please Tiny Jesus, bless this goalie with your holy save percentage
This was a mess for the first 30 games last year, and was so immediately. Michigan blew a two goal lead in the opener, falling to RIT in overtime as Jared Rutledge gave up 5 goals on 26 shots. Four of those goals were somewhere between weak and horrible. Steve Racine backstopped a 7-2 win the next night, and the rotation was on in earnest.
Both struggled; to my eyes, Rutledge was a roving assemblage of holes just waiting to burst open. When he moved across the crease it was like portions of his body just phased out. Racine looked much more solid, but was a little snakebit and had one or two WTF breakdowns per game.
Both guys puttered along with ugly save percentages until a 4-1 loss to Western spurred Red to try the old "put in a 5'6" walk-on to spur the team to greater heights" gambit. Adam Janecyk entered. The team shut out Western the next night, and thus embarked Tiny Jesus Quest 2.0. That, like almost everything else last year, failed. It turns out that there's only one Shawn Hunwick.
Michigan turned back to Rutledge for a pair of wins against utterly inept Michigan State—a team that had bombed him for 7 goals back in November—and a humiliating 13-goals-allowed weekend at Notre Dame before finally, mercifully re-inserting Racine for his first start since December. Racine let in six goals on 60 shots as Michigan swept OSU. The next weekend Michigan held Ferris to two goals in two games. Northern got four. And so forth and so on. By the end of Michigan's somewhat stirring run to the CCHA final, Racine had gone ten straight games without giving up more than three goals and had just about forced his season-long save percentage over .900. His SV% over Michigan's 9-1-1 run to finish the season was .921—very good.
The Difference. Michigan's save percentage the rest of the season was an abominable .873. The difference that would have made:
GOALS ALLOWED, HYPOTHETICAL SEASON-LONG SUCK: 143
GOALS ALLOWED, HYPOTHETICAL RACINE .921: 89
It's kind of a big deal that Steve Racine is the guy he seemed like in the last ten games and not the guy he seemed like in his first 12. Is he? I have no idea. Goalies can go entire NHL seasons without establishing a true performance level. You only get reliable this-guy-can-play data by extending your data over two or three years. Anyone telling you anything about Racine definitively is having you on.
Racine's big, Michigan has a recent pedigree of developing goalies, and the good bit was at the end. If he's not getting jerked around—and he will be allowed to sink or swim until at least midseason—hopefully he's closer to the end bit than the starting bit.
Backups. Rutledge fled back to the USHL for a breather year, and while Michigan is holding the door open they've added Zach Nagelvoort in this class and possible draft pick Hayden Lavigne in the next. The door is open, and crowded, and if Rutledge wants to play I don't think he's coming back.
This year, Nagelvoort is the guy. We've actually got a hello post for him because he committed back in April and there was actual data on him—most hockey commits don't get pub here because the posts on them would consist of "this is his name, that's all I know." Nagelvoort is a lot like Racine, as he had a blazing year-end run after a midseason trade (he was stuck behind another D-I goalie), going 8-1-1 with a SV% of .957. His season-long SV% was .936. He's a flier with very few games under his belt and probably won't play much unless Racine struggles.
While I can't predict the outcome of a few question marks, here are a the things I'm relatively confident I can project:
The give-a-damn level will skyrocket. GAD level started to incline when Copp was installed as the top line center, and now he's got an A. With some less committed folk out the door and JT Compher and Tyler Motte in, Michigan will have one backchecking, two-way, effort player on the ice at all times.
Mac Bennett is going to blow up. A senior with a ton of talent, he'll be given ice time levels rarely seen in Yost Ice Arena. He'll anchor the top pairing and power play, rush the puck with much greater frequency, and be All Big Ten, easy.
Pain and woe will be the watchwords of the second defensive pairing. The third pairing will probably be fine with many options and Mike Szuma holding it down against checking lines. But the options on the second pairing include two mediocre players and two freshmen with decent, but not great, profiles.
The power play will suck. Who's got the talent to run it? I don't see anyone. Last year it was "let Trouba shoot"; this year it's back to the salt mines.
5x5 scoring depth will be good. Michigan won't have a blazing top line that kills all comers but they will be solidly positive as their two-way work helps. The second line should be solidly above average, and they'll get nice production out of Motte or Kyle or Moffatt as you go down the roster. It'll have to be, because only Bennett projects to offer a lot of points from the defense.
This will be a rebound year. Well yeah.
How much of a rebound depends heavily on Racine and the two relatively ready freshmen defensemen. If Racine is a barely-above-.900 guy and Downing and De Jong are better suited to the bottom pairing, it's an NCAA bubble team fighting tooth and nail to get a bid. If Racine is a .920 guy and Downing/De Jong can solidify the top four defensemen, Michigan will cruise into the tournament as a two or strong three.
M did not do themselves many favors with a brutal schedule, and will start off sloppy and shaky. The BC opener, to be played without Guptill, is a Bad Idea, and Michigan's record won't impress too much early. Once they get into the rather easy Big Ten section, they'll win enough games to be a three-seed going into the NCAA tournament.
When we last met, Jeremy Gallon had rocket boots...
...and Devin Gardner made that "run around forever until somebody gets open" thing work out pretty, pretty well:
Also, Jake Ryan single-handedly destroyed a reverse. Get well soon, please.
[For a veritable stampede of GIFs from Minnesota games past, hit THE JUMP.]
|WHAT||Michigan vs Minnesota|
Ann Arbor, MI
|WHEN||3:30 PM Eastern
October 5th, 2013
|THE LINE||M -20|
|TELEVISION||ABC/ESPN2 reverse mirror|
|WEATHER||mostly cloudy, high 70s, scattered showers|
100% confidence in creepy ass subtext.
It was strongly suspected that Minnesota was pretty bad at football this year despite their 4-0 start since they'd gotten outgained by 99 yards against UNLV and 62 yards against San Jose State in wins that looked like blowouts but were far from that. Then the Gophers grind out 165 yards of offense against Iowa while giving up 464 in a win that only Kirk Ferentz could keep as close as 23-7. Minnesota is terrible at football.
Dammit. This is going to be a gut-wrencher.
Run Offense vs Minnesota
I've got 99 problems and Ra'Shede Hageman is all of them
Fitzgerald Toussaint got on track to the tune of 120 yards against UConn, but that was nowhere near enough to prevent Michigan from shaking up its offensive line. Jack Miller exits, Graham Glasgow slides over to center, and Chris Bryant makes his first start tomorrow. This will probably help, as Miller's been not so good for most of this year; it's a rough introduction to college football to get Ra'shede Hageman in your first start.
Maybe. UNLV's pistol-oriented attack had a lot of success on the ground in the opener, and Iowa just mashed them for 246 yards on 45 carries. Shutting down NMSU, WIU, and SJSU in the interim doesn't mean much. Iowa's Mark Weisman is a definitively between-the tackles runner who averaged 6.1 yards a pop with a long of 19, so there's something wrong in the Gopher rush defense.
What that might be:
The problem for Minnesota is their small, undisciplined defensive ends. Starters Michael Amaefula and Theiran Cockran weigh in at 244 and 238 pounds, respectively, and attempt to make up for this by firing upfield on most snaps.
Adding to the issues was near-constant use of man coverage, which combined with the lack of gap discipline from the ends to open up a Rudock touchdown scramble early and another long scramble late on which Rudock casually strolled by Gopher defenders who weren't even looking at him. I can't believe it didn't hit youtube. It was hilarious. Devin Gardner is going to average 10 yards a carry on scrambles.
The more conventional run game is a mystery with the line switch. Can Michigan still run the stretch? Do they even want to anymore? Can Michigan move Hageman with doubles on the inside zone? Can they exploit the light ends and general lack of DB support created by frequent man to man coverage? I don't know!
I do think Michigan should try some of those down G power runs on which the playside guard pulls and you try to hit it up outside of the end quickly. This is do or die for the idea that tight end blocking can be an asset against literally anyone in the league; if AJ Williams doesn't get some face-mashing in Saturday, he's not going to do it against anyone.
Key Matchup: Bryant and Glasgow and Kalis versus Hageman and company. For this game the TEs might be more of a factor. For the season, watching how the new-look interior OL copes against Minnesota's strength is incredibly important.
[Hit THE JUMP for obligatory Gardner turnover assumptions.]
I think I made this same chart in 2008 #1: Gulo Gulo Luscus is joining Off-Tackle Empire and other folk in looking back at recruiting and OL development time to explain why the problems. His method is to look at average age of the starters versus the performance of the unit as measured by YPA/RPI. Cool chart:
If you can't find Michigan it's because we're buried under the Gophers. TSS's response should be part of the read.
Ron Utah has the beginnings of his own UFR database. With Brian's permission I'll make mine available to anyone who asks for it—don't want to host it online but I'm willing to share copies if you say what you're going to do with it. Only concern there is those numbers are very much in context and the n's are quite small so it's easy to abuse. Anyway, Ron's thing tracked performance of different formations in the UConn game. Tiny sample sizes are going to hide most good info but we can whittle that down personnel instead of formation, since these two:
…have more in common with each other than either has with this:
. By personnel:
|Type||Runs||Rush YPA||Passes||Pass YPA||Total YPA||Pass%|
|Empty TE (1TE, 4WR)||0||-||1||6.0||6.0||100.0%|
|Big (2RB, 2TE)||4||-1.3||1||12.0||1.4||20.0%|
|Goal Line (2RB, 3TE*)||3||6.7||0||-||6.7||0.0%|
* Michigan brings in an OT (Magnuson) instead of a third tight end
Still too small a sample size . I'll check in the next bye week and see what these look like when we're not just zooming in on Gardner's terrible awful no good very bad day. The ratios look normal but given the relative paucity of plays with a fullback (and many of those probably in short situations) it's hard to judge those at all.
Goal line—6.7 YPA—we must be manballius!—looks great because of two Gardner boot-to-runs (it would be epically higher if he'd seen Funchess wide open downfield on one of them), but the other play from that formation was a near-crippling fumble-defensive TD.
On the other hand: 12 rushes for 8.3 YPA from three-wide is not a red herring: that is Gardner's rushing ability and the fact that Michigan is far better at getting linebackers out of the box by making them split out with a slot receiver than having a tight end forcibly remove him. Note when it counted on that late 4th and 2 they went with a 3-wide formation and let Gardner pick his spot.
Our Demographic. I made this to explain our numbers versus other media outlets to a potential advertiser:
She's probably on the phone with WTKA now.
Should you panic for Minnesota? Well if the things that happened before have bearing on the things that occur after, then yes, you should expect Michigan to have to come from behind in the 4th quarter.
How this works again:
- I put up a winnable prize that consists of a desirable good.
- You guess the final scores of this weekend's designated game (football or hoops, depending on the season), and put it in the comments like so:
[Michigan Score]-[Opponent Score]. First person to post a particular score has it.
- If you got it right, we contact you. If not, go to (5)
- The desirable good arrives at the address you give us.
- Non-winners can acquire the same desirable good by trading currency for it.
Last Week's Game:
A bunch of you funny people picked 28-24, but nobody said we'd beat UConn 24-21. Nobody wins the PANIC shirt. This week I'd better see some close scores in here.
Hope that events which occur do not follow the events that preceded them—if Iowa gets on the positive side of offensive comparisons…
And the Prize:
Introducing the Excuses Shirt:
The covered words are not names; I don't know what you're talking about. I'm not waiting to get one. If you're struggling with the reference:
- Four stops from the 1 to preserve an 8-pt victory isn't on the defense.
- No player who went somewhere other than PSU can be THAT good.
- Pennsylvania boys have no other reason to go to Michigan.
- Ten points ought to be a safe enough lead when going against Brady.
- It's impossible for five future NFLers to be good at blocking.
- There's no way all that talent comes from having won a national championship 4 years earlier.
- The 30-yard pass on 3rd-and-12 that he didn't catch on that same drive doesn't matter.
- It's okay to put 2 seconds on the clock for JoePa when he asks, but not for Carr when he asks a minute later.
- It's certainly not good line play or bad blocking that got Morelli killed.
- They spent that week preparing for Henne, not his backup.
Also remember: don't be like that.
If you can read this you don’t need glasses:
One entry per user. First user to choose a set of scores wins, determined by the timestamp of your entry (for my ease I prefer if you don't post it as a reply to another person's score--if you do it won't help or hurt you). Deadline for entries is 24 hours before the start of the game (since I won't have time to pull them on gamedays). Those caught changing their scores after the game has started will be disqualified for life. MGoEmployees and Moderators--anyone else with moderator privileges--are exempt from winning because you could change your timestamp. If you choose the score that Brian published in the official preview and it actually ends up the final score, well, that would be pretty amazing because Brian picks scores like 29-11 all the time. We did not invent the algorithm. The algorithm consistently finds Jesus. The algorithm killed Jeeves. The algorithm is just a regional rivalry. The algorithm is banned in China. The algorithm is from Jersey. The algorithm constantly finds Jesus. This is not the algorithm. This is close. Please don't let the game be.
Michigan Probably Leads For A Five-Star Dual-Threat QB. Wait, What?
Michigan's 2015 quarterback situation is the subject of much conjecture and little more, as the only prospect offered at the position—California five-star Josh Rosen—has stated that he's not interested in the Wolverines. Several names have been thrown out there as potential backup options, with player types ranging from pocket statues to Gardner-like dual threats. If Michigan wants to go the latter route—and Al Borges seems more open to the idea now that the NFL is heading in that direction—then a five-star option has emerged in CA ATH Kevin Dillman, per 247's Ryan Bartow [free article, also contains sources saying that JuJu Smith currently favors Notre Dame and Alabama over the field right now, and Michigan gets mentioned among the leaders of several 2015 prospects]:
3- Kevin Dillman, 5-star QB, La Mirada (Calif.)
Michigan and Nebraska are his Top 2. If Michigan offers, the Wolverines could likely land a commitment this winter or spring.
“I grew up watching Tom Brady. If there was one offer I could wish for it would be Michigan. I really like their coaching staff,” - 5-star QB Kevin Dillman, La Mirada
Please and thank you, right? Well, we'll see. Dillman's sophomore highlights (above) show a lot more of the athlete side—the first clip is a kick return—than the downfield passing aspect that Borges will focus on heavily when deciding whom to offer. Personally, I'd love to see Michigan go the dual-threat route, and if Dillman has enough to work with as a passer, he seems like the best available—and highly interested—option.
Nobody seems to have a clear picture of the 2015 QB pecking order after Rosen, though, and I'm assuming the coaches are hoping to evaluate several options more extensively once junior film starts rolling in. With room for just one QB in the class, this approach makes sense—the coaches can't afford to miss.
One such option is Brother Rice QB Alex Malzone, who's off to a strong start this season. He's the headlining visitor for Minnesota in a quiet weekend for uncommitted prospects and another prospect who's likely to commit if offered, though I think Dillman and a handful of other quarterbacks are higher priorities. Malzone is mentioned as one of five Midwest juniors "on the rise" this season—along with Cass Tech RB Mike Weber—by Allen Trieu.
[Hit THE JUMP to see which Michigan commit is nominated for Gatorade's national player of the year—yeah, you probably guessed it—plus evaluations of a few commits and more.]