Hello. You have made it to the end. This year's preview checks in at 42,835 words.
This Winter Hasn't Been So Rough. The bad man is gone, and a good one is here.
Quarterback. Dry white toast. Glorious dry white toast. He should really be named "Elwood," though.
Running Back. IT PUTS THE FOOTBALL IN THE HOLE OR IT GETS THE HOSE AGAIN
Wide Receiver. Don't spook the hamstring. In fact, don't even look at it. Or think about it.
Tight End And Friends. You have been moved to tight end as well.
Offensive Line. The nadir has passed. I swear.
5Q5A: Offense. The Harbauffense is, like its progenitor, tough and weird.
Defensive Tackle. Veterans, and good ones, but not huge ones.
Defensive End. Or buck linebacker. Whatever. Can they get to the quarterback?
Linebacker. Seniors have leadership, which is why they don't join biker gangs.
Cornerback. Half awesome, half frayed thread upon which defense hangs.
Safety. JARROD WILS /is hit by shoe
5Q5A: Defense. It's pretty much the same, except Peppers.
Special Teams. Aussie aussie aussie, field goal oy oy oy.
Podcast 7.0. Many people complimented the music selection, probably because I used a Beyonce breakup song.
Heuristics And Stupid Prediction. Could go a lot of ways. I've got 8-4 and "resembles football." Seeya, sludgefart.
Preview at 2.
Holding The Rope comes out of the bunker:
For the first time last year, I found myself getting up during game action to grab something from the kitchen. There was once a time when, once the game started, I did not move from my sitting spot, as if tethered to it for eternity or the end of the game, whichever came first.
Last year, during the Indiana game, I vaguely remember falling asleep during a portion of the third quarter. It was a long week and a dreary day, and even the surprising success of Ann Arbor's own Drake Johnson couldn't fend off a doze.
Maybe I was tired. Maybe I'm getting older. Maybe it was something else: indifference, a dissipation of pointless resolve.
GQ drops a major article on Harbaugh. Hell of a lede:
The Big House, when empty, rises on all sides in limestone gray, like the machine-carved rock walls of a Midwestern quarry; on game days, the sold-out stadium—a hundred rows high, 110,000 fans in maize and blue—becomes the fourth-largest city in the state of Michigan. Here on the field this last official day of spring, 230 high school quarterbacks tune in to a former quarterback and current head coach in a block-M ball cap and a pair of slack khakis, extra-wide. This is Jim Harbaugh, and this is his dominion.
I talked to the author, Daniel Riley, at Frita Batidos one day this summer. Frita being jammed most hours of the day and night, it was loud. Loud to the point I worried that nothing from his tape would be useful. I'm glad it was, because his article reminded me about this part of our conversation about Jim Harbaugh:
“What he says now about football,” Cook says, “is that it’s worth it.”
Football's taken a ton of shit over the past few years because it is dangerous. Harbaugh knows this. I know it. You know it. But I say that life is not lived all at the same rate. Some days and weeks and months shrink away to tiny motes; some hours and minutes and moments expand to fill your consciousness.
Nice high kick, got a little wind under it and he runs Howard back—time inflates, you can pluck a dragonfly hanging in mid-flight in front of you out of the air—LOOK AT THAT oh my goodness ONE MAN GOODBYE HELLO HEISMAN
Football is dangerous. It is dangerous to play, and it is dangerous to love. And it is worth it.
[ED (Seth): Welcome baaaaaack!
It is college football season. Today. Right now. And of the many things that thing means, it means Joe Pichey, serious bbq-ing dude, is back to his weekly BBQ recipes in this space. The deal is he does the cooking, Stubb's does the sponsoring, and we all do the thing where we mentally run through the weekend and try to imagine when we can try this.]
It's finally GAME DAY and I could not be more excited. In fact before we begin I think I just need to scream something…
There have been a lot of changes in AA and a few here in the MMMGOBLUBBQ Man-Cave. We've added a few new toys and a picked up a new Pitmaster Pup along the way. Thanks to everyone's help back in April, we were able to settle on a name of "Smokey BOnes" for our new BBQ mascot. We were also able to find some tasty new recipes that Stubbs has once again agreed to sponsor, starting off with the BEER CAN BURGER. This one exploded on social media a few months back and is perfect for a tailgate.
- 80/20 Ground beef
- Onions/Mushrooms/Peppers (Any topping you can imagine)
- Stubbs Beef Marinade and BBQ Rub
- Hamburger Buns
[After the jump: the manball of burger methods]
Previously: Podcast 7.0. The Story. Quarterback. Running Back. Wide Receiver. Tight End And Friends. Offensive Line. Defensive Tackle. Defensive End. Linebacker.Cornerback. Safety. Special Teams. 5Q5A: Offense.
The theory of turnover margin: it is pretty random. Teams that find themselves at one end or the other at the end of the year are likely to rebound towards the average. So teams towards the top will tend to be overrated and vice versa. Nonrandom factors to evaluate: quarterback experience, quarterback pressure applied and received, and odd running backs like Mike Hart who just don't fumble.
|Year||Margin||Int +||Fumb +||Sacks +||Int -||Fumb -||Sacks -|
|2007||0.15 (41st)||14||15||2.46(33rd)||14||13||2.17 (67th)|
|2008||-.83 (104th)||9||11||2.42(33rd)||12||18||1.83 (57th)|
|2009||-1.00 (115th)||11||5||1.83(68th)||15||13||2.33 (83rd)|
|2011||+0.54 (25th)||9||20||2.31 (29th)||16||6||1.38 (33rd)|
|2012||-0.69 (99th)||7||11||1.69 (69th)||19||8||1.38 (28th)|
|2013||+0.38(33rd)||17||9||1.9 (64th)||13||8||2.77 (109th)|
|2014||-1.33 (124th)||5||5||2.4 (49th)||18||8||2.2 (63rd)|
I'd say there's nowhere to go but up here, but I said that during the Rodriguez era and it never happened. /kicks dirt
But… seriously, this should be a place Michigan gets a ton better. Not only are they replacing Devin Gardner with a guy who had an interception rate a quarter of Gardner's, they had a turnover acquisition rate anomalously low for anybody, let alone a good defense. With a fifth-year senior quarterback this should at least be even and if opponents don't have option of throwing at the wide open guy on most snaps, both sacks and bad idea throws should increase.
Or, you know, they might not. Turnovers are low-incident, high-impact events and sometimes the don't make any sense.
Position Switch Starters
Theory of position switches: if you are starting or considering starting a guy who was playing somewhere else a year ago, that position is in trouble. There are degrees of this. When Notre Dame moved Travis Thomas, a useful backup at tailback, to linebacker and then declared him a starter, there was no way that could end well. Wisconsin's flip of LB Travis Beckum to tight end was less ominous because Wisconsin had a solid linebacking corps and Beckum hadn't established himself on that side of the ball. Michigan flipping Prescott Burgess from SLB to WLB or PSU moving Dan Connor inside don't register here: we're talking major moves that indicate a serious lack somewhere.
Braden and Magnuson flip spots. A logical decision given Magnuson's left tackle frame and Braden's issues in pass protection. Braden is an awkward fit as a guard. Concern: moderate.
Poggi and Winovich move to TE. Poggi probably belonged there from the start. Winovich is odd. Speaks to concern about depth at TE. Concern: moderate.
Jeremy Clark moves to CB, Wayne Lyons to safety. Only possible interpretation is that Lyons is bad and they're scrambling a bit at the other corner. Concern: high.
Freddy Canteen moves to CB, sort of. Weird move, also speaks to concern at corner. Concern: high.
Willie Henry to SDE. The positions are similar, Wormley is a capable 3tech, seems to be looking for some extra pass rush. Concern: minimal.
Royce Jenkins-Stone to WDE. With Ojemudia and possibly/probably Lawrence Marshall in front RJS only plays if he's going to do okay. Concern: minimal.
An Embarrassing Prediction, No Doubt
Worst Case Barring Extreme Injury Scenarios
Michigan has a high-variance schedule this year with few outright tomato cans and few top 25 teams. The top 25 teams are both at home; Michigan has four road games (Utah, Maryland, Minnesota, and Penn State) against teams that project to be decent to good this year. Meanwhile they have a new coach. Many scenarios are plausible.
In the worst case, Michigan's second corner gets torched all year, they can't get to the QB, and the D tops out at the same good-but-not-great level they've been at for the last few years.
On offense, Rudock is a checkdown machine and Michigan is just Iowa instead of a Rich Man's Iowa. The Big Ten is weak and Michigan has a lot of experience and talent, so truly bad records are probably out of the question but it's not too hard to see them dropping two nonconference games and going 4-4 in conference to finish 6-6.
On the other hand, there are only two games that particularly alarm. Both of those are at home. OSU is a unanimous number one and is probably intractable given anything short of a miracle, but Brady Hoke played them tight the last two years with teams that were miserable. MSU is good; they have a few leaks this year.
Even if they win one of those there's enough rickety in this boat to assume they drop another game, probably the opener or road games against Minnesota and Penn State. 10-2 could happen.
I don't really know, man. I do expect a significant and immediate improvement in Michigan's play. They return almost the entire team. They plug Desmond Morgan, Jake Rudock, and Jabrill Peppers into three of the gaps—maybe up to five depending on if Peppers can hack 3-tech.
The only two guys who don't have immediate replacements or even upgrades are Frank Clark and Devin Funchess. Either would be great to have around; because of the way last season developed neither had as much impact on the field as their talent suggested they should.
Even if Brady Hoke was still around this would be a year in which the arrow should point the right way. Turnovers should head the right way. That swing should be large and could be huge. On a down to down basis Michigan was pretty good until their general derp kicked in.
Harbaugh's teams don't derp it much. That is worth a lot.
Residual chaos will still do Michigan in once or twice this year; the potential issue at kicker looms large for a team that figures to play a bunch of low-scoring slugfests. It'll look like football, though. That much we can promise.
|9/12||Oregon State||Lean to win|
|9/26||BYU||Lean to win|
|10/3||@ Maryland||Lean to win|
|10/11||MSU||Lean to loss|
|11/1||Rutgers||Lean to win|
|11/8||@ Indiana||Must win|
|11/22||@ Penn State||Tossup|
|11/30||Ohio State||Probable loss|
Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue, Iowa, Nebraska
It says 8-4 here.
Previously: Podcast 7.0. The Story. Quarterback. Running Back. Wide Receiver. Tight End And Friends. Offensive Line. Defensive Tackle. Defensive End. Linebacker. Cornerback. Safety. Special Teams. 5Q5A: Offense.
1. So what is this defense again?
Last year Michigan moved from the 4-3 under they deployed in Mattison's first three seasons in Ann Arbor to a 4-3 over. DJ Durkin seems set to return Michigan to a defense that's going to seem a lot like Mattison's earlier outfits. Whether you call this a 4-3 under or a 3-4 is mostly a semantic issue. However, it's one that's driving me nuts every time a writer for the Wolverine talks about Michigan's forthcoming 3-4 transition.
The disconnect here appears to be based on one spot, the "BUCK". Many, many teams have a fancy name for their weakside end. It often designates a guy who is a LB/DE hybrid:
"Watching film on Dante (Fowler) and experience this position has been a ton of fun," he said. " The BUCK is like the hybrid on the field. You're sometimes standing up and sometimes have your hand in the dirt. Wherever you're at at that position, you're expected to make plays. You gotta get to the quarterback as quickly as you can and make tackles."
Durkin apparently calls his fancy spot the "buck linebacker." Therefore 3-4. Durkin's buck linebacker last year was 6'3", 260 pound Dante Fowler. Fowler almost always rushed the passer from a three-point stance. Sometimes he would drop into coverage or fold back into a run fit.
In this he is exactly—exactly—like what Michigan did with Frank Clark in the under. We even have a mascot for this, Slanty The Gecko. Slanty was inexplicably the first hit in Google Image Search for "line slant football" and has featured in multiple posts that describe Michigan's nominal weakside end going SYKE LINEBACKER MORPH and dropping back as the SAM plunges willy-nilly into the defensive line. Here is an example:
According to Mattison, Michigan did this on maybe 40% of its snaps from a 4-3 in his first year at Michigan. I'd say the BUCK concept is that only more so, but I don't think it can in fact be more so.
To me the real distinction between a 3-4 and a 4-3 is in your interior line. Are your guys planet-shaped gentlemen? Do you have Louis Nix? You're probably running a 3-4. Do you have Ryan Glasgow? You're probably running a 4-3. People will talk about multiple fronts, and Michigan will run multiple fronts. All of those will be efforts to confuse the offense as they inject their DTs into gaps and get penetration.
The upshot: this is not a big change, if it's even a change at all. It is a nomenclature tweak.
[After THE JUMP: additional strategically located Peppers talk.]
1. I bet you're mad because this isn't a spread offense amirite?
I am a spread zealot, it's true. However, I am not crazy. Therefore I am happy that Jim Harbaugh is the coach at Michigan no matter what offense he wants to run.
Meanwhile, the Harbauffense is not a spread but neither is it the old style "expectation is for the position" offense. Harbaugh's offense has a certain reputation…
…and it does live up to that. It goes beyond that. Whereas the late Carr offenses tended to drive one thing into the ground over and over until it settled into a 3.4 YPC groove, Harbaugh loves to troll defenses with constant motion, trap blocking, and—yep—spread elements.
The Sugar Bowl demolition of a Virginia Tech team that a year later would hold Brady Hoke's first team under 200 yards of offense is the canonical example of the motion. Stanford shifted, and shifted some more, and continued shifting until grand cracks developed in VT's run fits.
That relies on the opponent screwing up because of your shifts and is not always going to happen… but it does sometimes. After Stanford had blown it open, Harbaugh deployed a play that I've used at various MGoEvents over the past few months. At each it plays like stand-up comedy:
They practiced that, and then used it as a middle finger.
[After THE JUMP: building Rome, explosions, Rudock]
|Kicker||Yr||Punter||Yr||Kickoffs||Yr||Punt return||Yr||Kick return||Yr|
|Kenny Allen||Jr*||Blake O'Neill||Sr*||Kenny Allen||Jr*||Jabrill Peppers||Fr*||Jabrill Peppers||Fr*|
|Kyle Seychel||Fr*||Kenny Allen||Jr*||Andrew David||Fr||Jehu Chesson||Jr*||Jehu Chesson||Jr*|
No coaching upgrade on the team is steeper than special teams. Under Brady Hoke and Dan Ferrigno, Michigan featured adequate kicking and terrible everything else. Their usual MO was one blocked punt against an early tomato can, archaic punt coverage that was terrible even with 11 guys on the field, and return units that did little except take penalties when Dennis Norfleet finally managed to escape from ravenous packs of defenders.
John Baxter's Fresno State teams led the country in blocked kicks over the course of his tenure there—one that overlaps with Virginia Tech at its Beamerball peak—and in his only year at USC took their special teams units from nowhere to 2nd and 4th in the country in blocked punts and kicks, respectively. Special teams is a low data, high variance enterprise but if anyone's got the track record to suggest he's going to make an impact, it's Baxter.
Now about that scholarship kicker…
The holder becomes the holdee [Fuller]
This is looking hairy all of a sudden. Scholarship freshman ANDREW DAVID was immediately dumped well down the depth chart, and Michigan must turn to the walk-ons that populate any D-I team's kicking roster. One, KENNY ALLEN [hello post], was the heir apparent at punter until John Baxter rolled into town with an Aussie in tow; the other, KYLE SEYCHEL, is a redshirt freshman who fans didn't even know was on the team until fall camp.
Reports out of said camp have been worried. Those coming out of the open practice were mixed, but guys who had been around for more than a few attempts were disquieted. There are reports Michigan is reconsidering their decision to forgo a scholarship guy in the 2016 class. That is not a good sign. Neither is that OR on the depth chart.
"I dunno, is kicker" is always a valid thing to say about kickers you have not seen much of; in this case I'm just hoping for a guy to bang them in from 40 yards and in.
wait isn't this guy in twilight or something [Eric Upchurch]
The OR is much more welcoming at this spot. Things are looking just fine at punter despite the departures of both Matt Wile and Will Hagerup. Allen has been booming punts in practice for a few years now, and during the Hoke era we saw a lot of punts in practice.
And then there's that imported Aussie. BLAKE O'NEILL [g'day mate post] comes from a land down under where small children carry around football-shaped objects to punt at anything they run across that is poisonous. Everything in Australia is poisonous. (Yes, especially the koalas.) When the survivors reach adulthood, the resulting skills are impressive:
Asked if the 6-foot-2, 215-pound kicker is the type of special teams player who can change a game, Baxter nods, saying, "He's that."
"Listen," he continued, "if you put a trashcan out there 40 yards, he can usually hit it, OK? He's as accurate, and in some cases more accurate than, the quarterbacks."
O'Neill's first year in college football was last year, when he did this at Weber State:
O'Neill finished sixth nationally (Football Championship Subdivision) in punting during the 2014 season at Weber State. He played in all 12 games and averaged 44.1 yards per punt, setting a single-season punting average record for the Wildcats.
O'Neill tallied 62 punts for 2,737 yards with a long of 74 yards. He boomed 18 punts of 50-plus yards and notched 25 boots inside the opposition's 20-yard line. O'Neill ran for a first down on a fake punt and tossed a completion for a first down on another fake.
Are you ready for some punting highlights? Woo!
AUSSIE PUNTS: SKY TERRITORY sounds like a Chuck Norris movie
Not sure if he's going to be able to do the thing where he idles for a couple seconds before he punts at at D-I level, but Michigan now has a special teams coach with a terrific track record. If he can make it so, it will be so.
O'Neill can rugby punt with either foot and his directional kicking skills in the video above are creepy, Orin Incandenza-level stuff. Real life Blake O'Neill probably isn't going to be good as a fictional punter who is the highest paid player in the NFL. Probably.
[After THE JUMP: gratuitously placed Jabrill Peppers highlights designed to make you click through mooohahaha]