further adventures in Jed York being unsuited for his position
Something's been missing from Michigan gamedays since the free programs ceased being economically viable: scientific gameday predictions that are not at all preordained by the strictures of a column in which one writer takes a positive tack and the other a negative one… something like Punt-Counterpunt.
The Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry may lack history to Brian Kelly or to Irish fans who suddenly care about justifying why they don’t care. For me, it's the only history I know.
The first Division I football game I ever watched was Michigan vs. Notre Dame in 2009. Having moved to Ann Arbor just a year earlier, I wasn’t yet a Michigan fan (or even a college football fan) and after the 3-9 season didn’t really want to be. That Saturday, I went to down by the stadium only to tailgate.
Sometimes sports can be like used car salesmen though. All they need is for you to walk in the door. “Here is a used car! It got totaled last year, but look, a new paint job! Let me tell you about the new engine! There are 110,000 people who totally want this car!”
With 11 seconds left on the clock, Tate Forcier rolled out of the pocket and fired to Greg Mathews. The 110,000 other buyers roared, and I said, “Okay, deal.” What a sucker.
Michigan didn’t win many more games that year. It didn’t matter at first. I watched every one diligently, trying to understand how things worked by agonizing over them when they didn't. I rode out my investment as it sputtered in October and died in November. In December, I was done being a Michigan football fan.
But the next year Denard happened, and then Michigan-Notre Dame 2010 happened. Again, the used car salesman analogy: “Here is a used car! It's the same model as last year’s car, but we fixed all the problems! We replaced the engine with an even faster one! We even kept the old one if you want it! We’re not sure the airbags work, but who needs airbags? Or free safeties?!”
As Denard plunged into the end zone beneath Touchdown Jesus to give Michigan the go-ahead score, I was like, “Yeah! F--- airbags. What's a free safety?”
To satisfy my curiosity, I started reading about Michigan football. I discovered mgoblog. When reading wasn’t enough, I began streaming press conferences. One thing led to another, and a few weeks later I found myself at a Michigan Daily Sports meeting (probably the only med student ever to show up to one of these things) thinking like an idiot that I could volunteer to help them cover football, only to discover that the Daily doesn’t work like that. Didn’t matter. I joined anyway. In half a year I produced a modest portfolio (one that I'm still quite proud of), which was enough to convince Brian Cook to hire me.
The rest you know, and here I am today.
In Fourth and Long, John U. Bacon talks about some of the crazy things college football inspires us to do. I would submit “becoming a sports blogger while trying to get an MD/PhD” for consideration. And I would specifically point out that it all started with Michigan vs. Notre Dame.
I’m sad the series is going away. It has given me my best memory of Michigan football (Roy Roundtree caught the game-winning TD right in front of me in 2011) and my worst (Devin Gardner crashed into the corner of a metal platform in 2012, again right in front of me, and I thought for a horrifying moment that he was dead).
Very soon, however, these kinds of memories will no longer be made. Not for you, not for me, not for any other budding doctors who might also possess an unrealized passion for college football like me. You know, it's funny that the Irish think the rivalry lacks history. They're the ones keeping it that way.
So I have an idea: let’s not think about this game like it’s the second to last time Michigan will play Notre Dame. Instead, let’s think about this as the second time Michigan will play Notre Dame … Under the lights. In the Big House. Ever.
What little history there is, at least it’s on our side.
Michigan 34, Notre Dame 14.
Notre Dame 2013
By Nick RoUMel
The new Punt looks a lot like the old. Heiko’s outlandish “Homer” pick has, as usual, relegated me to being the bad guy. You know when you were a kid, and your ball went into a certain neighbor’s yard, and you didn’t dare go over there? Yep, that’s me. Grouchy ol’ Counterpunt. I’m going to keep your ball, and when your Dad comes over to reason with me, I’ll kick his ass.
I do have to admit, Heiko’s enthusiasm is fetching, if not a bit nutty. I’m not sure what’s crazier – driving without airbags, or slowing down medical school to work for mgoblog. He’s like the guy who comes late to the party. You know, when the beer is all gone, and everyone else is slipping upstairs or nodding off, Heiko’s the guy who shows up with his iPad and a bag of Doritos, to show off official Michigan Athletic Department promotional videos, while chatting a mile a minute about free safeties and the deficiencies of the Cover 4 defense - all with Dorito breath to boot.
My grumbliness aside, I must admit I am completely psyched for this game. I have even been invited to a “tailgate.” I understand this is a pre-game party involving food and drink. I just may bring a bag of Doritos myself. The nice thing about night games is that we can do this tailgate thing all day. As much fun as we’re going to have, with this very special second night game in two years, do you realize they do this in the SEC every damned week? I mean those people start real early every Saturday, chattering away in those silly southern accents of theirs, saying “y’all” and arguing about Billy Cannon and whether a three year sentence is sufficient for the guy who poisoned the Toomer’s Corner oak trees at Auburn, and whether he will have a boyfriend in prison named Bubba.
Me, I’m not going to do any of those things. I’m thinking of going to the Farmer’s Market in the morning, and whipping up a batch of lamb-sweet potato hash with fried eggs, and some beverages. Like orange juice, with perhaps a shot of ouzo.
Then after breakfast, when there are still 12 hours until kickoff, I will take my first in a series of naps for the day. During these naps I will dream about the big game. I will dream about Brian Kelly and whether he is even grouchier than the neighbor who beat up my Dad. I will dream about Jon Bon Jovi’s son who plays for Notre Dame – no, actually, my sister will. I will dream about Devin Gardner, and Taylor Lewan, and Notre Dame’s stout defense, and 110,000 fans screaming for Bon Jovi.
And then I’ll go back to sleep, and have a nightmare.
NOTRE DAME 20, MICHIGAN 16
A Friday tradition during football season: expunging a bunch of tabs quickly before the weekend.
Go to MGoPatio now! Seth will be there.
(Also Marlin Jackson, Chris Perry, and Brandon Williams.)
Come back tomorrow for the liveblog. We've got a sponsor, Marawatch, and it should be absolute chaos.
I’m sure Notre Dame will have fun picking on Wake Forest for the next 50 years or so. But first, one more visit to the Big House, and one more chance to lay an egg.
And stay out. Tales from 1978:
George Cavender was a legend. He had succeeded the equally legendary William Revelli as Michigan’s band director, and he was a loud, bombastic, incredibly enthusiastic guy. The 1978 season was also his final season as the leader of the band, and I considered myself lucky that I was getting to play at least one year under his direction.
In any case, as the game got going, Cavender was just as loud and excited as any Michigan fan in the stands that day. He would cheer the good plays, boo the bad calls and wince at every dropped pass.
But here’s what I remember most: Late in the second half, as Michigan was cementing its comeback, Joe Montana got tackled near our sideline and came tumbling into the band. He came to rest right at the feet of the legendary George Cavender.
Before Montana had a chance to get up, Cavender gave him a pretty good stomp to the chest and said, “Get the hell out of here!”
We must get a copy of this. Jim Harbaugh needs to get this to a person who can put it on the internet, man:
"Want to hear something kick ass?" Harbaugh asked in his first year as Stanford's coach, sliding the disc into his computer.
For the next 20 minutes, Bo Schembechler's voice boomed from back in 1988. It was a stunning and inspirational audio peek behind the scenes of one of the greatest college football rivalries.
"You let the crowd yell. Let Knute Rockne come down from the heavens. You let them all come. You remember, you are Michigan. There is no greater tradition in college football today than the uniform that you wear."
Former Michigan assistant Cam Cameron (now at LSU) had secretly recorded Bo's pregame speech before that year's Notre Dame game. Thank goodness.
"I always get chills up and down my spine," Harbaugh said that day.
Notre Dame won 19-17, but the result hardly matters.
You'll be back in two minutes or less. A hearty farewell to The Blog Yost Built, which has decided to pack it in. I bet he's back at some point.
Other stuff here: Ace FFFF!
|WHAT||Michigan vs Notre Dame|
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||8 pm Eastern
September 7th, 2013
|THE LINE||M -4|
|WEATHER||mid 70s dropping to low 70s, isolated thunderstorms, 30% chance of rain|
Expanding Tom Hammond head from NDMSPaint. We miss you, Tom.
Run Offense vs Notre Dame
Hello, Mr. Nix, I am a center popularly described as "undersized." Let me step around you all day?
This matchup got more intriguing last week as Michigan's offensive line showed pretty well running zone stretches and Temple went for 4.6 YPC against the Irish. In the aftermath, Louis Nix seemed frustrated at his lack of impact after eating double-team after double-team. This spawns questions: were people not doubling Nix before? Are people aware that doubling nose tackles is standard practice in many offenses? Was it just the sweltering heat that deflated Nix's performance? I don't know, man.
A big chunk of the Temple ground game came on scrambles we'll address in the next section. What didn't was a result of effectively double-teaming Nix, avoiding Stephon Tuitt, and getting Notre Dame's middle linebackers confused. Temple used a lot of packaged plays in this one, which caused the Irish MLBs to look clueless as they sucked up on runs that turned into quick seam routes they vacated. Expect Michigan to do something similar, whether it's more packaged plays—Michigan has run them on occasion in the last couple years—or a variety of counters and screens that exploit a couple of guys in Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese who don't play like the veterans they are.
Also of note: hyper-touted recruit Jaylon Smith is one of the starting outside linebackers for Notre Dame. He's a true freshman who replaces the retired Danny Spond, and may be vulnerable to either getting optioned or just straight-up blown up by guys who have been in college a bit longer.
[NOTE: Notre Dame's 3-4 is going to look a bit like a 4-3 for maybe half the day, as Michigan will have a tight end and Notre Dame will screw down their strongside linebacker (either Prince Shembo or Ishaq Williams) over the tight end. They'll still two gap when they're in that front; sometimes they will go 4-3 with 320-pound Stephon Tuitt moving inside.]
For Michigan, it's Fitzgerald Toussaint's time to grab a death lock on the feature back job or slog through another middling game that opens up the freshman floodgates behind. In this one, I'll believe a freshman gets tasked with defending blitzes from a 3-4 ten seconds after it gets Gardner splattered into goo. Except for short yardage it'll be Toussaint, and then Justice Hayes if he needs a blow.
As for the line, it showed as well as it could against CMU, repeatedly crushing the Chips off the ball to the left side of the line. Jack Miller and Graham Glasgow showed an affinity for the scoop blocks that make the stretch go, and Miller in particular showed the agility you need. That's no surprise since he was recruited by Rich Rodriguez. Michigan will do plenty of that in the hopes that Taylor Lewan can win his one on one matchup and Nix will be left behind, panting. Note than in three-man fronts, Glasgow will be releasing immediately and it'll be Miller and Kalis trying to combo Nix. Not as effective, likely.
Michigan's tight ends are a key. They've got to be able to either block Smith or outrun Shembo/Fox/Calabrese to be effective. Funchess had a tough outing against CMU, and AJ Williams could have been better. Michigan wants to hit the edge, and the tight ends will have to help them get there.
What happens? I don't know. Seriously.
Key Matchup: Nix versus Miller/Glasgow/Kalis. If Michigan can get a stalemate here that's a win. Temple did handle him.
[Hit THE JUMP for my diabolical revenge on Jack Swarbrick, and other stuff.]
Notre Dame Visit Primer
The second interation of Under The Lights should be Michigan's biggest recruiting weekend of the fall. 247's Steve Lorenz was kind enough to give me permission to post his list of visitors($); this doesn't cover every visitor who'll be on campus this weekend (there are many), just the ones I've deemed most important to point out. To make this easier, I'm breaking it up into categories.
Unfortunately, Michael Ferns and Jabrill Peppers can't make it, so Michigan won't have two of their primary commits/recruiters; Wilton Speight will be there, however, as will George "The Mayor" Campbell, Damien Harris, and a host of other Wolverine pledges from both the 2014 and 2015 classes.
2014 Uncommitted Prospects
Just two players fall into this category, and they happen to be the two prospects sitting atop Michigan's board for 2014: Southfield DL Malik McDowell and VA WDE Da'Shawn Hand. The Wolverine's Tim Sullivan caught up with Hand's mentor and former position coach, John Harris, to discuss what the nation's top defensive end will look for on his visit ($):
"[Saturday,] he'll look at how the coaches react if Notre Dame gets an early touchdown. Do they get down on guys or are they encouraging? He'll look at the scheme, but he's already been through that. If you can justify how you can use him in it, he won't say, 'I don't like that front.' Everything is about how he fits into it."
Tell Hand the story of Brendan Gibbons's confidence-fueled rise from beaten-down shank artist to brunette-envisioning record-setter and I think he'll be encouraged by the coaching staff's level of, er, encouragement. Hand himself also spoke with Adam Friedman of Rivals about what he wants to see this weekend ($):
"I just want to go up there and have fun," said the 6-foot-4, 248-pound defensive end. "The first time I was up there it was mainly an academic visit because I met with one of the professors. This is more of a visit to see if I can live there for four or five years. I know that it's not going to be like this weekend every day but at the same time I want to see how it is on game day."
As for McDowell, he told Sam Webb that he won't take any official visits during the season in order to focus on his own football season ($). That means he'll try to cram in five officials between the end of his season (likely November with playoffs included) and whenever he makes his decision; this is just my speculation—I don't see that happening. Regardless, Michigan is still in a very good position for McDowell.
2015 Uncommitted Prospects
Da'Shawn Hand is bringing a pair of very talented friends with him to Michigan: five-star DT Tim Settle and four-star OT Matthew Burrell Jr. will accompany Hand on the trip. While neither of those players currently hold offers, I'd expect both will have them after the weekend; the coaches like to wait until prospects show serious interest before putting offers out there and a visit certainly qualifies. Both Settle and Burrell are top prospects at positions of need who'll be the subject of heated recruiting battles; it's good that Michigan is getting early looks from each of them.
Four-star Saginaw athlete Brian Cole looked to be a strong Michigan lean early; since Michigan State hired Curtis Blackwell, his 7-on-7 coach, the tides have shifted in favor of the Spartans—at least, that's the perception after Cole has been a steady presence in East Lansing. He's visited Michigan several times, as well, and a positive experience this weekend could move the needle once again. Cole is the one 2015 in-state prospect that I think Michigan would do well to haul in; it'd be a real loss if he ended up at State.
A few other notable in-state prospects are scheduled to attend: the Cass Tech duo of RB Mike Weber and DL Joshua Alabi plan to be there along with a few of their 2016 teammtes (CB Lavert Hill, brother of freshman S Delano Hill, as well as linemen Ostell Martin and Michael Onwenu). Detroit King LB Tyriq Thompson, son of former Michigan safety Clarence Thompson, is likely to attend as well.
MN DE Jashon Cornell is the #1 overall 2015 prospect on ESPN and a composite five-star; his visit is particularly interesting given that he comes from a school, Cretin-Derham Hall, that is traditionally a Notre Dame pipeline. Though he boasts offers from across the country, Cornell appears to be looking to stay in the Midwest—he's also got unofficials lined up to Iowa, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and—yes—Notre Dame. He took notice when George Campbell committed and The Mayor will surely look to convince Cornell that they should team up in college.
Four-star linebacker Justin Hilliard is a consensus top-three player in Ohio; he's got an extensive list of planned unofficials that includes a return trip to Ann Arbor for The Game. It wouldn't be surprising if his recruitment came down to Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Iowa, where his brother C.J. is 2014 running back commit (lord help him—no, AIRBHG, a different lord ohhhhhh no what have I done).
A couple more potential visitors are AZ ATH Cassius Peat, a 3.5-star OLB/DE-type and the brother of Stanford lineman Andrus, and NY TE Tyrone Wheatley Jr., son of... well, you can probably guess. Peat has an early Michigan State offer and enjoyed a summer visit to Ann Arbor; Wheatley already has a Michigan offer and looks like a strong candidate to end up in the class at some point.
LA four-star DT TD Moton is also a potential visitor, though there's a hurdle to clear here:
— Tim Sullivan (@TimS_Wolverine) September 5, 2013
Stay strong, Mr. Moton.
2016 Uncommitted Prospects
The one to watch here is IL OT Erik Swenson, whose tone regarding Michigan has been downright rapturous after his previous visits; he may want to take his time with a decision, but sooner or later he's almost guaranteed to end up committing. That will be very good news, since he's one of the top overall prospects in the 2016 class.
Other notable sophomores include Traverse City OL Thiyo Lukusa, who already has a Michigan State offer, and Farmington WR Desmond Fitzpatrick, who has three offers himself (Indiana, Ohio, and Toledo) and has been a consistent presence on campus
There isn't an obvious candidate to commit this weekend with the possible exception of Swenson—interestingly, one of the youngest prospects who'll be in attendance. The two 2014 targets have long maintained that their recruitments will stretch well past this weekend. The 2015 visitors for the most part are either players who should have very competitive recruitments (Settle, Burrell, Cornell) or guys Michigan hasn't offered or may not have room to take—Wheatley is an intriguing exception to this rule.
Of course, this was much the same case the last time these two teams played at the Big House, and then Dymonte Thomas shocked Ohio State fans by pledging to the good guys (and, yes, sticking to that commitment) after getting swept up in the excitment of Robinson-to-Roundtree. In what should be another incredible atmosphere on Saturday, who knows what surprises this weekend holds in store?
I should note that 247's Steve Wiltfong has a very informative free overview of what's turning into a big visit weekend across the Big Ten.
[Hit THE JUMP for a couple of Michigan commits getting rankings bumps, highlights of Jashon Cornell in action, the decline of head-to-head recruiting battles between Michigan and Notre Dame, and more.]
TONIGHT! See you there, now with free food (enough for 50 people).
The MGoBlog equivalent of college football is the Diaries. Nobody there has been drafted to write what they're told. Nobody there gets paid to do it. You'll find legends like MCalibur and ST3 and Enjoy Life and Six Zero and bronxblue frequenting the same threads you do. This is a place where TRADITION means something, man. For those who are new to the extra content I'll use this week to introduce some of the regular things you find there:
The Six, by Mathlete: Okay sometimes we pay these guys under the table—what, you prefer we lose this guy to the SEC? Michigan's 7.0 points per red zone trip is ridiculous. Stray thought: if Michigan has the most effective guy ever at scoring from three yards out, does that change the math of going for two? Mathlete also had a LOT of dumb punts of the week to pick from (including two by MSU). Enos cowardly kicking a field goal after their false start didn't make the cut because it wasn't a punt.
Turnover Analysis, by Enjoy Life: This one is always short and important; he breaks down the turnovers for and against by situation so you can see how much they're really affecting the game, e.g. the arm-punt doesn't hurt as much as giving the opponent the ball inside your five yard line.
Cloud of Dustdate, by Daniel: The newest weekly will help us sort out the running backs. Charting the runs is a really nice touch. Maybe make 3rd and short and inside the 5 yard line runs red in the charts so we know when it's bulldozer time.
Trying a new series on the blog this year, kinda like picture pages but more focused on base concepts in Michigan's offense and defense, and how the skill level and talent of our players and our opponents' interact with that. If you're like "yeah, that's Picture Pages" well, yeah, sometimes, except usually PP is about showing you something specific while I'm really trying to show how all of these mad football skillz we talk about in recruiting translate into plays with a big outcome on the game. Since I'm still pretty new at this stuff I strongly appreciate criticism and comments. Anyway this week's play:
A very slow-developing play-action where Gardner is either very lazily getting into his drop or else doing a very good acting job of a lazy quarterback who handed it off already and is just going through the motions. Because Michigan was up 38-6 and Central's front seven were getting so pwned the safeties were being forced to sell out against the run, a play-action deep pass was so set up you can hear the announcers literally wondering aloud at the snap when it would come. Or should have been. Was it? On the fourth play of the drive (following a waggle, an Iso and a zone stretch), it comes.
[After the Jump]