so much for that
Black Heart Gold Pod. I guest on the BHGP podcast this week. About a half hour, and if you haven't listened to a BHGP podcast yet you have to listen to the theme music at the very least.
Listen to the rest of it to hear me lose my mind when Patrick suggests we should be grateful we missed out on Ferentz three years ago, plus me talking Jacobi down from his 45-14 Michigan prediction. These are some depressed gentlemen.
Die Wayne State. Basketball tips off tonight with their first of two exhibitions. If you're not local you can check out the stream for free with the code BTDN3FR33. (Anyone know if I can get a replay of the game online? I'm headed to hockey.)
Surprisingly, Horford is slated to start over Morgan. Read into that what you will; I think there's something in there. Possibly "if we play both of them neither will foul out in ten minutes." I'm not reading much into Douglass over Burke until the team goes to Maui.
Meanwhile, the McGary afterglow continues at UMHoops with a look at Michigan's top recruits of the last 20 years. Man, are there some conflicted feelings on that list. I didn't remember Horton being that touted. AnnArbor.com surveys big time recruits as freshmen to see what they managed.
SIDE NOTE: People are talking about maybe getting two years out of McGary if he doesn't blow up upon entry. I've seen some hopes that the NBA mandates a second year in college, as has been rumored, but that would actually hurt Michigan's chances of keeping him around. As a kid who prepped he would probably be eligible anyway, and with a huge swath of talent suddenly off limits he'd be a major attraction in a weak draft. In the long term Michigan should hope for a setup closer to baseball's, where a big chunk of Calipari's recruits don't even get their cup of coffee in the NCAA before heading to the league.
The pump up. Jeff Goodman has moved to CBS and uses his new gray platform to pump up one John Beilein:
McGary is heading to a Michigan program that is dangerous this season -- and could be downright scary in the next couple of years with the addition of a monster in the middle.
Even without Morris, Michigan should still be a factor in the Big Ten race this season.
There's Novak -- one of those guys who every coach regrets passing over when he came out of high school -- and fellow senior Stu Douglass.
Much is expected of Tim Hardaway Jr., the son of the former NBA guard with the same name who is coming off a strong freshman season. The same can be said of skilled forward Evan Smotrycz, who has a year under his belt.
Freshman Trey Burke, who was a teammate of Ohio State star Jared Sullinger in high school, will likely share the point guard duties with Douglass.
And while he isn't overly intimidating from a physical standpoint, Burke is a guy who makes quality decisions -- and can really shoot the ball (something Morris was unable to do).
"He can do it all," Sullinger said of Burke. "He's fast and knows how to get his teammates the ball. There's a lot of pressure having to fill the role of Darius Morris, but he'll be able to do it."
What are we thinking here? Six seed? I think maybe a six seed.
Oversigning Bowl gets some attention. Cribbing from Eleven Warrior's previous post, the WSJ points out this weekend's 1-vs-2 matchup is pretty close to a 1-vs-2 matchup in a more dubious department:
Alabama has signed 137 players over the past five years, for an average of 27.4 per year. It signed 32 in 2008—a class that included nine starters on this year's team, plus Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. This total places Alabama among the top five nationally in oversigning.
LSU has signed 126 players over the same period, which works out to 25.2 per year. That number is considerably lower than Alabama's but higher than many other top teams.
Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds, whose football team has signed just 112 players over five years (25 fewer than Alabama) said oversigning is "certainly an advantage."
LSU says that the Tigers have signed "at the NCAA limit of permitteed enrollees or one or two above," which is reassuring since 25 times 4 is probably less than 85. LSU doesn't know. They're not in the business of knowing.
Molk in the NFL. NFP's Wes Bunting on one of Michigan's NFL candidates this year:
A shorter, compact lineman who looks nearly maxed out physically, despite weighing 288-pounds. Looks a little tight hipped trying to sit into his stance, but has a quick first step, and snaps and steps very quickly. Creates leverage for himself consistently, extends his arms and can easily reach and seal on plays off his frame. Displays a compact, sturdy punch and can stun defenders at the point. Looks really natural when asked to quickly reach block on runs to the perimeter, as he's coordinated getting his feet around and can seal the edge routinely. Displays natural range/balance getting into blocks at the second level as well. Breakdowns well showcasing the ability to routinely seal on contact.
The rest of it is about how he lacks the power to win in-line or create push, with some dings on his pass protection. Generally positive about his ability to be an NFL player in a zone (cough cough) system.
The Merrill situation. Mike Spath has an update on what's going on with Jon Merrill:
"The initial suspension was in concrete - it was a dedicated suspension to so many games and so much time - and in further discussions, we changed that to an indefinite suspension, which means it's going to be longer," head coach Red Berenson said.
"There is no game we can point at and say he'll be back. But what we have done is we've put him back on the ice and he's practicing with the team."
It sounds like he's passed his OHL flirtation and will stick at Michigan unless something untoward happens in the near future. Spath also floats the potential return of Merrill for his junior year—if he's only playing half of this year the usually-patient Devils probably won't be pressing him to sign.
Meanwhile, it seems like Phil Di Giuseppe's recent trade to Windsor isn't something to worry about. Windsor just blew up their team by shipping out Jack Campbell and one of their top scorers for a bucket of picks and speculative assets like the rights to PDG; if Di Giuseppe wanted to bolt he'd be walking into a crappy team after he'd already reached a college campus. When defections like that happen they're usually players struggling with the level of play (Jason Bailey: 0-0-0, –11; Robbie Czarnik: 3-3-6) who want to take it down a notch or people who just hate their coach (Duncan Keith). PDG is obviously not in the first boat and it would be a surprise if he was in the second.
Even the scenario in which Di Giuseppe is drafted by the college-phobic Kings and signs doesn't get him to the OHL—he is AHL eligible already because pro teams don't prohibit college kids from playing in the A before 20. (Why don't they, by the way? Shouldn't College Hockey Inc be all over the NHL about this double standard? Sure could have used Max Pacioretty a second year, no?)
Etc.: The Willis Ward documentary is live and in the wild. Jacob Trouba in a skirt. Meet all the people who won't be filling wherever the Hurricanes are playing in 30 years. Hockey preview from MLive. We are less of a fraud than PSU. A Nebraska zone read wrinkle that gets the QB outside. Would love to see this—have been wanting this for three years, actually.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Iowa|
|WHERE||Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, November 5th 2011|
|THE LINE||Michigan -4|
|TELEVISION||National on ESPN|
|WEATHER||mid-40s at kickoff rising to almost 60; sunny, windy|
Run Offense vs. Iowa
this team averaged 4.8 YPC.
Now that this site has a post dedicated to opponent scouting that I don't write it's always interesting to see whether my impressions from the opponent's game are the same as Ace's. This week they were in one critical respect: wow, Iowa has problems at DT.
Minnesota's late surge was a bunch of downhill runs from the pistol aimed at one Steve Bigach, who is a walk-on, national merit scholar, and Academic All Big Ten. He played like it. He's actually the second-string walk-on; Thomas "Not That Nard Dog" Nardo is the preferred starter but he was out with injury. He's touch and go this week in the same way Kovacs is. This is the difference between Michigan starting Heininger (not ideal but you can get away with it) and Brink (time to be nervous).
The rest of the Iowa front seven has not been great. Iowa is languishing at 69th in rush defense. Results against teams other than Tennessee Tech and Louisiana-Monroe:
That's remarkably consistent. Any opponent other than Iowa State averages just under five yards a carry despite not being that good at running the ball. The last couple weeks mobile quarterbacks Tre Roberson and MarQueis Gray have combined for 156 yards at 5.9 a pop. Mac Morehouse just describe the Hawkeyes as "awful" against mobile QBs.
no reason. via Midnight Maize
Michigan is good at running the ball when they bother to do it. After Finding Themselves against Purdue Michigan moved from a horrible 12th to a fantastic 8th nationally. They're actually beating last year's 5.5 YPC at about 5.8, albeit with most of the toughest defenses on the schedule yet to come.
Last week it was finally the Fitzgerald Toussaint show. Toussaint was the first Michigan tailback to get 20 carries in a game since Eastern Michigan in 2009; he turned those into 170 yards and won the starting job in the process. Denard Robinson enjoyed a relatively light workload thanks to that, and everyone hopes that will continue.
As to what Michigan does… at this point your guess is as good as Norm Parker's. Michigan bludgeoned the outside of the Purdue defense, brought out a power-based variant of the inverted veer (or "dash"), and is liable to do something completely different next week. Hell, if Iowa's interior line is as iffy as it looks they could line up in the I and run power. They might even succeed at it.
The only sure thing is that Michigan will do a bunch of different stuff and it will average around 5 yards a carry, if not more.
Key Matchup: Iowa LBs versus Toussaint/Robinson. The Iowa guys don't find the ball that well and could be optioned off to spectacular effect—or just run by. A big play or two could be in the offing.
Pass Offense vs. Iowa
If the run defense is a problem this is a… very large problem. That's the ticket. You have seen the Steele Jantz comparison from Fire Jerry Kill, but here is the Steele Jantz comparison:
The issues in Iowa's pass defense are not limited to funny but trigger-happy Gopher fans, either. Local beatwriter Mark Morehouse picked up on the same post I did before last week's Hawkeye Armageddon event:
FireJerry, who put some work into the post, computed that Iowa’s opposing FBS quarterbacks have pass-efficiency ratings that are 27 points higher against the Hawkeyes than against the rest of their competition.
But the site draws the same conclusion you (at least you should) and I do about the Gophers’ chances of springing an upset at TCF Bank Stadium Saturday:
If only Iowa’s offense was as bad as their defense then we might be on to something.
It’s still the Minnesota defense that allows 308.7 rushing yards per game in Big Ten play.
Herf nerf hurf hurf.
So. The Iowa secondary is atrocious, 91st(!) in pass efficiency defense despite having maybe one decent QB on the schedule I mean, seriously people:
- Steele Jantz
- Tino Sunseri
- Matt McGloin (wsg Rob Bolden)
- Dan Persa
- Tre Roberson
- MarQuies Gray
I've spent the year fretting about the level of competition facing Michigan's defense; Iowa has faced worse (No ND, no MSU even in a trash tornado) and is in the same ballpark as the GERGfence's pass efficiency D.
This is inexplicable.If you were asking people to name the best starting cornerback combo in the Big Ten before the season started, I'm guessing most people would have gone right to Iowa's Prater/Hyde combo. I would have, certainly. Even if Prater has been a disappointment that's probably not it.
Candidate reasons include a complete lack of corner depth (MGoFootball's interview with Planned Sick Days hopefully mentions the return of a nickel corner that might foretell a nickel package), a complete lack of pass rush (83rd wsg 99th in TFL implying a further lack of penetration), and walk-on safeties of the not-Sash variety (
For Iowa's defense to be so bad against such a motely collection of opponents the answer has to be "all of the above." Nothing is working.
The good news for Iowa is that Michigan's performance here has an opponent-invariant quality. You might shoot a guy wide open but if he's not the one farthest downfield you just might get away with it, because both of Michigan's quarterbacks have Rex Grossman disease*. Robinson has been incredibly frustrating this year and Gardner's best pass was a beautiful touchdown that was just a bit over the line.
That fretted about, against defenses of Iowa's caliber Denard has been acceptable. He was 9 of 14 against Purdue with a YPA well over 12 (26th in pass efficiency D), put up 337 yard on Northwestern, and bombed Minnesota as everyone except Iowa does. Struggles against iffy teams stopped when the nonconference schedule did.
Terrible interceptions did not. You might as well rack one or two up right now. This will slow Michigan's offense down; it doesn't seem like Iowa is going to.
*[The secret weapon in Michigan's turnover margin is that half of Michigan's function as punts.]
Key Matchup: Denard vs Accuracy. Forever and ever this key matchup until Denard's missing at a rate that forces defenses to fear him in the air. Is this possible? Absolutely—a lot of spread QBs have light-on moments. Until it happens it hasn't happened.
This section is unchanged from the last two weeks. Until this part.
Run Defense vs. Iowa
"I call them Lithuania and Estonia. Latvia? That's for a special someone."
After weeks and weeks wherein opponents went after Michigan's flimsy edges, this will be a stiff test for the interior of the defense. Marcus Coker is a tank with legs, if you can call the meaty appendages below his torso "legs" instead of "Baltic states." Think Beanie Wells with less breakaway speed and even more cinderblock to his fists. I be like dang about one of his long runs against Minnesota:
There is a 75% chance Hoke kidnaps him after the game and puts him out in Cavanaugh's number at the Tuesday practice availability. I fully support this course of action.
Iowa does the fullbacks and TE and MANBALL thing except their main play is zone—they haven't pulled linemen much since Ferentz arrived and they're not going to start now. The Iowa line is veteran and quality; there's some dodginess in the pass protection but that's another section.
So what's the deal with the rankings? Iowa is square in the middle in rushing yardage, 60th at just under 160 a game. That's after running through the tissue-soft Northwestern-Indiana-Minnesota anti-gauntlet. The numbers:
I'm not sure what to make of that Penn State number since it includes 49 yards from Vandenberg—surely scrambles—and hacks out 39 sack yards. Coker managed 74 yards on 18 carries, 4.1 per. Make of that what you will.
I make this of it: punt. I don't think you can tell much from the last three games. The Penn State number looks a little daunting, Pitt not so much. It's clear from the numbers that the issue with the Iowa run game is not quality so much as quantity. As BHGP put it earlier in the week, Coker's backup has been Marcus Coker. In games that are serious they can't put it all on the run game because the run game will break and then they'll be screwed.
Michigan's run defense is also sort of an enigma. They're obviously a lot better than last year. They also got gashed for big yards by the two teams with serious rushing attacks they played (Notre Dame and MSU), and neither of those teams actually has a serious rushing attack. They just have quality backs. If that's the secret to beating the Michigan defense—outrun and out-thump Michigan's young, iffy linebackers—er… the above run is not so much with the confidence building.
Is Mike Martin the guy who almost singlehandedly crushed the Purdue ground game or the one who got blown out of the middle by MSU's rickety offensive line? Well, it's kind of both:
"Purdue decided to block him one-on-one and zone me? Good luck to the guard that’s gotta block him," Van Bergen said this week. "I’m confident there’s not one guy in the Big Ten who can block Mike Martin one-on-one, run-blocking or pass-blocking. He’s too strong, too quick, got too many tools."
That was odd. If Iowa does the same thing they will be dumb, so they probably won't.
Meanwhile, will Jordan Kovacs be around to provide the security blanket that made Michigan one of the last teams in the country to give up a play longer than 40 yards? Let's find out.
Key Matchup: Heininger and Martin—mostly Martin—against the interior Iowa OL. The best way to stop Coker is to slow him in the backfield and tackle him before he can get up a head of steam. Martin's variable performance and the lingering possibility that Heininger just gets blown up are this matchup's largest X-factors.
Pass Defense vs. Iowa
Problems also loom here. Michigan's list of quarterbacks conquered isn't much more imposing than Iowa's. Purdue and Minnesota are bad (and Gray didn't even play); Cousins is iffy and was playing in the trash tornado; Ryan Lindley is currently 75th in passer efficiency. Tommy Rees went for 315 yards, Dan Persa 331. Michigan's main asset has been that lack of big plays conceded: Rees needed 39 attempts for his yards, Persa 44. That keeps Michigan's YPA in a reasonable range. It does make you wonder what happens if someone like Tommy Rees minus the three mindblowing turnovers comes along.
|13||Jarrett Lee, LSU||63.2||1250||8.1||13||1||157.4|
|14||E.J. Manuel, Florida St.||66.0||1776||9.0||13||8||155.4|
|15||James Vandenberg, Iowa||62.2||1918||8.5||17||4||155.2|
|16||Tajh Boyd, Clemson||61.3||2674||8.4||25||5||154.8|
|17||Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma St.||71.3||2710||7.9||22||7||154.3|
|18||Matt Barkley, Southern California||67.3||2290||7.6||22||5||151.5|
[Ed: thanks for nothing, official NCAA stats site and your decision to freak me out by spelling it "Vanderberg."]
Looks like it's time to find out. Vandenberg's performance does come with some schedule strength caveats similar to those you can apply to Coker. The secondaries of Indiana, Northwestern, and Minnesota are liable to make even Ohio State's quarterback situation look good. Vandenberg struggled against Penn State (50% completions, YPA under 5, two INT) and hasn't really played anyone else with a good pass D. Iowa St and Pitt are decent, I guess. The three already-mentioned dwarves are tire fires. Saturday's game looks like a proving ground for both units.
Iowa has a couple weapons before a steep dropoff. Marvin McNutt is a notch below Michael Floyd but only a notch; Keenan Davis is a quality second banana. Things do get a little thin after the top two: freshman Kevonte Martin-Manley* is the third most prominent target. While he's looking like a keeper he remains a dread freshman. Coker gets his share of dumpoffs and then it's bupkis. They'll hit some tight ends for short gains from time to time, but there's no Clark/Moeaki this year.
The offensive line could be an issue. Watching first-round-hype-recipient Reilly Reiff get blasted back into Vandenberg so badly that a Minnesota DE sacked him with his but is an eye-opening experience. Iowa's below average in sacks allowed (73rd) and the Iowa internets believe Vandenberg freaks out at blitzes. This could be a game in which the Mattison blitz packages play a major factor.
Michigan's pass defense is the most wonderfully mediocre thing that's ever existed. Never in the realm of simulated conflict have so many been so happy for something so middling. Michigan's 41st in pass efficiency D. This statement has sent a half-dozen readers into rapturous seizures. Their man strength is not being completely awful. They get behind opponents but rake the ball out. They usually tackle on the catch. Every once in a while a ball will get batted to them. The safeties haven't let anything behind them all year. This is a tiny unicorn being shepherded into adulthood by an entire community.
The main issue will be the health of Jordan Kovacs. Kovacs missed last week's game against Purdue with some sort of knee injury; he has reportedly been practicing and Brady Hoke says he will go. These things will be believed when seen.
Extra bonus weird factor: there's going to be some wind. Not MSU-level wind, but potentially meaningful.
Key Matchup: Floyd and Countess vs their counterparts. I'm expecting the first deep balls since MSU (sort of), these run by quality receivers in an environment more conducive to completions. Each ball that Vandenberg hangs up there will be a huge swing opportunity for Iowa. May the corners get in chests all game long.
*[Iowa has replaced their Inexplicably Great White Wide Receiver with the Elaborately Named Great Wide Receiver of late. Call it a push.]
Iowa's kicker was amongst the most reliable in the league before he missed a chip-shot and a 30-some yarder in the Minnesota loss. He's still 12 of 16 on the year and was 14 of 17 last year. The misses against Minnesota are a fluke.
Brendan Gibbons added 22 and 37 yard field goals to his collection of uninspiring makes that we'll take all day after last year. He's now 6 of 8 on the year. None of those are from outside 40 and two are glorified extra points. This is still massive improvement.
Iowa has a huge advantage in punting (Michigan is 111th, Iowa 12th net) but Michigan's is based on an extremely small sample size dominated by pooch punts from Michigan State's half of the field. Nobody's returning anything much, though Iowa has a slight advantage on kickoffs.
Key Matchup: Gibbons you put it through the uprights?
- Martin is getting blown up like he was at MSU.
- Denard and Devin do not make the Iowa secondary pay for its inexplicable badness.
- Michigan's road issues rear their heads again with more snap count goofs.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Iowa fans' predictions that mobile quarterbacks will tear them to ribbons bears out.
- Bigach is playing and Michigan can manball him and the rest of that DL.
- Mattison blitz packages send Vandenberg into UPDATE: the fetal position.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 5 (Baseline 5; +1 for Road Disaster Reprise?, +1 for Coker Plus Freshman Linebackers Equals Like Dang, +1 for Where Is The Kovacs Binky?, –1 for GERG-Level Pass D Against Basically A Season-Long McGloin, –1 for Minnesota Comparative Scores For Real, +1 for Vandenberg Is Not TerBush, –1 for Roberson/Gray == Luck Plus Legs, –1 for They Would Take Heininger In A Hot Second.)
Desperate need to win level: 8 (Baseline 5; +1 for This Is Not The Last Two Years, Please, Part II, +1 for Division Goals: We Has Them, +1 for I Like NINE WINS, –1 for It's Not Like This Would Be Totally Incomprehensible, +1 for Hell Yes It Would After The Minnesota Game.)
Loss will cause me to... collapse to my knees, rend my garments, and prepare for the literally Red Sea that is the rest of the schedule to cave in. Okay, so some of it is orange. But orange is almost red.
Win will cause me to... tattoo B-R-A-D-Y G-E-T-S-IT across my knuckles.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Man, this creeps me out. In the aftermath of the Minnesota game Michigan is a solid road favorite that the public is piling in on and Vegas is like "fine by us." Heebie jeebies right there.
Still, they did lose to Minnesota and when Graham Watson made the Hawkeyes her upset special on Doctor Saturday one of her arguments was "Iowa outgained Minnesota by 75 yards." That is the worst argument in the history of arguments. Total yardage in Minnesota-Michigan: 580-177. I know football is weird but it ain't that weird. It's hard to comprehend but it does look like this Iowa team is the kind of team that can lose to Minnesota if they get a few bad breaks, which basically makes them Purdue.
But it is on the road and Michigan is capable of throwing six interceptions at any moment against any opponent and confidence is not roaringly high over here. Still… man. Losing to ISU, scraping by Pitt, hardly threatening to score against PSU, losing to Minnesota… these are not events that make me think this is a team that should beat Michigan.
Meanwhile, what happens if Iowa gets a fourth and two at the Michigan 38? Do they send Marcus Coker at Will Heininger? No, they punt. What happens if the inverse happens? Adamantium claws burst from Hoke's forehead and he says "go for it." Given the defenses in this matchup, advantage M.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Denard has a Heisman-ish day, cracking 100 yards on the ground and completing 65% of his passes. Yes, terrible INT.
- Coker grinds out 120 yards at around 4 per, and this seems acceptable.
- Power works in this game. For real.
- Michigan, 33-28
What's that? | A starting tailback? | For me? | You guys!
Hey coach, they say it's your birthday. Brady Hoke yesterday turned a chipper 53. Born in 1958 in Dayton, Ohio, to a father who played along side Bo, from an early age Brady reportedly called for his bottle by raising a fist from his crib and crying "hail!" Other than that one running back he's always wanted, Brady gets the undying love and devotion of the Michigan fanbase, until such time as he loses to Ohio State, which cannot happen because Ohio State no longer exists. We'll come back to the board but first, diaries:
The Mathlete's Mid-Week Metrics are all official now but this greatest diarist of all time can still put up a Diary of the Week on the side to weight the chances of various Big Ten Championship hopefuls. Michigan's less than a 10 to 1; we're rooting for MSU to lose out while the Spartans want Michigan to win out. Yeah, that's about as screwed up as dreaming about going to Indianapolis. Remember when you could beat Ohio State, stick a rose in your teeth, and book a flight to Pasadena? That will never happen again. Because Ohio State doesn't exist anymore.
BlueSeoul had another great Game Wrap, though I could have done without the characterization of Hoke and co. as a return to Lloydball:
And then I realized, it's not about da shoes. The thing that changed was me. I'm ready to go back to 9-3 season's again. I'm willing to tolerate 8-4 years if they're balanced with 10-2. I might even be able to stomach the very infrequent 7-5 year if it's offset with a couple 11-1's and 12-0's. And I don't need last second comeback drives against Indiana to be entertained. Saturday's stomping of Purdue was boring, and entertaining, and filled with more satisfaction than I've felt in years.
Let's not confuse late Carr and RR-era Grouchy Carr with three decades of Carr the D.C. and Carr the H.C. who put many roses in many Michigan mouths. He didn't break chairs and splatter goats in visitor's locker rooms after losses but this idea that Carr was not intense and hell-bent on winning championships needs to die. Also needs to die: Interceptions:
That's from turnover analysis by Enjoy Life. Michigan has thrown 12 INTs and picked off six. Fortunately the arm punts don't hurt so much EJ explains. When ST3 went inside the box score, he pointed at Avery's pick as the play of the game.
Maize_in_spartyland handed out 3rd quarter grades across the Big Ten. They're starting to sound like Michigan 2009-ish:
Iowa needs one more win to be bowl eligible, and they missed the potential to do that last weekend, with a loss to lowly Minnesota. Iowa finishes up with Michigan and Michigan State visiting Iowa City and visits to Purdue and Nebraska.
Iowa's still technically in the hunt for the Bo Division title, but they're also one bad trip to West Lafayette and three losses to Top 15 opponents away from their season ending in November. The pic above is Blue Indy's 'Marvel'ous wallpaper.
Recruiting is a thing again. Ace provides the weekly class rankings that haven't changed but for two JUCOs to Minnesota and Purdue. A scouting report on 2013 OLB prospect E.J. Levenberry was posted by austinte and bumped. The Virginia linebacker has a 5-star's offer sheet and is probably a WLB to Michigan. There's plenty of room available for this year's guys, finds airvipermb.
Google has to be wondering what's up with stubob and the weekly pony image searches for Ugly Game of the Week. The guy probably can't type 'p' into his search box without "pretty prancing ponies" filling in. MiS's Upset Watch shows Michigan 7-1 against the spread this year but Iowa is 5-0 at home ATS this year and Ferentz is usually a good home dog, dammit. Yesman2221 previews WMU in hockey. Chris of Etc. moved the picture pages. Get your program.
Coming up, you were not imagining the imaginary Woodsons; they are everywhere. Also: Craig Roh dressed as a shepherd and Mike Martin's Smashing Pumpkins.
I was torn, but then people crashed the site. I think site crashed for something good == muppets. Especially when the good thing was a foregone conclusion. McMuppets ahoy!
And you can't have one without the other…
About ten months ago, Michigan was 1-6 in the Big Ten and people were emailing me nasty things about John Beilein's job prospects.
I will keep my composure. I will keep my composure. I will keep my composure.
Well, I tried, but when Michigan hauls in their biggest basketball recruit since either LaVell Blanchard (1999) or Jerod Ward (1994) it's time to get excited. Mitch McGary chose the Wolverines today over Duke and Florida live on ESPNU, and lo, there is much rejoicing in Ann Arbor.
5*, #1 C,
5*, #1 C,
#3 C, #5 Ovr
All four services are in agreement that McGary is 6'10" and around 250 pounds (except ESPN, which has him at 225, which seems implausible), and all are in agreement that he's really, really good at basketball.
How good? Let's get to the evaluations, starting with ESPN:
McGary is a physically imposing presence in the paint with good size, tremendous upper body strength, and limitless energy and physicality. He is proactive seeking out contact inside, a consistent finisher, and high volume two way rebounder. He is incredibly active with a terrific motor and great toughness. The lefty is skilled enough to stretch the defense to 18 feet, has the dexterity to dunk with both hands in congestion, and sets big screens both on and off the ball. He runs well in straight lines and has pretty soft hands around the basket.
That's their "strengths" blurb, while areas to work on include developing a more polished post game, using his right hand more (he's a lefty), and his basketball I.Q.—they cite that he plays with "blind aggression," which seems to make sense when you're a 6'10" NBA prospect with outstanding mobility and finishing ability, but that's just me.
UMHoops caught McGary—as well as his AAU teammate and best friend, now-fellow 2012 commit Glenn Robinson III—at the Pittsburgh Jam Fest this spring:
McGary’s uncanny combination of size, strength, athleticism and coordination is extremely impressive because it allows him to do so much on the court. He loves to rebound the ball and push it up the court himself. He attacks the basket with a nice face-up game, although it’d be nice to see him play more with his back to the basket.
His decision making needs work as he often tries to do far too much before turning the ball over.He also tends to float to the perimeter a bit too much and loves to settle for jump shots despite having the tools to get a much better look at the basket. Overall, McGary was extremely impressive and he is on the verge of blowing up if he hasn’t already. The lefty’s flaws are correctable and easily outweighed by his size and talent.
I love imagining a 6'10" power forward leading the fast break, and now I don't have to, because he'll be doing it for Michigan and you can see him run the break in the highlights below. Also taking note of his precocious athletic talents was Eric Bossi of Rivals, who saw McGary at the NY2LA Summer Jam in July:
What a total animal this guy played like on Friday. First, the five-star big man broke Texas PRO in the first half with his ill-tempered length-of-the-court drives and rebounding, and he was able to rest himself for the championship after racking up 14 points and 16 boards. Then, looking as fresh as he would if he was playing his first game of the summer, he went out and dominated the paint in SYF's win over Dream Vision in the championship game. Bottom line, McGary is a competitor with a non-stop motor, great hands, great skill and even greater will.
ESPN's Paul Biancardi liked McGary's motor enough to deem it the best in the 2012 ESPN100, and also noted McGary's Novakian enthusiasm even when he's on the sideline:
It is difficult to find players who bring all-out effort and energy on a consistent basis, but McGary does it better than anyone. Not only does he bring energy to his own game, he gives it to his teammates. His motor never stops as he constantly works the backboard, runs the floor and dives on the floor for loose balls. His enthusiasm even carries over when he's on the bench as he cheers on his teammates and remains vocal. McGary has talent and physical tools, but his motor makes him special and will make him money one day.
Maybe the gritty grit grit stuff isn't coincidence, as McGary hails from Chesterton, Indiana, home of—you guessed it—Zack Novak, who hosted McGary on his official visit. McGary transferred after his junior season from Chesterton High School to Brewster Academy, a powerhouse school in New Hampshire, but I'm now strongly suspecting there's something in the water in Chesterton.
More scout drooling—plus a very interesting comparison—from Coast 2 Coast Recruiting:
When watching Mitch McGary play, it’s easy to envision a young David Lee. Whether he is effortlessly running the floor, shooting left-handed fadeaways, abusing the rim with powerful dunks, or blocking shots into next Wednesday, all punctuated by electric yells, it’s a beautiful sight to any basketball fan. The newly sculpted 6’10 250 pound power forward/center started tearing through the basketball world in the past three months at the NY2LA Swish ‘N Dish, The Adidas May Classic, The Pittsburgh Jam Fest, the Jayhawk Invitational, and most recently, the NBPA Top 100 camp.
I'm totally fine with the Lee comparison as long as it's related to offense—Lee was a McDonald's All-American in 2001 (and the slam dunk contest champ that year) who went to Florida and was drafted in the first round (30th overall) by the Knicks, and he became a 20-10 guy for them, but his lack of ability on the defensive end played a role in him getting shipped to basketball purgatory at Golden State last season. On the offensive end, Lee is a 6'9" PF/C with great athleticism for his size, a decent mid-range jumper, and he's an absolute demon on the boards.
Finally, I had to end with this quote by Scout's Brian Snow from today's timely Sam Webb article [emphasis mine]:
"To put it bluntly — (at Michigan) he'd be the starting center and the best player on the team the moment he walks on campus," Snow said emphatically. "I really don't see a scenario in which that isn't the case. He is probably the hardest playing kid in the country. There's absolutely no prima donna to him at all. He'll run through a wall for you, he'll dive on the floor. Then he is a pretty good athlete. He can really face the rim and handle the ball, especially against centers. He also scores down low, blocks shots, and he is one of the better rebounders in the country.
"We're talking about a kid that can do it all from the low post," said Daniels. "He can run, he has good hands, he plays hard and with energy, he rebounds, blocks shots, and he can score. Whatever school gets Mitch is getting a heck of a player and a major impact-type guy as soon as he sets foot on campus."
Dylan also posted UMHoops's final scouting impressions of McGary and several other scouting reports (a couple of which appear above) yesterday in anticipation of Mitch McGary Day. It's well worth a read, and since I got half these links from Dylan, you should feel obligated to click over and give his fantastic site a read, especially on a day like today.
McGary boasted six offers, and they're from a who's who of basketball powerhouses: Aside from Michigan, he had scholarship offers from Duke, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, and North Carolina. I suspect that offer list would've been much larger had McGary not reclassified from a 2011 to a 2012 recruit—transferring from his hometown of Chesterton to Brewster Academy in New Hampshire in the process—and blowing up relatively late by basketball recruiting standards.
Dylan posted an extensive video archive with a solid ten videos. Lots of good stuff there, and here's one of my favorites:
Yes, he ole'd a defender with an around-the-back dribble on the break and finished with a two-handed dunk from halfway to the free throw line. That was not a hallucination, unless I am also hallucinating, which hopefully is not the case.
Also, obligatory video of McGary shattering a backboard and then revealing his incredible nickname, "White Thunder":
/BOOM Tractor Traylor'd (RIP)
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
He's gonna start. I know, I'm going way out on a limb there. Here's what Michigan's lineup will likely look like for the 2012-13 season (McGary's freshman year), with the not-entirely-safe-but-certainly-not-crazy assumption that Tim Hardaway Jr. sticks around for his junior season:
PG: Trey Burke (backup: Carlton Brundidge)
SG: Tim Hardaway Jr. (Matt Vogrich/Nick Stauskas)
SF: Evan Smotrycz (Glenn Robinson III)
PF: Mitch McGary (Evan Smotrycz/Jon Horford)
C: Jordan Morgan (Jon Horford)
That's, well, a really good team. Big Ten contender, dangerous in the NCAA tournament good. And if you believe Brian Snow, McGary will be the best player on a team featuring a junior Tim Hardaway Jr.—you have permission to get hype, people. McGary should be contending for all-conference honors as soon as he steps on campus, and has the potential to do even more than that.
As for whether or not McGary will stick around beyond his freshman season, that's certainly in question. From Nick Baumgardner at AnnArbor.com:
[McGary] would provide instant impact. For how long? That remains unclear. Plenty of national analysts have pegged McGary as a potential "one-and-done" prospect, though [ESPN recruiting analyst Dave] Telep said, "I don't think it's unrealistic to say he could be (in college) for two years."
I'll take two years of McGary in a heartbeat, obviously. It's easy to accept these things if a player is likely going to have a huge impact right away, especially when it means Michigan will likely be on the radar of future top recruits in a way they haven't been in over a decade.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
McGary joins forward Glenn Robinson III (Rivals's #34 overall prospect) and guard Nick Stauskas (#79) in the class of 2012, and that will wrap things up with a dramatic flourish for that year's group. The Wolverines are already full for the class of 2013, with four-stars Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin and three-stars Mark Donnal and Austin Hatch (although Hatch's status as a 2013 recruit is in doubt after the tragic plane crash—he will likely reclassify as a 2014 player if he can continue his basketball career) already in the fold.
Yes, Michigan is already moving on to the 2014 class. Beilein Uber Alles. Really, the job the Beilein and assistant Bacari Alexander did with this recruitment was phenomenal by all accounts. I had to pull another quote from Sam Webb's article, because it should get you extremely excited for the future of the program (as if you're not already):
"What I really like about Michigan is its coaching staff, especially Bacari Alexander," said McGary in his ESPN blog Wednesday. "He's probably one of the most underrated coaches in the country. He really knows what he's doing with the big men. I just like that I can trust the coaches there, and I actually like that they're not on the biggest stage yet. That gives me the opportunity to go there and make a huge impact from day one."
Cue the Muppets, if Brian hasn't posted them already.
Kick it off like we always do…
The early touchdown saw the unadjusted numbers drop below 30% but the spread adjustment kept the expectation at about 70% or above for the whole game.
Top 3 Plays:
Play #45, +12%, Robinson to Roundtree for 49 yards on 3rd and 20.
Play #73, +11%, Robinson to Gallon for 42 yards and 1st and Goal.
Play #67, +10%, Avery picks off the Marve deflection
Bottom 3 Plays:
Play #6, –18%, TerBush to Bush for 48 yards a Purdue lead.
Play #36, –9%, Robinson picked on third down.
Play #46, –9% Gardner picked for the first time this year.
The story of Saturday was mostly Fitz Toussaint, and rightfully so. His +7 on the day was the best mark for a Michigan running back on the season. In fact, other than Vincent Smith’s +6 against Eastern Michigan no Michigan back had even crossed +3 on the season.
The defense continues to do enough to allow the offense to take hold of the game. After four B1G games this season the defense has had a best Win Percent Added (WPA) of +6% from Saturday to a worst of –7% against Northwestern. That is a incredibly tight window to operate in and means that defense has essentially held serve in every B1G game this season. The offense is still doing the heavy lifting, but at least the defense isn’t adding to load this season.
Grades are in PAN (pts/game) and opponent adjusted.
Rush Offense: +3
Vincent Smith: +1
Pass Offense: +5
Rush Defense: +2
Pass Defense: +0
Special Teams: +1 (best of the year)
A little frustrated with the coverage on the Heisman this year. Apparently the NFL GM’s are now deciding who the best performer is in college football. This isn’t a knock on Andrew Luck, but just because the NFL says he is a sure thing, doesn’t automatically mean he is going to have the most deserving year. He has piled up good stats against bad teams so far and the conversation could still change.
Here are my ratings of the top contenders looking at both PAN and WPA.
Player, School: PAN (Rank), WPA (Rank)
Andrew Luck, Stanford: +6 (25th), +1.7 (8th)
Trent Richardson, Alabama: +4 (2nd RB), +.4 (11th)
Kellen Moore, Boise St: +11 (4th), +2.1 (4th)
Russell Wilson, Wisconsin: +13 (1st), +2.4 (1st)
Case Keenum , Houston: +13 (2nd), +2.2 (3rd)
Denard Robinson, Michigan: +6 (22nd), +2.2 (2nd)
Ron Zook Dumb Punt of the Week
Pickings were a little slimmer this week but this week’s award goes to the Will Muschamp and the Florida Gators. Trailing by 4 in the World’s Largest Non-Alcoholic but Actually a Total Drunkfest Party with a little over 8 minutes to go, the Gators faced 4th and 2 at the Georgia 37. This one works out for the Gators, even though they go on to lose, anyway. After taking a Delay of Game to give the punter more room (the first sign of a dumb punt), Florida manages to down the ball at the 4 and get a three and out. Florida gets the ball back at the 36, trading 2+ minutes on the clock to get a yard and a fresh set of downs, the Gators throw three straight incompletions and then go for the 4th and 10 but fail, never getting the ball back.
Projections and Ranking
If you missed it Monday I posted detailed odds for the B1G championship game. Michigan stands at 9.5% overall. Going 4-0 down the stretch bumps it up to nearly 40%. A loss to division foes Iowa or Nebraska effectively kills the chances where going 3-1 with a loss to either Illinois or Ohio still leaves the odds around 20%.
After an expected win last week against Purdue, the overall win projection for Michigan is relatively unchanged in between 9 and 10 wins.
Opp (Change vs last post)
@Iowa: 67% (-1%)
@Illinois: 55% (+6%)
Nebraska: 56% (-8%)
Ohio: 70% (-7%)
My Top 5
1. Oklahoma St
2. Boise St
15. Michigan St
19. Penn St
PAN, National Rank (leader), B1G Rank (leader)
Michigan: +5, 3rd (Georgia Tech), 1st
Iowa: +1, 53rd, 7th
Michigan: +2, 32nd (Boise), 4th (Wisconsin)
Iowa: –6, 118th, 11th
Michigan: +2, 25th (LSU), 5th (Michigan St)
Iowa: +3, 18th, 3rd
Michigan: +1, 43rd (Oklahoma St), 7th (Michigan St)
Iowa: +3, 23rd, 2nd
Michigan: 0, 88th (Florida St), 10th (Purdue)
Iowa: +1, 49th, 7th
The next three games are all slight Michigan favors before matching up with an improving Ohio team. A home game versus Iowa would make me more comfortable but I still think it goes our way, 37-30 Michigan.
One final note is that based on a little twitter prompting from @cdbarker I have begun work on a game-theory manifesto and it's going to be long, probably to be posted in December. Planned topics include: how to use timeouts, suprise on-side kicks, a better 2-point conversion chart and possibly a revisit of 4th down stategy. Hit me in the comments or @The_Mathlete with other things you would like to see.