"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
|WHAT||Michigan vs Rutgers|
Probably New York, NJ
October 4th, 2014
|THE LINE||Rutgers -2|
|TICKETS||Currently 50 bucks|
|WEATHER||clear, 0% chance of rain
low 60s dipping to mid 50s, light winds
Rutgers is probably not real good. They've got quarterback issues up the wazoo, they lost 13-10 to a middling-at-best Penn State, they… uh… beat the team that just beat Utah at home a week after Utah blew Michigan out. I guess I'm sayin' there's a chance. Vegas is saying there's a downright fair chance. It doesn't feel like it, I know, but Gary Nova! Chin up, there's a good boy, let's march into that forest of bayonets like Englishmen.
We've heard nothing about Michigan's crew of walking wounded except some chatter about how the Peppers' injury was either fiction or had something else attached to it—Hoke's explanation that he was not on the sideline because of an injury he'd suffered in practice days prior was extremely weird.
PROBABLY IN: Raymon Taylor, who played last week. Devin Funchess is coping with an ankle thing.
MAYBE: Jarrod Wilson's supposedly on his way back soon.
PROBABLY OUT: Delano Hill, Erik Magnuson, Peppers, Desmond Morgan, Shane Morris.
Run Offense vs Rutgers
Hamilton (91) is the man
This does not appear to be a good matchup for a struggling rush offense after Utah's relatively diminutive line slashed past Michigan's OL far too frequently. Rutgers brings a similar approach to the table, deploying no one over 275 pounds on their DL. Star DT Darius Hamilton is only 255; their SDE is hardly bigger at 260, and they tend to run an under so that is a quasi DT.
Results have been uneven, but with Navy and Howard running triple option systems you have to take those games with a grain of salt when projecting to normies; meanwhile Rutgers has taken on Washington State—currently 125th in overall rushing yardage with under 20 attempts a game—and Penn State—currently 116th, with horrendous OL. They shut both those teams down spectacularly.
Their other game was against Tulane, and the Green Wave cut 'em up pretty good, getting to 152 yards on just 31 carries without bothering to excise sacks. I assume that Tulane is a much better rushing offense than Michigan since they put up 250 on Tulsa and 230 on Duke, albeit in losses, and those are actually okay teams instead of App State and Miami (NTM).
No, it does seem like the closest analogue we have is Penn State…
here's a great play to blow up a run and draw a hold by... some defensive lineman:
Even with the benefit of replay, I can't tell who did that.
The above is representative of what Rutgers did to Penn State's running game. Here's their starting nose tackle, Kenneth Kirksey, annihilating PSU's center so badly Bill Belton's only option is to make a futile effort to get the edge. At first this play looks like a well-timed corner blitz, but the corner shouldn't come into play—Belton can't hit the intended hole because WDE David Milewski got instant penetration up the gut. Rutgers makes up for their undersized front by shooting the gaps hard, and against PSU's line this led to great success.
…and while I think Michigan's OL is better than Penn State I'm not sure.
Michigan has struggled to pick up slants and stunts this year and Rutgers thrives on that; their defense is reminiscent of the Schiano-era Rutgers Ds that seemingly had eleven guys all the same size coming from anywhere. Doubtful Michigan can pick that up.
Michigan's ground game has had two modes this year: clubberation of the worst teams in D-I and massive struggles against anyone else. Michigan has barely poked its head above 3 YPC in games against Notre Dame, Utah, and Minnesota, and it's not like those are all powers. Minnesota gave up nearly 200 yards on the ground to Middle Tennessee State; WSU just about matched Michigan's output when they played (and beat) Utah last week, and WSU is one of the worst rushing teams in the country.
So while it doesn't look as bad as last year most of the time, we've seen enough data that we have to give up the "no seriously it's better give it time" ghost. It's probably not good. Better than we've seen? Maybe if the tailbacks' vision improves, but that seems like a futile hope at the moment.
A possible exception: the one bright spot against Minnesota was De'Veon Smith, who singlehandedly trudged Michigan to their only touchdown with Shane Morris on the field. He got one carry after that, because ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Smith's a bit ponderous with his cuts but does a Hart-like job of lugging people downfield after contact and you think would be in line for more reps after picking up the vast bulk of Michigan's ground yardage on just 9 carries. Given Michigan's personnel decisions to date, you just don't know.
This should be high variance. When and if Michigan can latch onto the little buggers on the defensive line and the Knights' backup MLB does not fit correctly, Michigan will have big avenues to attack. (That they still might ignore, of course.) Rutgers is going to do its best to confuse an easily confused line, though, and that should result in more TFLs. If I had a nickel for every TFL boy Stephen Ross wouldn't be the only guy getting interviewed by the WSJ about this let me tell you…
Key Matchup: Hamilton versus Michigan interior linemen. Hamilton has 6 TFLs already and is by far the most disruptive player on the Rutgers D. Michigan's interior line… is probably better than their tackles?
[Hit THE JUMP for the REST of the PREVIEW]
I'm taking down the office now. [Fuller]
Open letters to people who don't read them isn't exactly productive, but it's useful in a snowflakey kind of way. The MGoPostal service delivered a few of note: JeepinBen gives the next coach the correct answers to the Michigan questions. A guy emailed Schlissel our complaint list about Dave Brandon. A wealthy alum says to Schlissel or whoever that hubris is the problem.
You can read a form reply from the president's office here.
Brandon at least had the courtesy to provide a personal response to a lady canceling her long-held season tickets [UPDATED: this was apparently sent last December].
How to have a happy life. A few diarists looked a the qualities that seem to lead to success in a head coaching change. That first is a look at the coaching histories of Michigan, OSU, Bama, ND and USC with particular attention paid to whether guys with connections to the university had more success (they didn't).
The second starts by making a comparison of Bo to Stoops and goes on to sort out some common threads in other coaching changes. He came upon the same thing I did when trying to identify common threads in successful transitions: whatever side of the ball you don't know, just keep the coordinator from the old regime.
I would have been dead set against it at the time but in retrospect RR perhaps could have saved himself a lot of problems with the old guard by retaining Ron English. Or that could have led to an even bigger explosion when he fired English instead of Shafer for not running a 3-3-5 or getting along with Gibson. But imagine Michigan right now if Hoke had retained Calvin Magee, which we were VERY MUCH hoping for.
[After the jump, profiles of guys for Hoke's job; why head trauma is a thing and wasn't before]
Previously: Rutgers Offense
Very legible uniform numbers, Rutgers.
Penn State's nearly nonfunctional offense managed to just enough to take down Rutgers a few weeks ago, but it certainly wasn't pretty—the Nittany Lions averaged just 2.9 yards per rush (sacks removed) and 6.0 yards per pass (sacks included), and the numbers were even worse than that until a couple big plays late in the game. The Scarlet Knight defense looked formidable, especially up front, and while it's difficult to tell how much of that fell on PSU's inept offensive line... well, you've presumably seen Michigan play football this year.
Once again, let's just try to get through this.
Personnel: I'll post Seth's diagram first, then explain why this could look rather different on Saturday [click to embiggen]:
So, we did our best to project the Rutgers lineup, but it's one very muddled by injuries right now. Starting MIKE Kevin Snyder missed the entire Navy game and most of last week's Tulsa contest with a lower body injury and is listed as questionable for Michigan. Free safety Delon Stephenson is also questionable; if he can't go, redshirt freshman walk-on Andre Hunt must spell him at least for the first half, as last week's starter, Johnathan Aiken, must sit out the first half due to suspension (targeting penalty). The top four corners on the roster all made the injury report, though all are probable save sophomore Anthony Cioffi (questionable).
Even if Rutgers manages to trot out their usual starting lineup, it's doubtful they'll be at 100% strength.
Base Set? 4-3 under. Rutgers did show a few three-man fronts, usually in third-and-very-long situations, and they'll stand up one of their DEs on occasion, giving them the look of a 3-4.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
Where was this last year?
I'd like to ask the question, why has this incident concerning Shane Morris, framed (quite appropriately) around player safety, been treated so much more seriously than say Devin Gardner having played against OSU with a broken foot?
it's an honest question, wondering your perspective, do you think it's because of the poor play on the field now as compared to then (although we are pretty awful no matter when you look at it), but then let's not kid ourselves and exploit the situation anymore than is warranted by the poor leadership failures, or is it people are treating a head injury as much more serious than a foot injury? I think that's true, but foot injury can also harm the student-athlete.
There are two layers of outrage/disgust here that should be separated.
1) There is disgust leveled at Brady Hoke and his program for being disorganized enough to send Morris onto the field. Much of the meta-backlash has focused on this aspect of the problems; they say that if Michigan was 5-0 this wouldn't be a problem, or compare the vastly greater level of attention to this incident than those that followed the Will Gholston a couple years ago and assert this is unfair.
The people in the Michigan community who are angry about this are not determining the media reaction. They are reacting to it. So the Gholston thing is not relevant unless you're asking Good Morning America*. By the time anyone on campus did anything that got on the news this had already blown up into a huge story, and the thing they didn't do is demand Brady Hoke's firing.
The 5-0 thing is also invalid. The shambolic state of the program now seems like the cause of an alarming incident instead of a punt return touchdown. If this happens at Alabama, are people as mad? No. But that is not just because Alabama is successful. It is also because if it happens at Alabama it seems like an aberration instead of a logical conclusion to the things we've seen before. When this happened the initial thought wasn't "I can't believe this happened"; it was "of course this would happen to this program."
And then there's the Brady Hoke Isn't Evil defense, which is an enormous strawman. I haven't seen anyone writing on this suggest that Hoke doesn't care about his players. Literally not one person outside of a message board post from a lunatic or two. It doesn't matter if Hoke is a great dude or not if he can't stay within 16 points of anybody in year four, concussion incident or not.
2) There is outrage leveled at the athletic department for their handling of the PR crisis. This went national quickly. Michigan's response was dishonest and insufficient, then laughably uninformed, then infuriating. Michigan's refusal to forthrightly admit error and lay out how they would set to fixing matters turned a one-day story into a week long debacle. It was only yesterday at 6 PM that an adult stepped in and gave the kind of statement that should have been issued on Saturday night.
The Brand was compromised, and not just the football team. The entire university's image has been through a ringer the past few days. This was unnecessary, and exacerbated by the incompetent handling of the situation by the athletic director.
@mgoblog I know professors in Communication who are already planning on using this as a case study in failure.
— Zach Evans (@dzevans) September 30, 2014
This, too, is a pattern. Michigan used the same playbook for the Gibbons story last year for a weeks-long period of press tension. They learned nothing from that incident, in which simply being honest about why when and how Gibbons was removed from the team turns that into a story about Gibbons and the university disciplinary process instead of the athletic department.
The used the same playbook after the skywriting incident, and were embarrassed when the company sold 'em out; caught red-handed in a lie they waved their hands, and the story went away because only Michigan fans care.
This was utterly predictable to anyone who had been paying attention. This is what they do. It will happen again if Michigan is unfortunate enough to have to handle another story like this. Meanwhile, no big time coach is going to want to sign on to an athletic department that just hung its coach out to dry spectacularly. So the AD has to go.
All of the stuff in bin 2 is not relevant to the above question. The stuff in bin 1 is, and to be clear: this is just another strike for Hoke. If it was strike one, people would cluck and move on. If it was strike three it would be a big deal. Since it's strike 486, it's almost moot.
But anyway: feet heal. Gardner was of sound mind and capable of making decisions about whether to continue or not. Brains, we are rapidly learning, do not heal completely, and immediately after a trauma is an extremely dangerous time.
As a culture we are pretty okay with a guy who walks with a limp. It sucks; it's not a life-ending disaster. We are not okay with Junior Seau. We are not okay with a thing that may cause you to point a shotgun at your chest and pull the trigger not being handled carefully and professionally. I feel this is too obvious to explain but there have been a ton of comments to this effect of late so I explained it.
*[And the Gholston thing at least had the semblance of competence. He was removed. He did not re-enter immediately. The nation did not see him stumble around after a helmet-to-helmet hit and then take a snap. The doctors had time to give him a legitimate examination. It wasn't as visceral.
The nation absolutely should have come down on Dantonio like a ton of bricks for his statement that Gholston "had the wind knocked out of him," but even a couple years ago concussions seemed like much less of a big deal.
In any case, the failure there is not with the response to this incident but the response to the Gholston one, for which MSU should have taken a lot more heat.]
[After THE JUMP: Good stuff Brandon did, Regents basics, a little game theory.]
Kind of a big deal. As of 9 PM Wednesday, this was SI's college football front page:
That is the lead story—a scathing roundtable from three of SI's main CFB writers—and six of the eleven top stories on the sidebar either about the Morris incident or tangential concerns (the OSU attendance thing).
STAPLES: Did Brandon throw Hoke under the bus, run him over, back up and run him over again? Or did he run him over three times? …
RICKMAN: Everyone in a position of power here is most concerned with protecting themselves, so they're passing blame around. "I didn't see it." "We didn't have enough evidence." Hoke's trying to keep his job. Brandon's trying to keep his job. At the crux of it, this is a person we're talking about. A kid who has his whole life ahead of him. And the best we can get out of an athletic department at one of the most prestigious football programs in the country is, "We should have done better."
This is awful on all levels. …
SCHNELL: I’m not going to accuse a coach of knowingly putting a player in danger, but I will say this: People in charge do some desperate things when they think they’re close to losing their jobs. As for Brandon’s role, it’s his athletic department, and the buck stops with him. If he’s going to take responsibility, ultimately, then he needs to hold a press conference and allow questions, not email out a few paragraphs long after most people have gone to sleep. That’s a coward’s way out.
I was not kidding about "scathing."
Speaking of scathing. Stewart Mandel:
I was pretty surprised to wake up Monday morning and find that Brady Hoke hasn't been fired yet. The poor performances are bad enough, but the disregard (and flimsy excuses) for player safety should've been grounds for immediate dismissal. Is there any good reason for having him finish the season? The only thing I can think of is recruiting, but come on. Everyone in the nation knows he's gone after this year.
-- William Daniels, Mt. Morris, Michigan
Well then I can only imagine how surprised you were to wake up Tuesday morning and find out that Shane Morriswas diagnosed with a concussion on Sunday but no one thought to inform the head coach by the following day.
The Morris situation has provided a mind-numbing window into the level of dysfunction within the Michigan athletic department. Hoke’s days were already numbered due to the program’s on-field deterioration into a poster for offensive ineptitude. The only way Hoke’s team is going to a bowl game this year is if there aren’t enough eligible 6-6 teams. The Morris story only intensified the level of outrage surrounding Hoke.
Mandel goes on to say the stuff about 5-0 and we're defending the guy, and I mean… come on. If this happens to a successful coach it is a strike but not one that dooms a regime, and a sizeable majority of the anger in the Michigan fanbase right now is directed at the athletic director for the ham-handed mismanagement everyone is citing.
Additionally in scathing. They asked Don Canham's widow what she thought:
“I just think it’s gone way overboard with the crazy music and Beyonce and Eminem and that sort of thing,” Canham-Keeley said. “I guess he’s trying to cater to the students but it’s obviously not working. For me the pageantry of the football game is the band coming out on the field and the tradition of the drum major.”
“I’ve narrowed it down to fireworks, flyovers and empty seats,” she said.
“To me it’s become a circus, and that’s not what it should be. I’m born and raised in Ann Arbor. I grew up with Michigan football. That’s not—to me—Michigan football.”
She goes into the Beyonce/Eminem stuff and you're like "oh she's just old" and then she immediately cuts to how the students aren't buying it and you're like that's a fantastic point I forgot you were Don Friggin' Canham's wife.
Yet more in scathing. USA Today's Christine Brennan calls for firing everybody:
…at a Monday news conference, Hoke said Morris did not suffer a concussion. He also said that he and Brandon hadn't discussed it.
But, after midnight early Tuesday morning, Brandon released a statement in which he said that Morris had indeed suffered a "probable, mild concussion," whatever that is.
Brandon also said that he had met with "those who were directly involved" since Sunday, which clearly would include Hoke, who of course said he hadn't talked to Brandon about it.
So the two are either not telling the truth or simply incompetent. Or perhaps both.
For Students complaining about $295 season ticket prices, that's about 1/3 price of NFL tickets ... Even bad NFL teams w/ no tradition
They're not just complaining. They're not going. Yelling at them about that doesn't fix the problem. The customer is always right, right? You wanted customers. Now you've got 'em.
The oracle speaks. Detroit media jihadist Jeff Moss likes to get on Wojo for not having strong takes, but the more reasonable you are the more people pay attention to you when you come down from the mountain and say NOPE. Wojo has done so:
Brady Hoke's fate was sealed before Shane Morris wobbled on the field, before the clumsy statements and misstatements, before every media outlet in America leapt on a juicy controversy complete with compelling video.
This is on athletic director Dave Brandon now, and if Hoke should be fired, likely after the season, Brandon should be, too.
That speaks volumes.
Meta-protest. I would like to protest this from Wojo's article, though.
A few hundred fans actually marched onto the lawn of Schlissel's campus house Tuesday night chanting for Brandon's dismissal. There's a mob outrage to this, which is uncomfortable.
It's not a mob until it does something unreasonable. About a thousand people peaceably assembled, talked/shouted at each other, and then dispersed. They wanted to make a point the only way they could, and did.
Actually being there was fun. One guy nearby exclaimed "this is so much better than a home game," and I don't know that he was saying that just because he wasn't watching a football team get its jibblies kicked in at the time. Once a random hero decided to start us all in the direction of the president's house there was more passion on display than these students get to express when Michigan's blasting music at them during every lull.
After, a clearly skeptical media guy came up to me and asked me some nasty questions—"do you think this stunt will hurt Brandon's ability to hire a new coach?" was his leadoff. I was taken aback by "stunt." A stunt is something an organization does for attention. This was the opposite, a movement so grass roots it was literally unorganized.
We want our athletic department back. If it's a mob it's got the most articulated complaints of any mob in history.
Also that guy with a megaphone takes a badass picture. Apparently he's a public policy senior:
Just lookin' at that dude like that is more leadership than Brandon's shown this week. #ThisGuy4AD
I LIKE DAN DAKICH. He had me on his show yesterday after I tweeted something jerky out in frustration at things Mike and Mike and Colin Cowherd were saying, and I appreciate the opportunity for a half hour segment, which you can find here. A couple of clarifications and omissions:
- Dakich thought some of my other examples of Brandon errors were petty, and they were, but that was the point. The things the hypersensitive Michigan fans have been complaining about for the duration of his tenure have come home to roost in a major way. This is how they handle everything, and there's no reason to expect they'll change.
- I don't think I said the Dakich-Burke combo was creepy. I said I was "off to patent a system that turns all color commentary into Dan Dakich hitting on Doris Burke" once; a podcast demanded that "this happens over and over again. GET A ROOM! ON MY TELEVISION!" And I think that's it. For the record, she was totally into him.
- Apparently my level was quite a bit lower than Dakich, so when we talked over each other it was just him. Our conversation felt a lot more even to me on the phone; I thought it was a good back and forth—I've had radio appearances that I thought were unfair (cough **ALBOM** cough); this was not one of them.
- Dakich really is my favorite color guy other than maybe Jay Bilas right now. The reasons he's good at color can make him come off as abrasive, but I'll take that a thousand times over PRIME TIME PLAYER BAYBEEE blather. I mean, there was one time Michigan was playing K-State where Dakich called one of their post guys out for never passing the ball and he never passed the ball. Every time he got a touch we were on the edge of our seat. That's adding to a broadcast.
- I didn't much like the part of the interview that slid into the Guys Like Me From Gary Who Are Adults versus You Guys On The Internet Who Are Beta Males. I have a mortgage, man, and 2005-era blogger cracks are so dated.
Anyway, if he's interested I'll gladly go on any time.
Well… that's not good. Bill Connelly's updated projections foresee this:
- 8-4 or better: 2.1%
- Bowl eligible: 35%
- 4-8 or worse: 33%
Michigan is expected to go 5-7 when all possibilities are jammed together.
And half of this is based on the system that was ranking Michigan 19th before last weekend. It's possible that this is a little grim since we'll probably play Gardner the rest of the way but with Utah losing to WSU it's not like we can even claim the Utes are much good.
Upshot: buy a helmet, and put it on top of your existing helmet. Then dig a bunker under your bunker.
SIDE NOTE: The chance the West winner is 4-4 has dropped to 0.1%. Dagnabit.
Offensive line starts are not particularly indicative, unless you don't have any. Buried in a random Barking Carnival post:
While O-line starts does correlate with stronger offensive performance, it’s not everything. Ohio State is the only team with fewer than 30 O-line starts performing above-average, but they’re well above average, and you don’t have to go much higher before the scatterplot becomes a field of white noise and the trendline levels out.
That said, this chart doesn’t take into account that we’re on a new offensive system and we’ve lost our QB, so the fact that we’re not too far below the trendline for our number of O-line starts is an optimistic takeaway. But honestly it’s not much to hang one’s hat on. If we start playing better, it won’t be just because the players are getting more experience – it’ll be because they’re getting more experience in an effective offensive system.
(Horizontal axis: number of O-line starts at the beginning of the year (Texas is adjusted for current personnel); vertical axis: offensive S&P; and I’m using a power law trendline, to reflect that the difference between 0 & 30 starts should be more impactful than the difference between 90 & 120)
Looks like you're good or not good and OL starts are a very minor factor, what with the random scatter of the plot.
Etc.: The MZone has come back with what's undoubtedly the creepiest post I've ever featured in. Hypothetical AD Rich Rodriguez would have handled this better than Brandon did. I am dead serious about this.
This made Inside Higher Ed, which… okay. Are we in Cat Fancy? I think that's the last outlet that hasn't covered this.
[ED (Seth): We picked up Joe Pichey from MMMGoBluBBQ to share his tailgating recipes, and Stubb's offered to sponsor it. This is one of those things where the BBQ sauce people really liked our blog and the bloggers really liked the BBQ sauce, and we let the insurance companies figure out the rest.]
How about we FIRE up the grill and enjoy a tasty treat. This is one of my new favorite appetizers on gameday and couldn't be easier. We all love onion rings and I have yet to meet anyone that dislikes bacon, so why not combine the 2? You will love the way these take on the smoke flavor and melt in your mouth after a 60 - 90 minute cook. The great thing about this recipe (besides the bacon) is that it can also be done in the oven.
Sweet Yellow Onion
Bacon (Medium Thickness)
Stubbs Pork Rub and BBQ Sauce
Sweet Chili Sauce (Optional)
[See where this is going, after the jump]