more, though, as he had multiple opportunities to bail Wilton Speight out of iffy throws and took few of them during Michigan's unfortunate finish.
- RT Erik Magnuson. Quiet, steady performer at tackle. Was never a star and I'm a little dubious of people projecting him on day two in the draft, but if Michigan had five Erik Magnusons the year ends very differently. Alas.
- WR Jehu Chesson. Never recaptured his stellar late 2015 form as a senior. Still moderately productive, but only that. Speed did not translate into downfield production, or even many targets. Those went to Darboh, with iffy success.
- RB De'Veon Smith. Workhorse back had solid season. Detractors will point to middling YPC (4.7) relative to the rest of the platoon; this is unfair since Smith got all the short yardage work and was often making yards on his own just to get to that number. Pass protection dipped in senior year.
- LT Ben Braden. Pressed into service at left tackle after Grant Newsome's injury, where he was neither as bad as expected nor actually good. Reduced his tendency to lean on guys as his career went on but never fully excised that from his game. Draft chatter minimal, understandably.
- RG Kyle Kalis. Promising start to senior season submarined by a recurrence of mental errors and then just straight up getting crushed by top-level interior pass rushers. Extravagantly whipped by Jaleel Johnson, Nick Bosa, and DeMarcus Walker in Michigan's losses. I will never say "it can't get worse" in reference to a Michigan offensive line again, but Kalis seems eminently replaceable.
- RB/QB Jabrill Peppers. Offensive output was minimal after wildcat QB business was diagnosed. Effective decoy mostly.
- QB Shane Morris. Never found playing time and is taking a grad transfer.
- OL David Dawson. Announced a grad transfer even before spring practice, further emphasizing how thin Michigan was on the OL this year: either he or the coaches didn't think he had any shot at a job this fall.
- OL Mason Cole. Move to center went relatively well, though I was less into him than PFF was. Had difficulty moving large nose tackle types and didn't get to do much operating in space, oddly. Pass protection was very good once he was removed from edge types, and I might be expecting to much. He had an NFL decision to make at a spot that usually doesn't see a ton of guys go.
- QB Wilton Speight. Debut season was solid statistically: 7.7 YPA, 62% completions, 18-7 TD-INT, third in the Big Ten in passer rating, 29th passing O in S&P+. Michigan's sack rate allowed was pretty good (27th) largely because of Speight's excellent pocket presence. Late wobbles leave the door open a crack for Brandon Peters.
- The rest of the running back platoon. Chris Evans will headline after the bowl game touchdown; Ty Isaac and Karan Higdon also had their moments. Evans is a jittery speedster who promises to hit the home runs Smith could not. Higdon will probably pick up most of the mooseback work since he's a low-to-the-ground guy who runs behinds his pads, as they say. Isaac's never had it click, really, but played well in relatively limited opportunities last year.
- OL Ben Bredeson. Flat out bad most of the year, because he was a true freshman. Should get a lot better, whether it's at guard or tackle. Honestly we should just forget about this season entirely when it comes to projecting him down the road.
- FBs Henry Poggi and Khalid Hill. FB duo was quite a dichotomy. Hill led the team in touchdowns and paved various players on spectacular edge two-for-one blocks while catching 89% of the balls that came his way. Poggi was not the threat as a receiver or runner and was substantially below average as a blocker. Despite this the two FBs split time about down the middle.
- Kaiju. Devin Asiasi and Tyrone Wheatley Jr were mostly blockers. Both were up and down, as freshmen tend to be, flashing A+ power while occasionally falling off dudes. They were not targeted often but made the most of their opportunities. With Butt's absence Michigan will rely more heavily on both; the potential for a Leap from one or both entices.
- TE Ian Bunting. Looked like Butt 2.0 on a slick seam catch in the bowl game, and also looked like Butt 2.0 when he gave up a comically easy sack a few plays later. Previous bullet makes his role in the offense somewhat in question
- (Probably) WR Grant Perry. Legal troubles probably get pled down to misdemeanors and allow him to stay on the team. Slippery slot receiver will have a role if still around.
- RB Drake Johnson. Star-crossed running back lost last season to a forklift accident and will apply for a sixth year. Fast straight-line runner who will find a role.
- OL Juwann Bushell-Beatty. Temporarily the LT after Newsome left. Displaced after struggling mightily.
WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY
Bredeson is a returning starter, sort of[Fuller]
Basically the whole offensive line. For purposes of this bullet we're pretending freshman Ben Bredeson and not freshman Ben Bredeson are different people, because we need that to be the case. Michigan needs to replace three starters and get a transformation from the aforementioned; this is a lot of turnover. Mike Onwenu is penciled in at right guard and unlikely to be dislodged by anything short of a supernova; Bredeson will start somewhere. Cole exists. The other two spots are anyone's guess.
Ditto the receivers. Michigan got some good blocking, one bad drop, and one badass catch from Kekoa Crawford this year; Eddie McDoom took a bunch of jet sweeps and had one nice slant catch; Drake Harris was targeted deep several times, all of those incompletions except for one sweet catch invalidated by an unnecessary offensive pass interference call. That is the sum total of returning experience for the WR corps.
Tight ends in a post-Butt world. Ton of potential at the spot; probably fine; need to see that potential develop.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 1977
Probably Wilton Speight. Speight's 2016 did not have the clear takeoff narrative that Jake Rudock did. He was great for a couple games early, then bad, then indifferent, then awesome after the bye week until he turned into a pumpkin a third of the way through Iowa. He was terrific against Ohio State despite an injury that seemed to prevent him from throwing it downfield whatsoever... except for two turnovers 100% on him that lost the game. He gets an incomplete for the Orange Bowl since every time he dropped back he was beset by hounds instantly.
It would be much easier to draw an upward arrow if he'd packed the bad stuff in early and then got a lot better; unfortunately that is not the case. I'm still a Speight optimist for three reasons:
- Harbaugh. This should be self-explanatory but if you need a refresher here's the QB season preview.
- Speight seems to have the hardest thing down: pocket presence. His ability to turn garbage into first downs is exceptional for a guy his size.
- His good periods came after an opportunity to take a breather and focus on the things Harbaugh was coaching him to do. Speight was hot at the beginning of the season, after the bye, and after he missed the Indiana game. As we go along here he should be more that guy than the one who forgot and reverted to high school/Borges stuff when the heat got turned up.
Also, redshirt sophomores generally get better. It's not a big step from where he's currently at to an All Big Ten type season.
The three to five horsemen. I really like Chris Evans and Karan Higdon, and with Johnson, Isaac, Kareem Walker, and O'Maury Samuels also available this looks set to be a very deep and good running back crew. It may lack the out and out star that Najee Harris would have provided; I'm not stressing about the ballcarriers not getting what they should. All three returners graded significantly positively on PFF (relative to workload).
Blocky/catchy blocking. If one or both Kaiju takes a Williams-esque step forward and Hill gets most of the fullback work, Michigan's ability to generate yards off tackle will take a big step forward. Butt was an excellent player overall; he was average-at-best as a blocker.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 2017
Newsome's injury recover is critical [Bill Rapai]
Tackle. Hoke's OL recruiting was, in a word, disastrous. Michigan enters 2017 with exactly one Hoke-recruited OT: Bushell-Beatty. That means Michigan will have to do two of the following:
- Get Grant Newsome back from a terrifying injury that kept him in the hospital for over a month. (FWIW, there's been some chatter that Newsome's injury doesn't have an unusually lengthy prognosis despite the hospital stay.)
- Move Mason Cole back to the tackle spot he couldn't pass protect at.
- Move Ben Bredeson out to tackle, where he might have the same issues Cole does.
- Start Bushell-Beatty, who got beat up by Rutgers last year.
- Start Nolan Ulizio, a low-rated redshirt sophomore.
- Start a true freshman.
Two of those options might work out really well. But probably not.
WHAT'S HEISENBERG ROD STEWART UNCERTAINTY
The guys on the end of Speight passes. Young receivers are usually bad. Of late, however, you're seeing a couple guys a year break through as true freshmen. Michigan has a couple of candidates in the 2017 class. Both Tarik Black and Donovan Peoples-Jones enrolled early, and both seem like sharp guys who will pick up the offense quickly. Add those guys to the McDoom/Crawford/Johnson troika that the coaching staff is high on and Drake Harris and it's not too hard to see Michigan being at least as good as they were this year.
Or they could be first-and-second year guys and run into each other on the regular. Ask again later.
Meanwhile, Michigan has a solid candidate to do Butt stuff in Ian Bunting. Still a difficult ask for anyone to live up to Butt's ability to reel in anything in his area.
The interior OL. At guard, a dropoff is unlikely from a true freshman and a guy who ended up –12 on the season per PFF. Michigan needs to do much more than tread water, though. Mike Onwenu is a unique prospect at one spot, and Bredeson will either be a lot better... or playing tackle, and then the other guard spot is a series of question marks. Cole stabilizes; whether or not these guys are any good is still very much an open question.
The Pep effect. Is Pep Hamilton an upgrade on Jedd Fisch? Does it even matter when Harbaugh's running things?
MANDATORY WILD ASS GUESS
Another mediocre season is in the offing unless Michigan gets a Christmas miracle an the offensive line that will probably feature one upperclassman and is 50/50 to sport another true freshman. That is a tough hill to climb for anyone. The skill positions should be good but are likely a year away from being able to offer win-games-on-our-own help—again Michigan is all but devoid of upperclassmen.
A projected Speight uptick is the main reason for optimism; it's asking a lot of him to be Andrew Luck in an environment where he's going to be running away an awful lot.
The good news is good news about 2018, when Michigan loses only a few projected contributors: Mason Cole, the fullbacks, Drake Johnson, and Ty Isaac. Whatever they find this year will enter 2018 just about unscathed.
Donovan Peoples-Jones, Jaylen Kelly-Powell, and Ambry Thomas are no strangers to being featured in Future Blue Originals posts; David and I scouted October’s Cass-King PSL playoff game, and Ace, David, and I took in King’s game against Southfield A&T in the Prep Kickoff Classic. With Michigan losing their top two outside receivers, Peppers at SAM, and Lewis and Stribling at corner, it seemed like the time to take another look at the three Cass and King commits that have a shot at seeing the field for Michigan in 2017.
I headed back to the Youtube mine to find another complete game film chock-full of Michigan prospects. This time we’ll take a look at the regular-season meeting between Cass Tech and King, which was played in early October on Cass’s weather-beaten field; you’ll see the sloppy field conditions come into play multiple times throughout, though not to the point where we’re unable to get a good feel for the incoming freshmen’s strengths and weaknesses. A quick aside: I’ve had this tab open since the video was posted, and in that time Mike James has uploaded more full games that would very much be of interest to Michigan fans.
[Hit THE JUMP for the scouting reports]
Kipper Nichols entered tonight's game with season totals of two field goals and two offensive rebounds in 18 minutes played.
Against Michigan, the Illinois freshman scored 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting and pulled down five offensive boards, one more than the Wolverines had as a team. Center Maverick Morgan, who averages 9.4 points per game, had 12 at halftime. At that point, the Illini were 20-for-32 from the field and had rebounded half of their missed shots; Michigan was shooting 64% and losing by 13. The second half played out in similar fashion, with Illinois stretching the lead out to 20 on four separate occasions before easing up late.
I've found the questioning of John Beilein's job security to be somewhere between reactionary and absurd for much of this season. With the defense looking unfixable even after the offseason hire of Billy Donlon, however, it's time to at least bring up the discussion, one that will only grow louder if the team continues to resemble the one that sleepwalked through tonight's game. It's a shocking development for a coach who resurrected the program, made a national title game, and won his second Big Ten title only three years ago. Beilein's offensive prowess is unquestionable; his recruiting and defensive coaching may lead to a change sooner than anyone could've reasonably expected not so long ago.
#39 Michigan (11-5, 1-2 B1G) at
#71 Illinois (11-5, 1-2 B1G)
|WHEN||9 pm ET, Wednesday|
Illinois -1 (KenPom)
Michigan -2 (Bovada)
PBP: Kevin Kugler
Analyst: Seth Davis
Right: Tracy Abrams, who's still playing for Illinois, guarding a sophomore Tim Hardaway Jr. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
As mentioned in yesterday's Basketbullets, Michigan is already edging towards "must-win" territory in games like this if they want to make the tournament.
This may go into the feelingsball realm, but Michigan has to play with a sense of urgency—especially on defense, where M's effort level seems to directly correlate with their success—that will match that of their opponent. Illinois is in virtually the same position; both teams are 1-2 in the Big Ten and among the last four teams to make the Bracket Matrix field. The Illini desperately need this home win. The Wolverines desperately need their first true road win of the season.
Both KenPom (Illinois -1) and Bovada (Michigan -2) have this as a virtual toss-up. While I hate myself for typing this, the team that plays like they want it the most should be the one that maintains their tenuous grasp on a tourney spot for at least another few days.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||13||Tracy Abrams||Gr.||6'2, 185||66||20||111||No|
|Robbie Hummel, Guard Edition. Learned how to shoot while hurt, somehow.|
|G||5||Jalen Coleman-Lands||So.||6'3, 190||63||17||98||No|
|Just A Shooter™ beginning to heat up after a rough start to season.|
|G||21||Malcolm Hill||Sr.||6'6, 225||81||27||119||No|
|High-usage and efficient, versatile scorer. Draws a ton of fouls.|
|F||12||Leron Black||So.||6'7, 220||44||24||106||Very|
|Excellent rebounder on both ends. Decent finisher who gets to line.|
|C||33||Mike Thorne||Gr.||6'11, 280||37||20||105||Very|
|Decent rebounder, good finisher, bad FT shooter, not a rim protector despite size.|
|F||43||Michael Finke||So.||6'10, 230||51||18||101||No|
|Stretch four with career 52/36/64 shooting splits. Good offensive rebounder.|
|C||22||Maverick Morgan||Sr.||6'10, 245||43||20||107||Very|
|Good finisher and shot-blocker, not much of a rebounder.|
|G||1||Jaylon Tate||Sr.||6'3, 170||50||15||92||Yes|
|6-for-56 on threes in career, so he'll probably hit four of them tonight.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Orange Bowl grading. The PFF takes will not surprise you:
Michigan’s offense was completely overmatched against the Seminoles’ dominant front-seven, and the Wolverines earned well below-average grades for team run blocking and team pass protection. All five offensive linemen, fullbacks Khalid Hill and Henry Poggi and tight ends Ian Bunting and Tyrone Wheatley all earned below-average run-blocking grades
Woooooof. It is a good thing that Drevno has a track record that allows him to deflect most of that to the previous regime, but even with that track record I can see a bunch of discontent popping up next year when he's (probably) starting a true freshman again. Why does every departing coach at Michigan have to leave a ticking timebomb on the OL? This is three straight:
- Lloyd Carr's last team dug Alex Mitchell out of retirement so he could get rolled like everyone else against OSU and gave Rich Rodriguez seven scholarship OL.
- Rich Rod had a recruiting class with one OL, who was medicaled after a year. The next one saw him bring in an OG who quit football a week into fall camp.
- Hoke at least tried, but his 6-OL class looks like it's petering out into zero starters and the numbers after that were far from sufficient.
All the evidence you need about Hoke's OL recruiting is the projected number of Hoke-era OL who will be starters in Harbaugh year three: one.
Anyway, the defense was terrific. So hooray.
Draft in or out: mostly out. NFL decisions for 2017 Michigan opponents are rolling in. Gentlemen who are headed for the draft:
- Florida: LB Alex Anzalone, DT Caleb Brantley, CB Teez Tabor, CB Quincy Wilson
- OSU: WR Noah Brown(?!), RB/WR Curtis Samuel, CB Gareon Conley, S Malik Hooker, LB Raekwon McMillan
- PSU: WR Chris Godwin, DE Garrett Sickels, LB Nyeem Wartman-White
- MSU: DT Malik McDowell, S Montae Nicholson
- Northwestern: LB Anthony Walker
- Wisconsin: LB TJ Watt, OT Ryan Ramcyzk
- Indiana: LB Marcus Oliver(?!), RB Devine Redding(!?!)
JT Barrett, Jason Cabinda, and Josey Jewell have announced returns. Michigan got good news from Mason Cole and Maurice Hurst and less good news from Jabrill Peppers; OSU is also expected to lose CB Marshon Lattimore.
Draft stock, meanwhile. Taco Charlton has cracked a couple of first-round mock drafts to pay attention to. PFF has him 29th:
Charlton was having a strong season then took his game to a new level down the stretch, grading as our No. 4 edge defender from Week 9 through the end of the season. He was strong against the run and disruptive as a pass-rusher, picking up eight sacks, 10 hits and 32 hurries on only 251 rushes, and his two-year production is among the best in the nation.
Meanwhile Todd McShay shot him all the way up to 13th:
Charlton finished the season on a tear, compiling 10 sacks in his final 10 games. He has always had the raw ability, but this season, he showed more consistency and refined technique. Charlton has the ability to be an edge defender in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme in the NFL.
He was 26th in late December. Peppers is still 8th to McShay; PFF has him a late first-rounder. Lewis is hanging around the middle of the first round, usually.
Coordinator lockdown. Michigan is going to lose coaches on a regular basis, because Harbaugh. They've set out to lock down their coordinators, though. Don Brown got a five year, $1.5 million deal that is certainly unprecedented for a Michigan assistant coach and may be unprecedented nationwide. I don't think I've ever heard of an assistant getting a five year deal.
Soon after, Tim Drevno got a five year, $1 million deal. Drevno might leave for a head coaching job at some point, but if it's not a P5 gig he'll be taking a paycut.
Rumors that Ty Wheatley might be a candidate at WMU seem to have petered out, FWIW.
Making football more like debate. Nate Silver did things approximately as nerdy as I did in high school, and they even had similar tournament formats:
The solution that debate tournaments devised is something called power-pairing. Power-pairing just means that teams with the same record are paired off against each other, so that a team that starts off the tournament 2-0 will face off against another 2-0 team, for instance. It usually works by drawing the first two rounds of a tournament at random,1 and after that, everything is power-paired.
This turns out to be a surprisingly elegant solution. It helps to make the matchups relatively even, which not only helps students to learn more but also usually tells you more in determining the best teams. Furthermore, the pairings are somewhat self-correcting. Suppose a good team happens to randomly draw very tough opponents in its first two rounds and gets off to an 0-2 start. They’ll receive some compensation by being paired with easier opponents the rest of the way out — an 0-2 team and then a 1-2 team, and so forth. As another bonus to this system, the best teams are put through the gantlet and really earn their keep. A team that finishes its tournament undefeated or with just one loss will have beaten a lot of very good teams along the way.
They also did this at quiz bowl tournaments. Silver proposes a radical reshaping of Big Ten play in which each team gets three rivalry games, a couple early-season games scheduled by the previous year's standings, and then four "flex" matchups based on current standings. He's honed it fairly well:
- You know whether you're home or away in the flex weeks.
- Three rivalry weeks is enough to satisfy anyone.
- The flex matchups make late season games more meaningful.
An example of the latter point:
In our simulated season, Penn State played (and defeated) Wisconsin, Nebraska and Illinois, a decent group of opponents whom they didn’t play in the actual regular season, but skipped games against mediocre Indiana, Purdue and Rutgers, whom they pointlessly faced in real life.
This site has railed against 14-team conferences and plead for dynamic scheduling since their inception. To me the uptick in meaningful games and much more meaningful result is worth disrupting the hallowed season-ending rivalry weekend, but I understand if that's a bridge too far for you. I'm in, though.
BONUS reminder: this is the best way to do Big Ten basketball scheduling:
19 game conference schedule.
PHASE 1: round robin.
PHASE 2: line is drawn between 7th and 8th teams in the league. Mini-leagues subsequently play round-robin.
That would be killer, man.
Oh man... oh man. Here's this!
I'm trying to think of a less appreciated Tennessee assistant football coach than Mike DeBord.
Still ... OK, I give up.
This is a guy named John Adams. He is a newspaper columnist engaging in such 1990s classics as "talking down to his readers" and "using points and yards per game," so he's a natural DeBord ally. Hell, he's still using 1990s offenses as benchmarks.
In fact, DeBord proved to be one of Jones' best hires. In his first season, he revived UT's running game, which averaged 223.7 yards per game, second in the SEC. This past season, the Vols averaged 36.4 points and 443.7 yards per game.
In 1997, with senior All-American Peyton Manning at quarterback and offensive guru David Cutcliffe calling the shots, the Vols averaged 34.3 points and 482.8 yards per game.
This will be news to Adams, Debord, and Baby Spice, but it's no longer 1997. Tennessee's offense finished 28th in S&P+, which is almost perfectly mediocre in a metric that adjusts for strength of schedule. There is a reason DeBord moved to Indiana and not up the P5 ladder.
Walker is still extant. Kareem Walker had a rough start but seems to have evened things out:
"I got a 3.0 this semester," Walker said with a smile. "At Michigan. That was like 'wow." That felt good. I worked hard for that.
"(Harbaugh) hasn't seen (the report card) yet, but I told him I about a grade I got (a while back). I had to leave practice one day for a paper and I ended up getting a B+ on that. I told him about that grade. He liked it."
There are going to be a ton of early enrollees and even so the most fascinating guy to hear about and see will probably be Walker. He was brought up unprompted by various people during bowl practices as a guy to watch, and he's a talented dude.
What went down at Minnesota. The abortive boycott after ten players were suspended in the wake of a sexual assault investigation looked terrible, and looked worse after the Title IX report was released. Tracy Claeys got fired in its wake. If you're wondering what those guys were thinking, the Pioneer Press has an extensive interview with DE Gaelin Elmore:
PP: But at any point, when Coyle comes in to explain the suspensions, did anyone think, well, he’s the AD, he knows what he’s doing?
GE: No, because his answers made it seem like he had no idea. And it was like, you’re the AD, you did this; how do you not know enough? That’s when a lot of guys were like, ‘This isn’t right.’ We had no idea. (The suspensions) came out of nowhere. If someone just has a conversation with us before (the suspensions) happen, says, “You know what? This is a Title IX, EOAA investigation, it’s really out of our hands; we’re going to suspend the guys until it’s clear,” we’d have been fine. Or even when it was released to the public, at least tell the public the kids were suspended based on the investigation that has been ongoing since Sept. 2. If that’s said, (the boycott) doesn’t happen. But none of that happened, and our team felt we had no other option.
Bad decisions with low information from the team and a Dave Brandon Classic mismanagement of the public relations from the Minnesota AD. I'm a bit surprised that PJ Fleck decided to jump into that business feet-first, but then again he is crazy.
Let's patch holes in this boat that's already on the bottom. What's worse than not enforcing any of your actual rules? Making up new ones to seem virtuous.
One of the buzz words from Tuesday's NCAA recruiting seminar is: IAWP. As part of recruiting reform, the NCAA has proposed during a two-year period before a recruit's anticipated enrollment and a two-year period after the recruit's enrollment, an institution shall not employ individuals associated with a prospect (IAWP) in a non-coaching staff position.
Harbaugh's done this three times, hiring Gwen Bush, Chris Partridge, and Devin Bush Sr. All three of these people are good, and qualified for, the jobs they now have. Meanwhile half the SEC signees are getting paid. What's the point of restricting possibly dubious transactions when you are utterly incapable of enforcing the rules already on the books? Ugh. Amateurism is the worst.
Speaking of, here is a NYT article surveying CFB players on how they spend their stipends:
When the full-cost-of-attendance stipends were approved two years ago, there was worry among some college administrators that athletes would waste the money on frivolous purchases. But Georgia running back Nick Chubb said he saves his money every month, and his teammate Jeb Blazevich said he was surprised to learn how many Bulldogs send the money home to their families as soon as they receive it.
“That blew me away,” said Blazevich, a tight end from Charlotte, N.C. “That’s the thing that got me to love this team so well, just seeing these guys’ heart and sending the stipend home. These guys are good guys, and they want to do well by their family.”
Paternalistic concerns about How The Youth Will Spend Their Money are the worst arguments in favor of the current system. If they waste it all they're no worse off than they are now.
Etc.: What do you have to do to get ejected from a Philly press box? You can find out here. Rumors that Michigan-Florida might get moved to Sunday are unlikely to amount to anything. Spencer on the title game and the Rose Bowl. Smart Football on that power read pitch both teams were running in the championship game.
Bracket Watch: Getting Late Early
Regarding NCAA hopes, Michigan is backed into a corner. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
After taking only one of three winnable games to start Big Ten play, Michigan has put themselves squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble, and it will be difficult to recover from many more slip-ups.
Michigan is one of the last four at-large teams to make the field in the Bracket Matrix, which is updated as of last night. Of the 28 brackets that were updated yesterday, the Wolverines make only 11. As SI's Michael Beller points out in his first edition of Bubble Watch, they've left themselves with little room for error:
Michigan (11–5, 1–2) is in a similar spot [as Northwestern], without the pent-up frustration of never having made the tournament. The Wolverines did their best work to date out of conference, knocking off SMU and Marquette. But they’ve already lost to Iowa and Maryland in league play and are just 2–4 against likely or potential at-large teams. Michigan is not going to be the brand of team that can afford too many losses to teams without at-large hopes, which may end up describing both of their opponents this week, Illinois (11–5, 1–2) and Nebraska (9–7, 3–1).
That home game against Nebraska is as close to a must-win as you'll get at this point in the year. In addition to tomorrow night's game in Champaign, Michigan gets Illinois at Crisler next Saturday, and a sweep of the Illini would be of significant help; they're the last at-large team in the field on the Bracket Matrix.
Michigan needs to turn it around now because their conference schedule is brutally backloaded. They're favored on KenPom in five of their next eight games and underdogs in five of their last seven; incidentally, five of the next eight are at home and five of the last seven are on the road. Because of the number of coin-flip (or close) games, KenPom currently projects Michigan to finish 9-9 in conference, which would likely put them right on the bubble with a little work to do in the conference tournament. As esteemed Maize Rager and numbers-cruncher Crisler Spidey points out, however, 8-10 is currently more likely than 10-8:
Yikes. 9-9 is now the median at 21%, and 8-10 is more likely than 10-8. Remember what I just said about exceeding expectations? That's because these are the current expectations. The Wolverines have a huge week coming up with a road game against fellow "First Four Out" team Illinois, followed by a home game against conference wild card Nebraska. I really think they need to win both to stay alive. Kenpom claims they have a 38.2% chance of winning both. There have certainly been flashes of greatness from this Michigan team, but they have yet to piece it all together for 40 minutes since the 2k Classic. Now would be an excellent time for the proverbial light to go on.
[Hit THE JUMP for some less depressing stuff, I promise.]