"This week, and we talked about it earlier on Monday, is always a different week. We had two very good sessions. You always start early it seems like for this game, but in preparation we were outside yesterday. Had a really good practice. Team’s working hard with the preparation. We got a lot that we've got to correct from a week ago but there's a lot to build off from a week ago also. The big thing is you always, listening to coach Schembechler and coach Moeller and coach Carr throughout the years, you want to play your best at the end of November. That's what we're trying to do, have our best performance on Saturday. Great rivalry. We've talked about it and it’s special. Unless you've coached in it and played in it I think sometimes it's hard to explain, but the intensity in this game is like no other you'll play."
Do you bring in special speakers? You mentioned Mo and those guys. Do you bring those guys in? I know Mo’s around here a lot. Does he come in and talk?
"At times you do. We have in the past. It hasn't been every year but yeah, we've had people come in. We do a lot of that in August during camp because you've got those days and you’ve got each other so you refer back to some of those if you're not bringing somebody in."
Bo was famous for every practice they did something for Ohio State. Is that how you handle that?
"Not every practice. We talk about it. It's visually up here in this building all the time [the countdown clock], and we talk about it weekly if not daily about the rivalry and the extent of it."
But you don't do something specific and practice for Ohio State every week?
"Not every week."
For a player like Mason Cole or Bryan Mone, what is this first experience like? How do you bring them into the rivalry and what is it like for them to go into it?
"I think a couple things. Number one, you bring up those two true freshmen. Playing at South Bend this year and then at Michigan State and now going to Columbus, which we've never done that, and we've never done that with those two teams [on the road] in the same year so playing in those venues, and Michigan State playing a night game on national television – er, Notre Dame, I think that's part of it. I think the passion in Spartan Stadium is hopefully something they can refer to but as I said earlier this is even a louder environment. It'll be a test but they've been playing football a long time and that's, at the end of the day, what it is is playing football."
[After THE JUMP: So about last year…]
1976 Michigan Football Team
Circled are Jim Hackett, 53, and Jack Harbaugh, Bo assistant
I am not putting all the eggs in the ol' basket based on this. Maybe a few.
Chances of similar nepotism catastrophe?
Well, we've just witnessed the final episode of Brady Hoke in Michigan Stadium. It's very easy for some to feel anger at the head coach, but the more appropriate target(s?) are those responsible for elevating Hoke to a position he was incapable of executing. Beyond the anger, are the responsible parties still in a position of influence? Not Brandon, of course, my concern is more directed toward Schembechler Hall. Is there a risk of essentially repeating the same mistake of another Michigan Man, albeit a more competent version?
Uh… no? We have already plucked the last fruit off the Lloyd Carr tree, such as it is, and Michigan men available are:
- JIM HARBAUGH. Probably not a mistake.
- LES MILES. Questionable due to age and sketch, but even so not in Hoke's galaxy as in terms of qualifications, or lack thereof.
- NOBODY. There are no other Michigan-affiliated head coaches.
I guess Michigan could go way off the board and hire one of the near-rookie NFL coordinators who have ties, but you have to think that after the last search they would try to avoid the appearance of nepotism. I cannot say for sure, of course. Michigan could go with Harold Goodwin or Teryl Austin, because nobody knows anything about Jim Hackett.
I kind of doubt it, though. After the two obvious guys there isn't a midlevel head coach with an uninspiring record who you can just barely see as conceivable if you squint particularly hard.
Meanwhile the new president isn't a Michigan guy and seems kind of appalled by the current culture of the department; most of said department consists of Brandon-hired short-timers with no connection to Michigan. The guy dead-set on the nepotism hire has been flushed, and what are the chances Michigan hires two CEOs like… that… back to back?
Okay, okay: nonzero. But not high. If Hackett's anywhere near the meat of the bell curve the backup plan won't be hired because he knows six different places Encore Records has been.
[After THE JUMP: or where Le Dog went to]
Two ways we can go.
Ace: I feel obligated to ask a question about The Game despite barely even having the will to watch the dang thing at this point. So... what miracle (or series of miracles) needs to transpire for Michigan to win? Is there a weakness on the Buckeyes that you can see Michigan exploiting in an alternate universe where Michigan exploits weaknesses?
Seth: The Buckeyes are good, but they're not perfect. The backfield and DL are legit, but the LBs and DBs and WRs are still guys who live on their athleticism more so than technique, and the OL is still just as young as ours. Urban covers up the youth well, but it shows at times.
|Urban's message to Barrett: don't try to be perfect. [11w]|
J.T. Barrett isn't Braxton Miller, for better and worse. Barrett isn't going to glide past your containment the way Miller always could; on the other hand he's way more accurate on deep balls, giving Ohio State a lethal third dimension. Teams that have had defensive success against the Buckeyes have been crashing the ends on Elliott to force Barrett to run, trusting their athletes can chop him down in space. Penn State and Virginia Tech both kept his run/pass ratio relatively even, and mixed up coverages like crazy to try to temp Barrett into turnovers. The strategy is vulnerable deep, but sometimes you can get lucky (Indiana), or weather can interfere (Minnesota), or your defensive line can generate enough organic pressure (Penn State) to deny Barrett the chance.
Michigan's DL has the chops to keep the OSU run game in hand without selling out on it. The coverage has been good except when tempo'ed, which Meyer would be all to happy to use but for his young offense.
The thing about Meyer's OSU is it's not going to surprise you. He covers his players' weaknesses by having them repeatedly do the things they're good at, in a system that makes sense and takes advantage of whatever it's given. Brady Hoke, on the other hand, tends to spend big chunks of games making his players do things they're bad at, and almost never takes strategic advantages when they're presented. There is an advantage in punching yourself in the face all season, because OSU has scant film on what happens when a Brady Hoke team actually uses its talents.
In some whacky scenario, Michigan throws a bunch of Cover 3 and robber things it's been saving up all year, and Barrett shorts his deep balls enough for Ray Taylor to have a GAME, and Gardner comes out like his old self, and Nussmeier finally debuts a fully integrated offense that's allowed to go deep, and Funchess decides the draft stock opportunity this provides is enough to GAF, and Norfleet runs one back, and there's no flags, and then Denard suddenly reveals he has another year of eligibility, and Jim Harbaugh flies down from his moon base on Apollo 17, and every kid Ohio State has visiting commits to him, and together they all make ice cream non-fattening, bring peace to the Middle East, and beat Ohio State 34-27.
[Jump for even more implausible scenarios.]
Bruce Feldman is reporting that interim AD Jim Hackett is close to dropping the interim title:
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) November 26, 2014
Not saying Hackett decision with #Michigan to remain as AD is a done deal but word is that's the direction things seem to be heading
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) November 26, 2014
That's along the lines of what we'd been hearing from Sam and others—that Hackett is going to be around for X number of months where X > amount of time it'll take to fire and hire a new coach.
The chances that the best available athletic director is a retired CEO who hasn't worked in an AD ever are about 1%, but This Is Michigan. They don't care what the sensible thing seems to be. That's fine as long as you are good at doing things. Michigan hasn't been, and given the way the chips have fallen if Hackett doesn't lock down Jim Harbaugh the fanbase is going to have a fit.
But he's not Dave Brandon.
Jarrod Wilson, Jack Miller, Brennen Beyer
Before you were at Michigan, your favorite Michigan v. Ohio State game. Maybe something that you watched growing up?
JM: “I was never a particular fan of either team, but when you grow up in the state of Ohio or Michigan the last weekend of November the game is always kind of a big deal, so I always watched them. I don’t necessarily remember a specific one more than another. Maybe when they were #1 and #2 one year down in Ohio or whatever, maybe that one. But you always know about it. You always watch it, and it means a hell of a lot.”
Jack, we just had your offensive coordinator out here who was talking about the challenges you guys have gone through adapting to a new system here. I know it hasn’t been maybe the year you’d hope for, but how do you feel you’ve done trying to learn what he’s been teaching and what kind of struggles have happened along the way?
JM: “I can only speak from an offensive line perspective, and maybe that’s a bright spot for us is we’ve gotten better as the season’s gone on. In November, which is arguably the most important month, we’re running the ball really well. We’re protecting Devin pretty well, and so I’m pretty proud of how the offensive line’s coming together as a team and we’ve been pretty successful down the stretch, but we haven’t put it all together as an offense or as a team and that’s the ultimate goal, which we’ve failed to accomplish.”
If you could just briefly describe your feelings for Ohio State. Obviously it’s a more elevated rivalry, but what about them makes this special for you?
BB: “Growing up in Michigan this game’s been my favorite game to watch moreso than any other sporting event I’d say just being a big Michigan fan. Playing in it is pretty cool too. It’s just got so much weight in the football game, two programs, two top-of-the-line programs. There’s just so much going into it. So much history and so much tension in the rivalry. It’s awesome. It’s the game you want to play in.”
JM: “I think I’ll say it the most diplomatic way I can: I’m not a big fan of Ohio State. I never have been. Ever since they beat Miami in the 2002 National Championship Game I’ve always disliked them, and I don’t like the Horseshoe and I don’t like Carmen Ohio. That’s kind of how I feel about them.”
JW: “It’s the greatest rivalry in college football. As far as Ohio, being an Ohio kid I kind of grew up watching them but never really was a fan of them. For this game I’m just really excited to play.”
[More after THE JUMP]
Sometimes you just have to tip your cap.
After a forgettable first half, Michigan and Villanova put on a show, trading big runs and phenomenal plays in one of the best college basketball games of this young season. Unfortunately, one of them had to lose.
The decisive play was representative. With five seconds left, down by a point, Michigan inbounded the ball from the Villanova baseline. John Beilein drew up a beauty of a play, freeing up Zak Irvin for what looked like an uncontested layup. Out of nowhere, JayVaughn Pinkston contested it, emphatically. The Wolverines were good; the Wildcats a hair better.
What cannot be lost is how encouraging this game became from Michigan's perspective, especially considering the first half and change. From the 7:13 mark of the first half until the 17:21 mark of the second, they didn't score a single point, allowing Villanova to turn a one-point deficit into a 13-point lead. John Beilein rotated through all four centers in the first half to poor results and lots of foul trouble. With 20 points on 30 possession at the break and an ugly start to the second stanza, a young M squad easily could've packed it in; this game would stand as last year's Duke game did, a learning experience via rote blowout.
Instead, they hit Villanova back. Zak Irvin, Caris LeVert, and Derrick Walton made consecutive baskets to make the game tight in a flash, and Spike Albrecht's triple with 11:19 left gave Michigan a lead they would tenuously hold until Dylan Ennis tied it up with a dagger from the corner with 2:36 on the clock.
The teams would trade buckets until Pinkston scored the eventual winning points with a strong—some might say too strong—move down low for a lay-in with 13 ticks left; moments later, his clean block of Irvin all but ended it. Michigan's last hope to tie it up faded ingloriously when Max Bielfeldt threw away a long inbounds attempt, but that shouldn't take away from a tremendously exciting game.
Yes, Michigan let a shot at a signature win slip away. That they were in position to get one in the first place against a much more experienced, and quite talented, Villanova team was a victory in and of itself, however; those bemoaning the loss ... well, "can't see the forest for the trees" comes to mind.
Admit it, that was a hundred times more fun than any football game this season. There will be bumps in the road, but this team is pretty darn good right now, and I can't wait to see what they're going to look like come March.