The question: Of those (if any) you've visited, what's your favorite road venue for a college football Saturday? I don't just mean the stadium but the whole package--the city, the burger, the rival fans, the drive, etc. Or which would you want to do first?
Ace: I'm back from Florida and have way too much nothing planned for the next couple days, so I might as well answer the question...
Between my time at school and this job, I've managed to make it to six road venues, one of which doesn't really count because it shouldn't have ever been a college football venue: Spartan Stadium (2007, '09, '13), Camp Randall ('07), Beaver Stadium ('08, '13), Notre Dame ('08, '13), Cowboys Stadium* ('12), and Ohio Stadium ('13). If you looked at that list and said I should never attend a road game again, you're quite astute, and trust me when I say I've considered it.
|Movie night, or perhaps annoying white guy tryouts.|
My favorite, despite the particular game I chose to attend, is Camp Randall. Madison is a gorgeous college town with a phenomenal bar scene—we wandered around so much the night before the game that I can't give a recommendation besides "just go to Madison already"—and while I've heard less-than-complimentary things about their fans, we were treated well despite being a crew of intoxicated students with a couple guys who didn't shy away from stirring the pot. As is the case in Ann Arbor, the campus and stadium are conveniently intertwined with the town, so getting to and from the game isn't a pain like it is in, say, South Bend, where off-campus housing tends to be a very long, boring walk away from the stadium. While the drive to and from Ann Arbor isn't a short one, having Chicago as a stopgap is a major bonus; I'll deal with some extra traffic if it gives me the chance to visit a great city with no shortage of transplanted Ann Arborites and Michigan grads.
it's impossible to take a bad picture inside Camp Randall
Since I'm not the type to be offended by profanity, I love the in-game atmosphere, as well. Our seats in the visitors' section were at the top corner of the upper deck, where visitors' sections ought to be, and feeling the mass of red-adorned fans below literally shake the stadium during "Jump Around" was outrageously cool, albeit a bit unnerving. Despite our high perch, the sight lines for viewing the game were great, thanks to the steep incline of the seats. They don't play the same two songs over and over and over again, giving Camp Randall a decided edge over Beaver Stadium, and they don't play in front of 100,000 Ohio State fans, giving it a decided edge over Ohio Stadium. Even if the drive is a bit long, the tailgating and viewing experiences alone are worth the trip.
As for my least favorite, it's Spartan Stadium, since I won't pretend that Jerryworld is a legitimate answer here. East Lansing is one of the least charming college towns I've visited, parking there is a nightmare, the stadium is a shrine to concrete insipidity, and an all-too-large portion of the fans don't grasp that trash talking shenanigans are supposed to be cheeky and fun, not cruel and tragic. It's the only place I've been where a total stranger has attempted to forcefully remove me from the sidewalk—I did nothing to provoke this aside from wearing maize—and that occurred even though I was accompanied by a green-clad Spartan grad. At least I went there last year, so I'll get a respite this seas—DAMMIT, POWERS THAT BE, YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME.
*The aforementioned "doesn't really count" venue, in case that wasn't painfully obvious.
After the jump: more things Delaney thinks we'd like to see less than New Jersey.
Last year we predicted Dymonte would seize the nickel job. It's still open. [Fuller]
While doing Draftageddon this year Brian told each of us to draft an extra nickelback, or hybrid space player, because these defenses face 3-wide sets (and beyond) about as often as 2-wide ones. Modern offenses were made to take advantage of the run-stopping linebackers teams put on the strong side of the formation, forcing them to cover a jitterbug in space in addition to the running game. Defenses have countered with linebacker-safety hybrids of various forms. We've seen it in practice, and for many schools there's now an official hybrid/nickel position: STAR at Illinois and Ohio State, F-linebacker at Wisconsin, nickel at Michigan, etc. The HSP is the defense's answer to the slot receiver. It's the position we've ticketed Peppers for this season, at least to start.
However as I keep trying to find evidence of this in the stats, they keep eluding me. See: the division of Michigan's tackles (counting assists as 0.5 tackles) between the levels since 1995:
(click does the big thing)
Outliers. Doing this with just one team means we don't get much of a sample; unfortunately cfbstats just got bought out by two dudes who want $7500/year from each blog to use the stats he used to put online for free (i.e. under creative commons). If you downloaded the old spreadsheets from Marty (who does deserve to get paid for the work he did curating them) he says it's fine to use them. If you visit the old site you'll get the most salesman guy in the world who acts all cagey before telling you the $7500 price tag. Such is life.
You'll note some years Michigan went to a 3-4 defense in 2004-'05 there's an uptick in linebacker tackles—that's Woodley being counted as one (for much of 1999 and 2000 they were a 3-4 but as often as not James Hall/Shantee Orr had their hands down, i.e. 4-3 under). And in 2009 and 2010 when Michigan went to a 3-3-5 (effectively three safeties) there's a safety hump. However the year with the largest % of tackles by DBs was 2011, the year Kovacs and T.Gordon were #s 2 and 3 on the tackle charts. Then it went down.
I think there's a couple things going on here. One, I think the transition to nickel happened longer ago than we gave it credit for. And two: Jake Ryan. Remember for the start of 2011 T.Gordon was playing nickel while Woolfolk was free safety. The typical configuration of Michigan's defense wasn't the 4-3 under we'd been told was coming; it was the same base nickel Michigan had before Rich Rod. The 2011 season's formations from the UFR:
|San Diego State||43%||45%||6%||6%||0%||0%|
It was highly opponent-dependent. You'll note the trajectory of the Okie as they debuted it, shelved it, then brought it back against Illinois. But you'll also see Mattison deploying 4-3 alignments more often against spread outfits. Against Kain Colter and Northwestern's spread-option offense they were 80% nickel; against Braxton Miller and Ohio State's they were 23%.
I think what they discovered was they could get away with Jake Ryan as the HSP. Come 2012 and 2013 that was the base.
When did it get Nickel-y?
From personal recollection Lloyd used a lot of 3-3-5 nickel against spread teams after 2000, when his 4-2-5 nickel got shredded by Randy Walker's Rodriguezian offense. The tackling stats don't say. Even when I went through to identify who played "SAM" (Spur in 3-3-5, not the WDE in a 3-4) and nickel the tackle totals told no story:
I'm giving up on this route. Eventually someone will find something useful to do with tackling stats but this isn't that day. If someone has an idea for how to find the rise of the nickelback in statistics, I'm all ears. In the meantime let's watch defense porn.
Caris smash. Caris LeVert came to Michigan after a high school career spent as a mizzenmast. I'm saying he's thin, people. That's the joke. Or at least he was thin. This year's edition of Michigan basketball player is all swole now:
Yes yes, Irvin and Walton are also adding weight (Irvin's up to 215 from 200) but I be like dang Caris. Let's check in with his senior year of high school…
…during which he probably ripped off and reattached his arms nightly. Caris is also a legit 6'7" in shoes, so he is tall and large and is hopefully poised to rip it up this fall.
Freshman dimensions. Basketball has posted a roster. It lists:
- Kam Chatman at 6'7", 210
- DJ Wilson at 6'9", 210
- Ricky Doyle at 6'10", 250
- Aubery Dawkins at 6'6", 190
- and MAAR at 6'4", 200.
Doyle's weight is a positive. Michigan's going to need him to bang, and he's now the heaviest guy available—Donnal added ten pounds but only got to 240. Meanwhile, uncertainty about Max Bielfeldt's status for next year is all but gone: they've ceased listing him as a redshirt junior and now have him as a senior.
Fireworks nyet. I'll have a column type thing about this tomorrow, but to recap the most important completely trivial news of the week: the Michigan regents shot down the athletic departments proposed fireworks for the Miami (NTM) and Penn State games despite separating the votes. Mark Bernstein's criticism was the most pointed:
“We are not Comerica Park, Disney World or a circus ... ” Bernstein said. “I love Michigan football for what it is ... and for what it is not. It remains and should be an experience, a place that resists the excesses of our culture; intentionally simple.
“The fireworks should be on the field, not above it.”
I probably wouldn't have gone with "resists the excesses of our culture" but the overall sentiment is one I can get behind. Mostly I just want Michigan to be like itself, to maintain a separation from other options. Not because those are necessarily worse*, but because a bright line between Them and Us is inherently valuable when you're trying to gin up some fake-ass tribalism.
This is the most fundamental divide between myself and Dave Brandon: he wants to copy the Best In Class Leaders because that's the only thing he's ever been able to do. He could no more start a business than I could be athletic director, because every attempt would be Chipotle 2 or Also Applebees or Pretty Much Still Ponderosa. His one strategy for success is to do the thing that everyone else is doing.
Anyway. The new president is being carefully neutral about the whole situation…
“Personally, I didn’t have an opinion,” Dr. Mark Schlissel, who started his job this week, said Friday during a press conference with the media. “Having never attended a game there, I didn’t have a sense of the cultural aspects of it. The band marching out, I’ve never seen. I’ve never seen them at a halftime show. I don’t have context to really say whether fireworks matter or not. I didn’t really feel like I had a valid opinion.”
…but the message sent by the regents is clear. This is an organization that has just been sued because they decide things in private meetings and show up to vote things in unanimously. During the 116 votes previous to the fireworks there were eight instances of a regent voting no. Brandon just exceeded that in a single day.
The opportunity here was to provide a vote of no confidence without shooting something down that's actually important, like the budget. I mentioned that I thought a number of people towards the top were discontent but unlikely to do anything about it in the most recent mailbag; I must have underestimated the disdain.
Is this the beginning of the end? I'm not getting my hopes up just yet.
*[They are of course sometimes worse.]
Back on the market. Onetime Michigan target and temporary SMU commit Matt McQuaid, a shooting guard out of Texas, has reopened his recruitment.
For a second there it looked like McQuaid was very serious about Michigan, so I wouldn't be surprised to see the two parties reconnect. Everyone seems like a backup plan for Jalen Coleman at the moment, but if Coleman does do the weird thing and pick a Notre Dame program that hasn't really gotten off the ground under Mike Brey, Michigan wants to make sure they've got options. McQuaid is a pretty good one:
McQuaid is arguably the best shooter in the class of 2015 -- and he strengthened his case last week at the LeBron James Skills Academy, when he shot lights-out from 3-point range against the best high school players in the country. There were at least two games in Las Vegas where I didn't see McQuaid miss an outside shot. He can make shots from deep and is also capable of knocking down contested shots.
He's 6'5", so visions of Stauskas are dancing in various heads right now.
Old stuff. Wolverine Historian takes on 1986 Iowa:
Straight shooter. I may disagree with a lot of what Bob Bowlsby thinks but I can appreciate that he's not Bill Hancock:
"Enforcement is broken," he said. "The infractions committee hasn't had [an FBS] hearing in almost a year, and I think it's not an understatement to say cheating pays presently. If you seek to conspire to certainly bend the rules, you can do it successfully and probably not get caught in most occasions."
He probably thinks it's possible to fix that, and that's where we differ. I do wish someone in attendance at Big 12 media days had heard this…
"It is hard to justify paying student-athletes in football and men's basketball and not recognizing the significant effort that swimmers and wrestlers and lacrosse players and track athletes all put in," he said. "Football and basketball players don't work any harder than anybody else; they just happen to have the blessing of an adoring public who is willing to pay for the tickets and willing to buy the products on television that come with the high visibility."
…and asked Bowlsby how much harder he was working than the assembled press corps.
Etc.: Scouting Tyus Battle, Jalen Coleman, and Prince Ali at the Peach Jam. The Game will not be at night, because frostbite. CJ Lee looks back at his time at Michigan after taking an assistant spot at Marist. A preview of the band programs this year. I'm not enthralled with the idea of trying the sing-along thing again. Peppers and Funchess feature amongst the most watchable players this year.
I like lists of sports memories that include bad stuff, because bad stuff happens. So props to the Daily Gopher for including Mike Legg (and Holy Cross) on their list of Gopher hockey moments.
Would Michigan alum Justin Meram have been farther along in his development if he'd found a way to skip college entirely? Probably.
NCAA soccer coaches are proposing a radical restructuring of the way their sport works:
Top college soccer coaches are finalizing plans and canvassing support for changes that would extend the men’s season over the full academic year.
The proposals recommend a 25-game season split between the fall and spring semesters. Individual conference championships would be held early in May with the showpiece NCAA College Cup following in early June.
Proponents of the switch point to two significant benefits for student athletes – improved conditions to aid their development as players, and a lighter fall timetable allowing for greater participation in other facets of university life.
The motivation here is to exist at some point that makes sense—last year's championship game was played on December 15th. Champion Notre Dame played 27 games in a 4 month stretch. There were a ton of midweek games that were problematic for kids trying to go to class. Then as soon as the season was over ND coaches were limited to two hours of ball-work with their players for the rest of the year.
Those restrictions look ludicrous in the context of the global soccer development process, where the years from 18 to 22 are absolutely critical. A ton of players are getting first team playing time in fully professional environments by then, training year-round. Increasingly, top players are skipping college entirely in favor of youth contracts overseas. But there's only so many of those and only so many Generation Adidas contracts to go around. The middle tier is still in school, but for briefer periods.
If NCAA soccer is going to remain relevant at all it'll have to adapt, and there is an obvious success story they could seek to replicate: hockey. Both hockey and soccer are developing players in competition with development strategies (mostly) outside the country in a sport that you can break into the major leagues at 18, or even earlier. (Baseball is somewhat similar, but the nature of the game means you play older and there's no "we do it better" foreign option.) Hockey has one nemesis; soccer has a thousand.
Hockey competes directly with the CHL, and large parts of what make it weird in the context of the NCAA are seemingly because of it. Hockey has by far the longest playing season of any NCAA sport, which allows extensive coaching from October to April. Most others are crammed into a single semester—or one semester and a small part of another—even if that makes zero sense. Hi, February baseball.
Hockey also takes a number of older student athletes; it is common for middling teams to have guys who arrived in college as 20 year olds. While these guys are usually not NHL prospects themselves, they provide a challenge for the guys who are. The long season with plenty of skill work and challenging environment leads to a situation where NCAA players are actually better-equipped to enter the pro ranks than their competition. Don Cherry's mad about it, even.
college hockey is even producing Canadian Olympians like undrafted(!) Chris Kunitz
This system hasn't made the NCAA the #1 choice for first-round picks, who generally don't care to play school. It has created an environment where 30% of the NHL comes from college—an all-time record—and the generally college-oriented USA hockey program is a major contender. And it hasn't impacted success in school at all: hockey's academic progress rate of 971 is way above baseball, basketball, football… and soccer.
The NCAA has responded to the resounding success of the hockey model by occasionally trying to strangle it. Every few years there's chatter about, and the odd proposal to, reduce the length of the season. Hockey often has to scramble to carve out exceptions to NCAA legislation that makes no sense for them. It ends up being tough for hockey to pass things that make sense for their specific contact, like the ability to officially contact players before the CHL drafts them. That was on the table; it got shot down despite having the support of everyone in the hockey community.
Hockey started off long and snuck an extra week here and there to get to its current state. They've reached a compromise between professional development and degree acquirement only because the NCAA didn't notice they were doing the former.
This is a reasonable and well-considered plan to improve college soccer’s ability to compete for talent and remain a valuable, even unique part of the American soccer development structure. It also has virtually zero chance of ever being enacted.
That's John Infante, former compliance officer and expert on the arcanity of the NCAA. The reason? The NCAA desires to knit some more of the emperor's new clothes.
…the last items on any agenda is adding games, in-season time, and hours to any sport’s schedule. Instead, it is more likely that all sports see in-season hours cut, voluntary workouts restricted, and significant student-athlete discretionary time added. College sports seems prepared to move rapidly away from an environment where soccer could even experiment with being a year-round sport, especially where the breaks are timed so that the best players can use them to go play more soccer.
In an effort to keep everything "amateur," the NCAA is willing to toss away proposals that promise to create something newly useful, and may even go so far as to further sabotage an already wonky development model. The idea that developing a player to go pro in something other than "something other than sports" is a problem. Even if there is a clear analogue that has succeeded as both a developer of talent and an NCAA sport.
Maybe autonomy can do something about it. At some point everyone and their network is going to look at the cavernous gulf in their programming that stretches from April to August and try to fill it with baseball, soccer, or both. Maybe lacrosse. Anything that looks like a potential spectator sport in the summer is going to appeal to the people with money, and since they're on the verge of running things for real instead of just mostly for real, you could see a compromise.
But as long as the NCAA is trying to pretend they're something they no longer are, sense will not be made.
In case you missed it last week, our longtime fantasy sports partner Draftstreet has merged with/under Draft Kings. If you've played or tried the old, it's time to try the new. Also we offered a deal for people who deposit $5 or more to get a free digital edition of our annual book, Hail to the Victors, like right away.
Larry stressed to me this morning that he wants to know how strongly he and his team are on board with Draft Kings, and that it's important for you guys especially to get acquainted with DK and feel cool bugging him ([email protected]).
Today they're running another promo for MGoReaders—buy-in's just $2.00 or free if it's your first deposit—with the winners getting a shot at the big $400,000 mid-summer classic tomorrow (winner of that gets $100,000).
- $2 entry fee or free if you're a first-timer on Draft Kings
- Top places receives free entry into the $400,000 mid summer classic, which is on Tuesday (7/22). The winner of the mid summer classic wins $100,000!
- This link will update every day for that days games.
- Salary Cap Style. $50,000 to select 10 baseball players.
- First time depositors at DraftKings receive a 100% bonus up to $600
- Deposit $5 or more and you get a free digital (unlocked PDF) version of Hail to the Victors 2014.
- Larry will collect the email addresses on the accounts that qualify and send them to me.
- Look out for an email from me, [my name] @ [this site], with a link to download your digital edition, or if you prefer at that time I can email you the file (10 mb) directly.
The goal of Draftageddon is to draft a TEAM of Big Ten players that seems generally more impressive than that of your competitors. Along the way, we'll learn a lot of alarming things, like maybe Maryland is good? Full details are in the first post.
PREVIOUSLY ON DRAFTAGEDDON
- Everyone not grabbing dual-threat senior QBs grabs defensive linemen
- Seth takes Venric Mark in front of just about everyone
- Nothing terribly remarkable happens
- BISB takes all the guys I want
- A ridiculous amount of time is spent discussing the merits of one particular interior lineman from Rutgers
- WILDCARD TIME as Brian takes a quarterback despite already having a quarterback.
- Peppers drafted in WILDCARD TIME II.
- Someone drafts an Illinois defender! I know!
- BISB goes Maryland crazy, reminds us all that he has Kurtis Drummond eighty-five times.
ROUND 21 - PICK 2 (Ace): Darian Hicks, CB, Michigan State
O: QB Connor Cook (MSU), RB Ameer Abdullah (NE), WR Devin Funchess (U-M), WR Levern Jacobs (MD), SLOT Dontre Wilson (OSU), TE Maxx Williams (MN), LT Brandon Scherff (IA), LG Kaleb Johnson (RU), C Chad Lindsay (OSU), RT Tyler Marz (WI)
D: WDE Shilique Calhoun (MSU), SDE Andre Monroe (MD), NT Darius Kilgo (MD), DT Adolphus Washington (OSU), OLB Chi Chi Ariguzo (NW), OLB Matt Robinson (MD), CB Desmond King (IA), CB Darian Hicks (MSU), S John Lowdermilk (IA), S Jarrod Wilson (U-M), HSP Earnest Thomas III (IL)
ST: KR/PR Ameer Adbullah (NE)
Wears 2 and eats roses; must be Woodson [james brosher]
Ace: We're reaching the point in the draft when it's time to start gambling a bit; with this pick, I'm betting my imaginary cash money on Pat Narduzzi, the East Lansing Cornerback Factory, and Darian Hicks winning the starting job across from Trae Waynes.
The first two things don't seem like much of a gamble at all. The third may not be, either. Hicks saw some action as a true freshman last season, started and ended the spring as the starting field corner despite dealing with injury, was the first corner selected after Waynes in their spring game draft, and had their 247 outlet putting him under the secondary's "reasons for optimism" category—which somehow didn't just read "NARDUZZI"—after the spring ($):
Hicks, meanwhile, passed a host of players to see action as a true freshman last season and held on to his No. 1 spot at cornerback throughout spring ball. We don’t know what this secondary will look like without Jim Thorpe Award winner Darqueze Dennard, but at least we know who will take his place entering fall camp.
With Dennard and Waynes locking down the corner spots last year, no other corner did much that wasn't on special teams, so I went back to Hicks' high school film to see how he'd fit into MSU's aggressive defense. Considering he could do this as a high school junior, I think things will work out:
Hicks earned his MSU offer over a year before NSD 2013; the Spartans identified him early as a guy they really wanted in a class that had room for just one cornerback. His scholarship offer came directly from Mark Dantonio. Pat Narduzzi was his primary recruiter. That's good enough for me.
BISB: /Starts to snark Ace's selection of a guy who has played like 50 career snaps.
/Remembers, like, everything
[after the jump: somebody goes totally bonkers for Badgers, and not who you think!]