Nate Mason [Brad Rempel – USA Today]
After deciding to fire Tubby Smith after an underwhelming six years in the Twin Cities, Minnesota decided to go in a different direction with their next coach; Richard Pitino does have a famous basketball name, but he was very young, enthusiastic, and inexperienced when he got the Minnesota job – he’d only been a head coach for one season. It was a bold gamble and so far, it hasn’t worked out. In his first season (2013-14) at the helm, the Gophers barely missed the NCAA Tournament and their record slipped a little bit the next season, but Minnesota was at least a decent team.
The bottom fell out last season. In the month of November, Minnesota went 5-2 without any bad losses (and they even had a pretty good win over Clemson), but they were absolutely terrible for the rest of the season, posting a record of 3-21 after the calendar flipped to December. It took them until the 14th game of conference play to get their first win, upsetting Maryland at home in what was perhaps the most surprising result in all of Big Ten play last season. After a few key suspensions late in the season, they finished the year with a 23-point loss to Rutgers (who was previously winless in the Big Ten) and a 33-point defeat to Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament.
Usually by the time a coach gets to his third season in a new job, the program is pretty much his; holdovers from Tubby helped Pitino early on, but once the personnel was mostly recruited by him, the Gophers had a major slide. He retained his job and has a surprisingly high buyout, but unless last year was an extreme aberration, the long-term prognosis doesn’t look good. To be fair, they were a young team last season and there are signs of hope – junior guard Nate Mason is the best player Pitino brought in, Jordan Murphy was a pleasant surprise last year as a freshman, there are good transfers and a good recruiting class coming in, etc. – but there will need to be progress or Minnesota will be looking for a new coach fairly soon.
[More on the Gophers after the JUMP]
10/22/2016 – Michigan 41, Illinois 8 – 7-0, 4-0 Big Ten
viscera cleanup crews are on overtime [Eric Upchurch]
Dear reader, it turns out there is a downside to Michigan hog-walloping every team they play. You see, when every game resembles Brock Lesnar versus a toddler the emotional import is rather muted. Michigan was always going to put it on Illinois and their third-string quarterback. They scored four straight touchdowns to open the game and cruised home; I spent three quarters of the game wincing when Michigan players required attention from the medical staff, very much ready to hit the fast-forward button.
This is a difficult column-writing environment. Sometimes you get a gift like Jabrill Peppers annihilating some poor staffer on the sideline. Sometimes there's a 41-8 game that doesn't even cover the spread and Peppers has the temerity to fair catch punts in the third quarter as Michigan Stadium groans because we haven't seen nearly enough comical explosions to sate our greedy little hearts.
So I must confess, dear reader, that I do not have a grand overarching theme to offer you. We're past the point when we can say "boy, it is nice to blow out a team you are supposed to blow out"; I already wrote that one. I already wrote the one about how this looks like a historically good defense. I already wrote the one that looked back at the Brady Hoke and Dave Brandon mess, which was two years ago and feels like two hundred. I already wrote the one about how Michigan broke the opposition's spirit, and the one about how we're crabby crabs looking for any flaw because of the roadblock at the end of the season. I submit to you that I have mined all available angles when Michigan lives up to expectations, especially when those expectations are of the steamroller-versus-bag-of-Cheetos variety.
So here we are, looking at each other, waiting for me to say something.
this column must wait [Bryan Fuller]
There is a column I have yet to write, but cannot write yet: Wilton Speight as Jake Rudock. Like Rudock, Speight scuffled through much of the first half of the season. Like Rudock, Speight had a eye-catching game featuring many daggers against a bad defense. I want to point at Rudock's exponential improvement and say yes that for Speight right now we all saw it, but one game against Illinois is insufficient evidence. One game against Michigan State, a team currently ranked worse than EMU by various fancy stats, is also probably insufficient evidence.
But two weeks is better than one, and three better still, and I was struck by Speight's comments after the game on what he did on the bye week:
“I watched all of the six games, every snap, and just took a lot of notes on what glaringly needed to be better and also little things. So being able to throw with guys like Grant [Perry], Jehu [Chesson], in our time off—you know, we didn’t have the couple hour practice with pads on and everything but we were still able to go out there like we did this summer and throw certain routes. I just wanted to focus on—I can make every throw, in my opinion, but sometimes I was short on passes or when a guy was open I’d miss him. That’s what I wanted to focus on the second half of the season was eliminating that.”
Speight is a guy who almost transferred because he thought Harbaugh would go with a guy he recruited, but stuck it out; he beat out everyone's fave-rave this offseason, and he's held the job without challenge since. Because he works. They all work—this offseason saw a spate of hilarious articles about the QBs trying to slip in work with the WRs without the other guy knowing. Speight works like the rest of Michigan works.
And maybe he is getting there. You can see the war between Jim Harbaugh and Al Borges in his performances: early on, Speight was creepily accurate. Then he got annihilated by Chidobe Awuzie and regressed to old habits. This happened to Devin Gardner early on, as well. He'd start out throwing it like his coaches wanted him to and regress to a high-school pushing motion once he started thinking about guys trying to hit him. Speight was rattled against CU and seemed to have lost the refinements from the offseason; given an opportunity on the bye week he set to regaining them.
So far, so good. More important than the performance against Illinois is the reaction when the coaching staff is jetting around the country trying to lock up recruits. When the cat's away, the mice watch film and run routes.
A more extensive selection at MGoVideo.
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Wilton Speight opened with his traditional terrible first pass. I grumbled to my wife. He was lights out after that, averaging 11 yards an attempt. His performance was even more impressive than the numbers since he suffered a couple drops and Amara Darboh was interfered with on a bomb to the endzone that was dead on. Speight didn't benefit from anything super-long, either. Michigan's longest completion was 33 yards. This is a version of Speight you can win many things with.
#2 Karan Higdon had a 45-yard touchdown late on which he burst past a guy with an angle and then cut back to get the last ten, carrying a DB into the endzone. Consider that even before that he'd gained 61 yards on 7 carries. He slalomed through various blockers and opponents on a trap play on which it looked like the hole wasn't exactly where it was supposed to be and generally looked fast, powerful, and way better than Mike Weber.
#3 Ben Braden had a shockingly smooth transition to left tackle. He led the way on various offset draws and his pass protection was close to impeccable against some tough customers (when they're rushing, at least). The one sack he was charged with was PA on which he didn't have a traditional pass drop; I thought that was more on Speight than Braden. If he can maintain this level of performance Michigan's Newsome issue seems far less daunting.
Honorable mention: The entire defense. They spent so little time on the field and split what stats were available that no individual was able to do as much as the various offensive players. They remain rather good.
7: Jabrill Peppers(T2, Hawaii; #3 UCF, #1 Colorado, #2 Rutgers)
6: Wilton Speight (#1 UCF, #1 Illinois)
5: Ryan Glasgow(#2 UCF, #1 UW).
3: Mike McCray(#1, Hawaii), Ben Gedeon(#3 Colorado, #3 PSU, three-way T1 Rutgers).
2.5: Karan Higdon(four-way T2, PSU, #2 Illinois).
2: Jake Butt(#2 Colorado), Kyle Kalis (#2 UW), Chris Wormley (three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers), Taco Charlton(three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers).
1: Delano Hill (T2, Hawaii), Chris Evans (T3, Hawaii, four-way T2, PSU), Maurice Hurst (three-way T1, PSU), Jourdan Lewis (#3 UW), Devin Asiasi(#3 Rutgers), Ben Braden (#3 Illinois).
0.5: Mason Cole(T3, Hawaii), De'Veon Smith (four-way T2, PSU), Ty Isaac (four-way T2, PSU).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
This is kind of a dumb best thing ever, but TRAIN.
It was more hearing the stadium respond to TRAIN than the actual three-yard touchdown. The vibe around the program now is so fun, and TRAIN is a part of this.
Honorable mention: Most of the rest of the game.
Hawaii: Laughter-inducing Peppers punt return.
UCF: Speight opens his Rex Grossman account.
Colorado: Peppers cashes it in.
PSU: Wormley's sack establishes a theme.
UW: Darboh puts Michigan ahead for good.
Rutgers: Peppers presses "on".
Illinois: TRAIN 2.0.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
Michigan gives up a touchdown on a downfield prayer that Delano Hill misreads.
Honorable mention: Two other big plays by Illinois, many worrying injury moments. .
PREVIOUS EPIC DOUBLE BIRDs
Hawaii: Not Mone again.
UCF: Uh, Dymonte, you may want to either tackle or at least lightly brush that guy.
Colorado: Speight blindsided.
PSU: Clark's noncontact ACL injury.
UW: Newsome joins the ranks of the injured.
Rutgers: you can't call back the Mona Lisa of punt returns, man.
Illinois: They scored a what now? On Michigan? A touchdown?
[After THE JUMP: eh, the usual]
Dymonte Thomas, De’Veon Smith, Wilton Speight
Wilton, a little bit sloppy there in the second half, would you say, and were you a little bit disappointed with that? Not you, but the team.
“Yeah, it starts with me, but yeah, it’s obviously something we need to look at on film and figure out how to not come out with a three-and-out or a turnover here and there and not give the opponent any sense of life. We’ll learn from that and build on that.”
Dymonte, what was going through your mind as you had that interception at the end of the first half?
“First thing that went through my mind is it’s about time. I knew that my teammates—every day they make fun of me: ‘Dymonte, you can’t catch. You don’t have no hands.’ So, after I caught that interception they all said, ‘You know what? I’m gonna let you breathe. I’m gonna let you go. About time you caught it.’ It’s an exciting feeling. I was pretty happy, pretty pumped.”
Dymonte, your team held Illinois without a passing yard in the first half. What was key in doing that, especially against an inexperienced quarterback.
“We just knew we had to bring pressure. He was getting the ball out pretty quick, pretty fast, and we knew that. We just had to tighten up on our coverage and we knew some of the things, their tendencies, on third down they were going to do, short-yardage game. We just made sure that we kept that in perspective and played tight defense and allowed our defensive linemen and linebackers to blitz and create opportunities for us.”
Wilton, I know some of you guys had time off last week, but for you specifically, was there one thing you tried to work on last week or that you wanted to get better at going into the second half here?
“Yeah. So, I watched all of the six games, every snap, and just took a lot of notes on what glaringly needed to be better and also little things. So being able to throw with guys like Grant [Perry], Jehu [Chesson], in our time off—you know, we didn’t have the couple hour practice with pads on and everything but we were still able to go out there like we did this summer and throw certain routes. I just wanted to focus on—I can make every throw, in my opinion, but sometimes I was short on passes or when a guy was open I’d miss him. That’s what I wanted to focus on the second half of the season was eliminating that.”
[More after THE JUMP]
According to The Wolverine's Brandon Brown, Michigan has picked up a commitment from three-star Rhode Island DE Kwity Paye.
— Brandon Brown (@BSB_Wolverine) October 24, 2016
Paye is Michigan's second commit in two days, following four-star PA DT Donovan Jeter, and their 18th overall commit in the class. He had been committed to Boston College, where he'd originally been offered and recruited by Don Brown, but the recent offer and official visit to Ann Arbor changed the course of his recruitment.
I'll have a full Hello post up for Paye this afternoon after the game column.
1 hour and 17 minutes
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starts at 1:00
Higdon is better than Weber. That unstoppable offset draw. Braden at left tackle. Speight puts himself back on the Rudock trajectory. A wild Wheatley touchdown appears.
starts at 22:15
Eh, it was the usual. Hurst bellyrub and the likeability factor, Glasgow running a quarterback out of bounds for no gain. Nitpicks: Metellus suspectedon the Turner catch over Gedeon, Winovich blamed for that one long run, and random chance finally answering a prayer blamed for the TD.
3. Fifteen minutes of giggling over Ohio State
starts at 36:44
This was an upset, but lol: Ohio State has a loss—kick six part of an uncharacteristic special teams meltdown. Barrett shut down as a runner.
4. Talking Big Ten With Jamie Mac
starts at 52:38
Perry Hills: no picks! Funniest part of MSU-Maryland? Eastern Michigan is ahead of Michigan State in S&P+ rankings. Iowa could backdoor cover that 7-win threshold this year with a bowl win. Wisconsin appears to be legit; Nebraska hasn’t really paid anyone. Clayton Thorson: unstoppable throw god 2.0; Austin Carr could have something to do with that. Lagow took the chaos out of chaosteam; their right tackle is a problem spot. Rutgers-Minnesota was an even game. Commissioning Rivalry Trophy for Rutgers-MSU.
- “I Want to Go Back to Michigan”—UM Marching Band
- “I Want to Go Back to Michigan”—Judy Garland
- “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”
- “Across 110th Street”