"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."
So I'm in Canada and I'm shopping for food and we're in the dairy isle and my friend laughs and says "no way." But yes, yes way. There is a margarine they are selling called Memories Of Butter.
This is an acceptable name for something only if dairy cows have been obliterated by whichever flavor of apocalypse comes home to roost. In between shifts at the sludge plant you smear Memories of Butter on your protein cube and weep silently when the child who doesn't know any better asks you what it was like during the Before Time.
In a world where there is butter, this is literally the worst possible marketing. The butter is three feet away. Once moved to action by the memory of butter, you can reach out and acquire butter. Our operative theory was that it was badly mistranslated from French, or at least there was something lost in translation. What that could possibly be we do not know.
And so: Michigan football. There is no quote more Memories Of Butter than this Gerry DiNardo exclamation about Michigan finally getting rid of that Denard Robinson guy:
"When I saw them in the spring it was like a war at the line of scrimmage. It was what you imagine it looks like at Alabama and all the downhill teams. It changes your entire program. Just like the spread makes your defense soft, the West Coast offense makes your defense tough."
That comes from a Mark "Stretchgate" Snyder article that is almost as embarrassing as the article that will follow him around until he dies:
Every spring and fall, the network analysts would attend a practice, try to absorb the flavor and make nice about the impact of an offense they knew didn't fit.
Then they strolled into Ann Arbor this spring and had to check their GPS — or their mirror to see if they rolled back a decade.
This was Michigan playing smashmouth football, the game's nastiest, purest form.
Michigan finished 11th in the Big Ten in sack-adjusted rushing, ahead of only Purdue, and was last nationally in TFLs allowed. A tub of margarine may well have made the two-deep on Michigan's "smashmouth" offensive line. It would clearly be the Free Press's best reporter.
Michigan football is a white tub proclaiming to be a memory of a feeling. It is on the shelf next to things that still provide dat mouthfeel tho. For everyone reading this Michigan basketball has provided the craved-for combinations of hope, joy, and even eventual, forgivable disappointment. For myself and a goodly hunk of the people reading this, USA soccer has also filled that void. But when we cleared the NBA draft and the World Cup, the cliff loomed ahead.
The dread was palpable. Dread. Unprecedented, but true.
How did we get here? Every year the fact that I declared 2005 the "Year Of Infinite Pain" becomes yet more ridiculous as we explore new avenues in not feeling real good about football, but I submit that 2013 was the worst football season I have ever experienced. 2005 just isn't even in the ballpark anymore; 2008 had an obvious explanation and novelty; 2010 was GERGtastic but man I can't get that mad at a season containing the 2010 Notre Dame game.
Why was 2013 the nadir? We've learned that it's worse—so much worse—to know that you have absolutely no chance to score points than to have absolutely no chance to prevent them. Ludicrous pointfests like 2010 Illinois and 2013 Ohio State are full of explosions, at the very least. Farting out a three-point loss with under 200 yards of offense is death on a field. There are tense, well-played defensive battles that are the football equivalent of pitcher's duels, and then there's 2013 Michigan: Don Kelly, the football team. (Except when they weren't.)
I kind of lost it as a result. By the end of the year I was giving up on UFRing anything and proclaiming that I was going to go bowling because the Big Lebowksi taught me how to sportsfan my best…
The movie is a series of unfortunate events culminating in the death of Donny thanks to the bullheaded stupidity of Walter, who doesn't want to give up his fifteen dollars to some nihilists. That Donny dies as an indirect effect of that decision is the capper: your desires and actions are futile; you are subject to the random capricious whim of a universe that doesn't care about anything and if it was going to care about something it absolutely wouldn't be you. I don't have to spell the rest out for you. Sports!
…and I remember watching the bowl game in this state of obligation. Worthless, stupid obligation. We had gone from infatuation to a bad 30-year-old marriage that will never end because no one can think of anything better to do.
In retrospect, all of that seems… on-point, actually. Semi-quitting and having public conniption fits at the folks who defended Borges looks like eminently defensible behavior, and that's coming from a guy who occasionally remembers certain actions in high school and has to quickly think of something else lest the eyerolling self-shame overwhelm.
This is where we are: when I got around to doing the Iowa UFR at the last possible moment, most people just asked "WHY?"
How do we get away from here?
Many of you aren't going to like my answer to this. It is: hold on to what we have and hope like hell. Transitions are awful. Michigan has suffered through two consecutive botched ones that left the roster in a state of strip-mined mid-majordom for the better part of a decade. The next one will either be run by Dave Brandon or an unknown person who has just arrived. With nothing approximating a terrific idea out there after Texas snapped up Charlie Strong, with zero reasonable, available Michigan Man™ options out there, the move appears to be to sit tight and hope.
And Brady Hoke does provide a good deal of hope. Seriously! His recruiting is bulletproof. He is the real William Carlos Williams. Michigan can suffer through the least tolerable season since the 1960s; he can lose three top-100 commits; Michigan State can win the Rose Bowl. None of this prevents him from locking down a class of consensus four-stars minus a kicker and an OL legacy. Save for the rare Skeeps suckerpunch or microfracture surgery, all of these players will arrive qualified and stick around until they've been definitively passed on the depth chart… and possibly beyond.
If these are the kind of positives that seem beneath This Is Michigan, well, yeah. This Is Michigan is fiction. This Is Michigan has rarely meant anything better than 9-3 since the 80s ended, and the program is now 1-5 against MSU and 2-11 against OSU since [insert year here]. They haven't had anything approximating a complete roster since 2006, and even that team was so desperately short on cornerbacks that Chris Graham spent much of Football Armageddon trying to cover a future first round pick WR.
This is were we're at: trying to figure out exactly which things we took for granted for 40 years are real assets and which are replaceable. For me, keeping guys around until they're good is not replacement-level performance—as much as I wish it was. And even if I think Hoke is set on 1997 Michigan as the endpoint of football as the sport mutates at breakneck speed around him, there are teams that make it work.
I just want something to work now. I just want something to sit on my tongue and dissolve into a salty heaven, like my father told me about in the long long ago. I may be of the mines and forever from the mines as we try to keep the engine that keeps us all alive running, but by God even a man of the mines has heard about grass, and the possibility of moving forward upon it for upwards of three yards at a time.
Let's find a cow. Let's punch it until it excretes butter. We may later find out that punching a cow until it leaks is not the optimal way to do these things, but that's for later. Now is for building a society like idiots who have only read about it in books.
Nobody is going to read this but I'm trying to get numbers for Gardner and the WRs and the OL for the last couple Big Ten games for the preview. Everything is after the jump.
[After the JUMP: a big table.]
News bullets and other items:
Blake Countess and Ray Taylor would be the starting corners if the season started today
Ryan Glasgow would be the starting nose tackle and Willie Henry the starting three technique if the season started today
Jabrill Peppers will be returning punts
Dennis Norfleet is the starting slot receiver, though Freddy Canteen has gotten better as camp has gone on
“Number one, thanks for coming out. We’ll break camp tomorrow. We've had two really good practices after taking Wednesday just to get them a little back healthy and rest and all that kind of stuff. Guys have done a nice job. Those two practices were spirited obviously. We had some humidity which was good because that's really the first time and then yesterday we were inside because we were thinking that we were going to get the storm that we finally got and it was good because it was nice and hot in there so they got to work through that a little bit.
Their mindset has been awfully good and the competition level, competing in challenging each other every day I think has been really good for us and I think our coaches and players would say the same thing. The competition has been very positive at every position. I'm excited about how they've come out and competed. Today for us was a Wednesday, Tomorrow will be a Thursday in how we manufacture the practice time. Will give them some rest on Sunday, give them some rest on Monday. That would almost normal for what a school– getting them ready and acclimated to the school times of practice.
We should be healthy as we can be right now. Still don't know about Delano [Hill]. He's been practicing as far as no contact. He feels good. The doctors will still evaluate him one more time and let us know if he will be ready for Appalachian State or not. Jake Butt has come a long way but I would say were still on the timetable we talked about and we’ll get with the doctors on that a little bit more.
The leadership on this team has really been throughout the team. I think when they voted for guys out of each class it's been really a positive and those guys--you can see it just in how they've treated each other--came out and competed and the things you want to see. It's been really a good camp. We're going to finish that tomorrow morning. Most of that will be a lot of kicking up at the stadium and a little bit of some of the scout team work that we want to continue to do but we won't be there but an hour and 15 minutes. A little bit of a preview of game day. How we approach it, who goes out when, all the mechanics with that. We've done it once so far but this will give us another chance. We have new guys on the team who weren’t here before and we made a couple changes so I think those are all positives.”
We haven't talked a lot about special-teams. You talked about Matt Wile. How confident are you that he's going to go from being your long-range guy to being your every-field-goal guy?
“Well, you know, Matt was always consistent from long-range or from every-field-goal guy. He's done a nice job. We rushed him a little bit because he's been doing kickoffs and that the last two days but I'm sure that tomorrow we might not kick him just for the simple fact that he probably wouldn't be at his best. He had a little bit of a foot [injury] which wasn’t his plant foot but that's fine but we just want to make sure that we’re resting him enough.”
So it's his kicking foot then?
“Yeah, which I've never heard of. You'd think it would be a plant foot. I'd be more worried if it was the plant foot.”
Kyle Kalis – is he healthy now and which positions is he working yet and does he have a chance to start?
“Well, I think he has a chance. I think we're still going through that a little bit with him. He's practiced the last two days which is the positive. I think between him and the way we been running it over there, you know, we've got [Kyle] Bosch over there working some, Joe Burzynski has been over there working some but, you know, getting Kyle back out is a real plus. Gives you some more… a little more of different people that we can play with.”
Who's going to be returning punts?
“That would be Jabrill.”
[After THE JUMP: corner shuffling, your starters on the interior defensive line, and another non-answer regarding captains]
MGoQuestion: Who's competing at nose tackle and who's at three tech?
“Oh boy. I’ll tell ya, Ryan Glasgow has had a really good fall camp, Ondre Pipkins has had a really good fall camp, Mone, Bryan Mone. There's all four of them at the nose, they’ve played really well. Ryan would be the starter. At the three technique I think Wille Henry, Chris Wormley, and Matt Godin and Tom Strobel have all really done a nice job but if we started today Willie would be the guy up first.”
You said you're working with Jabrill on punt returns. You guys haven't had much from the punt return. I mean, you had some sure-handed guys but is that an area that you need to get more out of?
“Well, I think that number one we’re putting a lot of our best guys out on the field and I think that's a plus. I think we've had some in the last three years that have been decent, some that maybe we haven't fielded the ball as well as we should have sometimes and I think that's all true – every special teams you want to get improvement.”
Is Norfleet still in at kick returner?
“Yeah. Oh yeah.”
What were the two or three things when you opened camp that you felt you absolutely had to accomplish and did you?
“I think yeah, we did accomplish it. The first thing which you guys all love to ask is the offensive line and I think that the progress that's been made there is really positive. Do I think that we're where we need to be as we get through the season? No, not yet but there's been a lot of progress. I think at the corner position we’ve had a great competition out there and I think all those guys have improved and that’s huge. I think up front defensively I think being a defensive line coach the noses and the three techniques, who is going to separate themselves and I think I said that the other day and Willie has done that at the three and I would say Ryan has right now at the nose position so those things were all – I think how the group of linebackers has worked together, and then the receivers. Who is going to come on and where Darboh’s health was. All of those things were part of what we wanted to see.”
You said you were going to work Jabrill more at the nickel but does Jourdan [Lewis] have that other spot? Is he a starter?
I think if we went out today it would be Ray [Taylor] and Blake [Countess]. Jourdan’s had a good fall camp. [Channing] Strib[ling]’s had a good fall camp, need a little more consistency. Delonte Hollowell’s had a good fall camp so I think that if we started the game today though it would be Blake and Ray.
Is that an experience thing?
“No, they've played well. The competition has been very heated.”
When you talk about the group of linebackers working together, how’s that come together with Jake [Ryan] changing positions and all of that and how are they working together?
“Well, I think that whole group has really worked well together and you can throw Ben Gedeon in there, Royce [Jenkins-Stone], James Ross, [Joe] Bolden, Desmond Morgan, and Jake. Mike McCray’s had a good fall camp. He's got to be a little more consistent but we like what we’ve seen of him so far. I think Jake had a little apprehension coming into camp even though he was over there all spring but I really think that he did a very good job of asserting himself in the position.”
You guys really liked Jarrod Wilson coming out of the spring. Has he solidified that free safety spot for you and what do you like about having him back there?
“Yeah, he has. I like his range, Like his intelligence, like his toughness, his ball skills and the abilities that he has.”
You mentioned the corners. What kind of rotating could you do at that point? You mentioned Ray and Blake but are Jordan and Jabrill going to be outside too?
“They can. They can. We haven't sat down yet to say we're gonna play this guy so many reps, this guy so many reps.”
But you don't mind shuffling them at those spots? I know Greg [Mattison] didn't like shuffling safeties...
“…as much last year. I think there were different reasons why. I think sometimes it’s just a comfort level with guys. You know everybody's going to get you in the right positions.”
So maybe there'll be more of it this year?
“Yeah, I would think so.”
What kind of weapon is Hagerup? We haven't seen him in a while. What does he add?
“Well, as far as Hagerup, what I like about Will is how he's come back, how he's taken some – that's hard to go through what he's gone through. I'm proud of him. You know, when he's on, which two years ago he was on most of the time, he's very effective in changing the field.”
“You know, we've got great leadership throughout.”
We heard a lot about Freddy [Canteen] in the spring and saw a lot of him in the spring scrimmage. Is he the slot guy or is Dennis [Norfleet] the slot guy?
“Dennis right now. I think one thing, Freddy, he started a little slower but he's finished very well.’
So you think that’s a shared position?
“Yeah, I think that personnel groups and formationally it makes a difference.”
A lot of big formations
Why did you do this?
Oh some attempt at achieving completeness or something. Without actually doing so, of course.
Please tell me you didn't do the other side of the ball.
I did! At least it was short.
Well then. You may as well detail what you discovered.
Ah yes, but let's put in a jump here.
[After THE JUMP: Clark against the best tackle in the league, inexplicable LB sub pattern, Washington falls off a cliff, corners are in your base]
The objective. [Fuller]
The Big Ten unveiled the complete conference schedule for the 2014-15 basketball season, so we can now take a look at Michigan's season in full. It is as follows (almost all game times and broadcast information are TBA):
|Michigan Basketball 2014-15 Schedule|
|11/10||vs Wayne State (ex)|
|Progressive Legends Classic (Regional Round)|
|Progressive Legends Classic (Brooklyn, NY)|
|11/25||VCU/Villanova||TBD/ESPN2 or ESPN U|
|11/29||vs Nicholls State|
|Regular Ol' Non-Conference Games|
|12/9||vs Eastern Michigan|
|12/22||vs Coppin State|
|Big Ten Schedule|
|1/6||at Penn State|
|1/13||at Ohio State||7pm/ESPN|
|2/1||at Michigan State|
|2/17||vs Michigan State||9pm/ESPN|
|2/22||vs Ohio State|
|B1G Tournament (Chicago, IL)|
Thanks to WolverineDevotee for putting this in table form.
Now that the Big Ten has expanded to 14 teams, single-plays are a lot more prevalent in conference play. Here's the breakdown of how many times Michigan plays each conference opponent and where:
Home-and-Home: Illinois, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Rutgers
Single-Play (M Home Game): Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin
Single-Play (M Road Game): Indiana, Maryland, Penn State, Purdue
The single-plays work out relatively well for the Wolverines; the tougher opponents have to come to Ann Arbor, while two of the three worst teams in the conference last year—Penn State and Purdue—comprise half of Michigan's single-play road games. All four teams Michigan will host in single-plays have very tough home environments, as well; even after last year's win, nobody's going to mind not having to go to the Kohl Center.
While Michigan must play two favorites for the conference title twice—MSU and OSU, and I don't think anyone is complaining about getting as many of those matchups as possible—they get very winnable home-and-homes against Northwestern and Rutgers. The Wolverines also get to ease into the conference slate; the January schedule, especially early, isn't too hard, then the difficulty really turns up early in February. For a young team, that's probably ideal.
[Hit THE JUMP for the new B1G Tournament bracket and one reader's in-person impressions from Michigan's third game of their tour of Italy.]
Scrimmage video. Fan-based, so wobbly.
Perverse incentives create perverse results. It is of course completely nuts for Michigan to play Florida in Dallas. The stadium is smaller, the fanbases are far away, and the pageantry of college football is largely replaced with sterile NFL lawyer spaceship accoutrements. But people do it because they get the money.
After Wisconsin scheduled LSU in a goofy neutral-and-neutral situation, Jim Delany issued a memo that the Cedar Times Gazette has unearthed:
Delany’s letter, which was obtained by The Gazette, highlighted the league’s support for neutral sites provided at least half of the series occur within the Big Ten footprint and under the league’s television agreements. Delany wrote an arrangement would be “disapproved” if a Big Ten game was not designated as the home squad in at least half the games or if it was a one-game event that took place outside the league’s television umbrella. …
“We applaud and very much appreciate your efforts in doing so, as this should create value for your teams and fans as well as for our television partners and, therefore, for all Conference members. But please keep in mind the above policies that are important to all of us as we share collectively in the revenue generated by our televised games."
I'm not sure what "disapproved" means here. Could be "we will not let you do this"; could be "we will raise our mighty eyebrow at you but take no other action."
In any case the memo indirectly indicates why neutral site games are popular: the two teams participating can split the TV money between themselves instead of between themselves and Indiana and Purdue and a bunch of other teams that are not in fact playing. When there's a Jerryworld game, ESPN and Jerryworld get the rights and then give home-team-sized slices to both participants. The Big Ten doesn't like that.
The Big Ten can pound sand. Scheduling real games would be so much easier if the teams in them actually saw the benefits without having to leave campus. There is zero reason that a Michigan-Florida home and home should be less lucrative than a neutral site game for the people involved.
Thankfully it sounds like Michigan's trip to Jerryworld in 2017 will be their last, by league decree. It's for the wrong reason, but these days that's all you can hope for.
Hatch things. Good Morning America had him on:
I am going to judge you on your word. Big Ten coaches given one word to describe their teams!
Illinois’ Tim Beckman: Family
"Can you help me find them? I'm not supposed to be out after 7 PM."
Indiana’s Kevin Wilson: Cusp
That's not an adjective. The Hoosiers are not seeming particularly cusp this morn.
Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz: Developmental
Neither is this unless it's followed by "-ly disabled," but I like that Ferentz managed to be even more boring than boring. He's probably in a band called White Toast and that's one of their songs.
Maryland’s Randy Edsall: Hungry
Boring, and not in a fun Ferentz way. Boring in a boring way. Randy Edsall is in a band and their one song is "this is not a band it is just a boring man telling you to eat your vegetables."
Michigan’s Brady Hoke: Together
…now that our first round left tackle is gone
Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio: Committed
…pass interference and still weren't found out
Minnesota’s Jerry Kill: Hungry
This would be boring except for this video of Jerry Kill eating a tiny burrito:
Nebraska’s Bo Pelini: Exciting
Accurate. Nebraska is not great but they are a cat explosion waiting to happen.
Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald: Focused
…until the fourth quarter.
Ohio State’s Urban Meyer: Fast
Accurate, in fact tells you something about desired composition of team, relatively un-boring.
Penn State’s James Franklin: Perseverance
Again with the non-adjectives.
Purdue’s Darrell Hazell: Hungry
Would be boring but in this case I think Darrell Hazell may be saying that his players are literally hungry because they can't figure out which hole to put the food in. "NOT THAT ONE," Darrell Hazell screams for the third time today, "THAT ONE ISN'T EVEN A PART OF YOUR BODY."
Rutgers’ Kyle Flood: Hungry
wait why is this guy even listed
Wisconsin’s Gary Andersen: Youthful
Well… yeah. Joe Namath ain't walking through that door.
Meanwhile, Spurrier said "decent" because hail Spurrier. Mark Richt said "wow" for some reason. I ain't saying that Dave Brandon goes around wearing Mark Richt's skin. But I ain't saying otherwise, neither.
Would you say that your decisions are film and evidence-based? Hoke:
"The evidence for making decisions is on the film," Hoke said Saturday night after the team's public scrimmage. "It's evidence-based. Based on film."
No word on the moisture status of his upper lip.
Another "students are gone" article. This one from USA Today is standard-issue. It never ceases to amaze that athletic directors can say this…
"I don't think it's a targeted demographic problem; I think it's more of a (high-definition) TV, living room, leather couch problem and we have to give the people a reason to come to our live product," Washington athletics director Scott Woodward said. "It is something we're going to have to address and deal with."
…and then marvel at the fact that it's tough to sell tickets that have spiraled upward relative to inflation, nearly tripling since 2000. Surely there is an athletic director out there who can figure out why they might be having attendance problems. Take 2, and then take this other 2, and somehow we have to reach 4.
The article has another pile of lukewarm solutions that aren't going to fix much of anything. One thing that could help: stop treating students like enemies. Michigan gets the vapors when a student says the word "sucks" and tries to drown it out; the ushers in the student section are constantly harassing anyone who does anything that looks even slightly like liability. You've got a choice here: loosen things up and accept the fact that you're going to have slightly higher insurance premiums, or continue to turn off your future customers with adversarial relationships between students and your main point of contact with them.
[Via Get The Picture.]
Etc.: MSU WR MacGarrett Kings doesn't even get standard-issue one game DUI suspension. Notre Dame previewed by Paul Myerberg. An overview of where the various NCAA lawsuits stand. The Kessler suit is The Big One. I'm in a sidebar of this ESPN story on the state of Michigan. NOPE.
MVictors interviews Dan Dierdorf. Genuinely Sarcastic comes back for a post about Michigan football that naturally includes a section on Stalingrad. Notre Dame scandal is always a good opportunity to rip Notre Dame.