the editor can only post the wallpapers people put in the diaries
By Heiko "4 AD" Yang
There’s football today. Michigan visits Northwestern for part II of Who Can Score Less During Regulation. That game will be followed by Ohio State and Michigan State in another installment of My Enemy’s Enemy Is Enemy When Other Enemy Is Not Good.
Michigan doesn’t have a new athletic director yet. I haven’t heard back from the department about my application, if you were wondering. Meanwhile we still have all of our 27 varsity sports, the Big House is still standing, and Stephen Ross hasn’t reneged on any of his donations. I’d say Jim Hackett is doing just fine. I had to look up his name just now because I haven’t heard his name mentioned since the day he was hired, which is an excellent sign. No one can call for your head if people don’t know who you are.
Oh hey, it’s snowing. Of course it is. There’s a giant storm in the Pacific sending cold air our way because This Is Michigan, and this is where winter has come and won’t be going away for the foreseeable future. It’s going to be cold until May, and we’re not going to be good at football for another couple seasons at best.
The last time I like this was during Rich Rod’s tenure. That feels like forever ago, doesn’t it? Before Denard, before Tate, before the new luxury boxes in the stadium even existed, we all said, “Just wait till he gets a quarterback who knows how to run his system.” Didn’t realize that we would also have to wait for a running back who knew how to run north and south, a secondary that wasn’t either injured, slow, or running the wrong direction, and a defensive coordinator who didn’t think his middle linebacker was a standup defensive tackle.
This feels different in an important way, though. Whereas I deeply wanted Rich Rod and his players to succeed until the moment he was fired, I’m pretty disinterested in what happens the rest of this season. I’ll watch today, sure. Will it break my heart if Michigan doesn’t win another game? The answer is not yes.
I ran into Vincent Smith last night, said hi and took a picture because I couldn’t help myself. And then I realized exactly what’s different: I freakin’ loved Rich Rod’s players. For whatever reason, Rich Rod’s players made you want to root for them. It didn’t matter how disappointing their performance was, you always felt terrible for them when they lost. Even after Hoke started bringing in stellar recruiting classes, my favorite players from the last few years are primarily Rich Rod’s guys – Denard (obvi), Gallon, Kovacs, Smith, Lewan, Roh, Roundtree … Probably the only guy that comes close now is Dennis Norfleet, and we all know Norfleet might as well have been a Rich Rod recruit.
There’s probably no fundamental difference between the players that these coaches recruited. Yeah, the Pattern™ and whatnot, but I think it has a lot more to do with the Message™, and that all comes back to Hoke. Under Hoke there was a radical change in the way players talked to the media and in public. Their PR training under Hoke and Brandon taught them to downplay their individual personalities and focus on the Team (x3). That’s great and all, but as a result there’s none of the same energy or swagger that four years ago inspired me to blindly apply for a press correspondent job at this blog because I wanted to meet them.
At this point all I see is a bunch of anonymous winged helmets. I couldn’t care less about the guys under the winged helmets, which is a terrible sign and something worth noting for the next head coach -- we can’t root for your players if we don’t know who they really are.
Northwestern 9, Michigan 6
by Nick RoUMel
Picking this one is a struggle.
No, not Michigan-Northwestern. Who cares? The season has become irrelevant, and pales in comparison to the administrative intrigue. Who will become the Athletic Director? Will David Brandon continue to foment conspiracy theories involving hostile fans and a cabal of scheming Democrats? Will Brady Hoke ever grow a pair?
the editor thinks this is slightly unsubtle
"Gosh I'm so sorry, Coach Dantonio. I prostrate myself before you and grovel! I kiss your steel-toed jackboots in supplication, because my reckless players damaged a square inch of your precious and consecrated holy turf. I do this even though you have yet to apologize for Chris Frey's ejection for targeting of Amarah Darboh, or Chris Frey's helmet hit on Devin Gardner, or when William Gholston tried to screw off Denard Robinson's head like a bottle cap and then punched Taylor Lewan:
“I do apologize, because I recognize that an injury that caused about as much damage to your grass as Dennis Norfleet making a fair catch (or dancing to Atomic Dog), is a far more serious transgression than anything your championship-caliber team may have ever done to ours.
“Plus I don't want you to beat me up and take my lunch money again."
So - back to today’s big game. I mean the one at the bully's house, in East Lansing. The Buckeyes visit the perpetually slighted Spartans, a team that can be favored and still manage to convey being disrespected. This is a team that wears not pads, but the chips of a thousand casinos on their shoulders, led by their fire-breathing coach, who would strangle a kitten for hissing at him wrong.
This is a game where I pray with all my might for both teams to lose, for the Spartans to be embarrassed, for Urban Meyer to remember that he retired three years ago to spend more time with his family, for the "Little Penguin," Jim Tressel, to cast a shadow over the game as long as Maurice Clarett's prison sentence.
But these are pipe dreams. The best I can hope for is for Sparty to be silenced at home, to come to work on Monday with excuses already rehearsed, for the playoff nonsense to stop, and for Dantonio to apologize for his general dickishness.
And if Michigan can manage another game winning field goal in the last micro-second, with the referees’ speedy ball-setting assistance, so much the better:
Michigan 12, Northwestern 10
[ed: the editor does think someone will score a touchdown]
FORMATION NOTES: Michigan debuted a Stanford-esque formation on which the entire world lined up across the front:
This had three tight ends (Williams, Kerridge, and Erik Magnuson, usually) and Funchess. I called it "Ace Errybody" because I feel we've forgotten about Antoine Dodson's raconteur status.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: OL as per usual, with Magnuson donning 81 to moonlight as a blocking tight end. Bo Dever got some late run at WR, seemingly after Norfleet was injured. RB actually started out with Hayes and then mixed Smith in; when both Hayes and Smith ended up dinged Johnson got his shot.
[After THE JUMP: precisely calibrating how fast our Drake Johnson roll should be.]
It's Ace, filling in for Brian today on the preview. You will skip over this and address your comments to Brian because that's what always happens. If I'm horribly wrong about anything, though, this is totally Brian.
|WHAT||Michigan at Northwestern|
Big House West
November 8th, 2014
|THE LINE||M -1.5|
|TICKETS||Currently 27 bucks|
partly cloudy, 20% chance of rain dropping to 0% after kickoff
low 40s dipping to high 30s, ~15mph winds
Northwestern is a tough team to figure out. They looked pretty bad during the nonconference portion of the schedule, started Big Ten play by blowing out Penn State and knocking off Wisconsin, then lost their last three, culminating in a 48-7 thumping at the hands of Iowa last week. Vegas thinks this is pretty close to a coin-flip; the line opened Northwestern -2 but has been bet all the way to Michigan -1.5. Both of these teams are obviously having a rough go; at least one InsideNU contributor is totally stealing our schtick:
It's almost basketball season... it's almost basketball season...
Michigan 23, Northwestern 10
This seems to be one of those games where fans of each team are by and large expecting the other team to win.
Run Offense vs Northwestern
Chi Chi Ariguzo (#44) is one of the B1G's better weakside LBs. [Fuller]
Until the last two weeks, Northwesterns rush defense had been quite good outside of an understandably rough outing against Wisconsin. Those last two weeks don't look so good, however, as both Nebraska and Iowa rushed for four touchdowns on around 45 carries that averaged ~5 yards. Mark Weisman (Mark Weisman!) was able to turn the corner on several outside runs against the Wildcats last week.
The rush defense's dropoff coincides directly with senior MIKE Collin Ellis missing these last two games due to a concussion suffered against Minnesota, and Ellis isn't expected to play this weekend. His replacement, Anthony Walker, is a redshirt freshman—he looked like one against Iowa. Chi Chi Ariguzo is a quality weakside linebacker, but all it takes is one inside LB getting out of his lane for a solid gain to open up.
The Northwestern defensive line is solid but unspectacular, with only one DL (DE Dean Lowry with 5.5) posting more than three tackles for loss this year. As a team, the Wildcats have just 44 TFLs in eight games—they don't give up many big plays, but they also don't make many.
That could be very good news for Drake Johnson, who should get the chance to build on his breakout performance against Indiana; with his speed, getting to the line of scrimmage clean should be enough for him to crank out 3-4 yards with relative regularity, which is really all M fans can ask for by now. Iowa's repeated success getting to the edge is also encouraging; even after last week, the Hawkeyes are 101st in rushing S&P+, while the Wolverines are a downright average 45th.
One thing to watch: Northwestern likes to get a little aggressive with their strong safety, whether it be four-year starter Ibraheim Campbell—who's missed the last few weeks with a hamstring injury and may or may not be able to play Saturday—or talented but raw redshirt freshmam Godwin Igwebuike.
I'm a little afraid to declare this publicly but I think Michigan might actually be able to run the ball a little bit this weekend.
Key Matchup: Michigan blocking backs and tight ends versus Northwestern's aggressive safeties. If NW is rolling a safety into the box and run-blitzing, the ancillary blockers—as well as the line—has to be able to recognize and pick up their assignments. If they do so, the zone stretch should be there for the taking, and that seems like the play Drake Johnson is most comfortable (and productive) running.
[Hit THE JUMP for the REST of the PREVIEW]
Hello again. How are you? I missed last week due to some minor health stuff and the Dave Brandon stuff. But I have returned with my usual moderate vigor. Did you miss me? I missed you. Let's never be apart again. Except, like, at night. And most of the time during the day.
About Last Week:
A long, long time ago, long before I was my current quasi-respectable self, I used to enjoy my weekends with the occasional adult beverage. And one evening, I found myself in a state of imbibedness in which I had lost most of my reasoning capacity and fine motor function. To give you an idea how far gone I was, I attempted (apparently, according to witnesses, for several minutes) to light a cigar with a flashlight.
And in that state, I recall being deeply amazed by an acquaintance in our group. We’ll call him Dave (because his name was Dave). Dave was an adult who knew how to handle his alcohol, and we didn’t have medical or real safety concerns about him. He was just hammered beyond all reason. He was so drunk that despite the fact that I was in a mental place where I had forgotten how fire worked, I was concerned and amazed about HIS level of intoxication.
Indiana is Dave. Michigan is currently black-out drunk, but they can still recognize someone who is even drunker. Pull yourself together, Dave.
The Road Ahead:
Northwestern (3-5, 2-3 B1G)
Last game: Lost at Iowa 48-7
Recap: Saturday’s action should have served as a blunt rejoinder to the argument that a 6-6 season should save Brady Hoke’s job. The pile of derp Michigan would have to scale is so meager, it barely qualifies as a hill. It’s a “knoll” at best. Maybe, MAYBE it could be a mound if you squint hard enough. Michigan had a path to six wins that did not include a single win over a top-50 team. If the current rankings hold, Michigan will have had eight games against teams ranked 48th or worse in FEI, including SIX at home.
Nowhere is this the awfulness of Michigan’s schedule more apparent than four hours west in Evanston, Illinois. Northwestern, once touted as a potentially tricky opponent, has crumbled into a heap. Since beating Wisconsin (which, can we talk about THAT for a second?), they have lost increasingly lopsided games to Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa. Iowa jumped out to a 24-0 first quarter lead, which by my calculations should never ever ever ever ever ever happen ever ever. Iowa gets like two possessions per quarter. Giving up 24 points defies all everything.
This latest porcupine massage of a performance saw Trevor Siemian and backup Zack Oliver combine for 75 passing yards (at 3.1 yards per attempt) and -45 yards rushing. That means on 30 passing plays or QB runs, Northwestern put up 30 yards.
I suppose I should mention at this point that Northwestern is favored by most of the advanced statistics folks to beat Michigan.
This team is as frightening as: A team that has, through 8 games, had three offensive plays of 30 yards or more. And is somehow still a coin flip against Michigan. Fear Level = 5
Michigan should worry about: Michigan has not won a road game since defeating the University of Chicago 2-1 in 1913. They are not favored to win another road game until their matchup with the University of Mars, tentatively scheduled as a second half of a home-planet-and-home-planet in the year 2136.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Trevor Siemian’s YPA numbers have fallen in every game since the start of conference play, from 7.0 to 6.3 to 5.4 to 4.4 to 3.8. Meanwhile, Northwestern’s points per game allowed has Increased in every game, from 6 to 14 to 24 to 38 to 48. So, according to the ironclad rule that all trend continue forever, Siemian will throw for 3.1 YPA and Northwestern will give up 58 points. Science.
When they play Michigan: Michigan will defy science and not score 58 points.
Next game: vs. Michigan (NW +2), 3:30 Saturday, ESPN2
[AFTER THE JUMP: Awwww, Y U NO slap hands?]
"There's a starman waiting in the sky. He'd like to come and meet us,
but he thinks he'd blow our minds."
November is the period when "pretty sure he won't be at San Fran" (neither Harbaugh could make the playoffs this year) can mean "he's gotta come!" So, dear diarists, let's dedicate a post to the starman waiting in the sky. This week resident coaching search guy in the diaries alum96 decided to look into Jim's meteoric rise. He included a table in there of split passing/rushing stats for offense and defense. I've taken this opportunity to recreate those as S&P+ ranks (total yardage ranks in parens) because there's a discrepancy in the passing:
|Season||Coach||Record||Rush O||Pass O||Rush D||Pass D|
|2006 Stanford||Singletary||1-11||105th (115)||107th (95)||94th (117)||47th (60)|
|2007 Stanford||Harbaugh||4-8||37th (102)||88th (70)||86th (77)||84th (84)|
|2008 Stanford||Harbaugh||5-7||6th (19)||15th (103)||104th (77)||99th (83)|
|2009 Stanford||Harbaugh||8-5||12th (11)||7th (70)||89th (55)||104th (98)|
|2010 Stanford||Harbaugh||12-1||30th (17)||2nd (29)||24th (19)||30th (16)|
|2011 Stanford||Shaw||11-2||18th (18)||10th (22)||32nd (3)||14th (73)|
|2014 Michigan||Hoke||4-5||45th (67)||70th (105)||6th (25)||44th (36)|
Major disagreements between S&P and the standard stats: the passing game in 2008 and 2009 (bolded) was extremely efficient, just not used very often. Thus total yardage looked awful, but in terms of what happened when they passed, it was very good even before you could explain it away as Andrew Luck. This is a common theme for Harbaugh reclamation projects; the former quarterback is the master of the pick-your-spots passing game. This is also a lesson in tempo—Stanford would plod along, depressing total yardage.
Let's not do this again until my find-on-page searches for "Michigan" don't have to progress past MSU and several directionals to get to ours.
Hokespeech Generator. A guy named MeanJoe07 has apparently found something on the internet where you input the text of Brady's press conferences, add a few nouns (like balsamic vinegar) and a name (like Rhonda Jones) and get back something that makes sense only to people used to digesting soylent blue. The diary is too weird to be of much interest, but the same guy has been responding to comments all over the site with his tool, with quite disconcerting results.
Etc. Basketball back wallpaper. Michigan is probably not going to a bowl game. Best and Worst. Inside the box score. Wolverines in the NFL, and NBA/NHL/etc., when are we getting the former quarterback who coaches an NFL team?
Best of the Board
PUT IT ON THE MAP
A startup that makes realtime maps for local festivals and such is letting us use their software to give the MGoCommunity a more functional method of sharing their spots with each other on gameday. Events around campus, best watering holes, open tailgates for MGoReaders, where the band warms up, etc. all go on the crowd-sourced map. If you want to organize a meet-n-greet or game-watching party in your town, go ahead and add it to the map (it'll be off camera for those in Evanston).
[Jump for some stuff I believed in as a kid]
Previously: Northwestern Offense
This didn't result in a touchdown, making it different from every other clip in this post.
Michigan probably isn't going to take advantage of this because of reasons you're all very well-versed in—namely, Michigan isn't good at offense—but Northwestern gave up 38 first-half points to Iowa so I really have no choice here but to point out the the Wildcats may not be very good. I realize this will only add to the sadness, and for that.
Personnel: Diagram goes here—click to embiggen:
It's unclear if strong safety Ibraheim Campbell will be able to play, let alone at 100%, on Saturday. He was supposed to return to the starting lineup from a hamstring injury against Iowa, but was a late scratch when his leg didn't cooperate; Campbell says the "chances are pretty high" that he'll play—as a senior captain, he's certainly going to do eveything he can to get back on the field.
Also, Northwestern has an honest-to-god punter controversy after sophomore Chris Grandone was replaced by redshirt freshman Hunter Niswander after struggling against the Hawkeyes. The Wildcats are 120th nationally in net punting; there could be an opportunity or two for a big play there.
Base Set? 4-3. The Wildcats ran an over front last year, but against Iowa they played a lot of under.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]