alternate headline: man does job
Once again Marawatch, maker of exquisite timepieces for Michigan fans, has stepped forward to sponsor this feature. Your one hand often gets the opportunity to ball itself into a fist and rise in salute of the victors. The other hand has a more subtle way to hail.
WSG: Brandon Williams, Michigan cornerback 1999-2002, co-founder of Go Blue Then and Now, and the last guy to make it four years in a #12 jersey. Think about it: Gardner, Roundtree, J.T. Floyd, Cone, Gutierrez. Weird, right? His organization brings together and provides support to the myriad philanthropic and charitable endeavors of former Michigan players and other alumni.
Chaos, the Mitigation of: Read this first before ye enter.
Thanks to multiple sources including Tim Sullivan, 247, and multiple Twitter accounts of recruits themselves, the visitor list for today’s game has been assembled and is pretty respectable. I was able to touch base with some of the players leading up to today’s game.
Grand Rapids (MI) Christian WR Drake Harris – Harris has been hampered by a hamstring injury throughout his senior season and he told me it’s been horrible having to just watch his team. He’s enjoyed watching his team succeed but obviously would rather be on the field. He will be in attendance for the Nebraska game and will be wearing his recruiting hat.
Kenton (OH) LB Noah Furbush – Furbush is a very keep-to-himself kind of kid. He is one of the few recruits I have never had any contact with. He doesn’t do much as far as interviews go and also isn’t much for social media. He just does work on the field, which is actually sort of refreshing.
Warren (MI) De La Salle LB Jared Wangler – Wangler is obviously very familiar with Ann Arbor and The Big House, but a game against Nebraska is a nice draw. He’ll be in attendance with his high school teammate, quarterback Giovanni Rescigno, and his father, John.
Southfield (MI) DE Lawrence Marshall – Marshall’s season was unexpectedly cut short by an upset loss to Seaholm in the first round of the playoffs, so Lawrence can now turn all of his football attention to becoming a Wolverine. That will include checking out his future team taking on the Huskers today.
Southfield (MI) DL Malik McDowell – Like Marshall, McDowell unexpectedly has extra free time now to focus on his recruitment. He has taken some surprise visits, like one to Ohio State a couple of weeks ago, and also to East Lansing. He’ll be in Ann Arbor today, a place he’s visited most frequently, to check out Michigan’s defensive line play.
Warren (MI) De La Salle WR Brent Morris – Brent, the younger brother of current Michigan quarterback Shane Morris, will be at the game today to hopefully see big bro’s squad get a win. The younger Morris doesn’t hold any offers yet, and probably won’t receive one from Michigan, but with no offers to weigh, a preferred walk-on is a possibility for him.
Warren (MI) De La Salle QB Giovanni Rescigno – There seems to be a De La Salle theme among this visitors list and Rescigno is another Pilot that will be in attendance. Rescigno currently has no offers.
Kenton (OH) QB Grant Sherman – Sherman is the high school teammate of current Michigan commit Noah Furbush and while he currently has no offers he comes from a polished program that produced the Mauk brothers.
Jackson (MI) Lumen Christi RB Khari Willis – Willis will be taking his first visit to Ann Arbor today a week after a record breaking performance of 303 rushing yards with 5 touchdowns. Willis has a few offers from Division II schools but that will more than likely change over the next year.
Indianapolis (IN) Lawrence Central LB Darrin Kirkland Jr. – I spoke with Kirkland Jr. and he sounded very excited to check out a game at The Big House. Coach Smith checked out Kirkland in action a few weeks ago and Kirkland can’t wait to meet the rest of the coaching staff today. He really wants to tour campus and check out Michigan Stadium as much as he’s allowed to. He really hopes an offer comes at some point even if it’s not today.
Grand Blanc (MI) DB Trevon Avery – The younger brother of Courtney Avery will be in attendance today, nothing new for him as he visits regularly. He doesn’t hold any offers right now but has good size and athleticism. He’s merely a name to watch at this point.
Brownsburg (IN) OL Evan Mallory – I introduced Mallory as a name to watch back during my M Block days and he is a pretty big Michigan fan. He told me he wants to try and talk with the coaches and watch Michigan win. He feels pretty good about his relationship with the coaches so far and wants a Michigan offer above all others.
Northville (MI) OL David Moorman – I’ve spoken with Moorman before, but wasn’t able to contact him before his visit today. The last time we spoke he talked about how strong his relationship was with Coach Funk and that an offer from Michigan would be beyond special. When I asked him if a commitment would follow he level-headedly answered, “Let’s just see if they offer first.”, with a laugh.
Bloomfield Hills (MI) Brother Rice QB Alex Malzone – Malzone’s name continues to pop up among 2015 signal callers and will visit today and for the Ohio State game at the end of the month. He’s in regular contact with Coach Borges and is looking more and more like a possibility for an offer at some point.
Clinton Township (MI) Chippewa Valley DB Stefan Claiborne
Orchard Lake (MI) St. Mary’s LB Daelin Hayes
Saline (MI) QB Joshua Jackson (son of RB coach Fred Jackson)
St. Joseph (MI) DE Corey Malone-Hatcher
Orchard Lake (MI) St. Mary’s LB Joshua Ross (brother of current LB James Ross)
THE INTERNET LOVES PHOTOSHOPPING BO PELINI INTO CAT PHOTOS
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.
By Nick RoUMel
We need a good dose of optimism. Like the little boy who got all excited when he got a bag of horse crap for Christmas, happily exclaiming that Santa must have left him a pony outside.
But Punt, or Counterpunt - or whatever I am this week - is rarely an optimist. Look what happened last week. I go all giddy and pick Michigan to beat the Spartans, despite the odds and common sense. We got horse crap instead.
It would be so easy to revert to form. Get all grouchy, and say we suck; that we’ll lose to Nebraska, even though they are without seemingly 7th year senior citizen Taylor Martinez, who is tending to his arthritis and bunions.
But - just as nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. Nobody expects Punt to be predictable, either.
I therefore unpredictably predict a comfortable Michigan victory, now that we are back in the cozy confines of the Big House. All warm and fuzzy, like retired former Punt, Ken “Sky” Walker, sitting at home, soaking his large feet in Epsom salts, sipping on a Long Island Iced Tea, cursing Al Borges while wrapping his Michigan Snuggie close, like so:
Meanwhile, Heiko and I will freeze in the cold rain, cheering an embattled Michigan team, which will defy the odds and common sense, and do some crazy, unpredictable things themselves. Like running for positive yardage. Aggressively pursuing the opponent’s young, inexperienced quarterback. And the craziest thing of all?
Michigan won’t be the softest team on the field.
MICHIGAN 35, NEBRASKA 17
By Heiko Yang
Hey, remember when Nebraska won the division and made it to the Big Ten Title game last year?
Good news! The team visiting the Big House today isn’t that Nebraska team. This year’s edition of the Cornhuskers needed a Hail Mary just to beat Northwestern at home. Wait …
Sorry sorry. Enough with the self-evisceration. Today is the post-apocalyptic-where-does-society-go-now game. Let’s try to find something in the rubble that isn’t still on fire and start rebuilding.
Michigan got nuked into negative yards rushing last week. Whatever. I’m over it. Today, let’s get positive yards. The kind where someone takes the ball, runs past the line of scrimmage, and gets tackled—not for loss, but for WIN. Yes, I think we would all to see Michigan get tackled for win.
Devin Gardner got sacked like he was Rome last week, only worse and more frequently. Today, let’s see if we can erect
a wall some kind of obstacle maybe that could at least moderately hamper any incoming barbarians. I hear Michigan has offensive linemen. They should get really offensive today with personal insults like “you’re fat” or “you remind me of Indiana.” I even recommend name-calling and epithets, because upsetting the opponent is an important step towards slowing them down.
Finally (and somewhat seriously), let’s see if Michigan can show any indication that they’re willing to try something different this time to avoid another apocalypse. Quit screwing around with the gimmicky offensive line stuff. Maybe call a running play out of the ace formation, and stop going play-action on obvious passing downs. Throw a play-action pass from the inverted veer. I don’t know. Anything at all would be nice. Even just one spread punt would be so reassuring.
Again, I mean, whatever. I’m over it. The sun is out today, and it’s not rainy and disgusting. It’s good to know at least the weather knows how to improve.
Nebraska 30, Michigan 28
First, the most important thing:
Michigan raised their 2013 Final Four banner today, and if I can say so myself it looks pretty damn good up there. Josh Bartelstein, Corey Person, and a late-arriving Eso Akunne were in attendance to receive their rings; Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. had some pressing business matters to attend to, I'm told. (Burke's parents were here, though, and got a large ovation when shown on the jumbotron.)
Nothing that could happen against UMass Lowell, a Division I newcomer, was going to top that. For the first 20 minutes, however, Michigan looked like they were trying their best overshadow the ceremony in the worst way possible. From the opening possession, during which Jon Horford missed a what-are-you-doing three early in the shot clock, to the final first half possession, when Horford ignored a wide-open Glenn Robinson III on a backcut and jacked up a long two, the Wolverines looked totally flat offensively. (This makes it seem like it was all Horford's fault; it was very much a team effort.)
The Crisler Center crowd could only look on in shock as the Wolverines went into the tunnel tied 23-23 at halftime. Michigan hit just 6/23 field goals (1/9 threes) and 10/15 free throws while turning the ball over five times to just two assists. While the team looked good defensively, they played disjointed basketball on the other end, never able to get much momentum going. Even when they put in points, it wasn't necessarily pretty; Robinson scored six of his ten first-half points from the free-throw line, Stauskas four of his seven, mostly on forced dribble-drives that ended in hacks.
In the second half, it was a totally different story. The Wolverines opened the second stanza on a 21-2 run that took nearly 11 minutes; from there, they cruised to victory, again with a big push on the defensive end—an aggressive Michigan D forced ten second-half turnovers while the offense coughed it up just twice.
Caris LeVert (above, Fuller) led the way with 17 points, 11 coming in the second half, on 6/11 shooting—he hit all five of his second-half attempts—while also chipping in five rebounds, a nifty assist on a pick-and-roll with Horford, and two steals. LeVert's assist total belied his impressive passing, as Michigan bungled good looks set up by his passes on multiple occasions in the first half. He once again worked his way into the lane with regularity and hit a couple nice pull-up jumpers—if that shot is consistently falling this season, he'll be a very dangerous player.
Robinson finished with a workmanlike 15 points (4/8 FG, 7/10 FT), seven boards, four assists, and three steals. While his on-and-off aggression didn't result in many made baskets, it got him to the line frequently, and his teammates missed a few opportunities to hit him on backdoor cuts that should've resulted in thunderous dunks.
Derrick Walton once again started at point guard, and while he didn't look to create his own offense too much (6 points, 1/4 FG, 4/4 FT), he dished out four assists and was a disruptive defensive force, tallying four steals in addition to forcing a jump ball—he knew the right times to get aggressive and go for the ball, and it paid off handsomely. Fellow freshman Zak Irvin also played a big part in Michgian's second-half run, scoring all of his ten points (1/3 2P, 2/4 3P, 2/3 FT) in the final 12 minutes of play.
Nik Stauskas didn't have his best shooting night, going 1/5 from the field, but he grinded out nine points due to his willingness to drive and absorb contact—he ended up 6/8 from the line and played with the right amount of aggressiveness. While Horford also had a hard time putting the ball in the hoop (5 points, 2/8 FG), he still looked like the team's best center option without Mitch McGary, hauling in 12 rebounds (5 offensive), blocking a shot, and generally making life difficult for Lowell players trying to get clean looks in the lane.
Jordan Morgan, meanwhile, played just 12 minutes, putting up two points and three rebounds but also drawing two fouls—the change in the way charges are being called is a major negative for his defensive style if early returns hold. Max Bielfeldt fared worse, making a four-minute cameo as a center in the first half that included this sequence: missed layup followed immediately by a turnover, then a late rotation on the other end resulting in an easy bucket.
While it took a full half to gel, Michigan eventually got their act together offensively, and it was nice to see the defense carry the day even against an overmatched opponent—Lowell finished with just four fast-break points and rebounded only ten of their 35 missed field goals while yakking up 15 total turnovers. Let's go ahead and chalk up the first half performance to post-banner malaise and never speak of it again.
2013-14 Preview Coverage
Media Day Wrap: Beilein transcript + interviews with Horford, Morgan, Walton, GRIII
Position Previews: Bigs, Wings, Point Guards
Preview Podcast: With special guest John Gasaway
A Whole Damn Book: A whole damn book
Tonight's Game Info
What: Michigan vs. UMass-Lowell
Where: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan
When: 7pm, Friday (Banner raising ceremony at 6:40)
Line: Michigan -25 (KenPom)
TV: Big Ten Digital Network (subcription required)/MGoBlueTV (ditto)
Radio: 950 AM (Detroit), 102.9 FM (Ann Arbor), Sirius Channel 92, MGoBlue stream
UMass-Lowell is making their Division I debut after finishing 15-13 (10-12) as a member of the Northeast-10 (Division II) last year. A full-blown game preview is rather unnecessary.
"If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts he shall end in certainties." — Sir Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning
As Michigan opens its season tonight against UMass-Lowell, I'm certain of two things about this team: they're raising a Final Four banner tonight, and they will be good.
The first is indisputable fact, not to mention a significant reason why it's easy to state the second: John Beilein's squad returns eight players (three starters, four more rotation guys) from a team that came within a half of requiring a bigger, fancier banner. Among those are two players garnering preseason All-American consideration, arguably the best shooter in America, a backup point guard who dropped 17 points in the first half of the title game, two experienced big men, and a sophomore oozing so much potential that he forced his way onto the court last year despite appearing malnourished.
On top of that, Michigan boasts one of the best coaching staffs in the country and bring in two top-flight recruits who will contribute immediately, one of whom (PG Derrick Walton) has already secured a starting role. They will be good, even without Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway.
How good depends on a number of factors, however, and for every certainty there is an equal and opposite uncertainty.
Certainty: Mitch McGary is one of the most skilled, impactful centers in college basketball.
Uncertainty: When will he be able to return from his back "condition", and will it hamper him once he returns? (Also: how much do we weigh his tournament run versus his regular-season output?)
Certainty: Glenn Robinson III is an incredible athlete who had an exceptionally efficient freshman season.
Uncertainty: Can Robinson create his own shot, and can he stay so efficient with a bigger role?
Certainty: Beilein will try to play more two-big lineups this year.
Uncertainty: Will this work, especially with all the practice time McGary has missed? With all the talent on the wings, is it even worth trying?
Certainty: Caris LeVert is getting massive practice hype for the second straight year and looks like a potential breakout star as a shooting guard and part-time point.
Uncertainty: Will his practice/exhibition exploits translate to actual production against real opponents this year?
Certainty: Nik Stauskas is a great shooter; also: Not Just A Shooter.
Uncertainty: Can his lethal efficiency as a three-point shooter and pick-and-roll ballhandler continue when he's the team's first or second scoring option?
Certainty: Michigan is starting an extremely talented freshman point guard.
Uncertainty: Michigan is starting an extremely talented freshman point guard.
The list goes on and on*, and I'm okay with this. The uncertainty surrounding the football team this year has largely stemmed from "can this non-functional unit become functional"-type questions. The uncertainty surrounding the basketball team, on the other hand, is more of the "can this good thing become great" variety.
If the pieces all fall into place, Michigan is a national title contender once again. If they don't, this is still a team capable of winning the Big Ten (so long as Michigan State doesn't go full juggernaut, at least), and barring a rash of injuries they'll be a fun team to watch. None of us have any idea what's going to happen; it's still all but guaranteed to be more rewarding than watching this year's football team. Sit back and enjoy Michigan's status as one of the nation's elite programs, one that reloads instead of rebuilds, and savor that banner. We'll worry about certainties another time.
*Will the team's added functional size and experience on the wings equal better defensive performance, for example.
Other stuff here: Ace FFFF!
|WHAT||Michigan vs Nebraska|
Ann Arbor, MI
3:30 PM Eastern
November 9th, 2013
|THE LINE||M –6.5|
|WEATHER||sunny, low 50s, 0% chance of rain|
Via Nebraska version of E3W, The Dailyer.
Liveblog: getting started around 3pm, presented by Marawatch. Former Mich. cornerback Brandon Williams will be present to talk about Go Blue Then And Now's latest efforts and what it's like to wear #12 for your entire career (since no starter has managed that since).
Take the Michigan ground game. Put it on the other side of the ball. This is the story of Nebraska's season: bogglingly utter ineptitude at stopping folks other than Purdue from running epic distances without much skill.
Now remove that team's starting quarterback but give them a Big Ten schedule reading Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota, Northwestern, and you have the Nebraska Cornhuskers: a good record against a terrible schedule and two uncompetitive losses to middling teams, with multiple close calls against bad ones.
Saturday is Michigan versus Funhouse Mirror Michigan, except Devin Gardner persists against all odds.
Run Offense vs Nebraska
After brutal disappointment last week Michigan finds sweet sanctuary in the form of the Nebraska defense, which more often than not has been ground into paste this year, often by the start of the second quarter. The Huskers opened the year by giving up 600 yards of offense to Wyoming, 219 of it on the ground. Since then they've done well against… uh… Purdue.
|South Dakota State||33||271||2||8.2|
(Omitted Southern Miss, FWIW, since USM is so bad I don't think games against them mean anything.)
Nebraska has been very good at getting to the QB, which somewhat obscures how bad they've been against actual rushes. I smashed some stats together from CFBStats to fix that issue. Here is the Big Ten against ground games:
Nebraska's been worse than Indiana over the course of this season, and basically equivalent to Purdue and Illinois. Moveable object, come on down.
Why is Nebraska so pliable on the ground? Ace:
their line got consistently pushed off the ball by Northwestern. The DEs weren't disciplined in containing the edge and the DTs couldn't get push. What this means for Michigan is a matter of considerable debate; if Borges decides it's time to go full spread-to-run, I think the Wolverines will have success getting Gardner and Toussaint to the edge. At the very least, this won't be a State-like massacre up front. …
The linebackers are a mess. This will be covered in more detail later—redshirt freshman MIKE Michael Rose made his first start against Northwestern and didn't fare well, getting out of his lane with regularity and eating blocks due to a lack of aggressiveness.
Ace highlighted a particular wow freshman experience on one of Green's rips up the middle:
A battle of blown assignments looms. That sounds pretty good to me after last week; when guys get out of lanes then it's more about seeing the opportunity and taking it more than anything else, and even if by this point Fitzgerald Toussaint would regard a gaping hole like a POW emerging into the sunlight after years of captivity, the second or third time he sees one he might do something other than gape open-mouthed in wonder.
But on the other hand. Michigan rushed for 23 yards on 20 carries against Michigan State, has struggled to put up mortal numbers against some very bad rushing defenses, and is currently spinning through interior linemen at an alarming rate. Nothing is working except murdering Devin Gardner.
I can't tell you I expect much better this week. Michigan was incapable of running from under center against the Hoosiers until a late breakthrough after the game was decided, and even then their YPC was solidly under Indiana's season average. Operating from the shotgun was effective, at least.
Michigan tends to cycle through several phases when they approach their rushing offense:
- WE ARE GOING TO MANBALL YOU
- High numbers of big sets get no yards at all
- well I guess we'll spread you out a bit but we don't like it
- Shotgun rushing is generally effective
- Weak opponent approaches
- WE ARE GOING TO MANBALL YOU
- repeat ad nauseum
This is a prime candidate for manball reset, as Michigan's coming off a game where they couldn't run in any formation and can thus vaguely justify gravitating back towards their desires. That would be bad except Nebraska may just shatter anyway. But still probably bad.
Key Matchup: Michigan busts versus Nebraska busts. QUIEN ES MAS BUSTO
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